THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
New Apple video iPod in April
A widescreen video player is the talk of the Apple blogosphere. Plus: RIM takes a shot from the techies.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) - Apple rumor site Think Secret is reporting that a new video iPod is in the works, with a screen that covers the entire face of the device and a virtual click-wheel that only appears when a user touches the screen. The design resembles a recent patent for a tablet computer Apple filed. Apple (Research) may announce the new product on April 1, which marks the 30th anniversary of the company's founding.

Spam hits the blogosphere

If you thought spam was just a problem in your inbox, think again -- there's spam in the blogosphere, too. And it may be taking over, says blogger Matt Galloway. Here's how spam blogs, or splogs work: Spammers create splogs by copying and pasting content from real blogs. They then attract unsuspecting blog readers via search engine results and links placed in other blogs. The sploggers profit when those users click on advertisements placed through automated programs like Google (Research) AdSense. Galloway does the math, and finds that splogs could outnumber blogs as soon as next month. He also speculates that the number of real blogs isn't growing nearly as fast as some experts thought, and could actually be shrinking.

It's not TV, it's HBO, so don't copy it

Home Box Office has always maintained that its programming is pretty special. Now, HBO lawyers are asking the FCC to put the subscription TV channel in a category of its own -- one that would forbid any copying of the shows. (HBO, like, is a unit of Time Warner (Research)). The restriction is so severe that home users would not legally be able to record a show for later viewing using a TiVo. Bloggers panned the move, saying they didn't see why they couldn't record shows that they've already paid for with a monthly fee.

RIM takes a shot from the techies

If NTP succeeds in its patent-lawsuit quest to get Research In Motion's (Research) BlackBerry e-mail service shut down, expect chaos in the server room. RIM has now offered some details of a technical workaround that it says won't violate NTP's patents. But the Mobile Enterprise Weblog's Daniel Taylor points out that tech departments will have less than 30 days to install updates to their BlackBerry servers and download new software to users' BlackBerry devices. He also argues that tech departments shouldn't rely on RIM's advice and should check with their own lawyers aout whether installing RIM's fix will clear the company of legal liability -- a step that will further slow things down.

February 9, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- When all else fails, try outright bribery. That's a solution Yahoo is considering to attract users to its Web search engine, given the ever-growing popularity of Google (Research). Some Yahoo Mail users received an email outlining potential rewards for using Yahoo Search: frequent-flier miles, free music downloads, discounts on Yahoo Personals, and unlimited e-mail storage, among others. If Yahoo (Research) officially launches the program, it wouldn't be alone: (Research) offers discounts on purchases to customers who use its A9 search engine, and Microsoft (Research) chairman Bill Gates has mused about similar kickbacks to MSN search users.

Windows Vista may arrive in December

The long-awaited (and long-delayed) makeover of Microsoft's operating system appears set to launch on either November 30 or December 1, according to clues left on a Microsoft website, says the Inquirer, a UK tech website. Previously, Microsoft had only said Windows Vista would be available in the second half of the year.

Broadband carriers are disconnected on the Hill

It's rare that Silicon Valley makes a good showing in D.C. Usually, the more experienced lobbyists for Hollywood and the telecom industry give the gadget makers and webmasters a good drubbing when they make an appearance on the Hill. But on the hot issue of "network neutrality" -- the principle that would bar telephone and cable companies from discriminating against various kinds of Internet traffic flowing over their broadband lines -- the geeks seem to be scoring points in a congressional hearing. At the core of the complex issue: the telcos and cable guys would like to be able to charge websites to carry their traffic at higher speeds, on top of the fees they already charge users. Recent Google hire Vint Cerf, widely known as the father of the Internet, testified that "allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success."

The software program nobody loves

Is there a program more universally hated than IBM's (Research) Lotus Notes? No, says the U.K.'s Guardian, which then endeavors to explain why. A clunky user interface seems to be the chief complaint by Notes users (there are 180 million of them worldwide) who aren't impressed by the software's powerful behind-the-scenes features. One reviewer observes that while Notes allows people inside a company to work together on documents, its collaborative features don't extend to people outside the company who use other e-mail software. Since most employees have to work with people outside the company a good deal of the time, they don't see value in collaborative features they can't use.

February 8, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- Udi Manber, CEO of's A9 Web-search business, has left the online retailer to join Google (Research). The move comes a scant four years -- or the length of a typical vesting period for stock options -- after Manber left Yahoo (Research) to join Amazon (Research). Amazon has appointed former Intel (Research) executive David Tennenhouse to be A9's new CEO. Manber's move is just the latest in a flurry of search expert moves -- Yahoo's Gary Flake to Microsoft and eBay's Louis Monier to Google, for example. Web search? More like job search.

Dell deal bad for Google, says Blodget

Perhaps Udi Manber can help Google crunch the numbers on its marketing pacts. Former Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget does the math on a reported software distribution deal with Dell, and finds that it could reduce the company's free cash flow by 10 percent. Were Google to expand the program to other PC makers, the costs could increase to $1 billion a year, up from the Dell program's rumored $300 million-a-year tab. Moreover, says Blodget, the very notion of paying PC makers to distribute its toolbar and desktop search software suggests that Google is losing confidence in the word-of-mouth marketing that has brought it such success to date.

The boom is back, baby!

After years of gloom and doom, Bay Area CEOs are feeling optimistic about the economy and planning to hire again, according to a recent survey. More than four out of 10 chief executives plan to expand their local workforce -- the highest level in the four years since the survey was first taken. And it's not just Web-search executives getting the jobs: The San Jose Mercury News quotes the CEO of a liquid-nitrogen supplier who says that there's been an upturn in the semiconductor business.

Microsoft offers affordable tech support

At long last, ordinary mortals can afford to call Microsoft (Research) when Windows breaks. The company announced a beta test of Windows OneCare Live, an online support program which diagnoses problems and blocks spyware and viruses. The subscription service, which will normally cost $49.95 a year, will be available to beta testers at $19.95 for the first year. The best part of the deal: free, unlimited phone support. That's much cheaper than Microsoft's current support program, which charges $35 per support request after two freebies.

February 7, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- Robert Young, a guest blogger on GigaOm, writes that the increased scrutiny of MySpace because of sexual predators who are using the social networking service to locate their victims could have a heavy cost. If the question of how to deal with sexual predation is "on the table, you can pretty much kiss major ad buys goodbye," argues Young. The dilemma for MySpace is that taking security steps like verifying users' identities could put brakes on the website's explosive growth. Murdoch's response, when asked by Newsweek about the problem: A third of MySpace's workforce is devoted to weeding out inappropriate content.

Google to BMW: "Nein!"

Looking for BMW's German website? You won't find it on Google (Research). Engineer Matt Cutts describes the move to yank as part of an expansion of Google's war against "webspam," websites designed to boost their ranking in search engines. BMW's mistake was showing one version of its website to search engine robots and another to users, a practice Google finds deceptive. Publishing 2.0 calls the move "Orwellian," while Boing Boing says BMW's attempt at manipulating search engines was "sleazy."

Furby creator debuts robot at Demo

Ever since Sony (Research) discontinued its canine Aibo, there's been a vacuum in the niche market for adorable pet robots. At this week's Demo conference, Furby creator Caleb Chung is showing off Pleo, a robot designed to look like a baby dinosaur. Ugobe, the company behind the ersatz reptile, will officially debut Pleo Friday in San Francisco. The robot can recognize different voices and learn new behaviors. Ugobe CEO Bob Christopher says that Pleo will be on store shelves by the 2006 holiday shopping season and will retail for $199.

Dell admits iPod defeat

Another one bites Apple's dust: Dell (Research) is pulling out of the hard-drive MP3 player market, discontinuing its DJ and Pocket DJ lines. A spokesman describes the move as "streamlining" Dell's audio line: It will still sell the flash-memory DJ Ditty player. But Apple (Research) may well drive Dell out of that market, too. Today, Apple slashed the price of its cheapest iPod Shuffle to $69, undercutting the Ditty by $30 on a player that carries the same number of songs.

February 6, 2006

Jeff Bezos wants some of Google's lucrative ad dollars. has been signing up websites to carry contextual advertisements that will work very similarly to Google's (Research) search-related ads. The online retailer is testing the program with members of its Associates program, who currently get paid commissions for driving traffic to Amazon's website. The new advertising program would pay website owners for driving traffic to third-party advertisers, not just Amazon (Research). So much for getting back to the books.

JibJab to roll out humor website

The pair behind the animated electoral satire "This Land" are now at work creating a website where others can tell their own jokes. JibJab cofounders Gregg and Evan Spiridellis compared their new website, JokeBox, to a cross between MySpace and Comedy Central. JokeBox is the latest entrant into the crowded field of user-generated content, but the Spiridellis brothers hope to boost traffic by marketing to the hundreds of thousands of JibJab's email newsletter subscribers.

The Apple of your living room

Could Apple be set to announce a video version of its AirPort Express Wi-Fi router? The Unofficial Apple Weblog is reporting that a photo posted on is from an invitation to a February 22 Apple event, indicating that Apple may soon be announcing a new product. Some are calling into question the authenticity of the photo, which shows a picture of an AirPort Express. Whether or not the photo is for real, the strength of the rumor mill suggests that Apple fans are eager for a device that would beam video wirelessly from a Mac to a TV.

Sun executive puts cold calls on ice

If you work in sales at Sun Microsystems (Research), you might just want to polish up your resume: a top executive there is questioning the rationale for cold-calling customers. Sun president Jonathan Schwartz muses on his blog that when prospective clients can download software over the Internet and try it out for free, there's no need for a heavy-handed sales pitch. Perhaps he has a point: Sun has distributed 4 million copies of its Solaris operating system online. "There aren't enough sales executives in the world to call on each [of them]," writes Schwartz.


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