Signs of the Internet apocalypse abound
The launch of a new Internet incubator is a scary reminder of the bubble years. Plus: Microsoft's Origami draws disagreement.
SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - In case you needed a cue to start running for the exits, here's the surest sign yet of Internet excess: The return of incubators, those companies that spun off startup after startup during that late 90's in an attempt to cash in on Internet mania. SiliconBeat reports on the launch of Next Internet, a company which is promising to launch 15 startups in the next 36 months. With the Valley already facing a startup glut, it's not clear how another 15 companies will help matters. And since startups are easier and cheaper than ever to launch, it's not clear why a smart entrepreneur would need the professional help of an incubator. Besides, it's not like incubators have a great track record of business success: Two of the biggest incubators from the '90s are in dire straits, with CMGI running a loss, and Idealab founder Bill Gross reportedly in debt to the tune of $50 million.
Microsoft's Origami draws criticism
Origami: an amazing new computing platform or a ho-hum, shrunk-down Tablet PC? It depends on whom you ask. Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg says that Origami -- now officially known as the "ultra-mobile PC," or UMPC -- will appeal to students who may use it as their sole computer, or to PC enthusiasts who want a second or third PC that's more lightweight than a laptop. While there are other ultracompact, handheld PCs like the OQO on the market, Gartenberg notes, the UMPC comes in at less than half the price of those gadgets. Engadget's Thomas Ricker, by contrast, says "there's nothing revolutionary or even evolutionary" about Origami. He also criticizes the feel of the device: "The whole thing just felt wrong in the hands -- very plastic-y and without substance," he said.
Intel demo turns into shouting match
Intel (Research) executive Don MacDonald tried to one-up Apple (Research) CEO Steve Jobs at the Intel Developer Forum conference -- but got his comeuppance instead. Showing off a new voice-controlled remote for an Intel Viiv media PC, MacDonald bragged about the simplicity of the remote compared to the six-button Apple Remote that Jobs showed off last fall. But when it came time to put the Intel remote to the test, it failed. MacDonald had to shout into the remote multiple times before he could finally persuade the PC to start recording "Family Guy." He blamed "ambient noise" in the auditorium for the gaffe.
Google acquisition could challenge Microsoft Word
When Microsoft (Research) launched Office Live, some observers were surprised that it didn't include a Web-based version of Microsoft Word. That omission left an opening for startups like Writely to introduce an online word processor. Shortly after Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik heard rumors that Google (Research) was in acquisition talks with Writely, Google confirmed the deal. On his blog, Malik charts how Writely will fill a hole in Google's competitive position against Microsoft: Google's Gmail already competes with Microsoft's Outlook email software, and Google Base arguably could supplant Microsoft's Access database. A word processor like Writely would be one more arrow in Google's anti-Microsoft quiver.
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