What's Next: The first signs of improvement for the tech economy

What's Now mid strip 600 px

Pandora silenced abroad, which LimeWire gains an exec

Monday, June 29, 2009 • The strikes and gutters of digital music advanced another frame on Monday, with users in France reporting that their Pandora feed is gone while LimeWire scores an executive fresh from TotalMusic.

Jason Herskowitz blogged Monday that he's on his way from Virginia and TotalMusic to Brooklyn and LimeWire, that mysteriously-still-standing download site. Before TotalMusic, Mr. Herskowitz spent time at AOL as Director of Music Products (WinAmp!) and at -- Web 1.0 veterans, brace yourselves -- DigiScents, the company that meant to bring scent to the Web back in the day. [And what would the Web smell like? I always suspected cedar and feet, but perhaps you have other ideas. -- AG.] We wish Mr. Herskwitz the smell smell of success, minus the feet.

As for Pandora, reports are still thin on the ground, Slashdot participant randalotto reports that when s/he attempted to sign on from France, s/he received the following message: We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the US. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative. ... The pace of global licensing is hard to predict, but we have the ultimate goal of being able to offer our service everywhere.' I'm not sure what the deal is or what licensing requirements suddenly changed, but Pandora in France is no more...

Ow and good luck to the thousands of international users coping with withdrawal at this writing.

YouTube's new citizen journalist resource

June 27, 2009 • Top video sharing site YouTube opened the YouTube Reporters' Center, a resource that provides some basic how-to information for the potential citizen journalist.

Historic photographs and videos are increasingly coming from cell phones and low-resolution point and shoot cameras; and with streaming services such as Qik, we can already watch live, unfiltered news happen right in front of us. With this technology available to practically everyone, anybody equipped with a phone could be the next Abraham Zapruder.

Now, YouTube has made helpful video tips available which can help improve the overall quality of citizen reports, including tips on interviewing by Katie Couric, investigative journalism tips from Bob Woodward, and other videos such as "How to Capture Breaking News on your Cell."

NewTeeVee said Monday that mobile video uploads have increased 1700% in the last six months, and the post-electoral upheaval in Iran clearly illustrated the riveting news that comes when everybody is "at the right place at the right time."

IPhone backs getting toasty

The last seven days • Just because people buy a marshmallow-colored iPhone doesn't mean they want it toasted, but that's apparently happening with some of the new 3G S units. Brian Chen at Wired says faulty battery cells may be the problem, and speaks to one expert who predicts a recall of us to hundreds of thousands of units. Erika Morphy at MacNewsWorld, on the other hand, says it's not clear yet that anything's happening, let alone anything necessitating a recall on that scale. Stay tuned.

Teenager explores ancient technology: a Sony Walkman

It was 30 years ago... • Scott Campbell is 13, and before a few weeks ago he thought of the iPod as the norm in portable music. Somehow, the BBC reports, his father Alan convinced the lad to carry a first-generation cassette Walkman around for a week -- the iconic artifact is turning 30, believe it or not -- and compare it to his usual player.

The result is wonderful, funny ("It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.") and wince-inducing ("Did my dad, Alan, really ever think this was a credible piece of technology?"). The kid's hamming it up in spots -- no, dear, the eject button doesn't generally lead to eye injuries -- but it's just too much fun to miss.

Outsourcing in of the news

May 26, 2009 • This story's slightly venerable, but if your organization is grappling with the thought (or the aftermath) of outsourcing, check out what happened when the Hartford Advocate outsourced an entire edition of its weekly paper. Will you surprised to hear that it was neither as cost-saving or as trouble-free as outsourcing advocates would have you believe? The staff tells the story.

In his grief, a turn to Twitter

Sunday and Monday • Losing a parent unexpectedly is a surreal experience, and that's what Billy May III is going through in the wake of the death of his pitchman dad. Over the past couple of days, he's been tweeting as he goes along, and the thread has been an amazing thing to see. Attend if you will.

Analysts: Tech economy will get better while it gets worse

Fall 2009 > Here's the outlook for the US tech economy, as forecast by Forrester analysts yesterday, and let's play this out because maybe it makes sense: The firm revised its prediction for the overall downturn in business technology spending down a few ticks for the year 2009, from 3% to 5%, acknowledging that businesses' declining investments are a bit worse than they thought.

But then the firm is improving its outlook for 2010, using this theory: Once businesses realize the economy isn't as bad as they thought it was, they'll reinvest at such a rate that the tech economy will grow by 7% next year. So let's back this up: Things are worse than we thought, but not as bad as businesses thought. Is that what we're supposed to be reading into this forecast?

Producers: Tech economy is already getting better, but may get worse

July 2009 > Meanwhile in Taiwan, where a huge chunk of the world's semiconductors are being produced, one of the world's largest build-to-order chip makers, SMIC, is revising its business outlook for Q2 2009 upward -- and not just by a few ticks, either -- based on, get this, robust demand.

In other words, businesses and consumers are, um, investing.

What's going on? Well, the fear is that when tech device manufacturers reduced their orders for parts late last year, they over-estimated the downturn in demand (which sounds a lot like Forrester's theory, applied to production). So as demand did not slip by as much as folks thought it would, inventories reduced too quickly, and now manufacturers' orders are picking up to fill the void. But analysts (not with SMIC) are actually worried about this trend, because they believe that once suppliers and manufacturers over-purchase to fill inventory gaps, they'll reduce their purchases down the road to compensate.

Can studying macro-economics make one seasick?

Tuesday's tech headlines

Technology Review

• Researchers in Dresden have an idea for improving magnetic storage media -- both information density and functional lifespan. It's all in the theoretical stage right now, but if you dig materials science, you'll like this piece.

• Simson Garfinkel, calling privacy an inalienable right even in the Facebook era, puts for a long and detailed argument for smarter protections, including clearly articulated federal policies (makes sense) and a strong electronic identity system (say what?).

• Robert Lemos delves into Content Security Policy, the tech Mozilla helps will finally quash cross-site scripting attempts when it turns up in Firefox in 6-12 months.


• Jason Kincaid expects word today of new Call-to-Action overlay technology, which allows paid advertisers to put a link to any site they wish directly on a video.

• Michael Arrington looks at a financial battle shaping up between VC and the company's founder and employees at Mochi Media, the advertising and payments network for developers of Flash games. It's not likely to end well however it ends. Do these things ever?

New York Times

• Leslie Kaufman looks into the rise of recycling centers for consumer electronics. Currently a patchwork of state laws governs the process, much to the frustration of manufacturers (and just about everyone else, really).

• That wily Palm Pre -- recipient of yet another firmware upgrade yesterday, by the way, including mysterious security fixes -- is starting to make certain skeptics feel more warmly toward its parent company. Matt Richtel explains how that plays out for one analyst.

San Jose Mercury-News

• Intel showed off some futuristic new stuff from its research department at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View recently. Steve Johnson saw devices getting better at touching delicate objects, aiding the prosopagnosia (face-blind) community, and spatial navigation.

• The annual Cybernet Expo was held in San Francisco last week, and the vendors at the adult-services conference agreed on one thing: You know the recession is for real when even boobies aren't selling. Video web sites are also cutting into profits, attendees told John Boudreau.

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