четвъртък, 12 май 2011 г.

Android now, Chrome OS later. Can Google balance its platforms?

Chrome OS was the focal point for the final day of Google I/O, the annual developers conference held in San Francisco this week. While Google (GOOG) managed to dazzle attendees with forward-thinking discussions of Chrome’s potential, even revealing the Chromebook PC to run Google’s web-based operating system, there seem to be more questions than answers regarding Google’s long term platform goals. On the one hand, Android’s mobile platform has been a runaway hit, incurring a great deal of developer interest. On the other hand, Chrome OS is sneaking into the netbook market, looking to enterprise settings to re-evaluate the way we access applications.

Chrome OS vs Android

One important point of distinction is the current line-up of devices, some supporting Android, others designed around Chrome OS. As the Android device market settles in, Chrome OS devices are just beginning to enter the market. As expected, Google revealed its own netbook device to run Chrome OS, giving the public and the developer community a proof-of-concept to explore. Having devices to operate Chrome OS is vital to Google’s long term development, though this initiative still holds little promise compared to Android’s existing success.
That leaves many developers wondering which aspect of Google’s platform program they should focus on, one granting immediate benefits, the other a bet on the future. But knowing Google, the search and advertising giant has it in mind to combine these two very important platforms to leverage each other. It would be a competitive lead for Google, as it would solve a long-standing issue other platform owners face; how to best deliver the cloud through mobility and optimized interfaces. An early success in this arena would further squeeze out Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT), both of which face the similar dilemma of marrying two operating systems towards the future of computing.
For the Chromebook in particular, Google’s targeting the enterprise for uptake of the new device. It seems a half-step in the right direction, extending a segue for the company to straddle the promise of tablets and the mounting demands of the enterprise. The Chromebook itself won’t top netbook sales, but it will demonstrate to workers a web-based solution for operating and managing apps. Serving as a hub for Google Apps like Docs, Calendar, Gmail, etc., the new netbook is an important piece of Google’s puzzle, as the company drives adoption of its latest platform project.

сряда, 11 май 2011 г.

Microsoft to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion

           Microsoft has agreed to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion.
"Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said today in a statement. "Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world."
Microsoft plans to integrate Skype's technology with the Xbox game console and Kinect motion-sensing device, as well as with its Windows Phone platform. The company also will "connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, and other communities."
Perhaps most importantly to Skype users, Microsoft said it will continue to support "non-Microsoft platforms" with the communication service.
Although Microsoft didn't offer further details, it's clear that the company has its sights set on Apple.
Apple already offers the FaceTime video-chatting feature on its iOS-based mobile devices and on Macs, delivering multiplatform communication over the Web. Microsoft could potentially best Apple's offering by supporting Skype on a much wider array of operating systems.

          Skype is no stranger to major acquisitions. The Luxembourg-based VoIP company, which was founded in 2003, was acquired by eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion. Eventually, the online auction site admitted to investors that it had overpaid for the Internet telephony provider. eBay finally spun off Skype in 2009 for approximately $2 billion to a group of investors, led by Silver Lake. eBay retained a smaller stake in Skype.
As an independent company, Skype performed quite well. Over the last 18 months, Skype claims, it saw its "monthly calling minutes" increase by 150 percent. Along the way, the company also saw its revenue and profit grow, turning a $13.2 million profit through the first six months of 2010. In all of 2009, it lost $99 million.
Following those successes, Skype in August filed the first paperwork for an initial public offering. Now, it's likely Skype won't have a chance to follow through.
Last week, Reuters reported that both Facebook and Google were looking to acquire, or at least partner, with Skype. However, in just a few short days, it became clear that those companies were out and Microsoft was in. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft was nearing a deal with Skype that would be valued between $7 billion and $8 billion.
By paying $8.5 billion for Skype, Microsoft has struck its biggest acquisition bid ever. Its previous top bid--Microsoft's 2007 acquisition of online advertising firm aQuantive--was valued at $6 billion.
Microsoft's Skype deal is the second major move the company has made this year. In February, Microsoft inked a deal with Nokia that would make Windows Phone 7 the "principal" operating system in the handset vendor's devices going forward. The first Windows Phone 7-based Nokia devices are expected to hit store shelves next year.
Microsoft said it hopes to close the Skype deal at some point this year. Skype CEO Tony Bates, who came to Skype from Cisco Systems last fall, will become president of the Microsoft Skype Division.

Google's Android tablet update: Four key PC-like features

        Google released an update to its Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") tablet operating system today, with several features intended to make Android tablets function more like PCs. These updates have come just two months after Google announced Honeycomb would get Flash support, thus giving users access to videos and games used widely across the Web.
Without further introduction, then, here are four key features to emerge from today's Android tablet update:
- USB connectivity: This is a big upgrade since you'll now be able to attach keyboards, mice, digital cameras and other devices to your tablet and use them just as you'd use them on a normal PC. So for instance, people looking to type up a long report without lugging their laptop around can now use their tablet as a monitor and have a regular keyboard to perform typing with.
ANALYSIS: Tablet-centric Android still needs work, early reviews suggest
- Support for Bluetooth HID keyboards and mice: Don't feel like hooking your keyboard or mouse up to your Android tablet with a USB cable? Not to worry -- as long as your keyboard and mouse come equipped with Bluetooth HID connectivity they'll be able to interact with your Android tablet as well. Google says that multiple input devices "can be attached to the system simultaneously over USB or Bluetooth HID in any combination," meaning you won't have to worry about your keyboard crowding out your mouse or vice-versa.
- An expanded "Recent Apps" list: Having a "Recent Apps" list is a great way to quickly access the applications you use most frequently and now Google has expanded the total number of apps on the list while also giving users the ability to "scroll the list of recent apps vertically to see thumbnail images of all the tasks in progress," similar to the way Palm's webOS let users flip through thumbnails of different applications horizontally.
- Better Wi-Fi connectivity: And finally, the Honeycomb update has improved its Wi-Fi capabilities to allow Android tablets to remain connected to their Wi-Fi hotspots even when the device screen flips off. In other words, you'll be able to walk away from your Android tablet to use the bathroom without fear that your Katy Perry and Justin Bieber downloads will get interrupted.