DirecTV is writing down about $1.6 billion in the value of satellites it launched to provide high-speed Internet service, and has now decided to offer HDTV and other broadcast content with instead.It's a bummer for folks in the sticks, who often don't have any alternative other than satellite for broadband service. Along with the power line broadband questions in the previous post, it raises some serious concerns. The FCC has been loosening regulatory restrictions on telephone companies, under the theory that somewhere down the road, a plethora of alternative broadband technologies will emerge and create the real competition that everybody wants. Previously, Congress had tried to create that competition by forcing telephone companies to share their networks with rival ISPs. But things aren't going so well for those new technologies. Utilities aren't signing up to offer power line services. Satellites are being repurposed for TV content. WiMax wireless services are still several years away. So, it's finger crossing time. Let's hope the cable companies and phone companies really do decide to compete against each other strongly enough to produce real consumer benefits. Both sides are very concerned about helping the consumer, right?
One tidbit mentioned during Intel's blowout third quarter was the promotion of long-time Chief Financial Officer Andy Bryant to something called "chief administrative officer."
Bryant has been the CFO at Intel for 13 years and will step up to his new title effective immediately, so that Stacy Smith can become CFO in a move planned for some time, said Tom Beermann, an Intel spokesman. The move frees Bryant up from the day-to-day responsibilities of running Intel's finances, which is actually a quite-complicated exercise of making sure Intel's factories are running at optimum capacity in order to keep costs down--the CFO's real job. He'll continue to report to CEO Paul Otellini.
Bryant's new role as CAO appears to carry forward many of the same things he's been doing for a while now: he'll be the head of Intel's human resources and IT departments, both of which appear to be busy these days with the latest round of restructurings and layoffs . There's a chance Bryant will be able to work on other projects with the CFO responsibilities on someone else's plate, Beermann said.
I have to wonder if this is Bryant's way of transitioning out of Intel, although Beerman naturally downplayed that line of thinking. Bryant's probably not on the short list to succeed Otellini, as capable a financial manager as he has been over the years. For one, he'd be the first CFO to ascend to the top ranks at Intel, but he's also the same age as Otellini, and Intel has a corporate bylaw that forces CEOs to step down once they turn 65. The name most frequently mentioned as Otellini's successor is current sales head Sean Maloney, at least among reporters over drinks at various IDFs.
Without a doubt, Bryant has been one of the more entertaining CFOs on those monotonous earnings calls four times a year, able to explain the complicated business of making and selling chips like it was running a lemonade stand. Normally, the CFO's role during these calls is to accept congratulations from sycophantic financial analysts or to explain away problems that crept up during the quarter, but Bryant was often good for a laugh as well.
Flash memory chips bound for Apple's iPods and iPhones will account for 25 percent of the world's total flash output in the third quarter.
So says DRAMeXchange , a market research company out of Taiwan that tracks the memory industry. It's referring to a specific kind of flash memory known as NAND , which is the flash technology of choice for modern cell phones and MP3 players. Flash memory can store data without an electrical charge and without any moving parts, which makes it ideal for mobile devices and increasingly for notebook PCs .In the third quarter, flash memory companies will send 25 percent of their chips to Apple for products like the iPod Nano.
Apple's share of the MP3 player market means it gets to cut deals with flash makers, notably Samsung, to secure all the chips it thinks it will need for a given point in the future. This isn't good news for everybody else, as they have to fight for the remaining scraps. And there might not be enough chips to go around in the third quarter, DRAMeXchange said.
That's because flash makers are making the transition to a new, thinner manufacturing process. And that's always an engineering challenge that can affect yields, or the number of working chips produced from a silicon wafer. As a result, DRAMeXchange believes flash prices will rise later this year.
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama isn't a terrorist...or a porn star.
A malicious spam e-mail is spreading that claims to have a link to a sex video of Obama but is instead spyware that steals sensitive data from the computer, security firm Sophos warned on Wednesday.
The subject line says "Obama sex video!!!" and the e-mail appears to come from "email@example.com, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, says on his blog .
Clicking on the link downloads an executable file that plays an amateur porn video, but Obama is not in it.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes a Trojan horse known as Mal/Hupig-D is installed. The Trojan targets Windows machines and steals passwords and bank account data, Cluley said.
Is it the work of the Republicans? Probably not; it has the trademark bad grammar and excessive punctuation of traditional phishing attempts, many of which originate outside English-speaking countries.
There's something funny going on in the venture capital world: a tipster pitched multiple media outlets the story that some sketchy business had surrounded the early-stage investment in photo-sharing site Photobucket , a 20 percent stake in a company that eventually was acquired by News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media for about $300 million.
The Wall Street Journal , coincidentally also owned by News Corp., ran with the tip . The publication explained that an early investment in Photobucket had been made on behalf of Insight Venture Partners' executives, excluding the investors in the firm--which include, among others, the endowment fund for Yale University.
The firm's investors weren't notified and didn't reap any of the benefits of Photobucket's acquisition, and it didn't help that Insight itself has been reported erroneously as one of Photobucket's investors on occasion.
We all like a juicy, Smartest Guys in the Room -ish scandal, but legal experts quoted in the Journal indicate that Insight's executives weren't technically bending any rules. The venture firm focuses on later-stage investments, and Photobucket at the time had three employees.
As one of the firm's investors told the Journal , "Perhaps they should have told us about this, but it was such a small deal. Would we have wanted a piece of it in hindsight? Sure. But for every one of these successes, there are a hundred failures."
This instance of VC deal making doesn't deserve much scandal mongering other than wondering what kind of beef the anonymous tipster has against Insight Venture Partners. But the broader issue deserves a look: to what extent should fund executives make their investors aware of personal investments? It's debatable.
Display advertising may be only a fraction of Google's advertising business now, but wait until later this year and next, a top Google executive says.
Google will have a "very significant position" in the online display ad market by 2008-2009, Tim Armstrong, Google's North American president for advertising and commerce, said at a Bear Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday, according to Dow Jones .
His prediction was only strengthened by news on Tuesday that the European Commission approved Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, which is a leader in display advertising.
Eventually, Google's automated ad system will handle search and display ads the same, Armstrong said.
After acknowledging in its most recent earnings call that results from ads on social networks weren't paying off as well as expected, Google is working to fix that problem, he says.
Google has dedicated engineer and salespeople figuring out how to earn more money off ads on social networks and realized that treating social networks like other publisher sites wasn't working. "We now have a very clear path and direction for it," he said.
Meanwhile, YouTube is considered the "brightest light" for display ad potential within Google, according to Armstrong.
Over on Dean Takahashi's San Jose Mercury News blog today, he reported on the discovery by a pair of security researchers that it may be possible to steal Second Life users' in-world currency.
That would be a big problem, of course, because the currency, known as Linden dollars, are directly convertible to U.S. dollars.
According to Takahashi's story , hackers Charles Miller and Dino Dai Zovi told him that they have uncovered an exploit that could allow someone to fleece Second Life residents of their Linden dollars.
The exploit is related to Apple's QuickTime software, which is used to display videos in Second Life .
"The exploit works because Second Life allows users to embed videos or pictures on their characters or their virtual property," Takahashi wrote. "When someone comes nearby and is within view of the object, the Second Life software activates QuickTime so it can play the video or picture. In doing so, QuickTime directs the Second Life software to a Web site. By exploiting the flaw in QuickTime, the hackers can direct the Second Life software to a malicious Web site that then allows them to take over the Second Life avatar.
The end result of that could be that a malicious hacker could then strip the avatar of any Linden dollar holdings.
For its part, Takahashi wrote, Linden Lab told him that the exploit is easily patched. Nonetheless, the company put up a warning on its blog Friday.
Takahashi said that Linden Lab told him, "We were alerted a short time ago by Internet security professionals that a QuickTime exploit has been discovered which may allow an attacker to crash or exploit any user of the QuickTime software from Apple. The Second Life viewer uses QT to play videos and therefore this exploit could potentially affect the residents of Second Life . This exploit affects all platforms that use QuickTime and, to date, Apple has not released a fix for it."
To date, however, Takahashi wrote, Linden Lab said it isn't aware of anyone actually using the exploit to rob anyone.
For residents of Second Life , then, the solution may be to avoid holding onto large numbers of Linden dollars.
As I told Takahashi when he asked me to comment for his story on Linden dollar security, "As one SL business owner said to me...you should always have a backup plan in case of a glitch that causes you to lose everything, because you never know what might happen. And in the case of Linden dollars, that likely means doing regular exchanges so as not to keep too many Lindens in your SL account. You can't lose what's not there."