So I’m going to start a rumor here: I think, before the year is out, that Google is going to try to buy Sprint.
Google Real-Time Search: some questions
Google today announced its inevitable reach into real-time search, instantly adding results from Twitter, FriendFeed and MySpace. As cool and useful as this may be, I’ve got a couple of questions about it.
Mary Travers, RIP
As part of the New York Choral Society, I was fortunate to have performed with Mary Travers (and Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey) a couple of dozen times in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I did a week on Broadway, a PBS special that ran forever during Pledge Weeks, a Donahue show, and more than a couple of performances in Carnegie Hall. They are some of my fondest memories.
Mary Travers was by then well past her ingenue years and well into motherhood and later, grandmotherhood. She relished it. It was easy to see the dynamic of the group; the things that made Peter Paul & Mary work so well, the things about each of them that made the others crazy, and the ways that they adapted to each other as life progressed.
But what was also plain about them was the depth of their commitment to each other and their causes.
Skype Goes Free. What’s Next? Everything
You’ve probably heard by now that eBay unloaded Skype today to a consortium led by Silver Lake Partners and a bunch of other people including Marc Andreesen for mumblety-billion dollars.
Dan Hoffman, CEO of hosted VoIP provider M5 Networks, very intelligently points out that Silver Lake is also invested in Avaya (telecom equipment), and IPC (trading systems). Think those could be strategic partners for Skype? Me too.
I’d add to that roster NXP (chips for set-top boxes and mobile phones), Avago (chips for wired infrastructure and computer peripherals), NetScout network management, and Sabre Holdings (Travelocity). I can think of one or two pieces of synergy there, too.
I suspect Silver Lake’s board meetings are going to be very interesting places for the next five years.
Media cabal meets secretly to discuss charging for online content
Top newspaper execs closeted themselves in an O’Hare airport hotel meeting room today, trying to figure out how to charge for their online content. Note: antitrust counsel was in the room; no word about whether he was bound and gagged.
As a consumer, I like free. As a content pro, I know that “free” has cost many of my friends their jobs — and that “free” would not have produced journalistic accounts of this meeting. I’m uncomfortable when industry groups convene in private to discuss whether and how to charge for their products. (Imagine if Exxon, Texaco, and Chevron had a meeting where pricing strategy was discussed.) That’s why there were lawyers there.
But on balance, I guess I’m rooting for them. Reliable, curated information has a commercial value. I’m just not sure I trust them to set the right price on that value.
Why the Verizon deal for Palm Pre is bad for Palm
It may seem counter-intuitive, but today’s announcement that the Palm Pre will become available on Verizon after its six-month exclusive with Sprint is pretty bad news for Palm.
Sprint has had six-month exclusives with Palm smartphones since the first Treo, so a post-exclusive deal is surprising only if you haven’t been paying attention. But usually, Palm’s next move is to ship an unlocked GSM phone for the world market, with Verizon coming a few months after that. But now, AT&T has its own very nice smartphone — the iPhone — not to mention a bunch of Blackberries that people like. And T-Mobile is doing very well with the Android G1 and Sidekick lines, thanks very much, with more Android phones imminent. So the two U.S. GSM players don’t care so much about the Palm Pre. Verizon, on the other hand, could use some sex in its handset lineup.
But what’s big trouble here for Palm is that the Pre now doesn’t have a GSM outlet in the U.S. There’s no question that there will be a Pre for the world; GSM is far and away the most popular mobile technology globally. But don’t count on a U.S. cellco distributor for it anytime soon, which means it will be wicked expensive because there won’t be any subsidized sales. For the U.S. market, the Verizon deal shows Palm’s weakness, not its strengths.
RIP, Rocky Mountain News
It’s not news anymore when a newspaper closes. But it’s especially sad that Scripps has killed the Rocky Mountain News. Today was its last edition.
(I’m not going to link to the RMN, because God only knows how long the links would be live.)
For many years, it was the strongest newspaper between the Mississippi River and California. It was the scrappier and more fun of the two papers in Denver, an energetic voice of the Rockies. It was 156 years old, and Scripps — the one-time owner of UPI that did so poorly by its crown jewel — decided it wasn’t worth the financial drain. The thing is, the RMN wasn’t even the weaker of the two papers.
After the jump, there’ll be two pieces from RMN writers. Full text, because the links will probably expire sooner rather than later. The first is from a sportswriter. The second is an awfully good obit, explaining why newspapers are important — and how a great paper gets that way.
Newspapers cut 9 percent of staff in 2008
Ow. Ow. Ow.
The U.S. advertising and media industry slashed 18,700 jobs in December, bringing industry job losses in this recession to 65,100…
Nice Algorithm You Got There
Google would like you to believe that it’s all automatic, that there is this army of search spiders that digs out every last page and image on the Web and decides which is “better” for any given search term. It’s true, as far as it goes, but the company tends to carefully elide the human element that goes into its search result. Until something goes horribly wrong, as it did Saturday morning. For an hour, Google said every site on the Net was dangerous — itself included.
There goes Plan B…
So now comes word that Starbucks will close 200 more U.S. stores (in addition to the 600 already slated), putting another 6,700 people out of work. I guess all my friends in publishing will now need a new “last-resort” job option.
One wonders if the severance benefits include a high-value Starbucks card and free Wi-Fi. And it this is related to yesterday’s counter-intuitive decision to stop brewing decaf in the afternoons….