25th August 2006
Prompt Communications Newsletter
Communicating technolgy

Dear Reader,


Technology is not just for the nasty things in life, like a blocked DSL line or a leaky firewall. It’s also there to keep us all entertained and amused, as demonstrated by the System to Augment Non-speakers Dialogue Using Puns (STANDUP) project, completed by scientists at the Universities of Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh this week. Children with speech problems can type a few words and phrases into STANDUP, and out pops a reasonable gag, such as: "What do you call a strange rabbit? A funny bunny". Not bad for a computer, anyway. Rumours that Prompt is currently nearing completion of its ‘Look, A Suitable Introduction’ (LASI) project are unfounded.

For any feedback on our newsletter, or to discuss how we can help you with your technology PR, marketing, copywriting or surveys, please call me on 0208 996 1653 or email me at hbutters@prompt-communications.com. We are always delighted to hear from you.

Best regards,

Hazel Butters
Prompt Communications

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Technology Update

By Sean McManus and Dave Wilby

Apple clamps down on iSweatshops

Apple has admitted that staff assembling iPods in China work over 60 hours a week a third of the time. A quarter of the time, staff worked six days in a row. Apple says it is now enforcing a ‘normal’ 60 hour week at its supplier’s factory. Apple said in a statement that it had "a zero tolerance policy for any... treatment of workers that could be interpreted as harsh”. Meanwhile, blog Leopard operating system, which was given out to developers two weeks ago. Could that be interpreted as harsh? Leave your comments on our blog.

Big Blue muscles in on security sector

IBM made a serious move into the security arena on Wednesday with the $1.3bn (£686m) acquisition of Internet Security Systems, as reported on ZDNetUK and elsewhere. IBM already offers some managed security services and software in its Tivoli product line. But this new all-cash deal will allow IBM to compete more effectively in the enterprise security services market, thanks to the sizeable raft of new network protection toys, software and services it has snapped up, including some rather timely intrusion detection and monitoring tools. Tom Noonan, president and chief executive of ISS said: "With an integrated security platform that is adaptable and extensible to address new threats and business requirements without incremental complexity and cost, ISS has the foundation for delivering security as a service."

The deal represents just the latest acquisition in a recent $4bn (£2.1bn) summer shopping spree for IBM that has included deals to buy Webify Solutions, MRO Software and FileNet.

Microsoft to get matey with Mozilla?

Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's open source software lab (not The Evil Dead), has offered to help the developers of Firefox integrate the main browser rival to Microsoft’s own IE with the upcoming Vista operating system. Ramji posted an open offer of help on Google Groups, as well as mailing the invitation to Mozilla.org, however it is still far from certain whether Mozilla and the open source community will welcome the gesture or not. "I'm writing to see if you are open to some 1:1 support in getting Firefox and Thunderbird to run on Vista," Ramji wrote, underlining the fact that Microsoft was "committed to evolving our thinking beyond commercial companies to include open source projects". Microsoft is anxious that Mozilla and the rest of the open source movement should not take the offer lightly or be suspicious of Microsoft's motives, according to ZDNetUK, which also quotes Mozilla Europe saying it was "too early to comment" on Microsoft's offer. The Firefox browser already runs successfully on existing Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems, as well as Vista beta 2.

Simple maths adds up to Edge Award

A suite of counting games has won the Edge Award for innovative computer games. Brain Training for the Nintendo DS helps players to tone up their grey cells by rapidly answering simple maths problems, counting people going in and out of a house, or sorting boxes into ascending order. Answers are written on the touchscreen. The surprisingly addictive maths challenge beat musical games Guitar Hero and Electroplankton, interactive movie Fahrenheit and snowboarding simulator Amped 3 among others.

And finally...

Hacker Kevin Mitnick, who served five years in a US prison for wire and computer fraud, had his website hacked this week. According to ZD Net Australia, Mitnick’s websites promoting his security services were replaced with ‘some expletives’ and an image of Mitnick which ZD Net coyly describes as ‘modified’. Although Mitnick now sells security services and is forbidden from discussing some of his former exploits, he couldn’t resist sticking up for his noble craft. "When I was a hacker, I never stooped to defacing sites because that was more like vandalism," he said. "It is more about getting in and looking around and exploring. "

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Marketing Update

By Elissa Fry

Sony buys video site Grouper.com

The increasing popularity of social and community networking sites has given rise to a feeding frenzy by large media companies to embrace user-generated video, in order to increase marketing potential to the masses. With this in mind, it is no surprise that Reuters news this week confirmed Sony Corporation’s entertainment unit has agreed to pay $65 million (£34m) to buy Grouper.com, a web video-sharing site. Grouper.com will give Sony a ready-made network to deliver and promote both Hollywood produced content and niche-market consumer-created videos.

Meanwhile, Paris Hilton fronts YouTube video ads launch

YouTube, the website that now broadcasts 100 million videos a day, is adopting video advertising methods to further boost its ever-expanding revenue, making it a more attractive buyout option by the minute. According to Brand Republic, YouTube will kick-off its campaign by devoting its first homepage video ad spot to Warner Bros, directing users to behind-the-scenes footage from the production of Paris Hilton’s debut album.

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Web 2.0 Watch

By Dave Wilby

Oh the humanity! It appears this Web 2.0 lark has got people in the search industry thinking - perhaps some questions can be answered more accurately by humans than machines? According to recent analysis on CNET, Yahoo and Microsoft are among the first companies to begin embracing so-called ‘social search’ in favour of clinical algorithms. Social search relies on website communities to come up with answers to questions or to provide links to web sites or other resources of common interest. Of course we all do this to an extent on blogs and forums, and so for many a more structured future is just natural progression. However, this doesn’t mean the end of machines telling us where to go just yet. "If social search is not significantly better than Google search results, no one is going to use it, " Jason Calcanis, general manager of Netscape.com told CNET, almost entirely missing the point. Web 2.0 fans that do see a role for social search will argue that particularly when it comes to subjective or judgemental queries, people are generally much more comfortable interacting with other people, rather than an algorithm. Which for example, would have little idea where the safest taxi ranks in Stockport are, or who makes the creamiest cheesecakes in Wales...

In Marketing Update you’ll have read that Sony has agreed to pay an astonishing $65 million (£34m) for Grouper, a relatively low-profile, profitless video-sharing company with negligible market share. Industry commentators and analysts are now understandably asking: "So what the heck is market leader and media darling YouTube worth then?" With Google recently agreeing to pay $900 million (£475m) to provide search and advertising for MySpace, some experts are now estimating YouTube is already a $1 billion (£528m) company, and will eventually sell for several times that figure.

Several months ago we brought TechCrunch to your attention in our old Blog of the Week section. TechCrunch is a very reliable blog dedicated to reviewing new internet products and companies, with somewhat of a US bent. So this week we were delighted to read that TechCrunch UK has now launched to support ‘UK-based and/or focused startups’. It is being written by Sam Sethi, a London based entrepreneur. Subscribe to TechCrunch UK via RSS here.

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UK Media Report

By Annie Kasmai

UK Elizabeth Bauer has joined The Guardian as financial reporter. Lucy Warwick-Ching, personal finance correspondent at the Financial Times, is joining the UK companies desk as a reporter. Ben Laurance is joining The Sunday Times business team and will be focusing on investigations in the consumer goods sector. Tracey Boles, business journalist at The Sunday Times, is leaving.

Will Head has been appointed as news editor for VNU Business Publications website, VNUnet.com. He joined the website on 1st August and was formerly the group editor of IDG’s consumer sites. Head said the following about his appointment: "I’m specifically interested in the internet, web 2.0, mobile and consumer electronics."

In an attempt to extend TalkSport’s sport coverage, owner UTV hopes to launch a news-only radio station, with the aim of offloading the current affairs content currently aired. With Ofcom due to advertise a second national digital multiplex licence by the end of this year, Scott Taunton, managing director of UTV Radio expects to get the space to launch the new station. It would be the first commercial station devoted solely to UK news.

The Daily Telegraph is launching a fortnightly regional property and lifestyle supplement focusing on the Midlands, North Wales and Northern England. This new supplement will launch on 14th September 2006 and will be called ‘Living In’. It will be a 20-page tabloid supplement edited by Richard Holledge, and will cover local property hot spots and new developments, plus restorations and conversions.

US Media Report

By Heather Lynch

US TechTarget.com recently launched SearchServerVirtualization.com, a resource covering the basics of virtualisation for IT directors and system architects. The site explains the hardware involved, best practices, and ways to maximise virtualisation use with applications. Jan Stafford, who has covered the computer industry for 20 years, has been appointed editor.

Crain’s new publication Financial Week brings on Glenn Coleman as editor. Coleman replaces Robert Hertzberg, and most recently served as a deputy editor at Popular Science. Coleman helped launch InvestmentNews in 1999, a financial advisory publication also published by Crain. FinancialWeek provides financial news and trends for senior-level financial officers.

Associated Press Business reporter Christopher Wang has left AP. Wang had been with the news service, which serves 6,000 broadcast outlets around the world, since 2005.

InterActiveCorp has bought a majority stake in the parent company of Collegehumor.com, a popular site with college-aged visitors. The site attracts upwards of six million unique visitors per month, and offers videos, articles, games and photos. This is the first website added to the IAC portfolio since it launched its programming division launched in January.

Future Proof #6

By Lance Concannon

Crystal Ball

The problem with mobile phones is that while pretty much everybody agrees that talking loudly into them in public is extremely anti-social, most people tend to think this only applies to other people. You might hate it when somebody else starts blabbering into their mobile while you’re trying to read your newspaper on the train, but the minute your own phone rings you instantly forget how loathsomely inconsiderate it is.

It wouldn’t be such a problem if people could just learn to keep their voices down, but despite the excellent quality of current mobile phone networks many people still feel the need to hold conversations at the top of their lungs. The solution? All mobile phones must have in-built volume sensors, so that when users raise their voices to unnecessary levels, connections are automatically cut and phones blocked for a period of five minutes. That said, the feature should probably be disabled for emergency calls: "HELP! I’M BEING ATTACKED BY ESCAPED TIGERS!" click, beeeeeeeeeeeep...

Best of the 'Net

By Sean McManus

Nudo Italia

Don’t worry, this isn’t some sordid cable TV channel - Nudo is an olive grove. If you’re feeling hemmed in by the city, you can now sponsor an olive tree 1500 miles away and receive all the produce from it as well as the satisfaction of supporting small scale farming. Depending on the weather, you could get up to three litres of olive oil in the spring, as well as more oil and a selection of soaps later in the year. If you adopt a tree, you can visit it, water it and even hug it, apparently. If you’d like to take part, you’ll have to hurry. There are just 119 orphan trees left, with the remaining 762 already sponsored.

When we think of e-commerce we tend to think of Amazon, so it’s great to see the internet bringing together small-scale farmers with potential sponsors all over the world.

Tech Toon


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