Weekend Update, 3.14.09–Special Roman “Ides of March” Edition
In Silicon Valley, it’s hard to believe that not everyone follows each shiny new thing on the Web, tracks OS versions as intently as the storyline of “Battlestar Galactica” and remains jacked-in pretty much 24/7. But it’s been known to happen.
For instance, BoomTown was in Rome earlier this week attending a conference on business, brand and innovation that happens only once every seven years–and one of the biggest takeaways? Hardly any Italians have heard of Twitter, and those who have don’t really use it. Well, that, and conversations with Arianna Huffington, Reid Hoffman, and several Italian business leaders. Mark Zuckerberg, though, is most definitely plugged into the white-hot microblogging service. This week, he used his Twitter account, plus an appearance on “Oprah,” as a platform to herald the launch of Facebook’s own Twitteresque homepage redesign. In other news, Time Warner (TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes laid off AOL President and COO Ron Grant and Chairman and CEO Randy Falco. BoomTown interviewed Falco’s replacement, Google (GOOG) ad sales exec Tim Armstrong, who’ll start at AOL as Chairman and CEO on April 7.
MediaMemo had the full memo from Time Warner on the Falco/Grant-Armstrong transition and also spoke with Boxee CEO Avner Ronen this week. Boxee is the start-up that lets you watch Web video on your TV, basically bypassing your cable box. Which is probably why it’s caught up in a cat-and-mouse game with Hulu, the joint venture between GE’s (GE) NBC and News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox that would much rather have you watch TV on the Internet instead. Guess who’s the mouse? Still, Hulu is down two networks, ABC and CBS (CBS)–though presumably, the aim is to offer all three. (News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.) MediaMemo also noted that Google rolled out its behavioral targeting functionality this week and points out that we all might be hearing a lot more from a man named Rick Boucher in the near future as a result.
Behavioral targeting wasn’t the only thing that Google rolled out this week–it also launched Google Voice, the initiative based on the company’s acquisition of voice communications start-up GrandCentral. Digital Daily covered the story. Elsewhere in the telecom world, major Palm (PALM) investor Roger McNamee made some bold (read: crazy) assertions about iPhone users switching en masse to the Pre, which later needed to be clarified (read: backed away from) by Palm itself. RBC analyst Mike Abramsky is also bullish on the Pre and its WebOS, but in a less crazy way. He gave it a glowing write-up on Friday. For a product that hasn’t yet been given a price or a launch date, it’s certainly building itself some high expectations. Of course, it’ll need to fulfill them to compete with the ever-evolving iPhone, which for which Apple (AAPL) is having a press event Tuesday to announce version 3.0 of the device’s OS.
Walt Mossberg reviewed the new version of Apple’s ever-evolving iPod Shuffle this week, which has the distinction of being the first mp3 player to “speak.” His verdict was in Wednesday’s Personal Technology column. In Mossberg’s Mailbox, Walt answered questions about using a stylus with the iPhone and offered an explanation on how to change Apple’s Safari 4 beta so that it looks and works more like the previous version. And in this week’s Mossberg Solution, Katie Boehret took a look at iSkoot’s Notifier, an app designed to endow basic cellphones with smartphone-like capabilities.