Google's "Gphone" morphs into Android
Google's anticipated "Gphone" announcement in November was both less, and more, than what had been long expected. For almost a year, rumors circulated that the online search giant was going to offer an actual phone. Google and its partners ended up unveiling not a device but a Linux-based open software platform, called Android, upon which mobile phones can be built. The idea is that a common platform will allow developers to build applications that can run on devices from many manufacturers on many networks, reducing complexity for both developers and consumers alike. Skeptics were quick to point out that Android might instead add complexity, since developers will have to build applications for it as well as existing platforms. Android-based phones, due out in mid-2008, will face entrenched platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile.
Viacom vs. Google: User-generated content hits speed bump
When media giant Viacom sued Google in March for US$1 billion, citing unauthorized uploading of TV and movie clips to Google's YouTube site, it underscored a fundamental problem for user-generated content on the Web: How do sites ensure that submissions meet certain standards, or are in fact legal? The dilemma is a problem of scale: Viacom charged that as of March, YouTube users uploaded nearly 160,000 video clips for which it owned copyrights, and that these clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times. One answer to the problem may be systems like Video Identification, which Google unveiled in October. It matches user-uploaded clips with a repository of legitimate videos, allowing the company to flag and remove, if necessary, copyright-infringing material. With the cost of legal wrangling and monitoring systems growing, it is clear that user-generated content is not truly "free" after all.
Facebook controversy: Social networking hits prime time
Facebook's decision in October to sell a US$240 million minority stake to Microsoft, which had been battling Google for the prize, solidified social networking's central place in technology. The stake values Facebook at US$15 billion total, even before it has truly figured out how to monetize its traffic. While social networking has been a growing trend for years, Facebook offers interactive features and a development platform that has Google, the social networking site MySpace and others playing catch-up. But the problem of monetization has been compounded by privacy issues. The ability of Facebook's Beacon ad system to track user actions has whipped up a controversy that won't go away soon.
Barcelona: AMD's Waterloo?
AMD was hoping that the launch of its Barcelona quad-core chips would press a perceived technology advantage it had built up against archrival Intel beginning in 2003, the year the smaller company launched Opteron chips for 64-bit applications. As Intel stumbled, AMD gained market share. But Intel cut prices and launched new 64-bit and quad-core processors. The release of Barcelona, delayed until September, may end up being a counterpunch that was too little, too late. Dragged down by shrinking margins and costs from last year's acquisition of ATI, AMD in October announced its fourth-straight quarter of losses and this month said it has delayed volume shipments of Barcelona to fine-tune the chip.
Vista hoopla fizzles: Death of the big-bang upgrade?
Microsoft launched the consumer version of Vista in January after making it available to businesses last November. Microsoft officials hyped it as the biggest launch in the company's history and now say adoption is on a normal trajectory for new operating systems. In November it said that 88 million copies have been sold. But a range of market-analysis reports show that users, especially corporate professionals, have concerns about stability and compatibility and hesitate to upgrade. Though Bill Gates has said that big marketing events will always accompany major product releases, Vista may yet prove to be the last of the old-school upgrades in a world where users, on their own timetable, download incremental updates.