News Roundup: Tech Separatism, Larry No More and Privatised NSAs

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Apple news, Tech Towers and Affluent Networks

Tech Separatism

After months of bickering and questionable promises, Scotland will remain part of the UK. It looks like Silicon Valley will have to remain tied to its peasant neighbours too after Tim Draper’s plan to break up California failed. The proposed bill failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Russia meanwhile is continuing its push to separate itself from the rest of the tech world. According to Gigaom, the Kremlin is discussing ways to cut the Russian internet off from the global internet in the event of emergencies such as war or protests. Cuba, North Korea and Iran may be able to offer advice.  

Oracle, Salesforce Tower and M&A news

Oracle’s Larry Ellison has officially stepped down as CEO after founding the company 37 years ago. The fifth-wealthiest person in the world will continue on as CTO and Chairman while Mark Hurd and Safra Catz will step up. It’s the end of an era but do people really think Larry will stop pulling the strings of the company?

Not so long ago, Heron Tower in London was renamed Salesforce Tower amid mild much fanfare. This week, however, that name has been withdrawn and it will now simply be known by its address; 110 Bishopsgate. According to CityAM, the company will be allowed to keep its branding within the tower and informally call it “Salesforce Tower,” but no one else will. Oh dear.  

Meanwhile arguments over whether we’re in a tech bubble and if it’s going to pop continue. IDG Connect’s own Alex Cruickshank says no, Tech-investor Billy Gurley says yes. What do you think?

Plenty of M&A action this week with some serious money being swapped, and all the big enterprise companies are getting on in the action. SAP has coughed up an eye-watering $8.3 billion for Concur, its biggest ever deal. Oracle has acquired Front Porch Digital, Citrix has bought Virtual, Cisco now owns Metacloud, Red Hat has got its hands on FeedHenry, Qualcomm has snapped up Euvision,  Cognizant splashed out $2.7 billion for Heathtech company TriZetto while Micro Focus has spent $1.2 billion on Attachmate Group.

Reports of Twitpic’s demise have been greatly exaggerated it seems, after the company Tweeted that it had been acquired (no word on who by) and would live on. Happy days. Sony looks like it could become the next BlackBerry after news that it expects to make a $2.15 billion loss this year due to its failing mobile business. Over in Russia, Mail.Ru has acquired the rest of social network VKontakte in a $1.5 billion deal, and Rackspace is no longer up for sale. Elsewhere Ericsson has taken over Fabrix Systems, Jibjab has acquired Make Believe Labs, Brocade has bought Vistapointe, OnApp now owns SolusVM and Mobli Media has purchased Pheed.


The usual dose of NSA headlines:

-          The NSA’s Treasure Map program can create “a near real-time, interactive map of the global Internet,” and is sharing lots of info with Israel.

-          The NSA is still saying Ed Snowden didn’t try to raise concerns internally, and its chief says he is keeping a close eye on ISIS.

-          Kim Dotcom and Ed Snowden says New Zealand has been doing a lot of mass surveillance, NZ PM John Key says he considered but rejected the idea, but that the NSA may well be spying on the country.

-          Yahoo!’s fine for not signing up to PRISM would have reached trillions of dollars in less than six months, and the company is apparently not allowed to argue against violating its user’s privacy.

-          Wikileaks has released the FinFisher malware being used by intelligence agencies to spy on people.

-          NSA agents don’t appreciate being collared at events.

Google’s latest transparency report shows government requests for info have risen 150% over the last five years, while Apple has announced that it will no longer turn over data from iPhones to police even if they have a warrant.

Apple, U2 and Sex

The tail of Apple’s conference has grown long in the last week. 4 million+ pre-orders and warnings of shipping delays, rave reviews, unveiling fails, blackmarket prices, Paypal bitching, and questions over the impact an Apple smartwatch could have on our sex lives.

The U2 album generated a lot of noise too. Of the 500 million-odd iTunes users, 33 million actually listened to the album foisted upon them and it also helped haul their previous releases back into the charts. On the other hand Sharon Osbourne pointed out no one wants mediocre music while Tyler, The Creator likened the non-optional download to ‘waking up with herpes.’ Apple eventually capitulated and provided a removal tool for those who wanted it. Frontman Bono has said he’s working with Apple on a new music format that can’t be pirated, apparently under the assumption people still want his music for free. Or at all.

Verbatim – Privatised NSAs, Saving the Planet and Anti-Bitcoin

Mr. Wikileaks Julian Assange has been doing a lot of talking lately. Aside from calling Google a "privatised version of the NSA,” he recently conducted an AMA on Reddit where he talks about that film on him [“A $60m attack on your reputation distributed by Disney”], his health, Bitcoin and of course mass surveillance.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also been talking about things other than iPhones this week. We learned that Steve Jobs’ office is now an untouched shrine-cum-time capsule, the company really messed up with Apple maps, and Cook is working hard on saving the planet.

There’s been various cock-ups and failures in the world of techie crowdfunding. The guys behind Kreyos smartwatch are just another example, and their CEO Steve Tan has written a long blog post explaining how it all went Pete Tong. It lays almost all the blame at the feet of Pro Yang and his Viewcooper company, but highlights the need for transparency and working demos before you part with donation money.

The Russian Ministry of Finance doesn’t seem to be very in favour of Bitcoin after the country’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexsey Moiseev said: “People can play with their chips, and they can call them money, but they can’t use these surrogate currencies as tender.”

Rich kids and Affluent Networks

Not long ago we found a study that said iPhone users are richer than their Android counterparts. This week we’ve learned that Tumblr is the social network all the rich kids go to. The median household income of its user base is $80,075, more than Twitter ($79,562), Pinterest ($78,967) and Facebook ($70,124). The suited types of LinkedIn earn a mighty $83,000, but just aren’t cool enough.

That might change soon though after the news that a new social network will charge users $9,000 to sign up. Billing itself as “The World’s Most Exclusive Online Community”, The Netropolitan Club says it’s for “affluent and accomplished individuals worldwide to socialize in a completely private and secure manner” for a $3,000 a year fee. That the founder had to announce to the world that this wasn’t a joke says a lot. 


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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