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News Roundup: Internet Blimps, Handheld Wars and Anti-Piracy Malware

Who Wants Waze & YaHulu!

Another roundup, another week of extravagant sums offered to small companies by web giants. Google, Facebook and Apple have all been in the hunt for the travel app, Waze. Chief executive Noam Bardin, who has reportedly rejected offers of $1 billion dollars, clearly thinks highly of his company.

Meanwhile, Marissa Mayer’s shopping spree with Yahoo’s cash continues unabated. Less than a couple of weeks after splashing over $1 billion for Tumbler and a bit more on PlayerScale, she’s now in the process of purchasing video site Hulu. Wired pointed out that despite wanting to “refocus” the company, Mayer seems to be taking Yahoo back to its web portal roots. Considering the success Google has seen from being everything under the sun AND a search engine, it could be a smart move.

Smartphone wars over? Hardly.

Some IDC results recently led to Readwrite claiming the Smartphone wars are over. The results predicted that Android’s dominance would continue for the next few years, with only Windows making any solid gains. I think this is far off. I agree with RW’s assessment that this competition is good for the consumer, but the war is just getting interesting. Aside from new phones the likes of Jolla, Mozilla and Ubuntu, there’s Samsung’s move away from solely using Android, the news that the new Q10 Blackberry is outselling all the competition in parts of Europe, and Google’s own super smart Moto-X phone. If it’s really as intelligent as they say, featuring “sensors that can detect whether they are sitting idle in a pocket or in use on a car dashboard, and change their behaviour accordingly”, is yet to be seen, but could be an interesting device. The war isn’t over, just getting more fun.

Tablets vs. PC heating up

Just like those crazy computer eating ants, tablets everywhere are out to destroy the PC. IDC is predicting not only the biggest-ever slump for desktops, but that laptop sales will be overtaken by tablets this year, and by 2015 the beggars will outsell all other computer shipments. Mobility and BYOD are the key killers, and there seems to be no sign of a hybrid boom, so there’s my new year’s prediction out the window. Soon to join the foray is a Firefox OS tablet, with Mozilla having joined forces with iPad maker Foxconn. Dark days for the desktop indeed.

IP protection or Malware?

In some amusing Anti-Piracy news, a report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property basically recommended using malware to combat piracy.  “Software can be written that will allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur,” the commission writes.

“For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user’s computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account.”

Obviously this went down well with no one. And is a terrible idea. So it will probably go ahead. Maybe the security software giants are in cahoots with the commission, it would bound to be a nice little earner for them.

Getting around the Great Firewall with Pi

In a victory for both civil freedom and the power of tiny computers, one savvy Chinese Redditor has found a way to bypass China’s Great Firewall by using the Raspberry Pi to connect to a virtual private network (VPN). Good to know even the most massive piece of technology can be outdone by a £20 circuit board.

In a couple of other Communist/Censorship news, Taiwan is proposing deploying its own Great Firewall for censoring various aspects of the web. Obviously people preferring web freedom are concerned, but it’s early days yet as to how it will all turn out.

On top of that, the Guardian has reported that the .su internet suffix assigned to the USSR in 1990 is now a “haven for hackers who've flocked to the domain space to send spam and steal money.” Damn those communist hackers.

Google using blimps to provide High Wi-Fi

In the closest thing IDG Connect is likely to get to Steampunk news, Google has announced it plans to use blimps for providing Wi-Fi in sub-Saharan Africa. The company is looking to provide more people better access to the web; in the US its Google Fibre project is rapidly expanding and it wants to connect one billion more people to the internet in emerging markets, and a trial is already underway in Capetown. It’s a great idea and example of thinking outside the box.

Kickstarting

And as a relevant plug for today’s blog on Crowdsourcing, cool crowdfunding site Kickstarter has surpassed 100,000 projects. Just under half (44%) have been successful since 2009, and of the $630 million pledged, $535 million has actually been paid. If you’ve got a spare fiver, or a left-field idea, get yourself over to the site, it’s like a gizmo shop you can spend hours in. 

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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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