Weekly Digest Issue No. 532
Ping fails to set the world alight | Floodgates open in tablet market
Tech firm funding jumps in Q2
During the second quarter of 2010 funds raised by Irish technology firms showed a marked increase on the same period last year. In all, some EUR76 million was raised during the three months, up 33 percent on the year-ago quarter, according to the Irish Venture Capital Association's VenturePulse survey. The number of firms raising funds increased too, from 35 in the second quarter of 2009 to 50 in Q2 this year.
Interestingly, the majority of the funds raised, EUR57 million, focused on follow-on investment. Of this EUR57 million, 45 percent came from Irish venture capitalists while 55 percent was generated through syndicated deals by international venture capitalists. By and large these funds will be used to drive expansion or scale up international business opportunities.
When it came to first-round funding, approximately EUR19 million was raised, or 25 percent of the total investment for the quarter. This mirrors last year's tally, but is up from 21 percent in 2008 and just 6 percent in 2007.
OpenHydro, which develops tidal turbine technology, was the top performer during the quarter, raising EUR15 million in a funding round. Meanwhile, Nualight, which makes LED illuminations for the retail sector, raised EUR8.3 million; mobile software firm Aepona raised EUR7.85 million; fabless semiconductor company Movidius raised EUR6 million; and telecoms firm Imagine raised EUR5 million. To see which other companies raised funds during the quarter, visit www.ivca.ie.
HP challenges Hurd's new appointment
It hasn't taken Mark Hurd long to get back in the saddle; the former HP chief this week was appointed co-president of business software maker Oracle. Late on Monday Oracle named Hurd as one of its two presidents and a board director, giving him a key supporting role to co-founder and chief executive Larry Ellison. Indeed, Ellison, a friend of Hurd, has been one of the ex-HP man's strongest public supporters since the surprise move by HP in early August to force Hurd out over breaches of its conduct of business rules.
In his new role at Oracle, Hurd will replace Charles Phillips, a former Morgan Stanley analyst. Hurd's key responsibilities will be for sales and marketing. According to the Wall Street Journal, Oracle will pay Hurd a base salary of USD950,000 per year, and he will also be eligible for a bonus of up to USD10 million in the current fiscal year.
Of course, that's if Hurd is in a position to take the Oracle job. On Tuesday, HP filed a lawsuit in an effort to prevent Hurd from moving to Oracle. HP said it had gone to court to protect important information. "In his new position, Hurd will be in a situation in which he cannot perform his duties for Oracle without necessarily using and disclosing HP's trade secrets and confidential information to others," the suit said. Ellison has called the HP lawsuit "vindictive". "Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner… The HP board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace," he added.
Legal experts quoted by Business Week have suggested that HP will have a real challenge ahead of it in trying to prevent Hurd joining Oracle. Californian courts have long favoured the free movement of employees between companies while keeping within their area of expertise.
Ping fails to set the world alight
It's been over a week since Apple announced its music-focused social network, Ping, and the reaction since then has been pretty mixed. Ping allows iTunes users to 'follow' their friends and see what music they're listening to. It also generates music recommendations based on what users are listening to, as well as suggestions for artists and music industry types to follow. Consumer interest in the service has been steady enough; in the first 48 hours around 1 million people joined Ping, according to Apple.
Despite the subscriber figures, there have been many critical mumblings about Ping, not least about its lack of Facebook Connect integration. The ability to find friends on Facebook via Ping featured in original demos of the service, but on launch the functionality had mysteriously disappeared.
According to Kara Swisher of technology news site All Things Digital, there was a falling out of sorts between Apple and Facebook, which resulted in Facebook denying Apple access to its friend-finding API. Although the Facebook functionality is generally open access, if a company is accessing it an extreme number of times, like Apple would be, Facebook requires them to sign a deal that would protect user data and minimise any impact to its network. Apparently discussions between the pair broke down over the terms of the deal, but Apple decided it would continue to use the API anyway. Facebook followed up by blocking Apple's access completely, which meant that the iPhone maker was forced to make last-minute adjustments to the Ping service. Swisher reports that negotiations are now ongoing between Apple and Facebook. The situation as it stands for end-users of Ping is that they can only connect with friends who have also joined Ping.
Other limitations of the service have been highlighted by commentators, many of whom are disparaging of the music being recommended. A number of reviewers claim Ping appears to have a major label artist bias, recommending artists such as U2 or Lady Gaga regardless of your stated music preferences. The service has also been criticised for being too commercial: for example, if you 'like' a tune, this is then recommended to your friends with a big 'buy' button next to it.
For now, it looks like Ping has a long way to go before it competes against the likes of established music networks like MySpace and digital music service Spotify. Getting the Facebook situation sorted would be a good start though.
Floodgates open in tablet market
The move to take on Apple's iPad tablet device took shape this week, with a couple of big names entering the fray. Berlin's IFA consumer electronics show was the stage for Samsung's debut into the nascent tablet market with the release of its Galaxy Tab. The device is a 7-inch tablet, slightly smaller than the iPad, and is based on Google's Android operating system version 2.2. The Galaxy Tab will also function as a smartphone and will be available through mobile carriers only. Unlike the iPad, the Tab features Flash 10.1 for watching web videos (the iPad relies on the less common HTML 5). It is expected to launch in Europe in mid-September, followed by other markets like the US and Asia in the coming months.
Also in Berlin, Toshiba lifted the veil off its tablet efforts with the launch of the Folio 100. The Android 2.2-based tablet boasts a 10.1-inch multi-touch screen, bigger than both the iPad and Samsung's Tab. Like the Galaxy Tab, the Folio 100 also supports Flash 10.1. Mobile maker Samsung said it will sell the Folio 100 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the end of the year. It has yet to decide whether to launch it in other regions such as the US or Japan.
Apple's iPad kick-started the tablet market with its launch in April. In the first 80 days of launch Apple sold 3 million iPads. Research firm iSuppli released figures in July suggesting that 12.9 million iPads will be sold worldwide in 2010, capturing 84 percent of the tablet market. The firm also estimates that in 2011, 36.5 million iPads will be sold globally, rising to 50.4 million for 2012. Based on these figures, it's no small challenge for any wannabe iPad killer. In saying that, the number of potential iPad challengers continues to grow and we can expect to see tablet devices being launched by Dell, Motorola, Microsoft, LG, Lenovo, HP and potentially RIM in the coming months.