Tag Archives: Technology coverage
by Chris Roush
Wall Street Journal technology editor Jonathan Krim sent out the following staff hire announcement on Wednesday:
We are thrilled to announce that long-time technology writer Farhad Manjoo is joining the Wall Street Journal as a columnist writing about tech companies, people, issues, products and trends.
Manjoo, who currently writes for Slate and Fast Company magazine, is a leading and influential Silicon Valley voice, read widely across multiple platforms. His hiring is another key piece in our global tech expansion. He will write twice a week, at least one of which will appear in print.
Manjoo has been covering the tech industry and tech culture since the peak of the last dot-com boom. At Slate, he has chronicled the rise of mobile devices, Facebook’s ascendancy, Google’s rebirth under Larry Page, Apple’s transition under Tim Cook, and Amazon’s ever-soaring ambitions.
He is adapting his 2012 Fast Company cover story on Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook into a book for Simon & Schuster. Manjoo’s previous book, True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society, was published in 2008.
Prior to Slate, Manjoo covered the tech industry for Salon and Wired, and his work has also been featured in the New York Times, Pando Daily, and National Public Radio.
Manjoo attended Cornell University, where he edited his college newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Manjoo was born in South Africa, raised in Southern California, and now lives in Palo Alto with his wife and two young children.
You can follow Farhad @fmanjoo. He’ll start on Sept. 23. Please join us in welcoming him.
by Chris Roush
Farhad Manjoo of Slate writes that he has been disappointed with what he has seen in the new Valleywag tech news site.
Manjoo writes, “I was excited when I heard, earlier this year, that Gawker Media was resurrecting Valleywag, which it founded in 2005 and later shut down. Valleywag is necessary. The tech industry is a hype-fueled wonderland of money and ambition, a place as central to the world economy as Wall Street, and one whose globe-changing ambitions are often ridiculous. When I heard Biddle would be running the site, I was even more thrilled. A longtime Gawker Media writer, Biddle worked for Gizmodo for many years, and even when I disagree with him, I find him to be a lively, hilarious writer and a dogged reporter.
“But in the few months it’s been online, the new Valleywag has been a disappointment. Too often, it squanders its resources by shooting designer fish in a gold-plated barrel, rather than taking on more important problems in technology and the tech industry. In a profile of the site in the New York Times by Nick Bilton on Sunday, the writer Paul Carr—a frequent target of Valleywag—summed up its failings this way: “Valleywag’s mission was to expose criminality, hypocrisy and corruption, but it isn’t doing any of that. … Instead you have a guy in New York pointing to Silicon Valley from thousands of miles away saying: ‘Look at that rich guy. Isn’t he rich? That rich guy is a loser.’ ”
“A stroll through Valleywag’s archives bolsters this assessment. Here’s one rich guy having the sort of expensive wedding you’d expect a rich person to have. Here’s another rich guy who paid to have his daughter meet Miley Cyrus. Here are rich techies paying for boat rides to avoid a transportation strike, and here’s a company hoping rich people will pay for laundry service. Rich techies are especially vulnerable to a Valleywag attack when they engage in that favorite rich-person pastime of giving away their money. Whether they donate to charity auctions, go on African charity expeditions, or try to teach homeless people computer programming, rich techies are ridiculed for what’s taken to be their obvious insincerity, naïveté, and clear efforts at self-aggrandizement.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
The New York Times, Twitter and other media outlets’ web sites were hacked Tuesday by supporters of the Syrian government, causing many to miss some of their favorite information sites and raising questions about cyber security.
Here’s the story from Reuters:
Media companies including the New York Times, Twitter and the Huffington Post lost control of some of their websites Tuesday after hackers supporting the Syrian government breached the Australian Internet company that manages many major site addresses.
The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker group that has previously attacked media organizations that it considers hostile to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, claimed credit for the Twitter and Huffington Post hacks in a series of Twitter messages.
Security experts said electronic records showed that NYTimes.com, the only site with an hours-long outage, redirected visitors to a server controlled by the Syrian group before it went dark.
New York Times Co NYT.N spokeswoman Eileen Murphy tweeted the “issue is most likely the result of a malicious external attack”, based on an initial assessment.
The Huffington Post attack was limited to the blogging platform’s U.K. web address. Twitter said the hack led to availability issues for an hour and a half but that no user information was compromised.
The attacks came as the Obama administration considers taking action against the Syrian government, which has been locked for more than two years in an increasingly bloody struggle against rebels.
The Financial Times offered this context in a short piece on its site:
The outage is the second that the NYT has experienced this month. An earlier incident, which lasted about two hours, was blamed on a “scheduled maintenance update”.
Other news outlets have fallen victim to hacking. This month the Washington Post said its website had been hacked, with readers of some stories redirected to the website of the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker collective that is described as supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Electronic Army claimed in a tweet that it had gained access to the site through one of its business partners.
The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of anonymous hackers who claim that Arab and western media have presented a biased view of the country’s civil war. It previously compromised news organisations including the Financial Times, the Associated Press, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
Since this isn’t the first time that media outlets have been targeted, the question is, what are they doing about it? ABC News reported on how the hackers could actually alter the domain names:
Melbourne IT released a statement this evening acknowledging an unknown party accessed a “reseller” account with a stolen ID and password and used that access to tamper with client domain names, including that of The New York Times. The company said it later reversed those changes.
“We are currently reviewing our logs to see if we can obtain information on the identity of the party that has used the reseller credentials, and we will share this information with the reseller and any relevant law enforcement bodies,” the statement said. “We will also review additional layers of security that we can add to our reseller accounts.”
When asked what a hacker could do with a successful DNS attack, Brian Krebs, a cyber security blogger at KrebsOnSecurity.com who investigated the alleged attack, said, “What couldn’t you do?”
“What DNS does is translate human-friendly domain names [like nytimes.com] into IP addresses and vice-versa. Essentially, if you hijack somebody’s domain name server or alter their information, you can control where the computer sends the user online,” said Krebs.
The U.S. might be weighing military action to try to halt the violence in Syria, but Syrian government supporters are already showing that they’re not going to sit by and watch it happen. While it might not actually hurt the U.S. government, it does show just how vulnerable much of our cyber infrastructure is and how easy it is to disrupt daily life.
by Chris Roush
Felix Salmon of Reuters writes why it is important for News Corp. to hang on to its All Things D tech news website run by journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.
Salmon writes, “What’s happened here is that Swisher and Mossberg have created something with substantial value — as much as $50 million. And since the value lies with them, rather than in the ATD brand, they can walk away and find a strategic partner willing to invest an eight-figure sum in creating a new, entirely independent brand. That’s got to be attractive to them, for two reasons: firstly, they would become truly independent, and in control of their own destiny. No more begging their New York paymasters for extra investment: if they own the company, they can make all those decisions themselves. And then, of course, there’s the money: if they each own say 25% of a $50 million company, that’s a lot of paper wealth which they’re never going to accumulate working for News Corp, and which — in the way of Silicon Valley — could become worth much more still if their expansion plans work out the way they hope they will.
“Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch stands firmly on the other side of the Great Paywall Divide, and feels as a matter of principle that all of his properties (except, perhaps, nypost.com) should charge readers for their content. He’s also human, which means that, like all other humans, he’s deeply reluctant to pay a large amount of money to buy something he already owns.
“Murdoch, by rights, should be able to retain control of ATD, complete with Swisher and Mossberg. They’re offering very little to his rivals: a minority stake, no editorial control whatsoever, and probably very little cashflow, at least for the first few years, since as a startup they’re going to want to reinvest all of their revenues back into their company. Meanwhile, News Corp has the opportunity to own ATD 100% (indeed, it already does), and can offer Swisher and Mossberg the ability to invest in the site without having to go through the hassles of rebranding and relaunching. Given the economics of control premiums, Murdoch should easily be able to promise significantly more resources than his rivals can come up with.
“But after years of writing the entrepreneurial gospel, it’s understandable that Swisher and Mossberg might want to live it for themselves. And they’re both wealthy enough to afford a few years of startup wages: Mossberg has been one of Murdoch’s highest-paid print journalists for years, while Swisher, who’s well paid herself, is also married to long-time Google executive Megan Smith.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Wall Street Journal business editor Dennis Berman sent out the following staff announcements on Tuesday:
Please join in congratulating Marcelo Prince and Lex Kaptik in their new official roles as Deputy Business Editors of the combined Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires.
As many of you know from working directly with them, Marcelo and Lex are without match– helping craft and lead our best stories about companies and business. Each has proven expert at managing the demands of journalism on multiple platforms, which is key as we adapt to our readers’ rapidly-changing tastes. Most important, they have earned the respect and trust of editors and reporters here in the U.S. and abroad.
Both Marcelo and Lex will be focused on our many platforms, with growing attention to mobile. Lex will take the lead in the mornings, getting our day started online and working with our new real-time desk. Marcelo will continue his leadership role producing the Marketplace section for both iPad and in print.
As part of these changes, the Corporate News Desk is renamed the Business News Desk and will report to Marcelo. Both Marcelo and Lex will report to me.
A congratulations is in order for Scott Austin, who is named Senior Technology Editor (@scottmaustin). As you have seen from our groundbreaking wireless calculator, Scott is adept at building complex projects. Scott will be working closely with our invigorated tech effort in San Francisco, while crafting a few new tech surprises. He will continue to be responsible for editing tech stories, from urgents to Extras, here in New York.
by Chris Roush
J.P. Mangalindan and Dan Primack of Fortune are reporting that tech news site All Things D could soon be leaving the Dow Jones & Co. family of financial news products.
Mangalindan and Primack write, “Since then, Fortune has learned that AllThingsD is working with investment bank Code Advisors to find outside investors at an enterprise value that could exceed the $25 million that AOL reportedly paid in 2010 for rival site TechCrunch. One source says that the asking price is between $10 million and $15 million for a 25% or 30% stake in the company.
“Swisher and Mossberg appear to be steering clear of traditional venture capitalists and tech billionaires, likely in order to minimize potential conflicts of interest. Instead, their focus has been on finding a partner from the media sector.
“So far they have received proposals from three media companies, one of which is said to be NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. A fourth is circling, and it is possible that the final transaction could include multiple parties.
“Other companies said to have been approached include Bloomberg, Condé Nast, and The Washington Post Company.
“‘It’s not complex,’ Swisher told Fortune in a statement. ‘Walt and I are interested in taking the online journalism and conference efforts we have been successful at building over the last 12 years and expanding them. There are lots of ways to do that, and we are thinking about the best way to evolve what we believe is an even bigger opportunity in the years ahead.’”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Ina Fried of All Things D reports that Microsoft is not inviting business reporters to its Sept. 19 financial analyst meeting.
Fried writes, “That’s not, of course, due to a lack of interest in the future of the software giant. Rather, the company has decided for the first time in recent memory to bar the press from attending the event. Instead, Redmond says that reporters, like the public, can watch via Webcast.
“There have always been various rules for the reporters allowed to cover the event — only the financial guys get to ask questions, only the formal presentations are on the record, etc. Heck, some years there have even been rules about which tables reporters can eat lunch at. But at least journalists could watch the back-and-forth between Microsoft executives and the analysts and investors who follow the company.
“And, what with the CEO stepping down, PC sales tanking and the company in the midst of a massive reorganization, presumably that banter might be of interest to those following the company.
“Microsoft has also been shifting away from even having the financial analyst meeting. What was once a standalone event each July has become something of a wild card.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer abruptly announced Friday he was stepping down within the year, sparking a race to find his replacement. Investors welcomed the news, sending the stock up 7 percent on Friday, signaling the move may be long overdue.
Here’s are some of the interesting details from the Wall Street Journal coverage:
Microsoft remains a behemoth financially. It generated nearly $78 billion in revenue in the year ended June 30—an average pace of $150,000 worth of sales every minute. The company’s fat profit, amounting to $21.86 billion last year, remains the envy of most industries.
Under Mr. Ballmer’s watch, the company succeeded in limiting many threats, including the open software standard called Linux that Mr. Ballmer once described as a “cancer.” He also helped Microsoft recover from the shock of the U.S. government’s effort to break the company apart.
But Microsoft generates nearly all of its profit from a trio of products—Windows, Microsoft Office and related software to run companies’ back-end computing gear—that are deeply dependent on the sales of Windows-powered PCs. Other products, such as the Xbox videogame machine and the Bing search engine, are either unprofitable or only marginally so.
Executives inside and outside Microsoft said change at the top of the company was long overdue. People briefed on Microsoft board deliberations said directors have scouted potential successors to Mr. Ballmer for years.
But those people said it has been tough to find the right replacement to lead a sprawling company that has only had two CEOs in its history. Mr. Gates has sold much of his stake in Microsoft, but still wields more influence on the company’s shape than anyone else.
Microsoft said it would look both inside and outside the company for a replacement as Mr. Ballmer remains CEO for up to 12 months. The surprise announcement suggests there was no planned succession, coming only about six weeks after Mr. Ballmer shuffled his entire executive suite without naming a clear No. 2.
The New York Times mentioned that Intel, IBM and Apple all staged turnarounds at some point. But the question remains, can Microsoft do it as well?
Microsoft is different from the other three companies in one important respect. It is facing a crisis of technology leadership, but not a financial crisis. Microsoft’s Windows operating systems and Office productivity software remain immensely profitable. By contrast, Intel, I.B.M. and Apple were fighting for survival. In each case, it was clear that drastic action was needed — and it was taken, successfully.
Microsoft’s seeming strength, according to George F. Colony, the chief executive of Forrester Research, has proved a weakness.
“I would argue Microsoft does have a financial problem, and it’s been the fear of losing those massive profits from Windows and Office,” Mr. Colony says. “By doing everything it can to try to protect those profits, Microsoft has taken a defensive position for more than a decade. And in technology, if you play defense you’re going to lose.”
Still, thanks to the success of its mainstay businesses, Microsoft has been able to afford multibillion-dollar investments in newer fields like Internet search, digital media players, smartphone software and, recently, tablets.
The problem for Microsoft has been that it has often been forced to make those investments while playing catch-up. In the search and smartphone markets, all the snowballing effects of leadership, brand recognition and consumer habits that helped Microsoft in the PC market are working against it as it tries to catch Google and Apple.
Past success can obscure new opportunities when emerging markets or technologies don’t operate by the same rules as a company’s tried-and-true products. And Microsoft has suffered from that kind of corporate myopia. In an interview with me in 2007, Mr. Ballmer acknowledged the problem.
So Ballmer has known that Microsoft needed to make some changes since 2007? Seems like he’s had enough time to implement those and that maybe stepping down is a good idea for him, given that he seems unwilling to shake up the operations.
The Financial Times points out that his move isn’t likely to placate Wall Street or investors:
Last week’s pre-emptive announcement by Steve Ballmer that he is to step down as chief executive of Microsoft looks set to defuse some of the growing shareholder unhappiness about leadership at the software company, according to analysts.
But it is unlikely to guarantee either the company or its chief executive a smoother ride. With Wall Street still unsure about the company’s direction and an activist investor pushing behind the scenes for more shareholder-friendly action, Microsoft faces a critical period over the next two months that could determine the fate of the new “services and devices” strategy that Mr Ballmer has tried to set for it.
Discontent among Microsoft shareholders has hit at an all-time high, says Rick Sherlund, a software analyst at Nomura Securities, as Wall Street worries that the company has still not come up with an adequate response to the waning demand for PCs.
Mr Ballmer himself has been a frequent target of the unhappiness in recent years. While activists such as hedge fund manager David Einhorn have at times called openly for his dismissal, other influential shareholders have preferred to work behind the scenes, taking their concerns directly to Microsoft’s directors, according to people familiar with some of the approaches.
The pressure on Mr Ballmer mounted again this year as ValueAct Capital Management, an activist shareholder, took a sizeable stake.
Two events over the past six weeks have added to the tension with Wall Street. Mr Ballmer’s announcement of an extensive organisational shake-up in July drew cautious applause, but left many questions unanswered – chief among them how much Microsoft will spend as it tries to expand in mobile devices and internet services. Promises of answers at a financial analysts meeting on September 19 have done nothing to quell the impatience
That was followed within days by the news that Microsoft’s business had deteriorated even more than expected in recent months. The earnings provided the first evidence of how deeply this year’s slump in PC sales has eaten into its core Windows business, analysts at Barclays said at the time.
What’s the most surprising about all of this is that there’s no clear No. 2 or a plan in place for succession. Obviously that’s why Ballmer could stay on for as long as another year. Now that he’s announced his departure, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft can retain, much less attract, the talent needed to stay competitive. With change imminent and the future uncertain, recruiting will be a huge challenge. It also leave the huge company directionless at a time when it most needs it.
As a management tactic, this announcement will likely do more harm than good in the short-run.
by Chris Roush
Nick Bilton of the New York Times writes about Sam Biddle, who is overseeing a revived Valleywag website that covers Silicon Valley with a large dose of snark.
Bilton writes, “Mr. Biddle has another favorite target: other writers who cover the tech industry.
“He has gone to great lengths to ruffle Sarah Lacy, a former writer for Businessweek and editor at TechCrunch who is the founder of a technology blog called PandoDaily that — in Mr. Biddle’s estimation — does the bidding of the industry it covers. He called Ms. Lacy a ‘free-market monster’ after she wrote a post criticizing a strike by local transit workers; he taunted her for defending the tech industry, and he chided her for becoming part of the stories she covers, considered improper for traditional journalists.
“Ms. Lacy says those criticisms are nonsense. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t think much of what Mr. Biddle is doing. ‘If Gawker thinks the Valley press isn’t uncovering stories, then go do it, because so far I haven’t seen it from Valleywag,’ Ms. Lacy said.
“Ms. Lacy and others question how Mr. Biddle can accurately report on Silicon Valley while he is based in New York. It’s a common complaint: that Mr. Biddle knows little about the industry he enjoys mocking. And they say he hardly practices the high values of journalism that he preaches. ‘Not calling people before you write about them is not noble,’ Ms. Lacy said.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Tech news site CNET has sold a reporter’s review of a Samsung phone to the company eight months after it was published as an ad, reports Brian Morrissey of Digiday.
Morrissey writes, “This past April, CNET senior editor Jessica Dolcourt reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone. Under the headline ‘The everything phone for (almost) everyone,’ the CNET veteran journalist gave the device 4.5/5 stars in a detailed, mostly positive review. She did have reservations about the Galaxy S4’s dim screen and ‘cheaper look’ compared to rivals like the iPhone.
“Fast forward eight months: Dolcourt’s review is now part of a new advertising product CNET sold to Samsung, which purchased the right to promote the editorial review through ‘CNET Replay.’ Visitors to CNET yesterday saw a paid promotion of the review on the homepage, in the midst of the site’s ‘river’ of editorial pieces, called out in a shaded box with a ‘CNET Replay’ label on the thumbnail photo. Clicking on the advertising link takes users to the original review.
“Welcome to the brave new world of native advertising, where publishers are trying to come up with twists that go beyond standard ads and that carry the whiff of editorial credibility. For an advertiser like Samsung, the (mostly) positive CNET review is probably worth more than a display ad bought on the site. CNET Replay has enabled Samsung, Intel, Microsoft and Lenovo to promote positive reviews for their products long after they were published.
“‘More and more, consumers are seeking guidance from trusted third parties,’ Kevin Berman, director of North American marketing for Lenovo, said in a statement. ‘Some look for what other consumers are saying, while many rely on well-respected industry experts for their help.’”
Read more here.