<IT WORLD> Google takes on Skype
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Google is to offer the ability to make phone calls over the
Internet via the company's Gmail services, setting up Skype as the latest
target in the search giant's efforts to achieve total Internet dominance.
Google software engineers touted the service by stating, "We've been testing
this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations,
ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant, to placing a call when you're
in an area with bad reception."
Google has offered voice and video services for a couple of years but both
parties have to be at their computers. The new calling service will allow
communication direct to telephones, putting the company in direct competition
companies in addition to Skype, which has been doing exactly that for seven
Gmail users will be able to install a browser plug-in enabling them to make a
call with their computer, microphone and headset anywhere in the United States
and Canada for free, and internationally from 2 cents per minute to around a
This could be worrying for Skype, which has an estimated 124 million users, as
the number of Gmail users comfortably exceeds that, at around 200 million. On
August 9, 2010, Skype filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the
United States to raise up to US$100 million in an initial public offering. A
rewriting of the share sale prospectus could now be in order, and a rethink of
the future earnings possibilities, given Google's challenge.
It is also a worry for eBay, which bought Skype in 2005 and still holds a
minority stake after selling 70% last November to a consortium comprising
Silver Lake Partners, CPPIB, Andreessen Horowitz, and the original founders -
Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom and Dane Janus Friis.
The free phone calls offer another possible revenue stream for Google, which
makes its profits from advertising, such as the stuff that pops up along with
search results. Soon, users of the new phone service will doubtless have to
listen to an ad before they make their call, which may or may not be logged
into Google's vast humanity information database.
Yahoo finally cemented its partnership with Microsoft this week by completing
the transition to Bing for its search results. Following an agreement signed
last year, the Internet pioneer has switched its backend search technology to
Microsoft's fledgling engine to strengthen the competition to Google's market
The transition also incorporates the amalgamation of the online advertising
departments of both companies; Microsoft is aiming to move all of Yahoo's US
advertisers and publishers onto its AdCenter platform. The combined efforts
will give the companies close to 30% market share, still leaving them a long
way behind Google, with over double that.
AMD has announced details on new architecture for two new microprocessor
families code-named "bulldozer" (aimed at high-end servers and PCs) and
"bobcat" (for laptops and low-power notebooks). According to the company, the
redesign will provide a third way between traditional multi-core processing and
simultaneous multithreading. What this means in layman's terms is that they
will be a lot faster, be a lot more powerful and have better power consumption
than their predecessors.
The bulldozer architecture will allow shared resources to enable the chip to
crunch more data simultaneously than previously; multiplying the processor
cores will double, triple and quadruple the capabilities. The design has been
viewed as chip evolution rather than revolution, the next stage in micro
User interface details on Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 web browser have been
leaked by one of the company's Russian websites this week. The screenshots
reveal a very Chromey feel, with some additional features such as quick release
tabs and a new address and search bar. Microsoft has been very quiet about the
general appearance and user interface of its new browser, probably because a
lot of it may well have come from its competitors.
IE9's first beta version will be available for download on September 15, with
the final edition, which is likely to be very Bing focused, expected to be
released in the first quarter of 2011.
Mozilla is also following in the footsteps of Google's Chrome with its newest
browser, Firefox 4, which is due for release in October. The cleaner look is
definitely the big thing as Mozilla has moved the tabs to the top on the new
version and introduced a new "panorama" tab management feature.
Firefox 4 will include a synchronization function, which will recognize user
preferences such as saved passwords, bookmarks and open websites across
China has been extending its space ambitions recently with the launch of a new
earth-mapping satellite. The Tianhui 1 satellite was launched in a circular
orbit about 500 kilometers above Earth following liftoff aboard a Long March 2D
rocket from Jiuquan base on Tuesday.
The satellite, built by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, will
mainly be used to conduct scientific experiments and carry out surveys on land
resources and mapping, said a statement on the Ministry of National Defense
The launch was China's seventh this year and the 128th in total for the
country's Long March series of rockets, which first lifted off in 1970.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.