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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's official: HD DVD is dead. Long live Blu-Ray!

After months of build up and days of rumours, Toshiba today officially announced that it's giving up on HD DVD. And not a moment too soon. By end of March, it will not have any more HD DVD players, recorders or other gadgets. That's only a month (and a few days) away!

Of course, Apple has always been in the Blu-Ray camp. Intriguingly, though, it has not released any Blu-Ray device yet. Perhaps it was waiting for the "war" to end before revealing its hand?

Or maybe Apple TV Take 2 and MacBook Air gives a clue about its strategy. Both devices eschew an optical drive in favour for downloads or streaming. Apple TV receives its content from a host computer wirelessly, including HD content, or logs onto the Internet to grab YouTube videos. MacBook Air is too thin to fit an optical drive in, and relies on another computer's drive (again, connected wirelessly) to load software from discs.

Then there's the iTunes Store, which has shown that people are willing to pay for media-less content at a fair price. Finally, even backing up a hard disk no longer requires removable storage. Case in point: Time Machine. The contents of your computer are automatically backed up to another hard disk. Especially with prices of hard disks continuing to drop, there's really no need to rely on DVD or even Blu-Ray for storage.

All of which just goes to show: is the optical drive still necessary? And if not, then was the Blu-Ray vs HD DVD war even worth fighting over?

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Who else should buy Yahoo!?

Yahoo!
Microsoft's planned purchased of Yahoo! for US$44.6 billion has the entire tech world shaken up. Sure, it's been rumoured for a long time, but I don't think anyone ever really expected the ball to drop. But drop it did, and we may have to live with the repercussions.

Assuming that the deal doesn't go through (hey, who knows how influential the Flickr/Del.icio.us membership base really is?), who else should buy Yahoo!?
  1. News Corp
    • Pros: Combining Yahoo!'s huge membership base with MySpace's could turn the portal into a goldmine for mining people's habits, similar to how Google knows "everything" about its subscribers. Yahoo!'s strong media focus would also mesh well with News Corp's traditional businesses.
    • Cons: Microsoft's huge bidding price has artificially inflated Yahoo!'s valuation. Murdoch might not be willing to shell out that kind of money, especially after buying the Wall Street Journal.
  2. Time Warner
    • Pros: TW needs to make an impact online. So far, all of its efforts have been to support old media. Its purchase of AOL didn't go according to plan and it needs to get back into the saddle - quickly! Also, like News Corp, Yahoo!'s media strengths would play well with TW's many businesses.
    • Cons: Its management team comes from old media and has no idea of how to make use of new media. Buying Yahoo! could turn into another AOL-style debacle.
  3. Google
    • Pros: Combining the world's largest and second largest search engines would set Google far apart from the runner up. Also, Yahoo! is the most used website outside of the U.S., giving Google incredible international reach. Yahoo!'s Web 2.0 services, like Flickr and Del.icio.us, could also be integrated easily into Google, bringing the latter even closer to organising the world's information.
    • Cons: Google is too big. The U.S. and European Union wouldn't allow it without significant - and crippling - concessions.
  4. Apple
    • Pros: Yahoo! is already working with Apple on optimising its services for the iPhone. Both Yahoo! and Apple share the same Silicon Valley culture of independent innovation that change the world for the better. Apple also needs a significant online presence besides its iTunes Store. .Mac hasn't progressed much since its launch. Folding Yahoo!'s services into .Mac (or the other way around) would make Macintosh computers and iPhones even more valuable than they are.
    • Cons: Steve Jobs wouldn't allow it. He's too focused on devices and getting people to buy music and videos online. Buying Yahoo! would dilute his focus, which may prove to be bad news for Apple overall.
So while I hope the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal doesn't go through, I don't know if there are any other "white knights" available. However, I still think that Yahoo! has sufficient strengths to continue operating as an independent company. It has market share, it has clout, it has sustainable services. It just needs to find the right strategy and the right people to carry out that strategy.

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