Internet Bubble?

The Economist writes:

The Skype deal is absolutely a return to the 1999 mentality, says Pip Coburn of Coburn Ventures, a technology-strategy firm. It and many of the other recent and mooted internet deals seem to be based on little more than the belief of management that everything is going to change dramatically in the next few years, in highly unpredictable ways, and so all options need to be covered. Given that mentality, says Mr Coburn, a manager can pretty much justify paying any price.

One difference between today and the late 1990s is that today many of the fancy prices of internet firms are being paid by companies buying them, rather than by investors merely buying their shares. Their motives are understandable: to protect themselves from the potential risks and position themselves for the potential rewards of a maturing internet. What remains to be seen is how much some of these embattled firms will pay in their pursuit of the winning lottery ticket.

Killer Maps

Technology Review writes:

The mapping revolution could, in short, change the way we think of the World Wide Web. We’ve long spoken of the Web as if it were a place–with “sites” that we “go to”–but as places go, it’s been a rather abstract, disembodied one. Now that’s changing. Geotagging means the Web is slowly being wedded with real space, enhancing physical places with information that can deepen our experiences of them and making computing into a more “continuous” part of our real lives.

For example, users of smart phones and wireless PDAs with location technologies such as Global Positioning System chips may soon be able to automatically retrieve stories, photos, videos, or historical accounts related to their current locations, along with ads and listings for nearby shopping, dining, entertainment, and business outlets.

And the information is already flowing both ways: users can upload their own texts, photographs, and other data to the Internet and pin them to specific latitudes and longitudes. “Historically, maps were a ‘read-only’ medium,” says Schuyler Erle, chief engineer at Locative Technologies and coauthor of Mapping Hacks. “Maps were only created by professional cartographers and professional GIS [geographic information systems] people. What has happened because of Moore’s Law is that people now have the computing power on their desktops to manage the vast amounts of data that are required for digital cartography. Maps are increasingly a ‘read-write’ medium. That changes how we interact with them and the impact they can have on our everyday lives.”

Microsoft and Software

WSJ writes about how Microsoft is changing the way it develops software to counter Google:

Microsoft’s holy grail is a system that cranks out a new, generally bug-free version of basic Windows every few years, with frequent updates in between to add enhancements or match a competitor’s offering.

The Longhorn crisis helps explain the sweeping restructuring that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced this week to organize the company into three major business units. A key goal is to force Microsoft to be more nimble in producing and delivering software.

While Windows itself couldn’t be a single module — it had too many functions for that — it could be designed so that Microsoft could easily plug in or pull out new features without disrupting the whole system. That was a cornerstone of a plan Messrs. Srivastava and Valentine proposed to their boss, Mr. Allchin. Microsoft would have to throw out years of computer code in Longhorn and start out with a fresh base. It would set up computers to automatically reject bug-laden code. The new Longhorn would have to be simple. It would leave bells and whistles for later — including Mr. Gates’s WinFS, Messrs. Srivastava and Allchin say.