GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

A marketing company in America has been rapped by the Federal Trade Commission for publishing reviews of its clients' games on iTunes. The organisation, Reverb Marketing, has issued a statement suggesting it regarded the matter as trivial and didn't want to spend ages fighting this sort of lawsuit. We haven't put a link to its website in this instance because it was down as this story was being written; that could of course be coincidence.

The ruling follows a change to FTC guidelines this year in which it has come out against companies or their agencies posing as ordinary members of the public.

The issue isn't trivial, but it's not something the FTC should need to be involved in. In early 2009 [URL=""]Belkin[/URL] was caught putting positive reviews on [URL=""]Amazon[/URL] - the story of employer Michael Bayard and his doing so is on [URL=""]this link[/URL].

What interested many people in this instance was not that a company had done such a thing, not even that a rogue employee would do it, but that the business absolved itself from so much responsibility. Like the case of furniture maker [URL=""]Habitat[/URL] and Twitter in which Habitat hijacked hashtags pointing to Iran and human rights abuses to sell sofas, the company denied this was company policy. In other words they took the person who'd had the idea and hung them out to dry. You could argue that it would be more sensible to revise the training program - if someone's doing something wrong and ...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Internet marketers using social networks beware - linking to stories on the Internet, much as news bloggers do here on Daniweb and elsewhere, may be about to become a high risk activity. The owner of website [URL=""][/URL] is being sued by the Las Vegas Review-Journal for infringement over one of its articles.

The arguments are detailed on a [URL=""]Mediapost[/URL] site. This isn't the right forum to go through the legal arguments, which are on the link if you want them. The main thrust of the defendant's case is that the paper had offered an implied license to reproduce its material by offering to let people send links out without any charge.

There are a number of important issues in here and it's worth unravelling them. First, a load of people's reactions will be that the newspaper concerned just doesn't "get" social media. If it's going after people who publish (as distinct from 'send to individuals') links rather than whole articles then it hasn't understood that this is what social media is all about. The size of [URL=""]Twitter[/URL], for example, would probably be halved if you took all the Tweets with links out.

What people with this view don't necessarily take into account is that social media may not fit in with an individual company's business plan. Linking so that more people see an article might increase reader numbers but if they're not paying to see the thing it's not a sound business strategy unless you can sell a load of ...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

[URL=""]Dell[/URL] is going to launch its latest assault on the hand-held device market with the release of a handset called Aero. It's going to be available in the US only but that's a big enough market; it will cost $99 on contract.

It's a move that will surprise many, for two reasons. First, it's based on [URL=""]Google[/URL]'s Android operating system. This is reasonable and as a platform it's overtaking [URL=""]Apple[/URL]'s iOS, leading Apple further into a similar position to the one it occupies in the computer market - a minority system but one in which it has a 100% market share, so the profits remain constant.

The Android system is open to anyone, of course, and this is where Dell might find its greatest strength working against it. It's used to working in a multi-vendor market and doing OK - it sells Windows PCs for goodness' sake - but it's also very well aware that this market tends to carve itself up on price alone.

This is what's behind the company's attempted acquisition of 3Par - Dell wants more of the Cloud, it needs to position itself away from selling low-margin tin. Another Android phone in the market is probably not its best way of achieving this.

The other reason people might be a bit bewildered is that Dell's previous foray into hand-held devices of any description was the ill-fated Axim PDA. Launched directly against Compaq's early entry into the market, the iPaq, the range kicked off in 2002 and ...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

[URL=""]Google[/URL] has upgraded its mobile version of [URL=""]YouTube[/URL] so that it shares more in common with the desktop version on HTML5 enabled phones. This anticipates the idea that more people will watch videos on the move than on the desktop, so you'll get a better browsing experience, the ability to like and dislike and other social elements.

Put this in the context of a [URL=""]Jupiter report[/URL] which says there will be 300 million mobile broadband subscribers by 2015 and you can see why Google would want to do something like this.

More importantly it's arguably taking the mobile video market into its own hands just as it did the desktop video arena. Most of the mobile phone companies started with, if they didn't continue with, their own proprietary video standards. Smartphones such as Android - OK, that's owned by Google so of course it carries YouTube - and the Apple iPhone work with YouTube rather than their own technologies.

This move tells developers they need to continue to integrate and be prepared to accept video feeds from outside, perhaps within their own applications. It should also be telling video producers doing marketing and other corporate exercises through YouTube that it's going to be viewed on a much smaller screen than before - so no high-def whizzbangs, for the foreseeable future a simple picture is going to make a powerful difference.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

A small story in the context of the rest of the world is the UK Government's call for the banning of forthcoming computer game, [URL=""]Medal of Honor[/URL]. British Defence Secretary [URL="http://"]Liam Fox[/URL] has called for the ban because unlike its predecessors the game is set in Afghanistan, where of course both US and UK troops are still dying.

Dr. Fox is incensed and outraged that such a thing should be used for entertainment and has said so. His Government Department has made it clear (and he hasn't objected) that this is a personal view.

There are complex issues about freedom at stake here. There is also the historical and cultural perspective; the people who died in World War II, when the previous games in the series were set, were no less real than the people now losing their lives in Afghanistan; nobody minded when during the following decade people started turning movies out about them. Clearly there are other sensitivities in play now.

Game developers will need to start considering this sort of issue. If Government Ministers are going to start objecting to games on grounds of taste then this could lead to difficulties obtaining distribution.

Equally, though, this sort of publicity could have [URL=""]Electronic Arts[/URL] rubbing its hands like anything. Government Ministers drawing attention to a new game? That would be great for sales. Saying they object? Evan better - OK, in the next one we go for broke and the kitten gets it...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Social networking site [URL=""]Friendster[/URL] is going to get an overhaul under its new owner [URL=""]MOL Global[/URL]. Commentators including the [URL=""]Guardian[/URL] in the UK have reported that the site will become a games portal, putting it on less of a head-to-head footing with its main rival, [URL=""]Facebook[/URL].

You could predict that this will be the first of many such realignments. It is difficult to imagine Friendster (or [URL=""]Friendfeed[/URL] before its acquisition by Facebook actually squaring up to the social networking giant in any serious way by now. Not that these people are bad at what they do, far from it; but by now there's a very clear market leader.

So Friendster has decided to move away from its core business of social networking and into the games market. MOL must be wondering what it bought - why buy a social media brand then use it for something else? It might just work. But other than Apple doing a sideways move from computing only into consumer electronics and music gizmos, it's hard to think of a successful example of a business so solidly in one area - consider the name, for goodness' sake - moving into another.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

[URL=""]Adobe[/URL] has nailed its Android-coloured flag even more firmly to the wall than it had done before. The company hosted its so-called Android Conference yesterday in which it put forward the ways in which its software will be closely tied to the Google-owned operating system.

It's not all positive. Adobe Flash 10.1 relies on some heavily functional hardware; not every new Android phone will work with it. Adobe is also refusing to certify certain FroYo devices because the battery power is terrible. The company will be offering a new developers platform, called Flex.

All of which ties in with the news earlier today on this site that Android is a desirable platform to operate on because it's [URL=""]going to be the market leader[/URL]. As connected devices are set to grow to 5bn this month [URL=""]according to IMS Research[/URL] that's going to be quite a big market to play in.

Something that's been apparent in recent months - more than apparent - is that Apple and Adobe have fallen out, big time, and they're not going to kiss and make up anytime soon. People have been reading this as bad news for Adobe because Apple is frankly brilliant at marketing itself as the leader.

Indeed, as an individual manufacturer it's going to stay that way. But if you add up all the Android offerings there will be more of them, very quickly. You don't suppose - whisper it quietly - that after the sales figures and projections on Android, Adobe might ...

Not where I come from (Tooting, South London), but thanks!

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

It's not in the stores yet but in Europe at least the anticipation is hotting up for the [URL=""]Nokia[/URL] N8 smartphone. It's causing excited ripples for two reasons: first it's going to be seen as the first time Nokia has come out with something serious to combat the iPhone in its core market, and second because Nokia is so clearly still a [URL=""]Symbian[/URL] company.

It's worth repeating the first of those points. Nokia, still the market leader in the mobile market by a long stretch, is only just about to release its competitor to the Apple iPhone. This should tell developers a number of things, not least of which is that no matter how many or how elegant their apps, if they are targeting the Apple market they are still targeting the minority.

This brings us to the credibility of the other part of the announcement, Nokia's adherence to the Symbian platform. This has a long snd noble history but most of the hype, the press releases, the industry buzz over the last year has been about Android squaring up to the iPhone. Symbian, for all its strengths and its established lineage, barely rates a mention and following HP's acquisition of the WebOS system along with the rest of Palm, you can see why Symbian has appeared to be struggling.

And yet the figures state that Nokia makes 20m phones a week. Symbian might not be makkng the same public declarations as its rivals but it's not down and it's ...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

iPhones, including the short-supplied iPhone 4, can now be jailbroken according to a new ruling by the [URL=""]Library of Congress Copyright Office[/URL]. In other words never mind what Apple says you may and may not install on your phone, you help yourself.

On the surface this makes absolute sense. If I've paid for an iPhone - if indeed you could get them round these parts - it would be my property. It is absurd for Apple or any other manufacturer to tell me what I may and may not do with something which I own.

They can, however, make it a bit of a crazy idea.

There is nothing to stop me installing jailbroken software. Check. There is nothing to stop me putting it in a blender. I've seen people doing that online and probably so have a lot of readers.

There is everything to stop them honouring any warranty if I do any of those things. The blender's an absurd example but why should Apple honour any warranty when the customer has done something they explicitly agreed not to do when they signed the contract for the phone?

So you'll forgive me if I don't break out the champagne and jailbreak my iPhone just yet. I'm much too attached to the little guy working, and if it doesn't I find my right to jump up and down and invoke warranty agreements quite a comfort.

Of course, if you're technically competent and feeling brave there's nothing Apple can do any ...

Thanks for that. The traditional business adopting the current business model is of course to be welcomed and I'm glad someone has highlighted it (if a little irritated with myself that I didn't make this point in the first place!)

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Nobody should have any reason to wish the fledgeling [URL=""]HMVDigital[/URL] music store, launching today, anything but the best of luck (unless you're an Apple shareholder). A bad business is in nobody's interests and a competitor to an obvious leader is a good thing.

On the surface many of the omens are good. HMV has a solid track record as a music company, which Apple certainly lacked. The download market is growing healthily but the continuing dominance of the CD format suggests there's a lot of organic growth to come before competitors have to start poaching each other's market shares.

A few things concern me, though. First, the competition has stepped up lately. [URL=""]Sky[/URL], [URL=""]Spotify[/URL] and others offer not only a music download service but a streaming try-before-you-buy system (from which songs can disappear at a whim, but that's another gripe).

Second, if people like Amazon have only made small dents with all the marketing spend they have available, is a more traditional style retailer really going to cut it?

All of which leads me to the question in the title of this entry. Is there room for another competitor in this space? (I haven't even mentioned Napster) - and by extension, do we actually need one?

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Until very recently the idea that [URL=""]Apple[/URL] might have to recall a product would have seemed ridiculous. It's one of the best manufacturers of stuff in the world, people would have responded; you can't make them do that, people love the products too much.

Then the iPhone 4 came out. It was hyped like the rest, it sold out like the rest - and only yesterday the Consumer Report organisation in America, usually in thrall to all things Apple, declined to recommend it to its customers. The reason? Because in spite of Apple's claims, the Consumer Report people believe the hardware problem people have been reporting is real and not a software glitch at all.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that whether it's flawed or not, even if it's in perfect working order in every conceivable way, Apple should recall the iPhone 4. The reason is simple: Apple has to win people's trust back, no matter how technically right it believes it is. There have been stories of the company censoring criticisms on its forums, and also of Steve Jobs sending high-handed emails out to users. Unusually, Apple just doesn't seem to get it this time.

Let me give you a counterexample. A few years ago a nappy (daiper) company suffered bad publicity when a woman said she found broken glass in her child's garment. Now, it turned out that she was lying in the hope of getting some compensation out of them, but the ...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

[URL=""]Facebook[/URL] has decided to kill off its virtual gifts. According to a report from [URL=""]Mashable[/URL] nobody is saying why, they're just cutting it out.

I'll tell you why. Because it was a rubbish idea, poorly executed. OK, rephrase: as a standalone idea, it sucked. As a component of something else it might work.

The idea was that you'd find a friend on Facebook and then send them a virtual present. A beer, a cake, whatever. Now you can call me old-fashioned if you want, but if anyone wishes to send me a beer they're welcome to do so - [I]if[/I] I can drink it. Likewise cakes. I know I shouldn't but if I get offered a cake I might well eat it; if I'm offered a virtual cake which I can't eat, my reaction is more likely to be "You what?"

People liked the idea initially as a bit of fun. It didn't actually go very far, though. So if we fast forward away from the beginnings of Facebook and to the present day, we find a very different set-up. There's this [URL="http://www,"]Farmville[/URL] game, for example. I'm the first to admit that I just don't get it, but it's popular. You manage a virtual farm, exchange crops and whatever with friends and build up some sort of establishment.

Compare that to "you have just been sent a virtual apple" or something and you realise just how dated the old version had become. Whether it was to your tastes or not, ...

Agreed, but I'm talking here about Google the company, Google Inc's strategy about moving into new areas. The search is brilliant and blows the competition out of the water but Google wants so much more.

You could well be right, it was a long time ago.

A gentleman wouldn't have mentioned it, mind you.

In my haste I overlooked crediting The Media Blog for unearthing this little gem - it's at [url][/url] - many apologies, and thanks to them for drawing it to my attention.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Occasionally something crops up as a classic example of how not to build a social media network, and the BBC's decision to insult its [URL=""]Facebook[/URL] fans is a good example. The idea was to put a dummy site up as a test run for the London Olympics - they're a couple of years away but you might as well find the glitches now.

Some online commentators have criticised them for captioning the photos wrongly. This is nonsense; any writer will confirm that when you're checking a layout you don't use proper text, in fact Latin is the most usual because nobody's going to be offended by it.

Unfortunately the BBC put English, telling people they could follow the Olympics on Twitter and - wait for it - "You can also be a saddo on Facebook", it says.

It's almost as good as the ageing copy of Your Sinclair magazine which went to press without anyone noticing that the journalists hadn't filled in all of the picture captions, leaving one saying "Type some sh*t in here" - except this one betrays contempt for the very people the site will aim to serve.

Read the post again - this is a new and amazing concept introduced by me, not Apple. Apple appears to be planning a really basic online store with streaming as well as downloading. Personally I think there needs to be more, but we'll see what they do when there's an official announcement.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

The news - or rather unsubstantiated reports - that Apple is developing an online, cloud version of iTunes can be no surprise to anyone. The surprise, in the light of [URL=""]Spotify[/URL], [URL=""]Sky Songs[/URL] and other competitors is that Apple hasn't made a move before.

You could actually argue that the company has been slow on the uptake this time. Uncharacteristically, Apple has failed in a big way to update its store more or less since it started. Yes of course it now has videos and movies which it's only had for a couple of years, and by all means the app stores are doing well in every territory.

But the biggest thing in technology recently has been social networking. This is why I've put the headline above - Apple is extending its store into the cloud, yada yada, so is everyone else, that's not a big thing. But Apple tends to do things bigger than most. It takes an existing idea - MP3 player, music phone - and makes it simpler.

That's why, if this cloud story is true, I'd like to see a lot more than a cloud store which remains just a shop. If I go to the iTunes store and search for, say, Paul McCartney (I know, I'm getting old, but he's still had more hits than most younger musicians) I want to be able to listen to his music of course but I'd also like to be able to get information on when he's touring, maybe ...

Thanks Alex, I did indeed mean precisely that. The sites that are willing to be regulated will already have warning signs all over them; the ones that are inclined to send porn where it's not wanted or going to cause offence won't care that there's a new domain to help the filtering companies.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Today the news has come through - some would say it's a good thing, some will be appalled - that the XXX domain has had approval from ICANN, the authority that sets things up.

Personally I'm delighted, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think a 45 year old man might have.

I'm first delighted because as long as the owners of these domains play ball, and as long as the adult entertainment industry moves itself to the new domain, it's going to be really easy to filter out.

Second, although as a 17 years-married man the female body isn't news to me, unless there are specific laws to block these things I think people ought to have their own legitimate playground. Clearly signposted with warnings for people who don't want to play, of course, but unless the law changes - and that's a debate for elsewhere - it's got to have its place, and the safer a domain makes it for the rest of us who don't want to get involved, the better.

This is where it starts to get a little hazy.

Some people might remember a cartoon a few years ago, called Beavis and Butthead. It was juvenile stuff but that was fine - you didn't like it, you didn't watch it. It was certainly never obscene.

Until someone bought the domain for and loaded it with porn.

That's someone not giving a warning, not complying with usual laws, just deciding to offend people for ...

Thanks so much for taking the time to post that. I'm delighted to have my cynicism challenged!

Thanks for responding. What are you usig it for?

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Apple has apparently shipped 3 million iPads. You'll be aware of that because you read the papers, the blogs, the press releases - and Apple is brilliant at telling everyone when it has a hit (I don't remember getting so much information when it was pushing the Newton).

No doubt it'll be telling us how many iphone 4s it has shipped before too long, too, although there won't be one in my house until it catches up with itself for the quantities it needs to make. But let's stick with the iPad for the moment.

I bought mine on the day of release, mostly because I thought it would be insanity for a tech writer not to have one to play with. I stand by that. And I like it, I really do. But I have to ask myself: what have I actually done with it so far?

I've read a book. And some comics. I've put some music on it and listened to it because I can rather than because I thought it was an essential idea. I've watched bits of a television programme, changed my mind and put them onto the television instead (TV programmes, oddly, look better on TV than on an iPad).

I've done a bit of web surfing and yes it's more comfortable to look at than the iPhone screen. And I've played some games - Angry Birds is highly recommended, for example, as one of the most addictive games in the known universe.

Then ...

It is. But when it comes to its news service, having a human sanity-checking what comes out of it was an excellent, not to say essential, idea.

Google is an utterly brilliant search engine. But it's also trying to be so many other things, and it's not moving forward. I stand by my original post - but of course thanks for responding!

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

A few days ago I was reporting that people were [URL=""]unable to buy an iPhone 4[/URL] even if they were an existing customer.

It gets more complicated.

The story now is that O2 and other UK carriers are accepting orders only from people who are existing customers. (Except me, as you'll gather from the previous story).

It now emerges that a number of people in America have had emails saying their iPhone orders will not be fulfilled. They have been asked to go to a retail store instead.

No orders being taken yet from some outlets, even for existing customers. Cancellation of orders placed in good faith.

If I were an Apple shareholder I'd have mixed feelings. I'd think it was great, they can't make the phones fast enough. I'd also be concerned, though, about the prospect of a public backlash - and the long term effect this would have on sales.

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

Let me get one thing straight: the [URL=""]iPhone 4[/URL] is undoubtedly a beautiful device. It's due out in the UK next week - stop giggling - and I would very much like one.

The problem is that although ordering started on Tuesday, I've been unable to order one. This is because I already have an iPhone. I want to upgrade my existing contract.

And I can't.

The reason is simple. Apple had all of the pre-order iPhones and the system went into meltdown. That much is well known.

What may not be so readily apparent to readers outside the UK is that our carriers have not yet been allowed to offer the phones.

[URL=""]O2[/URL], for example, has sent details of how you can go and buy a new sim for the new phone from them on Monday and insert it into your pre-order from the Apple shop. No thanks.

[URL=""]Orange[/URL], meanwhile, has published its upgrade prices (as has O2 but Orange got there first) but as yet no means to order or upgrade through its site.

I'm an existing iPhone customer. I'm excluded from upgrades. I could so easily change my loyalties around.

Memo to Apple and its partners: if you want to continue dominating the world, you really need to remember your customers are your best asset, not the enemy...

GuyClapperton 12 Staff Writer

The web was awash with rumours yesterday and now there's confirmation - [URL=""]AOL[/URL] has sold [URL=""]Bebo[/URL] to [URL=""]Criterion Capital Partners[/URL].

The "why sell" question is too easy to answer to even bother with - it was dying on its backside. The early adopters of social media were fond of Bebo, and some creative types put a drama on it, [URL=""]Katemodern[/URL], which had a nomination for a Bafta award for innovative use of technology.

That was a lifetime ago in the social web. By the time I wrote my book last year it was more of a footnote - the place you'd find Katemodern by all means but that was meaning less and less to people as the years went past (and another one's gone past now, of course).

Bebo did nothing that [URL=""]YouTube[/URL] and [URL=""]Facebook[/URL] aren't doing better by now, and they have a larger audience.

No, the question that's more difficult is why anyone would have bought a business which has all but had the last rites read over it. I'm reminded of when Facebook bought Friendfeed - go on, when was the last time you thought of Friendfeed? Nothing seems to have been done with it, although I'd guess it looked like a terrific idea at the time.

My guess is it's going to be the same with Criterion and Bebo. Someone in the buying organisation thinks it's a great idea, maybe they think they've found a niche. Although I wish them well, and it's in nobody's interests ...