Will Microsoft Go Hostile?

MSN / Yahoo!While the Microsoft / Yahoo! bid story seems to have been rolling for months it seems that we may actually be approaching the business end of the story. The Microsoft board met yesterday to agree their options and strategy for the future and while there was no announcement yesterday, many analysts on Wall Street are expecting news by the end of this week.

So what are the options? What will happen?

There are a number of options for both Microsoft and Yahoo! but it is Microsoft who has to decide their future strategy as soon as possible. The options are :-

Go Hostile

It is possible that Microsoft may decide to go hostile and take their bid straight to the shareholders of Yahoo! if the Yahoo! board decide not to recommend the offer. The current offer is $31 a share and while the management of Yahoo! are looking for between $35 and $37 per share, it seems unlikely that Microsoft will increase their offer to the higher end of the range.

Increase The Offer For A Board Recommendation

The most favourable course of action would be to agree a bid with the board of Yahoo! who would then be able to recommend this to shareholders as offering fair value for the group. This route would also allow Microsoft to retain as many of the Yahoo! directors as they wanted without any fallout from an aggressive bid.

Walk Away

While walking away is still an option for Microsoft, this seems highly unlikely now that they have shown their hand. If they were to walk away this would not only open the door to someone else taking over Yahoo!, but it would possible bring into question the future of certain parts of the Microsoft empire.

Even though there is still a long way to go in this fight it seems unlikely that either party will let the other walk away without agreeing an offer. In order to fight the mighty Google there is no real option other than a merged group.

Is Your ISP Spying On You?

ISP SpiesWhile it has long been suspected that ISP were able to spy on their customers and collect data about their internet usage, it seems that a number of surfers around the world have actually caught their ISPs in the act. So what are the regulations?

The regulations for internet usage are very much stacked in favour of the ISPs and the companies whom they sell your data on to. So long as the data is not able to identify the person or persons using the system then many in the industry claim that this does not break any regulations or any laws. However, there is a growing ground swell of opinion which suggests that the surfing information which the ISPs collect from you can actually be traced directly back to you, and they can see who you are.

Not only is this deemed illegal in many countries of the world, but it opens up internet surfers to fraud and blackmail. There is also the chance that the Police may well decide to use the ISP option in the future in order to track suspects ? whether they are guilty of crimes or not.

While there is no person in their right mind who would argue against using the internet to find those who commit a range of heinous crimes, we are slowly seeing our privacy eroded and left open to abuse. Just lately we have seen local councils in the UK charged with using laws which were designed to protect us from terrorists, to follow and monitor people accused of ?crimes? such as dropping litter via CCTV cameras.

If the local councils of the UK are happy to ?piggyback? the use of CCTV cameras for ?other ? uses, then what is to stop them hacking into your computer and checking your surfing habits without your knowledge?

The Old Bailey Goes Hi-Tech

Old BaileyIn a move which should eventually see all trial cases online going back to 1674, a group of universities have got together to set up a new online Old Bailey service using official documentation. Sheffield, Hertfordshire and the Open University have joined forces in a ground breaking move which will save time and expense for the raft of historians in the UK.

Until this service was made available the only way to investigate the Old Bailey hearings (going back to 1674) was via microfiche, a process which took researchers literally days and months to get the information they were after. However things have changed now and we see that 200,000 cases are covered on the site, which holds 120 million words and 110,000 pages, bringing the cases at the famous Old Bailey up to 1913.

While the majority of the information so far is a mixture of digital images of the actual court documents, those who have used the site are very impressed by the quality. As you might expect, the service hit the headlines in a blaze of glory and crashed the website!

There are many ways in which this excellent service will help historians and researchers of today, but there is also the potential for schools and universities with students now able to compare court life from nearly 400 years ago to that of today. On the surface the traditions many be the same and the look may be the same, criminal trends and sentences have changed radically over the years. Perhaps those days of years gone by may not have been as peaceful and safe as we often assume!

There are plans to continue adding court data to the site and bring it as up to date as possible, with may suggesting that it will become a mainstay for education and research buffs. The internet and the 17th century Old Bailey coming together, now who would have thought that!

If You Can?t Beat Them, Join Them!

Wii FitOver the last 20 years we have heard government after government complain that the young of today were spending too much time on their computers. Research showed that people were becoming fatter and fatter and family time around the table has all but disappeared. It seems that everything from the desktop to the internet to the games consoles was to blame. Each and every attempt to get kids off their games consoles failed, so now it looks like the ?If You Can?t Beat Them, Join Them? theory is back in town!

Recently we have seen the introduction of a number of brain games to consoles such as the Wii, but it is the Wii Fit package which is catching the eye of the consumer. The package comes with a vast number of exercises and a Wii Balance Board on which to carry out your tasks. The ?game? is fun yet it has also been shown to have a very beneficial affect on the overall health and fitness of players. The Fit package has not just been thrown together, it is a carefully crafted plan of different exercises which can be ?played? by all of the family.

Are Games Consoles The Future?

It seems sensible that with so many homes in possession of games consoles, that some kind of exercise package would catch on. The news that the Wii Fit package has sold out in many places before pre-orders have even been despatched will not go unnoticed by competitors of the Wii.

The Games Console market tends to work in fashion trends and the latest fashion seems to be fitness programs, allowing you to have fun and exercise at the same time. It will be interesting to see the direction of future fitness programs, as the Wii Fit is only the first of many we can expect to hit the market over the coming months and years.

Shhhh Its A Secret

Shh Its A SecretAs if they have not had enough of an impact upon the mobile phone market, LG are back with the long awaited next instalment from the LG Black Label series ? the Secret. While it was the LG Shine which put the company back on the map, the LG Secret is set to open a Pandora?s box for this most innovative of mobile handset manufacturers!

The handset itself looks and feels very much like the award winning LG Shine, but underneath the surface the differences are many. The handset has a 5 mega pixel camera and a video function which shoots at 120f/s in DivX format. When you add in the excellent video and picture editing facilities, the handset is set to put us all on the road to movie stardom!

As you would assume from a top of the range handset, the LG Secret offers tri-band 3G connectivity, HSDPA connections and has the fastest data transfer speeds of any phone on the market. As you might expect for a product which will set the market alight, the LG Secret offers access to the traditional messaging services such as SMS, MMS, Email and Bluetooth, not to mention inbuilt functionality from the likes of Google, with Google Maps and YouTube very prominent.

For those looking at the mobile game functionality of the handset, you will be pleased to know that it offers something very very different. True, there are JAVA games preloaded but due to the exclusive inbuilt control facility, it is possible to play the games by moving the phone rather than pressing the keys.

We have waited a while for the next big thing from LG but it seems to be here, and is set to be very popular. It will be interesting to see if it can match the LG Shine which literally put the company back on the map.

ITV Jump Into Bed With iTunes

ITV and iTunesAs the market for downloading content becomes more and more competitive we are seeing a number of battle lines being drawn. Tesco have made their play for the download music market, aiming to take substantial share from leader iTunes, but now iTunes have hit back via a deal with ITV. So what is on offer for the consumer?

ITV have put their toe into the water via a deal which will 260 hours of the archive content made available for download via the iTunes system. The shows in question include Brideshead Revisited, Cold Feet, Captain Scarlet (all available now) with Inspector Morse and The Saint due to come online later this year.

The deal allows users to download either the whole series or individual shows for a cost of just ?1.89 per show. While the move seems to have placed ITV firmly in the iTunes camp, there may be a little more to this than meets the eye!

While we have little news on the venture, ITV, the BBC and Channel 4 are all working together to bring a new on-demand service to the market which will be called Kangaroo. The service is due to be launched later this year and is expected to make over 10,000 hours of content available to customers. The pricing structure and exact details of the service have yet to be fully unveiled but it will eventually become a competitor to the likes of iTunes.

This is perhaps the reason why ITV have only made 260 hours of content available for the iTunes venture (although there are plans to add more in due course). It seems that ITV are very much hedging their bets in case the Kangaroo venture is not as successful as hoped. However, if the three main content providers in the UK are unable to make on-demand TV work, then the sector is dead in the water!

Yahoo Release Excellent Results But Still Open To Offers

Yahoo!It seems so long ago that Microsoft fired the first shot in what is expected to be a major war of words with search engine competitor Yahoo!, a company who has been struggling of late. The multi-billion dollar offer from Microsoft had been expected a couple of years ago when Google were flying high and taking the world by storm, but it never arrived. So what chance of a Yahoo! / Microsoft merger?

As Google continue to push forward, expanding into new and exciting areas of business, the likes of Yahoo! and MSN (Microsoft?s search engine operation) are being left further and further behind. Despite the better than expected results from Yahoo! which showed first quarter profits rising for the first time in two years, and increased full year forecast rising to over $7 billion, many are not convinced that it is happening fast enough.

An MSN / Yahoo! combination has been the choice of many for years but it seems that while the parties had been in discussions before, they could not agree a format for the combined group. Microsoft has now threatened to go hostile in their bid unless they can agree terms with Yahoo! and work together to fight Google.

A quick glance at Google will show how much they have done over the last decade and while we tend to catch the good news in the headlines, Google have made many mistakes in the past, but dropped them and moved on rather than throwing good money after bad. This is a mindset which both MSN and Yahoo! need to take on board if they are to close the gap, as both companies have constantly been criticised for a lack of ambition and being too conservative in their approach to expansion.

It will be interesting to see if Yahoo! flush out another bidder, or as many believe, flush out a higher price from Microsoft.

Should The Police Be Using The Internet To Fight Crime?

D'ohWe recently heard news that Police in Manchester have become one of the first to set-up a page on social networking site Facebook, with the intention of catching more criminals and fighting crime. However, there seems to be a growing feeling that there are risks with this approach with some not sure that it is the correct route to take. Will cyber police ever really take off?

Before we get into the reasons for and against the proposed service, let us not forget that the authorities are already snooping on our phone calls, our emails and in many case our post. The fact that there will actually be a ?physical? presence online now is probably a little bit of a red herring. But will it work?

As we all know, from 10 years old up to 110 years old, the internet is taking more and more of a hold on our daily lives, our daily routines and in many cases is taking over our lives! There are very few houses in the UK which do not have an internet connection with users aged from the early years up to later years. What better way to try and grab the attention of the masses when crimes are committed and criminals are on the loose?

In a perfect world the internet is the type of tool which will definitely make the public more aware of what is going on and give them their very own ?cyber police station? to visit when required. However, there is also the problem of mistakes which can and do happen…..

Can you imagine if your face or your name was mistakenly shown on the police Facebook page for a crime(s) you did not commit? Can you imagine if you mistakenly became involved in some investigation into crimes against children?

The internet can and will help the police, but there need to be strong safeguards in place to ensure that errors and mistakes are kept to an absolute minimum!

Are You Getting The Broadband Speeds You Expected?

Speed!Another day another report which suggests that the UK broadband market is a not quite as fast as advertised!

Advice site Broadband Expert has issued the results of their recent speed test survey which shows that on average UK broadband users are only receiving 48% of the speeds which are advertised. While this damning report will send shock waves through the broadband industry it is not the first time that ISPs have been accused of being economical with the truth. So what is happening?

The problem with broadband speeds is the fact that the further away you are from the exchange, the slower the service becomes. As yet there is no way around this, but the ISPs and telecom companies are working on ways to improve the ?last mile? connections. So until then it is vital that you check the speeds you can ?expect? before signing up to a new service.

So what are the regulators doing about this potential mis-selling scandal?

While the regulators have given many of the ISPs a rap over the knuckles and asked them to be more open with regards to speeds customers can expect, they are not actually doing anything illegal. The services which many provide state that the top speeds are xMB per second and while many customers may not reach that level, there are some who will.

The broadband industry in the UK has shown great growth over the last few years and while these type of reports will put the consumer on ?the back foot? a little, there is no doubt that progress is being made. Delivery systems are being improved, services are much better than only a couple of years ago and the potential is there for more vast improvements.

It will be interesting to see how the ISPs react to this particular report and how they conduct themselves in the future.

PayPal Set To Ban Firefox And Older Versions Of IE

FirefoxIn a move which is sure to upset a vast number of internet users, PayPal has announced that they will not allow users to access their services using old version of IE or the Firefox Browser. They claim that the browsers that they are banning are ?unsafe? and do not offer sufficient protection against ?Phishing? sites.

While Phishing is becoming more of an issue as the fraudsters become ever more inventive in their ways of obtaining information, this is the first time that the new version of Firefox has been mentioned as potentially unsafe. There have been issues with Firefox in the past but after a security revamp it has quickly become one of the more popular alternatives to Internet Explorer and has taken a very large slice of the internet market in a relatively short space of time.

Even though there is nothing to stop PayPal offering access to their services via browsers of their choice, the fact that they have affectively deemed Firefox as unsafe will not go down very well with Mozilla who own the browser. It also as the potential to undermine the recent growth in the use of Firefox and many in the industry are expecting to see some kind of legal action because of the inference that the browser is not safe.

However, if you look at it from the point of view of PayPal they are only doing what they believe is right for their customers, many of whom have been ?fleeced? by the Phishing fraudsters, although it is very often PayPal who are left to foot the bill. Perhaps this is PayPal?s way of protecting themselves from claims in the future? Perhaps this is their way of trying to dictate to the market?

Whatever reason they have behind this move it is surely not the last we have heard on the subject!