The digital business week

4 May 2010

A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

HP to buy Palm for US$1.2bn – a new force in mobile?

Technology giant Hewlett-Packard is buying struggling smartphone maker Palm for US$1.2bn, seeing off potential bids from players like HTC and Lenovo. The moves comes after Palm lost its battle to survive as an independent player.

Palm had recently gambled all on its innovative Palm Pre smartphone but lost ground in the face of renewed vigour from Apple with its iPhone and the proliferation of Android devices in the marketplace.

HP plans to put Palm’s webOS at the centre of its own mobile device plans, creating a credible competitor to Apple and Microsoft with its Windows Mobile 7.

The world’s biggest technology manufacturer also plans to use Web OS in embedded hardware, such as in tablet computers and print labelling machines.

The combination of HP’s global scale and financial strength with Palm’s unparallelled webOS platform will enhance HP’s ability to participate more aggressively in the fast-growing, highly profitable smartphone and connected mobile device markets.

Digiweb becomes a €50m year operator after buying TalkTalk

Irish telecoms provider Digiweb will transform into a €50m a year revenue company with €10m annual profits after acquiring TalkTalk in Ireland and Belgium, can reveal. The move follows Digiweb’s recent acquisition of Smart Telecom.

While the terms of the TalkTalk transaction cannot be released, Digiweb now services 102,000 broadband and telephony customers in Ireland, UK and Belgium, with consolidated annual revenues in excess of €50m and in excess of €10m net operating profits.

Three acquisitions have now been successfully completed by Digiweb Group in recent months, having acquired Smart Telecom in December and Internet Ireland from Independent Newspapers in January.

The company has moved swiftly to assimilate prior acquisitions, with all material integration, restructuring and efficiency stages now completed. Both Smart Telecom and Internet Ireland are now stable and cash-positive contributors to the Group. The TalkTalk brand will be retained through 2010.

UL life sciences spin-out bought for US$33.4m

A SFI-funded spin-out from the University of Limerick has been bought by Life Technologies for US$33.4m. The company develops technology that radically advances life science research and molecular diagnosis.

Stokes Bio, founded in 2005 by Dr Tara Dalton and Prof Mark Davies, originated from research conducted at UL’s Stokes Research Institute, and has been sold to Life Technologies for €33.4m.

Davies is a former recipient of funding under Science Foundation Ireland’s ‘Research Frontiers Programme’, while Dalton’s close associations with SFI include the SFI-funded CTVR – Centre for Telecommunications Value-Chain Research, an SFI Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) based at Trinity College Dublin.

GE Healthcare invests $3m in independent living centre

Global healthcare corporation GE Healthcare has joined Intel and University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway by investing in the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre. TRIL is a ground-breaking research initiative, founded in January 2007 by Intel and IDA Ireland, to explore the physical, cognitive and social consequences of ageing and design technologies to help address them.

The TRIL Clinic is based at St James’s Hospital in Dublin. More than 600 older people have been assessed at the clinic in the past three years, and a large number have participated in the TRIL technology home deployment programme. The commitment of GE Healthcare will enable TRIL to expand the pool of participants and build on the accomplishments of the first three years. The addition of GE Healthcare as an industry partner supports TRIL’s strategic vision of securing additional industry partners, from SMEs to multinational companies, such as GE and Intel, to advance its important research effort.

Thousands of firms in North to receive free broadband

Nearly 5,000 businesses in the North will be among the first companies to receive superfast broadband.

Rainbow Telecom will provide Bangor, Lisburn and Balmoral with the Next Generation Superfast Broadband with a goal of reaching 85pc of companies in the next year.

Rainbow was the only company offering the premier service for free, said director Eric Carson.

“From today, new business customers can take advantage of broadband speeds of up to 24MB through our 39 exchanges throughout Northern Ireland,” he said.

“We want to help Northern Ireland businesses say goodbye to slow connection speeds and become more competitive.”

Photo: The Palm Pre

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years