Weekend news round-up: Blank canvas for Draw Something; end of road for unlimited mobile data

19 Mar 2013

In our round-up of some of the weekend’s compelling tech stories, it appears the end is in sight for unlimited mobile data in the UK, at least if EE has its way. Apple shareholders are in line for a monster US$16bn dividend payout; and Zynga prepares to rewrite the story of Draw Something.

Is the end in sight for unlimited mobile data?

The New York Times reported at the weekend that 4G player Everything Everywhere (EE) is currently waging a lone crusade to kill off access to limitless mobile data in the UK.

The newspaper wonders if EE has any chance of success. “But the decision by EE, the biggest mobile operator in Britain, to phase out unlimited packages has drawn blunt criticism. The online journal Engadget said British customers would have to ‘sign away a kidney’ for the company’s LTE plans.

“Reading the public mood has been difficult, and most of EE’s competitors seem unsure whether Britons, already coping with a government austerity plan, are ready to embrace new limits on mobile surfing, as well.”

The chips are down at ST-Ericsson

The Next Web reported that Ericsson and STMicroelectronics’ bid to sell their ST-Ericsson joint venture has floundered and the two companies have agreed to carve the business up, resulting in the loss of 1,600 jobs.

“The joint venture was set up in 2009 to help develop competitively priced mobile broadband chips, but it has not been a successful one. Unable to compete with Qualcomm in the US and the rise of ‘fabless’ semiconductor makers in Asia, it has accumulated $2.7bn in total net losses, posting a loss of $749m last year alone.

“Sweden-headquartered Ericsson has agreed to take on the design, development and sales aspects of its LTE chips (including 2G, 3G and 4G multimode), while ST will handle all other existing products and a number of the assembly and test facilities. All other remaining parts of the struggling joint venture will be closed down,” The Next Web reported.

Now that’s what I call a dividend

Lucky Apple shareholders are in for a windfall it seems. Bloomberg reported at the weekend that Apple is poised to boost its dividend payment to shareholders by half, resulting in a hefty near US$16bn payout.

“Apple will probably lift its quarterly dividend 56pc to US$4.14 a share, for an annual payout of US$15.7bn, according to the average estimate from six analysts. The resulting yield of 3.6pc would be higher than 84pc of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index paying dividends. Apple could fund a payout with existing cash flow without using profit from overseas, which can be subject to extra taxes.”

When sharing leads to failing

Everyone nods sagely whenever the sharing economy is mentioned or lean start-up principles are espoused, but this doesn’t always lead to the perfect start-up story.

Writing in Pando Daily at the weekend, entrepreneur Adam Berk told a cautionary tale about his start-up Neighborrow, an idea everyone loved but which failed to make money. The idea was to use social media principles to get people to share stuff like lawnmowers and power drills they weren’t using with neighbours.

“People liked our idea, and this, it turned out, was probably the worst thing that could have happened. It exacerbated the next five years of what Lean Startup guru Eric Ries calls ‘land of the living dead.’ The problem was people liked the idea of our idea, not our solution. Journalists flocked to write about us, but they never signed up for the service. Gatekeepers of internet contests and start-up events wanted us there, but didn’t use it. Even the users who wrote us emails saying how we were awesome (I got emails like that every week) didn’t make an effort to lead their communities to neigh*borrow. We were great in theory but not in practice.”

It is a worthy tale about ideas and execution and a useful read for anyone thinking of entering the start-up world.

Zynga gives Draw Something a blank canvas

TechCrunch reported that Zynga is to redraw Draw Something as a social network. Zynga bought Draw Something last year for a whopping US$180m only to see the title plateau almost straight away.

But it seems Zynga is determined to resuscitate the title as a social network.

“From what we hear, it sounds like it will be much more of a social platform where players get to keep and show off their drawings instead of having them disappear into the game.

“This way the very best artists can accumulate followings inside the game and the content will become a lot more long-lasting for the players.

“It’s a smart move for the company because it may make the game a lot stickier. Plus, it gets Zynga into game genres that are much more creative than its casual sim, FarmVille history would suggest,” TechCrunch reported.

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