Weekend news round-up: Facebook shuns server OEMs, Apple’s podcasting disaster

18 Feb 2013

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news and analysis, OEMs who failed to embrace Facebook’s Open Compute Project are out in the cold with the social network opting to make its own servers, details about Microsoft’s Windows Phone ‘Blue’ emerge, and Apple’s apparent lack of interest in its Podcast app is attracting the scorn of podcasters.

Internet giants have become hardware makers’ nemeses

The engine rooms of the internet are the data centres through which all our commerce, lives, dreams and concerns are filtered through. And you would think that manufacturing the equipment, like servers, that are pretty much the brain cells of the internet would be big business for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Well, it looks like those heady days are coming to a close. Internet giants like Facebook and Google are intent on designing and producing their own servers.

According to Ars Technica, Facebook’s newest data centre in Sweden doesn’t have OEM servers at all but servers it designed and commissioned itself.

Failure to take up a challenge laid down by Facebook called the Open Compute Project has been to the OEMs’ cost.

“The idea was to share designs for data centre hardware like servers, storage, and racks so that companies could build their own equipment instead of relying on the narrow options provided by hardware vendors.

“While anyone could benefit, Facebook led the way in deploying the custom-made hardware in its own data centres. The project has now advanced to the point where all new servers deployed by Facebook have been designed by Facebook itself or designed by others to Facebook’s demanding specifications. Custom gear today takes up more than half of the equipment in Facebook data centres. Next up, Facebook will open a 290,000 sq-foot data centre in Sweden stocked entirely with servers of its own design, a first for the company,” Ars Technica reported.

Details about Microsoft’s ‘Windows Phone Blue’ emerge

ZDNet reported that a new Microsoft job posting verifies that Windows Blue will include user experience improvements, not just under-the-covers interface tweaks.

“A February 15 post for a software development engineer in test on the Microsoft Careers site mentions ‘Windows Blue.’ According to that posting, the Core Experience team in Windows Sustained Engineering (WinSE) is involved in making improvements to the start screen, application lifecycle, windowing and personalisation. Windows Blue will ‘build on and improve’ these OS components, the posting says.”

According to ZDNet, ‘Blue’ is the code name for the next wave of Windows operating system and services updates from Microsoft and there will be a Blue update to Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8 and the Windows Services, like Hotmail and SkyDrive – all of which are slated to wash up in roughly the same timeframe.

Pinterest pins hopes on becoming world’s second largest social network

There’s a battle under way to become the second largest social network on the planet after Facebook, the Huffington Post reported. Referring to new Pew Research Center data, 67pc of Americans are on Facebook, 16pc are on Twitter and 15pc are on Pinterest.

“For all the chatter about Facebook and Twitter, it’s a huge statement for Pinterest to be just 1pc behind Twitter in terms of users (with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points). It’s perhaps just as big a statement for Facebook to have such a dominant lead on Twitter, even though Twitter continues to get plenty of love in news circles and at the Super Bowl.

For Pinterest, the 15 percent user number is up from 12 percent in August 2012, suggesting it continues to grow. Instagram placed fourth in the study with 13 percent of American Internet users on the service.

Is Apple putting its Podcast app out to pasture?

Despite playing a key role in the emergence and popularity of podcasting, Apple’s six-month-old podcast app is a lamentable failure, according to BuzzFeed, with just 1.5 stars in the App Store and scathing reviews from users.

“More worrying, perhaps, is the simple fact that Apple hasn’t done anything to fix an app that is so obviously in need of help,” BuzzFeed reported.

“The company is not short on resources, but appears to have dedicated virtually none to the app that serves as the sole official way to download podcasts on iOS.”

Crashes, hangups and numerous other bugs appear to be the cause of user frustration. According to the report, seasoned podcasters are troubled by Apple’s apparent lack of interest, despite helping to grow a new form of media that has been gaining in popularity.

“Podcasts have a higher profile now than ever before, and have launched or re-launched careers in spectacular ways – comedian Marc Maron, for example, has parlayed his podcast into a radio show and a TV series on IFC. But as podcasts have become more interesting, Apple seems to have become less interested,” BuzzFeed said.

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