Weekend news round-up: Google drops G-bomb on Windows Phone, did Instagram spurn Twitter?

17 Dec 2012

In our round-up of the weekend’s top tech news, we learn that more than 80 countries have refused to sign the UN’s proposed internet treaty, Google has delivered a blow to Microsoft’s Windows Phone strategy by revealing plans to remove ActiveSync support for Gmail, and did Instagram verbally agree to be acquired by Twitter, only to accept a bigger offer from Facebook?

Google drops a G-bomb on Microsoft’s Windows Phone success

With more than 4m activations in little more than a month, you could imagine how Microsoft was feeling good about itself as its fledgling Windows Phone operating system begins to enter the mainstream.

Well, according to The Verge, that momentum faces disruption of the cruelest kind.

Google has announced it is removing support for Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync protocol for new devices from 30 January.

“Google Apps for business accounts will be unaffected and existing devices that are set up to sync mail, calendar, and contacts will work fine, but new devices will not be able to use the Exchange ActiveSync protocol with Gmail. It’s a big blow to Windows Phone and part of a bigger feud between the companies over the past few months,” The Verge reported.

80 countries refuse to sign UN internet treaty

The storming out by the US at the UN’s International Telecommunications Union’s big powwow in Dubai around the governance of the internet is something to be worried about, The Atlantic reported.

It reported that more than 80 countries refused to sign a treaty aimed at eradicating spam and fraud. However, instead of discussing security, the negotiations floundered around rights to development of the internet’s technical foundations.

According to the report, the US ambassador to the summit Terry Kramer said: “It’s with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the US must communicate that it’s not able to sign the agreement in the current form. The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years.”

So, did Twitter try to buy Instagram before Facebook did?

Instagram’s chief executive Kevin Systrom has denied that the company received offers before Facebook bought the company earlier this year for in excess of US$715m, according to The New York Times.

Systrom made the denial at a hearing of the California Corporations Department, which is seeking to determine if the Facebook acquisition is in the best interest of Instagram investors.

Tech blogger Nick Bilton says Systrom’s testimony doesn’t make sense and Twitter actually verbally agreed to buy Instagram for US$525m.

Bilton wrote: “The accounts of several people close to Twitter and Facebook, and documents reviewed by The New York Times, contradict the statements he made under oath. Mr Systrom and Mike Krieger, the other founder of Instagram, held several meetings as late as March with top Twitter executives, according to people on both sides of the talks, who requested anonymity because the talks were private and because they were concerned about legal repercussions. These people said the sides had verbally agreed weeks earlier on a price for Instagram of US$525m in cash and Twitter shares.”

Apple storms China with 2m iPhone 5 sales

Apple’s assault on the Chinese smartphone market has begun with gusto and according to VentureBeat, some 2m devices were sold on the opening weekend.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the performance set a new record as the best opening sales weekend in China ever.

“The iPhone 5 faces stiff competition from rival Android devices in China. But Apple already has a strong foothold in that country,” VentureBeat reported.

Death of the co-inventor of the bar code

The New York Times carried an obituary of N Joseph Woodland, the man who conceived the modern bar code along with classmate Bernard Silver. Woodland and Silver patented their idea 60 years ago yet only made US$15,000 from what would give rise to the universal product code that graces every conceivable item in shops today.

“The bar code would never have developed as it did without a chain of events noteworthy even in the annals of invention etiology: Had Mr Woodland not been a Boy Scout, had he not logged hours on the beach, and had his father not been quite so afraid of organised crime, the code would very likely not have been invented in the form it was, if at all,” the newspaper pointed out.

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