Weekend news round-up: Nokia very nearly went Android; BlackBerry crumble, anyone?

16 Sep 2013

In our round-up of technology news from the weekend, there are indications that BlackBerry could end up being sold in parts rather than in whole; Twitter co-founder Evan Williams wants to transform media (again); the US National Security Agency (NSA) is also apparently monitoring international financial transactions; it has emerged that prior to its sale to Microsoft, Nokia’s devices business was plotting to adopt Android; and the ‘internet of things’ could transform entire economies.

Twitter co-founder wants to transform media (again)

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has laid out a plan for the future of media – as if he and his crew haven’t already redrawn the lines of media. His latest goal: shifting daily reading habits away from news bits towards engaging with enlightened ideas, all powered by an intelligent algorithm.

TechCrunch reported: “Before Twitter terraformed the landscape of news distribution, Williams’ first smash hit, Blogger, became the branded namesake for an upstart generation of amateur writers to challenge the established players.

Future Human

“Most importantly, Medium, his new platform for publishing mostly long-form content, has quickly garnered popularity – and infamy. In only a few months, its most popular contributions are making front-page headlines and snagging millions of views. In our Silicon Valley bubble, its contributors semi-regularly spark industry-wide conversations among the internet elite.”

What if Nokia had gone with Android?

A great ‘what if’ was revealed at the weekend when it emerged that before Microsoft reached a deal to buy Nokia’s phone business there was a possibility that Nokia could have switched its smartphones to Google’s Android operating system in late 2013.

The New York Times’ Bits blog reported: “A team within Nokia had Android up and running on the company’s Lumia handsets well before Microsoft and Nokia began negotiating Microsoft’s $7.2bn acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone and services business, according to two people briefed on the effort who declined to be identified because the project was confidential. Microsoft executives were aware of the existence of the project, these people said.

“Another person said the idea of Nokia using Android wasn’t a part of Microsoft’s discussions with the company about an acquisition, even though that was widely recognised as a possibility.”

Microsoft passes 9m mobile transactions a day

Microsoft has passed 9m Windows Phone transactions a day and has promised carrier payouts to developers after 30 days, The Next Web reported.

“Previously, Microsoft would only pay developers once they received payment from carriers. After discovering that this was delaying payments 120 days or more on average for paid transactions, the company has finally changed its stance: all transactions via carriers will become eligible for payout after 30 days.

“Windows Phone developers earn three times more revenue per active user on average in markets where carrier billing is offered (and six times more revenue on average in emerging markets where credit card usage is more limited), according to Microsoft. The feature is available in 26 markets so far, but of course the company wants to expand that number as quickly as possible.”

The internet of things could save US economy

The internet and mobile revolution is one thing, but once it transcends a host of other industries in the form of a semantic web or an internet of things, like machine-to-machine (M2M) devices with their own wireless capabilities, it could prove to be an economic powerhouse.

Quartz reported the internet of things has the power to potentially bring growth back into the US economy.

“The future internet of things will be a different beast, because by definition it takes the internet out of the world of abstraction and into industries – manufacturing, energy, transportation – where productivity gains would have a more tangible impact. For instance, while some trash cans are spying on you, others, made by BigBelly Solar, are keeping track of how full they are so garbage collectors can plan their routes more efficiently, saving fuel and time. The largest gains are still to come: Sticking sensors on a turbine to know exactly when it will break down and how to fix it sounds great, but actually handling all that data in a meaningful way isn’t easy.”

Guess who’s watching your money?

Spiegel reported that the NSA is also spying on international payments, in the latest batch of revelations to come out of the Edward Snowden affair.

“The NSA widely monitors international payments, banking and credit-card transactions,” according to documents seen by Spiegel.

“The information from the American foreign intelligence agency, acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called ‘Follow the Money’ (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA’s own financial databank, called ‘Tracfin,’ which in 2011 contained 180m records. Some 84pc of the data is from credit-card transactions.”

BlackBerry could end up being squished into various parts

Reuters reported tepid interest among potential bidders for smartphone maker BlackBerry, indicating that bidders may be interested only in small parts of the company rather than buying it outright.

“Private-equity firms are mostly interested in businesses such as BlackBerry’s operating system and the patents around its keyboard, two of the sources said. However, one possibility is for a Canadian pension fund to team up with an investor to buy the whole company, which is currently worth a little more than $5bn, one of the sources said.

“BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, has approached several large Canadian investment funds about forging a deal to take the smartphone maker private.”

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