Weekend news round-up: Restructure on the cards at Microsoft; Facebook is the Harry Potter newspaper

24 Jun 2013

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been quietly plotting a restructure of the software giant's management team, according to reports

In our round-up of the weekend’s top tech stories: Microsoft bosses fret over a major restructure being planned secretly by CEO Steve Ballmer and due to be revealed on 1 July following Build 2013; Facebook is planning to be the newspaper of the 21st century and is working away on a Reader product; and FIFA may be considering dropping 3D altogether and moving towards 4K for the next World Cup.

Facebook is the Harry Potter newspaper

Remember those animated newspapers in the Harry Potter movies? Well, it seems Facebook is as aware as any that for most teenagers who have yet to buy their first newspaper (if they will ever buy a newspaper, that is) their Facebook news feeds on their mobile devices is their actual newspaper.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the social network has been working on a service, internally called Reader, that displays content from Facebook users and publishers in a new visual format tailored for mobile devices.

“The project, which the company has been developing for more than a year, is designed to showcase news content, in particular. Recent versions of Reader resemble Flipboard Inc., a smartphone and tablet app that aggregates stories from multiple sources and lets users swipe to flip through articles, said the people with knowledge of the project.”

Changes at the top have senior Microsoft execs on edge

AllThingsD reported how it is likely that Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is set to announce a major restructure around 1 July.

Kara Swisher wrote: “That prospect has many top managers at the company worried, since Ballmer has been making these significant plans with limited consultation with the wider leadership group at the software giant. Instead, he has been working with only a small group of his direct reports and also some Microsoft board members, numerous sources said.

“That has meant that most senior execs have largely been left out of the decision-making process related to Ballmer’s goal of solidifying Microsoft into the ‘devices and services company’, that he wrote about in his annual shareholder letter last October.

“The impending changes – and the lack of information about them – has made for some level of discomfort inside Microsoft, where many high-ranking managers have been at the company for a very long time.”

Video thrills the app star

Photo-sharing app Instagram saw users upload more than 5m videos in the first 24 hours after unveiling its new video feature, according to BGR.

“What’s more, Instagram said that during peak hours users uploaded around 40 hours of video per minute. Instagram’s video-sharing service, which lets users upload videos of up to 15 seconds in length, is an attempt by Facebook to keep up with Twitter’s popular Vine video app. With an active user count of around 130m people, Instagram’s video sharing figures to be a very popular feature for mobile users.”

FIFA 3D coverage caught off-side

Despite debuting 3D coverage in the 2010 World Cup, football organisation FIFA may be considering ditching 3D in favour of new HD standards like HD, according to Engadget.

“While FIFA focuses on its standard HD broadcasts, it’s also thinking over offering 4K Ultra HD coverage, which is currently being tested during Confederations Cup matches. The Hollywood Reporter points out that while Sony has backed off some of the sponsorships that pushed early 3D productions, it’s providing some of the equipment for UHDTV tests, like its F55 4K camera. Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is already in line for a 4K soccer broadcast in 2014, we’ll see if it’s put to use alongside new goal-line technology.

Google navigates into another FTC probe

The Federal Trade Commission is to investigate Google’s US$1.3bn acquisition of Israeli social mapping platform Waze, according to The Next Web.

“The probe is understood to centre around Google’s intentions for buying Waze, and how the deal will impact competition in the mapping market worldwide.”

A recent FTC investigation into Google’s search practices ended in January 2013, drawing criticism from Microsoft for its leniency. More recently, the organisation began probing Google’s graphical-ad business – so it’s fair to say the two parties are already well acquainted.

“Google pledged that Waze will be run independently as its own company. Google plans to add Waze’s traffic monitoring to its own maps, and give the Israeli firm broader access to Google mapping technologies – however, the Journal claims the FTC may request that those plans remain on hold until its report is complete.”

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