Weekend news roundup

21 Mar 2011

A roundup of technology news in the weekend newspapers, including the latest US casualty of the WikiLeaks saga, Greg Turley’s potential €100m sale of CarTrawler and the impending death of the iPod.

CarTrawler close to being acquired?

The Sunday Independent reported that entrepreneur Greg Turley is close to selling a majority stake in technology company CarTrawler in a deal that values the firm at about €100m.

A shortlist of three private equity bidders has been drawn up and final negotiations are under way. Boutique Corporate finance outfit Torch Partners is involved in the deal.

Last week, Turley was visiting the US as one of the representatives of Irish business at Ireland Day at the New York Stock Exchange.

Rumours that online giant Expedia is on the shortlist are understood to be incorrect, although it is believed to have shown some interest in Turley’s venture.

The short-listed bidders are understood to have met a number of Irish financial institutions in recent weeks looking for debt financing to complete the deal. CarTrawler, which turned over €142m last year, grew out of the Turley family company, Argus Car Hire.

The iPod is dead, long live the iPod

The Observer reported it has been 10 years since Apple’s original iPod shuffled on to the scene, changing the way we listen to and buy music for good. But could it soon be time to hang up our white headphones?

The iPod classic, as the famous scroll-wheel design is now known, hasn’t been updated since September 2009, with a modest capacity jump from 120GB to 160GB. On the Apple Online Store, shipping times have slipped from 24 hours to one to three days.

Across the US, several major retailers have reported short supplies, leading to speculation the device may soon be discontinued. It didn’t even warrant a mention at Apple’s annual Developers Conference in 2010.

“The iPod’s essentially finished, give or take,” says Dr Alice Enders, a former senior economist at the World Trade Organisation who now reports on global music markets for media consultancy Enders Analysis. “Sales have been in decline for some time. The converged media device is the way forward.”

In other words: the iPhone, the iPod touch and the iPad – devices the iPod paved the way for, and devices that have helped push Apple’s latest profits to a record-breaking $20bn. If the iPod now finds itself as the least-loved of the company’s shiny portable devices, you get the sense Apple is probably OK with that.

How Sony is handling the earthquake crisis

The New York Times had an interesting report on the impact of the recent earthquake and tsumani in Japan on arguably the world’s biggest electronics company, Sony.

Tohoku, the region in Japan hit hardest by the natural disasters, has long been an important manufacturing base for Sony, which is Japan’s largest consumer electronics exporter. Two of the company’s sites in that area, a Blu-ray disc factory and a research and development lab, were badly damaged by flooding; about 1,100 employees were trapped on upper floors.

Eight more factories, dedicated to making things like lithium-ion batteries and semiconductor lasers, were also thrown off line, in some cases because of direct damage from the natural disasters, in most cases because of electric failures.

Interviews with Sony executives, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not cleared by the company to talk publicly, portrayed a strong corporate response, eased by some lucky breaks.

Latest US casualty of WikiLeaks saga

The Observer reported that US ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual has become embroiled in row with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, over cables criticising drug war.

Pascual has resigned amid a furore over a leaked diplomatic cable in which he complained about inefficiency and infighting among Mexican security forces in the campaign against drug cartels.

Hillary Clinton said Pascual’s decision to step down was “based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues” raised by Calderón.

The US secretary of state was not specific, but a furious Calderón has publicly criticised Pascual’s criticisms, divulged as part of the US embassy cables by WikiLeaks.

Pascual’s resignation appears to be the biggest fallout yet from the release of thousands of sensitive US diplomatic cables from around the world. It is the first such public departure by a US ambassador during the Obama administration.

Clinton went to lengths to praise Pascual’s work in Mexico and said the Obama administration never lost confidence in him. Clinton said Pascual’s work with Mexico to build institutions capable of fighting drug traffickers “will serve both our nations for decades”.

FTSE firms bomb at social media

The Sunday Telegraph reported that 60 out of the FTSE 100 still show no sign of social media on their corporate websites, despite many of them having at least one account with the major four social sites – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Major companies such as Cairn Energy, Associated British Foods and International Power were found to have only low levels of social media engagement and digital communication, found Radley Yelder, the corporate communication company which conducted the research over eight months.

Moreover, only 29 have a main corporate page on Facebook, which, with more than 500m global members, is fast becoming a web within the web.

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