Weekend news roundup

20 Sep 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Concern over future of Fab 14

The Sunday Business Post reported that up to 500 jobs are at risk at Intel Ireland, as the company considers closing one of its factories at Leixlip in Co Kildare.

The jobs at risk are in the oldest part of the US chip maker’s Irish operation, known as Fab 10. The factory makes chips based on relatively old technology, and is understood to be operating at a very low capacity.

Unless the company can attract new orders in the near future, Fab 10 faces closure early next year, according to informed sources. A spokesman for Intel Ireland confirmed that the company was looking for a new business model for the factory, which employs hundreds of people, including highly-skilled technicians.

‘‘Fab 10 is constantly under review, and no decision has been made about its future,” the spokesman said. Fab 10 and another factory, Fab 14, previously formed Intel’s Ireland Fab Operations (IFO), which employed about 2,000 people at its peak.

However, staff numbers have fallen sharply and the firm closed Fab 14 last year, making more than 500 people redundant. That factory has been stripped back to a shell. Irish management hopes it might be refitted to manufacture new technologies, if Intel management in the US give the go-ahead for new investment in Ireland.

‘‘Fab 14 is a newer facility that could be upgraded, should that be required,” the Intel spokesman said.

The company’s other Irish factories, Fab 24 and Fab 24.2, make newer technologies and are understood to be performing well.

Imagine plans to boost job numbers

The Sunday Tribune reported that Irish broadband company Imagine is to hire 100 new employees and hopes to create an additional 150 jobs in the coming years as it rolls out its new WiMax format.

The company said last week that it is attracting 4,500 new customers a month because its phone and broadband services are being offered at half the price charged by Eircom and its users do not have to pay a rental fee.

Imagine has invested €100m in the roll-out of its fourth-generation WiMax offering and has the backing of Intel and Motorola for the project.

It says that residential customers can save €400 a year by switching to the service.

Tech entrepreneurs have to be a little mad

The New York Times had an interesting feature on how venture capitalists identify the next Sergey and Larry or the next Mark Zuckerberg. The thesis of the article? Well, you’d want to be a little bit mad to be a successful tech entrepreneur!

Imagine you are a venture capitalist. One day a man comes to you and says, “I want to build the game layer on top of the world.”

You don’t know what “the game layer” is, let alone whether it should be built atop the world. But he has a passionate speech about a business plan, conceived when he was a college freshman, that he says will change the planet — making it more entertaining, more engaging, and giving humans a new way to interact with businesses and one another.

If you give him $750,000, he says, you can have a stake in what he believes will be a $1bn-a-year company.

Interested? Before you answer, consider that the man displays many of the symptoms of a person having what psychologists call a hypomanic episode. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the occupation’s bible of mental disorders — these symptoms include grandiosity, an elevated and expansive mood, racing thoughts and little need for sleep.

BlackBerry maker sees a way out of dispute

USA Today reported that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion believes it will successfully resolve disputes with India, the United Arab Emirates and other countries over data security and avert their threats to ban services, the company’s co-CEO said Thursday.

Jim Balsillie’s remarks came as the company said its second-quarter net income jumped 68pc as it added new BlackBerry subscribers and beat analysts’ expectations at a time many have started to write the company off.

Balsillie said RIM is continuing discussions with governments and service providers, and “they believe we have made good progress in those discussions.”

iPad won’t come in funsize any time soon

The Guardian’s Charles Arthur had an interesting blog on why you won’t see smaller iPads next year – though you will see revised iPads.

The rumour mill is working overtime to suggest that Apple is going to try to compete with Samsung and others in offering a 7-inch tablet early in 2011. But Arthur is certain that Apple is not going to announce a 7″ iPad early next year. He wrote: “Now ask yourself: if you were in marketing in Apple, would you launch a product which has a different screen size from the one you’ve spent millions of dollars/pounds marketing, yet which has the same screen size as (some of) your competitors? Wouldn’t doing that make it look like you think your rivals had the right idea about screen size, and that you screwed it up the first time? (Even if you did. But this is marketing, remember, where no decision is ever wrong.)

“Or would you stick with the same screen size that you’ve already established, and perhaps increase the pixel density, and so make it something more like the iPhone 4’s ‘Retinal Display’? That way the old and new models are the same size, so that retailers don’t have to remake their in-store displays (much) and can also sell any remaining old stock they have without people asking too many difficult questions.

“Well? No-brainer. You stick with the existing size.”

HMH takes on Texas

The Sunday Tribune reported Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publishing company headed up by Irishman Barry O’Callaghan, is investing $400m into putting technology in classrooms in Texas.

The company is also investing $300m into an algebra application for the Apple iPad which is currently being trialled.