Weekend news roundup

5 Jul 2010

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

Spectre of job cuts at Eircom ….

The nation woke up yesterday with a jolt as the Sunday Independent revealed that as many as 2,000 jobs face the axe at Eircom. The newspaper says it has learned that Eircom, saddled with debts of more than €3bn, is planning the largest redundancy package in the State since the downturn began three years ago.

The proposed job losses are greater than the 1,900 redundancies at Dell last year and are on top of an existing programme of 1,200 voluntary redundancies at Eircom due to be completed by September.

Latest live register figures show that numbers signing on are now at a record 450,000, and further job losses at Eircom would inevitably call into question the Government’s current economic policy, which is based solely on spending cuts to the exclusion of stimulus. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan TD has admitted that unemployment remains unacceptably high. “The best way to create and protect jobs is to return to economic growth,” he said.

Eircom chief executive Paul Donovan has already warned that any future redundancies at the company would not offer the same generous severance payments offered in the current round of redundancies, which has generated 898 applications from staff so far.

 … but good news from Google

The Sunday Tribune reported that internet search engine Google is close to signing leases for 80,000sq feet of additional space in Dublin in the coming weeks, enough to cater for up to 500 additional employees. The company refused to comment last week but it is expected to sign leases for 40,000sq feet in East Point business park in Dublin 3 and for the same amount at Grand Canal Plaza close to its existing building on Barrow Street in Dublin 4. It had been known that the company was looking to expand, but the scale had previously been underestimated.

The company is still separately seeking an exit from that building on Barrow Street, which was developed by Liam Carroll and where it currently employs 1,500 people. Google has €100m to purchase up to 200,000 sq feet of office space to cater for those employees, but it would prefer to rent space, if possible. “We’ve had quite a number of issues with construction … That €100m-plus could be used on other forms of expansion,” John Herlihy, Google’s vice-president of Global Ad Operations told the Sunday Tribune earlier this year.

The future of news is mobile, Schmidt says

Remaining with Google, The Guardian’s Activate new media conference heard Google chief executive Eric Schmidt say that the experience of reading news will move to digital devices quite rapidly – and that it will involve personalised and local news which will be alert to your interests and existing knowledge.

Speaking at the Activate 2010 summit held at The Guardian, Schmidt also warned that organisations should think of their mobile strategy ahead of their internet strategy – but that the two were intertwined so deeply that it was impossible to think of one without the other.

“The internet is the most disruptive technology in history, even more than something like electricity, because it replaces scarcity with abundance, so that any business built on scarcity is completely upturned as it arrives there,” Schmidt said. “You have to plan your corporate strategy around what the internet does.”

There are now three fundamental technology trends, he said: the growth of mobile internet connectivity, the growth of cloud computing and networking.

“Mobile is the hottest area of computer technology,” Schmidt said. “The smartest developers now are writing apps for mobile before they write for Windows or Apple Mac desktop operating systems. Part of that is because these devices are hugely personal to us when we use them.”

The long arm of the law regarding internet

The Sunday Times carried an interesting extract of Justice Peter Charlton’s recent judgment in the EMI Records & Others Vs Eircom case over music piracy.

He said that in his view, the internet is indeed hurting copyright holders and should be subject to the same rules as which govern the physical world.

“The internet is only a means of communication. It has not rewritten the legal rules of each nation through which it passes. It is not an amorphous extraterrestrial body with an entitlement to norms that run counter to the fundamental principles of human rights.

“Since the early days of the internet, copyrighted material has been posted by people with no entitlement to share it. From there it is downloaded by those who would normally have expected to pay for it. So much has the habit grown of downloading copyrighted material from the internet among younger people that a claim of entitlement seems to have arisen to have what is not theirs for free.”

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