Weekend news roundup

16 Jan 2012

A look at tech coverage in the weekend newspapers, including the major trends sweeping CES 2012, media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s take on SOPA and piracy, testing times for electric vehicle maker Tesla and how traditional TVs’ days might be numbered.

What the press thought of CES 2012

The Observer did a pretty comprehensive roundup of the big trends at CES this year.

In its analysis, it pointed out that despite Apple’s non-appearance at the event, Apple is still the sun around which many of today’s products revolve. It judged that despite this being Microsoft’s swansong at CES, Microsoft is no longer the centre of the consumer electronics world.

It said 3D TV is being pushed forcefully, but it is not convincing. Ultrabooks will be the big PC game changer in 2012, while 3D printing could arrive in the living room this year. It also made reference to Samsung’s Wi-Fi based fridge, but not its phones!

In its coverage of CES 2012, USA Today pointed to the upcoming revolution in PC control using Kinect-style controls, an area that Microsoft may yet prove to be the master of.

The cameras represent another challenge to the keyboard-and-mouse regime, which is already being eroded by touchscreens. If you’re in front of a depth-sensing camera, you don’t have to touch the screen to control it with your fingers or hands. (This works with non-depth-sensing cameras, as well, but they’re not as good at figuring out what you’re doing.) At the PrimeSense booth, visitors could browse and play the contents of a digital video library with hand gestures – basically, anything you’d do with a mouse today. The Israeli company’s camera goes into the Kinect and is now sold separately as the Asus Xtion.

Rupert’s ripe words on piracy and SOPA

The LA Times reported that News Corp. chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch took to the social networking site Twitter on Saturday to blast the Obama administration for its stance against two anti-piracy bills Hollywood is backing.

“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” Murdoch tweeted. He also said it is Google that “streams movies free, sells advts (advertisements) around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.”

Murdoch’s anger was in response to a statement from Obama administration officials that indicated that the White House would not back key elements of two bills making their way through Capitol Hill – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) – that critics and media activists argue would hurt freedom of speech on the internet and favours corporate America over innovation.

Rocky road ahead for Tesla?

Electric car maker Tesla got a rough ride on the stock market last week, according to The San Jose Mercury News, with shares nose-diving following the departure of engineers Peter Rawlinson and Nick Sampson.

Tesla, recipient of a US$465m loan to build its rechargeable models at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, plans to begin producing and selling Model S cars by mid-year. The company last month said initial versions, able to travel as far as 300 miles per charge, will sell for as much as $92,400 before a $7,500 tax credit.

“It may be for personal reasons, but it doesn’t look good,” said Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics, an automotive-consulting firm. “And for Tesla, looks are very important at this point.”

Testing times for traditional TV

The Observer‘s John Naughton wrote an interesting piece on how traditional TV has survived the net threat, but for how much longer? Between internet-enabled televisions and Google’s plans for YouTube, Naughton argues that broadcasting’s days may be numbered.

“During the shifts of recent years, it’s not surprising that the various industries involved have predicted that all bitstreams would eventually converge on a particular device,” Naughton wrote. “Touchingly, each one predicted convergence onto its favourite piece of equipment. (Microsoft chairman) Bill Gates and co thought that the PC would become the centre of the digital universe. The TV people assumed everything would converge on the television set in the living room, while the mobile phone industry argued confidently that the mobile handset would be the key to everything.

“The funny thing is that while all this prediction was going on, nobody seemed to notice that convergence had already happened. All those bitstreams had converged in one place – on to the internet – and henceforth the determining factor for the future of any device was the quality of the window onto the net that it provided.”

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