Weekend news roundup

23 May 2011

A look at the weekend newspapers’ technology news coverage, including how Bono brought Google to Ireland, how NFC will turn the UK into a cashless society and how computers are making children physically weak.

Bono can walk on water and bring us Google

The Sunday Independent reported how U2 frontman Bono played a pivotal role in persuading €120bn-valued technology behemoth Google to move its international headquarters to Ireland in 2004.

“Bono is close to Sheryl Sandberg, who he met when she worked with Larry Summers at the Department of Treasury when he was in to talk about third-world debt,” one source told the newspaper. “She became director of online sales and operations at Google and was responsible for international operations. She made the call about Ireland.”

Ireland was in a straight shoot-out with Switzerland in the battle to host Google’s international headquarters, according to IDA sources. The online search engine ultimately plumped for Ireland, setting up a small beachhead office on Earlsfort Terrace in late 2003. The following year, Google announced it would create 200 jobs in Ireland. The company now employs 2,000 staff in the country.

“Bono came in to Google to give a talk in 2004 after being asked by Sheryl Sandberg,” according to one source. “He also met with the founders and about 10 managers at a lunch in Dublin.”

Computers are making our children weak

The Observer reported that children are becoming weaker, less muscular and unable to do physical tasks that previous generations found simple, research has revealed.

As a generation dedicated to online pursuits grows up, 10-year-olds can do fewer sit-ups and are less able to hang from wall bars in a gym. Arm strength has declined in that age group, as has their ability to grip an object firmly.

The findings, published in the child health journal Acta Paediatrica, have led to fresh concerns about the impact on children’s health caused by the shift away from outdoor activities.

Academics led by Dr Gavin Sandercock, a children’s fitness expert at Essex University, studied how strong a group of 315 Essex 10-year-olds in 2008 were compared with 309 children the same age in 1998.

The man who saw today

The Independent had an interesting feature on how the sci-fi writer Geoffrey Hoyle predicted 2011’s technologies in 1972.

Webcams, microwaves, touchscreens, Ocado, jumpsuits … When Hoyle was asked in 1972 to imagine what the world might be like in 2011, little could he have known quite how many advances he would correctly predict.

What will the world look like in the not-too-distant future? It’s a fun game to play sitting around the pub/dinner-party table, but unless you grew up in the house of the astronomer and science-fiction writer Sir Fred Hoyle (who, incidentally, coined the term “big bang”, even though he rejected the theory), where lunches with the physicist Richard Feynman were not uncommon, chances are your beautiful “vision” will evaporate with the inexorable passing of time.

So it is a brave man who commits such ideas to paper. Which makes it all the more delicious that when Sir Fred’s son, Geoffrey, was asked to do just that in the early 1970s, he got so many things right.

The end of cash as we know it?

The Telegraph reported how ‘Wave and pay’ mobile phones spell the end for cash. Orange and Samsung have teamed up with Barclaycard to provide mobile phone payments. Matt Warman explained why cash is doomed.

Like the abolition of the £1 note or the introduction of the £2 coin, last week was a historic day for British money. But that wasn’t thanks to the Royal Mint or the Bank of England. Courtesy of Barclaycard, Orange and Samsung, consumers across the UK can now pay for goods and services with nothing more than a mobile phone.

Will HP’s Touchpad be better than the iPad?

The Telegraph reported that HP will emulate its PC market success in the tablet world when it launches the Touchpad over the summer, the company’s European head Eric Cador has claimed.

Speaking at a press conference in Cannes, Cador said, “In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP’s products from our competitors, we became No 1; in the tablet world we’re going to become better than No 1. We call it No 1 plus.” Apple’s iPad is the best-selling tablet around the world.

The HP Touchpad uses the WebOS operating system, a fifth OS in a market currently dominated by Apple and Google that also features BlackBerry and tablets that run Windows 7. Based on technology HP acquired when it bought Palm, the new WebOS has been widely praised by commentators and analysts. The platform will also need, however, to attract developers to build apps for it, but HP has been keen to claim that apps that run on the web can be adapted with relative ease to run on WebOS.

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