Weekend news roundup: Ka Shing to offer more ka-ching for Eircom; Google News revamp

8 May 2012

In our roundup of some of the tech reports in the weekend newspapers, it appears Li Ka Shing’s Hutchison Whampoa may make another offer for Eircom; Google TV is set to make a return; the justice minister hits out at the cyberbullying of folk group Dervish; and Google News is about to be revamped with Google+ at its heart.

More ka-ching for cash-strapped Eircom from Ka Shing?

The Sunday Independent reported that Hutchison Whampoa, which is owned by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka Shing, is set to submit a revised offer for Eircom after a €2bn approach was rejected last week.

The paper reported that Hutchison Whampoa, which owns the 3 Ireland mobile operator, submitted an all-cash offer for the debt-laden telecoms firm, chaired by Ned Sullivan, last weekend. The offer was highly conditional and the €2bn bid was rejected by the Eircom examiner, Michael McAteer, and senior lenders over certain conditions.

Hutchison Whampoa reportedly wrote to the examiner last week slamming the sales process and reaffirming it wished to make a €2bn cash offer for Eircom. Hutchison is believed to have asked for assurances that its bid would be taken seriously. The firm declined to comment.

Hutchison Whampoa is also believed to be prepared to invest up to €1.3bn into ramping up Eircom services and adding some va-va-voom to its fibre network.

Google TV to relaunch?

The San Jose Mercury News reported that LG Electronics, the world’s No 2 TV maker, plans to launch internet-enabled TV based on Google’s platform in the United States in the week of 21 May, as the South Korean firm seeks to gain a larger share of the emerging internet TV market, a senior LG executive said.

The move reflects an aggressive push by the duo to defend against a potential threat from Apple, which reshaped the handset market with its iPhone smartphone and is widely expected to unveil a full-fledged TV product later this year or early next year.

“Production of Google TVs will start from May 17 from our factory in Mexico and US consumers will be able to buy the product from the week of May 21,” Ro Seogho, executive vice-president of LG’s TV business unit, told a small group of reporters.

Google TV allows viewers to access Google services, such as searches and YouTube videos on their television screens.

Folk group was cyberbullied, justice minister says

The Sunday Independent reported Justice Minister Alan Shatter launched a blistering attack on the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group (IPSG), accusing it of “cyberbullying” folk group Dervish. The musicians were forced to pull out of a planned concert in Israel after a concerted campaign.

Dervish cancelled the tour planned for June, citing an “avalanche of negativity” and “venom” directed towards the band on social media websites. Dervish singer Cathy Jordan said the band members were not politically minded and were only due to go on the three-date tour at the invitation of an Israeli friend and musician called Avshalom.

The group said it has opted out of the tour because the members were unaware there was a cultural boycott in place when they agreed to the performances. In fact, there is no official boycott of Israel and artists are free to play in the country if they wish.

Now Shatter, who is Jewish, has delivered a broadside against the band’s critics.

“The Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group’s action in directing its members to ‘target’ the website of the musical group Dervish in order to intimidate the group into cancelling their planned concerts in Israel is nothing other than cyberbullying.

“The invitation to Dervish to perform in Israel came from a fellow musician who worked to bridge divides between people through music for much of his life and the objective of the concerts was ‘to promote love between two divided communities’.

“It is absolutely understandable that the group, in the face of an ‘avalanche of negativity’ and ‘venom’ on social media websites took the decision to cancel their concerts – but it is a great pity that the bullying tactics of the IPSG worked.”

Google redesigns Google News with Google+ at its heart

The Telegraph reported that the redesigned Google News, which has only gone live in the US to date, but expected to affect the UK version soon, will see Google+ conversations from people’s ‘Circles’ and other high-profile users right on the search engine’s news homepage.

Users who are logged into Google+ can turn off the feature should they just wish to see headlines.

In a blog post about the changes, Scott Zuccarino, product manager of Google News, wrote: “Many news stories inspire vibrant discussions on Google+, and today we’re starting to add this content to both the News homepage, and the real-time coverage pages.”

Google has yet to reveal how many active users Google+ has. This latest move to weave the Facebook rival into one of Google’s most powerful products is a bid to boost the popularity of the service.

The other significant change is the addition of real-time coverage on a topic. The ‘real-time’ button allows people to see the latest news articles listed chronologically. Beneath that is a list of comment pieces or in-depth articles.

Google has yet to renegotiate its search deal with Twitter, whereby it received a stream of the latest tweets and fed them into the body of its index.

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