Weekend news roundup

9 Jan 2012

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Tech news coverage in this weekend’s newspapers saw all eyes on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as the search continues for The Next Big Thing, Yahoo!’s new CEO Scott Thompson, who has inherited the toughest job in technology, and Microsoft, which finally generated some well-deserved buzz for its Windows Phone operating system.

The search for the Next Big Thing continues

Despite what is expected to be a record number of exhibitors and attendees, many analysts agree that no single device or technology has emerged to define the Consumer Electronics Show this year, The LA Times reported.

As show kicks off, paper-thin TVs, feather-light laptops and thousands of humming doodads of every hue are filling up more than 30 football fields’ worth of Las Vegas convention space.

But if you’re looking for a device with the potential to instantly change your life, your best bet might be across the street at the slot machines.

The world’s largest personal technology convention, which starts today, often sets the tone for the year in gadgetry, attracting the industry’s biggest companies to its glitzy stages to showcase the latest innovations.

The sun always shines on TV

We’re entering the era of super big TVs, USA Today reported at the weekend. At the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the gadget menagerie that returns to Las Vegas this week, it’s the elephants that get the most attention. Bigger is always better, and there’s nothing like a monster TV to draw a crowd of reporters and gawkers.

This year’s star is likely to be an 84-inch television from LG that not only takes over a large wall, but that will also make the case for a new standard for high-resolution video images. Just when you got familiar with high-definition 3D, here comes ‘Ultra Definition’ 3D.

The LG set joins a growing number of new TVs called 4K because they light up close to 4,000 pixels stretched horizontally across the screen. That produces a display resolution about four times greater than current HD sets.

Another advantage of 4K TV is that it lets you fine-tune 3D to suit your vision.

That all sounds pretty sweet, but you don’t need to start saving your pennies just yet. 4K is now used only in high-end commercial projectors built by a few companies, including Sony and JVC. And there’s no 4K source material or 4K DVD players available to the general public.

Microsoft generates some well-deserved buzz

Long ridiculed as the tech industry dullard, Microsoft actually has a hit, at least with the technorati. Its mobile phone software called Windows Phone – and the company needs it to be a blockbuster at Microsoft Central, reported The New York Times.

Yes, Windows and Office products are ubiquitous and highly profitable. But they’re about as inspirational as a stapler. While the likes of Apple have captured our imaginations with nifty products like the iPhone, Microsoft has produced a long list of flops, from smart wristwatches to the Zune music player to the Kin phones.

Late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs used to deride Microsoft for a lack of originality. In his opinion, the company didn’t bring "much culture" to its products. With Windows Phone, though, Microsoft is finally getting some buzz.

The toughest job in technology?

Scott Thompson just took on the toughest job in technology – running Yahoo!, reported The San Jose Mercury News.

Although Yahoo! has endured, and at times prospered, each of its four predecessors ended their tenures in a fog of failure. Time and again, once-promising leaders failed to articulate a clear identity for Yahoo! or chart a coherent strategy. It is a remarkable and perplexing string of futility.

"Yahoo! hires incredibly accomplished and competent people and then chews them up and spits them out," said Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at The Altimeter Group.

So why is Yahoo! so hard to manage?

The answer sheds light on the challenges Thompson faces, and how deeply they run. Yahoo!’s current problems aren’t the result of some bad decisions by one individual sitting in the CEO chair. Instead, they flow from the company’s very nature.

Will SOPA break the internet?

SOPA and Pipa: don’t let big business break the internet, appealed The Observer‘s John Naughton, who argues that legislation on internet piracy presented to Congress last year is the typical knee-jerk response of the ‘content’ industry to change.

The key to survival – in business as in the jungle – is to be able to learn from your mistakes. The strange thing is that some industries haven’t yet figured that out. Chief among them are the so-called "content" industries – the ones represented by huge multimedia corporations which own movie studios, record labels and publishing houses.

Every 20 years or so, technology throws up a challenge to these industries. When audio cassettes arrived, for example, the music industry fought tooth and nail to have the technology outlawed or crippled. Why? Because it would encourage "piracy". What happened? The record labels wound up making lots of money from cassettes, as well as records.

Then along came the video recorder, and the movie industry fought it tooth and nail because it was the handmaiden of the devil – on account of facilitating "piracy". What happened? Same story: it turned out that the studios were able to make tons of money from video cassettes, because films continued to sell long after they had disappeared from cinemas.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com