Weekend news roundup: Sandberg calls for progress, Apple splits from Google

12 Mar 2012

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In our trawl through some of the tech coverage in the weekend papers, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg laments the lack of progress for women in government and executive roles; the growing split between Apple and Google is evident in the new iPad; and kids use apps, not salespeople, for help when shopping.

Facebook COO hits out at lack of progress for women

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has lamented how little or no progress there has been for women in top government or executive positions, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"Women in the US became 50pc of college graduates in 1981," Sandberg (42) said at the Women in the World conference in New York. "In every industry, women have steadily made progress in the past 30 years – except at the top, where, essentially, over the last 10 years, there hasn’t been progress."

Sandberg has called gender inequality "this generation’s central moral problem," citing the disparate amount of women with power both globally and in the US. The number of Fortune 500 companies run by women fell to a dozen last year from 15 in 2010, according to the magazine’s rankings. In the U.S. Congress, women hold just 89, or 17pc, of 535 voting seats, data from the Congressional Research Service shows.

Apple’s split from Google evident in new iPad

The Telegraph on Sunday reported how the new iPad signals Apple’s split from Google. One resounding example is unlike its desktop forebear, Apple’s iPhoto app for the new iPad does not use Google Maps.

It is also the first of any of Apple’s iOS apps to abandon Google Maps. Instead, iPhoto for iPad, an advanced photo editing app, relies on the OpenStreetMap Foundation, a British not-for-profit that offers free mapping data gathered by a worldwide army of 400,000 volunteers.

The switch was unannounced and came as news to the foundation this week when iPhoto was released.

“Apple launched iPhoto, its photo management app, for the iPad and iPhone … and we’re rather pleased to find they’re the latest to switch to OpenStreetMap," it said on its blog.

In iPhoto, mapping data is used to tag the locations where photographs were taken. It could be argued that is not a vital feature, but the decision to ditch Google is indicative of Apple’s desire for greater independence from a firm that is now its biggest smartphone rival.

When the iPhone was conceived in 2006, the two firms were close collaborators. Google’s then-chief executive Eric Schmidt sat on Apple’s board and his firm’s maps were integrated into the first version of iOS.

Cyber wars escalate

The Observer reported that China is being suspected of launching a Facebook attack on NATO’s supreme allied commander and that cyber sleuths are being accused of using fake social networking accounts in bid to steal military secrets from the west.

NATO’s most senior military commander has been repeatedly targeted in a Facebook scam thought to have been co-ordinated by cyber spies in China. The spies are suspected of being behind a campaign to obtain information about Admiral James Stavridis from his colleagues, friends and family, sources say.

This involved setting up fake Facebook accounts bearing his name in the hope that those close to him would be lured into making contact or answering private messages, potentially giving away personal details about Stavridis or themselves.

This type of "social engineering" impersonation is an increasingly common web fraud. NATO said it wasn’t clear who was responsible for the spoof Facebook pages, but other security sources pointed the finger at China.

Are you not being served?

The San Jose Mercury News reported how today’s tech-savvy youth shoppers are ignoring salespeople in stores and rely instead on their gadgets to get the information they need.

It cited the example of Nadia Karim, who, when shopping, doesn’t wait around for salespeople. She saves items from apps and websites on her mobile phone as a shopping list. And as she browses one store – recently trying on Sam Edelman flats at Nordstrom – and she uses the phone to check out styles at competitors, like Macy’s.

"In all honesty, because I shop so much, I feel sometimes I know the brands better than some of the associates," said Karim, 26, an analyst at Intel in Phoenix.

For a generation of shoppers raised on Google and e-commerce, the answer to "Can I help you?" is increasingly a firm "no," even at retailers like Nordstrom that have built their reputations around customer service.

But instead of getting defensive, some stores and brands are embracing the change by creating new personal touches that feature gadgets rather than doting sales staff.

Quite a sizable punt

The Sunday Independent has reported that online bookmakers operating in Ireland will be liable for the same betting taxes as high-street shops, to allow the horse racing industry pay for itself, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney is to bring forward legislation to subject all bookmakers taking bets from Irish punters to a 1pc tax on all of their transactions, to reduce the burden on the taxpayer who is subsidising racing to the tune of €56m a year.

The newspaper has also learned that Coveney has also commissioned a major report into the horse-racing industry, which will focus on the industry authority, Horse Racing Ireland, which is under considerable attack from bookmakers.

To date, online betting operators have not been liable for taxation, whereas all bets made in high-street shops are subject to the 1pc betting tax.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com