Weekend news roundup

8 Feb 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Free Office later this year

Microsoft will launch the first free version of its Office software later this year, in an attempt to engage with cloud-based applications, according to the Sunday Business Post. The software giant is to offer Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note as free online services for anyone with a Windows Live account. Although aimed for use with Internet Explorer, the service will also work with Firefox, Safari and Chrome, according to Jeremy Showalter, a product manager with Microsoft.

Sage rival ponders flotation

Visma, a business software rival to Sage, is heading for a £700-million flotation, probably on the London Stock Exchange, according to the Sunday Times. HgCapital, the private equity company that bought Visma for £382 million in 2006, is considering the move. News of Hg’s intention to exit its largest-ever investment is likely to interest Sage, the accountancy software group, which had wanted to buy Visma before being outbid by Hg.

Can Murdoch’s paywall gambit pay off?

As web newspapers search for engaged users, some should ask whether they will find them among the masses, The Observer asked over the weekend. It pointed out that as the paywalls go up around editorial content online, so the number of “unique users” clicking through to a site every month goes down.

Rise of caller ID spoofing

Applications that let users change or “spoof” their Caller ID are gaining in popularity in mobile phone app stores, even as Congress considers stalled legislation to outlaw particular uses of the technology, and criminals use it to engage in nefarious activity, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. Caller ID spoofing technology allows a user to change the caller ID to show any desired number on a recipient’s caller ID display. There are currently a handful of companies that offer this service including SpoofCard (and its mobile application called Spoof App) and Spoofem, among others.

Found in translation

The Mail on Sunday reported that there’s no longer any need for people to learn languages. The paper reported that Google is creating a mobile phone app that can act as an interpreter. Google says the technology can translate spoken words into another language instantaneously. Google’s head of translation services, Franz Och said: “We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time.”

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