Digg: Takeover rumours refuse to die

As I think many people probably expected, the Digg takeover rumours have turned out to be totally untrue — or have they? According to Jay Adelson at least, they are completely false. The Digg co-founder says the company is “focused on improving Digg and rolling out great features,” which is pretty much the same thing he said when he was asked the question during Digg’s recent “town hall” Q & A session. But Mike Arrington isn’t backing down — he says his source on the story is very good and he sticks by his report that Digg is talking to either Google or Microsoft or both.

Could Jay be telling the truth and yet still working on a sale of Digg? Sure he could. As Peter Kafka notes at Silicon Alley Insider, the Digg denial didn’t say that the company wasn’t for sale, and it didn’t deny that Google and/or Microsoft were talking to the company — it just said that reports of a bidding war between the two were false. Companies do this all the time: deny that anything is happening, in as vague a way as possible, right up until the thing actually happens. Steve Jobs is a master of this. Remember “People will never watch video on a handheld device?”

So at least for now, the Digg takeover rumours are just as alive as they were before, despite Jay’s denial. Would Google or Microsoft make a better buyer? I’m not sure. It would be interesting to see what Google would do with it — would they integrate it somehow with Google Reader maybe? — but to me that seems like a stretch. I think Microsoft needs the help more when it comes to getting social networks and recommendation engines and so on. And maybe Kevin will one day actually be worth the $60-million that BusinessWeek said he was worth way back when.

Hey, where’s my Apple halo?

Remember the “halo effect?” That was the term some analysts came up with for the boost in Apple sales that was expected to result from the smash success of the company’s iPod music and video players. The assumption was that all the love for the iPod would spill over onto the rest of Apple’s business, and that people would be drawn to purchase more Macs and iBooks and so on. There were several articles and analyst reports last year that said the effect seemed to be working — but now there are numbers that call those early reports into question.

According to the latest report from Gartner Group — obtained (ironically) by Apple Insider — Apple’s worldwide market share actually dropped in the first quarter of this year, to 2 per cent from 2.2 per cent in the same quarter of 2005. Even in the U.S., the company’s primary market, its share barely budged during the quarter, remaining more or less flat at 3.6 per cent (Gartner says the company’s share rose by one-tenth of one per cent). Even if you assume that lots of people held off buying because they were waiting for the new Intel models, that’s still not a great performance — and not much evidence of a halo.

If you’re wondering why it’s ironic that the Gartner report shows up on Apple Insider, it’s because the blog was one of several that were sued for leaking inside information about Apple products — a lawsuit that Apple just recently lost. Could Apple Insider be feeling a bit of what the Germans call schadenfreude?

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Have you ever noticed how leading up to Macworld there’s a blizzard of rumour and speculation about what kind of cool new products Apple will release? The rumours are invariably wrong (remember the big-screen TV with a computer in it that one site figured was a shoe-in?), but it makes for fun reading. It looks as though Microsoft may be taking some lessons from Steve Jobs, the king of buzz-building, with a new portable device that is said to be in the works — code-named “Origami.”

According to several different reports, including one from respected tech site Ars Technica, Origami is a small portable device with a detachable keyboard and a Tablet PC-style screen — a device that might allow you to take the screen with you and watch movies or listen to music, or perhaps surf the Web, with a keyboard for entering large amounts of data if necessary. There’s a “viral marketing” website with few details, other than a note that more info will be forthcoming on March 2nd. Coincidentally, Apple is also set to announce something mysterious a few days before that.

Some sites have been having fun with the idea of Origami, but it seems obvious that something is coming (the original ad for the as-yet-unseen device is gone from the agency’s website, but video-sharing site YouTube managed to grab a copy). The Scobleizer has effectively confirmed the existence of such a device or project, which seems to be more like a mini-Tablet than a video iPod type of device, although he’s been backpedaling a little on the whole thing. Even the New York Times has picked up on the buzz, with a piece about the speculation, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has something too.

Whether the reality of Origami lives up to the buzz, of course, remains to be seen. As my buddy Kent Newsome notes, Microsoft is likely in for a backlash if it isn’t.

Google Pack — colour me confused

I don’t like to think of myself as being a stupid guy, and the billions of dollars that Larry Page and Sergey Brin have would indicate that they aren’t stupid either, but I have to admit that I share Paul Kedrosky’s puzzlement about the rumoured Google Pack that Larry is supposed to be announcing at CES — at least according to the Wall Street Journal.

What the heck is the point of bundling all that software and branding it as the Google Pack? Sure, Firefox is great — I use it all the time, even though it still has a memory leak problem that drives me nuts. Trillian is another favourite of mine, and I recommend Ad-Aware to everyone I know. The pack will also have Google Earth, Google Talk, Desktop etc.

But why Adobe’s PDF Reader? A nice tool, many people will likely never need it, unless Google has some other plans I don’t know about. And Real Player from Real Networks is a bloated piece of cling-ware that loads so much crap that I wouldn’t install it if Larry and Sergey paid me to. As for Norton Anti-Virus, it used to be a great tool but has become an intrusive irritant for many people I know.

I’m at a loss to explain what Google hopes to gain. The idea that this bundle is somehow a competitive blow against Microsoft is almost laughable (InsideGoogle is also bemused). If all you looked at was Google’s RSS Reader, Orkut, Froogle and even Google Talk (although it’s still early), you would be right to wonder — as Paul does in his poll — whether the search giant has “jumped the shark.”

Why on earth would Google do a PC?

There’s been a mountain of chatter on the Web about rumours that Google might announce a Google PC – rumours that got a new lease on life from a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, although they have been around for a while. Those rumours, which have been tracked by CNet, have now been denied by a spokesman for the search giant, and by Wal-Mart, which was supposed to be the company’s partner (along with Wyse Technologies).

It’s a tempting rumour in part because people seem to lust for a strong competitor for Microsoft – and what better competitor than a cash-rich company with a great brand and a market value that is bigger than Coca-Cola and Cisco Systems, and just behind IBM? A little Google cube with a version of Linux on it and some Web-based office software sounds so great, doesn’t it?

The only downside is that it seems like a pretty stupid idea in a lot of ways, as Carlo at TechDirt and John Battelle have both noted. Why should Google bother selling such a system, when it can just avoid all the cost and hassle by distributing software that does the same thing on other people’s computers? I just don’t see the point. Neither does Alec Saunders, (who invokes the ghost of Michael Cowpland).