TechZone 360 Week in Review

By Tony Rizzo August 17, 2013

Last week we had that intrepid billionaire Jeff Bezos making waves with his purchase of the Washington Post. This week we have yet another intrepid billionaire, Elon Musk - founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, making noise. Musk's noise started earlier this week when he introduced his concept of the Hyperloop, a technology that he claims has the underlying ability to deliver an 800 MPH means of transportation that would zip passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 30 minutes. All at a cost of perhaps $6 billion. The Hyperloop technology itself is described by our colleague Rob Enderle as "…a high-speed, fan-driven large horizontal elevator." We can live with that, but we completely scoff at the notion that it can be built for $6 billion! If we factor in the usual margin of error for "shovel-ready" projects, we'll suggest $106 billion in today's market.

Be that as it may, the Hyperloop isn't the Elon Musk thing that amazed us this week. Rather it is one of his other projects taking place on the SpaceX end of things that compelled us to use the word "amazing" in our article headline. The company has been working on advanced rocket technology and this week it showed off something that has long been part of the lore of science fiction - a rocket dubbed the Grasshopper that can both take off vertically and reverse direction to also land vertically - and to land with uncanny precision and be ready to take off again. Science fiction wins another one.

Here's some more interesting science fiction. Would you bet good money that all those millions of Facebook users are primarily happy campers? Some among us certainly are - or at least appear to be. But it turns out that a new University of Michigan study strongly suggests that in fact Facebook is no place to look for happiness!

This same week, our colleague Rachel Ramsey, who has been using Facebook for seven years, dating back to when she was a sophomore in high school, and who has - wait for this…more than 6,600 photos tagged of herself, along with 295 albums uploaded, discovered some very sad news. Apparently this photo sharing means Rachel is anti-social, never living in the moment and really bad at forging real life relationships. A recent study claims this to be the case and further elaborates by noting that if you are one of those huge posters of photos on Facebook, "Then you’re weird." Well, we hardly agree that Rachel is weird or that she is unhappy, but it does maybe explain why she won't let us touch the Samsung Galaxy camera we have in for review!

One last thing on Facebook this week – it was confirmed that Facebook is testing a new mobile payments product that would allow online shoppers to buy stuff via mobile apps that use the Facebook login info. Who knows, maybe this is just the ticket to making all those unhappy Facebookers happy again.

As we approach September 10 and the day that Apple will announce all sorts of new innovative stuff (we hope!) there are a number of interesting things going on that are not specifically product related. First, we are seeing signs that Apple and China Mobile may finally reach that pact they've both been hungering for but that both have stayed away from for good business reasons. If a deal happens it will open up vast new sales for Apple for both its upcoming flagship iPhone and the new lower end iPhone 5C. China Mobile will also see significant new revenue. We believe it will happen.

Last week, Apple won a victory over Samsung in yet another of the excruciating soap opera/reality TV series known as the Patent Wars. But as that was taking place there is another company – VirnetX -- that happens to hold some key mobile patents that Apple won't be able to get around. It will have to pay up. VirnetX has already beaten up Apple on another related patent front, managing to secure a $368 million dollar award for itself. Will Apple pay up?

Finally, earlier this week our Dell white knight, Carl Icahn, apparently invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion in Apple stock. He immediately gave Apple CEO Tim Cook a call, which Cook deigned to answer (it was the right thing to do). Look for Icahn to push for immediate and accelerated stock buybacks. Will Icahn turn into an Apple troublemaker?

We'll wrap up the week with Samsung and Microsoft. Actually, we'll toss in BlackBerry as well. On Monday, BlackBerry announced that it was going to begin looking to alternatives for survival, meaning that it will likely look for an acquirer. We've long believed that Samsung is the right company to buy BlackBerry for numerous enterprise mobile business reasons, to gain access to the BlackBerry 10 operating system and to gain access to roughly 72 - 74 million current BlackBerry subscribers. What needs to happen here?

Last, we've been covering Microsoft's ongoing "Scroogled" campaign against Google. Well, this week the company launched into what we might describe as phase three of the Scroogle program. Quite honestly, we can't say that we've seen "handsome" results from the campaign, but Microsoft continues to plug away at it. Will it ever work?

Have an awesome weekend!

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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