Here’s the latest action:
Sam Zell, soon one of the largest U.S. newspaper publishers, says Google “steals” — The magnate, who recently agreed to acquire the Tribune Co., told a gathering at Stanford University Thursday: “If all the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do, and how profitable would Google be?” This is remarkable, and could foreshadow a legal showdown, especially when Zell begins to realize how difficult it is to make money in the newspaper industry. Unfortunately for Zell, U.S courts may not be as friendly as the Belgium courts, which upheld that Google News violates copyright. In another case that unfolded in U.S. and French courts, the French wire service AFP fought Google to sign a licensing deal, the terms of which are still unknown. But “fair use” is well established in the U.S., and Zell is fighting a losing battle on this one.
Google ripping off Chinese company Sohu? — “Google stealing” has become a popular refrain. Apparently Google has copied some technology to allow typing of Chinese characters. Details still vague, but Google has acknowledged wrong-doing.
Google launches Goog-411 — The service lets you make free directory assistance calls, supported by advertising. It is much like 1-800-Free411, a competing service offered by Jingle. The difference is that Google doesn’t offer customer support if the speech recognition service breaks down and doesn’t recognize what you’re asking for. We prefer Jingle for now. More details here.
Microsoft mobilizes against Open Document Format — It is asking people to send in letters to legislators to oppose California A.B. 1668, which requires state agencies to create all documents in an open extensible markup language-based, XML-based file format, and to prefer Open Document Format (ODF) for all state software procurement.
Microsoft has released instant messaging for the XBox — Details here.
Eghosa Omoigui to direct Intel Capital’s consumer internet investments — Omoigui, who has been Intel Capital’s chief of staff for the past two years, will now help Intel’s venture capital firm make direct investments into consumer Internet start-ups. Intel has traditionally been the largest investor in venture capital and, like Cisco, the chip giant has targeted consumer Internet more closely. (See Omoigui’s recent VentureBeat column).
The Sansa Connect arrives — Using software from Mountain View start-up Zing, SanDisk is releasing its new MP3 device, the Sansa Connect. The Zing software lets the device connect with Yahoo’s Internet music service, which allows unlimited music downloads beginning at $11.99 a month. It will hit stores this week. Zing also has a relationship with Sirius Radio. (See our earlier coverage). Zing raised $13 million in January from IDG, Redpoint and Camp Ventures. The $250 device lets you download music via WiFi, though it can take half a minute to do this. You can store your songs in the device, but you can’t own the music permanently by copying it or transferring it to other devices. It competes against the iPod, and Zune among others — and the WiFi and Yahoo music services may give it the leg up. (Speaking of taking your music with you, separately, Mediamaster, a San Mateo, Calif. start-up is the latest to let you upload music from hard drive to listen online. Review via Techcrunch).
Plastics to be used for fuels? — That’s what DARPA is investigating with a $2.3 million investment. Details here at the NYT.