RizWords – Daily Politics and Tech
Episode 31 – download now subscribe now

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Sony tries to take on Google:

Sony Launching YouTube Rival on Friday

We’ve got a few sources – including, a few minutes ago, a release – saying that Sony will take on YouTube with its own video sharing site, launching on Friday.

But don’t get too excited: Friday’s launch will be in Japan only, with expansion globally at a later date. I don’t hold out much hope that the electronics and media giant can corner this market, although there’s plenty of reasons why they’d want to.

Sony already owns Grouper, acquired in August 2006 for $65M in cash.

In Telecommunications news, two very interesting things, the first one in our ongoing coverage of what we dub the Vonage Crap:

Vonage gets its stay, launches astroturf site

It’s been a big week for Vonage–and at last some of the news is good. A federal appeals court stayed a trial court’s injunction that would have prohibited the company from signing up new customers. The stay will remain in effect until an appeal of the Vonage’s patent loss to Verizon heard. That appeal will happen sooner rather than later: June 25, which is legal terms is practically tomorrow. Vonage is also trying to rally public support, kicking off freetocompete.com, a corporate site designed to get its side of the patent story out. (The term for this kind of corporate-sponsored grassroots effort, by the way, is “astroturfing.” It’s not a complimentary term.) The only sign that Vonage is backing this–aside from the obvious one-sidedness of the content–is a small copyright note at the bottom of the web pages. And lastly, Vonage unveiled Vonage Text, which translates voicemails to text, which it then e-mails to you.

For more about Vonage’s court win:
– read this article from the San Jose Mercury News
– see this website for more about Vonage’s astroturfing
– read this article from Voxilla for more about Vonage Text

Related Articles:
Vonage granted stay, still in hot water. Report
Vonage endures. Report

The other promised telecom story:

Siemens CEO dropped in scandal fallout

A few months ago, the big story in telecom was the Siemens scandal, where several all sorts of internal financial shenanigans came to light and several high-level execs were arrested on charges of bribery. The fallout, which involved the industrial giant’s telecom divisions, held up the spin-off of the company’s carrier division to a joint venture with Nokia. Now the other shoe has dropped: Despite strong financial results, Siemens’s board of directors has declined to renew the contract of CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. A new deal had been widely expected but reports say that some of the board members, themselves survivors of scandals at their own companies, thought that giving a new contract to an executive currently under investigation would call their own governance into question.

For more about the fall of Siemens’s Kleinfeld:
– see the announcement from Siemens
– read this article from The New York Times

Related Articles:
Former Siemens telecom head arrested in scandal. Report
Siemens corruption probe widens: $556M. Report
Siemens in $250M corruption scandal. Report
Analyst urges caution on Siemens phones. Report

In Google News, two things of note:

Google surpasses Microsoft as world’s most-visited site
It’s official: Google rules the world. — The Mountain View search engine has outstripped Microsoft on two fronts, becoming both the most visited Web site and the most valuable global brand. — The events are major milestones for Google …

Try out Google’s New Design before ANYONE ELSE DOES!
Google’s latest design test for the search results pages and homepage is clever and has big chances of replacing the current one. The big change is that Google adds a navigation menu for its services placed at the top of the page. The list of services includes Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs (the last two are hidden under “more”). Under the search box, you’ll see links to other specialized search engines that provide useful results for that search. For “Bush”, there are many services listed, including news, news archives and blog search, but for most queries you’ll see few services listed (for “Google”, you’ll see only news search; for “flowers”, image search; for “c++”, code search, blog search and groups).

Courtesy of Webbsnack, here’s how you can test this new design.

Copy this code:

javascript:document.cookie= “PREF=ID=fddb01133a87d314:LD=en:CR=2:TM=1177334998:LM=1177334998:GM=1:S=OOg0FEVzpPplxe9J; path=/; domain=.google.com”;void(0);

go to google.com/ncr, paste it in the address bar, press enter, then search for something clever. I absolutely love the new design, but if you don’t like it, clear your Google cookie and it’ll go away.

In other search engine news, we expect Google probably shrugged a bit at this story:

Ask.com Launches AdSense Competitor

Ask.com has announced a contextual advertising product for publishers today. As part of the Ask Sponsored Listings (ASL – not to be confused with Age, Sex Location) platform, parent company IAC claims the new service already reaches 34 million unique users per month via their network of sites, which include Match.com, Ticketmaster, and and Evite.

The company hopes to win over publishers by attacking one of AdSense’s biggest weaknesses – transparency. Ask.com plans to inform content partners of their revenue share up front, rather than leave them guessing about the fluctuations in eCPM one might notice in their AdSense account. The service will also include other standard contextual advertising management features, such as customizing the look of the ads and offering varying levels of editorial control.

Added transparency might win over the paranoid, but ultimately the battle for contextual will come down to who pays the most, and matching Google’s massive advertiser reach will be a challenge for Ask.com. For the curious, Ask.com’s contextual product will be available the week of May 21st.

Our political news came from Robert Novak today – Two very interesting pieces which for some reason reminded me of a piece I saw on ABC last night talking about the Star Wars Missile Defense program – we’re going to try to talk more about that tomorrow… but for today, these two stories.

Gun Control
In the wake of last week’s Virginia Tech shooting, Democrats’ restraint on the gun control issue has been surprising. Even liberals such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) have downplayed or disavowed calls for more gun control laws.

In seeking passage of the bill granting a vote in Congress to the District of Columbia last week, House Democratic leaders had two options in the wake of a clever Republican move in March that scuttled the vote by attempting to add repeal of the D.C. gun ban. They could have ordered their caucus to vote against the measure, thus pitting them against the gun lobby. They decided not to risk this. Instead, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) employed a parliamentary maneuver to prevent a vote on gun rights in D.C.

French Elections
Elections in France May 6 are now expected to bring about a regime far more friendly to Washington than existed previously. Nicholas Sarkozy, the nominee of the ruling center-right party of President Jacques Chirac, will face Socialist Segolene Royal in the runoff election. Sarkozy finished first in last weekend’s elections and enjoys a large lead in the polls.

A centrist candidate, Francois Bayou, received more support than expected. This is interpreted as a sign that there is enough discontent with Royal that Sarkozy will take much of his support in the second round.

Sarkozy is the most pro-American of the top candidates, yet he has probably done enough of the America-bashing necessary in French politics to win. Critics hounded Sarkozy for even meeting Bush last September — former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius called Sarkozy Bush’s “lapdog.” In a French poll last December, 75 percent of respondents said they want their next president to keep a distance from U.S. foreign policy.

Sarkozy agreed with Chirac’s decision to stay out of the Iraq War and has also said that the hanging of Saddam Hussein was a mistake. He opposes military action against Iran but favors sanctions to force it to give up its nuclear program. He also opposes Turkish membership in the European Union. His election, however, would signal an end to the at times fierce antagonism in which Bush and Chirac have engaged.

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