Breakfast Briefing: Hard times for ebook readers, Silicon Roundabout's origin story, free Nexus 7 for FT readers

12 Dec 2012
Breakfast Briefing

Today in tech, ebook readers failing, Tech City's beginnings, Nexus 7 bundles, web talks compromise, and more

Today's top tech stores feature a sales crisis for ebook readers, how Silicon Roundabout got its name, free tablets for newspaper subscriptions, and more, including nostalgic audio clips from gadgets gone by.

Sales of ebook readers fall as tablets take over

Sales of ebook readers have fallen by more of a third, hit by cheap tablets, says iSuppli. Shipments are down to 14.9m this year, a drop from 23.2m last year - which appears to have been the form-factor's peak, as the decline in sales will continue next year.

"The rapid growth — followed by the immediate collapse — of the ebook market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space," the analyst firm said.

"But the stunning rise and then blazing flameout of ebooks perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets," the company added.

"And while other uni-tasking devices — like digital still cameras, GPS systems and MP3 players — also face similar pressures and battle dim prospects ahead, all have had a longer time in the sun than ebook readers, demonstrating even more painfully the depth of the ebook reader’s fall."

Silicon Roundabout: the prequel

Despite East London's tech centres being hijacked by politicians patting themselves on the back over Tech City developments in the area around Old Street, the arrival of start-ups started long before official involvement. Gigaom has an interview with app developer Matt Biddulph, who can take credit for coining the Silicon Roundabout name that other tech companies got behind. The article details how that happened, and reveals the early cafe-led scene in the area.

FT in free Nexus 7 sales pitch

The Times set the tone last week when it said it would throw in a £50 Nexus 7 tablet that normally costs £199 for anyone buying an 18-month subscription. The Financial Times has gone one better with an offer of a free Nexus 7 with its pricier subscription packages. Paid Content has details of how the deal works and discusses the likelihood of more tie-ins with other content providers eager to lure people onboard.

UN web talks nearing compromise deal

Reuters reports that tense talks over web regulation by the ITU are progressing, with a compromise deal being discussed into the early hours. The crux of the issue is a proposal from Russia and Middle Eastern countries that want more control over the web, something the US and Europe are against.

According to Reuters, the chairman of the gathering in Dubai has circulated a draft that sidelined proposals from Russia, China and other countries that have been seeking the right to know where each piece of Internet traffic comes from.

Radio chip to lower price of NFC

Whether or not we want Near Field Communications for e-wallet and other services on our mobile phones, manufacturers seem insistent on deploying them, and the cost of doing so is set to fall, according to a report on Venture Beat. The site explains how chipmaker Broadcom has crammed NFC technology onto a four-way radio chip that also includes Wi-Fi, FM radio and Bluetooth in a design that Broadcom claims lowers the cost for each flavour of wireless.

The powerful can’t stay off Twitter

Chinese internet users were outraged to discover that the Communist Party’s official news service has something they’re not allowed: a Twitter account. It’s had one since March, but when a report in Yunnan Info Daily revealed it, many took to China’s equivalent, Sina Weibo, to express their anger. As the Atlantic Wire points out, "the fact that anyone living in China is not allowed to read it, almost makes @XHNews the purest form of propaganda: It talks to no-one who knows better and listens to no one who talks back.”

Also on Twitter is the Pope, and Business Week has an interview with the understandably nervous man in charge of ensuring old @Pontifex keeps his opinions on the Manchester derby to himself. Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explains why the Pope doesn’t yet follow anyone ("we noticed the Dalai Lama didn’t follow anyone") and dismisses the idea of being focused on follower numbers. "If there are followers, they’re followers of Christ." Wait, he’s on there too?

Dead tech talking

Remember the Windows start-up sound, early Nokia ringtones, or the hideous noise that accompanied dial-up internet connections? Stuff has collected audio samples of classic tech sounds, and it’s well worth a listen. Not all of them are easy on the ears, but if they don’t make you feel nostalgic, you’re probably young enough to understand why people listen to Justin Bieber - and we’d rather have a loop of a dot matrix printer all day, thanks.

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