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Breakfast Briefing: Outlook features stripped, Wikipedia money trail and Google goes Shazam

Breakfast Briefing

Posted on 21 Dec 2012 at 09:00

Our final tech news round-up of 2012 includes cutbacks for Outlook functions, Facebook's plans to charge for priority messages, Google's music identifier and lush perks for Wikipedia insiders.

Features being ripped out of Outlook 2013

Microsoft has published a list of "deprecated" features for Outlook 2013. Among the list of features for the chop are Classic Offline mode for Exchange accounts, VPN and dialup settings, and the ability to search Outlook items from within Windows Explorer and the Start menu.

Curiously, Outlook 2013 will also stop "importing and exporting data to and from many different file formats", including the old .doc and .xls formats, as well as Outlook Express archives. Some sites have interpreted this as Outlook 2013 being unable to open old Word and Excel files, but that's entirely wrong - attachments are opened in Word 2013 and Excel 2013, both of which continue to support the old file formats.

Why does Wikipedia need our money?

Wikipedia is well into its annual donation drive – as you’ll surely have noticed from the nagging banner every time you visit – but what does it need that money for? It’s certainly not for paying the editors and contributors, yet the last appeal raised nearly $35 million.

The Register takes a look at the financials of the Wikimedia Foundation and finds some rather disturbing expenses, such as €18,000 for German Wikimedians to attend concerts and €81,000 for a researcher to study editing. Added to the increasing concerns about impartiality, it gives a rather different impression to the one most people have of their favourite encyclopaedia.

Google launches Shazam rival

Google's added a new feature for Android handset owners, which allows you to identify songs being blasted out from the TV or pub speakers. "The Sound Search widget helps you identify songs directly from your homescreen, which you can then purchase directly from Google Play and add to your library," the company says. It might be good news for the US users that can access the service at launch, but it's a Thing of Terror for rivals such as Shazam.

Facebook tests paid-for priority messages

Facebook's inbox has always had a strange quirk of dumping some messages from people that aren't friends into a sub-inbox labelled "Other". It's seen plenty of important messages languish unread for months, while the sender assumed you were just being rude.

TechCrunch reports that as part of its recent privacy changes, Facebook has introduced a new system to ensure messages get through – you pay the social network for priority delivery. The system is being tested with the idea being that paying $1 or similar would reduce the threat of spam, but you have to wonder how long it will be before legitimate businesses are able to direct message users for advertising.

EU competition stance: bad news for Google

Google's anti-competition woes in Europe have had a knock-on effect in the US, according to a report from Politico. US officials at the Federal Trade Commission had been expected to give the search giant a friendly warning over claims it has abused its dominant position earlier this week, but changed tack – apparently because EU competition watchdogs are planning tougher sanctions, which would have left the US looking weak.

"This accentuates the lead role Europe has in setting standards for dominant firm behaviour," said ex-FTC chairman William Kovacic, immediate predecessor to current FTC chief Jon Leibowitz. "If the FTC does nothing more than say 'just tell us you’ll be good' and the Europeans impose limitations as to how Google deploys its search product, it reinforces that Europe is the place to go to complain about dominant corporate behaviour and get results."

How to run a delivery company

Delivery slots and delays are the bane of online shoppers, especially at Christmas while we wait in tenterhooks for those presents we should have ordered weeks earlier, but never got round to.

The BBC reports how US company Fresh Direct has taken delivery to new standards, by using a mix of technology and human intelligence, logging the slightest delays in deliveries and contacting the driver. Information about why it took so long – roadworks or traffic jams, for example – is fed into the system, which boasts 98% on-time deliveries for its 12,000 daily drops. Behind the success is a database and series of algorithms – if you wouldn't mind sending them over here, that'd be great.

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