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The Biz Roundup March 17

If you read news today, this is probably the one the counts.

The Obama administration yesterday unveiled a series of measures to help the nation’s small businesses, saying it would spend up to $15 billion to help them get the loans they need to weather the economic crisis. . . .

Under the administration’s plan, the government will buy the small-business loans that are clogging the books of community banks and other lenders, allowing the institutions to start lending again. The government will also increase its guarantee of the Small Business Administration’s primary loan program, reducing the amount of money lenders can lose if borrowers default on loans.

The administration will pay for the initiatives with funds from the $700 billion financial rescue program. While that decision was welcomed by lawmakers who have called for more money to be used for Main Street instead of Wall Street, some critics said the government is relying on a broken program that may end up benefiting big banks and lenders more than small businesses.

(“Small-Business Lending Gets a Boost,” Washington Post, March 17) It’s not much (SBA loans account for less than 5% of small business loans), but it’s the one part of the bailout that impacts the heart of American entrepreneurship and job creation.

At this rate, the Kindle 3 will just be a plain old book.

In the latest legal tussle between a media and a dot-com, cable network firm Discovery Communications has sued, arguing that its successful Kindle electronic book readers violate a patent that Discovery registered in 2007.

Discovery filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Delaware, saying’s infringement of a patent covering e-book file security was “willful.”

The company cited founder and chairman John Hendricks’ role in the development of digital content and delivery services in the 1990s. Among other things, his work included inventions of “a secure, encrypted system for the selection, transmission and sale of electronic books,” Discovery said.

(“Kindle sparks lawsuit from Discovery,” Hollywood Reporter, March 17) Okay, some bezo at Amazon had the bright idea of putting an automated book reader on the Kindle. So, first the authors sue because, well, it violates the copyrights on the books they’re publishing (yes, it undoubtedly, as clear as the nose on your face violates copyright just as much as if they photocopied the book and sold the photocopy). Oh, and to protect the contents from all other forms of piracy, they kyped a bit of cryptography technology patented by the Discovery Channel of all people.

This is what happens when the adults control the allowance.

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), among the most chaotic, profligate, unfocused, engineering-oriented, and self-proclaimed recession-resistant of organizations, had reached outside the Googleplex for a real business executive and charged him with ensuring that Google’s freewheeling culture wouldn’t become its own worst enemy. . . .

Since he started as CFO on Aug. 1, Google has shut down numerous projects, facilities, and perks, from the seemingly trivial – an unneeded gourmet caf at its headquarters, the annual companywide ski trip – to the significant. The latter includes the termination of a major effort called Lively, a virtual-environment product that mimicked Second Life, and the shuttering of a failed acquisition, dMarc Broadcasting, through which Google had attempted to broker radio advertising. In January, Google publicized its first layoffs, the termination of 100 recruiters made redundant because the company has dramatically reined in its hiring.

(“The axman comes to Google,” Fortune, March 17) The evolution of Google continues to be the number one model for enterpreneurs of every stripe. Now that Google has gone from great to good — at least as far as revenue is concerned — it’s becoming your father’s business. And the place to start, of course, is the purse. We will all be watching intently to see if Google can maintain its mind-blowing inventiveness and count pennies like every other business has to do.

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