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The Roundup June 2

Kinda like selling all our applie pie companies to Belarus.

GM has a tentative agreement to sell the [Hummer] to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. of China, the companies said today. . . .

A joint news release by the two companies said Hummer would continue to be headquartered in the United States and be managed by its existing leadership team, which intends to expand the Hummer dealer network worldwide, including in China.

(“GM in talks with Chinese firm to buy Hummer brand,” Detroit Free Press, June 2) Anyone who has ever driven on Chinese highways will know how terrifying the prospect of Hummers ripping around them will be. That being said, remember when Lenovo acquired IBM’s personal computer division? Everyone predicted a train wreck. But, on a closer look, Lenovo had some intriguing strategic capabilities that allowed it to turn around the operation and make it successful. I don’t know anything about Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, but if they, too, are bringing certain strategic capabilities to the table, they may be the folks to make this brand work.


Google’s out to burn the Kindle.

Google Inc. recently announced plans to launch a program that will allow consumers to purchase access to digital versions of books via any Web-enabled computer, e-reader or mobile phone. . . .

“By end of this year, we hope to give publisher partners an additional way to sell their books by allowing users to purchase access to Partner Program books online. We want to build and support a digital book ecosystem to allow our partner publishers to make their books available for purchase from any Web-enabled device.”

(“Google joins the growing e-book club,” DM News, June 2) The problem with the Kindle is it’s not a category-killer like the iPod. Or even the iPhone. It’s just another electronic device to carry around with the multitude. If consumers are really going to embrace on-demand, portable electronic books, the best platform is one that can be used on any platform — desktop, laptop, iPhone, Blackberry. Without having to cough up four hundred bucks. Expect Kindle to go the way of the Newton.


The sound of cool.

At the E3 video game conference here, [Microsoft] representatives Monday showed off technology that would allow users to play games, navigate menus and browse movies using their hands and bodies instead of a game controller or remote control. Given the beta name Project Natal, the technology incorporates sensors to detect users’ movements, faces and voices.

(“Microsoft to eliminate the need for game controllers,” San Jose Mercury News, June 2) After a decade of avoiding video games and boxes, I’m getting in line for this one. If it works (big if). Just one more file for the “I wish I thought of that” file cabinet.


Can I put my face on Facebook money?

The long-rumoured payments system, which is in its early stages, will allow users to purchase Facebook “credits”, then use those credits to buy virtual goods from the third-party applications that run on the site, or from Facebook itself. . . .

Users are increasingly spending real money buying virtual goods and credits on the applications that run on Facebook’s platform. Zynga, the largest applications developer on Facebook, with 42m users of its games, is reported to be nearing annual sales of $100m. Together, developers working on Facebook’s platform are expected to make more than $500m this year – perhaps more than Facebook itself.

(“Facebook brings in payment system,” Financial Times, June 2) Beware the eBay greed-monster. Facebook — a wonderful, brilliant company in many ways — hasn’t quite figured out how to make money other than hoover it up from investors. At some point, Facebook will be tempted to go the eBay/PayPal route, and start treating this payment system as its own personal stagecoach to rob.

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