iPad Superbooks, the Google Triumverate, Q&As Galore, and More Xconomy News

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iPad Superbooks, the Google Triumverate, Q&As Galore, and More Xconomy News Wade Roush 1/23/11 6:45 PM
After the epic update from two weeks ago, I've got a more compact list of things to tell you about this time. In reverse chron order:

* For my January 21 column, I reviewed a couple of e-book titles for the iPad that the New York Times praised recently as "superbooks": Alice for the iPad and Why the Net Matters. I found both titles sorely disappointing, probably because I've been a student of multimedia design for about 15 years now, and I have a pretty good sense of what I'd expect from a "superbook." These two apps aren't it. They only scratch the surface of the capabilities of the iPad. I didn't put this into the column, but I've been having more fun recently with The History of Jazz from 595 Dreams, which arranges its subject material in much cleverer ways. But it's not a book -- and maybe that's a key distinction. It could be that the book metaphor is too confining for the tablet platform.

* I surveyed reaction across the blogosphere to the news that Google co-founder Larry Page will resume his old role as CEO while current CEO Eric Schmidt kicks himself upstairs to executive chairman (and co-founder Sergey Brin becomes, well, co-founder). I thought most of the instant analysis was overwrought, considering that the same triumverate will be running the company as before; they'll just have different titles. If a more substantive organizational shift is underway, Google hasn't let on about it yet.

* I profiled vChatter, a Facebook-based video chat service that markets itself as a "safe" alternative to ChatRoulette (i.e., no naked guys). The company just picked up $350,000 in new seed funding.

* Just before Christmas I drove down to Santa Clara for an interview with Sehat Sutardja, CEO and co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, the fast-growing maker of low-power chips for disk drives, mobile and game devices, and tablet computers. Sutardja gives only a handful of interviews a year, so I didn't want any of my material to go to waste. I wrote it up in the form of two Q&As, the first focusing on his remarkably hands-on management style at Marvell and the second on Sutardja's childhood in Indonesia, his training as an electrical engineer, and his decision to start Marvell back in 1995.

* It's hard to believe, but Xconomy has been around for three and a half years now -- enough time for a lot of other companies to come and go. I wrote a piece about Tilera, a maker of multicore chips that I first profiled back in 2007. At the time, there were at least three or four companies working to put scores of processing units or cores on a single chip, but Tilera is the last one standing. Last week the company collected $45 million for a big push into cloud computing.

* My January 14 column was a meditation on the future of long form journalism on the Web. At Xconomy we break up any story longer than about 600 words into multiple pages. But we can tell from our Web analytics that readership drops off drastically after the first page or two -- a sign (as if we needed one) that people don't like to read long pieces on the Web. I took solace in the invention of tools like Instapaper -- a great tool for the iPad, iPhone, and Kindle that lets you save long articles for leisurely, offline reading later -- and in Dave Winer's My.ReallySimple project, which could make it easier for Web users to send long-form content to whatever reading platform they prefer.

* Back in November, I had a long visit with TripIt CEO Gregg Brockway, but I never had time to write it up (I'm chagrined to say that my story backlog is still several months long). Then Seattle-based Concur announced it was buying TripIt for an impressive $120 million. So I was able to supplement our breaking news story with an in-depth Q&A about how Brockway and his co-founders came up with the idea for a service that would collect all your trip information via e-mail and let you manage it in one place online.

* After profiling Y Combinator-backed Bump Technologies last fall, I had a chance to reconnect with CEO David Lieb and co-founder Jake Mintz. They just collected $16 million from Andreessen Horowitz and other investors, and they talked with me about how they plan to use the money to expand on their nifty, bump-activated service for transferring data between mobile phones.

* There's a changing of the guard underway at the venerable and celebrated Palo Alto Research Center: Mark Bernstein is retiring and handing over the reins to Steve Hoover, a Xerox veteran. I interviewed Hoover about his background and his plans for PARC.

Thanks for reading -- take care and I'll see you again in February.