Tech Industry

Week in review: Tech titan togetherness

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made a rare joint appearance at D5 amid unveilings of breakthrough products like Palm's Foleo and Microsoft's Milan.

A rare joint appearance by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Apple CEO Steve Jobs was the headliner this week at the D5 conference near San Diego, but several breakthrough products also shared the spotlight.

The two tech giants, , shared friendly banter onstage with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, columnists for The Wall Street Journal, which puts on the annual conference officially named, "D: All things Digital."

In response to a question about each other's biggest contribution, Jobs credited Gates for focusing on software, "before anyone else had a clue." Gates praised Jobs for pursuing the idea that the computer could really be a mass-market product. And they then delved back into the early days of the Mac when Microsoft and Apple worked closely together.

They were also asked about any misunderstandings in their relationships. "We've kept our marriage a secret for over a decade now," Jobs joked. Gates stayed silent for a while then said that neither of them really has anything in general to complain about vis a vis the other. "It's been fun to work together," Gates said. "It's nice when somebody sticks around."

Both Gates and Jobs shrugged off the notion that the computer is waning as more and more work is handled via the browser, but also recognized the explosion in portable devices and the opportunities there.

In that vein, the conference was also buzzing with unveilings of new products and partnerships. Jobs, for example, revealed a new relationship with YouTube owner Google. Starting next month, Apple TV users will be able to select "YouTube" as an option from the device's main menu and view thousands of the most viewed and most popular videos on the site.

Meanwhile, Microsoft took the wraps off "Milan," the company's new tabletop computer that's controlled entirely through touch with no mouse or keyboard. Years in the making, Gates touted it as the first in what the company hopes will be a long line of "surface computers."

However impressed by Milan, some CNET News.com readers remained skeptical that Microsoft will be able to deliver the technology to the home consumer.

"If this is only used for hotels, casinos, kiosks, etc., then it will be as meaningless to the average person as the OS in an ATM or self check out," one reader said, adding, "Let the hype begin!"

In another big product announcement, Palm made a bid to reinvent mobile computing with the Foleo, a 2.5-pound laptop PC with a 10-inch display that runs Linux. It's designed to let smart-phone users read and respond to their e-mail and documents on a full keyboard with a larger screen, said company founder Jeff Hawkins.

Other notable products unveiled at D5 were Livescribe's smart pen and Qigo's "keys" for Internet content, which are USB sticks with small executables that fire up Web content.

Google, here, there and Where 2.0
It was also a busy week in Google news, between the company's first Developer Day; the launch of a new Google Maps feature highlighted at the Where 2.0 Conference; and the release of Google Gears.

The search giant on Thursday hosted its first-ever Developer Day in 10 locations as part of a ramped-up effort to encourage developers to build mashup applications with Google Web services. In conjunction with the day, on Wednesday it launched Google Gears, a browser plug-in that will enable people to run Web applications whether they're connected to the Internet or not.

Earlier in the week, the company also launched a new mapping feature that allows people to see panoramic views of streets and buildings. Google Maps now offers a 360-degree view of many streets in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami, with other cities to roll out later.

The Street View feature instantly , with people around the country spending hours perusing maps, looking for their houses, offices and more. But it also gave pause to some with privacy concerns. The feature allows users to zoom in close enough to read street signs and even see inside front windows.

In other mapping news, Encyclopedia maker Britannica sued TomTom and two others, claiming they infringed on patents for a computerized map system. And in an effort to one-up Google Earth, Microsoft launched a Live Search Maps feature providing 3D views of city buildings.

The darker side
Beyond the news of slick new products and spiffy new services, there was some grim news this week, particularly on the job front.

Marking a second round of layoffs this month, IBM announced Wednesday that it will cut 1,566 jobs from its global workforce, primarily in its U.S. strategic outsourcing services business.

Motorola also said it expects to cut 4,000 jobs, in addition to the 3,500 positions already slated to be eliminated by the end of this month.

And in its earnings release this week, Dell also announced it would lay off 10 percent of its workforce over the coming year.

Also sparking some heated debate this week was the mass deletion of LiveJournal blogs, leading to a revolt against the company and a subsequent apology.

Many News.com readers joined the revolt. One reader, for example, was not alone in this sentiment toward San Francisco-based Six Apart, which owns LiveJournal: "We understand your aim, but the bot you've used to 'clean out' your system, cleaned out many legitimate, and irreplaceable works. How many people will trust you now with their blogs and postings?"

LiveJournal confirmed Wednesday that it deleted around 500 journals this week in hopes of better "protecting children." It said the deletion was prompted by activist groups, including one called Warriors for Innocence that claims to track sites promoting pedophilia, the sexual abuse of minors and other illegal activities.

On Thursday, however, Barak Berkowitz, chairman and chief executive of Six Apart, said publicly: "Well, we really screwed this one up" and promised to reinstate a wide swath of communities that were deleted as part of the company's attempt to eradicate pedophilia-related discussions.

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