Microsoft AOL Patent Theater

Nothing is ever exactly as it seems in the business of technology and that certainly applies to AOL’s recent patent auction, won by Microsoft with a bid of $1.056 billion. This event wasn’t really an auction and had little to do with patents, yet it probably marks the peak of the current patent bubble.

On the face of it, AOL selling its 800 patents to Microsoft was about raising cash for the troubled online company, allowing it to pass some of that money on to disgruntled shareholders in the form of a one-time dividend or share buy-back. And the patents were substantial, since they included not just AOL’s own productivity but also that of Netscape, Mirabilis (ICQ), and any other AOL acquisitions over the years.  […]

By |April 12th, 2012|2012|39 Comments

Geeks like me: What's Engadget really worth?

Thorstein Veblen was a cranky Norwegian-American economist best known for his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class where he coined the term conspicuous consumption, which meant that if former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski bought a $9000 shower curtain with company money he should probably go to prison… and did. Veblen instantly came to mind this morning when I read about how nine of the top editors were leaving Engadget for a new gig no longer associated with AOL. There’s a lot to think about in this move, which Veblen (who died in Palo Alto in 1929) would have appreciated.

Veblen, you see, was a socialist of sorts but really he was more a dour Norwegian who respected hard work and the accumulation of […]

By |April 5th, 2011|2011|54 Comments

AOL Hell

Maybe it was that column I wrote recently about AOL buying the Huffington Post, but I swear AOL has turned on me. Share my pain.

Back in the early 1990s I got an AOL dial-up account to use while traveling. It was one of the few Internet services that had global dial-up, so I could get connected from England to India (and did). I kept the account out of sheer laziness, as I am sure do many of the 3.65 million remaining AOL paying dial-up customers, but eventually AOL-itself converted my e-mail to free and escaped from my credit card bill. So then I had a free AOL e-mail account to go with my Yahoo Mail […]

By |February 14th, 2011|2011|75 Comments

Arianna Huffington, queen of all media

I have only met Arianna Huffington once. I remember it vividly but my guess is she doesn’t remember it much at all, which says volumes about both of us. The scene was surreal. Huffington and I were in Larry Flynt’s office in Los Angeles, participating in an experimental online talk show Larry was trying to distribute over the Internet. Our topic for the moment was gun control: I was conflicted while Huffington was violently opposed to guns, citing their danger to children, which she thought should over-rule any constitutional argument.  I made a point and she replied with the motherhood card, “Well you obviously […]

By |February 7th, 2011|2011|104 Comments

AOL+Yahoo is a Jealousy Game

If you think AOL actually intends to buy Yahoo, you are wrong. That story hit the press this week but it’s a ruse to motivate Google exactly as I explained a few days ago. AOL has neither the money nor the motivation to buy Yahoo, which is analogous to a bus company buying a poorly-managed airline.  AOL just wants to make Google jealous.

Here’s what I think happened. This is pure speculation on my part, of course, but I know most of the players and am even correct from time to time. I think one or more private equity firms brought the deal to AOL: they’ll put up the capital if AOL’s Tim Armstrong […]

By |October 15th, 2010|2010|50 Comments