Daily Archives: August 24, 2009

Russian Investor Wants More of Facebook

Digital Sky Technologies (DST), Facebook’s Russian investor, wants to own more of the social-networking sensation.

From the Digits blog in the Wall Street Journal:

The firm (DST) just finished spending $100 million to purchase current and former Facebook employees’ shares of the company, on top of a $200 million direct investment into the social-networking site earlier this year. Now DST, known for its investments in social-networking sites in Russia, Poland and the Baltics, has approached a number of Facebook shareholders seeking to buy more shares, according to several people familiar with the conversations.

After wrapping up its official tender offer, which was closed this week, DST held about a 3.5% stake in Facebook. Two people familiar with the matter said DST has suggested it wants to spend at least $100 million more on Facebook shares.

The Russian investor seems to want to own more equity, and presumably more influence, in Facebook. We don’t know what long-term strategy DST has in mind, but it’s clear that it would like to possess more than a token interest in its American social-networking investment vehicle.

Nokia’s Belated Netbook Nothing Special

Another slow news day meant that legions of journalists and bloggers went overboard in response to the announcement of a fairly run-of-the-mill netbook from Nokia.

I just don’t see how Nokia’s netbook changes anything, except that it signals Nokia’s defensive entry into a market that involves wireless mobility and is on real estate directly adjacent to its familiar neighborhood of wireless handsets, including smartphones.

Yes, Nokia will be pushing its Ovi data services alongside its Booklet 3G, but I’m not sure the netbook buys Nokia any meaningful market traction.

The Nokia netbook, about which we’ll know more in early September, might have been more interesting if it had run an operating system designed specifically for netbooks, such as Intel’s Linux-based Moblin or something similarly lean. Instead, it’s going into the netbook ring with bloated, punch-drunk Windows.

Come on, Nokia. After your grandiose Intel announcement, we expected more than this.

RIM Nabs Torch Mobile for WebKit Browser

With its acquisition of Toronto–based Torch Mobile, RIM has joined the procession of market–leading smartphone vendors that have gravitated toward or adopted WebKit-based mobile browsers.

Torch Mobile, whose flagship offering is its Iris mobile browser, had this to say about the RIM acquisition:

“Our team of developers will join RIM’s global organization and will now be focused on utilizing our WebKit-based mobile browser expertise to contribute to the ongoing enhancement of the BlackBerry platform.”

WebKit underlies the mobile browsers from many of RIM’s smartphone competitors, including Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s Pre, Nokia Symbian smartphones, and many Google Android-based handsets.

RIM had indicated that it would be overhauling its browser in 2010 to better compete with Apple, so the acquisition of Torch Mobile could be seen as a precursor to that effort.

A previous version of the Iris browser, demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in February 2008, prompted PCMagazine to call it a “bare-bones, flaky browsing experience.” That was a year and half ago, though, so let’s give RIM and Torch Mobile the benefit of the doubt and assume that Iris has improved considerably since then.

We’ll have to see whether RIM replaces its current browser entirely with Iris or whether it picks and chooses Iris features and functionality as enhancements to its current browser. I suspect it might just take the plunge and switch completely to WebKit.

Another challenge for RIM is its operating system. The company needs to clear some moss from †he OS tree, which already has too many cluttered branches.

In this context, it’s worth noting that Nokia has perhaps a bigger challenge with its Symbian operating system, which has grown bulky while failing to keep pace with the changing requirements of smartphone users.

More on Watchguard’s BorderWare Acquisition, Fortinet Late Bid

The terms were not disclosed regarding WatchGuard Technologies’ acquisition of BorderWare, which was announced earlier this month.

But I have additional details in hand, and can reveal that the WatchGuard acquired BorderWare for $7.9 million.

Additionally, WatchGuard assumed some financial obligations pertaining to 50 BorderWare employees who will remain in the fold subsequent to the acquisition. In the press release (cited in the above paragraph) announcing the deal, WatchGuard states that BorderWare had 90 employees.

Interestingly, Fortinet expressed belated interest in BorderWare, but the former already was involved in a strategic transaction — probably relating to Woven — and could not commit to closing a deal for BorderWare within the time limits imposed by BorderWare’s increasingly anxious financial backers.