Today in Cleantech

For webscale data centers running hundreds of thousands of servers, one of the issues is maintaining good visibility on the workings of those servers. Faced with this problem a Facebook engineer has developed heat-map software to quickly pinpoint problems in the social network’s data centers. In his blog entry on the topic Sean Lynch, who works in Facebook’s cache performance team, writes that “on a 30 inch screen we could easily fit 10,000 hosts at the same time, with 30 or more stats contributing to their color, updated in real time.” This type of software has real potential to reduce energy consumption by helping engineers figure out which servers aren’t functioning optimally and putting that data in an easy to visualize system. IDG reports that Facebook is considering releasing the program as open source as it often does as part of its Open Compute Project.

Today in Social

I’m at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on Thursday and Friday, so posting might be light. I’ll be hosting a Mapping Session on mobile shopping. Drop by the Pro booth and say hi. I’d love to hear feedback on how we’re doing, what research directions we should be going in, what kind of information needs remain un-met, etc.

Today in Social

I know you’re all excited about Mobilize, but anyone in the Bay Area this week can’t help but trip over Dreamforce. (Hey, I’m staying out by the airport myself.) Salesforce’s massive event is generating a lot of announcements, many with delivery dates for products and services that are pretty far out there. Lots of digerati talk about Chatterbox – because it’s a Dropbox or Box wannabe. But that’s a relatively minor offering in a brutally competitive space, and not even testing till next year. In contrast, Identity could be a huge deal because Salesforce is one of the few credible players to try to offer professional identity management. Yet it’s very vague right now. If Salesforce’s next billion-dollar business is marketing technology, the biggest near-term deal is its so-called Marketing Cloud, that rolls up Radian6 and Buddy Media services with Chatter bolted on. Compare our recent analysis on Listening Platforms.

Today in Mobile

HTC and Microsoft co-hosted a media event in New York this morning to introduce two new handsets running Windows Phone 8. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times’ Bits calls HTC’s big bet on Windows Phone a risky one, citing the disappointing sales of Windows Phone 7 devices that were launched earlier this year. That’s true to an extent, I suppose, but it’s also true that HTC has lost the edge it once enjoyed with Android: Samsung has emerged as the top manufacturer of high-end Android handsets, and Motorola may thrive as Google’s manufacturing business. Regardless, HTC’s backing provides yet more momentum for Windows Phone, which is well positioned to compete with Android and iOS as the all-important holiday season looms. And that’s good news for consumers.

Today in Connected Consumer

Remember those claims by the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, and others that higher ebook prices under agency-pricing model introduced by Apple were responsible for attracting new investment to the business from the likes of Google and Microsoft? And that unless publishers could conspire to prevent Amazon from discounting ebooks, such investments would dry up? Well, never mind. Two weeks ago that court approved a partial settlement of the price-fixing case against the publishers, allowing Amazon to resume discounting.  And this week, IAC/InterActiveCorp chairman Barry Diller, who knows a thing or two about disruptive business opportunities, is pumping $20 million into a new ebook publishing venture in partnership with Hollywood producer Scott Rudin and the small, Brooklyn-based publisher, The Atavist. So much for price-fixing being a necessary condition for investment and innovation.

Today in Cleantech

Brad Plumer of The Washington Post reports on data from the carbon tax that’s been in place since 2008 in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The tax began at $10 per ton of carbon, increasing $5 a year. This translates into about 8-cents a gallon of gasoline, rising each her. A follow up analysis from the University of Ottawa’s Sustainable Prosperity group finds that per capita GHG emissions from those subject to the tax dropped 9.9 percent versus 4.6 percent for the rest of Canada, and per capita consumption of petroleum products dropped a whopping 15.1 percent versus a 1.3 percent rise for the rest of the country. But the real kicker is that the economy in the British Columbia actually grew at a faster rate than the rest of Canada (1.78 percent versus 1.64 percent). It gets hard to argue that the tax had a negative impact on the economy, though it’s possible that BC might have had even more robust economic growth, absent the tax. But given that BC used the tax to lower both its local corporate income tax and the tax rate of the bottom two income brackets, there’s reason to do more fine grained analysis to see if the tax actually helped the economy.

Today in Social

I bent over backwards to avoid putting the term “mobile ad network” in the headline, because Facebook is saying very little about what it is actually testing. It tells TechCrunch and confirmed to AdExchanger that it is testing selling IAB-format ads through exchanges who buy inventory from mobile ad networks. It may or may not be working directly with mobile networks also. It is anonymizing its user data, but using that for targeting – presumably for batches of similar users rather than anything 1:1. (1:1 targeting doesn’t scale cost-effectively for almost anything other than high-end financial services and medical products.) Neither will Facebook say which advertisers it is working with, though it sounds like it’s flogging mobile apps. Facebook has done some ad targeting on Zynga, and it is hungry for app discovery services it can sell to third-party app developers, who are some of its biggest web advertisers. We all expect a Facebook ad network some day, though it would be easier to build a Like-based one for the web before going mobile.

Today in Mobile

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh denied Samsung’s request to lift the preliminary sales injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet that was placed on the gadget in June ahead of the big patent trial with Apple. But as patent guru Florian Mueller explains, Koh denied the move only on procedural grounds, opting to rule on key questions after a remand. Mueller does a great job explaining how the legal proceedings are likely to play out, but here’s his takeaway: “This means this injunction could become an on-again, off-again thing: granted in June, possibly dissolved in September/October and, potentially, reinstated in or after December.” Meanwhile, the tablet market continues to evolve at a brisk pace.

Today in Cleantech

9to5mac.com is reporting that Apple is planning a massive data center in Hong Kong with construction beginning early next year for operational use by 2015. Google is also working on a $300 million data center in Hong Kong and the locale is attractive because Hong Kong still has some degree of legal autonomy from China. Apple will want to be as close as possible to its most promising growth market, China, and it’s become clear from the North Carolina data center build that the company isn’t willing to outsource its data center needs. This is particularly true given that it continues to build its cloud offerings through iCloud and one day it actually may want to offer something even data heavier like streaming video rentals on iTunes. There’s no word on energy infrastructure for the potential data center but CLP, the major utility in Hong Kong serving 80 percent of the territory, uses a mix of natural gas, coal and nuclear with efforts to “promote renewable energy locally.” If Apple is truly going to source renewable energy on this one, it may have to build its own energy generation as it has chosen to do in North Carolina.

Today in Connected Consumer

Twentieth Century-Fox is sure kicking out the stops for the launch of Digital HD (DHD), its new early-release electronic sell-through initiative. The first DHD title, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller “Prometheus,” is available for download starting today, three weeks before it appears on DVD and Blu-ray. The high-definition downloads will cost $15, roughly half the list price of a Blu-ray disc, and are available from Amazon, Apple’s iTunes, Best Buy’s CinemaNow, Walmart’s Vudu and via Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Fox has even put aside its objections to what it regards as Google’s facilitation of piracy and will make DHD titles available via both YouTube and the Google Play store. Links to “Prometheus” on those services will also appear on ESPN.com as apart of a promotion with that nework. Going forward, all new releases from Fox will get the DHD treatment ahead ahead of Blu-ray and DVD.