Apollo Solar Powers Up With $4.5M

Apollo Solar, a Bethel, Conn.-based manufacturer of electronics for renewable energy devices, has raised $4.5 million in a private offering. Electronic components for solar technology are a fast-emerging investment category.

DOE Funds Carbon Capture With $340M & Solar $24M, Sigh

In the last two days, the Department of Energy has announced $24 million worth of new investments in solar energy while also revealing it’s putting a whopping $340 million into yet more clean coal research. In conjunction with the funding announcements, the DOE says it’s “committed to…developing the technologies that will ensure coal can be used,” but at the same time describes solar as “an important component of our comprehensive strategy to commercialize and deploy advanced, clean, alternative technologies.”

Parsing the language indicates this administration’s bias toward clean coal, but the numbers speak even louder. Since 2001 the DOE has put more than $2.5 billion into clean coal, including millions sunk into the scuttled FutureGen project. This week’s $340 million is part of President Bush’s $2 billion, 10-Year Clean Coal Initiative, but is separate from the $1.3 billion announced with the “restructuring” of the FutureGen project.
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Cingular’s 3125: beam up a Win Mobile Smartphone for a $150!

"RAZRvs3125.jpgCaptain, we’re being hailed….."
"On screen."
"Has anyone seen this in the Vulcan database? I’ve never seen a configuration like this."

In what is likely one of the most detailed reviews I’ve ever seen, Mobility Site is among the first to get a production Cingular 3125 and provide a fully detailed written review. This phone is slim like the Motorola RAZR but runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone edition and only costs $149 currently. You’ll get EDGE support, but no WiFi; lack of WiFi is becoming a trend that alarms me on these types of devices but since you can’t synch over WiFi due to ActiveSync "enhancements", perhaps this isn’t a big deal.

Saying anything more about this phone would be a disservice to the extremely solid review and video. I did mention the video, right? That was the "on screen" command above. 😉

Skype 2.0 eats its young

Another day, another beta.

Skype, a division of eBay launched Skype 2.0 beta for Windows. Just in time for some customers who got their passwords compromised. The elaborate press release and WSJ review while impressive don’t help mask the fact that, Skype is short on new ground breaking ideas.

Personalization via avatars and ring-tones… big new idea? Not really. Phil Wolff over on Skype Journal puts it nicely when he writes, “If you’ve been using Skype, the Beta version of Skype 2.0 for Windows won’t give you a new Wow! experience.” (A nice review in the Journal should help put incumbent CEOs in a bad mood first thing, and well, redouble their efforts. …. okay just kidding about that! Actually Israel is getting pretty serious about giving Skype the shank. So are other neighboring Gulf states!)

The Video calling feature seems great, except when it starts getting mass adoption, it will start to choke the upstream part of your broadband, and for some odd reason that really makes incumbents mad! Tt also raises some crucial questions about the future of independent developers. As Skype continues to subsume great ideas implemented by its developer community, is it running the risk of alienating the very community that made it great. Today three companies that offer Skype plugins get impacted – Video plugin maker Festoon and DialCom that offers Video4IM. Skype now offers a new Microsoft Outlook toolbar which impacts another independent developer, the Skylook.

The standard features make it harder for many developers to make a fiscal argument to stay in the Skype ecosystem. As they flee, the system breaks down, and new ideas stop flowing. (Of course that would also mean, some great stealable concepts would never materialize.) These same guys, start supporting Gizmo Project, which uses open source, then the momentum can quickly shift away from Skype.

I think these kind of hiccups are leaving an opening for others upstarts to come in and make a play for Skype’s market. (I wish Google would get its GTalk act together!) Many times I have beaten up on Microsoft, but even they leave big-fat crumbs for the little guys to help grow the Windows ecosystem. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Skype. After all, Apple also has a habit of taking from the “independent developers” and getting away with it. Sadly, eBay/Skype is no Apple.

I would love to hear from guys who develop for Skype platform.