Fuel producer Poet said on Wednesday that it will open an ethanol plant next year that will use corn cobs and fiber from kernels as a feedstock.
Construction on the $4 million pilot facility in Scotland, S.D., will begin by the end of the year and produce 20,000 gallons of ethanol per year.
Next year, it intends to begin work on a larger, commercial-scale plant using this same process that would begin operating in 2011. It is part of a $200 million Department of Energy cellulosic ethanol research effort called Project Liberty , the company said.
There are hundreds of companies investing in making ethanol from plants other than corn, the primary source today. There are already a handful of cellulosic ethanol plants testing out ways to make fuel from wood chips or sugar cane plant residues, rather than food crops. Cellulosic ethanol can also have a lower environmental impact than corn.
Poet's approach is to expand on its corn ethanol operations to make cellulosic ethanol.
It has a process for separating the fiber, in the form of kernel husks, from the rest of the corn. Corn cobs, meanwhile, are typically left on the field and don't add a lot of nutrients to the soil, said Jeff Broin, the CEO of Poet on a conference call with reporters.
Broin said the prospects for commercial cellulosic ethanol are better than ever because of recent technology advances and a huge amount of investment.
"It's no longer a question of if we can produce cellulosic ethanol but when. I don't know if I would be able to say that even a year ago," he said.
MySpace, the wildly popular social network, is considering letting its millions of members transport their profile data to other sites or social networks by introducing so-called APIs, or application protocol interface, according to Ross Levinsohn, president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive, owner of the site.
"It's a great idea. It's something we've been looking at and considering," Levinsohn said Wednesday during the Web 2.0 Summit, in response to an audience member question.
Such a move would come on the heels of MySpace rival Facebook opening a developers' site so that people could transport Facebook data or build new applications around profiles, photos or events.
Levinsohn, who brokered News Corp.'s $580 million buyout of MySpace last year, also talked about Google's recent acquisition of YouTube for $1.65 billion. News Corp. apparently had been interested in buying the video-sharing site before the deal went down, according to Levinsohn. And immediately afterward, Fox Interactive met with Google-YouTube to ease into a new relationship, considering that MySpace had secured a $900 million multi-year deal with Google to supply search technology and advertising on the social network.
"On the Web, partners are competitors. You have to manage these things," he said.
Since News Corp. bought MySpace, the company has been investing tens of millions of dollars into the infrastructure of the social network, as well as combining it with other Fox Interactive properties, such as IGN, Levinsohn said. And despite no acquisitions in the last five months, Levinsohn said that Fox Interactive is always looking at new companies to buy. He said he met with several upstarts at the Web 2.0 conference Wednesday morning.
Indeed, what's hot online and in Internet technology is a constant moving target.
"MySpace is a fantastic property today and if we don't pay 100 percent attention to it, it's a risk," he said.
AUSTIN, TEX.--You're sitting in a coffee shop playing "Untold Legends" on your Sony PlayStation Portable when you get a message from some friends playing on their mobile phones while riding the subway in Tokyo.
You play with them for a while, but finally decide to go home. There, you decide you're not done, so you log on from your next-generation console and pick right back up where you left off--with the same character, in the same place and even with the same people.
Finally, it's bedtime, so you go to sleep, but the next day at work, your guild friends IM you and say they're going on a raid and that you have to help out.
So you fire up your PC and log back in again. You go on the raid, kill some monsters and then bid the friends adieu.
It sounds kind of decadent, and might not please your spouse or your boss, but if you're John Smedley, president of "EverQuest" and "Star Wars Galaxies" publisher Sony Online Entertainment, it's a future bright with profitable possibilities.
"What I've just described is how we see the real world evolving," Smedley said during a keynote address to several hundred Thursday morning at the Austin Games Conference here. "We want you to be able to log in in real time from any device."
Smedley's talk was called "The future of online gaming," and he used the stage to talk about how developers of massively multiplayer online games-??which he said can now cost more than $30 million to develop??-must evolve.
Essentially, he said, the key boils down to two things: games that can be played the world over, and the ability to play games across the many different platforms in use today and in the near future.
It's a new world, he explained. Game companies, which formerly shunned--officially at least-??the trading of virtual goods for real money are going to find such traffic profitable . Thus, they're going to have to change their tune if they want to keep up with game companies that do incorporate such trading into games, as well as with companies whose entire business is facilitating such trades.
In any case, with next-generation platforms coming from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, and with cell phones having excellent graphics and portable game devices popping up everywhere, publishers are going to have to evolve, Smedley said. Or they'll go the way of an orc getting slain by a group of better-prepared fighters.
REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft CFO Christopher Liddell said Thursday that Yahoo is a "declining asset" and that the chances of a full-on acquisition are now "negligible."
Liddell elaborated on CEO Steve Ballmer's earlier comments , saying the company went into its bid "totally genuine" but soured on a deal because it was taking too long. He called Yahoo a "declining asset."
"Time passed and value eroded," he said. "I think the chances of us buying Yahoo...are so small that they are essentially negligible."
A search deal, he said, is still possible, but suggested there too the clock is running. Liddell said that Microsoft would reach a point in its organic growth strategy where even that would stop making sense.The CFO's least favorite chart: Microsoft's share price.
Liddell started off his presentation to financial analysts gathered here with what he said was his least favorite chart: Microsoft's share price.
"It is an incredibly frustrating chart, particularly when you look at the year we just had," Liddell said, pointing to the fact the company grew revenue 18 percent and per-share earnings by 26 percent .
The stock, he noted, was broadly in line with major indices. But he said, acknowledging what everyone in the room was clearly thinking, "Clearly that's not a satisfactory level of success."
He said that the stock price was "doubly frustrating" since in the middle of its fiscal year, Microsoft's stock was up 20 percent and performing ahead of the broader trends.
Liddell pointed to continued growth in Microsoft's core business as well as improvements in some of Microsoft's emerging business, but then turned to the big disappointment: its online efforts.
"Clearly in online it's tougher," he said. "It's the one to which, at least at this stage, we've made the least tangible progress."
The tale of retail game cards is a pretty amazing one. In a recent interview Rob Goldberg, founder and CEO of GMG Entertainment , a publisher of "digital currency cards" that you see on sale at Target, Safeway and a number of other big-box shops, shed some light on how the market came to be and where it's going in the future.
According to Goldberg, sales of the game cards will be worth $75 million to $100 million this year with an expected run to $500 million by 2010. Interestingly enough, Target was the retailer that figured it out first and convinced Apple to offer iTunes cards.
GMG started in the marketing services working with retailers--specifically Target--but around the same time as that, well, it's not very well known, but it's Target who actually brought the idea of the pre-paid iTunes card to Apple and sold them on that.
The first iTunes cards were co-branded and were exclusive to Target. In terms of retailers in North America who were focused on pre-paid cards for digital entertainment, Target were ahead of the curve.
And why do retailers love these cards? The economics work in their favor.
Now, there's an interesting fact about these cards. Retailers love them over any other product they have in their store, because the cards themselves don't take up any inventory.
They're not activated until they're purchased, so they don't sit on the balance sheet of the retailer. They feel like "free money" to retailers. So it's a very positive business for retailers to get into, and it really lowers the bar for any retailers who are unsure about it, they don't need to worry about losing money on it.
The really big untapped market for these digital media companies is gift giving. No matter how much someone loves an online world no one is going to say "hey, merry Christmas. I logged into your account and gave you 25 bucks." Not to mention the impulse buy.It's a great interview if you have even a remote interest in virtual goods and gaming. It also shows that no matter how bad the economy is, someone will figure out how to make you spend your money.
Google on Wednesday added a new factor, Web page loading speed, to the criteria by which it judges which text ads to place next to search results.
The search company, which makes almost all its revenue from the text ads, gives a boost to advertisers with better ad quality. Google announced Wednesday that quality now includes a measurement of the loading speed of the Web page users see when they click on an ad.
"Starting today, this load time factor will be incorporated into your keywords' quality scores," Google said on its Inside AdWords blog . "Keywords with landing pages that load slowly may get lower quality scores . Conversely, keywords with landing pages that load very quickly may get higher quality scores and lower minimum bids."
It may sound like a minor tweak, but a lot of money flows through AdWords, and minor changes affect a huge number of companies bidding for placement next to search results.
Higher-quality ads serve a variety of purposes, Google argues. For one thing, it means somebody who clicks an ad--the action that triggers payment to Google--are more likely to be satisfied. In the long run, higher quality also means that users might be less likely to ignore ads as irrelevant or annoying.
Early in its history, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set down " 10 things Google knows to be true ," and one of them is "fast is better than slow."
Google warned in March that page-load speeds would factor into quality ranking and let advertisers see how they rated beginning in April.
For more details, see the detailed Google article for advertisers on page-loading speeds .
Here's a clever little video hosting service that's just now launching: Neulio . It's designed for business and education content. What makes it different from the 10,000 other video hosts now online is the way you can string together "chapters" of content and control the user's flow through them.
For example, if you have a multi-lesson video course, you can put quizzes between the lessons. You can also put in a password as a "gate," as founder Georgo Columbo calls the roadblocks, or you can have a gate that can only be raised by paying for it.
Also different: Chapters in Neulio shows can be different media types--videos, audio files, or PowerPoint presentations.
There's a free version of the service for educational programs. It's reminiscent of Instructables. Colombo says the company will make its money by selling features and control over presentation to businesses. The $49 a month plan gives you control over presentation, for example, but if you want to add the capability to put a "pay gate" in a presentation, it's $149 a month.Neulio presentations feature chapters that can be segmented by "gates."
I like the concept and the features of Neulio, but I am not sure it's different enough from other video sites to be an ongoing concern. Colombo himself seems to agree. When I asked if this was a defensible business, he said, "In all candor, that's to be determined." Although, of course, he had to add, "We think we have a great value proposition." While I think the prices are high for the service, I do agree there is value in it.
See also: Mzinga .