Tuesday Tidbits: Little Things That Could Count
Not all of the important news in technology is heralded by 32-point headlines. Three developments over the past few days didn't land on any front pages, but each amounts to a significant -- and in one case, not necessarily pleasant -- change to the tech business.
Bloggers Must Cite Ties to Advertisers
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission updated its rules about product endorsements to cover blogs, announcing that bloggers who were paid -- in money or in kind -- by a company to tout a product have to disclose that commercial relationship or risk fines up to $11,000.
As my colleague Cecilia Kang notes in her story, advocacy groups such as Consumer Reports praised the move. Other parties seem more skeptical, worrying about the effect these rules could have on legitimate reviewers who test products loaned by companies.
I get what the FTC is trying to do here and recognize the possibility for abuse by bloggers on the take. But outside of extreme cases deserving of some sort of federal beatdown, I don't know that its enforcement will be quicker or more effective than the Web's collective judgement -- readers and writers online tend to be pretty good at calling out "sock puppet" and "astroturfed" blogs and posts.
Yes, You Can (Still) Re-Sell Software
Last week, a federal district court in Washington state reaffirmed software buyers' right to re-sell programs to other users. Judge Richard A. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington upheld an earlier ruling that Autodesk had no right to prevent buyers of its software from selling off copies that they no longer used, just as you have the right to re-sell an old CD, DVD or book. The judge also clarified an important point, writing (PDF) that a software purchase conveys actual ownership and not just a license to use the program:
Despite these competing considerations, the court concludes that ... the transfer of AutoCAD copies via the License is a transfer of ownership.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation applauded the verdict, and I think it's a good idea, too -- not least since I've been known to re-sell the occasional program that I've stopped using and removed from my own computer.
Study Says Mac Home Market Share Tops 10 Percent
Yesterday, the market-research firm NPD Group reported that 12 percent of U.S. computer-owning households owned a Mac this year, up from 9 percent last year. The study also noted that most of those Mac users were not in an exclusive relationship with Apple; 85 percent also had a Windows PC in the house. (In turn, Mac owners also buy more high-end consumer-electronics items than computer owners in general; 32 percent of them owned a digital SLR camera, compared with 12 percent for the wider home-computing population.)
Although some earlier studies have placed Apple's market share north of 10 percent, those have left out direct-to-consumer sales, which omits most of Dell's business and so don't accurately represent the entire home market. A tenth of the market may not seem like much, but it's both psychologically significant and economically so -- software developers can feel a lot more confident about finding customers for their programs when one in 10 home users can run them. That's why when Apple opened its first retail stores eight and a half years ago, it said it wanted to double its market share from 5 to 10 percent.
NPD analyst Stephen Baker wrote in an e-mail last night that the rise of multiple-computer households helps explain much of Apple's growth. Further increases aren't guaranteed in this lousy economy -- "I think the recession will show that this trend has slowed a bit" -- but that the cheaper computers the company is supposedly preparing to ship could help it "regain some momentum."
What's your take on these three items -- good news, bad news or no news? The comments are yours...
October 6, 2009; 12:55 PM ET
Categories: Mac , Policy and politics
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