Saturday, December 29, 2007

Kodak says settles patent claims with Matsushita

Eastman Kodak Co (EK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd (MEI) (6752.T: Quote, Profile, Research) agreed to settle their patent infringement claims, Kodak said in a regulatory filing on Friday.

Kodak said no monetary consideration was paid under the agreement reached on December 21, according to the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Kodak also said it reached a technology cross-license agreement with MEI, which will allow each company access to the other's patent portfolio.

Kodak also settled its claims with Victor Co of Japan Ltd (6792.T: Quote, Profile, Research), which was also a defendant in Kodak's suit against MEI.

Netscape browser's last days

Netscape Navigator, the world's first commercial Web browser and the launch pad of the Internet boom, will be pulled off life support Feb. 1 after a 13-year run.

Its current caretakers, Time Warner's AOL, decided to kill further development and technical support to focus on beefing up the company's advertising business. Netscape's usage dwindled with Microsoft's entry into the browser business, and Netscape all but faded away after the birth of its open-source cousin, Firefox.

Despite its quiet demise, it's hard to overestimate the impact the browser and the company had on Silicon Valley.

The World Wide Web was but a few years old when in April 1993 a team at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications released Mosaic, the first Web browser to integrate images and sound with words. Before Mosaic, access to the Internet and the Web was largely limited to text, with any graphics displayed in separate windows.

Marc Andreessen and many of his university colleagues soon left and moved to Silicon Valley to form a company to commercialize the browser. The first version of Netscape came out in late 1994.

Netscape fed the gold-rush atmosphere of the time with a landmark initial public offering in August 1995. Netscape's stock carried a then-steep IPO price of $28 a share, a price that doubled on opening day to give the start-up a $2 billion market value even though it had only $20 million in sales.

But Netscape's success also drew the attention of Microsoft, which quickly won market share by giving away its Internet Explorer browser for free with its flagship Windows operating system. The bundling prompted a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit and later a settlement with Microsoft.

But it was too late. Undone by IE, Netscape sold itself to AOL in a $10 billion deal completed in early 1999.

And now the company's browser will effectively go away.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Heineken buys brewer in Belarus

Dutch brewer Heineken NV has announced the acquisition of one of Belarus' leading brewers Syabar Brewing Company.

Heineken did not disclose the acquisition price, saying it would buy Syabar's Cypriot parent company using existing cash resources.

The Belarus beer market is showing double-digit growth, with annual consumption now estimated at almost 4.5m hectolitres, Heineken said.

The company said the purchase "will be earnings enhancing in 2008".

It expects Syabar sales to reach 600,000 hectolitres in 2007.

Warner agrees to use MP3 format

Warner Music Group is making its music available for US downloads from Amazon in MP3 format without copy protection.

Warner had been holding out against using the format because MP3 tracks are easier to share between users and may be freely burned onto CDs.'s download store is a major US competitor to Apple's iTunes, which uses Digital Rights Management (DRM) to restrict the use of some of its tracks.

Warner's artists include Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin and Sean Paul.

Sony BMG is now the only major recording group not signed up with's download service, which is only available to US customers at present.

"By removing a barrier to the sale and enjoyment of audio downloads, we bring an energy-sapping debate to a close," Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman said in an e-mail to Warner employees.

Amazon launched its US download store in September after reaching agreements to sell unprotected tracks from Universal Music Group and EMI.

Apple plans online movie rental service

Apple has reportedly signed an agreement with News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox to offer Fox movies for rent online through Apple's iTunes Store, the Financial Times reported. The deal would allow consumers to rent DVD releases by downloading a digital copy from Apple's iTunes platform for a limited time. Apple also has agreed to license its FairPlay copy-protection platform so the technology would be built into Fox DVDs, allowing users to easily transfer the movies from the disc to a computer or an iPod for playback.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Peugeot plans car plant in Russia

French car manufacturer Peugeot Citroen has announced plans to build its first factory in Russia, one of Europe's fastest expanding markets.

The new plant in the town of Kaluga, southwest of Moscow, will begin work assembling mid-sized vehicles in 2010.

Peugeot Citroen hopes to sell 100,000 vehicles in 2010 and three times that number annually in subsequent years.

Many global firms build their cars in Russian plants to avoid heavy import duties for the Russian market.

Correspondents say Russia is regarded as a lucrative market.

Some 2 million new cars were sold in the country this year, but analysts say low levels of ownership mean that there is room for rapid growth in demand.

Boeing and British Airways finalize contract for 787s

Boeing said on Thursday that British Airways finalized an order for 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, an order valued at $4.4 billion at list prices.

British Airways also has options for 18 more 787 planes and purchase rights for an additional 10, Boeing said in a statement.

British Airways had announced last September its selection of the 787 as part of its long-haul fleet renewal.

"The 787 is a fantastic aircraft and will be a welcome addition to our fleet," BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement. "It will provide major environmental improvements in terms of global emissions, local air quality and noise."

The Dreamliner breaks new ground with a fuselage made of light-weight carbon composite, and is due to enter service next year.

"With lower operating costs and the range to fly to all our destinations, it will give us more flexibility when planning our route network and we are confident that our customers will enjoy flying on the aircraft," Walsh added.

Shares in British Airways were down 0.6 percent at 313.25 pence at 8 a.m. EST.