Facebook soars while others struggle

Howard Stringer
Sir Howard Stringer has stepped down from his role as CEO of Sony

All hail the new king of tech! After months of speculation, Facebook's becoming a public company: the social network will be looking to raise $5 billion later this year in a share offering that could value the firm at as much as $100 billion.

As you might imagine, founder Mark Zuckerberg was in triumphant mood. "You're all my bitches now!" he crowed, announcing a host of new features that will share your most shameful secrets with everybody you've ever met and everybody the people you've ever met have ever met.

Okay, he didn't, but he did write a letter.

"You're all my -" Only kidding. His letter explains that, despite what you might think, Facebook was never about money. It's all about bringing people together. Facebook "was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected." Also, we've always been at war with Eurasia.

Facebook's IPO will make Zuckerberg very rich, but what will it do for the rest of us? Kate Solomon says everything's doomed. DOOMED!

"Going public will mean it has to answer to outside shareholders who don't give a hoot about Facebook itself as long as the revenue comes flooding in," she says. "You might not notice it at first, you might not notice it for a year, but as far as Facebook goes, the glory days are behind us. It's all downhill into corporate doom and marketing speak from here on out."

For now, though, Facebook's star is in the ascendant - but other tech empires appear to be crumbling. Sony's latest financial results reported a whopping 24% decline in consumer sales, mainly due to poor TV sales, and reduced its forecasts for sales of digital cameras and PS3s.

Sony has also announced a new king: CEO Howard Stringer is being replaced by current acting vice president Kazuo Hirai.

Amazon profits slump

Maybe Sony should take a leaf out of rising tablet star Amazon, whose massive tablet sales have been achieved through the clever tactic of allegedly losing money on every sale.

Amazon's in it for the long term, which is just as well, as its latest figures aren't brilliant. The firm sold twice as many Kindles in 2011 as it did in 2010, but profits have slumped.

The firm is being cagey about how many Kindle Fires it's sold, too: while analysts suggest the number could be as high as 6 million, Amazon's keeping schtum. It's not being very precise about its future either: in the first quarter of 2012, Amazon says, it'll either make a profit of $100 million or a loss of $200 million. Or maybe something else. Who knows? Not Amazon.

Could fixed-line ISPs' empires be next in the firing line? Probably not, despite bright ideas such as Three's brilliantly named Web Cube. Instead of a traditional broadband connection with minimum contract terms and phone line rental, the Web Cube uses Three's network to deliver a Wi-Fi access point that isn't tied to a particular building.

The Web Cube isn't particularly fast - 10Mbps is a potential maximum - but then, it seems our fixed line broadband isn't much better. Telecoms watchdog Ofcom says that many of us are getting crappy connections instead of blistering broadband speeds.

Part of the problem, it seems, is us: we're not all taking advantage of the fastest services around. "More than 4 in 10 broadband consumers remain on packages with speeds of 10Mbps or less even though many of them would be able to get a higher speed at little or no extra cost if they switched package or provider," Ofcom says.

Even when we do switch, though, we continue to get considerably less than the speeds ISPs tell us we'll get - the UK average has barely cracked 7Mb, whereas the average speed advertised by ISPs is eleventy billion Mbps.

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