Breakfast Briefing: growing Google+, Apple refuses to be disturbed, computerised composers

In today's tech round-up: the creeping influence of Google+ and much more

3 Jan 2013

Today's technology stories include aggressive moves from Google+, Apple's delayed Do Not Disturb response and how computers could rival the great classical composers.

Google's strong-arm tactics for social network

Google+ has hardly seen stellar growth since its launch, but the company is looking to boost membership by making anyone signing up for Google's other services join the network. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Google is opening a Google+ page for anyone signing up for Gmail, YouTube or its other services, and making the pages publicly available.

In a push to increase personalised ad revenues, Google is attempting to catch up with Facebook's ability to link web users with real names, and to work out who's friends with whom, something that could make adverts more profitable.

"You'll go to search for a camp stove on Google, and you'll find that your friend just bought one, and you'll be able to ask him about it," said Dylan Casey, a former Google+ product manager.

Apple won't disturb DND bug

Apple has said the bug affecting its Do Not Disturb function for iPhone – where phones refuse to get out of bed – will fix itself, but not until 7 January. The Guardian postulates on what might have caused the bug, with possible explanations including a Unix date format error.

Apple explains: "Do Not Disturb scheduling feature will resume normal functionality after 7 January 2013. Before this date, you should manually turn the Do Not Disturb feature on or off." Disturbing.

Mouse-over Beethoven

The BBC reports on a project that's teaching computers to write music, based on basic parameters that generate scores for classical symphonies. The Iamus project is part of a wider artificial intelligence programme in Spain and, according to the team, the digital composer is a breakthrough because it relies on algorithms derived from biological processes to evolve basic melodies.

"It is very different from other computer-generated music. When people hear the phrase they imagine that you can hear the computer playing music," the researchers said.

"Iamus does something different, it projects the complexity we are growing in the computer into musical structures."

Report links Google to piracy sites

Rights holders have long derided Google for linking to piracy websites, arguing the search giant is assisting file-sharing, but a new study claims the company is also making money from the sites that peddle copyright material.

The University of South Carolina found that Google and Yahoo were among the top advertising networks supplying adverts for sites offering copyright-breaching content. The LA Times reports on the analysis of adverts on notorious piracy sites and how brands that appear on such sites are often unaware of their association with the darker parts of the web.

"Whenever we talk to a brand about the fact that their ads are all over the pirate sites, they're like, 'Oh, how did that happen?'" the researchers reported. "We thought it would be easier if they knew what ad networks were putting ads on pirate sites — so they could avoid them."

Microsoft's struggle for relevance

Business Week considers the fate of Microsoft from an investor's point of view, wondering when or whether the company might see a brighter future. The piece weighs up arguments that Microsoft is undervalued because the media doesn't appreciate the power of the company's enterprise arm, against analysts that believe the company has missed the boat on too many consumer developments.

"Enterprise tech hasn’t been as sexy to the press. But our relevance to the enterprise has grown in a huge way. Our database business is growing faster than Oracle’s and IBM’s," Microsoft executives argue.

That's set against analyst opinion that paints an ugly picture of Microsoft under Steve Ballmer. "As long as he is running the show — he has missed every major trend in tech over the past decade — I have no confidence in the company," said asset manager Barry Ritholtz.

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