Breakfast Briefing: Web mourns activist Aaron Swartz, Apple cuts iPhone parts orders, Raspberry Pi hits 1m sales

Today in tech news, stories about Microsoft, Raspberry Pi, and Lenovo

14 Jan 2013

Sad news to start the week, with the web mourning the loss of activist and visionary Aaron Swartz. Plus, Microsoft's CES tactics confirm its hardware aspirations, bad news for iPhone parts manufacturers.

Internet activist, RSS co-creator Aaron Swartz commits suicide

As a teenager, Aaron Swartz was part of the working group that created the first specification for RSS, and at 19 merged his wiki software with Reddit. He left after Conde Nast bought the website, and focused on internet activism, helping lead the charge against SOPA, and targeting locked-down public data, downloading the entire collection of academic papers on JSTOR. While he had a paid account for the service, his intention to freely distribute the papers broke the site’s terms of service - and attracted the attention of US authorities.

Over the weekend, he was discovered dead after committing suicide, leaving tech communities mourning the death of the 26-year-old internet activist, and some - including his family - blaming the looming trial, and potential 35 years in prison and million dollar fine he faced, as the reason for his death.

A lot has already been written about Swartz’s death, but a good place to start is Glenn Greenwald’s write-up in The Guardian.

Microsoft’s guerilla marketing lifts Surface

The Verge examines how Microsoft’s strategy of leaving CES well alone paid off, with its OEM partners flying the flag for Windows 8 at the conference halls of Las Vegas last week. While manufacturing rivals were showing off tablets and notebooks running the company's latest operating system, Microsoft's own marketing spend was on billboards and adverts for its Surface device all around town.

"Microsoft held private meetings at CES about its Surface Pro which is set to debut soon. It's a super tablet that poses a significant threat to PC OEMs, and Redmond has to balance the complex tree of partners against the future of Surface," The Verge argues. "This transition will define Microsoft in 2013, and with a departure from CES it's clear what really matters to the firm."

Raspberry Pi hits 1m sales

What started as a project to help frustrated school children learn more about computing has blossomed into a huge success, with the Raspberry Pi organisation saying it has sold over a million of the devices. Rigged up so serve as anything from garage door controls to mobile phone base stations the Pis are flying off the shelves. TechCruch cites Raspberry Pi figures that helpfully explain that the million devices would be the equivalent to 111 Empire State Buildings if they were stacked end on end.

How Lenovo became the biggest PC maker

Lenovo is set to overtake HP as the world’s largest PC maker - if it hasn’t already - and The Economist has looked at the route it's taken to find such success in a tough market.

The company started in 1984 with $25,000, and after success in its home market of China, bought IBM's PC business in 2005. While many thought it was a waste of cash, IBM’s former Think brand has doubled in sales since the takeover, with healthy margins.

Now it's on top of the PC market, but it's not all good news, as Lenovo is yet to have a winning product in tablets or smartphones. "Lenovo has managed to get to the top of the PC mountain at precisely the moment when the mountain appears to be crumbling," The Economist notes.

Apple cuts orders for iPhone 5 parts

Has the bubble burst for Apple's iPhone? Probably not, with huge potential for growth in Asia and a loyal fan base. Nevertheless, the company has been forced to cut orders for parts to go inside the handsets, with lower than expected sales for iPhone 5s hitting suppliers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's orders for iPhone 5 screens for the first three months of the year have been cut to half what the firm had been expecting to buy. As the Journal points out, that could be bad news for manufacturers since "iPhone components are highly customised making it difficult for suppliers to find alternative buyers in a short time frame".

The Internet of Things - here and scary

Wired reports that after years of false promises, the “internet of things” is finally arriving, connecting gadgets, fridges, sensors and other machines to the wider web and each other. The potential, say privacy advocates, is enormous.

"It’s scary how few people are preparing for it," says Wired. "Most security and risk professionals are so preoccupied with putting last week’s vulnerability-malware-hacktivist genie back into the bottle, that they're too distracted to notice their R&D colleagues have conjured up even more unpredictable spirits. Spirits in the form of automated systems that can reach beyond the digital plane to influence and adjust the physical world … all without human interfacing."

Read more about: