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The Techday Weekender - Jul 14th 2012

The New Zealand telecommunications market is set for a major overhaul in the next twelve months, with Vodafone New Zealand announcing this week it will spend $840 million to buy TelstraClear from Australian parent Telstra.

The acquisition was first confirmed as a possibility in June, when Telstra confirmed it was in talks with Vodafone after a tweet from business ISP Voyager threatened to spill the beans on the deal.

Vodafone NZ chief executive Russell Stanners will be CEO of the resulting entity. It’s not clear what will happen to TelstraClear boss Allan Freeth, although the merger could take up to 18 months to complete even after a delay for regulatory approval, so there’s no hurry to make a decision.

In a conference call with media just after the deal was announced, Stanners said that the acquisition gives Vodafone the clout to take on Telecom in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Judging by the comments on the companies’ Facebook pages, all customers want is faster speeds, improved customer service and lower prices (it’s not that much to ask, is it?).

Speaking of telcos, Telecom this week named the new head of its youth-focused sub-brand, Skinny. Former head of mobile marketing Paul Taylor has been appointed to the role, taking over from Paul O’Shannessey, who left abruptly at the end of June just six months after the brand launched.

The appointment comes as Telecom’s CDMA network – which Skinny was designed to help wean young customers off – approaches its shut-down date. The last call for the network will be on July 31, and Telecom is doing everything it can to transfer laggards to its new XT network rather than risk them perusing the offerings of rival providers.

Overseas it was a case of another security breach, another series of stupidly guessable passwords revealed. This time it was Yahoo in the spotlight, which is probably where the company would least like to be as it recovers from the scandal over inaccuracies in ex-CEO Scott Thompson’s resume. On Thursday hackers stole over 400,000 usernames and passwords from the company’s Voices service and posted them online as a warning to improve their standards. All anyone was interested in, though, was the passwords themselves, and an analysis soon revealed that, sure enough, the most common ones were old favourites like ‘123456’, and of course the ubiquitous ‘password’. If you use either of these as your passwords, we recommend changing them right away.

Facebook has announced it is expects to top a phenomenal one billion active users sometime next month. The company has been trying to regain some momentum after its May IPO fell flat, although investors already know the network has a lot of users – what they want to see is revenue. At any rate, Facebook’s shares seem to have settled for the time being at just over US$30 per share, having dipped below US$26 at their lowest point.

Finally, a team of Auckland students have reached the top six of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup innovation competition with their app that lets blind people take pictures with their smartphones and hear visual descriptions of the image. It’s the third time in as many years a kiwi contingent has made the final half-dozen, an impressive feat given this year the event attracted 106 teams from 75 countries. The eventual winners were a group from the Ukraine with a seriously cool sign language translator, but we think Team Mobile Eye are headed for big things.

By the way, if you’re wondering where your Weekender’s been for the last few weeks, I’ve been away looking after my wife who has just given birth to our first baby, but I’ll be back next week with all your technology news. Have a great weekend.