Google landed in hot water over revelations that the search giant and ad companies had bypassed the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple’s Safari Web browser, using special computer code that tracked their movements online. Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered the code. Subsequently, a technical adviser to the Wall Street Journal found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser. Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal, the newspaper said, and Google issued a statement, saying: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”
Apple’s share of China’s booming smartphone market slipped for a second straight quarter in October-December, as it lost ground to cheaper local brands and as some shoppers held off until after the iPhone 4S launch last month. While Apple regained its top spot as the world’s largest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter and for last year as a whole, it slipped to 5th place in China. In the last quarter, Samsung knocked Nokia off the top slot, taking 24.3 percent of the market, more than three times Apple’s share, data from research firm Gartner showed.
Apple released details on the successor to its “Lion” operating system for Mac computers, due out late this summer. OS X 10.8, dubbed “Mountain Lion,” will inherit features already running on iPhones and iPads such as iMessage, Notification Center and AirPlay mirroring, according to an Apple press release. Game Center will give Mac users the opportunity to square off against gamers on iOS devices as well as other Mac users. A new feature called “Gatekeeper” is meant to give OS X users more control over what apps can be downloaded onto their Macs, further distinguishing Apple-approved apps from third-party ones. The plan to introduce more iOS functions to Apple’s desktop and laptop OS comes as Microsoft prepares to make its desktop applications more mobile with a rumored fall release of Windows 8.
Four months after one of Japan’s biggest corporate scandals, police and prosecutors arrested seven men, including the former president of Olympus and ex-bankers, over their role in a $1.7 billion accounting fraud at the medical equipment and camera maker. Three former executives arrested, ex-President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada, had been identified by an investigative panel, commissioned by Olympus, as the main culprits in the fraud, seeking to delay the reckoning from risky investments made in the late-1980’s bubble economy.
Apple tweaked its policy on permission iOS apps need to access the contact information of users after legislators sought more information from the company regarding its privacy policies.
“Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines,” an Apple spokesman told Reuters. “We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.”
Quarterly earnings suffered at major technology and telecoms companies in part because of demand for gadgets made by Apple, one day after core suppliers to Apple savored strong earnings results posted by the iPhone and iPad maker on Tuesday.
AT&T posted a $6.7 billion quarterly loss as it was weighed down by a hefty break-up fee for its failed T-Mobile USA merger and other big charges on top of costly subsidies for smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone. While the wireless provider beat analysts’ expectations for subscriber additions, the growth came at a massive cost as its wireless service margins plummeted. On top of the $4 billion break-up package charge, AT&T also took a big impairment charge for its telephone directory business, which it said it was considering selling.
Netflix’s fourth-quarter revenue outpaced Wall Street’s expectations as the video rental website reversed subscriber losses to sign up more than 600,000 new U.S. customers in the period, pushing its shares up. Netflix posted a 47 percent leap in fourth-quarter revenue to $876 million, outpacing an average forecast for $857.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Symantec took the rare step of advising customers to stop using one of its products, saying its pcAnywhere software for accessing remote PCs is at increased risk of getting hacked after blueprints of that software were stolen. The announcement is the company’s most direct acknowledgement to date that a 2006 theft of its source code put customers at risk of attack. Also on Wednesday, Symantec reported a higher quarterly profit and issued an outlook in line with Wall Street estimates.
Apple’s fiscal first-quarter results blew past Wall Street expectations, fueled by robust holiday sales of its iPhones and iPads. Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones and 15.43 million iPad tablets, outpacing already heightened expectations for a strong holiday season. Sales of iPhones and iPads more than doubled from a year ago. Revenue leapt 73 percent to $46.33 billion, handily beating the average Wall Street analyst estimate of $38.91 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Apple reported a net profit of $13.06 billion, or $13.87 a share. Analysts had expected Apple to earn $10.16 per share.
“This is all about innovation, you have to out-innovate and delight the customer. Apple is the only company that knows how to do that. The guidance is phenomenal,” said Trip Chowdry at Global Equities Research.
RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins, who joined RIM in 2007 and previously served as a chief operating officer, said during a conference call that he would hone the current strategy rather than abandon it. “I don’t think that there is some drastic change needed. We are evolving … but this is not a seismic change,” Heins said. RIM’s U.S.-traded shares tumbled as investors wondered whether Heins could reverse the BlackBerry maker’s decline, closing the day down 8.5 percent.
The founder of file-sharing website Megaupload was ordered to be held in custody by a New Zealand court, as he denied charges of Internet piracy and money laundering and said authorities were trying to portray the blackest picture of him. U.S. authorities want to extradite Kim Dotcom, a German national also known as Kim Schmitz, on charges he masterminded a scheme that made more than $175 million in a few short years by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorization. Megaupload’s lawyer has said the company simply offered online storage.
Eastman Kodak, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera, filed for bankruptcy protection and planned to shrink significantly after a prolonged plunge for one of America’s best-known companies. The Chapter 11 filing may give Kodak the ability to find buyers for some of its 1,100 digital patents, a major portion of its value. According to papers filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Kodak had about $5.1 billion of assets and $6.75 billion of liabilities at the end of September. Kodak now employs 17,000 people, down from 63,900 just nine years ago.
Kodak’s long decline can be traced back to one source: the former king of photography’s failure to reinvent itself in the digital age, writes Ernest Scheyder. Kodak’s film dominated the industry but the company failed to adopt modern technologies quickly enough, such as the digital camera — ironically, a product it invented. “Kodak was very Rochester-centric and never really developed a presence in centers of the world that were developing new technologies,” said Rosabeth Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School. “It’s like they’re living in a museum.”
The English homepage of Wikipedia went dark and Google’s search page ran the logo “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” in protest of legislation designed to stop copyright piracy but the free online encyclopedia says “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” Big tech names including Facebook and Twitter declined to participate in protests of the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s PROTECT Intellectual Property Act, despite their opposition to the legislation, unwilling to sacrifice a day’s worth of revenue and risk the ire of users.
European regulators will decide around the end of March whether to file a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters. Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, although there still could be a long way to go. Antitrust investigations typically take several years.
Online shoe retailer Zappos told customers this weekend that it has been the victim of a cyber attack affecting more than 24 million customer accounts in its database. The popular retailer, which is owned by Amazon.com, said customers’ names, email addresses, billing and shipping addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit card numbers and scrambled passwords were stolen. The company, which is well known for its customer service, said due to the high volume of customer calls it is expecting it will temporarily switch off its phones and direct customers to contact via email.
Hackers disrupted online access to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al Airlines and three banks in what the government described as a cyber-offensive against Israel. The attacks came just days after an unidentified hacker, proclaiming Palestinian sympathies, posted the details of thousands of Israeli credit card holders and other personal information on the Internet in a mass theft. Israel opened an agency to tackle cyber attacks earlier this month.