Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Office shines, Windows lacks luster

July 21, 2011

Microsoft reported a greater-than-expected 30 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by sales of its Office software, but profit from its core Windows product fell on soft PC sales. Microsoft posted net profit of $5.87 billion, or 69 cents per share, compared with $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 58 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“These are great results given a slower PC environment and it highlights how the company has multiple revenue streams. The $17 billion unearned revenue, which is a forward indicator of business, shows they signed a lot of deals this quarter,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

AT&T posted better-than-expected subscriber growth for the second quarter, pushing its profits and sales past Wall Street estimates despite the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to sell the Apple iPhone.

Nokia’s outlook for its handset business to be profitable in the current quarter brought some relief to its battered share price but analysts doubted it would dispel fears about the future of the onetime cellphone leviathan. Nokia said it sold 16.7 million smartphones in the quarter, falling behind Apple’s 20.3 million iPhones. Its quarterly phone sales volume were down 20 percent from a year ago, missing analysts’ forecasts, at a time when the overall global market grew around 10 percent.

After a brief hiatus and an FBI takedown of several alleged “hacktivists,” two groups that claimed responsibility for a recent wave of cyber vandalism said they are back. A statement was posted online on Thursday jointly by the groups, Anonymous and Lulz Security, after U.S. authorities arrested 16 people earlier this week for several attacks, most prominently Anonymous’ attempt to cripple eBay’s PayPal site after it stopped accepting donations to the WikiLeaks organization.

Groupon’s privacy and data-collection policies came under congressional scrutiny, the latest sign of regulatory pressure on the largest online daily deals company. Representatives Joe Barton and Edward Markey, co-chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, said they sent a letter on Thursday to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason asking about the company’s new privacy and data collection policy. Groupon unveiled new policies earlier this month in an email to its more than 80 million subscribers. The company said it collects subscribers’ contact details and information on their Groupon transactions, financial accounts, location and relationships and shares that data with merchants in some instances.

RIM’s PlayBook received the green light for use in U.S. federal government agencies, the BlackBerry maker said. It is the first tablet computer to receive Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification, RIM said in a statement. FIPS 140-2 is used to judge the security of mobile devices, servers, routers and firewalls, for use by federal agencies such as the FBI. Apple has applied for certification for both the iPhone and the iPad.

A near flawless fake Apple Store was discovered in the Chinese city of Kunming by a 27-year-old American blogger living there. Complete with the white Apple logo, wooden tables and cheery staff claiming they work for the iPhone maker, the store looks every bit like Apple Stores found all over the world, according to the blogger, who goes by the name “BirdAbroad.” A store employee told WSJ that the store is not an authorized Apple reseller and that the products in the store are real Apple products sold at the same prices as those advertised on the company’s website, the paper reported. The employee was aware that the store was not authorized to sell Apple products WSJ added, contrary to what BirdAbroad claimed.

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