Tech wrap: Bad smartphone bets burn investors

August 4, 2011

Smartphones are constantly reaching new heights in sleekness and cutting-edge technology, but investors in the U.S. wireless sector seem unconvinced. Weak results and poor growth in both major and minor telecoms firms nationwide helped spark an investor exodus from the sector, and analysts say small operators like MetroPCS and Leap Wireless have indicated they’ve simply lost faith in the promise that smartphones can boost growth. Popular with consumers and heavily subsidized to encourage uptake, investors now look to be assessing whether a future of ever-increasing costs for carriers is one they’d like to take part in.

In tech company earnings, professional networking site LinkedIn reported that its quarterly revenue more than doubled as the company endeavored to prove it can fulfill the promise of its splashy IPO. Used by professionals seeking jobs or contacts and companies seeking qualified applicants, LinkedIn was the first prominent U.S. social networking site to make its public trading debut.

The massive hack attack recently revealed by security company McAfee does much to underscore the fact that governments and companies are losing the war against cyber thieves. Security experts uncovered an unprecedented five-year series of cyber attacks on 72 organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, governments and major corporations. In this analysis, Reuters’ security correspondent William Maclean argues that it’s unclear if the unsettling disclosure will actually prompt rapid global action against cyber attacks – partly due to the reluctance of stigma-conscious companies and states to report the attacks.

After lashing out at rivals and accusing them of banding together to block Google’s attempts to bid on Nortel smartphone patents in an angry blog post, Google Senior Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond had his claims of victimhood shot down with a single tweet by Frank Shaw, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft. In a development no doubt embarrassing for the Internet search giant, Shaw replied by tweeting an image of an email that showed that Google was offered a chance to make a joint bid for the Nortel patents, but turned it down.

In more bad news, Nokia Siemens Networks announced it began cutting 1,500 jobs from the 6,900 staff it acquired with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Motorola’s telecoms network unit in April. A Nokia spokesman said the process affects staff working in the GSM and Wimax technology divisions in several countries including the U.S. and Britain.

And in the social networking world, a new system of predicting “friends” based on the actual places individuals visit has been developed by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK. The new approach to “friend suggestions” looks at users’ regular haunts and finds other people with similar connections. Combined with the “friend-of-a-friend” method, this new system can increase the efficacy of the friend prediction system, say researchers.

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