MediaFile

Tech wrap: AT&T, T-Mobile deal less likely than ever

The chances of AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile USA succeeding rapidly diminshed after AT&T said it would take a $4 billion charge in case its takeover fails. The telecommunications group and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom, said they would continue to pursue anti-trust approval for the $39 billion takeover from the Department of Justice, but withdrew for now applications to the industry regulator.

Both the DOJ and the FCC oppose the deal. FCC approval would be meaningless if the DOJ blocked the transaction, and AT&T and Deutsche Telekom said they would return to the FCC process if they secured approval from the DOJ. Analysts said the merger, badly needed by sub-scale T-Mobile USA , looked less likely than ever to succeed.

Microsoft is planning the first beta of its Office 15 software in January, techblog WinRumors writes.

Microsoft will provide a Technology Preview of the software initially, expected at CES 2012 alongside the Windows 8 beta. Office 15 will be designed with touch at the heart of the applications. Microsoft has redesigned the general look and feel of its popular Outlook email client to make it usable by touch, pen and mouse.

Internet service providers cannot be forced to block their users from downloading songs illegally, as such an order would breach EU rules, Europe’s highest court said. The Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) issued its verdict in a case involving Belgian music royalty collecting society SABAM and Belgian telecom operator Belgacom unit Scarlet. European consumer organization BEUC said the ruling should get authorities and companies thinking about a fairer way to provide easily accessible legal digital content for consumers.

Tech wrap: Facebook cashes in on ads

Facebook’s first-half revenue roughly doubled to $1.6 billion, underscoring the world’s largest social network’s appeal to advertisers, a source with knowledge of its financials told Reuters. Net income in the first half of 2011 came to almost $500 million, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous because privately-held Facebook does not disclose its results. Facebook’s stronger results come as investors have pushed its valuation to roughly $80 billion in private markets, with many industry observers expecting the world’s No. 1 Internet social network to go public in 2012.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by stagnation and a rift with Chinese partner Alibaba. CFO Tim Morse will step in as interim CEO, and the company will search for a permanent leader to spearhead a battle in online advertising and content with rivals Google and Facebook. Some analysts said Bartz’s departure signaled the company had run out of options after failing to dominate the advertising and content markets and handing over its search operations to Microsoft.

Best Buy said it will offer products online from other sellers through a new third-party Marketplace as the electronics retailer tries to better compete with Internet rivals Amazon.com and eBay. Best Buy Marketplace will add roughly one-third more products online in time for the holiday shopping rush. Buy.com, Mambate, SF Planet, ANT Online, BeachAudio.com and Wayfair are the third-party sellers that signed up for the launch.

Tech wrap: Apple ousts Nokia as top smartphone vendor

Apple jumped to the top of the global smartphone sales rankings in the second quarter, ending Nokia’s 15-year run as the lead smartphone vendor, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones during the quarter, which amounts to about a fifth of the global smartphone market. Impressive considering its iPhone 4 model was released more than a year ago. Samsung also surpassed Nokia to claim second spot, with 17.5 percent of market share. Nokia fell to third place as its market share tumbled to 15.2 from 38.1 percent a year ago.

As if Apple’s new royalty status isn’t enough, the gadget maker can also lay claim to being the most profitable in the smartphone business. According to a chart on Business Insider, Apple pulled in two-thirds of all profits in the mobile phone sector last quarter. That’s twice as much as Samsung, RIM and HTC combined.

Did Yahoo get a raw deal when it signed a pact with Alibaba and SofBank to resovle a dispute over online payment service Alipay? That’s the case being made by some analysts. The trio announced it had struck an agreement after months of wrangling over the lucrative asset, under which Alibaba gets up to $6 billion if the mobile payments firm goes public or gets sold. But investors are bothered by the deal, saying it reaffirms perceptions on Wall Street that Yahoo has little say in Alibaba, the e-commerce company founded by Jack Ma and which is 43 percent-owned by Yahoo.

Tech wrap: Government bringing knife to cyber gun fight?

A recent wave of computer network attacks has boosted concerns about U.S. vulnerability to digital warfare. The Obama administration is racing on multiple fronts to plug the holes in the U.S. cyber defense, focusing on an expanded effort to safeguard its contractors from hackers and building a virtual firing range in cyberspace to test new technologies.

However, the overall gap appears to be widening, as adversaries and criminals move faster than the government and corporations can respond, officials and analysts say.

Microsoft has made available a Windows 7-compatible test version of the software behind its hit Kinect motion-sensing game device, in the hope that developers will invent a host of “hands-free” features for standard PCs.

Yahoo’s Ross Levinsohn: We’re still No. 1

As Yahoo’s Executive Vice President of the America’s region, Ross Levinsohn’s task is to transform the image of the lumbering Internet giant to one with a passing resemblance to the darling of the 1990s dotcom era when it called the shots. Though, investors ascribed virtually all of Yahoo’s market value to its prized Asian assets – a major stake in China’s hot Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan – brushing aside Yahoo’s core U.S. business.

A long time Internet player, Levinsohn, who also headed News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media, sat down with me and Kenneth Li during Internet Week in New York and explained how Yahoo needs to fix its image problem, how much of a distraction the tussle in Asia over Alipay was, and how he expects advertising dollars to continue to migrate to Yahoo.

Reuters: What’s working and not working at Yahoo?

Levinsohn: What is clearly working is hundreds of millions of people interact with our properties. Do you know that we have over 700 million people? Do you know that we have the No.1 or No. 2 positions in 19 categories — sports, news, finance, and entertainment news? OMG is our entertainment news gossip site and we are twice the size of TMZ. We’re bigger than ESPN in sports, we’re bigger than the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Bloomberg combined in finance. The numbers are astounding and, for some odd reason, Yahoo doesn’t get that credit. It’s an easy story for me to tell that you are able to aggregate huge audiences around premium experiences and we should double down on those things.

Tech wrap: Yahoo battle with Alibaba heats up

Yahoo’s battle with Alibaba intensified as they issued contradictory statements over the Chinese company’s transfer of a major Internet asset to its CEO. Analysts said the handover of Alipay, an online e-commerce payment system, to Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has reduced the value of Yahoo’s 43 percent Alibaba stake.  Yahoo said it had been blindsided by the deal, while Alibaba countered that Yahoo was aware of the transaction by virtue of having a board seat, now held by former Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang, who is also a Yahoo director.

PR agency Burson-Marsteller, in the spotlight after it was revealed that Facebook had hired the firm to run a smear campaign against Google, said it will give the employees in charge of the operation extra training instead of firing them, The Daily Beast’s Dan Lyons writes.

Cisco Systems is expected to cut thousands of jobs in possibly its worst-ever round of layoffs to meet Chief Executive John Chambers’ goal of slashing costs by $1 billion. Four analysts contacted by Reuters estimated the world’s largest maker of network equipment will eliminate up to 4,000 jobs in coming months, with the average forecast at 3,000. That would represent 4 percent of Cisco’s 73,000 permanent workers. It also has an undisclosed number of temporary contractors.

The media is hungry for corporate excess

Guess where the paparazzi are training their lenses these days? For those of you who missed it, The New York Times writes that gossip rags have all but abandoned Britney Spears for the thrill of capturing corporate excesses on camera. From the paper:

The tabloid media, of course, have always peered into the excesses of the rich and famous with a mix of puritan disapproval and voyeurism. But these outlets and other news organizations are now recording troubling uses of taxpayer money at country clubs, private airports and glamorous retreats and, in so doing, explicitly tapping into a fierce populist anger at corporate America, and even pressuring Congress to hold companies accountable.

Populist indignation apart, perhaps people also feel a sense of glee when watching or reading about the severe scaling back of corporate budgets that once supported lavish lifestyles. Gawker may have captured the glee best in this biting account of The Wall Street Journal story on Goldman Sachs executives being asked to stay at Embassy Suites rather than the Ritz.

Note to Yahoo’s Bartz: Ma company, Ma way

 Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has earned a reputation as a strong-willed, no-nonsense executive.

But she may have her met match in Jack Ma, the founder and CEO of Alibaba, which owns and operates Yahoo China.

 “Personally I have a management philosophy: when you see someone in the kitchen, don’t give them directions. Let them do it,” Ma told Reuters during a visit to New York on Thursday. “I do it my own way. I don’t listen to Yahoo.”