MediaFile

Motorola bets on recycled Razr brand

Razr is back. After  being criticized for depending on the four letter brand for too long,  Motorola is hoping to draw some more blood from the stone with the new Droid Razr in the U.S. market. It will be called plain old Razr in the rest of the world.

Analysts are already predicting that the new phones won’t reach the 130 million unit sales that Motorola boasts for Razr over several years. But the jury is still out on whether using the old brand that came to symbolize the company’s downfall will help sales of the latest phone, which it is touting as the world’s thinnest smartphone.

“We tend to see it more in the auto industry where Dodge brought back the Charger and Volkswagen brought back the Beetle. Volkswagen did well,” said NPD analyst Ross Rubin. But the modern Beetle is an updated model that is recognizable as a descendent of an old car that dates back to pre-war Germany. The Droid Razr is a tablet-like device with a 4.3 inch display that looks nothing like the original flip-phone Razr.

“It probably creates a weaker association than if the product had been a flip-phone,” said Rubin, adding that while the retro-branding was “not a bad idea”, it would be unlikely to make a huge difference to Motorola’s sales of the gadget.

Avaian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton was more enthusiastic:  “I like it. If you think about the Motorola brand and what it’s tied to, it is Razr. I think it’s a smart play. The thing the Razr stood for was thinness.”

Tech wrap: Apple misses, Intel beats quarterly expectations

Apple reported a rare miss in quarterly revenue after sales of its flagship iPhone fell well short of Wall Street expectations. The September quarterly report was Apple’s first under new CEO Tim Cook, who took over in August after co-founder Steve Jobs resigned. The company reported a net profit of $6.62 billion, or $7.05 a share. That fell shy of expectations for earnings of $7.39 per share.

One analyst blamed lofty expectations for the miss. “The reality is their business is not an annuity. They have to sell their quarter’s worth of revenue every 90 days. They had a big upgrade cycle with the iPhone, the numbers came in weak. They need to set records every time they report to keep the momentum”, said Colin Gillis at BGC Partners.

Intel forecast quarterly revenue above expectations, defying concerns that the growing popularity of tablets and a shaky economy are eating into demand for personal computers. Intel said revenue in the current quarter would be $14.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Analysts on average had expected current-quarter revenue of $14.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Intel’s processors are used in 80 percent of the world’s PCs but the company has failed to gain traction in mobile gadgets like Apple’s iPad and Google’s Android smartphones. It also increasingly depends on China and other emerging markets to make up for weak sales in the U.S. and Europe.

Apple iPhone 4S: Believe the hype?

As Apple reports quarterly earnings based largely on the number of iPhones it sold, the honeymoon continues for the lucky millions able to get their hands on the newest 4S model, which was initially criticized for not being new enough. Apple went on to sell 4 million of them in 3 days.

So, after the initial sales storm, is Apple’s iPhone 4S living up to the hype?

First, here’s a graphic on how the baby compares to its older sibling:

Corrected: The graphic, above falsely stated that the iPhone 4S had 1GB of memory. As Ben Pingel pointed out, it actually has 512MB.

Tech wrap: Apple’s “Siri” spurs iPhone 4S sales

Apple said it sold 4 million iPhone 4S devices in the new smartphone’s first three days on the market, setting up a strong December quarter for the world’s largest technology company. Helped by availability in more countries and on more telecommunications carrier networks, the iPhone 4S, which went on sale last Friday, managed to outshine the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million over its first three days. Unveiled just a day before Steve Jobs died, it was initially dubbed a disappointment, partly because it looked identical to its predecessor. But anticipation of its “Siri” voice software helped it set an online record in pre-orders on October 7.

Shares of RIM dropped 6.55 percent in the U.S., closing at $22.40, after the company sought to appease disgruntled BlackBerry customers by offering free apps and technical support to make up for last week’s global smartphone outage. RIM said it will offer premium apps worth more than $100 to customers and a month of technical support for businesses free of charge, hoping to stem fresh defections from the BlackBerry, whose market share was already shrinking before the incident. RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie declined to estimate how much the offer would cost RIM and said he was unable to say whether RIM might have to revise its earnings forecast for the current quarter, which ends in late November.

IBM’s third-quarter revenue met expectations as corporate spending on information technology held up in the face of economic worries, and the company bumped up its 2011 earnings outlook. Revenue rose 8 percent from a year earlier to $26.2 billion, in line with the average forecast of $26.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Tech wrap: Lineups long as ever for Apple’s iPhone 4S

Apple looked to ring in record first day sales as long lines made up of eager wannabe iPhone 4S owners formed at its stores around the world. In New York, the line outside Apple’s flagship Manhattan store no longer extended around the block after a half-hour of sales, but more people joined it as the morning progressed. Queues in Paris were smaller than those normally seen for a brand-new iPhone, with some fans there wondering if the somewhat underwhelming introduction had put people off, but in London and elsewhere the lines were as long as ever. Apple took more than 1 million online orders in the first 24 hours after its release, exceeding the 600,000 for the iPhone 4, which was sold in fewer countries initially.

Despite the enthusiasm at Apple stores, the launch was marred somewhat by widespread complaints this week online about problems downloading iOS 5, the latest version of Apple’s mobile software. There were also problems with iCloud, Apple’s online communications, media storage and backup service formally launched on Wednesday, with users reporting glitches such as losing their email access.

A judge in California said that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets infringe Apple’s iPad patents, but added that Apple has a problem establishing the validity of its patents. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh did not rule on Apple’s request to bar some Galaxy products from being sold in the U.S. but said she would do so “fairly promptly”. Apple must show both that Samsung infringed its patents and that its patents are valid under the law. Samsung attorney Kathleen Sullivan argued that in order to defeat an injunction bid, Samsung need only show that it has raised strong enough questions about the validity of Apple’s patents. Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said Apple’s product design is far superior to previous tablets, so Apple’s patents should not be invalidated by designs that came before.

Tech wrap: Google profit expectations eat dust

Google’s third-quarter results trounced Wall Street expectations as good cost controls helped boost the Internet search leader’s profit by about 26 percent. The world’s No. 1 Internet search engine said its net income in the three months ended September 30 totaled $2.73 billion, up from $2.17 billion in the year-ago period.

Analysts applauded Google’s results. “Christmas came early for Google shareholders. It’s all about the core business. You drive that extra revenue and expense becomes secondary. It was a great beat on the bottom line. It’s not necessarily because they are controlling expenses. It’s because they are driving more revenue”, said Colin Gillis of BGC Partners.

RIM’s co-CEOs apologized to millions of BlackBerry customers for a four-day outage that tarnished it’s image and set back the drive to catch up with Apple and other smartphone rivals. The service disruption could cost RIM millions of dollars in compensation to customers who lost service.  The company did not say for certain whether it would compensate customers. Public relations specialists said its response to the crisis has been slow and poorly communicated.

Bye bye BlackBerry?

As Research In Motion deals with the fallout from service disruptions that have affected millions of BlackBerry users around the world this week, a survey by Aite Group shows that out of 402 financial advisers polled, 45 percent say they would choose an Apple iPhone or iPad, while 14 percent would pick a BlackBerry.

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The feminine iStique

Katharine Herrup, friend and editor (depending on how this goes, not necessarily in that order, or either, for that matter) has challenged us with a simple question: Why aren’t there more über successful women in tech, and everywhere, for that matter?

Kat (I’ll get away with that for as long as I can) does so in a provocative and timely way by suggesting that the next Steve Jobs, the second coming of whom might be, ought to be, no reason shouldn’t be, a woman.

Long overdue. Glass ceilings are meant to be broken. Right on.

But … as I began reading her post something disturbed me straight away. It wasn’t the stirrings of latent male chauvinism, though it did occur to me that any contrarianism might be construed as such, and who’s to say what evil lurks in the hearts of men? And then there was this friend/editor thing. I questioned myself: I have a daughter, and very much wanted our only child to be a girl, and told people who asked why (even though it was none of their business), it’s because girls are better people.

Tech wrap: Apple’s iOS 5 debuts

Apple rolled out its iOS 5 mobile operating system, one week after pancreatic cancer claimed the life of its former CEO and visionary Steve Jobs. The update adds voice recognition software called “Siri”, instant messaging and support for Apple’s iCloud service, although the inclusion of Siri is limited to the iPhone 4S. MacWorld’s Dan Moren says the free update is “ambitious” and that “there’s hardly a part of Apple’s mobile operating system that isn’t altered in some way”. Engadget’s Dante Cesa says that “other than turn-by-turn navigation, more multitasking APIs and some delectable widgets, there isn’t much, headline-wise, left on Apple’s hit list for iOS 6“.

Despite Jobs’s death, investors still like what they see at Apple and want the company to start giving up some cash, according to a Reuters Poll. Apple has a cash hoard of $75 billion and record demand for the iPhone 4S has pushed its stock price near an all-time high. Six of the 11 money managers polled by Reuters called for a dividend payout as a reward for their loyalty.

A three-day disruption of BlackBerry services spread to North America, frustrating millions of users of RIM smartphones and putting more pressure on the company for sweeping changes. RIM advised clients of an outage in the Americas and said it was working to restore services as customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India continued to experience patchy email delivery and no access to browsing and messaging. RIM said the root cause of the failure was the malfunction of a core router switch and the subsequent failure of a back-up system to kick in. It then experienced a severe backlog of unrouted messages that is taking time to deliver.

The godfathers of Steve Jobs’s genius

In this week’s Newsweek, Harry Evans writes on the inspired innovators who made Steve Jobs’s triumphs possible.

By Sir Harold Evans

In the pantheon of American innovators, nobody comes close to the defining legacy of Steve Jobs. It is commonly misrepresented. He was not an Edison. He was not equipped to make a breakthrough in pure technology in the sense of circuits and frequencies. That is not what makes Apple unique. His gift to humanity was an imaginative apogee of form and function. He had the vision of a seer. He took the technology as it was and imposed on it his sublime taste, which millions joyously embraced as their own in personal computers, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Fully to appreciate the crowning nature of his “insanely great” creations, one has to look back at the jagged routes to his summits of beautiful utility.

The iPhone owes little to the man routinely described as the father of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell went off on a prolonged honeymoon once he’d proved that sound waves could be converted into undulating electric current. He did nothing more after the marvelous moment on the evening of March, 10, 1876, when his young assistant, Thomas Watson, heard Bell’s voice come down the wire. “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you!” but as Watson later remarked, the Bell phone was calculated more to develop the voice and lung than to enable conversation. The eureka moment of folklore overshadows what must follow if the brain wave is to reach the bustle of the marketplace. It was left to Thomas Edison and his associate Charles Batchelor to make the Bell phone audible by inventing a carbon-button transmitter for the rival Western Union. But then the world had to wait for someone to tackle the myriad obstacles to a national long-distance system. An Ohioan who started as a railway mail clerk did that. Theodore Vail merged Western Union and Bell, pooled patents, and founded the American Telegraph and Telegraph Co., the company Jobs chose for his launch partner in 2007. And Apple’s products depend on the microchip, whose origins lie in the transistor invented in 1947 at the Bell labs founded by Vail.