MediaFile

Tech wrap: Samsung closing in on Apple?

It’s no secret that Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones are leading the Android-powered pack of handsets. What may be less obvious is just how quickly the company is closing in on Apple’s title of world’s biggest smartphone vendor in unit terms. Samsung announced on Friday it expects its third-quarter profit to top even the most bullish market forecasts, driven in large part by booming smartphone sales. “The Galaxy S II probably played a key role in boosting the company’s earnings and it will continue to do so pretty much unchallenged, until Apple unveils a better new version of iPhone,” said Kyung Woo-hyun, a fund manager at Daishin Asset Management.

Sprint had a rough start to the week and an even rougher end to it. The No.3 U.S. wireless carrier signaled on Friday that it could spend more money than it brings in over the next few years, even without accounting for the high costs of selling the Apple iPhone, sending its shares down 13 percent. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint would likely lose money on its deal to sell the iPhone until 2014.  Sprint outlined a plan on Friday to spend $7 billion on a network upgrade, which it said it would pay for with cash from its balance sheet and by raising capital. The company refused to address the cost of selling the iPhone.

If you were one of the keeners waiting for the clock to strike 12:01 a.m. PT so you could pre-order your Apple iPhone 4S, there was a good chance you may have had a bit of trouble. CNet reports that pre-orders of Apple’s latest smartphone were beset by a slew of problems. For starters, Apple, AT&T and Sprint were late opening their digital doors to customers looking to buy the new device. On top of that, both Apple and AT&T’s sites were having trouble processing orders from customers looking to upgrade, presenting them with error messages. Perhaps it’s no surprise: both Apple and carriers ran into similar issues last year with the release of the iPhone 4.

Doubtful that Groupon remains committed to an initial public offering after the recent accounting mini-scandal, a slew of cash-outs by early founders and investors and an overall economic environment that remains uncertain? Don’t be. At least that’s the message the online daily deals firm sent when it filed an updated version of its IPO paperwork with the SEC on Friday. As GigaOm reports, the latest filing details the company’s plans to tighten up its marketing budget and shows that its revenue bookings increased slightly in the second quarter.

Microsoft secured approval of its Skype acquisition from European authorities. The European Commission said that its investigation of the takeover showed that the firms’ activities mainly overlapped for video communications, where Microsoft is active through its Windows Live Messenger.”However, the Commission considers that there are no competition concerns in this growing market where numerous players, including Google, are present,” it said in a statement.

Tech wrap: Apple without Jobs

As people around the world flocked to the nearest Apple store and to social networks to express their grief and appreciation after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, others turned their attention to the future prospects of the company he helped turn into an innovative tech juggernaut.

Under the leadership of Jobs, Apple’s board of directors took a backseat role in charting the tech giant’s course and keeping tabs on its executive team, but that’s all about to change, writes Lucy Marcus in a piece for Reuters.com. Marcus takes a closer look at what Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and the company’s board need to do to ensure the company continues to grow and innovate in the wake of Jobs’s death, from promptly choosing a new chair to diversifying its members as the company seeks further growth abroad.

“The greatest service the Apple board can give is to ask the tough questions of the executive team and of one another,” writes Marcus. “Asking questions in the relative safety of the board room, and judging the veracity of answers there, is a lot better than staying silent and finding out that things are not right in the cold hard world.”

What’s next for Apple’s board?

By Lucy P. Marcus
The views expressed are her own.

With the passing of Steve Jobs, what role should Apple’s board play in keeping up the momentum of innovation, building shareholder value, and not simply meeting the market but creating it?

For so long, Steve Jobs has loomed large in Apple’s success. In his dual role as both CEO and Chair of Apple’s board, he has controlled and shaped Apple’s destiny, infusing the company with his personality and drive for innovation, as well as his unrivalled and uncanny understanding of what Apple’s customers wanted today, and more importantly, what they will want tomorrow. On the flip side, the Apple board and its directors have not played a strong role in steering the company or holding its executive team to account. Investors have grumbled, but it has been hard for them to argue with the results.

With Steve Job’s passing, attention will turn to the role the Apple board of directors will play from now on. There is an enormous amount of pressure on Tim Cook, and on the board, as the world watches to see if they have what it takes to move the company forward. Investors and stakeholders will be monitoring Apple very carefully to see if this board and the executive team are up to the task of sustaining and growing Apple, especially at a time when other high profile tech company boards, such as Yahoo and HP, have been publicly displayed as not up to the task. There is also the added pressure of running the second highest-valued publicly traded company in America.

More like a whisper than a bang

By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

(This column was written hours before the tragic news of Steve Jobs’ passing. For my thoughts on him, please see ‘We All Called Him Steve …‘ and for my reaction to his stepping down as Apple CEO in August, ‘A World Without Steve Jobs‘.)

There was lots of digerati (and shareholder) angst over the release of the iPhone 4S — so much I won’t even bother linking to any of it. It’s all over every social network, Twitter and the talk of suddenly all-knowing TV anchors.

Look: The iPhone is an experience delivery system. Hardware is perfect when it disappears, doesn’t get in the way, expedites. In and of itself a computer is a brick. The operating system and the apps — that’s where it’s at. That’s why the iPhone has such resonance, not because it looks cooler than anything else out there. It’s the same with tablets, which is the primary reason the iPad rules.

Jobs was a manufacturer, and salesman, of love

By Jonathan Weber
The views expressed are his own.

One day in 1991, when I was working as the Silicon Valley correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, I picked up the phone at my girlfriend’s apartment and was greeted by a soft, friendly voice: “Hey Jonathan, it’s Steve. Steve Jobs.” He wanted something from me — I don’t remember what — and he couldn’t have been nicer.

The next time I saw him, a few weeks later, he no longer needed something, and he couldn’t have been more unpleasant. I found his arrogance, and especially his skills as a master manipulator, to be very off-putting, and it took me a while to realize that to pay attention to these aspects of his personality was to completely miss the point about his brilliance.

Technology, for most people, is often experienced as a cold and distant thing, inhuman in every sense. Jobs, uniquely, brought heat and emotion to the technology world; he proved to be the one and only person who could create technology products that people love. His persona, in all its complexities, was entirely in the service of that. No one spontaneously lays wreaths and burns candles at the death of a businessman, except when it’s the exceedingly rare one that has actually touched their hearts.

Jobs gave us computers without pain

By Kevin Kelleher
The views expressed are his own.

Here is the memory that came up when I heard Steve Jobs was dead, the image that’s probably stuck in my mind, the cover to the mental photo album that will inevitably be retrieved whenever someone talks about him.

It’s January 2010. He’s sitting in a chair, black leather, comfy, Le Corbusier. He’s got this lonely Eero Saarinen table next to him – a mutant white tulip that failed to bloom properly –  but he’s ignoring it. He’s got his dumb, eternal mock turtleneck and blue jeans flooded a few inches above his running shoes, and his his left ankle is dangling in an ungainly fashion over his right knee.

He’s talking to you. But he’s not looking at you. His gaze – normally directed to some abstract space in the auditorium that he senses but that you can’t see – is given to the gadget in his lap. The gadget’s screen is projected into a larger screen on the back of stage, maybe 11 times as tall as Steve Jobs. Look at him: He’s like someone petting a beloved cat in his lap, only his pet is the iPad, and all his coddling is to show us what he thinks the future of computing is.

We all called him Steve …

By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

I was a very late comer to the Apple party. My first taste was a G4 laptop, $1,100 from Amazon.com. Prior to that, my close friend and colleague Samer Farha, the Apple evangelist in my life (we all had one) gently prodded me in the direction of Cupertino, with little success until I finally, and suddenly succumbed — just as one can’t ride a bicycle until one can, and then there is no turning back.

Samer would tell me, people aspire to own a Mac they way they aspire to own a BMW. I would say, but they don’t, not everyone does. I owned many a Win-Tel machine, even built a couple myself, and the thought that my mastery of Windows could possibly be challenged by the easy living that was the Apple way was both laughable and, in some strange way, unmanly.

But Samer is the smartest man in the room. So, I listened …

All this was before even Steve had revolutionized, well, everything. The iPod, your music collection in your pocket, was years off. “Smartphone” wasn’t a word yet. Tablets were stupid, phony non-computers Microsoft was saying would change the world blah blah blah …

Tech wrap: Microsoft still into Yahoo

Microsoft Corp is considering a bid for Yahoo Inc, resurfacing as a potential buyer after a bitter and unsuccessful fight to take over the Internet company in 2008, sources close to the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

Microsoft joins a host of other companies looking at Yahoo, which has a market value of about $18 billion and is readying financial pitch books for potential buyers, they said. Those companies include buyout shops Providence Equity Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Silver Lake Partners, as well as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Russian technology investment firm DST Global, the sources said.

Rival smartphone makers could exploit a rare letdown by Apple in the launch of its new iPhone 4S model, which failed to wow fans, and grab a bigger share of the most lucrative part of the phone market.

Will you buy the new Apple iPhone?

Apple took the wraps off a new iPhone on Tuesday but may have left some fans and investors wishing for more than an updated version of last year’s iPhone 4 smartphone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took the reins from the co-founder Steve Jobs in August, and his executive team showed off a souped-up device that comes with voice recognition and a better camera, but it looked identical to the last phone and did little to lift the bar for smartphones. Let us know below what you think of Apple’s latest device.

Will you buy the Apple iPhone 4S?

    Yes, can't wait Maybe, but I need more time to think about it No, it's a bit of a disappointment

Tech wrap: A bad call for Sprint?

Sprint Nextel shares fell as much as 17 percent on Tuesday as investors worried about the cost of selling the Apple Inc iPhone on top of its plans to upgrade its network and its debt obligations.

The decline followed a 10 percent dive in Sprint’s stock on Monday after a Wall Street Journal report that the money-losing company will have to pay Apple $20 billion over the next four years and will lose money on the iPhone until 2014.

Apple took the wraps off a new iPhone on Tuesday, but may have left some fans wishing for more than an updated version of last year’s smartphone. See what analysts had to say.