MediaFile

Tech wrap: Autonomy a done deal

Hewlett-Packard completed its $12 billion buy of British software firm Autonomy on Monday, the centerpiece of a botched strategy shift that cost ex-chief executive Leo Apotheker his job last month.

HP said its 25.50 pounds-per-share cash offer — representing a 79 percent premium that many HP shareholders found excessive — had been accepted by investors representing 87.34 percent of the company’s shares, well ahead of the 75 percent threshold needed.

The rushed announcements and concerns about the lofty price offered for Autonomy sent HP’s stock, and Apotheker’s credibility, plunging. But according to analysts, it would have been nearly impossible under British takeover rules for HP to extract itself from the Autonomy deal.

Tim Cook finally gets his chance to stride out from under Steve Jobs’ shadow, and he could not have picked a better time or device to mark his unofficial debut as Apple Inc’s CEO. The latest generation of the iPhone — still the smartphone industry’s gold standard after four years — is expected to see the light of day this Tuesday, just in time for the holidays.

FT says Apple’s iPhone 5 debut is “the latest sign that Silicon Valley is taking on a fresh mantle of Smartphone Valley.”

Amazon lights a fire, Apple ices the cake

That was the week that was.

I can imagine saying that in years to come about the eight days that began on Wednesday with Amazon’s paradigm-busting entry into the tablet business, its deeper walk into the cheaper e-ink e-reader woods with less expensive Kindles, bookended next Wednesday by Apple’s latest iPhone(s) reveal.

Both unveilings have lots to do with “everywhere” consumption, and both have aspects of evolution. But a counter-revolution began this week, and we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Dare I say it: Amazon’s $199 “Fire” tablet may not make us forget Apple’s tablet, but it could very well be the first credible answer to the question: “Why wouldn’t I buy an iPad?”

Tech wrap: Amazon fights iPad with Fire

Amazon.com Inc introduced its eagerly awaited tablet computer on Wednesday with a price tag that could make it the first strong competitor in a tablet market that has been dominated by Apple Inc’s iPad. The new device, priced at $199, may have the biggest impact on other makers of tablets and e-readers, such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Barnes & Noble Inc, maker of the Nook.

“It’s a Nook killer,” said Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell more on websites including Amazon.com. “And it’s a very compelling offering if you’re not in the Apple ecosystem already.”

See how Amazon’s Fire stacks up to Apple’s iPad 2. Also a cool graphic breaking down the top 4 tablets.

Apple’s iPhone invite tips its hand — sort of…

If you use Twitter or Facebook, or even just know someone who’s on one of those online social networking services, you’ve probably heard today’s big news ad nauseum by now: Apple is holding an iPhone-related press event on October 4.

The invite, which landed in reporters’ email inboxes at 8am Pacific Time on Tuesday morning, set off the usual frenzy of speculation across the Web about what the new version of the iPhone will look like, what marvels it will perform and when it will be available (October 15, according to a French telecom exec).

Interestingly, Apple actually specified that the event was related to its iPhone – a rare giveaway from the tech giant, whose infamously cryptic invitations can invite the sort of analysis – from bloggers and Apple aficionados alike – typically reserved for Federal Reserve statements.

Tech wrap: HP shake-up?

A change could be underway at the top at Hewlett-Packard. The company’s board convened on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of ousting CEO Leo Apotheker after less than a year on the job and may appoint former eBay chief Meg Whitman to fill in as interim CEO, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. HP’s board of directors has come under increasing pressure in recent months after a raft of controversial decisions has left investors uncertain of the company’s leadership.

Newly minted Apple CEO Tim Cook will try his hand as star presenter at an October 4 company event widely expected to include the launch of the latest version of the tech behemoth’s iPhone handset, according to a report on AllThingD. Sources told the website that the plan is to make the iPhone 5 available to consumers within weeks of the event. Apple has yet to officially announce or even acknowledge that the new device exists at all. For those tired of yet another story about a rumored release date, there was something akin to a confirmation on Wednesday from an unlikely source: former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Gore, an Apple board member, apparently told a tech conference that the next-generation phone will indeed be available next month. Oops?!

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt traveled to Washington on Wednesday to face critics who say his company has become a dominant and potentially anti-competitive force on the Internet. Schmidt told a Senate antitrust hearing that his company has not “cooked” its search results to favor its own products and listings, despite accusations to the contrary from senators and other Web companies.  “Google is in a position to determine who will succeed and who will fail on the Internet,” said Republican Senator Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. Google has been broadly accused of using its clout in the search market to stomp rivals as it moves into related businesses, like travel search.

Windows 8: Worth the wait, but is it too late?

The release of Windows 8 is now in the home stretch, and the vast majority of the world’s computers are about to begin getting the digital equivalent of a complete makeover.

The newest form of Windows — which, despite all the attention Apple gets, still operates more than 90 percent of computers — has a couple of things going for it. It supposedly will run anything that runs on Windows 7 so there won’t be that awful, elongated period when software is suddenly no longer compatible with your machine.

More importantly, Windows 8 borrows heavily from the relatively new user interface metaphors for tablets, which will make it much more palatable for tablet makers to offer Microsoft what could be a third strong contender (along with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android) on this surging device vertical.

Tech wrap: AOL talking merger with Yahoo?

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong has reportedly approached private equity firms to gauge interest in a deal with Yahoo that would place Armstrong as the head of the combined company, according to a Bloomberg report.

CNBC later reported that a source close to Yahoo said the company had no interest in a deal with AOL.

AOL shares closed down 5.3 percent at $14.72 while Yahoo inched up 0.3 pct to $14.48.

Tech wrap: Google’s appetite for local grows with Zagat buy

Google bought Zagat, the popular dining recommendations and ratings authority, jumping into a niche Web market alongside the likes of OpenTable and Yelp. The 32-year-old Zagat, which polls consumers and compiles reviews about restaurants around the world, will become a cornerstone of Google’s “local offering” and work in tandem with its mapping services and core search engine, the Internet search and advertising leader said.

The Zagat acquisition also marks Google’s first foray into original content creation. Google had been accused of poaching user reviews from the likes of Yelp for use on Google Places pages, without providing a link back.

Only about half of Twitter’s 200 million-plus registered members log on daily but the microblogging website is chalking up growth of 40 percent every quarter in mobile device usage, CEO Dick Costolo said. Twitter is gearing up for a hotly anticipated initial public offering. But Costolo told reporters they would do so only on their own terms. Twitter.com now sees about 400 million unique visitors every month, a 60 percent leap from 200 million at the start of the year.

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: Groupon rethinks IPO

Groupon called off an IPO roadshow slated for next week because of market volatility, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Internet coupons site is reassessing the timing for an offering on a week-by-week basis, the newspaper added, citing an unidentified source. Some on Wall Street have questioned Groupon’s financial disclosures, while others are concerned the company’s rapid growth is starting to slow in North America. Groupon CEO Andrew Mason sent a memo to employees recently that was widely reported in the media, in which he blasted critics in the press and on Wall Street.

Sprint filed a lawsuit to stop AT&T’s $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA in the same federal court that is to hear the Department of Justice’s case opposing the buyout. Sprint said the combination would lead to higher prices for consumers and create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon Communications. Also, Sprint argued that if the deal goes through, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors.

Dell and China’s top search engine Baidu plan to jointly develop tablet computers and mobile phones, targeting the Chinese market dominated by Apple and Lenovo. Dell declined to give a timeline for the launch of the devices, but local media quoted sources saying that it may be as early as November. Baidu launched a new mobile application platform last week and offered a glimpse of its upcoming mobile operating system, which it hopes will serve a growing number of users accessing the Internet from smartphones and tablet computers.