MediaFile

Tech wrap: Steve Jobs is back, maybe

Apple’s Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who spent months on medical leave, will open an annual developers’ conference on June 6 showcasing the iPad maker’s latest computer software and a new cloud computing service. But it’s unclear if he’s returning from medical leave or simply kicking off the conference.

Jobs and his team plan to unveil a new cloud-based service called iCloud, which will offer remote computing and data over the Internet, and a slew of software upgrades at the conference including Lion, its Mac OS X computer operating system, and iOS 5, the next version of its mobile operating system.

Nokia abandoned hope of meeting key targets just weeks after setting them, raising questions over whether its new boss can deliver on the turnaround he promised in February.  The news sent its shares tumbling 18 percent to their lowest in 13 years, wiping some $5.5 billion off its market value. Investors are worried the company, once the leading force in its industry, is losing so much market share it may never regain its footing.

World Health Organization (WHO) cancer experts say using a cell phone may increase the risk of developing certain types of brain tumor and consumers should consider ways of reducing their exposure. A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries meeting at the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) say a review of all the available scientific evidence suggested cell phone use should be classified as “possibly carcinogenic.” The WHO had previously said there was no established evidence for a link between cell phone use and cancer.

And for a sneak peak of the Cr-48 laptop, the first implementation of Google’s cloud-based Chrome operating system, give Steve Levy’s piece in Wired a read. Levy’s not quite sure we’re ready for a “cloud”-based future. See what you think.

Tech wrap: Microsoft carts out Mango phone OS

Microsoft announced an update of its Windows phone software, code-named Mango, hoping a host of new features will help it close the gap on smartphone leaders Google and Apple. The update involves 500 new features, including IE 9 as the mobile browser, integrated Twitter and LinkedIn feeds, automated Facebook check-ins, and access to more than 17,000 downloadable applications.

The updated software will appear on new Windows phones beginning this fall, and be available for existing Windows phone users before that, although Microsoft has not set a timetable for making the update available.

Nokia said in statement that their first Windows Phone devices will be powered by the Mango OS.

Tech wrap: Sony takes a $3.2 billion beating

Sony will post its third straight annual net loss for the year that ended in March after writing off tax credits in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, the latest in a string of grim headlines on the consumer electronics giant. The firm, which previously forecast a net profit of 70 billion yen for 2010/11, surprised markets on Monday by declaring the need to update investors with revised estimates ahead of its official earnings report on Thursday. Sony said it now expected to post a net loss of 260 billion yen ($3.2 billion). The annual net loss would be Sony’s second-largest ever.

IBM surged past old rival Microsoft in market value for the first time since April 1996, marking the latest twist in the fluctuating fortunes of two of the world’s most storied tech companies. Microsoft’s stock has been stagnant since the tech bubble burst in 2000, as investors doubt its ability to move beyond its Windows operating system and Office suite of software. In the meantime, “Big Blue” has refashioned itself as a specialist in business software, servers and consulting, jettisoning its PC business along the way.

Shares of Apple regrouped after Wall Street brushed off the impact of an explosion last week that shut a Foxconn factory in China producing its iPad.

Tech wrap: Liberty Media eyes Nook e-reader

Some see e-readers as the poor cousin to more glamorous tablets, but that may soon be about to change. Billionaire media mogul John Malone, whose Liberty Media owns DirecTV Group and the QVC shopping channel, may be interested in buying the Barnes & Noble chain specifically for its Nook e-reader, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking behind the deal.

The Nook is now the second biggest e-book seller, behind Amazon, which only yesterday announced is now selling more e-books than print books. With Liberty as a backer, Barnes & Noble and the Nook may be well positioned to compete against Amazon and Apple.

Hackers set their sights on Sony – again, this time hacking into the company’s Internet service provider So-Net, stealing virtual points worth $1,225 from account holders. This after Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that Sony was considering re-starting its U.S. based online games service on Tuesday, after shutting it down last month when the company discovered hackers had accessed the accounts of more than 100 million users.

Tech wrap: LinkedIn shares skyrocket in debut

LinkedIn made its remarkable debut on the New York Stock Exchange, at times trading more than 171 percent above its IPO price of $45. The stampede to buy the stock had some remembering back to another time when investors also loved tech stock IPOs: the 1990s and the dotcom bubble.

Does the response to LinkedIn suggest investors are in for another bubble that bursts when the fundamentals overtake the hype? Or is it a sign that investors are hungry for any piece of the social media pie and LinkedIn’s happens to be first out of the oven? While Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga are still expected to go public, LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner cautions that his company’s spectacular debut should not be seen as a proxy for them.

While American social media companies are testing the IPO waters, their European counterparts at Viadao, Mind Candy, Sulake and Telmap are expressing skepticism at the Reuters Global Technology Summit about the sky-high valuations of U.S. start-ups and the potential for another bubble.

Tech wrap: Sony’s new security setback

Mere days after Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network, the company said it had discovered a security flaw on one of the websites set up to help the millions of users affected by April’s massive data breach reset their passwords.

The “security hole“, as Sony spokesman Dan Race termed it, could allow the hackers who perpetrated the April breach to access the accounts using the data they had stolen. Sony shut the webpage down in response. No hacking had taken place prior to taking down the page, Race noted.

Hacking occupied the minds of executives at the Reuters Global Technology Summit as well. Mobile hacking in particular was a hot topic of discussion, with executives at software giants and startups alike expressing their desire to cash in on ways to help smartphone users protect themselves as hackers increasingly target mobile devices.

Tech wrap: Blame game at HP

What is responsible for Hewlett-Packard’s bleak profit outlook? Ask CEO Leo Apotheker and he’ll blame it on “missed opportunities” in a troubled division under his predecessor Mark Hurd.

Apotheker, who took over in September, plans to spend heavily to revamp the beleaguered unit to focus on consulting, cloud computing and higher-margin businesses.

Dell reported profits that blew past Wall Street estimates and raised its fiscal 2012 outlook for operating income for fiscal 2012, sending shares in the No.2 PC maker up in after-hours trading.

Rent-a-Google

Google, in a new bid to diversify its way out of an overwhelming dependence on search ad revenue, has once again taken aim at a giant in another industry. Having disrupted the disruptor that is Apple in the smartphone arena, Google is now challenging Microsoft’s 800-pound-gorilla status in the enterprise market.

Chromebooks for Business, unveiled at the Google I/O developer’s conference in San Francisco, ties together a number of threads the company has been dangling — not the least of which its seemingly Quixotic venture into the computer hardware game. But with hardware partners Samsung and Acer, Google is doing what Google does best: create a mechanism (inexpensive netbooks) that increases dependency on its cloud ecosystem — just like its advocacy of high-speed Internet connections that support its core business.

But this time there is potential revenue attached to that other agenda, and a genuinely viable business model. For $28 a month (less for schools) you get everything you need in hardware, software and service — including machine upgrades. Those machines boot up in seconds, connect to WiFi hotspots effortlessly, can tap into Verizon’s 3G data network if necessary (at an extra cost) and are elegantly tied in with (what else?) Gmail, Google Voice, Google Docs.

Wanna direct Cars 2? There’s an app for that.

By Poornima Gupta

You could call it another victory lap for Steve Jobs.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and Pixar and an old chum of the Apple CEO, credits the making of the new “Cars 2″ film to a single device: the iPad. 


Being the creative guru at Pixar and Disney, as well as an adviser for Walt Disney Imagineering — Walt Disney Co’s design and development arm — means Lasseter has less time than he’d like to review materials for the movie, which he directed. 

So he made good use of the hour-long daily commute from Pixar’s headquarters to his home in Sonoma by reviewing scenes, pictures and clips on his lime-green iPad 2.  

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Skype deal roasted

Microsoft’s move to buy money-losing Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion was immediately skewered by critics and investors, who questioned the logic of the deal and suggested the software giant is paying far too much. The price is about double the expected value of Skype if it had gone ahead with its planned IPO.

“They really have to do some explaining as to how this company merited that price and how they’ll return the value to shareholders,” said Kim Caughey Forrest, at Fort Pitt Capital Group, which holds Microsoft shares.

The deal was a fresh reminder that Microsoft has no record of making acquisitions pay off. Its 2007 deal to buy online ad firm aQuantive for $6 billion was a flat-out failure, writes Bill Rigby.