MediaFile

Tech wrap: RIM co-CEOs seen losing chairman role

RIM is close to a decision on stripping its co-chief executives of their other shared role as chairman of the board, The National Post newspaper said, a change that could meet a key demand from angry and disillusioned investors. The Post’s sources said Barbara Stymiest, currently an independent member of RIM’s board, is leading the race to replace Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in the chairmanship. RIM shares jumped more than 7 percent on the news. But some analysts doubted Stymiest, if named to the chairmanship, would actually assume the transformational role that activist shareholders are calling for.

Groupon shares closed the day down 6.6 percent after a Susquehanna Financial Group – Yipit survey of almost 400 merchants found that while 8 out of 10 merchants enjoyed working with daily deal companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, 52 percent were not planning to feature deals in the next six months and nearly 24 percent intended to feature only one deal during the same period.

Apple is planning an event to be held in New York later this month that will focus on publishing and eBooks, AllThingsD and Techcrunch reported. The event will unveil improvements to Apple’s iBooks platform, Techcrunch wrote.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch rung in the New Year with a new Twitter account, tweeting praise for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, a socially conservative former senator who has risen sharply in the polls, describing him as the “only candidate with genuine big vision” for the country. Also via Twitter, Murdoch called President Obama’s decision on the detention of terrorism suspects “very courageous – and dead right!”. On Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Murdoch tweeted: “Interesting but unfair, family must hate.”

Five 2011 tech earthquakes

By John C Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

Pick a year: It’s easy to look back and convince yourself That Was The Year That Was in tech, partly because the pace of change is so rapid and partly because we so readily embrace and then quickly depend on things that are completely different. Consider this: When the class of 2012 was applying to college, there was no iPhone. Until those students were just about at the end of their  junior years, there was no iPad. Both of these nascent devices now define the mobile Internet, which is where all the action is.

But 2011 had some pretty remarkable advances that seem to be the start of inexorable things to come, as well as some surprising and sad examples of demise, whose impact will surely be felt for years to come, in ways that are currently near-impossible to predict.

Some may argue that 2011 was the year of the tablet (redux), because of the spritely launch of Amazon’s Fire and Barnes & Noble’s reboot of the Nook color. I say, it was bound to happen, and that the only really interesting thing is that content companies are giving Apple a bit of competition, and not the hardware bigwigs.

Tech wrap: Apps are iTV’s secret weapon


The iTV might be the most anticipated product Apple will ever launch, and it seems everyone has an opinion about it, writes Gigaom’s Ryan Lawler. Apple will win in TV the same way it won with the iPhone — by having a compelling platform for app developers, he says.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS “hasn’t made much of a splash in 2011″, says ex-Windows Phone evangelist Charlie Kindel. “Microsoft’s approach with WP7 has a impedance mismatch with the carriers and device manufacturers while Google’s approach reduces friction with carriers and device manufacturers at the expense of end users,” his blog says.

Netflix and the Gap were among the worst performers in customer satisfaction among the largest online retailers this holiday season, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Tech wrap: Yahoo to cut Asian stake

Yahoo is considering a plan to unload most of its prized Asian assets in a complex deal valued at roughly $17 billion, sources familiar with the matter said.

The former Internet powerhouse’s increasing difficulty in competing with heavyweights such as Google and Facebook have forced it to explore proposals to revamp its business.

Weakening economies and falling prices of rival smartphones are hurting sales of Apple iPhones across Europe, data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech showed on Thursday.

And the Grammy goes to — Steve Jobs!

First it was a bronze statue in Hungary. Now it’s a Grammy.

The accolades for the technology icon who died Oct 5 are still pouring in.

While Jobs is not a musician, his influence on the music industry — good or bad — cannot be denied. And for this, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is giving the co-founder of Apple Inc a Grammy at an invitation-only ceremony on Feb 11.

A formal acknowledgment of his Grammy — part of the 2012 Special Merit Award — will be made during the regular 54th annual Grammy Awards, to be held on Feb 12 at LA’s Staples Center.

“As former CEO and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs helped create products and technology that transformed the way we consume music, TV, movies, and books,” the academy said in a statement.  ”A creative visionary, Jobs’ innovations such as the iPod and its counterpart, the online iTunes store, revolutionized the industry and how music was distributed and purchased.”

Microsoft switches off CES

Microsoft, one of the most visible superpowers at the Consumer Electronics Show, has decided its keynote and booth at the upcoming event in January will be its last.

The world’s largest software company, which has long tried to boost the profile of its consumer business, usually puts up a huge duplex on the floor to show off its games, phones and other gadgets running its products at the Las Vegas jamboree. CEO Steve Ballmer is a regular keynote speaker, as Bill Gates was before him.

But the company is now admitting what it has said privately: that a show right after the holiday season just doesn’t fit its consumer product cycle. That is to say, Ballmer rarely has much new to say, when all its Xbox, phone and software news is done and dusted for the year.

Tech wrap: D.Telekom may be forced to play with Sprint

Deutsche Telekom may be forced into a tie-up of its sub-scale U.S. wireless unit with Sprint Nextel after a $39 billion deal with AT&T collapsed.

AT&T said on Monday it had dropped its bid for T-Mobile USA, bowing to fierce regulatory opposition and leaving both companies scrambling for alternatives.

The collapse of AT&T’s deal to buy D.Telekom’s U.S. wireless unit may be welcome news for network equipment makers, as money earmarked for the merger will be freed up for investments.

Tech wrap: RIM under fire ahead of results

Research In Motion faced renewed calls for a change in its leadership on Thursday, hours ahead of the quarterly results that could fuel criticism over the BlackBerry maker’s poor performance and sagging share price.

Jaguar Financial, an activist shareholder that has asked the BlackBerry maker to sell itself in whole or parts, once again called on two of RIM’s independent directors to push for a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

Bloomberg reports that Zynga updated its initial public offering filing to expand on the risks of losing its chief executive officer after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called him a “a fearsome, strong negotiator.”

Steve Jobs’ biographer felt lashing of his sharp tongue

Isaacson's Jobs biography in a store (Photo: Reuters)

Getting off a plane earlier this year, Walter Isaacson got hit with what he called “the thing you least want to see on your iPhone”– six or seven missed calls from his biography subject, Steve Jobs.

Speaking to a crowd at the Computer History Museum Tuesday night in Mountain View, Calif., Isaacson described finally connecting with Jobs, who apparently had just seen the book’s proposed cover and didn’t care for it. Jobs let loose a stream of invectives. “He just started yelling,” Isaacson recalled. “You have no taste. The cover is gimmicky. It’s ugly.”

Jobs, who hadn’t asked for editorial input into any other aspect of the book, said he would withdraw his cooperation unless he could have editorial input into the cover. Isaacson said he agreed in a matter of seconds, and then Jobs spent time choosing the two jacket photos— a recent shot on the front, and a younger Jobs on the back– and making sure the cover looked clean and simple.

Will Google fight Apple’s Siri with Alfred?

Apple has Siri, and now Google has Alfred.

On Tuesday Google said it had acquired the tech company that has developed Alfred, a smartphone app that acts as a “personal assistant” to make recommendations based on your interests and your “context,” such as location, time of day, intent and social information.

According to Clever Sense, the company that created Alfred and that is now part of Google, the app uses artificial intelligence technology to sift through the Web’s vast amount of data and to recommend restaurants, bars and other real-world places that you might like.

That sounds a lot like Siri, the personal assistant technology that comes built-in to Apple latest iPhone. Siri offers a much broader range of capabilities than those that appear to currently be available with Alfred, allowing users to speak into their phone to manage their calendars,  find nearby restaurants and even inquire about the weather.