MediaFile

Tech wrap: EBay acts on Hunch

EBay said it acquired the data analysis firm Hunch to help it develop more recommendation technology for its online marketplace. Hunch analyzes data from social networks like Facebook and from questionnaires to make personal recommendations. EBay said Hunch will help it suggest relevant products for shoppers on its online marketplace. Chris Dixon, Tom Pinckney and Matt Gattis, who founded Hunch in 2009, will stay on at eBay and remain based in New York. The purchase price was not disclosed, although tech blog Uncrunched pegged it at around $80 million.

Hewlett-Packard reported quarterly revenue slightly better than Wall Street estimates, after the bell. The world’s largest technology company by sales said non-GAAP net revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter inched up 1 percent to $32.3 billion. Analysts had predicted revenue of $32.05 billion on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Retailers are saving some of their deepest discounts on Black Friday for video game products, with large chains Wal-Mart and Best Buy putting some rock-bottom prices tags on hot games to lure shoppers into stores. To accommodate pressured buyers, retailers are heavily discounting top games, from Electronic Arts’ “Battlefield 3,” to Warner Brothers’ “Batman: Arkham City,” and Microsoft’s “Gears of War 3.”

Olympus said that a third-party panel appointed by the company to look into an accounting scandal has, so far, found no evidence that funds from its M&A deals went to organized crime syndicates or that “yakuza” gangsters were involved. A unit from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s organized crime division has joined the investigation, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday. But the source added it was premature to say if gangsters were involved.

Hard drive maker Western Digital said it was asked to pay $525 million in an arbitration brought by competitor Seagate. The award involves claims brought against Western Digital and one employee — who was earlier with Seagate — alleging misappropriation of confidential information and trade secrets, Western Digital said in a statement.

Windows L8?

Microsoft’s next operating system — provisionally known as Windows 8 — may not hit the shelves until early 2013, one respected company-watcher thinks, giving Apple, Google and Amazon more time to fine-tune their tablet offerings.

That’s later than most people expect for the new OS, which represents Microsoft’s first real foray into the touch-friendly, tablet-optimized world. The feeling is that Microsoft really needs to make its move before Apple’s iPad and tablets running Google’s Android march off with the whole market.

“I think it’s about a year away,” said Michael Cherry at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, asked when Windows 8 code would be completed.

HP’s answer to the MacBook Air

HP’s answer to Apple’s MacBook Air is in, and it’s called the Folio13. 

 The company is one of the latest PC firms to launch an “Ultrabook” — a name chipmaker Intel gave to the new super-thin laptops that use its processors — but this time, it’s targeting the business user.

The launch must come as a relief to the Silicon Valley company’s PC unit employees, suspended as they were in limbo for over a month as HP considered whether to jettison the division or not. HP decided only late last month to keep the leading seller of PCs within its fold.

GoogleTV: Another partner says bye-bye

GoogleTV's cast of partners -- in happier times

Remember those television commercials featuring actor Kevin Bacon touting GoogleTV?

Well, the company selling those GoogleTV devices, Logitech, now says the whole thing was an expensive mistake.

During an investor conference this week, Logitech CEO Guerrino De Luca delivered an amazingly strong-worded indictment of GoogleTV and of the company’s set-top box that offered the service, known as the Revue.

Tech wrap: Modern Warfare 3 answers call to duty

Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ video game racked up more than $400 million in sales on its first day in stores in the U.S. and the UK, beating last year’s record of 5.6 million units, or $360 million in sales of “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” That game went on to sell $1 billion in less than two months.

Apple’s iOS 5.0.1 update did not address all of the battery issues troubling iPhone users, AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski writes. In a statement given to AllThingsD, Apple told the blog that “the recent iOS software update addressed many of the battery issues that some customers experienced on their iOS 5 devices…We continue to investigate a few remaining issues,” according to Paczkowski.

Regulators are investigating the safety of batteries used to power electric vehicles after a General Motors Chevrolet Volt caught fire following a routine crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it has asked other manufacturers who make electric cars or who plan to do so for information on how they handle lithium-ion batteries. The request also includes recommendations for minimizing fire risk. NHTSA said it does not believe the Volt and other electric vehicles are at greater risk for fire than gasoline-powered engines.

Tech wrap: Can Nook tablet take on Kindle Fire?

Let the low-end tablet wars begin. Barnes & Noble unveiled a Nook-branded tablet on Monday, the company’s answer to Amazon.com’s recently announced Kindle Fire. At $249, the 7-inch Nook tablet is a bit pricier than the $199 Fire, but Barnes & Noble is betting that consumers will pay the extra $50 for the device because it offers faster processing speeds and 16 gigabytes of storage space compared to the Amazon tablet’s 8 gigabytes. Both devices hit shelves next week. Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of 700 U.S. bookstores, also lowered the price on its Nook e-book devices in an effort to take on Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, which were recently reduced in price.

Early reaction to the device was varied. One analyst characterized it to Reuters as a “wow” product, while another said it will keep “Barnes & Noble shoppers loyal.” All Things D’s Peter Kafka called Barnes & Noble’s product pitch “a bit muddled” when it came to explaining how people will access content on the device: “Unlike Amazon and its Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble isn’t marketing its tablet with a proprietary cloud service that will get you access to music, movies and TV shows. Instead, the bookseller is leaving that up to other cloud-based services, like Netflix and Pandora. But make no mistake — these are cloud-based services,” he writes. Why then was the company so eager to play up the Nook Tablet’s extra storage capacity if it expects you’ll be streaming most content, not storing it, wonders Kafka.  Engadget takes the new tablet through its paces in a hands-on video.

Google+ expanded its circles to make room for businesses who are looking to reach out to customers on the social network. Called Google+ Pages, the new service will allow corporate brands and businesses to set up a special page within the social network . Google said that 20 businesses, including Toyota, Pepsi and retailer Macy’s, have set up special pages so far, and that any organization will soon be able to join as well. Until now, only individual users have been able to sign up for Google+. Businesses are increasingly using online social services, such as Facebook, to reach new customers and to cement relationships with loyal customers through special offers and promotions.

Microsoft: mobile getting better, no numbers yet

Microsoft  made a big deal of the launch of three U.S. phones running its Windows Phone 7.5 software, the latest upgrade to Windows Phone 7, which represents a complete overhaul of the Microsoft mobile phone software.  They built a giant model of a phone in Herald Square, New York City and had rappers and dancers performing around it on Monday, while pizza was handed out to bemused onlookers.

Andy Lees, who leads Microsoft’s phone business, was on hand to talk up the software, which he said has been very well received by consumers.

“When people use it they love it,” he told reporters. “We’re definitely on to something.”

Rumors of RIM’s death…

…would be greatly misspelled, ungrammatical and take five times as long to send on an iPhone By Maureen Tkacik
The opinions expressed are her own. Possessing an ancient affliction known as “shame” I generally try to avoid brandishing opinions in the arena of “investment advice”, as hilarious as that would be. But a few weeks ago I nearly broke this rule when the PE ratio of a company whose products I actually use dipped below my height in feet (5.5.) “There’s gotta be a price for everything,” I figure; and I like to think that even I, were I a publicly traded security, would have levels at which I’d be a “Buy.” Well, four weeks after my editors wisely ignored that column, the PE ratio of the stock in question now looks like it could hit 3.14159.  

Moral: if I were a stock, I’d be Research In Motion. And me giving out stock tips is like BlackBerry trying to recommend new bands. As someone who fantasizes daily about bartending, retail, law school, hackccess journalism, and pretty much every other plausible paycheck alternative with the exception of teaching kids, I can totally sympathize with the impulse here. But ultimately these alternate realities don’t really play to any of my strengths, whereas wasting time thinking about them plays right into the hands of my epic self-loathing. (A self-destructive cycle RIM seems to be experiencing right now.)

Which is why I feel compelled to step in right now and tell RIM to get a hold of itself. RIM didn’t bounce three checks last week; RIM still has a job to do and millions of users depending on it. What the market seems to assume is an existential breakdown is actually not much worse than the maddening spiral of despair I experience…every time I lose my phone and attempt to communicate using someone else’s iPhone.

Samsung is calling fine artists

Samsung is going bodly where few major electronics companies have gone before — the fine art market.
The Korean electronics giant is developing a new high resolution LCD screen for displaying artwork electronically in homes and offices.
These “new digital canvases”, as Samsung puts it, will help the company tap into the $60 billion annual art market, one third of which is based in the United States. 
“It’s very significant market opportunity,” Scott Birnbaum, vice president of new business development for Samsung Semiconductor, said in an interview. 
The concept of electronic art has been tried before but has not really taken off, mostly because of the poor appearance and lack of availability of digital paintings.  
Samsung said its screens would have more real-life colors and would support brushstroke-like texture. 
A major supplier of Apple for everything from flash memories to processors, Samsung is working with digital signage company Planar Systems, which will be distributing the framed LCD art screens. 
Planar plans to launch the product next year. 
Another set of conversations is also taking place between Samsung and budding artists to encourage them to try the digital realm. Samsung wants to build a cloud-based art collection and needs the artists to license their work for it. 
Maybe artists will now start thinking in terms of pixels rather than just brush strokes.

Tech wrap: Groupon goes public, super nova

Shares of daily deals site Groupon rose more than 50 percent in their stock market debut, but at least some of the early trading exuberance may have come from limiting the fraction of the company that was sold. The shares rose as high as $31.14, or 55.7 percent above the IPO price, in early trading on the Nasdaq, at one point pushing the market value of the company up to $19.9 billion.  The shares later eased back, closing at $26.11. Despite the early success, there are still lingering questions about Groupon’s business model and about competition from better-funded rivals such as Amazon.com and Google.

Yahoo has signed confidentiality agreements with several parties interested in buying all or part of the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The Internet pioneer said potential buyers had to sign an agreement by Friday to be allowed a close look at Yahoo’s finances. But the Friday deadline could be extended into next week to provide more time for other firms to sign on, the sources said. Some private equity firms have balked at signing Yahoo’s nondisclosure agreement because of restrictions that would prevent them from forming consortiums, sources told Reuters last week.

EU regulators are investigating whether Samsung and Apple may have breached EU antitrust laws with patent infringement claims in their global legal battle over the lucrative smartphone and tablet market. “The (European) Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of ‘standards-essential’ patents in the mobile telephony sector,” the European Commission said in a statement. Standards-essential patents means they have been incorporated in internationally accepted technology standards, which in the case of Samsung and Apple, means 3G and UMTS technology.