MediaFile

Back in Blackberry

With a brand-new smartphone – and a new brand – BlackBerry (neé Research in Motion) has embarked on a critical reboot aimed at restoring the fortunes of the company that sparked the mobile revolution.

RIM has been left for dead. For years it hasn’t been able to shake off the stink of irrelevance as the iPhone proved that apps were more important than a physical keyboard, and that mobile “push” e-mail wasn’t rocket science. It endured brand-damaging outages to its private network while competitors crowed that their reliance on a public network was far more stable.

Now the company is reinventing itself in a last-ditch effort to survive. In a press conference yesterday, it announced that it had changed its corporate name to “BlackBerry” to better identify with its iconic product. Meanwhile, it has dramatically upgraded that product after a two-year effort that resulted in new phones designed from scratch and powered by what would be a major mobile operating system: QNX.

BlackBerry’s new smartphones, the multi-touch Z10 and the Q10 – which retains that keyboard some people still swear by — may be the company’s last best hope. I’ve had the Z10 for only a few hours, but if anything can rekindle our romance with RIM, this is it. These BB10 phones are a gambit – not a gamble. (I’ll be doing a full “Go Bag” review with the road warrior in mind in the coming weeks).

Most of the attention is being heaped on the Z10, as demand for smartphones with physical keyboards is the exception rather than the rule. If it manages to make a dent in a world now run by Apple and Samsung — which together had 51 percent of the world’s smartphone market share in the last quarter of 2012 — it will mark one of the great turnaround tales in the history of tech, comparable even to Apple’s Phoenix-like rise from the ashes in the late 1990s.

Tech wrap: Is Samsung buying RIM?


Shares of Research in Motion jumped 10 percent on Tuesday after a tech blog (The Boy Genius Report) said the BlackBerry maker was actively seeking to sell itself to South Korean smartphone rival Samsung Electronics.

This fall New York will open The Academy for Software Engineering, the city’s first public high school that will train kids to develop software, reports Mashable.

In protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, popular Web sites such as Reddit, Boing Boing, and Wikipedia will go dark Wednesday, displaying only a message about their opposition to the controversial bill, reports The Washington Post.

Research in (downward-spiraling) Motion

By Kevin Kelleher
The opinions expressed are his own.

Failure is a funny thing in the tech world. An entrepreneur can get fired from a company he founded and his peers will watch to see what he does with the lesson. A young company can burn its cash like a Viking setting his ship on fire, but be remembered wistfully once it’s bankrupt. For startups, failure sometimes seems like a rite of passage – the painful second act of a three-act story with a happy ending.

But it’s different when a big company stumbles, losing its place at the top of the heap. Nobody cheers you on. You just seem like a stock character in someone else’s legend – the hoary old giant descending so that another can ascend. For big tech companies, failure is the grim final act that can stretch on for years and years. Until no one wants to watch anymore.

In the annals of tech brands that have risen and fallen – DEC and Wang in early computing, Sony in consumer electronics, AOL and Yahoo in the Internet – the declines have taken several years, at least. But few tech giants have fallen as quickly, or as dramatically, as Research in Motion.

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: 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: Is RIM circling the drain?

A months-long delay in Research in Motion’s new BlackBerrys and a dreary quarterly report sent RIM shares tumbling again on Friday and pushed some analysts to sound the death knell for the mobile device that once defined the industry.

Zynga shares opened as much as 10 percent above their offer price on Friday but then rolled back below the IPO price, showing that investors were still concerned about its dependence on Facebook and its growth prospects and that demand for hot tech IPOs may be waning.

The news has not deterred the creators of “Angry Birds,” who are said to be considering a stock market flotation in Hong Kong.

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.”

Tech wrap: Will switch to QNX save RIM?

Research In Motion has already doled out a big helping of bad news ahead of its financial results on Thursday, but surprises could still await investors hungry for details about what many see as a new, make-or-break BlackBerry.

Investors are desperate to know whether RIM will stand by its current timetable to switch its smartphones to the new QNX operating system by early next year. The transition is considered the Canadian company’s last, best chance to reverse its declining fortunes.

T-Mobile USA plans to market the Lumia 710 phone from Nokia to first-time smartphone buyers as the two companies push to recoup market share losses of recent years.

Tech wrap: “DingleBerry” rings RIM’s security bell

Three hackers said they had exploited a vulnerability in Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet to gain root access to the device, a claim that could damage the BlackBerry maker’s hard-won reputation for security. The hackers plan to release their data within a week as a tool called DingleBerry. In a response to queries, RIM said it is investigating the claim, and if a jailbreak is confirmed will release a patch to plug the hole. The PlayBook runs on a different operating system than RIM’s current BlackBerry smartphones. However, the QNX system will be incorporated into its smartphones starting next year. The PlayBook in July became the first tablet device to win a security certification approving it for U.S. government use.

Samsung is set to resume selling its Galaxy tablet computer in Australia as early as Friday, after it won a rare legal victory in a long-running global patent war with Apple. An Australian federal court unanimously decided to lift a preliminary injunction, imposed by a lower court, on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 — but granted Apple a stay on lifting the sales ban until Friday afternoon.

Groupon’s shares rose after CEO Andrew Mason emerged from the company’s post-IPO quiet period to share holiday sales numbers. Groupon sold more than 650,000 holiday deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an increase of 500 percent compared with last year, Mason said in a blog post. Groupon closed the trading day up 9.3 percent $17.50.

Tech wrap: Microsoft allowed looks at Yahoo’s books

Microsoft has signed a confidentiality agreement with Yahoo, allowing the software giant to take a closer look at Yahoo’s business, according to a source familiar with the matter. Microsoft joins several private equity firms that are also poring over Yahoo’s books and operations, as they explore various options for striking a deal with the struggling Internet company. Microsoft’s signing of a nondisclosure agreement with Yahoo occurred “recently,” according to the source.

Shares of Groupon fell for a third day , sinking below the company’s initial public offering price of $20 less than three weeks after the daily deal company went public. Groupon raised more than $700 million in an IPO in early November, making it the biggest IPO by a U.S. Internet company since Google raised $1.7 billion in 2004. Analysts have cited concerns about increased competition, a greater availability of the company’s stock for short-selling, and a sharp reversal of market sentiment that is taking down more speculative companies. Groupon shares ended the day down 15.5 percent at $16.96.

Big-Box retailer Best Buy has no regrets about stocking Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet, despite the product’s poor reception and subsequent sharp discounting. RIM says it has shipped 700,000 PlayBooks since its launch, a figure dwarfed by the millions of iPads Apple sells each quarter. “When a product is less successful, you do what you need to do, and you move to the next thing,” Best Buy’s president for the Americas, Mike Vitelli, told Reuters. “That kind of quick reaction by the suppliers, whether it is BlackBerry or HP with their product, I actually think that is good for consumers too,” Vitelli said.