MediaFile

Tech wrap: Samsung savors smartphone supremacy

Samsung Electronics, the world’s top maker of memory chips and smartphones, reported a record quarterly profit, aided by one-off gains and best-ever sales of high-end phones. The South Korean firm posted 5.2 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in quarterly operating profit, beating a consensus forecast of 4.7 trillion won by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Samsung, which surged past Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker in the third quarter, only entered the smartphone market in earnest in 2010, but its handset division is now its biggest earnings generator.

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC recorded a worse-than-expected yearly profit decline in the fourth quarter, and the first decline in two years. The former investor darling shocked markets in November by slashing its fourth-quarter revenue guidance, sending its shares down 28 percent in two weeks and 15 percent to date. Investor concerns linger over whether HTC still has the innovative streak that catapulted it from an obscure contract maker to a top brand.

Sony will promote its consumer business chief Kazuo Hirai to the role of president as early as April, taking the title away from Howard Stringer, who is expected to remain chairman and CEO, the Nikkei newspaper reported. Such a move would give Hirai, 51, who made his name in Sony’s PlayStation video game division, more influence over the whole company and its wide range of technology and entertainment businesses, likely cementing expectations he would succeed the 69-year-old Stringer eventually.

Two weeks after disclosing that its website had been hacked, private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting warned subscribers that hackers were now circulating false emails offering the company’s services for free. Strategic Forecasting, also known as Stratfor, urged subscribers not to open attachments to the fraudulent emails, which offered subscribers the company’s premium content for free as compensation while it tried to secure its website. Stratfor CEO George Friedman said he deeply regretted any inconvenience caused by the latest incident and said the company was still working to reestablish its data systems and Web presence.

Israeli officials said they were concerned the country may be under cyber attack after a wave of credit card code thefts in the past week by a hacker who claims to be operating out of Saudi Arabia. Credit card company officials said 14,000 numbers had been posted on line Tuesday and another 11,000 Thursday. However, they said some of the codes had expired and that the active cards were all being cancelled.

Tech wrap: Lineups long as ever for Apple’s iPhone 4S

Apple looked to ring in record first day sales as long lines made up of eager wannabe iPhone 4S owners formed at its stores around the world. In New York, the line outside Apple’s flagship Manhattan store no longer extended around the block after a half-hour of sales, but more people joined it as the morning progressed. Queues in Paris were smaller than those normally seen for a brand-new iPhone, with some fans there wondering if the somewhat underwhelming introduction had put people off, but in London and elsewhere the lines were as long as ever. Apple took more than 1 million online orders in the first 24 hours after its release, exceeding the 600,000 for the iPhone 4, which was sold in fewer countries initially.

Despite the enthusiasm at Apple stores, the launch was marred somewhat by widespread complaints this week online about problems downloading iOS 5, the latest version of Apple’s mobile software. There were also problems with iCloud, Apple’s online communications, media storage and backup service formally launched on Wednesday, with users reporting glitches such as losing their email access.

A judge in California said that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets infringe Apple’s iPad patents, but added that Apple has a problem establishing the validity of its patents. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh did not rule on Apple’s request to bar some Galaxy products from being sold in the U.S. but said she would do so “fairly promptly”. Apple must show both that Samsung infringed its patents and that its patents are valid under the law. Samsung attorney Kathleen Sullivan argued that in order to defeat an injunction bid, Samsung need only show that it has raised strong enough questions about the validity of Apple’s patents. Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said Apple’s product design is far superior to previous tablets, so Apple’s patents should not be invalidated by designs that came before.

Tech wrap: Google profit expectations eat dust

Google’s third-quarter results trounced Wall Street expectations as good cost controls helped boost the Internet search leader’s profit by about 26 percent. The world’s No. 1 Internet search engine said its net income in the three months ended September 30 totaled $2.73 billion, up from $2.17 billion in the year-ago period.

Analysts applauded Google’s results. “Christmas came early for Google shareholders. It’s all about the core business. You drive that extra revenue and expense becomes secondary. It was a great beat on the bottom line. It’s not necessarily because they are controlling expenses. It’s because they are driving more revenue”, said Colin Gillis of BGC Partners.

RIM’s co-CEOs apologized to millions of BlackBerry customers for a four-day outage that tarnished it’s image and set back the drive to catch up with Apple and other smartphone rivals. The service disruption could cost RIM millions of dollars in compensation to customers who lost service.  The company did not say for certain whether it would compensate customers. Public relations specialists said its response to the crisis has been slow and poorly communicated.

Tech wrap: New iPhone seen in time for school

Apple plans to launch a new iPhone with a faster chip for data processing and a more advanced camera in September, Bloomberg said. The new iPhone will include the A5 processor along with an 8-megapixel camera, the report said, quoting two people familiar with the plans. Apple is also testing a new version of the iPad that has a higher resolution screen, the report said, adding a cheaper version of the iPhone aimed at developing countries is also in the works.

A U.S. judge rejected Samsung’s request for a peek at Apple’s unreleased iPhone and iPad, brought in the course of high-stakes patent litigation between the two companies. Apple sued Samsung in April, claiming Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets infringe several patents and trademarks. Samsung counter-sued, asserting its own patents against Apple. In the ruling, the judge said Apple’s legal claims are only based on its products that have already hit the market.

A senior Chinese official said there is no cyber warfare taking place between China and the United States. The two countries might suffer from cyber attacks, but they were in no way directed by either government, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said.

Tech wrap: Apple sues Samsung over “slavish” copies

An employee of Samsung Electronics demonstrates Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet during a photo opportunity at a showroom of the company in Seoul January 18, 2011. Reuters/Lee Jae-WonApple sued rival Samsung Electronics claiming that Samsung’s Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablet “slavishly” copies the iPhone and iPad, according to court papers. The lawsuit, filed on Friday, alleges Samsung copied the look, product design and product user interface of Apple’s products. Samsung violated Apple’s patents and trademarks, the suit alleges.

Twitter is in talks to buy TweetDeck for around $50 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. TweetDeck is an add-on program that helps Twitter users view and manage their tweets and messages on other services such as those offered by Facebook and Foursquare. Twitter has allowed advertisers’ “promoted tweets”, that show up when users perform searches on Twitter, to appear on TweetDeck as part of a revenue-sharing agreement, The WSJ wrote.

Texas Instruments’s quarterly earnings missed Wall Street expectations by a penny as expenses rose after two of its Japanese factories were damaged in the country’s largest-ever earthquake. The company, which plans to buy analog chip maker National Semiconductor Corp for $6.5 billion, said one of its factories will “soon” resume full production, and added that it expects a strong second half.