MediaFile

Google dials it up by pocketing Motorola

For a company that is all about world domination via the hardware-agnostic cloud, Google sure seems fascinated with being in the computer game these days.

There are those Chromebook laptops, a partnership with Samsung and Acer that is primarily a means to extend the reach of Google’s cloud-based services courtesy of a delivery system of inexpensive computers that don’t do much of anything else. But that’s a play against Microsoft and its office software suite, not the world’s top computer makers.

And it makes core sense: Google still makes nearly 100 percent of its roughly $30 billion annual revenue from small text ads on web pages, and, to a much lesser extent, its cloud-based services. Anything that drives traffic to those pages is money in Google’s bank.

So of course selling and leasing cheap hardware tethered to those services and to the internet in general makes perfect strategic sense, even though a) we are entering the post PC era and b) for the most part, computers are a commodity item.

Then there was Google’s first foray into mobile phones: the most important accessory most of us carry. This is where Apple reigns supreme: I can’t tell you how many people I know who own iPhones and iPads, but tap only a small fraction of their functionality and could just as well use cheaper phones and data plans.

Tech wrap: Google targets Apple with Motorola buy

Setting its sights on rival Apple, Google announced its biggest deal ever, a $12.5 billion cash acquisition of mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility.

Google’s biggest foray into hardware comes weeks after a failed attempt to buy patents from bankrupt Nortel, and gives it an intellectual property library in wireless telephony to wage war on Apple and Microsoft.

However, analysts agreed that that buy was more about the patents and less about the hardware.

Tech wrap: Is Google’s Android operating system safe?

A mobile security expert says he has discovered serious security flaws in Google’s Android operating system.

Riley Hassell, who caused a stir when he called off an appearance at a hacker’s conference last week, told Reuters he and colleague Shane Macaulay decided not to lay out their research at the gathering for fear that criminals would use it attack Android phones.

Felix Salmon explains why the so called porous NYT paywall is working so well, due in large part to their emphasis on the “pay” rather than on the “wall”.

Tech wrap: Clash of tech titans looming?

Apple Inc’s increasingly effective patent war against rivals like Samsung Electronics may mask its real target: arch-foe Google Inc. Poornima Gupta writes: “Recent success in blocking sales of Samsung’s latest Galaxy tablet in most of Europe and Apple’s challenges to the Korean giant in Australia reflect an aggressive effort to defend its top position in the red-hot mobile market from the runaway success of Android.”

AOL said on Thursday it would buy back $250 million of its stock, a move presumably intended to boost confidence in the shares, which fell 32 percent in two days. AOL has been in a turnaround mode since it was spun off from Time Warner in December 2009 after one of the most disastrous mergers in recent times.

Zynga, which has filed for an initial public offering of up to $1 billion, revealed it draws fewer paid players than expected in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

Tech wrap: Bad smartphone bets burn investors

Smartphones are constantly reaching new heights in sleekness and cutting-edge technology, but investors in the U.S. wireless sector seem unconvinced. Weak results and poor growth in both major and minor telecoms firms nationwide helped spark an investor exodus from the sector, and analysts say small operators like MetroPCS and Leap Wireless have indicated they’ve simply lost faith in the promise that smartphones can boost growth. Popular with consumers and heavily subsidized to encourage uptake, investors now look to be assessing whether a future of ever-increasing costs for carriers is one they’d like to take part in.

In tech company earnings, professional networking site LinkedIn reported that its quarterly revenue more than doubled as the company endeavored to prove it can fulfill the promise of its splashy IPO. Used by professionals seeking jobs or contacts and companies seeking qualified applicants, LinkedIn was the first prominent U.S. social networking site to make its public trading debut.

The massive hack attack recently revealed by security company McAfee does much to underscore the fact that governments and companies are losing the war against cyber thieves. Security experts uncovered an unprecedented five-year series of cyber attacks on 72 organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, governments and major corporations. In this analysis, Reuters’ security correspondent William Maclean argues that it’s unclear if the unsettling disclosure will actually prompt rapid global action against cyber attacks – partly due to the reluctance of stigma-conscious companies and states to report the attacks.

UPDATE: Microsoft to Google: Bring it on

Everyone loves a good catfight, and it appears two of technology’s biggest names this week might just have obliged.

Google –stung by its failure to get in on several thousand Nortel patents scooped up by its biggest rivals in the smartphone industry – cast the first stone by accusing Apple, Microsoft, Oracle – and presumably almost everyone else — of ganging up against Android and using “bogus patents” to reign in the runaway success of the mobile operating system it gives away for free.

In a very long, very public rant on its official blog, top lawyer David Drummond in particular called out Microsoft, which is also a rival in its search business, of trying to hurt Google by forging an unholy alliance with historical arch-foe Apple.

Tech wrap: ITC joins Apple-Samsung spat

The International Trade Commission agreed to investigate Apple’s complaint that mobile phones and tablets made by rival Samsung violate its technology intellectual property. The intensifying patent dispute threatens to strain a lucrative supply relationship: Apple in 2010 was Samsung’s second-largest customer, accounting for $5.7 billion of sales tied mainly to semiconductors, according to the Asian consumer electronics company’s annual report.

Google faces a total of nine antitrust complaints which EU regulators are now investigating, two sources said. Up to now, The European Commission has only confirmed four cases against Google. The increased number of complaints underscores Google’s dominant position but does not necessarily mean bad news for the company, said Simon Holmes, head of EU and competition law at law firm SJ Berwin.

“Google’s strong position means there are lots of interests involved. But there is nothing wrong per se in having a strong position,” he said.

Tech wrap: Android continues world conquest

Google’s Android platform has taken almost 50 percent of the global smartphone market, dominating in the Asia-Pacific region, research firm Canalys said. It was the number one platform in 35 of the 56 countries Canalys tracks, resulting in a market share of 48 percent, the research firm said. By comparison, Apple, which shipped 20.3 million iPhones, is a distant second with a market share of 19 percent but it overtook ailing handset maker Nokia as the world’s largest individual smartphone vendor.

Apple’s next generation iPhone will be unveiled in October, not September, according to a source, writes John Paczkowski at All Things Digital. Other sources said it will be later in the month, rather than earlier, Paczkowski added.

Samsung has agreed to halt sales of the newest version of its Galaxy tablet in Australia until a patent lawsuit brought by Apple in the country is resolved, Bloomberg reported. Samsung will also provide Apple three samples of a new Australian version of Galaxy at least seven days before it plans to start distributing it so the U.S. company can review it, Bloomberg said, citing Australian court documents.

Tech wrap: Now in your Twitter stream – ads

Your Twitter stream could be about to get even more cluttered. Twitter announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will now be placing ads from certain brands and companies directly into the message timelines of users who follow those organizations on the microblogging service. The company said it is testing out the new program with a select group of partners – including Dell, Starbucks and HBO among others – for a few weeks before rolling it out to a wider stable of clients. The new initiative is an expansion of the company’s so-called “Promoted Tweets” program, in which ads show up in search results on the Twitter.com website.

What does the new program mean for users? AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka has this take: “”Depends. Marketers will only be able to deliver the ads — which will use the “Promoted Tweet” format the company rolled out more than a year ago — to users who already follow them on the service. And they’ll only appear on Twitter’s main Twitter.com site. So, if you don’t follow any brands/marketers/companies on Twitter, you won’t see the ads. And if you’re checking Twitter on your iPhone, or via clients like TweetDeck, you won’t see them there, either.”

EA received a thumbs up from antitrust regulators for its deal to buy social gaming startup PopCap Games. EA struck the deal, which is estimated to be worth up to $1.3 billion, to step up its competition with Zynga, the social gaming company behind Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

A chat with Google’s Seattle video-chat guru

If you want to be at the forefront of video social networking, Seattle is the place to be, not Silicon Valley.

A month ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an “awesome” launch coming out of the company’s growing Seattle office, which turned out to be Facebook’s video chat link up with Skype.

About the same time, Google trial-launched its broadside against Facebook, the social Google+ service. One of the most arresting features is Hangouts, a service that lets up to 10 people video-chat simultaneously. And it’s designed by a bunch of engineers just the other side of Lake Washington in Seattle.