MediaFile

Tech wrap: Netflix sees subscriber slowdown

Netflix says it’s expecting its subscriber growth in the United States to slow in the coming quarter. The warning to investors came as the popular video rental company also reported second-quarter revenue that missed Wall Street expectations. The double-shot of bad news sent the company’s shares down about 9 percent in late trading.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion delivered on a promise it made last month to pare back its global workforce  . . . and then some. The Canadian company announced it is laying off 2,000 staffers – or 11 percent of its workforce – in an effort to cut costs and offset sales declines in the mobile market, which is increasingly dominated by Apple and Google. Analysts are split on whether the cost cuts will do much to help the firm regain a competitive position. “The problem is you can’t cut your way into growth or market leadership, and while I’m sure there was fat at RIM, the core problem sits squarely with management,” Ed Snyder from Charter Equity Research told Reuters. Another analyst, however, argued that the cuts were a necessary step for RIM as it adjusts to a “new growth, or sales, reality.”

In addition, RIM announced a number of changes to the roles and responsibilities of some of its senior managers. Most notably, the company said one of its three chief operating officers, Don Morrison, is retiring and that his responsibilities would fall to the remaining two, Thorsten Heins and Jim Rowan. As AllThingsD points out, though, the changes fail to address shareholder concerns that the real shakeup needed is at the very top with Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsille, who share CEO and chairmen duties.

Management changes are underway at AOL as well. Jeff Levick, the company’s top advertising executive, will be leaving the Internet firm after a six-week transition period as part of AOL’s effort to turn around its advertising sales. Ned Brody, who is in charge of the company’s advertising network, was promoted to chief revenue officer. During the first quarter, AOL’s Internet display advertising — big splashy ads on web pages — rose for the first time in three years, although its overall advertising revenue fell.

Texas Instruments, warning of economic uncertainties, forecast only modest sequential growth in the current quarter. For the second quarter TI earned $672 million, or 56 cents per share, compared with $769 million, or 62 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell to $3.46 billion from almost $3.5 billion and was slightly ahead of analysts’ consensus forecast.

The difference between Google and Aaron Swartz

By Kevin Webb
The opinions expressed are his own.

Reading about Aaron Swartz’s recent run-in with the law dredged up all kinds of feelings. I’m a long-time admirer of his work and was saddened to hear of his troubles. At the same time, reading the indictment, I was surprised by the seriousness of the charges and evidence against him.

I was also reminded of my own attempts at similar work, collecting and analyzing journal articles, patents,  and various forms of metadata. I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve spent sitting in basements of academic buildings, breaking federal laws in the pursuit of answers. And I was reminded of my colleagues who still spend their days painstakingly scraping data off the web–sometimes legally sometimes not–the name of academic inquiry.

None of us want to break the law. It’s simply that we don’t have a choice.

The mechanisms for sharing academic discourse are broken. They barely even function as systems for connecting interested parties within existing disciplines. Ask just about anyone who spends their time writing or consuming scholarly work and you will hear a litany of complaints about how poorly suited the academic publishing industry is to modern day collaboration.

Tech wrap: Apple plugs mobile software hole

Users of Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch mobile devices might want to take a minute to do a software update this weekend. Apple rolled out a security fix for its iOS mobile operating software on Friday that plugs a hole that could allow hackers to gain remote access to those devices. The security flaw was discovered last week after a website released code that Apple customers can use to modify the software through a process known as “jail breaking”.

Google said more than 10 million people have now signed up to the company’s new social networking service, Google+. The Internet giant’s CEO Larry Page announced the new user numbers during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Thursday, remarking that it has been “very well received, because in real life we share different things with different people.” That’s a reference to one of the service’s many features, Circles, which lets users sort friends into different groups (‘circles’)  and share information based on interests or affiliation. The afterglow following Google’s blockbuster results on Thursday extended into Friday, with the company’s shares surging as much as 13.5 percent at one point.

The much-hyped music streaming service Spotify has finally landed on U.S. shores. The UK-based digital music company rolled out its cloud-based service to a limited group in the United States on Thursday. CNN reports that for now the company is only accepting new members to its free service who receive invites from the company, a sponsor or a current user. Spotify has been a huge success with music lovers in Europe for years, but service problems and extended negotiations with record labels have delayed its U.S. launch.  Fortune’s JP Mangalindan explains why he thinks Spotify deserves all the hype.

Tech wrap: Google impresses investors

Google shares soared in after-hours trade as the company’s second-quarter revenue zoomed past Wall Street expectations. The Internet giant’s net revenue, which excludes fees paid to partner websites, jumped 36 percent to $6.92 billion in the second quarter. That’s not all investors had to cheer, though. Growth in a range of businesses from mobile to online video helped the company ring up a strong quarterly profit that also exceeded investor expectations.  “Google should be viewed as a growth company again this quarter,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan told Reuters. “The combination of mobile search, Android, ad exchange, YouTube, and the core search businesses, they’re all doing well. Google is no longer a one-trick pony.”

The pool of underwriters working on Groupon’s upcoming initial public offering just got a lot bigger. The online daily deals website has added 11 new underwriters, including JPMorgan, Allen & Co, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, William Blair & Co, Citadel Securities, Loop Capital Markets, RBC Capital Markets and the Williams Capital Group, according to an updated regulatory filing. They join Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, who were the lead underwriters named in the earlier filing.

Blockbuster unveiled a new promotion on Thursday aimed at scooping up Netflix subscribers who are unhappy about new price increases the company announced this week to its streaming-and-DVD plan. Blockbuster, which is owned by Dish Network, offered Netflix customers who switched to one of Blockbuster’s “total access” plans a 30-day free trial. Netflix has tried to deflect the rage from its subscribers. “We knew there would be some people who would be upset,” a company spokesman told the International Business Times recently. “To most people, it’s a latte or two.”

Live coverage: Google’s Q2 results

The investor spotlight will land on Google’s profit margins and newly released social networking service Google+ on Thursday afternoon when the world’s No.1 search company reports its second-quarter financial results.

Rising expenses and a steady stream of acquisitions in recent months have eaten into the company’s margins, but the recent launch of Google+ may help take some of the pressure off the company for its spending and help Wall Street warm to CEO Larry Page, who took over at the helm in April. Check in Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time (4:00 p.m. ET) for live coverage of the company’s results and conference call.

Tech wrap: Amazon plans Android tablet

Take note, Apple. Amazon.com wants to steal more of your customers. The online retailer plans to release a 9-inch tablet computer this fall that will run on Android software, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The company is building at least 1.5 million Amazon-branded devices for the third quarter and is aiming to ship 4.5 million to 5 million by the end of the year, according to a recent analyst note. The move should help Amazon expand its reach as the world’s largest Internet retailer and increase sales of digital content such as e-books, music and videos, posing more competition for Apple’s iTunes store.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only tech company looking to step up its game against Apple. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner announced at a conference that the software company will open 75 new retail stores over the next two to three years in an effort to take on Apple’s bricks-and-mortar outlets. Judging by a graphic published alongside the TechCrunch story, many of the new stores will be opening in the North East region of the U.S. where the company currently does not have any outlets.

Tech wrap: Apple vs HTC, round two

Apple has kicked its intellectual property dispute with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC up a notch. The company filed a new complaint against HTC with a U.S. trade panel over some of its portable electronic devices and software, according to the panel’s website.  Apple filed a similar action against the company last year and could be trying to strengthen the case against its rival by adding new patents to its claim this time around, notes AllThingD’s John Paczkowski. “It’s another broad warning to the industry,” he writes.“If you’re bringing a new smartphone to market, you had better make damn sure it doesn’t infringe on Apple’s IP.”

The first e-reader to fully integrate Google’s eBooks platform into its design goes on sale exclusively at Target stores across the U.S. next weekend, Google said in a blog post.  The iRiver Story HD lets users buy and read e-books from the service over Wi-Fi and store their personal collections in the cloud. Google offers more than 3 million free titles for download through its eBooks service, with hundreds of thousands more for sale.

LinkedIn, the online networking website aimed at professionals, surpassed Myspace in June to become the second-most popular social network in the United States, according to a new survey from comScore. Just how much more popular is LinkedIn now? According to the figures, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors in June, a jump of about a half a million from May. Myspace, on the other hand, saw its traffic decline to 33.5 million American visitors, a drop of about 1.4 million users from the previous month.

Tech wrap: New effort underway in Internet piracy fight

Can slower Internet speeds convince consumers to stop pirating copyrighted material online? That’s the assumption behind a new anti-piracy effort launched this week by a coalition of Internet service providers and groups representing movie studios and record labels.

Under the new initiative,  AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon have agreed to send customers email or pop-up alerts if it is suspected that their account is being used to download or share copyrighted material illegally. Should suspected illegal activity persist, providers might temporarily slow Internet speeds or redirect their browser to a specific Web page until the customer contacts the company.  Time’s Techland blog calls the effort “fairly reasonable” but points out that “it’s only a matter of time before someone is falsely accused of copyright infringement and throttled accordingly.” Users accused can seek an independent review of whether they acted illegally.

A major hedge fund dumped its stake in Yahoo after an ownership dispute earlier this year cut the value of the Internet giant’s China holdings. Back in May, Yahoo revealed that Alibaba Group, its Chinese unit, had transferred ownership of its valuable online payments business Alipay to a company owned by Jack Ma, Alipay’s CEO. “This isn’t what we signed up for,” Greenlight Capital’s head David Einhorn wrote in a letter to investors. “We exited with a modest loss.”

Tech wrap: Verizon ditches unlimited data plan

Verizon Wireless customers, say goodbye to the days of  unlimited Web surfing for a set fee on your smartphone. The biggest U.S. mobile provider will stop offering its $30 all-you-can-surf  deal later this week, replacing it with a new tiered approach to data pricing. Customers who keep their smartphone use to 2 gigbytes (GB) of data per month or under won’t see a change to their bill, but those who go over that limit will be slapped with an extra $10 charge per GB. Heavy mobile users will have the option of signing up for a 5 GB or 10 GB plan for $50 or $80 respectively. AT&T made a similar move last year, meaning Sprint is now the last major wireless carrier offering unlimited data use. CNET reports that Verizon will also start charging for access to its mobile hot-spot service, which up until this week has been free and without bandwidth restrictions.

Aspiring cord cutters across Latin America and the Caribbean, rejoice. Netflix is on its way. The company, which offers TV shows and movies over the Internet and DVD rentals through the mail, will be expanding its online video streaming service to 43 countries in the regions later this year. Shows and movies will be available to subscribers in Spanish, Portuguese or English on PCs, Macs and other mobile devices that are able to stream from Netflix, the company said in a blog post. The overseas expansion marks the company’s second foray outside the United States. It began offering its services in Canada last year.

You’ve heard it before and now you’ll hear it again – the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone is on its way this September. Supply-side sources told Asian IT industry newspaper DigiTimes that Taiwan-based notebook maker Pegatron Technology has received an order to make 15 million iPhone 5/iPhone 4 handsets that are set to ship sometime in September.  The iPhone 5 is not expected to differ much from the previous model on the surface, according to the report. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out, the real differences are expected to be “under the hood” where you’ll find a faster processor and better rear camera among other improvements.

Tech wrap: Want a Google+ invite? You may have to wait

Social media junkies pining for an invite to try out Google+ will have to wait a little bit longer. Google decided to temporarily stop inviting users to join its new social network less than two days after it launched the service. What gives? “Insane demand. We want to do this carefully, and in a controlled way,” a Google engineering executive said in a Google+ post on Wednesday night. A company spokeswoman contacted by Reuters declined to say whether the company had resumed invites on Thursday.

Reviews of Google+ are starting to filter in from those who’ve been lucky enough to get an invite. The general consensus seems to be that it’s a lot like Facebook and that it is an improvement over Google’s past social media efforts, Buzz and Wave.  ZDNet rounds up five things it loves about the new service. The Guardian pans the desktop version, but gives the mobile platform a thumbs up. PCWorld says it’s no Facebook. Wired calls its approach to privacy a “pretty good start”. And CNN explores one of its most distinctive features: video conferencing.

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters on Thursday his company is planning to unveil an “awesome” new feature next week.  Details were scant, but tech blogs have speculated in recent weeks about new mobile products in development at Facebook. Could it be the long-awaited iPad app? Or a dedicated photo-sharing app? Or, as tech blog GigaOm founder Om Malik joked on Twitter, is it just an attempt by Zuckerberg to divert attention away from Google+?