MediaFile

Tech wrap: New Apple iMacs built for speed

Apple refreshed its lineup of iMac computers with new Intel processors that it says are up to 70 percent faster and with USB-like ports that are up to 20 times as fast. Thunderbolt ports support displays and devices. The new iMacs also feature a new HD Web camera. Apple said the iMacs are on sale online and at its retail stores starting at $1,199.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer faced harsh criticism of his leadership after the company revealed hackers may have stolen the data of another 25 million accounts in a second massive security breach. The breach of the Sony Online Entertainment PC games network may also have led to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers, Sony said. Investors said Sony and Stringer had botched the data security crisis. “The way Sony handled the whole thing goes to show that it lacks the ability to manage crises,” Michael On of Beyond Asset Management in Taipei said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that RIM will use Microsoft’s Bing search engine and maps as default options on its new BlackBerry devices. RIM’s move, coupled with its close partnership with Adobe Systems, sketches out a strategy of cooperation in a mobile market now dominated by Apple and Google. The strategy illustrates that the mobile market is entering a new phase that focuses on feature consolidation and “co-opetition,” writes GigaOM’s Kevin Tofel. The old strategy, which lasted from 2007 until recently, focused on new platforms, user interfaces and the emergence of the mobile app economy, Tofel adds.

Google is violating the spirit of the open access it bid $4.6 billion to protect by making tethering apps unavailable at its Android Market, writes Chris Ziegler. DroidLife’s Kellex wrote last week that tethering apps were unavailable for all of his phones running on AT&T’s network. Engadget yesterday found no tethering apps available on the Android Market for phone networks running on AT&T and T-Mobile and only one on Verizon. Tethering apps make it easier for users to circumvent the official tethering capabilities offered on smartphones that carry a plan surcharge.

Twitter made an offer to acquire TweetDeck, the popular third-party software application for Twitter and other social networking services, for up to $50 million, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The deal would give Twitter an application that has won praise among sophisticated users for its slick interface and enhanced capabilities, while closing out a potential threat to Twitter’s fast-growing service.

Tech wrap: How bold is the new BlackBerry?

RIM showed off a new version of its BlackBerry Bold phone with upgraded software, aiming to regain its stride after last week’s profit warning and other recent stumbles. RIM also said it will manage corporate and government communications sent using Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and devices running Google’s Android software, through its secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

The BlackBerry Bold Touch, the model most geared toward the business market, has a 2.8-inch screen and retains the company’s trademark physical qwerty keyboard with a 1.2 GHz processor. It will ship with a near-field communication (NFC) chip, allowing the phone to be used as a mobile wallet, executives said at the annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando. The Bold Touch running on Blackberry OS 7 will be released sometime this summer. The new OS won’t be supported on older devices, the company said.

Sohaib Athar, a resident of Abbottabad, the Pakistani city where Osama bin Laden was holed up in a fortified mansion, “liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”, setting off a firestorm of activity on Twitter.

Tech wrap: RIM shares dive ahead of BlackBerry World

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/RIM/Handout

Research in Motion shares tanked to their lowest level since October after the BlackBerry maker slashed its sales and earnings forecasts Thursday, an unexpected blow that followed an anemic forecast in late March and last week’s troubled launch of its PlayBook tablet. “We’ve heard for too long about RIM’s great product roadmap. Consumers are not listening nor waiting,” National Bank analysts said in a note. “RIM does not even seem to have dual cameras on its upcoming BlackBerry product line-up. The last time we checked, video is the future.” All hope seems to rest on what the Canadian company pulls out of its labs and onto center stage at BlackBerry World, starting Monday, where the company will unveil a new generation of touchscreen BlackBerrys.

Microsoft shares fell their most in almost two years, a day after reporting a dip in Windows sales. Investors were concerned with lower personal computer sales nagging at Windows, Xbox sales bringing down profit margins and losses in Microsoft’s online business.

Strong demand for smartphones gave a further boost to overall cellphone market volumes in January-March and made Apple a rare winner on the market, research firms said. IDC saw January-March market growth of 20 percent, helped also by strong gains by smaller vendors as the three largest phone makers — Nokia, Samsung and LG — lost market share. Apple’s iPhone sales more than doubled from a year ago, buoyed by strong sales on Verizon Wireless and additional carrier deals elsewhere, with market share rising to 5 percent.

Tech wrap: Privacy storm strikes Sony, passes Apple

Apple denied it is tracking the movements of its iPhone customers, but said it will provide a software update that stores less location information on phones in response to public outcry over privacy issues. Apple plans to release a software update that would cut the size of the wireless hotspot location database stored on its iPhones, and stop backing up that information. The software will be released in the next few weeks, it said.

Users of location-based services like those offered on iPhones have a hard time reconciling the security and privacy implications that come with allowing third parties access to their information, writes Mashable’s Christina Warren.

Sony’s delay in announcing that hackers had stolen names, addresses and possibly credit card details from the 77 million user accounts of its video game online network sparked an online furor from users. Some gamers writing in online forums called for a boycott of Sony products, while shoppers at London video-games stores said they might leave the PSN network, which allows them to play games with other members and buy games online. A Sony spokesman said that after learning of the breach it took “several days of forensic investigation” before the company knew consumers’ data had been compromised.

Tech wrap: Sony admits PlayStation Network privacy breach

A visitor plays with a Playstation at an exhibition stand at the Gamescom 2009 fair in Cologne in this August 22, 2009 file photo. Reuters/Ina Fassbender

An unauthorized person stole names, addresses and other personal data belonging to about 77 million people who have accounts on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony said. The person gained access to people’s names, addresses, email address, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more, Sony said on its U.S. PlayStation blog.

Amazon.com’s quarterly sales beat expectations but earnings fell steeply as it spent heavily on everything from online multimedia services to its Kindle e-reader. Net income for the world’s largest online retailer was $201 million, down 32.8 percent from $299 million, a year earlier. Revenue was $9.86 billion. “This is another investment year…It’s probably not going to be until Q4 that we see some leverage from that,” Lazard Capital Markets’ Colin Sebastian said.

Tech wrap: Apple beats Google to the music cloud

Storm clouds gather over Hanoi's skyline September 21, 2009. REUTERS/KhamApple has completed work on an online music storage service and is set to launch it ahead of Google, whose own music efforts have stalled, according to several people familiar with both companies’ plans. The sources revealed that Apple’s plans will allow iTunes customers to store their songs on a remote server, and then access them from wherever they have an Internet connection and that Apple has yet to sign any new licenses for the service and major music labels are hoping to secure deals before the service is launched. Amazon.com launched a music locker service earlier in April without new licensing agreements leading to threats of legal action from some music companies.

Verizon gained wireless subscribers with Apple’s iPhone, but the device’s affect on its financials failed to impress investors. Verizon Wireless posted 906,000 net new subscribers, roughly in line with expectations. That was much better than AT&T, which added only 62,000 net subscribers in the quarter as it lost iPhone exclusivity. However, a key sticking point for investors when comparing the two operators was the fact that AT&T won more new iPhone customers in the quarter than Verizon. Verizon announced that it would sell a new version of the iPhone later this year that, unlike its current iPhone, would work globally.

The risky attempt by The New York Times to charge fees to website readers looks to be paying off, although it still faces stiff challenges in turning around a fall-off in print advertising revenue at its core business. The company gained more than 100,000 new subscribers since it introduced its digital subscription service on March 28, representing at least an estimated $26 million in annual revenue and trouncing early expectations for the service.

Tech wrap: Q1 earnings beat expectations, RIM’s PlayBook – not so much

A video wall displays Intel's logos at the unveiling of its second generation Intel Core processor family during a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Rick WilkingIntel forecast quarterly revenues well above Wall Street’s estimates despite a hiccup in sales of its Sandy Bridge processors after the discovery of a chipset design flaw and defying fears the world’s top chip maker is struggling to find its footing as personal computer sales growth wanes.

IBM raised its profit forecast as the tech giant released quarterly earnings ahead of Wall Street projections, citing strong sales of its mainframe computers and brisk business in emerging markets.

Yahoo posted quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street targets amid threats to the No. 1 provider of online display ads in the U.S. from Facebook and continuing pressure from search leader Google.

Tech wrap: Google’s spending overshadows revenue growth

Google co-founder Larry Page in a file photo. REUTERS/Rick WilkingGoogle’s stunning 54 percent spending surge spooked investors already worried its new CEO Larry Page may take his eye off the bottom line to chase revenue growth, driving its shares more than 5 percent lower. Investors zeroed in on the stunning surge in expenses to $2.84 billion, which dwarfed a 29 percent jump in net revenue and reflected a record hiring spree, company-wide salary raises, and splurging on everything from marketing to technology. “If the expenses are targeted and result in future revenue streams, then good for Larry. If not, that results in an undisciplined spending approach”, said Colin Gillis, analyst at BGC Partners.

RIM’s PlayBook tablet bombed with influential technology reviewers calling the new iPad competitor a rushed job that won’t even provide RIM’s vaunted email service unless it’s hooked up to a BlackBerry. “RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell,” New York Times’s David Pogue wrote. Even though the odd system on the PlayBook, aimed at pleasing security-concerned corporate customers, “is a neat technical feat, it makes the PlayBook a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than a fully independent device,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg.

Suppliers to Apple began production of white iPhones after a delay of almost 10 months, pointing to a launch date of within a month, two people familiar with the situation said.

Live Coverage: Will Page lead Google’s call?

Wall Street formally meets the new Larry Page-led Google on Thursday afternoon when the world’s No.1 Internet search company reports first-quarter financial results.

The 38-year-old Page has a lot on his plate now that he’s CEO of the company he co-founded thirteen years ago. Will he crack open Google’s $35 billion cash coffers to take on Facebook or to pay off shareholders? Will there be more self-driving cars funded at the Googleplex? Will Page even be on the analyst conference call? Check in Thursday at 1:30pm Pacific Time for a live blog of the highly-anticipated call.

Tech wrap: iPhone 5 home for Christmas, maybe

An Apple staff demonstrates a new Verizon iPhone 4 at Verizon's iPhone 4 launch event in New York January 11, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidApple’s iPhone 5 isn’t expected to hit the market until Christmas or early next year, according to Business Insider’s Jay Yarow. Avian Securities said in a note, based on conversations with a “key component supplier” to Apple, that the the iPhone 5 should go into production in September and that Apple could also be developing a lower price/lower spec iPhone model, Yarrow writes.

The $214 billion cellphone industry is bracing for a hit to its supply of components as top phone makers get set to report quarterly earnings next week. “We believe the shortages will start to bite in the third quarter, when we’ll get a clearer picture of who is most affected,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.

On average analysts expect global cellphone sales volumes to have grown 10.8 percent in January-March, according to 18 analysts in a Reuters poll. The phone market has recovered from a slump in 2009, but growth is expected to have peaked in the first half of 2010, with a slowdown to 9 percent forecast for 2011, the Reuters poll showed.