MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple teases “Mountain Lion”

Apple released details on the successor to its “Lion” operating system for Mac computers, due out late this summer. OS X 10.8, dubbed “Mountain Lion,” will inherit features already running on iPhones and iPads such as iMessage, Notification Center and AirPlay mirroring, according to an Apple press release. Game Center will give Mac users the opportunity to square off against gamers on iOS devices as well as other Mac users. A new feature called “Gatekeeper” is meant to give OS X users more control over what apps can be downloaded onto their Macs, further distinguishing Apple-approved apps from third-party ones. The plan to introduce more iOS functions to Apple’s desktop and laptop OS comes as Microsoft prepares to make its desktop applications more mobile with a rumored fall release of Windows 8.

Four months after one of Japan’s biggest corporate scandals, police and prosecutors arrested seven men, including the former president of Olympus and ex-bankers, over their role in a $1.7 billion accounting fraud at the medical equipment and camera maker. Three former executives arrested, ex-President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada, had been identified by an investigative panel, commissioned by Olympus, as the main culprits in the fraud, seeking to delay the reckoning from risky investments made in the late-1980′s bubble economy.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said that the company’s location-based service Groupon NOW will likely not be a material contributor to results in the next one or two quarters. Mason said customers of the company’s daily deals are using Groupon NOW too. However, he stressed that the new service will likely take time to grow. Groupon NOW is a relatively new service that differs from Groupon’s main daily deal business. Groupon subscribers can check on nearby deals that are happening in the next one or two hours, based on their location.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed voluntary steps for automakers that would establish new safety criteria for hands-free calling, navigation, and entertainment systems that have become common in new cars and trucks. The guidelines introduced recommend that automakers adopt technology to disable distracting electronic systems that are accessible to the driver — but not passengers — when a car is moving. The latest government figures show that roughly 10 percent of U.S. traffic deaths in 2010, or 3,092 people, were linked to distracted driving.

Tech wrap: RIM co-CEOs seen losing chairman role

RIM is close to a decision on stripping its co-chief executives of their other shared role as chairman of the board, The National Post newspaper said, a change that could meet a key demand from angry and disillusioned investors. The Post’s sources said Barbara Stymiest, currently an independent member of RIM’s board, is leading the race to replace Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in the chairmanship. RIM shares jumped more than 7 percent on the news. But some analysts doubted Stymiest, if named to the chairmanship, would actually assume the transformational role that activist shareholders are calling for.

Groupon shares closed the day down 6.6 percent after a Susquehanna Financial Group – Yipit survey of almost 400 merchants found that while 8 out of 10 merchants enjoyed working with daily deal companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, 52 percent were not planning to feature deals in the next six months and nearly 24 percent intended to feature only one deal during the same period.

Apple is planning an event to be held in New York later this month that will focus on publishing and eBooks, AllThingsD and Techcrunch reported. The event will unveil improvements to Apple’s iBooks platform, Techcrunch wrote.

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.

Tech wrap: Is intellectual property being used to restrict competition?

EU regulators investigating Apple and Samsung over their patents dispute are worried intellectual property rights may be unfairly used by some firms against their rivals, the EU antitrust chief said. “We need to look at this because IP rights can be used as a distortion of competition but we will need to look at the answers,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters. “Apple and Samsung is only one case where IP rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition,” he said.

Netflix’s shares dropped as much as 7 percent after it warned of a loss for 2012, a move that prompted several Wall Street analysts to cut their price targets for the online video and DVD rental company. Netlfix said that it had recently lost a “significant” number of customers, who objected to Netflix’s decisions to raise its prices and split up its streaming and DVD business — an idea it later dropped. “If we do not reverse the negative consumer sentiment toward our brand, and if we continue to experience significant customer cancellations and a decline in subscriber additions, our results of operations including our cash flow will be adversely impacted,” Netflix said. Netflix shares ended the day down 5.4 percent at $70.45.

Groupon stock slumped on concern about increased competition, leaving shares of the largest daily deal company close to their $20 initial public offering price. LivingSocial, Groupon’s closest rival, announced plans on Monday to offer 20 deals with national merchants on the crucial Black Friday shopping period. Groupon shares ended the trading day down nearly 15 percent.

Me Too: More funding for HouseTrip.com

Me Too is a scorned strategy among many entrepreneurs, but it sometimes works quite well.

Case in point: HouseTrip.com, which just lined up another $17 million in funding from investors including Index Ventures and Balderton Capital. Think of the company, which was founded in Switzerland and allows homeowners to rent out their properties on a short-term basis, as a kind of HomeAway or Airbnb, but with European flair. Its top destinations include Paris, London and Barcelona; rentals include a houseboat in Amsterdam and a cave house in Santorini.

HomeAway did very well for its VC backers, including Redpoint Ventures and Institutional Venture Partners,  raising $216 million in an IPO in June.  Shortly afterwards,  Airbnb.com — which allows people to rent out rooms and sofas as well as entire houses or apartments– raised $112 million from backers like Andreessen Horowitz and DST Global.

What’s the deal with Groupon?

Watch Groupon Stock Soars, but Does It Have Lasting Value? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Groupon’s non-stratospheric IPO last Friday is really good news for all concerned:

    The underwriters don’t have to explain their pricing Voo-Doo, because only an acceptable amount of money was left on the table. Andrew Mason & Co. get to gloat, at least for a while, about spurning Google and earning a valuation some twice the reported terms — even though Google went into the daily deal business in a way which looks and feels incredibly like Groupon. Merchants who might have had reservations about the appeal of Groupon saw just how much attention was lavished on the company. Members will continue to get random offerings and spend money on things they didn’t know they wanted.

Such a deal!

Lots of IPOs, just one Nasdaq bell

Nasdaq’s senior vice president of new listings and capital markets has some bad news for companies looking to hold an initial public offering: don’t expect to ring the opening bell.

The backlog of companies looking to list in the next few months is so big that “I’m going to disappoint a lot of people,” said Robert McCooey during an IPO panel at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth conference.  “Some people won’t even get a closing bell ceremony.” He counts 210 companies hoping to list on public markets.

It’s not just the successful IPO of Groupon last week that has changed sentiment. It’s the better — if not outright good — economic news in recent weeks, along with a solid earnings season, that is creating momentum, said David Erickson, co-head of equity capital markets at Barclays Capital. He said the firm was currently working with four companies that hoped to set IPO prices by Thanksgiving, in little more than two weeks’ time.

The dreary details of Groupon’s future

By Kevin Kelleher
The views expressed are his own.

Underwriting is usually a cheerless business. Taking a company public involves long regulatory filings, endless hours of due diligence and PowerPoint-driven roadshows. Investors need details, even if the details are dreary.

And then there’s the Groupon IPO. The daily deal company went public at $20 a share Friday and surged as high as 40%, briefly valuing the company at $20 billion. It may not be the hottest tech IPO so far this year — that distinction belongs to LinkedIn, which doubled its value on its first day — but it is the most discussed and divisive deal. Bulls and bears argue over the company and its future with a kind of passion that belongs to the culture wars.

On its face, the IPO is just about a company raising money, but it’s also so much more: It’s a spectacle — a dramatic tale of the fastest growing company in history brushing off a $6 billion bid by Google to go public and quickly become worth three times as much. It’s a scrappy outsider vindicating critics who attacked it mercilessly during an enforced quiet period. It’s a gaudy billboard luring other tech startups to come into the public markets.

Tech wrap: Groupon goes public, super nova

Shares of daily deals site Groupon rose more than 50 percent in their stock market debut, but at least some of the early trading exuberance may have come from limiting the fraction of the company that was sold. The shares rose as high as $31.14, or 55.7 percent above the IPO price, in early trading on the Nasdaq, at one point pushing the market value of the company up to $19.9 billion.  The shares later eased back, closing at $26.11. Despite the early success, there are still lingering questions about Groupon’s business model and about competition from better-funded rivals such as Amazon.com and Google.

Yahoo has signed confidentiality agreements with several parties interested in buying all or part of the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The Internet pioneer said potential buyers had to sign an agreement by Friday to be allowed a close look at Yahoo’s finances. But the Friday deadline could be extended into next week to provide more time for other firms to sign on, the sources said. Some private equity firms have balked at signing Yahoo’s nondisclosure agreement because of restrictions that would prevent them from forming consortiums, sources told Reuters last week.

EU regulators are investigating whether Samsung and Apple may have breached EU antitrust laws with patent infringement claims in their global legal battle over the lucrative smartphone and tablet market. “The (European) Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of ‘standards-essential’ patents in the mobile telephony sector,” the European Commission said in a statement. Standards-essential patents means they have been incorporated in internationally accepted technology standards, which in the case of Samsung and Apple, means 3G and UMTS technology.

Seviche doesn’t love Groupon anymore

Groupon’s IPO roadshow pitch is revving into high-gear this week. But CEO Andrew Mason and the rest of the crew might want to first convince its own clients of the company’s benefits.

Seviche, the merchant prominently featured in Groupon Inc’s now-trundling IPO roadshow, is no longer keen on jumping on the daily deals bandwagon. Worse, one of its general managers is mildly contesting Mason’s account of the benefits of their promotion run in 2010.

Hap Cohan, general manager of the Louisville, Kentucky-based restaurant, said on Tuesday the Groupon was in fact run by previous management (the restaurant brought in new investors over the past year). The new owners do not immediately see the benefits of a Groupon, at least not now.