MediaFile

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Office shines, Windows lacks luster

Microsoft reported a greater-than-expected 30 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by sales of its Office software, but profit from its core Windows product fell on soft PC sales. Microsoft posted net profit of $5.87 billion, or 69 cents per share, compared with $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 58 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“These are great results given a slower PC environment and it highlights how the company has multiple revenue streams. The $17 billion unearned revenue, which is a forward indicator of business, shows they signed a lot of deals this quarter,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

AT&T posted better-than-expected subscriber growth for the second quarter, pushing its profits and sales past Wall Street estimates despite the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to sell the Apple iPhone.

Nokia’s outlook for its handset business to be profitable in the current quarter brought some relief to its battered share price but analysts doubted it would dispel fears about the future of the onetime cellphone leviathan. Nokia said it sold 16.7 million smartphones in the quarter, falling behind Apple’s 20.3 million iPhones. Its quarterly phone sales volume were down 20 percent from a year ago, missing analysts’ forecasts, at a time when the overall global market grew around 10 percent.

After a brief hiatus and an FBI takedown of several alleged “hacktivists,” two groups that claimed responsibility for a recent wave of cyber vandalism said they are back. A statement was posted online on Thursday jointly by the groups, Anonymous and Lulz Security, after U.S. authorities arrested 16 people earlier this week for several attacks, most prominently Anonymous’ attempt to cripple eBay’s PayPal site after it stopped accepting donations to the WikiLeaks organization.

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.”

Tech wrap: Netflix jacks prices, adds DVD-only option

Netflix subscribers could see their monthly bill increase starting this fall. The company announced it is doing away with a combo plan that lets customers watch unlimited movies and TV shows online and get DVDs by mail for $9.99 a month. Starting in September, current subscribers who want both services will have to pay $7.99 per month to rent one DVD plus an added $7.99 for unlimited streaming, for a total of $15.98 a month. That’s an increase of 60 percent. The new pricing begins immediately for new customers. Old-fashioned types who just want DVDs now have the option of an unlimited DVD-only plan that costs $7.99 for one at a time or $9.99 for two at a time. Good or bad news, depending on how you use Netflix.

Changes are afoot in Apple’s legal department. The tech giant’s chief patent lawyer Richard “Chip” Lutton Jr. plans to leave the company soon, sources close to the matter told Reuters. So who will Apple tap to oversee the many legal battles it’s fighting against rival smartphone makers around the world? Apple is mum on the matter, but BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett-Packard, is now listed as Apple’s chief intellectual property counsel on Watrous’s LinkedIn Web page.

Would Research in Motion be better off as two companies? That’s an idea that was floated on Tuesday by an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, who argued that the BlackBerry maker could spur innovation by splitting itself up into separate network and handset businesses. The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm has fallen behind rivals in recent months, leaving investors hungry for news about how the company intends to reverse its lackluster performance.

Tech wrap: Government bringing knife to cyber gun fight?

A recent wave of computer network attacks has boosted concerns about U.S. vulnerability to digital warfare. The Obama administration is racing on multiple fronts to plug the holes in the U.S. cyber defense, focusing on an expanded effort to safeguard its contractors from hackers and building a virtual firing range in cyberspace to test new technologies.

However, the overall gap appears to be widening, as adversaries and criminals move faster than the government and corporations can respond, officials and analysts say.

Microsoft has made available a Windows 7-compatible test version of the software behind its hit Kinect motion-sensing game device, in the hope that developers will invent a host of “hands-free” features for standard PCs.

Is Groupon a savior or a destroyer?

By James Ledbetter

The opinions expressed are his own.

You could hardly imagine a starker contrast. The Wall Street Journal this week portrayed Groupon and rival group-purchasing sites as the ultimate friend of the small business owner. The Journal interviewed Cynthia Yee, who runs a Chinatown walking-tour business in San Francisco. Yee told the paper she’d participated in at least 7 “deal of the day” promotions in the last 18 months; Groupon alone sold a whopping 1700 vouchers for Yee’s service. Yee estimates that the deals brought in $25,000, and her trade has exploded to the point where she’s had to hire two assistants.

But that was not how things went for Posies Cafe in Portland, Oregon. In a lengthy series this month on TechCrunch, entrepreneur Rocky Agrawal has used Jessie Burke’s nightmare experience to paint Groupon not only as an unscrupulous exploiter of small business, but as a company built on a house of cards. (A lengthy video interview with Burke is below, and you can also read her blog account.)

 

These are only the most recent and prominent observers predicting that Groupon will fail, essentially because it is bad for businesses.

Copious takes a stab a social commerce

Facebook is keen on seeing established industries get re-built with a social networking foundation, holding up the success of game-maker Zynga as the standard template.

So it’s not surprising that a former Facebook employee is behind a new effort to “socialize” e-commerce.

Copious, which launches in beta on Wednesday, aims to create a marketplace that makes heavy use of a person’s network of friends and acquaintances. Buyers and sellers use their real identities, logging on to the marketplace through Facebook Connect, so users can have more trust in the people they transact with, the company says.

from Entrepreneurial:

Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special

-- Brad Feld is a managing director at the Boulder, Colorado-based venture capital firm Foundry Group. He also co-founded TechStars and writes the popular blog, Feld Thoughts. The views expressed are his own. --

Every day I get numerous emails from software and Internet entrepreneurs describing their newest ideas.

Often these entrepreneurs think their idea is brand new – that no one has ever thought of it before. Other times they ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect their idea. Occasionally the emails mysteriously allude to the idea without really saying what it is.

Are we living through another tech bubble?

By Kevin O’Connor

The views expressed are his own.

Yesterday’s announcement that Groupon is planning an IPO has accelerated the view (at least in some quarters) that we are living through a second tech bubble, fueled by social media companies.

Perhaps we are, but the conclusions to draw from that are not so simple. I still remember the negative reaction we received from potential investors back in 1995 concerning our forecast for Internet growth.  Well, they were right – our forecasts were way, way off – the Internet grew a lot faster than we or anybody else could envision.

I lived through the bursting of the dot-com bubble and watched in horror as our stock – DoubleClick – plummeted, with 75% of our customers going out of business.  My mother was so embarrassed I was a CEO of an Internet company she began telling friends I was a mid-level crack dealer.

Tech wrap: Groupon offers itself to the public

Online coupon company Groupon filed for an initial public offering of up to $750 million, the latest in a series of Internet companies to tap the U.S. capital markets. In April, a source told Reuters that Groupon could raise as much as $1 billion in the IPO, which could value the fast-growing daily deals site at $15 billion to $20 billion. The IPO filing did not specify the number of shares to be sold in the IPO, the price range, or the exchange, though it did say the shares would trade under the symbol “GRPN.”

Groupon is losing an astounding amount of money, but generating an equally impressive amount of revenue, writes Silicon Alley Insider’s Jay Yarrow. In the first three months of 2011, it had a net loss of $114 million. For all of 2010, its loss was $414 million. For the first three months this year it generated $645 million in revenue, a 1,366 percent increase from the year prior, when it generated $44 million, adds Yarrow.

The hacker group calling itself Lulz Security said that it broke into servers that run the SonyPictures.com website, and then compromised the personal information of more than 1 million Sony customers. Lulz Security said in a statement posted on its website that it hacked into a database that included unencrypted passwords as well as names, address and birth dates of Sony’s customers.

Groupon’s Andrew Mason demonstrates how to stonewall

By Sarah McBride in Palos Verdes

Once he got entrepreneurial, Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason had to change his stance on copycatting. What he once considered plagiarism – after a few years in the wild and woolly world of business – he now considers fair game. Sorta.

“They call it competition,” he told conference-goers at All Things Digital in Rancho Palos Verdes.

These days, “I’m used to it. I’m on board,” he said without enthusiasm, while the audience laughed. (Groupon’s online-deal competitors include Living Social.)