MediaFile

Tech wrap: Microsoft carts out Mango phone OS

Microsoft announced an update of its Windows phone software, code-named Mango, hoping a host of new features will help it close the gap on smartphone leaders Google and Apple. The update involves 500 new features, including IE 9 as the mobile browser, integrated Twitter and LinkedIn feeds, automated Facebook check-ins, and access to more than 17,000 downloadable applications.

The updated software will appear on new Windows phones beginning this fall, and be available for existing Windows phone users before that, although Microsoft has not set a timetable for making the update available.

Nokia said in statement that their first Windows Phone devices will be powered by the Mango OS.

Barnes & Noble unveiled a new e-reader that features a touchscreen, weighs less than a paperback book and has a battery life of two months. The latest Nook will sell for $139, the same price as Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, and will start shipping on June 10. The touchscreen device weighs 7.5 ounces, has a 6-inch display, and allows a user to look up words, highlight passages and adjust the font size.

While the black and white Nook introduced on Tuesday is more than $100 cheaper than its color counterpart, the price would likely drop by the holiday season, Forrester research analyst James McQuivey said. He added the new Nook should put some distance between it and Amazon, which doesn’t have color or touchscreen features in its e-reader.

Tech wrap: Sony takes a $3.2 billion beating

Sony will post its third straight annual net loss for the year that ended in March after writing off tax credits in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, the latest in a string of grim headlines on the consumer electronics giant. The firm, which previously forecast a net profit of 70 billion yen for 2010/11, surprised markets on Monday by declaring the need to update investors with revised estimates ahead of its official earnings report on Thursday. Sony said it now expected to post a net loss of 260 billion yen ($3.2 billion). The annual net loss would be Sony’s second-largest ever.

IBM surged past old rival Microsoft in market value for the first time since April 1996, marking the latest twist in the fluctuating fortunes of two of the world’s most storied tech companies. Microsoft’s stock has been stagnant since the tech bubble burst in 2000, as investors doubt its ability to move beyond its Windows operating system and Office suite of software. In the meantime, “Big Blue” has refashioned itself as a specialist in business software, servers and consulting, jettisoning its PC business along the way.

Shares of Apple regrouped after Wall Street brushed off the impact of an explosion last week that shut a Foxconn factory in China producing its iPad.

Tech wrap: LinkedIn shares skyrocket in debut

LinkedIn made its remarkable debut on the New York Stock Exchange, at times trading more than 171 percent above its IPO price of $45. The stampede to buy the stock had some remembering back to another time when investors also loved tech stock IPOs: the 1990s and the dotcom bubble.

Does the response to LinkedIn suggest investors are in for another bubble that bursts when the fundamentals overtake the hype? Or is it a sign that investors are hungry for any piece of the social media pie and LinkedIn’s happens to be first out of the oven? While Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga are still expected to go public, LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner cautions that his company’s spectacular debut should not be seen as a proxy for them.

While American social media companies are testing the IPO waters, their European counterparts at Viadao, Mind Candy, Sulake and Telmap are expressing skepticism at the Reuters Global Technology Summit about the sky-high valuations of U.S. start-ups and the potential for another bubble.

Tech wrap: Blame game at HP

What is responsible for Hewlett-Packard’s bleak profit outlook? Ask CEO Leo Apotheker and he’ll blame it on “missed opportunities” in a troubled division under his predecessor Mark Hurd.

Apotheker, who took over in September, plans to spend heavily to revamp the beleaguered unit to focus on consulting, cloud computing and higher-margin businesses.

Dell reported profits that blew past Wall Street estimates and raised its fiscal 2012 outlook for operating income for fiscal 2012, sending shares in the No.2 PC maker up in after-hours trading.

Tech wrap: LinkedIn IPO values firm at over $3 billion

LinkedIn, the social site for business professionals which attracts professionals and job seekers with 100 million worldwide members, is hoping to cash in with a public debut valuing the company at more than $3 billion.

Last week’s trading debut of Renren, one of the biggest social networking companies in China, is another indicator of investor interest in social media companies. Renren’s stock surged 28.6 percent in its May 4 debut.

The tantalizing prospect of finding the next Facebook, Groupon or Twitter is driving the biggest rush of venture capital since dot-com mania first boomed and then fizzled more than a decade ago, writes Jenny Harris and Jennifer Rogers. But characteristics of the current boom do set it apart. Online advertising and e-commerce are accepted as reliable revenue sources and there are more profitable young companies today, Harris and Rogers argue.

Friending you soon on Facebook: Your insurance agent

Corporate America has gradually warmed up to social networking this past year, as companies have discovered the benefits of advertising on popular online services like Facebook.

But Hearsay, a start-up co-founded by ex-Google/Salesforce.com alumni Clara Shih, thinks companies can also benefit by making their employees interact more on social networks.

Hearsay helps corporations that have multiple local outlets, from coffee chains to insurance firms, communicate with customers on Facebook, LinkedIin and Twitter — a company can distribute pre-approved marketing promotions to local store managers or agents, who can then customize it and broadcast it to their networks of friends, for example.

LinkedIn’s secret anti-Facebook weapon: Keg Stands

BeerKeg LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has two words that reassure him that his professional social network is not threatened by Facebook: Keg stands.

Weiner took a moment to explain the ever-popular college tradition of imbibing beer directly from the tap of a keg while being suspended upside-down by drinking mates during his talk at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

“While many of us in college probably were at parties having a good time, doing things like keg stands, or being exposed to keg stands, I don’t know that many of us would look forward to having a prospective employer have access to picture of those events,” Weiner said.

from Summit Notebook:

VC’s Lament: the ones that got away

Vic Gundotra, Vice President of engineering at Google (R) and Omar Hamoui, founder and CEO of AdMob converse during the "Mobile: Where's The Money Going?" panel at the Fortune Tech Brainstorm 2009 in Pasadena, California July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Whether it’s passing up on a ticket to Woodstock or not buying Apple stock at $80 a share in January 2009, everybody has regrets.

So what do VCs regret?

We asked the panel of three money-men gathered for the VC Panel at the Reuters Technology Summit for their biggest laments when it comes to the deals they let get away.

“For me the one that comes to mind is AdMob,” said Khosla Ventures partner David Weiden, referring to the mobile advertising firm that Google announced plans to acquire for $750 million in November.

All about the plastic: Swipely follows Blippy into social shopping

What do you get when you combine shopping and social media?

The answer, it seems, is the latest craze among tech investors.

On Tuesday, Swipely announced $7.5 million in Series A funding and the launch of a service that publishes info about person’s credit card purchases to groups of friends.

SwipelyimageThe funding was led by Index Ventures, and includes such celebrity patrons of social media as Chris Sacca, an early Twitter backer, and Ron Conway. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, whose VC firm Greylock Partners also took part in the funding round, will join Swipely’s board as an observer.

Swipely’s windfall comes shortly after Blippy pocketed roughly $11 million in funding, according to media reports, to help it push forward with a similar type of service. Among Blippy’s backers are Sequoia Capital and Evan Williams, better known as the CEO of Twitter.

LinkedIn no longer MIA on BlackBerry

BlackBerry smartphones and LinkedIn seem like a natural fit, with both heavily used by the corporate set.

Yet the business-oriented social network, which released an app for the Apple iPhone 18 months ago, hasn’t had a specialized app for the armies of BlackBerry-wielding users.

That changed on Monday evening, when LinkedIn made its BlackBerry debut with a free app designed for users of the Research in Motion BlackBerry Curve, Bold and Tour series of smartphones.