MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple’s “Siri” spurs iPhone 4S sales

Apple said it sold 4 million iPhone 4S devices in the new smartphone’s first three days on the market, setting up a strong December quarter for the world’s largest technology company. Helped by availability in more countries and on more telecommunications carrier networks, the iPhone 4S, which went on sale last Friday, managed to outshine the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million over its first three days. Unveiled just a day before Steve Jobs died, it was initially dubbed a disappointment, partly because it looked identical to its predecessor. But anticipation of its “Siri” voice software helped it set an online record in pre-orders on October 7.

Shares of RIM dropped 6.55 percent in the U.S., closing at $22.40, after the company sought to appease disgruntled BlackBerry customers by offering free apps and technical support to make up for last week’s global smartphone outage. RIM said it will offer premium apps worth more than $100 to customers and a month of technical support for businesses free of charge, hoping to stem fresh defections from the BlackBerry, whose market share was already shrinking before the incident. RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie declined to estimate how much the offer would cost RIM and said he was unable to say whether RIM might have to revise its earnings forecast for the current quarter, which ends in late November.

IBM’s third-quarter revenue met expectations as corporate spending on information technology held up in the face of economic worries, and the company bumped up its 2011 earnings outlook. Revenue rose 8 percent from a year earlier to $26.2 billion, in line with the average forecast of $26.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Samsung said that it had filed for sales bans on Apple’s iPhone 4S in Australia and Japan, escalating a legal battle with its arch-rival and biggest client. The move came after Samsung filed preliminary injunction motions against the latest iPhone in France and Italy less than a day after the device was unveiled, claiming the product infringed its patents. Samsung’s latest salvo came after the South Korean electronics giant suffered a series of setbacks in its ongoing legal battles with Apple.

The flash sales business has lost some of its flash, forcing online luxury clothing merchants to radically change their business models. Businesses such as Gilt Groupe, Ideeli and Rue La La burst onto the fashion scene during the recession to try to move a mountain of unsold clothes. Now there is less luxury inventory and flash sales sites are bigger. That has forced companies to pay more or find other ways to get their products. “Bad evoloution” in the flash sales business is also to blame for the gloomy outlook, said Mike Steib, CEO of vente-privee USA, a joint venture between Vente Privee and American Express, which is launching a flash sales site in the U.S.. “People are worried about the luxury buyer going down market.”

Tech wrap: Hackers target PayPal, again

PayPal is once again caught in the crosshairs of prominent hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec. The two groups released a joint statement on document-sharing website Pastebin on Wednesday urging their supporters who use the eBay-owned online payment service to close down their accounts in protest at the site’s continued refusal to process donations to whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

The message also criticized PayPal for helping police track down hackers suspected of taking part in an earlier attack on the company’s website in December that was allegedly coordinated by Anonymous. A spokesman for PayPal told Reuters that the company had observed no changes in “normal operations,” including the number of accounts that had been closed overnight.

Separately, a British teenager was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of being a leader of the LulzSec collective, which has boasted of breaking into the networks of the CIA, Sony and many other private and public bodies. The teenager is thought to be a spokesman for both LulzSec and Anonymous and uses the hacker nickname “Topiary,” London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement.

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.

Tech wrap: Google probed

U.S. antitrust regulators started a formal investigation into whether Google abuses its market power by favoring its own services over those of rivals in online searches and through other practices. The company has been accused of anticompetitive practices by other companies doing business online. “It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand,” Google said on its official blog. “Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that if we focus on the user all else will follow.”

“Typically less than one out of every 10 investigations lead to enforcement. This investigation faces daunting odds,” said David Balto, a former FTC policy director.”The complaints presented to the FTC are from disgruntled advertisers, not consumers. That is not a strong foundation to an antitrust case.”

Private equity firms KKR and Silver Lake are in talks to buy Internet domain site GoDaddy.com and a deal could be more than $2 billion, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Tech wrap: LulzSec hackers seek greener pastures

The LulzSec group of rogue hackers threatened to steal classified information from governments, banks and other high-ranking establishments, teaming up with the Anonymous hacker activist group to cause more serious trouble in an escalation of their cyber attacks.

LulzSec had said last Friday that it hacks to have fun and to warn people that personal information is not safe in the hands of Internet companies. But two days later, Lulz said its top priority was to leak “classified government information, including email spools and documentation.”

The FBI said it is working to bulk up its cyber division as hackers focus on higher-profile targets, but is at the mercy of a Congress struggling to cut the massive budget deficit.

Tech wrap: Steve Jobs pitches Apple’s iCloud

Apple CEO Steve Jobs emerged from medical leave to launch an Internet-based service for consumers called the iCloud, which lets users play their music and get access to their data from any Apple device. Jobs walked briskly onstage after James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” blasted over the sound system, but shared the spotlight with other Apple execs who showcased Apple’s enhancements to its PC operating system and mobile platform.

Jobs laid out his vision for the iCloud with the elminiation of MobileMe, a subscription-based collection of online services and software. Jobs said the iCloud will allow people to share book purchases, music and data in general, such as calendar items, across different devices, while backing up and updating information regularly.

Among the new features for Apple’s OS X Lion operating software were an improved email infrastructure and multi-touch features. Early impressions by experts watching the presentations were favorable.

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.