MediaFile

Microsoft: mobile getting better, no numbers yet

Microsoft  made a big deal of the launch of three U.S. phones running its Windows Phone 7.5 software, the latest upgrade to Windows Phone 7, which represents a complete overhaul of the Microsoft mobile phone software.  They built a giant model of a phone in Herald Square, New York City and had rappers and dancers performing around it on Monday, while pizza was handed out to bemused onlookers.

Andy Lees, who leads Microsoft’s phone business, was on hand to talk up the software, which he said has been very well received by consumers.

“When people use it they love it,” he told reporters. “We’re definitely on to something.”

But he was very cagey about how many phone sales exactly this translates to, in the first year of the revamped Windows Phone offerings.

“We sold more than Android in its first year,” Lees said, referring to Google’s Android launch in the fall of 2008. Research firm IDC estimated that about 3.6 million Android phones were sold in its  first 12 months, starting in the fourth quarter of 2008.  It did not give an estimate for Microsoft’s market share in the third quarter of 2011.

Facebook doubles office space in Seattle

The social network is spreading its wings in Seattle, taking advantage of relatively cheap office space and a pool of talented engineers in Microsoft and Amazon’s home town. Facebook view

The view from Facebook's new Seattle space

According to a blog post today, Mark Zuckerberg’s unstoppable web phenomenon is moving into 27,000 square feet of space in a 20-story block in downtown Seattle. That’s double the size of their current rented offices overlooking Pike Place Market and Seattle’s harbor.

Seattle is Facebook’s biggest engineering office outside its home in Palo Alto, California, with more than 60 engineers. Zuckerberg said when he visited in June that the city was a great place for hiring, with so many software and mobile superstars working for local firms like Microsoft, Amazon, T-Mobile and a host of smaller firms.

Tech wrap: New Nook Color on the way?

Barnes & Noble sent out invites on Monday to a Nook-related event coming up on November 7. Most tech watchers expect the company to use the occasion to unveil a new version of its Android-powered Nook Color tablet e-reader, which could sport a better screen and upgraded hardware.

As CNet points out, the most anticipated question will be how much Barnes & Noble decides to charge for the new device. “With the Kindle Fire on sale at $199 (it ships November 15), there’s some pressure on B&N to come close to matching that price, though Amazon is allegedly losing money on each Fire it sells (our sources suggest the Fire currently costs around $220 to build). With that being the case, Barnes & Noble is more likely to come out with a faster, more powerful Nook Color that costs $249, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see it at $299,” writes David Carnoy.

Netflix has added a slew of new TV show episodes to its streaming video catalogue through an expanded licensing deal with ABC Television Group, a division of Disney. In addition to extending licensing for popular ABC shows such as “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” that it already offers, Netflix added ABC’s “Switched at Birth,” “Alias” and episodes from past season of Disney Channel’s animated series “Kick Buttowski” to its streaming selection. Amazon.com also unveiled a content agreement with Disney on Monday that will let Amazon Prime subscribers stream shows from ABC studios, Disney Channel, ABC Family and Marvel.

Tech wrap: Samsung closing in on Apple?

It’s no secret that Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones are leading the Android-powered pack of handsets. What may be less obvious is just how quickly the company is closing in on Apple’s title of world’s biggest smartphone vendor in unit terms. Samsung announced on Friday it expects its third-quarter profit to top even the most bullish market forecasts, driven in large part by booming smartphone sales. “The Galaxy S II probably played a key role in boosting the company’s earnings and it will continue to do so pretty much unchallenged, until Apple unveils a better new version of iPhone,” said Kyung Woo-hyun, a fund manager at Daishin Asset Management.

Sprint had a rough start to the week and an even rougher end to it. The No.3 U.S. wireless carrier signaled on Friday that it could spend more money than it brings in over the next few years, even without accounting for the high costs of selling the Apple iPhone, sending its shares down 13 percent. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint would likely lose money on its deal to sell the iPhone until 2014.  Sprint outlined a plan on Friday to spend $7 billion on a network upgrade, which it said it would pay for with cash from its balance sheet and by raising capital. The company refused to address the cost of selling the iPhone.

If you were one of the keeners waiting for the clock to strike 12:01 a.m. PT so you could pre-order your Apple iPhone 4S, there was a good chance you may have had a bit of trouble. CNet reports that pre-orders of Apple’s latest smartphone were beset by a slew of problems. For starters, Apple, AT&T and Sprint were late opening their digital doors to customers looking to buy the new device. On top of that, both Apple and AT&T’s sites were having trouble processing orders from customers looking to upgrade, presenting them with error messages. Perhaps it’s no surprise: both Apple and carriers ran into similar issues last year with the release of the iPhone 4.

Jobs gave us computers without pain

By Kevin Kelleher
The views expressed are his own.

Here is the memory that came up when I heard Steve Jobs was dead, the image that’s probably stuck in my mind, the cover to the mental photo album that will inevitably be retrieved whenever someone talks about him.

It’s January 2010. He’s sitting in a chair, black leather, comfy, Le Corbusier. He’s got this lonely Eero Saarinen table next to him – a mutant white tulip that failed to bloom properly –  but he’s ignoring it. He’s got his dumb, eternal mock turtleneck and blue jeans flooded a few inches above his running shoes, and his his left ankle is dangling in an ungainly fashion over his right knee.

He’s talking to you. But he’s not looking at you. His gaze – normally directed to some abstract space in the auditorium that he senses but that you can’t see – is given to the gadget in his lap. The gadget’s screen is projected into a larger screen on the back of stage, maybe 11 times as tall as Steve Jobs. Look at him: He’s like someone petting a beloved cat in his lap, only his pet is the iPad, and all his coddling is to show us what he thinks the future of computing is.

Tech wrap: Microsoft still into Yahoo

Microsoft Corp is considering a bid for Yahoo Inc, resurfacing as a potential buyer after a bitter and unsuccessful fight to take over the Internet company in 2008, sources close to the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

Microsoft joins a host of other companies looking at Yahoo, which has a market value of about $18 billion and is readying financial pitch books for potential buyers, they said. Those companies include buyout shops Providence Equity Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Silver Lake Partners, as well as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Russian technology investment firm DST Global, the sources said.

Rival smartphone makers could exploit a rare letdown by Apple in the launch of its new iPhone 4S model, which failed to wow fans, and grab a bigger share of the most lucrative part of the phone market.

Tech wrap: A bad call for Sprint?

Sprint Nextel shares fell as much as 17 percent on Tuesday as investors worried about the cost of selling the Apple Inc iPhone on top of its plans to upgrade its network and its debt obligations.

The decline followed a 10 percent dive in Sprint’s stock on Monday after a Wall Street Journal report that the money-losing company will have to pay Apple $20 billion over the next four years and will lose money on the iPhone until 2014.

Apple took the wraps off a new iPhone on Tuesday, but may have left some fans wishing for more than an updated version of last year’s smartphone. See what analysts had to say.

Windows 8: Worth the wait, but is it too late?

The release of Windows 8 is now in the home stretch, and the vast majority of the world’s computers are about to begin getting the digital equivalent of a complete makeover.

The newest form of Windows — which, despite all the attention Apple gets, still operates more than 90 percent of computers — has a couple of things going for it. It supposedly will run anything that runs on Windows 7 so there won’t be that awful, elongated period when software is suddenly no longer compatible with your machine.

More importantly, Windows 8 borrows heavily from the relatively new user interface metaphors for tablets, which will make it much more palatable for tablet makers to offer Microsoft what could be a third strong contender (along with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android) on this surging device vertical.

Tech wrap: Facebook cashes in on ads

Facebook’s first-half revenue roughly doubled to $1.6 billion, underscoring the world’s largest social network’s appeal to advertisers, a source with knowledge of its financials told Reuters. Net income in the first half of 2011 came to almost $500 million, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous because privately-held Facebook does not disclose its results. Facebook’s stronger results come as investors have pushed its valuation to roughly $80 billion in private markets, with many industry observers expecting the world’s No. 1 Internet social network to go public in 2012.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by stagnation and a rift with Chinese partner Alibaba. CFO Tim Morse will step in as interim CEO, and the company will search for a permanent leader to spearhead a battle in online advertising and content with rivals Google and Facebook. Some analysts said Bartz’s departure signaled the company had run out of options after failing to dominate the advertising and content markets and handing over its search operations to Microsoft.

Best Buy said it will offer products online from other sellers through a new third-party Marketplace as the electronics retailer tries to better compete with Internet rivals Amazon.com and eBay. Best Buy Marketplace will add roughly one-third more products online in time for the holiday shopping rush. Buy.com, Mambate, SF Planet, ANT Online, BeachAudio.com and Wayfair are the third-party sellers that signed up for the launch.

Tech wrap: AT&T preps plan to salvage T-Mobile deal

AT&T was expected to soon present a two-track plan that allows the company to try to find a settlement before the government lawsuit to block its planned $39 billion acquisition of smaller rival T-Mobile USA reaches the court. Details of AT&T’s proposed settlement were not available, but it is expected to include pledges to maintain T-Mobile’s relatively cheap mobile subscription plans, and asset sales.

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington created a venture capital fund to invest in promising start-ups, sparking controversy over possible conflicts of interest involving the fund and questions about the integrity of the blog. Included in the debate was Arrington’s employment status, with one AOL spokesperson claiming that Arrington was no longer employed by the owners TechCrunch, and another claiming he was. Arrington’s creation of the “CrunchFund” comes months after he publicly announced that he had begun to actively invest in start-up companies, which also triggered a lively debate within the industry.

A senior exec from Acer said Microsoft will be the winner in Google’s buy of Motorola Mobility as the deal makes Google a direct rival to its phone-making clients. “They work against some of their clients,” said Walter Deppeler, president of Acer’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “It was a good gift to Microsoft,” he told Reuters.  Acer uses operating software from both Microsoft and Google in its smartphones and tablets. Deppeler said Acer would consider the implications of the deal before deciding on future platform choices.