MediaFile

Tech wrap: Google targets Apple with Motorola buy

Setting its sights on rival Apple, Google announced its biggest deal ever, a $12.5 billion cash acquisition of mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility.

Google’s biggest foray into hardware comes weeks after a failed attempt to buy patents from bankrupt Nortel, and gives it an intellectual property library in wireless telephony to wage war on Apple and Microsoft.

However, analysts agreed that that buy was more about the patents and less about the hardware.

The news sent shock waves throughout the tech sector on Monday. Shares of InterDigital plunged 23 percent on the news, while Nokia shares jumped over 10 percent.

In earlier news, video games publisher Electronic Arts is upbeat about Christmas holiday sales as it expects to release top titles and prepares its most high profile launch ever: “Star Wars: The Old Republic”.

Tech wrap: Bad smartphone bets burn investors

Smartphones are constantly reaching new heights in sleekness and cutting-edge technology, but investors in the U.S. wireless sector seem unconvinced. Weak results and poor growth in both major and minor telecoms firms nationwide helped spark an investor exodus from the sector, and analysts say small operators like MetroPCS and Leap Wireless have indicated they’ve simply lost faith in the promise that smartphones can boost growth. Popular with consumers and heavily subsidized to encourage uptake, investors now look to be assessing whether a future of ever-increasing costs for carriers is one they’d like to take part in.

In tech company earnings, professional networking site LinkedIn reported that its quarterly revenue more than doubled as the company endeavored to prove it can fulfill the promise of its splashy IPO. Used by professionals seeking jobs or contacts and companies seeking qualified applicants, LinkedIn was the first prominent U.S. social networking site to make its public trading debut.

The massive hack attack recently revealed by security company McAfee does much to underscore the fact that governments and companies are losing the war against cyber thieves. Security experts uncovered an unprecedented five-year series of cyber attacks on 72 organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, governments and major corporations. In this analysis, Reuters’ security correspondent William Maclean argues that it’s unclear if the unsettling disclosure will actually prompt rapid global action against cyber attacks – partly due to the reluctance of stigma-conscious companies and states to report the attacks.

UPDATE: Microsoft to Google: Bring it on

Everyone loves a good catfight, and it appears two of technology’s biggest names this week might just have obliged.

Google –stung by its failure to get in on several thousand Nortel patents scooped up by its biggest rivals in the smartphone industry – cast the first stone by accusing Apple, Microsoft, Oracle – and presumably almost everyone else — of ganging up against Android and using “bogus patents” to reign in the runaway success of the mobile operating system it gives away for free.

In a very long, very public rant on its official blog, top lawyer David Drummond in particular called out Microsoft, which is also a rival in its search business, of trying to hurt Google by forging an unholy alliance with historical arch-foe Apple.

Tech wrap: Apple ousts Nokia as top smartphone vendor

Apple jumped to the top of the global smartphone sales rankings in the second quarter, ending Nokia’s 15-year run as the lead smartphone vendor, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones during the quarter, which amounts to about a fifth of the global smartphone market. Impressive considering its iPhone 4 model was released more than a year ago. Samsung also surpassed Nokia to claim second spot, with 17.5 percent of market share. Nokia fell to third place as its market share tumbled to 15.2 from 38.1 percent a year ago.

As if Apple’s new royalty status isn’t enough, the gadget maker can also lay claim to being the most profitable in the smartphone business. According to a chart on Business Insider, Apple pulled in two-thirds of all profits in the mobile phone sector last quarter. That’s twice as much as Samsung, RIM and HTC combined.

Did Yahoo get a raw deal when it signed a pact with Alibaba and SofBank to resovle a dispute over online payment service Alipay? That’s the case being made by some analysts. The trio announced it had struck an agreement after months of wrangling over the lucrative asset, under which Alibaba gets up to $6 billion if the mobile payments firm goes public or gets sold. But investors are bothered by the deal, saying it reaffirms perceptions on Wall Street that Yahoo has little say in Alibaba, the e-commerce company founded by Jack Ma and which is 43 percent-owned by Yahoo.

Tech wrap: Now in your Twitter stream – ads

Your Twitter stream could be about to get even more cluttered. Twitter announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will now be placing ads from certain brands and companies directly into the message timelines of users who follow those organizations on the microblogging service. The company said it is testing out the new program with a select group of partners – including Dell, Starbucks and HBO among others – for a few weeks before rolling it out to a wider stable of clients. The new initiative is an expansion of the company’s so-called “Promoted Tweets” program, in which ads show up in search results on the Twitter.com website.

What does the new program mean for users? AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka has this take: “”Depends. Marketers will only be able to deliver the ads — which will use the “Promoted Tweet” format the company rolled out more than a year ago — to users who already follow them on the service. And they’ll only appear on Twitter’s main Twitter.com site. So, if you don’t follow any brands/marketers/companies on Twitter, you won’t see the ads. And if you’re checking Twitter on your iPhone, or via clients like TweetDeck, you won’t see them there, either.”

EA received a thumbs up from antitrust regulators for its deal to buy social gaming startup PopCap Games. EA struck the deal, which is estimated to be worth up to $1.3 billion, to step up its competition with Zynga, the social gaming company behind Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

A chat with Google’s Seattle video-chat guru

If you want to be at the forefront of video social networking, Seattle is the place to be, not Silicon Valley.

A month ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an “awesome” launch coming out of the company’s growing Seattle office, which turned out to be Facebook’s video chat link up with Skype.

About the same time, Google trial-launched its broadside against Facebook, the social Google+ service. One of the most arresting features is Hangouts, a service that lets up to 10 people video-chat simultaneously. And it’s designed by a bunch of engineers just the other side of Lake Washington in Seattle.

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: Amazon plans Android tablet

Take note, Apple. Amazon.com wants to steal more of your customers. The online retailer plans to release a 9-inch tablet computer this fall that will run on Android software, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The company is building at least 1.5 million Amazon-branded devices for the third quarter and is aiming to ship 4.5 million to 5 million by the end of the year, according to a recent analyst note. The move should help Amazon expand its reach as the world’s largest Internet retailer and increase sales of digital content such as e-books, music and videos, posing more competition for Apple’s iTunes store.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only tech company looking to step up its game against Apple. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner announced at a conference that the software company will open 75 new retail stores over the next two to three years in an effort to take on Apple’s bricks-and-mortar outlets. Judging by a graphic published alongside the TechCrunch story, many of the new stores will be opening in the North East region of the U.S. where the company currently does not have any outlets.

Tech wrap: Verizon ditches unlimited data plan

Verizon Wireless customers, say goodbye to the days of  unlimited Web surfing for a set fee on your smartphone. The biggest U.S. mobile provider will stop offering its $30 all-you-can-surf  deal later this week, replacing it with a new tiered approach to data pricing. Customers who keep their smartphone use to 2 gigbytes (GB) of data per month or under won’t see a change to their bill, but those who go over that limit will be slapped with an extra $10 charge per GB. Heavy mobile users will have the option of signing up for a 5 GB or 10 GB plan for $50 or $80 respectively. AT&T made a similar move last year, meaning Sprint is now the last major wireless carrier offering unlimited data use. CNET reports that Verizon will also start charging for access to its mobile hot-spot service, which up until this week has been free and without bandwidth restrictions.

Aspiring cord cutters across Latin America and the Caribbean, rejoice. Netflix is on its way. The company, which offers TV shows and movies over the Internet and DVD rentals through the mail, will be expanding its online video streaming service to 43 countries in the regions later this year. Shows and movies will be available to subscribers in Spanish, Portuguese or English on PCs, Macs and other mobile devices that are able to stream from Netflix, the company said in a blog post. The overseas expansion marks the company’s second foray outside the United States. It began offering its services in Canada last year.

You’ve heard it before and now you’ll hear it again – the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone is on its way this September. Supply-side sources told Asian IT industry newspaper DigiTimes that Taiwan-based notebook maker Pegatron Technology has received an order to make 15 million iPhone 5/iPhone 4 handsets that are set to ship sometime in September.  The iPhone 5 is not expected to differ much from the previous model on the surface, according to the report. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out, the real differences are expected to be “under the hood” where you’ll find a faster processor and better rear camera among other improvements.