MediaFile

Tech wrap: Earnings hit as Apple reigns

Quarterly earnings suffered at major technology and telecoms companies in part because of demand for gadgets made by Apple, one day after core suppliers to Apple savored strong earnings results posted by the iPhone and iPad maker on Tuesday.

AT&T posted a $6.7 billion quarterly loss as it was weighed down by a hefty break-up fee for its failed T-Mobile USA merger and other big charges on top of costly subsidies for smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone. While the wireless provider beat analysts’ expectations for subscriber additions, the growth came at a massive cost as its wireless service margins plummeted. On top of the $4 billion break-up package charge, AT&T also took a big impairment charge for its telephone directory business, which it said it was considering selling.

Nokia reported a 73 percent fall in fourth-quarter earnings as sales of its new Windows Phones failed to dent the dominance of Apple’s iPhone or compensate for diving sales of its own old smartphones. Apple reported earlier this week sales of 37 million iPhones for the December quarter. Nokia has sold over 1 million Windows “Lumia” smartphones since its launch in mid-November. Nokia said it expected its phone business’ underlying earnings to be around breakeven in the first quarter, well below analysts’ forecasts, with sales falling more than usual in the seasonally weaker quarter.

Motorola Mobility posted a quarterly loss after it warned earlier this month that it was having a tough time competing in the smartphone market amid intense competition from rivals such as the Apple iPhone. The company, which is seeking approval to be bought by Google, reported a net loss of $80 million or 27 cents per share compared with a profit of $80 million or 27 cents per share in the same quarter the year before. Revenue rose slightly to $3.436 billion from $3.425 billion in the year ago quarter.

Nintendo posted a sharp drop in quarterly profit and forecast a bigger-than-expected full-year loss, as it battles a strong yen and its games devices lose ground to gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone. Nintendo now expects an annual operating loss of 45 billion yen ($575 million), dwarfing expectations of a 4.2 billion yen loss, based on the average of 21 analyst forecasts.

GoogleTV: Another partner says bye-bye

GoogleTV's cast of partners -- in happier times

Remember those television commercials featuring actor Kevin Bacon touting GoogleTV?

Well, the company selling those GoogleTV devices, Logitech, now says the whole thing was an expensive mistake.

During an investor conference this week, Logitech CEO Guerrino De Luca delivered an amazingly strong-worded indictment of GoogleTV and of the company’s set-top box that offered the service, known as the Revue.

Tech wrap: Can Nook tablet take on Kindle Fire?

Let the low-end tablet wars begin. Barnes & Noble unveiled a Nook-branded tablet on Monday, the company’s answer to Amazon.com’s recently announced Kindle Fire. At $249, the 7-inch Nook tablet is a bit pricier than the $199 Fire, but Barnes & Noble is betting that consumers will pay the extra $50 for the device because it offers faster processing speeds and 16 gigabytes of storage space compared to the Amazon tablet’s 8 gigabytes. Both devices hit shelves next week. Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of 700 U.S. bookstores, also lowered the price on its Nook e-book devices in an effort to take on Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, which were recently reduced in price.

Early reaction to the device was varied. One analyst characterized it to Reuters as a “wow” product, while another said it will keep “Barnes & Noble shoppers loyal.” All Things D’s Peter Kafka called Barnes & Noble’s product pitch “a bit muddled” when it came to explaining how people will access content on the device: “Unlike Amazon and its Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble isn’t marketing its tablet with a proprietary cloud service that will get you access to music, movies and TV shows. Instead, the bookseller is leaving that up to other cloud-based services, like Netflix and Pandora. But make no mistake — these are cloud-based services,” he writes. Why then was the company so eager to play up the Nook Tablet’s extra storage capacity if it expects you’ll be streaming most content, not storing it, wonders Kafka.  Engadget takes the new tablet through its paces in a hands-on video.

Google+ expanded its circles to make room for businesses who are looking to reach out to customers on the social network. Called Google+ Pages, the new service will allow corporate brands and businesses to set up a special page within the social network . Google said that 20 businesses, including Toyota, Pepsi and retailer Macy’s, have set up special pages so far, and that any organization will soon be able to join as well. Until now, only individual users have been able to sign up for Google+. Businesses are increasingly using online social services, such as Facebook, to reach new customers and to cement relationships with loyal customers through special offers and promotions.

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.”

Motorola bets on recycled Razr brand

Razr is back. After  being criticized for depending on the four letter brand for too long,  Motorola is hoping to draw some more blood from the stone with the new Droid Razr in the U.S. market. It will be called plain old Razr in the rest of the world.

Analysts are already predicting that the new phones won’t reach the 130 million unit sales that Motorola boasts for Razr over several years. But the jury is still out on whether using the old brand that came to symbolize the company’s downfall will help sales of the latest phone, which it is touting as the world’s thinnest smartphone.

“We tend to see it more in the auto industry where Dodge brought back the Charger and Volkswagen brought back the Beetle. Volkswagen did well,” said NPD analyst Ross Rubin. But the modern Beetle is an updated model that is recognizable as a descendent of an old car that dates back to pre-war Germany. The Droid Razr is a tablet-like device with a 4.3 inch display that looks nothing like the original flip-phone Razr.

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.

Tech wrap: HP investors running for cover

Shares of Hewlett-Packard slumped by more than 20 percent to a six-year low on Friday as investors wiped about $16 billion off the market value of the world’s biggest PC maker in a resounding rejection of its plan for a major shake-up.

Blog Zero Hedge posted an article by Tyler Durden, titled “Here Is Who Is Getting Creamed On Today’s Hewlett Packard Bloodbath“, that includes a chart of the the top 40 holders of HPQ stock.

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon credits Durden with breaking the “real” news yesterday about HP, after Bloomberg broke the M&A news of the IT firm’s internal shakeup and it’s $10 billion acquisition of UK company Autonomy. Salmon on the scoop: “…looks like an attempt by HP to manage media coverage and to distract attention from its dreadful earnings guidance.”

Google dials it up by pocketing Motorola

For a company that is all about world domination via the hardware-agnostic cloud, Google sure seems fascinated with being in the computer game these days.

There are those Chromebook laptops, a partnership with Samsung and Acer that is primarily a means to extend the reach of Google’s cloud-based services courtesy of a delivery system of inexpensive computers that don’t do much of anything else. But that’s a play against Microsoft and its office software suite, not the world’s top computer makers.

And it makes core sense: Google still makes nearly 100 percent of its roughly $30 billion annual revenue from small text ads on web pages, and, to a much lesser extent, its cloud-based services. Anything that drives traffic to those pages is money in Google’s bank.

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.

Tech wrap: Amazon impresses

Amazon wowed investors when it reported a 51 percent surge in sales for the second quarter and said revenue for the current quarter would beat expectations. Shares of the e-commerce giant shot up more than 6 percent on the figures in after-hours trade, even though second-quarter net profits fell as the company’s margins continued to be pressured by heavy spending on distribution, technology and digital content.

Netflix shares took another beating on Tuesday after it warned a day earlier it was expecting subscriber growth to stall in the third quarter in response to price hikes announced this month. That didn’t stop several analysts from raising their price targets on the video rental company’s stock, though, as they took the company at its word that the effects of the subscriber slowdown would be temporary. According to one analyst interviewed by Reuters, the gain in average revenue per user in the fourth quarter will “more than offset” the expected cancellations from the higher prices. Another expressed optimism about the company’s plans to expand into Latin America early next year.

Wal-Mart’s answer to Netflix, Vudu, has a new home on the Walmart.com website. The retailer decided to move its video streaming and rental service to its flagship site in a bid to drum up more use as it competes with a host of other similar services. Starting Tuesday, consumers can order a DVD for mail delivery or pickup or rent or buy releases digitally directly from Wal-Mart’s website. The retailer bought the video company last year but had operated it separately until now.