MediaFile

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.

After lashing out at rivals and accusing them of banding together to block Google’s attempts to bid on Nortel smartphone patents in an angry blog post, Google Senior Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond had his claims of victimhood shot down with a single tweet by Frank Shaw, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft. In a development no doubt embarrassing for the Internet search giant, Shaw replied by tweeting an image of an email that showed that Google was offered a chance to make a joint bid for the Nortel patents, but turned it down.

In more bad news, Nokia Siemens Networks announced it began cutting 1,500 jobs from the 6,900 staff it acquired with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Motorola’s telecoms network unit in April. A Nokia spokesman said the process affects staff working in the GSM and Wimax technology divisions in several countries including the U.S. and Britain.

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: 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.

Nokia’s first Windows phone is N9 redux

The walking dead lives!

Two days ago, I suggested that Nokia’s newly introduced N9 phone based on the MeeGo zombie OS was released to generate buzz around the features and form we could expect from the Finnish company’s first handset based on the Microsoft’s Windows phone OS.

It turns out I was right, literally. CEO Stephen Elop naively or more likely, coyly, offered a large crowd a sneak peak of handset codenamed “Sea Ray” running the Mango iteration of Windows 7 phone OS on condition it was kept secret. To no one’s surprise, it wasn’t, and in due course a video of Elop’s top secret meeting appeared on YouTube.

While little is know about the guts of the Sea Ray, the exterior looks identical to the N9, save for an extra button to operate the same 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens found on the N9 and different placement of an LED light on its back.

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.

Nokia’s N9 is Windows phone preview

The walking dead never looked so good.

Yes, Nokia promised to release a phone this year based on the MeeGo OS, a merger between the company’s Linux Maemo software platform with Intel’s Moblin, also based on Linux. But the soon-to-be former No.1 handset maker later announced that it would be their last, relegating MeeGo and Nokia’s other OS, Symbian, to zombie status.

Would-be smartphone buyers don’t fancy buying into an apps ecosystem with no potential for growth. And Nokia’s announcement that it would abandon its Symbian OS platform in favor of Microsoft’s Windows phone software should have been a lesson. Yet, Nokia still has plans to release Symbian-based models while it loses ground in key markets like China as smartphones become cheaper and alternatives proliferate.

Never mind that the N9 is as good looking as they come. Made from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic, it won’t leave unsightly marks if the body is dented. And the 3.9″ curved screen won’t easily scratch since it’s made from Corning’s ultra-tough Gorilla Glass. Wired’s Charlie Sorrel compares the N9’s aesthetics to “a giant iPod Nano, in a very good way.

Tech wrap: Nokia wins big in patent fight with Apple

Nokia is likely to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars by Apple after victory in a legal wrangle over technology used in its arch-rival’s top-selling iPhone. Nokia said the deal would boost second-quarter earnings. Analysts said it was clear the sums involved would be significant, with some experts estimating Apple’s one-off payment at $650 million.

J.C. Penney is bringing in Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, who oversaw the iPad maker’s wildly successful foray into brick and mortar stores as its new chief executive. Johnson will take the reigns November 1, Penney said.

The recent string of sensational hacker attacks is driving companies to seek “cyberinsurance” worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even though many policies can still leave them exposed to claims, writes Ben Berkowitz. Insurers and insurance brokers say demand is soaring, as companies try to protect themselves against civil suits and the potential for fines by governments and regulators, but also as they seek help paying for mundane costs like “sorry letters” to customers.

Tech wrap: Samsung to take smartphone crown

Samsung will become the world’s largest smartphone maker this quarter followed by Apple, overtaking struggling Nokia which has lead the market since 1996, Nomura said. Research firms Gartner and Canalys both said they saw Nokia — which created the smartphone market with its 1996 launch of the Communicator model — losing smartphone volume leadership later this year.

Facebook is preparing to file for an initial public offering as early as October or November that could value the social networking site at more than $100 billion, CNBC reported. Goldman Sachs is leading the chase to manage the offering, which could come in the first quarter of 2012, CNBC said.

The Wall Street Journal’s Shira Ovide sums up what is known about Facebook’s IPO. Perhaps one of the most interesting facts is only a couple dozen U.S. companies, such as Exxon Mobil, GE and J.P. Morgan Chase, have stock-market values above $100 billion.

Tech wrap: Spain makes Sony attack arrests

Spanish police arrested three men suspected to be members of the hacker group Anonymous, charging them with organizing cyber attacks against the websites of Sony, Spanish banks BBVA and Bankia, and Italian energy group Enel SpA– but not the recent massive hacking of PlayStation gamers. Anonymous responded by threatening to retaliate for the arrests: “We are Legion, so EXPECT US,” the group said on its official Twitter feed.

EU countries agreed on tougher sanctions against people conducting cyber attacks. Under the new rules, which have to be agreed by the European Parliament, hackers would face a sentence of at least five years if found guilty of causing serious damage to IT systems.

Nokia was expected to report a loss for this quarter and next as it cuts prices to try to prevent more customers defecting to rivals’ smartphones, a Reuters poll found. Analysts also forecast a meager profit in the normally buoyant fourth quarter, as the once-undisputed leader in mobile phones loses the initiative to smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and devices based on Google’s Android software.

Tech wrap: Myspace sale saga nears end

An investor group involving Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is in final talks to take a controlling stake in News Corp’s social network site Myspace, according to a source familiar with the matter. Kotick’s involvement is personal and nothing to do with Activision at this stage, the source said.

News Corp, which paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005, had hoped to do a deal valuing Myspace at about $100 million, but sources said it was unlikely to achieve that target.

Major U.S. banks came under growing pressure from banking regulators to improve the security of customer account information after Citigroup became the latest high-profile victim of a large-scale cyber attack. While Citigroup insisted the breach had been limited, experts called it the largest direct attack on a major U.S. financial institution, and forecast it could drive momentum for a systemic overhaul of the banking industry’s data security measures.