MediaFile

Hear RIM’s new CEO. Then speak your mind.

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For many BlackBerry users and smartphone industry pundits, this Youtube video was their first close-up look at new Research in Motion CEO Thorsten Heins.

RIM, which announced Heins’ elevation and the resignations of co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis on Sunday night, no doubt posted the clip in hopes of introducing the world to their new frontman, and getting their message out there.

Judging by the torrent of biting comments that followed, being “on track” might not have been the best message to relay. Many investors and consumers have been calling for a new strategy to stem the BlackBerry’s market share slide.

“This is a bad joke on a Sunday night. Quote from the video “if we continue doing well what we are doing” Is he out of his mind?” offers RSPRATAS.

Others also took umbrage at Heins’ upbeat comments.

“I feel bad for this guy…I don’t think anyone at RIM told him the research has stopped…” quipped zachgosteady.

Tech wrap: AT&T, T-Mobile pull plug on mega-merger

AT&T said it had agreed with Deutsche Telekom to drop its $39 billion bid to buy the German company’s U.S. wireless unit amid increasing regulatory obstacles to the planned deal. AT&T said in a statement on Monday that it will enter a roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom. AT&T’s plan to buy T-Mobile USA, first announced in March, has met with opposition from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.

The upstart wireless company that is being bankrolled by Philip Falcone’s $5 billion Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund could run out of money during the second quarter of 2012, according to the company’s financial statement. LightSquared, which registered a $427 million net loss during the first nine months of this year, may not be able to “continue as a going concern” unless it can raise additional capital and financing, the statement reviewed by Reuters said.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire and an investor in some of the world’s top companies, has bought a stake in microblogging site Twitter for $300 million, gaining another foothold in the global media industry. The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, was a secondary market transaction, meaning that Alwaleed and Kingdom bought the Twitter shares from existing shareholders, rather than making a direct investment, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Tech wrap: Olympus shareholders want entire board purged

Pressure mounted on Japan’s Olympus to take radical action after it admitted to hiding losses on securities investments for decades, with the camera and endoscope maker’s largest foreign investor demanding the resignation of the company’s entire board. Southeastern Asset Management, which owns about five percent of the 92-year-old company, said Tuesday’s admission “changes everything”.

Brushing aside new Olympus President Shuichi Takayama’s insistence he was “absolutely unaware of the facts,” Southeastern told Reuters correspondents Sinead Cruise and Kirstin Ridley that any further reign of the Olympus board risked damaging the company’s key medical business. Takayama, a previous board member who was promoted last month, blamed former Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, Vice-President Hisashi Mori and internal auditor Hideo Yamada for the cover-up, saying he would consider criminal action.

Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford, who was fired on October 14 after persistently asking why the company had spent around $1.3 billion on obscure fees and acquisitions, told Reuters that the company’s partners should come under close scrutiny after Tuesday’s admission and that questions remained to be answered about the money trail. “You need forensic accountants going in there to find out where the money has gone, who has worked with Olympus, who has cooperated with Olympus, who has received fees from Olympus,” he told Reuters Insider. “Those are questions we need answered. And then we need an impairment test.”

Rumors of RIM’s death…

…would be greatly misspelled, ungrammatical and take five times as long to send on an iPhone By Maureen Tkacik
The opinions expressed are her own. Possessing an ancient affliction known as “shame” I generally try to avoid brandishing opinions in the arena of “investment advice”, as hilarious as that would be. But a few weeks ago I nearly broke this rule when the PE ratio of a company whose products I actually use dipped below my height in feet (5.5.) “There’s gotta be a price for everything,” I figure; and I like to think that even I, were I a publicly traded security, would have levels at which I’d be a “Buy.” Well, four weeks after my editors wisely ignored that column, the PE ratio of the stock in question now looks like it could hit 3.14159.  

Moral: if I were a stock, I’d be Research In Motion. And me giving out stock tips is like BlackBerry trying to recommend new bands. As someone who fantasizes daily about bartending, retail, law school, hackccess journalism, and pretty much every other plausible paycheck alternative with the exception of teaching kids, I can totally sympathize with the impulse here. But ultimately these alternate realities don’t really play to any of my strengths, whereas wasting time thinking about them plays right into the hands of my epic self-loathing. (A self-destructive cycle RIM seems to be experiencing right now.)

Which is why I feel compelled to step in right now and tell RIM to get a hold of itself. RIM didn’t bounce three checks last week; RIM still has a job to do and millions of users depending on it. What the market seems to assume is an existential breakdown is actually not much worse than the maddening spiral of despair I experience…every time I lose my phone and attempt to communicate using someone else’s iPhone.

Tech wrap: BlackBerry problems hit four continents

Disruptions to BlackBerry services spread to Latin America on Tuesday, more than a day after users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India suffered extended outages. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, which is losing share of the corporate email market it once took for granted, said it was working on the problem but gave no details of the cause.

Adding to RIM’s woes, a growing mass of its investors backs calls for a sale or break-up of the company and wants a new, “transformational leader” at its helm, according to a shareholder leading the drive for change.

Business-software company Box has won $81 million in funding to expand its business, illustrating investors’ continued appreciation for start-up companies that tap into the cloud.

Tech wrap: Google fined over drug ads

Google has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a probe into ads it accepted for online Canadian pharmacies selling drugs in the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday. The forfeiture is one of the largest ever in the United States, according to the DOJ. It represents Google’s revenue from Canadian pharmacy advertisements to U.S. customers through Google’s AdWords program and Canadian pharmacies’ revenue from U.S. sales.

Apple won another battle in the mobile tech patent wars on Wednesday when a Dutch court ruled that Samsung Electronics must stop marketing three of its smartphone models in some European countries. Apple, which has conquered the high end of the phone market with its iPhone, argued that Samsung had infringed on three of its patents. The court ruled that Samsung smartphones Galaxy S, S II and Ace breached just one of Apple’s patents.

BlackBerry users tired of the narrow selection of apps available to them should welcome news that models expected next year will be able to run apps designed for Google’s Android mobile platform. According to a Bloomberg report, which cites three unnamed sources, Research in Motion plans to make its forthcoming BlackBerry models Android-compatible in an attempt to boost sales of its smartphone models and win back consumers. The Android Market currently offers more than 250,000 apps, nearly six times as many as RIM’s own app store, the article notes.

Tech wrap: Netflix sees subscriber slowdown

Netflix says it’s expecting its subscriber growth in the United States to slow in the coming quarter. The warning to investors came as the popular video rental company also reported second-quarter revenue that missed Wall Street expectations. The double-shot of bad news sent the company’s shares down about 9 percent in late trading.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion delivered on a promise it made last month to pare back its global workforce  . . . and then some. The Canadian company announced it is laying off 2,000 staffers – or 11 percent of its workforce – in an effort to cut costs and offset sales declines in the mobile market, which is increasingly dominated by Apple and Google. Analysts are split on whether the cost cuts will do much to help the firm regain a competitive position. “The problem is you can’t cut your way into growth or market leadership, and while I’m sure there was fat at RIM, the core problem sits squarely with management,” Ed Snyder from Charter Equity Research told Reuters. Another analyst, however, argued that the cuts were a necessary step for RIM as it adjusts to a “new growth, or sales, reality.”

In addition, RIM announced a number of changes to the roles and responsibilities of some of its senior managers. Most notably, the company said one of its three chief operating officers, Don Morrison, is retiring and that his responsibilities would fall to the remaining two, Thorsten Heins and Jim Rowan. As AllThingsD points out, though, the changes fail to address shareholder concerns that the real shakeup needed is at the very top with Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsille, who share CEO and chairmen duties.

Tech wrap: Google impresses investors

Google shares soared in after-hours trade as the company’s second-quarter revenue zoomed past Wall Street expectations. The Internet giant’s net revenue, which excludes fees paid to partner websites, jumped 36 percent to $6.92 billion in the second quarter. That’s not all investors had to cheer, though. Growth in a range of businesses from mobile to online video helped the company ring up a strong quarterly profit that also exceeded investor expectations.  “Google should be viewed as a growth company again this quarter,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan told Reuters. “The combination of mobile search, Android, ad exchange, YouTube, and the core search businesses, they’re all doing well. Google is no longer a one-trick pony.”

The pool of underwriters working on Groupon’s upcoming initial public offering just got a lot bigger. The online daily deals website has added 11 new underwriters, including JPMorgan, Allen & Co, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, William Blair & Co, Citadel Securities, Loop Capital Markets, RBC Capital Markets and the Williams Capital Group, according to an updated regulatory filing. They join Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, who were the lead underwriters named in the earlier filing.

Blockbuster unveiled a new promotion on Thursday aimed at scooping up Netflix subscribers who are unhappy about new price increases the company announced this week to its streaming-and-DVD plan. Blockbuster, which is owned by Dish Network, offered Netflix customers who switched to one of Blockbuster’s “total access” plans a 30-day free trial. Netflix has tried to deflect the rage from its subscribers. “We knew there would be some people who would be upset,” a company spokesman told the International Business Times recently. “To most people, it’s a latte or two.”

Tech wrap: Netflix jacks prices, adds DVD-only option

Netflix subscribers could see their monthly bill increase starting this fall. The company announced it is doing away with a combo plan that lets customers watch unlimited movies and TV shows online and get DVDs by mail for $9.99 a month. Starting in September, current subscribers who want both services will have to pay $7.99 per month to rent one DVD plus an added $7.99 for unlimited streaming, for a total of $15.98 a month. That’s an increase of 60 percent. The new pricing begins immediately for new customers. Old-fashioned types who just want DVDs now have the option of an unlimited DVD-only plan that costs $7.99 for one at a time or $9.99 for two at a time. Good or bad news, depending on how you use Netflix.

Changes are afoot in Apple’s legal department. The tech giant’s chief patent lawyer Richard “Chip” Lutton Jr. plans to leave the company soon, sources close to the matter told Reuters. So who will Apple tap to oversee the many legal battles it’s fighting against rival smartphone makers around the world? Apple is mum on the matter, but BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett-Packard, is now listed as Apple’s chief intellectual property counsel on Watrous’s LinkedIn Web page.

Would Research in Motion be better off as two companies? That’s an idea that was floated on Tuesday by an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, who argued that the BlackBerry maker could spur innovation by splitting itself up into separate network and handset businesses. The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm has fallen behind rivals in recent months, leaving investors hungry for news about how the company intends to reverse its lackluster performance.

Tech wrap: RIM’s Playbook recall

Research in Motion shares neared a two-year low after the BlackBerry maker said it has recalled about 1,000 of its Playbook tablets due to an operating system bug. Most of the devices affected remain in the distribution channel and haven’t yet been sold to customers, the Canadian company said in a statement posted on CrackBerry.com.

RIM said it will replace faulty tablets and prompted customers who had received one to contact the company for help. Engadget, the technology blog that first broke the news over the weekend, has compiled a spreadsheet of the 935 alleged serial numbers affected by the recall.

Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network games service over the weekend, nearly a month after it was shut down due to a massive security breach that exposed personal details of 100 million users. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company apologized to customers for the service disruption and said it had implemented a new early warning system that would help prevent similar attacks in the future. Sony will phase in service on a country by country basis with the aim of having the process completed by May 31.