MediaFile

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.

Doubtful that Groupon remains committed to an initial public offering after the recent accounting mini-scandal, a slew of cash-outs by early founders and investors and an overall economic environment that remains uncertain? Don’t be. At least that’s the message the online daily deals firm sent when it filed an updated version of its IPO paperwork with the SEC on Friday. As GigaOm reports, the latest filing details the company’s plans to tighten up its marketing budget and shows that its revenue bookings increased slightly in the second quarter.

Microsoft secured approval of its Skype acquisition from European authorities. The European Commission said that its investigation of the takeover showed that the firms’ activities mainly overlapped for video communications, where Microsoft is active through its Windows Live Messenger.”However, the Commission considers that there are no competition concerns in this growing market where numerous players, including Google, are present,” it said in a statement.

Tech wrap: Not a pretty picture for Kodak

Eastman Kodak Co shares fell almost 70 percent on Friday afternoon on concerns the photography pioneer could file for bankruptcy.

Kodak’s stock had already hit a 38-year low earlier this week as investors worried about its cash position after the company tapped a credit line for $160 million.

Amazon.com Inc’s new tablet computer costs $209.63 to make, IHS iSuppli estimated on Friday, highlighting how the e-commerce giant is taking a financial hit upfront to get the device into as many hands as possible. Amazon’s billionaire Chief Executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a lower-than-expected $199 price on Wednesday.

WSJ pushes further into video with free app

The Wall Street Journal has launched a new video application “WSJ Live” that pulls from the content from its stable of live programming.

WSJ Live is another push from the Journal into video programming — which represents some of its most valuable advertising inventory, said Alisa Bowen, general manager of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network. Ad inventory on the video network has been sold out and WSJ Live is free to watch on WSJ.com. That is part of the reason that the Journal plans to keep WSJ Live free of charge, unlike some of its other content, but that could change in the future, Bowen said.

Six advertisers have signed up for the sponsorship of the app: Aetna, AT&T, Citi Simplicity, Cognizant, FedEx, and Fidelity.

Tech wrap: Google’s appetite for local grows with Zagat buy

Google bought Zagat, the popular dining recommendations and ratings authority, jumping into a niche Web market alongside the likes of OpenTable and Yelp. The 32-year-old Zagat, which polls consumers and compiles reviews about restaurants around the world, will become a cornerstone of Google’s “local offering” and work in tandem with its mapping services and core search engine, the Internet search and advertising leader said.

The Zagat acquisition also marks Google’s first foray into original content creation. Google had been accused of poaching user reviews from the likes of Yelp for use on Google Places pages, without providing a link back.

Only about half of Twitter’s 200 million-plus registered members log on daily but the microblogging website is chalking up growth of 40 percent every quarter in mobile device usage, CEO Dick Costolo said. Twitter is gearing up for a hotly anticipated initial public offering. But Costolo told reporters they would do so only on their own terms. Twitter.com now sees about 400 million unique visitors every month, a 60 percent leap from 200 million at the start of the year.

Tech wrap: Apple after Jobs

So, Apple can survive without Steve Jobs as CEO after all. At least that’s the message that was sent by Apple investors today. Apple shares, which took a beating in after-hours trade on Wednesday after the company announced Jobs’s departure, stabilized on Thursday and were down about 1 percent. Investors, at least for now, appear convinced that Apple can keep churning out blockbuster products and oversized profits with new CEO Tim Cook in charge.

What will those new hit products be? Wired’s GadgetLab takes a look at some of the patents Apple has sought recently to get a sense for where the company could be heading next. The answer: smart TVs, mobile devices with hybrid LCD/e-ink displays and voice-controlled devices. Of course, Apple fans can also expect updates to many of the company’s existing hit products. The company is expected to release a new version of its popular iPhone this fall, and there have been news reports that the iPad could get a refresh this year as well. As some analysts have remarked, Apple’s product machine seems well intact and should be for the next few years.

Reuters correspondents Poornima Gupta and Peter Henderson take a closer look at the man responsible for transforming Apple into the tech juggernaut that it is today.  “Charismatic, visionary, ruthless, perfectionist, dictator – these are some of the words that people use to describe the larger-than-life figure of Jobs, who may be the biggest dreamer the technology world has ever known, but also a hard-edged businessman and negotiator through and through,” they write in a newsmaker piece.

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: Companies continue patent buys

Tech giants continued attempts to shore up their patent portfolios continued on Wednesday, with InterDigital being targeted by Apple, Nokia and Qualcomm.

Bidders have been eager to get their hands on InterDigital”s 8,800 patents — including crucial 3G and 4G/LTE patents to strengthen operating software for smartphones.

Key potential bidder Google, who earlier this week acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, has not formally withdrawn from the auction but it is unclear whether they will bid for the company.

Tech wrap: Apple involved in legal battles

Samsung can sell its latest iPad rival in most of Europe again after a German court lifted most of an injunction it had imposed at Apple’s request.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line of tablet computers has taken the market by storm and is considered the most credible alternative to the iPad, selling about 30 million since its launch a year and a half ago.

In other legal news, the shoe is on the other foot for Apple as smartphone maker HTC has sued the tech giant, seeking to halt U.S. imports and sales of Macintosh computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones and other devices because of alleged patent infringements.

Tech wrap: Cisco beats “low bar”

Cisco Systems Inc’s quarterly results edged past Wall Street’s scaled-back expectations as IT spending held up despite fears of a severe pullback, buoying its shares in extended trading. The world’s largest networking equipment maker reported sales of $11.2 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter, surpassing expectations for under $11 billion.

“They beat a low bar. A lot of it is coming from cost cutting, which we anticipated. In that sense it’s a relief,” Joanna Makris of Mizuho Securities USA told Reuters.

Groupon Inc’s plans for an initial public offering have been dented by the stock market slump and new financial disclosures that suggest the daily deal company’s business is slowing in North America, analysts said on Wednesday.

Tech wrap: Android continues world conquest

Google’s Android platform has taken almost 50 percent of the global smartphone market, dominating in the Asia-Pacific region, research firm Canalys said. It was the number one platform in 35 of the 56 countries Canalys tracks, resulting in a market share of 48 percent, the research firm said. By comparison, Apple, which shipped 20.3 million iPhones, is a distant second with a market share of 19 percent but it overtook ailing handset maker Nokia as the world’s largest individual smartphone vendor.

Apple’s next generation iPhone will be unveiled in October, not September, according to a source, writes John Paczkowski at All Things Digital. Other sources said it will be later in the month, rather than earlier, Paczkowski added.

Samsung has agreed to halt sales of the newest version of its Galaxy tablet in Australia until a patent lawsuit brought by Apple in the country is resolved, Bloomberg reported. Samsung will also provide Apple three samples of a new Australian version of Galaxy at least seven days before it plans to start distributing it so the U.S. company can review it, Bloomberg said, citing Australian court documents.