MediaFile

Tech wrap: Sony suffers as TV picture dims

Sony warned of a fourth straight year of losses, with its television unit alone set to lose $2.2 billion on tumbling demand and a surging yen, sinking its U.S. shares and raising concerns about the viability of its high-profile TV business. Investors had expected Sony to reduce its profit forecast, but not flag a swing to massive losses.

The maker of Bravia TVs, Vaio computers and PlayStation game consoles cut its sales forecast for TVs, cameras and DVD players and said it may report a 90 billion yen ($1.1 billion) net loss for the current financial year, scrapping its earlier net profit estimate of 60 billion yen.Sony’s U.S. listed shares closed down nearly 6 percent.

A small Spanish tablet maker won a patent infringement battle with Apple in a rare victory against the tech giant in its global defense of markets for its iPads, a court document showed. Spain’s Nuevas Tecnologias y Energias Catala (NT-K) successfully appealed a 2010 injunction from a local court to ban the import of its tablet computer — manufactured in China — to Spain. NT-K, from the Valencia region of Spain, is demanding compensation from Apple for losses during the ban of its product and is suing the U.S. giant for alleged anticompetitive behavior.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be sent to Sweden from Britain to face questioning over alleged sex crimes, the British High Court ruled, rejecting his appeal against extradition. Assange now has two weeks to consider whether to make a final appeal to the Supreme Court. However, any recourse to Britain’s highest judicial body can only be made on a point of law considered by judges to be of general public interest, so permission to appeal must be obtained first from the High Court.

Google launched and then pulled a much-anticipated Gmail app for Apple iOS devices via Apple’s App Store. Initially launched to make access to Google’s email service faster and easier, the app was removed after it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t working, causing “users to see an error message when first opening the app,” Google said in a blog posting. No estimate was given for when the Gmail app would return to the App Store.

Does Sony Ericsson fate provide Googorola clues?

While Google made no secret of the fact that it is buying Motorola Mobility for its patents, the remaining unanswered question is what it does with the handset business. Now that Sony  is planning to take full ownership of its mobile joint venture with Ericsson, its behavior may provide some clues as to what “Googorola” should do.

The idea seems to be that Sony will make its smartphones work more closely with other devices such as game consoles, tablets, computers and TVs.  Imagine watching a movie on the train home and then transferring it seamlessly to the big TV when you reach the living room? It’s a nice idea and coming closer to reality with the Sony Ericsson deal according to Evercore analyst Alkesh Shah

“I think there’s a major change happening in terms of how media and communications will be delivered to and from smartphones and to other devices in your home including your set-top boxes and TVs” said Shah.

Tech wrap: Apple’s “Siri” spurs iPhone 4S sales

Apple said it sold 4 million iPhone 4S devices in the new smartphone’s first three days on the market, setting up a strong December quarter for the world’s largest technology company. Helped by availability in more countries and on more telecommunications carrier networks, the iPhone 4S, which went on sale last Friday, managed to outshine the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million over its first three days. Unveiled just a day before Steve Jobs died, it was initially dubbed a disappointment, partly because it looked identical to its predecessor. But anticipation of its “Siri” voice software helped it set an online record in pre-orders on October 7.

Shares of RIM dropped 6.55 percent in the U.S., closing at $22.40, after the company sought to appease disgruntled BlackBerry customers by offering free apps and technical support to make up for last week’s global smartphone outage. RIM said it will offer premium apps worth more than $100 to customers and a month of technical support for businesses free of charge, hoping to stem fresh defections from the BlackBerry, whose market share was already shrinking before the incident. RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie declined to estimate how much the offer would cost RIM and said he was unable to say whether RIM might have to revise its earnings forecast for the current quarter, which ends in late November.

IBM’s third-quarter revenue met expectations as corporate spending on information technology held up in the face of economic worries, and the company bumped up its 2011 earnings outlook. Revenue rose 8 percent from a year earlier to $26.2 billion, in line with the average forecast of $26.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Tech wrap: Apple’s iOS 5 debuts

Apple rolled out its iOS 5 mobile operating system, one week after pancreatic cancer claimed the life of its former CEO and visionary Steve Jobs. The update adds voice recognition software called “Siri”, instant messaging and support for Apple’s iCloud service, although the inclusion of Siri is limited to the iPhone 4S. MacWorld’s Dan Moren says the free update is “ambitious” and that “there’s hardly a part of Apple’s mobile operating system that isn’t altered in some way”. Engadget’s Dante Cesa says that “other than turn-by-turn navigation, more multitasking APIs and some delectable widgets, there isn’t much, headline-wise, left on Apple’s hit list for iOS 6“.

Despite Jobs’s death, investors still like what they see at Apple and want the company to start giving up some cash, according to a Reuters Poll. Apple has a cash hoard of $75 billion and record demand for the iPhone 4S has pushed its stock price near an all-time high. Six of the 11 money managers polled by Reuters called for a dividend payout as a reward for their loyalty.

A three-day disruption of BlackBerry services spread to North America, frustrating millions of users of RIM smartphones and putting more pressure on the company for sweeping changes. RIM advised clients of an outage in the Americas and said it was working to restore services as customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India continued to experience patchy email delivery and no access to browsing and messaging. RIM said the root cause of the failure was the malfunction of a core router switch and the subsequent failure of a back-up system to kick in. It then experienced a severe backlog of unrouted messages that is taking time to deliver.

Brace yourselves: (former?) video titan takes aim at Netflix

By Lisa Richwine

It’s getting crowded in Netflix-land.

The field of players battling for customers in the fast-growing online video market may soon get another big-name entrant: Blockbuster, reinventing itself under new owners Dish after a disastrous run, looks ready to launch its long-awaited move into instant video streaming next week, another shot at grabbing customers frustrated with Netflix.

Blockbuster, a unit of Dish Networks, set a press conference for next Friday in San Francisco coyly named “A Stream Come True,” where it promises to unveil “the most comprehensive home entertainment package ever.”

CEO Joe Clayton and Blockbuster President Michael Kelly will appear at the event.

PlayStation attempts fashion makeover, hires a Kardashian

“Where’s your ‘half tuck?” America’s Next Top Model star Jay Manuel asked Kourtney Kardashian in New York City’s Herald Square.

He was asking because Sony hired the pair to show off the style of a shirt that’s not fully tucked in, a look popularized by the video game hero Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, an Indian Jones-like adventure shooter game.

Kourtney, who is Kim Kardashian’s older sister and one of the stars of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” wore some kind of leopard jumper. But along with Manuel, she plucked random guys off the street to give them Nathan Drake makeovers.

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: 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: Is the DoJ right to oppose the AT&T, T-Mobile deal?

The Justice Department sued to block AT&T’s $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA because eliminating T-Mobile as a competitor would be disastrous for consumers and would raise prices, particularly because the smaller provider offers low prices, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit is a serious attempt to halt a “fundamentally flawed” deal, not a tactic to wring out-sized concessions from AT&T, a source familiar with the lawsuit said.

Dan Frommer says blocking the deal won’t help make service quality any better. A merger would create more spectrum to offer better, faster, more reliable service, Frommer writes. Also, its shortsighted to look at today’s pricing and market and use them as strict guides for the future, as voice and SMS service are disrupted by Internet technology, and as carriers try to charge more for 4G LTE access than they did for 3G access, Frommer added.

Breakingviews columnists Robert Cox, Robert Cyran and Richard Beales say the wireless industry in the U.S. is essentially a duopoly and that the DoJ suit against the AT&T, T-Mobile deal protects smaller providers.

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.