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.

Tech wrap: New RIM CEO says no drastic change needed

RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins, who joined RIM in 2007 and previously served as a chief operating officer, said during a conference call that he would hone the current strategy rather than abandon it. “I don’t think that there is some drastic change needed. We are evolving … but this is not a seismic change,” Heins said. RIM’s U.S.-traded shares tumbled as investors wondered whether Heins could reverse the BlackBerry maker’s decline, closing the day down 8.5 percent.

The founder of file-sharing website Megaupload was ordered to be held in custody by a New Zealand court, as he denied charges of Internet piracy and money laundering and said authorities were trying to portray the blackest picture of him. U.S. authorities want to extradite Kim Dotcom, a German national also known as Kim Schmitz, on charges he masterminded a scheme that made more than $175 million in a few short years by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorization. Megaupload’s lawyer has said the company simply offered online storage.

The Supreme Court ruled that police cannot put a GPS device on a suspect’s car to track his movements without a warrant. The high court ruled that placement of a device on a vehicle and using it to monitor the vehicle’s movements was covered by U.S. constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of evidence. “A majority of the court acknowledged that advancing technology, like cellphone tracking, gives the government unprecedented ability to collect, store, and analyze an enormous amount of information about our private lives,” Steven Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union said.

Windows L8?

Microsoft’s next operating system — provisionally known as Windows 8 — may not hit the shelves until early 2013, one respected company-watcher thinks, giving Apple, Google and Amazon more time to fine-tune their tablet offerings.

That’s later than most people expect for the new OS, which represents Microsoft’s first real foray into the touch-friendly, tablet-optimized world. The feeling is that Microsoft really needs to make its move before Apple’s iPad and tablets running Google’s Android march off with the whole market.

“I think it’s about a year away,” said Michael Cherry at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, asked when Windows 8 code would be completed.

The good news & bad news about news consumption on tablets

There is some heartening data and some other data that should strike fear in the hearts of publishing executives about how people consume news on tablet devices, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project in Excellence in Journalism and the Economist Group.

Let’s get to the rosy stuff first. The survey polled about 1,200 tablet users and 900 people  who use them to read the news. It turns out that consuming news — defined as skimming headlines to hunkering down and reading long-form articles –  is one of the most popular tablet activities (at 53%) nearly edging out sending emails (at 54%) but definitely whopping social media activity (39%), gaming (17%), reading books (17%) and watching videos (13%).

But the apps aren’t pulling in the most readers. Interestingly, while two-thirds of those surveyed have news apps, about 40% of those polled said they get their news through web browsers compared to only 21% who get their news through apps.  For newspapers this piece of information should be a wake up call to keep pricing consistent.  (Magazines would fit in this category though most don’t have a decent websites.)

EA: We love Wii U

Back in June, everyone was talking about the Wii U, Nintendo’s first video game console with high-definition graphics unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

Since then, no one’s heard much more about Wii U, which has a tablet screen for a controller and can be used in conjunction with Wii remotes. Nintendo must be hunkering down to put the finishing touches on it before it hits stores sometime next year.

But Peter Moore, the video game industry veteran who was promoted to be Electronic Arts’ chief operating officer in August, told Reuters this week that everything appears to be on track with the Wii U, at least from his perspective working for a publisher making games for it.

Windows 8: Worth the wait, but is it too late?

The release of Windows 8 is now in the home stretch, and the vast majority of the world’s computers are about to begin getting the digital equivalent of a complete makeover.

The newest form of Windows — which, despite all the attention Apple gets, still operates more than 90 percent of computers — has a couple of things going for it. It supposedly will run anything that runs on Windows 7 so there won’t be that awful, elongated period when software is suddenly no longer compatible with your machine.

More importantly, Windows 8 borrows heavily from the relatively new user interface metaphors for tablets, which will make it much more palatable for tablet makers to offer Microsoft what could be a third strong contender (along with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android) on this surging device vertical.

Inkling launches digital textbooks 2.0 for iPads

Apple dominates the tablet market — its iOS tablet software accounted for more than 60 percent of the tablet market in the second quarter, while Google’s Android made up about 30 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. So it’s no surprise that more than 40 educational institutions  in the United States either require or recommend in-coming freshman or first-years come equipped with an iPad.

For example, that list includes  the medical schools at Brown, UC Irvine, Cornell and UCF; undergrads at Boston University, Abilene Christian University and Georgia Perimeter College; business students at Hult Business School, Lamar Business School and Seton Hill. Even prep schools are in on the act including South Kent, Princeton Day School and Madison Academy.

Certainly it’s appealing to slip an iPad into a backpack rather than massive tomes that students need to lug around campus.

Tech wrap: HP’s TouchPad sell-off

Hewlett-Packard has finally discovered the magic price point for its TouchPad tablet: $99. The tech giant announced the new low price for the 16 GB model of the recently discontinued device over the weekend, also dropping the price for its 32 GB version to $149. Retailers such as Best Buy, Staples and Walmart followed HP’s lead by offering TouchPad fire sales of their own.

The response: overwhelming. According to PC World, many retailers had sold out of the devices by mid-day on Saturday. By Monday morning, the TouchPad had climbed to the No.1 spot on the Amazon best-seller list for electronics. Expect the selling frenzy to continue this week: HP said on Monday it intends to deliver more of the tablets until the supply runs out. HP originally launched the smaller model with a $500 price tag, but reduced it to $400 soon after its July 1 release in an attempt to spur demand.

Separately, HP launched a new desktop on Monday, days after the technology company revealed that it might spin off the world’s largest PC business — part of a wrenching series of moves away from the consumer market, including killing the TouchPad. HP billed the new computer — the HP Compaq 8200 Elite All-in-One Business Desktop — as the “first all-in-one PC” aimed at corporate and public sector customers.

Sony: Our tablets are coming… eventually

Sony teased out a few more details about its new Android tablets — codenamed S1 and S2 — and let reporters briefly handle prototypes.

AT&T will be the exclusive U.S. carrier for the S2, a double-screened device that bears a close resemblance to Nintendo’s DS  handheld gaming device. Sony showed off how users could turn it into a book.

Executives stressed that the tablets can connect to other Sony products, such as Blu-Ray players, TVs and PlayStation content, something Apple can’t offer. Like the Sony Ericsson Experia Play AKA, “the PlayStation phone,” the Adobe-Flash enabled tablets will come pre-loaded with the retro game“Crash Bandicoot”.

Tech wrap: Sony admits PlayStation Network privacy breach

A visitor plays with a Playstation at an exhibition stand at the Gamescom 2009 fair in Cologne in this August 22, 2009 file photo. Reuters/Ina Fassbender

An unauthorized person stole names, addresses and other personal data belonging to about 77 million people who have accounts on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony said. The person gained access to people’s names, addresses, email address, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more, Sony said on its U.S. PlayStation blog.

Amazon.com’s quarterly sales beat expectations but earnings fell steeply as it spent heavily on everything from online multimedia services to its Kindle e-reader. Net income for the world’s largest online retailer was $201 million, down 32.8 percent from $299 million, a year earlier. Revenue was $9.86 billion. “This is another investment year…It’s probably not going to be until Q4 that we see some leverage from that,” Lazard Capital Markets’ Colin Sebastian said.