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.

AOL, Yahoo, Demand Media set sights on the ladies

It’s early October in New York which means that Advertising Week, which kicked off on Monday, is officially in full churn.   This year, the organizers of the conference that attracts all stripes from publishing outfits to retailers to ad agencies  may as well have slugged the event Ladies Week given the number of companies pitching to women.

Specifically that would be AOL, Yahoo and Demand Media all of which launched in the past couple of days “premium” video channels catering to the women, and, by extension, consumer packaged goods companies looking for a means to place their online advertising dollars.

AOL rolled out more than 15 original Web series some aimed at the ladies with such titles as “Little Women, Big Cars,” ” A Supermodel Stole My Husband,” and “Jocks & Jills.” (An aside: AOL also touted its “You’ve Got” one minute series lumping in President Barack Obama with other “notables” such as Kevin Bacon and Paula Abdul.)

Tech wrap: Apple without Jobs

As people around the world flocked to the nearest Apple store and to social networks to express their grief and appreciation after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, others turned their attention to the future prospects of the company he helped turn into an innovative tech juggernaut.

Under the leadership of Jobs, Apple’s board of directors took a backseat role in charting the tech giant’s course and keeping tabs on its executive team, but that’s all about to change, writes Lucy Marcus in a piece for Reuters.com. Marcus takes a closer look at what Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and the company’s board need to do to ensure the company continues to grow and innovate in the wake of Jobs’s death, from promptly choosing a new chair to diversifying its members as the company seeks further growth abroad.

“The greatest service the Apple board can give is to ask the tough questions of the executive team and of one another,” writes Marcus. “Asking questions in the relative safety of the board room, and judging the veracity of answers there, is a lot better than staying silent and finding out that things are not right in the cold hard world.”

Will you buy the new Apple iPhone?

Apple took the wraps off a new iPhone on Tuesday but may have left some fans and investors wishing for more than an updated version of last year’s iPhone 4 smartphone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took the reins from the co-founder Steve Jobs in August, and his executive team showed off a souped-up device that comes with voice recognition and a better camera, but it looked identical to the last phone and did little to lift the bar for smartphones. Let us know below what you think of Apple’s latest device.

Will you buy the Apple iPhone 4S?

    Yes, can't wait Maybe, but I need more time to think about it No, it's a bit of a disappointment

Tech wrap: Blockbuster 2.0 – now streaming movies

There’s a new video streaming service on the block and it comes courtesy of an old, familiar name – Blockbuster. Blockbuster unveiled the video streaming service to subscribers of satellite provider Dish Network, which now owns Blockbuster, in a move to better compete against video rental giant Netflix and to lure customers from rival cable and satellite TV providers. Non-Dish subscribers will have to wait until Blockbuster launches a broader online streaming plan later this year, the company’s president told Reuters.

Called Blockbuster Movie Pass, the subscription service will start at $10 a month and includes DVD rentals by mail and at the company’s more than 1,500 stores. The service will offer up a selection of more than 3,000 movies streamed to televisions and 4,000 movies streamed to computers. The mail and store rentals include video games. Mail plus streaming with Netflix starts at about $16 a month. Will Blockbuster’s service be enough to threaten Netflix? Not a chance, argues CNET’s Roger Cheng. “Essentially, it’s a souped up Dish package,” writes Cheng. ” We were looking for something radically different from Dish, but we got an incremental new service plan instead.”

Amazon’s long-awaited tablet could be on its way soon. At least that’s the speculation that began floating around tech circles on Friday after the company announced plans to hold a press conference next Wednesday. Amazon declined to provide further details, but analysts were confident that the world’s largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.

from Reuters Money:

Financial tech coming to a phone or wallet near you

Maybe you think you're up to date on the latest financial apps and mobile solutions, but unless you are updating your money life every five minutes, you aren't. Behind the scenes, scores of companies are throwing money at digitizing you, your cash and (even more popular than money these days) your consumer profile.

Recently I had a chance to check many of them out. I spent two days at Finovate, a financial technology conference run by Online Banking Report. It's a cool meeting -- in two days roughly 60 different companies present seven minute versions of their best selves. Usually they do this before they are fully up and running for consumers, so not everything is ready for prime time yet.

But it does give a great overview of the trends that consumers will be seeing over the next year. Here's my take on the biggest trends for individual investors and bank customers.

Tech wrap: HP shake-up?

A change could be underway at the top at Hewlett-Packard. The company’s board convened on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of ousting CEO Leo Apotheker after less than a year on the job and may appoint former eBay chief Meg Whitman to fill in as interim CEO, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. HP’s board of directors has come under increasing pressure in recent months after a raft of controversial decisions has left investors uncertain of the company’s leadership.

Newly minted Apple CEO Tim Cook will try his hand as star presenter at an October 4 company event widely expected to include the launch of the latest version of the tech behemoth’s iPhone handset, according to a report on AllThingD. Sources told the website that the plan is to make the iPhone 5 available to consumers within weeks of the event. Apple has yet to officially announce or even acknowledge that the new device exists at all. For those tired of yet another story about a rumored release date, there was something akin to a confirmation on Wednesday from an unlikely source: former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Gore, an Apple board member, apparently told a tech conference that the next-generation phone will indeed be available next month. Oops?!

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt traveled to Washington on Wednesday to face critics who say his company has become a dominant and potentially anti-competitive force on the Internet. Schmidt told a Senate antitrust hearing that his company has not “cooked” its search results to favor its own products and listings, despite accusations to the contrary from senators and other Web companies.  “Google is in a position to determine who will succeed and who will fail on the Internet,” said Republican Senator Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. Google has been broadly accused of using its clout in the search market to stomp rivals as it moves into related businesses, like travel search.

Tech wrap: Google+ now open to the masses

Google has opened up its Google+ social network to anyone who’d like to give it a whirl, after a successful three-month run as an invite-only service. The company also rolled out a slew of new features for Google+, including integration of its flagship search engine into the platform, and expanded its Hangouts video-chatting feature to enable mobile use on its own Android-based smartphones. Support for Hangouts on Apple’s iOS mobile software is “coming soon”, Google promised in a blog post. Users will soon have the option to broadcast their Hangouts sessions beyond the nine allowed participants as well by opening them up to live viewing by anyone. Want to record a chat for posterity? Well, that’s coming soon too.

Google+ rival Facebook also unveiled new tweaks to its service on Tuesday, introducing a new “ticker” on its users’ home pages and providing real-time notifications of what friends are doing on the service. Facebook also revamped the service’s main news feed to flag important items — such as a new baby announcement — for Facebook users who have not logged on for a few days. Facebook also changed the way photos are displayed on the site, increasing the size of pictures that appear in a users’ news feed.

U.S. prosecutors accused poker website Full Tilt Poker on Tuesday of running a Ponzi scheme in which the company’s owners and board members paid themselves nearly half a billion dollars while defrauding players. That indictment accused three Internet poker companies — Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars — and 11 people, including Full Tilt director Raymond Bitar, of bank fraud, illegal gambling and money laundering offenses. Read the complaint in full here.

Tinsel town turns deaf ear to Kutcher’s request to plug his start-ups

Ashton Kutcher may have more clout in Silicon Valley than in Hollywood.

The star of movies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and now of the hit show ‘Two and a Half Men” told conference goers at TechCrunch Disrupt that he tried to get the studio to plug some of his Internet start-up investments on the show– but they wouldn’t do it without compensation.

Kutcher, who said he majored in biochemical engineering in college, has invested in some of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. His bets include check-in service Foursquare, bed-and-breakfast service Airbnb, and personalized magazine Flipboard.

He also said he invested in companies that he thought ultimately would contribute to greater happiness in the world– but won’t open his wallet unless he clicks with the entrepreneur. “At the end of the day it’s about the person who runs that company, and whether it’s a person I’d want to spend some time with,” he said.

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.