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May 3, 2012
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Dependence on Facebook spreads beyond its users

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Dependence on Facebook spreads far and deep. It’s not just social networking junkies that have grown reliant on Mark Zuckerberg’s website creation, which on Thursday filed a new version of the prospectus for its impending initial public offering. Businesses such as online gamer Zynga have been created on its back. Bankers are pegging their careers on floating the firm. And the state of California needs the IPO to help close its yawning budget gap.

Apr 30, 2012

Microsoft gives Barnes & Noble a big brother lift

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Microsoft (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) has given Barnes & Noble (BKS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) a big brother lift. The bookseller’s Nook e-book reader ambitions looked a day late and many dollars short. Microsoft’s $300 million injection changes that and is more than a one-time hand up.

Barnes & Noble said in January that it might separate its fast-growing Nook business from its ailing bricks-and-mortar stores. Figuring out how to do the split wasn’t straightforward, however. The online division, which bears the cost of developing the Nook, lost $102 million last quarter. Moreover, e-reader sales are heavily promoted in stores.

Apr 25, 2012
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It’s too soon to be doubting Apple

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By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s too soon to be doubting Apple. Fears over a slowing U.S. smartphone market and chip problems sent investors scurrying in April, when the company’s shares tumbled by over 10 percent. But the iPad maker smashed expectations yet again, almost doubling profit in the latest quarter. The trends powering Apple – China, rising margins and the halo effect – still have legs.

Apr 16, 2012
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3D printing deal enhances sector depth illusion

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Making physical items from digital files is a hot technology – maybe too hot if the market reaction to the acquisition of privately held Objet by Stratasys is any guide. Despite few synergies and an odd poison pill, the buyer’s shares rose nearly 25 percent, mainly on potential revenue synergies. But the future isn’t quite here yet.

Apr 13, 2012
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Review: “Idea Factory” produces a few of its own

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

How does innovation happen? That’s the question Jon Gertner tries to answer in “The Idea Factory,” his history of Bell Labs. For fifty years, AT&T’s industrial lab pumped out a series of astonishing new products, including communications satellites and radar, as well as Nobel-prize winning ideas such as the transistor – and garnered prestige for its parent company. Gertner outlines how brilliance, contradictions, chance and steady hands make fertile soil for research.

Apr 12, 2012
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Google rejoins tech’s governance race to bottom

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By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Google is no stranger to bad corporate governance. It set off the trend in Silicon Valley when it established super-voting shares in its 2004 market debut. Insiders Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt now control 66 percent of the votes with about a quarter of all shares. But the three have watched newcomers Zynga and Facebook surpass them in the governance race to the bottom. So Google’s founders are getting back in the race by adding a third class of non-voting shares. That’ll do little more than entrench insiders and enable the future abuse of minority shareholders.

Apr 9, 2012
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Facebook’s defensive Instagram M&A raises red flag

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Facebook’s defensive purchase of Instagram raises a red flag. Online photos are supposed to be a core Facebook competence. Paying $1 billion for the popular picture-sharing app may boost the social network in mobile. But paying over the odds for revenue-free rivals is usually the hallmark of anxious, mature firms – not a growth company seeking to go public at a $100 billion valuation.

It’s impossible to say exactly what Facebook gets for the oodles of cash and stock it is handing over to Instagram, founded just two years ago by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Traditional metrics don’t apply – Instagram is just embarking on an actual business plan, and the firm was worth just $20 million a year ago. What it does have are lots of users – more than 30 million – and super-fast growth. More than 1 million more users signed up in 12 hours for its new Android app last week.

Apr 9, 2012

Microsoft opens pricey new front in patent wars

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.)

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Microsoft
(MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) has opened up a pricey new front in the patent wars.
The software giant is spending $1.1 billion to buy over 800 of
them from AOL (AOL.N: Quote, Profile, Research). At more than $1 million apiece, it tops
even the huge rates paid recently for other intellectual
property. This first salvo in the Internet space throws down the
gauntlet at Google (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Facebook.

Apr 3, 2012
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Gun bubble reloads on Obama re-election fears

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The gun bubble has reloaded on fears of a second term for President Barack Obama. His election in 2008 triggered massive growth in firearms sales. Buyers apparently expected the first Democratic White House in eight years to push for stricter gun control laws. That never happened, sending weapon sales tumbling – until now. The prospect of Obama’s re-election is boosting sales, and shares of gunsmiths, once again.

Mar 20, 2012
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Amazon hedges against the rise of the machines

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Is Amazon hedging itself against the rise of the machines? That’s one way to explain the kooky $775 million purchase of Kiva Systems. Either that or the online retailing giant’s founder Jeff Bezos has a robot fetish. It’s not clear what the deal offers Amazon shareholders. Automating Amazon’s warehouses makes sense. But buying Kiva droids, rather than their maker, seems the more rational approach.

    • About Robert

      "Robert Cyran, U.S. tech columnist, joined Breakingviews in London in 2003 and moved four years later to New York, where he continues to cover global technology, pharmaceuticals and special situations. Robert began his career at Forbes magazine, where he assisted in the start-up of the international version of the magazine. Before working at Breakingviews he worked as a market researcher and reporter covering the pharmaceutical industry. Robert has a Masters degree in economics from Birmingham University and an undergraduate degree from George Washington University."
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