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Jun 17, 2011
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Plan to ease U.S. disclosure rules only half right

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

A new plan to ease a U.S. disclosure rule that can be burdensome for private companies like Facebook gets it only half right. Tweaking, rather than gutting, the current requirements would be a better way to balance companies accessing capital with investor protection.

Jun 14, 2011
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Apple’s reality distortion field envelops JCPenney

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

Apple’s reality distortion field has enveloped J.C. Penney. The U.S department store chain poached Ron Johnson, the man behind Apple’s iconic shops, to be its eventual chief executive. The hire helped lift J.C. Penney’s market value by nearly a fifth, or $1.2 billion, before edging back a bit at the end of the trading day. It’s true, Johnson also spent 15 years at retailer Target, but the circumference of Apple’s halo looks too wide.

Jun 14, 2011

Nokia’s innovative past clings to Apple’s future

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Nokia’s(NOK1V.HE: Quote, Profile, Research) innovative past has hitched a ride on Apple’s(AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) future.

The iPhone maker will pay an undisclosed — though substantial-sounding — sum to Nokia for rights to its technology. But settling the two-year dispute won’t reverse the Finnish company’s waning fortunes. It’s the latest example of how patent portfolios can prolong the lives of tired tech firms.

Jun 7, 2011

Hackers’ successes will force security costs up

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – This may go down as the year of the hack, with Sony and Amazon among the targets. But the compromising of information on almost 40 million RSA security tokens, which protect sensitive military and financial networks, may be the most serious instance. Cybersecurity efforts — and spending — suddenly look inadequate.

RSA’s devices are familiar in the worlds of banking and government. The keychain-like gadgets generate a six-digit number every minute or so. Users must enter the number along with a user name and password to access a network. Unfortunately, a sophisticated attack on RSA, the security division of EMC (EMC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), suggests that a group of hackers found a way around the first part of the process.

Jun 6, 2011

Apple throws music industry another life vest

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Apple has thrown the music industry another life vest. Its new iTunes Match service lets users listen to songs on any device for $25 a year. Significantly, it also works as an amnesty of sorts for customers with ill-gotten tunes in their hard drives. It looks a concession to piracy — but it at least offers a path to more revenue.

While other music services, such as Amazon’s, allow customers to store music remotely, Apple’s offers a clever twist. It compares digital signatures of music already stored by customers to the 18 million songs it sells on iTunes. If there’s a match, the user gets rights to listen to that content on any device. That makes it quicker and easier than services that require files to be uploaded. It also doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal content.

Jun 3, 2011
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Apple readies latest version of the halo effect

By Robert Cyran

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

Apple holds its annual developers’ conference on June 6. As happened with previous new product introductions, like that of the iPad, the tech group’s objective will be to trigger a virtuous circle whereby whatever new gadget it unveils tends to encourage consumers to buy other Apple products. Expanding its cloud offerings, where data and programs are stored remotely, could set off more favorable feedback loops.

Jun 3, 2011

Groupon IPO another bet on profit-free sales

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

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Here comes another bet on profit-free sales. Groupon, which filed for an initial public offering on Thursday, has revenue with a trajectory that looks like a moon shot — started only in late 2008, the Internet coupon company racked up $645 million in revenue in the first quarter this year, about 15 times what it brought in a year earlier. But profit looks like a submarine voyage so far. The firm’s operating loss was $117 million in the same period. It’s another test of the new dotcom optimism — and metrics.

Jun 1, 2011
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AT&T risks Faustian regulator bargain in T-Mobile

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

By Robert Cyran

AT&T risks a Faustian bargain in clinching its takeover of T-Mobile USA. American watchdogs deciding whether to green-light the $39 billion deal have ample precedents overseas, where greater market concentration hasn’t noticeably harmed consumers. But heavier regulation seems to have made the difference — that may be a price the U.S. mobile industry bears for AT&T’s deal.

May 27, 2011
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Virtual Bitcoins are appealing but probably doomed

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

In the currency wars, the nerds are winning. The value of a Bitcoin — a digital currency trading over peer-to-peer networks — has rocketed more than nine-fold in two months to $8.74. The preordained supply and decentralization of Bitcoins have intrigued geeks and paranoid inflationistas alike. But this abstract gold may not survive what looks like a bubble.

May 24, 2011
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IBM looks set to sustain march on tech rivals

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

NEW YORK — IBM is now the second most valuable tech company, behind only Apple, after surpassing Microsoft’s market capitalization this week. It has been a tortuous reversal of fortune. Big Blue’s pitiful state in the early 1990s forced it to refocus. Flush rivals like Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and Microsoft followed different paths, which now have them trying to find their way. That leaves IBM in position to sustain its march on the industry.