30 June 2012
Last updated at 05:20
Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus launched in the US in April
A judge in California has blocked US sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphones while the court decides on the firm’s patent dispute with Apple.
US District Judge Lucy Koh said Apple “has shown a likelihood of establishing both infringement and validity”.
Earlier this week, she barred sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in the US until the case was resolved.
However, she said that Apple would have to post bonds of nearly $100m (£64m) to enforce the rare pre-trial injunctions.
The bonds serve to secure payment of damages sustained by Samsung should it win the cases.
Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant, said it was “disappointed” by Friday’s decision.
“We will take all available measures, including legal action, to ensure the Galaxy Nexus remains available to consumers,” it said in a statement.
California-based Apple and Samsung are involved in a variety of legal cases in various countries across the globe amid claims and counter claims of patent infringement.
While Apple had accused Samsung of “blatant copying” of its design and look, the South Korean firm has alleged that Apple infringed its patents relating to the way phones and tablet PCs connect to the internet.
Apple and Samsung are two of the biggest manufacturers of tablet PCs and smartphones in the world.
Sales of the iPad more than doubled to 15.43m for the three months to 31 December 2011.
And in the first quarter of 2012 it sold 13.6m, giving it about 63% of the global tablet market, according to research firm Display Search.
Samsung sold 1.6m tablets over the same period, giving it a 7.5% share.
The success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad has seen the firm recently become the world’s most valuable company.
Meanwhile, Samsung has enjoyed considerable success in the sectors with its Galaxy range of products.
The demand for tablet PCs and smartphones is likely to grow even further in the near term.
Analysts said that given the growth potential, the two firms were using every possible tactic to ensure that they capture a bigger share of the market.
Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, has announced his retirement from the company after 13 years in situ, and it seems he’s also walking away from ten of millions in unclaimed share options.
“Bob has been an instrumental part of our executive team, leading the hardware engineering organization and overseeing the team that has delivered dozens of breakthrough products over the years,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook in a statement. “We are very sad to have him leave and hope he enjoys every day of his retirement.”
Mansfield prefers retirement to riches
Mansfield might not have the glamour of Steve Jobs or the design genius Sir Jon Ive, but he did something arguably more important – working out how to manufacture the devices dreamed up by loftier minds. He exemplified the role of the practical engineer; a job best described by the famous British author Nevil Shute as “someone who can do for five bob what any damn fool can do for a quid.” *
He spent years managing the production of Apple’s laptop range, but in 2010 was bought in to manage the mobile side as well after the iPhone 4′s antennagate caused its then-boss Mark Papermaster to quit. Mansfield quietly sorted the iPhone’s problems out as much as possible and has been seen a steadying influence within the company ever since.
Mansfield will be replaced by Dan Riccio, Apple’s vice president of iPad hardware engineering, but the shift will be spread out over a period of months to ensure a smooth transition. “Dan has been one of Bob’s key lieutenants for a very long time and is very well respected within Apple and by the industry,” said Cook.
The departure of Mansfield has come as something of a surprise to Apple watchers. Last year he was one of several executives awarded 150,000 share options apiece (currently worth over $87m) as part of Tim Cook’s efforts to keep key staff in position under his rule. Half of the options are scheduled to vest in June 2013, with the other half in March 2016, so leaving now rather than this time next year has cost Mansfield at least $40m in lost benefits.
* For those unfamiliar with the archaic system of money used in the UK before decimalization it should be explained that a bob is slang for a shilling and there were 20 shillings in a pound (or quid). Thus in the US this would be “someone who can do for 25 cents what any damn fool can do for a dollar.”
29 June 2012
Last updated at 16:51
Xi Jinping is set to become the country’s next president
Web users in mainland China are unable to access Bloomberg’s websites, after they were blocked by local authorities.
The news agency thinks the move is a response to an article published about the fortunes of Vice President Xi Jinping’s extended family.
China has repeatedly blocked sensitive stories. Two days ago, the New York Times’ social media accounts were suspended for several hours.
Xi Jinping is set to become the country’s next president.
“Our Bloomberg.com and Businessweek.com websites are currently inaccessible in China in reaction, we believe, to a Bloomberg News story that was published on Friday morning,” Bloomberg told the BBC.
“Everything else is up and running – consumer and free public [sites] facing are blocked. Terminals are not disrupted.”
The article talks about the multi-million dollar wealth of some of the Vice President’s relatives.
The fortune amounts to investments in firms with total assets of $376m (£240m), an 18% indirect stake in a rare-earths company with $1.73bn (£1.12bn) in assets and a $20.2m (£12.8m) holding in a technology company.
Some Chinese web users try to find a way round the restrictions
“As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg,” said the story.
The article said that the vice president’s extended family also owns an empty villa at the South China Sea in Hong Kong, with an estimated value of $31.5m (£20.1m), and at least six other Hong Kong properties that have a combined estimated value of $24.1m (£15m).
It is not the first time China’s authorities blocked access to a foreign website.
The country closely monitors all internet content that crosses its borders, and several other western firms failed to penetrate what is known as the Great Firewall of China.
Websites of YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook and Foursquare are all banned in the communist nation.
The move to block access to Bloomberg and Businessweek demonstrates that the wealth of the family of the country’s possible next leader is also a sensitive subject for Beijing.
“The government has always been very careful in, on the one hand, emphasising how they want to contain corruption but yet also worrying about how reports of this nature might galvanise public opinion against the Communist Party,” said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing.
The New York Times launched a Chinese language version of its website two days ago, aiming to tap into the world’s biggest internet market.
But at least three of the newspaper’s accounts with China’s Twitter-like services got suspended within hours of the launch of its Chinese language portal.
“As nice as the Apple iPhone is, it poses a real challenge to its users,” explained Jim Balsillie in November 2007, when Apple’s touchscreen device had been on sale only a few months. “Try typing a web key on a touchscreen on an Apple iPhone, that’s a real challenge. You cannot see what you type.”
But for Balsillie, then co-chief executive along with Mike Lazaridis of Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, the real challenge was to his job. Five years to the day after the first iPhones went on sale, Balsillie and Lazaridis have been ejected from the company, and analysts and brokers seriously question its ability to avoid bankruptcy – which might occur quickly.
RIM’s board, led by former operations chief Thorsten Heins since January, is now under pressure to consider “unpalatable” moves such as following Finland’s Nokia by forming an alliance with Microsoft, or selling its network business which carries the data traffic for its 78m subscribers worldwide, Reuters reported.
“If RIM continues to be run as it is, we believe that the company will eventually fail,” Nomura Equity Research said. “We do not expect RIM to successfully drive a turnaround of its financials, even with the launch of [its new software] BB10 next year,” the brokerage said in a note to clients.
It wasn’t alone: at least 10 brokerages cut their price targets on the stock, some by as much as 50%, while the stock dropped by 20% in heavy selling at its opening following woeful quarterly financial results on Thursday night. RIM announced that it shipped just 7.8m handsets, and made an operating loss of $643m – its biggest-ever – on quarterly revenues of $2.81bn, its smallest since November 2008, when Google’s Android handsets had only just begun to go on sale. A year ago, it had an operating profit of $897m on revenues of $4.9bn.
“RIM and Nokia both missed the trends, they were late to understand what was happening,” says Francisco Jeronimo, smartphones analyst for the research company IDC. “Because they both had strong market positions, they made the same mistake of believing that they were doing the right thing.”
In May 2008, Lazaridis was asked what he saw as the most exciting trend in the sector, “The most exciting mobile trend is full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up,” he replied. However at Vodafone’s urging, RIM was already working on the BlackBerry Storm – a touchscreen device, but which made a user-repellent clicking when used – which it unveiled that autumn. The reaction was so negative that RIM avoided touchscreens for years.
But having built its reputation on secure email and handsets with small built-in keyboards, RIM had more to lose by changing than did Nokia, says Jeronimo – and that, allied to poor business execution, has led to its downfall. By contrast Nokia realised its problems in mid-2010, sacked its chief executive and brought in Stephen Elop, an outsider who is transforming the company and focusing it on the smartphone sector, with Microsoft’s help.
Of the 78m subscribers worldwide using RIM’s services, just under half are in business, according to estimates by the research company Informa. But where Lazaridis once reportedly said “no company is going to allow people to bring their own phone”, the rise of “bring your own device”, or BYOD, has accelerated with the rise of the iPhone in the US.
The rise of Android phones in the US and elsewhere has also outpaced it: against the 78m, there have so far been 400m Android devices activated since 2008, and slightly fewer Apple iPhone and iPads, almost all of which are still in use. That puts RIM in a very distant third place in the race to be the “platform” on which developers write the apps which are making smartphones compelling.
That may mean that a final act is in the offing, according to the brokers Cannacord Genuity. “We believe RIM will need to sell the company,” it said in a note to clients.
But nobody is quite sure who would want to buy the company. Baird Equity Research, under the heading “Marching off the cliff”, said it believed there was no likely buyer.
Despite the pressure on the board to find some sort of tieup with Microsoft, there is no obvious reason why the software giant would want to purchase it – instead of waiting for it to approach an end, at which point business clients would probably abandon it and perhaps migrate to Microsoft’s and Nokia’s products. Microsoft is committed to pumping billions into Nokia already – and might not savour the idea of doing the same with RIM for its proprietary encryption systems.
With that in mind, analysts at Citi Investment Research and Jefferies slashed their price targets on the stock to $5.00 for RIM’s US-listed shares, a fall of 45% from Thursday’s close. “We believe fundamentals continue to get worse and RIM could run out of cash and need to raise capital within two years implying that as time rolls forward, if we are correct, the value of RIM continues to go lower,” the Citi analysts said.
“We expect more write-offs and impairments to RIM assets and we question if RIM’s new BB10 products will even matter as it may be too little too late,” the analysts said, adding that they expected the company’s smartphone sales growth to be less than half of the industry average in 2012.
BlackBerry 10, considered to be RIM’s make-or-break product, was slated to be launched in the first quarter and the delay has already contributed to a 40% drop in the company’s stock price so far this year.
28 June 2012
Last updated at 22:57
RIM’s Blackberry has struggled to keep up with other smartphones in the market
Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has said it will delay the launch of its new phone operating system Blackberry 10 and is to cut 5,000 jobs.
The confirmation of job losses, which RIM had warned of last month, came as the firm reported a $518m (£334m) net loss in the three months to 2 June.
That compared with a $695m profit in the same period a year earlier.
Analysts said the results were worse than expected and the Blackberry 10 delay spelt more bad news for RIM.
Revenue in the first quarter dropped 43% to $2.8bn as sales of its Blackberry smartphones fell sharply for a second straight quarter.
RIM has struggled to keep up with rivals in the smartphone market, such as Apple’s iPhone and handsets running on Google’s Android operating system. It has also struggled to gain a foothold in the tablet market.
The Canadian firm had been pinning its hopes for a comeback on Blackberry 10.
Continue reading the main story
RIM’s future will be determined by the success, or failure, of Blackberry 10 when it finally launches, assuming the firm is not the subject of a takeover bid first.
The next-generation system features a flashy user interface with 3D effects and has been designed to make it easier for developers to port Android apps to help bolster the amount of software available on the touchscreen phones it will power.
The system was originally supposed to have been released by March, and the news that it has been delayed again until 2013 means it will miss out on this year’s lucrative back-to-school season.
In the meantime, it casts a shadow over RIM’s current line-up, bearing in mind the system is largely incompatible with the firm’s existing models.
Poor sales of the Playbook may also be seen as a bad omen – the tablet already runs on the QNX system on which Blackberry 10 is based.
With Apple’s iOS 6, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 and Google’s Android 4.1 all due for release before Blackberry 10 emerges, the battle ahead is only getting harder.
The first phone with Blackberry 10 was expected later this year, but will now ship in the first quarter of 2013.
“Our first quarter results reflect the market challenges I have outlined since my appointment as CEO at the end of January,” said RIM boss Thorsten Heins.
“I am not satisfied with these results and continue to work aggressively with all areas of the organisation and the board to implement meaningful changes to address the challenges, including a thoughtful realignment of resources and honing focus within the company on areas that have the greatest opportunities.
“Our top priority going forward is the successful launch of our first Blackberry 10 device, which we now anticipate will occur in the first quarter of calendar 2013.”
Shares in RIM have fallen about 70% over the past year.
After the release of the first quarter results, its shares plunged 18% to $7.47 in extended trading in New York.
RIM also said it expected to make an operating loss in the current quarter.
“These [results] are brutal and it looks like it’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better with this new wrinkle of the delay of BB10,” said Eric Jackson, hedge fund manager at Ironfire Capital in Toronto.
“The company [is] now losing money. For a long time it’s been able to say it’s solidly profitable. And yet now it’s starting to dip in the red and that’s going to continue for several quarters.
“And there’s really no guarantee that once they come out on the other side of BB10 that it’s going to be something that people will want.”
He also said that he thought the company would have to cut more jobs in the future.
RIM has reported disastrous quarterly results and is delaying the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system until next year at the earliest.
In its latest earnings call the company reported revenues fell 33 per cent to $2.8bn in the last quarter, leaving them down 43 per cent on this time last year. RIM made a net loss last quarter of $518m, compared to a profit of $695m over the same period last year.
The company shifted 7.8 million handsets over the last three months, and 260,000 Playbook tablets, although in the latter case this had more to do with massive discounting than any strong consumer demand.
“I am not satisfied with these results and continue to work aggressively with all areas of the organization and the Board to implement meaningful changes to address the challenges, including a thoughtful realignment of resources and honing focus within the Company on areas that have the greatest opportunities,” said RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins in a statement. “Our top priority going forward is the successful launch of our first BlackBerry 10 device, which we now anticipate will occur in the first quarter of calendar 2013.”
Holding back BlackBerry 10 could be the final nail in RIM’s coffin. The three months before Christmas are the busiest time of the year for mobile vendors, with some logging a third of their annual sales in the holiday season. The delay will mean RIM loses a shot at some of these sales, as punters are unlikely to buy handsets with an operating system that will be dumped next year.
RIM’s development team have been making good progress with BlackBerry 10 Heins said, but the problems of integrating new code and applications was taking up more time than had been anticipated. The company wasn’t going to start selling handsets with the operating system until it was working properly he explained, but RIM is still adding customers in all world regions except in its core US market.
On light of the delay Heins said that RIM would be accelerating and expanding its efforts to cut costs, with 5,000 jobs being cut in a move that will cost a one-time charge of $350m. The company has however hired a new chief legal officer to replace Karima Bawa, who jumped ship in May, with Steve Zipperstein, former general counsel of Verizon Wireless filling Bawa’s stylish yet affordable shoes.
RIM stopped giving forecasts on its performance after its last quarterly results statement, but said that the next few quarters would be “very challenging,” which is something of an understatement. The stock market makes its own predictions however, and RIM shares fell 17 per cent at one point before rallying. ®
27 June 2012
Last updated at 22:07
Google opted to outsource production to Asus rather than build the Nexus itself
Google has unveiled the Nexus 7 – its first own-brand tablet.
The device is made by the Taiwanese company Asus rather than the firm’s own Motorola hardware unit. It runs the new Jelly Bean version of Android.
An 8GB version will be sold for $199 (£127) from mid-July pitching it directly against Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
The firm also showed off its internet-connected augmented reality glasses revealing the first models would ship in 2013.
The announcements were made at Google’s I/O developers’ conference in San Francisco.
The 7-inch (17.8cm) Nexus tablet features a quad-core CPU (central processing unit) and a 12-core GPU (graphics processing unit).
Having so many cores means the machine can ramp up its processing power when dealing with complicated graphics or running several programs at once, but can use less at other times to extend battery life.
It is a similar size to Amazon’s tablet and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.
But it has a significantly smaller screen than Apple’s bestselling 9.7-inch (24.6cm) iPad. At 340g (12oz) it is also lighter to hold.
The machine features Google’s Chrome browser as its default option – the first Android device to do so.
The first countries to get the product are the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The Google Play site said the 8GB model would sell for £159 in the UK, and the 16GB version for £199.
The news follows Microsoft’s announcement last week that it plans to sell its own family of tablets called Surface which will run Windows 8.
Tudor Aw, technology sector head at KPMG Europe said it marked a shift towards Apple’s business model which recognised the advantage of being involved in both hardware and software.
“Following hard on the heels of a similar announcement by Microsoft last week [this] demonstrates that gaining a strong marketshare of the tablet market will be critical to tech players if they want to maintain a strong relationship with their end customers – both consumers and business users,” he said.
“Tech players recognise that given the increasing importance of tablet devices, they can no longer risk selling their software and services solely through other people’s products.”
Live images showing the skydivers’ points of view were shown as they fell
But one analyst, from Forrester Research, said the Nexus 7′s success was not guaranteed.
“Google’s real tablet problem is the lack of compelling tablet-optimised apps and Google has yet to address how to motivate developers to fill the gap,” said Frank Gillett.
“I also expect Amazon will update the Kindle Fire before October at the latest, and that will have more compelling content thanks to the retailer’s Prime subscription package which includes movies, books and other content.
“I was surprised Google didn’t offer a similar deal to monetise its hardware.”
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin also took to the stage to showcase the firm’s Glass project – augmented reality glasses that are still in development.
Rather than introduce a demo he brought up live feeds from devices being worn by Google employees sat in a floating airship above San Francisco.
Attendees then watched live footage screened through the headsets as the workers skydived to the roof of a building below.
Google is making its headsets available to third-party developers from “early” 2013
Cyclists on the same roof then streamed pictures as they jumped over ramps before riding to the main floor of the I/O event.
Next engineers explained the “philosophy” of the equipment, saying that they had placed a screen above the right eye to make it easy to continue interacting with the real world, and a touchpad on one of the sidebars to control it.
They said they envisaged two main uses for the device.
The first, to capture videos and photos taken from the user’s point of view as they took part in activities they wished to record.
The second, to overlay information onto what they are seeing in front of them such as how fast they are moving or the best way to get to another location.
Mr Brin added that the “Glass explorer edition” was being made available for pre-order to US-based developers attending the conference. He said it would cost $1,500 and was set to ship early next year.
The Nexus Q costs $100 more than the 8GB tablet and will initially only be available in the US
While the Nexus tablet had been widely rumoured and Project Glass announced before, the unveiling of another product – the Nexus Q – proved a surprise.
The spherical device is a small Android-powered computer without its own screen. Rather than be used as a standalone unit it is meant to be plugged into a stereo and television system.
It can stream music and videos from other devices allowing both its owner and others to play media files. It can communicate via NFC (near field communication) technology as well as wi-fi and bluetooth.
The firm described the US-manufactured item as the “world’s first ever social streaming device”.
However, other wi-fi media streamers such as the Apple TV, Roku 2 XS and Western Digital’s WD TV Live are sold for less than half the price.
Microsoft’s Greek headguarters in Athens have been attacked by arsonists, who caused serious damage but didn’t injure anyone.
The software giant said that the assailants drove a van up to the entrance of the building in the early hours of this morning and made the security guards keep away while they set fire to the vehicle.
“Our priority is our people and we are grateful that no one was injured and that all employees are safe,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Register in an emailed statement. “We are awaiting the completion of the police investigation in order to acquire a fuller view of the situation.”
The van held camping gas canisters and several containers of petrol and caused significant damage to the ground floor of the building, police said.
Greece has been the scene of a number of arson attacks in recent times as austerity measures imposed on the country as a result of the economic crisis bite, unemployment soars and recession deepens.
The attacks usually target official buildings or banks and rarely cause any injuries.
There were three attackers involved in the Microsoft arson, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported authorities as saying, driving a stolen van. The investigation into the incident is being handled by the anti-terrorism squad EKAM.
The fire brigade estimates the damage to the building at around €60,000 (£48,000, $75,000), Reuters reported. ®
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27 June 2012
Last updated at 18:49
Google opted to contract out production to a third-party rather than build the Nexus itself
Google has unveiled the Nexus 7 – its first own-brand Android tablet.
The device is made by the Taiwanese company Asus rather than the firm’s own Motorola hardware unit.
It will be sold for $199 (£127) from mid-July pitching it directly against Amazon’s Kindle Fire. It is set to be released in mid-July.
The 7-inch device has a smaller screen than Apple’s bestselling iPad and is 340g meaning it is also lighter to hold.
It also features Google’s Chrome browser at its default option – the first Android device to do so.
The machine features a quad-core CPU (central processing unit) and a 12-core GPU (graphics processing unit).
Having so many cores means the machine can ramp up its processing power when dealing with complicated graphics or running several programs at once, but can use less at other times to extend battery life.
The first countries to get the device are the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The Nexus Q costs $100 more than the tablet and will launch in the US
While the tablet had been widely rumoured before the firms I/O developers conference in San Francisco, the unveiling of another product – the Nexus Q – proved a surprise.
The device is a small Android-powered computer without its own screen. Rather than be used as a standalone unit it is meant to be plugged into a stereo and television system.
It can stream music and videos from other devices allowing both its owner and others to play media files.
The firm described it as the “world’s first ever social streaming device”.