TSR on tech: your weekly news summary
|April 22, 2012||Posted by Elliot Davies under TSR on tech|
It was all about the numbers this week, as several major companies reported their quarterly earnings. Many hit the mark but we weren’t left without any surprises; you’ll have to read on to find out more. If finance isn’t your thing then don’t fret: we’ve also got the low-down on the Flashback virus infecting everyone’s Macs, a brief open beta for Diablo III, a very fancy watch, and MacBook Pro perfume. I kid you not.
Microsoft’s Q3 earnings were better than expected this week, as the Redmond company reported profits of $5.11bn – 60 cents a share – on revenue of $17.41bn. Analysts had expected $17.18bn. The greatest increases were in Microsoft’s Business Division, which reported a 9% year-on-year increase in revenue to $5.81bn, and its Server & Tools division, which reported a 14% increase to $4.57bn. Conversely, Entertainment & Devices saw revenues decrease by 16% year-on-year, though this might be only a temporary blip if Windows Phone takes off as hoped.
Nokia, the other half of that Windows Phone effort, had a less positive report. Quarterly sales were down 29% to €7.4bn from €10.4bn a year ago, and the company lost 25 euro cents per share. Nokia cautioned last week that it would fall short of its goal but it nevertheless looks more urgent than ever that the company’s partnership with Microsoft work out.
Yahoo!’s Q1 earnings were more of a mixed bag. Posting revenues of $1.08bn and earnings of 23 cents per share, the company beat expectations of $1.06bn and 17 cents per share – but at the same time revenue was up a meagre 1% year-on-year at a time when other internet companies are merrily riding the tide of internet growth. In particular, Yahoo! saw revenue decrease 9% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which was put down to the economy. Onlookers continue to wait for CEO Scott Thompson to outline a clear strategy for the company.
Microchip makers had a tough week, as Intel’s shares fell following its posted decrease in Q1 profits by 13% and sales increase of under 1%. Although Intel narrowly beat analysts’ consensus by $600mn, investors are understandably worried about the coinciding 20% increase in operating expenses. At the same time, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), the company that has traditionally been Intel’s chief (though much smaller) competition in the chip-making market, reported a loss of $590mn in its first quarter primarily owning to problems with Globalfoundries, its spun-off manufacturing business.
Finally, eBay beat its expectations with a 29% rise in revenue to $3.3bn and an increase in net income of 17% to $725mn. Most of the growth was down to PayPal, which brought in 32% more than in Q1 2011 despite the seemingly continuous (and frankly confusing) exodus of senior employees to Yahoo!.
Apple and Samsung have agreed to settlement talks over their ongoing patent disputes. Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Gee-Sung Choi will take part in talks overseen by US Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero in the hopes that a resolution can be found before the case continues in the courts.
Meanwhile, a judge in California has ordered Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar to face a lawsuit accusing the companies of brokering secret agreements not to hire each others’ employees, thus limiting employees’ ability to get better jobs. The seven companies previously tried to have the case thrown out.
The EU has green-lighted Sony and its co-investors to continue their plans to buy out EMI’s music publishing division for $2.2bn.
Hacking & security
The Flashback Mac virus, which was first noticed a couple of weeks ago, is now estimated to have infected 650,000 Macs, despite efforts by Apple and others to patch the responsible flaw in OS X and provide tools to catch and cure the problem. The malware, which connects infected machines to a botnet so that further instructions can be downloaded, originally spread by pretending to be an Adobe Flash update before switching to exploit a flaw in the Java programming language. Later, the WordPress blogging platform issued a security update to fix a vulnerability that may have been used to mass-infect websites running the software.
Anonymous has built its own Pastebin-style site, called AnonPaste, which has been designed to host pastes of code and messages without any moderation of the content. The site claims the data is encrypted and there is no way for the administrators to view or even delete specific pastes. Jeroen Vader, the owner of Pastebin, told Ars Technica: “We think this new totally anonymous Paste site will be used mainly by people who have something to hide, people who are posting things that really shouldn’t be posted. We see no benefit for normal legitimate users to use it over the currently existing paste websites.”
Blizzard’s long-awaited Diablo III opened for beta testing this weekend as part of a stress test on the game’s servers. Anyone with a valid Battle.net account should be able to access the open beta until 10:00 PT on Monday. The closed beta, which has been going for some time, will continue until May 1st and the game is due for release at last on May 15th.
The source code for the original Prince of Persia game for the Apple II has been published on GitHub by its author, Jordan Mechner. The game was first published in 1989 and its code had to be retrieved from a 22-year-old floppy disk. Technically Ubisoft still holds the rights to the software, and so the code is not open source, but it is being made available for historic purposes.
Popular blogging site Tumblr has announced that it will be launching adverts from May 2nd, despite the CEO’s previous claims that advertising would be “a complete last resort” and that the company was “pretty opposed to advertising. It really turns our stomachs.” Tumblr recently started hosting its 50 millionth blog but still has little in the way of a revenue model, so the introduction of advertising perhaps should not come as much of a surprise.
The Kickstarter funding record was broken this week when the Pebble E-Paper Watch reached $3.34mn in just five days. (At the time of writing the project has 39,744 backers pledging $5.81mn, with 27 days left.) The watch uses a display much like that of the Amazon Kindle, making it fully customisable without the problems of LCD screens, and can be connected to the iPhone or an Android phone by Bluetooth. The wearer will be able to use it to read emails and texts, be alerted to calls, see Facebook and Twitter notifications, control music, and even display a watch face.
Delivery has finally begun of the Raspberry Pi, the £22, credit-card sized computer that went on sale in March. Briefly held back by compliance issues, the Pis are now on their way to those customers lucky enough to order one of the first batch.
Brent Schlender, the journalist who covered Steve Jobs for the WSJ and Fortune for more than two decades, has uncovered some “lost” tapes of interviews he conducted with the former Apple CEO. Of particular interest is the time Jobs spent away from Apple between 1985 and 1997; Schlender’s full piece on the tapes can be found here.
Artists working with scent marketing company Air Aroma have recreated the specific scent of a brand new MacBook Pro for an art exhibition in Melbourne. A blog post by Air Aroma states that the scent: “encompasses the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminum laptop which has come straight from the factory where it was assembled in China.” Although the scent was originally produced solely for the exhibition, Air Aroma’s COO said: “We have received such an overwhelming response that we are considering what else we could do with it.” MacBook aftershave, anyone?
A joint effort between the University of Oxford and the Vatican will see the digitization of 1.5 million pages of rare and ancient texts, mostly from the 16th century or earlier. The project will take around four years and is being funded by a £2mn donation from the Polonsky Foundation. Around two thirds of the documents will come from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the rest from Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.
Swiss and German physicists have demonstrated the splitting of an electron, previously thought to be among the smallest types of sub-atomic particle.
In South Korea, one prison is testing out robotic guards.