It’s been a fairly slow week for those of us not frantically predicting what Apple will (or most likely won’t) change in iOS 6, which is due to be announced on Monday at WWDC. But the tech world never really grinds to a halt, and so we’ll still be taking a look at layoffs at HP and Olympus, wheelings and dealings in various courtrooms, Google’s 3D maps, Toshiba’s laptop with a 21:9 display ratio, and how you can get your very own Iron Throne. All this and more, below.
They're only small cuts. I promise.
Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, has announced that the company will be laying off 27,000 employees, or 8% of the company’s workforce, by October 2014. The cuts are expected to save $3-3.5bn annually and are the largest in the company’s history. The deepest reductions will be made to HP’s services business, which Whitman says will be “a smaller, more profitable … business over the next two to three years.” Following HP’s recent Q2 earnings and the news of the layoffs, the company’s share price rose almost 10% in after-hours trading.
Olympus has also this week confirmed rumours of layoffs, though on a smaller scale than HP. 2,700 people will be let go by March 2014, a reduction of 7%. Olympus’ new president, Hiroyuki Sasa, has recently been steering the company in a new direction to focus on mirrorless cameras and medical equipment rather than its point-and-shoot offerings.
Google has acquired QuickOffice, a developer of mobile apps that allow users to edit and share Microsoft Office documents, and plans to integrate the company’s technology into Google Docs. Alan Warren, Google’s engineering director, said: “Quickoffice has a strong base of users, and we look forward to supporting them while we work on an even more seamless, intuitive, and integrated experience.”
Uh oh: an excerpt from Apple's "Electronic device" design patent
Apple has executed a coup de main against the consumer PC market by being granted a patent for its Macbook Air design. The patent, titled “Electronic device,” is full of drawings that note the shape of the laptop as well as its metallic casing. Considering most ultrabooks look extremely similar to the Air, it won’t be a surprise if we start seeing lawsuits from Apple until other companies start producing different designs.
The Apple vs Motorola patent case in Illinois has been thrown out by Judge Richard Posner, who said “neither party can establish a right to relief,” meaning neither Apple nor Motorola could prove exactly how much the alleged patent infringements have cost. He also stated there was no reason to block either company’s products. The order is tentative and Posner will issue a formal opinion next week, but the case was due to start on Monday and so will be delayed at the very least.
Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked military documents to WikiLeaks, has returned to court for a pretrial hearing, where his lawyers hope to have 10 of his 22 charges dismissed. Lawyers for both sides continued to debate which documents are relevant to the case, in light of Manning’s attorney’s difficulties in obtaining files and reports from the government. Manning, 23, has been in prison since May 2010 and faces life in prison if found guilty of the charges.
Hacking & Security
Users of LinkedIn, Last.fm and eHarmony have had their passwords stolen in three high-profile hacking cases this week. It is not believed the thefts are related. Users of any of these services should change their passwords immediately, especially if the same password has been reused anywhere else.
Microsoft has released an emergency update for all versions of Windows that addresses the Flame malware making headlines this week. The malware takes advantage of a certificate flaw in the Windows Update program to spread around networks. Users are recommended to update immediately to protect themselves (though, somewhat amusingly, it remains unclear whether the update will work if Windows Update has already been compromised by the Flame malware).
E3 happened this week, with conferences and announcements galore. At Electronic Arts’ press conference, BioWare announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be free-to-play for everyone up to level 15, starting from July. TOR is just six months old and has largely failed to meet the company’s hopes as its subscriber numbers continue to decline.
Also announced this week was Watch Dogs from Ubisoft Montreal, creator of the Assassin’s Creed series. The game appears to be set in near-future Chicago and features guns, hacking and sneaking around. As Cyril Kowaliski of The Tech Report puts it: “Deus Ex meets Assassin’s Creed, with a sprinkling of Grand Theft Auto.”
Valve has announced that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be released on August 21st on Steam, Xbox Live and PSN for “approximately $15.”
Google has announced that it will be dramatically improving its 3D maps in Google Earth, with a mind to eventually bring the service to Google Maps for all devices, including mobile. The feat will be achieved using “a fleet of planes that fly exclusively for Google” to take pictures of buildings from all angles, along with a technique called stereo-photogrammetry, which uses the pictures to construct 3D models. The project will also include better indoor maps of public buildings and will see Android gain cached offline maps. What is unclear is how hard hit Google will be if Apple drops Google Maps in iOS 6 in favour of its own solution, as it is expected to do.
Apple aside, Google has at least beaten Yandex to the punch, knocking aside Russia’s most popular search engine to secure a place as the default search option in the Russian version of Firefox 14. Yandex has a 60% share of the Russian search market and became the Firefox default in 2009. Yandex said its replacement as the default would “have a minimal effect on its share of searches, and the impact on revenue and profitability will be negligible.”
Toshiba's widescreen laptop wins the prize for least appealing name
Toshiba has launched an ultrabook with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1792 x 768. With the catchy title of U845W (no wonder these companies lose out to “Macbook Air”), the model certainly looks odd, but could actually be handy if users can come to see it almost as a portable dual-screen set-up, with the ability to show, say, a movie and an internet browser side by side. The U845W weighs 3.5 pounds and measures 0.82 inches thick, with an advertised 7.5 hours of battery life.
Facebook’s App Center, which was announced in May and is designed to bring all the apps available for Facebook into one place, has started rolling out to some users. Malorie Lucich, Facebook’s communications manager, told ABC News: “The App Center is now full of very high quality apps that are easy for Facebook users to find.”
CERN has confirmed that neutrinos do not travel faster than light.
Windows 7 this week sold its 600 millionth copy.
Samsung has donated $500,000 to the Linux Foundation and gained a seat on the not-for-profit’s board.
Should look perfectly normal in your living room
The latest report by IHS iSuppli states that the supply of mechanical hard drives will not return to normal until 2014. The hard drive industry was massively disrupted by flooding in Thailand last year, where the vast majority of hard drives are manufactured.
Truly dedicated Game Of Thrones fans may be interested in paying $30,000 (£19,370) for HBO’s replica of the Iron Throne. The chair is 7 feet tall, 6 feet deep and 5.5 feet wide, and is made from hand-painted fibreglass (sorry, no real swords). Oh, and the shipping will cost another $1800.
And finally, just because you needed the image: some stats on how much your parents are sexting.