Welcome back to TSR on tech, where we gather, analyse and discuss all the week’s best tech news. And what news! Several new announcements from Facebook, bad quarters for Dell and HP, a Tesla museum in New York – and, yes, an astonishing verdict in the Apple v Samsung case. It’s all below; what are you waiting for?
Wayne Powers, Yahoo!’s senior vice president for North American sales, is the latest executive to leave the company since Marissa Mayer took over as CEO. Powers was brought in from Time by Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo!’s interim CEO before Mayer, in 2010, and had been expected to depart after Levinsohn missed out on the top spot. Powers will go on to run Parade Publications, a company owned by Advance Publications that produces many of the magazines included inside the Sunday newspapers in the US.
Peter Thiel, made famous by The Social Network as Facebook’s first major investor, this week sold 20.06 million shares at around $19.73 each after his IPO lockup period expired. The move will have made him around $400mn – a pretty good return on his initial $500,000 investment. Thiel’s investment in Facebook now stands at 5.6 million shares.
Following the decision by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading to allow Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, the Federal Trade Commission in the US has reached the same conclusion. Interestingly, the purchase is no longer worth the remarkable $1bn Facebook was to pay – the deal included $300mn up front plus 23 million shares in Facebook, whose falling stock price means Instagram has lost around $200 million while the authorities have been deliberating. Well, it was over-valued anyway.
Apple’s shares this week passed the $666 mark, propelling the company to a market cap of $624.6bn – beating Microsoft’s 1999 record of $622bn and making Apple the richest company of all time. (Of course, this doesn’t account for inflation, so take it with a pinch of salt.)
Dell reported poor quarterly results, missing analysts’ consensus for revenue by $200mn. The company was expected to bring in $14.7bn but managed only $14.5bn, though earnings per share were 50 cents, above the consensus of 48 cents. Dell shares fell 1.75% during regular trading and 3% in after-hours trading as a result.
HP also had a bad quarter, reporting a loss of $8.9bn – in line with analysts’ estimates – mostly owing to the $8bn write-down of its failing Enterprise Services division, which the company has been struggling to turn around. The company also took a $1.2bn blow from the devaluation of the Compaq brand name, which will now be relegated to low-end products. Revenue for the quarter was $27.9bn, down 5% year-on-year.
HTC announced a $40mn loss over its investment in OnLive, a cloud gaming service that recently filed for bankruptcy.
Legal – Apple v Samsung
The Apple v Samsung trial concluded suddenly this week after an astonishingly fast jury verdict. Closing arguments were given on Monday and Tuesday after the company’s CEOs met one more time but failed to agree on a settlement, and a 22-page jury form combined with the complexity of the case meant that the jury was expected to take days if not weeks to reach any sort of decision. But late on Friday afternoon the court was called to session to read the jury’s unanimous verdict: a sweeping victory for Apple. The jury found that Samsung was liable for damages of $1.049bn for wilfully infringing on most of Apple’s patents and designs, while Apple had infringed none of Samsung’s patents and was liable for no damages whatsoever. In fact, the only major point Apple didn’t win on was the iPad’s trade dress – the jury found that Samsung’s tablets did not dilute it.
In this author’s opinion, the jury reached a verdict far too quickly to have properly examined every point. It had to make over 700 individual decisions and understand some very arcane and complex technical patents, particularly for Samsung’s case – there is little likelihood that a jury of nine regular people could have managed that in three days. Rather, it feels as though the jury had already made up its mind in the courtroom that Apple had won and then simply decided individual points to support its overall view. In particular, the fact that Apple was not found to have infringed Samsung’s wireless networking patents – patents essential for compliance with standards Apple meets – was particularly odd, and this is further evidenced by several inconsistencies in the verdict (these were soon sorted).
Nevertheless, the jury’s verdict will stand. An injunction hearing has been scheduled for September 20th, where Apple will try to win injunctions against all the Samsung devices that were just shown to be wilfully infringing its intellectual property. Beyond that, both companies are likely to appeal: Apple to ask that the issue of the iPad’s trade dress be re-examined (it is very keen to protect the iPad’s design as unique), and Samsung to try to have as much of the jury’s decision overturned as possible. There is little proof that the jury acted improperly, however, and any incremental judgements Samsung might win on appeal will mean little in the face of this landslide victory for Apple.
Farther afield, Apple will be able to point to this ruling in its other lawsuits around the world; while each trial must be conducted separately, this victory is likely to have a lot of influence. That is, assuming anyone continues with their court cases against Apple – if the world’s biggest smartphone maker (and richest Android smartphone maker) can lose so devastatingly, what chance do other, smaller companies such as HTC and Motorola have?
On the other hand, there is some hope. This ruling could finally force Apple and Google to sit down and work out licensing agreements that would protect Android phone manufacturers, thus safeguarding competition. Additionally, Apple has always claimed that all it wants is for other companies to innovate on their own merits instead of following its path – and would it be such a bad thing if they were now forced to do so?
Microsoft and the Windows Phone team, after all, are laughing.
Legal – other
The Fair Labour Association has issued a report on Foxconn’s factories in China. Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, came under scrutiny earlier this year after the New York Times carried out an investigation into working conditions at the factories and Apple ordered an independent review. The new report finds that Apple and Foxconn have since completed 284 of the recommended improvements on time or ahead of schedule, with 76 to go over the next year.
Hacking & Security
Hector Monsegur, who led the hacking group known as LulzSec under the alias of Sabu and was later exposed as an FBI informant, has been awarded a six-month delay in sentencing “in light of the defendant’s ongoing cooperation with the Government.”
Anonymous spent some time this week taking down the websites of the UK’s Justice Department and Department of Work and Pensions as a protest over the treatment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is currently trapped inside Ecuador’s London embassy. The hacking group apparently also planned to take down the website of No. 10 Downing Street, but the website remained online all week.
Blizzard announced a new “Paragon” system for Diablo III that will in effect give players an extra 100 levels to achieve once they finish the original game.
Amazon has launched a new data archiving service called Amazon Glacier, which is designed to store lots of data for a long time. Storage will cost $0.01 per gigabyte per month, with more complicated and extensive retrieval fees; the idea is to store big sets of data that cannot be deleted but which won’t need to be accessed very often. The company is promising 99.999999999% (yes, 11 nines) durability for data stored with the service.
Meanwhile, Facebook has been busy rolling out several new features. The first is “Sponsored Results,” where paid advertisements will now appear alongside results in Facebook’s search box. The concept is similar to the Sponsored Stories Facebook is testing, which would appear in users’ news feeds. Facebook then announced a revised Messages view, which looks a lot more like the two-pane view used by Microsoft Outlook and Apple’s Messages, among others. Finally, Facebook re-launched its notoriously slow iOS app; the app, which previously just loaded HTML5 content the same way a web page does, has been rewritten from scratch in native code and is now more reliable, less buggy and at least twice as fast. Thank goodness.
Tumblr has removed features that allow users to search for friends using their Twitter contacts after Twitter imposed much tighter restrictions on how services could use its data. In a statement, Tumblr said: “To our dismay, Twitter has restricted our users’ ability to ‘Find Twitter Friends’ on Tumblr. We are truly disappointed by Twitter’s decision. Given our history of embracing their platform, this is especially upsetting. Our syndication feature is responsible for hundreds of millions of tweets, and we eagerly enabled Twitter Cards across 70 million blogs and 30 billion posts as one of Twitter’s first partners.” LinkedIn and Instagram have also been forced to remove Twitter-related services as a result of Twitter’s changes.
Microsoft has unveiled its new logo – the first redesign in 25 years. The new design is a sharper, more modern version of the old one, and is intended to be consistent with the UI style used Windows 8, Windows Phone, Office and other products. There’s even a pretty video to prove it.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, passed away on Saturday as a result of complications from heart surgery three weeks earlier. The “reluctant hero,” whose immortal words and huge legacy will live forever, was 82.
NASA this week announced another rover mission to Mars. The mission, called InSight, is set for 2016 and will investigate the composition of the planet.
The Oatmeal‘s campaign to raise $850,000 to build a Tesla museum on the site of Nikola Tesla’s New York laboratory has surpassed its funding goal with 35 days to go. At the time of writing the campaign had raised $1,090,751 – $850,000 of that will be used to purchase the site in conjunction with a grant from the state, and any extra proceeds will go towards renovating the existing buildings and creating the museum itself.
Facebook is collecting 500 terabytes of data every day. Yes – 500 terabytes.