Welcome back to TSR on tech! After a few weeks of R&R we’re back and ready to bring you all the latest tech news – and just in the nick of time! This week we’ve scooped up announcements about the iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and Wii U (yes, seriously), as well as plenty of hirings and firings and, naturally, the odd lawsuit. Let’s go!
Yahoo! is set to sell back half of its 40% stake in Alibaba, the Chinese internet and e-commerce giant. The sale, due to close next week, will be worth $4.5bn after tax – money that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s CEO, will likely spend on acquiring a startup or three to bring some fresh faces and ideas to the company. Yahoo! will retain its remaining 20% stake until Alibaba floats on the stock market, at which point it will be required to sell at least another 10%.
It was reported this week that Google blocked Acer from launching a smartphone that used a competing operating system by threatening to end its Android partnership with the manufacturer. Google makes the Android operating system, used in many of Acer’s handsets, but in this case Acer wanted to use the Aliyun OS produced by Alibaba. Aliyun can run Android applications but is not fully compatible with the OS, leading to Google’s argument that it blocked Acer’s smartphone to prevent Android fragmentation. Google told Ars Technica: “Non-compatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem. All members of the Open Handset Alliance have committed to building one Android platform and to not ship non-compatible Android devices.” Acer has not commented.
GoDaddy, one of the largest webhosting and domain name providers in the world, suffered five hours of outages on Monday that affected almost every site the company hosted. Though someone claiming to be part of the Anonymous hacking group initially claimed responsibility, the issues were later found to be caused by an internal network error.
Zynga suffered two executive departures this week; first to go was CTO of Infrastructure, Allan Leinwand, who will take up a similar role at ServiceNow. A day later Zynga’s chief marketing and revenue officer, Jeff Karp, also resigned. Zynga’s stock price has been trading at all-time lows since Facebook’s IPO and is currently around $2.82 a share, just above a 52-week low of $2.66. The company did manage to attract a new chief operating officer for new markets, however, hiring Maytal Olsha from 888 Holdings, a gambling website portal.
Eric Rosenblum, Google’s director of product for Google Offers, has left the company to join Drawbridge, a startup focusing on mobile advertising that raised $6.5mn in funding earlier this year. Rosenblum had worked at Google for four and a half years.
Nvidia has lost Mike Rayfield, general manager of the company’s mobile business unit. Rayfield will reportedly be taking a role at another company but the details are not yet known.
HP has raised its estimated job cuts from 27,000 to 29,000 between now and 2014. HP’s restructuring costs are now expected to cost around $1.5bn, up from the previously estimated $1bn.
Kodak, which has laid off around 2,700 employees this year already, has announced plans to cut a further 1,000 jobs by the end of the year. The struggling company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.
Zynga has launched a lawsuit against Electronic Arts, claiming that the larger company interfered with its recruiting through “anticompetitive and unlawful business practices.” Zynga also filed two motions to defend against EA’s contention last month that The Ville (a Facebook game made by Zynga) is essentially a copy of The Sims Social. In a snarky response to Zynga’s lawsuits, an EA spokesperson said: “This is a predictable subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga’s persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios. Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they’ve got, rather than suing to acquire more.”
The International Trade Commission has initially ruled that Apple does not infringe any of four Samsung patents pertaining to 3G wireless standards and smartphone interfaces. A final decision will be made later, so Samsung has a chance to convince the ITC to overturn the initial ruling. A ruling in a parallel case, in which Apple is accusing Samsung of infringement, is expected in early October.
Products – Apple
Apple launched the iPhone 5, the latest generation of its market-leading smartphone. The iPhone 5’s most notable feature is its larger screen at four inches diagonally, making the phone taller but not wider and allowing for a fifth row of icons on the homescreen. The phone is also 18% thinner and 20% lighter than an iPhone 4S, at 7.6mm and 112g respectively, and will come with LTE (a faster version of 3G) connectivity for theoretical download speeds of around 100mb/s. Inside, the iPhone 5 comes with an A6 chip – claimed to be twice as fast as the A5 used in the 4S – and an improved camera. The smartphone is also the first Apple product for some time not to use the standard 30-pin cable for charging and syncing, eschewing it in favour of Apple’s faster new “Lightning” connector, which will be the standard from now on. Apple will sell a 30-pin to Lightning adapter so that the iPhone 5 can be used with existing accessories.
The iPhone 5 will run iOS 6, which Apple first announced at WWDC in June. iOS 6 will see Google Maps replaced by Apple’s own 3D offering, better iCloud integration, improvements to Siri (including finally being able to launch apps by voice control), and Facebook integration alongside the existing Twitter functionality. The iPhone 5 is currently available for pre-orders and was expected to ship on September 21st, though is already delayed following massive demand (the first batch of pre-orders reportedly sold out in an hour).
Apple then announced the seventh generation of its iPod Nano. The Nano, now just 5mm thin (a 40% decrease from the sixth generation), includes a larger touchscreen display and comes in a variety of colours. It includes a built-in fitness app and pedometer and will be available from October. Finally, Apple announced the fifth generation of the iPod Touch. Thinner (at 6.1mm) and lighter (at 88g) than the existing model, it is also seven times faster owing to its A5 chip and includes a five-megapixel camera. Software-wise, it will run iOS 6 including Siri. It will also come in a selection of colours.
Also mentioned during the keynote were Apple’s redesigned “EarPods,” which are apparently extremely uncomfortable, and iTunes, which has been revamped to be faster and slicker and will be available in its new form in late October. Ping, Apple’s attempt at a music-based social network, was not mentioned but is being shut down at the end of September.
Products – Other
Nokia has announced the Lumia 920, an LTE smartphone running Windows Phone 8 that will serve as its new flagship device. The launch was bungled, however, by Nokia’s use of a promotional video that contained fake footage. The video, supposed to demonstrate the Lumia 920’s high-powered camera capabilities, in fact used video most likely captured using a DSLR and tripod for stability. Nokia apologised for the “mistake” but maintained that the phone has one of the best cameras of any new phone.
EE, formerly Everything Everywhere, the umbrella company that controls T-Mobile and Orange, has announced that it will be the first mobile network to provide 4G (LTE) coverage in the UK. EE’s 4G network will be up and running in 16 cities (covering a third of the population) by the end of 2012, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow. Smartphones available on the network at launch will include the iPhone 5, the Lumia 920 and Luma 820, the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the HTC One XL. EE intends to cover 98% of the population by 2014 and also has plans for a fibreoptic broadband network to compete with BT and Virgin.
Nintendo finally launched the Wii U – first announced about 15 months ago at E3 – in a presentation on Thursday. The successor to the popular Wii console will be released on November 30th in Europe for either $300 for the white “basic set,” including the system, the GamePad controller, a stylus and a sensor bar (like the Wii’s), or $350 for the black “deluxe edition,” including all of the above plus a copy of NintendoLand, a GamePad stand, and a GamePad charging cradle. The deluxe system also has more storage space. Ars Techinica has the run-down on the details.
The UK government will retire its Directgov website on October 17th, when it will be succeeded by GOV.UK, intended to be simpler to use and cheaper to run. Directgov first launched in 2004 and for some reason is still the same lurid orange colour.
The RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre), which assigns IP addresses in Europe, the Middle East and the former USSR, has officially run out of IPv4 addresses. That means it is no longer possible to get new addresses in any of the aforementioned areas. APNIC, which handles addresses in Asia and the Pacific, ran out in May 2011. AfriNIC, LACNIC and ARIN (Africa, Latin America and North America respectively) have enough addresses to last another two years or so, although ideally the world would be transitioning to IPv6 by then.
The Pi In The Sky project used five aeroplane skywriters to write the first 1,000 digits of pi in the air over San Francisco.
Microsoft has patented the holodeck.