Friday, December 14, 2012

Sprint Seeks to Buy Rest of Clearwire for About $2.1 Billion

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) proposed to acquire shares in wireless partner Clearwire Corp. it doesn’t already own in a deal that the third-largest U.S. carrier says would cost about $2.1 billion.

Sprint, which owns more than 50 percent of Clearwire, is seeking to acquire shares at $2.90 each, or 5.5 percent more than the stock’s closing price in New York yesterday, according to a regulatory filing today. Sprint proposed to provide interim financing of as much as $800 million.

Sprint is getting an influx of cash from Japan’s Softbank Corp. (9984), which agreed to buy 70 percent of Sprint for about $20 billion. Sprint agreed to buy Eagle River Holdings LLC’s 4.5 percent stake in Clearwire in October for $2.97 a share.

Clearwire shares jumped 2.6 percent to $2.75 yesterday in New York. The stock is up 42 percent this year.

Sprint originally formed the Clearwire joint venture in 2008, relying on $3.2 billion in investments from Google Inc. (GOOG), Intel Corp., and cable companies such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. The idea was to build a national wireless network that could compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T)

Clearwire never lived up to those ambitions, and the project has yet to break even. Along the way, partners such as Google and Time Warner Cable have sold their stakes for a fraction of their original value.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Windows 8 Sales Outpacing Previous OS

story first appeared on

Microsoft has stepped up to prove naysayers wrong on early Windows 8 adoption.

Tami Reller, the software giant's new co-chief of the Windows division, told a Credit Suisse investor conference in Arizona on Tuesday that Window 8 upgrades are outpacing Windows 7 in its first month.

Microsoft's long-term outlook as operating system leader has come into question as PC sales slacken amid a consumer frenzy over tablets and smartphones from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google and

Windows 8 became available Oct. 26, but doubts about its extreme makeover raised uncertainty about its commercial appeal to big businesses. The Window 8 debut has required a major overhaul of both the software and company in a bid for mobile relevance.

This month, Microsoft reorganized its Windows unit that resulted in the departure of long-time veteran and Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.

Microsoft executives Reller and Julies Larson-Green were tapped to lead the division.

Despite Opportunity, Women Still Under-represented in Engineering

story first appeared in

Back in the mid-1980s, Jeanine Swatton was in an all-girl band in Boston, belting out top-40 hits -- just like the then-popular band The Go-Gos.

The all-female band from the 1980s was iconic for making noise in the predominately male music industry. Years later, Swatton is trying to do the same with an all-female engineering team at her software start-up.

Her narrative is one of a supremely talented engineer and app writer who grew restless as the only woman engineer at previous employers.

It all makes perfect sense for Swatton, 40. Yet in an age of more early-stage tech companies led by women, and against a backdrop of demand for technical talent, female engineers remain a rarity.

Despite an influx of females among Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial ranks, the computer-science field remains dominated by men. According to the National Science Foundation, women have plummeted from 28% of the graduates in computer sciences at U.S. schools in 2000 to 17% in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.

Rani Borkar says there should be more female engineers. She is a  general manager for Intel's Architecture Development Group who came to the U.S. from India in 1985 and has seen steady, if slow, progress.

The field's stunted growth, especially for women, is rooted in education. There just aren't enough kids weaned on the topic in high school and, before that, elementary school, says Gary May, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Deborah Hillman, and IT Technician for a resort company offering discount vacation deals like Captiva Island Vacation Rentals since 2000, says she was lucky to get into the field when she did. Internet related work was lesser known at the turn of the century, which allowed more women to beat their male counterparts to those jobs.

Computer science is taught in a fraction of U.S. high schools. Only 2,100 of 42,000 were certified to teach advanced-placement computer science courses in 2011,and just 21,139 students took the AP exam.

Overall, some 120,000 engineering students graduate annually from U.S.colleges and universities each year -- a fraction of the nearly 1 million from China and India annually.

The urgency highlights the race in innovation for global economic supremacy. Engineers are considered among the most vital foot soldiers as companies vie for the business of consumers and businesses. Yet, for years, it's been a male-driven race.

According to Elizabeth Stark, a lecturer on Internet issues at Stanfor Law School, many boys start programming at a young age, and for a variety of reasons, girls do not.

In his acceptance speech after being re-elected, President Obama stressed the need for more college-educated engineers in the U.S., both men and women -- a major meme of his administration the past few years.

The administration has made it clear it intends to reform immigration for 11 million people who are here illegally, but offered no guidance on whether it intends to increase the cap on H1-B visas so more foreign workers can bring their engineering skills to the U.S. "The U.S. is still the cradle of innovation," says Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who wants to boost the annual U.S.graduate total by 10,000.

Several programs are filling the void. The program teaches computer science to middle-school girls in low-income areas. Another,, is about to launch a crowd-funding campaign to get computer science in every high school. Smith, the nation's first women's college to have an engineering school, graduated its first such tech class in 2004.

Catering to women, companies such as IBM have for decades targeted career development and work-life programs.

While one in seven engineers is female, according to a 2011 report by the Department of Commerce, Intuit is attempting to buck the trend. Of the 121 software engineers it hired upon college graduation since June, 47 were female -- or more than one in three, says Intuit CTO Tayloe Stansbury.

And for the first time in its more than 30-year history, Microsoft's Windows unit is led by two women -- Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller -- who served under Steven Sinofsky, who is leaving the company.

Underscoring the push, Jack Dorsey's Square plans to host Code Camp, an interactive experience for female engineers at the company's San Francisco headquarters Jan. 9-12.The conference includes mentorship sessions with Square leaders, developer workshops and networking opportunities.

The grassroots programs have paid dividends, slowly ushering in a new wave of women.

There are others who have arrived by a different path. She doesn't have a formal degree in engineering, but Caitlin Johanson is one of Core Security's white-hat hackers (her official title is technical support and training manager).

As a child, instead of playing with building blocks, she tinkered with an IBM PS/2 personal computer.  Johanson says. From high school, she jumped into freelance coding.

Self-described "bad ass" Vivian Kam is an extreme biker, motorcyclist and hockey-playing software engineer at Complete Genomics.

An uphill climb

Twenty years ago, there was a lot of energy around computer sciences , according to Erin Cech, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University.

But the current computer climate has excluded females, for the most part.

From 2000 to 2011, there was a 79% decline in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science, according to data supplied by the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Tracy Chou, a 25-year-old software engineer at Pinterest, couldn't shake feelings of "imposters' syndrome" at Stanford University, where she didn't feel up to par with the computing skills of male students with more technical expertise.

Of course, building an ecosystem takes time -- often, years. Only 20% of the chief information officers at Fortune 250 companies are women.

Dorothy Nicholls, vice president of Kindle for, says we need to rethink how we teach math to girls. She taught her 3-year-old daughter how to add by counting pieces of Skittles and chocolate.

Yahoo sent ripples throughout the business world, however, with the hiring this year of new CEO Marissa Mayer, a trained engineer who oversaw several major projects at Google, including Maps and the search engine homepage. "Marissa changed the game," says Sally Salas, principal group program manager for Microsoft's Bing Experiences team.

What's more, there are ample growth areas within tech for women -- project managers, business analysts and Web developers -- that do not require computer science degrees, says Matthew Caruso, recruiting director for Atrium Technology, a national staffing firm.

Lisa Pavey, 49, vice president of engineering at Vyatta left the UK because she believed there were no more opportunities for upward mobility. She moved from her native country in 1996 to head up Sun Microsystems' networking group.

Discrimination exists in the Silicon Valley workplace, she acknowledges, which forced her to leave one tech employer. But she says the threat is more in attitude than in physical harassment.

Home-grown engineers

The most direct path to a career in engineering may actually start at home, say several women.

Sophia Chung, 31, a software engineer at Facebook, says her exposure to the field at an early age through her father, a math professor at Johns Hopkins, and two older sisters, both of whom majored in the field and now work in tech enabled her to pursue engineering as a young adult.

The MIT graduate's affinity for tech took her to Hewlett-Packard, Electronic Arts and Google, and she is now heavily involved in events such as a recent hackathon sponsored by ESPN to get more women to participate in technology.

SugarCRM's Tretikov immigrated to New York from Moscow at 16 after the Soviet Union collapsed in the mid-1990s. She learned English as a waitress, and was accepted at the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned majors in computer science and art. Her father is a mathematician, her mom, a filmmaker.

For some, the career path can be circuitous.

Duana Stanley, 30, a back-end engineer at SoundCloud, studied psychology and neuroscience at the University of Melbourne before artificial intelligence "sucked" her into computing. As a kid, medicine and law were her first two career choices.

Dina Hilal, vice president of product at ad-tech company BlueKai, says a computer-science degree is not a prerequisite to jobs in technology.  She majored in international studies and journalism.

Increasingly, Swatton and others are redefining normative boundaries.

Kimber Lockhart co-founded a company, Increo Solutions, to call the shots and circumvent the gender gap. It was acquired by cloud-storage services company Box in 2009 for an undisclosed amount.

While braggadocio may have worked in college, the real world calls for exceptional coding and collaborative skills.

Sometimes, it just takes self-motivation and thick skin, says Tamar Yehoshua, 47, director of product management for search at Google.

That's what piqued the interest of Yehoshua's two children, both of whom have the engineering bug. Yehoshua's daughter, Shir, 21, just got job in engineering at Google. Her son Ron, 17, plans to major in computer science in college

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apple iPad Mini Review

story first appeared on

Science fiction version: Mad scientists inside Apple's ultra-secretive lab plunge a recent iPad into boiling stew. What emerges is a near identical but considerably smaller and lighter tablet.

Figure Apple relied on more conventional (if no less secret) lab behavior in designing the iPad Mini that reaches stores Friday. But no matter how the downsized tablet came to be, the natural question is how it differs from its bigger sibling and rival tablets with similar-size small screens, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Barnes & Noble Nook HD, and Google Nexus 7.

The smaller form changes the way you approach the tablet. I've never hesitated to travel with the bigger iPad. It's terrific for reading, watching movies and playing games on an airplane — but given a choice, before a road trip I would now more likely grab the little guy. It's the right size for immersing yourself in a novel. Held sideways, it's simple to bang out an email with your fingers. Battery life is excellent

A tour of the Mini reveals the usual home button on the bottom front, power button and headphone jack on the top, and volume controls on the side. Front and rear cameras are on either side, just like on the bigger iPad. You're greeted by the customary home screen layout with icons for Safari, Mail, Videos and Music parked at the bottom of the display.

You can even exploit the Siri voice assistant. And the Mini runs iOS 6, the latest iteration of Apple's mobile operating system software.

But it is the multitude of apps — 275,000 optimized for the tablet are available in the Apple App store— coupled with Apple's formidable iTunes ecosystem for music, movies and TV shows that represents a major reason why the iPad, big or small, is still the tablet to beat.

That is not to say that the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, and Nexus 7 don't pose strong alternatives to the iPad Mini. Those tablets have starting prices of $199 that undercut the $329 starting price of the Mini that has Wi-Fi only and 16 gigabytes of storage.

Amazon, for one, already is running ads comparing Kindle Fire HD with the Mini — bragging about the Fire's impressive high-definition screen and its stereo speakers. The speakers on the Mini are mono. And its screen, though nice, does not afford the beautiful, super-crisp "retina displays" on the latest larger iPads, iPhones or Macintosh computers. But the Kindle is heavier and has fewer apps.

(Update on Wednesday: Amazon is no longer running the ad. Apple confirms that the Mini does indeed have stereo.)

Prices for the Wi-Fi-only Mini climb to $429 for 32GB and $529 for 64GB. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models, available later in the U.S. from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, command $459, $559 and $659, respectively. (The unit I've been testing for a week is Wi-Fi only.)

To be sure, the 7.9 inch display on the Mini, vs. 9.7-inches for full-size iPads, gives you a lot less screen real estate to play with. But at a shade under 0.7 pounds and 0.28-inches thick, the paperback-size Mini is 53% lighter and 23% thinner than the newest iPad. It is just wide enough that I was not able to stash it in one inside sport jacket pocket but was able to slip it into another. Compared with the 7-inch screens on some of Kindle, Nook and Nexus devices, though, the iPad Mini is 35% roomier.

Sitting in a cramped airline seat, or lying in bed, I found reading on the Mini to be a generally a more pleasurable experience than reading on the full-size iPad. But though you can now more easily hold a Mini with one hand, I still tended to use two.

Speed: Inside, the iPad Mini has an Apple-designed dual core A5 processor, a version of which powered the iPad 2. But I did detect some sluggishness. At the same time that I was downloading some content in the background, it took several seconds for the screen shots I captured on the device to land in the Photos app. I've never experienced the delay on a bigger iPad.

Cameras: The iPad Mini has two good cameras, including one on the front for doing FaceTime video calls, and a rear 5-megapixel camera that can capture 1080p high-definition video. The quality of FaceTime is related to your network connection, so even in a Wi-Fi environment, I sometimes lost sight of the person at the other end of the call.

Battery life: On the Wi-Fi model, Apple claims 10 hours of battery life while surfing the Web, watching video or listening to music. I was well on my way to confirming that. Nine hours into my test with Wi-Fi on, brightness at 75% and a video playing, I still had about 25% of juice left. But I cut my test short because of a power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Apple promises about an hour less battery life on the cellular models.

Connectors: Like the new iPhone 5, and fourth generation iPad announced last week, the Mini makes use of Apple's new Lightning connector. Unless you purchase adapters, you may not be able to use the Mini on some older accessories. Speaking of accessories, Apple has designed a handsome $39 iPad Mini Smart Cover (in one of 6 colors) that magnetically aligns itself to the tablet. It's made with a microfiber lining that Apple says keeps the screen clean.

But in the absence of a USB connector or SD card slot, you'll need pricey $29 Lightning adapter accessories to connect the Mini to a digital camera or to insert a memory card from your camera into the tablet. On older iPads with a 30-pin dock connector camera kit, you got both connectors for $29.

The big picture on the small iPad: Despite a few quibbles and strong competitors in the space, the Mini is a splendid choice for folks who held off buying an iPad because it was too large or too expensive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Education Use of Apple iPad Growing

Story first appeared on Bloomberg News

Julie Garcia handed Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPads to students in her seventh-grade pre-algebra class on a recent morning before showing the pupils how to use the tablet to graph data, hunt for correlations and record how-to videos.

A math instructor at Innovation Middle School, Garcia is one of the first to use some of the more than 25,000 iPads the San Diego Unified School District bought from Apple this year.

Garcia said it is the "cool factor" as she looks over the room of students tapping energetically on tablets.

For districts around the country, though, it’s the price as much as the cool quotient that could draw them to a new, smaller version of the iPad that Apple will unveil tomorrow at an event in San Jose, California. Apple has long been a leader in education, and schools began embracing the iPad soon after its 2010 debut. Yet as fiscal budget shortfalls crimp spending all the more, schools in growing numbers are warming to the handheld devices as an alternative to more expensive laptops.

Now schools, as well as consumers, are about to get another big price break: The smaller iPad may cost as little as $249, according to Barclays Plc. That compares with $499 to $829 for the current iPad.

Beyond the school market of course, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook will use the device to try to widen Apple’s lead over Inc. and Google Inc. and fend off a more recent threat from Microsoft Corp. in the market for tablets, which NPD DisplaySearch predicts will more than double to $162 billion by 2017. Cook will unveil an iPad with a 7.85-inch screen diagonally, people familiar with its development said in August. The current iPad has a 9.7-inch screen.

iPad Shift

Yet Apple executives plan to make a point of highlighting the iPad’s educational capabilities at tomorrow’s event, according to a person with knowledge of the planning. Little wonder. Education spending on information technology, including hardware, was about $19.7 billion in the 2010-2011 period, according to the Center for Digital Education.

Educators’ bet on tablets mirrors a trend in the broader consumer-electronics market, where consumers are buying iPads instead of traditional personal computers. PC sales in K-12 fell 8 percent in the U.S. last quarter, the third straight decline, Gartner said.

James Ponce, the superintendent of the McAllen Independent School District in Texas said they are moving away from desktops and laptops to tablet devices.

School Sales

The education push is part of a strategy put in place under co-Founder Steve Jobs, before the iPad was introduced in 2010. While Apple has a history of selling Mac computers to schools, the company realigned its education sales force to emphasize iPads, a person familiar with the changes said.

Innovation Middle School has traditionally used Lenovo Group Ltd. (992) computers because Macs are too expensive, said Harlan Klein, the school’s principal.

The new iPad comes at a critical time for Apple. Its shares have dropped 13 percent since reaching a record on Sept. 19, two days before the company released the iPhone 5. Sales of the smartphone have been constrained by supply constraints. Apple is also facing fresh competition in tablets from Microsoft (MSFT), which on Oct. 26 will release the Surface, its first foray into hardware. Apple had about 70 percent of the market in the second quarter, compared with Samsung Electronics Co., which had 9.2 percent, and Amazon’s 4.2 percent, according to IHS ISuppli.

Courting Educators

To woo educators, Apple’s sales staff meets regularly with school administrators and procurement officers across the U.S. The company has sales staff assigned to work with schools in particular regions of the U.S., and pays for district officials to visit Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, to learn about new products.

The company will need to set the new iPad’s price right to woo cash-strapped districts.

Vineet Madan, a senior vice president at McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP) education unit said there would be a real aggressive uptake in the K-12 market when tablets get into the $200-$300 range.

To save money, San Diego’s school district bought iPad 2s after Apple dropped the price of that model when the newest version was introduced earlier this year.

Training Teachers

Drawing on funds raised through a voter-approved bond measure, the district spent about $370 on each iPad, which comes pre-loaded with various educational applications, Browne said.

Besides budgetary constraints, a major challenge for schools is training teachers and managing all the new equipment and software. If a teacher wants to use an iPad math application, synchronizing a classroom of devices and monitoring all the students’ work can be time consuming. In San Diego, a team of eight employees helps train teachers and manage new technology.

Touch Screens

In southern Texas, Ponce of the McAllen Independent School District reached out to Apple soon after the district decided to get away from buying laptops and desktops, which he said were expensive to maintain and unappealing for many students. Apple was at the table helping craft the district’s strategy for integrating technology in classrooms, he said.

The work resulted in McAllen buying about 25,000 iPads, paying Apple about $3.5 million a year as part of a financing deal the district worked out with Apple. About half the district’s technology budget is now going to Apple, Ponce said. Students are using iPad applications to test for vocabulary, make presentations and compile class notes.

While some teachers have resisted the new technology, many are adapting because they see students are increasingly fluent with touch-screen-based technology, said Courtney Browne, a technology resource teacher at San Diego Unified School District.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

iPhone Production Did Not Slow Due to Employee Issues

Story first appeared on

Foxconn Technology Group denied on Saturday that production was affected at a Chinese factory that makes Apple's iPhones, although both state media and an overseas labor watch group said some workers halted production lines on Friday, apparently over higher quality control standards.
New York-based China Labor Watch reported that 3,000 to 4,000 workers at the Foxconn plant in the central China's Zhengzhou city went on strike Friday over increased quality control demands and having to work during an extended national holiday.
The official Xinhua News Agency, quoting a spokesman for the management committee of the Xinzheng Comprehensive Bonded Area where the plant is located, said some production lines were halted Friday when workers persuaded quality inspectors to skip work to show their dissatisfaction over higher quality standards.
In a written statement issued Saturday, the Taiwan-based electronic manufacturer Foxconn said production at the Zhengzhou plant continued without interruption. It denied any strike or work stoppage.
Foxconn said there were two isolated, small-scale disputes between production line workers and quality assurance personnel on Monday and Tuesday, but it added that they were quickly addressed. It did not specify what issues had caused the disputes but said immediate measures were taken to resolve the problems, including adding production line workers.
Xinhua said some workers were unhappy when Apple strengthened quality inspections of the iPhone 5 following consumer complaints regarding aesthetic flaws in the phone. In the Xinhua report, the spokesman — who was not named — characterized the incident as a worker-management dispute instead of a strike and was unable to provide a specific number of workers involved.
China Labor Watch said several iPhone 5 production lines at the factory were paralyzed after the workers found the new quality control demands difficult to meet and went on strike. The group said the workers also were angry about being forced to work through China's National Day Golden Week holiday, which ends Sunday.
The iPhone 5, the latest in the line of the smartphones, debuted in September.
China Labor Watch said the Foxconn workers were required to work during the eight-day holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 to meet the production demand of iPhone 5.
Foxconn said its employees in China who worked during the holiday did so voluntarily and were being paid three times their normal pay, in accordance with Chinese labor law.
China Labor Watch said workers also beat quality control inspectors, who carried out their own work stoppage after management ignored their complaints.
According to China Labor Watch, Apple and Foxconn had imposed stricter quality standards regarding indentations and scratches on the frames and back covers of the iPhones but did not provide workers with proper training to meet the new demands.
Apple could not be reached immediately for comment.
In late September, a brawl involving 2,000 workers broke out at Foxconn's factory in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, highlighting chronic labor tensions in a country that prohibits independent unions.
Labor activists have said the rollout of the iPhone 5 has led to longer working hours and more pressure on workers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Complexity of Flatscreen Options

Original article appeared in USA Today

Options for flat-screen viewing today involve more than where you'll put your new television after you buy.

The glass coating on plasmas usually makes them more liable to glare in a well-lighted space -- not that LCDs are immune, since many of them ship with glossy screen finishes that look terrific in a darkened showroom but can double as a mirror in a living room.

You'll also have a smaller selection of plasma TVs: Most manufacturers either don't sell them at all or ship far more LCD models. Samsung, for instance, lists 29 Samsung LED sets and five conventional LCDs but only nine plasmas, while LG offers 39 LEDs and LCDs against 12 plasmas; Panasonic is the one exception, with its plasma sets easily outnumbering LCDs and LEDs.

Plasmas also weigh more than LCDs, which can make mounting one on a wall slightly more complicated. But contrary to what you might hear, plasma sets don't automatically use more electricity than LCDs or suffer from "burn-in" that leaves ghosts of network logos visible on their screens.

And in return, plasma can delivers deeper blacks and faster response times -- meaning you're less likely to see credits or a news ticker blur as they scroll -- although years of steady improvements in LCD technology have chipped away at those advantages.

Increasingly affordable LED panels -- starting last year, NPD found that they made up more than half of all LCD production --get much credit for that.

Light-emitting diode backlights are brighter than the fluorescent lamps in older LCDs and allow for a more responsive display. High-end sets can also turn off some LEDs to further darken areas of the screen -- although when I've talked to display experts, they counseled that it was still possible to get a subpar set even with LED technology. And LED backlights don't incorporate the trace amounts of mercury found in fluorescents.

(Don't confuse LED with OLED, a much newer technology that allows ludicrously thin screens at an absurd expense. It has looked great in demos at trade shows like CES in Las Vegas or last week's IFA gathering in Berlin, but it also costs as much as ten times more to make.)

So for a TV in a sunny living room, I'd get an LED with a matte screen finish. For a media room or some other place where the TV will be the main attraction, I'd consider plasma as well. For anything smaller than 40 inches, LED or LCD would be my only option.

Tip: "DLNA" can link your phone to your TV

If you have a "connected" TV that runs Web apps like Amazon and Netflix, that set probably also supports a standard called DLNA, short for Digital Living Network Alliance. And if you have an Android phone, that probably speaks DLNA too. (The iPhone and iPad do not.)

In that case, you may then be able to share photos, videos and music from your phone to your TV as long as both devices are on the same home network; the phone's storage will appear on the screen as if it were a USB flash drive plugged into the set.

Individual TVs and Android models can hide DLNA support in various places, but determining how is another article entirely.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Decision Victory for Apple Computer

Original article appeared in Fox Business 

Apple was awarded more than $1 billion in damages following a landmark legal battle with Samsung Electronics in which Apple accused the electronics giant of patent infringement. 

The verdict, which was delivered in a San Jose, Calif., courtroom on Friday, states that Samsung stole Apple’s patents for its “scroll,” “multitouch,” “zoom,” and “navigate” features, as well as some of its design patents for cases and icons. The jury found the South Korean electronics giant willfully infringed on at least three of Apple’s patents.

The jury ruled in favor of Samsung in one instance, claiming Apple infringed on Samsung’s patent on “bounce back.”

All of Apple’s patents were found to be valid.

The jury ordered Samsung to pay $1.051 billion to Apple in damages, a smaller amount than the $2.5 billion Apple was seeking, but one of the largest awards in patent-trial history. The verdict could result in a ban on the sale of Samsung products, Reuters reported on Friday.

The verdict came after just three days of deliberations. Attorneys for the electronics giants presented closing arguments on Tuesday after four weeks in court.

The decision brings to a close a battle that began in April of last year, when Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung claiming the company infringed on a number of its technology and design patents. Apple followed up with another lawsuit in July and Samsung countersued.

This isn't the first legal battle between the two tech heavyweights. They've gone to court in the UK, Germany and Australia.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hack of Tech Journalist Reveals Flaws in Cloud Security

Story first reported from USA Today

SEATTLE – The security community is on alert for hackers who might try to emulate the simple trickery used to breach a prominent technology journalist's Amazon, Apple, Google and Twitter accounts. That hacking caper has rekindled concerns about whether Apple's iCloud, Google Apps, Amazon's Cloud Drive, Microsoft's Windows Live and other Internet-delivered services do enough to authenticate users, security analysts say.

"People are being urged to trust their data to the Internet cloud, but then you find that the operational security is alarmingly lax," says Stephen Cobb, security analyst at anti-virus firm ESET.

Hackers devastated Wired reporter Mat Honan's digital life. In doing so, they highlighted how Web companies have been slow to embrace more robust systems for ensuring that users who log into online accounts are who they say.

Merchants, banks, media companies and social networks require varying amounts of information to open and access online accounts. Many ask for only a few bits of information to make changes, such as resetting a password. That makes it easy for hackers to abuse the prevailing systems, which rely on asking users to answer questions.

Many banks and Google Gmail offer an optional service that sends to your cellphone a single-use PIN code that you must enter at their websites, along with your username and password, before you can complete certain transactions.

Such multifactor authentication systems are considered more difficult for the bad guys to subvert but less convenient for account holders to use. Yet the need for wider deployment of stronger systems is intensifying, argues Todd Feinman, CEO of database security firm Identity Finder.

Honan detailed how hackers tricked an Amazon rep over the phone into revealing the last four digits of his credit card number. Next, they used that information to persuade an Apple rep to reset his Apple ID password, which enabled them to wipe clean Honan's iPhone, iPad and MacBook, destroying all of his files, including irreplaceable photos of his daughter. Apple has suspended its phone password-reset service and launched a security review, says spokeswoman Natalie Kerris. Amazon did not respond to interview requests.

Web firms are unlikely to switch to one-time PIN systems anytime soon. "Many … are expensive and difficult to manage," says Chris Brennan, CEO of security firm NetAuthority. "And companies are concerned they could frustrate the user."

Meanwhile, consumer awareness remains low, says Gregg Martin, FishNet Security's directory of mobile security. Consumers will have to demand stronger authentication systems and be prepared to accept "a slight level of inconvenience," Martin says.

ESET's Cobb argues that Web companies should take the initiative. "Improving security is 100% the responsibility of the cloud service providers because they are the ones trying to sign people up to the cloud model."

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sprint CEO Talks About iPhone Decision, Other Challenges

Story first reported from USA Today

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – By his own admission, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse isn't ready to hang out a "Mission Accomplished" sign yet. The No. 3 wireless company is in the midst of a turnaround. But, he says, "we're showing good success" in retaining customers, improvements in customer service and other metrics. Sprint last month reported a second-quarter loss of $1.37 billion on revenue of $8.84 billion. "It's blocking and tackling, quarter after quarter, year after year." Hesse hosted a group of journalists at Sprint headquarters this week. Here are highlights of the conversation, edited for space and clarity:

Q: What about the decision to sell the Apple iPhone even though Sprint had to spend billions to get that opportunity?

A: I've said everything has to make sense economically. But we knew our customers wanted the ability to choose the iPhone. We clearly looked at economics both short-term and long-term. Over time it starts to be cash-flow positive. We saw no reason to bet against Apple. You really don't want to be on the outside of that. From a brand perspective, you like having your brand associated with very strong great brands, and nobody can debate just what a great brand Apple has. We thought the benefits greatly outweighed the risks.

Q: You were a vocal opponent of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Are you satisfied you can compete now that the merger did not go through?

A: We're certainly working very hard. There's no question that the industry does have an issue with the size of the duopoly of AT&T and Verizon. I believe that over time we'll see more consolidation in the industry outside of the big two, because the gap in size between two and three is so enormous. Consolidation is healthy for the industry as long as it's not AT&T and Verizon getting larger.

Q: What are your thoughts on Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility?

A: There'll be protections between the Android organization and Motorola. I can't say what will happen internally. But I honestly believe they will try very hard to keep Android's independence. We're actually looking forward to seeing what new devices the new Motorola will bring to the market.

Q: How are you positioning the Virgin and Boost brands, which offer prepaid wireless service?

A: Right now, generally the Boost brand is more kind of "talk and text." Virgin is focused a bit more on data and text. Boost tends to be a bit more urban; Virgin more suburban. Those are the basic differences.

Q: How does the growth of traditional wireless plans with contracts (postpaid) compare with the prepaid business?

A: We see increasingly that prepaid will be an opportunity for value and for customers who don't necessarily want to be tied into a contract for a couple of years. The iPhone on Virgin is an example of what we think is possible.

The (traditional wireless) business is the largest segment of the industry and, historically, it has been the most profitable. The Sprint brand is basically our (vehicle) to go after that industry. The prepaid business is growing more rapidly than the postpaid business. We doubled-down on the prepaid business a few years ago when we acquired Virgin. And we are expanding our offerings. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky reportedly once said, skate not to where the puck is but where it's going. The puck is going more to prepaid.

Q: Do you see a day when the typical household has multiple devices on the Sprint network?

A: As we look at growing overall revenue in the industry, what we're counting on is many more devices than one. We used to think five years ago that growth in the wireless industry is dead when you get to 100% penetration. Now we see numbers much north of that as customers have a variety of devices — wireless chips in your shirts, in your car, in many other areas. It's just another opportunity for us to increase revenues as an industry. We hope that over time there are a number of devices that are enabled by the Sprint platform.

Q: Will Sprint have an iPad, especially as you move to faster LTE networks?

A: I can't comment on that. But it's a very good question.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Apple Closing in on All-Time High

Story first reported from


Remember all the investor disappointment about Apple's latest earnings report? That's no longer an issue. Shares of Apple were up nearly 1.5% Monday to about $625. The stock has rebounded more than 8% since a 4% pummeling the day after it missed forecasts and guided lower. In fact, the stock is now just 3% below the all-time high of $644 it set back in April.

It appears that any lingering concerns about Apple's rare case of under-performing and under-delivering have been replaced by excitement about new products (iPhone 5 is rumored to be unveiled and go on sale next month) and the upcoming dividend payment to shareholders. As such, several traders on StockTwits believe that it would be a mistake to bet against Apple.

Research firm analyzes 6 million social conversations to conclude:"the launch of the
Apple may one day screw up royally and release a product that nobody wants.

But take one look at the share prices of Research in Motion, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard and Dell and ask yourselves if you think any of them will soon make hardware that's sexier than iEverything? (Or that EL James book it seems everybody but me is reading.) Didn't think so.

Sure, Microsoft, Google and Samsung are all fierce competitors too. But Apple deserves the benefit of the doubt ... assuming there still are any doubts of course.

Apple's $2.65 per share dividend will be paid out on August 16 to any shareholders of record as of August 13. So if you are silly enough to be shorting Apple, it makes sense to cover before the dividend is paid. Otherwise you would have to return (i.e. buy back) the shares you borrowed and also pay the dividend on top of that.

I'm still not sure I believe the stock split chatter though ... even though a split could make the shares even more attractive to retail investors and the people who manage the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

It will be interesting to see what Apple's stock does once the iPhone 5 is released. The next milestone for the company would be exceeding $600 billion in market value.  Apple is currently only about 3% below that level. That may seem obscene. But as I've said repeatedly in Buzz columns, videos and over on Twitter -- aka the thing that Apple is never going to buy no matter what the NY Times and other media outlets are reporting --  Apple remains a cheap stock.

Apple is valued at just 14 times fiscal 2012 earnings estimates -- despite its market dominance, stellar growth prospects (forecasts of 20%+ EPS growth on average for the next few years) and squeaky-clean balance sheet with well north of $100 billion in cash. Now you add on the dividend -- which will yield a relatively 1.7% -- to boot?

I had my colleague David Goldman ask Siri if it's a good idea to short Apple stock. (I merely possess a Siri-less iPhone 4.) Her response? "I cannot help you pick stocks, Dave." That was very diplomatic of her. But trust this lowly carbon-based life form. The answer is no.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

HP says Oracle Violated Contract, Seeks Billions

Story first reported from

Oracle Corp violated a clear contract with Hewlett-Packard Co when it decided it would no longer make new versions of its database software compatible with HP's Itanium-based servers, a lawyer for HP said in court.

The two technology companies faced off on Monday for opening statements in a bitter lawsuit over Oracle's decision to end support for Itanium. An Oracle attorney, meanwhile, said Oracle never agreed to give up its business flexibility in the "brief, breezy" contract language cited by HP.

The trial, in which HP seeks up to $4 billion in damages, comes just days after Oracle lost a separate high-stakes case against Google Inc over smartphone technology.

Oracle decided to stop developing software for use with Itanium last year, saying Intel made it clear that the chip was nearing the end of its life and was shifting its focus to its x86 microprocessor.

But HP said it had an agreement with Oracle that support for Itanium would continue, without which the equipment using the chip would become obsolete. HP said that commitment was affirmed when it settled an earlier lawsuit over Oracle's hiring of ousted HP chief executive Mark Hurd.

In court on Monday, HP lawyer Jeffrey Thomas said the Hurd settlement clearly bound Oracle to continue offering its "best products" to HP.

As a sign of the importance of the contract, top executives from both companies -- including Oracle President Safra Catz and then-HP enterprise chief Ann Livermore -- negotiated the deal, Thomas said.

"It is impossible to offer best products going forward without porting new versions of those products," Thomas said.

However, Oracle attorney Dan Wall said the Hurd settlement language was merely designed to settle employment litigation that HP had initiated against Oracle. It was not backed by the kind of painstaking negotiation that takes place over a strategic business partnership, he said.

Itanium is a declining product, Wall said.

"HP is trying to force Oracle to support a technology, Itanium, that Oracle does not believe in," Wall said.

Instead of a jury, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg will decide the first phase of the trial -- namely, whether there is a contract between HP and Oracle, and its terms.

If Kleinberg decides in HP's favor, then a jury will decide whether Oracle violated the contract, and damages.

In court last month, Kleinberg compared the case to a divorce, saying "this case appears to be the end of a marriage" between the technology giants.

Top officials from both Oracle and HP could take the stand, with HP's Livermore, who is now a board member, set to testify first.

Intel Corp is not a party in the lawsuit, although its CEO, Paul Otellini, might also testify.

The case in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara is Hewlett-Packard Company v. Oracle Corporation, No. 11-CV-203163.

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Judge: Oracle Obligated to Make Software for HP Servers

Story first reported from

A judge in California has ruled that Oracle Corp. is obligated by contract to develop software for some flagship server systems sold by Hewlett-Packard Co.

The Wall Street Journal reported the ruling was an important victory for H-P, because its sales have been hurt by the possibility that future versions of Oracle's program would run on some of H-P's high-profile servers. Similar partnering issues have involved shipping software.

The ruling will allow further arguments on the case before a jury, in a case in which H-P is expected to ask for as much as $4 billion in damages from Oracle, the Journal reported.

Oracle said it will appeal Wednesday's ruling and will pursue its counterclaim that H-P misled Oracle, the Journal reported.

Hewlett-Packard is the parent company of Plano-based HP Enterprise Services.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Jumps on the Tablet Bandwagon

Story first appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft Corp. on Monday unveiled the first computer it has ever made, a tablet called the Surface that comes with a keyboard and other features designed to stand out in a market dominated by Apple Inc.

The new device, unveiled by the Microsoft Chief Executive at an event for journalists, is a sign of the new tactics the software giant has been forced to embrace as it tries to make up lost ground in the mobile market.

Microsoft said the smallest Surface tablet is 9.3 millimeters thick and weighs 1.5 pounds, which is similar to Apple's iPad, at 9.4 millimeters thick and 1.44 pounds. The Surface has a 10.6-inch screen compared with the iPad's 9.7-inch screen.

The Surface has a built-in kickstand and magnetic cover, which also acts as a touch keyboard. Microsoft didn't say whether the device would connect to cellular data networks or would be Wi-Fi only.

The Surface will be priced like comparable tablets. Microsoft will sell the tablets itself at Microsoft's handful of retail stores and through some online channels.

Microsoft didn't identify contractors who will manufacture the hardware, or provide much clarity on timing—except to say that the first Surface models will arrive when Windows 8 is generally available, which is expected to be in the second half of the year.

The new tablet device is styled as a vehicle to exploit its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, and a variant called Windows RT that relies on different kinds of computer chips. The software is the first from Microsoft designed with tablet computers in mind, offering an interface called Metro that is designed to be controlled by a user touching a display.

Microsoft executives repeatedly use the words "no compromises" to describe the tablet computers they envision running Windows 8 and Windows RT—which means that users will be able to use work-oriented tools like Microsoft Word and Excel programs, not just be used for watching movies and surfing the Web.

Microsoft also emphasized the use of the Surface with a keyboard, a convertible usage model that the company has helped champion and Apple has publicly discounted.

The Surface is a PC, the Surface is a tablet and the Surface is something new that Microsoft thinks people will really love.

Microsoft's involvement with tablet-style computing goes back more than three decades, supplying software to companies for products designed to be activated with a pen-style device. But those machines failed to gain wide acceptance. The Surface, and the new versions of Windows, are an attempt to emulate the touch-based interaction that Apple popularized with the iPhone and iPad.

The company also used the name Surface for a tabletop computer it first demonstrated several years ago.

Microsoft executives said the company's decision to make a homegrown tablet computer fits with the history of Microsoft making hardware when it is needed to bolster the company's software, such as Microsoft's making one of the earliest computer mouses.

But by making its own tablet, Microsoft also risks taking sales away from a coming crop of Windows-powered tablets from its own allies. Microsoft traditionally has left the making of computers to partners such as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd. Microsoft treading on the hardware-makers turf threatens to strain that long-standing business arrangement.

The computer makers' business is dependent on Microsoft, so they may not express annoyance publicly at Microsoft's trading on the hardware makers' turf. But at least some hardware executives are fuming privately at Microsoft's decision.

Microsoft's move to make its own tablet comes with consequences, which is complicating choices for consumers and complicating relations with third-party manufacturers.

Microsoft showed off the two versions of the Surface. The versions running Windows 8 will run chips from Intel Corp., which supplies chips used in most PCs. The versions running Windows RT will be powered by chips from Nvidia Corp. based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC, a variety of chips widely used in cellphones and tablets.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Nokia Cuts Costs and Jobs

Story first appeared in The Associated Press.

Nokia Corp. will lay off 10,000 jobs globally and close plants by the end of 2013, the company said Thursday, in a further drive to save costs and streamline operations.

Nokia said it will shut down some research and development projects, including in Ulm, Germany, and Burnaby, Canada, and close its core manufacturing plant in Finland - in Salo - where it will only maintain research and development operations.

These planned reductions are a difficult consequence of the intended actions the company believes that it must take to ensure Nokia's long-term competitive strength. They are increasing the focus on the products and services that consumers value most while continuing to invest in the innovation that has always defined Nokia.

Nokia also gave an updated outlook, saying that competitive industry dynamics in the second quarter would hit its smartphone sector to a somewhat greater extent than previously expected and that no improvement was expected in the third quarter.

The company's share price plunged more than 7 percent to €2.05 ($2.63) in morning trading in Helsinki.

Although the Finnish cellphone maker said it plans to significantly reduce its operating expenses, it will continue to focus on smartphones as well as cheaper feature phones and intends to expand location-based services.

Nokia also announced that private equity group EQT VI had agreed to acquire Vertu, its global luxury phone brand, but that the Finnish company would keep a 10 percent minority shareholding. No financial terms were announced.

Nokia said that two members of its top leadership team will leave - the head of the struggling mobile phones unit and the head of the markets sector.

The loss-making company has been struggling against fierce competition from Apple Inc.'s iPhone and other makers using Google Inc.'s popular Android software, including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC of Taiwan. It is also being squeezed in the low-end by Asian manufacturers making cheaper phones, such as China's ZTE.

In April, Nokia announced one of its worst quarterly results ever, blaming tough competition for a €929 million net loss in the first quarter as sales plunged, especially in the smartphone market. Boston-based Strategy Analytics said Nokia had significantly lost market share to Samsung, which pushed it out as the world's largest seller of cellphones by volume, grabbing a 25 percent global market share against Nokia's 22 percent.

Last year, Nokia was still the world's top cellphone maker with annual unit sales of some 419 million devices, but in the last quarter of the year it posted a net loss of €1.07 billion, a marked reverse from the 745 million profit a year earlier.

It has fared even worse in the smartphone sector against Samsung and Apple by dropping to third place in the first quarter of the year, dropping to 12 million units against Samsung's 44.5 million and Apple's 35 million.

Nokia is significantly increasing its cost reduction target for devices and services in support of the streamlined strategy announced today. With these planned actions, Nokia believes its devices and services business have a clear path to profitability. Nokia intends to maintain its strong financial position while proceeding aggressively with actions aimed at creating shareholder value.

Last year, Nokia announced more than 10,000 layoffs, aimed at cutting operating expenses by €1 billion ($1.31 billion) by 2013.

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