Friday, June 29, 2012
Struggling to fend off competition from iPhone and Android, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is hemorrhaging losses.
Despite pledges by its new CEO to focus more heavily on marketing and better products, RIM reported Thursday a fiscal first-quarter loss that was greater than expected by analysts and said it'll cut 5,000 jobs.
The Canadian company will also delay releasing BlackBerry 10 -- a new mobile operating system developed to compete with Apple's iOS and Android -- until later this year.
Sales for the most recent quarter plummeted by 43% from a year ago to $2.8 billion. Its net loss totaled $518 million vs. a net income of $695 million a year ago.
"Our first-quarter results reflect the market challenges I have outlined since my appointment as CEO at the end of January. I am not satisfied with these results and continue to work aggressively with all areas of the organization," said Thorsten Heins, RIM's CEO.
About 7.8 million BlackBerry phones and 260,000 PlayBook tablets were shipped in the last quarter, falling short of analysts' estimates. Once the favored phone of enterprise customers, BlackBerry's share in the market totals only about 6.4%, according to research firm IDC. iPhone, with 59% of the market, is the most popular smartphone by far, while Android has 23%.
With its stock down 68% from a year ago, analysts speculate RIM or parts of the company will be acquired. Heins also has hired investment bankers to seek strategic options, though he said earlier this year that finding a buyer wasn't his primary objective. Its stock fell 0.5% down Thursday to end at $9.13.
"The numbers were bad, worse than we hoped," says Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst. "And their next generation device, which was expected this fall, now won't be available until next year. They still have customers who love them, but they are simply losing business too quickly." View the original article here
Amazon is rumored to release tools for game developers that will allow them to add social features to their games. The information comes from Bloomberg, who spoke to an anonymous source.
The report would make sense, as the company has been openly hiring for developers with social and mobile game development experience for over a year. According to Bloomberg’s source, developers will be able to implement features like monitoring high scores and keeping track of awards won in a game.
Allowing developers the option to add social features to their Kindle Fire games could help the device stay competitive with Apple’s iOS devices and the recently-announced Nexus 7 from Google. While the Kindle Fire had strong initial sales, Amazon hasn’t followed up any sales data, so it’s hard to tell if the device has kept up its momentum.
In order to stay competitive, Amazon needs to provide apps with similar features to those already available on the Apple App Store and Google Play (formerly the Android Marketplace), especially since Amazon’s app store only offers roughly 43,000 apps compared to the 600,000+ available by both Google and Apple
View the original article here .
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Ads, not payments, are the future of Facebook monetizing mobile, but it needs content to show them beside. The new Follow action announced today could deliver that content by letting you follow someone in a mobile app, and then sending the updates you’d normally see in that app back to your ad-laden news feed.
More content -> more engagement and return visits -> more ad impressions, more money, and more reason for investors to buy. It will send referral traffic to developers, and it’s actually convenient for users too. Why trapse from site to site and app to app when you can see everything your friends are doing everywhere, all from your news feed? You won’t. You’ll sit right there where Facebook can advertise to you.
How Facebook Follow WorksFacebook integrated something similar last week with the Like action, which lets developers take their in-app “heart”, “favorite”, “thumbs up” and other buttons that express affinity, and have them publish stories about the activity to Facebook. That also creates content for Facebook, but only one story at a time.
The new Follow action hooks Facebook into an endless stream of updates. As long as the person you follow keeps doing things in the app where you subscribed, you’ll keep seeing their content in the news feed. Privacy is controlled from within whatever app or service you initially clicked Follow. If someone doesn’t want you keeping tabs on their in-app activity, they have to use the app’s settings to make their updates private.
For example, if Instagram integrated Facebook Follow, when you followed someone new on Instagram, you’d get their photos in your Facebook news feed. Some developers might love this, because it would remind people to visit the app.
Some might think of it as Facebook stealing their content, so they might choose not to integrate. Fledgling apps still trying to build their user base and engagement might be more likely to jump on board than premier apps that already have healthy communities. Each developer will have to thoughtfully consider what there goals are in the current phase of their product’s life. If they’re trying to gain users, Follow could help. If they’re trying to boost in-app engagement and their own monetization, they might be better off forgetting Follow.
Here’s how it looks integrated in one app:
Click one of those buttons and you’ll be alerted on Facebook that you’re following someone via your Timeline’s recent activity.
…and your notifications
Then you’ll start seeing posts like these in your Ticker or news feed
Developers who are already publishing stories back to Facebook via Open Graph about who you follow, like Quora for example, have 90 days to either stop publishing their custom “follow” actions and migrate to this new official one, or stop publishing those kinds of stories.
Why Facebook Follow Is So Damn ImportantFacebook wants to be the “Omni-News Feed”. Right now content from all the web services and mobile apps are splintered into their respective in-app content feeds. Most sites don’t do a very good job of monetizing that content. But Facebook knows exactly how: Sponsored Stories.
If Facebook can maintain its massive time on site (which averages 441 minutes per user per month), it will have plenty of room to inject its Sponsored Stories ads into the news feed.
And it may get even better. I’m checking with Facebook PR, but the actions published could potentially be turned into Sponsored Stories, so Facebook could charge the app where they took place to make the stories appear more prominently in the feeds of people already subscribed to them. Facebook could essentially be taking content from apps and selling it back to them.
If you were wondering what Facebook’s long-term game plan is, you’re staring at it. Pull content from everywhere, mix it with ads, keep you reading. And with the carrot of referral traffic to dangle, some developers may be happy to play along. View the original article here
Facebook Inc may be having trouble connecting with Wall Street.
The financial houses behind Silicon Valley's largest-ever coming-out party kicked off formal coverage of the company today by warning about an uncertain business model, margin pressures and a difficult transition to mobile technology.
The reports, released by banks involved in the IPO after a 40-day quiet period expired, represent Wall Street's broadest assessment of the first US company to debut with a market value of more than $100 billion.
Morgan Stanley and other major brokerages that handled the blockbuster IPO said it remained unclear how Facebook plans to make money from a growing number of users logging on to the No. 1 social network via smartphones and tablets.
That helped send its shares down 3%.
Of the 17 brokerages that handled the blockbuster IPO and kicked off coverage of the social networking company on Wednesday, eight recommended against buying into the shares. Two of Facebook's three lead underwriters - Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan - were most bullish, targeting Facebook shares at $45 and $42, respectively.
Morgan Stanley, which has come under scrutiny for its role in driving a $38 IPO price that now appears lofty to some, stuck to a price target that matched its debut level and "overweight" recommendation.
The average of target prices cited today was $37.64 - a tad below Facebook's stock market debut price.
Facebook's IPO was to have been the culmination of years of breakneck growth for a company that became a social and cultural phenomenon.
Instead, it was marred by a series of trading glitches on its debut, and the company and its underwriters subsequently faced accusations of pumping up the price and inadequate disclosure.
Wednesday's panoply of neutral or equivalent ratings is notable because Wall Street research analysts have a reputation for favoring "buy" ratings, particularly in the high-profile Internet industry where "buy" or equivalent recommendations far outnumber "hold" or lower ratings.
The US Internet sector's 110 companies sport a collective 561 "buy" recommendations or better, versus 352 "hold" or "sell" ratings or their equivalent, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
"It says there are real questions out there about the strength of this business model, the fundamental strength of this company, together with its valuation," said Tim Ghriskey, a portfolio manager at Solaris Asset Management.
"We're not buying right now, that's for sure."
Banks are required to keep their employees handling IPOs apart from analysts recommending stocks in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
In the IPO, banks sold their clients shares of eight-year-old Facebook, started by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room, at a price equivalent to a whopping 100 times 2011 net income per share.
That compares with Apple Inc's current multiple of 20.6 and Google Inc's 18.9.
"I respect that a Chinese wall exists, but I think it feeds into the cynicism that Main Street has for Wall Street - that one side of the business was telling them to buy at $38 and the other side of the business now at $32 says we shouldn't buy it," said Steve Birenberg, a portfolio manager at North Lake Capital in Winnetka, Illinois.
Most analysts expect Facebook's large user base to help it corner a substantial share of the Internet advertising market in the long term.
But half of the ratings released on Wednesday were "hold" and its equivalent or lower - despite the shares trading sharply down from their $38 IPO price.
Eight slapped top ratings - "buy," "outperform" or "overweight" - on the social networking company.
BMO Capital Markets' Daniel Salmon began his coverage with an "underperform" recommendation and a $25 target, translating into a nearly 25% slide from current levels.
"Slowing user growth is one of our primary concerns for Facebook's current valuation," said Salmon, the only analyst giving Facebook a negative rating on Wednesday. He estimated Facebook's annual user growth would be 22% next year and 16% the year after, much slower than expansion in the past.
The 33 banks that participated in the stock listing were required by securities regulations to wait until 40 days after the first day of trading on May 18 before publishing their views, limiting the research on Facebook until now to a handful of analysts.
Scott Devitt at lead underwriter Morgan Stanley, who told the firm's major clients that he had cut his revenue estimates on Facebook just days before the IPO, said he expects Facebook's ability to turn its mobile features into profit to be a challenge for the next several quarters to several years.
He expects revenue to climb 31% in 2012, down sharply from the 88% growth in 2011.
"No one is debating the potential opportunity in front of Facebook," said Channing Smith, a portfolio manager at Capital Advisors. "However, there is disagreement in the analyst community on the trajectory of the earnings and revenue growth in the coming years. The assumptions analysts are making are guesswork at this point."
Analysts at JP Morgan set a price target of $45 for the stock, suggesting a rise of 36% compared with its close of $33.10 on Tuesday.
Facebook shares were down 3.1% at $32.07 this morning.
Goldman Sachs set a target price of $42, less aggressive than Morgan Stanley's $38 target.
The company's stock offering, one of the most highly anticipated in history, was marred by a series of technical glitches at the Nasdaq exchange.
Facebook's decision to increase the size of the offering by 25% just days ahead of the IPO, as well as concerns about decelerating revenue, also weighed on the stock, which traded as low as $25.52 before regaining some ground to trade in a $31-$33 range in recent days.
RBC said it expected Facebook's stock to hit $40. BofA Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley pegged the shares at $38, while Citi and Barclays opted for $35.
The rush of research comes ahead of Facebook's second-quarter results, expected sometime in mid-to-late July.
With about 900 million users, Facebook has become one of the Web's top destinations, challenging established players such as Google Inc and Yahoo Inc.
Even so, revenue growth from ads and other services is slowing. The company, which last year was more than doubling the amount of money collected every quarter compared with a year earlier, reported growth of 45% in the first three months of 2012, and revenue declined from the preceding quarter.
General Motors Co' announcement a few days before the IPO that it would stop advertising on Facebook has added to the concerns about Facebook's ability to generate business from advertising.
Despite $4.8 billion in expected revenue in 2012, the average amount of money that Facebook makes through each user is still relatively low, said BofA Merrill Lynch, which expects new advertising formats to accelerate revenue growth in the second half of the year.
In recent weeks, Facebook has unveiled a string of enhancements to its advertising service, allowing marketers to target ads to users on the mobile version of Facebook and to show Facebook users ads based on previous websites that they have visited.
"The company is in the midst of a mobile usage transition and we are cautious on Facebook's revenue trends until new mobile ad revenue models start driving the top line," the analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch wrote.
Several analysts working for the underwriters, including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, cut financial forecasts for Facebook days before the IPO, after the company cautioned about revenue growth due to a rapid shift of users to mobile devices, where Facebook is less effective at generating revenue.
The analysts briefed some institutional clients about their revised forecasts, sources have previously told Reuters, but retail investors were left in the dark.
That revelation has resulted in lawsuits alleging the banks and Facebook failed to fully disclose the company's weakened financial outlook ahead of its IPO. View the original article here
The BBC has begun streaming live sporting events on Facebook, the biggest tie-up to date between the social-networking site and an international broadcaster.The application launched on Thursday, with live coverage from the Wimbledon tennis championships.
During the Olympic Games, the BBC will run 24 simultaneous streams in addition to the main BBC channels.
Users outside the UK will not be able to access the feeds.
The service used the same "geo-IP blocking solution" to limit access as other offerings, such as the iPlayer, the BBC said.
Other international broadcasters, such as NBC, have set up alternative streaming services - the US broadcaster has teamed up with YouTube to provide live coverage on NBCOlympics.com.
Live chat The launch is the first time the BBC has used Facebook to broadcast live events.
Users are able to share information about what they are viewing with their friends, as well as discuss the action with other fans via a live-chat feature.
The app, which is in beta test mode, is currently providing up to six simultaneous streams of Wimbledon tennis matches.
Targeted advertising, not controlled by the BBC, will appear to the right of the app in line with the Facebook-wide layout. The BBC does not make money from the arrangement.
However, during the Olympics these adverts will be removed due to restrictions put in place by the International Olympic Committee.
More details about the service have been explained in a blog post.
'Favourite moments' Facebook said the BBC's coverage would be added to its London 2012 portal which it announced earlier this month.
"We are really pleased that the BBC has chosen to bring its legendary sports coverage to Facebook," a spokesman said.
"Watching major events such as Wimbledon and the Olympic Games is a naturally social activity.
"Now viewers within the UK have the ability to share their favourite moments with friends and to discuss the action live as it unfolds."
Phil Fearnley, general manager for BBC News & Knowledge, said the app would create a "distinctive live-streaming experience" for viewers.
"We hope to use it to test the benefits of social viewing, as part of our ambition to deliver more innovative and transformative experiences to sports fans," he said.
The BBC said there were no plans as yet to bring other live events, such as news, to the social network. View the original article here
Earlier this week there were reports that District Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S. related to the ongoing cases between Apple and Samsung. At the time reports claimed the ruling would kick in once Apple posted a $2.6 million bond, and today FossPatents reported that Apple has since done so, allowing the preliminary injunction to formally take effect:
Apple didn’t hesitate to post its $2.6 million bond to protect Samsung againt the possibility of a successful appeal, in which case the preliminary injunction would be found to have been improperly granted… the injunction has taken effect and Samsung must abide by it. Otherwise Apple could ask the court to sanction Samsung for contempt.With Apple pulling in $39.2 billion in revenue last quarter, we know it takes only a matter of minutes to make that $2.6 million, which is meant to protect Samsung from damages in the event the injunction is found to be wrongly issued. On Tuesday Judge Koh made a statement following her ruling that Samsung “does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products.” FossPatents continued by giving its outlook for the trial set to take place this summer:
I have previously stated my belief that Apple goes into this summer’s trial with a fundamentally stronger case than Samsung. That belief is mostly based on the strength of the asserted intellectual property rights and the fact that Samsung mostly relies on FRAND-pledged standard-essential patents (SEPs)… Apple won’t be able to prevail on each and every intellectual property right it asserts, but I think Apple will at least win parts of its case while Samsung will at best win a FRAND royalty but no injunction over SEPs. View the original article here
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
NFC (Near Field Communications) might indeed be on its way within iPhone 5, the latest Apple [AAPL] rumor claims, but will the company get it right this time, or will it repeat the standards-based drama of the iPad 3 LTE debacle?
[ABOVE: One of the many NFC-related Apple patent filings, c/o Patently Apple.]
Cracking the code
There's been lots written about Apple's adventures in NFC. This isn't the first time we've been told to expect NFC support within a future iPhone, but merely because the developer beta iOS 6-exploring sleuths at 9to5Mac have uncovered references to it within the code doesn't definitively mean Apple will deliver it.
Or does it?
Writing last year, Forbes' Elizabeth Woyke told us: "From what I hear, it is possible the iPhone 5 will include NFC. An entrepreneur who is working on a top-secret NFC product told me today that he believes the iPhone 5 will have NFC and cited a friend who works at Apple as a reliable source for the information."
Reading through previous reports there's a huge body of evidence to support these claims.
So what is NFC? In brief, it's a short range communications standard that aims to securely transmit information to a contactless payment terminal.
There's some problems within implementation. NFC is a set of standards, and the standards sub-set used to support it in some countries and by some operators is different in different places. This has delayed wide-scale adoption of the technology, meaning previous attempts to make it pervasive made so far (Google Wallet, for example) have failed.
Those with interest in the space have been working quite hard to grapple with this problem. Visa, for example, has put together its own reference points for international NFC support.
Should Apple choose to offer NFC within iPhone 5 the company will -- I hope -- ensure international support from the get-go. Indeed, I urge Apple to do just that -- there's no point flagging up use of your iPhone as a wallet to the device's international market if the feature only works in the US.
That's the kind of marketing which has cost the company millions in fines for lack of support for 4G/LTE networks outside of North America in the case of the iPad 3.
The hidden antenna
A June 2009 Apple patent revealed it has developed a method for building an NFC (Near Field Communictions) antenna into a touch screen. The 'touch screen RFID tag reader' patent application explains that:
"The antenna can be placed in the touch sensor panel, such that the touch sensor panel can now additionally function as an RFID transponder. No separate space-consuming RFID antenna is necessary."
The next iPhone OS iOS 6 includes a feature called Passbook. This is designed to be an intelligent folder within your phone which will carry your gig tickets, airline tickets, boarding passes and shopping coupons. While NFC support has not been announced, many think this feature will eventually emerge as Apple's answer to Google Wallet.
"We've developed templates to make it really easy for all you developers to build these great passes and tickets and it integrates right in with the lock screen. So, when you get to the movie theatre, your ticket automatically pops up on the lock screen. Slide across here, scan it in, go in," said Apple's iOS chief, Scott Forstall, introducing Passbook.
Passbook puts Apple head-to-head against Google (and in future, Windows 8), as the search engine company is expected to announce Google Wallet 2.0 at Google I/O this week. The company recently acquired a company called TxVia, which offers pre-paid accounts which will be tied to Google Wallet in order to enable more users to actually conduct mobile payments.
iTunes as a virtual bank
Apple has a similar model to follow: iTunes. Apple could link its NFC payments approval process up with a user's iTunes account. Users would then be able to set a payment limit ($25, for example) and use their device to pay for goods and services.
It is possible the future plan to link iPhone 5 NFC payments up with iTunes is why Apple mentioned its existing 400 million credit card-using iTunes accounts at WWDC this year. The advantage of using iTunes as a payment processing account would be to protect a user's actual credit card information from theft and enabling users to set payment levels they felt comfortable with.
It is also worth noting Apple's move in 2011 to quietly begin trials in which iPhones are used as wallets inside its retail stores (image above).
Another patent of note: April saw an Apple patent for a gifting service which seems based on NFC. The company has filed numerous patents which could easily relate to the creation of an NFC-based iPhone ecosystem.
It's worth noting that Apple hired Benjamin Vigier as its Apple's Mobile Commerce Manager. This man has huge experience in the NFC field, including stints at Starbucks and PayPal.
Speaking at the 2012 Air Transport IT Summit, SITA CTO, Jim Peters, observed: "Opinion is that Apple is going to incorporate NFC into Passbook. Apple just thinks about how they can make it really easy for the user, and then they figure out how to monetize it. They don't think about how to monetize it and then tell the user what they can have. It doesn't work like that."
The technology goes far beyond payments. The disruptive technology has potential impacts across other sectors, too, air travel, for example: "Boarding passes are going to be the next step with this technology," said SITA's Peters.
Visa, Mastercard, Apple and the NFC roll-out
MasterCard's Ed McLaughlin has also hinted at Apple's plan to turn your iPhone into a wallet. "I don't know of a handset manufacturer that isn't in the process of making sure their stuff is PayPass ready," he said.
When asked whether that included Apple, he replied: "Um, there are… like I say, [I don't know of] any handset maker out there. Now, when we have discussions with our partners, and they ask us not to disclose them, we don't."
The prize is huge. NFC mobile payments will exceed US$180 billion worldwide in 2017, according to a May 2012 report by Juniper Research.
"NFC technology is transforming mobile phones into payment devices that will change the way people live, work and play," said Niki Manby, head of emerging products, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa, Visa. "NFC payments have enormous potential and we are committed to providing the convenience of this technology in a secure manner to our customers."
With or without NFC, Apple is expected to introduce its next-generation iPhone in Fall, scooping profitable leadership of the industry.
Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.
View the original article here