Weekly Tech Biz Wrap: Amazon’s Domain Domination, Apple’s China Alliance, AT&T Anxious to Add 4G Spectrum
Last week was quite a rollercoaster ride for investors. The major indices were all riding upward into Wednesday and then faded after the digestion of the Fed’s comments. The DJIA finished the trading week lower .99% at 12,640.78, the S&P 500 ticked lower to complete the week down .58% at 1,335.02 and the Nasdaq managed to eke out a gain on the week up .68% to finish Friday at 2,892.42. Here’s everything you need to know from week:
YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOG) might invoke the selling of subscriptions to access certain of its offerings, according to comments by its division chief Salar Kamangar, as the company goes forward with its push into professional content. Smaller channels that get only minimal affiliate fees from pay-TV providers might be among the specified group, as well as certain content providers. Google is quite adamant in its pushing of Google+, in the face of lackluster consumer usage, and the current overhauls to the site which include controversial search changes and the recent migration of local commerce content to Google+, underscore the drive. Meanwhile, the FCC is looking into whether to regulate online video sites the way that pay-TV providers are, and to thus guarantee them access to the same content.
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Now look what you’ve done! Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) IPO disaster, along with the resulting selloff of its own shares plus those of several richly-valued Internet names, has likely poisoned the water for any other IPOs in the technology market for the rest of the summer, thinks Anthony Noto at Goldman. The analyst believes that only solid companies who are willing to underestimate its predictions and valuations should dare to go public currently. His warnings might be indirectly aimed at the rapidly-growing cloud ERP and HR software supplier Workday, as Bloomberg Businessweek says that it plans to file for its anticipated IPO later in June.
Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next generation MacBook Pro is “much less accessible than anything which has ever carried the ‘Pro’ name in the past,” thinks Felix Salmon. Problems with Pro are that its random access memory, solid-state drive, and battery can’t be replaced or upgraded, and even some of its screws are non-standard. There is method in this madness though, as consumers will have more reason to buy a $349 AppleCare Protection Plan, which shows how recent Apple products have a “built-in obsolescence” that pushes future upgrades.
Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) shares rise a bit Monday, on the reported U.S. release of its PureView 808 phone, which features a 41 megapixel camera. While it’s thought by some that the phone’s running on Symbian might limit consumer interest, the firm promises to bring the phone’s imaging tech to Windows Phone devices.
In a bit of a turnaround, consumer Internet firms having recent IPOs had a good Monday, running off of short-covering and positive commentary: Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was praised for its purchase of Face.com.; Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) from an upgrade at Morgan Stanley; and Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) from bullish comments by Michael Pachter at Wedbish, who forecast that new games will reinforce user growth, and enhanced revenues from older games will rise in the second half. Perhaps in sympathy, shares of Pandora (NYSE:P), Yelp (NYSE:YELP), and Linkedin (NYSE:LNKD) followed suit.
Bernstein is pleased with Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) purchase of $375 million worth of patents from InterDigital (NASDAQ:IDCC), while shares of the latter shoot the moon. Intel paid some $220,000 per patent, which was far below the $750,000 a pop shelled out for Nortel’s intellectual property in 2011. At the same time, Deutsche Bank says that the transaction is good news for Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), which has charged RPX (NASDAQ:RPXC) with the job of monetizing its approximate 29,000 patents and applications, which will greatly improve its liquidity.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) executive Michael Barrett is moving to Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) to become its Chief Revenue Officer. Barrett was, until 2011, the CEO of the Google purchase startup AdMeld, and will now be charged with the revamping of a Yahoo advertising unit that has been hit with problems in sales execution and tech. Interim CEO Ross Levinsohn at Yahoo is credited with hiring Barrett, against rumors that the company might begin outsourcing a portion of its advertising tech operations.
A major coup for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as Brian White at Topeka Capital says that the company’s calendar year 2012 will be the ‘most profitable year any publicly-traded company has ever posted’, as he keeps his price target of $1,111 and swears by the Apple’s low valuation. Not to be outdone, Gene Munster of Piper reports that his completed survey of 100 developers at WWDC, implied that Apple’s edge in developer loyalty, which arises from superior app monetization and the iPad’s tablet leadership, is strengthening.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) launches a server system named Gemini, which utilizes a combination of “server cartridges” that contain low-power Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) “Centerion” Atom computer processing units, and shared networking, storage, and power/cooling resources. This intro is part of H-P’s Project Moonshot initiative to develop the sort of inexpensive, dense, energy-efficient servers which are more and more used to deliver Internet/cloud. The Project will also feature ARM-based (NASDAQ:ARMH) processing units, as opposed to traditional standalone servers.
The FCC has been asked to give permission to AT&T (NYSE:T) to use dormant spectrum in the 2.3 GHz. band to offer 4G services, by both the company and by Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI). For its part, AT&T is anxious on adding more spectrum, after the failure of its T-Mobile deals, and has made a compromise with Sirius which resolves its long-standing interference issues, although this might cause problems for other licensees with adjacent spectrum.
Kodak (EKDKQ.PK) is filing a suit against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in bankruptcy court, alleging that the latter interfered with its plans to divest its patent portfolio, by using its cash to strategically postpone royalty payments, thus blocking a sale of Kodak’s assets.
Pandora (NYSE:P) shares sell off then rebound, following the news that Spotify is introducing a free, ad-based, Internet radio service for domestic users, which strongly resembles that of Pandora. However, the difference between the two services is that Spotify’s utilizes a “social graph” of user activity, while Pandora’s depends upon a music-analysis algorithm. Happily for the latter, its market share has so far withstood new rivalry, perhaps due to the time spent by Pandora users to create personalized stations, which generates a switching cost that keeps many from leaving.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares have a big day Tuesday, upgraded to Buy by S&P, with the launch of its Surface tablet, along with growing expectations that Windows 8 will become the rival to fear for the iPad. Indeed, worries regarding the tablet’s potential are already manifest: Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) shares are notably selling off. Completely cognizant of this, MSFT says that it’s pricing Surface along the lines of other Windows 8 tablets, and initially the product will be sold online and at Microsoft stores only. Analysts enter the fray, as Sam Grobart of the New York Times says that Surface might not so much rival the iPad, but rather become ‘a solution for tablet buyers who crave the added functionality of a notebook’. Peter Rojas praises the new tablet’s attention to detail, but believes that MSFT was remiss in not giving the ARM-based version a display that matches the new iPad’s.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) gets a second good news day in a row, as TBG Digital reports that its Sponsored Stories mobile news feed ads obtained a click rate at nearly twice that for its PC news feed ads, and 13.7 times as high as that for its PC ads in general. In addition, the revenue rate for 1,000 mobile ads is 165 percent higher than that of PC news feed ads, which must please investors who worry about Facebook’s ability to gain revenues from mobile viewing. One possible fly in the ointment here: TBG’s sample size was small, owing to the fact that FB has only recently been selling the mobile ads.
Shares of Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) fall Wednesday, despite the firm’s confirmation that “headcount reductions” comprise a portion of its strategy for reducing operating costs by $1 billion. Previously, RIM had forecast that it would recoup the money by cutting back on its manufacturing sites, but now observers project elimination of between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs.
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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) attorneys argued before a Federal judge on Wednesday why the company should be able to seek an order barring the sale of certain Motorola phones, as it continues its high-profile suit against Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Mobility division. When it comes, the decision might well impact Apple’s ability to negotiate favorable licensing agreements, as it fights against Motorola and other competitors in court.
Sigma Designs (NASDAQ:SIGM) shares move lower as it deals with the activist fund Potomac Capital, which owns 8 percent in the company. Potomac issued an open letter to Sigma, in which it restated its own nomination of three board members, and also made public its long array of complaints regarding the firm’s board and management, which included a history of equity dilution and losses, plus allegations of conflict of interest. Recently, the firm responded to Potomac by terminating a poison pill, plus agreeing to split its chairman and CEO roles.
Nokia (NYSE:NOK) says that it would not reject the divesting of many of its approximate 30,000 patents in order to raise money, but intellectual property consultant Alexander Butler advises that the portfolio’s value might well exceed the firm’s market cap, which is currently estimated at $9.3 billion. The collection is said to include both numerous standards-essential 3 to 4 gigabyte patents, plus many innovations related to smartphone software, touchscreen interfaces, and phone design. In the meantime, Finnish Prime Minister Jykri Katainen issued a statement on Wednesday that ended speculation that the government would purchase Nokia shares to reinforce the company. At one time, Nokia comprised around 4 percent of Finland’s gross domestic product, but job cuts have shrunk that figure to below 1 percent.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) polishes its big week with the intro of Windows Phone 8 (Apollo) at a developer’s conference. The device will support multi-core processors, removable memory cards, new screen resolutions, and other hardware improvements, due to a reconfigured kernel. As for software, improvements include Skype integration, new enterprise features, Nokia mapping software, NFC-based mobile payments, as well as the ability to customize live tiles.
Attorneys for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) are indeed in discussions aimed at a resolution over patents, as it appears that the former’s interim CEO Ross Levinsohn wants the matter, which has done Yahoo much PR harm, behind him. The firm’s legal team has requested the court to grant a two-week extension on required filings, while the discussions are ongoing.
Shares of Juniper (NYSE:JNPR) plunge toward its 52-week low, following stern treatment by FBR, which worries about the firm’s product transitions, and its ability to keep up with Cisco’s (NASDAQ:CSCO) latest solutions. Further, the latter recruited several Juniper executives in 2011, and has been winning market shares in core routers and Ethernet switches. Accordingly, FBR lowered the firm’s price target from $24 to $14.
Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) agrees to settle its patent infringement suit against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) for zero statutory damages, but it’s filing a partial at the same time. Oracle once sought billions in damages from Google, because Android’s use of Java programming interfaces, and in May a jury found Google innocent of all 8 patent infringement claims levied by Oracle, and then a judge rejected Oracle’s request to nullify the jury’s decision.
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A New York Times article causes shares of Pandora (NYSE:P) to slump Thursday, as it detailed the advent of P’s new competition from Spotify and Songza. Discussed was the possibility that Songza’s manually-created playlists might beat Pandora’s algorithm-based approach at delivering the music genre that a user wants to hear at a particular moment.
Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) domestic usage seems to be nearing a saturation point, as its U.S. unique visitors numbers keep dropping, although its less accretive international usage keeps rising. Domestic usage fell by approximately 700,000 month-to-month in May to 158 million, says conScore, and that followed a slight drop in April. On the shares front, Argus joins Evercore in starting coverage with a Hold, while worrying aloud about mobile monetization.
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Cypress Semiconductor (NASDAQ:CY) seeks to acquire Ramtron (NASDAQ:RMTR), and initiates a tender offer at $2.68 per share (valid through July 19), which exceeds the $2.48 a share bid that was proposed last week. The potential buyer’s SRAM could be enhanced by Ramtron’s FRAM tech, with which the latter wants to deliver the performance of SRAM, while retaining data in the absence of a charge (like flash memory). However, problems related to costs and chip density have constrained sales. Ramtron closed at $2.75 Wednesday on expectations of a higher offer.
Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) recent addition of several iOS features which are aimed towards Chinese users shows its commitment to partnering with the world’s largest carrier, China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), says Shaw Wu at Sterne Agee, who adds that the next iPhone will support the latter’s TD-SCDMA 3 gigabyte network. CHL has made statements in the past that a future iPhone will support its TD-LTE 4 gigabyte network, which might not win government clearance for 2 to3 years, but the company hasn’t said anything specific concerning 3 gigabyte support.
Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) grand scheme for the 76 domain extensions it has bid to control might be unclear as for now, but the payoff for its gambit could be enormous if it all comes together. The company is currently the dominant shopping portal, and if it can successfully use its position to build up some dot-suffix, ‘.store’ for example, Amazon could then become the head of a domain extension group that would be a mandatory location for other firms.
Exploding smartphones? Samsung (SSNLF.PK) is looking into a Galaxy S3 user’s story that claims the device, which was mounted in a car, overheated and caused “white flame, sparks and a bang” which melting the phone inside and out. Later, the used admitted that the mount could have been faulty, as well as the vehicle’s heating system.
Social gaming leader Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) shares rebound following Lazard’s defense, which is the most recent analyst to do so lately. It’s expected that Zynga’s new titles Ruby Blast and Bubble Safari will ignite a pickup in usage, although it’s likely that these titles won’t bring as much revenue as earlier hits. However, Lizard also believes that user acquisition costs will be lower, and that Zynga will be able to cross-promote more profitable titles to the games’ users.
Universal Display (NASDAQ:PANL) shares move up, following Vishal Shah at Deutsche Bank beginning coverage with a Buy and a price target of $45, thinking that new licensing agreements such as LG, increasing organic light-admitting diode adoption in the mobile device and TV markets, the production of blue OLED emitters, and the OLED lighting market’s potential are all positive catalysts. The analyst forecasts that pressure on prices for PANL’s materials should remain low as well.
Shares of First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) jump subsequent to word that it has reached a deal with the Los Angeles Country Department of Public Works regarding the installation of solar modules at a delayed Antelope Valley project. The company predicts the arrangement will result in the creation of a 230 megawatt solar plant that will be completed next year. FSLR shares are up 38 percent from its June 4th low, but 2012 is still not its best year.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) attorneys continue to try to stall for time in the company’s patent infringement dispute with Eastman Kodak (EKDKQ.PK), as on Thursday they requested a judge to have bankrupt Kodak’s suit heard by a jury in a federal district court, rather than by a judge in a federal bankruptcy court. Such a ruling might undo Kodak’s plans to auction its patent portfolio in early August. Kodak is suing Apple for allegedly attempting to interfere with the sale of its patents.
Shares of insurance software provider Ebix (NASDAQ:EBIX) jump almost 10 percent, following the news that it has inked a contract with an unnamed “U.S. mutual insurance company”, under which it will supply its Ebix Advantage cloud software platform, which will handle policy administration, billing, plus other back-end tasks.
Next week’s Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) I/O conference may see the intro of its new cloud infrastructure platform, says a source to GigaOm. Expectations are that the service will result in more competition with Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Azure than Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ:AMZN), which is enormously popular with Internet companies, but MSFT has more of a concentration in enterprise and application development. Other Google targts might be Rackspace (NYSE:RAX) and its OpenStack platform. Google is getting in late, but many growth opportunities remain.
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