What's Now: Amazon sued, Nokia not skidding so much, and Dell plunges

What's Now mid strip 600 px

Nokia earnings sequentially up, at least

Morning of Thursday, July 16, 2009 • One of the most wince-inducing earnings calls for reporters in recent months has been Nokia's, but things seem to be a tiny bit brighter at the Finnish phone firm as sales rose 7% in Q2 from the previous three months. They're still down 25% year-over-year, of course, but company officials Thursday said they believe the market for mobile devices to be "bottoming out." (The company still chose to revise its earlier target of raising its market share; now the company says it aims to maintain that share at 2008 levels.) Earnings per share were likewise down year-to-year (65.5%) but up sequentially (233.3%).

Nokia said it has sequentially increased its shares of the global mobile device and smartphone markets to, respectively, 38% and 41%; in a similar vein, the company says it estimates industrywide device volumes to be up sequentially about 5%, to 268 million gadgets. (It's down 12% year over year.) Looking ahead, Q3 may see some slight industry improvement in sequential sales numbers, but full-year sales results for 2009 will show a decline of around 10% from 2008 levels.

Amazon bows to Kindle-replacement pressure, but getting sued anyway

Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 1:18 pm PDT • Two ears and a tail to Brier Dudley, tech columnist at the Seattle Times, whose persistent reporting appears to have pushed Amazon to make right on all those cracked Kindles that one hears about. But the class-action suit is still on; as the lawyer for the lead plaintiff puts it, "If they would like to resolve the matter I think the way to do it is through a court-approved process." (A cynical observer might suspect that that particular Seattle-based barrister is familiar with the Amazon way of doing business.)

Facebook tops 250 million users, gets a little creepier

July 15, 2009, 9:08 am PDT • It was inevitable that Facebook would break the quarter-billion barrier, and it took only three months to get that last 50 million, according to a post by Mark Zuckerberg yesterday morning -- not the most exciting post, really (what? he only had three months to write it, people! how much can you expect from a Harvard man?), but the video showing the service's pandemic-style propagation was kind of fun. In all the [*yawn*] hubbub, though, no one seems to have noted an afternoon post on Facebook's developers' blog mentioning that advertisers can now target people based on which applications they're running. Slightly unnerving.

MySpace, a place for...who knows?

July 14, 2009 • See if this sounds familiar to you: A Web site that's been around for a good number of years is desperately seeking to define itself. And in desperation, it looks to its users, and well, they haven't got a clue either. Sure it does. Same song, thousandth verse.

Well, in one of the bigger demonstrations of that same plague affecting a major player, TechCrunch this morning has the Quote of the Week by a long shot: It has obtained a company memo from MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta, summing up the problem that...well, maybe his site always had:

We consider our diverse content offering a strength but t oo many logos and disorganized verticals makes the site difficult to navigate and creates confusion about our brand identity. Our users don't know if we're a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub. In the last week, we've made some small but meaningful site changes that will lay the groundwork to provide more clarity on our brand and business. Unifying MySpace is critical to how we define ourselves to the world.

Bill Gates eyes hurricane management

January 3, 2008 • An assortment of recently noticed patent filings indicate that the Microsoft alumnus has some ideas about "dampening" hurricanes by pulling warm water deeper into the ocean beneath the storms. IPWatchdog digs in on the filings, while InformationWeek explains why we're just noticing these filings now and Daily Kos goes into O NOES HE IS PLAYING TEH GOD!!!1 mode. Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation quietly dropped another $6.5 million on computer upgrades for 800 public libraries Thursday, just like that.

Is it the economy, or is it Dell?

Q4 2009 > Global PC shipments for the second quarter of this year would have declined by only four tenths of one percent over the same quarter last year, had it not been for the sudden and precipitous decline of Dell. IDC's Quarterly PC Tracker numbers released yesterday show Dell and only Dell in a calamitous freefall, with shipments declining 17.1% to just 9.1 million units.

On Tuesday, Dell was actually straightforward about its troubles. Even though the general press categorized the company's out-of-cycle earnings warning as another sign of the bad economy, alongside General Motors and "More to Love," CFO Brian Gladden made it clear that everyday market factors such as competitive pricing and low margins were pretty much to blame here. By IDC's numbers, Dell is very much in danger of losing its #1 position in US shipments -- only 40,000 units separated Dell from US #2 HP in the second quarter. And Acer's strength, which now reflects all of its consolidated brands including Gateway, is a clear sign that the global economy is no longer so terribly unstable.

Contrast that to iSuppli's report yesterday, which indicated single-digit growth for the entire PC industry into the foreseeable future. Take Dell out of the picture and suddenly that doesn't seem to be the case; and if Dell keeps performing the way it has been, including losing over five points of market share in the states, then it could be out of the picture in just a few short years. At this rate of decline, Acer could become the undisputed global #2 player by the end of the year, and conceivably the leading consumer PC brand in the world.

IBM, Google release earnings reports today

After the markets close > Mark Loughridge, senior vice president and CFO, steps up to the mic for Big Blue; SVP and CFO Patrick Pichette (along with presumably some other folk) step up for Big Goo. Both are expected to announce profitable quarters, with IBM up an estimated 4 cents per share year-to-year and Google sailing along with a 45-cent per-share increase.

Thursday's tech headlines


• Plans for health-care reform may backfire if the system relies on current her (electronic health records) software, reports Brandon Keim. And we're not just talking paperwork snafus, but deaths.

• The Obama administration really wishes the EFF would shut up about electronic surveillance dragnets, asking a federal court on Wednesday to toss the EFF's ongoing lawsuit.

• Twittering behind the pop-culture curve? Checking out porn at work? BitTorrenting movies or music you can't buy online? Wired's cover story on The New Rules for evolved humans is full of useful guidelines, plus advice from that inglourious basterd Brad Pitt.

Ars Technica

• The debate over whether to block mobile-phone signals in and around prisons continued at a Senate Commerce and Science committee hearing on Wednesday. Read Matthew Lasar's writeup and see if you can't find good arguments on both sides of the conversation.

• The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides the underpinnings for three indictments unsealed this week against three men connected to the Viewsat satellite receiver. Looks like one of them managed to get himself recorded saying "I don't want no traces or records" concerning the group's decryption efforts. Oops.

The Register

• Sorry, Symbian friends: Researchers have spotted the first spambot known to target your phones. YXES-B isn't widespread yet, but it sounds like a nasty piece of work if you get hit.

• As John Ozimek puts it, you know your "child-protecting" net filter is a loser when even children's charities say it is, as they're doing in Australia these days.

LA Times

• So what happens when -- not if -- AT&T loses its exclusive iPhone deal? David Sarno reports that the telco should expect a significant defection to "faster, more reliable networks."

• Zookz.com, an Antigua-based site, believes it has the legal right to offer unlimited music and movie downloads for $18/month based on its interpretation of a 2007 WTO ruling. The RIAA and MPAA just might have another interpretation. (This ought to be entertaining.) Jon Healey reports.

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