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Results round-up: Microsoft, Intel, IBM up; Google disappoints; RIM’s two CEOs go - Telco 2.0 News Review

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It was a busy results week - and, as Businessweek reports, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel beat the spread. Microsoft did especially well, specifically in sales of Office and XBox products, while Intel’s results showed the company recovering well from supply-chain problems caused by flooding in Thailand and the Japanese earthquake before that.

In fact, Microsoft shares surged ahead, reaching their highest mark since early 2010, as not only sales but also margins improved. iSuppli added to the bullishness by forecasting that the Nokia market share would transition over into Windows Phone. However, although some are very pleased with the numbers of Windows Phone 7 devices logging into Facebook, Nielsen’s fourth quarter scoreboard showed that Windows Mobile devices are still outselling Windows Phone, and neither of them are setting the world alight.

Also, it looks like there’s going to be no Skype integration until next Christmas at least (and in fact there isn’t even a port of the Skype client for WP7 yet). Windows 8 wants to control mobile broadband devices.

But is the very idea of a “PC”, central to Microsoft over the years, challenged? Horace thinks so, with this week’s Chart of the Day.


Ars Technica, meanwhile, reviews what appears to be an old-school text-based adventure.

Intel, for its part, wheeled out CEO Paul Ottelini to bang the drum for their drive into mobile, which is now officially a thing after Lenovo and Huawei’s devices at CES. There’s an interview with their head of mobile, here. Intel briefers also argued that the company’s CAPEX had been unusually high last year and would trend down, but this visit to the construction site of a new Intel fabrication plant for the 22nm Ivy Bridge chips, in Texas doesn’t sound like it.

Another company building fabs in the States is Samsung, which just borrowed $1bn to fund the expansion of its plant in Austin. Samsung’s Facebook relationship status is permanently set to “it’s complicated” - it’s both Apple’s biggest competitor in mobile and its biggest supplier, it’s both an Android OEM and the owner of a smartphone OS, and it’s a major customer for Intel chips via its PC business and now potentially for its ‘droids, but also a major competitor in semiconductors more generally. And its smartphones compete directly with Motorola’s, or to put it another way, with the vendor of its main OS.

So it’s no surprise that it’s got something complicated going on with Intel. Intel has recently been trying to salvage its investment in MeeGo, by re-branding the project as Tizen and refocusing it on HTML5 apps running on a Linux core (which sounds a bit like WebOS). Samsung now wants in, and may be going to open-source or possibly just shut down its own Bada OS, once they’ve made the APIs in Tizen compatible with existing Bada apps, which only really makes sense if they’re interested in collaborating with Intel’s project.

And some people are not happy about ultrabooks.

If it was an up week for Microsoft & Intel, it was a down week for Google, which missed the consensus forecast. That was the headline, but in fact it wasn’t that bad - who moans about a $10bn revenue quarter? Credit Suisse analysts also pointed out that even if it could have been better, Google’s margins improved and they got to keep more of that $10bn.

On the other hand, they noted, Google ad pricing was falling, as clicks on mobile seemed to be worth less than ones on the desktop. Very interestingly, The Guardian’s tech blog notes that Google doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of how to make money from Android (a point Telco 2.0 has made again and again), and the official figures for “mobile” revenue just reflect the allocation of advertising clickthroughs that came from a mobile device. Any mobile device - notably, ones made by Apple, unless something changed dramatically since last October.

However, even if two-thirds of that $2.5bn in mobile search do come from Apple devices, the $442 million Google paid out in traffic-acquisition costs still sounds like a decent investment - if all of it went to Apple, they doubled their money, and we know it didn’t.

So has Google lost control of Android? Our take is that they never really had it in the first place, and instead released it into the wild like a virus in order to disrupt competition from Apple.

Larry Page also wowed the crowds by saying that 90 million users “engaged” with Google + every day. It turns out that anyone who did anything with Google that requires a login, and didn’t explicitly opt out of +, would be counted under that metric. Ars Technica explains the details and also, how to avoid being +’d and still use Google applications. VentureBeat finds some more spongy Google stats.

Android-focused vendor Sony Ericsson wasn’t doing well either. Does search itself face a dark future? Meanwhile, ReadWriteWeb reports that Google shut down three products, their Social Graph API, the web-scraping tool Needlebase, and the prioritising RSS reader Postrank.

How will Google respond? Here’s an interview with Matias Duarte, the Android design tsar who helped build WebOS and is now endeavouring to keep Android 4.0 beautiful. Chrome is getting WebRTC voice capabilities built in. And, although Enterprise is still only 4% of Google revenues, stand by for action - Google has recruited Diane Greene, one of the founders of none more enterprise company VMWare to join the board.

Elsewhere, it was the week RIM got rid of both its CEOs. In future, it intends to operate with as many as 50% fewer CEOs, with top engineer Torsten Heins taking over and a top exec from the Royal Bank of Canada becoming chairman.

Interestingly, back in 2007, Google voluntarily stopped serving ads to the world’s 90th biggest website, Megaupload, for fear of litigation over their frequently copyrighted content. This week, the FBI raided the company, locked up several executives, and seized the computers and the DNS records.

For quite a few years now, big-file hosting sites like Megaupload have been a favoured way to share files - they’re simple, they work over HTTP or HTTPS and therefore don’t get blocked by people who don’t like P2P protocols, and if you’re planning to share copyrighted content, you avoid the P2P “honeypot attack” where rightsholders’ lawyers plant content in (say) BitTorrent to see who downloads it.

Typically, when copyright owners complained, Megaupload would implement the procedure laid down by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and take it down. This is where it gets interesting, though. Like a lot of content-sharing systems (notably iCloud), Megaupload de-duplicated everything that was uploaded - the client generates a cryptographic hash of the file and sends that to the server, which checks it against a list of existing hashes to see if a copy of the file has already been uploaded. If there is a match, the server will just give you a link to the existing copy, thus saving disk space, bandwidth, and time. When a DMCA takedown notice came in, they would just remove the link to the offending file. The FBI argues that this meant they forfeited the DMCA safeharbour provisions.

Ars Technica points out, though, that Megaupload has a point here. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to send a file to someone else - if you want them to review it, for example, or to stash a backup in the cloud, or just to push over that 56MB presentation without creating a bloaty e-mail attachment. Why should the legitimate users have their files (their property, indeed) deleted?

It is at least arguable that the company’s founder “Kim Dotcom” may not be presenting their case to best advantage.

Police cut Dotcom out of a safe room he had barricaded himself in, because, according to his lawyer, he was frightened and panicked…45 credit cards in three wallets were found in the mansion under Dotcom’s various names, while three passports were also found.

In New Zealand, questions are being asked about how Dotcom, who moved to the country in 2010, could be given permanent residency under a business investor scheme despite criminal convictions for insider trading.

New details emerged about Dotcom’s lavish lifestyle and tastes, with reports that he had a heated lap pool built just off the master ensuite, with underwater speakers, imported spring water and a custom ladder worth around NZ$15,000.

A film posted on the Internet shows Dotcom, surrounded by topless women and men spraying champagne on board a superyacht during a “crazy weekend” in Monaco reported to have cost $10 million.

“Fast cars, hot girls, superyachts and amazing parties. Decadence rules,” said the commentary accompanying the so-called fun documentary, which Dotcom dedicated to “all my fans”. The FBI estimates that Dotcom personally made around $115,000 a day during 2010 from his empire. The list of property to be seized, includes nearly 20 luxury cars, one of them a pink Cadillac…

Rivals Rapidshare are putting a brave face on it, while Filesonic shuts down. Arbor Networks, meanwhile, report a noticeable drop in Internet traffic - Megaupload accounted for about 0.1% of total bandwidth and was apparently spending $1m a month on IP transit from Cogent.

After the day Wikipedia went on strike, the DNS-blocking provisions of SOPA were abandoned. TechCrunch Europe reports on Viviane Reding’s speech at the DLD privacy conference.

From the same quarter, meet Vox.io, a new web-based Voice 2.0 startup that makes your phone number into a URI. Or is it your URI into a phone number?

Elsewhere, Germany’s DECIX Internet exchange now offers VoIP peering and interconnect and a carrier-neutral ENUM registry, which makes number portability available to everyone. And here’s an interesting new MVNO on Sprint’s network.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey argues at DLD (which sounds like quite the conference) that their social network isn’t particularly social, and that the sheer simplicity of the user experience is its real selling point. On a similar theme, Plancast inventor Mark Hendrickson discusses why he’s shutting it down, or at least not developing it actively, and says a lot about the problems of social service design.

High Scalability writes up a paper from Yahoo! Research on the problem of how to generate a real-time feed of content efficiently, in terms of database theory. It may be more efficient to grab data from sources that update frequently at run-time and cache ones that update more slowly, even though you might expect that it would be advisable to cache the biggest sources of content.

Meanwhile, Wired recommends its six favourite Facebook timeline apps. And when social networks go bad - gay sex app leaks 100,000 users’ names, locations, passwords, naked pics.

On a completely different note, how about some telecoms standardisation news? ITU has announced its approved technologies for the IMT-Advanced spec, or as someone will no doubt call it, 5G. They are LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced aka WiMAX 2. IT is also busy on an M2M service layer project.

Is Vodafone the world’s best M2M operator? Machina Research thinks so, putting them ahead of DTAG. They also saw off the $3bn tax bill related to the Hutch-Essar acquisition this week, and are expected to pay out more dividend than any other British company this year, as much as 10% of the total.

Free Mobile may be gaining 100,000 subscribers a week.

Indian op Idea Cellular announced that its profits were “only” down 17%, and its shares roared away, which gives you some idea what a vicious price war is raging in Indian mobile.

Kabel Deutschland raised another $750 million from its backers this week, while NSN also called on the bank that likes to say yes.

GiffGaff, O2’s web-based MVNO, has been experiencing the fail recently.

Here’s an interview with the head of Orange Money.

Amazon Web Services announced a new product, DynamoDB, which implements a NoSQL database in their cloud. Pricing is based on I/O bandwidth. Should we abolish the operating system? Probably not, High Scalability readers think. Should we build data centres to look like McMansions? Probably not. Should we optimise jQuery for HTML5 mobile apps? Probably yes.

Telco 2.0 remembers, years ago, having to study up on “cognitive radio”. The result was an interview with some interesting people at General Dynamics and various bits of the US Army, but it wasn’t convincing. The post-mortem for JTRS is here.

Even Steve Jobs had bad ideas.

He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around.

‘The iPad would solve that,’ he said.

Because if you can’t trust your classmates with your pencils and football boots, you can clearly trust them with £500 worth of shiny. MacWorld isn’t convinced by Apple textbooks either. Dan Rayburn’s CES review. Will Apple put the hard disk back in the Apple TV? Apple hi-fi kit reviewed.

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