Archive for August 26, 2011

This week at Microsoft: PC sales, analysts, and webOS

It’s almost incomprehensible, but another week has slipped us by, meaning that it is time for us to crank up the generator and take a look at the past seven days of Microsoft news.

It’s been a somewhat odd week, with stories popping up from several corners of the Microsoft empire. This is not a bad thing, of course, as it means that we’ve had a more eventful septiday period than we usually enjoy.

For this week’s question, let us know what sort of Windows 8 secrets you hope that Microsoft unveils at BUILD. Finally, follow TNW Microsoft on Twitter, and Facebook, and let’s get into the news.

Analyst Downgrade

Microsoft’s underperforming stock took a metaphysical beating this week as an analyst downgraded it from ‘buy’ to ‘hold,’ and cut his expectations for the company’s fiscal 2012 earnings:

[T]he analyst cut his fiscal 2012 revenue forecast from $74.97 billion to $73.97 billion. The street anticipates revenues in the same timeframe of $74.86 billion.

Johnstone also lowered his expected earnings per share from above the street’s estimates, to below, from $2.91 to $2.78. The street expects Microsoft’s EPS in fiscal 2012 to be $2.87. It is worth noting that Microsoft’s fiscal 2011 earnings per share were $2.69.

As we noted in the post, Microsoft’s stock has been flat for almost a decade. There might be some hope on the horizon, however, as a new hedge fund has gone ‘long’ on MSFT:

[A] new, well-respected face, Seth Klarman of the Baupost Group, recently picked up $312 million in Microsoft stock over the past quarter. He joins investor David Einhorn in being bullish about Microsoft’s market prospects. In a sea of discontent over Microsoft’s inability (especially among Microsoft employees) to boost its market value, Klarman’s name sticks out in a very important way: he is a noted value investor. That means that he sees Microsoft as intrinsically undervalued, even while other investors of his magnitude are not buying, but selling their holdings of MSFT.

That could mean that Microsoft is in for a better few years. Or it could be one colossal investment mistake. There is little we bystanders can do but wait, and watch.

PC Sales Stagnate

Continuing the ‘not so good for Microsoft’ theme, PC sales, as compared to Mac sales, are weak. Year over year sales for PCs only managed to rise 4%, according to the NPD group. Mac sales, on the other hand, rose 26% year over year.

What this shows is that Apple has manged to keep demand alive for high-end computers, even as the larger PC market slumps. Why that is, is a very interesting question to ask. It could be the sheer brand power that Apple can summon. Or it could be that the creative classes, dedicated Mac users, have been hit less by the poor economy.

Whatever the case, PC sales are slightly grim. Microsoft will probably look to Windows 8 to drive growth.

Hello, webOS

The week wasn’t all bad, however, as Microsoft managed to drive up a storm of interest in Windows Phone among webOS developers who were fleeing that sinking ship. The company tweeted that it had free handsets, support, and training waiting for any published webOS developer who wanted it.

And they did, with over 500 signing up in the first day after the announcement. Microsoft can take this somewhat to heart as a positive, as it shows developer willingness to work with WP7, but as the offer included free hardware, not all the enthusiasm should be taken as ‘pure.’

Still, WP7 needs more apps, even as it approaches 30,000 published applications, to be ‘complete.’ Perhaps the webOS developer invasion will provide it that boost.

Tango

On the subject of Windows Phone, more details about the Tango update to WP7 came out this week. This is roughly what happened: Tango was confirmed as a minor, specific update to the platform. It will likely come in two tranches, and will contain extra language support.

It is designed to help get Windows Phone into more markets. It will likely be designed to run on lesser hardware to lower the costs associated with selling handsets with the software, raising its potential sales numbers.

Also, Apollo seems all but set as Windows 8, coming in 2012.

That’s it for this week folks, be sure to be tuned in so that you don’t miss a tick. The TNW Microsoft crew wish you a happy, hurricane-free weekend.

IBM makes big data easy for the little guy

Last month, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab unveiled its Film Forecaster, a tool that tries to predict upcoming blockbusters by the amount of buzz around a movie on Twitter. It’s not the only one of its kind; others like Boxoffice.com have also been tapping Facebook and Twitter data to predict movie success.

But what’s interesting to me about the project isn’t just the sentiment analysis applied to movie tweets, but how easy it was for Annenberg’s Innovation Lab to implement it. The lab, which is sponsored by IBM, used IBM’s new Big Sheets application, which became available publicly last month as part of Big Insights, and has been applied to other projects like tracking the U.S. election and the Egyptian uprising. The film forecaster sounds like a big undertaking for USC, but it really came down to one communications masters student who learned Big Sheets in a day, then pulled in the tweets and analyzed them.

Big Sheets works like a big spread sheet and can be used to gather and analyze petabytes of unstructured data. Because it works with a familiar paradigm, it’s easy for people to use and can be partnered with programs like ManyEyes to visualize information. That’s what happened in the case of the film forecaster, which started in May and looked at tweets over a 24-hour period. The lab was able to gather between 250,000 and 500,000 tweets for each analysis and break them down into positive and negative messages using a lexicon of some 1,700 words. The student in charge was able to create a visualization a day later based on the data.

“I think data analytics is incredibly important going forward,” said Jonathan Taplin, director of the Innovation Lab. “Tools like BigSheets allow us to do something very important — sentiment analysis — without using a lot of data-centric people involved in the project. It’s incredibly easy to use and very efficient too.”

What this shows is that with the rise of big data, we’re also seeing the emergence of really powerful but simple tools that can democratize data analytics and business intelligence. Big data won’t necessarily be handled by just data scientists; it can be wielded by non-technical people. That’s a powerful idea, because it suggests a world in which we can all be data jockeys.

Rod Smith, VP of emerging technology for IBM, said companies are increasingly looking to mine the unstructured data from Twitter and Facebook, where their consumers are. He said with tools like BigSheets, it’s becoming easier for domain experts and business-side people to delve into data analytics, without the help of IT teams and data gurus. Analytics, he said, will become a core competency for workers as the tools become easier to handle.

“It will become almost second nature; you’ll have ability to get information and do this type of sentiment analysis,” Smith said. “Someone who is skilled in other areas and doesn’t know the constructs of data will just know where to get it and get insights from it.”

IBM won’t be the only one offering simple tools for handling and visualizing data. Stacey recently wrote about companies like Tableau, Karmasphere and Microsoft, which are also building simpler tools for data analysis.

Decision-makers and everyday workers will also be on the frontlines of gathering and analyzing the data. And as more of this analysis goes real-time, any lags in drawing insights collapse. The promise of big data and these easy-to-use tools is in empowering more people to make fast decisions drawn from real data.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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TechCrunch Giveaway: iPad 2 #TechCrunch

imgres-1

We all know by now. Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. The outpouring of emotion from this news is something we have never really seen before and this very well may be one of the biggest stories we will ever see in this space. Even though this may be the end of an era, Steve Jobs will still be with Apple and continue to touch lives of millions.

In light of all the news, Pursuitist, the premiere travel, food, style and leisure online destination, where our very own Paul Carr is a contributor, has offered to give an iPad 2 away to one lucky TechCrunch reader.

To enter for a chance to win, just follow the steps below.

1) Become a fan of our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Leave us a comment below telling us why you want the iPad 2

The contest starts now and ends August 28th at 7:30pm PST.

Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will choose at random and contact the winner this weekend with more details. Anyone in the world is eligible, as long as you can receive delivered packages.

Good luck!

TechCrunch Giveaway: iPad 2 #TechCrunch

imgres-1

We all know by now. Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. The outpouring of emotion from this news is something we have never really seen before and this very well may be one of the biggest stories we will ever see in this space. Even though this may be the end of an era, Steve Jobs will still be with Apple and continue to touch lives of millions.

In light of all the news, Pursuitist, the premiere travel, food, style and leisure online destination, where our very own Paul Carr is a contributor, has offered to give an iPad 2 away to one lucky TechCrunch reader.

To enter for a chance to win, just follow the steps below.

1) Become a fan of our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Leave us a comment below telling us why you want the iPad 2

The contest starts now and ends August 28th at 7:30pm PST.

Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will choose at random and contact the winner this weekend with more details. Anyone in the world is eligible, as long as you can receive delivered packages.

Good luck!

LIVE: Hurricane Irene Charges Toward New York City

Irene

Image: NASA/Reformed Broker

See Also:

Big Frightening Picture Of Hurricane Irene From Space

Irene

Irene


Millions along the eastern seaboard are bracing for hurricane Irene as the storm barrels toward New York.

The storm is currently churning 105 mile an hour winds and moving north at 14 MPH, according to weather.com.

The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch for New York City.

We’ll be covering the storm in this live blog, so check back for updates.

The latest on the storm is that services on all MTA subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Road lines will be suspended beginning at 12. p.m. tomorrow. 

If winds at any point exceed 60 MPH, the New York State Thruway, George Washington Bridge, and other bridges will close.

The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

From the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

On Governor Cuomo’s orders, the following actions are being implemented immediately:

  • The New York Army and Air National Guard will deploy up to 900 soldiers and airmen and over 100 vehicles to support civil authorities; those troops have already begun to report
  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority will institute a system-wide shut-down when trains and buses begin their final runs starting at approximately noon on Saturday; the shut-down will include subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride
  • If sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph, all of the following bridges will be closed to all traffic: George Washington Bridge, Tappan Zee bridge, all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and the following Hudson River bridges: Bear Mountain Bridge, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle (Catskill)
  • The New York State Thruway and possibly other major highways will also be closed if sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph; further closings will be announced as the storm progresses
  • LIPA will have 2,500 line workers and tree trim personnel available throughout the weekend for emergency repair work, its largest emergency roster ever
  • 175 extra ambulances and personnel will be deployed in regions expected to be hit the hardest by the storm

We’ll have more in a moment.

 

LIVE: Hurricane Irene Charges Toward New York City

Irene

Image: NASA/Reformed Broker

See Also:

Big Frightening Picture Of Hurricane Irene From Space

Irene

Irene


Millions along the eastern seaboard are bracing for hurricane Irene as the storm barrels toward New York.

The storm is currently churning 105 mile an hour winds and moving north at 14 MPH, according to weather.com.

The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch for New York City.

We’ll be covering the storm in this live blog, so check back for updates.

The latest on the storm is that services on all MTA subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Road lines will be suspended beginning at 12. p.m. tomorrow. 

If winds at any point exceed 60 MPH, the New York State Thruway, George Washington Bridge, and other bridges will close.

The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

From the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

On Governor Cuomo’s orders, the following actions are being implemented immediately:

  • The New York Army and Air National Guard will deploy up to 900 soldiers and airmen and over 100 vehicles to support civil authorities; those troops have already begun to report
  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority will institute a system-wide shut-down when trains and buses begin their final runs starting at approximately noon on Saturday; the shut-down will include subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride
  • If sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph, all of the following bridges will be closed to all traffic: George Washington Bridge, Tappan Zee bridge, all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and the following Hudson River bridges: Bear Mountain Bridge, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle (Catskill)
  • The New York State Thruway and possibly other major highways will also be closed if sustained wind speeds exceed 60 mph; further closings will be announced as the storm progresses
  • LIPA will have 2,500 line workers and tree trim personnel available throughout the weekend for emergency repair work, its largest emergency roster ever
  • 175 extra ambulances and personnel will be deployed in regions expected to be hit the hardest by the storm

We’ll have more in a moment.

 

Apple reportedly sourcing vendors for next generation ‘quad-core’ A6 chip

Apple is in talks with packaging firm Siliconware Precision Industries to produce its next generation of A-series silicon, reports Digitimes. The publication states that industry sources are saying that Apple is looking at SPIL to produce the A6 chip, the next version of the ‘A’ series processor preceded by the iPhone 4′s A4 and the iPad 2′s A5.

Apparently, Apple paid a visit to SPIL in order to discuss an opportunity for the company to become the A6 chip’s packaging and testing provider. This would mark a first for Apple who normally deals directly with a vendor rather than a company that outsources the components and then packages them itself.

SPIL has denied the speculation by Digitimes sources at this time. Samsung currently provides Apple with the A4 chips that power its iPhone 4 and iPad, but Apple is apparently moving on from them for the A6. A report late last month indicated that Apple was going with rival silicon maker TSMC for the production of the A6 and was as far along as performing trials. Talks with SPIL could indicate that it is looking for a company to handle the sourcing of parts and assemble them itself.

The A6 chip is slated to go into production in the first quarter of 2012, most likely too late to appear in the iPad 3, which should show up some time in the first quarter as well. The first device to use the A6 might not appear until June of next year or later.

Apple reportedly sourcing vendors for next generation ‘quad-core’ A6 chip

Apple is in talks with packaging firm Siliconware Precision Industries to produce its next generation of A-series silicon, reports Digitimes. The publication states that industry sources are saying that Apple is looking at SPIL to produce the A6 chip, the next version of the ‘A’ series processor preceded by the iPhone 4′s A4 and the iPad 2′s A5.

Apparently, Apple paid a visit to SPIL in order to discuss an opportunity for the company to become the A6 chip’s packaging and testing provider. This would mark a first for Apple who normally deals directly with a vendor rather than a company that outsources the components and then packages them itself.

SPIL has denied the speculation by Digitimes sources at this time. Samsung currently provides Apple with the A4 chips that power its iPhone 4 and iPad, but Apple is apparently moving on from them for the A6. A report late last month indicated that Apple was going with rival silicon maker TSMC for the production of the A6 and was as far along as performing trials. Talks with SPIL could indicate that it is looking for a company to handle the sourcing of parts and assemble them itself.

The A6 chip is slated to go into production in the first quarter of 2012, most likely too late to appear in the iPad 3, which should show up some time in the first quarter as well. The first device to use the A6 might not appear until June of next year or later.

OpenFeint Announces Replacement for UDIDs on iOS

OpenFeint-logo

On the heels of Apple’s decision to phase out developer access to the UDID (unique device identifier) on iOS devices, mobile social gaming network OpenFeint is offering up a an alternative solution. The company announced today that it’s launching a single sign-on system for social game developers that will replace UDIDs on iOS.

The system will become available later this fall.

The change to UDID access was noted in the latest set of iOS5 release notes, where it was listed as “deprecated.” The UDID, an alphanumeric string unique to each Apple device, is currently used by mobile ad networks, game networks, analytics providers, developers and app testing systems, like TestFlight, for example. In some cases, developers are even using the UDID to verify whether users are accessing their app from a new device.

In other words, this sort of change is a very, very big deal.

However, with OpenFeint’s new system, the gaming developer community, at least, will have another option. Users will opt-in to OpenFeint’s new single-sign on system, which then gives the developer access to OpenFeint’s OFUID, a universal account system for the gaming network’s cross-platform users.

Using the OFUID, developers can examine and analyze users’ behavior across games in order to better understand what’s working within their apps and what needs to be fixed. It will also help game developers’ with their ad targeting efforts. All data accessed will be anonymized to protect user privacy, says OpenFeint.

Unfortunately, unlike Apple’s UDID, OFUID only works when the user chooses to sign in to OpenFeint. And clearly, it’s not a universal replacement for the UDID, since OpenFeint is focused only on mobile gaming.

In addition, OpenFeint announced an accompanying “install trade program” for developers to promote the new system. OpenFeint says it will guarantee developers 1.5 new app installs for every new install of its “Game Channel,” a new app that’s needed for the single sign-on system to work.

Developers interested in early access can sign up to participate in the new program here.

OpenFeint has now over 6,900 games on its network and over 115 million registered users. It was acquired by Japanese mobile gaming company GREE in April for $104 million.


The best social gaming network for both Android and iOS devices.

Learn more

OpenFeint Announces Replacement for UDIDs on iOS

OpenFeint-logo

On the heels of Apple’s decision to phase out developer access to the UDID (unique device identifier) on iOS devices, mobile social gaming network OpenFeint is offering up a an alternative solution. The company announced today that it’s launching a single sign-on system for social game developers that will replace UDIDs on iOS.

The system will become available later this fall.

The change to UDID access was noted in the latest set of iOS5 release notes, where it was listed as “deprecated.” The UDID, an alphanumeric string unique to each Apple device, is currently used by mobile ad networks, game networks, analytics providers, developers and app testing systems, like TestFlight, for example. In some cases, developers are even using the UDID to verify whether users are accessing their app from a new device.

In other words, this sort of change is a very, very big deal.

However, with OpenFeint’s new system, the gaming developer community, at least, will have another option. Users will opt-in to OpenFeint’s new single-sign on system, which then gives the developer access to OpenFeint’s OFUID, a universal account system for the gaming network’s cross-platform users.

Using the OFUID, developers can examine and analyze users’ behavior across games in order to better understand what’s working within their apps and what needs to be fixed. It will also help game developers’ with their ad targeting efforts. All data accessed will be anonymized to protect user privacy, says OpenFeint.

Unfortunately, unlike Apple’s UDID, OFUID only works when the user chooses to sign in to OpenFeint. And clearly, it’s not a universal replacement for the UDID, since OpenFeint is focused only on mobile gaming.

In addition, OpenFeint announced an accompanying “install trade program” for developers to promote the new system. OpenFeint says it will guarantee developers 1.5 new app installs for every new install of its “Game Channel,” a new app that’s needed for the single sign-on system to work.

Developers interested in early access can sign up to participate in the new program here.

OpenFeint has now over 6,900 games on its network and over 115 million registered users. It was acquired by Japanese mobile gaming company GREE in April for $104 million.


The best social gaming network for both Android and iOS devices.

Learn more

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