Archive for January, 2012
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it has begun a formal investigation into Samsung’s strategy of using FRAND-encumbered patents related to 3G wireless networking standards in lawsuits. The announcement comes after the Commission began a preliminary inquiry into the matter last November and several courts in the EU have struck down Samsung’s attempts to use the patents against Apple.
Two weeks ago, the excellent Building Windows 8 blog posted an in-depth look at the upcoming operating system’s new file system, ReFS. It reminded me of the promise of so many years ago that OS X would be changing its file system from HFS+ to ZFS. Not a promise many remember or even cared about at the time, but it was, in fact, important.
ZFS support was dropped amid development and legal problems, but Don Brady, who was heading up the file system transition team at Apple, left to pursue it independently. And now he’s releasing a piece of software, Zevo, which finally adds ZFS support to any Intel Mac running 10.6.6 or later.
Most of you are probably wondering why you should even bother about something as invisible to the average user as the file system. It’s a fair question, and the short version is that HFS+ has its roots in very old computing practices (think PowerPC processors running OS 9) and is missing some features that are becoming more critical every year. The long version is here in John Siracusa’s 10.7 review on Ars Technica, where he breaks down feature by feature where HFS+ falls short.
Zevo comes in four flavors: Silver ($20), Gold ($40), and Platinum (no price yet), plus a Developer edition that isn’t fully detailed yet. Each adds more features, but many basic benefits of ZFS are there to begin with, like bit-level error detection. Unfortunately, you can’t boot from a ZFS volume right now, so you’ll need to create a ZFS partition and keep your data there. This isn’t surprising, but it is a little disappointing. It’s not the full conversion people were hoping for, but only Apple can provide that, and they don’t seem to want to.
Should you buy it? You should probably at least ask your IT guys. But it’s nice to see this little gem of geekery resurface after so many years in limbo. If I get a new MacBook Pro this year (a high-res one, naturally), I might just stick this on there for kicks. At this price, it’s really not much of a hit, and it’ll be great for my cred.
Thunderbird 10 Fixes Add-On Compatibility, Adds Right-Click-to-Search and More Keyboard Shortcuts [Thunderbird]
Windows/Mac/Linux: Thunderbird, our favorite Windows and Linux email client, updated today with a few new features sure to make browsing your email more convenient, including keyboard shortcuts and search in the context menu. More »
With the rumblings from Amazon about the early success of its new Kindle Fire over the holiday season, the company’s disappointing fourth quarter results came as a surprise.
More surprising was Amazon’s silence regarding total Kindle Fire sales for the quarter. During the earnings call, Amazon’s executive team deferred questions about the device to the press release, which simply regurgitated sales data from December.
The Kindle Fire, which is Amazon’s 7-inch Android-based tablet device, did phenomenally well during its initial launch in November. The company reported selling at least 3 million Kindle readers (including the Fire and Amazon’s other e-ink readers) three weeks after the launch — or about a million devices per week over the 2011 holiday shopping season.
Some analysts have estimated that Amazon sold about 6 million Kindle Fires for the quarter, which would make the company the second largest seller of tablet computing devices. Those estimates, if true, would also make the Kindle Fire the best-selling Android-based tablet in the world — beating high-profile tablets from Samsung and Motorola. (For some perspective, even the most optimistic Kindle Fire sales estimates are nowhere near industry leader Apple’s iPad 2, which sold 15.4 million units in its fiscal first quarter.)
While the Kindle Fire’s initial spike in sales could be attributed to its relatively low $200 price and the proximity of its launch to the largest shopping “holiday” of the year, it’s possible that Amazon saw a sharp decline in the following weeks. Essentially, that means Amazon may not have sold as many devices as it projected, which would explain the company’s silence during the earnings call.
Another explanation for why Amazon didn’t mention Kindle Fire sales in its quarterly earnings report could have something to do with digital media sales. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Amazon is selling the Kindle Fire at a loss and making the money back on digital media sales and application purchases. Some analysts estimate that the company is making at least $136 in additional revenue from every customer who bought a Kindle Fire. If digital media sales are down for the quarter, it could reflect poorly on the Kindle Fire’s success.
Still, Amazon is definitely serious about growing its presence in digital media sales — and not just by offering premium content from the biggest media companies. Last month, Amazon started a $6 million annual fund to encourage more independent authors to publish their works on Kindle before other platforms. The company is also hiring new employees to work on its digital media strategy.
Matthew Broderick has spoken out about his decision to mimic his old Ferris Bueller character for Honda's upcoming Super Bowl commercial, admitting he wasn't sold on the idea at first. "It took a little, uh, thinking about it, it took a little time, but I ended up thinking it might be amusing," he tells New York magazine's Vulture blog. "Todd Phillips was directing it, who's a good director, and I thought it would be fun to send up Ferris Bueller a little bit," he adds. Still, he says he spent the four-day shoot "running around L.A. … thinking, 'I hope this is a good idea.' " With the extended version of the spot already topping the 4 million mark, Broderick adds: "I guess I'm part of a virus."
Investors seem pretty disappointed with Amazon’s fourth quarter results (as of 3pm Pacific, the company’s stock is down 8.6 percent in after-hours training), yet for most of this afternoon’s analyst conference call, that disappointment was largely hidden in the normal stream of numbers and financial terminology. Finally, a few minutes before the call ended, one analyst asked CFO Tom Szkutak to directly address the concern that earlier questions had hinted at — namely, that the company seems to be seeing “diminishing return” on its spending.
Szutak’s initial response? “I’m not sure how to answer that.” Yes, he said Amazon is investing heavily (for example, he said Amazon had opened 17 fulfillment centers during the quarter, bringing the total to 69), but that’s because the company is seeing so much growth — in its own retail business, in fulfillment for third-party retailers, in Amazon Web Services, and so on. As evidence, he pointed to Amazon’s 46 percent growth in overall unit sales. (He talked in more detail about media sales earlier in the call.)
At the same time, he acknowledged that there have been some challenges this quarter, including the economic crisis in Europe and supply issues caused by flooding in Thailand.
“We’re incredibly excited about the opportunity that we have and that’s why we have invested as we have and why we’re continuing to invest,” Szutak said. Asked if Amazon will be changing its strategy at all, he said, “We’re continuing to look as we always do. We learn every week and every month and every quarter.”
Firefox 10, the latest version of the Mozilla web browser, was released today and brought a bunch of developer tools with the new update. Non-developers get a few new features too: faster updates and better add-on compatibility.
Page Inspector, a new feature in this release, lets developers view a page’s layout and HTML structure. Firefox highlights the page area you want to inspect and display the HTML tag for the part of the page. Want to know the what font you are looking at? Use the Style Inspector to reveal CSS information for the page. Both Inspector features reveal how the page is structured and the rules used to create the page. You can even spend sometime playing around with the page, changing margins, font sizes, and more which is especially cool for those who’ve never worked with HTML or CSS before. Nothing is changed in the website’s real code, but developers can get a visual idea of how their pages will look.
Firefox has also released the Mozilla Full-Screen API so developers can build full screen apps and games and deliver full screen video content. The latest release also includes support for 3D Web experience with WebGL, a standard for running 3D graphics.
For all the non-developer Firefox devotees, Mozilla touts that version 10 gives you a simpler update process and much better add-on compatibility. However, this writer didn’t notice much difference with how the update was applied.
Filed under: media
Amazon misses Wall Street expectations with a 57 percent decline in net income despite tripling Kindle sales during the holiday season.
"Order is Never Observed; It Is Disorder That Attracts Attention Because It Is Awkward and Intrusive." [Quotables]
Social network king Facebook will likely file its first papers with regulators on Wednesday morning for a $5 billion initial public offering, “sources close to the deal” have told Reuters subsidiary IFR.
We heard at the end of last week that the social network could file papers for its initial public offering as soon as Wednesday, so it’s not unexpected that more details are leaking like a well-worn faucet. The timing aligns with a recent report that suggested that Facebook would like to make its stock market debut in May. In order to comply with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s guidelines, Facebook would need to file its papers soon.
If IFR’s report holds true, the $5 billion IPO would be looked at as smaller than expected. Rumors had been swirling that Facebook would be putting up a $10 billion offering on a $100 billion valuation. IFR suggests that if Facebook sees higher demand (which it most certainly will), it could raise its offering to a higher amount.
Facebook has selected five bookrunners to help get its offering processing, and it has put Morgan Stanley in the lead-left role. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, and JP Morgan will also help with the deal. The bank in the lead-left role typically earns a larger share of fees collected for handling an IPO.
It’s unclear at this point if Facebook will end up on The New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq, but both are said to be aggressively battling for the listing. Facebook has reserved the ticker symbol “$FB”.