Somehow under the impression that people don't spend 100% of their time holding, looking at, or anxious because they are not holding and looking at their cell phones, Nokia has filed a patent for a message-alert skin tattoo that could make the old "My phone was set to silent," excuse a thing of the past.
Desperate to train employees in the way of their customers on the other end of the world, Indian tech outfits teach them American accents, the names of local football and baseball teams, and slang expressions. Nativists wring hands about this crushing local mores in favor of Western culture. But sometimes the importation of Western culture proves outright deadly. In Gurgaon, India, a suburb of New Delhi filled with offshore-tech outfits, police are investigating the death of a 22-year-old employee of Nokia-Siemens at the company's office.Nokia-Siemens officials held a pie-eating contest for workers in the company cafeteria. Saurab Sabharwal started choking and ran to the bathroom. No one thought to follow him. A coworker found him dead an hour later. His father is now asking why medical personnel weren't on hand; doctors in India question whether such contests should be held at all. The point of such contests is to spur competition between employees, in a culture which fosters cooperation. That one proved deadly is perhaps the best lesson about American culture, if not the one the bosses intended. (Image via Machias Wild Blueberry Festival)
Where's the debt crisis in Silicon Valley? The knock-on effects are all too real, but frozen credit markets have had little direct effect on business operations, aside from possibly scotching the debt-fueled sales of Alltel and Nextel. That's because technology companies are run by paranoid sorts who like to keep large cash reserves, in case some upstart renders their market obsolete. In good times, activist shareholders whinged about their parsimonious habits, but the cash hoarders are now sitting pretty — and could be set for acquisition binges.One company which listened, to its detriment, to shareholders was Microsoft. When Bill Gates ran the software company, he liked to keep a year's worth of expenses on hand, in case things went awry. Microsoft is no longer quite so stingy with its cash; it dribbles some out in dividends, and gave shareholders a $32 billion payout a few years back. Good thing it didn't shell out $44 billion for Yahoo; that deal would have left it cash-poor and debt-ridden, at exactly the wrong time. Even so, Microsoft's balance sheet is no longer the most sterling in tech. So who's got cash on hand? Here are the 10 richest tech companies, from a Yahoo Finance screening. (I left out companies, like IBM, whose cash was matched by equally outsized debts.)
Turns out the tech industry is not immune from the Wall Street meltdown. Apple stock dropped 16 percent yesterday. RIM, Google, Nokia and Yahoo share prices also saw double-digit drops. Yahoo shares hit a five-year low, down 10.8 percent to $16.88. Microsoft shares stayed less than five percent below the markets open until Congress failed to pass a bailout plan. The closed at $25.01, down 8.7 percent. The drop seems to have panicked Microsoft a bit, which did the only thing it could do when there was nothing for it to do: issue a statement. "Microsoft strongly urges members of the U.S. House of Representatives to reconsider and to support legislation that will re-instill confidence and stability in the financial markets," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer. "This legislation is vitally important to the health and preservation of jobs in all sectors of the economy of Washington State and the nation, and we urge Congress to act swiftly." If it would help, we're certain Mr. Smith is willing to promise a cherry on top.
Finland mobile device maker Nokia will acquire the 52 percent of mobile operating system-maker Symbian it didn't already own from private investors Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Sweden's Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson, Panasonic Mobile Communications Co. and Siemens AG for $410 million. Nokia plans to turn the Symbian operating system into an open source software platform to rival Google's Android and Apple's iPhone OS X software. Symbian's 1,000 developers will join Nokia as employees and Symbian itself will continue as a non-profit foundation responsible for marketing the OS.
It's the most puzzling thing about the stock market to investing newbies: How can a company like Nokia see its earnings rise 25 percent, but its shares tumble 10 percent? That's because for most tech stocks, Wall Street doesn't care what you've done for it lately; they care more what you're going to do. And Nokia has given a depressing forecast for U.S. sales. The rational response, of course, is to push off all deals as far into the future as possible, and then announce glistening expectations for what's to come. That seems easier than actually running one's business in a rational manner. [WSJ]
Why is Apple suddenly in talks with record labels about bundling an unlimited music plan with new iPods, after resisting such a move for years? Steve Jobs has scoffed at music subscriptions in the past, saying customers want to "own their music." Never take Steve at his word: For years, he shot down the idea of iPods with video or an Apple-branded cell phone — until he made them happen. The same is about to happen for music subscriptions, I suspect — but not because Jobs has suddenly changed his mind about consumers' tastes.
Apple has opened negotiations with the major record labels by offering only $20 per customer for a proposed unlimited plan at the iTunes music store, according to the Financial Times. Nokia is offering $80, but then cell-phone manufacturers have the price of phones subsidized by carriers who've gotten used to paying hundreds of dollars to acquire new customers. Apple has traditionally made its profits on the devices themselves, since iTunes margins are paltry, and are already slashing prices on units in order to meet sales forecasts. Labels are looking to get as much as $100 from iPod buyers and $8 a month from iPhone subscribers. Both sides are really fighting over how much of the profit from music they'll keep. Me, I'll stick with vinyl. (Illustration by Gizmodo)
Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said in an interview with a German paper that Nokia will pursue a cut of subscriber revenues for some future data-based devices. As we've previously noted, Apple has set up a triple whammy with the iPhone: the company gets paid when it sells the phone, gets a kickback from service providers, and gets a cut of content sold through the iTunes store. In October, Nokia rolled out an unimpressive social network and partnered with Universal Music to start its own music store. Apple has shown the rest of the industry that there is money to be made in more than just handsets, and Nokia wants in on the action.
Universal Music Group has partnered with Nokia to provide a subscription music service to mobile phones. Unlike PC-based subscription services such as Napster, Nokia's offering will let users keep any music downloaded after their one-year subscription expires. Of course what they don't tell you is how much this will cost, or limits on numbers of downloads. [Digital Music News]
The browser wars continue — but no one cares. Unless, that is, you're in the wireless world, where industry observers avidly watch tiny scraps of Web activity, as if they're divining prophecies from the clouds. Computerworld notes an interesting trend. Apple's iPhone browser has grabbed a 0.09 percent share, which might not seem like much until you compare it to the competition. Windows CE, which encompasses every Windows Mobile device shipped, holds a 0.06 percent share; Danger Research's Sidekick product family holds a tiny 0.02 percent share; and the Symbian S60 smartphone platform, favored by Nokia, has 0.01 percent.
GPS device maker Garmin has offered $3.3 billion for digital mapping service Tele Atlas. Rival TomTom offered $2.5 billion for Tele Atlas in an earlier bid. Currently, Garmin uses maps from Navteq. After that company was acquired by Nokia, Garmin started looking for other options. With $1 billion in cash, Garmin would finance the acquisition through cash and loans from several banks. What's this all mean? With Navteq off the market, expect something of a bidding war for Tele Atlas between Garmin and TomTom — and maybe Google. Garmin has an advantage here, though — it already purchased 5 percent of Tele Atlas on the open market. Shares in Garmin fell 11 percent after the bid was announced as investors worried that the purchase price could rise significantly. (Photo by AP/Reed Hoffmann)