February 29, 2024

Microsoft Overhauls, the Apple Way

Its divisions will war no more, Microsoft said on Thursday.

The company said it would dissolve its eight product divisions in favor of four new ones arranged around broader functional themes, a change meant to encourage a tighter marriage among technologies as competitors like Apple and Google outflank it in the mobile and Internet markets.

“To execute, we’ve got to move from multiple Microsofts to one Microsoft,” Steven A. Ballmer, the longtime chief executive, said in an interview.

The notion of organizing the company around the trinity of modern technology products — software, hardware and services — is most famously used by Apple. It is yet another sign of how deeply Apple’s way of doing things has seeped into every pore of the technology industry.

And in the process, some of the biggest technology companies are starting to look much more alike organizationally. The goal is to get thousands of employees to collaborate more closely, to avoid some duplication and, as a result, to build their products to work more harmoniously together.

“The current model is obviously Apple, given how phenomenally successful they have been,” said Kevin Werbach, an associate professor of business at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “What Apple has been great at is creating these experiences.”

The changes at Microsoft, a giant in the tech industry for decades that has stalled in the last few years, echo similar moves at its biggest rivals, including some tweaking at Apple. Craig Federighi, who led the development of Apple’s operating system for computers, was also given oversight of much of the operating system for iPhones and iPads. Jonathan Ive, the industrial designer behind the slick look of Apple hardware, took charge of the interface of Apple software. At Google, the development of operating systems for mobile devices and computers was put into the hands of a single executive, Sundar Pichai, rather than two.

Microsoft said on Thursday that it, too, would consolidate its major operating systems, including Windows, Windows Phone and the software that powers the Xbox, under Terry Myerson, who handled engineering only for Windows Phone before. The underlying goal is to create software with tighter linkages to power an array of devices, making it easier for people to use their smartphones, tablets and game consoles as adjuncts to one another.

But Microsoft’s charges are far more sweeping and involve many more people. “This is, in my mind, the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” said Lisa Brummel, a 24-year Microsoft veteran who leads its human resources department, noting that the company has nearly 100,000 employees.

It remains to be seen whether more cohesive teamwork, if that is what results from all the movement, will offer the spark that has been missing recently from so many of Microsoft’s products. The company remains one of the most lucrative enterprises on the planet, with nearly $17 billion in profit during its last fiscal year on $73.7 billion in revenue. But it has been widely faulted for being late with compelling products in two lucrative categories, smartphones and tablets. Its Bing search engine is a distant second to Google and loses billions of dollars a year for Microsoft.

Rivalries among the Microsoft divisions have built up over time, sometimes resulting in needless duplication of efforts. Microsoft managers often grumble privately that one of the most dreaded circumstances at the company is having to “take a dependency” on another group for a piece of software, placing them at the mercy of someone else’s development schedule.

Product development groups will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid this, creating software like e-mail programs that duplicate the functions of other products at Microsoft. While its old divisions all had their own finance and marketing organizations, Microsoft is now centralizing those functions.

Claire Cain Miller contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/technology/microsoft-revamps-structure-and-management.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: The iPhone 5 Now on the Loose

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The grumbling over a new Apple maps service didn’t deter customers from once again jamming stores to get the latest iPhone.

The phone went on sale at 8 a.m. local time Friday morning in Apple retail stores and those of its wireless carrier partners. Crowds were heavy, especially at flagship Apple stores like the one on Fifth Avenue in New York. Although Apple won’t say anything yet about the sales it’s seeing for the iPhone 5, Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, sought to do some educated guesswork by counting the number of people waiting in line before stores in New York, Boston and Minneapolis opened.

Piper Jaffray counted 775 people in line in front of the Fifth Avenue store, for instance, 68 percent more than queued up at the same store when the iPhone 4S went on sale last year, Mr. Munster wrote in a research note. Mr. Munster said the heavier store traffic gave him confidence in his estimate that Apple could sell eight million iPhone 5’s through this weekend.

Apple has already said on Monday that it sold two million iPhone 5’s over the Internet after allowing people to submit pre-orders for the product. That figure was double the one million pre-orders it took for the previous record holder for 24 hour sales, the iPhone 4S.

Apple doesn’t provide many clues as to whether the iPhone 5 is still in stock in specific stores. Apple’s Web site says people who order the iPhone 5 now will receive it in three to four weeks.

The apparently strong demand for Apple’s phone shows that, in the near term at least, the company’s sales haven’t been hurt by the reaction to Apple maps, a new service that comes on the iPhone 5 and older iPhones and iPads that users upgrade with the latest Apple operating system. The new service has been blasted by early users for inaccurate directions, misplaced landmarks and a lack of street-level imagery, especially in comparison with the more polished Google Maps service it replaced.

Apple on Thursday said that its service will improve over time.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/the-iphone-5-now-on-the-loose/?partner=rss&emc=rss

RIM Says BlackBerry Systems Are Restored

Research in Motion said Thursday that it had resolved the technical issues that had frustrated BlackBerry users on five continents for several days, but that it might take a while yet for service to return completely to normal.

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the company’s co-chief executives, said that the backlog of e-mails and messages, which has been building since Monday in some parts of the world, was still creating delays for some BlackBerry users.

“I want to apologize to all the BlackBerry users we let down,” Mr. Lazaridis said during a news conference. “Our inability to quickly fix this has been frustrating.”

The service problems, the executives said, apparently resulted from the failure of a crucial piece of switching hardware in the closed network RIM operates for BlackBerry data services. That was followed by the failure of a backup system.

The result was the longest and most extensive disruption to BlackBerry service since the device was introduced 12 years ago. The hardware shut down service in Europe, the Middle East and Africa on Monday, which Mr. Lazaridis said created “a ripple effect” around the rest of the world.

While Mr. Lazaridis offered a separate video apology to customers, both he and Mr. Balsillie declined to answer questions about what compensation, if any, RIM intends to offer users.

“Our focus has been 100 percent on getting systems up and running,” Mr. Balsillie said, adding that the company will now begin to look at ways of placating customers.

This week’s hit couldn’t come at a worse time for the handset maker, which is fending off a growing crowd of agitated investors calling on the company to explore strategic options and new leadership. Shares of the company have fallen nearly 60 percent this year as smartphone buyers increasingly choose Android phones or iPhones. On Thursday, shares of RIM were trading 3.2 percent lower, at $23.10.

Analysts say that RIM was battling to restore more than service to the millions faced with glitches to BlackBerry cellphone service. The company was also fighting for its foothold in a rapidly changing industry.

“It’s symbolic of what’s going on at the company,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC partners who follows the telecom industry. “It’s a bloodbath.”

The Waterloo, Ontario, company’s grasp on the global smartphone market has steadily declined over the past few years. In 2008, the company commanded 46 percent of the market for smartphones around the world, according to data from IDC, a research firm. But by the first half of 2011, that hold had weakened under the surging popularity of the products from rivals, sliding to 12 percent. The company had hoped to revive its business and dazzle consumers with the BlackBerry PlayBook, a 7-inch touch-screen tablet, but the device has yet to gain traction among a broad audience.

At the same time, dozens of sleek new Android devices are arriving on store shelves in time for the holiday season and Apple is releasing the latest version of the iPhone on Friday.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, said that the biggest remaining question was whether the recent hiccups would prompt current BlackBerry owners to switch to other handsets. “Wireless access has become mission-critical and people depend on it,” he said. “Any kind of outage is a serious problem.”

Frustration erupted on social media sites like Twitter and online forums that cater to the owners of BlackBerry devices. “Uugh. If i don’t get back to you today, this is why. BlackBerry outage appears to be spreading,” a user named Diana_Knight posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

On CrackBerry.com, a popular online forum that caters to BlackBerry owners, a thread called “Enough is Enough” had attracted thousands of views and hundreds of comments by Wednesday afternoon. “This is it. This is the boiling point. Someone has to go over to Waterloo and slap those in charge at RIM,” wrote a user going by the name BlackLion15.

Such failures are not rare occurrences for RIM. Last month, BlackBerry’s popular messaging service crashed for several hours in parts of Latin America and Canada.

Because RIM sends its data through its own servers, any disruptions are felt by larger swaths of users than for other handset makers. That can be infuriating for wireless carriers who are helpless at the annoyances of their customers who are using BlackBerrys on their network.

Representatives for Verizon, ATT and Deutsche Telekom, all of which sell BlackBerry phones, declined to comment, deferring to RIM to address the outages.

On Thursday, Mr. Balsillie said senior executives at carriers around the world had been supportive rather than angry.

“People understand the complexity of these systems and when something like this happens everyone pulls together,” he said.

The RIM failure coincided with a major wireless industry conference in San Diego, where many companies that carry RIM’s traffic complained of getting little or no information about just what had gone wrong or how long it would take to fix. Others were less concerned about the industry than their own communications. “With this outage, people will say enough is enough.” said Frank Nein, an industry analyst with 9Sight2020, who said he had met representatives of RIM Tuesday. “And they didn’t have any answers about the network. They didn’t have any decent response to all these consumer devices coming into their turf.”

A few financial professionals saw a small silver lining on Wednesday. Alex Maloney, a director at Perkins Fund Marketing, a placement agent for hedge funds, said the service interruption was actually a nice vacation from gloomy e-mails.

“This is not necessarily the worst time for an outage,” he said. “It’s not like people are getting a whole lot of positive e-mails this day, given the turmoil in the financial markets.”

Quentin Hardy and Evelyn M. Rusli contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 13, 2011

An earlier version of this article misidentified the market that RIM had a 46 percent share of in 2008, according to IDC, as the market for mobile devices.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3aa01975053b37e20023666eae23f771

RIM Says Systems Restored for Blackberrys

Research in Motion said Thursday that it had resolved the technical issues that had frustrated BlackBerry users on five continents for several days, but that it might take a while yet for service to return completely to normal.

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the company’s co-chief executives, said that the backlog of e-mails and messages, which has been building since Monday in some parts of the world, was still creating delays for some BlackBerry users.

“I want to apologize to all the BlackBerry users we let down,” Mr. Lazaridis said during a news conference. “Our inability to quickly fix this has been frustrating.”

The service problems, the executives said, apparently resulted from the failure of a key piece of switching hardware in the closed network RIM operates for BlackBerry data services. That was followed by the failure of a backup system.

The result was the longest and most extensive disruption to BlackBerry service since the device was launched 12 years ago. The hardware shut down service in Europe, the Middle East and Africa on Monday, which Mr. Lazaridis said created “a ripple effect” around the rest of the world.

While Mr. Lazaridis offered a separate video apology to customers, both he and Mr. Balsillie declined to answer questions about what compensation, if any, RIM intends to offer users.

“Our focus has been 100 percent on getting systems up and running,” Mr. Balsillie said, adding that the company will now begin to look at ways of placating customers.

This week’s hit couldn’t come at a worse time for the handset maker, which is fending off a growing crowd of agitated investors, who are calling on the company to explore strategic options and new leadership. Shares of the company have fallen nearly 60 percent this year as smartphone buyers increasingly choose Android phones or iPhones. On Wednesday, as news of the spreading network problems caused shares of RIM to dip even lower, falling more than 2 percent to close at $23.88.

Analysts say that RIM was battling to restore more than service to the millions faced with glitches to BlackBerry cellphone service. The company was also fighting for its foothold in a rapidly changing industry.

“It’s symbolic of what’s going on at the company,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC partners who follows the telecom industry. “It’s a bloodbath.”

The Waterloo, Ontario, company’s grasp on the global smartphone market has steadily declined over the past few years. In 2008, the company commanded 46 percent of the market share for mobile devices around the world, according to data from IDC, a research firm. But by the first half of 2011, that hold had weakened under the surging popularity of the products from rivals, sliding to 12 percent. The company had hoped to revive its business and dazzle consumers with the BlackBerry PlayBook, a 7-inch touch-screen tablet, but the device has yet to gain traction among a broad audience.

At the same time, dozens of sleek new Android devices are arriving on store shelves in time for the holiday season and Apple is releasing the latest version of the iPhone on Friday.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, said that the biggest remaining question was whether the recent hiccups would prompt current BlackBerry owners to switch to other handsets. “Wireless access has become mission critical and people depend on it,” he said. “Any kind of outage is a serious problem.”

Frustration erupted on social media sites like Twitter and online forums that cater to the owners of BlackBerry devices. “Uugh. If i don’t get back to you today, this is why. BlackBerry outage appears to be spreading,” a user named Diana_Knight posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

On CrackBerry.com, a popular online forum that caters to BlackBerry owners, a thread called “Enough is Enough” had attracted thousands of views and hundreds of comments by Wednesday afternoon. “This is it. This is the boiling point. Someone has to go over to Waterloo and slap those in charge at RIM,” wrote a user going by the name BlackLion15.

Such failures are not rare occurrences for RIM. Last month, BlackBerry’s popular messaging service crashed for several hours in parts of Latin America and Canada.

Because RIM sends its data through its own servers, any disruptions are felt by larger swaths of users than for other handset makers. That can be infuriating for wireless carriers who are helpless at the annoyances of their customers who are using BlackBerrys on their network.

Representatives for Verizon, ATT and Deutsche Telekom, all of which sell BlackBerry phones, declined to comment, deferring to RIM to address the outages.

On Thursday, Mr. Balisillie said senior executives at carriers around the world have been supportive rather than angry.

“People understand the complexity of these systems and when something like this happens everyone pulls together,” he said.

By Wednesday morning, Wall Street was alight with e-mails from technology departments notifying employees of the problem. Bankers’ meetings fell through when attendees couldn’t look up the locations. Employees were reduced to leaving voice-mail messages.

The RIM failure coincided with a major wireless industry conference in San Diego, where many companies that carry RIM’s traffic complained of getting little or no information about just what had gone wrong or how long it will take to fix. Others were less concerned about the industry than their own communications. “With this outage, people will say enough is enough.” said Frank Nein, an industry analyst with 9Sight2020, who said he had met representatives of RIM Tuesday. “And they didn’t have any answers about the network. They didn’t have any decent response to all these consumer devices coming into their turf.”

Mr. Yach said that the company was not currently exploring options such as compensating customers for the period of time their services were offline.

“Our priority is getting the service back up and running,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what is going to make our customers the happiest.”

A few financial professionals saw a small silver lining on Wednesday. Alex Maloney, a director at Perkins Fund Marketing, a placement agent for hedge funds, said the service interruption was actually a nice vacation from gloomy e-mails.

“This is not necessarily the worst time for an outage,” he said. “It’s not like people are getting a whole lot of positive e-mails this day, given the turmoil in the financial markets.”

Quentin Hardy and Evelyn M. Rusli contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3aa01975053b37e20023666eae23f771

Advertising: Campaign Trains Viewers for ‘TV Everywhere’

A new advertising campaign by Turner Broadcasting aims to tell them how. In a series of commercials that will start appearing on Monday on the TNT and TBS cable channels, Turner stars like Conan O’Brien will be employed to explain the concept of TV Everywhere, which has been championed by Turner’s parent, Time Warner, as a way to retain cable subscribers.

The concept calls for episodes of television shows to be streamed online free — but only for people who already have a cable subscription. In the making for the better part of two years, TV Everywhere is now being introduced, and Turner wants subscribers to know. The ad campaign “is to educate viewers about the value they can unlock,” said Steve Koonin, the president of Turner Entertainment Networks.

“Consumers have bought tens of millions of iPhones and iPads,” Mr. Koonin said in an interview last week. “Our vision is that TV Everywhere kind of becomes the consumer-enabling technology that allows them to unlock the potential of those devices.”

The ad campaign encourages people to download TBS and TNT apps on their phones and tablets to start watching television episodes online and on demand. The apps require users to log in — or, in industry parlance, authenticate — to confirm that they are paying subscribers to a participating cable or satellite company.

•

The log-in process has taken a long time to put in place, but most of the major companies are now participating, including DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Verizon FiOS, and ATT U-verse.

The biggest distributor missing from the list is Time Warner Cable, which is promoting its own app that allows streaming of some channels. Time Warner Cable has also not supported HBO GO, the app that allows on-demand viewing of films and shows on HBO, which like Turner is a unit of Time Warner. Though they sound related, Time Warner and Time Warner Cable have been separate companies since splitting in March 2009.

HBO GO has already been used by millions of people since its widespread introduction early this year. Like the Turner apps, it is promoted on HBO’s main channel; Mr. Koonin recalled seeing a commercial last month that said a coming episode of “Entourage” was already available via the HBO GO app. He logged on to watch it right away, and “it made that iPad more valuable,” he said.

Turner’s campaign includes both humorous instances of people watching shows on phones and tablets and tutorials about how to do so. In one spot, Mr. O’Brien, whose talk show is on TBS, comes trudging onto his late-night stage for a promotional shoot in a suit of iPads, iPhones and BlackBerrys — the joke being that someone was confused about the purpose of the shoot.

“Watch any device on Conan,” the director says.

A narrator then explains more accurately: “Now watch Conan and all your favorite TBS shows wherever, whenever you want.”

The cast of TNT’s “Leverage” stars in another spot, taking turns singing lines from the Richard Marx song “I’ll Be Right Here Waiting for You.” Television episodes, viewers are told, are waiting for them anytime on the Web.

The spots were conceived by the Grey Group, a unit of the WPP Group, and produced with the help of Turner. Those that include Mr. O’Brien were directed by Bryan Buckley, who was also responsible for the Conan-in-India commercial for American Express last year.

Some of the spots will be shown during Turner’s baseball playoff broadcasts, which usually attract a big audience.

•

The campaign also includes a longer spot, to be posted on YouTube, which details how to download the apps and log in to a participating cable or satellite company. It is not always easy at first; the spot advises people to have their cable bill handy for their account number. “We’ll run that on air also when we have long-form opportunities,” Mr. Koonin said.

Critically for Turner, the online streams of its television episodes include the same commercials as the traditional telecasts, and Nielsen includes the online streams in its commercial ratings that include three days of playback, which is standard in the industry.

“Meaning, if they watch ‘The Closer’ on Wednesday on their iPad, we get as much credit as if they watched at 9:06 on Monday night,” Mr. Koonin said.

Some shows on TBS and TNT, like repeats of the sitcom “Friends,” are not available for online viewing. “Some deals that were done many years ago never contemplated these kinds of rights,” Mr. Koonin acknowledged. But he added, “for the most part, the shows that are hits, they are on there.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=09238196a00b761562dbe93d90bb7c87

Jobs, Rare Among C.E.O.’s, Engendered Affection

His decision to step down as chief executive of Apple brought people to tears, inspired loving tributes to him on the Web and even had some adoring customers flocking to Apple stores on Thursday to share their sentiments with other fans of Macs, iPhones and iPads.

“Through the mist in my eyes, I am having a tough time focusing on the screen of this computer,” wrote Om Malik, the prominent technology blogger. “I want to wake up and find it was all a nightmare.”

Andrew Baughen, a church vicar from London who paused during his San Francisco vacation to shop at an Apple store after he heard the news, said he was praying for Mr. Jobs. Apple, he said, “is not a corporation. It’s more like a family, a movement. I’d like to meet him in heaven and say, ‘Thank you.’ ”

Business leaders, whether fictional like Ebenezer Scrooge and Gordon Gekko or real like Rupert Murdoch or Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, are usually regarded with considerably less warmth, as rapacious rather than revered. 

“It’s unusual right here, right now, given that Americans’ feelings about business are just north of their feelings about Congress,” said Nancy F. Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School.

That Mr. Jobs is seriously ill gave the tributes a poignancy and sense of foreboding. But the aloof man in a black turtleneck — who spent the last month on a yacht with his family, according to people with knowledge of his whereabouts — also managed to foster familial emotions among those who work in technology and business and ordinary people who use Apple products.

“Every decade or so, an icon emerges who both has a Midas touch and is in an industry that is in our collective consciousness,” said Jon Kulok, co-founder of Edge Research, a marketing research firm for corporations and nonprofits. “However, unlike those figures, he goes out at the top of his game, and some of the commentary today reflects his going out on top.” 

There were hundreds of thousands of messages shared online about Steve Jobs after his announcement Wednesday, nearly all of them positive, according to NetBase, which analyzes social media commentary. On Twitter, many of the posts expressed love for Mr. Jobs, an emotion that rarely surfaces in business chatter.

Part of the reason, analysts said, is that people love Apple products in a way that they do not love other products they use everyday, whether toothbrushes, toasters or BlackBerrys. And Mr. Jobs as a chief executive is uniquely connected to Apple’s creations.

“What makes Steve Jobs particularly special is it’s as if he personally handed you an iPhone and an iPad. So to many consumers it feels like a gift from a family member,” said Jon A. Krosnick, a social psychologist at Stanford University. As a result, Apple customers feel like they have a personal connection with the man, even though the company is highly secretive and Mr. Jobs is very private.

While Mr. Jobs’s business style — he is well known for terse e-mails and browbeating tactics — has earned him critics over the years, even many of them stopped to praise him on Thursday. 

One sometimes critic of Mr. Jobs, Glenn Kelman, the chief executive of Redfin, an online real estate agency, wrote on the company’s blog: “I still remember exactly where I was, standing in a Dolores Street apartment with a cereal bowl in my hand, when he came on TV to say a competitor had no poetry. It made me think poetry had a place in business and that in turn made me think I had a place in business, too.” 

Dario Fiorillo, who went to an Apple store in San Francisco to buy an iPod while visiting from Italy, said: “Everyone I have spoken with about it is shocked and sad. We all feel like we have a relationship with Steve Jobs.”

Apple’s aura of mystery makes Mr. Jobs that much more alluring, analysts and Apple fans said. His against-all-odds personal story also makes him sympathetic and admirable. He was fired from Apple before returning and transforming it into a juggernaut, and he has continued to work through pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant. 

Ms. Koehn of Harvard said that love for corporate chiefs, while unusual in its excess, was not unprecedented.

Lee A. Iacocca, who created the Mustang before Ford fired him and then joined Chrysler and saved it from bankruptcy, had a similar following three decades ago. His story, of a victorious second act and of products that captured Americans’ hearts, bears similarities to that of Mr. Jobs.

Others compared Mr. Jobs to Thomas Edison. The outpouring of public admiration for Mr. Jobs resembles what the inventor and businessman received, said Paul Israel, director of the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University. And like Mr. Jobs, Mr. Edison was a master of marketing himself and his products.

“People expected that the Edison technology, whatever it was, would be the best technology,” Mr. Israel said, “and I think that’s what Steve Jobs represents to a lot of people.”

Nick Bilton and Matt Richtel contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6f8b7cb243d5f6bdb9383588b1e45365

Sell Big or Die Fast

Last year, Microsoft pulled the plug on its Kin mobile phones only 48 days after they went on sale.

In recent years, technology companies have been cutting their losses with increasing speed. Google proudly released Wave, its platform of collaborative work tools, to the general public in May 2010. It canceled Wave 77 days later. Palm announced its first tablet, the Foleo, on May 30, 2007. By Sept. 4, the company halted development and the product was never sold.

Pure Digital, maker of the Flip camcorder, had planned to release the Flip-Live on April 13, but Cisco, which had acquired Pure Digital in 2009, shut the entire division on April 12.

These days, big technology companies — particularly those in the hypercompetitive smartphone and tablet industries — are starting to resemble Hollywood film studios. Every release needs to be a blockbuster, and the only measure of success is the opening-weekend gross. There is little to no room for the sleeper indie hit that builds good word of mouth to become a solid performer over time.

When Microsoft released the Xbox 360 in 2005, there were widespread reliability issues and the console faced serious competition from the Nintendo Wii, yet the company stayed the course, and now the Xbox is one of the best-selling video game consoles of all time. That kind of tenacity seems to be in diminishing supply.

Some analysts trace the origin of this blockbuster-or-bust mentality to Apple. Each release of the company’s popular iPads and iPhones crosses over into being a mainstream media event. Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC, described the accelerated lifecycle of high-end hardware as “Darwinian.”

“There’s a level of desperation from anyone whose name is not Apple,” said Mr. Hilwa.

The crush of tech bloggers and Twitter-using early adopters who chronicle every bit of news — good and bad — about new phones and tablets also raises the stakes around how well new products perform in the marketplace.

“You know pretty quickly, and in a very public way, whether a product is successful or not,” said Mr. Hilwa.

Similar to opening week at the movies, early reviews on the Web panning a new tablet or phone can be disastrous for its makers.

“Once you lose momentum, its hard to regain it,” said Chris Jones, an analyst at Canalys.

The rapid life cycles of products can play with the affections of consumers, who may rush out to be the first on their block with a new product, only to find that the manufacturer has canceled any future support or development weeks after it went on sale.

Neal LoCurto, the owner of TeamLogic IT, an information technology consulting company in Syosset, N.Y., said he bought his TouchPad the morning it went on sale. “On release day I went to Best Buy that morning and waited at the door,” Mr. LoCurto said. “I was the first one in and the first one out.”

Mr. LoCurto, who ultimately grew unhappy with the TouchPad because of the lack of apps, received a refund for his TouchPad, but he says he no longer trusts H.P. “I feel like they lied to us,” Mr. LoCurto said. “They didn’t give it a chance.”

Companies kill new products more quickly now because of the higher cost of staying competitive, said Jim McGregor, research director for In-Stat, a market research firm. Quickly pulling the plug on an obvious failure makes sense, although it can be embarrassing.

“The life cycles are very short because there is obviously huge competition,” Mr. McGregor said. “Even if you do have a blockbuster, you know you’re going to get leapfrogged in six months. You have to come out with something that really knocks off the pants and then follow it up. You can’t just sit there and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a success.’ ”

In the case of the TouchPad, analysts agree it failed because its operating system, webOS, had few of the apps that made Apple’s iPad a runaway hit, he said. Microsoft’s Kin had a similar problem.

Mr. McGregor said that Google TV, Google’s Internet-connected television accessory, faded into obscurity because of content providers declined to make their content available. Google had lined up various manufacturers as partners, including LG, Toshiba and Sharp, only to tell many of them last December to delay the release of their Google TV products. While Google’s strategy for Google TV remains unclear, none of those partners have come out with a Google TV product.

“The content is worth more than the device,” said Mr. McGregor. “If you don’t have everything — the content, the applications and the experience — you might as well drop your anchor and jump off the ship.”

Even mighty Apple was not always so skilled. Like other companies today, Apple suffered a streak of bad luck with new products more than a decade ago and, like them, it cut its losses. The company killed the Power Mac G4 Cube, a desktop computer, in 2001 after only 11 months because consumers believed the price was too high and balked at having to buy a monitor separately.

Two days after announcing it would kill the TouchPad, H.P. started unloading its inventory through a fire sale. The steep discount — 80 percent off the original price — succeeded in setting off a buying frenzy that H.P.’s executives had hoped for when they introduced the device.

H.P.’s online store, along with Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, quickly ran out of TouchPads after putting them on sale for $100 for the 16G version and $150 for the 32G version. When originally available in July, they were listed at $500 and $600.

People strategized on online message boards about how to find a TouchPad. H.P.’s call center was overwhelmed.

“All this clamoring for the TouchPad, kind of bittersweet,” H.P.’s customer service arm said in a post on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ed37bf765c6f641e56fdfdf153f4fd69

Verizon’s Bet on iPhones Brings a Slow Return

That has not quite happened, at least not yet.

On Friday, while reporting its quarterly earnings results, Verizon said it activated 2.3 million iPhones during the company’s second quarter. That is a hefty figure, because the device has been available on Verizon for only a few months, but it paled in comparison to ATT’s iPhone activations for the same quarter. On Thursday, ATT reported that it had activated 3.6 million iPhones on its network, and that nearly a quarter of them were for new customers to ATT.

And activations on ATT’s network have held steady over the last three months, surprising analysts who thought that most customers would wait for the fifth-generation iPhone, widely rumored to be released sometime later this year.

“People overestimated the potential for customers to jump ship for Verizon,” said Phil Cusick, a wireless industry analyst at JPMorgan Chase. “It’s just not at that level.”

Verizon has been selling the iPhone since February, but the second-quarter reports reflect the first full financial period during which the two companies were selling the device in direct competition with one another.

Analysts say several factors favor ATT, including the company’s decision to begin selling a low-cost version of the iPhone, the 3GS, for $50 earlier this year.

In addition, ATT was able to successfully lock customers into one- or two-year contract plans before it lost exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in the United States earlier this year.

Still, analysts said, Verizon is outpacing the entire wireless industry in terms of adding subscribers, even compared with ATT.

Craig Moffett, a wireless analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Company, said, “Verizon’s wireless business has pretty good momentum right now.”

Over all, Verizon’s earnings were solid, beating Wall Street’s expectations for the company. The company reported net income of $1.61 billion, or 57 cents a share, in contrast to a loss of $1.19 billion during the same period a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the company to report a profit of 55 cents a share.

Revenue rose 2.8 percent, to $27.54 billion, up from $26.77 billion a year ago. Analysts had expected revenue of $27.4 billion.

Verizon was betting heavily on the arrival of an iPhone in early summer, executives said in a conference call with analysts and investors on Friday. The company had hoped it would nudge the number of subscribers that had smartphones closer to 50 percent.

Historically, Verizon has lagged behind its rivals in pushing its customers toward mobile devices like smartphones, wireless modems and tablets, and the lucrative data packages that come with them. This push will become especially crucial as Verizon, along with its competitors, move from the decaying landline and voice business and increasingly look toward data services for the bulk of their revenue.

Already, Verizon’s wireless business accounts for 60 percent of the company’s total revenue. Money generated from selling mobile data services is close to 40 percent of Verizon’s wireless revenue.

Lowell McAdam, the chief executive of Verizon Wireless, who will succeed Ivan Seidenberg as chief executive of the parent company on Aug. 1, acknowledged that the company was “maybe a quarter behind what we talked about in January.”

But he expressed confidence that the outlook would sharply improve over the coming months, particularly when the next version of the iPhone was released.

“We don’t know when the next one is going to come out,” Mr. McAdams said. “But we expect that probably sometime in the fall, and I think you will see a significant jump there when we get to that point.”

Investors may not have been as optimistic. Shares of the company dipped slightly, down 83 cents, or 2.21 percent, to $36.74.

One issue with the introduction of the iPhone to Verizon was whether the carrier would buckle under the crush of the new data-intensive users. It has not, which analysts attributed to the fact that Verizon had several years to upgrade its network and infrastructure while watching ATT struggle with this problem. “Verizon was better prepared thanks to ATT,” said Chetan Sharma, an independent wireless analyst.

But even ATT’s network, long the source of complaints from beleaguered users who said they got poor cellular reception and suffered from dropped calls, has improved over all, Mr. Sharma said.

Verizon’s results were lifted by strong growth in the company’s wireless arm, which is 45 percent owned by Vodafone. The company reported a sharp increase — 1.3 million — in net new subscribers in the quarter. Smartphones accounted for 36 percent of Verizon Wireless’s postpaid subscriber phone base, up from 32 percent in the first quarter of the year. Verizon recently began rolling out its fourth-generation wireless network, which uses a fast wireless technology called LTE, and is heavily marketing tablets and smartphones that are compatible with that new technology.

Verizon’s earnings might also shed some light into the brewing rivalry between Apple and Google and both look to dominate the smartphone and tablet industry. Although Verizon continued to achieve sales from its catalog of Android and 4G devices, the company sold far fewer of those devices than they did iPhones. For the quarter, the company reported sales of 1.2 million LTE and Android devices, which includes tablets, smartphones and wireless modems.

“Verizon’s had Android for a long time,” said Mr. Sharma, who keeps a close eye on the industry. “This was the first real test between an iPhone and Android and consumers still gravitate towards the iPhone.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0a638d7ed5829650be6581cc24fe8411

Apple Unveils ‘Cloud’ Music and Storage Service

Mr. Jobs said the new, free service, iCloud, would replace the personal computer as the central hub of people’s digital lives — storing photos, music and documents. Relying on the PC, he said, no longer works now that millions of people have multiple devices, each with photos, documents, songs, phone applications and other files.

“Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Mr. Jobs said, speaking at the opening day of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. “We have a great solution for this problem. We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”

Mr. Jobs added, “Everything happens automatically and there is nothing new to learn.”

At the center of iCloud is a new version of iTunes that will allow users to download on any device any song they have ever purchased. Songs that were not purchased from iTunes can be added for $25 a year, Mr. Jobs said.

The iCloud service also works with documents, apps and photos through a new service, Photo Stream. And it will replace MobileMe, a failed $99-a-year service that allowed people to synchronize their calendar, e-mail and contacts across devices.

At the event, Mr. Jobs and other top Apple officials also showcased new versions of Apple’s Macintosh and iOS operating systems, which include scores of new features.

With iCloud, Apple wants to make it easier for the 200 million iTunes users to listen to their entire music collections on PCs, iPads, iPhones and iPods. Until now, people had to manually transfer songs among devices by syncing them with their PCs. Under the new system, Apple will scan people’s iTunes libraries and then offer access to any song in those libraries over the Internet.

A linchpin of the service is that Apple has reached deals with the major record labels and music publishers to license their recordings. Amazon and Google offer similar services. But because those two companies did not obtain licenses from the labels, users have to upload their own music libraries — and any new song purchases — to the Web before they can listen to them from multiple devices. And that process can take hours, if not days, for people with large collections.

By cementing the deals with the music industry, Apple is able to save users that time-consuming step. What’s more, Apple, which is already the world’s largest distributor of music, is expected to find a ready audience in its millions of iTunes users, virtually guaranteeing that its service will leapfrog the offerings from Amazon and Google.

But music is only one part of Apple’s iCloud service. At the presentation at the Moscone Center West, Mr. Jobs laid out a vision in which the cloud would play a far more central role in all aspects of people’s digital life, from e-mail to the viewing of photos and video.

Apple typically keeps its new products under tight wraps until they are unveiled. But in an unusual move, the company said last week that it would use Monday’s event to update the Macintosh and iOS operating systems and introduce iCloud. Some analysts said Apple’s pre-announcement was meant to put to rest fevered speculation that it would introduce a new version of the iPhone. Since Apple first announced the iPhone in 2007, it has introduced a revamped version every year, in June or July. But analysts said the next version of the iPhone is not ready and would not be announced until later this year or sometime next year.

Apple’s more aggressive move into so-called “cloud computing” services has been expected for some time. Apple has built a 500,000-square-foot data center in North Carolina that opened earlier this year. Mr. Jobs showed pictures of the data center, which will power iCloud, as evidence that Apple was “serious” about the new services.

Ben Sisario contributed reporting from New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/technology/07apple.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Unboxed: In a New Web World, No Application Is an Island

How’s that? Isn’t the Web already the crucial utility of online commerce, information and entertainment? In many ways, it certainly is. The Web’s importance is indisputable — but there are signs that it is slipping. Investment, innovation and energy have been shifting elsewhere in computing — mainly, to shopping, gaming and news applications for smartphones and tablet computers.

These applications often tap into Web sites for information on all manner of things. But they do not reside on the open Web, and cannot be searched and linked to one another in the same way Web applications can. Think of the apps tailored for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, or those made for Google’s Android operating system. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have similar characteristics, as walled gardens that are connected to the open Web but are separate from it.

This is the trend that Wired magazine described last September, under an intentionally exaggerated headline: “The Web Is Dead.”

And Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s creator, issued a warning in the December issue of Scientific American. “The Web as we know it,” he wrote, “is being threatened.” The danger, he added, is that “the Web could be broken into fragmented islands.”

But the Web’s fortunes may soon brighten remarkably. The scenario relies on a collection of technologies, already years in development, that is starting to make its way into the mainstream of computing. HTML5 is the geeky umbrella term for this assemblage. (It’s the fifth generation of HyperText Markup Language, which is the way Web pages are written in code.) Engineers say the technology will make it possible to write Web applications, accessed with a browser, that are as visually rich and lively as the so-called native applications that are now designed to run on a specific device, like an iPad or an Android-based tablet.

The Web browsing software that is needed to bring HTML5 to life has recently arrived. Last week, Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, released the newest version of its browser, showing off its support for the new technology. A week earlier, Microsoft brought out its new Internet Explorer tuned to run HTML5. The Safari brower from Apple, meanwhile, also supports the new technology, and the company has particularly embraced HTML5’s video-playing feature as an alternative to Adobe’s Flash player. And the Chrome browser team from Google has long been a leader in HTML5 development.

The technology, by all accounts, is an innovative achievement. HTML5 represents the “next big step in the progress of the Web,” says Jeffrey Jaffe, chief executive of the World Wide Web Consortium, which guides the development of technical standards. Paul Mercer, a veteran Silicon Valley software designer, says the technology will make it possible to “achieve the dream of expressive, interactive applications on the Web that are Cupertino-class,” a reference to the headquarters of Apple, where Mr. Mercer worked for years.

There are also potentially sweeping business implications, executives and investors say. The technology could alter the playing field in the emerging market for digital media and mobile applications, creating new market opportunities.

“Right now, we’re in a native apps world,” says John Lilly, a venture partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. “But people are underestimating the power of the Web. I think we’re going to see an explosion of Web-based apps over the next couple of years.”

Indeed, start-up companies like Zite and Flipboard present media content in magazine-style pages on the iPad, using HTML5. The free software from Flipboard, for example, taps a user’s online social networks for reading recommendations. Flipboard is also working with publishers, offering them tools for automating the display of pages on the iPad.

“You’re seeing this increasing move to HTML5 among publishers,” says Mike McCue, the company’s C.E.O.

In theory, the technology could give publishers a powerful counterweight to Apple, the early dominant distributor of paid media content. Apple has leading devices in the iPhone and iPad, and media companies use its software to tailor their content for them. And the company’s App Store is the hub for retail distribution online.

Publishers flinched, though, when Apple announced in February the terms for digital newspaper and magazine subscriptions sold through its App Store: Apple will get a 30 percent cut and the customer information, unless a subscriber agrees to pass some of that data on to a publisher. The 30 percent is the same that Apple collects on music and games sold through its store. Publishers had been pushing for better terms and sharing of customer information, because they would be selling continuing subscriptions instead of one-time transactions, like an individual song or an album.

Most major publishers are experimenting with HTML5 today. (The New York Times version, using the new technology, is at nytimes.com/skimmer.)

Yet even if HTML5 allows publishers to make applications that shine on the iPad without Apple’s software, the distribution power of Apple won’t necessarily decline. The company could still end up running the leading marketplace in online publishing sales if the iPad remains the runaway leader in tablet computing — just as the popularity of iPod music players has reinforced sales at the company’s music store.

So far, publishers mostly plan to use the new technology to streamline digital development, thereby cutting costs. Ideally, they say, HTML5 would be the main technology used for all mobile programs, with some tweaking of applications on each device.

“If HTML5 lives up to its promise, that would make my life easier,” says Joe Simon, chief technology officer at Condé Nast. The publisher has built dozens of iPhone and iPad applications in recent months for its 18 magazines, and will soon introduce Android applications for the Motorola Xoom for The New Yorker and Wired.

THE rivalry between the worlds of the Web and native applications, analysts say, is set to play out over the next couple of years. There are strong advocates in each camp, even within companies. Google, for example, straddles the two worlds, with its Android team as well as its developers of HTML5 technology.

Sundar Pichai, vice president for product management for Google’s Chrome browser, is betting on the triumph of HTML5. “In the mobile world, the dominant model is native apps,” Mr. Pichai concedes, but he adds that the real competition is just beginning. “As these ecosystems evolve,” he says, “I think the incredible advantages of the Web will prevail.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e342124c19614978688a2227648b71ed