Our Bulldog blog wrapup of the latest technology news: BlackBerry is returning to its keyboard roots; PowerSecure books $50M in new business; Morgan Stanley says sell Twitter shares; Apple buys photo app startup; a group of Nortel patents is sold; LenovoEMC unveil a new server targeting smaller businesses.
- BlackBerry Returns to Physical-Keyboard Roots Under New CEO Chen
BlackBerry, which struggled to entice customers with touch-screen models last year, plans to return its focus to keyboard-equipped phones under Chief Executive Officer John Chen.
“I personally love the keyboards,” Chen said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Jon Erlichman at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In the future, the company’s phones will “predominantly” have physical keyboards, he said, rather than touch screens.
Chen, who took the CEO job in November, is trying to rebuild the company after last year’s BlackBerry 10 touch-screen lineup fizzled with consumers — contributing to billions of dollars of writedowns. As part of his comeback plan, BlackBerry is refocusing on the corporate and government customers that fueled its early success. Those users preferred real keyboards because they made it easier to hammer out e-mails.
Last month, Chen announced a five-year deal with Foxconn Technology Group to outsource the manufacturing and design of some of its phones, aiming to offload more of the costs of its unprofitable manufacturing operations.
“Foxconn can be a really great partner, not only to eliminate my inventory risk, but also their ability to penetrate various different markets, call it the developing and emerging markets,” he said.
While the first Foxconn-built phone is expected to be a touch-screen device, Chen said the traditional keyboard will hold sway in the long run.
BlackBerry shares rose 5.3 percent to $8.01 in New York yesterday, lifting the stock’s gain since the day before Chen announced the Foxconn deal to 28 percent.
BlackBerry also announced the hiring of former HTC Corp. and Sony Ericsson executive Ron Louks to run its devices business.
“Ron’s a very creative guy,” Chen said. “I think he’s more in touch with not only the technology and design to make a phone great but how people like the phone.”
BlackBerry operates two R&D labs in Cary.
- PowerSecure Books $50M in Business
PowerSecure International (NYSE: POWR), which is based in Wake Forest, said Monday that it has booked $50 million in new business.
The bulk of it – $24 million – comes in turnkey distributed generation business, including a big solar power project “for a major biotechnology company” – and another $24 million in energy efficiency projects.
- Twitter Shares Tumble After Downgrade
Twittershares fell 3.9 percent after Morgan Stanley reduced its rating on the stock, saying the microblogging service may lose online advertising revenue to larger rivals like Facebook Inc.
Twitter dropped to $66.29 at the close in New York. The stock has more than doubled from an initial public offering price of $26 two months ago. The shares were cut to underweight, the equivalent of a sell rating, at Morgan Stanley, one of the banks that managed Twitter’s IPO.
The company trades at a premium to peers such as Facebook and Google Inc., which have advantages in digital ad formats, said Scott Devitt, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, in a note today. Even with Twitter’s push to generate sales through television partnerships, TV ad budgets are most likely to go to Google’s YouTube and Facebook before Twitter, he wrote. Devitt has a price target of $33 on Twitter stock.
“As competition for online ad dollars intensifies, we guide investors to Google and Facebook, dominant platforms with more attractive risk/reward,” Devitt wrote. “In our view, success is far from guaranteed at this early stage.”
- Apple Buys SnappyLabs for Photo Technology
Apple has acquired the maker of photography smartphone application SnappyCam as the world’s most valuable technology company continues its stepped-up pace of acquisitions.
SnappyLabs, maker of the $1 smartphone application, is based in San Francisco and run by Australian entrepreneur John Papandriopoulos. The software, which is no longer available in Apple’s App Store, lets people quickly take a stream of photos and then pick the best ones. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Buying SnappyLabs is typical of Apple’s acquisition strategy. The Cupertino, California-based company often purchases startups, then shuts the services down and integrates the technology into future products. Other recent deals have included mapping services such as Locationary and HopStop, motion-sensor provider PrimeSense and social-media analytics firm Topsy Labs.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in October that Apple acquired 15 companies in the fiscal year ended in September, compared with five known deals in the previous one.
- Group of Nortel Patents Sold to Virginia Firm
Rockstar Consortium, a group created by Apple, Microsoft Corp. and other technology companies to acquire patents from bankrupt Nortel Networks in 2011, has sold a portion of that portfolio to Spherix.
The patents in the sale cover technologies including access, switching, routing, optical and voice communication network devices, Spherix said in a statement today. Spherix disclosed in a filing last week that it issued $60 million in stock to acquire 101 Rockstar patents.
Rockstar, which also includes BlackBerry, Ericsson AB and Sony Corp., was holding discussions in December to divest a portion of the patents after struggling to find large licensing deals for them, people with knowledge of the consortium’s plans said last month. The group spent $4.5 billion on the portfolio of 4,000 patents and applications from Nortel, once North America’s largest phone-equipment maker.
Spherix, based in Tysons Corner, Va., is among a growing number of publicly traded U.S. entities focused on collecting and making money from technology patents. In July, Spherix acquired its first piece of the Rockstar portfolio, purchasing seven patents in mobile communications.
- LemovoEMC Unveils New Server
The joint venture between Lenovo and EMC, which launched in 2012 and operates in RTP, on Tuesday unveiled a new server that targets smaller size businesses. Prices start at just under $1,400.
The LenovoEMC px4-400r Network Storage “combines advanced data protection and local and remote content sharing with the simplicity and power of the LenovoEMC LifeLine operating system,” the joint venture says. It can pack as much as 16 terabytes of data and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux devices.
“The px4-400r is a powerful rackmount array designed for companies and distributed enterprises, especially those that are focused on expanding or replacing their storage infrastructure with a value-oriented network storage solution that delivers solid business performance,” said Wenping Gao, Vice President of Global OEM Storage & Enterprise Product Group at Lenovo. “The px4-400r is fully armed with advanced professional features that enable business users to store, manage and protect their mission critical data with the superior reliability and confidence needed in today’s business environment.”