In today’s wrapup of tech and life science news:
- Sprint is cutting jobs
- INC Research adds new exe
- Marriott fined $600,000 for Wi-Fi jamming
- Red Hat scales up enterprise services
- Facebook tightens research guidelines
- The EU OKs $19 billion Facebook-WhatsApp deal
- Sprint cutting jobs this month to trim costs
Sprint Corp., the nation’s third-biggest cellphone carrier, said it is cutting an unspecified number of jobs this month to reduce costs as it tries to better compete with AT&T and Verizon, and hinted that more layoffs are possible.
“We’re still working through the details so exact numbers and locations are not available at this time,” Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said in an email on Friday. The October job cuts will include managers as well as other employees. She said the wireless carrier has previously said job losses would come in its IT, portfolio management, network and technology divisions.
Sprint had 38,000 employees at the end of December.
Sprint said Friday in a regulatory filing that it will book a $160 million charge in its fiscal second quarter to cover this round of layoffs, which will largely be completed this month. It may take more charges for future job cuts.
Sprint’s new owner, Softbank Corp. of Japan, replaced longtime CEO Dan Hesse with Bolivian billionaire and entrepreneur Marcelo Claure in August after Sprint dropped its bid for rival wireless carrier T-Mobile US. Claure had been CEO of Brightstar Corp., which is part of Softbank. Softbank bought 70 percent of Sprint last year.
Masayoshi Son, Sprint’s chairman and the CEO of Softbank, has said that Sprint must compete more aggressively with its larger rivals. That could include price cuts to entice customers. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company has posted billions in losses for the past several fiscal years as subscribers canceled contracts. It shut down its struggling Nextel service last year.
- INC Research adds new exec
Raleigh-based INC Research, a global life science services firm, has hired Clare Grace as vice president for site and patient access. She has more than 20 years of experience in the contract research organization and life science field.
“Sites play such a critical in role in providing the real-world link between the drug development process and patients,” said Alistair Macdonald, INC’s chief marketing officer. “INC Research understands the value sites bring to clinical research and is committed to enhancing our relationships with them to ultimately help bring new treatments to market more efficiently. We are very pleased to have Clare leading the team to execute on our vision of connecting at a deeper level with these key stakeholders and communities for mutually beneficial outcomes.”
- Marriott fined for jamming Wi-Fi
Marriott International will pay a $600,000 fine for jamming conference attendees’ own Wi-Fi networks at its Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, forcing them to pay hefty prices to use the hotel’s own connection.
Frequent travelers often carry personal Wi-Fi hotspots — tiny devices that can connect to the Internet via cell phone towers. For $50 a month, they can connect to the Internet on the move, often avoiding hefty fees charged by hotels, airports and conference facilities. Some people upgrade their wireless data plans to make their smartphones into hotspots.
Last year, a conference attendee at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, Tennessee — which is managed by Marriott — found that the hotel was jamming devices in its ballrooms and complained to the Federal Communications Commission. In the complaint, the guest noted that the same thing happened previously at another Gaylord property. The block didn’t affect Wi-Fi access in guest rooms.
While jamming personal Wi-Fi connections, Marriott was charging conference organizers and exhibitors between $250 and $1,000, per access point, to use the Gaylord’s Wi-Fi connection. The FCC declined to release the initial guest complaint except if requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can often take weeks.
Marriott agreed to the fine and has instructed its hotels not to use the jamming technology in the way it was used at Opryland, according to the FCC. But the company on Friday defended the blocking of guests’ own Wi-Fi networks in the interest of network security. The company said it is legal to use FCC-approved technology to protect its Wi-Fi service against “rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” adding that hospitals and universities employee similar jamming practices.
At the four Gaylord hotels in the U.S., Marriott today monitors for hotspots causing interference but does not automatically block such connections, said Harvey Kellman, a lawyer for the hotel company. Only a handful of Marriott’s 4,000 other hotels worldwide currently screen for hotspot interference.
Marriott said it encourages the FCC to change its rules “to eliminate the ongoing confusion” and “to assess the merits of its underlying policy.”
The government said people who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal connection will be blocked.
- Red Hat scales up enterprise services
Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is beefing up the capabilities of its Red Hat Storage Server 3 software and services to petabyte scale.
Highlights include, Red Hat says:
• Increased scale and capacity by more than three times with support for up to 60 drives per server, up from 36, and 128 servers per cluster, up from 64, providing a usable capacity of up to 19 petabytes per cluster.
• Improved data protection and operational control of storage clusters, including:volume snapshots for point-in-time copy of critical data, and comprehensive monitoring of the storage cluster using open, industry standard frameworks, such as Nagios and SNMP.
• Easy integration with emerging big data analytics environments with support for a Hadoop File System Plug-In that enables running ApacheTM Hadoop® workloads on the storage server, as well as tight integration with Apache Ambari for management and monitoring of Hadoop and underlying storage.
• More hardware choice and flexibility, including support for SSD for low latency workloads, and a significantly expanded hardware compatibility list (HCL) for greater choice in hardware platforms.
• Rapid deployment with RPM-based distribution option offering maximum deployment flexibility to existing Red Hat Enterprise Linux users. Customers can now easily add Red Hat Storage Server to existing pre-installed Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployments.
- Facebook tightens research guidelines
Facebook has tightened its research guidelines following uproar over its disclosure this summer that it allowed researchers to manipulate users’ feeds to see if their moods could be changed.
At issue was study in which Facebook allowed researchers to manipulate the content that appeared in the main section, or “news feed,” of small fraction of the social network’s users. During the weeklong study in January 2012, data-scientists were trying to collect evidence to prove their thesis that people’s moods could spread like an “emotional contagion” depending on what they were reading.
“Although this subject matter was important to research, we were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism,” Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, wrote in a blog post Thursday. “It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently.”
In the past three months, Schroepfer said, Facebook has given researchers clearer guidelines on research procedures and has created an internal panel that will review projects. But there will not be an external review process and Facebook will continue to encourage researchers to study how people use its site.
“We believe in research, because it helps us build a better Facebook,” Schroepfer wrote. “Like most companies today, our products are built based on extensive research, experimentation and testing.”
- EU OKs Facebook-WhatsApp deal
The European Union’s antitrust authority says it has approved Facebook’s proposed $19 billion takeover of the messaging service WhatsApp.
The 28-nation bloc’s executive Commission said Friday the deal may go ahead because consumers will continue to have a wide choice of alternative communication apps they could use. Facebook Inc. runs its own mobile messaging service with its Messenger app but the EU found the merged entity “would continue to face sufficient competition.”
EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia says “while Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are two of the most popular apps, most people use more than one communications app.”
The Commission says WhatsApp — launched in 2009 — has some 600 million users globally. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes it will reach 1 billion in a few years.