Visto Ups Arsenal Against RIM
By Monica Alleven
Visto is acquiring Good Technology, the company Motorola bought just about two years ago, giving Visto a leg up in its competition against BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We’re very excited about this. It’s a great expansion of our business,” said Doug Brackbill, chief marketing officer at Visto. The acquisition doubles the head count of Visto, bringing it to more than 400.
Good’s technology has been enterprise focused, while Visto’s is more for consumers or pro-sumers. The combination gives Visto better access to Good’s customers, which include U.S. carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and enables the company to bring new enterprise solutions to Visto customers that include the likes of Vodafone Group and T-Mobile International.
Once the acquisition closes at the end of this month, it will end all litigation that was going on between the companies. Visto over the years has challenged many mobile e-mail solution providers over patent infringement claims; litigation with RIM is still ongoing.
Of course, RIM isn’t Visto’s only source of competition. Device makers are getting more aggressive in the space. Last week, Nokia, which acquired Intellisync in 2006, said two of its new Eseries devices, the E75 and E55, will ship with the company’s new e-mail user interface, giving consumers access to both consumer and corporate e-mail.
While device makers often position their solutions as platform independent, the perception is their solutions are tied to certain devices. Brackbill says an advantage for Visto is its device independence, and that’s appealing to IT managers and carriers. Visto’s solution works with more than 400 devices and various platforms, including Java, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and it’s adding support for Android.
Visto’s solution also can integrate across e-mail providers, giving end-users access to multiple personal and business e-mail accounts on one device, similar to other mobile e-mail solutions.
The world of mobile e-mail remains a highly competitive one, with many companies saying they want to go after the mass market.
Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO of U.K.-based mobile e-mail and synchronization specialist Synchronica, said Visto seems to be locking itself into the enterprise space with this latest deal. “From a technical perspective, I don’t see many synergies, just a lot of overlap,” he said in an e-mailed statement, adding that integrating two proprietary mobile e-mail systems into a single platform will be a “technical nightmare.”
Brackbill said from the beginning, the company can continue to operate the enterprise and consumer services without any disruption, and it will look “very seamless.”
Shift in Postpaid, Weak Sales Hit RadioShack Earnings
By Maisie Ramsay
RadioShack Corporation announced a larger-than-expected 39 percent drop in fourth-quarter net income on weak product sales, seasonal markdowns and a shift from high-margin postpaid wireless activations to lower-margin existing customer upgrades.
The electronics retailer posted net income of $62 million, or 50 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, compared with $101 million, or 77 cents per diluted share in the same period last year. The decline in sales and gross profit was partially offset by measures taken to cut selling costs, general costs and administrative expenses.
The company missed analysts’ estimates of 70 cents per share.
RadioShack reported that comparable same-store sales fell 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter after sales of digital converter boxes and flat-panel televisions failed to offset weak sales of GPS devices and electronic toys. The steepest decline was in company-operated stores, where sales fell 10.2 percent. Total kiosk sales fell 2.2 percent after an uptick in sales at Sam’s Club kiosks failed to compensate for fewer Sprint kiosks.
The company got a boost from an additional month of sales generated by RadioShack de Mexico, which the company acquired in December 2008. Though online sales rose a healthy 53.9 percent in the fourth quarter, that revenue was partially offset by declines in dealer sales, which fell 4 percent.
Overall revenue fell 7.7 percent to $1.3 billion compared with $1.4 billion last year.
For the full year, net income fell 18.75 percent, to $192.4 million, or $1.49 per diluted share, compared with last year’s net income of $236.8 million, or $1.74 per diluted share. Comparable same-store sales fell 0.6 percent for the full year on a 2.3 percent decline in revenue, to $4.2 billion from $4.3 billion last year.
In a statement, the company attributed its results to ongoing, nationwide slumps in retail sales caused by ongoing economic turmoil.
“Our financial results for the fourth quarter obviously reflect the recessionary retail trading environment we face. That said, we take comfort that we operated our business prudently in the fourth quarter, particularly in the areas of cost control and minimizing our inventory markdown exposure,” said RadioShack Chairman and CEO Julian Day.
“We are pleased with the progress we made on our initiatives in 2008, including strengthening our balance sheet in a difficult economy. Our strong cash balance gives us confidence that we are well positioned to take advantage of any opportunities the recessionary environment may offer in 2009.”
Nokia Seeks 1,000 Voluntary Layoffs
By The Associated Press
HELSINKI (AP) — Nokia, which announced earlier this month it was planning cut jobs, said today it will seek up to 1,000 voluntary resignations to further reduce costs amid the global economic downturn.
The world’s largest mobile phone maker said it will open a global voluntary resignation package on March 1, and plans to increase short-term unpaid leaves and sabbaticals.
It also appealed to employees to accept holiday time as payments, instead of cash, for overtime work in 2009.
Nokia described as “encouraging” the response from employees and unions in proposing ideas to help reduce personnel-related costs.
“We have considered these and are now announcing voluntary initiatives that could contribute to our efforts to adjust our cost base to the current market environment,” said Hallstein Moerk, head of the company’s human resources. “If successful, the voluntary initiatives will lessen the need for involuntary redundancies.”
Nokia said it will accept applications for the resignation package until May 31, or when 1,000 employees have applied.
Two weeks ago, Nokia said it will close a research center, ax up to 320 jobs and temporarily lay off 2,500 workers in Finland. It also announced some 90 layoffs in global support and new businesses departments.
The announcements came after the company last month warned of cost-cutting measures after its fourth-quarter net profit crashed 69 percent to $744 million. It also lost market share – which fell to 37 percent from 38 percent in the previous quarter and 40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Last year, Nokia remained the No.1 cell phone maker, selling 468 million handsets, up 7 percent on 2008. But its net profit plunged 42 percent to euro4 billion, while sales decreased 1 percent to euro51 billion.
Wilson Joins NARM as Strategy Director
By Luke Simpson
The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) announced yesterday that Bill Wilson will fill the newly-created position of director of Digital Strategy and Business Development. Wilson will focus on strategic digital and mobile development in the music industry.
Wilson has strong links to the wireless industry from his previous role as senior director of Mobile Sales and Business Development at Atlantic Records. He worked with mobile carriers, content providers, manufacturers and software companies to provide ringtones, ringbacks, music downloads and other mobile services.
The appointment comes just after NARM revealed that its top priority in 2009 is to expand its digital and mobile footprint. Wilson will head up the “Digital Think Tank” responsible for exploring and analyzing industry objectives.
A report by Nielsen SoundScan showed that in 2008, digital music accounted for 32 percent of all music purchases. Digital rights management (DRM) will have a role in the future of mobile music, according to Wilson. “Although I am just beginning my new role at NARM, I understand that the Association’s members who are content-owners are rightfully concerned about piracy, and DRM continues to be one way to protect assets.”
“It is clear that NARM members also understand the consumer experience must be seamless and interoperable to encourage more robust adoption of mobile devices and services,” Wilson said.
Verizon Wireless and Nokia are the most recent additions to NARM’s board.
Kindle 2 Ships Early
By Andrew Berg
Amazon.com started shipping Amazon Kindle 2 a day earlier than originally planned.
Kindle 2 began shipping yesterday to customers who were in line for the original Kindle and customers who pre-ordered beginning Feb. 9. New orders placed now will be released for immediate shipping.
“The response from customers to Kindle 2 has been tremendous. In order to ensure we ship Kindle 2 by the original ship day of Feb. 24, we started shipping one day early,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Kindle, in a statement.
The Kindle 2 offers a slimmer design with longer battery life, faster page turns, seven times more storage, sharper images and a new “read-to-me” feature.
The read-to me feature recently came under fire by the Author’s Guild, which claims the device’s ability to read text out loud infringes on audiobook copyrights.
The Kindle, which uses Sprint’s network to download books, boasts “Earth’s biggest e-bookstore,” allowing customers access to more than 240,000 books, magazines and newspapers.
At a price of $359 dollars, there’s talk that the Kindle 2 is a bit pricey for a standalone electronic reading device. A proliferation of smartphone applications such as Stanza and BookZ can perform similar tasks and allow users access to online bookstores without the need to buy an extra device on which to read their e-books.
Antenna Software Releases Cross-Platform IM Solution
By Andrew Berg
Antenna Software announced the launch of AMP mobile instant messaging (IM) solution built specifically for the mobile workforce.
Built as a reusable application component, AMP IM can be integrated with voice, e-mail and other mobile applications, or deployed standalone. It runs on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone devices.
Despite the many enterprise and consumer-grade solutions available, organizations have hesitated to fully adopt mobile IM due to security, support and management concerns. Instead, mobile workers rely heavily on e-mail, text messaging and phone calls.
Because IM offers real-time status information and asynchronous communications, it can be more efficient than phone calls and more responsive than e-mails.
Antenna Software said that its solution solves the problem of younger employees, familiar with IM communication, installing unsecure IM programs on their work phones. “As user interfaces improve to handle the inherent presence capabilities of IM, mobile IM will finally become the type of popular application envisioned years ago,” said Nick Jones, vice president and analyst at Gartner.
FirstNews Briefs for Feb. 24, 2009
Companies in the news: Verizon Wireless, Scripps Networks, Clear Channel Radio, Interop Technologies, Bluegrass Cellular, ZTE, Radware, Nortel, Trow Global, Velocitel, imeem, GetJar, AccuWeather, Verve Wireless, GOSUB.
• Verizon Wireless and Scripps Networks announced that content from HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network and Fine Living Network is now available on the Verizon Hub. Verizon Wireless also announced the Hub now offers 14 Clear Channel Radio stations.
• Interop Technologies announced that Bluegrass Cellular, a community-focused wireless company serving central Kentucky, will deploy the Interop hosted Common Short Code (CSC) Gateway solution. The CSC Gateway makes the mobile experience interactive by enabling voting participation and creation of local promotional campaigns.
• ZTE says it achieved an EV-DO Revision B (Rev.B) VoIP call on its CDMA2000 system, marking the first time that a CDMA vendor achieved a 9.3 Mbps download rate and 5.4 Mbps upload rate. The results were announced in the 3GPP2 Standards Conference 2009 held in Shanghai, China, from Feb. 16-24, which was jointly organized by ZTE and China Telecom. ZTE plans to commercialize its EV-DO Rev.B system in the third quarter.
• Radware signed an asset purchase agreement with Nortel to purchase certain assets related to Nortel’s Layer 4-7 Application Delivery Business. Nortel added the application switch product line in October 2000 by way of its corporate acquisition of Alteon WebSystems.
• Trow Global, a Canadian firm of engineers, consultants and project managers, has joined forces with Velocitel through a strategic alliance to deliver consulting services to the wireless industry. The alliance is aimed at developing a significant joint presence in Canada for wireless communications projects.
• Social music service imeem launched the latest version of imeem Mobile for the Android platform. The updated version of imeem Mobile includes MyMusic, which enables music fans to access and stream their personal imeem music library through their Android-powered phones.
• Ease of use, brand and embedded content are the top three features U.S. consumers consider when choosing a new mobile phone, according to a poll by app store GetJar. Mobile handset features such as touch screen, overall phone design and memory rank lower on the list of purchase-deciding factors in the United States, the company says.
• AccuWeather.com announced a joint partnership with Verve Wireless, provider of mobile publishing technologies to local media companies. AccuWeather.com provides Verve with content such as current conditions and day and night forecasts, as well as weather alerts.
• GOSUB 60 announced the nationwide availability for the mobile version of the game Chocolatier by PlayFirst.