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Technology Round Up - July 3, 2012
There have been a number of noteworthy developments in the technology space recently. They will likely have a material impact on the companies in the sector and the markets they serve.
The Expansion of Google Chrome
Google (GOOG) has recently announced the release of its Chrome web browser for Apple’s (AAPL) iPad and iPhone. This marks an effort by Google to sync the browser across a variety of Internet-connected products. Apple’s Safari remains the default web browser used in the company’s products, and is the engine that web-surfing applications rely on. Google has also made its Internet-data storage service, Drive, available on the iPad, iPod, and iPhone. This offering now competes with Apple’s iCloud. These moves appear to be part of a strategy to allow Google to be involved with an individual’s online activities, regardless of which device he or she uses.
Microsoft to Acquire Yammer
Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report) has agreed to acquire Yammer for $1.2 billion in cash. Yammer is a leading provider of enterprise social networks. Its service allows employees to join a secure, private social network free of charge. Yammer has over five million corporate users, including employees at 85% of Fortune 500 companies. Yammer will join Microsoft’s Office Division. This move will add a top-notch enterprise social networking service to Microsoft’s growing portfolio of complementary cloud services. It will also allow Microsoft to compete with IBM (IBM - Free IBM Stock Report), Cisco (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report), and Salesforce.com (CRM) on the internal social networking front. The deal remains subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval.
In other Microsoft-related news, a European court has upheld the vast majority of a considerable fine levied against Microsoft. The General Court of the European Union rejected the company’s request to dismiss the fine, which had been levied in 2008. The court did reduce the fine by €39 million, to €860 million (roughly $1.1 billion). The fine was penalty for failure to comply with an order in 2004 for Microsoft to make code available to allow competitors’ products to interface properly with the company’s server software. The company did this, but at a price the court considered so high as to be tantamount to noncompliance. This closes a case that originated in 1998.
Research In Motion’s Continuing Woes
Research In Motion (RIMM) continues to experience considerable difficulties. The company reported unfavorable results for the recent quarter. RIMM posted a significant share loss on considerably lower revenues for the period. Moreover, it has announced it will be laying off 5,000 employees (roughly 30% of its workforce) as part of restructuring efforts. Furthermore, it has delayed the release of the upcoming BlackBerry 10 yet again, this time to early 2013. The first BlackBerry 10 devices will not have a physical keyboard (just a touch-screen one). Ones with physical keyboards are expected, but the timing of this remains uncertain at this juncture. The stock has declined considerably in price in recent years, and currently trades below $8 per share. Most investors may prefer to look elsewhere, though, given the significant obstacle the company faces. Disappointments have been all too common in recent years, and weakness will likely persist in the near term. The company has retained financial advisors to evaluate its strategic options, which may include partnerships with other companies or the licensing of its software.
Amazon’s Upcoming Moves
Amazon.com (AMZN) reportedly has plans to launch a digital bookstore in Brazil, in a bid to capitalize on the country’s fast-growing online-retail market. The company is looking to gain a foothold in the market, with its Kindle e-reader and a catalogue of digital books in Portuguese. A digital launch is viewed as preferable at this juncture, given the logistic and tax difficulties that would accompany establishing a brick and mortar presence. Nevertheless, a full retail operation in Brazil may well be in the cards, assuming the digital launch goes as planned.
Meanwhile, Amazon is said to be working on two new Kindle Fire tablets that are slated to launch in the near future. A newer 7-inch model (the same size as the original) will likely boast improved screen resolution. The company will likely also launch a 10.1 inch model within the next year. Details remain scarce at this time, though Amazon is expected to make a formal announcement at the end of the month.
For those interested in learning more about the companies mentioned above, subscribers are encouraged to check out our full-page reports in The Value Line Investment Survey.