CNBC Franchise Archive Tech Check


  Tuesday, 13 Dec 2011 | 11:13 AM ET

Today in Tech: More Warning Signs for Tech in 2012

Posted By: Jon Fortt

New signs of trouble for the PC market, a new boss forMicrosoft's phone division, and new signs that the first half of 2012 may be tough for tech.

Let's have a look at what's driving the sector today:

Intel's warning yesterdayabout PC sales appears to be having a ripple effect: Ticonderoga lowered its price target on Microsoft from $34 to $31, though it's still rated a buy.

Microsoft switches bosses at its Windows Phone division: Steve Ballmer has replaced phone boss Andy Lees with phone engineering lead Terry Myerson. Lees isn't leaving the company, and will continue to report to Ballmer in an assignment driving adoption of Windows 8 and Windows Phone. You've got to think the move, promoting the engineering chief to lead Windows Phone, is designed to speed the development of features Microsoft needs to compete with Apple and Google .

And though gadget shopping season is in full swing, a cautionary tone: ARM, the chip design firm behind the mobile boom, has new ARM 8 core about to launch. But but after meeting with the company, analyst firm Benchmark still fears ARM's royalties will be under pressure in the first half, based on guidance warnings we've seen first from Texas Instruments , now Intel.

Questions? Comments? And you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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  Friday, 9 Dec 2011 | 11:18 AM ET

Today in Tech: D-Day for HP and a Grand Opening for Apple

Posted By: Jon Fortt

It's decision day for HP's webOS, opening day for Apple's Grand Central retail store, and a rough day for the electronics supply chain.

Let's have a look at what's driving the sector:

Texas Instruments gave a disappointing mid-quarterupdate yesterday that sent the stock down more than 2.5 percent at the open. The Q4 EPS range is now between $.21 $.25 per share, on sales between $3.19 billion and $3.33 billion. The previous range was 28 cents to 36 cents a share on $3.26 billion to $3.54 billion in revenue. The culprit? Weak demand across multiple categories that use TXN's analog chips. Of course, this probably says more about Q1 2012 for the rest of the industry than Q4.

It is opening day for Apple's huge store in New York's Grand Central Terminal. The stats: 23,000 square feet, 315 employees, and rent? 180 bucks per square foot for 10 years.

Coming up later today around 4:30 on Closing Bell, I'll introduce you to Kiip, a startup run by fresh-faced Brian Wong, all of 20 years old. He's got a bright idea about how to reinvent in-game advertising by milking those moments when you feel like a winner.

And, today at 1:30 eastern, HP is holding an internal meeting revealing the fate of webOS, the long-suffering software it acquired with Palm.

My take? The decision shouldn't be whether to keep webOS, but how to do it without breaking the bank.

If HP's serious about the consumer market, owning its own intellectual property Is key. And with tablets like the iPad surging, HP's highly profitable printer revenue looks vulnerable in 2012. As more people buy tablets instead of PCs, they're also going to buy covers and cases (or 3G data plans) instead of printers. HP will need homegrown software to reinvent printing ... and to basically rethink the way information gets shared in the mobile era.

No matter which way it goes, this will go down as a key decision from new HP CEO Meg Whitman.

Share your thoughts -- hit me up on twitter @jonfortt. Have a great weekend.

Questions? Comments? And you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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  Thursday, 8 Dec 2011 | 3:56 PM ET

Blog: Can Twitter Really Increase Awareness for a Business or Brand?

Posted By: Natali Morris |Technology Contributor, CNBC

Can Twitter really increase awareness for a business or brand? Wendy's might think so. The hamburger company wins the Golden Tweet Award this year, which means one of its Twitter postings was the most retweeted Tweet of the year.

Notable this year is that Wendy's most retweeted Tweet was a Promoted Tweets . This is Twitter's advertising model that allows companies to pay for their promotional Tweets to be highlighted in users' timelines and search results.

"Promoted Tweets allow an advertiser to reach the right person with the right message at the right time," said Shane Steele, director of sales marketing at Twitter. "The power of Promoted Tweets reaching new audiences in a short period of time comes from the Retweet. Retweeting makes it possible for one message to reach millions of people regardless of how many followers an individual brand or user has."

The Tweet in

was part of a Wendy's Father's Day advertising campaign in June. It asked users to participate in the hashtag #TreatItFwd . For every time that the Tweet was retweeted, Wendy's donated 50 cents to The Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption , an organization that helps foster children find permanent homes. The Tweet is still fairly active with several retweets per day six months later. It has since raised $50,000.

The #TreatItFwd campaign was such a success for Wendy's that a Tweet from the same campaign was the second most retweeted Tweet of the year. The campaign was big buzz for Wendy's charity but it would be telling to see if the company sold more hamburgers as a result. Subliminal advertising does seem rather powerful to me and I find myself wanting a cheeseburger as I click through to Wendy's Twitter page but I am four months pregnant so I might not count.

"Of the 60 billion Tweets that people shared on Twitter this year, the fact that a Promoted Tweet was retweeted the most indicates that advertisers like @Wendys are getting things right," writes the company on the Twitter blog. "When the message matters to people, a Promoted Tweet no longer seem like an ad--instead, it’s content that you want to share."

Promoted Tweets was the first attempt by Twitter to monetize the popular microblogging service. It launched in April of 2010 with brands such as Starbucks, Bravo, and Virgin America. Users see Tweets that are clearly marked as promotions if Twitter deems them relevant to each user based on their likes, dislikes, and habits. Users can dismiss Promoted Tweets that they find irrelevant. Twitter learns to target each user better based on their interaction with the Promoted Tweet such as whether or not they click the link in the promotion, retweet the Tweet, or dismiss the promotion altogether.

Last year's Golden Tweet Award did not go to a Promoted Tweet. In the award's inaugural year, the winner was Comedy Central talkshow host Stephen Colbert for his Tweet that referenced the


Natali Morris is a technology contributor to CNBC. Previously she was the technology contributor to The CBS Early Show and a technology news anchor and reporter for CNET TV. She has covered technology since 2008. She is born and bred in the Silicon Valley but reports from the New York City area.

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  Wednesday, 7 Dec 2011 | 12:15 PM ET

Today in Tech: Uber Expands, Flipboard gets Smaller, and RIM gets (more) Tough News

Posted By: Jon Fortt

Taxi cabs get a serious challenger, Flipboard gets an iPhone app, and developers get a bigger cut of the revenues from Microsoft's upcoming app store.

Let's take a look at what's driving the sector today:

Cannacord Genuity started coverage on a slew of online players:

eBay and Pandora were initiated at a hold, but with price targets at $34 (eBay) and $13 (Pandora), 10% to 30% above where they're currently trading.

Starting at a buy? Zillow ($32 target), LinkedIn ($85 target) and IAC ($55 target).

Another bit of bad news for BlackBerry maker RIM : A U.S. federal court has blocked the company from using the BBX trademark for its new operating system ... software development company Basis had cried foul, because it's called its product BBX for quite a while. RIM in a statement said it will start referring to the OS as BlackBerry 10.

Let's take a look at the biggest news from innovators.

Here's one to watch:Uber , a service that lets you order a car service on your smartphone and pay with your smartphone, has announced $32 million in a series B round of funding led by Menlo Ventures, Goldman Sachs and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's private investment arm. (It'll be $39 million by the time the round's over.) I caught up with V.C.

Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures this morning to talk about Uber's plan to expand to 24 more cities in 2012, and asked -- what's Uber's secret sauce?

"They're hiring PhDs. They're hiring data scientists at Uber that are slicing and dicing that data, and basically figuring out what is the optimal way to route cars to consumers fastest," Pishevar said. "Also they see interesting economic indicators of how well a city is doing, how well a neighborhood is doing, based on the volume and traffic of Uber."

Plus, using the service sounds a lot better than hailing a cab.

A couple more headlines to watch:

Flipboard , a startup that's trying to reinvent digital publishing, is expanding beyond its iPad app that's done quite well -- today it's launched an iPhone app that allows you to stay up to speed on your social networks while also getting nuggets from mainstream publications. (The iPhone launch was popular enough that it temporarily knocked the entire Flipboard service offline.)

And Microsoft unveiled details of its Windows Store, its upcoming app store for Windows 8. The minimum price of apps will be $1.49, maximum just under a thousand dollars, and Microsoft will let developers of the highest-grossing apps keep 80 percent of the revenue.

Want to weigh in? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @jonfortt .

Questions? Comments? And you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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  Tuesday, 6 Dec 2011 | 12:16 PM ET

Positive Signs for Apple Retail

Posted By: Jon Fortt
Apple Store
Apple Store

Apple's self checkout revolution may have seemed a bit crazy, but it's apparently working out.

That's what I hear from a source familiar with Apple's retail operation.

To catch you up: You might recall that last month Apple launched a few new retail store initiatives. Among them: a feature in the Apple Store iOS app that allows anyone with an iPhone or other camera-equipped iOS device to scan a bar code on any item on the shelf in an Apple store and pay for it using an iTunes account.

My first thought when I heard about this plan? It's going to make it a lot tougher for Apple to tell shoplifters from legitimate shoppers. In the past, someone walking out of the door with an iPhone case, no bag and no visible receipt was likely up to no good. Now Apple's actually encouraging that behavior.

But when I saw the system in action at the Palo Alto store last month, I saw more potential upside. Apple had reconfigured a couple of things in the store to put more eyes on the door. Plus, the system potentially accomplishes two important things. One, it lets experienced Apple shoppers go through the buying process seamlessly, without the final annoying step of having to flag down an employee to make a purchase. Two, it frees store employees to focus on coaching Apple newbies through the shopping process -- a much more profitable use of their time.

The intelligence I'm getting is that the benefits of the new system are outweighing any negatives.

This new setup could be particularly useful in a store like the one Apple's opening in Grand Central station on Friday. (I hear self checkout will be prominently touted there, which is no big surprise.) And the early success of this self checkout initiative bodes well for Apple's holiday sales. How so? Last fiscal year 13% of Apple's sales came through its retail stores -- and it's safe to assume that percentage is highest during the holiday season.

Apple could probably do $5 billion worth of holiday quarter business in its retail stores worldwide. If self checkout is working, that means it's allowing Apple to add sales in those locations without having to increase labor costs. That's got to be good for EPS.

Questions? Comments? And you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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  Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 | 3:02 PM ET

The Case For an Amazon Smartphone

Posted By: Jon Fortt

Now that Amazon has launched the Kindle Fire —which is virtually assured to be the bestselling Android tablet of the year — there's a new rumor afloat: That Amazon is building a phone.

The first real fuel for that rumor came today from Citi analyst Mark Mahaney, who wrote in a note that his channel checks suggest Amazon is using some of the same partners that assemble the Kindle to put together a phone.

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  Monday, 14 Nov 2011 | 2:43 PM ET

Google's Big Amazon Problem

Posted By: Jon Fortt
Android and iPhone
Android and iPhone

Don't look now, but Amazon is stealing Android from Google .

Exhibit A: Amazon's Kindle Fire. It's a 7-inch tablet that runs Android, and it's practically guaranteed to be the best-selling Android tablet of the year, after being on shelves less than two months. (Reviews of the Fire hit the web today. It's available for sale this month.)

Why does this matter? Mobile is a key part of Google's growth strategy, and Android is Google's most important mobile investment.

Here's the strategy behind Google's approach with Android: Google pays to develop the guts of the Android OS, to market it, to put a fresh user interface on it and to develop an ecosystem of apps. In return, it expects hardware makers that use Android to build in Google services.

Usually this isn't a problem. Because if hardware makers want to use any of Google's apps in Android — services like Mail, Maps, Calendar, even the Android Market for apps — they have to include all of them, and follow Google's rules about how they're used.

Enter Amazon. Amazon doesn't need Google. So it has taken Android and built its own interface, apps, and marketplace on top of it. The Kindle Fire can still run Android apps -- but it's out of Google's control, and Amazon has more influence than Google over who gets profit from the platform.

See the problem here? Google has spent a lot of time and money promoting Android, and now Amazon is swooping in and hijacking it.

If you just look at the aggregate numbers for Android adoption, this isn't a problem. But for Google specifically? Google has paid to create Android and to market it, and to create services on top of it. If the Kindle Fire (and its inevitable descendants) are successful, Google will have to pay again to get its services on those devices. If you're a Google investor, that's not ideal.

Questions? Comments? And you can follow Jon Fortt on Twitter @jonfortt

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  Monday, 31 Oct 2011 | 2:26 PM ET

In the Blogosphere: A Thin Ethical Line

Posted By: Chris Morris|Special to

The revelation of a marketing firm that claimed to be paying writers at high-profile online outlets to insert links to its client websites has dredged up old concerns about the ethical nature of some bloggers.

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  Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 | 2:10 PM ET

New 'Grand Theft Auto' Jacks Take-Two Stock

Posted By: Chris Morris|Special to
Shares of Take-Two Interactive Software surged Tuesday as the company confirmed the long-rumored next installment in its hit "Grand Theft Auto" series is on the way. »Read more
  Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 | 12:28 AM ET

EA Takes to the 'Battlefield' Against Activision

Posted By: Chris Morris|Special to
There has never been a lot of love lost between Activision and Electronic Arts. The two video game publishers fight over just about everything. »Read more