iPhone gets FCC Approval

Popular Apple-tracking website Apple Insider is reporting today that a major hurdle for the on-time delivery of Apple’s iPhone has been passed without issue. Documents reprinted on Apple Insider (which can be downloaded in 4 parts from from Apple Insider’s site here, here, here and here) show that the new handset received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorization.

iphonePer the statement: “The Apple Inc. A1203 GSM Cellular Telephone with Bluetooth and Wifi, FCC ID: BCGA1203, is in compliance with the limits for general population uncontrolled exposure specified in FCC 2.1093. The device was tested according to the measurement standards and procedures specified in FCC OET Bulletin 65, Supplement C (Edition 01-01) and IEEE p1528/D1.2, April 21, 2003.”

For confidentiality reasons, Apple was able to have some schematics and exhibit notes permanently omitted from any public documents. Apple was also able to temporarily remove test photos, other images and the phones user manual.

This is a positive bit of news for Apple, and a step towards reassuring the many waiting for the device that the iPhone is, in fact, on time – a time line that yesterday was questioned following the release of what turned out to be a hoax internal document suggesting otherwise.

Napster Q4 Earnings

Music download service Napster (NASDAQ: NAPS), yesterday reported a wider loss for Q4 but met or beat analyst consensus estimates.

naps chartConsensus estimates according to Thompson Financial were for a loss of 20c/share on revenue of $27.9m. For the period ended March 31, Napster reported a net loss of $8.5m (20c/share) as compared with a loss of $4.4m (10c/share) for the same period last year. Revenue for the period was up 9% to $29.1m ($26.8m for the same period last year). Worldwide paid subscribers were also up, reaching a total of 830,000, including 225,000 former AOL Music Now users. The number of paid subscribers was up 37% from the year-ago quarter.

In fiscal year reporting, Napster reported a net lost of $36.8m (85c/share), down from a loss of $54.9m for the prior year. Net revenue was up 17% to $111.1m. Cash reserves at year end were reported at $66.6m.

For the coming quarter, Napster set expectations for a first quarter loss of $6-$7m on projected revenue of $31m – below an average analyst expectation of $34.2 million.

With recent partnerships struck between Napster and AT&T, Circuit City and Motorola, the company is betting heavily that MP3 playing cell phones will increasingly replace standalone MP3 players. Napster is also hoping the partnerships will help reduce some of company’s marketing expenses.

More detailed press coverage on Napster’s finances can be found at:

Yahoo Finance
Google Finance

HP and Sony Earnings

Wednesday, Hewlett Packard and Sony both released quarterly earnings. HP narrowly beat analysts estimates but there was little surprise after an accidental leak of news last week. The news for both companies was mixed.

Sony’s reported a Q4 loss of 67.6 billion yen ($563 million) down from a loss of 66.5 billion yen a year earlier. The loss was attributed to substantial development costs for the PS3 and the intense competition with Nintendo’s Wii. Sales for the quarter were up nearly 13% to 2.01 trillion yen ($16.8 billion). For the fiscal year, Sony reported net income of 126.3 billion yen ($1.04b), up 2.2% over the last year.

Sony was extremely optimistic and aggressive in guidance provided for the next fiscal year. CEO Howard Stringer has set a goal of generating $5 of profit for every $100 in sales. (The company’s 5% operating profit margin target can be compared against a 12.7 percent margin at Apple Inc.) To meet the goal, Sony is forecasting they will cut PS3 losses by near 80% through increased sales and decreased production costs. The game unit is projecting a loss of 50 billion yen ($414 million) for the year ending March 2008, well below Bloomberg’s analyst survey of 83 billion yen.

Sony also expects to increase sales of their Bravia television line. Overall guidance is for a near doubling of net income to 320 billion yen ($2.7b) for the next fiscal year. Consumer electronics will account for a substantial portion of that but there should also be a significant increase in film related revenue thanks to Spider-Man 3 and the expected fall release of the latest movie in Sony’s popular Resident Evil film franchise.

More detailed press coverage on Sony’s finances can be found at:

Yahoo Finance
Google Finance

Hewlett Packard:
HP reported revenue for Q2 was up 13% to $25.5 billion. Net income was down 7% to $1.78 billion compared with $1.9 billion for the same period last year. Earnings per share came in at 65c, down 1c over the same period last year. Adjusted for a one–time charge, EPS would have been 15 cents/share.

CEO Mark Hurd noted in the conference call that this was “[HP's] strongest quarterly revenue growth since the year 2000.” The company raised its revenue guidance for the year to a range of $100.5 billion to $100.9 billion, up from its prior guidance of $99 billion.

More detailed press coverage on HP’s finances can be found at:

Yahoo Finance
Google Finance

Power of the Press: False news temporarily takes a bite out of Apple stock

Long before computers, or blogs, Alexis de Tocqueville sad, “The power of the press is second only to that of the people.”  Yesterday morning, around 11am EST, popular gadget website Engadget demonstrated just how powerful a part of the press blogs have become.

At 11:49am Engadget, which is part of the AOL owned blog-network Weblogs, posted  a story that Apple’s much anticipated iPhone and Leopard operating system would both be delayed by months.  The story was based on a reported internal memo from Apple that Engadget had been forwarded. 

acBelieving the memo was accurate, and confident the memo came from inside Apple (a “trusted source” they reported), Engadget ran the story.  Like a viral epidemic,  the news of Apple’s delays rapidly spread around the web – through major RSS feeds re-broadcasting the Engadget story, through Engadget’s own direct audience, and through other sites that repeated the apparent news.  Within minutes of the posting Apple’s stock began to drop, quickly falling more than 2% (around $4b in Market Cap) as investors began to sell off and panic.

20 minutes after posting the story, a second announcement began to circulate suggesting the supposed memo was a fake.  A short while later, Apple issued an official release saying there would be no delays with either the iPhone or Leopard and Engadget formally corrected its earlier release.

As the stock chart reprinted here shows, the volume spike and price drop were short-lived. Apple’s stock price largely recovered, and it did so quickly. Shareholder’s who didn’t panic were likely unscathed. Other’s who pulled the trigger based on trading behavior were not so lucky. Apple closed down on the day only $0.18 despite hitting an intraday low of more than $5 a share below its opening price.  (AAPL was also trading up in after-hours trading).

There will no doubt be ongoing investigations to determine if the hoax was related to some hacking or break in into Apple’s mail systems, a malicious act, or any form of market manipulation (either people shorting the stock, buying on the drop – both with straight equities or options and other derivatives). At this point there have been no released statements and it’s much to early to even guess what motivated the hoax, or how it happened. Those facts may take months to come out, if at all.

It’s no shock that news travels fast in our connected world but the pace at which the news effected the market was remarkable.  It’s a certainty there will be rumblings and grumblings from all sides over the next week – not to mention a few calls of criticism about the blog-o-sphere and journalistic integrity. 

Amazon to sell MP3s: DRM-Free

Confirming a widely reported rumor, web retailing giant Amazon today announced it would be entering the music-download market; and notably it will be doing it without Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions attached to the music. 

amzn musicThe removal of DRM technologies is a significant breakthrough for online music retailers.   Earlier this year, Apple’s CEO raised questions of DRM’s benefits in an open letter (more info here and here). And shortly after, announced a deal with EMI to offer music without DRM. 

In a statement Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos said “Our MP3 only strategy means that all music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device.”

Absent DRM restrictions all of the songs sold at Amazon will play on any MP3 player; a move that will make a consumers choice of which MP3 player to buy more a factor of price and features rather than the music catalog available to them.

The Amazon music store will be launched later this year. Record label EMI, which was the first label to break ranks with the music industry and offer its music without copyright protections, is the first label to join Amazon.  Warner Music and Vivendi’s Universal Music group are reported to still be experimenting on their own with DRM-Free offers and may or may not participate in DRM-Free marketplaces like Amazon’s.

The launch of Amazon’s service is expected in time for holiday buying – and may well be marketed with promotions to sell MP3 players at that time.  Amazon is saying 12,000 labels representing millions of songs will be available.  At this time, which labels are included has not been disclosed.

Now playing: on your cell phone

On Tuesday, Disney’s ABC Television group announced it would make available, beginning immediately, episodes of some of its popular programs, including Grey’s Anatomy, Lost and Ugly Betty to video-equipped phones on the Sprint network. The four most recent episodes of programs will be available to subscribers who use participating data-plans at no extra charge. At some point in the future, commercials will be added to the content.

The deal will be the first attempt by major media to offer full-length programming on phones, or over cellular. (Verizon has been offering short form video content).

In a statement that clearly shows Sprint made the deal in an effort to compete with the upcoming Apple iPhone (which can play video’s, including TV shows, downloaded through iTunes) Sprint’s VP for wireless data services said “You won’t need to buy episodes individually or sync to a PC to access this kind of content.”

Personally, I’m still not convinced that consumers will find much more than a novelty factor in having TV available on-demand on their phones. With so called time-shifting devices (Tivo, DVR’s etc) allowing consumers to watch programming at times that suit their schedules and not only when originally broadcast, the market for ultra-portable on-demand services seems small. If i can see a program anytime on a much bigger screen, why watch on my cell phone? It’s hard to believe this kind of service will appeal to anyone beyond the extremely bored, or the die-hard fan.


In a separate, unrelated announcement that was timed to coincide with press releases for Motorola’s next generation phones, Music subscription service Napster announced it was making its music service available on Motorola phones. The companies will share promotional efforts in North America, the UK and Germany. It was not clear how, or if, the partnership would include cellular carriers. In either case, as with the Sprint/Disney announcement, this release is another clear effort to compete against Apple’s upcoming iTunes and iPhone combination.

Amazon acquires DPReview

Yesterday Amazon acquired popular London-based digital camera review site DPReview for undisclosed terms. DPreview, which was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey, offers unbiased, reviews of digital cameras and accessories as well as discussion forums, industry news and a product comparison database.

The DPReview site, which has fans on both sides of the Atlantic, has become extremely popular. For March, the site had more than 7m unique viewers. That coincides with the rapid growth in the digital camera marketplace. Last year (digital still-photography) generated nearly $18b in camera sales.

An article on financial news blog Seeking Alpha is noting that the back&ndashend infrastructure for DPReview’s ecommerce links has been provided historically by CNET. If that report is accurate, the purchase by Amazon could steal away some traffic from CNET’s monthly totals.

Following the announcement, web forums have been filled with speculation about the terms of the deal. The web has also been abuzz with questions of whether DPreview will retain its editorial independence. DPReview has largely been known for its unbiased reviews. Fans are questioning whether they will continue to be able offer the same unbiased quality of services that built the site’s reputation if it is now owned by a retailer who will have a vested interest in the reporting it offers. Without that independence DPReview will be no different than any of the many companies providing professional, or user-rated, reviews of cameras: from Yahoo to AOL, etc.

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