The Internet has connected the world’s people, companies, and governments like never before. Is it any wonder then that it’s also a major focus for politicians?
In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama once again predictably called for a new package of cybersecurity legislation.
We talked last week about some of the problems with new cybersecurity legislation and suggested the issue should be left to the market. While we stand by that position, it’s clear that many of the security products currently out there don’t do their jobs as well as they should. A survey of IT professionals published last week found that the average large organization wastes an enormous amount of time and money sifting through the nearly 17,000 malware alerts each week to find the 19% that are considered reliable.
On top of cybersecurity rules, the president promised to push for net neutrality rules, as the White House has been doing for the last few weeks. Unlike so many of the programs listed in last night’s speech, this one could actually happen. The insistence on using ancient Title II regulations to do it is a message to Congress: the FCC has the power to make this into law all by itself, and if a Republican congress wants to stop it, it’ll have to either sue or pass a law, attempting to hand over more power to the telcos—something that probably won’t sit well come next election cycle. No wonder Obama waited six years to touch his campaign promise on net neutrality—it’s a powerful populist weapon.
Last, Obama also promised more transparency in the government’s surveillance program. Considering the federal government’s record on transparency, I’d be skeptical about that one.
As television viewership of the State of the Union has fallen steadily for years, the White House tried a new tactic to reach the American people on Tuesday: it broke its own media embargo by posting the entire text of the speech online before the president even began.
Maybe one day they’ll realize we’re all tuning out specifically because we already know what they’re going to say.
Windows 10—Free, with Lots of Bells and Whistles
Microsoft is beginning to create a big buzz for the forthcoming Windows 10. It helps that the company will be giving it away for free to those with Windows 7 or 8 already… but only if they act fast and adopt it within the first year after release.
Bribes to upgrade aside, the company is touting some pretty cool new features for the operating system, which will run on everything from cellphones to full-fledged PCs.
First, it’s bringing its own personal assistant, Cortana, to the desktop. You can bet Apple will rush out a Siri app for OS X sometime before that happens. But with the possibilities available to Microsoft with Kinect’s array microphones and cameras, the company could finally get back ahead of its shiny Silicon Valley nemesis for some time again.
The company is also doing away with the dated Internet Explorer, rebuilding and rebranding it as Spartan. Whether it can slow down the enormous growth of Google’s Chrome, which has soared to the top browser spot, remains to be seen. But with Firefox now defaulting to Yahoo search and Spartan most-likely doing the same for Bing, your browser choice may soon be more dictated by your search engine choice than its own features.
The company also revealed the Surface Hub, a massive 84-inch, 4k resolution touchscreen for enterprise meetings. It uses Kinect-style sensors and its massive touchscreen to try and replace the whiteboard, the conference phone, and every other meeting gadget in one shot… when it will be released and for how much are still a mystery.
And last but not least, it dipped even further into the research vaults to show off its own augmented reality headset and development platform: Windows Holographic and the HoloLens.
The new OS won’t hit retail availability until late this year—much longer for the aforementioned gadgets, we’d guess. However, it already seems that—unlike the timid Windows 8 release cycle—this time the company is playing for keeps.
Earnings season is kicking back into gear once again, with the Q4 numbers starting to trickle in. On January 20, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) reported weak quarterly results. The chipmaker’s PC segment turned in a poor performance, despite stabilization in the PC market. AMD hopes to turn things around with its new line of Carrizo chips.
In Q4, AMD’s sales totaled $1.24 billion, down from $1.59 billion in the year-ago quarter and roughly in line with the consensus. Adjusted EPS came in at $0.00, compared to $0.06 in the year-ago quarter and a penny less than the consensus. Revenue for the Computing and Graphics segment, which deals in laptop and desktop chips, was $662 million, declining from $888 million in the year-ago quarter.
AMD’s turnaround plans include shoring up its position in PCs, the company’s core market. To that end, AMD is rolling out its Carrizo line of chips, which will ship in the second quarter. With Carrizo, AMD hopes to improve the battery life and performance on laptops. It’s also focusing on squeezing more graphics performance from the low-power chips—useful when playing games and watching high-resolution video.
Following the report, AMD climbed over 5%.
On January 15, Intel (INTC) reported a solid quarter, thanks to stabilization in the PC market and torrid growth in the data center segment. Mobile, on the other hand, was a drag on results.
For Q4, Intel posted sales of $14.72 billion, up 6% from $13.8 billion in the year-ago quarter. Consensus called for sales of $14.70 billion. Adjusted EPS came in at $0.74, up 45% from $0.51 in the year-ago quarter and well ahead of the consensus of $0.66. For the full year, sales totaled $55.8 billion, compared to $52.7 billion in 2013, nearly a 6% increase. It was the first full year of revenue growth since 2011.
In Q4, the company’s PC segment posted sales of $8.9 billion, up 3% from the year-ago quarter. This segment is benefiting from stabilization in the PC market, which stems from several factors, including Microsoft’s discontinuance of technical support of its Windows XP operating system, which encouraged users to upgrade to newer devices. Also, the rising popularity of hybrid tablet-laptop computers was a factor.
The company’s data center segment was the main bright spot, at least in terms of growth. For Q4, revenues were $4.1 billion, up a whopping 25% from the year-ago quarter.
Intel is desperately trying to make inroads into the mobile market. But revenues are heading in the wrong direction. For the quarter, mobile revenues actually totaled negative $6 million. That’s because Intel is paying subsidies to customers to take its mobile chips.
On January 20, Netflix (NFLX) smashed earnings estimates and posted stellar growth, thanks to strong subscriber growth, especially overseas.
In Q4, the company’s sales totaled $1.48 billion, up 26% from $1.17 billion in the year-ago quarter. Sales were roughly in line with consensus estimates. Adjusted EPS was $0.72, down 9% from $0.79 in the year-ago quarter, but well ahead of the consensus estimate of $0.44.
Netflix continues to reel in loads of subscribers. For the quarter, the company added 4.33 million subscribers globally, ahead of the 4 million the company had previously forecast. International subscriber growth was especially robust, with the company adding about 2.43 million subscribers, a 40% increase from the 1.74 million added during the year-ago period. The company currently has 57.4 million subscribers globally.
Netflix is making a strong push into original content, which provides a better ROI than licensed content. This year, the company will launch roughly one original series a month.
On the heels of the report, Netflix soared 17%.
On January 20, IBM (IBM) released financial results. In Q4, the company reported sales of $24.1 billion, slightly below the consensus estimate of 24.9 billion. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $5.81, well ahead of the consensus estimate of $5.41.
For 2014, IBM’s sales were $92.9 billion, falling 7% from 99.8 billion in 2013. Adjusted earnings per share were $16.53, a 3% decrease from $16.99 in the prior year.
Though the company blew away earnings estimates, share price slid over 5% in early trading. That’s because in addition to weaker than expected sales, the company issued a disappointing outlook for 2015, with midpoint guidance for earning per share at $16.13 versus consensus expectations of $16.51.
Q4 marked the 11th straight sequential quarter that IBM’s sales have declined as the company fights to transition away from its traditional hardware, software, and tech services businesses to higher-margin and growth areas like cloud, security, analytics, and mobile. “We are making significant progress in our transformation, continuing to shift IBM’s business to higher value, and investing and positioning ourselves for the longer term,” says CEO Virginia Rometty.
Analysts are worried, however, as they contemplate whether those new businesses can grow fast enough to keep up with deterioration of the old one. IBM’s destiny is beginning to look like a race against time.
On January 20, Super Micro Computer (SMCI) posted top- and bottom-line results that smashed the Street’s estimates, thanks to strong demand for the company’s servers. For Q2 2015, Super Micro booked sales of $503 million, up a scorching 41% from $356 million in the year-ago quarter and miles ahead of the consensus estimate of $467 million. Adjusted EPS came in at $0.65, up 85% from $0.35 in the year-ago quarter and well ahead of the consensus estimate of $0.47.
Super Micro makes servers, server boards, and power supplies. The company has a tight relationship with Intel, which allows it to be among the first to market products utilizing Intel’s latest chips. The close collaboration is paying off in spades, much to the dismay of server rivals such as Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Dell, all of which move much slower and charge much larger margins.
Despite the strong quarterlies, Super Micro shares shed 5%.
Bits & Bytes
If you miss the satisfaction of snapping your phone shut like the good old days, you may be in luck. Rumors indicate that LG may be working on an Android flip phone.
Meanwhile, Samsung is going on its own, dropping Qualcomm chips in favor of house-built ones.
Amazon’s going greener. The company recently announced that it’s working with Pattern Energy Group to construct a 150MW wind farm in Indiana to help power its data centers.
In other Amazon news, the company has also recently announced plans to make movies for theaters and Prime streaming. Amazon plans to produce up to 12 movies each year as part of the new initiative; the films will become available to US Prime subscribers just four to eight weeks after they hit theaters.
For how much we talk about cyberwar, cybercrime, and cybersecurity in these pages, you regular readers may be shocked to read the list of the 25 most popular passwords of 2014. Spoiler alert: “123456” and “password” topped the list once again.
Not quite as intimidating as The Terminator, this military cyborg biker that was presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin makes me think that our judgment day at the hands of killer robots is still a ways off.
Apple has acquired the British startup Semetric, the company behind the music analytics service Musicmetric. The acquisition could be part of Apple’s plans to rebrand and relaunch the Beats Music streaming service it shuttered in September of last year.
It turns out HealthCare.gov is more than just a crappy website. According to the Associated Press, it’s also quietly sending personal health information on millions of Americans to a number of third-party websites.
SpaceX just raised $1 billion in new funding in a round that was four times larger than all its other rounds combined and included Google and Fidelity. The two new investors will now own just less than 10% of the company.
Of course car-hailing service company Uber is in the news again this week… this time with its announcement that the four-year old company is already 3.5 times the size of the whole taxi market in its most mature market of San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that VCs pumped $48.3 billion into US startups during 2014, up 61% from 2013 and the most since the $105 billion invested in 2000.
The Sony hack is back in the news again. New reports suggest that the only reason US officials were confident that North Korea was behind the attack is because the NSA has been spying on North Korea for years.
Speaking of the Sony hack, Netflix will begin streaming the movie that was at the center of the controversy, The Interview, this weekend. If you’re a Netflix customer, you’ll be able to watch it for free starting Sunday.
Overstock has announced plans to launch its own video streaming service to directly challenge Amazon Prime Video. The company plans to have about 30,000 titles available for on-demand service by mid-2015 and then start a streaming service with both acquired and original content by year end.
Google Glass is dead, at least for now. The company said it will stop selling the current version of Glass. But Google insists this isn’t the end. The Glass team will move out of its Google X labs and into its own independent division. And according to the company “we’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready.”
Last week we reported that CNN was going to begin to use drones in its newsgathering and reporting efforts. Now the New York Times, Washington Post, and NBC are getting into the drone game as well, through a partnership with Virginia Tech to test drones for news gathering.
If you’re worried that our skies will be littered with drones in no time and that privacy even on one’s own property will be a thing of the past, take solace in the fact that a team of commercial drone developers are creating a drone whose sole purpose is to seek, intercept, and destroy other drones that get too close.
Facebook is trying to juice its app numbers by blocking third party apps from using the WhatsApp service it purchased last year. Maybe those ad growth numbers are slowing?
Last, in a sign that despite the rapidly changing times, high-school students are still mostly the same—picking on each other, sharing dirty pictures, and rebelling from the traditions of their parents’ generation (like Facebook and Twitter)—Apple has had to ban for the second time in a matter of weeks the pseudo-anonymous chat app “After School.” The service has also proven, thankfully, less than fully anonymous: it provided data to Detroit police after a third student used it to threaten to bring guns to school, which resulted in an arrest.