BlackBerry To Ask Regulators To Probe Report On Returns

BlackBerry plans to ask securities regulators in Canada and the United States to probe what it said is a “false and misleading” report that consumer return rates for BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone have been especially high.

The Canadian company, which has pinned its turnaround hopes on its new BlackBerry 10 line of smartphones, went on the offensive on Friday after the report from Boston-based research and investment firm Detwiler Fenton sent its stock tumbling on Thursday.

BlackBerry said return rates for its flagship Z10 devices have been at, or below, its forecasts and in line with industry norms.

“To suggest otherwise is either a gross misreading of the data or a willful manipulation,” Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said in a statement. “Such a conclusion is absolutely without basis and BlackBerry will not leave it unchallenged.”

BlackBerry said Detwiler Fenton had so far refused to share its report or its methods. It said it would present a formal request for an investigation to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and to the Ontario Securities Commission, which is Canada’s major securities regulator, over the next few days.

Detwiler has had run-ins with regulators in the past, documents reviewed by Reuters show. But none of the cases involved questions about the accuracy of Detwiler’s research or were linked to BlackBerry.

The OSC said it would review the matter once it receives a formal complaint.

“After the first 14 days, quality performance of the Z10 has been in line with similar devices we’ve launched,” said Debra Lewis, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.

A spokeswoman for Detwiler did not respond to a phone call and an email from Reuters seeking comment. The director of research also did not respond to a call seeking comment.

“We believe key retail partners have seen a significant increase in Z10 returns to the point where, in several cases, returns are now exceeding sales, a phenomenon we have never seen before,” its report said. Detwiler Fenton gave no details on how it had gleaned this information.

While a number of brokerage firms have in recent weeks published reports saying Z10 sales in the U.S. market are slow, none of them have flagged any major concerns about returns.

Since 2007, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the industry body that oversees broker-dealers, has fined Detwiler over $250,000 and has cited it for several compliance violations over the past decade.

In December 2011, FINRA sanctioned Detwiler for failing to properly supervise its employees and for allowing its brokers to make more trades than necessary in clients’ accounts to boost commissions during a period between 2006 and 2009.

In 2007, the firm, which was then called Detwiler Mitchell Fenton & Graves, settled administrative proceedings that the SEC brought against it for failing to supervise Bradford Bleidt, a former employee who had been simultaneously running a $30 million Ponzi scheme.

TURNAROUND PLAN

BlackBerry is attempting to claw back market share lost to rivals such as Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy line of smartphones with its new line of devices, powered by the revamped BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The new Z10 touchscreen smartphone, the first of its new devices, hit store shelves earlier this year. And the Q10, with BlackBerry’s famed physical keyboard, will go on sale in Canada and the United Kingdom before the end of April.

BlackBerry, which has changed its name from Research In Motion, has yet to prove to the market that its new devices can trigger a turnaround. The company expects to report break-even results in the current quarter, but a true picture will not emerge until later this year.

BlackBerry stock has remained highly volatile as analysts are split on whether the turnaround plan will succeed. Research reports often bring major swings in the company’s share price.

Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, which fell 7.7 percent on Thursday, closed up less than a percent on Friday at $13.64 on Nasdaq.

Apple Buys Silicon Valley Startup WiFiSlam

Apple has acquired a Silicon Valley startup, WiFiSlam, which makes mapping applications for smart phones.

Apple confirmed the acquisition, but declined to give details. The news was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal, which quoted a person familiar with the matter as saying that Apple paid around $20 million for the company.

“Apple acquires smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” an Apple spokesman told Reuters.

WiFiSlam develops technology that provides indoor tracking and similar services. Big tech companies such as Apple and Google have been racing to provide more and better map applications for users. Google’s application, Google Maps, is widely accessed on Google’s Android platform and rival Apple’s rival iOS platform.

Bratislavia Symphony Orchestra hired by Nokia for ringtones

The 25 original classical tunes were recorded with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra and some are already available on some Nokia Lumia models.

Nokia said they decided to hire the orchestra after a study revealed that classical music ringtones were the second most popular.

According to the Telegraph, the pieces were composed by the mobile phone giant’s in-house ‘sound designers’ before being recorded with the 55 members of the orchestra.

Some of the recordings are already available on the new Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820. They will be available on some soon-to-be released smartphone models.

Aleksi Eeben, a sound designer at Nokia, said: “The 25 original pieces, called ‘miniatures’ were composed by five Nokia Design in-house sound designers.

Android-powered desktop unveiled by Motorola

Phone-making company, Motorola has introduced new desktop computer powered by Android which also offers cloud-based services provided by Wasu, including games, high-definition television and movies and web browsing.

A partnership agreement was done between Motorola Mobility and Wasu Digital a cable and telecommunications service provider to launch a new android powered computer “HMC3260″”.

The HMC3260, which is dubbed as CloudBroadBand, features an 8.5 inch LED touchscreen, Android 2.3.4 operating system and broadband internet access through EuroDOCSIS.

It also features 1 GB DDR RAM, 4 GB NAND flash memory, LAN and Freescale i.MX53 ARM Cortex A8 1GHz.

With the new CloudBroadBand, Wasu’s customers can access to a host of cloud entertainment services such as an on-demand high-definition media, games, applications and storage space.

Motorola Home Division Asia vice president and regional general manager Kevin Keefe said the Motorola HMC3260 provides subscribers with a fast broadband connection and also offers cloud-based services provided by Wasu, including games, high-definition television and movies, web browsing and more.

The powerful touchscreen interface capitalizes on the power and flexibility of Android to enable Wasu to differentiate itself from operators who only offer a pipeline for data.

Google to cut 20% Motorola staff for profit sake

Google is cutting 20 percent of Motorola  staff to ensure the phone and tablet maker return to days of profit.

In a filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the plans, Google didn’t single out any specific parts of the company for the layoffs, but it was noted that Motorola’s product line would change as a result of the changes, which will include some office and plant closures as well.

“Two-thirds of the reduction is set to occur outside of the U.S.,” Google wrote in the filing. “In addition, Motorola plans to close or consolidate about one-third of its 90 facilities, as well as simplify its mobile product portfolio — shifting the emphasis from feature phones to more innovative and profitable devices.”

Google closed its $12.5 billion takeover of Motorola Mobility in May. Shortly thereafter, Google appointed Dennis Woodside as the subsidiary’s new CEO. Woodside has no background in consumer electronics, the mobile industry or engineering. Rather, Woodside is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer who has been with Google since 2003, and oversaw the company’s efforts to purchase Motorola Mobility.

The job cuts and facility closures are all being made with an eye toward making Motorola a self-sufficient, profitable entity, Google said in the filing, noting that Motorola Mobility “lost money in fourteen of the last sixteen quarters.”

It’s unclear if the decision to make the job cuts came from Woodside and Motorola, or Google and its Chief Executive, Larry Page. Google has said in the past that it would let Motorola run as a company independent of its richer, more profitable parent.

Officials at Google and Motorola were unavailable on Monday to comment beyond the SEC filing, which was first reported on by The Next Web.

The moves, of course, won’t come without a cost.

Google expects to incur a severance-related charge of no greater than $275 million, which it believes will be largely recognized in the third quarter, with the remaining severance-related costs recognized by the end of 2012.

Although Google cannot currently predict the amount of these other charges at this time, these additional charges could be significant.

Google also expects to incur other restructuring charges related to the actions described above, the majority of which will be recognized in the third quarter.

Nigeria receives two Earth Observation Satellites

Nigeria on Tuesday, received two Earth Observation Satellites to further help the ailing security situation in the northern country.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Okon Bassey Ewa said that the satellites would be used to resolve many developmental challenges until the country obtains radial satellites with advanced features that will bring lasting solutions to the security threats in the country.

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited from the United Kingdom officially handed over the satellites to the Minister in Abuja, after completing the paper work.

The endorsement and exchange of the documents signify the commencement of satellite application towards solving many problems in Nigeria including observation of crisis areas and flooding

Both satellites, when fully deployed, will deliver very large amount of earth observation data simultaneously and will offer very valuable information for development.

The immediate deployment of the satellites to crisis areas to observe and proffer lasting solutions to nagging issues such as security in the northern region, flooding and degradation in the south of the country will be the next line of action.

Speaking on the other satellites owned by the country, the Minister noted that Nigeria SAT 2 and Nigeria SAT X will also be useful in surveillance and monitoring, disaster mitigation and management. He also added that they will be used in damage assessment, relief operations and infrastructure development.

 

 

Apple, Sony, RIM and others sued by Graphics Properties Holdings

Apple, Sony and four other companies were sued by Graphics Properties Holdings, formerly known as Silicon Graphics, for allegedly infringing a patent through their sale of mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The lawsuits against Apple, Taiwan-based HTC Corp, South Korea-based LG Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co., BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd and Japan’s Sony Corp were filed in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The patent at issue relates to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on screens.

According to the lawsuits, the defendants’ infringing devices include Apple’s iPhone and the HTC EVO4G, LG Thrill, Research in Motion Torch, Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony Xperia Play smartphones.

Graphics Properties said that unless the alleged infringements are halted, it will suffer irreparable harm. The lawsuits seek to stop the sale of infringing products and also seek reasonable royalties and other damages.

LG spokesman John Taylor said that company does not generally discuss pending legal matters. A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The remaining companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold much of its operations to Rackable Systems Inc. The remaining operations are based in New Rochelle, New York, and are owned by private investment firms and other investors, according to the complaints.

The lawsuits are all in the U.S. District Court, District of Delaware.