Dell sees room to challenge Apple in tablets

A growing dissatisfaction among office workers with the clunky computers their employers force them to use, in contrast to the sleek Apple devices many have at home, could yet benefit incumbent suppliers like Dell, a top Dell executive said.

As Apple’s third-generation iPad went on sale on Friday, accompanied by the now traditional scenes of fans queuing round the block , Dell’s chief commercial officer Steve Felice said the tablet market was still wide open.

Dell ditched its previous attempt at cracking the global tablet market, the Streak, last year. It was based on Google’s Android operating system software.

Now Dell is planning a fresh assault with the advent of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating platform, which is expected later this year and will have a touch interface that works across desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

“We’re very encouraged by the touch capability we are seeing in the beta versions of Windows 8,” Felice told Reuters in an interview in London, adding that Dell may also make Android tablets again.

“We have a roadmap for tablets that we haven’t announced yet. You’ll see some announcements.. for the back half of the year,” he said. “We don’t think that this market is closed off in any way.”

Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and possibly Nokia are also planning Windows 8 tablets.

Felice said that Dell’s relationships with its thousands of business customers gave it an advantage over Apple, whose gadgets can cause headaches for IT departments because they operate on different systems.

As iPads and iPhones have become popular from the boardroom down, corporate technology chiefs have been increasingly forced to accept the fact that employees will use their own devices.

“On the commercial side there are a lot of concerns about security, interoperability, systems and device management, and I think Dell is in the best position to meet those,” Felice said.

He added that iPads also left much to be desired in terms of processing power and ease of typing. “When people put their computer to the side and take their iPad with them to travel, you see a lot of compromises being made.”

Dell has also just launched a so-called ultrabook, a high-end notebook that is light and thin but still at least as powerful as a regular laptop. The XPS 13 costs about $995.

“The demand has been excellent since we launched this product just a week ago,” Felice said. “It is a fantastic product and shows our commitment to the PC space. We like the PC space. We are extremely committed to it.”

Dell, the world’s third-biggest computer maker after HP and Lenovo, has also been expanding its services offering to reduce its dependence on sales of computers, where margins are being squeezed and growth is slowing.

Taking Mac and iPad sales together, Apple sold more computers last year than any of the top PC makers.

Asked whether he envied Apple’s ability to produce such coveted objects, Felice said: “We come at the market in a different way … We are predominantly a company that has a great eye on the commercial customer who also wants to be a consumer.”

“In the areas where we come at the market, we think we are a coveted brand.”

Goldman Sachs person leaked Apple, Intel secrets: lawyer

A person at Goldman Sachs Group Inc, who has not been identified or charged in a broad U.S. insider-trading probe, was caught on a wiretap leaking secrets about Intel Corp and Apple Inc, a lawyer for former Goldman board member Rajat Gupta said in court on Friday.

Lawyer Gary Naftalis, in a heated exchange with U.S. prosecutor Reed Brodsky during a pre-trial hearing, said the Goldman person leaked confidential information about the two companies to Raj Rajaratnam, the Galleon Group hedge fund founder convicted of insider-trading charges last year.

Gupta, the best-known corporate executive accused in a sweeping prosecution of insider-trading at hedge funds in recent years, denies criminal charges that he tipped Rajaratnam with Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble Co secrets between 2007 and 2009. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

“In a letter he (Brodsky) said the government had a person who provided confidential information to Raj Rajaratnam about Apple and Intel,” Naftalis said. “There is also wiretap evidence, substantial evidence of another source at Goldman Sachs.”

Naftalis told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff that the defense believed “there is a much more circumstantial case that person should be sitting in the box rather than us” and “the wrong man is on trial here.”

A theme of Gupta’s defense is that the charges brought by U.S. prosecutors last October are circumstantial and that Rajaratnam had a host of sources tipping him with information. A jury convicted Rajaratnam largely on wiretaps, which traditionally have been used in organized crime and narcotics cases, not white-collar investigations.

Rajaratnam, once a friend of Gupta’s, is serving an 11-year prison sentence. Gupta was onetime global head of McKinsey & Co and sat on the boards of several companies.

The judge ended the late afternoon hearing in Manhattan federal court, but Brodsky and Naftalis continued to argue. Brodsky declined to comment.
A Goldman Sachs spokesman, Michael DuVally, declined to comment.

Goldman has been in the spotlight this week with the public resignation of employee Greg Smith, who said in a New York Times op-ed that Goldman had become “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it” and was a place he no longer wished to work.

A person familiar with the Gupta case said in early March that prosecutors are investigating David Loeb, a managing director of Goldman Sachs. Loeb works with technology hedge-fund employees, including an Asia-based analyst, Henry King, who is also under investigation, according to another source briefed on the case.

The sources declined to be identified because the matter is not public. Neither Loeb nor King has been accused of any wrongdoing and neither responded to emails asking for comment.

The insider-trading case has drawn in Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, who was interviewed under oath on February 24 as a witness, according to court documents.

Blankfein testified for the government at Rajaratnam’s trial. He is also expected to be called as a witness by the government at Gupta’s trial.
The cases are USA v Gupta in the U.S. District court for the Southern District of New York No. 11-907

Regulators probe Google privacy breach: report

The Federal Trade Commission is examining whether Google deceived consumers by planting so-called Internet cookies in Apple’s Web browser without users’ consent, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

The agency is investigating whether the cookies allowed it to aim advertising at users of Apple’s Safari browser, and also whether Google violated other rules involving consumers’ consent, Bloomberg cited sources as saying.

A Google representative responded in an email to Reuters that the company created a temporary communication link from Safari with Google’s servers that helped ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google and had opted for personalized ads and other content.

However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser, the email said.
“We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions,” the email said, adding that the company has been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers.

Bloomberg also reported that the FTC is looking at whether Google violated a consent decree with the commission signed last year.
The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the FTC had asked Apple for more information regarding how it incorporates Google’s search function into its products. The Internet search giant has been accused of using its clout in the search market to shut out rivals, like travel search, by putting them low in search results.

In January, regulators expanded a probe to include Google+, the search giant’s new social networking tool, which launched last June and offers many of the capabilities available on Twitter and on Facebook.

Customers pre-ordering latest iPad will have to wait

Apple CEO Cook speaks during an Apple event as he introduces the new iPad in San Francisco

People pre-ordering Apple Inc’s new iPad to avoid the release-day crowds at the company’s retail stores will have to wait longer to get their hands on the devices.

The latest version of the company’s tablet, which was unveiled this week, is set to hit shelves next Friday.

But tablets pre-ordered online will not ship to buyers until the following Monday, March 19, according to the company’s website.

Earlier in the week, Apple had promised the newest tablet would arrive at customers’ homes on the launch date.

Trudy Miller, an Apple spokeswoman, said the change was made because customer response to the new iPad had been “off the charts,” quickly exhausting the supply set aside for pre-order and delivery by March 16.

Apple’s new product releases are some of the hottest events on the tech calendar, scrutinized by investors, the media and industry insiders alike.

Game warns it could be game over

Visitors play a car racing video game during a visit at the Paris Games Week show in Paris
British video games retailer Game warned shareholders their equity in the firm could be worthless as it struggles to source new products from suppliers.
The group, which trades from about 1,270 stores in nine European markets and Australia, said on Monday it remained in talks with suppliers and lenders in relation to terms of trade that allow it to operate within a banking facility agreed last month.

Game said it was working to resolve the supply issues as quickly as possible.

“This includes ongoing discussions with suppliers, seeking access to the original facility or alternative sources of funding, and reviewing the position of all of its assets in the UK and international territories,” it said.

But it warned investors: “It is uncertain whether any of the solutions currently being explored by the board will be successful or will result in any value being attributed to the shares of the company.”

Shares in Game, which have lost 94 percent of their value over the last year, closed Friday at 3.51 pence, valuing the business at 12.2 million pounds ($19.2 million).

Yesterday’s Sunday Times said failure to pay a quarterly rent bill due in a fortnight could push Game into administration. ($1 = 0.6372 British pounds)

Nokia ramps down mobile money services

Nokia President and CEO Kallasvuo talks during the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
Nokia said on Monday it has decided to close down Nokia Money, a financial service targeted for emerging markets, as it focuses on the phone business and location-based services.

Nokia opened the financial service across India only late last year and was planning to expend to several other emerging markets.

Financial services are seen as one of the major business opportunities in the wireless sector, but so far have become a big business only in Kenya and the Philippines, as tight regulations and the lack of a business model have restricted takeup elsewhere.

Nokia is in the midst of revamping its operations under Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who was hired in September 2010 to turn around the company.