Google stock tanked Thursday after Google released its third-quarter results a few hours early – an apparent mistake on the part of the Mountain View company.
Worse yet, the results were widely viewed as a disappointment: Google's net income is down from $2.73 billion this time last year to $2.18 billion Thursday, while operating expenses have climbed from $3.28 billion to $4.81 billion.
As Blodget points out, Google's core business delivered $11.4 billion in gross revenue – just shy of the expected $11.5 billion mark – while Motorola's numbers were way down across the board. "Most of the disappointment came from a business that was almost certain to disappoint – the dying elephant known as Motorola," he concludes. "Google's core business, meanwhile, came in just below expectations."
Other analysts pointed to shrinking revenue from online advertisements.
"The average cost per click decreased 3 percent from last quarter and 15 percent from last year, a steeper decline than analysts expected, in part because of the growth of mobile ads, which tend to cost less," writes Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times.
In related news, Google has distributed invitations to a major press event on Oct. 29, in New York. Oct. 29, of course, is the same day Microsoft is expected to officially roll out Windows Phone 8 – a fact that Google reps must certainly have been aware of. Google hasn't said exactly what products it intends to highlight at the event, but smart money is on the Key Lime Pie mobile operating system and a new Nexus phone.
Twitter has invoked its local censorship policy for the first time, blocking the feed of a German Neo-Nazi group known as Besseres Hannover, or Better Hannover. According to the Associated Press, the ban came after authorities in Lower Saxony ordered "the closure of all user accounts of the Besseres Hannover group," including YouTube and Twitter.
"We announced the ability to withhold content back in January," Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray said in a tweet earlier today. "We're using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany."
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In a separate tweet, he posted a link to Twitter's "Country-Withheld Content" policy, and wrote that Twitter "never [wants] to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently."
That policy stipulates that Twitter will attempt to balance the free speech of its users with local legal concerns. From the Twitter Website:
Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users unless we believe we are legally prohibited from doing so (for example, if we receive an order under seal). We also clearly indicate within the product when content has been withheld. And, we have expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to publish not only DMCA notifications but also requests to withhold content – unless, similar to our practice of notifying users, we are legally prohibited from doing so.
Still, many critics have questioned the wisdom of Twitter's actions.
"Twitter is being pilloried for being honest about something that all Internet platforms have to wrestle with," she told CBS News. "As long as this censorship happens in a secret way, we're all losers."
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The Google homepage today depicts a white whale, a choppy sea, and a skiff captained by a one-legged harpooner. The doodle, of course, is an homage to "Moby Dick," which was first published 161 years ago, by Herman Melville. So who was Melville, exactly? Only one of the titans of modern literature – and a writer responsible, in the words of Nathaniel Philbrick, for "what is generally considered the greatest American novel ever written."
Melville was born in 1819, in New York, the third of eight children. As a boy, he was hired to help staff a ship running between the United States and Liverpool, England. In 1841, he signed on with the crew of the whaling vessel Acushnet and spent several months in the Pacific. He deserted in the Marquesas Islands, in modern-day Polynesia, and explored Tahiti and Hawaii, before sailing back to the Eastern seaboard.
Later, Melville would mine his experience in the Pacific for the novels "Typee," "White-Jacket," and "Omoo: A Narrative of the South Seas." "Omoo" and "Typee," particularly, sold well. In 1850, Melville moved with his young wife, Elizabeth, to a farm in Pittsfield, Mass. He raised a small family – he and Elizabeth had four children in all – and set to work on the long novel that would become "Moby Dick."
During that time, he befriended the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived nearby – and to whom Melville eventually dedicated "Moby Dick." Hawthorne encouraged his younger friend, and may even have helped Melville shape the content and tone of the novel. After Hawthorne praised "Moby Dick" – the story of a white sperm whale and his pursuer, the one-legged Captain Ahab – Melville wrote him a letter that burbles over with giddy happiness.
"A sense of unspeakable security is in me this moment, on account of your having understood the book," Melville declared. "I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon."
"Moby Dick" was published in England in October of 1851 and in the US the following month. Despite Melville's high hopes for the novel, the book was slow to catch on. According to PBS, during Melville's lifetime, the book sold only 3,000 copies.
By comparison, "Typee" sold 6,000 copies in two years.
Melville wrote a few more novels, including the very fine "Pierre," but he struggled to attain the commercial success of his early career. In 1856, Melville visited Hawthorne in England, where Hawthorne was working at the American consulate. Hawthorne was shocked by the state of his old friend.
Melville, Hawthorne concluded, "no doubt has suffered from too constant literary occupation, pursued without much success, latterly; and his writings, for a long while past, have indicated a morbid state of mind... [Melville] informed me that he had 'pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated'; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief."
Back in the US, Melville temporarily lectured to support his family, and in 1863, took the extraordinary step of moving back to New York to become a customs inspector. He died in 1891, at the age of 72. It was only many years later, in the early 20th century, that a group of scholars and writers helped bring to "Moby Dick" the canonical status that it enjoys today.
Apple today issued invitations to a press conference on Oct. 23 at the California Theater in San Jose, Calif. The invite is dominated by splatters of multi-colored paint, a gigantic white Apple logo, and a line of cryptic text: "We've got a little more to show you."
So what does Apple have planned for its event next week? Almost definitely a pint-sized tablet, which may or may not be called the iPad Mini.
Rumors of a smaller iPad began circulating as early as last year, but in recent months, more and more details of the device have hit the press. For instance, it's widely expected that the Mini will get a 7.85-inch display (measured diagonally, corner to corner), on par with the Amazon Kindle Fire, but significantly smaller than the current iPad, which sports a 9.7-inch screen.
A high-def "Retina Display" probably won't be included, but the Lightning dock connector probably will.
One major question remains: What kind of price will Apple slap on the iPad Mini?
Well, a starting price of $250 or $300 sounds about right to Wilson Rothman of NBC. "I think that $249 is the 'all other tablets are dead' price, and $299 is the 'Apple keeps its market share while making a comfortable profit' price. Anywhere over $300 is a 'not good' price," Rothman says. "Not in today's market, not with a full-sized iPad 2 selling for $400 and a Retina-display iPad selling for $500."
This lines up with a info leaked from European retailer Media Markt, which put the starting price of the Mini at $250 for an 8GB model with Wi-Fi.
The Microsoft Surface is a go.
Beginning today, people can pre-order the Windows 8 tablet, which is being positioned as a high-powered alternative to the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Surface is available at three price points: $699 for a 64 GB model with a "Touch Cover" (a case plus keyboard, basically); $599 for a 32 GB model with a Touch Cover; and $499 for a 32 GB model without a Touch Cover.
Available colors include Red, Black, Cyan, and Magenta. Pre-orders are currently expected to ship by Oct. 26; you can order a device here.
So let's get down to it: How seriously should you consider buying a Microsoft Surface?
Well, it's worth noting that as of late this summer, Apple owned a whopping 69 percent of the tablet market, with Samsung (the maker of the Galaxy Tab line) in a distant second and Amazon (maker of the Kindle Fire line) in an even more distant third. With the release of the iPad Mini – which is widely expected to launch late this month or early next – Apple could see its lead grow even larger.
Apple has the momentum and the apps (more than a quarter of a million iPad-specific apps are currently available in the iTunes Store). By comparison, Microsoft is starting from scratch – and since the Surface prices line up more or less with the iPad prices (the iPad starts at $499, too), it's going to take a lot for consumers to switch from the entrenched device (the iPad) to the unproven up-and-comer (the Surface).
In related news, Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital, recently returned from a trip to Asia, and he reports that the "PC industry is headed for a muted December quarter." In a note obtained by Business Insider, White said the "the sentiment around Windows 8 was overwhelmingly negative during our trip as the supply chain is experiencing little life ahead of the Oct. 26 launch."
The Google homepage today depicts an old-fashioned comic strip, in muted hues of blue, red, green, and yellow. Click on the tab on the bottom right of the doodle, and watch a pajama-clad boy tumble, panel by panel, through a fairytale land of clouds, castles, and princesses, before finally landing back in his own bedroom. The doodle is an homage to the artist Winsor McCay, and his most famous creation, Little Nemo, which turns 107 years old today.
So who was McCay, exactly? Only one of the most influential cartoonists in history.
McCay was born in Canada, probably around 1867 or 1868 – the exact date and location remain unclear. When McCay was still a child, his family moved from Canada to Spring Lake, in Michigan. The young McCay drew fervently, and and around 1880, one of his illustrations, of a sinking steamer, was apparently snapped up for use in postcards.
Eventually, McCay was discovered by John Goodison, a drawing professor at Michigan State Normal School. Goodison agreed to tutor McCay informally, although McCay never officially enrolled at Michigan State. In his spare time, McCay wandered the local "dime museums" – an attraction popularized by P.T. Barnum – and drew cariactures for passersby.
"The work of Art exhibited at the Post Office by Winsor McCay," a reporter noted at the time, "is a great credit to the young man’s artistic ability." A whirlwind of drawing gigs soon followed.
McCay moved to Chicago, where he was an apprentice at the National Printing and Engraving Company, and then to Cincinnati, where he was paid to draw the so-called "freaks" – among them a bearded lady – at the Vine Street Dime Museum. In 1900, he was snapped up by the Cincinnati Enquirer to draw a strip called "The Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle," but in 1903, he left the Enquirer for The New York Herald.
In 1905, he debuted "Little Nemo in Slumberland," his master-work, which would appear in various papers for the next two decades. The title character of McCay's strip was a young boy, always drawn tousle-headed and in his pajamas. Every night, Nemo would be sucked down into the land of dreams, toward the domain of King Morpheus and his daughter, Princess Camille. (Camille is featured prominently in Monday's Google Doodle.)
"Little Nemo in Slumberland," McCay's biographer John Canemaker has written (hat tip to the Ohio State University Libraries), "unlike any comic strip before or since... [I]t represented a major creative leap, far grander in scope, imagination, color, design, and motion experimentation than any previous McCay comic strip (or those of his peers)."
As David Clark Scott of the Monitor notes today, McCay eventually moved on to animation; his movies "How a Mosquito Operates" and "Gertie the Trained Dinosaur" are still cult classics.
In 1989, the American director Chris Columbus helped write an animated adaptation of the McCay strips. Directed by Masami Hata and William Hurtz, "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland," discarded McCay's soft palettes for a big, vibrant, cartoonish style. Still, "Adventures in Storyland" received a generally friendly reception from critics, with Roger Ebert calling it an "interesting if not great film." It will be released on Blu-Ray early next month.
Fan of the Little Nemo strips or the Columbus cartoon? Drop us a line in the comments section. And to receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow the Horizons team on Twitter @venturenaut.
As of late this summer, the carrier market in the US broke down like this: Verizon and AT&T jostling for first place, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile in a distant third and fourth, and a cluster of smaller companies jostling for the scraps. So how does a carrier like Sprint Nextel make a play for a bigger market share?
With a stack of cash, naturally.
According to Bloomberg, Japanese wireless service provider Softbank is in the process of arranging $23 billion in financing for a deal with Sprint, in which Softbank would get a 70 percent stake in the American carrier. Unsurprisingly, Sprint shares shot up yesterday after news of the talks were confirmed by both Softbank and Sprint. (Sprint shares have slipped slightly since then.)
Over at Read Write Web, Dan Rowinski notes that Sprint, which lacks the resources of its chief rivals, has struggled to expand the scale of its fledgling LTE network.
"So, where does Softbank fit into this equation?" Rowinski writes. "The simplest answer is that the Japanese carrier can give Sprint an influx of cash that will stabilize its financial position and enable it to more aggressively build – or buy – LTE infrastructure in the United States."
Sprint Nextel, of course, is also facing mounting pressure from T-Mobile, which may soon be merged with MetroPCS, a budget carrier based in Texas. The merger would give T-Mobile an extra 9 million subscribers, boosting the carrier's total subscriber count to 40 million. Sprint Nextel, by comparison, has 56 million subscribers.
To receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
The launch of the Apple iPad Mini may be less than two weeks away.
According to John Paczkowski of All Things D, on Oct. 23, Apple will unveil its new pint-sized tablet at an "intimate affair held close to home" – a decided contrast from the full-on bash that marked the launch of the iPhone 5.
Apple has kept the specs on its new tablet under wraps, but the general consensus says the Mini will ship with a 7.85-inch display (measured diagonally, corner to corner), smaller than the 9.7-inch display on the new iPad, and more or less the same size as the Amazon Kindle Fire.
A "retina display" seems unlikely; the device may, however, get the new Lightning dock connector.
In related news, over at ZD Net, James Kendrick has a suggestion for Apple (which we heartily second): Sure, make an iPad Mini, but also make a keyboard cover for the regular iPad. The forthcoming Microsoft Surface tablets, of course, will include multi-colored keyboard covers – a functionality that has helped Microsoft set its Windows 8-equipped slate apart from the Apple iPad.
"I am not an accessory designer nor do I play one on the Internet, but I am confident that Apple could pull this off masterfully," Kendrick writes. "I picture a thin smart cover for the iPad with a sliver of a keyboard similar to the Apple wireless keyboard. The cover would completely protect the iPad front and back, and add a wireless keyboard to the package." Here, here.
In a press statement, Samsung said the Galaxy S III Mini will ship with a 4-inch screen – on par with the Apple iPhone 5, but smaller than the 4.8-inch display on the original Galaxy S III. (There's an undeniable irony in calling this thing "Mini," of course, considering that just a couple of years ago, before the big-screen arms race really began, a four inch display would have qualified a device for "Jumbo" status.)
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The specs released by Samsung indicate a firmly middle-of-the-road device: A 1 GHz dual-core processor (the Galaxy S III has a quad-core processor); a 5-megapixel camera (the camera on the original Galaxy S III has 8-megapixels); and no 4G LTE technology, which is standard on the Galaxy S III. Pricing and carrier availability are expected to be announced later this month.
Already, Samsung's newest device has come under some fire. Gizmodo says it's a "major letdown." And over at Slashgear, Chris Burns calls the Galaxy S III Mini an "iPhone 4-sized pea-shooter" – a device that falls far short of the lofty precedent set by the original Galaxy S III.
"If you’ve been following along with the strategy Samsung has been working with over the past year, you’ve noticed that they’ve been doing rather well the Samsung Galaxy S III as a single hero smartphone across the globe with no design compromises," Burns writes. "They’ve just thrown that all away with a... disappointingly low-level afterthought in this newer handset."
In related news, Samsung announced earlier this month that it had recorded a record-setting $7.3 billion in operating profits in Q3 of this year. The great majority of that profit came from smart phones such as the Galaxy S III, which has performed extraordinarily well in Asian and European markets.
To receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
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Political news is big on Google, but the search engine rarely becomes the focus of a political story.
As a slew of Twitterers and bloggers pointed out yesterday afternoon, the search term "completely wrong" brings up a slew of pictures (big and small) of presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. CNN has traced the origin of the whole mess to an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, wherein Romney attempted to distance himself from his infamous "47 percent" gaffe.
"Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you're going to say something that doesn't come out right," Romney told Hannity, "In this case, I said something that's just completely wrong."
But now his explanation has turned into a veritable Internet meme – and not one that's likely to go away anytime soon.
So is this an easter egg? Well, not exactly. An easter egg usually refers to a message hidden intentionally by developers. Google has scattered quite a few of those through its search rankings in recent years: There was the easter egg with the "loneliest number," the easter egg with the barrel roll – a nod to the Nintendo classic "Starfox" – and the deservedly-beloved "zerg rush" game, which was created in homage to "Starcraft."
By comparison, the "completely wrong" results appear to be a regular old byproduct of Google's search algorithm.
In a statement to ABC News, Google called the whole thing "natural" – in other words, not malicious or premeditated. Not that Fox News was quite ready to believe it. The network pointed out today that Google is a "left-leaning" company, and that "Google CEO Eric Schmidt has visited the White House 14 times since January 2009."