Weekly Digest Issue No. 500
Results point to market rebound | iPad: all things to all men (and women)?
Line-share price cut welcomed
Some progress was made this week on the thorny broadband issue, with Eircom agreeing to slash its line share price, the monthly fee it charges competitors for supplying broadband over its phone lines, to just EUR0.77 from EUR8.41. Eircom had mounted a High Court challenge to an August 2009 directive from ComReg to introduce the price cut. In a statement ComReg said the "proceedings were settled" but the regulator didn't elaborate on the details.
Government and industry have welcomed the price cut, which Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said was good news for "DSL service providers whose ability to compete will be enhanced". Peter Evans, product director with BT, called the move "critical", saying it builds a foundation for next generation broadband services. While Magnet CEO Mark Kellett also broadly welcomed the news, which he said shows progress and provides hope for the industry, he highlighted the still-high LLU charge, which at EUR16.43 is among the highest in the EU, according to Kellett. The LLU charge relates to operators being able to take over the full line to provide phone and broadband services. "We'll continue to put pressure on ComReg to continue to review not only the fully unbundled charge but also the extortionate ancillary charges imposed by Eircom," he said. In May of last year ComReg proposed cutting the LLU charge to EUR12.18; it is currently consulting on this issue.
Monex, Gala, DSG create jobs
This week has been a fairly positive one for tech sector jobs in Ireland. First up, on Monday, Kerry-based multi-currency and card processing company Monex announced it was to create 14 new jobs as a result of a new deal it signed with car rental firm Hertz. The agreement will see Monex provide its multi-currency treasury management software systems to Hertz in Europe to allow customers to convert their credit card transactions into their own currency when they pay. Monex was established in Killarney in 1997 and now operates in 19 countries worldwide, employing 150 people.
On Wednesday Japanese online gaming firm Gala Networks, which has its European headquarters in the Digital Hub in Dublin, revealed its plans to expand its Irish operations, creating 103 high-end jobs. With this expansion Gala says it aims to introduce three new games, as well as expand into new markets. "Ireland provides for us the skilled, multi-lingual workforce necessary to increase our mandate and Gala looks forward to the continued success and development of our Irish operations," said Gala CEO Hyun Hur.
Finally, though not strictly tech jobs, DSG Ireland's nationwide expansion is worth noting. DSG trades as Currys and PC World in Ireland. The retail group said it would create 100 jobs through the opening of new stores across the country this year and the roll-out of a new format for its shops, whereby it will combine Currys and PC World under one roof.
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Results point to market rebound
Financial results from the tech sector flowed in this week and the trend of positive results started by Intel and IBM last week continued. The company of the moment, Apple, on Tuesday posted a 50 percent rise in its first-quarter profit, on the back of healthy sales of the iPhone and Macintosh. Net income rose to USD3.38 billion, or USD3.67 a share, from USD2.26 billion, or USD2.50 per share, a year earlier. Sales grew to USD15.7 billion, up from USD11.88 billion a year ago. In its typically conservative manner, Apple predicted that sales for the current quarter will be between USD11 billion to USD11.4 billion and profit will be between USD2.06 and USD2.18 a share.
Meanwhile, internet rivals Google and Yahoo also released their quarterly figures. In the fourth quarter of 2009 Google said its revenue grew 17 percent year-on-year to USD6.67 billion, while net income rocketed to USD1.97 billion, or USD6.13 a share, up from USD382 million, or USD1.21 a share, a year earlier. For its part Yahoo also had a solid quarter -- in fact, the best quarter it's had since Carol Bartz took up the reins. The firm recorded profit of USD153 million, or USD0.11 share, compared with a loss of USD303 million a year earlier. Though revenue dipped 4 percent from a year ago to USD1.73 billion, it has improved on the 12 percent sales drop posted by the firm in the third quarter.
Two chip makers posted their figures this week: AMD and Texas Instruments. AMD's bottom line was boosted not only by an increasing demand for PCs but also by its USD1.25 billion legal settlement with rival Intel. Profit for the fourth quarter came in at USD1.18 billion, or USD1.52 a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of USD1.44 billion, or USD2.36 a share. Texas Instruments also had a solid quarter. Profits increased to USD655 million, or USD0.52 a share for the quarter, up from USD107 million, or USD0.08 a share, a year earlier.
iPad: all things to all men (and women)?
And so, after months of speculation and, let's face it, a little bit of obsession, Apple's hotly-anticipated tablet PC device, the iPad, was finally unveiled by CEO Steve Jobs. At a media event in San Francisco on Wednesday Jobs displayed what essentially looks like a giant iPhone. At just a half an inch thick and weighing a mere 1.5 pounds, the iPad features a 9.7-inch LED backlit glossy multi-touch screen. One of the main surprises was the pricing for the iPad. There are three available models: a 16GB model for USD499, a 32GB model for USD599, and USD699 for a 64GB model. The default connectivity is Wi-Fi, but users can add 3G for USD130 extra, albeit from the not very popular AT&T.
Jobs called the device a "revolutionary" product that will fill a gap between laptops and smartphones. He painted the iPad as a device to be used for surfing the net, checking email, watching videos and reading books. Industry observers however say no one function stands out; there's no killer application here. This has left many observers questioning just who would buy the iPad, and why. Despite rumours in the run-up to the big reveal of Apple being in talks with everyone from TV studios to games publishers and newspapers, Jobs didn't unveil any new content deals. He did introduce an e-book reader application, which has sparked a positive reaction from analysts, who said it compares favourably, on first glance, to the Kindle. Book publishers including Penguin, HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group will offer their books through the iPad's e-reader, but the terms of their deals with Apple haven't been disclosed. In his blog on All Things D, Walt Mossberg suggests that the success of the iPad lies in its software. For now, the iPad hasn't blown everyone away, but that's not to say it won't be a success for Apple. Perhaps with some interesting content deals and the likelihood that a whole host of new applications will be developed for the device, it could very well ignite the tablet market.