Weekly Digest Issue No. 510
iPad launch dampened by Wi-Fi issues | Chipmakers buoyed by sector recovery
Coughlan supports maths bonus points
The so-called 'smart economy' got a significant boost on Wednesday with the announcement from the Tanaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan that she supports the introduction of bonus points for higher level maths in the Leaving Cert. Though Minister Coughlan did not go as far as to say when the change would be implemented, she did say she was waiting for the opinion of an expert group on the matter. ICT Ireland, which welcomed the minister's statement, has long been calling for the reintroduction of bonus points for higher-level maths and has urged the minister to facilitate the change at the earliest opportunity. Implementing bonus points for higher level maths is seen by industry groups as a way to encourage more students to take the subject for the Leaving Cert, and progress to take up technology and science-related courses at third-level.
Diarmuid O'Brien, a director of CRANN, the nanoscience research institute based at Trinity College Dublin and UCC, has also welcomed the minister's support for bonus points, reports RTE. He said the move is critical if Ireland is going to continue to compete to obtain international funding and get investment from industry for research within the universities.
Separately, CRANN on Wednesday announced that it is to create 17 high-level jobs as a result of it being awarded EUR15.5 million in funding following a global competition to lead two major research projects. The Institute of Molecular Medicine and TCD School of Medicine, in partnership with CRANN, will lead a pan-European team to develop new nanomedical technology which will enable the early and rapid diagnosis of cancer. In more jobs news, some 175 positions in areas such as IT, telecoms and HR will be on offer at Dublin's East Point Office Park jobs fair on 16 April. The companies recruiting are Oracle, Conduit, Citrix, Quintiles and Peninsula.
iPad launch dampened by Wi-Fi issues
The day of the iPad finally arrived last week. On Saturday, 3 April, Apple unleashed the tablet device and promptly sold 300,000 units. Apple said the figure was based on the number of iPads delivered in the US to retailers, customers' homes and businesses and/or sold directly at its own stores by midnight on Saturday. The figure, though impressive, fell slightly short of the majority of analysts' expectations, and well short of some noteworthy predictions, such as Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, who expected some 600,000 iPads to be shifted.
Initial consumer reaction to the device was positive. Indeed, Apple said new iPad owners downloaded more than 1 million applications and over 250,000 e-books. However, in the past few days complaints about the device's ability to connect to Wi-Fi have started to trickle in. For its part, Apple has acknowledged the problem on its support page, saying: "under certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network". It has suggested the issue is a dual-band router problem and has directed users to "create separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each band". For now, it's not clear if the issue is a software one, or, more worryingly for Apple, a hardware flaw. The problem does not appear to be affecting all users. Apple is to release a 3G-compatible iPad in the US later this month.
SMEs signing on to social media
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming popular among small and medium sized firms in Ireland, who are seeing their potential as a low-cost marketing channel. Fifteen percent of Irish SMEs now have a company Facebook page, according to a survey conducted for O2 Ideas Room by Behaviour & Attitudes. This figure increases to 20 percent for SMEs in the tech sector. One in ten Irish SMEs has a Twitter profile, highlighting the growing importance of connecting with customers through a broad range of media.
Blogs continue to be a key tool in SMEs' social media arsenal, with 9 percent of businesses regularly updating a company blog, up from 5 percent last year. This figure rises to 11 percent among tech sector SMEs. Social networking, or rather business networking, is also popular, with nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of SME senior executives regularly using professional networking sites. LinkedIn is the most popular site in this category at 18 percent. The report surveyed over 300 owners or senior executives in companies employing between one and 250 people.
AOL to wash its hands of Bebo
In more social media news, internet giant AOL has said it will not be investing any more money in its social network Bebo, and will decide whether to sell it or close it down as soon as May of this year. AOL paid USD850 million for Bebo in 2008, with industry observers at the time questioning the wisdom of the purchase. Bebo had proven popular in the UK and Ireland, as well as Australia, but failed to gain traction in the valuable US market, and has steadily been losing ground to Facebook in the past year or so in all regions. In February it attracted just 5 million unique visitors to its site in the US, a drop of 12 percent from the previous year. That's according to figures from comScore, which revealed that during February Facebook boosted its visitor figures by almost 100 percent to 111.8 million.
The decision to cut its losses on Bebo comes just four months after AOL split from Time Warner. The internet firm currently appears to be stripping itself of some of the companies that don't fit in with its long-term strategy of being a player in the content creation market. At the moment AOL is looking for a buyer for its instant messaging service ICQ, and it sold its digital ad firm Buy.at for around USD17 million to Digital Window at the beginning of the year, after buying the company for USD125 million just two years ago.
Chipmakers buoyed by sector recovery
In promising news this week, South Korean electronics giant Samsung said it expects to exceed operating profit estimates for the first quarter. It expects profit for the quarter to come in between SKW4.1 trillion and SKW4.5 trillion, up considerably from SKW590 billion in the year-ago quarter. The firm also predicted sales of between SKW33 trillion and SKW35 trillion, up 15 percent to 19 percent on the SKW28.7 trillion reported last year. Samsung is the world's largest memory chip manufacturer, and its return to promising form comes as the chip sector itself continues to stablise after a tough 2009.
The chip market recovery also boosted results at DRAM chip manufacturer Micron Technology, which posted first-quarter profits of USD365 million, or USD0.39 a share, reversing a year-earlier loss of USD763 million, or USD0.99 a share. First quarter revenue rocketed by 98 percent to USD1.96 billion.
According to figures from the Semiconductor Industry Association, global chip sales jumped to USD22 billion in February, down slightly on the USD22.3 billion reported in January, but up 56 percent on the year-ago tally of USD14.1 billion. "There are encouraging signs that the global economic recovery will continue, and we remain cautiously optimistic that there is upside potential for growth beyond our November forecast for 2010," said SIA president George Scalise. In November the group forecast 2010 sales growth of 10.2 percent to USD242.1 billion.