Weekly Digest Issue No. 540
Android marches strongly on | Motorola on the road to recovery?
New jobs provide glimmer of hope
Among news of protests, by-elections and the upcoming Budget, there were some positive announcements this week on the jobs front. First up, online betting firm Betfair is to create up to 100 jobs in Dublin as it relocates its customer operations to Ireland, and opens a new datacentre here. As well as customer service and datacentre management jobs, the move means that part of Betfair's technology team will also be based in Dublin. Recruitment for the positions has started already, and the jobs are to be filled over the next few months. According to RTE.ie, Betfair CEO David Yu said that the company was happy to make a significant investment here since Ireland is already a primary destination for some major online companies.
On Tuesday, US insurance firm Global Indemnity announced plans to open a new IT centre in Cavan, creating 30 jobs there over the next five years. The positions will be for technical staff to work on IT development at the company's subsidiary, Global Indemnity Services.
Also on Tuesday, another professional services firm, Ernst & Young, revealed plans to create over 300 Irish jobs over the next year and a half. It says the new jobs will range from graduate positions to qualified accountants and senior executives, and will also include engineering, IT and business roles. The positions will be created across the firm's Irish operations in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
Finally, in Cork, UCC spinout ThinkSmart Technologies has said it has the potential to create 30 new jobs over the coming years. The startup is a new company supported by an entrepreneurial team established by UCC's Technology Transfer Office, including researchers from UCC's Cork Constraint Computing Centre (4C). It has invented a system that mixes maths and artificial intelligence to analyse circumstances and speed up decision making for companies, and has already secured a number of customers in the financial services, business process management and energy sectors.
Android marches strongly on
Despite the might of the headline-hitting iPhone, the Android platform has quietly gone about its business, achieving solid growth and enjoying increasing popularity over the past few months. In the third quarter, Google's Android operating system was the most popular smartphone platform in the US, according to research firm NPD Group. Android's OS was installed in 44 percent of all smartphones purchased in the third quarter, an increase of 11 percentage points since the previous quarter. Apple's iOS held relatively steady versus the second quarter, rising just 1 percentage point to 23 percent, while RIM's OS for BlackBerry devices fell to third position, declining from 28 percent to 22 percent.
While NPD analyst Ross Rubin said that Android's quarterly share growth came at the expense of RIM, rather than Apple, it is nonetheless a blow to the iPhone maker. Both RIM and Apple's market share over the past year tell an interesting story. Between the third quarter of 2009 and 2010 Apple's iOS share declined by 21 percent while RIM's share dropped by 53 percent.
Meanwhile, globally, it was devices running the Android platform that proved the greatest driver of growth in the global smartphone market during the third quarter. According to research firm Canalys, sales of Android-based smartphones grew a massive 1,309 percent year-on-year from 1.4 million in the third quarter of 2009 to over 20 million units in the third quarter of 2010. Android-based devices now form 25 percent of the global smartphone market share. Nokia's Symbian maintained its leadership with 33 percent market share, while Apple held third position with 17 percent share, slightly ahead of RIM with 15 percent. With more and more Android-based devices on the cards from a number of the top mobile players, it looks like it could be a good year ahead for Google's mobile platform.
Motorola on the road to recovery?
Indeed, US mobile handset maker Motorola has credited the growing popularity of its Android-based Droid devices for fuelling its first quarter of sales growth since 2006. Motorola recorded USD3 million in operating profit for the third quarter -- and that level of profit arrived a quarter earlier than expected. Sales jumped 13 percent to USD4.9 billion from the year-ago period and net income surged to USD109 million, or USD0.05 a share, from USD12 million, or USD0.01 a share. The results signal a resurgence at Motorola, which has struggled for years trying to recapture the glory days of the Razr. The firm's gamble on Android-based smartphones looks like it's paying off, and while its mobile unit still posted a net loss during the quarter, analysts and investors were impressed by a strong performance in both the US and Chinese markets.
There may be a slight bump ahead in Motorola's road to recovery, however. Apple this week announced that it is suing Motorola, alleging that its smartphone range and operating software infringes on Apple's intellectual property. In its complaints, Apple alleges that Motorola smartphones, including those in its Droid line-up, violate six Apple patents covering touchscreen and multitouch technology, as well as ways to display, access and interact with information on the phone. Apple is requesting that a judge award damages and attorney's fees and that the courts stop Motorola from selling the products.
The move by Apple is the latest in a spate of patent infringement battles between the major players in the smartphone market. In October last year Motorola sued Apple for infringing on its patents; Microsoft sued Motorola in March of this year; and Apple sued another Android-based smartphone maker, HTC, also in March. And let's not forget the patent tussle between Apple and Nokia, with both players suing and countersuing each other over the past year or so. The success of the Android operating system has threatened Apple's dominance, and thrown down the gauntlet for the likes of Nokia and new entrant Microsoft. No doubt about it, in the increasingly competitive and lucrative smartphone market, the stakes are high.
Microsoft sees record results, launches Kinect
Rounding off the results season on a positive note, software giant Microsoft posted record revenues for its first fiscal quarter of USD16.2 billion, a jump of 25 percent on the year-ago quarter, and ahead of the USD15.8 billion analysts had been expecting. Net income increased by 51 percent to USD5.4 billion, with earnings per share jumping to USD0.62 from USD0.40 a year earlier. Microsoft cited solid enterprise growth and continued strong consumer demand for Office 2010, Windows 7, and Xbox 360 consoles and games as the key reasons for the solid figures.
Over the quarter, Microsoft said sales of its Xbox 360 console grew 38 percent. As it prepares for the launch of Kinect, Microsoft is hoping the motion-sensing games controller will expand demand for the Xbox 360 to the casual gamer and family market. The device will be available in the US from 4 November and will retail for what some analysts are saying is a pretty hefty price tag of USD150.
Kinect is Microsoft's answer to the huge success of Nintendo's Wii with its motion sensing Wii-mote, which revolutionised the casual gaming sector. Sony too has jumped aboard the bandwagon with its Move remote for the PlayStation 3, a similar controller to the Wii-mote, while the Kinect has taken a different, some might say, more advanced approach. Kinect includes a camera, microphone and an infrared depth sensor that can detect the movements of a players' body, differing from the Wii-mote, which responds to a player's hand movements only. Certainly Microsoft is confident of its success: according to Bloomberg, the software firm now expects to sell 5 million units by the end of the year, up from an original forecast of 3 million.