Weekly Digest Issue No. 555
Jobs returns to unveil iPad 2 | Google suffers pair of security issues
New jobs continue to trickle in
As we move into March the tech jobs market continues to tick over. Newry-based financial software firm First Derivatives has said it would create 359 new jobs over the next three years, bringing to 900 the number of staff the firm employs. The software company said it would be recruiting for 347 new consultancy and operations posts as well as 12 managerial positions. The expansion comes as it secures STG4.3 million in funding from development agency Invest NI.
Also in Northern Ireland, Schraeder Electronics said it would create 130 new jobs in Antrim and Carrickfergus, bringing to 580 the number of people it employs in the area. The expansion is supported by a STG29 million investment from Schraeder and Invest NI, which contribued STG3.5 million. Schraeder designs and manufacturers systems that monitor tyre pressure for the automotive industry.
In Offaly, Kelcourt Plastics, which develops components for the medical devices industry, has announced plans to establish a medical tubing manufacturing facility. The move will create 55 new jobs in Tullamore's IDA Business and Technology Park over the next five years. The Irish operation will also house a product development unit that will work with client R&D teams.
Finally, in Dublin, online insurance firm Chill.ie said it plans to recruit 100 new staff over the next three years, in order to deal with growing demand. The jobs will be a mixture of insurance, technology and back-office roles, and recruitment for some of the positions has started already.
Eircom sees revenue, earnings fall
It's been a tough couple of weeks for Eircom. On Tuesday the telco reported that group revenues for the quarter to the end of December dropped 6 percent to EUR438 million from EUR465 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) decreased by 3 percent to EUR154 million from EUR159 million. Revenue in Eircom's fixed-line segment continued to decline, dropping by 6 percent from the year-earlier quarter.
On the plus side, the drop in earnings was offset somewhat by a 7 percent reduction in operating costs during the quarter to EUR284 million. The firm also said it saw positive customer growth across its mobile divisions, Meteor and eMobile. It recruited 16,000 new customers during the period and now claims a total of 1,052,000 mobile customers. Despite the addition of new customers, revenues at the firm's mobile unit declined by 7.5 percent, while monthly ARPU dropped by 6 percent to EUR32.20.
This gloomy set of results come as Eircom warns it could breach its financial covenants within either the next three or six months. The former incumbent is expected to begin talks with lenders on its financial position in the coming days, with sources quoted in the Irish Times suggesting that Eircom's advisers will seek an "aggressive" restructuring of its EUR3.8 billion net borrowings. Paul Donovan, Eircom CEO, declined to quantify the size of any restructuring. The company said it expected to conclude an agreement this week with unions on cost savings of EUR90 million to be achieved by 2013. This plan will include pay measures, additional redundancies, performance management, a reorganisation of functions and a modernisation of work practices.
Jobs returns to unveil iPad 2
After months of rumours and speculation, Apple unveiled the iPad 2 on Wednesday at an event in San Francisco. Attendees were treated to an appearance by none other than CEO Steve Jobs, currently on sick leave from Apple, who said it was an event he "couldn't miss". He revealed the "dramatically slimmer" and "dramatically faster" iPad 2, which features a new dual-core A5 processor. As widely expected, the next-generation iPad includes front- and rear-facing cameras to allow users to video conference using Apple's FaceTime application. To the disappointment of some reviewers and commentators, a number of expected additions failed to appear, including the high-definition Retina display, a USB slot and an SD card slot.
The iPad 2 will launch in the US on 11 March and will be shipped to Ireland on 25 March. It will be priced the same as the existing iPad, which has been reduced in price on Ireland's Apple store, and now starts at EUR379.
Apple also introduced some new accessories for the iPad 2, including a HDMI video-out option that will allow people to port video out of the device. Apple also launched "smart covers", which attaches to the side of the iPad 2 using magnets. The cover, or flap, wakes up the iPad from sleep when you open it, and puts it to sleep when you close it. The cover also doubles as a stand for the device, and comes in five colours.
Despite some mixed reactions from reviewers to the iPad 2, analysts had a more positive spin, with JP Morgan's Mark Moskowitz suggesting in a note to investors that his firm's forecast of Apple holding 68 percent of the tablet market in 2011 "may be conservative" in light of the new device.
Google suffers pair of security issues
Google has had a bit of a troublesome week, with security issues hitting its Android Marketplace and Gmail service. It emerged on Wednesday that over 50 applications available on Google's Android Marketplace had been found to contain a virus. These 'booby-trapped' apps have been downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 times, according to analysis by Symantec. The malware-laden apps were copies of legitimate apps, according to BBC reports, which says that all of the affected apps have now been removed from the site.
A Reddit user called Lompolo is reported as having discovered the issue. The virus is being called DroidDream. Once an app containing the virus is installed and run on a user's device, it sends sensitive data, such as a phone's unique ID number, to a remote server. Google has not yet released an official statement on the issue, so no details about how many users have been affected are known yet.
Separately, Google's Gmail service suffered an outage last Sunday, which affected a reported 0.02 percent of users. The problem manifested itself in a number of ways: some users reported missing a few old emails, others found their Gmail accounts empty of any messages, while others were unable to log into their inboxes at all. In a blog post on Monday Google said users' emails were "never lost" and that normal service would be restored "soon". By Wednesday Google said the issue had been resolved for the "vast majority" of those affected. Google blamed the outage on a software storage update that had a bug, but it didn't give any more details.