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Technology

Chrome overtakes Firefox in browser wars, but neither the top choice

Source: The Right Click

Google Chrome has been fighting for a share of the browser market since it launched back in 2008. For the first time, it seems to be making some real progress.

A recent survey by StatCounter of the top five browsers over the last two years finds that Chrome is fractionally edging out Mozilla’s Firefox in worldwide browser usage. A total of 25.69 per cent were running Chrome as of November 2011, versus the 25.23 per cent using Firefox.

That trend changes from country to country, though. In Canada, Firefox is still the number two browser of choice with 24.18 per cent of users, while only 19.51 per cent are using Chrome in this country.

The undisputed leader, though, remains Internet Explorer across the board. It boasts almost double the percentage of users that Firefox and Chrome do, with 40.63 per cent of people operating IE. Those users, however, have dropped off steadily over the last two years while Chrome has done nothing but grow in popularity.

Internet Explorer’s continued dominance is unsurprising; after all, it’s still the default browser in the Windows operating system. If you’re a big fan of the Chrome experience, though, Google offers a way to throw Windows out the… window… altogether. Earlier this year, Google began shipping Chromebooks, which run the Google Chrome OS, although tech bloggers remain unimpressed with the cloud-only laptops.

Of course, desktop and laptop computers aren’t the only browser battleground anymore. While Safari might only have 5.92 per cent of the market share on full browsers, Apple’s browser handily dominates the mobile and tablet market for the same reason Internet Explorer remains so widely used.

In November, 55 per cent of tablets and other mobile devices were running Safari for mobile, according to Net Marketshare. Opera Mini holds 20.1 per cent of the global market, Google’s Android Browser commands 16.4 per cent and Symbian Browser brings up the rear with 3 per cent.


Half of Canadian manufacturers expect to hire next year, says PwC study

Darryl Hincock, from South Brooke, Nfld., inspects his haul vehicle before starting his shift as a driver at an oilsands mine near Fort McMurray

Source: The Canadian Press

Half of Canadian manufacturers surveyed in a poll say they’re looking to hire next year, but they expect to face trouble finding workers with the right expertise.

A third-quarter report by PwC says a flurry of activity in the Canadian mining, energy and aerospace industries is creating demand — but employers say there’s a lack of skilled workers.

The study found 45 per cent of manufacturers say the limited number of workers has proven to be a “significant barrier for growth.”

“The Canadian economy is experiencing a significant shortage of skilled workers at all levels, from welders and engineers to HVAC technicians,” said Calum Semple, a consulting partner at PwC.

“This is an opportunity for Canadians looking for skilled employment to boost their incomes, but they may have to be willing to be retrained and relocate, as many of these job opportunities are not in the big cities.”

Key areas where companies say they are looking for workers include in technicians (45 per cent) and skilled labourers (26 per cent), the report said.

The study also found that a third of manufacturers who responded said they are planning new and major capital investments in 2012.

PwC conducts a quarterly manufacturing barometer survey that includes 38 Canadian-based manufacturers.


RIM rises on new BlackBerrys, changing landscape

Source: Reuters

The launch of a string of well-received BlackBerry smartphones helped Research In Motion stock gain 6 percent on Tuesday and almost 50 percent since hitting a five-year low on August 8.

The smartphone maker has also been aided by Google’s $12.5 billion move to buy Motorola Mobility, which analysts say could sow dissent within Android ranks and push wireless companies to more eagerly embrace alternatives to the Google software, which is used widely.

“It’s all on the heels of Google/Motorola and what that means for the changing landscape, and there’s also a little bit of what I consider excess patent fever going on,” said Colin Gillis, a tech analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM also holds a solid share of mobile patents, particularly in data compression, encryption and synchronization.

“It’s a value name right now, it’s a deep value name,” Gillis said.

RIM’s stock had been skidding since February, hurt by a drumbeat of negative news. The company’s earnings have missed expectations and it sharply cut forecasts, while its PlayBook rival to Apple’s iPad launched to dismal reviews.

RIM has launched new versions of its BlackBerry Bold, Torch and Curve smartphones this month, which have fared better than the PlayBook did with reviewers, while investors are also picking up RIM stock because of its low cost.

“One of the biggest factors is a general sentiment for beaten down stocks,” said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice-president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.

“Investors are in the mood for bargain-hunting.”

RIM’s Nasdaq-listed stock closed 5.9 percent higher at $32.55 on Tuesday, after jumping 5.3 percent on Monday and 3.4 percent on Friday. On Aug 8 the stock closed at $21.87, its lowest level since September 2006 on a stock-split adjusted basis.

Its Toronto-listed shares rose 6.4 percent to C$31.91 on Tuesday, adding to a 4.6 percent gain on Monday and 2.8 percent rise on Friday.


Canada considers adopting Super Wi-Fi north of the border

Source: The Right Click

Written By: Chase Kell

Tech savvy Canadians may have only read about Super Wi-Fi, but if all goes well, the wireless Internet connection with a range spanning up to 100 kilometres may soon be coming north of the border.

Approved for use in the U.S., Super Wi-Fi is being carefully considered in Canada as demand for such a wireless connection continues to grow.

“We have already received a number of queries on this subject,” said Industry Canada spokesperson Michel Cimpaye in a New Brunswick Business Journal story.

Where was this in my university days, when a poor Internet connection had me parked outside the neighbouring building as I poached their high-speed connection?

Super Wi-Fi is a very strong signal that can transmit through concrete structures while providing speeds of up to 22 megabits per second (up to par with speeds offered by Canada’s leading service providers).

Also referred to as the Wireless Regional Area Network, it functions using unused spectrum (or white space) left by television stations that used to transmit analog signals.

Before the digital signal became the television standard, broadcasters required a “buffer zone” in between each channel in order to prevent interference, explains Ryerson University’s Gregory Taylor. With the decline of the analog broadcasting era, those buffer zones will soon be “freed up” in major urban areas at the end of August.

Some of the available spectrum will be purposed for cellular signals and auctioned off to telecommunications companies, but as Taylor explains, a good portion will remain unlicensed.

Countries approved the use of unlicensed spectrum for the first time in the late 1980s, spawning the development of communication tools such as baby monitors, Bluetooth and eventually Wi-Fi.

“The previous unlicensed spectrum was very limited on what it could do,” said Taylor in the story. “(Super Wi-Fi) will go much further. It will be possible to cover an entire town or region wirelessly.”

But as Taylor explains, telecommunications companies have grown concerned with the competitive repercussions as Super Wi-Fi all but eliminates an Internet provider’s most profitable service – physically connecting a house or apartment to a network using wires and cables.

Still in its infancy, Super Wi-Fi was approved only last month by the IEEE, an international party that governs such technological issues.

But as the demand and the hype continues to grow, Taylor expects an onslaught of applications to be developed in the near future, a premonition that has him urging the Canadian government to make a firm ruling on how the available spectrum will be used.

“We’re stifling development here at this point,” said Taylor. “We know this technology exists, but it’s been slowed down by an ineffective digital television transitions and a government that hasn’t taken a leadership role.”


RIM could spin off patents into separate company to take on Google

Source: The Canadian Press

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion should split off its thousands of technology patents into a separate, publicly traded company as another way of competing against rival Google, which expects to own a trove of patents with its acquisition of cellphone maker Motorola, say analysts.

Evercore Partners analyst Alkesh Shah said the importance of technology patents has increased in recent years due to popularity of Google’s Android operating system for smartphones and Apple’s iPhone smartphones.

“What’s really caused this new focus on patents and litigation is that you had Apple and Google, brand new entrants, come in and take significant share,” Shah said, adding it “woke up everybody.”

Companies then wanted to protect their technology and “you suddenly had everybody suing everybody else,” he said, noting for years that Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson were the three large mobile device patent holders.

Google recently missed out on acquiring wireless network patents developed by Canada’s former tech company Nortel Networks.

RIM, along with Apple and other tech heavyweights paid US$4.5 billion to acquire thousands of patents from bankrupt Networks, which also placed increasing importance on patents and their value.

Shares of RIM (TSX:RIM) closed up 9.5 per cent, or $2.30, to $26.59 after Google Inc. announced it was paying US$12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and its 17,000 patents and 7,500 patent applications.

The Waterloo, Ont., company has been under intense competition from Apple’s iPhone and iPad tablet computer and smartphones by various manufacturers that use the Android operating system.

Shah said RIM has 10,000 to 15,000 patents in advanced wireless technology, security, enterprise mobility and software.

“RIM, right now, is obviously focused on its product portfolio,” Shah said from New York.

“But as they get their product portfolio in place over the next six to nine months, they can potentially, after that, look at other potential revenue streams and their intellectual property certainly can be one,” he said.

RIM could potentially license its technology to new players in the tablet market that don’t have intellectual property in wireless technology, software or security, he said. Or, RIM could license its technology to established software player Microsoft, which is interested in advanced wireless technology, or even to competitor Apple, Shah said.

“The opportunities that RIM may have near term is maybe being more aggressive on the licensing front of their current portfolio.”

Patents not only protect technology but create revenue, Shah said. He used IBM as an example of a company with a significant revenue stream from the licensing of its technology.

Northern Securities technology analyst Sameet Kanade also said RIM can become more valuable by creating a separate company to license its patents.

“You spin it off,” Kanade said in a phone interview from Toronto.

Then it will let “shareholders decide where they want to participate. Do they want to participate in RIM’s IP (intellectual property) growth or do they want to participate in RIM’s operating growth?”

Kanade said RIM could spin off its patents into a company similar to technology licensing companies Wi-LAN (TSX:WIN) and Mosaid (TSX:MSD), both of Ottawa.

Queen’s University professor John Pliniussen doesn’t agree with the idea that RIM should spin off its patents into a publicly traded company and said it would be difficult to put a value on how much the patents would be worth.

“That’s not their expertise,” said Pliniussen, associate profess or innovation and Internet marketing at Queen’s in Kingston, Ont.

“They should take all of their energy and really focus on marketing their new line of BlackBerry phones, which are the best they’ve ever made,” he said.

While the declining value of RIM’s stock over the past three years has fuelled speculation that it could be a takeover target, Kanade said Google’s purchase of Motorola will make it less interested in buying the BlackBerry maker.

He suggested a Chinese player wouldn’t likely be able to pass the Canadian regulatory hurdles.

He added that a U.S.-based private equity player could be a possible suitor at some point and it would likely spin off RIM’s patents into a separate company, too.

There are reports that software giant Microsoft may want to buy cellphone maker Nokia, which uses Microsoft’s latest mobile phone operating system in its smartphones, which might make a bid for RIM less likely.


RIM leaders acknowledge woes but sound defiant note at annual meeting

Co-chief executive Jim Balsillie speaks at the Research in Motion annual meeting in Waterloo

Source: The Canadian Press

Written By Sunny Freeman

 

Research In Motion co-chief executives Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis sounded a somewhat apologetic note in front of shareholders Tuesday, acknowledging a number of recent troubles that have attracted criticism and depressed its stock value.

But the heads of the BlackBerry maker defiantly insisted they’ve got a new slate of smartphones ready to hit the market — RIM’s biggest product launch ever — that will secure the company’s future success. And far from facing an anticipated outpouring of shareholder bile, their comments were received warmly at the company’s annual meeting.

Lazaridis said RIM plans to launch seven new BlackBerry smartphones running a new operating system in the coming months that is expected to help the new BlackBerry Bold jump a generation in technology.

“It may have delayed us, but we are going to come out ahead,” Lazaridis said of the company’s decision to hold the rollout of the new Bold in order to bolster it to face an “arm’s race” brewing among its smartphone competitors.

Shareholders eager to hear the company’s plans filled some 200 seats, leaving many standing in the crowded room and some spilling out of the doors.

Despite a recent spate of criticism and a serious drop in its stock price, Balsillie and Lazaridis were welcomed with applause from what appeared to be a mostly partisan crowd at the meeting held in the barrel-filled headquarters of the RIM-sponsored Centre for International Governance Innovation, a historic converted Seagram distillery in downtown Waterloo.

Balsillie said the new smartphones are expected to help the company stay on track to meet its financial guidance for the year.

“Mike and I, along with the executive team, are closely managing this transition and have positioned the company for continued future success,” Balsillie told shareholders.

Some at the meeting were critical of the company’s marketing efforts in the face of rivals like Apple — including one shareholder who brought pictures of the RIM’s PlayBook tablet display at a Best Buy store that he said fell short of the rival offerings.

“We will continue investing in it and it’s only a matter of time — we will do better,” Lazaridis said.

He said the company is continuing to build on RIM’s reputation for security when it comes to email and added that trials of its PlayBook tablet were under way at more than 1,500 companies.

“This includes multiple government agencies and groups from both the public and private sectors,” he said, adding that those testing the device are always finding new ways to use it.

In a vote of confidence, shareholders re-elected the RIM (TSX:RIM) slate of directors, including lead director John Richardson. U.S.-based proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis had recommended that shareholders withhold their support for Richardson.

The meeting was held as the company’s management and lacklustre stock market performance faces scrutiny by many investors and analysts.

Investor confidence was particularly shaken when RIM cut its full-year financial guidance last month and announced it was planning to lay off staff.

In its outlook for its 2012 financial year RIM expects to earn between $5.25 and $6 per diluted share, excluding any one-time charges or share repurchases. That compared with earlier guidance for a profit of about $7.50 per share.

RIM stock, which closed up 32 cents at $27.52 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, has been on a steep downward slide in recent months and trades for a fraction of its all-time high of more than $140.

The drop has prompted takeover rumours about the company, which were addressed at the meeting Tuesday by a shareholder who asked about a shareholder rights plan to block a hostile bid.

Balsillie said a rights plan could be put in place in a “blink of an eye” if a hostile offer was made for the company.

“I assure you, if there is anything that will make you sleep better at night that I can do, I’ll do it,” he told the shareholder.

The BlackBerry maker’s management structure has also come under criticism as Balsillie and Lazaridis currently serve as both co-CEOs and co-chairmen of the company.

RIM avoided a shareholder vote on a plan to split the roles of CEO and chairman before the meeting when it reached a deal with Northwest & Ethical Investments LP to establish an independent committee to review the role of the chairman.

Northern Securities analyst Sameet Kanade said setting up a committee just prolongs the need to split up the roles.

“We don’t think it bodes well for the stock in the short to medium term,” Kanade said from Toronto.

“It looks nice on paper, but it doesn’t really solve the more pressing concerns of who is looking out for shareholder concerns on the board and who is looking out to make sure the CEO or the co-CEOs are taking the right and decisive actions.”

Kanade said he believes Lazaridis should be the CEO with Balsillie as the chief marketing officer or filling other roles.

“Accountability would be more direct with one person running it. There’s no one looking out for the shareholders’ interests on the board.”


NDP Slams Invasive Online Spying Bills in Letter to Public Safety Minister

Stop Online Spying Coalition congratulates Angus and Sandhu for taking a stand against “Lawful Access” legislation

June 24, 2011 – Stop Online Spying campaign members are rallying in support of two NDP critics who wrote to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warning him of the dangers of proposed “Lawful Access” bills.

MPs Charlie Angus and Jasbir Sandhu – the NDP Ethics, Privacy and Digital Issues Spokesman and the NDP Public Safety Critic, respectively – pointed to several key concerns which highlight the bills’ allowance of surveillance that is warrantless, invasive, and costly in their letter on Thursday.

“This letter serves to demonstrate just how problematic this online spying would be.” says OpenMedia.ca’s Executive Director Steve Anderson.

Anderson continues: “It couldn’t be more clear: the proposed surveillance bills are poorly thought out, and would harm both our democracy and our digital economy.”

The MPs’ letter to Toews comes only a day after the launch of the Stop Online Spying campaign, which is supported by nearly sixty public interest organizations, businesses, and concerned academics, as well as over 37,000 concerned citizens that have signed a petition at http://www.StopSpying.ca

The letter can be found on OpenMedia.ca’s website here: http://bit.ly/k3Sbxk