Google announced on Thursday that it acquired the restaurant rating company ZAGAT. “ZAGAT will be a cornerstone of our local offering — delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world,” Marissa Mayer, vice president of local, maps and location services at Google said in a blog post. “I’m incredibly excited to collaborate with ZAGAT to bring the power of Google search and Google Maps to their products and users, and to bring their innovation, trust and wealth of experience to our users.” ZAGAT was started more than 32 years ago by a couple, Tim and Nina Zagat, and the company’s ratings are now embedded in pocket guides and plastered on restaurant windows in more than 100 cities around the world and across 13 different categories. Tim Zagat confirmed on ZAGAT’s website that the couple will remain with the business as co-chairs. “Google is the first place everyone goes when looking for information; it’s the perfect home for our content,” Mr. Zagat said. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. More →
Research In Motion will benefit in the near term from the ongoing launch of its new BlackBerry 7 smartphones, which are being described as the vendor’s strongest devices in some time. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu upgraded his rating on RIM stock to Buy from Neutral, increasing his price target to $35 from $28. Wu sees near-term opportunity in RIM, and he thinks new BlackBerry handsets like the Bold 9900 will be well received. ”The key differences this time include a refined user interface and improved hardware including faster processors, better graphics and displays as well as better build quality with its greater use of premium materials,” Wu wrote on Friday. “The company recently launched the new Bold 9900 and Torch 9810 and we see the upcoming launch of the full touchscreen Torch and new lower-end Curve in upcoming 1-2 quarters as future catalysts. RIMM has undoubtedly lost some customers but for loyalists still using 2-3 year old models, these refined updates are a worthy upgrade.” Read on for more. More →
It remains to be seen whether Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming overhaul will pay off in the long run, but one things seems clear: the manner in which HP revealed its plans was ill-conceived at best. HP’s announcements sent its stock tumbling, and analysts continue to lose faith in the company as unrest builds. In a note to investors on Thursday, RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani cut his rating on HP stock to Sector Perform from Outperform, and he lowered his price target $5 to $30. Daryanani says HP’s announcement that it may spin off or sell its PC business “will accelerate the deterioration of HP’s brand and asset value,” and he thinks competitors will gain market share as a result. The analyst also believes HP’s decision to kill off its webOS device business could devalue the company’s PC division if it opts for a sale. He thinks a quick sale would be a good move for HP, though he writes that a cut in company forecast or increased buybacks are also options. More →
In a note to investors on Tuesday, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk raised his rating on Sprint stock from Sell to Neutral without indicating a new price target. Piecyk had previously set his price target at $3.13, but noted that the stock now trades under five times BTIG’s 2012 earnings estimate, which is below consensus. The firm notes that it is not moving to a Buy rating because Sprint’s stock may fall further still, due to uncertain earnings, high debt leverage, lack of free cash flow and a worrisome 4G strategy. Piecyk believes that Sprint “needs to develop a clear 4G strategy including financing or taking control of Clearwire.” While BTIG did revise its estimates downward based on lower potential margins due to increased roaming costs, increased Network Vision expenses and the potential need for increased handset subsidies, it notes that upcoming events such as the resolution of Sprint’s Clearwire relationship and the potential launch of Apple’s iPhone 5 could have a positive impact on Sprint’s performance.
BGR took hands-on looks at the all new BlackBerry Bold 9900, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 last night, and while we were pleasantly surprised with RIM’s new hardware, several analysts were not impressed. Jefferies & Co.’s Peter Misek and Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu each cut their price targets on RIM stock Thursday morning, suggesting that the Waterloo, Ontario-based vendor’s BlackBerry 7 phones just aren’t enough to reignite the public’s interest in BlackBerry devices. “Handset shipments will be worse than expected in the November quarter despite the sell-in of new OS 7 handsets,” Misek wrote Thursday in a note to investors. RIM said on Wednesday that the upcoming BlackBerry device releases across more than 225 carriers will be the vendor’s biggest launch ever, but Misek isn’t convinced that the handsets will get enough of a push. ”Preliminary reviews of the handsets cite improved speed but a browsing experience still inferior to Android and iOS. We do not believe carriers will put extensive marketing dollars behind the new handsets,” he wrote. Shaw Wu at Sterne Agee said the devices were “better late than never,” but like Misek, he’s still not convinced the devices will be a hit. Misek cut his price target on RIM stock to $22 from his earlier target of $24, and Wu dropped his target to $23 from $27. More →
Greenpeace recently released a report titled How dirty is your data: A look at the energy choices that power cloud computing, which graded Amazon, Akamai, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo across three “green” categories: transparency, infrastructure siting, and mitigating strategy. While Greenpeace offered some praise to the Cupertino-based company for improving transparency and its efforts to move towards cleaner energy, it failed Apple in the “infrastructure siting,” category for choosing to build its new $1 billion iDataCenter — which requires enough energy to power 80,000 U.S. homes – in North Carolina.
“Apple’s decision to locate its iDataCenter in North Carolina, which has an electrical grid among the dirtiest in the country (61% coal, 31% nuclear) indicates a lack of a corporate commitment to clean energy supply for its cloud operations. The fact that the alternative location for Apple’s iDataCenter was Virginia, where electricity also comes from very dirty sources, is an indication that, in addition to tax incentives, access to inexpensive energy, regardless of its source, is a key driver in Apple’s site selection.”
Hit the jump for more, as well as the official report card. More →
In a note to investors Monday, Barclays Capital analyst Jeff Kvaal restated his “overweight” rating and set an $85 target for shares of RIM’s stock. Kvaal thinks the company will report a solid third quarter, and he believes current demand for the BlackBerry Torch to be “solid.” AT&T’s decision to drop the BlackBerry Torch to $99 last month played a big role in bolstering sales, the analyst believes, and he raised his Q3 estimates from 13.9 million units to 14.1 million as a result. Moving on to 2011, Kvaal sees RIM launching several handsets in the first half of 2011, including an update to the Curve 8900, a “Touch Bold” and a third version of the BlackBerry Storm. Sales of RIM’s first QNX-based tablet are projected to be quite low, however, and QNX-based handsets are not expected until the second half of 2011 at the earliest. Kvaal estimates BlackBerry PlayBook sales of 3 million units in 2011, and Gleacher & Co. analyst Mark McKechnie estimates PlayBook sales of only 1.8 million units through February 2012. More →
Right before Q2 earning go live, Deutsche Bank has knighted Sprint with the coveted “buy” rating. DB noted that they “expect Sprint’s 2Q results to highlight continued improvements in its post paid ops,” which prompted Deutsche Bank to reduced their estimate for post-paid net losses from 500,000 to 400,000 for the quarter. The firms analysts credit strong sales of the HTC EVO 4G — the first 3G/4G hybrid smartphone — for Sprint’s lower churn rate (2.05%) and 42% year-over-year growth in post-paid customer additions (gross). Sprint is scheduled to announce earnings for Q2 2010 on Wednesday July 28th. More →
In a move guaranteed to attract well deserved controversy, Andy Burnham, Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has publicly stated that delegates from the British government hope to meet with members of the Obama administration to pitch the idea of creating a content-based rating system for all English-based websites. Essentially what Burnham is proposing is having the internet follow the same rules as British TV where it is against the law to air violent programs before 9pm. But since the internet is very different in nature from TV, Burnham suggested that a time-based filter be created in which websites must block “offensive” and “violent” material. For extra precaution, ISPs would be asked to offer rating-based “child-safe” packages in which it is only possible to access websites that are pre-approved as inoffensive and appropriate for those of a young age.