Business technology industry news roundup, March 25

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The business tech industry was awoken by the uproar over a controversial wireless merger on Monday morning, and, in the busy week following the announcement, the online conversation never quite cooled off.

The business tech industry was awoken by the uproar over a controversial wireless merger on Monday morning, and, in the busy week following the announcement, the online conversation never quite cooled off.

AT&T announced on Sunday it will purchase wireless service provider T-Mobile from its German owner Deutsche Telekom, inciting unrest in the industry before the week even started. The $39 billion acquisition will merge the second-largest wireless service provider in the U.S. with the fourth-largest, making AT&T far and away No. 1 in the U.S. mobile market. In fact, by incorporating the additional 34 million T-Mobile subscribers, AT&T will be twice as large as the third largest, Sprint, and one-third larger than Verizon Wireless, the current No. 1.

However, the deal will need to survive rigorous regulatory standards in order for AT&T to claim its crown atop the U.S. wireless market. According to the Wall Street Journal, the odds appear stacked against AT&T. On Wednesday, an unnamed FCC official told the Wall Street Journal “there’s no way the [FCC] chairman’s office rubber-stamps this transaction.”

Speculation about the merger has fueled the fire of busy online conversation all week. Five days after the announcement, social mentions of “AT&T purchases T-Mobile” remain frequent, according to Google Realtime search results.

Meanwhile, Google was involved with its own controversy. On Monday, the company claimed the Chinese government is denying its residents access to its Gmail services.

“There is no technical issue on our side; we have checked extensively,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement emailed to InformationWeek. “This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”

This is hardly the first point of tension between Google and China, with two separate issues in 2007 and 2002 in which Chinese internet users were rerouted to Chinese search engines when they tried to access Google.com.

While Google battled one of the world’s most powerful governments, Apple lashed out against one of the industry’s largest cloud providers. On Tuesday, the company set off the battle of the app stores with a lawsuit against Amazon. The suit was filed almost immediately after Amazon officially unveiled its Appstore, which will be available on the Android mobile operating system. Because the name is similar to that of the Apple App Store, the Cupertino, California-based company filed a trademark lawsuit, indirectly warning Amazon not to step on its toes.

Amazon’s Appstore offers 3,800 apps, while Apple’s App Store offers more than 350,000. However, at press time, “Amazon Appstore” edged out “Apple App Store” in terms of related online conversations, Google Realtime results suggest.

Amazon isn’t the only company that gave Apple trouble this week. On Tuesday, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion finally announced an April 19 release date for the BlackBerry PlayBook, the company’s first contribution to the tablet market. With the same 7-inch screen size as the original Samsung Galaxy Tab and the exact same pricing model as Apple’s iPad, the announcement indicates RIM is not backing down against the tablet market’s two heaviest hitters.

Samsung seems to have prepared for the competition its original 7-inch tablet will face. The company diversified its tablet offering this week, unveiling the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 10.1 at the CTIA Wireless 2011 conference in Orlando, Florida. Each was designed to exceed the screen size of the PlayBook and iPad 2, respectively, while maintaining portability to live up to what Samsung calls “the world’s thinnest mobile tablets.” The 10.1 model will be available beginning June 8, and the 8.9 does not yet have a release date, which gives RIM a head start on its new tablet endeavor.

Still, George Colony, founder of the highly respected market analysis firm Forrester Research, predicts neither RIM nor Samsung tablets will slow down Apple. In an interview with Bloomberg, Colony cited Apple’s perennial 50-percent-or-better sales growth, claiming “they’re going to be a $200 billion revenue company.”

“They’ll be bigger than IBM next year, and they’ll be bigger than HP the year after that,” Colony said.

Online searches for “iPad 2” still heavily outweighed those for “BlackBerry PlayBook” and “Samsung Galaxy Tab” at press time, even though the latter two were released this week and the iPad 2 has been on the market for weeks.

With enough market competition to carry the industry through the weekend, keep your ears open as the online conversation gets louder.

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Colin NeagleColin Neagle is a former editor of Brafton's Business Technology section. He studied journalism, writing and mass communications in college, and has experience writing business news for a number of newspapers and online publications.
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