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    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Reuters - Oracle claims firm stole its intellectual property

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    Oracle claims firm stole its intellectual property

    Friday, Jan 29, 2010 12:28AM UTC

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oracle Corp has filed a suit against a little known rival that provides low-cost software maintenance services, in a case similar to one that Oracle is fighting against rival SAP AG.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Nevada on Monday, alleges that privately held Rimini Street stole copyrighted material using the online access codes of Oracle customers.

    Rimini Street Chief Executive Seth Ravin denied the allegations, saying in an interview on Thursday that his company had done nothing wrong.

    "We are going to fight this battle," he said. "The specific allegations we are going to be answering vigorously and aggressively when the time comes in court."

    Las Vegas-based Rimini Street sells updates and bug-fixes to Oracle's software for about half of what Oracle charges its customers. Ravin said his company booked about $150 million in business last year.

    The charges are similar to claims that Oracle made in a high-profile lawsuit against SAP's TomorrowNow business unit.

    Oracle alleges that SAP's Texas-based TomorrowNow business unit illegally used customer log-ins to steal copyrighted materials from Oracle's password-protected Web site.

    That case is due to go to trial in San Francisco federal court in November.

    Ravin is a co-founder of TomorrowNow, which SAP bought in January 2005. He founded Rimini Street in September 2005.

    Maintenance services are one of Oracle's core profit generators. That business generated $11.8 billion in its most recent fiscal year, or about half Oracle's total revenue.

    "We are committed to enforcing our intellectual property rights against those who steal or infringe" upon them, Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement.

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Carol Bishopric, Gary Hill)

    Reuters - AT&T profit rises 26 percent, plans more spending

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    AT&T profit rises 26 percent, plans more spending

    Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 8:0PM UTC

    By Paul Thomasch and Sinead Carew

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers' obsession with using smartphones to find restaurants, surf the web and navigate city streets helped propel a 26 percent rise in AT&T's <T.N> quarterly profit -- but at a cost for the operator.

    The strain that wireless devices like smartphones and e-readers have placed on AT&T's network is such that the company announced on Thursday it will increase capital spending by about $2 billion this year, targeting improvements in its wireless service.

    The increase was unveiled as AT&T posted revenue and earnings that largely matched analysts' estimates, although its addition of 2.7 million net subscribers in the fourth quarter was nearly 1 million more than expected.

    Analysts did, however, point out that just 910,000 of those were the highly prized monthly bill-paying customers, compared with bigger rival Verizon Wireless' addition of 1.15 million postpaid users.

    Every new AT&T customer puts more demands on its network. Consumers have complained about service problems in cities such New York and San Francisco, where there are a high proportion of data-hungry iPhone users surfing the web on the go. AT&T is the exclusive U.S. carrier for Apple Inc's <AAPL.O> wildly popular iPhone.

    Given the strain on its network, AT&T's announcement yesterday that it will support Apple's iPad tablet is being viewed as a mixed blessing.

    To that end, AT&T will increase capital spending by up to 10 percent from 2009 to a range of $18 billion to $19 billion. The roughly $2 billion increase includes spending on wireless network capacity and wires connecting mobile towers.

    SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY

    The spending boost comes as AT&T, along with rivals like Verizon, complained of a sluggish economy.

    "Looking to 2010 we're modeling a slow recovery in the economy and employment," said Rick Lindner, chief financial officer of AT&T.

    But even in a weak economy consumers appear willing to buy devices like iPhone, which was activated on AT&T's network by 3.1 million customers in the quarter.

    Lindner said the high-profile iPad would come with "very positive" economics for AT&T because it neither has to share service revenue with Apple nor subsidize the price of the device.

    In contrast, AT&T's payment of hefty subsidies for the iPhone has made its profit margins slimmer than some analysts had hoped even as it brings millions of customers to its network.

    AT&T said it would expand wireless margins this year to the low 40 percent range from below 39 percent in the fourth quarter, and it set a long-term goal of margins around 45 percent. Verizon already produces margins in this range.

    While iPad will not hit the market for months, other similar devices are already helping AT&T.

    Analysts said, in fact, that the quarter's subscriber surprise came from the number of customers that AT&T added with wireless links to devices such as Amazon.com Inc's <AMZN.O> Kindle, Sony Corp's <6758.T> Reader Daily Edition, and the Barnes & Noble <BKS.N> Nook. In this "emerging devices" category, AT&T brought about 1 million users aboard.

    Devices such as e-readers are seen bringing in much less monthly revenue per customer than traditional cellphones, but since they are unsubsidized they offer healthy profit margins.

    "I don't want to overstate the value of it, but it's a very high profit margin business," said Piper Jaffray analyst Chris Larsen. "There is very little cost associated with the business -- it might be a low revenue per individual user business, but it's a high margin business."

    AT&T's quarterly earnings rose in line with Wall Street expectations to $3.01 billion, or 51 cents a share, from $2.40 billion, or 41 cents a share, a year ago, when it took charges for staff cuts and investment losses.

    Revenue fell nearly 1 percent to $30.9 billion, which met analyst estimates, according Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    For 2010, AT&T said it would deliver "stable consolidated revenues and stable-to-improved consolidated operating income margins, leading to stable-to-improved earnings per share."

    Its shares were up 3 cents at $25.59 cents on NYSE.

    (Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Sinead Carew; Editing by Derek Caney and Steve Orlofsky)

    Reuters - Startpage launches anonymous Web search service

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    Startpage launches anonymous Web search service

    Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 2:2PM UTC

    By Georgina Prodhan

    LONDON (Reuters) - Search-engine company Startpage launched a service allowing users concerned about privacy to carry out Web searches and click on linked pages without being identified, tracked or recorded.

    Unlike mainstream search engines that gather commercially valuable information about user behavior, privately held Startpage (www.startpage.com) has focused on privacy since 2005.

    Startpage -- also known as Ixquick outside the United States and Britain -- had already offered private searching, but users would leave the company's protection when they clicked on a search result and entered a third-party website.

    The new service offers use of a Startpage proxy that means the user is invisible to all websites, though pages load more slowly since Startpage must first retrieve the contents and then redisplay them.

    "My wake-up call came last year," says Katherine Albrecht, who runs U.S. media relations and marketing for Startpage and who says she noticed Google Inc had installed a program monitoring users who typed in terms indicating they had influenza -- and was sharing the information with the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

    "I had been a privacy advocate for 10 years, but even so I was using Google just like everybody else," she said.

    The chief executive of Google, which dominates the global Web search market, outraged critics last month with comments in a TV interview. "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place," Eric Schmidt said in a interview on news channel CNBC.

    "The reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time," he said. "We are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities."

    In 2006, however, Google was the only major search engine to reject a U.S. Justice Department subpoena to hand over data, saying the demand violated the privacy of users' searches and its own trade secrets.

    Rivals Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc complied. Startpage does not keep information about its users on file, so it could not be forced to hand anything over.

    Startpage says it has been profitable for the last five years. It is funded by advertising including sponsored links that are matched to the content of Websites and searches, but not to user profiles.

    Startpage, which was founded in New York and is owned by private Dutch company Surfboard Holding BV, does not publish user numbers but says it had served over 1.2 billion searches as of December 2009.

    It also competes with Infospace's Dogpile, WebCrawler and MetaCrawler in metasearch, or returning results from multiple search engines. It is also exploring ways to offer private email.

    (Editing by David Holmes)

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