The UpStream

Total Corporate Restructuring at BlackBerry Leads to Departure of Several Key Execs

posted Monday Nov 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Total Corporate Restructuring at BlackBerry Leads to Departure of Several Key Execs

When RIM changed its name to BlackBerry, you would have assumed that would be the time when the company would start from scratch with everything. But BlackBerry is a different type of company, one that operates in a quirky way and marches to the beat of its own drum. The transition began with the name, continued on months later with the new BlackBerry OS and has now come to the end of the turnover with the almost-entire replacement of the executive board. Oh, and throw in a failed buyout and BlackBerry's primary manufacturing facility cutting ties with the company.

In the announcement, BlackBerry said it is changing out many management and board positions. Seemingly starting over, COO Kristian Tear and CMO Frank Boulben have both left the company. James Yersh, who's served the company since 2008, will be replacing Brian Bidulka as Blackberry's CFO and Bidlulka will stay on board as a special advisor to the CEO for the rest of the fiscal year to help with the change. Other notables of the total shift in direction for the company is the resignation of board member Roger Martin, who has been with the company formerly known as RIM since 2007.

On these decisions, interim BlackBerry CEO John Chen said,

I thank Kristian and Frank for their efforts on behalf of BlackBerry. I look forward to working more directly with the talented teams of engineers, and the sales and marketing teams around the world to facilitate the BlackBerry turn-around and to drive innovation. I also thank Brian for his eight years of dedicated service to BlackBerry. I look forward to working with James and his Finance team as we move forward, execute on our plans and deliver long-term value for our shareholders.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone following the story of BlackBerry, as many people predicted a reshuffling like that was in the cards for a while now. Chen also made it known a month ago that this was going to happen before the year was out and that we'd see "new faces" in executive positions. Chen also predicts a turnaround for the company by June 2015, so we'll have to see if these moves will either help or hurt him reach that goal.

The good news is that if he does manage to right the ship according to his plan, his role as interim CEO at BlackBerry just might move into a permanent one, complete with a desk placard, assistant and the removal of the position over at jobs.rim.com.

Xbox One Experiencing Disc Drive Issues

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Xbox One Experiencing Disc Drive Issues

It is not unexpected, but it is disappointing: Microsoft's Xbox One consoles seem to be experiencing a disc drive issue. Following last week's PlayStation 4 launch hardware issues, a small number of Xbox One owners are claiming to be experiencing a loud grinding noise when inserting discs into their new consoles.

The noise, described by many as sounding like a chain saw, causes the console to be completely unresponsive to discs. Luckily, the expected way to play games on either of the next generation consoles is through digital distribution, rendering the disc drive issue mostly null.

Now, none of this is unexpected. Launch day consoles have been known for hardware issues for ages. The PS4 has the blue light of death, the original Wii had a series of hardware failures, plus we all know about the extended red ring issue on the Xbox 360. Microsoft has clarified their policy on this console,

Customers have the option for us to send a replacement console right away without waiting until they have returned their old one. This means a customer only has to wait a matter of days, rather than weeks to get back up and running.

At least this is better than the 360 launch, where buyers experiencing the issue were required to send the original console back before receiving a new one. Also, this time around, there are more consoles being produced, allowing many people to return their defective units to the retailer.

Have you experienced problems with either console? Let us know in the comments.

Photojournalist Awarded Millions in Twitter Copyright Case

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Photojournalist Awarded Millions in Twitter Copyright Case

Twitter is a great place to gather information. Throughout my week, I read about the top tech news and receive tips on what we should cover on the site. One of the problems with Twitter, however, is how easy it makes it for the big guys to steal content from the little guys.

For example, freelance photojournalist Daniel Morel took photos of the results of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Some of those photos he shared with the world through Twitter, probably expecting to affect people's feelings about the tragedy. What he didn't expect to have happen was for some of the big guys to see his photos and take them, add them to their collections and provide them to media outlets for distribution.

Unfortunately for Morel, his wishes would not be, as that is precisely what happened. Agence France-Presse retweeted his photos and then handed them to Getty Images, who is responsible for those photos making their way to ABC, CBS, CNN, The Washington Post and other media outlets. These media outlets quickly settled with Morel over the obvious infringement, but not the original offenders.

Those two went through a three year legal battle, ultimately resulting in a $1.2 million settlement against the willful infringers: AFP and Getty. Does this seem like a fair judgment against a company distributing photos from Twitter? Sound off in the comments.

Most US Carriers Agree to Stop Scam Texts

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Most US Carriers Agree to Stop Scam Texts

We all know the scourge of premium text messaging companies; services that send you an unsolicited message and charge you for that privilege. Since the creation of the short messaging services, almost everyone has had the opportunity to fight with their service provider over the charges incurred because of these services.

Fortunately for customers, 3 of the 4 major US carriers have recognized the cost of these calls to their bottom line and are doing something about it. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop charging their customers for these insidious text messages.

Well, maybe it isn't as easy as all of that. In fact, these three carriers are responding directly to requests from 45 of the 50 states to end this business model. The official announcement even came from Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, not from any of the carriers themselves.

There is one obvious, glaring omission: Verizon Wireless. VZW is also in the process of closing up their PSMS business, though it was not part of this announcement. Verizon says that it had previously decided to close down this business itself, but not because of state or customer complaints. Instead, they say they are exiting because of a change in the way customers retrieve information.

So, are you one of the many people who has been afflicted by this wireless disease? Are you excited to hear about the end of this business? Let us know in the comments.

Nokia Workers in China Factory on Strike After Deal with Microsoft

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nokia Workers in China Factory on Strike After Deal with Microsoft

Nokia's devices and services division becoming part of Microsoft is a great thing for consumers. It streamlines the Nokia handsets that features Windows Phone 8 and gives Microsoft a dedicated partner for its flagship operating system. That being said, there's a large group of people who are less than thrilled with this deal, that being Nokia workers in one of the company's manufacturing plants in China.

After having been forced to agree and sign to new contracts that contained "very undesirable" terms, several hundred Nokia workers did not go to work this week, and instead went on strike. This contracts were drawn up after Nokia came to terms with Microsoft on the new deal. As of now, almost 100 employees have lost their jobs from not showing up to work, which has caused the remaining workers to be joined by new strikers who have all said they will strike until something is done about these new contracts. One employee said that, "They have no grounds for firing us. We've already chosen this road to walk on, so we'll stick with it."

Now, a no-call no-show is grounds for firing in any state I have worked in, although rules in China might be a bit different; I'd imagine they'd be more harsh, though. At any rate, Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson has said that these employees were terminated because they didn't come to work, plain and simple. He did add that Nokia has already spoken with employees over the past couple of days to "explain the situation and dispel the many rumors and false statements." Naturally, a handful of workers have said that did not occur.

On the issue, Nokia said in a statement,

We continue our efforts to engage a small group of employees in our Dongguan facility who are demanding a severance package - for jobs they have not lost and which continue to offer the same salary and benefits. The vast majority of employees are at work. Our manufacturing operations in Dongguan continue. We have also adjusted our operations in our other manufacturing facilities.

So what happens next? All of the employees might be fired, or adversely, Nokia will draw up new contracts in order to limit the damage from this making the news. Either way, it looks like the protests will continue until one of those two things happen.

Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

posted Saturday Nov 23, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

Kaz Hirai has been at the head of the Sony ship for quite some time now, and has led the charge of turning around the company. His idea of a revival plan coupled with several purchases that were key to Sony's future success made everything appear like Hirai would be able to right the ship. However, after numbers were still in the red and Sony's board rejected the proposal to spin off its media division, Sony has taken to drastic measures to save the company. The solution? Slashing the budget for the media division.

While the consumer electronics side of Sony has leveled off over the past year, movies like Smurfs 2 has seen Sony's media division plummet, and the numbers show in the box office. The board of directors must be confused as they have first decided to maintain the branch within Sony yet are now rumored to be cutting the budget by over $250 million after outspoken and prolific investors have made their concerns known. So the fix is that we'll see Sony take a "significant shift" from making terrible movies and will start putting more eggs into the television business.

Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal has said that "we are reducing the number of films we make." For consumers, that means a reduction of five movies released each year, down to 18 total that we'll see in theaters beginning in 2015. We'll also see the company reduce its summer blockbusters, if they can be called that, from nine to four, beginning next summer.

So what all is included in a $250 million budget cut? According to Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton it's "overhead and procurement" items being slashed from the expenditures.

We are in discussions with experts to help identify more efficient ways to do business in the future.

However, according to other sources close to the matter, it could be that Sony will be auctioning off some of its properties on the movie-side of things, specifically, Marvel brands. It's definitely beneficial to both Sony and Disney if Sony wants lots of money for things like Spider-Man, and Disney has the blank check ready to make all of it happen. And, if that rumor comes to fruition, we'd finally get the Civil War that we all know and need in our lives.

In hindsight, it seems that selling off the media division to Daniel Loeb's Third Point Hedge Fund, the leading shareholder of Sony, would've been the best option. Second best option would be to make better movies, because when films featuring Channing Tatum don't sell well, it's apparent that there's some serious problems in other places. So what'll happen in real life? We're not really sure but I'm sure we'll have an answer on an impromptu conference call that's supposed to take place next week. We'll be here to report any news coming our way.

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