There have been many noteworthy developments in the technology space recently. Some of these will likely have a material impact on the companies in the sector and the markets they serve.
Upcoming Console Battle Heating Up
Sony (SNE) is squaring off against Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report) yet again, as the release of the two companies’ next generation consoles draws near. Both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are set to be released in the fourth quarter of the current year. Early reviews have been encouraging for both consoles, but it appears that Sony will probably have an edge coming out of the gate, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the PlayStation 4 will likely be cheaper. PlayStation 4 is priced at $399, compared to $499 for the Xbox One. The reason for the differential is that the new Xbox will come with the Kinect, whereas the PS4 will not come with a motion sensor controller. This may be fine for customers who want the Kinect, though others will probably prefer to save the $100 or to spend it on games. Moreover, other users may be concerned that the Kinect sensor will be used to collect data on them, given that the device must be connected to the Xbox One at all times in order to be functional. Secondly, the Xbox One has been criticized for its online connectivity requirements, its mandatory integration with the Kinect, and unclear restrictions on the transfer of used titles. In response to customer ire, Microsoft has agreed to drop most of its originally planned digital rights management and Internet connection requirements. This will likely allow Microsoft to greatly limit any fallout resulting from this issue, but Sony may well still have a (temporary) advantage here.
BlackBerry’s Disappointing Performance
Shares of BlackBerry (BBRY) declined significantly last Friday, following its first-quarter earnings release (fiscal 2013 ends February 22, 2014). Despite a 10% top-line advance, the company posted a share loss of $0.13. This was still a considerable improvement from the $0.37 share loss registered in the prior-year period, but was well below consensus expectations. Investors had been more optimistic that the recent launch of BlackBerry’s newest mobile operating system, the BlackBerry 10, would improve the beleaguered smartphone maker’s prospects. Moreover, the company had introduced its Z10 phone in the United States in March, and the Q10 phone in June. Whether or not these products are a success in the marketplace remains to be seen. For the time being, though, the investor enthusiasm the stock enjoyed late in 2012 appears overdone.
Zynga Gets a Boost
Shares of Zynga (ZNGA) have perked up recently, on news that the struggling developer of social games has found a new Chief Executive Officer to replace founder Marc Pincus. Don Mattrick will take the helm, and will have a seat on the board of directors. Mr. Mattrick has much experience in the video game industry. He has served as the President of Worldwide Studios at Electronic Arts (EA), and, most recently, as President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. In that role, he was responsible for the team that grew the Xbox 360’s global installed base by 700% to more than 75 million consoles. Mr. Pincus will stay on as Chairman and Chief Product Officer. Investors have cheered the move, encouraged that Mr. Mattrick’s efforts will allow the company to turn the corner.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.