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February 15, 2013

Technology News Briefs — Feb. 15, 2013

BlackBerry Co-Founder Sells Last of Stake in Company

BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie has cut all ties with the Canadian company.

Balsillie announced Feb. 14 he has sold the last of his shares — 26.8 million which equaled a 5.1 percent stake in the company he helped create 20 years ago.

The sale, which was final as of Dec. 31, was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in accordance with its rules that investors with more than a five percent stake in a company must report any stock transaction.

Balsillie, who was the third-largest investor in the Waterloo, Ont. company, has declined to comment on his decision to sell, as has the company itself.

The announcement of the Balsillie sale, initially, had a detrimental effect on BlackBerry shares — they plummeted about 7.5 percent Feb. 14. Its recovery was quick, however. Shares rose 7.7 percent to close at $15.07.

Apple Patent Suit Against Samsung May Be Put On Hold

Apple’s search technology patent lawsuit against arch-rival Samsung may be put on hold until after an appeals court resolves a separate lawsuit between the two companies — which could be some months away.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple’s request for a sales ban against 26 of Samsung handsets last fall.

Koh’s ruling came in spite of a jury verdict in August finding Samsung violated six of Apple’s patents. The jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion. If the ruling holds up, it will set the record as the largest patent verdict in history.

Apple has appealed for more than half a billion dollars in additional damages against Samsung for patent violation after losing its injunction bid.

In a separate suit, Apple alleges Samsung has violated additional patents, including the rights to the search technology integrated in the iPhone Siri voice feature. The case is scheduled for trial in March 2014.

Koh, in court Feb. 14, told the legal counsel for both companies a decision by the appeals court would cover both lawsuits, Reuters reported. Koh suggested the second case be suspended until after the appeals court ruled on the first.

“I just don’t know if we really need two cases on this,” Koh said.

Victoria Maroulis, Samsung’s lawyer, agreed, saying there was a sizeable “overlap” between the two cases.

Apple’s lawyer William Lee, however, disagreed, saying the suits should continue because they involve different patents.

Koh ordered the two legal teams to discuss the idea and report their opinions by March 7.

BlackBerry 10, Windows 8 to Duke It Out for No. 3 Spot

It’s little surprise that Android continues to be the operating system of choice with Apple’s iOS taking second place — the real drama in the Smartphone market, however, comes courtesy of BlackBerry and Microsoft.

According to the latest report from IDC, the BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone 8 are in a tight race for third place.

Google’s Android accounted for 70.1 per cent of the Smartphone market in the final quarter of 2012 while Apple’s iOS had a 21 per cent market share.

BlackBerry dropped from 8.1 per cent in 2011 to 3.2 per cent in the last quarter of 2012, but remains in third place despite the dip.

Windows Phone is gaining, however, and now has a 2.5 per cent share of the market.

BlackBerry with its newly launched BlackBerry 10 OS is aggressively marketing its new product in the hopes of regaining lost ground.

“Now that BlackBerry has unveiled BB10, the company is faced with migrating current BlackBerry users to upgrade while persuading Smartphone users of other platforms, including previous BlackBerry users, to switch,“ the report says.

Microsoft is also continuing to push Windows 8 as the premier choice and should be strong competition for BlackBerry given the addition of Nokia’s strong commitment behind the platform — a key driver in Microsoft’s recent success.