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Yesterday, Yahoo turned in what its fans kindly described as a well-at-least-we’re-not-falling-off-the cliff earnings report.

True, true, but it was nothing to be proud of either, with earnings and revenue down in the third quarter, along with a slew of other business deficits. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer gamely tried to smooth it all over – a unique talent of hers – in a kind of retro-chic method, by pointing out that Yahoo’s user traffic is back to 2011 levels and that mobile was growing.

Of course, it’s booming everywhere across the Internet, with rivals managing to monetize the explosive growth that Yahoo simply still cannot.

As the New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth aptly wrote in the lede of her piece about the Q3 debacle: “The honeymoon is over … 15 months after she took over, Ms. Mayer has failed to translate Yahoo’s user increase into meaningful revenue growth.”

This is not to say that she will not eventually, especially if she can keep attracting top talent to help her.

But it’s lucky Mayer has the magnificent performance of China’s Alibaba Group as a lifesaver. Yahoo, which owns a big stake in the e-commerce juggernaut, has seen its stock boom in tandem with investor frenzy to get any piece of the Alibaba rocket ship before its expected IPO next year.

Essentially: Buy Yahoo, get Alibaba; or perhaps more simply put, buy Yahoo as a proxy for it.

But why take my word for it? Here’s the Yahoo slides, press release and also a filing on a new agreement with Alibaba to be able to hold onto more of its shares upon the IPO (Yahoo knows a good investment when they see it) to peruse to get a handle on what’s actually going on.

And that is: A still-damaged core business that is struggling mightily to turn around, with a lot of help from Asia and also the mojo provided by Mayer’s own personal halo.

Here’s Yahoo’s own data to look over:

Q313_YHOOEarningsSlides

Yahoo – Yahoo Reports Third Quarter 2013 Results

Form 8-K

(Photo from Mayer’s Tumblr blog, showing new sign at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale HQ with new logo she helped design.)

teens_texting

Flickr/Ei Katsumata

The adage should be familiar by now: Teens may have a Facebook profile, but they sure don’t think it’s cool anymore.

In a move on Wednesday afternoon, however, Facebook is starting to become a bit like its younger, hipper competitors.

Starting this afternoon, new Facebook teenage users age 13 through 17 will now be able to create public posts viewable by any other user, whether or not they’re connected to one another on Facebook. Heretofore, teenagers were only allowed to make posts viewable to friends, or people that were one-degree separated from in their direct network (“friends of friends”).

Also, teens can also let people “follow” them (a la Twitter or Instagram) instead of befriending them, a way to cordon off the crowd that you only want to see certain types of posts.

Facebook postures the move as no big deal – just like any other social network would allow for.

“While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services,” Facebook said in a company blog post (italics mine).

And that, in and of itself, is an interesting statement. Some could argue that the entire original point of Facebook is that it wasn’t like other social networks such as Twitter; Facebook was the place to go for personal interactions with people you know. Twitter was the “global town square” where you could talk with anyone you wanted.

Facebook_F380

But this is just another in a series of recent moves by Facebook to become a more public-facing network, one that, perhaps, the teens will enjoy all the more.

A few quick caveats: Teens who are new to the network will begin posting to “friends” by default, and pop-up tutorials will explain how to change privacy settings in case they want to go public. I imagine that could help Facebook dodge some early flak from privacy watchdogs.

And to be fair to Facebook, that’s a greater degree of flexibility and control in terms of sharing audience than Twitter, which basically has only two settings – public or private.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what the Facebook of, say, a year from now will look like, how different it may be from the one of just a few years ago. Perhaps it’ll be one that the kids think is pretty cool.

Or perhaps not.

Blogger Kevin McNeish has been writing his Unleash Your Inner App developer series for over a year now, sharing his app development expertise with nonprogrammers who have a great idea for an app but don’t have the programming skills to build it. The series has been very popular as a result of Kevin’s easy-to-follow, in-depth instructions. Now the series is being updated to reflect the most recent version of iOS 7 and we’ll be posting an updated post every weekday starting today.

Of course, iOS 8 will be released sometime this fall, and Kevin will be updating the series once more. In the meantime, if you have an idea for an app, what are you waiting for?

Visit the first post in the series here.

Or visit the first post in the series to get updated here.

Topics:

  • Apps
  • Top Story
  • How-To
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A few hours after pronouncing a ruling on one of Samsung’s numerous lawsuits against Apple, the Mannheim Regional Court held a hearing on one of Apple’s many infringement lawsuits against Samsung.

Today’s hearing relate to a Gebrauchsmuster (“utility model”), which is an intellectual property right that could be vaguely described as a fast-track patent that comes with various limitations. Companies are free to file for patents and utility models on the same invention (or on closely related inventions), and that’s what Apple did with its ever-more-famous slide-to-unlock image invention. Stemming from the same original application, two manifestations of this intellectual property right exist in parallel in the German market: a patent (EP1964022 as well as a German utility model (DE212006000081).

By now I have watched three German court hearings related to the slide-to-unlock invention. In mid-December, the Mannheim court heard Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent lawsuit against Samsung. In its original complaint, Apple asserted both the patent and the utility model, but the court deemed it appropriate to sever the utility model-related claims from the patent case given the complexity and unique characteristics of both sets of issues. The slide-to-unlock patent is also being asserted against Motorola in a Munich-based court. At the Munich hearing, I believe some reference to the utility model was made, but it’s unclear whether it was part of the same case or also at issue in a separate proceeding there – or whether it was only mentioned in connection with validity issues common to both. Unlike in U.S. court proceedings, complaints and similar documents aren’t publicly available over here.

Two fundamental differences between utility models and patents played a key role at today’s hearing:

Since utility models are registered without an examination process comparable to the examination of patent applications, there is no presumption of validity. It’s a prerequisite for an infringement ruling that the court concludes that the claimed invention was novel and non-obvious at the time of registration. In this case, the court believes a potential decision on validity or invalidity is too close to call, at least before today’s oral argument took place. As a result, the court may opt to stay this case pending the resolution (at least at the first instance) of a parallel invalidation proceeding before the Munich-based Federal Patent Court. As courts do in all cases in which a stay is a possibility, Judge Andreas Voss pointed to the benefits of a more efficient use of court resources as well as the avoidance of inconsistent rulings.

The strongest counterargument against a stay is that justice delayed is justice denied. In this case, that argument is particularly strong since Apple registered the asserted utility model in 2006. The maximum term of validity of utility models is 10 years (while patents are valid for up to 20 years). After the resolution of all of the pending issues, the asserted utility model would be on the verge of expiration and, therefore, commercially devalued.

Apple’s counsel said that it wasn’t possible to assert this utility model against Samsung’s products much earlier because they are relatively new. Samsung’s counsel replied that some of them are two to three years old. At least in some cases, I have no doubt that Apple’s couldn’t-sue-sooner claim is correct. The best example is the Galaxy Nexus, with respect to which Apple today filed (with yesterday’s date) supplemental infringement contentions.

I haven’t previously seen the Galaxy Nexus named explicitly as an accused product in any Apple lawsuit. It doesn’t even appear to be targeted by a new design rights lawsuit brought by Apple in D sseldorf this month. The Galaxy Nexus didn’t show up on the list of accused products that Germany’s most-read IT news site obtained from a spokesman for the D sseldorf court. The Galaxy Nexus is an “Android lead device” (for the latest Android version, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich), which makes it particularly key to Google’s strategy.

On March 16, 2012, the Mannheim Regional Court will pronounce some kind of a decision, which could be a ruling (if the court considers the broader claims of that utility model valid, infringement appears to be beyond reasonable doubt), a stay (pending the aforementioned parallel nullity proceedings), or a decision to appoint an independent expert in order to help the judges assess whether the claimed utility model is obvious or non-obvious over certain prior art combinations. Apple would obviously prefer for the court to reach that ocnclusion without further delay, but as a second-best solution it could live with the appointment of a court expert. It just hopes to avoid a stay.

In connection with the disputed validity of that utility, Samsung emphasizes an obscure Swedish device that previously persuaded a Dutch judge to doubt the validity of Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent. In the utility model case, the Mannheim Regional Court could decide in Apple’s favor without even having to go into technical details on the Neonode device. In order for the widely-unknown device to be eligible as prior art in a utility model case, the standard for availability is higher than for patents. It’s not clear whether Samsung can prove that this device counts as prior art in this context.

Rather than going into further detail on the issues surrounding the slide-to-unlock invention, I’ll just wait for the court order that will come down on March 16.

In closing I’ll tell an anecdote from the beginning of today’s hearing. Samsung’s counsel moved to stay the case until Apple posts a bond covering its potential liability for court fees and Samsung’s legal fees according to the German “loser pays” principle (which in cases like this awards amounts that are typically much less than what a defendant like Samsung actually spends). In my estimate, that amount is on the order of a few hundred thousand euros. That’s not a lot of money for these two companies. Such a bond is formally necessary because the plaintiff in this case, Apple Inc., is domiciled outside of the European Union. Apple’s counsel objected to this untimely motion, and after a recess of about 15 minutes, the court agreed that it would be sufficient for Apple to post the required bond at a later time. If Samsung’s motion had succeeded, it would probably have delayed the case by only a few weeks – over an amount that no reasonable creditor would have to be worried about if Apple, a company that has far greater cash reserves than anyone else in the industry.

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