THE WRAP: NFC boosted by Google, Orange; HP's Apotheker axed

This week saw some major momentum around NFC, with Google launching its Wallet service in the US and Orange opening a contactless ticket scheme in France. Meanwhile HP’s chief executive was ousted, and analysts warned of dire times ahead at RIM.
Google secured the backing of big name credit card firms including Visa and American Express for the launch of its NFC-based mobile payment service. Named Wallet, the service is initially available only on US carrier Sprint’s 4G devices, but will quickly be expanded to other regions.
While the firm’s European chief Peter Ayliffe says Google expects mobile payments to truly take off in 2012, the firm will face fierce competition from players including PayPal, and consortiums of European and US operators.
One of those European operators – Orange – applied NFC a little differently, opening a mobile ticketing trial at a soccer match in France. The M-Stadium test involved 20 fans equipped with tickets pre-loaded onto an NFC-enabled SIM, and is the first of 12 such projects being backed by the French government.
Money was the root of all problems at HP this week, as the board sacked chief Leo Apotheker after less than a year in the job, reportedly due to the company’s perilous financial state. Investors are said to have been angered by recent profit forecast cuts and an apparently disjointed strategy from the former top man.
Ovum research fellow Carter Lusher believes uncertainty leading up to the announced appointment of replacement CEO Meg Whitman was damaging to HP. He claimed staff had become demoralized and that the rumors cost the firm customers.
RIM also came under close analyst scrutiny this week, with Jeffries staffer Peter Misek stating plans to profit by selling the firm’s patent horde were unlikely to reap the rewards investors expect. He estimated the retail value of the horde at $1.28 billion (€951 million) – far lower than the $2.5 billion paper value.
Adam Leach, an Ovum analyst, also weighed in, stating that RIM urgently needs new devices running the latest version of its BlackBerry operating system following a near 60% fall in net income during fiscal 2Q12 – the three months to end August.
Rival handset maker Samsung also hit the headlines with OS-related news, with reports it is considering throwing its home-grown Bada software into the open source community to beef up the number of developers working on the platform.
Samsung also matched RIM in the patent news stakes, with an executive revealing the firm may escalate its battle with Apple by seeking a ban on shipments of the forthcoming iPhone 5.
Network news was catered for by Vodafone, which secured its Asia Pacific strategy through a deal with the Conexus Alliance that should simplify the job of partnering with local operators. Meanwhile, regulators approved the laying of the first subsea cable linking Taiwan to mainland China – a $33.4 million project scheduled to be lit in March.
Red tape is stalling Pakistan’s 3G license auction, as officials wrangle over which firms will be allowed to bid. A previous attempt to auction the spectrum was stalled by the nation’s incumbent operators.
And Austria emerged as Europe’s top market for mobile broadband, with penetration equal to 46% of all broadband connections in the country and one of the lowest monthly prices for mobile connectivity. Switzerland was the bottom country by penetration and price.