Today: Google (GOOG) announces new smartphone, bigger tablet, while Microsoft launches Windows Phone 8 in San Francisco. Also, job cuts at PayPal, and Hurricane Sandy forces markets to close for weather for first time in 27 years.
Google, Microsoft unveil new mobile offerings
Two tech giants made attempts to weaken Apple's (AAPL) grip on the mobile-device market Monday, as Google announced a new Android tablet and smartphone, and Microsoft unveiled a new version of its operating system for smartphones.
Google's new offerings include a Nexus smartphone and a 10-inch version of the Nexus tablet. The 16-gigabyte version of Nexus 10 tablet will start at $399, about $100 less than the entry-level fourth-generation Apple iPad. With 2,560 x 1,600 resoultion and 300 pixels per inch, Google calls the Nexus 10 "the highest resolution tablet on the planet."
Mountain View-based Google also upgraded the Nexus 7 tablet, a week after Apple rolled out its long-awaited 7.9-inch iPad Mini. The new Nexus 7 will feature 32 GB and start at $249, pricier than Amazon's comparable $159 Kindle Fire but still below the $329 starting price of the iPad Mini. Analysts were skeptical that the upgrade would be enough to sway prospective iPad Mini customers, largely because Android's apps are built more for smartphones than tablets. "If all you've got are smartphone apps that are kind of blown up to the big screen and don't really take advantage of the tablet, consumers aren't going to be interested." Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told Bloomberg News.
The Nexus 4 smartphone features a 4.7-inch screen, which is bigger than the iPhone's and just a bit smaller than Samsung's Galaxy S3. The phone, however, lacks LTE capability, leading come critics to ask why Android's flagship device does not feature flagship 4G technology.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Microsoft unveiled the new version of its Windows Phone software, which for the first time will share the underlying bones of Microsoft's flagship operating system for computers, simplifying sharing among multiple devices. "If you're one of hundreds of millions of PC users that will use Windows 8 this year, there is no better phone for you than a Windows Phone," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, according to a CNet report.
Windows Phone 8 will offer a year of ad-free Pandora Internet radio service, and feature improvements to search and maps functions. Microsoft lags far behind Apple and Google in the smartphone market, and a lack of apps will likely continue to be the system's main drawback; Windows Phone has 120,000 apps available, compared to 675,000 for Android and 700,000 for the iPhone.
Still, experts were impressed by Windows Phone 8: "The platform looks very competitive," IDC analyst Al Hilwa told Bloomberg News, and the hardware will be "on par with iOS and Android devices."
PayPal to cut 2.5 percent of workforce
PayPal President David Marcus announced the cuts Monday, saying the company will merge nine product groups into one in order to streamline operations and simplify product development. He announced 120 contractor jobs will be cut as well.
"In a large company, at some point you reach the law of diminishing returns when more people means slower," Marcus said, according to a Reuters report. "You have a lot of duplication of roles."
"This is a difficult day at PayPal. These are good people, good friends and colleagues," Marcus wrote in a blog post. "Moving forward, I'm confident these changes will make PayPal even better and stronger."
The cuts amount to about 2.5 percent of San Jose-based PayPal's 13,000 employees. EBay will reportedly take a $15 million pretax restructuring charge for the job cuts.
PayPal is facing increasing competition from mobile payment rivals such as Square, and Apple and Google have entered the fray with mobile wallet apps.
Storm closes Wall Street
Wall Street was shut down Monday as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, and markets will remain closed Tuesday.
"It doesn't make sense to put people in harm's way or to only have half a market," Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group in New York, told Reuters. It was time in 27 years that weather had forced the markets to close.
The markets hope to reopen Wednesday. Reuters reports the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and CME Group will lose about $6 million in trading revenue each day the markets are closed.
Six IPOs scheduled for later in the week, including that of retailer Restoration Hardware, will likely be delayed, Reuters reported. The storm also prevented some Facebook employees from selling their stock. The "lock up" period for 234 million employee-owned Facebook shares expired Monday, but with markets closed, they'll have to wait a couple of more days. After its shares tanked in the months following its record IPO in May, Facebook shares rose 12 percent last week, closing at $21.94.
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services.