Weekend news roundup: RIM may sell BlackBerry business, UK kicks off open data revolution

25 Jun 2012

In our roundup of the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, RIM is considering selling off its BlackBerry hardware business among a number of options it has up its sleeve, the UK’s health sector gets open data moving by releasing cancer figures, and broadband customer care takes a sinister turn for the worst in Ireland.

Is RIM planning to sell off its mobile device division?

The Sunday Times reports that RIM is considering splitting its handset division and messaging network to two separate companies and may sell off the BlackBerry hardware business.

It is understood that the Canadian smartphone company that made mobile messaging tangible since the late 1990s has been working with JP Morgan and RBC to conduct a strategic review.

Selling the BlackBery division is just one option, another option is selling a stake in the company to a technology giant like Microsoft.

RIM’s plan is expected to be revealed before the end of the summer.

Do Apple store workers get the same deal as the rest of the tech sector?

As part of its iEconomy series, The New York Times reported how Apple’s retail army is zealously loyal but questions whether this loyalty is rewarded in fiscal terms.

In one example, a New Hampshire employee Jordon Golson had his best three months ever, shifting almost US$1m worth of computers and gadgets.

“I was earning $11.25 an hour,” he said. “Part of me was thinking, ‘This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.’ But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough.”

The paper reported how last year the company’s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other US retailer – wireless or otherwise – and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.

But by comparison, a Tiffany worker gets US$15.60 an hour compared with US$11.91 per Apple store employee.

Worldwide, Apple’s stores sold US$16bn in merchandise. However, the paper notes, Apple’s employees worldwide enjoyed little of that wealth.

UK health sector gets the open data revolution rolling

The release of cancer figures to the public in the UK marks the start of a new era of open data that will extend to justice and employment, The Observer reported.

Patients will be able to compare how well each GP performs in saving the lives of people with cancer after the government announces the release online of a new wave of data.

Survival rates within every practice in England and Wales will be available, along with details on how many patients are urgently referred to cancer consultants and the number of patients they successfully diagnose. The figures, released as part of the “open government” agenda, will be updated regularly as they change.

At the same time, data about primary care trusts will be released, allowing patients to compare survival rates in different parts of the country.

Ministers believe the radical move will drive up standards of care as people will be able to see variations between GP practices and turn their backs on those whose performance has cost lives.

Broadband customer care frustration takes a chilling twist

Customer care in areas like broadband and TV services are the stuff of constant consumer frustration in Ireland and everyone knows someone who has taken time off work to await the arrival of a service person who almost never turns up.

Well, events took a chilling turn recently in Ireland when a UPC broadband salesman was imprisoned by a frustrated customer who threatened to have his fingers cut off if his broadband wasn’t installed in 24 hours.

The Irish Independent reported that Dariusz Pelc was given a four-year suspended sentence in a Dublin court last week and ordered to return to his native Poland to serve an outstanding two-year sentence for threatening behaviour.

The judge in the case acknowledged Pelc’s frustration but ruled that his response was completely inappropriate.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years