Say what you want about the tech sector, but it's never boring. Any given week will keep tech investors flooded with product announcements, earnings surprises, and crazy strategy shifts that absolutely nobody saw coming.
These are three of the most shocking pieces of tech news this week.
Surprise, surprise! Image source: Flickr user Benson Kua.
1. Cisco takes down VirnetX
Shares of mobile security firm VirnetX (NYSEMKT: VHC ) plunged 38% in two days as its litigation strategy hit a major roadblock.
Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO ) walked away from VirnetX's patent infringement lawsuit without as much as a slap on the wrist, because the jury found Cisco not infringing on any of the licensing company's inventions.
VirnetX investors had plenty of reason to hope for a very different outcome. The same batch of patents had already extracted a $200 million settlement from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) and a $368 million damage award from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) . The Apple decision was reaffirmed in February -- by the same judge who managed the Cisco case. And this suit was filed in the Eastern district of Texas, where patent plaintiffs go to win.
But this jury broke with the district's tradition and found Cisco blameless on all counts. VirnetX must be mulling an appeal right now, but its legal strategy has obviously taken a big hit. The Microsoft and Apple outcomes seemed to pave the way to unlimited riches, as anyone involved in secure networking would have to pay their bills. With the Cisco decision in hand, the road ahead just filled up with potholes and speed bumps.
2. Google won South by Southwest
South by Southwest isn't a technology showcase. It's a music fest that turns Austin upside down for a week every year. You might call it the most intense "battle of the bands" in the known world. Nobody expects major tech news out of the street party, though.
That's why you might raise an eyebrow when fellow Fool Tim Beyers declares Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) the winner of SXSW.
Big G set up a display for the festival, shining a spotlight on two interesting consumer devices. A hands-on demonstration of the Google Glass wearable computing tool was followed by 12 pairs of chip-equipped shoes. These devices may not score big on store shelves anytime soon, but they won the tech battle by default in Austin because Apple didn't give us as much as a leak. The long-predicted Apple TV set seems more distant than ever, and recent rumors of a watch-like Apple gadget weren't exploited at this show.
Google didn't stop there. The company also sent a platoon of high-level speakers to the event, exploring topics such as mobile search, developing software for Google Glass, and taking moonshots at very hard problems. The moonshot project got extra attention, as the keynote on the topic was followed by a five-member, two-hour panel discussion. A few other companies held multiple presentations, but I dare you to find one that matched Google's visionary content. These were no mere product launches, but a mission statement in the Jerry Maguire vein.
3. BlackBerry sold a million phones
BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY ) desperately needs its recently launched BB10 platform to turn heads and empty wallets. This is perhaps the company's last shot at staying relevant in today's rapidly evolving mobile industry. But the launch left much to be desired, and we've seen reports that the new Z10 devices isn't doing well in the wild.
That's why a rare bit of good news came as a shock this week. BlackBerry shares jumped as much as 14% on Wednesday when the company disclosed a massive Z10 order.
An "established partner" has ordered 1 million BlackBerry smartphones, marking "the largest ever single purchase order in BlackBerry's history." No word on who the large customer is, or indeed whether BB10 devices accounted for the entire order. It's also unclear whether these devices are going straight to the buyer's employees or into wireless store inventories. Still, it's big news for a struggling vendor.
The good feeling faded fast, and BlackBerry ended the week just 5% higher. The company reports earnings in less than two weeks, giving us the first glimpse of actual BB10 sales figures. Add BlackBerry to your Foolish watchlist and stay tuned.
As one of the most dominant Internet companies ever, Google has made a habit of driving strong returns for its shareholders. However, like many other Web companies, it's also struggling to adapt to an increasingly mobile world. Despite gaining an enviable lead with its Android operating system, the market isn't sold. That's why it's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource.