Biz Break: Oracle gets sued again; smartphone sales slow; Pandora’s ‘Dub Nation’ station

Top Of The Order:  

They Say Things Happen In Threes: Honestly, can a day go by without a new lawsuit popping up that involves Oracle?

Just look at this list:

Last week, the Redwood City-based software giant struck out in its efforts to wring $9 billion out of Google for its use of the Java programming language in the Android operating system. (Oracle plans to appeal its loss.)

On Tuesday, the trial began in Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s $3 billion lawsuit against Oracle for what the Palo Alto company believes was Oracle’s underhanded role in stifling the growth of the Itanium chipset, which the old HP created along with Intel.

And now, here comes the Big “O” on the way to another lawsuit. This time, it’s one of Oracle’s former employees who is kicking the company like Draymond Green did to Steven Adams in the Golden State Warriors’ NBA Western Conference Final playoff series.

The plaintiff, Svetlana Blackburn, a former Oracle senior finance manager, claims that she was pressured to fudge expected sales figures for the company’s cloud services, and add millions of dollars to anticipated billings. Blackburn, who filed her suit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said she was fired last October after she raised concerns about the alleged billing chicanery.

Oracle has denied any wrongdoing and plans on addressing Blackburn’s charges as the case progresses.

Middle Innings:

Slow And Steady Loses The Race: If the worldwide market for smartphone sales were like, say, a semi truck, it would be burning up its brakes right now.

That’s because IDC’s latest forecast for smartphone shipments estimates the market will grow just 3.1 percent this year over 2015, to 1.48 billion units. That growth rate is more than two-thirds less than the 10.5 percent increase the industry saw between 2014 and 2015.

IDC said the main reason for the slowdown in sales is a change in consumer buying habits in big markets like the U.S., Western Europe and China, where monthly payment plans for phones are just beginning to take hold after year where two-year subsidized phone contracts had been the norm.

“Consumers everywhere are getting savvy about how and where they buy their smartphones,” said Ryan Reith, a program vice president with IDC. “Consumers are having more say over which brands they want and at the same time able to bargain shop.”

IDC said Android phones will remain in the top spot worldwide, with sales of 1.24 billion such phones expected this year. That would be good for growth of 6.2 percent over 2015.

However, IDC estimates that Apple’s iPhone sales will slip by 2 percent, to almost 227 million shipments this year, and sales of Microsoft’s Windows Phones devices will plunge by 61.6 percent, to 11.2 million units by the end of 2016.

Listen Up, Dubs Fans…: The Warriors continue in their quest to repeat as NBA champions when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the Oracle Arena Thursday night. In order to get the locals ready for tipoff, and what Warriors fans hope will be a four-game sweep over Lebron James and the Cavs, Oakland-based Pandora Media is providing a soundtrack for the series.

Pandora members received emails Thursday afternoon promoting a new “Dub Nation” station from the Internet radio leader. All of the artists and their songs have a direct connection to the Warriors’ home in Oakland.

The playlist, at least initially, seems weighted toward hip-hop artists. When I clicked on the link provided by Pandora, the first three songs were Kafani’s “Fast (Like a NASCAR)”, Yukmouth’s “East Oakland” and “Get Stupid” from the late Mac Dre. After that, I began skipping through songs in hopes that the original Super Dope Homeboy from the Oaktown, MC Hammer, would appear.

Alas, like Hammer might say himself, I couldn’t touch this. Pandora only lets you skip a certain number of songs per day, and per station. And when I reached my limit, the former Oakland A’s “executive” and pipeline to late owner Charlie O. Finley never showed up.

Oh, and for any Cavaliers fans out there (maybe insert sound of crickets chirping here?), Pandora has you covered, too.

The “All In 216” station (216 being the Cleveland area code), features music connected to the city that’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of the initial songs that came up included “Amazing” by Kanye West (uh, he voiced a character on “The Cleveland Show” on Fox a few times), “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses (hey, original drummer Steven Adler was born in Cleveland!), and “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders, and Akron-born singer Chrissie Hynde.

And if the Warriors play like they are capable, Cleveland will be soon be gone, too, until next season.

Bottom Of The Lineup: 

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Thursday…

Movin’ On Up: Servicesource International shares rose 7.5 percent, and gains also came from Palo Alto Networks, FireEye, NetSuite and GoPro.

In The Red: Decliners included Oclaro, NeoPhotonics, Advanced Micro Devices, Oracle and Tessera Technologies.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index edged up by 0.4 percent to 4,971.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent to finish the day at 17,838.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index also tacked on 0.3 percent to reach 2,105.

Quote Of The Day: “It’s the best I’ve felt all year,” San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. He must have felt pretty good, because Bumgarner socked his second home run of the year Thursday, a two-run shot, and struck out 11 Atlanta Braves to lead the Giants to a 6-0 victory.

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Photo: Oracle headquarters in Redwood City. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


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