Facebook's Fresh Face: Tech Weekly

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Facebook's ( FB) revamped News Feed and anticipation about new Apple ( AAPL) products dominated the technology conversation this week.

On Thursday, Facebook unveiled its new News Feed, showing off changes aimed at keeping users more engaged and generating more revenue. Wall Street is decidedly bullish on the changes.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook is "trying to give everyone the best personalized newspaper." It broke up News Feed into several new tabs including All Friends, Music, Photos and Following. The social networking giant wants to make the feed more engaging. At the end of the presentation, Facebook said it was saying "goodbye to clutter," an acknowledgement of user criticism in the past.

With changes rolling out Thursday, the new feed will focus on three things: stories, a choice of other feeds, and mobile and desktop consistency, which could lead to higher advertising rates, according to Hudson Square Research analyst Dan Ernst.

Facebook ended the week marginally higher, closing at $27.96. The company has gained slightly more than 5% so far this year, falling behind the Nasdaq, which is up nearly 8% in 2013.

Elsewhere in the tech world, speculation swirled about new Apple products and ventures, and analysts continued to debate whether the tech giant's stock has bottomed.

Analysts at Barclays and Citigroup continued to trim expectations for Apple's iPhone and iPad sales amid skepticism that the company can maintain its profit margins in the increasingly competitive smartphone and tablet markets.

Citigroup analysts said this week that they're worried about both the iPhone and the iPad, reducing estimates for Apple's two major product lines and saying that end demand is softening.

"Indications of reduced demand to Apple's suppliers contribute to our existing concerns that end demand for 10" iPad and iPhone 5 in particular is softening, reflecting share loss by Apple in both the tablet market and the smartphone market," wrote analyst Glen Yeung, in a report. He cut his price target to $480 from $500, but kept a "neutral" rating on Apple's shares.

Yeung believes Apple's suppliers are seeing reduced demand for iPhone 5 components and he believes this is a result of softer demand for the iPhone 5, as well as the iPhone 4S.

The analyst wrote that expectations hinge on Apple launching the iPhone 5S in the company's fiscal fourth quarter, which ends in June. Even so, he's not expecting much in the way of iPhone 5S production in the fiscal third quarter of 2013, with just 3 million to 4 million units being manufactured,

Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes cut his estimates for Apple's earnings, saying that the second half of the year likely will bring new products and potential carrier additions, such as China Mobile ( CHL) and NTT DOCOMO ( DCM).

"Given our checks in the supply chain and factoring in increased competition from Samsung, we are lowering our iPhone forecast," he wrote. He cut iPhone estimates for the March quarter to 35 million, down from 36 million, with the full year at 150.8 million units.

In Apple's case, however, some on Wall Street expect that what goes down may eventually come up.

On Friday, Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha reversed course and said forecasts of Apple's falling earnings may be overblown, after a conference call with the company's CFO, Peter Oppenheimer.

Garcha came away from the call confident, noting "there are several longer term growth drivers that exist for Apple." He reiterated his "overweight" rating and $600 price target for Apple.

Last week, the analyst cut his iPhone sales estimates for the second quarter of 2013 to 30.6 million in iPhones from his previous estimate of 38.2 million.

That was due in part to a mid-2013 iPhone refresh, but also in part to impact from smartphones with larger screens from Samsung and other manufacturers.

Amid a continued Wall Street revaluation of Apple shares, rumors continue to circulate about a deal in which Intel will make chips for the company's iPhone and iPad.

According to Reuters, Intel has spoken to Apple about manufacturing chips for Apple's iPhone and iPad as part of its burgeoning, foundry business. Intel's x86 chips would not be inside the iPhone or iPad, but rather Intel would manufacture the A-series chips for Apple, as opposed to Samsung, from which Apple is trying to distance itself.

Speculation also re-emerged on whether Apple will enter the market for music streaming services, even if it doesn't venture out on its own.

Apple reportedly was interested in starting its own streaming service, to compete with the likes of Pandora Radio, and although nothing has come to market, Apple's still thinking about the industry.

The company's CEO Tim Cook met with Beats Electronics CEO Jimmy Iovine during a visit to Los Angeles last month, according to Reuters.

The two executives discussed Beats' "Project Daisy," a music subscription service the audio technology company announced earlier this year, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Also involved in the meeting was Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, who is largely responsible for the iTunes Music Store, according to the report.

Interest in what Apple will do with the iWatch is also increasing by the day.

Citing people familiar with Apple's plans, Bloomberg reported the Apple-branded watch could arrive in 2013.

According to the report, Apple has filed at least 79 patent applications which have the word "wrist" in it, including one for two-way communication of location data between a portable media device and an accessory. This patent allows media to be transferred between devices using GPS data with a separate accessory.

Apple shares closed the week up slightly to finish Friday's session at $431.72. The company's shares have fallen nearly 20% in 2013.

It was a busy week for Dell ( DELL) in its ongoing plan to be taken private by founder Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

The struggling PC-maker now has to face activist investor Carl Icahn, amid what increasingly appears to be a shareholder revolt against the company's plans to pay investors $13.65 a share to become private.

After taking a reported $1 billion-plus stake in Dell shares, Icahn said in a letter to the company's board of directors that he will propose a debt-financed $9-a-share dividend instead of the company's proposed $24.4 billion takeover, which he will vote against.

In his letter, Icahn indicated he's ready to start a proxy battle between Dell and many of its shareholders, who increasingly are in opposition to the takeover offer.

Icahn said his holding company, Icahn Enterprises, is willing to commit $2 billion to a bridge loan to finance the special dividend he's recommending for Dell. The billionaire activist said he's willing to commit a further $3.25 billion in financing for the dividend.

On Wednesday, Dell defended the proposed take-private deal and outlined why it thinks the bidding process has served shareholder interests so far.

Dell shares rose over 1% for the week, closing at $14.16. Friday's close represents a premium to the company's takeover offer as it currently stands.

In other tech news, Google ( GOOG) is reported to be laying off 1,200 workers at its Motorola Mobility unit.

According to an internal email message seen by The Wall Street Journal, the company is planning to cut as many as 1,200 jobs, or more than 10% of its Motorola workforce.

Many of those cuts will reportedly come from overseas operations in India and China, as well as staff reduction here in the U.S.

Streaming music service Pandora Media ( P), meanwhile, beat earnings as revenue rose sharply and the company's loss came in lower than Wall Street estimates.

The Internet radio company posted a non-GAAP loss of 4 cents a share on $125.1 million in revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Revenue rose 54% compared to the prior year's quarter, with advertising revenue climbing 51% year over year to $109 million. Subscription and other revenue jumped 74% during the same period to $16.1 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were looking for a loss of 5 cents a share on $122.81 million in revenue.

For fiscal year 2014, Pandora expects its bottom line to be in a range from a loss of 5 cents a share to a profit of 5 cents a share. Revenue is expected to be between $600 million and $620 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect a loss of 2 cents a share on $600.01 million in sales.

Pandora also announced that Chairman and CEO Joe Kennedy would be stepping down, but would remain CEO until a successor is found.

Shares in Pandora surged on the earnings report, putting weekly gains for the company in excess of 12%. Shares in Pandora closed Friday trading near one-year highs at $13.79, which reflects a gain so far this year of more than 50%.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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