Samsung Unloads on Apple: Tech Weekly

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Samsung grabbed the spotlight this week by unveiling the Galaxy S 4 phone, putting pressure on main competitor Apple ( AAPL).

The S 4, Samsung's flagship phone, is only 7.9 mm thick and weighs 130 grams. That's thinner than the S 3, which is 8.6 mm thick and weighs 133 grams. The S 4 has a 5-inch screen, compared with the S 3's 4.8-inch display.

Samsung Galaxy S 4: Disaster 101

The S 4 will run version 4.2.2 of Google's ( GOOG) Android operating system, codenamed Jelly Bean. The phone comes with either a 1.9-GHz quad-core processor or a 1.6-GHz octa-core processor, depending on the country.

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J.K. Shin, president of Samsung's mobile-communications division, described the new phone as "a life companion for a simpler life," and said it will be available on 327 mobile operators in 155 countries by the end of April. AT&T ( T) quickly announced it will carry the device, as did Sprint ( S). No pricing was announced for the phone.

Coincidentally, Google said Andy Rubin, the chief of Android, of which Samsung is a major partner, would be stepping down. Sundar Pichai, who leads the Chrome and Apps teams, will take over. "Andy's decided it's time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google," Google CEO Larry Page wrote in a letter.

Though Samsung isn't publicly traded in the U.S., Google slipped this week, falling 2.1% to finish at $814.30.

Unlike Samsung, Apple ( AAPL) received nothing but criticism from Wall Street.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek cut his estimates on Apple earlier in the week. He forecasts that Apple will earn $9.52 a share on $41.34 billion in revenue in the current quarter, down from $10.04 and $42.69 billion. Misek cut his price target to $420 from $500 and maintained his "hold" rating.

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich lowered his estimates to $9.66 a share from $10.05, and reduced his estimate on iPhone shipments by 1.5 million to 35.5 million. He cut iPhone numbers by 1 million to 28.5 million in the next quarter. The price target went to $550 from $600, but the "buy" rating remains unchanged.

Another Apple analyst, Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu, also decreased his Apple estimates ahead of potential product refreshes in the second half. He cut his revenue forecast to $41.3 billion from $42.9 billion for the March quarter, and lowered his earnings estimates to $10 a share from $10.25. Both fiscal 2013 and 2014 were reduced. Wu said the bigger iPhone refresh isn't likely to happen until 2014. The price target was lowered to $630 from $715, and the "buy" rating remained steady.

Still, not everyone on Wall Street is negative on Apple.

BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk upgraded Apple to "buy" from "neutral," setting a $540 price target, implying 25% upside from current levels. Piecyk noted that the stock is reflecting low buy-side expectations, as the sell-side moves, one by one, to cut earnings estimates.

Piecyk lowered fiscal 2013 revenue by $6 billion to $174 billion, "due mainly to lower estimated iPhone and iPad sales," noting increased competition and the coming upgrade to the iPhone 5S, expected in the summer, will slow iPhone sales until then.

Is Apple Capitulating?

Piecyk based his upgrade, in part, on his expectations that Apple will release a bigger iPhone, as well as a lower-priced iPhone for emerging markets. There is also additional revenue for 2014 due to an unspecified product, which Piecyk believes can add as much as $5 billion in revenue. Apple has been rumored in recent months to be releasing a so-called iWatch sometime this year.

Shares of Apple gained 2.8% this week to finish at $443.66.

There was other news outside of Samsung and Apple this week. Netflix ( NFLX) and Facebook ( FB) teamed up to integrate Netflix's service with Facebook, allowing its streaming members in the U.S. to link their Netflix and Facebook accounts.

"It's a great feature for Netflix," Hudson Square Research analyst Dan Ernst said in a phone interview this week. "Adding social recommendations is one of the more useful features for Netflix. I think it makes a lot of sense."

Shares of Netflix were little changed at $184.85, while Facebook fell 4.7% to $26.65.

VMware ( VMW) and EMC ( EMC) announced plans to create a new company, Pivotal, aimed at the booming big-data market.

EMC will own 69% of the spinoff, while VMware will hold the remaining 31%. Virtualization specialist VMware also raised its operating margin outlook at the joint strategic forum held earlier this week.

Shares of both companies enjoyed strong weeks, with VMware tacking on 12% to finish at $83.85, while EMC gained 4.3% to $25.35.

Earnings season starts next week, with Oracle ( ORCL) set to report results Wednesday after the close of trading.

The business-software giant, which was upgraded earlier this week, is expected to earn 66 cents a share on $9.39 billion in revenue.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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