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Tech News: Should Tim Cook Buy Back Apple Shares?

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Plus, Richard Branson weighs in on Marissa Mayer's work-from-home decision and the White House backs cellphone unlocking.

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Warren Buffett Urges Tim Cook to Buy Back Apple Shares

Since hitting its $705 peak in September 2012, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares have lost more than 35% of their value. And with Apple's famously large hoard of cash, investing guru Warren Buffett said that Apple CEO Tim Cook should ignore the push from activist investor David Einhorn to issue preferred shares, and buy back Apple stock instead.

"I did talk with Steve Jobs a few years ago about what they might do with the cash. The best thing you can do with a business is run it well, and the shares will respond," Buffett said in a three-hour appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box Monday morning. "When Steve called me, I said, 'Is your stock cheap?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Do you have more cash than you need?' He said, 'A little.' [laughs] I said, 'Then buy back your stock.' He didn't... But if you could buy dollar bills for $.80, it's a very good thing to do."

In other Apple news, it appears that the company's upcoming wristwatch device could be out by the end of the years, an Apple insider told Bloomberg. The Verge added that the new Apple device will run on Apple's iOS instead of the iPod nano's touch-based operating system.

A possible reason why Apple is pushing its wristwatch device out sooner than a television, which has been hyped for a longer time, is that gross margins on watches are typically four times bigger than those for televisions.

White House Calls for the Legalization of Cellphone Unlocking

Could consumers have the right to unlock their cellphones once their contracts with carriers like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) have expired? It has been illegal since January 26 to unlock newly-purchased phones thanks to a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, but the White House apparently does not agree.

Responding to a petition on WhiteHouse.gov, R. David Edelman, White House senior advisor for Internet, innovation, and privacy, wrote:
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties... And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network...

It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.
Here's how the CTIA, a wireless trade group that represents wireless carriers, justifies the ban on cellphone unlocking:

"The Librarian of Congress concluded that an exemption was not necessary because the largest nationwide carriers have liberal, publicly available unlocking policies, and because unlocked phones are freely available in the marketplace - many at low prices," CTIA legal counsel Michael Altschul said in a statement, according to All Things D. "Customers have numerous options when purchasing mobile devices. They may choose to purchase devices at full price with no lock, or at a substantially discounted price - typically hundreds of dollars less than the full price - by signing a contract with a carrier. When the contract terms are satisfied, or for a reason that is included in the carrier's unlocking policy - such as a trip outside the US - carriers will unlock a phone at their customer's request."

Samsung Galaxy S4 to Introduce Eye-Based Scrolling?

Samsung's (PINK:SSNLF) Galaxy smartphones have emerged to become the biggest challenger to the previously all-conquering iPhone, and it appears that the next iteration of the series, the Galaxy S4, could feature eye-based scrolling, at least according to a Samsung insider who spoke with the New York Times.

The insider said that the S4 would be able to detect when readers have reached the bottom of a page, and will then automatically scroll down without them having to manually touch the screen and swipe down.

No details about what type of technology was used to track these eye movements, or if this feature would be highlighted at the upcoming Galaxy S4 press conference in New York on March 14, were given, but we'll all find out if Samsung has indeed scaled new heights with its smartphone technology soon enough.

Richard Branson Weighs In on Marissa Mayer's Work-From-Home Policy Change

Ever since Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer reversed her company's work-from-home policy and mandated all employees to head into Yahoo offices for work, opinions on her decision have come fast and furious.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, threw in his support for Mayer, saying that he always felt that telecommuting is "one of the dumber ideas I've ever heard."

"Yes, there are some things you can do at home. But having a chat line is not the same thing as standing at the water cooler. And standing at the water cooler is where you get a lot of ideas and information and it's a euphemism for a lot of interpersonal dialogue," he explained.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, however, disagreed with Mayer and Bloomberg.

"On this occasion I disagree completely. Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families. They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking," said Branson in a blog post

"The key for me is that in today's world I do not think it is effective or productive to force your employees one way or another. Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce.... In 30 years time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed," he concluded.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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