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BestBuy releases poor earnings

Today's headlines: Best Buy slashes its sales forecast, and Google adds voice and video chat to Gmail.

Information technology (IT) channel news in brief for Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008.

Best Buy paints bleak picture

The retail trough deepened further today as Best Buy cut its profit forecasts and offered an alarming look at the short-term future of retail electronics. The Minneapolis-based company now expects earnings for the year to come in between $2.30 and $2.90 a share on sales of $43.7 billion to $45.5 billion. Same-store sales for that period could fall 1% to 8%, according to the company. Best Buy had previously expected earnings of $3.25 to $3.40 per share for the year, including an annual comparable-store sales gain of 2% to 3%. Analysts had expected earnings of $3.03 per share for the year.

"Since mid-September, rapid, seismic changes in consumer behavior have created the most difficult climate we've ever seen," said Brad Anderson, vice chairman and CEO of Best Buy, in a statement. "Best Buy simply can't adjust fast enough to maintain our earnings momentum for this year."

For its most recent quarter, comparable-store sales fell about 7.6%, following a modest decline in the previous quarter. A strengthening dollar could also pressure Best Buy's revenue and profit from international operations, the company said. The news comes just days after rival Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and started closing more than 150 of its stores.

Google adds video chat to Gmail

Google yesterday added voice and video chat to Gmail. The free feature lets users see and talk to each other directly from the Web application. If it catches on, Gmail voice and video chat could give become another selling point for Google Apps, the company's suite of hosted office productivity and communication software.

Here's a video of how the new features work:

Sprint extends Cisco UC to mobile devices

Sprint will bring Cisco unified communications (UC) to its cell phones. Sprint Wireless Integration will extend Cisco's Unified Communications Manager to enterprise wireless users, enabling fixed-mobile convergence. Users will be able to pass off calls between landlines and mobile devices with one phone number and one voicemail box. Mobile enterprise users will also have other UC features like presence extended to their phones. Most of the wireless carriers, including Sprint, have been long angling for enterprise users, and UC is one method of securing enterprise deals.

Fortinet launches security appliance

Fortinet this week announced a new multi-threat security appliance, the FortiGate-620B, that aims to bring smaller enterprises the same type of performance typically found in higher-end systems. FortiGate has a 16 Gbps firewall, 12 Gbps VPN throughput and is expandable to up to 24 ports.

The FortiGate-620B appliance integrates eight core security functions, including antivirus, intrusion prevention, spyware prevention, antispam, Web content filtering, traffic shaping, VPN and firewall. Customers can choose to purchase FortiGate appliances with all of these features or integrate just a few functions.

Check out yesterday's IT channel news briefs.

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