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T-Mobie TV Coming Next Year

December 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc announced that it would launch a new streaming television service next year after buying startup Layer3 TV for an undisclosed amount.

The moves come as competitors seek ways to provide content to win over customers in a saturated mobile market, and after the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier and No. 4 rival Sprint Corp ended merger talks last month.

 T-Mobile Chief Financial Officer Braxton Carter said last week at an investor conference that the company would now focus on smaller, “tuck-in” acquisitions.

T-Mobile plans to launch a subscription service with advertising next year using Layer3’s technology platform and relationships with content providers. The company will create a “variety of offers,” some low cost, its executives said on a conference call with reporters.

While T-Mobile will not rule out original content, it will not be a focus to start, Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert said.

Sprint in November said it would offer unlimited data plan customers free subscriptions to the streaming service Hulu LLC, two months after T-Mobile introduced a similar offer with Netflix Inc.

AT&T Inc, which is in the process of buying Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion, has already started bundling the premium channel HBO with wireless service.

T-Mobile’s service will enter a crowded market for online television streaming that includes competitors such as AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Dish Network Corp’s Sling TV.

The wireless carrier said it expected its 17,000 retail stores and more than 30 million smartphone shipments per year to help drive customer trials.

 “We believe the near-term revenue and profitability outlook will be more muted as T-Mobile scales the product and integrates it with their wireless customer base,” said Jennifer Fritzsche, analyst at Wells Fargo, in a research note. “But we would not underestimate T-Mobile longer-term in the TV space after the disruption they’ve caused in the traditional mobile ecosystem.”

AT&T Testing High-Speed Broadband Over Power Lines

December 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

AT&T Inc began trials in Georgia state and a non-U.S. location to deliver high-speed internet over power lines, the No. 2 wireless carrier confirmed, marking its latest push to offer faster broadband service to more customers.

AT&T aims to eventually deliver speeds faster than the 1 gigabit per second consumers can currently get through fiber internet service using high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines. While the Georgia trial is in a rural area, the service could potentially be deployed in suburbs and cities, the company said in a statement.

“We think this product is eventually one that could actually serve anywhere near a power line,” said Marachel Knight, AT&T’s senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, in an interview. She added that AT&T chose an international trial location in part because the market opportunity extends beyond the United States.

AT&T said it had no timeline for commercial deployment and that it would look to expand trials as it develops the technology.

“Potentially, it can be a really big deal,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. “You need the power company to play ball with you. That’s the downside.”

AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, have also been testing 5G internet services in which the last leg of the connection is delivered via a radio signal to homes using high-frequency airwaves known as millimeter wave spectrum.

Verizon said in November it would launch the faster broadband service in three to five U.S. markets in 2018.

Twitter 280-Character Limit Is Popular, According To Report

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Perhaps Twitter’s character expansion was a good gamble after all when it doubled its signature 140-character limit.

In November, Twitter expanded the length allowed for tweets to 280 characters from the original 140 characters. When it happened, the company was roundly criticized and mocked, not just for the new length limit, but also for the silliness of the whole exercise or out of concern that Twitter wasn’t focused on more important issues like tamping down on harassment. The event became such a topic of conversation that #Twitter280 began trending.

Now, early data indicates the change is being well received after all.

“If a tweet can hook you in the first few words, we’ll read all of it,” said Frank Speiser, co-founder of the social media analysis firm SocialFlow, which conducted a study of Twitter’s usage. In a nutshell, he found: “We want to read longer tweets.”

SocialFlow tracked approximately 30,000 thousand tweets between Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 and found tweets longer than 140 characters were being retweeted 26.52 times on average, compared with 13.71 times for shorter ones. It also discovered that longer tweets were being liked on average 50.28 times, compared with 29.96 times for shorter tweets.

BuzzFeed reported on SocialFlow’s findings earlier on Friday.

The findings come about a month after the social network officially decided to let its 330 million users tweet up to 280 characters after a “successful” trial run with a select group of users in September. Now, it appears many Twitter users, including President Donald Trump, are regularly using long tweets to get their messages out.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the company’s November blog post when the 280-character limit was broadly released. The company said then its internal data indicated people who wrote longer tweets were retweeted more often, got more followers and generally “spent more time on Twitter.”

YouTube Rumored To Unveil Paid Music Streaming Service

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

YouTube is gearing up to launch a new music subscription service in March, according to Bloomberg, a move that would be Google-parent Alphabet’s third attempt to challenge rivals Apple and Spotify.

The new streaming service, tentatively called Remix, will feature on-demand streaming and incorporate video clips from YouTube, sources described as familiar with the company’s plans told the news outlet. Major recording label Warner Music Group has already signed on, but YouTube is still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, Bloomberg reported.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube would be taking its third swing at the music-streaming business. Google introduced an audio-only streaming service called Google Play Music in 2011. Three years later, Google launched YouTube Music Key, a subscription service that offered music videos and ad-free songs on YouTube for $10 a month. Google changed the name to YouTube Red in 2015 and expanded it to all kinds of YouTube videos.

YouTube has a long way to catch up with Apple and Spotify, though. Spotify has more than 60 million paying users as of July, while Apples Music has about 27 million subscribers.

Amazon’s Alexa For Business Eyes The Enterprise Market

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Much as smartphones did in the late 2000s,voice-activated A.I. assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant appear ready to migrate from homes into the workplace. That’s the the idea behind this month’s launch of Alexa for Business by Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services.

The virtual assistant, unveiled at the company’s Re:Invent conference, is aimed at automating and simplifying a variety of tedious office tasks. It allows users to check calendars, reorder supplies, set up meetings and kick off video conference calls using voice commands directed at its Echo devices.

Amazon is not the first to target its intelligent assistant for workplace uses. Cisco, for example, announced its Spark Assistant last month; it’s designed specifically to take some of the pain out of organizing video conferences.  Microsoft, meanwhile, has integrated Cortana with its Office 365 applications.

All of those moves serve to highlight the emergence of natural language processing and voice recognition and the potential for a new way of interacting with workplace software.

“Voice will very much have a big part to play in how we collaborate and work over the next 10  years,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman. “The Alexa and Cisco announcements are both key indicators of that.”

There are already tens of thousands of Alexa skills available to consumer users that are now accessible with Alexa for Business; beyond that, Amazon expects companies will start to build their own skills for internal purposes.

Capital One, for example, has built a skill that enables IT staff to quickly check the status of corporate systems and receive updates on high-severity incidents.

Another user, WeWork, has placed Amazon Echo devices around offices at its headquarters as part of a pilot project. The WeWork set-up, touted by Amazon. allows employees to reserve meetings rooms, start meetings and file help-desk tickets.

A range of companies, including Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, Ring Central and ServiceNow are also integrating their applications with Alexa for Business. Users can also access corporate applications through their home devices, in effect giving them the ability to ask Alexa what important meetings are lined up on a given day, and make changes to personal work schedule.

All of those moves serve to highlight the emergence of natural language processing and voice recognition and the potential for a new way of interacting with workplace software.

“Voice will very much have a big part to play in how we collaborate and work over the next 10  years,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman. “The Alexa and Cisco announcements are both key indicators of that.”

There are already tens of thousands of Alexa skills available to consumer users that are now accessible with Alexa for Business; beyond that, Amazon expects companies will start to build their own skills for internal purposes.

Capital One, for example, has built a skill that enables IT staff to quickly check the status of corporate systems and receive updates on high-severity incidents.

Another user, WeWork, has placed Amazon Echo devices around offices at its headquarters as part of a pilot project. The WeWork set-up, touted by Amazon. allows employees to reserve meetings rooms, start meetings and file help-desk tickets.

A range of companies, including Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, Ring Central and ServiceNow are also integrating their applications with Alexa for Business. Users can also access corporate applications through their home devices, in effect giving them the ability to ask Alexa what important meetings are lined up on a given day, and make changes to personal work schedule.

DirecTV Now Streaming Service Passes 1M Subscribers Mark

December 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It took little more than a year for AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming video service to hit its first million subscribers.

The Dallas telecommunications provider confirmed that more than 1 million consumers have subscribed to its service, which offers a mix of live television channels and on-demand content over the internet to your phone, tablet or TV box like a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick.

The figure marks solid progress for the upstart service, though it still lags behind Sling TV, which Comscore said in June had more than 2 million customers. DirecTV Now launched last November, while Sling TV launched in February of 2015.

“This milestone is an incredible testament to the thousands of hours many people spent working to bring this product online and continually improving it during the past year,” said David Christopher, president of AT&T Entertainment Group, in a statement.

DirecTV Now is a critical component of AT&T’s strategy to transform from a company simply offering internet and wireless service to one creating as well as distributing your favorite entertainment. After gobbling up satellite TV provider DirecTV, AT&T is fighting the Justice Department for the right to complete its acquisition of Time Warner, home to “Harry Potter” and “Batman.”

AT&T teased further improvements to the service, including a digital video recorder in the cloud, more concurrent streams, the ability to download shows, and 4K and HD video.

Australia Regulators Set Sight On Facebook, Google

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Australia’s competition regulator announced plans to investigate whether U.S. online giants Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google has disrupted the news media market to the detriment of publishers and consumers.

Like their rivals globally, Australia’s traditional media companies have been squeezed by online rivals, as advertising dollars have followed eyeballs to digital distributors such as Google, Facebook and Netflix Inc.

 The government ordered the probe as part of wider media reforms, amid growing concern for the future of journalism and the quality of news following years of declining profits and newsroom job cuts and the rise of fake news.

“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

A Google spokesman said, “We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The idea for an ACCC investigation was hatched during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year, which resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country’s big players to boost their market share to better compete against online disruptors.

Independent media analyst Peter Cox told Reuters it was unclear what measures the competition regulator could recommend to the government even if it found the country’s media sector was increasingly anti-competitive.

“You could see this as a stepping stone towards another type of reform, such as tax,” said Cox.

 Jurisdictions around the world, including the European Union, are grappling with how to tax technology giants with global operations.

Currently corporate taxes are paid where firms have a physical presence, which allows digital multinationals to book most of their profits where they have set up headquarters as opposed to where they make their money.

The Australian probe will have power to demand information from businesses and hold hearings. It is due to make its final report in 18 months.

Verizon Launching 5G Wireless Network Next Year

December 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon confirmed that it will to launch wireless 5G service in up to five US cities by the end of next year.

Sacramento, California, is expected in the second half of the year to be the first city to get access to the 5G network, which promises to be 10 to 100 times faster than Verizon’s speediest existing cellular connections. Information on other market deployments is expected to be revealed later, the company said in a statement.

“Verizon estimates the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be approximately 30 million households nationwide,” the company said.

5G networks were previously expected to arrive in 2019. The conventional wisdom is that the early examples will be for what’s called “fixed wireless” connections, bringing fast broadband to your house without the need to dig a pesky trench for a fiber-optic cable.

The announcement comes after Verizon, one of many companies trumpeting its work in 5G, completed trials of the technology in 11 US markets earlier this year. Verizon said the launch was made possible by its confidence in new technology powered by millimeter-wave spectrum — very high frequencies that can carry large amounts of data and transfer signals with minimal delay.

Verizon isn’t the only company racing toward 5G. AT&T has already tested 5G as a broadband replacement in an Intel office in Austin, Texas, and has tested its DirecTV Now video service over 5G in that city as well.

SoftBank Gets Steep Discount On Uber Shares

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp has offered to acquire shares of Uber Technologies Inc at a valuation of $48 billion, a 30 percent discount to its most recent valuation of $68.5 billion, a person familiar with the matter said.

The investment, which was approved by the Uber board in October, would also trigger a string of governance changes at Uber that would limit some early shareholders’ voting power, expand the board from 11 to 17 directors and cut the influence of former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.

The investment and board moves are supported by new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi and come at the end of a year of scandals and change for Uber, including the announcement last week that executives covered up a major hack in 2016.

 The consortium of investors led by SoftBank and Dragoneer Investment Group plan to take a stake of at least 14 percent in the ride-services company. The tender offer will launch on Tuesday, sources told Reuters, and investors have nearly a month to respond.

The SoftBank-led investor group will acquire two of the new board seats, with the remaining four going to independent directors.

Another person familiar with the deal said the offer price was in line with what investors had been expecting. SoftBank’s offer is close to what Uber was worth in 2015, when shares were priced a little less than $40 apiece for a $51 billion valuation, according to data from PitchBook Inc.

Even at the discounted price, Uber is the world’s second-highest valued private venture-backed company, after China’s ride-service company Didi Chuxing, and the offer is a chance for early investors to lock in substantial profits and for employees to cash in shares that have to date only had value on paper. Shareholders, including employees, with at least 10,000 shares are eligible to sell.

Nearly all secondary transactions, when a new investor purchases from existing shareholders, come at a discount to the company’s valuation.

However, the 30 percent discount is steep given Uber’s plan to launch an initial public offering in 2019, said Phil Haslett, co-founder and head of investments at secondary marketplace EquityZen. Usually valuation cuts of this size happen when a company is at risk of being sold at a heavy discount, which Uber is not.

“It really comes down to a re-pricing of Uber’s value,” Haslett said.

Since it was valued at $68.5 billion more than a year ago, the company has been hit by scandals, including accusations of sexual harassment. It has also weathered federal criminal probes into software Uber used to deceive regulators and allegations of paying bribes to authorities in Asia, and a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo, accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets.

Is Toshiba Staying In The PC Business

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba has said that it has not entered into talks with any company to sell its personal computer business, denying media reports that it was in negotiations to sell the unit to Taiwan’s Asustek.

To be fair, it was not the only outfit supposed to be snuffling around Tosh’s headquarters, The Nikkei business daily reported. China’s Lenovo had also expressed interest in the PC unit

Cash-strapped Toshiba has previously said it is looking to sell the PC business, a small part of the industrial conglomerate, as it races to bolster its balance sheet by the end of March to avoid a possible delisting. The PC business accounted for just 3.5 percent of Toshiba’s net revenue in April-September of $747 million and was not worth the effort.

Hit by liabilities arising from its now bankrupt US nuclear unit, Toshiba has been plunged into financial crisis and agreed in September to sell its prized chip unit, Toshiba Memory, to a group led by Bain Capital for $18 billion.

But a highly competitive and contentious auction process led to delays in deciding on the buyer and has meant that Toshiba may not obtain the necessary antitrust clearance by the end of the financial year in March. Without funds from the sale, it is likely to end the year in negative net worth for a second year in a row, putting pressure on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to delist it.

To avoid that, Toshiba is looking at raising $5.3 billion by offering new shares in a third-party allotment – and hopes to finalize the capital injection by the end of the year to allow for shareholder approval.

Toshiba repeated on Friday its stance that it was aiming to close the chip unit deal by the end of March.

It said earlier this week that it would sell its television unit to China’s Hisense Group for $115 million.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Rumored To Show Off New Flagship Phones At CES

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung lovers may get a sneak peek at the upcoming Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus earlier than expected.

According to VentureBeat, the pair of marquee phones is rumored to make an appearance at CES 2018, the huge consumer electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas.

Though Samsung is expected to fully introduce the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus sometime in March 2018 (similar to how it launched the S8 and S8 Plus during a March keynote this year), a cameo at CES in January would push up previews of the devices by two months.

The degree of this sneak peek remains unclear. Citing “someone briefed on the company’s plans,” VentureBeat says the phones would make their “first public appearance” at CES.

However, it’s unusual for Samsung to bring physical demos of upcoming flagships at CES. Instead, the Korean phone maker could tease the device by showing a short video clip or digital image rendering. For now, Samsung said it “does not comment on product rumors or speculation.”

Whatever the debut strategy may be, speculation around the devices are swirling. The Galaxy S9 Plus, for instance, is rumored by the same source to have more RAM and a dual-camera in addition to a bigger display. This is different from the current S8 and S8 Plus, which only differ in size.

The phones are also expected to have Snapdragon 845 processors (and an upcoming Exynos processor for other global models), expandable memory and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

CNET will be on the ground reporting from CES 2018, so if the phones do make an appearance we’ll be there with all the news.

Facebook Workplace Finds Enterprise Client in Virgin Atlantic

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The nature of Virgin Atlantic’s business means many of its employees are continuously globetrotting. Ensuring effective communications channels – a challenge for any company – isn’t easy: nearly half of the airline’s 10,000 employees are cabin or cockpit crew members.

Two months ago, the airline rolled out Facebook’s Workplace, the business version of the social network tool, in a bid to improve information-sharing between staff and senior execs. It currently functions primarily as an intranet for internal communications, though the company plans to integrate the software with other apps and processes, such as ServiceNow, eventually.

Since it was launched, Workplace has been widely adopted across the organization, said Virgin Atlantic CIO and senior vice president for technology Don Langford.

“We went live in the beginning of September and our target for the end of the year was for us to be at 65% adoption,” he said. “We are already over that now; we have got over 7,000 people up on it, so over 70%.”

Aside from the 70% activation rate, 65% are accessing the tool on a weekly basis, and 32% of groups are active weekly. (Tellingly, 34% of the users have added their own Workplace profile pictures.)

Deploying an enterprise social network is one thing, but convincing people to use it daily is often quite another. Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, said that adoption rate of Workplace at Virgin Atlantic is “very impressive,” particularly considering the number of users accessing the tool on a weekly basis.

“It validates Workplace’s value proposition, which is based on widespread adoption across the organization,” he said.

Langford credited the swift uptake to the familiarity workers already had with Facebook – a potential lesson for other companies.

“Workplace has that advantage of having that same interface, that same way of working,” he said, “and we felt – correctly it turned out – that using Workplace would allow our people to move quite seamlessly across from a Facebook platform to a Workplace platform…. That certainly proved to be true.”

Linux Appears To Be The King In The Supercomputing Space

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Looking at the November 2017 TOP500 Supercomputer list one thing is particularly clear – the open saucy Linux is king.

In 1998, Linux first appeared on the TOP500 Supercomputer list and it was regarded as unusual – indeed many just said it was because it was really Unix in drag. But the November list showed that all 500 of the world’s fastest supercomputers are running Linux.

There had only been two non-Linux systems left on the list but the pair of Chinese IBM POWER computers running AIX were too slow to rate a mention any more.

Before Linux took the lead, Unix was everywhere but slowly, since 2003, the Linux was the TOP500 main OS of choice. By 2004, Linux had taken the lead for good.

The reason Linux did well in this arena and not the desktop is that most of the world’s top supercomputers are research machines built for specialised tasks, each machine is a standalone project with unique characteristics and optimisation requirements.

Linux means that research teams can easily modify and optimize open-source code to their one-off designs.

Courtesy-Fud

Republic Wireless Building It’s Own Smart Speaker System

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Phone calls are still new features for both the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, both of which focused on music and house controls before adding calling.

Wireless carrier Republic Wireless announced plans to take the opposite approach, saying it will enter the space with a speaker that appears to be all about phone calls.

The Anywhere HQ is the company’s first hardware product. It’s an LTE-connected speaker that can be used to make calls, as well as issue commands.

Like “Alexa” on Echo and “OK Google” on Google Home, Anywhere HQ will require customers to use a start phrase — something like “OK Republic” — before it will make a call.

The speaker itself has volume and mute controls on top and a full number pad underneath.

Republic, a mobile virtual network operator that runs on Sprint, T-Mobile and Wi-Fi, said the speaker also has a built-in smart assistant and works with a customer’s phone number.

Anywhere HQ is part of Republic Wireless’ Labs program, where it’s being tested. Pricing and availability aren’t yet available, and the fine print on the announcement says that it can’t be sold until it obtains authorization from the Federal Communications Commission.

Republic Wireless didn’t immediately return a request for comment about further details.

Volkswagen Ramps Up Electric Cars Ambitions

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Volkswagen has approved a 34 billion euro ($40 bln) spending plan that speeds up its efforts to become a global leader in electric cars.

The world’s largest carmaker by unit sales will spend the money on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022, it said after a meeting of its supervisory board.

“With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world’s No. 1 player in electric mobility by 2025,” Chief Executive Matthias Mueller told a press conference.

The carmaker’s projected spending is significantly bigger than its pledge two months ago that it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

 Electric and autonomous vehicles are widely seen as the keystones of future transport, but pioneers such as Tesla Inc and other manufacturers are still working out how to make money on them as poor charging infrastructure, high battery costs and electric vehicles’ still limited driving range weigh on customer demand.

Until it admitted two years ago to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen had been slow to embrace electric cars and self-driving technology.

The group said its total investments in electric vehicles capacity and projects will amount to about 72 billion euros by 2022, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

To fund greater spending on electric vehicles, it will draw on cost savings in all areas of operations, including vehicle development, administration and manufacturing, as well as strong cash reserves.

Its net liquidity still stood at around 24 billion euros after nine months even though about 17 billion euros of funds have been paid out to cover costs for its dieselgate scandal. VW’s core autos division has made cost savings of about 1.9 billion euros since the start of this year, nearly meeting budgeted cost cuts for the full year.

Mueller said VW will maintain spending discipline in order to shoulder the increased investments in new technologies while it grapples with billions of dollars of costs for its emissions scandal.

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