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China’s Tencent Surpasses Facebook In Value

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tencent Holdings Ltd has had an impressive week – becoming the first Chinese firm to be worth more than $500 billion and surpassing Facebook to be the world’s fifth-most valuable company.

Earnings for China’s biggest social network and gaming firm have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games led by titles such as Honour of Kings – a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

 Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent’s stock more than double this year, making it Asia’s most valuable company worth $522 billion on Tuesday and easily outpacing a 36 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69 percent rise in third-quarter net profit.

“Tencent’s high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares,” said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian.

“Since the company has been able to deliver on its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its current high level.”

In addition to robust earnings, Tencent has also burnished its luster after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently also told Reuters the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

Did Kaspersky Hack NSA Staff

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Kaspersky has denied it played a role in hacking into the personal computer of a US National Security Agency (NSA) worker.

Kaspersky Lab has published a report detailing an internal investigation it launched examining allegations that its software was used to compromise an NSA employee’s home computer.

In early October, a report published in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the firm’s software was used to download confidential data from an American agent’s home computer.

However, later reports circulated accusing the firm of deliberately taking files from the PC. Following the incident, Kaspersky conducted a full investigation to gain additional evidence of the incident and explore how it happened.

Researchers at the company confirmed that Russian cybercrooks installed software on an NSA contractor’s computer to access and steal sensitive data.

The user, according to the company, was able to download and install pirated software on the machine. The researchers identified a compromised Microsoft Office ISO file, as well as an illegal Microsoft Office 2013 activation tool.

They were able to install the pirate copy of Office 2013 after disabling the Kaspersky security product. If the latter had been left on the PC, it would have identified the illegal activator tool.

This illegal tool was infected with malware, and this was left on the PC while the Kaspersky software was inactive. The malware meant other third-parties could access the user’s machine, causing major security concerns.

However, when the company’s antivirus software was re-enabled, it detected the software with the verdict Backdoor.Win32.Mokes.hvl and stopped it from contacting a dodgy command and control software.

This backdoor approach was first identified in October 2014, but it’s still being used by cybercriminals looking to steal important data. Kaspersky researchers said the antivirus software detected other variants of the Equation APT malware too.

Various variants of the malware, including a 7zip archive, was sent to the Kaspersky Virus Lab for analysis. Researchers found that it contained a number of source codes and classified documents.

At the request of the firm’s CEO, these files were removed from its servers.

“The reason Kaspersky Lab deleted those files and will delete similar ones in the future is two-fold: first, it needs only malware binaries to improve protection and, secondly, it has concerns regarding the handling of potentially classified material,” the firm wrote.   

“Because of this incident, a new policy was created for all malware analysts: they are now required to delete any potentially classified material that has been accidentally collected during anti-malware research.”

“To further support the objectivity of the internal investigation we ran it using multiple analysts including those of non-Russian origin and working outside of Russia to avoid even potential accusations of influence.”

Speaking about other findings, the firm said: “One of the major early discoveries of the investigation was that the PC in question was infected with the Mokes backdoor – a malware allowing malicious users remote access to a computer.

“As part of the investigation, Kaspersky Lab researchers took a deeper look at this backdoor and other non-Equation threat-related telemetry sent from the computer.

Courtesy-TheInq

Apple Mac Sales Slump

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Apple announced last week that it had sold a record number of Macs for a September quarter.

“The Mac…had its best year ever, with the highest annual Mac revenue in Apple’s history,” said CEO Tim Cook in prepared remarks during a Nov. 2 call with Wall Street analysts. Apple recorded revenue of $25.8 billion from Mac sales in its fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

Mac unit sales of nearly 5.4 million bested both industry and financial analysts’ expectations. Before Apple released its data, research firm IDC had pegged Apple’s number at 4.9 million, while rival Gartner offered an even lower estimate: 4.6 million. And according to Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who regularly polls Wall Street for quarterly forecasts, every analyst from a group of more than two dozen undershot Mac sales, some by over half a million machines.

Unit sales were up 10.2% over the same quarter in 2016, and the Mac’s ASP, or “average selling price,” jumped to $1,331, a year-over-year rise of $156, for an increase of 13.3%.

According to IDC, the 5.4 million Macs represented almost exactly 8% of the 67.2 million personal computers shipped worldwide in the September quarter.

Apple executives explained the bonanza in different ways when they spoke with financial experts last week.

“This performance was fueled primarily by great demand for MacBook Pro,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “[And] we are also seeing great traction for Mac in the enterprise market, with all-time record customer purchases in fiscal year 2017.”

“Mac revenue growth…was driven by notebook refreshes we launched in June and a strong back-to-school season,” asserted Cook.

When asked why the Mac beat outsiders’ sales predictions, IDC Research Director Linn Huang concurred with Cook that back-to-school sales had been strong. But he had another idea. “To understand 2017, you have to go back to 2016, which was a very poor year for Apple,” said Huang. “It ended a very long stretch where Apple consistently beat the [PC] market.”

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.”

HP Set To Offer New Cloud Service Called OneSphere

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HPE is planning to announce a new product called OneSphere that could help companies track when employees use public clouds like Amazon Web Services.

HPE filed a trademark application late last month for OneSphere. The description of the product included with the application is wide ranging but has several references to hardware, and implies that OneSphere will help customers track and reduce the amount of money they’re spending on clouds like AWS.

The trademark application said that  OneSphere could move applications across computing environments – from AWS to a corporate data centre, for example.

The exploration of those areas is a rather a good idea but somewhat strange given that HPE chose to wind down its public cloud, which competed with the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure in early 2016.

HPE is preparing to unveil OneSphere later this month.

HPE does use the term “cloud management” to market some of its software products. So the company isn’t looking to go in an entirely new direction. But HPE appears to be readying something that involves hardware, while most competing products for public cloud management have been software-only. Much of HPE’s revenue comes from hardware.

Since splitting off from HP,  HPE has offloaded a few of its previous properties, including its enterprise services business and non-core software holdings. Meanwhile, Microsoft has acquired a cloud cost management start-up called Adallom and incorporated the technology into Azure.

Courtesy-Fud

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

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.

Apple Delays Launch of HomePod Smart Speaker

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has delayed the launch of its HomePod smart speaker, pushing it to early next year from December, the company said, missing the holiday shopping season as the market for such devices becomes increasingly competitive.

“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod … but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the U.S., UK and Australia in early 2018,” an Apple spokeswoman said via email.

 Apple introduced the voice-controlled HomePod in June. The speaker, which can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, takes aim at Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa feature and Echo devices.

Apple has forecast between $84 billion and $87 billion in revenue for the holiday – mostly driven by sales of its $999 iPhone X – so it’s unlikely that missing a few weeks of sales of its $349 speaker will affect its financial results, Bob O‘Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research, said.

People use voice assistants more often on smart speakers than on phones, so even if owners of Amazon or Google speakers also have an iPhone, there’s a good chance that they’re talking to Alexa or Google Assistant as much or more than Siri.

“Last holiday season, smart speakers were huge, and this season they’re going to be huge,” O‘Donnell said. With Apple’s delay, “there will now be some people who make a different choice. The market’s getting more and more competitive.”

Apple is also counting on HomePod to boost subscriptions to Apple Music and block the rise of rival Spotify. Smart speakers from Google and Amazon let users give voice commands to play Spotify, but Apple Music does not work on the rival devices.

Apple’s main pitch for its HomePod smart speakers was superior audio quality, but that advantage appears to be slipping: Sonos, which also pitches its speakers’ audio quality for music lovers, now features support for the Alexa voice assistant.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced the Echo Plus, a smart speaker with better audio quality, and Google confirmed to Reuters that its Home Max speaker with improved speakers will ship in December, though it has not given a specific date.

 But Apple could still have a surprise or two in store. The company gave scant details about its speaker in June, leaving it room to announce exclusive music content or other unexpected features, said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner.

“When HomePod comes out, you’ll probably hear some great content from artists that are familiar and popular, and there’s probably going to be some other special aspects as well,” he said.

The ITC To Investigate Apple

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The United States International Trade Commission today announced that it has launched an investigation into allegations that Apple infringed on patents owned by Aqua Connect.

Aqua Connect and its subsidiary Strategic Technology partners filed complaints against Apple with the United States International Trade Commission and the District Court for the Central District of California accusing Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs of infringing on two of its patents.

The two patents in question include U.S. Patent RE46,386, “Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived Computer System Environment” and U.S. Patent 8,924,502, “System, Method and Computer Program Product for Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived System Environment.”

According to Aqua Connect, the patents relate to screen sharing, remote desktop, and terminal server technology. Aqua Connect says that it built the first remote desktop solution for the Mac in 2008, which Apple later built into its iOS and macOS products in the form of AirPlay and other functionality without permission.

Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect said his outfit invented and built the first fully functional remote desktop and terminal server solution for Mac in 2008.

“Initially, the product had Apple’s full support. But years later, Apple built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems.”

Aqua Connect’s complaint with the International Trade Commission asks for an exclusion order and a cease and desist order that would bar Apple from importing its products into the United States.

The ITC says it will be investigating “certain Apple Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.”

Courtesy-Fud

Is The US Stumbling In The Supercomputing Race

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China appears to have made the semi-annual Top 500 Supercomputer List its kingdom. Not only does it top the list but also has 202 ranked systems on the list.

China now claims 202 systems within the Top 500, while the United States is second with 143 systems represented on the list.

Only a few months ago, the US had 169 systems in the Top 500 compared to China’s 160. In fact, the drop is so severe that the US Department of Energy is to dole out $258 million in grants to several tech companies to develop exascale systems, the next great leap in HPC.

These systems can handle a billion calculations a second, or one exaflop.

The Top 500 List hasn’t changed much since the first 2017 version was released in June.

The Sunway TaihuLight, an HPC system developed by China’s National Research Centre for Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC), retains its number one ranking with a performance of 93 petaflops.

The second most powerful system is also located in China. The Tianhe-2, which is based at the National Supercomputer Centre in Guangzho, has the capacity of 33.9 petaflops.

Third place belongs to the Piz Daint in Switzerland, which is a Cray XC50 system that used Nvidia’s Tesla P100 graphic processing unit (GPU) chips. It has a capacity of 9.6 petaflops. The fourth most powerful supercomputer is Japan’s Gyoukou system, which is deployed at Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology – home of the Earth Simulator. Gyoukou clocks in at 19.14 petaflops.

The US is in fifth place with its Titan, a Cray supercomputer located at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The system fell from fourth to fifth place in the new rankings with a performance of 17.59 petaflops.

Despite its overall drop, the US still has three other systems listed within the top ten, including two more built by Cray and one designed by IBM. Japan also has two additional systems within the top ten. Overall, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has installed the most systems on the Top 500 List, with 122 supercomputers and HPC systems attached to the company.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Unveils ‘Near Share’ Wireless File-sharing Feature

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft last week unveiled another Windows 10 preview, a regular occurrence in its Insider program, that featured a handful of additions to the under-construction OS. One of those, called “Near Share,” is a simple wireless service meant for impromptu file transfer between devices.

The easiest way to pigeonhole Near Share is to think of it as Microsoft’s belated doppelgänger of Apple’s “AirDrop,” the share service that debuted on Macs, iPhones and iPads six years ago.

Although AirDrop is one of the most under-used tools in macOS and iOS, there’s no reason Near Share has to follow suit on Windows 10. That’s why Computerworld dug up information on the feature now, rather than wait for its debut next year.

Near Share is Microsoft’s name for its ad hoc file transfer feature in Windows 10.

Like Apple’s AirDrop, which it resembles, Near Share is a file transfer service that works only between nearby devices. It’s designed for occasional inter-device transfer where simplicity and convenience are paramount. Rather than email a presentation from one device to another, for example, or upload to an online storage service or the network, Near Share lets one user zip the file directly from his or her PC to a colleague’s.

Not to beat the comparison horse, but again, it works much like AirDrop, the iOS and macOS file-sharing feature. Near Share relies on both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth alone, to sniff out nearby devices, create an ad hoc peer-to-peer network, then transfer the file.

Like AirDrop, Windows 10’s Near Share uses Bluetooth to broadcast the presence of the sharing-enabled device, detect other ready devices, then negotiate the connection between the two. For all but the smallest files – which are transmitted via Bluetooth – Near Share moves the file over a point-to-point Wi-Fi link.

That Wi-Fi connection uses the Wi-Fi Direct peer-to-peer (P2P) industry standard.

Microsoft doesn’t say, but Bluetooth – the limiting factor here – can reach as far as 300 feet. Most Bluetooth, however, maxes out at an effective range that’s considerably less. Apple, for instance, recommends that AirDrop be used only when devices are within 30 feet of each other.

Microsoft debuted the file transmission in Build 17035 of its Windows 10 Insider program, released Nov. 8. Devices on both ends of the transfer must be running that or a later build of Insider. The feature must also be enabled on both devices by toggling the “Near Share” switch under the “Shared Experiences” section of Settings.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios must also be present in both devices. A Wi-Fi connection to the Internet, or even a Wi-Fi network, is not necessary.

Square Allowing Bitcoins For Payments

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Payments company Square Inc announced that it has started allowing select customers to buy and sell bitcoins on its Cash app, as it looks to tap into a craze that has sent the cryptocurrency up nearly sevenfold this year.

For the most part though, institutional investors have stayed away from bitcoin BTC=BTSP, the original and largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization, despite outperforming all the world’s traditional currencies.

 But Square, best known for its technology that allows merchants to process credit card transactions without a cash register or expensive system, says its customers have shown an appetite for the “alt-currency.”

“We’re always listening to our customers and we’ve found that they are interested in using the Cash app to buy bitcoin,” a company spokesperson said.

Traditional investors still view bitcoin as opaque and highly speculative with potential to collapse. The currency’s legitimacy has often been called into question because of its association with Silk Road, an online black market for illegal drugs.

China has already forced several bitcoin exchanges to close down, while Russia’s central bank said it would ban cryptocurrency trading websites. JPMorgan Chase & Co  Chief Executive Jamie Dimon has called cryptocurrency a “fraud”.

None of that has deterred investors who continue to buy bitcoins, and that had attracted the attention of U.S. exchange operators.

CME Group Inc,  the world’s largest derivatives exchange operator, said last month it will launch a futures contract for bitcoin later this year.

Rival Cboe Global Markets Inc is awaiting regulatory approval for a bitcoin exchange traded fund they announced earlier this year.

 Major financial firms will soon start to offer bitcoin or similar products as an investment option, with a turning-point product about six months away, Mike Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners, a firm that bets on cryptocurrencies said earlier this week.

Square did not say when it started rolling out the feature to customers or when it plans to make it available to all its customers.

Apple’s Latest iOS Update Increases Wireless Charging Rate

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s latest iOS update has enhanced wireless charging on the iPhone 8iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X making it 50 percent faster.

Currently, the three iPhones wirelessly charge at a rate of 5 watts, but the iOS 11.2 update allows them to charge at a rate of 7.5w, which is a 50 percent increase. The charging update was spotted and tested out by MacRumors.

Although wireless charging is new to the iPhone, it’s been around on Android devices for several years. iPhones use the Qi wireless charging standard, which maxes out at a rate of 15w. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, for example, supports 15-watt fast wireless charging.

You won’t need to buy a new charger to take advantage of faster speeds. The Mophie and Belkin wireless chargers that Apple sells are already capable of delivering 7.5w of power. Apple has said on the chargers’ listings since their releases that it will enable “fast wireless charging” with a later software update — it’s likely that iOS 11.2 is that update.

Apple is also planning on releasing its own wireless charging mat, AirPower, that’s designed to charge multiple Apple products at once. It isn’t clear if AirPower would use the faster charging speeds.

To push those charging speeds, the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus will charge even faster with a USB-C to Lightning cable setup. The configuration requires buying a handful of accessories, but it can reach top charging speeds if you don’t mind the wires. If you want to stay wireless, you’re stuck at 7.5w for now.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.

Yahoo Out, Google In For Firefox Corporate Browser

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google picked up a previous location as the default search engine on Mozilla Corp’s Firefox Internet browser in the United States and other regions as the browser maker stunned Verizon Communication Inc’s Yahoo by canceling their deal.

Google confirmed the move but declined, along with Mozilla, to disclose revenue-sharing terms of the multiyear agreement. Google’s growing spending to be the primary search provider on apps and devices such as Apple Inc’s iPhone has been a major investor concern.

 Google will be Firefox’s default search provider on desktop and mobile in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Denelle Dixon, Mozilla’s chief business and legal officer.

The decision was “based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search and the broader content experience for our users,” Dixon said. “We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search.”

Verizon said Mozilla terminating the Yahoo agreement caught it off guard.

“We are surprised that Mozilla has decided to take another path, and we are in discussions with them regarding the terms of our agreement,” said Charles Stewart, a spokesman for Verizon’s Oath unit, which oversees Yahoo.

The search provider switch came as Mozilla announced Firefox Quantum, a faster, new version of the browser that company says is “30 percent lighter” than Google Chrome in that it uses less computer memory.

For a decade until 2014, Google had been Firefox’s worldwide search provider. Google then remained the default in Europe while regional rivals such as Yahoo, Russia’s Yandex and China’s Baidu Inc replaced it elsewhere.

Former Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer won a five-year contract with Mozilla in 2014 when Firefox and Google’s Chrome browser were battling for users.

 Chrome’s U.S. market share has since doubled to about 60 percent, according to data from analytics provider StatCounter, with Mozilla, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp browsers capturing the rest.

Yahoo paid Mozilla $375 million in 2015 and said that it would pay at least the same amount annually through 2019, according to regulatory filings.

Yahoo and Google aim to recoup placement fees by selling ads alongside search results and collecting valuable user data. Google said in October that contract changes drove a 54 percent increase in such fees to $2.4 billion in the third quarter.

 

Amazon Decides Against Offering ‘Skinny Bundle’ Video Service

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has decided to cancel plans to launch an online streaming service bundling popular U.S. broadcast and cable networks because it believes it cannot make enough money on such a service, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The world’s largest online retailer has also been unable to convince key broadcast and basic cable networks to break with decades-old business models and join its a la carte Amazon Channels service, the sources said and has backed away from talks with them.

 The reversals come a month after the abrupt departure of Roy Price from his job as head of Amazon Studios, the company’s high-profile television production division, following an allegation of sexual harassment, which he has contested.

They show how difficult it is for Amazon to change entrenched habits in the U.S. entertainment business in the same way that it has done in retail, cloud computing and other areas.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

Video has become an important tool for Amazon in generating subscriptions for its U.S. $99-a-year Prime membership service. It is on track to spend some $4.5 billion or more on video programming this year, analysts estimate.

On Monday it made waves in the entertainment world with the purchase of global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” planning a multi-season series to draw more viewers to Prime.

Such an offering, known in the industry as a “skinny bundle,” is a way of capturing younger viewers who are dropping traditional, expensive cable or satellite TV packages in favor of channels watchable on smartphones and tablets.

But in recent weeks, Amazon decided not to move ahead with a service on the grounds that it would yield too low a profit margin and did not necessarily indicate the direction the TV business will eventually go, the sources told Reuters.

Amazon could still decide to change course and introduce a skinny bundle, but the talks are over, the sources said.

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