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Will Google Have More Antitrust Issues With Android?

December 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

Google is reportedly looking to save itself from the worst excesses of a US antitrust case concerning the Android operating system.

Google has some experience of antitrust cases and we imagine that it would be very easy to grow to dislike them.

Reuters reports that Google would like to avoid the antitrust investigation over Android, and has already attempted to get the courts to join it in this sentiment.

Two smartphone users have raised the case against the firm because they feel that home-grown Google-developed apps are given preferential treatment at the expense of competing apps from companies like Samsung and Microsoft when it comes to placement on the operating system.

We have asked Google if it would like to comment on the progress of the class action suit, but the firm has so far declined. It has reportedly argued that its operating system does not limit the choice presented to consumers.

Google has endured a number of antitrust challenges already, including ones from Europe and the US. The company has faced down criticisms on everything from WiFi data collection to its decision to unite all of its services under one privacy policy.

This has led to talk of an enforced breakup at the European regulatory level, and just recently the European Parliament voted in favor of dismantling the Google business.

Google declined to comment on that vote, but the talk was that high ups at the firm were “furious”, which is to say pretty angry indeed.

Courtesy-TheInq

Amazon, Simon & Schuster Sign Deal Over E-books

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Online book retailer Amazon.com Inc revealed that it has signed a multi-year deal with Simon & Schuster Inc, the second Big-Five book publisher, on the future price of e-books.

Amazon, which had been in discussions with Simon & Schuster since July over pricing, confirmed the deal first reported by the Business Insider news blog that the two had reached an agreement.

Amazon had been locked in a months-long standoff with publisher Hachette Book Group, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France’s Lagardere, over digital book pricing. That has led to numerous issues for authors.

Industry experts had expected other publishers eventually to be drawn into negotiations as well, as the Internet retailer tries to set new benchmarks for the e-book market.

Negotiations with Simon & Schuster took about three weeks and closed two months before Amazon’s contract expired, according to Business Insider.

Simon & Schuster made its original offer and an agreement was reached after a few changes by Amazon, the source told Business Insider.

 

 

Twitter To Allow Money Transfer Via Tweets

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

One of France’s largest banks is partnering with social network Twitter Inc. to allow its customers to transfer money via tweets.

The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.

Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple  and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.

The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.

“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money,  BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.

Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.

BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.

Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”,  to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.

The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.

Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.

 

 

Will The E.U. Terminate The Safe Harbour Act?

October 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Vera Jourova, justice, consumers and gender equality European Union commissioner-designate, has told the EU that the current Safe Harbour agreement with the US is hanging in the balance.

Jourova said that a suspension of the arrangement is a distinct possibility, according to a report on Reuters that has access to her written answers.

“Suspension is certainly an option on the table for me,” she said. “But we are not yet there.”

The Safe Harbour arrangement has been around since the start of this century and is designed to provide securities for people whose data may be moving between territories.

This is OK locally, but since PRISM and all that Europeans have struggled to trust the US, its companies, its security policies and its government. The EU has asked the US to keep its national security data requests to a fair and not too intrusive minimum.

“Allow me to give this another push and to continue working in a constructive spirit with the US building on the progress made so far, while insisting that a higher level of ambition is shown and must materialise in practice,” added Jourova in her answers.

According to a separate report on the Euractiv news site, Jourova is not the only person to be making such noises.

The report says that the commissioner-designate for the Digital Internal Market, Andrus Ansip, who has wide support in the European Parliament, wants tighter controls on data sharing, and a lot more trust in the US.

“As a liberal, I believe in personal rights. We must protect everyone’s privacy. Data protection will be an important cornerstone of the Digital Internal Market. The citizens must have trust in this project,” he said.

“Safe Harbour is not secure. The agreement has yet to live up to its name. If the US government does not make a clear statement, we must consider suspending the agreement.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Solar Expected To Be Biggest Power Source By 2050

October 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The sun could be the globe’s main electricity source by mid-century with the amount of new photovoltaic (PV) panel installations soaring at 100MW daily, according to a pair of new reports.

The reports, issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA), stated that by 2050, PV panels could produce 16% of the world’s electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. Solar thermal electricity is created by concentrating the sun’s rays to produce steam, which then turns a turbine.

Photovoltaic panels capable of producing 137 billion watts (gigawatts) of power have been installed worldwide since the end of 2013, according to the IEA, a Paris-based agency that advises on global energy consumption.

Perhaps just as important, solar power could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 6 billion tons over the next four decades, the reports state.

Rooftop solar panels will account for half of the world’s solar PV installations because as a distributed energy source, the technology is “unbeatable,” the report said.

In the U.S., solar power capacity for producing electricity has grown six-fold since 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a federal agency that provides information about the nation’s energy production across all markets.

Meanwhile, the IEA’s report indicates the cost of solar power worldwide is expected to drop to four cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) by 2050. In the U.S.,electricity costs about 13 cents per kilowatt hour for residential power and seven cents for industrial power.

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stressed in a statement that her agency’s two reports do not represent a forecast. As with other IEA technology roadmaps, they detail the expected technology improvement targets and the policy actions required to achieve those goals by 2050.

However, van der Hoeven noted that the cost of solar system hardware is rapidly declining.

 

 

 

France’s Iliad To Decide On T-Mobile Bid In October

September 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

French budget-conscious telecom operator Iliad has set a mid-October deadline to decide whether to improve its bid for T-Mobile US or walk away as it faces resistance from seller Deutsche Telekom, several people familiar with the situation said.

Deutsche Telekom, which owns 66 percent of the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, has doubts that Iliad will be able to improve the U.S. business since the French startup has no track record in the country, a source close to the German company’s management said.

Under the deal structure proposed by Iliad, Deutsche Telekom would have to keep a stake in the combined company.

Iliad is currently in talks with several U.S. banks to help it finance a possible improved bid for T-Mobile US alongside existing lenders HSBC and BNP Paribas, the people familiar with the situation said, after a $33 per share offer for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile US was rejected by Deutsche Telekom.

Chief Financial Officer Thomas Reynaud said Iliad’s key leverage ratio would not surpass 4.5 times net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). He also said that Iliad would limit any capital increase to fund the T-Mobile bid to 2 billion euros ($2.57 billion).

Iliad is also seeking to team up with private equity funds including KKR to raise about $5-6.5 billion, the sources, who could not be named because the talks are private, said.

T-Mobile US, Iliad and KKR declined to comment. Deutsche Telekom could not be reached immediately for comment.

Iliad’s management team has now finished road shows to meet U.S. investors and is waiting to hear back from potential investors, the sources said.

Depending on how positive the feedback is from private equity investors, the French firm could be able to table an improved bid in the second week of October, two of the sources said.

Iliad could offer between $35 and $40 per share for a stake in T-Mobile of between 60 percent and 90 percent, depending on the appetite of private equity funds and lenders for the deal, two other sources said.

 

 

Is Quickflix Trying To Block Netflix In Australia?

September 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Quickflix has sent an open letter to rival Netflix in which it accuses the competitor of not playing fair in the market and letting local users access US services.

The open letter is signed by Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford and addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the internet community. Langsford asks Netflix to Australia through the front door. He accuses it of ignoring backdoor access to its services, hauling in cash and stepping on Australian rightsholders.

“Netflix not only knowingly collects revenues from subscribers with unauthorised access to your US service, investing nothing in the Australian market nor paying for Australian rights to the content you make available, but also tacitly encourages Australian consumers to inadvertently breach the copyright of the content owners,” he said.

“Unlike yourself, Quickflix has obtained all necessary Australian rights to the content on its platform, faithfully meets all necessary security requirements, including geo-filtering imposed by the content rights holders, and continues to reinvest in its service with the goal of offering the very best service in the market to its customers.”

We have asked Netflix to comment on this, but so far it has not responded.

Langsford made some suggestions to Hastings about getting Netflix’s game in order, starting with a legal launch and a VPN lockdown.

“We challenge Netflix to play by the rules. It’s how we do it here in Australia. Stop turning a blind eye to the VPN services acting as a gateway to your service. Be honest and face up to the issue of unauthorised access to your US service,” he said in his sign off.

“Have the courage to limit your service only to the territories where you have legally obtained the rights to operate by abiding by the geo-filtering obligations required by your content license agreements. And do so immediately.”

The Quickflix CEO said that he looked forward to fair and square competition and the resulting benefits to Australians.

Courtesy-TheInq

Cox Communications Shoots Down Rumors Of T-Mobile Merger

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Cox Communications Inc. is not interested in merging with wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc or rival cable providers, according to Cox President Pat Esser, dispelling rumors recently swirling about the private company.

“We’re not in any discussions to buy T-Mobile,” Esser told Reuters. “I don’t see a movement inside of our company that we feel like we have to pony up or match up with a wireless company.”

Asked whether Cox, the third-largest U.S. cable and broadband company, was considering a merger with one of its smaller cable rivals, such as Charter Communications Inc or perennial takeover target Cablevision Systems Corp, Esser said family-owned Cox was not looking to become a publicly traded company.

“I would never say we’ll never be public in the future. But right now where the family’s at, where [parent company] Cox Enterprises is at, they like being private,” Esser said. “We have a very, very healthy balance sheet, we have a lot of capacity and we can do most of that inside of our current balance sheet and still remain private.”

Continuing a year marked by a whirlwind of dealmaking among telecom companies, sources told Reuters earlier this month that Iliad, a French telecom firm, was in talks with U.S. satellite and cable operators Cox, Charter and Dish Networks Corp regarding a potential joint bid for U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile.

Esser said that instead, he saw the future of Cox Communications in wi-fi offerings and connectivity services, such as home security.

“Wireless use of broadband is growing but it’s not through traditional cellular services, it’s wi-fi. Wi-fi is exploding,” Esser said. “Wi-fi is the future … Connected homes are the future.”

 

 

Is McAfee Right About Google?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Security software expert and on-the-run murder suspect, John McAfee has taken time from his busy schedule to warn the world about the perils of Googling.

McAfee has called upon people to resist Google to protect their privacy saying that the search engine appears to believe that if people have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behaviour become? You need to think this through,” he said.

He said that people could not have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. McAfee added that Freedom was all he had.

“And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”

We thought about it and came to the conclusion that we have a lot of things which are not defined by the fact that Google can see us. But hey, we don’t have Belize wanting us to help them with their inquiries.

Courtesy-Fud

Study Finds Firmware Vulnerable To Hacking

August 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The first massive analysis of a fundamental type of software known as firmware has unveiled poor security practices that could present opportunities for hackers probing the “Internet of Things.”

Firmware is a type of software that manages interactions between higher-level software and the underlying hardware, though it can sometimes be the only software on a device. It’s found on all kinds of computer hardware, though the study focused on embedded systems such as printers, routers and security cameras.

Researchers with Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France, developed a web crawler that plucked more than 30,000 firmware images from the websites of manufacturers including Siemens, Xerox, Bosch, Philips, D-Link, Samsung, LG and Belkin.

They found a variety of security issues, including poorly-protected encryption mechanisms and backdoors that could allow access to devices. More than 123 products contained some of the 38 vulnerabilities they found, which they reported privately to vendors.

They’re due to present their research next week at the 23rd Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego.

Most of the firmware they analyzed is in consumer devices, a competitive arena where companies often release products quickly to stay ahead of rivals, said Aurelien Francillon, a coauthor of the study and an assistant professor in the networking and security department at Eurecom.

“You have to be first and cheap,” Francillon said in a phone interview. “All of those things are what you should not do if you want a secure device.”

Firmware security practices lag far behind those of the PC software market, where vendors like Microsoft learned the hard way that they need to patch software automatically on a regular, frequent schedule.

That’s often not the case with firmware, which may not be designed to patch itself periodically and also relies heavily on third-party software that may not be current. In one instance, the researchers found a Linux kernel that was 10 years out of date bundled in a recently released firmware image.

“On these devices, it’s a real nightmare,” Francillon said.

 

 

 

Sony Exiting E-readers Arena As Restructuring Continues

August 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony is will discontinue e-reader production following the transfer of its e-book business outside Japan to Canada’s Kobo.

“Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May,” a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. “The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country.”

There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.

The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.

Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.

While it’s still available on Sony’s UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it’s out of stock at Sony’s sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.

The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.

Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink’s electronic paper display technology.

Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviewscomplained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.

Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon’s Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.

The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.

Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.

 

Sprint, T-Mobile Merger Appears To Be Dead

August 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp has canceled its bid to purchase No. 4 U.S. carrier T-Mobile U.S. Inc after regulatory resistance showed no signs of softening despite months of lobbying, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The move is a rare setback for Sprint’s Japanese parent SoftBank Corp, whose billionaire founder Masayoshi Son had seen the acquisition as key to taking on U.S. market leaders AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, and T-Mobile have not ruled out consolidation in the future but concluded that a deal is unlikely to be approved at this time, the sources said. U.S. regulators have insisted that they want to keep the number of major wireless carriers at four.

“We didn’t think the opposition would be this strong,” a SoftBank executive said, but added: “The environment will definitely change”.

The failure to reach a deal could give added impetus to a rival bid for T-Mobile by French telecoms firm Iliad. Iliad made a lower bid than Sprint but is in talks with U.S. cable and satellite companies to sweeten its offer.

In the wake of the failed talks, Sprint will appoint a new CEO – Marcelo Claure, founder of mobile phone distributor Brightstar Corp which was acquired by SoftBank last year, a separate person with knowledge of the matter said. Claure, who has won a string of awards for entrepreneurship, joined Sprint’s board in January.

He will replace Dan Hesse who has been CEO of Sprint since 2007. Hesse led a rip-and-replace overhaul to modernize Sprint’s network but it caused cellular sites to go black and the company to hemorrhage subscribers.

Sources declined to be identified as the matter has not been disclosed by the companies publicly. Representatives for Sprint and SoftBank declined a request for comment. T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

A New Bidder For T-Mobile?

August 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

French telecom operator Iliad’s surprise unsolicited bid for T-Mobile US may be good news for everyone but Sprint.

Iliad has confirmed it has offered to acquire a majority stake in the fourth-largest U.S. mobile operator in a deal that values the company at about US$30 billion. The news followed months of reports about an impending takeover deal with Sprint, the third-largest carrier, that’s never quite materialized.

The Iliad bid may have been unexpected, but it’s not likely to be unwelcome. U.S. regulators will see a potential deal that changes the ownership of T-Mobile without affecting the makeup of the domestic mobile market. Consumers would be looking at a scrappy U.S. carrier now owned by a French company that’s specialized in undercutting bigger rivals in its own market. And Deutsche Telekom, the majority owners of T-Mobile, may have a bidding war on its hands.

As simply one foreign owner looking to buy out another, Iliad would face dramatically less government scrutiny than Sprint would as a domestic player asking to further consolidate the market, said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. If Sprint bought T-Mobile, the U.S. would lose one of the four competitors that now vie for customers, a prospect that some regulators have said they wouldn’t welcome. An Iliad buyout would preserve the four-carrier market.

“It would probably be very easy to approve,” Entner said. The only condition he sees in such a deal would be including someone on T-Mobile’s board who’s been approved by U.S. agencies, to safeguard national security, as wasrequired when Japan’s SoftBank bought Sprint last year.

Four competitors, especially with an underdog as aggressive as T-Mobile has been under CEO John Legere, could continue the battle for consumers that has led to several new types of plans and price points across the U.S. mobile industry over the past couple of years. Iliad is known for the same kind of disruption in French telecommunications, Entner said.

Deutsche Telekom, which has been looking to cash out of the U.S. for years now, may benefit most of all from the entry of a rival bidder.

 

 

Several Countries Now Have More Wireless Devices Than People

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Wireless broadband subscriptions now outnumber people in seven countries as consumers continue to add smartphone and tablet devices to their personal electronics arsenal, according to a new report.

Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea and the U.S. had wireless broadband penetration of more than 100 percent as of December 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. That means there was more than one wireless broadband subscription per person, usually because consumers have more than one mobile device that can go online. The U.S. just barely crossed the bar, while Finland led the group with more than 123 percent penetration.

Across all 37 OECD countries, wireless broadband penetration rose to 72.4 percent as total subscriptions grew 14.6 percent. The group spans North America, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Israel, Mexico and Chile. It’s sometimes treated as a barometer of the developed world.

Wired broadband subscriptions also grew in 2013, reaching an average of 27 percent penetration. That means there was just over one wired subscription per four people: Wired broadband services, such as cable and DSL (digital subscriber line), typically are shared. Switzerland led in that category with 44.9 percent penetration, followed by the Netherlands and Denmark. The U.S. had just under 30 wired subscriptions per 100 people, while Turkey came in last with just over 11.

DSL still makes up a majority of wired broadband subscriptions, at 51.5 percent, followed by cable with 31.2 percent. Fiber-optic grew to a 16.7 percent share, gradually replacing DSL services. Fiber more than doubled its share of the market in the U.K. and also gained strongly in Spain, Turkey and France. While those countries still have relatively low fiber penetration, Japan and Korea continued to lead the OECD for that technology. Nearly 70 percent of all wired broadband in Japan goes over fiber, and almost 65 percent in Korea.

The OECD has compiled some of its broadband statistics on a portal page. For all the technologies it tracks, the group uses a generous definition of broadband as a service capable of at least 256K bits per second downstream.

 

 

Will Germany Regulate Google?

July 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

German officials are planning to clip the wings of technology giants such as Google through heavier regulation.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, the country’s Federal Cartel Office would be given powers to curtail Google’s influence, were it decided that it had got too big for its boots.

A document obtained by the newspaper says that under the new rules, technology companies would be treated and regulated like utilities such as electricity and water and subject to the same anti-competitive pricing laws governing their advertising.

Proposals to legislate the internet as a utility are at the heart of the debate that’s under way in the US right now, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coming under increasing pressure to classify ISPs as “Title II” utilities in order to protect net neutrality.

In Europe, a commitment to net neutrality is already in place, and any German legislation would only serve to further solidify the country’s commitment to avoiding technology strangleholds.

Full details of the 30-page document are yet to be released, with varying reports of its potential impact, ranging from “last resort” to “all out regulation”.

The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first high-profile victims of NSA surveillance, with some reports saying that the NSA hacked her mobile phone for over a decade.

Courtesy-TheInq