The app, named Livetext, is video calling with a twist: there’s no audio. To communicate, users type texts and emojis that are overlaid onto the screen during the call.
The app’s format might sound restricting, but Yahoo says Livetext will help users to communicate more freely. The lack of audio, the company says, removes inhibitions that people might feel when they otherwise receive video calls in public.
“We wanted to bridge the gap between the simplicity and ease of texting, with the live feeling of calling,” said Adam Cahan, senior vice president of video, design and emerging products at Yahoo, during the app’s unveiling at an event in New York on Wednesday that was webcast.
Livetext was developed from scratch at Yahoo. Its development was aided by Yahoo’s acquisition last year of mobile messaging app MessageMe, the company said Wednesday. It’s yet another messaging app in a sea of competitors like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Still, Livetext is the latest attempt by Yahoo to provide a messaging app that resonates with users. It became available to download for free on Thursday for iOS and Android, in the U.S., U.K, Canada, Ireland, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Users will be able to text in English, French, German and Chinese using the app.
The app streams video only when two people are connected through the app at the same time. Users can search for friends in the app through their Livetext user name, or through the contacts list on their phone.
There is no time limit on calls placed through the app, and no way to save or archive the sessions. The video quality will depend on the strength of the data connection, although connections at 3G and above should suffice, Yahoo said.
It’s available on Android and the desktop, but not on iOS.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc acquired full ownership of Chinese e-commerce firm Yihaodian.com, buying out the 49 percent stake that it did not already own to accelerate its push online, the U.S. retail giant announced.
The investment will help Wal-Mart target China’s fast-growing online market at a time when largely brick and mortar retailers are feeling the pinch of competition from online rivals and a slowing of the world’s second-largest economy.
Wal-Mart’s move also comes after China said last month it will allow full foreign ownership of some e-commerce businesses, with the goal of encouraging foreign investment and the development and competitiveness of the sector.
“[Yihaodian's] local experience, combined with Walmart’s global sourcing and our strong local retail presence and supply chain will allow us to deliver low prices on the products customers need in new and exciting ways,” Neil Ashe, head of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division, said in a statement.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, added the purchase of the stake would help accelerate its e-commerce business in China and boost coordination between its physical and online stores. It did not disclose the price paid for the stake, which was bought from former executives and financial services group Ping An.
Wal-Mart’s Asia head Scott Price told Reuters earlier this year that online retail was important to help tap China’s younger generations and that the firm would increasingly look to weave together its online and offline presence in the market.
Wal-Mart, France’s Carrefour SA and Britain’s Tesco PLC have all seen sales growth slip over the last five years in China, losing market share to local rivals, according to consumer analytics firm Kantar Worldpanel.
The U.S. retailer also announced on Thursday that company insider Wang Lu will take the helm at Yihaodian. The e-commerce firm’s CEO and Chairman had quit earlier this month “to pursue their next venture”.
Amazon.com Inc will rollout its business loan program for small sellers later this year in eight new places including China, where credit is becoming a key factor in competing for new vendors and grabbing market share.
Until now, the e-retailer has offered the service only in the United States and Japan. Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, now plans to offer short-term working capital loans in other countries where it operates a third-party, seller-run marketplace business, the head of Amazon Marketplace, Peter Faricy, told Reuters.
The countries are Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The service is on an invite-only basis and is not open to all sellers on Amazon’s platform.
Other large retailers including eBay Inc’s PayPal and Alibaba Group Holdings, which run third-party marketplaces, are also turning to credit to boost their vendor base.
Some lending industry officials who help lenders assess credit risk say these retailers are taking on risky loans because they don’t know the shape of the credit market in which the sellers are operating.
Small businesses have high failure rates, especially in China and India, added William Black, a former U.S. banking regulator and professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.
Amazon said it can safely offer loans based on internal data and because it takes loan payments out of the sales proceeds it pays sellers.
PayPal spokesman Josh Criscoe said eBay merchants who use PayPal are eligible for the working capital loans and credit is offered to only those customers that have a strong PayPal sales history. PayPal has provided more than $500 million in capital since September 2013, with an average loan disbursement of $2 million per day.
A spokeswoman for Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial, which offers these loans, said credit is offered to Taobao, Tmall merchants and other small business owners who meet certain conditions. The company also offers such loans to customers in some countries like the United States and Britain.
Europe’s Airbus Group will develop and construct approximately 900 satellites for privately owned OneWeb Ltd, which plans to offer high-speed, space-based Internet access to billions of people worldwide, according to company officials.
About 700 of the satellites, each of which will weigh less than 330 pounds (150 kg), will be launched into orbit around Earth beginning in 2018. The rest will stay on the ground until replacements are needed, said OneWeb, based in Britain’s Channel Islands.
Bankrolled in part by Richard Branson’s London-based Virgin Group and chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, the project will cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, OneWeb founder and Chief Executive Officer Greg Wyler said.
Airbus Defense and Space will build the first 10 spacecraft at its Toulouse, France, facility, before shifting production to an undisclosed site in the United States, Airbus said.
Several other companies were vying for the spacecraft contract, including Thales Alenia Space, Space Systems/Loral, Lockheed Martin Corp’s Space Systems and OHB of Germany, the industry trade journal Aviation Week and Space Technology reported.
Some of OneWeb’s satellites will be flown by Branson’s space company, Virgin Galactic, which is developing a low-cost, small satellite launcher as well as a suborbital passenger spaceship.
Wyler declined to disclose how much Virgin and Qualcomm are investing in the project. As part of the deal, unveiled in January, Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs joined OneWeb’s board of directors.
Before starting OneWeb, Wyler co-founded satellite venture, O3b Networks, and briefly worked at Google Inc on another project to beam Internet access from space. Wyler leftGoogle in 2014 to work on his own satellite project, named WorldVu, which later became OneWeb.
Nokia Oyj is holding talks on acquiring smaller telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent, a deal that would combine the industry’s two weakest players but could pose challenges in cutting costs and overcoming political opposition.
In a joint announcement, the Finnish and French companies said they were in “advanced discussions” on a “full combination, which would take the form of a public exchange offer by Nokia for Alcatel-Lucent.” The two, which have been seen as a possible combination for the last several years, cautioned that the discussions could still fall apart.
Shares in Alcatel, a group worth about 11 billion euros based on Monday’s closing share price, rose 12.6 percent on Tuesday morning. Shares in Nokia, worth about 29 billion euros, dropped 6.6 percent.
The pair are a good fit in terms of products and geographies, and bulking up would help them cut costs as they try to catch up with leaders Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei. Nokia would expand its presence in the key United States market where Alcatel-Lucent is a major supplier to operators AT&T and Verizon.
But the track record of mergers in the industry is spotty, in part because of the difficulties of cutting costs in a R&D intensive business where companies cannot simply drop products that global telecom operators rely on.
The last round, which gave birth to Alcatel-Lucent and combined Nokia’s networks business with Siemens about a decade ago, saw both firms destroy value and lose market share as rivals went on the attack while they were busy integrating the businesses.
The French government may also step in to protect jobs in what is seen as a critical sector for the national economy.
A person at the Economy Ministry said the government wanted more information about the rationale behind the deal and whether it could create a European champion, as well as the impact on French employees.
Nokia is mulling over the idea of selling its maps business known as HERE, a source familiar with the matter said late last week, pushing up shares in the Finnish company as well as its network gear rival Alcatel-Lucent.
After the exit from handsets, analysts have seen little synergies between the map unit and Nokia’s mainstay network gear business. Nokia has hired a financial adviser to explore a sale of the unit, the source added.
Bloomberg first reported news of the sale on Friday.
A Nokia spokeswoman declined to comment.
Shares in Nokia closed 5.57 percent higher while those in France’s Alcatel-Lucent closed 4.82 percent higher. The two companies have reportedly held on and off merger talks in recent years.
Shares in Dutch navigation company TomTom surged more than 11 percent after the news broke.
“We have estimated that HERE’s value is around 3.3-4.8 billion euros, and in a possible deal the price should be more than that,” Inderes Equity Research said on its Twitter account.
Nokia sold its once-dominant phone handset business to Microsoft last year, leaving it with its core network equipment business, HERE as well as its patent division.
HERE last year had net sales of around 969 million euros with an operating profit of 31 million euros. The unit has signed several orders from the car industry recently.
In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft, respondents said that technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy.
A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.
Internet users in India, Indonesia and Russia were the least concerned, according to the survey. In general, those in developing countries were less bothered.
Surveys like this one should always be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. But there is little doubt that people are wary of how their personal data is used by companies and governments, according to John Phelan, communications officer at European consumer organization BEUC.
That people shouldn’t take privacy for granted has been highlighted on several occasions in just the last week.
Shortly after the horrific Paris shootings, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for saying that authorities should have the means to read all encrypted traffic.
Also, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless found itself in hot water over the way one of its advertising partners used the Unique Identifier Headers Verizon embeds in its customers’ Internet traffic to recreate tracking cookies that had been deleted by users. Online advertising company Turn defended its practises, but still said on Friday it would stop using the method by next month.
Worries about privacy aren’t likely to subside anytime soon, with more devices becoming connected as part of the expected Internet of Things boom.
The “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology is Changing our Lives” survey queried 12,002 Internet users in the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Japan and France.
A year ago, LTE-Advanced was only available in South Korea, but it’s now available in 31 countries (including Australia, France, Germany, U.K. and the U.S.) and more are on the way, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).
“There is a lot of activity at the moment,” said Alan Hadden, president at GSA.
LTE-Advanced is a collection of different technologies, but the one mobile operators are implementing first is called carrier aggregation. It lets operators treat up to three radio channels in different frequency bands as if they were one and send data to users at higher speeds.
Bandwidths at up to 300Mbps are possible, though not all LTE-Advanced networks and devices can muster that. For example, Apple’s new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150Mbps, and not all operators have the spectrum to offer that.
However, regardless of which version of LTE-Advanced a network or device supports, the technology offers users higher speeds than ever before.
Chances are greater that you’ll get access to LTE-Advanced if you live in a big city. For example, U.S. operator AT&T has so far upgraded its network in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.
The technology has been held back due to a lack of supporting devices, but that will change this year thanks to a greater variety of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.
Mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has amassed more than 700 million monthly active users and appears to be on track to reach 1 billion in about a year, a target Facebook set when it acquired the company in 2014.
The announcement comes about 11 months after Facebook acquired the app for $16 billion, a move that reflected the importance that Facebook places on mobile users.
The latest WhatsApp milestone is significant because it also highlights the recent rise of messaging apps as a more popular and economical option than SMS text messaging, which has suffered declines of nearly 5% in countries such as the U.K. In France operators saw SMS traffic on Jan. 1 decline by 10% to 20% compared to last year, while the use of MMS, messaging apps and other data traffic rose, according to local media.
“We’re thrilled to share that WhatsApp has more than 700 million monthly active users,” CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a post on Facebook. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages.”
Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp received European regulatory approval in October following a U.S. nod in April. At its close, the deal was worth about $21.8 billion due to Facebook stock gains.
When the acquisition was announced in February 2014, WhatsApp had over 450 million monthly users, 70% of whom accessed the app on a daily basis.
WhatsApp has been steadily growing by about 25 million users per month. Itannounced April 22 that it had passed the half-billion mark, with new users in countries including Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. In December 2013 it had 400 million users.
WhatsApp’s growth pace suggests it will reach 1 billion about a year from now, in December or January. When the acquisition was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed hopes that WhatsApp would hit that threshold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.