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Apple Exploring Acquisition of Shazam

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc is holding negotiations to acquire Shazam Entertainment Ltd, whose software helps users identify songs by pointing their phone at an audio source, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Shazam’s smartphone app is already tightly integrated with Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Users of Apple’s iPhone with the Shazam app installed can say: “Hey Siri, what’s that song?” and the app will identify it. But Shazam has other features, such as the ability to identify television shows, that do not yet work with Siri.

Tech news website TechCrunch reported the talks earlier, writing that Apple could pay about $400 million for Shazam and that a deal could be signed as early as next week.

Shazam did not respond to a request for comment.

Privately-held, UK-based Shazam has raised $143 million from DN Capital Limited, Institutional Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others, over its 18-year history, according to PitchBook, a firm that tracks private venture investments.

The price TechCrunch reported would fall far below Shazam’s most recent $1 billion valuation reported by PitchBook.

An acquisition of Shazam could help bolster Apple’s music efforts by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists in its Apple Music service. As of mid-2017, Apple Music had 27 million subscribers, behind rival music streaming service Spotify’s 60 million users.

Will Uber Become The Next Acquisition Of Softbank

November 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

According to Reuters, Softbank will pay a small fortune to buy into the controversial “hail and ride” firm.  

Uber has been criticized across the world for its policies, which differ from state to state. Softbank could throw billions into acquiring the company. As you read here on Fudzilla, first, Uber has invested gazillions into “smartcar” technology.

There are certain logistical problems with “smart cars” which ought to give Softbank food for thought.

But as Softbank has gazillions of dollars in the bank, it probably thought, “well let’s go for it”.

Courtesy-Fud

Los Alamos Lab To Build Raspberry Pi Supercomputer

November 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The National Laboratory’s High Performance Computing Division Los Alamos has access to 750-node Raspberry Pi clusters which it is using in development work.

Super-computing 17, an annual conference on high-performance computing, was told that the Raspberry Pi-based clusters were part of the first step towards a development program to assist in programming much larger machines.

The platform at LANL uses a modular cluster design from BitScope Designs, with five rack-mount Bitscope Cluster Modules, each with 150 Raspberry Pi boards with integrated network switches.

With each of the 750 chips having four cores, it offers a 3000-core highly parallelisable platform that emulates an ARM-based supercomputer, allowing researchers to test development code without requiring a power-hungry machine at significant cost to the taxpayer.

The full 750-node cluster, running 2-3 W per processor, runs at 1000W idle, 3000W at typical and 4000W at peak – with the switches – and is substantially cheaper, if also computationally a lot slower.

After development using the Pi clusters, frameworks can then be ported to the larger scale supercomputers available at LANL, such as Trinity and Crossroads leader of the High Performance Computing Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Gary Grider, told the conference: “It’s not like you can keep a petascale machine around for R&D work in scalable systems software. The Raspberry Pi modules let developers figure out how to write this software and get it to work reliably without having a dedicated testbed of the same size, which would cost a quarter billion dollars and use 25 megawatts of electricity.”

The collaboration between LANL and BitScope was formed after the inability to find a suitable dense server that offered a platform for several-thousand-node networking and optimization – most solutions on the market were too expensive, and anyone offering something like the Pi in a dense form factor was ‘just people building clusters with Tinker Toys and Lego’.

BitScope says that each node will be about $120 fully provisioned using the element14 version of the latest Raspberry Pi (normally $35 at retail). That means that a 150-node Cluster Module will fall in around $18k-$20k each.

Courtesy-Fud

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.

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.

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

SoftBank Acquires $10B Stake In Uber

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber’s board of directors has agreed to a deal that will allow SoftBank to make a multibillion-dollar investment in the ride-hailing startup.

The agreement resolves a legal battle between Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick and Benchmark Capital, one of the startup’s early investors, Reuters reported Sunday. Benchmark Capital, which owns about 13 percent of Uber, sued Kalanick in August, alleging that Kalanick misled Uber’s stockholders to gain control of three board seats.

“We’ve entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment,” an Uber representative said in a statement. “We believe this agreement is a strong vote of confidence in Uber’s long-term potential. Upon closing, it will help fuel our investments in technology and our continued expansion at home and abroad, while strengthening our corporate governance.”

The agreement comes a month after Uber’s board voted to eliminate its super-voting structure, in which early shareholders had 10 times the voting power, to a one vote per share model, according to a source familiar with the vote. The board also voted to expand the number of board members to 17, adding six seats to dilute additions made by Kalanick in September.

At the same time, Uber’s board approved the sale of $10 billion of stock to SoftBank, a Japanese internet giant. SoftBank plans to acquire a 14 percent to 20 percent stake in the world’s most valuable privately-held tech startup, board member Arianna Huffington said in October.

The vote came amid a tumultuous year for the ride-hailing startup, which has been rocked by a slew of scandals, including sexual harassment allegations that resulted in more than 20 Uber employees being fired. The company has been caught using a secretive tool called Greyball to avoid local authorities. The company is also defending itself against a trade-secret theft lawsuit from Waymo, a self-driving car business run by Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

 

Facebook Announced New Transparency Measures For Political Ads

October 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc confirmed that it has plans to increase transparency about its role in political advertising on Friday, ahead of congressional hearings this week on social media companies and Russia’s meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president for ads, said in a blog post that the company would launch a publicly searchable archive next year containing details about the advertisements it runs related to U.S. federal elections.

Details will include the size of spending and the demographics of the audience the ads reached, Goldman said. The archive, beginning with ads carried in 2018, will cover a rolling four-year period, he said.

 Internet political ads have boomed in recent years as U.S. politicians looked for different ways to reach potential supporters, and as companies including Facebook have created tools to allow targeted marketing.

Online ads, though, are generally viewable only to the intended audience, raising concerns among transparency advocates, researchers and lawmakers about how to hold politicians accountable for what they say.

The planned archive reflects a change in corporate policy for the world’s largest social network, which had previously resisted the idea.

In June, Facebook told Reuters that it would go on treating political ads like all others and that creating an online repository would violate the confidentiality of those advertisers.

Since then, Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have all said that Russia-based operatives bought ads and used fake names on their services to spread politically divisive messages in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. election.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election.

Next week, general counsels for Facebook, Google and Twitter will testify before public hearings of three U.S. congressional committees about the alleged interference and proposed legislation to require them to disclose election-related ads.

Goldman wrote in his post: “Transparency helps everyone, especially political watchdog groups and reporters, keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different groups.”

Facebook said its archive will eventually expand beyond the United States and show ads from elections in other countries and jurisdictions.

In the future, advertisers on Facebook will also be required to include a disclosure in election-related ads, to read: “Paid for by,” the company said.

Can nVidia Put Fully Autonomous Cars On The Road In Four Years

October 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net, Technology

Nvidia chief executive Jensen Huang said artificial intelligence would enable fully automated cars within four years, but played down a demand for its chips from cryptocurrency miners.

Huang told the assorted throngs, riff-raff and great unwashed who attended a company event in Taipei: “It will take no more than four years to have fully autonomous cars on the road. How long it takes for the vast majority of cars on the road to become that, it really just depends.”

He said that cars are not the only thing which could be automated – many tasks in companies that can be automated… the productivity of society will go up.

But Huang joined peers taming expectations of strong revenue growth from a wave of interest in cryptocurrencies. AMD predicted this week that there will be some levelling off of cryptocurrency demand.

“Revenue for us in crypto is over $100 million a quarter. For us, it’s a small percentage… It’s obviously not a target market”, Huang said.

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that use encryption techniques for security and can be traded. Miners use computers to process cryptocurrency transactions, and they are rewarded with additional cryptocurrency.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Close To Deal With Steven Spielberg For ‘Amazing Stories’

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is putting the final touches on a deal to make 10 new episodes of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s science fiction anthology series “Amazing Stories,” landing a premiere Hollywood talent for its plunge into original TV programming, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.

The series would be produced for Apple by Spielberg’s Amblin Television and Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal television production unit. “Amazing Stories” originally ran on the NBC broadcast network.

“We love being at the forefront of Apple’s investment in scripted programming,” NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement about the show’s planned revival.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. Amblin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The deal is the first to be made public since Apple hired veteran Sony executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg in June to expand the iPhone maker’s push into original programming, a field crowded with streaming services and traditional networks.

It is unclear how people will be able to watch “Amazing Stories” or when it will debut. Apple has not divulged if it will put its own TV series in the iTunes Store, where it sells shows made by other companies, or on another platform.

The deal with Spielberg fits with a strategy Apple executives have outlined in meetings with Hollywood executives. Apple has emphasized in the discussions that it wants prestigious programming and to work with A-list actors, producers and writers, according to sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans.

The company already has placed bids on other projects, including for a comedy series about morning television starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, sources said.

“They are looking for really high-end premium stuff they feel is creatively in line with the Apple brand,” one source said of Apple’s strategy.

The technology company is competing with several established players that have hooked big name stars, such as Netflix Inc and Time Warner Inc’s HBO, plus newer entrants like Facebook Inc FB.N.

 Apple has committed $1 billion to start its programming push, the sources said. Netflix, by comparison, says it will spend up to $7 billion on content next year.

The budget for “Amazing Stories” will be more than $5 million per episode, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported that Apple had reached a deal for the series.

Gannett Acquires Stake In Online Media Company, Grateful Ventures

October 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Gannett Co Inc, publisher of USA Today, confirmed that it has made its first major investment outside of news with a majority investment in Grateful Ventures, an online media company that focuses on lifestyle content including videos about food and cooking.

Gannett, which also owns local newspapers and websites across the United States, is looking to expand its audience as the print media industry struggles with declining advertising and circulation revenue, and younger audiences increasingly read news and watch TV online.

The investment is less than $10 million, Gannett said, declining to provide specifics.

 Grateful Ventures will initially produce videos and content about food and cooking that will appear on Gannett websites and other social media, said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Gannett’s chief transformation officer.

There is potential to expand to beauty and health and wellness, she said.

The categories will help Gannett increase its female audience, Wadsworth added, which is a coveted demographic for some advertisers.

“Our aim is to become a daily destination for our audience, so tapping into lifestyle will help that,” she said.

The companies plan to use a variety of advertising strategies to make money from the videos. Those include working with internet cooks who have a wide following and producing branded content, Grateful Ventures chief executive Kyle Cox said in an interview.

Other newspaper companies have also ramped up content outside of news, such as The New York Times Co, which introduced a separate digital subscription for its NYT Cooking website in June.

Because Gannett owns papers and websites in 34 states across the country, the partnership is unique in that it can closely reach a millennial audience in a variety of markets, Cox said.

“We have an opportunity to tap into the millennials across the country, versus hearing only what the media companies on the coast are saying,” he said.

BlackBerry’s Focus On Software Pays Off

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd reported better-than-expected quarterly results and increased its fiscal-year revenue forecast after sales at its closely monitored software business hit a record, sending its shares up more than 7 percent in Thursday premarket trading.

The Canadian company, which last year stopped manufacturing the iconic BlackBerry smartphone to focus on software, reported a profit of 5 cents a share before special items for the second quarter ended on Aug. 31, compared with break-even per share a year earlier.

Revenue fell to $249 million from $352 million a year earlier but rose slightly from $244 million in the prior quarter.

Analysts had on average expected BlackBerry to break even on revenue of $220 million, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income for the quarter was $19 million, or 4 cents per share.

Excluding restructuring costs and other items, BlackBerry said it expected fiscal-year revenue of $920 million to $950 million and positive earnings per share. It also forecast positive free cash flow.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is aiming to notch 10 percent to 15 percent software revenue growth for its fiscal year, which runs until the end of February.

BlackBerry said software and services revenue reached a record $196 million in the quarter, more than the estimates of $174 million from RBC analyst Paul Trieber and $176.2 million from Macquarie’s Gus Papageorgiou.

Salesforce Launches Fund For Artificial Intelligence Start-ups

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture arm of Salesforce.com Inc is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence, the cloud computing firm told Reuters.

Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Salesforce revenues and income have grown rapidly in recent quarters, and it has boosted spending on research and development in the face of tough competition from rivals such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.

Venture capital investment in AI start-ups is rising quickly. For 2017, global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding to over 250 start-ups, Somorjai said. With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

The company said that it was also expanding the number of AI tasks employed by its ‘Einstein’ technology.

Microsoft, Adobe Strengthen Partnership

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft and Adobe have beefed up their strategic partnership with new product integrations aimed at boosting workplace productivity.

As part of the effort, Adobe Sign is now the “preferred” e-signature platform for Microsoft’s product portfolio, the two companies recently announced in a joint statement. For Adobe, this means potential access to 100 million users of Microsoft Office365 suite as well as the Dynamics CRM platform.

Other Sign integrations include Microsoft Flow, a workflow management tool launched last year; OneDrive cloud document storage; and Microsoft’s Slack-competitor, Teams.

Integrating Sign with Teams is designed to help simplify electronic signature processes for groups of employees, the companies said. An Adobe Sign app available in Teams will enable users to send documents for signing, while a Teams bot will support management and tracking of documents.

Microsoft’s team messaging platform will also be integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite, and stock image service, Adobe Stock, with the aim of providing faster feedback on creative projects.

The partnership is likely to provide a boost for Microsoft as it pushes Teams to customers, said 451 Research analyst, Raúl Castañón-Martínez.

Microsoft’s recently launched service faces stiff competition from rivals such as Slack and Atlassian – which unveiled its Stride collaboration software.

“Adobe Sign is a leading best of breed e-signature service; the partnership will make Teams’ value proposition more compelling,” said 451 Research senior analyst Raúl Castañón-Martínez.

While the alliance may not impact product adoption “it will definitely be a plus for its existing customer base because they will be able to do more with Teams,” he said. “More than anything, this will help with customer retention. This is a smart move for Microsoft, but not something it could afford not to do.”

While the partnership with Adobe is a plus for Microsoft, it does not necessarily give the company an advantage, he said, as it is “still catching up with Slack when it comes to third-party integrations.”

Craig LeClair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, also called the partnership a “good match.”

“Microsoft has limited document generation and forms capacity, two areas that are important to prepare information for signing. Adobe brings this along with Adobe Design,” he said.

TD Ameritrade Unveils Facebook Chatbot

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

TD Ameritrade has rolled out a “chatbot”, an automated program that can communicate with the brokerage’s customers on Facebook Inc’s messaging application, to give them information about markets and their accounts.

TD Ameritrade’s chatbot uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to respond to natural language messages from users on Facebook Messenger about their investments and stock prices, the brokerage said on Tuesday.

For example, customers could ask the chatbot for the price of Apple Inc shares or information on the performance of their portfolio without leaving the messaging app. It also offers educational content such as videos on different investment topics.

Unlike other chatbots, TD Ameritrade’s bot will be backed by a human customer support team, which will receive notifications if the bot detects it is unable to handle some interactions. This will include cases in which the user is expressing frustration through colorful language or if they expressly request human help.

“If salty language is used it will automatically escalate it to the human,” Sunayna Tuteja, director of emerging technologies and innovation at TD Ameritrade, said in an interview.

Chatbots and virtual assistants have become more popular in banking and other consumer facing industries because improvements in artificial intelligence have made them more adept at interacting with humans.

Financial firms are hopeful that they can be used to replace their costly call centers populated by humans while offering 24/7 support.

Tuteja said TD Ameritrade believes that while bots are useful at providing some customer service, a human element will always be required in financial services.

“In our business we feel it will always be an elegant combination of bot and human service,” she said. The company last year launched a voice-bot for Amazon Inc’s Echo device.

While bots have improved in their interactions with humans, the technology is still in its early days and functionality is limited. For example, the TD Ameritrade chatbot does not yet let users transact, but does allow them to initiate the process of opening a new account.

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