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Google Wants In On Enterprise Chat Service Symphony

October 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google, which has now transitioned into holding company Alphabet Inc, is in talks with messaging startup Symphony Communication Services LLC for a round of fundraising, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Symphony’s chat service allows financial firms, corporate customers and individuals to put all of their digital communications on one centralized platform.

The talks are ongoing and no terms are finalized yet, the source added.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported earlier on Monday that Google invested in a new round of funding for Symphony that values the company at about $650 million.

The service is backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc and other big Wall Street banks.

Goldman led a group of 14 banks including Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co in making a $66 million investment in Symphony last October, when Symphony was set up. Symphony spokeswoman Samantha Singh declined to comment.

Many on Wall Street think of Symphony as a rival to Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters Corp, which provide messaging and information services for bankers, traders and investors.

Those terminals can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year for each customer.

Symphony is available to businesses with more than 50 users for $15 per user per month. Smaller businesses and individuals can use the tool for free.


Sprint Says More Job Cuts Likely

October 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint will likely further reduce its 31,000-person workforce as part of up to $2.5 billion in cost cuts in the next six months, a company spokesman said Friday.

“It’s likely some jobs will be impacted by this [cost-cutting] process, but it’s premature to talk about details,” said Sprint spokesman David Tovar in a telephone interview on Friday.

In addition to 31,000 workers, the company also employs about 30,000 contractor employees, he said. Sprint, with 57.7 million customers, fell to the nation’s fourth largest wireless carrier in August, behind T-Mobile.

The cost-cutting plan of $2 billion to $2.5 billion was described in an internal memo to employees, sent by new chief financial officer Tarek Robbiati. “We just want to make sure employees know what’s happening,” he said.

Robbiati’s memo was first reported by The Wall Street Journal last week.

The memo was distributed a few days after Sprint said it would not participate in an auction of low-frequency wireless spectrum. But Tovar contended that the two announcements are not connected with any sudden changes in Sprint’s long-term restructuring plan, which CEO Marcelo Claure has described many times since taking over a year ago.

“We have plenty of spectrum, the most of any other U.S. company, and we don’t need to participate in the auction,” Tovar added. “We’re going full speed ahead on our network plan and the decision not to participate in the auction has nothing to do with what you’re hearing about cost reductions.”



BlackBerry Looks To Android For A Turnaround

September 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry has officially announced that it’s next new smartphone will run Android.

The phone, called Priv, will also include BlackBerry security and productivity tools, Chairman and CEO John Chen told investors last week.

The move suggests that Chen still can’t decide whether BlackBerry should focus on the more profitable enterprise mobile device and application management software sector, or remain a loss-making phone maker with one foot still in the cut-throat consumer electronics market.

On Friday, BlackBerry reported revenue of $490 million for the three months to Aug. 29, down from $916 million a year earlier. The company scraped up a net income of $51 million with an accounting manipulation, revaluing debentures to the tune of $228 million. Gross margin was down, however, while fixed selling costs remained largely unchanged from a year earlier.

Software licensing revenue jumped 33 percent, however, suggesting that BlackBerry’s mobile device and application management business, supplemented after the quarter ended with the $425-million acquisition of Good Technology, is on the up.

The company added 2,400 enterprise software licensees during the quarter, but 60 percent of these were cross-platform licenses, meaning that BlackBerry’s software will be used to manage the security of phones from other vendors.

Sales of its own phones dropped precipitously: It recognized revenue from shipment of just 800,000 phones running BlackBerry OS in the quarter, down from 2.1 million a year earlier.




Mobile Payment Service Square Planning IPO Before Year End

September 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mobile payment provider Square Inc plans to file for an “imminent” initial public offering, according to a source familiar with the situation, potentially putting it an a position to be a public company by the end-of-year holiday season.

Square, which has pioneered the use of instant payments over smartphones, is one of the most richly valued companies in Silicon Valley, worth an estimated $6 billion based on its most recent round of funding.

Fortune reported that Square would file for an IPO in the next two weeks. A spokesman for Square declined comment.

Market turmoil of the type seen in August, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 588 points in a single day, could derail IPO plans.

Square has become one of the most scrutinized start-ups in Silicon Valley. Many venture capitalists have privately questioned whether it is really worth the $6 billion valuation. The doubters have cited heavy competition and tight margins in the payments business.

An IPO will provide a quick answer to that question, as well as guidance for many of the other private start-up companies dubbed “unicorns,” meaning their valuation is $1 billion or more. CB Insights, a venture-capital tracker, says more than 130 such companies now exist.

Overall, the climate for venture-backed IPOs has weakened this year, with just 44 venture-backed companies listing on public markets in the first half of the year, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That compares with 66 in the first half of 2014.

Earlier this year, Square had filed for a “confidential” IPO, which lets companies with under $1 billion in annual revenue file registration documents and go through a Securities and Exchange Commission review without public scrutiny. After the review, if the company wishes to continue with an IPO, it makes a public filing.

Goldman Sachs will serve as lead underwriter, with Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase also participating, Fortune reported.



Citrix Soliciting Buyers, Reaches Out To Dell

September 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Citrix Systems Inc , the U.S. cloud computing fim targeted by activist hedge fund Elliott Management, is making a last-ditched effor to sell itself as a whole before it embarks on asset sales, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citrix, which had attracted the interest of private equity investors before it agreed in July to give Elliott a seat on its board of directors, is having new conversations with buyout firms, the people said this week.

The company, which has a market capitalization of $11.6 billion, has also reached out to other technology firms to solicit interest, including Dell Inc, the computer maker that was taken private two years ago by its founder Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners LP, the people added.

Citrix announced in July it would explore strategic alternatives for its GoTo family of products, including videoconferencing and desktop sharing service GoToMeeting. However, a sale process for these assets has not started yet because Citrix wants to see if it can still sell itself at a satisfactory valuation, according to the sources.

If Citrix does not sell itself in its entirety, it will not just seek to sell or spin off its GoTo products, but it will also explore options for other assets down the line, according to the sources.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Citrix, Dell and Silver Lake declined to comment.

Based in Santa Clara, California, Citrix provides communications software and networking solutions for businesses. It reported net income of $251.7 million in 2014, down from $339.5 million in 2013.



Oracle Disappoints As Licensing Sales Free Fall Continues

September 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Oracle Corp’s sales declined more than expected in the first quarter, hurt by a strong dollar and a continued drop in licensed software sales and the company warned revenue could fall in the current quarter even on a constant currency basis.

Like its rivals such as SAP, IBM Corp and Microsoft Corp , Oracle is striving to boost Internet-based software sales to head off fast-growing competitors such as Inc.

But, analysts have said Oracle’s cloud software business has not been growing fast enough to make up for declines in the 38-year-old company’s licensed software business due to reasons ranging from slow customer adoption to tough competition.

Oracle’s revenue declined 1.7 percent to $8.45 billion in the quarter ended Aug. 31, missing analysts estimates for the third quarter in a row.

The company said sales increased 7 percent on a constant currency basis. However, it forecast revenue to range between a fall of 2 percent to growth of 1 percent in the current quarter.

“On an apples-to-apples basis, that’s disappointing. It’s pretty clearly below consensus even at the top end,” Wedbush Securities Inc analyst Steve Koenig said.

Oracle’s shares fell as much as 2.8 percent in extended trading on Wednesday.

The company’s net income declined 20 percent to $1.75 billion in the first quarter. Excluding items, it earned 53 cents per share, more than analysts’ estimate of 52 cents.

Sales of Oracle’s cloud-computing software and platform service rose 34 percent to $451 million. Sales of traditional software licenses fell 16 percent to $1.51 billion.

Wall Street was expecting cloud-based sales to increase 35 percent and licensed software sales to decline 17 percent, according to RBC Capital Markets.

“In the foreseeable future the database business continues to be a dark cloud over the company’s head,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said.

Cloud-based software sales account for a small portion of Oracles’ total revenue as they are subscription based, which promise a steady revenue stream but with lower margins.

Fundamentally, all of Oracle’s software will be available on the cloud by the OpenWorld conference at the end of October, Co-Chief Executive Mark Hurd said on a call with analysts.

Ives said Oracle needs to make acquisitions to fuel growth in its cloud business and convince investors who are skeptical of a turnaround.



PayPal Rival, Klarna Launches In USA

September 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Payments firm Klarna debuted its U.S business on Tuesday and announced that, one of the biggest U.S. online retailers, would be its first major retail partner.

The company, which has grown throughoutn Europe and gained a 10 percent share of the Northern European e-commerce market, said it had partnered with around 10 U.S. merchants so far.

Sweden-based Klarna, founded in 2005 and backed by investors such as Sequoia Capital and Atomico, is now planning for rapid expansion in the United States, where it will take on rivals such as PayPal and Stripe.

“I would be disappointed if we didn’t have hundreds of merchants on the platform doing millions of transactions as early as in 2016,” Klarna North America CEO Brian Billingsley, told Reuters.

Klarna’s services allow online consumers to buy goods by entering easy-to-remember details such as an e-mail address and zip code. It also lets consumers pay after delivery with Klarna assuming the risk in the interim and paying the retailer immediately.

Klarna, which had net sales of $319 million last year, said it was currently seeing “significant growth” in its core markets in the Nordics and Germany.

Asked how much the group could grow in 2016, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said it was to early to tell as the U.S business was still in its infancy.

“There is definitely a potential to quickly reach half a billion dollars in revenue in a very short period of time,” he said.

Klarna said the company would double in size if it was to capture half a percentage of the U.S market.

“And while of course our ambitions are much higher than half a percentage, it is definitely an interesting reflection of how extremely big the market is,” Siemiatkowski said.



LG Display To Focus On Next-Generatin OLED Screens

August 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd s announced on Monday it would focus investment on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, betting on the next-generation technology to steer it clear of price wars and ahead of the competition.

Through 2018, LG Display plans to put at least 10 trillion won ($8.47 billion) primarily into OLED displays for large products such as TVs, and flexible screens for smartphones and wearables. It will seek to expand OLED applications to signage and automobiles, and allocate some spending to premium liquid crystal display (LCD) products, the firm said in a statement.

LG Display and sister firm LG Electronics Inc have been the biggest proponents of OLED, which boasts improved color rendition and power consumption. The world’s top LCD maker hopes early investment in OLED will help it dominate when the technology becomes mainstream.

LG Display shares have fallen 34 percent this year, touching levels not seen since 2012 as investors see a future comprising sluggish LCD growth and profit-squeezing price wars with Chinese rivals. OLED, however, offers a market worth $28.3 billion by 2022 from $8.7 billion in 2014, said researcher DisplaySearch.

OLED is being increasingly adopted for premium smartphones and smartwatches, such as models from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc. But prices of goods sporting large, high profit margin OLED screens such as TVs are still far higher than comparable LCD products.

A 55-inch OLED ultra-high definition curved TV made by LG Electronics was on sale for $4,999 on Inc’s U.S. shopping site, marked down from $5,499.99. A comparable LCD set made by Samsung was priced $2,497.99, down from $3,999.99.

Samsung, the world’s biggest TV maker, has said OLED is still too expensive to produce for TVs.

As the two LG companies are the only major players pushing the technology for TVs, analysts and investors are skeptical whether they can by themselves create the economies of scale necessary to bring down prices enough for mass market adoption.



Motorola Solutions Gets Boost From New Investor

August 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Motorola Solutions Inc announced that private equity firm Silver Lake wll invest $1 billion in the maker of walkie-talkies and radio systems as it looks to boost growth in its services business, which includes video monitoring and data analytics.

Motorola Solutions also said it planned a $2 billion buyback.

The investment is one of the largest ever by Silver Lake, which led a $24.9 billion deal to take Dell Inc private in 2013.

Silver Lake is buying $1 billion of convertible senior notes due 2020 with an initial conversion price of $68.50 per share, Motorola Solutions said on Wednesday.

The private equity firm will get two seats on the company’s board when the deal closes, probably in the third quarter.

Motorola Solutions said it expected the investment to boost its business that includes video monitoring, data analytics and content management aimed at “smart policing”.

The business accounted for 3 percent of the net sales of the company’s services unit in 2014.

The company – which is unrelated to cellphone and set-top box maker Motorola Mobility, now owned by China’s Lenovo Group – has been cutting costs aggressively to offset sluggish sales.

Motorola Solutions’ major customers include police and fire departments as well as other government agencies whose budgets have been squeezed in recent years.

Bloomberg reported in April that the company had failed to find a buyer after putting itself up for sale.

Motorola Solutions said that its net sales fell 1.8 percent to $1.37 billion in the second quarter ended July 4.

Net income attributable to the company fell to $142 million, or 68 cents per share, from $824 million, or $3.22 per share a year earlier, reflecting the divestiture of the company’s enterprise business in October.

Net income from continuing operations rose to 72 cents per share from 30 cents.



Twitter Woes Continue, User Growth Rate Slows

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc’s shares continued to drop after the microblogging company said its number of monthly average users grew at the slowest pace since it went public in 2013.

“This is unacceptable and we’re not happy about it,” Jack Dorsey, who stepped in as interim chief executive on July 1, said on a call with analysts.

Twitter said it had 304 million core users in the second quarter, up from 302 million in the prior quarter.

Twitter’s struggles to increase its audience worries investors, who are focused on the company’s growth potential, and the latest figures did little to reassure them.

The data on users overshadowed the company’s second-quarter earnings and revenue, which exceeded expectations, and its bullish projections for future revenue.

Executives also made clear it would be a long process, and were candid about problems with the service.

“We do not expect to see sustained meaningful growth (in monthly active users) until we start to reach the mass market,” Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said on the call.

“We have not clearly communicated Twitter’s unique value. And as a result non-users continue to ask, ‘Why should I use Twitter?’ “Simply said, the product remains too difficult to use.”

Twitter recognizes “there is an issue that needs to be worked on,” Evercore ISI analyst Ken Sena said. “They were giving investors a sense of the challenge and I think the stock sell-off that you saw just reflected that.”




Cloud Services Behind Amazon’s Rising Revenue

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc’s shares surged more than 20 percent last Friday, adding more than $46 billion to the company’s market value, after strong growth in the e-commerce giant’s cloud business drove a surprise quarterly profit.

The company’s market capitalization soared to more than $270 billion, overtaking that of Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s biggest retailer.

Revenue from Amazon’s cloud operations – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – nearly doubled in the second quarter, indicating that the business was poised to drive sustainable earnings for the online retailer, Wall Street analysts said.

Operating margins at the unit jumped to 21.4 pct from 7.7 percent.

“Product sales are Amazon’s bread, but AWS is its butter,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in a note, raising his price target on the stock by 21 percent to $700.

“They delivered a pretty large profit, we expected a loss … they exercised discipline and did not invest in new consumer electronic product launches.”

Investors have raised concerns that the company’s aggressive spending may not pay off. But strong growth in AWS and positive commentary on the Amazon Prime service allayed some worries.

Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for speedier delivery and exclusive access to certain movies, music and Kindle books, tend to spend more than regular users of Amazon’s services.

“The scale of their distribution network is starting to generate better incremental margins,” Barclays analyst Paul Vogel said.

“That, coupled with the continued strong growth in both revenue and margins at AWS, moves us from cautious to optimistic on the next year of growth for Amazon.”

Amazon, which last reported a profit in the fourth quarter of 2014, considers AWS its main engine of growth, along with Amazon Prime and Marketplace, where the company acts as a middleman for third-party vendors.




Nintendo Goes AMD

July 21, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

The last of the console makers is ready to sign up to AMD chips, according to the latest rumor

Some details are now coming to light on Nintendo’s upcoming NX console. The console will be in the shops in a year’s time, but we might know who’s building the NX’s chips.

AMD will manufacture the CPU + GPU combo, giving the outfit total control of the console market. It was pretty much a no brainer. AMD created the APUs found inside the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  Although it is getting increasingly difficult to tell the consoles apart.

AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, confirmed that the company had a new chip contract. Su said the deal could generate billions, but she did not identify the customer .

It now seems she was referring to the Nintendo deal, which means she is more optimistic about the products’ success than us.

The NX will be based around the Android operating system and should released some time next year. Nintendo is saying nothing about the deal at the moment.

AMD is needs more deals like this if it is going to turn around its dependence on the ever-shrinking PC market. There are only so many consoles that made every year and AMD appears to be inside them all.



Did Microsoft Drop DVD Support In Windows 10?

July 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has decided that there is no point putting Windows 10 on a DVD and insisting that people install from a Flash drive.

Windows 10 will be shipped on USB drives rather than traditional DVDs, although you might be able to find one on DVD if you ask Microsoft very nicely.

USB versions of Windows 10 Home and 10 Pro are listed for pre-order on Amazon already, running $120 and $200 respectively.

It is all fairly obvious. Most cheap PCs ship without a drive these days which has made home-made USB installation drives the only option. We can still remember the outcry when people complained about the number of floppy disks it took to install Windows 95.

Windows 98 came out on a CD drive to cut down the numbers. Now it seems that DVDs are now going the way of the dodo too.


Facebook’s Oculus Acquires Gesture Recognition Firm Pebble

July 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook’s Oculus unit announcd that it has agreed to acquire Israeli gesture recognition technology developer Pebbles Interfaces for an undisclosed amount.

The announcement was made in a blog posted by Oculus.

Israel’s Calcalist financial news website said the deal was worth tens of millions of dollars.

While other companies pioneering the virtual reality field focus on full-body movement, Pebbles’ technology detects and tracks hand movement. It is aimed primarily at gamers but also has applications for TV, computers, or smartphone operation while driving.

Recently Pebbles integrated its technology with Oculus glasses, which translate finger gestures into virtual movement through a camera mounted on the glass frame, Calcalist said.

Investors in Pebbles include Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi, Israeli venture capital fund Giza and U.S. storage firm SanDisk, Calcalist said.



Microsoft Will Provide Windows 10 Updates For 2-4 Years

July 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has provided more information about how long it will provide updates for Windows 10, saying in a PowerPoint presentation that free refreshes will last between two and four years.

The Redmond, Wash. company revealed the timeline in a slide deck it posted on its investors website June 26. The presentation offered up additional information about Microsoft’s planned revenue deferrals for Windows 10, which the company first talked about in May.

“Revenue allocated is deferred and recognized on a straight-line basis over the estimated period the software upgrades are expected to be provided by estimated device life,” the most pertinent slide stated. “[The estimated device life] can range from two to four years.”

Microsoft will determine the device lifetime — and thus the support stretch — by “customer type.”

Although details remain skimpy on the upgrade lifetimes Microsoft plans for Windows 10, the two-to-four-year span was the first time the firm named their lengths.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that the free updates and upgrades for Windows 10 would be tied to what it has called the “supported lifetime of the device.” It debuted that phrase in January, when it announced Windows 10′s name and afree upgrade for consumers and some businesses from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 for one year following the new OS’s official release.

The free post-launch updates and upgrades, which will include new features and changes to the user interface (UI), are key to Microsoft’s strategy to transform the operating system into a service.

“With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft will provide new features and functionality over time,” another slide in the short PowerPoint presentation said. “We will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device. We think of Windows as a Service – continuous updates over time.”