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Square Allowing Bitcoins For Payments

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yahoo Out, Google In For Firefox Corporate Browser

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roku Signs Licensing Deal For Inclusion On Philips TVs

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku Inc’s shares skyrocketed by 43 percent to a record high earlier this week after the streaming device maker said it signed a licensing deal that would put its technology on Philips-branded televisions in the United States this year.

The company said the licensing partnership with Japan’s Funai Electric Co Ltd, which manufactures Philips N.V. televisions for North American, would place its operating system on Philips’ smart TVs.

 Roku also said that it would give a $20 discount on its $69.99-priced streaming stick for the Black Friday weekend, and separately said its customer would get a free one-month trial of AT&T Inc’s streaming service DirecTV Now.

The barrage of news was well received by investors, who sent Roku’s shares jumping 28.5 percent to close at $42.71 on Monday. The stock hit a high of $47.49 earlier in the session.

“The price move was solely due to long shareholders bidding up ROKU’s stock price” and not due to investors covering their short positions in the stock, financial analytics firm S3 Partners said in a note.

S3 Partners said while the short interest in Roku has risen since its initial public offering (IPO) in late September, it has stayed relatively flat in November and isn’t likely to go up further due to the limited number of shares available to borrow.

Investors who sell securities short first borrow shares and then sell them, expecting the price to fall so they can then buy the shares back at the lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.

Roku, one of the first to make a device to stream content such as from Netflix Inc onto TVs, is now combating deeper-pocketed entrants such as Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc among others.

Still, up to Monday’s close, Roku’s stock has now more than tripled from its IPO price of $14 on Sept. 27. The stock debuted at $15.78 on the Nasdaq on Sept. 28.

 Los Gatos, California-based Roku’s success in the stock market is in stark contrast to the fortunes of other technology companies to make their market debuts this year.

Snap Inc’s shares have fallen 26 percent since its February IPO, while Blue Apron Holdings Inc has lost about 70 percent since its IPO in June.

Qualcomm Rejects Broadcom’s Takeover Bid

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc officially rejected rival Broadcom Ltd’s $103-billion takeover bid, saying the offer undervalued the company and would face regulatory hurdles.

Shares of Qualcomm were up 1.8 percent at $65.74 in early afternoon trading, while those of Broadcom were down 0.4 percent at $263.95.

Broadcom said it would seek to engage with Qualcomm’s board and management, adding that it had received positive feedback from key customers and stockholders.

 “We continue to believe our proposal represents the most attractive, value-enhancing alternative available to Qualcomm stockholders and we are encouraged by their reaction,” the company said.

Both companies count Apple among their top customers. Analysts have said a deal between the two would help Qualcomm settle its legal battle with the iPhone maker as Broadcom has a closer relationship with Apple.

Analysts said Broadcom can now raise its bid, go for a proxy fight or launch a hostile exchange offer.

“Qualcomm’s ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response to the unsolicited bid by Broadcom isn’t surprising and we would be surprised if at this point, Broadcom didn’t move forward with a proxy fight,” Loop Capital analyst Betsy Van Hees told Reuters.

Tencent Takes Stake In Snapchat Company

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat got a vote of confidence from a new investor.

Chinese tech behemoth, Tencent, has taken a 12 percent stake in Snap, the company that gave us disappearing messages first, reported the Financial Times. Tencent sits among China’s three biggest tech companies along with Baidu and Alibaba, collectively known as BAT.

The news, revealed in Snap’s quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, comes after the company posted disappointing results of its growth this quarter.

It’s not Tencent’s first investment in a US company, having bought a five percent stake in Tesla in March. Tencent, the creator of popular Chinese mobile game, Honour of Kings, also owns Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends.

It’s no secret that Tencent has been making efforts to expand to the US. Also the owner of Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, Tencent brought its digital payment service, WeChat Pay, to the country earlier this year.

In the filing, Snap said it has “long been inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Tencent.”

Tencent president Martin Lau said the company “looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences.” This could come in the form of a collaboration between both companies on mobile games and news feed, according to a statement obtained by Reuters.

Snapchat Launches Re-design

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc is redesigning its disappearing-message app Snapchat hoping to attract a broader audience, going back to the drawing board as Wall Street clobbered it for another quarter of slowing user growth.

The Venice, California-based firm, whose March stock market debut was the hottest of any tech stock in years, reported revenue and user growth for the third quarter well below Wall Street expectations as it struggles to compete with Facebook Inc’s Instagram.

Snap has disappointed investors each quarter of its brief existence as a public company.

User growth in the last three months was well below what investment analysts expected. Daily active users rose to 178 million in the third quarter from 173 million in the second quarter. Analysts had expected 181.8 million, according to research firm FactSet.

Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said the company was launching the redesign after hearing for years that Snapchat was difficult to understand or hard to use.

“We are going to make it easier to discover the vast quantity of content on our platform that goes undiscovered or unseen every day,” Spiegel told analysts on a conference call.

The 27-year-old CEO said there was a “strong likelihood” the redesign would be disruptive in the short term, but said Snap was willing to take the risk for long-term gain.

Such a radical change so soon after an IPO is unusual.

Snap is not the only social media company looking to revive growth by changing its look. Microblogging service Twitter Inc said on Tuesday it would roll out 280-character tweets to users across the world, double the length of its iconic 140-character tweets.

Asked on the analyst call what Snapchat’s redesign would look like, Spiegel said the company had been studying the evolution of mobile content feeds such as Twitter streams and the Facebook News Feed and saw room for a “personalized content service.”

Spiegel said the company next year would also build more tools for people to share with broad audiences beyond their friends, the type of public broadcasting common on Instagram and Twitter.

“It seems like a significant amount of change in a short period of time,” analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG told Spiegel on the call. He asked what led to the shifts.

Spiegel said Snap needed to evolve rapidly. “We’re just not afraid to make changes in the long-term interest of the business,” he said.

Broadcomm, Qualcomm Merger May Face Resistance In China

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The proposed mega-merger between chipmaker Broadcom Ltd and U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc is likely to face stern scrutiny from China, antitrust lawyers say, amid a strategic push by Beijing into semiconductors.

Broadcom made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm on Monday, aimed at creating a $200-billion-plus behemoth that could reshape the industry at the heart of mobile phone hardware.

But Chinese regulatory approval could be a hold-up. Beijing and Washington have sparred over technology deals, including in chips, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) knocking back a number of takeovers involving Chinese firms this year.

The thorny topic is likely to come up when U.S. President Donald Trump visits China this week – with Qualcomm executives in tow.

The merger would face a lengthy review from the anti-monopoly unit of China’s commerce ministry, due to strategic concerns, the huge size of the deal and because Qualcomm has come under fire before in the country over competition concerns.

“This is a critical industry for China and Qualcomm has been fined by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) before so it’s on its radar,” said Wendy Yan, Shanghai-based partner at law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Qualcomm agreed to pay a record fine of $975 million in China in 2015 to end a probe into anti-competitive practices related to so-called “double dipping” by billing Chinese customers patent royalty fees in addition to charging for the chips.

China is making a major push to develop its own semiconductor industry under local champions such as Tsinghua Unigroup and Fujian Grand Chip Investment to help cut reliance on global operators including Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp.

Nintendo Not Happy With Super Mario

November 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Super Mario Run has now been downloaded 200 million times worldwide, and yet Nintendo still isn’t satisfied with how much money it has made.

Mario’s mobile debut launched in December last year, and it hit 150 million downloads at the end of April. However, despite adding a further 50 million downloads in the six months since then, Nintendo expressed disappointment in how profitable the game has been.

In an investor briefing, the company said that “we have not yet reached an acceptable profit point” with Super Mario Run, and emphasised the amount it has learned that can be used in its future mobile releases. Nintendo is still updating and promoting the game, including a new game mode, Remix10, which was added in September, and a “special price offer” to coincide with the update.

Nintendo saw better performance, relatively speaking, from a different mobile title: Fire Emblem Heroes, which launched in February and, notably, employed a free-to-play business model. In that case, an ongoing program of updates means it is, “on track to meet our overall business objectives, including our profit objectives.”

This difference is arguably evident in the strategy for Nintendo’s next major mobile release, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which will also use a free-to-play revenue model based on a soft currency called “Leaf Tickets.” Nevertheless, Nintendo described Animal Crossing’s business model as “free-to-start” when presenting to its investors.

“There will be Leaf Tickets, which can be used in a variety of situations within the game, as consumable items. They will be available for free as the game advances but players can also purchase these. Our objective is to offer a service that allows even consumers who do not normally play games on a regular basis to have a little fun each and every day.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Bitcoin Breaks Another Record, Hits $6000

October 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Bitcoin surged to a record high of more than $6,000 on Friday, breaking past its market capitalization to $100 billion at one point, as investors continued to bet on an asset that has a limited supply and has paved the way for a whole slew of crypto-currencies.

The original virtual currency has gained over 500 percent this year, more than any other tradable asset class. Bitcoin though is very volatile – posting gains and losses as high as 26 percent and 16 percent respectively on any given day.

 On Friday, bitcoin hit a record peak $6,000.10 on the BitStamp platform, and was last at $5,964.24, up 4.7 percent on the day.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that can either be held as an investment, or used as a foundation for future applications through the blockchain, its underlying technology. The blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions.

It is more scarce though than most people realize. The number of bitcoins in existence is not expected to exceed 21 million.

Analysts said it was a combination of factors that drove Friday’s surge in price.

Charles Hayter, co-founder of data analysis website Cryptocompare in London said hopes that China will soften its regulatory stance on crypto-currencies helped bitcoin’s cause.

“As China … fears fade, the price is unlocked and driven by demand and buyers entering the markets,” said Hayter.

Over the summer, China has banned the practice of raising capital through the sale of tokens to the public in what is known as initial coin offerings. It has also ordered the shutdown of digital currency exchanges.

But many in the market believe the Chinese ban is temporary.

“China would not want to be left out of the digital currency market nor the development of blockchain applications in general,” said Jason English, vice president of Protocol Marketing, at Sweetbridge, a global alliance in Zug, Switzerland that aims to use blockchain to create a liquid supply chain.

 “As much as 60 percent of the world’s bitcoin mining is happening in China, and therefore, many of the large … investments in ICO projects have also been coming from crypto-currency holders in China, whether directly or indirectly,” English added.

Sean Walsh, a partner at venture capital firm Redwood City, Ventures in Redwood City, California, also believes investors have been going back into bitcoin given the still uncertain global regulatory environment on crypto-currencies.

A big part of bitcoin’s recent surge was the ICO craze, which exploded this year. Bitcoins and ether, another digital currency, are used to purchase tokens for ICOs.

Nintendo Stock Hits A High Road

October 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo shares have hit a ten-year high following the announcement that Switch production is being increased to two million units per month.

As reported by Digitimes, the Switch is upping production from a previous undisclosed number, estimated to be between 800,000 and one million.

Nintendo shares are now trading at their highest value since March 2008 after rising 2.66% in Tokyo on Friday, gaining a total 77% since the beginning of 2017.

The Switch, which was already Nintendo’s fastest selling console, is expected to sell 20 million units by the end of the year, a source told Digitimes, far exceeding the 13 million predicted earlier this year.

The news comes amid speculation that the Switch could soon be released in China following the announcement that the smash-hit mobile game Honour of Kings was coming to western markets via the Switch.

Honour of Kings reportedly accounts for around 50% of publisher Tencent’s mobile revenue and has over 200 million users in the region. By managing to strike a deal with Tencent, Nintendo could be well positioned to release in China, and the portable format of the Switch plays into the handheld dominated market where the Xbox One and Playstation 4 enjoy little success initially.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Microsoft Put The Surface To Rest

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will drop its Surface laptop line-up by 2019, if remarks made by Canalys CEO Steve Brazier are to be believed.

As reported by The Register, which attended the Canalys Channels Forum, Brazier said that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, hinting that the firm’s bork-ridden Surface laptops and tablets are likely to go the same way as the firm’s all-but-defunct smartphone division.

“The Surface performance is choppy; there are good quarters and bad quarters, overall they are not making money. It doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” Brazier remarked.

“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?'”

Brazier has a point. Last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface revenue was down 2 per cent, and dropped a massive 26 per cent year-on-year in the previous quarter. The devices have been plagued with issues, too, which Microsoft has blamed on Intel’s Skylake chips.

Passing the buck didn’t stop Consumer Reports yanking its “recommended” label from the Surface line-up, though. It slammed the hardware “significantly less reliable than most other brands” after finding that one in four Surface owners were being plagued with  “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo, who joined the Canalys CEO on stage.

“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.

“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”

Courtesy-Fud

Electric-hybrid Airliner Aims For 2022 Debut

October 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A Seattle-area startup backed by the venture investment division of Boeing Co and JetBlue Airways Corp plans to bring a small hybrid-electric airliner to market by 2022 that can dramatically reduce the travel time and cost of trips under 1,000 miles (1,600 km), it said on Thursday.

The first of several aircraft planned by Zunum Aero would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two electric motors.

Electric-vehicle batteries, such as those made by Tesla Inc and Panasonic Corp, would power the motor. A supplemental gas engine and electrical generator would be used to give the plane a range of 700 miles, Matt Knapp, co-founder and chief aeronautic engineer of the Kirkland, Washington-based company, said in an interview.

 Zunum has no commitment to Tesla or Panasonic.

A larger plane seating up to 50 passengers would follow at the end of the next decade, and the range of both would increase to about 1,000 miles as battery technology improves, Knapp said.

 The planes eventually would fly solely on battery power, and are being designed to fly with one pilot and to eventually be remotely piloted, he added.

Several companies, including Uber Technologies Inc and European planemaker Airbus, are working on intra-urban electric-powered self-flying cars.

Zunum does not expect to be the first to certify an electric-powered aircraft with regulators. It is aiming to fill a market for regional travel for airlines, where private jets and commercial jetliners are too costly for many to use.

“Airlines are very keen to know how to fly a shorter distance and make money on it,” Knapp said.

Recent advances in electric-vehicle and autonomous technology, along with lightweight electric motors and carbon composite airframes would reduce the cost of flying Zunum’s aircraft to about 8 cents per seat-mile, about one-fifth that of a small jet or turboprop plane, Knapp said.

“We’re getting airline pricing down on a small plane and doing it for short distances,” Knapp said. “That kind of aircraft doesn’t currently exist.”

Zunum announced plans for electric-hybrid aircraft in April, and revealed that Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures had invested in its initial round of venture funding. On Thursday it disclosed specifications and a timetable for the vehicle entering service.

Is Google’s Nest Playing Catch-Up

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nest has announced a new range of products to help it limp back into the smart home market.

The smart home pioneer, has lost its mojo of late with so many competitors in the space and a string of security issues and is now playing catch up, with a smart door lock, made with Yale, who already have a range of them, an intruder alarm, of which there are myriad, and a video doorbell, which is essentially another camera with a button on it, and unlikely to be better than the Ring range which has a huge head start.

The company which made waves as the first popular ‘smart’ thermostat to reach the masses, went on to buy security firm Dropcam and has moved its focus towards home security, particularly focusing on cameras.

Also on the list was an outdoor version of its IQ facial recognition camera, with HDR recordings as you would find in a top-of-the-range telly (why?) however, unlike offerings from the likes of Netatmo, a subscription is required for facial recognition, and that’s on top of the over-the-odds pricing.

A Nest Secure starter kit will be $499 (£368) and on there are further charges if you want a mobile (SIM) backup system. It consists of “Detect” sensors, “Tag” keyfobs to arm and disarm and “Guard” which is a box that makes a noise.

It seems that Nest believes that it can trade on its name and its “Works with Nest” system, based on Google’s IoT infrastructure, but although the build quality of Nest products is excellent, the premium pricing will not be a lure to those being offered similar specs from other companies.

The big selling point is the ability to control everything from a single app, but there are plenty of ways to do that now for far less money, without being locked into a system.

The rest of the range has yet to be priced but will go on sale in November in the US. UK release dates are as yet unknown.

The most recent UK product was a camera (duh) with zoom and enhance capability.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Tesla Giving nVidia The Boot

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla has delivered a blow to Nvidia’s plans to dominate the AI car industry by abandoning work in Nvidia chips and moving to develop its own.

To make matters worse for the Green Goblin, Tesla is developing its own chip using Nvidia’s rival’s AMD intellectual property and any chips will be made by GloFo.

On Wednesday Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, said at the company’s technology conference in Santa Clara, California, that the company is working directly with Tesla.

Tesla’s silicon project is bounding ahead under the leadership of longtime chip architect Jim Keller, the head of Autopilot hardware and software since the departure of Apple veteran Chris Lattner in June.

Apparently, Keller was not that much of a fan of Nvidia, although to be fair he worked for AMD twice.

Keller arrived at Apple in 2008 through its acquisition of Palo Alto Semiconductor and was the designer of Apple’s A4 and A5 iPhone chips, among other things. More than 50 people are working on the initiative under Keller, the source said.

Tesla has been becoming more AMD focused lately, hiring Keller, including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.

Nvidia’s stock sank slightly on the news. Investers are aware that Tesla is not Nvidia’s only car AI partner. Analysts insist that Nvidia chips will remain the engine behind Tesla’s AI systems, while AMD chips could be used for some specific jobs.

We are not sure how true that will be, as there appears to be a trend happening here and it is following Apple’s own chip development plans. Tesla wants its own chip and will use AMD technology to build it.  If it builds it, why would it need Nvidia? 

Courtesy-Fud

Roku Gears Up For IPO, Sets Shares At $14

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku, the video streaming platform, set its initial public offering price at $14 per share, giving the company a value of $1.3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The maker of set-top streaming boxes and software priced at the high end of its expected range, raising roughly $219 million Wednesday night ahead of its debut on the Nasdaq stock market Thursday, The Journal reported.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon. But Roku is the most pervasive box in US households and tends to be one of the main ways people stream long-form TV from services like Netflix and Hulu, according to research firm Nielsen.

Roku, which announced its intention to go public earlier this month, said in June it has 15 million monthly active accounts, a 61 percent increase in the previous 12 months. The company had $400 million in revenue in 2016.

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