Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp said it is gearing up to spend 1 trillion yen ($8.4 billion) on acquisitions over the next four years, bolstered by a stronger profit outlook for its automotive and housing technology businesses.
Chief Executive Kazuhiro Tsuga said at a briefing on Thursday that Panasonic doesn’t have specific acquisition targets in mind for now. But he said the firm will spend around 200 billion yen on M&A in the fiscal year that kicks off in April alone, and pledged to improve on Panasonic’s patchy track record on big deals.
“With strategic investments, if there’s an opportunity to accelerate growth, you need funds. That’s the idea behind the 1 trillion yen figure,” he said. Tsuga has spearheaded a radical restructuring at the Osaka-based company that has made it one of the strongest turnaround stories in Japan’s embattled technology sector.
Tsuga previously told Reuters that company was interested in M&A deals in the European white goods market, a sector where Panasonic has comparatively low brand recognition.
The firm said on Thursday it’s targeting operating profit of 430 billion yen in the next fiscal year, up nearly 25 percent from the 350 billion yen it expects for the year ending March 31.
Panasonic’s earnings have been bolstered by moving faster than peers like Sony Corp and Sharp Corp to overhaul business models squeezed by competition from cheaper Asian rivals and caught flat-footed in a smartphone race led by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics. Out has gone reliance on mass consumer goods like TVs and smartphones, and in has come a focus on areas like automotive technology and energy-efficient home appliances.
Tsuga also sought to ease concerns that an expensive acquisition could set back its finances, which took years to recover from the deal agreed in 2008 to buy cross-town rival Sanyo for a sum equal to about $9 billion at the time.
Microsoft Corp has filed a lawsuit against Kyocera Corp for patent infringement last Friday, alleging the Japanese company’s Duraforce, Hydro and Brigadier cell phone lines violate seven Microsoft patents.
Microsoft asked a Seattle federal judge to impose a U.S. sales injunction against Kyocera’s infringing products, according to the lawsuit.
A Kyocera representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
“We respect Kyocera but we believe they need to license the patented technology they are using. We’re hopeful this case can be resolved amicably,” said Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard in a statement.
Kyocera’s phones run on the Android operating system, developed by Google Inc. Microsoft has secured patent licensing deals with numerous Android handset manufacturers in recent years, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc and HTC Corp.
In its lawsuit, Microsoft accuses Kyocera of using patented technology including location services and text messaging.
The case in U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington is Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC vs. Kyocera and Kyocera Communications Inc., 15-346.
Qualcomm has unveiled what it claims is the world’s first ‘ultrasonic’ fingerprint scanner, in a bid to improve mobile security and further boost Android’s chances in the enterprise space.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint technology debuted during the chipmaker’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) press conference on Monday.
The firm claimed that the new feature will outperform the fingerprint scanners found on smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Qualcomm also claimed that, as well as “better protecting user data”, the 3D ultrasonic imaging technology is much more accurate than capacitive solutions currently available, and is not hindered by greasy or sweaty fingers.
Sense ID offers a more “innovative and elegant” design for manufacturers, the firm said, owing to its ability to scan fingerprints through any material, be it glass, metal or sapphire.
This means, in theory, that future fingerprint sensors could be included directly into a smartphone’s display.
Derek Aberle, Qualcomm president, said: “This is another industry first for Qualcomm and has the potential to revolutionise mobile security.
“It’s also another step towards the end of the password, and could mean that you’ll never have to type in a password on your smartphone again.”
No specific details or partners have yet been announced, but Qualcomm said that the Sense ID technology will arrive in devices in the second half of 2015, when the firm’s next-generation Snapdragon 820 processor is also tipped to debut.
The firm didn’t reveal many details about this chip, except that it will feature Kryo 64-bit CPU tech and a new machine learning feature dubbed Zeroth.
Qualcomm also revealed more details about LTE-U during Monday’s press conference, confirming plans to extend LTE to unused spectrum using technology integrated in its latest small-cell solutions and RF transceivers for mobile devices.
“We face many challenges as demand for data constantly grows, and we think the best way to fix this is by taking advantage of unused spectrum,” said Aberle.
Finally, the chipmaker released details about a new a partnership with Cyanogen, the open-source outfit responsible for the CyanogenMod operating system.
Qualcomm said that it will provide support for the best features and UI enhancements of CyanogenMod on Snapdragon processors, which will be available for the release of Qualcomm Reference Design in April.
The MWC announcements follow the launch of the ARM Cortex-based Snapdragon 620 and 618 chips last month, which promise to improve connectivity and user experience on high-end smartphones and tablets.
Aberle said that these chips will begin to show up in devices in mid to late 2015.
Nearly half of all security breaches come from vulnerabilities that are between two and four years old, according to this year’s HP Cyber Risk Report entitled The Past Is Prologue.
The annual report found that the most prevalent problems came as a result of server misconfiguration, and that the primary causes of commonly exploited software vulnerabilities are defects, bugs and logic flaws.
But perhaps most disturbing of all was the news that Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile malware have introduced a significant extra security risk.
The entire top 10 vulnerabilities exposed in 2014 came from code written years, and in some cases decades, previously.
The news comes in the same week that HP took a swipe at rival Lenovo for knowingly putting Superfish adware into its machines.
“Many of the biggest security risks are issues we’ve known about for decades, leaving organisations unnecessarily exposed,” said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for enterprise security products at HP.
“We can’t lose sight of defending against these known vulnerabilities by entrusting security to the next silver bullet technology. Rather, organisations must employ fundamental security tactics to address known vulnerabilities and, in turn, eliminate significant amounts of risk.”
The main recommendations of report are that network administrators should employ a comprehensive and timely patching strategy, perform regular penetration testing and variation of configurations, keep equipment up to date to mitigate risk, share collaboration and threat intelligence, and use complementary protection strategies.
The threat to security from the IoT is already well documented by HP, which released a study last summer revealing that 90 percent of IoT devices take at least one item of personal data and 60 percent are vulnerable to common security breaches.
Sony Corp hopes to increase operating profit 25-fold within three years by growing its camera sensors and PlayStation units, its chief executive said, laying out a strategy that could see the company exit the ultra competitive TV and smartphone markets.
CEO Kazuo Hirai said on Wednesday the Japanese consumer electronics firm would no longer pursue sales growth in areas such as smartphones where its has suffered competition from cheaper Asian rivals as well as industry leaders like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.
Sony would instead focus its spending on more profitable businesses such as camera sensors, videogames and entertainment as it seeks to return to growth after forecasting for this financial year its sixth net loss in seven years.
“The strategy starting from the next business year will be about generating profit and investing for growth,” Hirai told a briefing, adding that Sony’s units would be given greater autonomy to make their own business decisions.
Asked about the TV and mobile phone units, Hirai said he would not “rule out considering an exit strategy”, Sony’s clearest statement to date about the possibility of selling or finding partners for these struggling units.
Sony is in the midst of a restructuring that has so far seen it sell off its personal computer division and spin off the TV business. It has also axed thousands of jobs.
Sony shares have risen more than 80 percent over the past year as investors applauded the restructuring, which accelerated since Hirai appointed Kenichiro Yoshida as his chief strategy officer in late 2013.
Japanese shipments of traditional flip-phones picked up pace in 2014 for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments dropped, highlighting Japanese consumers’ tenacious attachment to the familiar and typically less expensive older models.
Nicknamed “Galapagos” phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million in 2014, data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year.
Users in Japan pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, the telecommunications ministry says, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese accustomed to years of deflation are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and in most cases basic Internet services.
Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp and NEC Corp have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with dominant brands Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. They still make flip-phones, though, competing in a crowded market with Fujitsu Ltd and Sharp Corp, among others.
But with a mobile penetration rate of 98.5 percent, or 125 million subscriptions, there is little scope for significant overall growth in Japan’s mobile market, MM Research said. “Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals,” said MM Research Executive Analyst Hideaki Yokota. He said 2014 was a particularly strong year for renewals in the subscription cycle for flip-phones, suggesting that last year’s growth may not be repeated this year.
A senior Sharp executive has denied that the Japanese company wants to ditch its failing display business, after it warned it will likely book its third annual net loss in four years.
This time Sharp is blaming weak demand from Chinese smartphone makers and it will book a net loss of $256 million this fiscal year through March compared with a previous forecast of a 30 billion net profit.
Rumors abounded that Sharp may need to reconsider its strategy including a possible sale of the display business.
But Sharp Executive Director Kazunori Houshi told reporters that it was “not considering the option” of selling the display business and that he believed the downturn in demand from Chinese smartphone makers would be temporary.
All this means is that Sharp will be a little more patent before it throws in any towel. Besides it might be a little difficult to sell the business at the moment.
ZTE’s director of corporate strategy, George Sun, also said the company had signed agreements with more than 20 cities in China to provide wireless charging technology for public transportation, in a significant boost for the country’s electric car industry.
“So far the feedback (from local governments) is very, very positive. We solved the biggest headache of electric car charging for local government,” Sun said.
Chinese drivers have yet to widely adopt the use of electric vehicles despite years of government programs to support their development, although public transportation fleets are a notable exception.
Shenzhen-based ZTE plans to conduct pre-commercial trials of wireless charging for public transportation in 50 to 100 Chinese cities in 2015, Sun said.
ZTE was in talks with several Chinese and foreign carmakers over possible collaboration on wireless charging technology for vehicles, he added, declining to elaborate.
Wireless charging technology saves space, allowing governments to install it in bus terminals or car parks, although the costs for wireless equipment are higher than traditional charging facilities.
In a renewed effort aimed at cutting heavy pollution, China has rolled out aggressive targets for vehicle fuel efficiency that will grow increasingly strict until 2020, at which time its standards will have surpassed the United States and be on roughly equal footing with Japan.
The government has offered tax cuts for green vehicles and proposed extending subsidies, mostly for domestic producers, to aid automakers in meeting these targets.
The Video Electronics Standards Association’s Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) 1.4a will boost image quality on screens through faster video transfer rates. The newer standard is for displays inside computers, and it will replace the older 1.4 standard that was released in early 2013. With 8K, displays will show images at a 7680 x 4320 resolution.
Displays based on the new technology will start appearing in computers and mobile devices by 2016, VESA said.
Screens with 8K resolution could find their way into high-end laptops and all-in-one desktops. Apple has used a modified version of the eDP standard in its iMac with 5K Display. Some high-end gaming and business laptops already have 4K displays.
At the moment, 8K resolution is the province of high-end TVs. Japan’s NHK is testing 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo.
Tablets and smartphones don’t have 4K screens yet, and may not get 8K screens. It’s hard to differentiate pixels on small screens, and 8K screens could be expensive for device makers. For now, mobile devices have powerful graphics processors that are able to process 4K video, which can then be shown on external displays.
Displays are the most power-hungry components in laptops and mobile devices. But the new eDP standard could improve battery life by reducing display circuitry and improving processing of pixels.
Canon Inc will acquire network video surveillance leader Axis AB for about 23.6 billion Swedish crowns ($2.83 billion), the biggest purchase ever for the Japanese company that is trying to expand beyond the shrinking camera market.
Canon said it was launching a tender offer to buy all Axis shares for 340 crowns each, a premium of nearly 50 percent.
The Swedish company said its board of directors unanimously supported the offer, and that three of its top shareholders representing around 40 percent of total shares will accept it.
Canon already sells surveillance cameras and sees the sector as a growing market, although it has not disclosed how much it earns from such products.
The deal will make Canon a top player in the video surveillance market, which was worth an estimated $15 billion at the end of last year, according to researcher IHS. Within that market, there is a $3.86 billion segment for network-connected security cameras which is led by Axis with a 17.5 percent share as of 2013.
The deal comes after Canon late last month reported a slight increase in fourth-quarter profit, as a weaker yen and rising sales of office equipment offset weakness in a camera division competing with smartphones capable of high-quality imaging.
The company, which earned over 80 percent of its revenue overseas in 2014, said it would pay in cash.
Axis’ is targeting average annual growth of at least 20 percent and a profit margin of at least 10 percent. The company reported a fourth-quarter operating profit of 199 million crowns, slightly below analyst forecasts but up from 166 million a year earlier.
Around half of its sales come from the Americas, 40 percent from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the rest from Asia.
Axis said it will remain as a separate legal entity within Canon, and that its current management team will stay.
China will have more robots operating in its production plants by 2017 than any other country as it revs up automation of its car and electronics factories, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
Already the biggest market in the $9.5 billion (6 billion pound) global robot trade — or $29 billion including associated software, peripherals and systems engineering – China lags far behind its more industrialized peers in terms of robot density.
China has just 30 robots per 10,000 workers employed in manufacturing industries, compared with 437 in South Korea, 323 inJapan, 282 in Germany and 152 in the United States.
But a race by carmakers to build plants in China along with wage inflation that has eroded the competitiveness of Chinese labor will push the operational stock of industrial robots to more than double to 428,000 by 2017, the IFR estimates.
“Companies are forced to invest ever more in robots to be more productive and raise quality,” said Gudrun Litzenberger, general secretary of the Frankfurt-based IFR.
“In the current phase it’s the auto industry, but in the next two or three years it will be driven by the electronics industry,” she said.
Japanese robot makers still have the lion’s share of the market, with about 60 percent, but Chinese suppliers are growing fast, with about a quarter of the market. Most of the rest are supplied by European and U.S. manufacturers.
Four foreign robot makers — Switzerland’s ABB, Germany’s Kuka, and Japan’s Yaskawa and Fanuc — already have production sites in China and more are expected to follow.
“The automation of China’s production plants has just started,” said Per Vegard Nerseth, Managing Director of ABB Robotics. “We have witnessed swift, almost explosive growth over the last two or three years, surpassing even our expectations.”
Japan-based messaging app company Line Corp is rolling out an online grocery delivery service, its first ever, in Thailand and plans to expand it to other Southeast Asian nations to tap booming growth in the region’s mobile phone transactions.
The unit of top South Korean Internet portal operator Naver Corp said on Monday its “Cheap Sure Sure” online grocery service will begin on Feb. 4 in Thailand, Line’s second-biggest market after Japan, with more than 33 million active users of the app.
A successful launch of the service in the region can help alleviate pressure on Naver, which last week announced a disappointing quarterly profit.
“Thailand is one of our top priority markets. We are continuously exploring ways to boost m-commerce in the region,” Sedong Nam, head of the service department of Line unit Line Plus Corp, said in a statement.
Line did not give any financial details of the project nor a time frame about the planned launch of the grocery service in other Southeast Asian countries.
Consumers across Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million, are increasingly going online to research and purchase products and services, particularly with the rapid uptake of mobile devices and smartphones. But growth is hampered by poor mobile payment options and unfriendly user interfaces, Line said.
Line’s service in Thailand will face competition from similar online services being offered by leading retailers in the country, including by Tesco Lotus, a Thai operation of Tesco Plc, Charoen Pokphand Foods’ CP Fresh Mart and Central Group’s Tops Supermarket.
And while digital consumers across Southeast Asia enjoy going online to shop, those in the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore are most inclined to purchase items online, while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, consumers are more likely to go online to browse, according to market researcher Nielsen.
Line’s service will be offering products such as water, coffee and instant noodles at up to 50 percent discounts and free delivery for Thai shoppers, the statement said.
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.
Microsoft Researchers have worked out a way that means you will never have to plug in your phone again.
Yunxin Liu, Zhen Qin and Chunshui Zhao from Microsoft Research’s Beijing campus have developed a new system they call AutoCharge.
The researchers’ paper said that “wireless power methods have several disadvantages, preventing them from being used in our targeted usage scenarios”
Electromagnetic radiation of wireless power is much higher than wireless communications (Wi-Fi or 3G). Thus, safety to human bodies is a big issue in wireless power. As a result, wireless power is usually used only in extreme scenarios such as in outer space, for military purposes, or in very short ranges.
Radio frequencies used in wireless power are much lower than the frequencies of light, it is hard to emit the radio waves within a straight beam. This causes energy waste if the receiver is not large enough and makes it hard to ensure safety.
The current crop of wireless charging solutions for smartphones typically require special phone cases and ‘charging pads’, and work using electromagnetic induction. Power is transmitted only over a few centimetres.
However the researchers came up with a way of using solar power techniques to charge smartphones.
Indoor surrounding light is usually much than the sunlight and thus cannot be used to charge a smartphone but instead of relying on the sun, the team built a prototype charger that can be mounted on a ceiling and automatically locate a smartphone lying on a table, then charge it using a directed beam of light.
The light charger has two modes. In the ‘detection’ mode, it uses a camera and image recognition software to detect objects with the size and shape of a smartphone lying on a table. The charger will rotate until it detects an object that looks like a smartphone.
The device then enters charging mode and turns on its light. The prototype used an UltraFire CREE XM-L T6 Focusing LED Flashlight.
South Korea’s labor ministry has ordered LG to halt operations of an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panel production line following a nitrogen gas leak.
The ministry, in a statement posted on its website yesterday, said the production ban will last as authorities investigate a nitrogen gas leak that killed two workers.
An LG spokeswoman confirmed that production at the OLED TV panel line has been halted. She declined to specify the ban’s effect on sales or production and said the firm will work to resume operations as quickly as possible.
The leak happened days after LG unveiled its Best of CES-winning Art Slim OLED sets and might affect a timely launch if the investigation takes a while.
The leak happened around 12:50 p.m. at the P8 factory in Paju, about 40 kilometers north of Seoul. The workers from LG Display and its subcontractor were carrying out routine maintenance on the ninth floor when the valve of a nitrogen gas cylinder was presumably opened by mistake.
One worker died at the scene, with another being pronounced dead on his way to the hospital, authorities said.