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Amazon Adds More Countries To List Of Places It Will Offer Loans

June 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will rollout its business loan program for small sellers later this year in eight new places including China, where credit is becoming a key factor in competing for new vendors and grabbing market share.

Until now, the e-retailer has offered the service only in the United States and Japan. Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, now plans to offer short-term working capital loans in other countries where it operates a third-party, seller-run marketplace business, the head of Amazon Marketplace, Peter Faricy, told Reuters.

The countries are Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The service is on an invite-only basis and is not open to all sellers on Amazon’s platform.

Other large retailers including eBay Inc’s PayPal and Alibaba Group Holdings, which run third-party marketplaces, are also turning to credit to boost their vendor base.

Some lending industry officials who help lenders assess credit risk say these retailers are taking on risky loans because they don’t know the shape of the credit market in which the sellers are operating.

Small businesses have high failure rates, especially in China and India, added William Black, a former U.S. banking regulator and professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.

Amazon said it can safely offer loans based on internal data and because it takes loan payments out of the sales proceeds it pays sellers.

PayPal spokesman Josh Criscoe said eBay merchants who use PayPal are eligible for the working capital loans and credit is offered to only those customers that have a strong PayPal sales history. PayPal has provided more than $500 million in capital since September 2013, with an average loan disbursement of $2 million per day.

A spokeswoman for Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial, which offers these loans, said credit is offered to Taobao, Tmall merchants and other small business owners who meet certain conditions. The company also offers such loans to customers in some countries like the United States and Britain.

 

 

Community Solar Farms Projected To Grow By 500% This Year

June 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Community solar farms, which chunks out clean energy to a group of shareholders, have emerged as the next largest solar market in the U.S.

Over the next two years, community solar in the U.S. is poised to see its market size increase seven-fold, and by 2020 it will be expanding by half a billion watts annually, according to a new report by GTM Research.

One of the benefits of a community solar farm is that it offers consumers who don’t even own a home (such as renters) the ability to go solar.

Community solar farms, like community gardens, share the photovoltaic energy among a group who purchase a share of the total energy produced by the site and receive the benefits of reduced costs on their electric bill.

According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), there are at least 52 community farms the U.S. states. And, at least 10 states are encouraging their growth through policy and programs.

Twenty-four states have at least one community solar project in operation, with 12 states operating at least two community farms or more, GTM said. The leading states based on operating capacity are Arizona, Colorado, California and Massachusetts.

At least 10 states are considering active community solar legislation to promote shared resources.

California, for example, is preparing to implement two community solar programs, one for utility-led development and another for third-party development. The program calls for 600 megawatts (MW) by 2019, with 110.5MW required by 2016.

Clean Energy Collective (CEC) and SunShare are the market leaders in building community solar farms, with a 32% combined market share, according to GTM.

As with other solar collectives, CEC and SunShare typically partner with utilities to develop high-volume, one-off community solar projects. Additionally, GTM Research reported today that 55 billion watts (55 gigawatts or GW) will be installed globally in 2015, a 36% increase over 2014.

Solar will account for roughly half of new electricity capacity out to 2020, the new report stated.

The United States will be the third-ranked PV market this year, behind only China and Japan. GTM Research forecasts the United States to install 8GW, which constitutes 14% of the global PV market.

 

 

 

Cyber Criminals Find Financial Industry Most Lucrative

June 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Banks, Stocker Brokerages and credit card firms are becoming more desirable to money-hungry cyber crooks whose fraudulent operations now account for 300 percent more attacks than any other industry.

That’s according to the latest Finance Industry Drill Down report by security firm Websense, which says that because of the value at stake in compromising hosts in the finance sector, criminals are spending “a tremendous amount of time” on the investigation and lure stages of attacks.

This is to make sure attempts are sophisticated enough to be successful against any defences a business might have in place.

Based on Websense’s telemetry data from the Websense ThreatSeeker Network and the Websense Advanced Classification Engine, the findings revealed the financial sector is one of the biggest targets of cyber-attacks and thus these attacks are increasing in volume and sophistication.

Some of these attacks can earn big bucks for those launching them. We spoke to Websense’s Principal Security Analyst, Carl Leonard, who told us that one of the most popular malware campaigns launched against the financial sector over the past year managed to steal a whopping £100,000.

Leonard added that these hackers are usually working in small groups, but the interesting thing is that they are less skilled than what they would have been traditionally due to the rise of “malware-as-a-service” (MASS).

MAAS refers to a coveted underground network of cybercrooks and hackers who are always on the outlook for new tools to exploit, and are exchanging source code for existing malware, then using basic skills to customise these, enabling even entry-level threat actors to successfully create and launch data theft attacks.

This wide-spread availability of exploit kits on sale on the undergroung cyber markets, comprising a combination of old techniques with newer ones, is resulting in attacks which are difficult to track back to the source. Old threats are thus being recycled into new ones and launched through email and web channels, “challenging even the most robust defensive postures”.

“The barriers to entry are reducing due to malware-as-a-service because you don’t need to have skills of previous years,” explained Leonard. “You can acquire the skills and malware kits that allow you to conduct tools as a malware author.

“These authors can subscribe to a service, which [constantly] provides them with very recent versions of malware.”

The most dangerous malware tools found by Webense to be wrecking havoc in the financial sector are:

Rerdom, an attack vector from the Asprox family of malware responsible for a huge amount of attacks against every industry. This attack group is often known as a spam generator, but it has vast functionality and is increasingly being used to target financial services customers in the form of sending malicious emails, click fraud, harvesting FTP, browser, and email credentials. It accounts for 30 percent of threats found in the financial services industry, Websense said.

Vawtrack, a malicious banking trojan, accounts for 13 percent of all threats in the sector and is being used in attempts to steal a wide range of victims’ credentials. Websense said it was created for gathering personal information and stealing it without leaving traces. The banking trojan can easily take over passwords, digital certificates, browser history and cookies. Its defense mechanism tries to detect any installed AV and disable it by using the Windows mechanism called Software Restriction Policies.

The third most popular malware threat seen in the financial sector is one called Geodo, which Websense said has been found in the sector 400 percent more than any other industry. The security firm describes it as an update of the Cridex attack, and has a separate email worm that looks to steal credentials and self-perpetuate, thereby initiating more lures.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

SoftBank’s Personal Robot With Emotions Already Sold Out

June 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Any lingering doubt about whether people were excited to get their own personal robot has been removed.

SoftBank Robotics Corp., an international company based in Japan, put 1,000 personal robots, priced at $1,600, on sale last Saturday. Within one minute, they were sold out. Customers also must pay a $120 per month cloud connection fee and and monthly insurance of $80.

It was the first time that SoftBank had allowed people to put in orders for the robot, dubbed Pepper.

There has been high interest in the robot’s launch because its creators say Pepper not only can read and respond to human emotions but it will have its own emotions. According to SoftBank, the robot can autonomously generate emotions by processing information from its cameras and sensors.

SoftBank said more sales will be announced next month.

“With this emotion function, Pepper’s emotions are influenced by people’s facial expressions and words, as well as his surroundings, which in turn affects Pepper’s words and actions,” the company said in a statement. “For example, Pepper is at ease when he is around people he knows, happy when he is praised, and gets scared when the lights go down.”

The robot is designed to raise its voice or can sigh depending on its emotions at the moment. Pepper also will show its emotions – based on different colors and motions – on a chest display.

The robot also has an ecosystem of more than 200 apps.

Last week, SoftBank announced a deal to team deal to team with Foxconn Technology Group, an Apple manufacturer, and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to build and sell robots for the home and enterprise worldwide.

SoftBank will retain 60% of its company but for an investment of $118 million U.S. each, both Foxconn and Alibaba will receive 20 percent stakes in the robotics maker.

 

 

 

Is It Game Over For The Playstation Vita?

June 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Sony is denying that its PlayStation Vita is dead in the water, despite ignoring it during its E3 2015 presentation.

Slim PlayStation Vita went on sale in February and was greeted by a loud sounding yawn by the hand-held game community. Since then we have heard very little about it, and like most of the world, including Sony, did not really care.

PlayStation Europe boss Jim Ryan insisted to Gamespot that the system is still selling well and has “hundreds” of games in development.

“We’re still selling respectable quantities. We have a hundred games in development, and you might say, ‘Well yeah but they’re all indie games’, but many of these games review very highly. Also the PS4′s Remote Play feature is something that is valued a lot.”

Ryan also insists that the handheld market still exists, despite being gutted by tablets and smartphones.

He admitted that it was not as big as it used to be, but hell what these days is.

” A much smaller market than when the DS and PSP were in their glory days. But that market still does exist,” he added.
Despite his enthusiasm we don’t hold out much hope.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Line Enters The Music Streaming

June 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Messaging app maker Line Corp rolled out its music streaming service in Japan on Thursday, getting a head start in the virtually untapped business for mobile music subscriptions in the world’s second-biggest music market.

Line’s move marks the most ambitious attempt yet to reverse the declining market for digital music in Japan, where compact discs still account for more than 80 percent of total music sales. Hobbled by rights issues, foreign companies have yet to break into Japan’s music streaming business.

Available for Android and iPhone users, the service, called Line Music, will offer unlimited access to a library of more than 1.5 million songs initially for a monthly fee of 1,000 yen ($8.13), or 20 hours of access for half that. Line, Japan’s largest social network with 58 million registered domestic users, said in a statement it would offer the service for free for the first two months.

Line Music is jointly held by Avex Digital, Sony Music Entertainment and Line Corp, which itself is owned by South Korea’s Naver Corp. Universal Music Group is also scheduled to take a stake in Line Music.

Line said it plans to expand its library, featuring domestic and overseas artists such as Taylor Swift and Sam Smith, to more than 5 million songs by the end of this year, and over 30 million next year.

The global market for streaming music has grown in recent years, offering record companies a much-needed boost amid a steady slump in digital downloads. Apple Inc this week unveiled the $9.99-a-month Apple Music service, aiming to muscle into an industry led by Spotify, Pandora and others.

Despite its size, the Japanese music industry saw revenues of just 5 million yen ($40,660) from subscription-based mobile music streaming in 2014, according to the Recording Industry of Japan. Overall sales of digital music in Japan fell for the fifth straight year, to about $350 million, against a peak of $1 billion in 2009.

 

Sony Banking On Strong Demand For Its Sensors

June 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp is anticipating that its sensor sales will grow by 20 percent this fiscal year amid strong demand from Apple Inc, even as it aims to diversify its client base to prevent volatility.

Tomoyuki Suzuki, head of Sony’s device solutions business including sensors, said he expected sensor sales to grow by about 100 billion yen ($804 million) to 550 billion in the year to March.

That would be slightly slower than the 40 percent rise in the previous year, but Suzuki said demand was so strong the iconic Japanese tech company was struggling to keep up in a sign of continued strength for a unit seen crucial for the firm’s turnaround plans.

“We’re seeing very good demand at the moment,” he told Reuters in an interview. “We don’t have slack.”

Sensors have emerged as one of Sony’s strongest products in the past few years as its TV and mobile operations struggle. While it has fallen far behind Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in the smartphone race, the company’s sensors are used in those rivals’ newer handsets.

Suzuki said Sony was aiming for a diverse client base, showing he is wary of depending too much on Apple, widely seen as the Japanese firm’s biggest customer for sensors.

“We want to be inside a variety of customers,” he said.

“When it comes to semiconductors, if you can’t make use of capacity you quickly end up with a loss. So if you want to avoid that volatility the important thing is to have a good balance with several customers.”

While the company does not officially disclose its client list, industry sources say Apple is its biggest customer, followed by Samsung and Chinese smartphone makers including Xiaomi.

After years of profit downgrades and strategic drift, Sony has turned a corner this year with a restructuring that has involved shedding 15,000 jobs, exiting PCs and spinning off its TV business.

Sony expects operating profit to more than quadruple this fiscal year to its biggest in seven years, boosted by strong sales of camera sensors and cost cuts.

 

 

U.S. Extends Cyber Defense To Include Japan

June 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The United States will expand its cyber defense network to include Japan, helping its Asian ally cope with the growing threat of online attacks against military bases and infrastructure such as power grids, the two nations said in a joint statement this past Saturday.

“We note a growing level of sophistication among malicious cyber actors, including non-state and state-sponsored actors,” they said in a statement released by the U.S.-Japan Cyber Defense Policy Working Group, which was established in 2013.

Cybersecurity is a key area where Japan and the United States are deepening their military partnership under a set of new security guidelines released in April, that will also integrate their ballistic missile defense systems and give Tokyo a bigger security role in Asia as China’s military power grows.

Both the United States and Japan are wary of cyber threats, including potential attacks from China or North Korea. While the United States is investing heavily in building a force to counter and retaliate against online attacks, Japan, which hosts the biggest U.S. military contingent in Asia, has been slower to buttress its cyber defenses.

The Japanese military’s cyber defense unit has around 90 members, compared to more than 6,000 people at the Pentagon, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said at a briefing.

Japan is trying to catch up as it prepares to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and with cyber attacks on the rise. Assaults on government websites are now being detected ever few seconds, according to Japanese cyber defense experts.

In the statement on Saturday, Japan’s defense ministry pledged to “contribute to join “efforts for addressing various cyber threats, including those against Japanese critical infrastructure and services utilized by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Forces.”

 

 

Is The DRAM Market Gaining Traction?

May 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

DRAM market conditions will be better in the third quarter of 2015, recovering from the bad first half of the year, according to Inotera.

Inotera chairman Charles Kau said that it was unclear if DRAM prices will stop falling and rebound in the third quarter.

Inotera on May 11 signed a $508 million five-year syndicated loan agreement with a consortium of local banks in Taiwan in the hope of getting a bit of flexibility until things pick up.
The outfit was not thinking of flogging any of the family silver, but plans to start distributing dividends to shareholders in 2016, Kau noted.

In 2014, non-PC DRAM products accounted for 60 per cent of Inotera’s total revenues. The company will continue to improve its product mix in 2015, while making progress in the transition to 20nm process technology.

Kau told Digitimes that Inotera http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20150512PD219.html plans to have 80 per cent of its total production capacity to be built using a newer 20nm node by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile it is not planning any big capital expenditure, he said.

Courtesy-Fud

Fujitsu To Debut Wearable Tags For IoT

May 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fujitsu has designed stamp-sized wearable sensor tags that can tell whether users have changed their location or posture, fallen down or are experiencing body temperature changes.

The tags transmit data via Bluetooth Low Energy and can be worn as wristbands or location badges on lapels or breast pockets. They could be used by people including hospital patients and infrastructure workers to relay data to supervisors.

The tags can also be attached to objects such as shopping carts or walkers for the elderly. They’re part of a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform from Fujitsu called Ubiquitousware that’s aimed at making IoT applications easier for businesses.

At a Fujitsu technology expo in Tokyo this week the company is showing off the prototype tags. They contain various sensors commonly found in smartphones such as accelerometers, barometers, gyroscopes and microphones. They can also house heart rate sensors and GPS modules.

The sensors are being housed in stand-alone tags to better promote IoT apps, according to Fujitsu.

Algorithms that are part of the platform analyze the sensor data and can automatically send alerts to supervisors when a patient has fallen down, for instance, or if a worker is experiencing a heavy physical load and heat while working on a tower for high-voltage cables.

“These sensors stand out for the many business apps such as medicine or security that are easily incorporated through our cloud solutions,” said Tatsuhiro Ohira, a general manager in Fujitsu’s Ubiquitous Business Strategy Unit.

As an extension of a company’s awareness of its staff, the tags could raise privacy concerns. Fujitsu said the wristbands could also be used to estimate whether the wearer is taking breaks, or to help manage workers’ health.

The sensors are to be rolled out beginning in December but the cost has not been determined yet, Ohira said.

 

 

Is Qualcomm Making A Deca-Core Snapdragon?

May 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It appears that MediaTek’s move to bring out an octa-core processor has disturbed the mighty Qualcomm.

When the MT6797 SoC came out, there was much mirth amongst MediaTek’s rivals but it turns out that Qualcomm has followed suit after all.

Qualcomm’s version is called the Snapdragon 818, which will probably be a deca-core CPU. Word on the street is that the chip will depend on four low-1.2GHz Cortex-A53 power cores, two middle-range 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 cores, plus four high-power cores of the 2.0GHz Cortex A72 type. It will supports LPDDR4 RAM and will run the Adreno 532 GPU.

This should mean that it can run LTE Cat-10 when that hits the shops. The chip will use 20nm process technology.

If the rumors are correct then it means that the 818 SoC will be slower than MedaTek’s new chip.

Qualcomm is yet to confirm the existence of this piece of silicone, so it is all just rumors. However if it is true, it does mean that MedaTek’s effort was a lot more important than many of its rivals admitted.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Says Most Searches Now Come From Mobile

May 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google now gets more search queries from mobile devices than it does from PCs.

The company noted this milestone in mobile computing in a blog post.

“Billions of times per day, consumers turn to Google for I want-to-know, I want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments,” wrote Jerry Dischler, Google’s vice president of product management. “And at these times, consumers are increasingly picking up their smartphones for answers. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan.”

That, he added, presents what he calls a “tremendous opportunity” for businesses to reach people through this new touchpoint.

The news about mobile search overshadowing desktop searches means we’ve officially entered a “mobile-first” world, according to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research.

“Instead of using our PCs at home and augmenting them with mobile, we are mobile first, so no matter where we are or what we are doing we can find the information we need right then and there,” he added. “The phrases “I’ll take care of that when I get back to the office,” or “I’ll take care of that when I get home,” have been eradicated from our vocabulary.”

This week’s announcement puts Google’s recent mobile search changes into context.

Early last month, Google announced it was changing the algorithm it uses for mobile searches to give websites designed to be mobile friendly better positioning in search results.

Websites that aren’t designed to run well and look good on mobile devices simply won’t get good placement in search results — neither on mobile devices nor on desktops.

“The fact that Google is prioritizing mobile sites means Google’s ads need to be oriented around mobile,” said Kerravala. “I think it is changing what Google does with ads, meaning ads are going to need to become more localized.

 

 

 

Motorola Must Pay Fujifilm $10M For Patent Infringement

May 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Motorola Mobility announced that a U.S. jury ordered the company to pay $10.2 million in damages for using Fujifilm Corp’s patented technology in its phones without permission.

Fujifilm Corp, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Fujifilm Holdings Corp, sued Motorola in 2012, accusing the company of infringing three of its patents on digital camera functions and a fourth patent relating to transmitting data over a wireless connection such as Bluetooth.

The damages the jury ordered on Monday were lesser than the $40 million Fujifilm sought while going into the trial, which began on April 20.

The jury in San Francisco said Motorola, a unit of China’s Lenovo Group, proved that three of the disputed patents – two on face recognition and one on wifi-bluetooth were invalid. Motorola failed to prevail on a patent related to converting color images to monochrome.

“We are pleased with the verdict related to three out of the four patents and are evaluating our options on the one patent on which we did not prevail,” Motorola spokesman William Moss said in an email.

A spokeswoman for Fujifilm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Motorola, which Lenovo bought from Google Inc last year, had argued that the Fujifilm patents should be canceled because they were not actually new or they were obvious compared to previously patented inventions. The company also argued it already held a license to Bluetooth technology.

 

 

A Resurgent Sony Sees Big Rise In Profits

May 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sony Corp expects operating profit to more than quadruple this year, as strong sales of camera sensors and cost reductions anchor a much needed turnaround after years of losses on TVs and mobile phones.

Sony said on Thursday it estimates operating profit will jump in the year ending March 2016 to 320 billion yen ($2.7 billion). For the previous fiscal year, operating profit was 68.5 billion, in line with an April 22 forecast.

This year’s earnings would be Sony’s biggest annual operating profit in seven years, though well below an average analyst forecast of 408 billion yen, according to Thomson Reuters. Achieving it would mark another milestone in Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai’s long haul to pull one of Japan’s most iconic technology firms out of heavy losses, squeezed by cheaper and more nimble rivals in mass consumer electronics.

Under Hirai’s direction, Sony has reshaped itself to target expansion in lucrative new areas such as sensors used in cameras for popular devices like Apple Inc’s iPhones. That strategy has vexed some former executives who have urged Hirai to focus on innovation, not cost cuts.

“We are emerging from losses but still recuperating,” Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida told reporters on Thursday, saying Sony was being cautious in forecasting to break with past habits.

“In the past seven years, we revised (earnings guidance) downwards around 15 times,” he said, citing fluctuations in foreign exchange rates as a major concern.

As part of its restructuring, Sony has exited PCs and spun off its TV business. It also plans to split off its audio and video business in an effort to hold subsidiaries more accountable for making a profit.

Investors have welcomed the new-look Sony. Shares have risen more than 30 percent in 2015, and year-on-year, the stock has nearly doubled, hitting 3,827.50 yen earlier this month, its highest since 2008.

 

Sony Unveils New Xperia Smartphone

April 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony Corp on Monday announced a new high-end Xperia smartphone featuring an aluminium frame and a 5.2-inch screen, showing it is still in the phone race even as it scales down its struggling mobile operations.

The launch of the new flagship model comes amid a painful restructuring at the Japanese consumer electronics giant which has thrown the future of its smartphone division into doubt, with top executives saying an exit cannot be ruled out.

But as the company focuses on cutting costs rather than growing its mobile market, the division still needs investment in new products and marketing to maintain Sony’s brand and hold off a more rapid deterioration.

Sony said the Xperia Z4 would be available in Japan around the middle of the year, though it did not provide a launch date, details on carrier partners or price. The handset would be available in four colours and was slightly thinner than the previous Z3.

Hiroki Totoki, who was appointed last year to turn around the mobile unit, said Sony was targeting the upper end of the market where rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc dominate.

“There’s a broad variety in the prices of smartphones, from around $100 to $1,400 at the upper end,” he told a news conference. “We want to focus in the upper half of that.”

Sony’s mobile division has fallen far behind high-end rivals such as Samsung and Apple, while at the low end it is battling pricing pressure from Asian manufacturers such as China’s Xiaomi Inc.

The company whose Walkman and Trinitron TV once played a critical role in the global entertainment industry has struggled in recent years to come up with trend-setting gadgets.

Sony announced in February that it would scale down its weaker operations such as TVs and mobile phones to focus instead on more successful products such as video games and camera sensors.