Japan’s SoftBank Corp is still attempting to acquire T-Mobile US Inc and merge it with its U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Corp, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said, even though U.S. regulators appear set against a deal.
Son told U.S. TV show host Charlie Rose in an interview that if the deal goes through, he would launch a price war to break what he called a duopoly by dominant U.S. carriers AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.
“We would like to make the deal happen, but there are steps and details that we have to work out,” said Son, who had previously declined to comment on whether Softbank was in talks to buy T-Mobile. “We have to give it a shot.”
Excerpts of the interview with the PBS network show were posted on YouTube. The show is scheduled to be broadcast late on Monday in the United States.
The possibility of a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, which was acquired by Softbank last year, was given the cold shoulder by regulators, with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler expressing skepticism in meetings with Son and Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse on February 3, according to an FCC official briefed on the matter.
Regulators are concerned that reducing the number of major wireless carriers to three from four would hinder competition, but Son has argued that competition would be more robust if a third strong player is created through the merger of smaller firms Sprint and T-Mobile.
Softbank is now focused on convincing the parties involved with the merits of a merger, a senior company executive said, adding that any moves towards pursuing a deal were now on hold. The official declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak about the matter publicly.
Son plans to present his vision for the U.S. wireless communications industry in a speech in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, although a person familiar with the matter said he would not talk about a bid for T-Mobile.
The Japanese company showed off its SmartEyeglass prototype at the Wearables DevCon conference just outside San Francisco, where it was trying to drum up interest among developers, who will need to build applications for the device.
Like Google Glass, SmartEyeglass displays information instantly in front of a users eyes. Unlike Glass, which has a small prism display, Sony’s prototype looks more like a normal pair of eyeglasses and shows information in green over a pair of see-through lenses.
In a video to show off its capabilities, users walk into an airport and get sent directions to the check-in desk which pop up on their glasses. Other potential uses include displaying the latest score and players’ names while watching a football game, sending and receiving texts and being notified of a missed call.
The glasses have a binocular-type display that makes the text look further away, which makes it more comfortable to read. They also have an embedded camera and a microphone and sensors similar to those in a smartphone, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.
The device is still a prototype and not as advanced as Google Glass. It’s operated via a separate, wired controller with a touchpad that has navigation, power and camera buttons. And the glasses currently work in conjunction with an Android phone. The applications for the glasses run on the phone, and interact with the phone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Sony said it’s working on a software developer kit for the product, based on the same framework as its SmartWatch 2. But there was no word yet when the SDK or the prototype itself will be available.
Fujitsu Labs have worked out a way to improve vibration feedback when typing on a virtual keyboard. The prototype haptic sensory tablet emits ultrasonic vibrations under the surface of the tablet’s display.
The company says that although producing ultrasonic vibrations would generally require a good deal of power, its engineers have come up with a way of shrinking down the tech and allowing a tablet prototype to run its haptic feedback system. Essentially, the vibrations create a layer of high pressure air between a user’s fingertips and the surface of the screen, resulting in reduced friction so the fingers can skate across the screen. This alternates between high and low friction to create the illusion of a textured surface.
It is possible to feel a CD beneath the fingers while spinning and scratching like a DJ, as well as physically feeling and manipulating the deck controls. Research continues to improve the technology, but the company is looking to commercialize the development by next year.
Samsung appears to have delivered a huge snuff to Android OS maker Google. Samsung’s new smartwatch Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the sequels to the poorly reviewed original Galaxy Gear are going to ship without Android.
Instead, the new Gears run Tizen, another open source operating system that Samsung, Intel, and others are working on. It is starting to look like Samsung wants to distance itself from its reliance on Google for software and services.
Samsung’s official reason is that Tizen has better battery life and performance. The new Gears can get up to an extra two days of battery life by running Tizen, even though they have the same size battery. The Galaxy Gear barely made it through a day on one charge.
To be fair Android isn’t optimized to run on wearable devices like smart watches, but Samsung didn’t want to wait around for Google to catch up. It was clearly concerned about beating Apple to market. So far Apple has not shown up.
The company’s PalmSecure scanners use near-infrared light to scan points in veins that lie beneath the surface of a user’s palm. There has to be blood flowing through a user’s hand for the sensor to work.
Every person’s palm pattern is unique, and scans of vein points are matched against previously registered scans to authenticate users and unlock whatever device or service they’re linked to.
“We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development,” a Fujitsu spokesman said. “In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones.”
Fujitsu claims the biometric technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.
The company first commercialized the technology in 2004 when palm-sized scanners were embedded in ATMs at Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to help authenticate customer identity and prevent fraud. In-store scanners at Suruga Bank also appeared in 2004.
Fujitsu later shrank the scanners and embedded them in laptops.
It recently showed off a stamp-sized version of the scanner that is the smallest yet. It’s been embedded in tablets for the first time and will be included in about 2,000 tablets provided to Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes the Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank.
“No one has this technology, and it’s significantly more secure than fingerprint,” the Fujitsu spokesman said, adding that some banks have shown interest in palm-vein scanners as a means of verifying identity in natural disasters in which ID or bank cards are lost or destroyed.
The customized 12.5-inch Fujitsu Arrows Q704/H tablets have Intel Core i5 processors and run Windows, acting as virtual desktops. Bank employees meeting customers off-site will be able to securely access their bank’s internal system by using the palm-vein authentication scanners.
Only users whose biometric info has been registered beforehand will be able to operate the tablets.
At CES in January, U.S.-based biometric payments company PulseWallet demonstrated a cardless point-of-sale terminal incorporating Fujitsu’s vein-imaging technology. It said registered users could leave their credit and debit cards at home and make payments simply by having their palms scanned.
Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, has been hit with a lawsuit by a customer in what may be the first of many U.S. lawsuits seeking to recover millions of dollars of losses linked to a hacking attack that led to the exchange’s bankruptcy.
In a complaint filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, plaintiff Gregory Greene said Mt. Gox and its chief executive, Mark Karpeles, were negligent and committed fraud for having failed to protect the Tokyo-based exchange from theft.
Greene said bitcoin prices plummeted after Mt. Gox found the security breach, but said he and other investors in the virtual currency could not cut their losses because the exchange had halted trading. Mt. Gox took down its website on Tuesday.
“Mt. Gox intentionally and knowingly failed to provide its users with the level of security protection for which they paid,” said Greene, who estimated his bitcoin stake at $25,000.
The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of Mt. Gox users, restitution, monetary damages and other remedies.
It was not immediately clear which law firm would defend Mt. Gox against the lawsuit. Baker & McKenzie, a Chicago-based firm that represents the exchange in Japan, did not immediately respond on Friday to requests for comment.
At a news conference on Friday at the Tokyo District Court, Karpeles said he was “very sorry” and blamed Mt. Gox’s collapse on a “weakness in our system,” but predicted that the bitcoin market would continue to grow.
Mt. Gox said it may have 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins and 100,000 of its own, equal to about 7 percent of bitcoins worldwide, for a total loss of about $480 million.
The exchange reported having 127,000 creditors, liabilities of 6.5 billion yen ($64 million) and assets of 3.84 billion yen ($38 million).
It is common for alleged frauds that generate significant losses or attention to result in a slew of U.S. lawsuits seeking class action status, even if the alleged wrongful activity occurs outside the country.
“This is a case of serial mismanagement, if not outright fraud, by Karpeles and Mt. Gox,” said Steven Woodrow, a partner at the Edelson law firm in Denver, who filed Greene’s lawsuit. “Users of the exchange are collectively out millions while Mt. Gox holds onto their bitcoins. We intend to get to the bottom of this in an American court.”
Now shipping estimates for new orders stretched into April in several foreign markets, including China, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., as first reported by MacGeneration, which is based in France. Soon after, Apple’s U.S. and Canadian online stores followed suit, showing April as the estimated ship date.
Although the Mac Pro — a distinctive-looking black cylinder that’s 10 inches tall and about 7 inches in diameter — went on sale Dec. 19, it almost immediately slipped into back order. The February estimate was later pushed into March before today’s change to April.
The pricey computer starts at $2,999 for the low-end stock configuration and can be tricked out to a top price of $9,599.
At least one analyst predicted that the Mac Pro, while catering to the line’s traditional power users, creative professionals and engineers, would also become a status symbol of sorts for those with the wherewithal to buy one.
The shipping delays continue to hint at low production volumes at the new Apple factory in Austin, Texas, where the computer is assembled. Apple has touted the Mac Pro’s built-in-the-U.S.A. trait, including a rare tweet by CEO Tim Cook at the machine’s launch.
Shortages of the Mac Pro will not materially affect Apple’s bottom line, as the Mac division accounted for just 11% of the company’s revenue for the December quarter. The Mac Pro, while expensive, will make up only a fraction of the unit sales of the line overall, which last quarter reached 4.8 million, the majority of those notebooks from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro families.
But the extended shortages mean that the revenue the Mac Pro produces is being pushed from the current quarter into the calendar’s second. They also are reminiscent of the fiasco Apple created in late 2012 and early 2013, when it announced a redesigned iMac without an inventory even as it pulled the older models from its stores.
The shortages also spurred profit takers to list their new Mac Pro systems on eBay at prices significantly higher than list.
Mac Pro prices on the auction and sales website today were as high as $6,250 for a configuration that Apple sells for $3,999, a 56% markup. Another of the several listings asked $4,499 for a system that runs $2,999 from Apple, a 50% profit for the seller.
The report attributed the low demand to a market where consumers have little interest in buying new TVs after upgrading to high-definition, flat screen models less than 10 years ago.
U.S. TV shipments in 2013 declined to 34 million units, compared to 37.5 million in 2012.
Last year, the U.S. television market consisted entirely of liquid-crystal display (LCD) and plasma display panel (PDP) sets, with old analog tube-type TVs long gone and the last rear-projection TVs having exited the market completely in 2012.
Both the LCD and PDP segments lost volume in 2013 from a year earlier.LCD TV shipments slid to 31.9 million units, down 6%, and PDP TV shipments plunged 42% to 2.1 million.
The largest plasma makers, such as Panasonic, have said they will discontinue producing large-screen plasma TV models due to cost.
“The TV market in the United States has reached a point of saturation following a period of huge growth in years past, especially as the flat-panel-TV craze set in,” said IHS TV analyst Veronica Gonzalez-Thayer. “As a result of the market’s maturity, and also because of lingering uncertainties in the economy, American consumers have been less eager to rush out and buy new replacement TV sets.”
The sharp decline in sales marks a big change from robust earlier years. From 2009 to 2011, the U.S. TV market grew or remained at healthy levels, and each year saw shipments of more than 38 million units. In contrast, 2012 volume was less than 37 million, and shipments last year dipped below the 34 million mark for the first time in five years, IHS said.
While Plasma TVs are on their way out, the LCD TV segment was down for the second year in a row.
The decline in U.S. TV shipments last year also translated to lower revenue, which was down 12% to $23.5 billion from $26.9 billion in 2012, IHS stated.
The one bright spot in IHS’s report was an increase in the shipments of large,smart TVs, which have features such as Internet connectivity and full high-definition 1080p resolution. Overall, however, those increases did not offset a 3% decline in prices for the units, Gonzalez-Thayer said.
Gonzalez-Thayer said the TV market will start to stabilize this year as the consumer purchase cycle readjusts after two years of continuous losses. Shipment growth will be flat to slightly positive in 2014, she predicted.
And for the first time, active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) TVs will be entering the U.S. market in perceptible volume.
The IHS report shows about 8,000 AMOLED TVs are expected to ship in 2014.
AMOLED TVs feature super-thin form factors and significantly improved contrast ratios. Gonzalez-Thayer said those features could appeal to TV connoisseurs eager to become first adopters, even though the new TVs comes with steep pricing that puts them out of the reach of most consumers.
The two companies, both major players in the smartphone industry, said they have agreed on a “patent and technology collaboration” that will settle all outstanding litigation.
Precise details were not revealed, but the companies said HTC will pay Nokia an undisclosed sum and the collaboration will involve HTC’s patents on LTE technology. LTE, often called 4G, is a high-speed wireless data transmission technology being rolled out by carriers in many countries.
Nokia’s chief intellectual property officer, Paul Melin, hailed the agreement as validating Nokia’s patents while HTC’s general counsel, Grace Lei, said her company was “pleased to come to this agreement.”
Nokia had asserted since 2012 that HTC infringed on about 50 of its patents and engaged in unauthorized use of proprietary innovations.
The cases had been making their way through the courts in countries including the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S.
In March 2013, Nokia won an injunction in Germany against some HTC smartphones that were found to infringe upon a power-saving technology.
In September, the U.S. International Trade Commission A ruled HTC infringed two patents held by Nokia related to cellphones and tablets, and in October the High Court of England and Wales ruled that some HTC devices infringed on a Nokia mobile network standard patent.
Nokia won a sales ban against the HTC One Minismartphone in the U.K. as a result of that latter judgment.
Patent battles between major smartphone manufacturers have become a common part of the industry in the years since Apple introduced the iPhone and sparked the smartphone boom. Faced with a highly competitive marketplace, companies have been suing each other when one considers a competitor’s products look too similar to their own.
Tokyo-based investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) will operate the Vaio PC brand under a newly established firm and initially sell PCs in Japan only.
In another reform aimed at bolstering its restructuring efforts, Sony also said it would turn its beleaguered TV business into a subsidiary.
The moves come as Sony said it now expects a net loss of $1.1 billion for the year to the end of March, a reversal of its October profit forecast.
Vaio, which Sony introduced in 1996, looks set to vanish from most markets, at least for short term, as the new company will initially concentrate on selling consumer and corporate PCs in Japan. Whether or not Sony will continue to produce products under the Vaio brand remains to be seen, Sony said.
Although Sony is selling its PC business, it will continue to produce tablet computers, part of its renewed focus on mobile devices including smartphones.
Sony did not put a price on the sale. Sony will take a 5% stake in the new firm, it said.
Sony will stop making and selling PCs after its 2014 Spring lineup launch, but about 250 to 300 Sony staff, including some from a subsidiary that produces TV sets, cameras and computers at factories in Japan, will be hired by the new company, which is to be based at the hub of Sony’s current PC business in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture.
Meanwhile, Sony said it will turn its TV business, which has faced a decade of losses, into a wholly owned subsidiary by July 2014.
Japan’s Sony Corp and Chinese technology company Lenovo Group are having discussions about a possible joint venture to take over Sony’s loss-making Vaio PC business overseas, Japanese broadcaster NHK is reporting.
The Japanese electronics and media giant called the report inaccurate while acknowledging that it was looking at various possibilities for the unit.
“Sony continues to address various options for the PC business, but the press report on a possible PC business alliance between Sony and Lenovo is inaccurate,” the company said in a statement.
Sony has said it plans to revise its product and manufacturing strategy for the Vaio unit as it faces a slump in its PC business, hit by the popularity of smartphones and tablets.
Sony, which will release results next week, had previously predicted its PC business would be in the red for the year to end-March, without disclosing figures.
Moody’s Investors Service cut Sony’s debt rating to junk status last week, highlighting challenges in its television and PC businesses and pressure on profitability at its entire core consumer electronics operation.
Lenovo earns about 80 percent of its revenue from personal computers but has been aggressively diversifying into more promising markets.
Last week, Lenovo said it would buy Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility handset unit for $2.91 billion, the fourth-largest U.S. acquisition by a Chinese or Hong Kong company ever, to face off against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc in the smartphone market.
Nokia’s rumored Android phone, code-named Nokia Normandy, is likely to be branded the Nokia X.
That’s according to @evleaks, which tweeted a brief message on Thursday revealing the name.
Project Normandy = Nokia X
Evleaks didn’t reveal any new details about the device, but thanks to a stream of online leaks we already know about all there is to know about the device.
Expected to launch at Nokia’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) press conference next month, the supposed Nokia X will be a low-end device. It’s expected to launch as a replacement for the firm’s existing Asha feature phone line, which according to the Finnish firm’s latest quarterly financial report hasn’t been flying off the shelves.
The Nokia X is expected to feature a 4in display powered by a Qualcomm S4 processor and Nokia’s forked version of Google’s Android mobile operating system. This, according to leaks, will offer a Windows Phone style, tile based user interface and Nokia’s usual portfolio of custom apps.
The device is also expected to feature a 3MP rear-facing camera and 4GB of internal storage that will be expandable via microSD card. The Nokia X is also likely to look similar to Nokia’s present Lumia Windows Phone designs, with the handset expected to launch in a number of various colours.
There’s no word on a release date or pricing details for the Nokia X yet, although it’s likely to be priced below $250.00.
We’ll be at Nokia’s press conference at MWC, so check back then for all the latest.
Chip making giant Qualcomm Inc has purchased a patent portfolio from Hewlett-Packard Co, including those of Palm Inc and its iPaq smartphone, in a move that will bulk up HP’s offerings to handset makers and other licensees.
The portfolio comprises about 1,400 granted patents and pending patent applications from the United States and about 1,000 granted patents and pending patent applications from other countries, including China, England, Germany, Japan and South Korea.
The San Diego-based chipmaker did not say how much it paid for the patents.
The majority of Qualcomm’s profits come from licensing patents for its ubiquitous CDMA cellphone technology and other technology related to mobile devices. Instead of licensing patents individually, handset vendors, carriers and other licensees pay royalties to Qualcomm in return for access to a broad portfolio of intellectual property.
The patents bought from HP, announced in a release on Thursday, cover technologies that include fundamental mobile operating system techniques.
They include those that HP acquired when it bought Palm Inc, an early player in mobile devices, in 2010 and Bitfone in 2006. HP tablets made using Palm’s webOS operating system failed to catch on.
“There’s nothing left at Palm that HP could get any use out of so it’s better to sell the patents, which are always valuable to Qualcomm,” said Ed Snyder, an analyst with Charter Equity Research. “They have to keep that bucket full.”
The new patents will not lead to increased royalty rates for existing Qualcomm licensees, a Qualcomm spokeswoman said.
Last year, HP sold webOS, which it received as part of the $1.2 billion Palm acquisition, to South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc.
Nokia is expected to report a large drop in network equipment sales in its results this week, illuminating the challenge facing management after selling its once robust handset division to Microsoft for $7.3 billion.
Improved profitability at Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) due to cost cutting have helped cushion the company’s declining handset business in recent quarters.
But with major projects in South Korea and Japan coming to an end, the NSN business, the bulk of Nokia’s entire business after the handsets sale, is expected to report a 19 percent fall in fourth-quarter sales to 3.2 billion euros and a 17 percent fall for the whole of 2013 to 11.4 billion euros. Results are due on Thursday.
The decline for NSN would follow a 26 percent fall in third-quarter sales and come as scale has become increasingly crucial to competing against the industry leader for wireless networks, Ericsson, and China’s Huawei, particularly due to high research and development costs.
NSN’s chief Rajeev Suri, in an interview with Reuters in November, confirmed the company was now prioritizing revenue growth even if it meant a trade-off in profit.
Analysts said NSN must demonstrate that shift in coming quarters, and that markets will accept a dip in margins as long as they don’t fall too far below 8 to 10 percent.
NSN’s fourth-quarter adjusted operating margin is still likely to be high. The company forecast it will be around 12 percent, plus or minus 4 percentage points, compared with 8 percent in the third quarter.
That’s higher than most rivals such as Ericsson, which reported an 8 percent operating margin last quarter as NSN’s restructuring program launched in late 2011 cut a quarter of its workforce and took the business out of low-margin projects.
“It is possible that we won’t be seeing such high margins this year, but I’d rather see them starting to grow again,” said Inderes Equity Research analyst Mikael Rautanen.
Nordea Markets analyst Sami Sarkamies said Nokia’s challenge will be to find new business to make up for a decline in sales in Asia, where a year ago it was busy building out high-speed wireless broadband networks. Asia, including Greater China, accounted for around 41 percent of NSN’s 2.59 billion sales in the third quarter.
That won’t be easy. While telecoms operators are expected to spend more on network equipment in 2014 due to strong demand for high-speed 4G mobile broadband technology, competition is set to remain fierce.
Analysts expect Nokia’s results this week to also show a fall in its handset shipments. Quarterly smartphone shipments are expected to have risen 53 percent from a year earlier to 10.7 million while still lagging behind market leaders Samsung and Apple.
But results from the handset business, where revenues last year were estimated to have fallen by 26 percent to 11.6 billion euros, will be counted as discontinued operations, with the Microsoft deal expected to close shortly, pending regulatory approvals in China.
Family plans can save money in traditional households of three or more people, but 60 percent of all U.S. households have only one or two people, and those are the fastest-growing kind, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told the Citi 2014 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference taking place near International CES in Las Vegas. The Framily Plan, available starting Jan. 10, is designed for them.
Members of a “framily” won’t share a pool of data or receive a single bill, but they will pay less per month. The first subscriber will pay $55 per month for unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data, and every time another person joins, each member’s bill will go down by $5 per month. As many as 10 people can join a framily, but the maximum savings is $30 per month, bringing each member’s monthly bill to $25 plus taxes and surcharges. Then, any member who wants unlimited data instead of the 1GB limit can pay an extra $20 per month.
Buying a phone is separate from the Framily Plan. Subscribers have to either bring their own device or buy it from Sprint in installments. Those who upgrade to unlimited data will also be entitled to an annual upgrade to a new device.
Sprint’s new offer comes amid an upheaval in the ways U.S. consumers can buy devices and pay for mobile service. Unlike traditional family plans, the Framily Plan could bring a wide range of friends and acquaintances of Sprint subscribers into the company’s fold. Following its acquisition last year by Softbank, Sprint is still much smaller than AT&T or Verizon Wireless and looking to make up for subscribers lost during the shutdown of the former Nextel network last year.