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Sprint, T-Mobile Merger Appears To Be Dead

August 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp has canceled its bid to purchase No. 4 U.S. carrier T-Mobile U.S. Inc after regulatory resistance showed no signs of softening despite months of lobbying, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The move is a rare setback for Sprint’s Japanese parent SoftBank Corp, whose billionaire founder Masayoshi Son had seen the acquisition as key to taking on U.S. market leaders AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, and T-Mobile have not ruled out consolidation in the future but concluded that a deal is unlikely to be approved at this time, the sources said. U.S. regulators have insisted that they want to keep the number of major wireless carriers at four.

“We didn’t think the opposition would be this strong,” a SoftBank executive said, but added: “The environment will definitely change”.

The failure to reach a deal could give added impetus to a rival bid for T-Mobile by French telecoms firm Iliad. Iliad made a lower bid than Sprint but is in talks with U.S. cable and satellite companies to sweeten its offer.

In the wake of the failed talks, Sprint will appoint a new CEO – Marcelo Claure, founder of mobile phone distributor Brightstar Corp which was acquired by SoftBank last year, a separate person with knowledge of the matter said. Claure, who has won a string of awards for entrepreneurship, joined Sprint’s board in January.

He will replace Dan Hesse who has been CEO of Sprint since 2007. Hesse led a rip-and-replace overhaul to modernize Sprint’s network but it caused cellular sites to go black and the company to hemorrhage subscribers.

Sources declined to be identified as the matter has not been disclosed by the companies publicly. Representatives for Sprint and SoftBank declined a request for comment. T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Despite Big Losses, Sony Says TV Unit Not Going Away

May 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp make seek an equity partner in its TV unit, which has racked up losses every year for a decade, but the Japanese consumer giant was not entertaining selling or exiting the business, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Sony plans to turn its struggling TV business into a separate entity – Sony Visual Products Inc – within a few months to boost transparency.

The splitting off of its TV unit had fired up speculation about a sale, which CEO Kazuo Hirai sought to dispel.

“We are not thinking about selling our TV operations or shutting them down or anything like that,” he said.

“We’re doing business in the competitive environment of a market. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an equity tie-up, but right now we are not doing business under the assumption that would happen.”

Hirai, speaking on Thursday at a briefing outlining Sony’s annual strategy, acknowledged TV sales could fall below the company’s forecast for an industry-beating 20 percent rise this fiscal year.

He said, however, that Sony had restructured the business so it could withstand external shocks.

“We’re aware of criticism that the TV target of 16 million units this fiscal year is too high,” he said.

“Even if those risks on volume are borne out, we’ve put in place the capacity to minimise the impact on profitability in the TV operations.”

Sony, roundly criticised for its habit of making overly optimistic forecasts that it repeatedly fails to meet, has pledged that a blast of restructuring in its electronics division this year will return the troubled unit to profit.


The company said it would be possible to expand operating profit threefold in the 2015/16 business year to 400 billion yen, with its aggressive restructuring expected to yield annual cost savings of 100 billion yen.

Hirai’s newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said the company did not plan to change the focus of its electronics division away from the three core businesses of mobile, imaging and games through the next fiscal year at least.


Will nVidia’s Maxwell Support H.265?

May 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

We heard some rather interesting information for anyone who thinks that we need more than Full HD at 1920×1080 video. As you can imagine Nvidia is always thinking how to help the decoding process of the next generation codecs and since 4K video plays an important role in company’s roadmap, it is not a big surprise to learn that the next generation Maxwell supports the H.265 codec.

This comes from a reliable industry source close to the matter and since H.265 can halve the size of the existing files compared to H.264, it is definitely the codec to support in the future. We would not be surprised to see support for Google’s VP9 codec, but we didn’t get this bit of information confirmed. Both VP9 and H.265 support video up to 8K resolution which gives you an idea that these codecs are here to stay. H.265 was developed as the High Efficiency Video Coding HEVC format, for which the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) joined forces.

Maxwell will come with a lot of computation power and the most efficient and faster way to decode and encode H.265 is to have a dedicated, hardware fixed function. As we all know 4K/UHD has four times the pixels of 1080p and with that in mind needs a lot more computational power. This is why Nvidia will integrate H.265 in its next generation GPU. When we say 20nm Maxwell, we can easily call it a second generation Maxwell, a set of tweaked GPU designs that we expect to see shipping before the end of the year.

At this time we don’t know if AMD plans to incorporate H.265 support in their next generation graphics cores, but we would be surprised if it did not. Intel is also known for implementing quite good video ending in its CPUs and we expect to see H.265 and VP9 supported by Intel in hardware at some point. It is highly unlikely that AMD and Intel will drag their feet on H.265 implementation, especially given their ongoing iGPU arms race. New processors need H.265, simple as that.

The future is 4K, it will stream, it will get to games and 4K movies are coming to a home theatre near you. Now it’s just a matter of having the right hardware to play it smoothly, and of course having more 4K content than we have right now.

You can read a nice comparison piece about H.265 and VP9.


Panasonic Scaling Back Digital Camera Offerings In 2014

November 22, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic Corp has plans to launch about five compact digital cameras next year, half of this year’s number, as it looks to return the business to profitability by fiscal 2014, the Nikkei reported.

Panasonic has been shifting its focus to products for businesses, such as automotive systems and housing fixtures, as it steps back from struggling operations in TVs and other consumer gadgets.

The new cameras, with features such as high-magnification zoom, will cost at least 30,000 yen ($300). Panasonic will focus on mirrorless single-lens models, the business daily said.

The company expects its digital camera business to report losses for the second straight year, Nikkei said.

Global digital camera sales will likely fall by more than 2 million units this fiscal year to about 4 million, the newspaper reported.



4K Monitor Prices Expected To Fall Next Year

October 1, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Both Raja Kodori, Vice President of Visual Computing and Matt Skynner, Vice President and general manager of AMD’s graphics business unit, see 4K/UHD as the future of gaming. This is what these big GPUs are made for and they are powerful enough to render these immensely high resolutions. This echoes recent statements fron Nvidia execs.

Skynner told us that AMD sees that more pixels are better and that eye candy such as TressFX can make a difference. Lara Craft’s hair looks much better thanks to AMD’s proprietary engine and boasts more realistic characters, terrain and effects. This is where gaming is set to go and the key is to push for photo realism.

We had a chance to see some impressive looking 4K games and textures, and there will be some titles coming with 4K support in the near future. The big obstacle today is the price of monitors but as it was the case in the past, the prices are destined to drop from the current $3,500 for a 31.5 inch monitor to sub-$1000 and probably even less in the long run.

We see a clear trend in tablets, where even relatively cheap devices sport 2560×1600 screens and with that in mind 4K TV and monitors will go down to more acceptable price rates. The prices of these monitors will play a key role in widespread adoption of 4K gaming. Just as a decade ago 1280×1024 was a standard high resolution and it was difficult and expensive to play games at such a resolution, now even more pixels are found crammed on mainstream phones, powered by GPUs smaller than a grain of rice.

Graphics chips will continue to be faster and every processor node shrink will get us at least 30 percent more transistors, making a playable frame rate even at 4K 3840×2160 a reality. The biggest problem is that GPUs will get there a lot faster than monitors. We’re already seeing the first 4K capable cards, but the high price of 4K/UHD monitors will remain the biggest obstacle over the next couple of years.



Sony To Offer First 4K Consumer Camcorder In October

September 10, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony is planning on being the first company to offer a consumer-grade camcorder that shoots at four times the detail of today’s best high-definition images.

In October, the company will begin selling its Handycam FDR-AX1, which supports the new 4K Ultra HD standard. Television sets with screens that can show 4K images are also just beginning to appear on the market as the industry pushes hard to make 4K the next big thing in video.

A 4K picture has a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels, double the horizontal and vertical resolution of a “full HD” image. For consumers, that means the potential for even finer detail and a better, sharper picture.

In a demonstration at the IFA electronics expo in Berlin, visitors were able to try out one of the cameras. The output from the camera was displayed on a 4K monitor and enabled visitors to see great detail, even when fully zoomed.

The Handycam FDR-AX1 will cost around $4,500. To be sure, that’s expensive but not perhaps as by as much as it first appears. Prices for equivalent Sony high-end consumer or professional camcorders that shoot in high-definition range from $2,800 to $6,000.

The first version of the camera will record in XAVC S, a Sony-developed format based on MPEG4 AVC/H.264. The industry standard AVCHD format used by most consumer camcorders doesn’t yet support 4K, but an update is expected in mid-2014, according to Sony.

And if you’re wondering how to watch the footage recorded on the camcorder, it has an HDMI 2.0 connector for hooking up to compatible TVs. HDMI 2.0 was just announced and is the first version of the HDMI format to support 4K in full quality.

The camcorder was first seen in January at the CES show in Las Vegas, where it was displayed as a prototype. At this week’s IFA in Berlin, fellow Japanese electronics company Panasonic is showing a prototype of its first 4K camcorder.

The company offered no details on when it would be available and didn’t allow visitors to handle the device themselves.



Toshiba To Offer World’s Fastest SD Cards This Year

July 17, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Toshiba will soon debut the world’s fastest SD cards, which will offer write speeds of up to 240MBps.

The Japanese electronics giant said on Tuesday that its new Exceria Pro memory card will be geared towards power users such as photographers and have the speed to allow high-resolution photos to be snapped and saved continuously. The cards will have read speeds of up to 260MBps and will come in 16GB and 32GB sizes.

The company aims to have the cards on the market from October. It didn’t release prices, but Japanese media reports said the 64GB version will cost around 25,000 yen (US$250) domestically, with the smaller-sized card priced at around 15,000 yen.

Flash storage makers like Toshiba are eager to differentiate themselves from the competition as NAND flash prices fall steadily over time. SD flash cards with 64GB of memory that support slower standards now sell for as little as 3,500 yen online.

Toshiba said its latest memory is the first to use a controller that is compliant with the UHS-II (Ultra High Speed) specification, which theoretically offers speeds up to 312 MBps. The specification was first announced by the SD Association in January 2011, at the annual CES Electronics show in Las Vegas.

Toshiba is the world’s second-largest maker of NAND flash behind Korean Samsung in terms of revenue. In the first quarter of this year, Samsung had a 37 percent market share and Toshiba a 29 percent share of the total NAND flash market, which was about $5.2 billion.

The company also said it will launch a pair of SD memory cards based on the same specification but slower and with more storage. Those will offer write speeds of up to 120MBps and read speeds up to 260MBps, in 32GB and 64GB versions. The larger size will sell for about 35,000 yen.





Japanese Telecom To Stream 4K Video Over The Internet

June 12, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A major Japanese telecommunications provider will stream 4k video over the Internet to set-top boxes this week, in what is being dubbed the world’s first public test of the technology.

NTT West said Tuesday it will conduct a three-day trial in Tokyo during a digital media seminar from Wednesday through Friday. The firm said it will use the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard to send video from a cloud server directly to a set top box attached to a standard 4k television. The company did not reveal what it will stream, but said its goal is to launch commercial 4k service.

The test will use H.265/HEVC, the successor to the H.264/MPEG-4 standard in wide use today. HEVC, approved as an international standard in January, was designed to double the compression ratio of existing standards, and covers traditional TV broadcasts as well as Internet streaming. Compression is crucial for 4k, or ultra high definition, which has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, four times the pixel count of current HD.

While 4k-capable TVs, computer monitors and mobile devices are beginning to come to market, content is still scarce. Most TVs still rely on digital enhancement of HD broadcasts and video to fill out their extra pixels.

Japan is a prime target for Internet broadcasts because of the wide proliferation of fiber-based Internet, prices for which have fallen as multiple providers compete for business. NTT West’s standard plan for 1GB service now costs AY=4,000 (US$40) per month.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK, which is leading the development and promotion of next-generation TV, has said it may begin 4k broadcasts next year, with 8k broadcasts to come within three years. Sony is gearing up for a 4k Internet streaming service to launch this year, and Hulu is reportedly preparing for its own launch within the next two years.

NTT West will conduct the test along with NTT SmartConnect, its hosting and streaming subsidiary.


Will Softbank Raise Its Offer For Sprint?

May 8, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

SoftBank Corp President Masayoshi Son may get a less than enthusiastic reception when he comes to the United States this week to meet Sprint Nextel Corp’s major shareholders, as he tries to drum up support for the Japanese company’s proposed takeover of the No. 3 U.S. wireless service provider.

SoftBank’s billionaire founder, who proposed a $20 billion deal for a 70 percent stake in the U.S. wireless carrier, said on Tuesday that he would discuss the deal with shareholders in a bid to fight off rival Dish Network, a U.S. satellite TV provider, which offered Sprint a $25.5 billion bid.

The executive for the Japanese mobile operator may have a tough time selling the deal, as several shareholders have told Reuters that SoftBank would need to raise its bid in order to win their vote at Sprint’s June 12 shareholder meeting.

Two big Sprint shareholders, Paulson & Co and Omega Advisors, have publicly said the Dish offer looks better than SoftBank’s. Other shareholders said on Tuesday that they would go to meet Son during his trip but they were skeptical about his arguments against Dish.

While Dish’s offer would provide more cash upfront to shareholders, Son has argued that Dish would not be good for the company as it would require Sprint to take on a heavy debt load. He also promises a July 1 close for the deal and warned that Dish regulatory approval may not come until 2014.

Robert Lynch, the director of research for Westchester Capital Management, which owned over 14 million shares in Sprint at the end of December, said that the prospect of a quicker deal close would not be enough to win over his company’s vote.

“We think right now that Dish has a better offer on the table. We think SoftBank’s going to have to improve their offer,” Lynch said, noting that SoftBank’s comments about the prospective debt leverage from a Dish deal were overdone.

“We think the leverage is manageable. We think there are synergies here. While raising the leverage is something we looked at we think its not as big of a obstacle as SoftBank is saying,” Lynch said.

A big Sprint investor who asked not to be named said they were happy to meet with Son while he is in the United States but that they were hoping to convince him to raise his bid.

“If Mr. Son wants to own Sprint he will have to raise his bid,” said the person from a top 25 Sprint shareholder who did not want to be quoted by name ahead of the meeting.



Softbank Not Raising Its Offer For Sprint

May 1, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Softbank’s CEO, in a battle with Dish Network to purchase U.S. mobile operator Sprint Nextel, slammed a $25.5 billion offer made by Dish, saying it is based on “imaginary” numbers and would create a company with “insane” amounts of debt.

Softbank chief Masayoshi Son said Tuesday the company would not increase its $20 billion bid for Sprint, made in October. The outspoken Son, who normally speaks in Japanese, made a rare English presentation filled with financial minutiae aimed at convincing Sprint’s shareholders, who are to vote on his proposal in June.

“Some people ask me, ‘Won’t Softbank be increasing its price for the offer?’” Son said. “Why should we? We are already providing a better deal than the Dish proposal.”

Softbank said in October that it had a deal to acquire a 70% stake in Sprint. Dish has said it would pay a $600 million cancellation fee if that deal doesn’t go through.

Softbank and Dish are presenting two very different futures for Sprint, the third-largest carrier in the U.S., behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T by a wide margin. Softbank is hoping to create one of the world’s largest carriers with strong market presence in the U.S. and Japan, two of the world’s largest mobile markets, as part of its aggressive international expansion. Dish has said it wants to combine its own mobile spectrum and satellite coverage with Sprint’s offerings to create a U.S. powerhouse.

Son said combining Softbank and Sprint made sense because both are mobile operators, and the newly formed company would be one of the largest in the world. He noted that both companies are aggressively rolling out high-speed LTE networks for smartphones, while Dish is in a different business as a satellite provider.

Son said the $5.5 billion gap between Softbank’s offer and the one made by Dish was deceiving for a number of reasons. He noted that the Dish proposal includes a large payment in stock, and some of the payment would be delayed for a year, while Softbank’s payment would be made immediately in cash.

He repeatedly tore into the Dish offer, calling the debt it would require “crazy” and “insane.” He said Dish’s calculations for synergy with Sprint were an “imaginary number.”




Samsung Is Ranked Below Average

May 18, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

The ACSI has revealed that Samsung scored a below average rating of 71, placing it below rivals LG, HTC and Motorola.

The Korean phone maker saw its customer service rating slip four per cent since April 2011, despite seeing huge success with its Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone. ACSI said that this could be because of the manufacturer’s reliance on the Android operating system, although Samsung was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

It’s even worse news for the Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM), which got the lowest rating at just 69. This makes the firm the “least satisfying” mobile phone company in the US, which isn’t so surprising considering last year’s high-profile server crash.

“Companies with weak customer satisfaction often have weak stock performance,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder. “RIM’s sales are slumping amid a bevy of problems, from hardware and software issues to server lapses that have caused email and messaging outages. Over the past year, share price for RIM has virtually collapsed.”

It might be bad news for Samsung and RIM, but it’s a completely different story for Apple, which lead the ACSI ratings with a score of 83. Apple’s nearest competitors in the ACSI ratings saw three companies tied at 75 – LG, HTC and, most surprisingly, Nokia.




Samsung Enjoying The Fruits Of Mobile Phone Sales

April 27, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co, the world’s top technology company by revenue, will report record quarterly operating profit of around $5 billion later on Friday on phenomenal sales of its Galaxy smartphones and as South Korean firms outmuscle Japanese rivals in TVs and memory chips.

Samsung, whose $184 billion market value is worth around a dozen Sonys, is set to topple Nokia as the global handset leader after 14 years, and its Android-based Galaxy line-up will have outsold Apple’s iPhone as it won users from Nokia, Blackberry maker Research In Motion, Motorola and others.

The South Korean firm, which last year sold close to one in every 5 smartphones worldwide, should build on that market leadership with the launch in London next week of a third generation of its flagship Galaxy S, backed by heavy marketing ahead of the summer Olympics.The new Galaxy will be powered by Samsung’s quad-core microprocessor, which it hopes to see used in handsets sold by Nokia, HTC and Motorola, as well as Apple, its biggest customer.

And, while Apple said this week that iPhone 4S sales boosted its quarterly revenue in China five-fold, there are more Samsung handsets than Apple phones in the world’s biggest mobile market, said IDC analyst Wong Teck-Zhung in Beijing.

Samsung – which has deals with all three of China’s big telecoms operators – already pushed out Nokia as China’s top smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, with a near-25 percent market share, and analysts expect that to have increased as Nokia slips further.

Samsung, led by Chairman Lee Kun-hee, said earlier this month its quarterly operating profit will be 5.6-6.0 trillion won ($5.1 billion), close to double the year-ago quarter, and analysts predict handsets will bring in around two thirds of total profit.


New iPad Shipping Delays Just Got Longer

March 13, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Unfortunately for all those anxiously waiting, delays for Apple’s new iPad increased yesterday as the company informed U.S. customers that new orders would ship in two to three weeks.

As recently as Saturday, Apple said that new U.S. orders would ship on March 19.

The U.S. delay now matches that of other markets where Apple plans to launch the new iPad this Friday, March 16. Orders placed with Apple’s Australian, French, Japanese, German, Swiss, Singapore and U.K. online stores all show the same two-to-three-week delay.

The Hong Kong online store still says that the new iPad is currently unavailable.

By Apple’s estimate, a new iPad ordered today won’t ship until the March 26-April 2 time-frame, with delivery coming several days after that.

While the delays have not yet reached the level of last year’s iPad 2 — that tablet pushed shipping times to as long as five weeks within days of its debut — they hint that Apple is facing a repeat of 2011′s supply problems.

Experts believe that that’s a near certainty, and have pinned blame on the higher-resolution screen used by the new iPad, which features a display of 2,048-by-1,536 pixels, or four times the number of pixels of the tablet’s first two generations.

“Apple’s trying to use a new display technology from Sharp for that higher-resolution without compromising on battery life,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager of small- and medium-sized displays with research firm IHS iSuppli, in a recent interview. “But Sharp is having trouble getting good yields.”

Other display suppliers that Apple is reportedly using — Samsung and LG Display — are also having difficulty qualifying their 2,048-by-1,536 screens for quality, said Jakhanwal. According to her sources, LG Display will probably not ship its higher-resolution screen for the iPad until the second quarter.

“The display is being a challenge,” said Jakhanwal, who pointed to that component as the one that will most constrain supply.

Rhoda Alexander, another iSuppli analyst, estimated last week that new iPads will be difficult to find for the next five to six months.


Hitachi-LG Executives Plead Guilty To Price Fixing

December 14, 2011 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Three executives at Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS) have agreed to plead guilty and serve prison time in the U.S. for their participation in a number of conspiracies to rig bids and fix the prices of optical disk drives sold to large computer manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Young Keun Park, Sang Hun Kim and Sik “Daniel” Hur conspired with others to suppress competition by rigging bids for optical disk drives sold to Dell and Hewlett-Packard and to fix prices for optical disk drives sold to Microsoft, the DOJ said. The conspiracies happened at various times between November 2005 and September 2009, the DOJ said.

Under a plea agreement in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Park and Kim each have agreed to serve eight months in prison and Hur has agreed to serve seven months in prison. Each has also agreed to pay a US$25,000 fine.

HLDS, based in South Korea, is a joint venture between Hitachi, a Japanese corporation, and LG Electronics, a South Korean corporation.

An HLDS spokesman wasn’t available for comment on the plea agreements.


Gree Aims To Take On Facebook And Zynga

December 6, 2011 by mphillips  
Filed under Gaming

Japanese mobile game provider Gree said Tuesday it would launch a new gaming platform next year as it looks to challenge heavyweights like Facebook and Zynga.

The Tokyo-based company is not well-known outside of Japan but is making a bid to establish itself as a global player in mobile games, especially on smartphones. The company acquired U.S. game platform operator OpenFeint in April and now claims 150 million registered users worldwide, with a stated goal of reaching one billion.

Gree’s main business is providing the social and payment systems that are built into games, so its first priority is drawing game developers. The company said its new platform, which will go live between April and June of next year, will unify its existing APIs and allow game makers using its network to easily launch globally on iOS, Android or on the web.

The company said major game companies including Capcom, Konami and Sega have agreed to launch titles on the platform when it launches. Gree will provide developer support in Japanese, English and Chinese, with user support in over a dozen languages, as well as hosting and consulting services.

Company CEO and founder Yoshikazu Tanaka said his company offers a social network, a development platform as well as games, unlike larger rivals such as Facebook and Zynga that offer some portion of those.

In Japan, Gree has built its business on providing mainly free titles through its platform, generating profits through advertising and in-game payments.

In the U.S., Gree will compete with aggressive Japanese rival DeNA, which acquired mobile game firm ngmoco last year and has announced deals with large carriers such as AT&T.