For a while, the rumor mill has manufactured hell on earth yarns claiming that Samsung is set to buy the Canadian smartphone maker Blackberry.
The deal always seems to fall through, and in any event has never happened.
However the Financial Post has found evidence that this time Samsung is actively pursuing a plan to take over or buy a significant stake in BlackBerry.
The story is still a rumour because both companies have denied such a plan may be in the works, but a document obtained by the Financial Post, prepared for Samsung by New York-based independent investment bank Evercore Partners, outlines the case for, and the potential structure of a possible purchase of BlackBerry.
The paper is a little elderly and was written in the last quarter of 2014, but a source familiar with the matter said that Samsung remains very interested in acquiring all or part of BlackBerry for the right price.
J.K. Shin, Samsung’s co-chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal that his company is in talks to use some of BlackBerry’s technology in the South Korean company’s devices, but is not interested in an acquisition. “We want to work with BlackBerry and develop this partnership, not acquire the company.”
But it appears that Samsung was caught off guard by a Reuters leak earlier this week. It had hoped it could move in quickly on BlackBerry, and the company’s share price would stay low. When the news went up and the share price rose its bid looked a little weak.
BlackBerry appears to have learned of the price Samsung was hoping to pay through the Reuters leak, before the company could make a formal offer. This is the sort of thing Samsung wanted to avoid.
In five years, BlackBerry thought the return on their turnaround strategy as implemented by John Chen was going to do better than the cash they will be receiving today.
Still, the source maintains that Samsung is still keen on making a deal happen. The talk earlier this week about Samsung extending its cooperation with BlackBerry, which was notably lacking in specifics, is “just setting it up,” the source said. “Samsung hasn’t walked away” from an acquisition. “They’re leaning towards it.”
The sprawling search company would sell the service directly to consumers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources. Tech news site The Information reported on the deals earlier this week.
Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.
The deals would make Google an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), a carrier that doesn’t build or operate its own network but sells services that run on the partners’ infrastructure. Sprint is the third-largest U.S. mobile carrier and T-Mobile is the fourth largest.
As a powerful and well-heeled newcomer, Google might disrupt the cellular industry, just as it has the wired broadband business with its Google Fiberservice. The U.S. mobile industry has been wracked by new business models and falling prices in recent years.
It’s not clear whether the company will launch a full-scale national effort or a more limited rollout. There are terms in Google’s contract with Sprint that would allow for renegotiation if Google draws a huge number of subscribers, the Journal said.
Such an outcome would be a blow for Qualcomm’s prospects for 2015, with the company already having guided for weaker-than-usual annual revenue growth in a five-year outlook issued in November. Samsung, the world’s No.1 smartphone maker, has been one of the U.S. company’s top customers.
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 chip overheated during Samsung’s testing, Bloomberg reported. The South Korean company will use its own processors instead, Bloomberg said.
A Qualcomm spokesman declined to comment on the report. A Samsung spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumours.
Analysts have said the Snapdragon 810 chip has been dealing with a variety of performance issues that may not be corrected in time for the launch of Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone.
The South Korean firm is widely expected to unveil the device on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show in early March. Samsung will need to ensure that the phone does not disappoint in order to keep its global market share from slipping further, analysts said.
Samsung has already used its own Exynos processors in flagship devices such as the Galaxy S5 to some extent, though analysts said Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips were more widely used. Greater adoption of Exynos chips in Samsung smartphones would help boost sales for the struggling foundry business.
“Samsung will likely show off the new Galaxy S phone in about a month and a half, so one would have to assume that the chips have been tested a fair amount in order for them to be used,” said HMC Investment analyst Greg Roh.
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.
Twitter Inc announced plans to acquire Indian mobile phone marketing start-up ZipDial, reportedly for $30 million to $40 million, as the U.S. microblogging service looks to expand in the world’s second-biggest mobile market.
Bengaluru-based ZipDial gives clients phone numbers for use in marketing campaigns. Consumers call the numbers and hang up before connecting and incurring charges, and then receive promotion-related text messages.
The start-up’s clients include International Business Machines Corp, Yum! Brands Inc’s KFC and Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette.
The service capitalizes on a local tradition of communicating through so-called missed calls. A person may give a friend a missed call to signal arrival at an agreed destination, for instance, without having to pay the cost of a phone call.
Such “unique behavior” was behind ZipDial, the start-up said in a statement announcing the Twitter deal.
Twitter did not disclose terms of the purchase. Techcrunch, citing unidentified sources, reported the deal at $30 million to $40 million.
“This acquisition significantly increases our investment in India, one of the countries where we’re seeing great growth,” Twitter said in a statement.
The acquisition is the latest in India by global tech giants who have snapped up companies in a fledgling startup scene, concentrated in the tech hub of Bengaluru in southern India.
Last year, Facebook Inc bought Little Eye Labs, a start-up that builds performance analysis and monitoring tools for mobile apps. Yahoo! Inc bought Bookpad, whose service allows developers to add document viewing and editing to their own applications.
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , the world’s biggest e-commerce company, is piloting a mobile messaging app geared toward merging social networking with business, an Alibaba spokeswoman said, as the company expands its enterprise services.
The app, called DingTalk, was quietly made available in December and is still in beta testing, according to its website.
Capable of carrying conference calls and group messaging, DingTalk targets small- and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are already Alibaba’s customers. The company has 8.5 million active sellers on its various e-commerce platforms, according to Alibaba’s initial public offering prospectus.
It is not Alibaba’s first stab at a mobile messaging app and others have become hot property in the tech sector. The company’s arch-rival, Tencent Holdings Ltd, operates WeChat, known as Weixin in China, which has 468 million monthly active users and was estimated to be worth as much as $64 billion by brokerage CLSA.
Underscoring the appeal of such apps, Facebook Inc in October completed its $22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.
But Alibaba’s previous attempt at a mobile messaging app, Laiwang, is seen by many analysts and industry observers as a dud, with the Chinese market dominated by Tencent’s WeChat.
By going for smaller companies, DingTalk is chasing a target audience that already includes many Alibaba clients. This fits with its broader enterprise strategy, including the Alibaba Cloud Computing business, which also serves Alibaba’s merchants as well as other companies.
“DingTalk is a versatile mobile communications app that fills a gap in the market for corporate mobile messaging,” the Alibaba spokeswoman said.
China’s Xiaomi Inc further challenged Apple Inc on Thursday as the world’s third-biggest smartphone maker and most valuable tech start-up unveiled the flagship Mi Note, its answer to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.
Chief Executive Lei Jun introduced the Mi Note in Beijing with a breakdown of the large-screen phone’s technical features, with multiple comparisons to Apple’s equivalent. At 2299 yuan ($371) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, the Mi Note will retail for almost two-thirds less than the iPhone 6 Plus.
Just three years after Xiaomi sold its first smartphone, a $1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at $45 billion. The privately held company has risen to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker and is challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as well as domestic rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd .
Xiaomi takes efforts to play down comparisons with Cupertino, California-based Apple, though it is commonly called the ‘Apple of China’.
“The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone,” Lei told his audience of thousands gathered in the north of China’s capital.
Lei wore a light-blue shirt, eschewing his previously favoured black top, jeans and sneakers, reminiscent of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans.
“Xiaomi is an innovative start-up company, with a short history,” said Lei. The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. “In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents.”
Lei also laid out Xiaomi’s strategy to connect its smartphones with Xiaomi-branded home appliances, allowing phone users to remotely control washing machines, air purifiers and surveillance cameras.
Facebook Inc has rolled out a new mobile phone application that gives Colombian users free access to a handful of online services, broadening Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s effort to boost Internet usage in developing markets.
Colombia is the first nation in Latin America to receive the new Internet.org service, in partnership with local mobile phone provider Tigo, but the aim is to push the application across the region.
The tools offered by the service provide a foundation Colombians can use to “build their own prosperity” Zuckerberg said at a presentation in Bogota with President Juan Manuel Santos.
“By giving people these basic tools for free, you’re creating an equal playing field,” Zuckerberg said, referring to entrepreneurs who could use the free Internet to start or grow a business.
Internet.org will offer more than a dozen services via the Android operating system, including online encyclopedia Wikipedia, weather websites, job listings and health information, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging service.
Access to the application’s services is free, but links that lead to information on other websites will require users to pay data charges.
The service may even aid the country, which has 21 million Facebook users, as it seeks an end to 50 years of war with Marxist rebels, Zuckerberg said.
“Just giving people the tools of connectivity is important by itself in creating communication and a tighter social fabric in creating peace,” the 30-year-old CEO said.
The service, first launched in Zambia back in July, will eventually be available via other mobile providers.
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app is the first time the company has added services beyond its own website.
Dailymotion Games will put the firm into a market that so far includes Twitch, a streamer that has cemented its place as a gaming add-on and a coveted option on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.
The Dailymotion information does not dwell on Twitch, which has been a feature of many a gushing press release from console makers such as Sony, but it does say that the live streaming gaming platform has some decent credentials.
For example, the promotional information says that the platform is backed with “industry leading video and live streaming technology”.
The firm also reminds us that it has some history here, and has been e-gaming for some time.
“Since 2011, with the first Dailymotion Cup on Starcraft, Dailymotion has accompanied e-sport growth on the internet,” said Martin Rogard, Dailymotion’s chief operating officer.
“Dailymotion Games is entirely dedicated to e-sports fans and streamers who come together every evening to form an amazingly talented and gregarious community.
“Over the coming months, we will significantly increase our investment in the e-sports domain to ensure worldwide recognition of all our talented content producers.”
Dailymotion said that live streamers will be able to monetise their content, which Microsoft recently confirmed is fine for its users, and that streamers could run their own “controlled video advertisement” and any number of social tools including search and real-time communications. Android and iOS apps are available.
The service is currently in beta. Dailymotion said that it serves some 180 million game videos a month.
Samsung Electronics recently offered to purchase BlackBerry Ltd for as much as $7.5 billion, hoping to acquire its valuable patents as it battles Apple in the corporate market, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.
South Korea’s Samsung proposed an initial price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share, representing a premium of 38 percent to 60 percent over BlackBerry’s current trading price, the source said on Wednesday.
Representatives from the two companies, which are working with advisers, met last week to discuss a potential transaction, the source said, asking not to be identified because the conversations are private.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a statement that it “has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry. Shares of BlackBerry, which soared nearly 30 percent following the Reuters report, fell back about 15 percent in after-hours electronic trading following the statement.
Samsung also told Reuters in Seoul that it has no plans to acquire Blackberry. “Media reports of the acquisition are groundless,” a company spokeswoman said.
Separately on Wednesday, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reported BlackBerry has shunned a handful of takeover overtures in recent months as its board and largest investor think its restructuring strategy will deliver greater shareholder value than current acquisition offers.
Once connected, Verizon Vehicle service notifies the driver of any maintenance issues, as well as connecting them to roadside assistance and online mechanic advise.
Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Eric Goldman, president of Verizon Telematics, said the service is suited to more than 200 million cars, and encompasses more than 900 models on the road today that do not have native telematics technology.
“Regardless of the wireless carriers you use for your mobile phone, Verizon will connect your vehicle to a suite of features providing a whole new level of safety, confidence and knowledge about how your vehicle is operating,” Goldman said during a live-streamed news conference.
The subscription-based service works through several technologies. First, the dongle reads the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics computer, much like any OBD2 code reader that consumers can buy in retail or online stores today.
Secondly, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker attaches to the vehicle’s visor and provides voice notifications of any maintenance issues.
The speaker also offers one-button push connection to a Verizon member care group, a mechanics hotline and GPS-directed roadside assistance service. There is also a second button for “SOS” emergency situations that also works via GPS technology.
Third, a complementary smartphone app can be used to set up the service to contact someone by phone, text, push notification or email in the event of a mechanical issue.
Like the OnStar emergency service GM uses, Verizon’s Automatic Urgent Incident AlertSystem automatically places a call to the Verizon Vehicle Member Care Center in the event of a suspected accident. Help is immediately dispatched to the location if an accident is confirmed or there is no response from the driver.
The Verizon Vehicle service, the price for which has not yet been announced, is expected to launch nationally this spring with availability through nationwide retailers late in this year.
The patent, which cites specific weaknesses in GoPro’s cameras, includes details about a camera system that can be mounted on bike helmets or scuba masks, Apple said in an application filed with the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.
Shares of GoPro, whose cameras can be mounted on helmets, surf boards, bikes and dog harnesses, fell as much as 15 percent.
Apple’s newly patented camera system can also be used under water to take pictures and record sounds, according to the application.
A potential entry by the iPhone maker into the action camera market could also put pressure on privately held Polaroid Corp, which makes the small and colorful Cube cameras.
JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna, however, said it was premature to assume that Apple would soon launch a wearable camera.
“It does not seem to me that launching an action camera accessory is the most logical product extension for Apple to pursue right now,” Gauna said.
Apple declined to comment, while GoPro was not immediately available for comment.
“I think that it will have about the same impact on GoPro as the iPhone has had on camera makers and that impact is that there are fewer cameras sold but the number isn’t zero,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
Videos shot with GoPro’s cameras have created a buzz on the Internet, attracting millions of views on YouTube.
Olympic gold medal winning snow boarder Shaun White and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater are among well-known athletes who have endorsed the cameras.
Intellectual property blog Patently Apple reported earlier in the day that Apple’s patent, which was filed by the company in 2012, incorporates some intellectual property from Eastman Kodak Co that the company acquired in November 2013.
Mark Zuckerberg and Xiaomi Inc CEO Lei Jun held talks about a potential investment by Facebook in China’s top smartphone maker ahead of its $1.1 billion fundraising last month, but a deal never materialized, several people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The discussions, at a private dinner when Zuckerberg visited Beijing in October, were never formalized, three of those people said, as the two CEOs weighed the political and commercial implications of Facebook - which has been banned in China since 2009 – buying into the Chinese tech star now valued at $45 billion.
One individual with direct knowledge of Xiaomi’s fundraising said the mooted Facebook investment was “not huge,” but the talks underscore how ties between U.S. and Chinese companies have deepened as China’s tech industry matures.
A Facebook investment in Xiaomi would have raised the international profile of the popular handset maker dubbed “China’s Apple” by its fans and linked it to a U.S. social networking phenomenon with more than 1.3 billion users.
Facebook, for its part, has long harbored ambitions to expand into the world’s most populous country, potentially with partners. One of the individuals said Facebook and Xiaomi began discussing a possible investment in mid-2014.
Xiaomi’s Lei was partly put off by the potential for political fallout at home of selling a stake to Facebook while the U.S. social network is still banned in China, two of the people said, adding Xiaomi also feared a tie-up with Facebook could threaten its relationship with Google Inc, a crucial business partner. Xiaomi’s phones are built on Google’s Android operating system.
Xiaomi ultimately announced last month it raised $1.1 billion from investors including Hong Kong-based tech fund All Stars Investment; DST Global, a private equity firm that has invested in Facebook and Alibaba Group; Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC; Chinese fund Hopu Management; and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital.
The fundraising valued Beijing-based Xiaomi at $45 billion just three years after it sold its first smartphone. The company had revenue of close to $12 billion in 2014.
Zuckerberg has eyed China as a critical piece of his vision to connect the global population. But, like Google and Twitter, the social networking giant has been blocked by China’s internet censors, who cite national security concerns.
A year ago, LTE-Advanced was only available in South Korea, but it’s now available in 31 countries (including Australia, France, Germany, U.K. and the U.S.) and more are on the way, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).
“There is a lot of activity at the moment,” said Alan Hadden, president at GSA.
LTE-Advanced is a collection of different technologies, but the one mobile operators are implementing first is called carrier aggregation. It lets operators treat up to three radio channels in different frequency bands as if they were one and send data to users at higher speeds.
Bandwidths at up to 300Mbps are possible, though not all LTE-Advanced networks and devices can muster that. For example, Apple’s new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150Mbps, and not all operators have the spectrum to offer that.
However, regardless of which version of LTE-Advanced a network or device supports, the technology offers users higher speeds than ever before.
Chances are greater that you’ll get access to LTE-Advanced if you live in a big city. For example, U.S. operator AT&T has so far upgraded its network in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.
The technology has been held back due to a lack of supporting devices, but that will change this year thanks to a greater variety of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.