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SoftBank To Acquire ARM For $32 Billion

July 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japan’s SoftBank will acquire UK chip design company ARM Holdings to take advantage of growing demand for processors and other technologies for the internet of things and mobile markets.

SoftBank is paying £24.3 billion ($32 billion) in cash for the chip company that licenses its designs to a large number of chip suppliers to smartphone makers and to the emerging IoT market.

The Japanese company will retain ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge and plans to double the number of employees in the U.K. over the next five years, when it will also increase the company’s headcount outside the U.K.

ARM, with 4,064 employees,  will be an independent business within SoftBank, which will pay for the acquisition from existing cash resources and a loan. SoftBank said it intends to retain the current ARM organization including the existing senior management team, brand, and partnership-based business model and culture.

SoftBank has invested in a number of media and technology companies, including Internet retailer Snapdeal in India and ride-hailing app company Didi Chuxing in China. It also acquired Sprint Nextel in 2013.

The acquisition of ARM would place the company in a market where it would be an upstream supplier to some of the biggest names in the tech industry as licensees of ARM’s designs like Qualcomm gear up to supply chips to the connected devices market.

“ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the ‘Internet of Things,’” said SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son in a statement Monday.

 

 

 

Amazon Announces Prime Day Sale Was Best Ever

July 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon reported that it’s Prime Day was the biggest sales day ever for the online retail giant.

The company’s second annual sales event, which was held Tuesday, saw customer orders surpass Prime Day 2015 by more than 60% worldwide and more than 50% in the U.S., the company reported.

“It was a huge success,” said Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It was a big day, by all accounts, with enormous growth. It reinforces that e-commerce continues to grow and that Amazon is a significant part of that growth.”

Amazon’s Prime Day is a one-day sales event for members of Prime, the company’s membership program. Products in nearly all of Amazon’s copious shopping categories were put on sale.

Despite some reports of customers’ having problems checking out after making their purchases, more than 90,000 TVs were sold, along with more than 2 million toys, 1 million pairs of shoes and hundreds of thousands of Kindle e-readers.

Amazon also received twice as many orders via its mobile app than it did during Prime Day last year. More than 1 million customers used the Amazon app for the first time during the sale, the company said.

For U.S. sales alone, Amazon reported that device sales were three times higher compared to Prime Day 2015. It was also the biggest sales day for Amazon’s Echo personal assistant and the company’s e-readers.

When it came to techie purchases, Amazon sold U.S. members more than 14,000 Lenovo laptops and more than 23,000 iRobot Roomba 614 Vacuum cleaning robots.

While it was a big day for the online retailer, one day does not outshine the rest of the year, especially with back-to-school sales, and then holiday sales, coming up.

“No single day is going to change the fortunes of any retailer,” said Mulpuru-Kodali. “It’s one day of 365 or 366 days in any given year.

 

 

Google Acquires Machine-learning Company Moodstocks

July 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has acquired machine-learning company Moodstocks.

Paris-based Moodstocks builds image and object recognition software using deep learning techniques, and offered an Android app and visual search API that could recognize certain kinds of objects. By analyzing video from a smartphone camera, and correlating it with accelerometer readings to determine how the camera is moving around, the software is able to infer information about the three-dimensional shape of objects in the video, facilitating their recognition.

In February 2015 the company demonstrated its ability to identify sneakers through its app. Three months later, after training the software using 15,000 photos of shoes from an online retailer’s website, Moodstocks claimed to be able to shop online for all the sneakers on sale in a Macy’s store.

Google has been introducing elements of machine learning into its existing online services, including Google Translate and Inbox, a next-generation interface for Gmail.

Its online photo archival service, Google Photos, uses machine learning to identify categories of photo, such as parties or beach scenes, to make it easier to search.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done in this field, according to Google’s blog post (in French) announcing the acquisition of Moodstocks.

Google said the Moodstocks team will join its existing research and development operation in Paris.

There, they will develop image-recognition tools for use in Google services, the Moodstocks team wrote on their own site.

Meanwhile, Moodstocks will discontinue its own image recognition services, although paying subscribers will have access until their subscriptions run out, the post said.

Google didn’t put a price on the Moodstocks acquisition, but it’s unlikely to be as high as the $500 million it reportedly paid in 2014 for the much larger DeepMind, the London-based developer of the Go program that beat top player Lee Se-dol in March.

 

 

 

Walmart Announces Mobile Payment Service Rollout Complete

July 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Walmart Stores Inc announced that it has completed the rollout of its Walmart Pay mobile payment service across the United States and that 88 percent of transactions on the payment app are from repeat users.

Overall transactions on the app, which the world’s largest retailer launched in December, jumped 45 percent in the last week, Daniel Eckert, senior vice-president of services at Walmart US, said on a conference call with the media.

Walmart declined to disclose the increase in transactions since the launch, or the number of the mobile app’s users in its stores.

U.S. retailers have launched many mobile payment apps in the last two years, but customers and merchants have been slow to adopt them.

U.S. mobile payments accounted for an estimated $67 billion of purchases in 2015, and are expected to grow this year to $83 billion, or 24 percent of all purchases made via smartphones, according to the latest Forrester Research data.

Eckert said Walmart Pay users have not been spending more as a result of using the app. The company is monitoring shopping patterns to see if purchases would increase.

The retailer will start advertising the app to push customer usage, he said.

Walmart Pay is available on Apple and Android devices and allows payments with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift cards.

Customers at a checkout counter must choose the payment option within the app and use their smartphone camera to scan the code displayed at the register. An e-receipt would be sent to the app. Apple Inc’s Apple Pay and Alphabet Inc’s Android Pay require retailers to install compatible new equipment, which has hindered wider acceptance.

Walmart does not accept external mobile wallets like Apple Pay in its stores. Discussions about accepting third party wallets are ongoing, but Walmart has no immediate plans to do so, Eckert said.

 

 

Apple Pulls The Plug On Thunderbolt Display

June 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple announced that is will discontinue its Thunderbolt Display, the high-resolution external display that users of the MacBook and other Macs could use to get a better picture and work with more apps.

The company said Thursday that the 27-inch widescreen display with LED backlight technology will be available on Apple’s online store, in Apple retail stores and from authorized resellers while supplies last.

The Thunderbolt Display currently retails on the Apple online store at $999. It has a 2560 x 1440 resolution.

It isn’t clear whether Apple plans to follow with newer versions that use 5K resolution displays at 5120 by 2880 pixels, which is the display technology Apple uses on its high-end iMac. There was speculation earlier that a new version would be announced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference this month.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Apple planned to offer a refresh to the display.

Apple said in an emailed statement that “there are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.”

 

 

Napster Brand Making A Comeback

June 17, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Napster name, once widely known for illegal music sharing, is now respectable enough to carry the flag for one of the oldest names in paid music streaming.

Rhapsody will soon change its name worldwide to Napster, the listening service has announced. It already uses the Napster brand in Europe.

“Napster is coming,” the post said. “No changes to your playlists, favorites, albums, and artists. Same music. Same service. Same price. 100% the music you love. Stay tuned!”

The name change in the U.S. could be another attempt to catch up to Spotify, which recently passed 30 million subscribers. Rhapsody said late last year it had about 3.5 million.

Napster began in the late 1990s as a service for sharing and downloading mp3 music files and quickly attracted a large following, especially among college students. The Recording Industry Association of America sued the company for copyright infringement in late 1999 and won an injunction that shut down Napster in 2001.

A series of acquisitions by companies including music publisher Bertelsmann and retailer Best Buy put Napster on a path to respectability, but it also faded amid the growth of legal music stores like iTunes and then streaming services like Spotify.

Rhapsody, which has been around since 2001, bought Napster in 2011 and set out to replace Napster’s brand with its own in the U.S. Later it bought Napster International to expand into Germany and the U.K., where it decided to keep the Napster brand.

With the latest change, that moniker has won out. A formerly infamous brand now seems to carry more clout than one that once was almost famous.

 

 

Apple Pay Being Updated To Allow Online Purchases

June 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Consumers will soon be able to make purchses with Apple Pay over the web from a Mac desktop or laptop, with the transaction being authenticated via a buyer’s fingerprint scan on their iPhone or a touch on their Apple Watch.

The new Apple Pay capability will be released as part of the free, rebranded (from OS X) macOS Sierra upgrade coming sometime this fall, Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of software engineering, announced at the Worldwide Developer Conference held in San Francisco on Monday.

Currently, shoppers can pay for merchandise using Apple Pay via an app on an iPhone or Apple Watch at hundreds of thousands of point-of-sale merchants in the U.S. and five other countries — Canada, the UK, Australia, China and Singapore. Hong Kong, France, Spain and Switzerland are getting the service soon, Apple said recently.

Although a leader in mobile payments, Apple Pay, as well as other other mobile payment technologies, have not caught on as well as expected.

Putting Apple Pay on Mac computers will greatly expand the number of purchases made with the service, analysts said. It will also put Apple in competition for web payments with companies like PayPal.

“Extending Apple Pay to the web is a really big deal because up to this point, there have been no secure methods to buy over the web that used biometric technology without sending your credit card information to the e-tailer,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

To use the service, an Apple Pay on-screen button will be available at a participating online retailer when a person shops via a Safari browser, Apple said in a statement. Apple showed dozens of participating retailers on a slide during the WWDC presentation.

 

 

Amazon To Get Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch a standalone music streaming subscription service, placing it squarely in competition with rival offerings from Apple Inc and Spotify, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The service will be offered at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals, and it will offer a competitive catalog of songs, the sources said. Amazon is finalizing licenses with labels for the service, which likely will be launched in late summer or early fall, the sources said.

Amazon, which offers a free streaming music service with a limited catalog to subscribers of its Prime shipping and video service, did not respond to a request for comment about the new, full-fledged music plan.

Although it will be a late entrant to the crowded streaming space, Amazon believes a comprehensive music service is important to its bid to be a one-stop shop for content and goods, the sources said.

The new music offering also is intended to increase the appeal of the Amazon Echo, its home speaker, which searches the Internet and orders products from the retailer with voice commands.

“A music service will further increase the daily interactions between Amazon and its customer base,” said former music executive Jay Samit when told about the company’s plan.

The new Amazon effort will compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify, which boast more than 30 million songs. Apple launched its service last year in one of the highest profile signs that listeners wanted subscription services, rather than paying for individual songs or albums.

The service also will diversify Amazon’s subscription offerings and be another step away from a single, annual subscription. Amazon recently began allowing subscribers to Prime to pay monthly, for instance.

Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google have muscled into music streaming in recent years, aiming to weave themselves more tightly into their customers’ daily routines and drive device sales.

Amazon similarly hopes its new service’s tight integration with the Echo will help it stand out and reinforce the speaker’s appeal, the sources said.

Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit that rival Google is now seeking to emulate with a speaker of its own.

The move suggests that Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper. The company recently launched a standalone video service.

The new music service is unlikely to steal many customers from Spotify, but it could pose a threat to other players, said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock who headed early Apple music efforts, when informed of the move.

 

 

CurrentC Mobile Payment Pilot Ends, Future Uncertain

June 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has ended a Columbus, Ohio, pilot of its CurrentC mobile payment service this week.

The company said on its website that it has “not determined the future timing of CurrentC” although some analysts have said for a while they doubted the service would continue due to pressure from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and others.

In an emailed statement, an MCX spokesman said, “We removed CurrentC from the app stores to coincide with the scheduled end of our Columbus, Ohio beta at the end of June. We’ve not announced future timelines or plans around the app but we’re looking forward to analyzing and learning from the data we gleaned throughout the beta.”

On its website, CurrentC added: “We want to say a special thank you to everyone who participated in our CurrentC Beta test” in Columbus, Ohio. “We will be concluding our Beta on June 28. Please stay tuned for new information on CurrentC as our future plans evolve.”

On a separate website, MCX still lists 63 companies including Target and Walmart as merchants that accepted CurrentC, which relied on the free CurrentC smartphone app. The idea was to centralize merchant loyalty rewards and payment accounts, and automatically apply coupons and promotions to use at checkout with the various merchants.

But CurrentC in its latest form in the pilot was not seen as a full competitor to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or others that pair a virtual credit or debit card with an NFC or magnetic technology payment to a payment terminal in a store. Late last year, Walmart set up its own related service with Walmart Pay.

While there has been growth in mobile payments since 2014, it has been slower than first expected.

 

 

 

Apple Rolls Out A Revamped App Store

June 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc announced a series of long anticipated enhancements to its App Store, but the new features may not ease concerns of developers and analysts who say that the App Store model – and the very idea of the single-purpose app – has seen its best days.

The revamped App Store will let developers advertise their wares in search results and give developers a bigger cut of revenues on subscription apps, while Apple said it has already dramatically sped up its app-approval process.

The goal is to sustain the virtuous cycle at the heart of the hugely lucrative iPhone business. Software developers make apps for the iPhone because its customers are willing to pay, and those customers, in turn, pay a premium for the device because it has the best apps.

The store is now more strategically important than ever for Apple as sales of the iPhone begin to level off and the company looks to software and services to fill the gap. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a recent conference call that App Store revenues were up 35 percent over last year.

But the store is also a victim of its own success. Eight years after its launch, it is packed with more than 1.9 million apps, according to analytics firm App Annie, making it almost impossible for developers to find an audience – and increasingly difficult for customers to find what they need, as some 14,000 new apps arrive in the store each week.

“The app space has grown out of control,” said Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet and now a vice president at Alphabet Inc’s Google, who was speaking at a San Francisco conference on the future of the web on Wednesday. “We need to move away from having an individual app for every individual thing you want to do.”

 

 

Walmart Aims To Boost Online Sales With Tech Investment

June 7, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc executives touted the technology investments the world’s No. 1 retailer is making to boost online sales, during the annual shareholder meeting last week.

Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon spoke about initiatives like online grocery pick up, the retailer’s two-day shipping program and its mobile wallet, Wal-Mart Pay. His comments capped off a week-long media event where the company displayed drones in warehouses and announced a partnership with Uber to deliver online groceries.

“We get to reimagine retail again, and that’s what we are going to do,” McMillon said. He also said changes to boost e-commerce sales will take some time to show results.

Wal-Mart onlines sales growth has sharply decelerated for five quarters even though its overall performance has been better than most competitors.

In the first quarter, online sales growth was 7 percent, down from 8 percent, 10 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent in the previous periods. In 2015, Wal-Mart’s online sales rose 12.3 percent to $13.7 billion, which was less than the jump of more than the 16 percent for market leader Amazon.com Inc, to $92.4 billion.

The meeting at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetville, 30 miles from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, was packed with 14,000 people, including workers from around the world and shareholders. Keeping with its practice of showcasing celebrities at the annual event, the meeting was hosted by talk show host James Cordon. Singers like Katy Perry, Andy Grammar and Nick Jonas also performed on stage.

The enthusiastic atmosphere momentarily turned somber after two shareholder proposals demanded higher wages, better treatment of employees and an independent chairman. The proposals did not get adequate votes.

Wal-Mart in February 2015 said it will lift its base pay to $10 an hour in 2016, a step it has implemented this year. Labor groups feel this is not enough.

 

 

Apple Pay Struggling To Gain Traction Outside U.S.

June 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Over a year ago after Apple Pay took the United States by storm, the smartphone giant has made only tiny ripple in the global payments market, hindered by technical challenges, low consumer take-up and resistance from banks.

The service is available in six countries and among a limited range of banks, though in recent weeks Apple has added four banks to its sole Singapore partner American Express; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Australia; and Canada’s five big banks.

Apple Pay usage totaled $10.9 billion last year, the vast majority of that in the United States. That is less than the annual volume of transactions in Kenya, a mobile payments pioneer, according to research firm Timetric.

And its global turnover is a drop in the bucket in China, where Internet giants Alibaba and Tencent dominate the world’s biggest mobile payments market – with an estimated $1 trillion worth of mobile transactions last year, according to iResearch data.

Anecdotal evidence from Britain, China and Australia suggests Apple Pay is popular with core Apple followers, but the quality of service, and interest in it, varies significantly.

To use Apple Pay, consumers tap their iPhone over payment terminals to buy coffee, train tickets and other services. It can be also used at vending machines that accept contactless payments.

Apple Pay transactions were a fraction of the $84.5 billion in iPhone sales for the six months to March, which accounted for two-thirds of Apple’s total revenue.

Apple has leveraged its huge U.S. user base to push Pay, but has met resistance in Australia, Britain and Canada where banks are building their own products.

“Payments in general is such a complicated system with so many incumbent providers that revolutionary change like this was not going to happen very quickly,” said Joshua Gilbert, an analyst at First Annapolis Consulting.

The upshot: Apple has rolled out Pay in a dribble, adding countries and partners where it can – Hong Kong is expected to be added next – resulting in an uneven banking landscape with users and retail staff not always sure what will work and how.

 

 

 

Salesforce Acquiring Demandware For $2.8B

June 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cloud-based software maker Salesforce.com Inc that it will be acquiring Demandware Inc, whose software is used by businesses to run e-commerce websites, for about $2.8 billion.

The deal will help Salesforce open a new front as it look to take away more market share from traditional software providers such as Oracle Corp and SAP AG, both of which already offer cloud-based e-commerce services.

The e-commerce market has been growing at a blistering pace as retailers expand their online presence, boosting demand for software that helps manage functions such as payment processing and inventory management.

Salesforce’s cash offer of $75.00 per share represents a 56.3 percent premium to Demandware’s Tuesday closing.

Demandware’s shares, which have fallen about 21 percent in the past year. Shares of Salesforce, considered a barometer for the cloud-computing industry, slipped 2 percent.

Demandware, whose customers include Lands’ End Inc, L’Oreal SA and Marks and Spencer Group Plc, has reported sales growth of more than 30 percent for the last 10 quarters.

Global spending on digital commerce platforms is expected to grow over 14 percent annually to about $8.5 billion by 2020, Salesforce said, citing research firm Gartner.

The deal, slated to close in Salesforce’s second quarter ending July, is expected to increase the company’s 2017 revenue by about $100 million-$120 million.

Salesforce had forecast fiscal 2017 revenue of $8.16 billion-$8.2 billion in May.

BofA Merrill Lynch is Salesforce’s financial adviser for the deal, while Goldman Sachs is advising Demandware.

 

Chromebook Outpacing Mac Notebook In U.S. Sales

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

More personal computers powered by Google’s Chrome OS shipped in the U.S. during the first quarter than those built on Apple’s OS X in the same period, IDC  has confirmed.

“Chrome PCs overall, including Chrome desktop units like the Chromebox, out-shipped all Apple personal computers, desktop plus notebook, in the U.S. for Q1,” said Jay Chou, one of several IDC analysts who track device shipments, in an email reply to questions.

Chromebooks, the inexpensive notebooks that run Chrome OS, also out-shipped Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks in the U.S. The first-quarter battle wasn’t even close, according to the notebook-only shipment numbers Chou provided.

Apple shipped an estimated 1.17 million Mac notebooks in the U.S. during the first three months of 2016; IDC said 1.6 million Chrome OS notebooks shipped in the same span.

In other words, 37% more Chromebooks shipped than Mac notebooks.

Last week, Tom Warren of The Verge reported that Chrome OS hardware had out-shipped OS X-equipped Macs after speaking with one of Chou’s colleagues. Subsequently, numerous other outlets, including blogs and mainstream media websites, picked up Warren’s report.

IDC’s shipment data for Chrome OS and OS X systems were estimates generated using information from vendors and Asian component suppliers. Google, which developed Chrome OS, does not reveal shipment numbers: Most Chromebooks originate from third-party OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), including Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. And although Apple disclosed global Mac sales in its April 26 earnings call with Wall Street, it did not break down that figure by geographic region.

That IDC’s numbers were estimates only was clear when comparing the research firm’s forecast to Apple’s stated sales for the first quarter. Prior to April 26 — when Apple said it had sold 4.03 million Macs worldwide – IDC had projected global Mac shipments at 4.47 million, or about 10% too high.

 

 

 

Are Transparent Displays On The Horizon?

May 25, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Almost every sci-fi telivision program has tablets and monitors which are transparent and it seems that Samsung has finally build them. The only problem is that they are not that great to use.

Samsung unveiled the first commercial installation of its cutting-edge mirror display at an upscale hair salon in Seoul, South Korea. The 55-inch display units act as a mirror while playing media over the mirrored image.

The display represents a (90%) transparent layer over an underlying mirror, and is a genuinely transparent display. The Planar LookThru OLED Series offered something similar but cost too much for the great unwashed to use.

Using Intel 3-D camera technology, Samsung’s displays can also show customers in different hair styles, colors and trends, allowing the hairdressers at the Leekaja Hairbis’ Jamsil salon to provide customized, interactive consultations with their clients. Samsung expects mirror displays to be used in retail, interior design, furniture and fashion markets in the future. Similar 55-inch Samsung mirror displays will be available for purchase worldwide in fall 2016.

The Samsung mirror display ML55E provides 90 per cent  transparency and 55 per cent reflectivity, designed to minimize visual distraction and provide clarity, both in the reflective mirror surface and in the media content overlays.   It has been suggested that the technology could be a money spinner –  one study shows the market for plastic and flexible OLED displays is expected to rise to $16 billion by 2020, with TV and industrial/professional use to make up half of the market share.

But the tech is still pretty expensive. One unbranded transparent OLED screen will set you back $1190.00. But there is another problem. Transparent OLED displays might work in sci-fi movie directors, but that is because they allow the camera to interact better with actors in a hard to film situation. Practically though see-through displays which have no touch capability are all really only useful in the exhibition sector.

Courtesy-Fud