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Facebook Gives Preview Of Futuristic Brain-to-text Program

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has provided a peek inside a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, last year to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc’s Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Dugan told software developers at Facebook’s annual F8 conference that the company was modeling Building 8 after DARPA, a government office founded in the 1950s that gave the world the internet and the miniaturized GPS receivers used in consumer devices.

Any hardware rollouts are years away, Dugan said in a speech. Potential products could, if successful, be a way for Facebook to diversify beyond its heavy reliance on advertising revenue.

One example of Building 8’s work so far, Dugan said, was an attempt to improve technology that allows people to type words using their minds.

“It sounds impossible, but it’s closer than you may realize,” Dugan said.

Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several U.S. universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

Possible uses include helping disabled people and “the ability to text your friend without taking out your phone,” she said.

Another Building 8 project, she said, was trying to advance the ability to communicate through touch only, an idea with roots in Braille, a writing system for the blind and visually impaired.

A video played at the conference showed two Facebook employees talking to each other through touch. As one employee, Frances, wore an electronic device on her arm, the other, Freddy, used a computer program to send pressure changes to her arm.

“If you ask Frances what she feels,” Dugan said, “she’ll tell you that she has learned to feel the acoustic shape of a word on her arm.”

In December, Facebook signed a deal with 17 universities including Harvard and Princeton to allow swifter collaboration on projects with Dugan’s team.

 

Bose Headphones Accused Of Spying On Users

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone owners by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling such data without permission, a lawsuit charged.

The complaint filed by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.

Zak’s lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.

After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose’s suggestion to “get the most out of your headphones” by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.

But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to third parties such as Segment.io, whose website promises to collect customer data and “send it anywhere.”

Audio choices offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.

“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for buyers of headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

He also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said customers do not see the Bose app’s user service and privacy agreements when signing up, and the privacy agreement says nothing about data collection.

Edelson specializes in suing technology companies over alleged privacy violations.

Roomba Maker Sues Rivals Over Robotic Vacuum Patent

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

IRobot, the maker of the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, has filed a slew of lawsuits alleging that its rivals including The Hoover Co and Black & Decker Corp have been using its patented technology without permission.

Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot filed lawsuits in federal court in Boston against Hoover, Black & Decker, Bobsweep Inc and Bissell Homecare Inc. IRobot said they infringe on several of its patents covering the idea of an autonomous floor-cleaning robot.

“iRobot will not stand by while others offer products that infringe on our intellectual property,” the company said in a statement.

Representatives for Hoover, Black & Decker, Bissell and Bobsweep did not immediately return a request for comment.

iRobot also sued China-based Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Technology Co, which iRobot said manufactures Hoover and Black & Decker vacuums.

One of the oldest and best-known makers of traditional vacuums, Hoover is now owned by TTI Floor Care North America, a subsidiary of Hong-Kong based Techtronic Industries Company Limited.

Black & Decker is a subsidiary of New Britain, Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

IRobot created the market for robotic vacuums when it launched Roomba in 2002 but has faced increased competition from other appliance makers.

Hoover launched its line of Quest robotic vacuums, over which iRobot is suing, in 2016. Other vacuums at issue in the lawsuits are the Bissell SmartClean, Bobsweep’s Bobi and Black & Decker’s BDH5000WM.

Residential robotic vacuums generated $1.5 billion in global revenues in 2016, an amount expected to reach $2.5 billion by the end of 2021, according to the market research firm Future Market Insights. The overall market for household vacuums was $12 billion in 2015, according to Global Market Insights, another research firm.

Foxconn, Apple May Team Up For Toshiba’s Memory Business

April 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple could be mulling over joining forces with its China-based supplier Foxconn to acquire a major stake in Toshiba’s semiconductor unit.

In January, Toshiba officially announced it would seek to sell a portion of its flash memory business, including the SSD business of the Storage & Electronic Device Solutions Division, to a not-yet-named buyer.

The Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Toshiba may sell a 20% stake in the memory business for between $1.77 billion and $2.65 billion, “while retaining a majority stake and keeping the new company in group earnings.”

Toshiba’s solvency and fundraising ability are presently in doubt because of a $1.9 billion accounting scandal and a huge loss related to the purchase of a U.S. nuclear plant business. The company, which invented NAND flash in the early 1980s, had been considering spinning off its semiconductor operations and selling a partial stake to Western Digital (WD) and others, as it tries to cope with a massive impairment loss in its U.S. nuclear power unit.

Neither Toshiba nor WD have confirmed a potential sale, however.

Earlier this year, Toshiba took a writedown of $6.56 billion against its struggling U.S. nuclear equipment operations and it’s hoping to rebound from that loss with a sale.

“Its financial problems were a major drag on the growth of its memory business,” Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange, said in an earlier interview.

Several potential buyers have been identified in reports, including Apple, according to Bloomberg’s news service. Apple is considering investing several billion in Toshiba’s memory business, according to the report.

“It seems like they are selling the Golden Goose and keeping the money pit,” said Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective-Analysis, referring to Toshiba.

If Apple were to purchase a stake in Toshiba’s semiconductor business, it would be a departure for a company that has historically outsourced most of its parts and labor, Handy said.

“Seagate and Western Digital used to believe that vertical integration was necessary in order to compete in the SSD market, although Seagate appears to have changed its tune,” Handy said. “A captive source of supply is a good thing to have during a shortage, but can be a millstone during an oversupply.”

Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a major supplier to Apple, reportedly said it was not participating in talks after reviewing a possible deal “with interest.”

According to one report, Western Digital (WD) is none too happy about Toshiba’s plans to sell its memory business. WD reportedly sent a letter to Toshiba telling it the proposed sale breaches a joint-venture agreement as part of the FlashAlliance to build flash fabrication plants in Japan, which are operated by Toshiba. WD’s SanDisk holds a 49.9% share in the FlashAlliance and a Toshiba has a 50.1% share.

Any potential sale by Toshiba might be on hold for now as it deals with WD’s concerns.

If Toshiba does sell a major stake in its memory business — or the entire unit — it would do little to effect the memory market as a whole from the perspective of supply and demand, according to Handy.

“From the perspective of national security there are significant concerns that Japan will lose control of an important technology, and that it will be owned by a company from a country that has a difficult history with Japan,” Handy said, referring to China and Foxxcon. “From WD’s perspective it’s really strange, since they have a very good working relationship and understanding with Toshiba, but not necessarily with the buyer.

“I like to think of it as your spouse coming in and saying: ‘Here’s somebody new for you to be married to!’ then walking off.”

Study Reveals Cyber Attacks Have Cost Company Shareholders Billions

April 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Cyber security breaches diminish businesses share prices permanently, with financials the worst hit, a study issued by IT consultant CGI and Oxford Economics has revealed.

Severe cyber security breaches, such as those having legal or regulatory consequences, involve the loss of hundreds of thousands of records and hurt the firm’s brand, caused share prices to fall on average 1.8 percent on a permanent basis, the analysis of 65 companies affected since 2013 globally has found.

Investors in a typical FTSE 100 firm would be worse off by an average of £120 million after such a breach, the report said. Overall the cost to shareholders of these 65 companies would be in excess of 42 billion pounds ($52.40 billion).

CGI’s analysis compared each company’s share price against a cohort of similar companies to isolate the impact of cyber breaches from other market movements, during incidents detailed in a breach index compiled by Dutch security firm Gemalto.

Two-thirds of firms had their share price adversely impacted after suffering a cyber breach. Financial firms were the worst affected, followed closely by communications firms.

“Financial services experience the greatest burden in terms of impact, reflecting the high levels of regulation, the importance of customer confidence and the potential for financial fraud to be a facet of the breach,” the report said.

hose least affected were retail, hospitality and travel companies.

Hacking attacks and other cyber security breaches have impacted companies across the world in recent years, from retailer Target in the United States in 2013 to British communications firm TalkTalk in 2015.

Foxconn Said To Be Preparing To Offer $27B For Toshiba’s Chip Business

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer made famous as the maker of iPhones and iPads for Apple, is rumored to be preparing a $27 billion bid to acquire Toshiba’s computer chip assets.

Toshiba is most commonly recognized for making NAND flash and memory chips, with all of its factories in Japan. However, chip manufacturing in Japan has slipped as rivals in South Korea and China gain in strength.

The news of the potential offer was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Foxconn is the latest of a number of companies, including SK Hynix and equity investor Silver Lake, interested in acquiring Toshiba’s chip assets.

An acquisition by Foxconn would give Toshiba the scale it needs to advance in the manufacturing of memory and storage. Toshiba is lagging behind Samsung, especially in storage, and hasn’t advanced its manufacturing processes as quickly.

Toshiba storage products can be purchased directly, but it also supplies and makes flash products for other hardware companies. The divestiture of its manufacturing assets could have an impact on SanDisk, which is a part of Toshiba.

In February, Toshiba said it was looking to sell its memory business. The need to sell the assets amplified after its Westinghouse Electric nuclear power unit filed for bankruptcy in late March. Overall, Toshiba is expecting a decline in revenue and profits this financial year.

Foxconn, on the other hand, is gathering up assets around the world, with factories in North America, Asia, Europe, and South America. Foxconn last year targeted another major Japanese company — Sharp — and it acquired a majority stake.

Japan still remains a technology powerhouse despite the dwindling of manufacturing assets. But last year, Japanese company SoftBank acquired ARM Holdings, which provides chip designs that go into many mobile devices.

Will Comcast Streaming Service Be A Success?

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A  report from Reuters shows that Comcast is gearing up to relaunch its IPTV streaming service under a new name that will be available to all Comcast internet subscribers across the US.

The company originally launched a streaming TV service in a few select cities in July 2015 under the name Stream that allowed Xfinity customers to pay $15 a month on top of their internet bill to watch shows from a dozen networks on tablets, laptops and smartphones. The relaunched TV streaming service will be called Xfinity Instant TV and will start at the same monthly price for major channels including ABC, NBC, ESPN and others, but could go up to $40 per month based on additional channel packages.

The initial rollout will be somewhat limited to a collection of cities within five states, including Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Hampshire. In addition, Comcast plans to make the rollout only available to households already paying for its own internet service. Some reports have argued that this requirement is grounds for violating basic net neutrality principles, as the service would be getting preferred treatment compared to other internet traffic. Back in 2015 under the Stream name, a Comcast representative commented that the service is delivered over the company’s “managed network,” which essentially means that it will not count towards a Comcast subscriber’s monthly Internet data caps.

Comcast has rebutted this claim by stating that its streaming TV service is not an internet service, but is “functionally equivalent” to a streaming TV service. The requirement of having an existing Xfinity home broadband connection underscores any arguments of a violation of net neutrality, as the service is passed from a broadband modem and is delivered to phones, tablets and PCs. Although the service would not count against a customer’s data caps, it would still favor the company’s own streaming service over anything else.

Recently, the incoming FCC administration has dropped inquiries related to services that allow customers to stream music and video without counting toward a data plan limit, also known as “zero-rating”. Some notable names involved in this scheme include AT&T’s Sponsored Data and Data Perks programs, Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 program, and Comcast’s Stream TV service. Net neutrality advocates have stated that such programs harm competition by “unfairly marginalizing” other competing services. Though in the case of Comcast, it is only allowing current subscribers access to IPTV streaming service at home and only with service originating from a connected broadband modem.

Comcast’s Xfinity Instant TV service has not yet been announced, though it is likely going to be rolled out into more markets across the US by the end of 2017. Under the company’s zero-rating policy using home broadband modems, it is not difficult to envision a broader internet landscape in the US characterized by a theoretical lack of net neutrality that still bends in favor of one terrestrial ISP option over another.

Courtesy-Fud

Spotify Inks Exclusive Artist Deal With Universal Music

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Music streaming service Spotify announced that it has signed a deal with Universal Music Group that will allow artists to release new albums exclusively on its paying premium service for two weeks.

Spotify, a rival to Apple Music, has yet to report a profit as it expands, but is under pressure from some artists who have boycotted the usually free service and needs to show investors it can generate cash as it considers a U.S. listing.

The multi-year license agreement with Universal Music could make Spotify more attractive to Universal Music’s artists, who include Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Kanye West.

“We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy,” Spotify Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek said in a statement.

“Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy,” he said.

Spotify said the deal also covered collaboration on marketing campaigns and would give Universal Music “unprecedented access” to data.

Spotify did not disclose details of the agreement in the statement, such as the fee structure or its exact duration, and a company spokeswoman declined to provide further information.

Launched in 2008, Spotify said last month it had reached 50 million paying subscribers, a rise of 25 percent in less than six months, extending its lead over Apple Music.

Intel, McAfee Break-up Nearly Complete

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is finally de-coupling from McAfee after seven up and down years, which included a lawsuit last year from John McAfee, after whom the company is named.

The chip maker has divested its majority holdings in McAfee to investment firm TPG for $3.1 billion.

McAfee will now again become a standalone security company, but Intel will retain a minority 49 percent stake. The chip maker will focus internal operations on hardware-level security.

For Intel, dumping majority ownership in McAfee amounts to a loss. It spent $7.68 billion to acquire McAfee in 2010, which was a head-scratcher at the time. Intel’s McAfee acquisition will stand as one of the company’s worst acquisitions.

The chip maker had the right idea when it acquired McAfee — to add layers of security to hardware and components. Intel embedded McAfee technology in firmware at the PC and server chip level, and developed security management tools.

McAfee technology was also used in hardware using real-time operating systems. However, McAfee had few ties to Intel’s core hardware strategy.

Intel was running a parallel hardware security strategy that had little to do with McAfee, which was renamed Intel Security. The chip maker was developing trusted boot systems and partnering with other companies on server security and secure payments.

The McAfee acquisition gave Intel deep insight into the security arena, said Doug Fisher, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group at Intel.

Separating the companies will put McAfee in a better position to grow in the software area, which is its core competency, Fisher said. It also leaves Intel in a better position to grow in hardware-level security at the chip and firmware levels, he added.

Intel’s focus will be on putting instructions and hooks on its silicon to protect users. It is already providing secure areas in its chips where user authentication data can be stored. For example, its SGX (Software Guard Extensions) feature can authenticate users so content providers can stream 4K video to authorized PCs. It wants to use similar features to ensure secure payments from PCs.

Security is also a big concern in IoT devices, but Intel will rely on partnerships. Intel is a member of Open Connectivity Foundation, and will work with industry partners to develop IoTivity protocols, which aim for secure connectivity between devices with multiple OSes and wireless technologies.

Intel also is expanding into self-driving cars, where security is a big consideration. Hacking into the software controls of a self-driving car could be disastrous, and Intel is putting supercomputers in vehicles that will need to be secured.

Another area of focus is the ability to securely deliver over-the-air updates to self driving cars, Fisher said.

Intel will deliver a reference architecture to harden edge devices and gateways for automobile security. There will also be automobile security standards that could protect self-driving cars from hacks, Fisher said.

VR is still in its infancy, and so are the security considerations. In virtual worlds, security could be much like it is in the real world, where certain virtual areas are cordoned off from unauthorized users. Also, Intel wants to cut the cord from VR headsets with secure wireless connections to PCs, Fisher said.

The fate of some products like True Key — which allows users to log into Windows PCs via biometric authentication — are not yet known. True Key is a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows Hello. Intel will also work with Microsoft to promote Windows Hello.

Microsoft To Offer Samsung Galaxy S8 Phones With Own Apps Installed

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft will offer for sale Samsung’s newest Android-powered phones, the Galaxy S8 and S8+, in its brick-and-mortar stores later this month.

The phones can be pre-ordered now at Microsoft’s retail outlets — but not online — and will also be available for purchase in the stores beginning April 21, Samsung’s release date for the new, larger models. Microsoft’s prices will be the same as Samsung’s: $750 for the Galaxy S8, $850 for the S8+.

But the Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones sold by Microsoft will not be identical to those offered elsewhere. “A Microsoft customization is applied when the devices are unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “This customization ensures customers a best-in-class productivity experience with Microsoft applications such as Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook and more.”

Microsoft has worked hard to craft Android versions of its productivity apps since it spun its mobile strategy away from building and selling Windows-powered smartphones.

The company couched the Galaxy sales as part of that theme. “The new device customization is an example of bringing together Microsoft applications on more devices so customers can work, play and connect from their pockets,” the spokeswoman added.

“I think it’s a pretty smart move,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. “Samsung is probably the No. 1 enterprise supplier of Android smartphones today. And they’re configuring the phone to make sure their products are on it.”

Gold’s point? “This is a preemptive strike against Google,” he said.

Microsoft has always been most interested in its commercial customers, those who contribute the majority of the company’s revenues. Gold emphasized that those thoughts remained uppermost at Redmond.

“Microsoft has two plays in the enterprise, the traditional, where Exchange is the back-end, and then the cloud,” he said, talking of mobile. “Microsoft’s asking, ‘Can I keep them from saying “I can switch to Google,”‘ when they go to the cloud? So, this is a stake in the ground, Microsoft saying, ‘Try our stuff, you’ll like it.'”

Although Gold expects Microsoft to try to sell company app-equipped phones to enterprises in other ways, perhaps by making deals with carriers, which are the usual sellers of smartphones to corporate customers buying in bulk, he is also upbeat about Microsoft’s immediate plans. “In big companies, remember, 30% to 40% of smartphones are BYOD,” Gold said of the “bring your own device” model where businesses support employee-owned phones, tablets and notebooks in the office.

Microsoft’s Samsung deal has been low profile; rather than issue a press release or even publish a post on one of its countless blogs, the company issued a statement. Likewise, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be sold, at least initially, through Microsoft’s limited number of retail stores only.

Snapchat Adds Search Option To ‘Our Story’ Feature

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc has announced that its Snapchat messaging app would add an option for users to search through photos and videos that users have posted to the public.

The move comes just days after larger rival Facebook Inc stepped up efforts to encourage users to take more photos and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of Snapchat.

Snapchat will enable users to search for photos and videos known as “Snaps” posted to the “Our Story” option on the app, by creating new “Stories” using machine learning technology, the company said in a blog post.

The “Our Story” option is derived from Snap’s widely-copied “Stories” feature that is a slideshow of user content that disappears after 24 hours.

“Our Story” allows users to post their Snaps as part of a larger public collection, which users will be able to search through with the latest update.

For instance, users can use the search feature to find “Snaps” related to events such as local basketball games and topics such as puppies.

The search feature, which will be rolled out in some cities starting Friday, is an addition to curated “Stories”, where public “Snaps” about major events like Wimbledon or the Coachella music festival already appear.

Snapchat popularized the sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, especially among teenagers, but faces intense competition from larger Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Users will now be able to search for over one million “Stories” on Snapchat, Snap said, making the app more accessible.

Snap’s shares were up 1.5 percent in afternoon trading, while Facebook’s stock was down marginally.

Is Facebook Really Trying To Compete Against Nintendo’s Switch?

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

In a move that positions the social giant against video platforms like Twitch and YouTube, Facebook today has announced that people can now live broadcast from a PC or laptop – something that was only possible via mobile devices since last year. More importantly to the game industry and the world of online influencers, this expansion of Facebook Live also extends to live streaming of PC software.

“If you’re a gamer, this new feature makes it easier than ever to stream your PC gameplay to friends and followers and engage with them while you play,” the company stated. “If you’re giving your friends or followers a tutorial or how-to guide, you can incorporate on-screen graphics, titles, and overlays. Or if you’re an artist, you can go live and switch seamlessly between cameras as you narrate the process.”

It’ll be interesting to see how much of the market Facebook will be able to wrangle away from rivals Google (YouTube) and Amazon (Twitch) as the rise of streaming and influencers continues. It’ll also be important for developers to keep a close eye on how Facebook Live streaming fares, as it could be another valuable marketing tool – for both AAAs and indies, as Innervate consultant Becky Taylor observed during the Game Developers Conference.

Courtesy-GI.biz

U.S. Commerce Department Removes ZTE From Trade Blacklist

March 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Department of Commerce has agreed to remove Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp  from a trade blacklist after the company pleaded guilty to violating sanctions on Iran and agreed to pay nearly $900 million, the agency said in a notice.

Removal from the list marks the end of a tense period for ZTE, which faced trade restrictions that could have severed its ties to critical U.S. suppliers.

“By acknowledging the mistakes we made, taking responsibility for them … we are committed to a ZTE that is fully compliant, healthy and trustworthy,” said ZTE Chief Executive Zhao Xianming said in an emailed statement.

Last year, the U.S. Commerce Department placed export restrictions on ZTE as punishment for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The restrictions would have prevented restricted suppliers from providing ZTE any U.S.-made equipment, potentially freezing the Chinese handset maker’s supply chain.

Over the past 12 months, as ZTE cooperated with U.S. authorities, the U.S. Commerce Department temporarily suspended the trade restrictions with a series of three-month reprieves, allowing the company to maintain ties to U.S. suppliers.

Earlier this month, ZTE agreed to pay a total of $892.4 million and pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions by sending American-made technology to Iran and lying to investigators.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday it would impose severe restrictions on former ZTE CEO Shi Lirong, whom the agency accused of approving efforts to skirt sanctions and ship equipment to Iran.

The Commerce Department said Shi approved a systematic, written business plan to use shell companies to secretly export U.S. technology to Iran. Reuters could not immediately reach Shi for comment.

The U.S. investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts with Iran to ship millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and software from some of America’s best-known technology companies.

U.S. authorities have said the size of the financial penalty against ZTE also reflects the fact that the company lied to investigators when executives were approached about the allegations.

As part of the deal, ZTE will be under probation for three years and agreed to cooperate in the continuing investigation.

Return Of The Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

March 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has announced that it plans to offer refurbished versions of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, the model pulled from markets last year due to fire-prone batteries.

Samsung’s Note 7s were permanently scrapped in October following a global recall, roughly two months from the launch of the near-$900 devices, after some phones self-combusted. A subsequent probe found manufacturing problems in batteries supplied by two different companies – Samsung SDI Co Ltd and Amperex Technology Ltd.

Analysis from Samsung and independent researchers found no other problems in the Note 7 devices except the batteries, raising speculation that Samsung will recoup some of its losses by selling refurbished Note 7s.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters in January that it was considering the possibility of selling refurbished versions of the device or reusing some parts.

Samsung’s announcement that revamped Note 7s will go back on sale, however, surprised some with the timing – just days before it launches its new S8 smartphone on Wednesday in the United States, its first new premium phone since the debacle last year.

Samsung, under huge pressure to turn its image around after the burning battery scandal, had previously not commented on its plans for recovered phones.

“Regarding the Galaxy Note 7 devices as refurbished phones or rental phones, applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand,” Samsung said in a statement.

South Korea’s Electronic Times newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said on Tuesday Samsung will start selling refurbished Note 7s in its home country in July or August and will aim to sell between 400,000 and 500,000 of the Note 7s using safe batteries.

Samsung said in a statement to Reuters the company has not set specifics on refurbished Note 7 sales plans, including what markets and when they would go on sale, though noting the phones will not be sold in India as some media reported earlier this year.

The firm said refurbished Note 7s will be equipped with new batteries that have gone through Samsung’s new battery safety measures.

“The objective of introducing refurbished devices is solely to reduce and minimize any environmental impact,” it said.

Twitter Mulls Subscription Based Model

March 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc is weighing whether to build a premium version of its popular Tweetdeck interface aimed at professionals, the company has announced, raising the possibility that it could charge subscription fees for some users for the first time.

Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide.

But unlike the much-larger Facebook Inc, Twitter has failed to attract enough in advertising revenue to turn a profit even as its popularity with U.S. President Donald Trump and other celebrities makes the network a constant center of attention.

Subscription fees could come from a version of Tweetdeck, an existing interface that helps users navigate Twitter.

Twitter is conducting a survey “to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck,” spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca has said in a statement.

She went on: “We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we’re exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.”

There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users.

Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like.

That version could include “more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker,” according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.

The experience could be ad-free, the description said.

Other social media firms, such as Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn unit, already have tiered memberships, with subscription versions that offer greater access and data.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Twitter posted the slowest revenue growth since it went public four years earlier, and revenue from advertising fell year-over-year. The company also said that advertising revenue growth would continue to lag user growth during 2017.

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