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Google Acquiring Pixel Smartphone Making Unit of HTC

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed that it would pay $1.1 billion for the division at Taiwan’s HTC Corp that develops the U.S. firm’s Pixel smartphones – its second major foray into phone hardware after an earlier costly failure.

The all-cash deal will see Google gain 2,000 HTC employees, roughly equivalent to one fifth of the Taiwanese firm’s total workforce. It will also acquire a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and the two firms agreed to look at other areas of collaboration in the future.

While Google is not acquiring any manufacturing assets, the transaction underscores a ramping up of its ambitions for Android smartphones at a time when consumer and media attention is largely focused on rival Apple Inc.

“Google has found it necessary to have its own hardware team to help bring innovations to Android devices, making them competitive versus the iPhone series,” said Mia Huang, an analyst at research firm TrendForce.

The move is part of a broader and still nascent push into hardware that saw Google hire Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola executive, to run its hardware division last year. It also comes ahead of new product launches on Oct. 4 that are expected to include two Pixel phones and a Chromebook.

Pixel smartphones, only launched a year ago, have less than 1 percent market share globally with an estimated 2.8 million shipments, according to research firm IDC.

Google will be aiming not to repeat mistakes made when it purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012. It sold it off to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd for less than $3 billion two years later after Motorola failed to produce appealing products that could compete with iPhones.

This time around, however, the deal price tag is much smaller and the lack of manufacturing facilities also minimizes risk.

T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Talks Heat Up

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile and Sprint are a hot topic in the world of wireless.

The nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers are in active discussions for a merger, according to a person familiar with the talks. It could take anywhere between three and five weeks before the deal might be made official, although there’s no guarantee it will go through. CNBC’s David Faber was the first to report on the talks.

A merger would mark the culmination of years of flirting between T-Mobile and Sprint. The combined company would have a shot at shaking up the industry, sizable enough to compete with larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T. But opponents of a deal say the presence of four carriers has resulted in stiffer competition, lower prices and better deals for consumers.

Both companies have made their impact felt on the industry over the last few years. T-Mobile eliminated contracts and phone subsidies and last year led the push to bring unlimited plans back to the industry in a bigger way. Sprint introduced the concept of a phone leasing plan and this year began offering a year of its service for free.

They’ve tried to merge before. Sprint’s parent, Japanese carrier SoftBank, tried to strike a deal with T-Mobile majority shareholder Deutsche Telekom back in 2014, but dropped its attempt when the government signaled that it favored four national competitors. But with a more business-friendly White House in place, the companies are attempting to get together again.

Under the proposed deal, Deutsche Telekom would be the majority shareholder, and T-Mobile CEO John Legere would run the company with his management team. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son would have a minority stake in the combined company.

Wall Street analysts and industry players have long called for the two to combine in an effort to challenge Verizon and AT&T. A combination would mean a heftier customer base and could lead to more retail outlets across the country and greater oomph in bargaining for network equipment at a lower price.

Salesforce Launches Fund For Artificial Intelligence Start-ups

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture arm of Salesforce.com Inc is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence, the cloud computing firm told Reuters.

Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Salesforce revenues and income have grown rapidly in recent quarters, and it has boosted spending on research and development in the face of tough competition from rivals such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.

Venture capital investment in AI start-ups is rising quickly. For 2017, global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding to over 250 start-ups, Somorjai said. With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

The company said that it was also expanding the number of AI tasks employed by its ‘Einstein’ technology.

Nokia Set To Enjoy Benefits Of Smartphone Patents

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia will additional income from the current quarter after a ruling by an arbitration court on payments from South Korea’s LG Electronics for using its smartphone patents.

The Finnish company said it would also get a one-off payment, although it did not disclose any of the sums involved. The companies had started the arbitration in 2015.

“We believe that this award confirms the quality of Nokia’s patent portfolio. We continue to see potential for additional licensing opportunities,” said Nokia Chief Legal Officer Maria Varsellona in a statement.

 The ruling was made by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Nokia has recently signed deals with larger phone makers Samsung Electronics and Apple, as well as China’s Xiaomi Technology.

Nokia’s patent unit had sales of 616 million euros (541.47 million pounds) in the first half of the year — just 6 percent of the group’s total revenue. However, licensing payments are highly profitable while Nokia’s core business, telecom networks, is suffering an industry-wide slump.

“Nokia has been quicker than expected to clinch deals in the patent side… The next interesting scalp will be Huawei,” said analyst Mikael Rautanen from research firm Inderes, with an “accumulate” rating on the stock.

He said, however, that the revenue of the LG deal will be clearly smaller than that from the Apple agreement, which he estimated to bring around 250 million euros ($298 million)annually.

Nokia sold its once-dominant phone business to Microsoft in 2014 but retained its patent catalog covering technology that reduces the need for hardware components in a phone, conserves battery life and increases radio reception, among other features.

LG has a global market share of around 4 percent in smartphones, according to Strategy Analytics.

Japanese Robot Sniffs For Smelly Feet

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Having foot odors can be a nuisance. But how do you know if your feet are slightly smelly or Hasmat-level awful?

It’s not likely you’ll want to ask a co-worker, stranger or even loved one for an honest assessment of your feet’s fumes. That’s where the new Japanese robot dog Hana-chan can be of an assistance.

The adorable robot from Next Technology has a built-in odor detection sensor in its nose that can tell whether your feet are fine or pungent.

The mini mutt — 6 inches long (about 15 centimeters) will bark if your toes are merely moderately smelly, but will fall over if your feet are rank.

The robot dog doesn’t just notify you when your feet are too noxious for words, it also sprays air freshener on your toes to help fix the situation temporarily.

A prototype of the feet-sniffing robot pooch can be found on the Next Technology website.

Next Technology plans to sell the Hana-chan robot dog in early 2018, according to Japan Times, retailing for around ¥100,000 (approximately $900, £660 or AU$1,125).

Google Disable Offensive Keywords

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google announced that it has disabled a “majority” of the offensive keywords that BuzzFeed found could be used by advertisers to target people searching for racist and anti-Semitic topics.

Google, the world’s biggest advertising platform, not only allowed advertisers to target searches such as “Why do Jews ruin everything” but also suggested the user to run ads next to searches such as “the evil jew” and “jewish control of banks”, a campaign by BuzzFeed discovered.

The ads were visible when such keywords were searched for and Google’s ad buying platform tracked the ad views, according to the internet media company’s report based on the campaign.

Google disabled the keyword searches used in the campaign after BuzzFeed’s inquiry, except an exact match for “blacks destroy everything”, the report said.

“We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again,” Google’s senior vice president of ads Sridhar Ramaswamy said in an email.

The news comes a day after Facebook Inc said it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers to target based on people’s self-reported education and job information after a report that those features allowed targeting based on anti-Semitic topics.

Google Launching Mobile Payments In India

September 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google is gearing up to launch a localized digital payment service in India as early as next week, technology website TechCrunch reported, citing a report from news site The Ken.

The payment service, called Google ‘Tez’, will offer payment options beyond the existing ones like Google Wallet or Android Pay, the report said.

Tez, meaning fast in Hindi, will include support for the government-backed Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other consumer payment services including Paytm and MobiKwik, according to the report.

Google launched its payment app Android Pay in the United States two years ago.

A spokesman for Google in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google, Facebook Inc and WhatsApp Inc were in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to provide UPI-enabled payment on their platforms, the Mint daily had reported in July.

Samsung Aims For Foldable Smartphone In 2018

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung is making plans to launch a foldable phone in 2018, says Koh Dong-jin, president of mobile business at Samsung Electronics.

As reported by the Associated Press, Koh told Korean reporters that once the company surmounted “some problems,” it would launch the product. He did not say what the problems were.

Samsung has been experimenting with foldable displays for a while now. The company first showcased a flexible phone display prototype in 2013. Before that, Samsung was making flexible displays, sans phone, way back in 2011.

Koh also confirmed that the company is working with auto-systems maker Harman on a smart speaker. Samsung acquired Harman, based in Stamford, Connecticut, in 2016. No further details about the smart speaker were revealed on Tuesday.

Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rovio To Move Forward With IPO

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Finnish mobile games giant Rovio has confirmed plans to publicly offer its shares through the Helsinki arm of NASDAQ.

The Angry Birds firm released a statement detailing its intentions, revealing that it is planning “a share issue of approximately €30m”, which equates to $36m. Shares will also be sold by Trema International Holdings – currently the firm’s largest shareholder – and “certain other shareholders”.

This confirms ongoing reports that Rovio would consider an IPO, something the studio said was a possibility back in June. Last month, the rumours strengthened with suggestions that the IPO could raise $400m, valuing the company at $2bn.

The aim of the IPO is to enable Rovio to continue its growth, give it access to capital markets and “broaden its ownership base”, as well as build on the company’s brand awareness.

Throughout the statement Rovio refers to itself as a games-first entertainment company, although it also draws attention to the success of last year’s film The Angry Birds Movie and its ongoing merchandise business.

Rovio also notes that, as of June 2017, its games have been downloaded more than 3.7bn times, with an average monthly active userbase of 80m during the second quarter of this year.

CEO Kati Levoranta reiterated that the studio’s most recent releases – Angry Birds Evolution, Battle Bay and Angry Birds Match – have also outperformed all previously launched titles in select key performance indicators, giving Rovio cause to be optimistic about the IPO. Last month, Rovio revealed these releases had helped double its quarterly earnings year-on-year.

“Today, Rovio is stronger than ever and is well positioned in the fast growing mobile gaming market with our diversified games portfolio, proven game development talent and operational excellence as well as our large existing user base.  I am confident in our games-first strategy,” said Levoranta.

“The contemplated IPO and listing are an important milestone in developing Rovio into an even stronger games-first entertainment company.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Deezer Takes On Giants Of Music Streaming

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

From Brazilian gospel to Puerto Rican reggaeton and Dutch hip-hop, music streaming company Deezer is making waves all over the globe looking for markets where it can survive and thrive against Spotify and Apple.

The French firm has little hope of success going toe-to-toe with its far bigger rivals in the mass-market realms inhabited by the likes of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.

Instead, it is focusing on local music genres in fast-growing, often non-English language markets, areas where it believes it can steal a march. It is targeting local listeners while also looking to position itself for a global audience as a “cool”, non-mainstream alternative.

As part of this strategy, launched this year and called Deezer Next, it is dispatching local teams of “editors” to identify talent in niche genres and create original content, Netflix-style.

The aim is not only to differentiate its catalog but also to reduce its reliance on the record labels that take the lion’s share of streaming services’ revenue. It has 40 editors globally and is looking to recruit more.

Deezer Chief Executive Hans-Holger Albrecht said he would target selected markets in Latin America, Asia, and Africa where Spotify was not already predominant. They include Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

“I strongly believe in the localization of content,” he told Reuters. “While Spotify is mainly playlist-focused, we are betting on local differentiation, and this has helped us become number one in gospel in Brazil.”

But finding a path to profit represents a formidable task for the loss-making company.

It has a similar “freemium” to market leader Spotify, whereby it attracts users by offering advert-supported free access and charges a monthly fee of about $10 for the full service. However, it has only 12 million active users – about 9 million paying – compared with Spotify’s 60 million paying subscribers, and brings in just a tenth of the Swedish firm’s $3 billion annual revenue.

Deezer, controlled by billionaire investor Len Blavatnik, is nonetheless sinking tens of millions of euros into this local music drive. Its strategy is based on a bet that music streaming will continue to grow rapidly to eventually eclipse all other forms of music listening.

The paid streaming market is expected to grow 16 percent to $28 billion by 2030 in terms of annual revenue, according to Goldman Sachs

“Streaming is a very young market, with just about 10 percent penetration globally, so there is a lot of potential still,” said Albrecht.

Jaguar Land Rover Speeds Up Electric Vehicle Plans

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Last year, luxury automotive giant, owned by India’s Tata Motors, said it would offer greener versions of half of its new line-up by 2020, but it now speeding up its plans.

Demand for electric models continues to rise sharply and in July Britain said it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to cut pollution, replicating plans by France and cities such as Madrid, Mexico City and Athens.

Carmakers are racing to tap into growing demand for low-emissions models with Nissan launching a revamped version of its Leaf electric vehicle on Wednesday in a bid to better take on Tesla’s Model 3.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which showcased its first electric model in 2016, said it would release a range of powertrain options over the coming years.

“We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles,” said Chief Executive Ralf Speth.

The automaker, which built nearly 550,000 of Britain’s 1.7 million cars last year, has said it wants to build electric models in its home market but a number of factors need to be in place first, including support from government and academia.

It will build its first electric model, the I-PACE, in Austria.

In Yet Another Twist, Western Digital Agrees To Drop Bid For Toshiba

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

 Western Digital Corp has proposed to end its bid for Toshiba Corp’s lucrative semiconductor unit after their talks stalled, seeking instead a stronger position in the two companies’ chip joint venture, according to two knowledgeable sources.

The move may help Toshiba finally seal a deal to sell its prized unit after months of delays, providing it with funds to cover billions of dollars in liabilities linked to its failed U.S. nuclear business Westinghouse.

A consortium including Western Digital, U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co, the state-backed Innovation Network of Japan and Development Bank of Japan were previously offering around 1.9 trillion yen ($17.4 billion) for Toshiba’s chip business, according to people familiar with the talks.

 Those talks had stalled in recent weeks, however, as the two sides struggled to come to an agreement over Western Digital’s stake in the business, which the Japanese company wanted to limit in an attempt to avoid prolonged antitrust reviews, sources have said.

To help close the deal, California-based Western Digital has told Toshiba it is prepared to pull out of a consortium bidding for the business in order to address such concerns, said the sources, one with direct knowledge of the transaction and one who was briefed on this development.

In return, Western Digital is seeking to strengthen its position in the joint venture operations, they said.

Toshiba’s board is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the deal, the sources said.

Toshiba and Western Digital, which jointly invest in Toshiba’s key plant in central Japan, failed to seal a deal by a previously-planned deadline last week due to disagreement over the U.S. firm’s future stake in the business, sources have said.

Intel Announces VPU For A.I.

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released its new Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU) which is Intel’s end-to-end portfolio for an artificial intelligence (AI) solution.

Intel is hoping the VPU will deliver more autonomous capabilities across a wide range of product categories including drones, robotics, smart cameras and virtual reality (VR).

Intel claimed that the Myriad X is the world’s first system-on-chip (SOC) shipping with a dedicated Neural Compute Engine for accelerating deep learning inferences at the edge.

It said that the neural compute engine is an on-chip hardware block specifically designed to run deep neural networks at high speed and low power without compromising accuracy, enabling devices to see, understand and respond to their environments in real time.

The Myriad X’s architecture has a neural compute engine which can manage a trillion operations per second (TOPS) of compute performance on deep neural network inferences.

Capable of delivering more than 4TOPS of total performance, Intel claims its tiny form factor and on-board processing are ideal for autonomous devices. In addition to its neural compute engine, the Myriad X combines imaging, visual processing and deep learning inference in real time.

It has programmable 128-bit VLIW vector processors run multiple imaging and vision application pipelines simultaneously with 16 vector processors optimised for computer vision workloads.

Also under the bonnet are more configurable MIPI lanes connect up to 8 HD resolution RGB cameras directly to the Myriad X with its 16 MIPI lanes included in its rich set of interfaces, to support up to 700 million pixels per second of image signal processing throughput.

Enhanced vision accelerators use over 20 hardware accelerators to perform tasks such as optical flow and stereo depth without introducing additional compute overhead. The centralised 2.5MB of homogenous on-chip memory allows for up to 450GB per second of internal bandwidth, minimizing latency and reducing power consumption by minimizing off-chip data transfer.

The Myriad 2 will not be replaced by the Myriad X. Last January, the Myriad 2 was described as costing under $10; based on the higher cost FinFET process and additional hardware features. The Myriad X will likely command a higher price for the higher performance.

Courtesy-Fud

Roku Prepares For Initial Public Offering

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku is gearing up to go public.

The streaming device maker is seeking $100 million in its initial public offering, according to a filing Friday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker ROKU.

Roku, which makes popular streaming devices like the Roku PremiereRoku Express+ and Roku Streaming Stick, said it’s seizing on the cord-cutting trend. “TV streaming’s disruptive content distribution model is shifting billions of dollars of economic value. Roku is capitalizing on this large economic opportunity,” reads the filing.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, but its products routinely slay in CNET reviews and in sales.

In the filing, Roku said it had more than 15 million active accounts, and that its users streamed over 6.7 billion hours of content on its platform in the first half of this year, a 62 percent increase from the first half of 2016. Earlier reports hinted that Roku planned to go public this year.

Roku declined to comment beyond the filing.

Siemens Strengthen Automotive Push With Tass Acquisition

August 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

German industrial group Siemens said it will acquire Dutch self-driving software specialist Tass International for an undisclosed sum to strengthen its automotive business.

Tass makes software that can simulate complex traffic scenarios, validate autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems and replicate the impact of a car crash on a human body.

It has annual turnover of around 27 million euros ($32.3 million) and around 200 employees.

“Tass International is a proven leader in both integrated safety and autonomous driving, two fields of engineering that are increasingly important for the industry,” Siemens’ Digital Factory unit Chief Executive Jan Mrosik said in a statement.

Siemens said it would combine Tass’s software with its own advanced simulation products as well as electronic design capabilities from recently acquired Mentor Graphics.

Siemens bought Mentor Graphics for $4.5 billion earlier this year. It was its biggest industrial software acquisition.

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