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Google Fiber Acquires Webpass, Increases Urban Coverage

June 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Fiber has agreed to purchase Internet service provider Webpass to quickly increase its urban coverage and offer customers a combination of fiber and wireless delivery of high-speed Internet.

For Google Fiber, which has typically worked with cities in planning and building a fiber network from scratch, the acquisition will give the Alphabet business a headstart in many markets, particularly in dense urban areas.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Google did not immediately comment on the acquisition.

Webpass in San Francisco owns and operates its Ethernet network, thus removing its dependence on phone and cable companies. It has operations in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, San Diego, Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Chicago and Boston. The company offers business connections from 10 to 1,000 Mbps and to residential customers service from 100 Mbps to 1Gbps.

Google is already working in San Francisco, where Webpass also operates, and is negotiating with property owners and managers in buildings near existing fiber infrastructure to explore connecting their residents to gigabit Internet.

Webpass will help to further expand that coverage as it will remain focused on the rapid deployment of high-speed Internet connections for residential and commercial buildings, mainly using point-to-point wireless, Webpass President Charles Barr said in a blog post Wednesday that announced the proposed acquisition.

“Google Fiber’s resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company,” Barr wrote.

 

 

 

BlackBerry Says Device Business Is Top Priority

June 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd’s top priority this year is to make its devices business turn a profit, its chief executive said, even as it weighs the future of its hardware operation.

“The device business must be profitable, because we don’t want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line,” Chief Executive John Chen told investors at the company’s annual meeting. “We’ve got to get there this year.”

Chen has previously said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.

But at the meeting, attended by around 100 people, he said he sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.

“I don’t personally believe handsets will be the future of any company,” he said.

BlackBerry, once the smartphone market leader before being displaced by Apple Inc and competitors run on Alphabet Inc’s Android platform, has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations.

In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.

But some of those in attendance were skeptical about BlackBerry’s ability to deliver on its strategic pivot.

“The first word that comes to mind is lackluster,” said one shareholder at the meeting who declined to give his name. “Time is running out.”

Chen reiterated that BlackBerry wants to grow its software revenue by 30 percent in this fiscal year, which he estimated would be double overall market growth, and to notch positive free cash flow.

BlackBerry is due to report first quarter results on Thursday.

Chen took up the CEO role in 2013 with a reputation as a turnaround artist. But the company’s stock has only risen modestly since then, with many investors waiting for signs the now-smaller company will be able to carve out new opportunities.

“I appreciate the strategy,” said Ken Tota, an investor in BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. He said he was optimistic a renewed focus on security could help reinvigorate BlackBerry over the next five years.

“It’s a niche, but it’s a worldwide niche,” he said.

 

 

Twitter Acquires Machine Learning Company Magic Pony

June 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has been quite vocal regarding its interest in machine learning in recent years, and earlier this week the company put its money where its mouth is once again by purchasing London startup Magic Pony Technology, which has focused on visual processing.

“Magic Pony’s technology — based on research by the team to create algorithms that can understand the features of imagery — will be used to enhance our strength in live [streaming] and video and opens up a whole lot of exciting creative possibilities for Twitter,” Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

The startup’s team includes 11 Ph.Ds with expertise across computer vision, machine learning, high-performance computing and computational neuroscience, Dorsey said. They’ll join Twitter’s Cortex group, made up of engineers, data scientists and machine-learning researchers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition follows several related purchases by the social media giant, including Madbits in 2014 and Whetlab last year.

 

 

 

Dell Close To Deal To Sell Software Business

June 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Buyout firm Francisco Partners and the private equity arm of activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp are in advanced negotiations to purchase Dell Inc’s software division for more than $2 billion, three people familiar with the matter said.

Divesting the software assets will help Dell refocus its technology portfolio and bolster its balance sheet after it agreed in October to buy data storage company EMC Corp for $67 billion. EMC owns a controlling stake in VMware Inc, a cloud-based virtualization software company.

Dell is seeking to sell almost all of its software assets, including Quest Software, which helps with information technology management, as well as SonicWall, an e-mail encryption and data security provider, the people said.

Boomi, a smaller asset focusing on cloud-based software integration, will be retained by Dell, one of the people added.

An agreement between Dell and the consortium of Francisco Partners and Elliott could be reached as early as this week, the people said, cautioning that the negotiations could still end unsuccessfully.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Dell declined to comment, while Francisco Partners and Elliott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A sale of Dell’s software division would free it from some of its least profitable assets and cap the program of divestitures that the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker embarked on following its deal with EMC. EMC shareholders are due to vote on the deal with Dell on July 19.

While Elliott has sought to buy companies in the past as part of its shareholder activist campaigns, the Dell software deal would represent its first major private equity investment since it hired Isaac Kim, previously a principal at private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, last year to help expand its capacity in leveraged buyouts.

Francisco Partners focuses on private equity investments in the technology sector. It has raised about $10 billion in capital and invested in more than 150 technology companies since it was launched more than 15 years ago.

 

 

 

Patent Dispute May Hamper Apple’s iPhone 6 Sales In China

June 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus face a looming sales ban in China over a patent dispute with a little-known local company.

The phones infringe a design patent held by Chinese device maker Shenzhen Baili, a Beijing intellectual property office ruled, according to a notice posted Thursday.

The office ordered Apple and its partners to halt sales of both products, though Apple has appealed and the phones are currently still on sale there.

“We appealed an administrative order from a regional patent tribunal in Beijing last month and as a result the order has been stayed pending review by the Beijing IP Court,” Apple said Friday in an email.

The iPhone 6 models violate an “exterior design patent” held by Shenzhen Baili. The company was granted the patent in China in July 2014, shortly before Apple released the iPhone 6.

Shenzhen Baili used the patented design to make smartphones under its 100+ brand. The devices start at only 799 yuan, or about US$120, while the iPhone 6 initially sold for 5,288 yuan.

Shenzhen Baili warned Apple in 2014 that it might sue for patent infringement.

It’s not Apple’s first legal challenge in China. In 2012 the company battled a different company there which claimed ownership of the iPad trademark. Apple ended up paying US$60 to resolve that dispute – not a huge sum considering the importance of the Chinese market.

Earlier this year, in April, Chinese regulators shut down Apple’s iTunes Movies and iBooks services without publicly stating why. Those services appear to be still offline.

China is the world’s biggest smartphone market but Apple products face stiff competition there from local handset makers. In the first quarter this year, Apple ranked fifth among smartphone makers in China, according to research firm Canalys.

“‘Local vendors, such as Huawei, Vivo and Oppo, are eating into the premium segment that Samsung and Apple considered their own,” Canalys said at the time.

 

 

 

 

Does Samsung Own The OLED Market?

June 16, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

While the rest of the world is talking about OLED displays, it seems that 95 per cent of the displays made by Samsung.

Samsung appears to have corned the market and made more than  95 per cent of the total shipments in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016.

UBI Research. said that total global OLED shipments surged to 91.3 million units, with Samsung making up a whopping 95 per cent of this number.

OLED panels have become a preferred choice among smartphone manufacturers the light-emitting layers of an OLED are lighter, easier to produce, can be made in larger sizes and do not require backlighting.  OLED can be flexible instead of rigid, which makes it ideal for curved displays and even bendable.

Taking advantage of the demand, Samsung, who is already leading the market, is looking to ramp up its OLED production by increasing its A3 plant production from 15,000 units per month to 105,000 units per month by the year end.

Its closest rival, LG is ramping up its OLED smartphone panel production and may have scored orders from Xiaomi. But Samsung has Huawei and Lenovo under its belt and is reported to be supplying close to 100 million panels to Apple for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 next year.

 

Courtesy-Fud

 

Telecom Equipment Maker Ericsson To Layoff Thousands

June 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Telecom equipment maker Ericsson will lay off thousands of employees this summer and is considering large, additional cost cuts due to slowing markets, newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reported, citing anonymous sources.

After quarterly profit and sales missed expectations in April, Ericsson said slower network spending in Europe and Latin America would require further cost cuts, but it did not say how big those cuts would be.

SvD said Ericsson was planning to give notice to between 3,000 and 4,000 staff this summer, and that thousands more may have to leave the company later.

Ericsson declined to comment on the report, but reaffirmed it was on track to reach previously announced annual cost savings of 9 billion crowns by 2017 compared with 2014 levels.

“This program is on track but more remains to be done before the program is completed,” Ericsson said in an emailed statement on Tuesday and repeated it was adjusting its operations to currently low mobile broadband project volumes.

“In parallel, as announced on April 21, we are implementing structural changes to further accelerate strategy execution and drive efficiency and growth even harder across the company.”

With most of the latest generation of networks already built, especially in developed markets, Ericsson, the leading player in mobile infrastructure, has been struggling to find growth for that part of its business.

Its shares are down 26 percent year to date, making them the worst performer in the STOXX Europe 600 Technology Index, prompting investor concern about management’s ability to safeguard earnings.

Ericsson employed 115,300 at the end of the first quarter, according to its latest report, down from roughly 116,300 at the end of last year.

 

 

Symantec Corp To Acquire Cyber Security Firm Blue Coat

June 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Technology security firm Symantec Corp announced that it will acquire privately held cyber security company Blue Coat for $4.65 billion in a cash deal that will ramp up Symantec’s enterprise security business.

Blue Coat helps protects companies’ web gateways from cyber attacks, a service that will complement Symantec’s existing offerings for large corporations such as email and endpoint security, Symantec executives said in an interview on Sunday.

“Blue Coat brings capabilities from the web and for network-born threats, which combined with what we already offer will provide better protection for our customers,” said Ajei Gopal, Symantec’s interim president and chief operating officer.

Symantec, which makes the Norton antivirus software, has been undergoing a transformation over the past year. It sold its data storage unit, Veritas, for $7.4 billion to a group led by Carlyle Group LP in January to gain the cash necessary turn around its core security software business.

Chief Financial Officer Thomas Seifert said Symantec had been eyeing Blue Coat for a while and wanted to wait to have the separation of the Veritas unit behind the company before it made a move to buy it. He said the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, would be accretive immediately.

By buying Blue Coat, 62 percent of Symantec’s revenue will now come from enterprise security, and it will be better positioned to compete with security players such as Palo Alto Networks Inc, FireEye Inc and Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Symantec will now have $4.4 billion in combined revenue.

While it is shifting to focus more on enterprise security, Symantec has no immediate plans to sell its consumer unit, Seifert, the CFO said, adding that it is a highly profitable part of the company.

By buying Blue Coat, Symantec also solves a leadership issue, with Blue Coat CEO Greg Clark becoming Symantec’s CEO. Symantec’s previous CEO, Michael Brown, left in April after the company reported disappointing quarterly results.

Blue Coat had been preparing an initial public offering for later this summer. Its sale marks a quick turnaround for its private equity owner, Bain Capital LLC, which acquired Blue Coat Systems Inc from fellow private-equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC for $2.4 billion last year.

 

 

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.”

 

 

Yahoo Hires Advisors To Help Sale Trove Of Patents

June 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc  has hired boutique investment bank Black Stone IP LLC to aid in the selling of nearly 3,000 of the internet company’s patents, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company has sent letters to a number of potential buyers for the patents, which date back to when the company was founded in 1996 and also include its original search technology, the report said.

The deadline for bids for the patents has been set for mid-June by Yahoo, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In March, Yahoo said it would explore the sale of $1 billion to $3 billion of patents, property and “non-core assets”.

Yahoo and Black Stone IP were not immediately available for comment.

 

Samsung SDI Still Pursuing Tesla To Provide Electric Car Batteries

June 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung SDI is making progress in its discussions with Tesla Motors to provide batteries for the U.S. automaker’s Model 3 electric car as well as its energy storage products, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Shares in the Samsung SDI surged to trade 6 percent higher in early afternoon trade, beating the wider market’s 1.1 percent gain.

Tesla, which currently procures its batteries from Japan’s Panasonic Corp, is likely to add Samsung SDI as a supplier should sales exceed expectations, the source said, although he declined to specify what level of sales would clinch a deal for the South Korean company.

Citing “tremendous demand,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in April that the automaker planned to boost total vehicle production to 500,000 in 2018 – two years earlier than its original target. Suppliers have said the goal will be difficult to achieve.

Tesla has taken 373,000 orders for its Model 3 – which has a starting price of $35,000, about half its Model S – and has said it would begin customer deliveries in late 2017.

“It remains to be seen whether the orders will translate into actual sales,” the source said. The source declined to be identified as the discussions were confidential.

A Samsung SDI spokesman declined to comment.

 

Verizon Reportedly To Submit $3B Bid For Yahoo

June 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc is gearing up to submit a second-round bid of around $3 billion for Yahoo Inc’s core internet business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Private-equity firm TPG was also expected to submit a second round bid for the assets, the newspaper reported.

Reuters reported last month that Verizon had added Bank of America to its roster of investment banks, as it looked to gain an edge over other bidders for Yahoo’s core assets.

Yahoo is expected to hold at least one more round of bidding, and the offers could change by the final round, the paper reported.

Yahoo did not comment on the report, while Verizon declined to comment.

 

Is Apple Pay Really A Hit With Consumers?

June 6, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

While the Tame Apple Press claimed that Apple’s moves into the finance world with its Apple Pay service would be “game-changing” “super” and “great” we had grave doubts it would make much impact – it looks like we were right.

After 18 months, Apple Pay has only made a tiny dent in the global payments market. This is partly because it was networking, which means Apple stuffed it up with technical problems, partly because the banks would not sign up to Jobs’ Mob’s bizarre customer contract but mostly because customers never wanted it.

Some banks did go ahead with it, but only after demanding that Apple sling its hook with its demands for a cut which would make them rich while the banks got very little.

The service is available in six countries and failed to gain much traction outside the US. Apple Pay usage totalled $10.9 billion last year and that was mostly in the US. Although the figure looks high it is really bugger all when you consider how much cash is moved around in mobile payments.

In comparison Alibaba and Tencent made an estimated $1 trillion worth of mobile transactions last year.

What it appears is that Apple Pay is only popular with the hard-core Apple fanboys which we estimate total six million worldwide and are mostly based in the US. Even the more rational Apple users are ignoring service.

Apple Pay transactions were a fraction of $84.5 billion in iPhone sales for the six months to March and the service is not making as much as Jobs’ Mob hoped. Shops have also been complaining that the hardware they have to use to run Apple pay is about as reliable as Apple IIc. In Australian payment machines supported by one mid-sized bank reported frequent failures.

The business model was also flawed. While it makes sense that banks and even the bigger stores have their payment systems, it made no sense to put a phone maker between the transaction. As a result banks and stores are coming up with their own payment schemes which effectively rules Apple out of the equation.

Courtesy-Fud

 

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.