The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.
For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.
The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.
The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.
“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.
The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.
The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.
The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
The change, which will be rolled out gradually according to a Yahoo spokeswoman, will require users to register for a Yahoo ID in order to use any of the Internet portal’s services.
The move marks the latest change to Yahoo by Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, who is striving to spark fresh interest in the company’s Web products and to revive its stagnant revenue.
“Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience,” the company said in a statement, noting that the new process “will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone”.
The first Yahoo service to require the new sign-in process is Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em, a service focused on the NCAA college basketball tournament which begins later this month. News of the change to Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process was first reported by the technology blog Betanews.
Since Mayer took the reins in 2012, the company has rolled out new versions of many of its key products, including Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance. Last year, Yahoo announced a program to recycle inactive Yahoo user IDs, letting new users claim email addresses that have not been used for more than 12 months.
In eliminating the Facebook and Google sign-in features, Mayer, a former Google executive, is effectively reversing a strategy that Yahoo adopted in 2010 and 2011 under then CEO Carol Bartz.
The change to the Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process began on Monday, the Yahoo spokeswoman said, noting that users could still access other services with Google or Facebook IDs.
The sign-in buttons for Facebook and Google will eventually be removed from all Yahoo properties, the Yahoo spokeswoman, though she declined to provide a timeframe.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
The site, which enables strangers to meet for shared-interest activities ranging from parents’ groups to software development, was back online but still being attacked , Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters.
Meetup has refused to pay the small ransom as it believes doing so would make the perpetrators of the attacks demand more money.
“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Heiferman said, adding he was not yet sure how long it would take to keep the site reliably online.
A Meetup blog had earlier said the company was a victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign, a type of attack that knocks websites offline by overwhelming them with incoming traffic. It said that no personal data, including credit card information, had been accessed.
Heiferman said he was open to the possibility of some financial relief for members who pay between $12 and $17 a month to organize Meetup groups in their geographic and thematic areas of interest. He said his first priority was to resume the service of creating communities wholly via an Internet connection.
“we’re going to come out of this much stronger. And I don’t mean that as just a trite euphemism, I mean it literally. Like, we are going to be much more secure,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack since late last week when the assumed criminal group first offered to withhold it if Meetup paid $300.
The attack was the first in the site’s 12-year history, and Heiferman defended the move not to pay the paltry ransom.
“We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals,” he said in the post. “Payment could make us (and all well-meaning organizations like us) a target for further extortion demands as word spread in the criminal world.”
Meetup has almost 17 million members and, when online, was signing up between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day.
The site represents a soft target for online criminals, who often attempt to extort companies in return for calling off DDoS attacks, said Kevin Johnson, chief executive of cybersecurity consultancy Secure Ideas.
“It’s very common for this sort of attack to start off with a small demand,” Johnson said. “It’s not like Meetup can write a check for a million dollars.”
Heiferman’s blog post said the site should be able to protect itself over time, even though it has struggled to stay online since the attacks began on Thursday morning. He said Meetup spent millions of dollars a year to secure its systems.
The Meetup site and related mobile apps have been intermittently unavailable since Thursday.
The handset, which has the code name “Jakarta” but carries the commercial name Z3, is the result of a BlackBerry deal with Foxconn that seeks to shift design and production of low-end phones outside of the company.
It has a 5-inch touchscreen and will come with the company’s 10.2.1 operating system. No other technical details were immediately available.
“It’s going to be a very, very attractive phone for the market,” said John Chen, during a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “Somewhere in April, it will come out in Indonesia. It will be under $200 in retail price.”
BlackBerry’s deal with Foxconn was signed in early December and marked a big shift in the way the company develops its handsets. Under the deal, Foxconn will take over development of low-end devices while BlackBerry will continue to develop high-end phones.
“When I first got into the phone business, they told me it takes 9 to 12 months to get a phone up and going. In less than three months the phone is up and qualified and we are now working on distribution,” he said.
Chen said the phone will also be released in other countries.
The same model will go on sale in other Southeast Asian countries and BlackBerry plans an LTE-version that will be released in the rest of the world.
Chen didn’t specify a release date for the LTE version, except to deadpan, “sometime in the future, before I die.”
The CEO also said a new version of the Q10, called the Q20, will be available later this year. It features the QWERTY keyboard that’s present on the Q10 and adds the menu, back and send buttons and the track pad that was a signature part of older BlackBerry models and is being brought back after customer requests.
The little known firm said the proposal for Barnes & Noble as a whole would be for $22 per share, which would value the top U.S. bookstore chain at $1.32 billion. It comes after earlier proposal in November for $20 per share, its second.
G Asset, which not did detail how it would finance a deal, also made an alternative offer to buy Nook for $5 per share, saying spinning off the digital books and device business would create “substantial shareholder value.”
The latest offer for the whole company would value Barnes & Noble at $1.32 billion, while the proposal for Nook would value that unit at about $300 million.
The firm has previously pressed the company to spin off its Nook unit from Barnes & Noble’s bookstore and college units.
Michael Glickstein, G Asset’s Chief Investment Officer, and the only person listed on the firm’s website, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Barnes & Noble shares were up 5.8 percent at $17.75 in afternoon trading after going as high as $19.12 after the news was released, suggesting Wall Street analysts were doubtful a deal would get done.
A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment beyond confirming that the company had received G Asset’s offer.
The original Nook device was launched in 2009 to help Barnes & Noble fend off Amazon.com Inc and allowed the retailer to win as much as 27 percent of the U.S. e-books market.
But the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep pace with deep-pocketed rivals such as Amazon, Apple Inc and Google Inc. It has scaled back its Nook business and focusing more on content and software.
Two years ago, Microsoft Corp invested $300 million in the Nook unit for a 17.6 percent stake, valuing the division at $1.7 billion. In late 2012, Pearson PLC took a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million.
Dell has become the first major PC OEM to join the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) group, joining over 80 existing members Broadcom, Gill Electronics, IDT, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Dell’s membership means it could soon be developing mobile devices that do not require a wired power adapter to charge.
The A4WP aims to standardise wireless power transfer using near-field magnetic resonance technology called “rezence”, which seeks to liberate mobile devices from wired chargers, charging multiple devices simultaneously without the need to dock the devices.
“Power levels and charging speed will meet the expectations of today’s ‘always on, always connected’ user,” the A4WP said. “Users can simply ‘drop and go’ their devices onto a charging surface without the hassle of accurate positioning or alignment.”
Along with the news that Dell will jump on board to unshackle users from the curse of wired chargers, A4WP is also introducing a secondary, higher-powered project focusing on wirelessly charging electronic products from 20 to 50 watts, like ultrabooks, laptops, and mid-powered appliances.
“Dell’s addition to the Alliance signifies the importance of defining a wireless power standard that spans these higher power levels thus expanding the range of electronics beyond smartphones,” the group added.
A4WP said it believes the development of magnetic resonance technology will improve the customer experience when it comes to charging and will bring the capability into more homes and businesses over the next few years.
It also said that its development of wireless charging technology will help benefit both industry and consumers as the specification powers broadly adopted wireless technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, “which simplifies development and manufacturing”.
Facebook Inc’s awe-inspiring $19 billion bid for fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp sent shares of BlackBerry Ltd surging after the closing bell as early as Wednesday, as investors were cheered by the lofty valuation for the messaging platform.
The deal sent shares in BlackBerry up as much as 9 percent in trading after the bell because it put a rough valuation metric around the smartphone maker’s own BlackBerry Messaging service.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM as it is more commonly known, was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of some 450 million, has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system, along with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based smartphone maker finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the service currently has over 80 million active users.
However, investors have attributed little value to the asset within the company. On Tuesday, Raymond James analyst Steven Li, in a note to clients, broke out a sum-of-parts valuation of the company and pegged the value of BBM at merely $240 million, or $3 per user.
Facebook’s valuation of WhatsApp translates into roughly $42 per user, and that could lead investors and analysts to rethink their valuation of the asset within BlackBerry.
BlackBerry has given no indication it is keen to sell the asset. While there has been some speculation that BlackBerry may seek to carve out the unit, or even sell it, the company’s new Chief Executive John Chen has so far said that BBM remains a core asset for the company.
China’s anti-monopoly regulator on Wednesday said Qualcomm Inc. is under suspicion for overcharging and abusing its market position, allegations which could see the U.S. chip giant slapped with record fines of more than $1 billion.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also said it was in talks with another U.S. technology firm, InterDigital Inc, about a possible settlement to a separate anti-monopoly probe as the regulator focuses on the rapidly evolving information technology market.
Foreign firms from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to Apple Inc are facing tougher scrutiny in the world’s second-biggest economy as China targets key industries to protect consumers from bloated prices and second-rate products.
In its first public statements about the Qualcomm investigation, the watchdog said it began making inquiries after receiving complaints that the San Diego-based company was charging higher prices in China than it does in other countries.
“We received reports from relevant associations and companies that Qualcomm abuses its dominant position in the market and charges discriminatory fees,” Xu Kunlin, who heads the NDRC’s anti-monopoly and price supervision bureau, told a press conference in Beijing.
The NDRC dual investigations are part of a focus on information technology providers, especially companies that license patent technology for mobile devices and networks.
Industry experts say the NDRC, which is also the government’s main economic planning body, is trying to lower domestic costs as China rolls out its faster 4G mobile networks this year.
Earlier this month, the China Mobile Communications Industry Association said it had filed a complaint against Qualcomm for overcharging for use of its patents.
Under the anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between 1 and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.
Himax executives wouldn’t divulge the identities of the companies they are working with, but said they are big and sales should increase this year.
“We continue to work with multiple customers, quite a few of which are top-notch names in IT or the Internet space,” said Jordan Wu, president and CEO of Himax, in a conference call with analysts. “Let me put it this way, they are all number one of something, and we have customers from all leading countries in the consumer electronics space.”
“These days, people take extraordinary measures to protect the confidentiality of their new product launches,” he said. “It is even more so for head-mounted products, because it is a totally new product category for everybody.”
The displays use a technology called liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) that, as the name suggests, combines a liquid crystal layer on a silicon backplane. They have been most commonly found in projectors until now but are expected to become the dominant technology in head-mounted displays like Google Glass.
“We have made shipments for certain customers’ pilot runs of production,” Wu said. “Our LCOS sales are expected to accelerate in 2014.”
Google purchased a 6.3% stake in Himax Display in July. At the time, the two companies said the investment would be used to expand capacity at the company’s LCOS factories.
Himax says it can produce up to 300,000 LCOS displays per month and its production line is “far from being full.” But it already has a plan to expand production further, up to a maximum of 2 million displays per month.
“We have a very nice piece of land next to our headquarters,” Wu said. He said major customers had already been told the amount of lead time that Himax would need to ramp production and meet their demands.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said that its making plans to conduct a roundtable next month to discuss cybersecurity, after massive retailer breaches refocused the attention of the business community and policymakers on the area.
The SEC said that it would hold the event on March 26 to talk about the challenges cyber threats pose for market participants and public companies.
Recent breaches at Target Corp and Neiman Marcus have sparked concern from lawmakers and revived a long-running spat among retailers and banks over who should bear the cost of consumer losses and technology investments to improve security.
Last Thursday, trade groups for the two industries announced they are forming a partnership to work through the disputes.
U.S. lawmakers have also considered weighing in on how consumers should be notified of data theft. But progress on legislation is not guaranteed in a busy election year.
The SEC in 2011 drafted informal staff-level guidance for public companies to use when considering whether to disclose cyber attacks and their impact on a company’s financial condition.
SEC Chair Mary Jo White last year told Congress that her agency was reviewing whether a more robust disclosure process is needed. But she told reporters last fall she felt the guidance appeared to be working well and that she didn’t see an immediate need to create a rule that mandates public reporting on cyber attacks.
Now shipping estimates for new orders stretched into April in several foreign markets, including China, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., as first reported by MacGeneration, which is based in France. Soon after, Apple’s U.S. and Canadian online stores followed suit, showing April as the estimated ship date.
Although the Mac Pro — a distinctive-looking black cylinder that’s 10 inches tall and about 7 inches in diameter — went on sale Dec. 19, it almost immediately slipped into back order. The February estimate was later pushed into March before today’s change to April.
The pricey computer starts at $2,999 for the low-end stock configuration and can be tricked out to a top price of $9,599.
At least one analyst predicted that the Mac Pro, while catering to the line’s traditional power users, creative professionals and engineers, would also become a status symbol of sorts for those with the wherewithal to buy one.
The shipping delays continue to hint at low production volumes at the new Apple factory in Austin, Texas, where the computer is assembled. Apple has touted the Mac Pro’s built-in-the-U.S.A. trait, including a rare tweet by CEO Tim Cook at the machine’s launch.
Shortages of the Mac Pro will not materially affect Apple’s bottom line, as the Mac division accounted for just 11% of the company’s revenue for the December quarter. The Mac Pro, while expensive, will make up only a fraction of the unit sales of the line overall, which last quarter reached 4.8 million, the majority of those notebooks from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro families.
But the extended shortages mean that the revenue the Mac Pro produces is being pushed from the current quarter into the calendar’s second. They also are reminiscent of the fiasco Apple created in late 2012 and early 2013, when it announced a redesigned iMac without an inventory even as it pulled the older models from its stores.
The shortages also spurred profit takers to list their new Mac Pro systems on eBay at prices significantly higher than list.
Mac Pro prices on the auction and sales website today were as high as $6,250 for a configuration that Apple sells for $3,999, a 56% markup. Another of the several listings asked $4,499 for a system that runs $2,999 from Apple, a 50% profit for the seller.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is preparing to launch a U.S. e-commerce website through its subsidiaries Vendio and Auctiva, which are in turn part of the Alibaba.com business group, the company told Reuters on Tuesday.
The 11 Main (11main.com) site is an online shopping business that offers “interesting, quality products” from “hand-picked shop owners” such as fashion, tech and jewelry goods.
Alibaba has been ramping up its international expansion with various acquisitions, including leading a roughly $200 million investment round in U.S. retail site ShopRunner Inc, setting up an investment division in the United States and offering more of its e-commerce and online payment products overseas.
At the same time China’s dominant e-commerce company is gearing up for an expected public offering later this year which will value the company at around $140 billion, according to a Reuters poll of eight analysts.
The foray into boutique e-commerce was conceived and created by Vendio and Auctiva, which Alibaba.com acquired in 2010 and helped businesses sell on eBay Inc’s and Amazon.com Inc’s websites.
“Alibaba is happy to support 11 Main,” an Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters in an e-mail. “Alibaba is run by entrepreneurs and firmly believes in supporting entrepreneurs with great vision and a strong sense of mission for their companies.”
HTC Corp said new lines of mid-tier handsets will help it return to profitability in 2014, predicting cheaper products may aid them in reclaiming market share and put an end to over two years of sliding sales.
HTC’s optimism comes despite 27 consecutive months of falling year-on-year revenue amid stiff competition from heavyweights like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co. On Monday HTC said January sales slid 38 percent from a year earlier to T$9.67 billion ($319.23 million).
Chief Financial Officer Chialin Chang told an analyst and investor briefing on Monday that 2014 should see a rise in gross profit margins due to an improved product mix. “What we’re shipping in there, we want to make sure is competitive,” Chang said.
HTC’s decline has been swift, squeezed by cheaper rivals in China as well as Apple and Samsung. Just over two years ago it supplied one in every 10 smartphones sold around the world: in 2013 its global market share had fallen to just 2 percent, according to Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston.
That decline has left its mark on investors. HTC’s share price has shown no signs of recovering from a three-year slide in value to one-tenth of its record high.
HTC has acknowledged the need for action. “The problem with us last year was we only concentrated on our flagship. We missed a huge chunk of the mid-tier market,” said co-founder and Chairwoman Cher Wang, speaking to Reuters in an interview in New York last week alongside Chang.
Amid the decline in its fortunes, HTC’s brand image has suffered, and investors have been desperate for signs of a clear strategy – though the announced push into mid-tier smartphones may offer a glimmer of hope for the company.
The CFO said on Monday that new mid-tier and low-end handsets should provide the majority of revenue, bar sales from its flagship HTC One phone, after the first quarter. For January to March, it expects revenue to fall to T$34 billion to T$36 billion from T$42.8 billion a year earlier.
The company in January reported its second consecutive quarter of operating losses, with a slim net profit of T$300 million ($10 million) for the fourth quarter helped by an asset sale.
Chang was optimistic about prospects for its flagship, feature-loaded HTC One smartphone, which won rave reviews last year that have yet to translate into matching sales.
During the investor call, Chang also hinted at a venture into wearable technology. He declined to give details as to the type of product, or when it may be announced.