Nokia has been warned by EU regulators not to “behave like a patent troll” following Microsoft’s acquisition of the company’s devices business.
Joaquín Almunia, European Commission VP in charge of competition said on Monday that while he had approved the $7.2bn sale of Nokia’s devices business to Microsoft, there is a danger that Nokia will take advantage of its vast patent portfolio.
Speaking at an event in Paris on Monday, Almunia said, “Since Nokia will retain its patent portfolio, some have claimed that the sale of the unit would give the company the incentive to extract higher returns from this portfolio.
“These claims fall outside the scope of our review. When we assess a merger, we look into the possible anti-competitive impact of the company resulting from it. We cannot consider what the seller will do. If Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case – but I sincerely hope we will not have to.
“In other words, the claims we dismissed were that Nokia would be tempted to behave like a patent troll or – to use a more polite phrase – a patent assertion entity.
“You can rest assured that we are watching this space very carefully. DG competition will hold patent trolls to the same standards as any other patent holder,” he added.
Almunia’s concerns follow Nokia’s patent victory over HTC in UK court last week.
Last Tuesday a UK judge ruled that Nokia could assert a ban on the HTC One Mini and HTC One Max smartphones, ruling that HTC infringed Nokia’s EP0998024 patent, described as a “modular structure for a transmitter and a mobile station”.
Apple started serving iOS 7 on Sept. 18, and shipped the operating system on its fall wave of new products, including the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C — which went on sale later that month — and the iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini that reached retail last month.
According to Apple’s iOS developer support site, 74% of the devices tapping the App Store for seven days prior to Dec. 1 ran iOS 7, more than three times the next-most-popular edition, last year’s iOS 6.
Apple’s number closely matched those of third-party firms that have also measured iOS version traffic.
On Tuesday, for instance, mobile advertising company Chitika, of Westborough, Mass., pegged iOS 7 iPhone trafficthrough its network at 74%. iPad owners have upgraded at a slower pace, with 64% of the tablets running iOS 7. Chitika’s tally was generated between Oct. 25 and Nov. 18.
Mixpanel, a San Francisco-based mobile app analytics vendor, has also tracked iOS 7 uptake. As of Friday, the new operating system accounted for79% of the Apple devices accessing Mixpanel clients’ apps or websites. That was up from 61% in late September, and a slight increase from the 76% of one month ago.
iOS 7 uptake has slowed dramatically since first few days and weeks of the upgrade’s availability –Chitika measured iOS 7′s penetration at 52% just a week after release — but it remains above levels set by its predecessor.
“[It is] very likely that iOS 7 will continue to substantially outpace iOS 6 adoption, which reached 83% close to six months following its release in September 2012,” Chitika said on its blog earlier this week.
A rapid uptake tempo is worth more than bragging rights by Apple partisans, as the faster an operating system is adopted, the more willing developers are to take advantage of its features and refresh their apps. That has special significance with iOS 7, since it was the first design overhaul since the OS’s 2007 debut and boasts a radically different look and feel.
iOS 7 can be installed as an upgrade on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5; the iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPads with Retina screens, and 2012′s first-generation iPad Mini; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch that debuted, with different storage sizes, in October 2012 and May 2013.
Hewlett-Packard reclaimed its server crown from IBM last quarter as the overall market contracted and Taiwanese vendors made big gains selling directly to Internet giants like Google and Facebook, according to an IDC report.
HP expanded its share of the market only modestly from a year earlier but IBM’s portion declined 4.5 points despite solid mainframe sales, to leave HP in the top spot. HP finished the third quarter with 28.1% of worldwide server revenue to IBM’s 23.4%, IDC said.
But the strongest growth was for the “ODM direct” segment which IDC broke out for the first time this quarter. It stands for original design manufacturers, which are Taiwanese firms like Quanta Computer, Wistron Group, Inventec and Compal, which sell partial and fully-built servers to the big cloud providers.
It’s a growing segment and one that threatens the incumbents. ODM’s accounted for 6.5% of server revenue last quarter, up 45.2% from a year earlier, IDC said. If the ODM category were a single vendor, it would be the third largest ahead of Dell.
Almost 80% of the ODM’s server revenue came from the U.S., primarily from sales to Google, Amazon, Facebook and Rackspace.
Overall, the server market declined 3.7% from a year earlier to $12.1 billion. It was the third consecutive quarter of declining revenue but IDC predicts improvement with a refresh cycle early next year. In terms of units shipped, volumes were about flat year over year, meaning average selling prices dropped.
Volume systems — mostly x86 servers — picked up slightly from last year, with 3.5% revenue growth. But sales of midrange and high-end systems dropped 17.8% and 22.5%, respectively, IDC said.
IBM fared worst of the top 5 vendors, with revenue down 19.4% due to “soft demand for System x and Power Systems,” IDC said. Dell retained third place with 16.2% of revenue, about flat from last year, while Cisco Systems and Oracle tied for fourth.
Cisco saw the most growth of the top vendors, with a nearly 43% revenue jump, IDC said.
Lenovo, widely known as a PC company, started selling bare-bones servers in 2008. The company established its Enterprise Product Group a year ago and now wants to build server, software, networking, storage and software portfolios through acquisitions and partnerships, said Roy Guillen, vice president and general of the Enterprise Product Group at Lenovo.
“If you look at the way our PC business grew, we were not shy of making acquisitions. We added companies that brought scale, they bought presence, they brought intellectual property,” Guillen said. “We’ve been looking at the same thing in enterprise and we’ll continue to do so.”
Lenovo acquired IBM’s PC division in 2005 and earlier this year rumors surfaced that the Chinese company was negotiating to acquire IBM’s x86 server operations. Guillen declined to comment on whether negotiations took place.
Lenovo is the world’s top PC vendor, but is not yet a significant player in the server market. According to Gartner, Lenovo was the world’s ninth largest server vendor during the third quarter this year, shipping 57,929 units, growing from 55,467 units in last year’s third quarter. By comparison, the world’s top server vendor, Hewlett-Packard, shipped 669,103 units.
“Most of [Lenovo's] server business does come from China, but they did show some decent growth this quarter, albeit from smaller bases, in Canada, Eastern Europe and the U.S. That helped their overall numbers,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner.
Lenovo’s enterprise products today include single- and two-socket tower and rack servers. The company plans to introduce new two-way servers early next year, and offers a four-socket server in China that it could bring to the U.S. market.
“We’re going to have a really big improvement by the Grantley timeframe,” Guillen said, referring to the next-generation of Intel’s server processors based on Haswell microarchitecture. Those servers will come out in the third quarter of next year.
Lenovo’s enterprise strategy is predicated on the flexibility of server offerings and the company wants to offer a shopping list where customers can check mark what they need, Guillen said. That’s a different server strategy from top server makers IBM, HP and Dell, which are focusing on converged offerings that package servers, software, networking and storage.
The program, dubbed “Student Advantage,” was unveiled in mid-October, when Microsoft promised that it would debut Dec. 1.
Educational institutions, whether K-12 school districts or those in higher education, that license Office Professional Plus 2013 or Office 365 ProPlus — the former is traditionally-licensed software while the latter is a subscription — can now also hand Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions to students, free of charge.
Schools and universities must have licensed Office for staff and faculty institution-wide, according to Microsoft, to be eligible for the student give-away. When students graduate, their Office 365 subscription expires.
Office 365 ProPlus includes rights to download and install copies of the newest Office desktop applications on up to five Windows PCs or Macs owned by the student, as well as rights to run the iPhone or Android editions of Office Mobile.
Students, faculty and staff at universities that do not equip employees with Office can instead pay a flat $80 for a four-year subscription to Office 365 University. That subscription program allows Office 2013 to be installed on up to two PCs or Macs, and Office Mobile on as many as two mobile devices.
HP plans to axe more than 1,100 jobs at three of its UK sites in 2014, the Unite union announced on Wednesday.
The 1,124 job cuts will take place across three of HP’s UK workplaces, in Bracknell, Sheffield and Warrington. A total of 618 jobs could be lost at the Bracknell hub, 483 will go at Warrington, and 23 at Sheffield.
However, Unite said that many of these job cuts will affect HP employees who work from home, although we’re not sure that makes the situtation better.
Unite national officer Ian Tonks said, “For the last five years HP has been addicted to a culture of job cuts in the UK to such an extent that its highly skilled workforce has little faith in the way the company is being managed and will be going forward.
“Unite will be doing everything possible to mitigate these job losses which are a hammer blow to the UK’s IT sector and very distressing for employees in the run-up to Christmas.”
The reason for the job cuts is still not entirely clear. HP cited “reorganisation” and “falling demand”, despite being one of the only PC makers in the third quarter to show sales growth, while rivals Acer and Asus posted massive declines in PC shipments.
Tonks continued to condemn the job cuts, adding, “At the recent re-negotiation of the European works council (EWC), senior European managers were unable to answer any questions about the future EWC, as they could not get hold of their American bosses because of last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. It’s no wonder there is so little faith in the European management.”
HP has yet to announce when the job cuts will commence, but reports claim they will begin in early 2014.
A HP spokesperson said in a statement, “HP commenced consultation for Q1 FY14 on November 28th, 2013 in the UK regarding potential workforce changes for 2014.
“The proposed UK workforce management plan is part of HP’s global multi-year productivity initiative that was announced on May 23, 2012, and updated at its Securities Analysts Meeting on October 9, 2013, to address current market and business pressures in support of HP’s turnaround in EMEA.
“HP remains committed to supporting the employability of its employees through a number of internal initiatives, including re-skilling, redeployment and support to obtain alternative employment as appropriate.”
The tablets run Android 4.2, code-named Jellybean, and are listed at the company’stablet page. The list includes the $199.99 Slate 7 Extreme with a 7-inch screen, the $329.99 Slate 8 Pro with an 8-inch screen, and the $299.99 Slate 10 HD with a 10.1-inch screen.
The Slate 8 Pro offers 11.5 hours of battery and has the hardware to provide 4K video and gaming. The tablet has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which has a graphics processor capable of handling 4K video. The screen can display images at a 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution. An HDMI port allows the tablet to be connected to TVs for 4K video. Other features include an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 720p front camera, 16GB of internal storage and a 1GB of RAM.
The Slate 10 HD offers 10 hours of battery and is meant for Web surfing and basic multimedia use. The screen displays images at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. It has a dual-core Marvell PXA986 ARM-based chip, 16GB of storage, a high-definition front camera and a five-megapixel back camera. Other specifications include 1GB of DRAM and a micro-SD slot.
The Slate 7 Extreme is listed at the site, but is out of stock. The tablet offers 10.5 hours of battery life, and as the product name suggests, it is meant for entertainment and high-definition video. It has a Tegra 4 chip, making it capable of processing 4K video. Other features include a 1280 x 800-pixel screen, 16GB of storage, an HDMI slot, a five-megapixel rear camera and 0.3-megapixel front camera.
The entry-level $149.99 Slate 7 Plus tablet, which is an upgrade from an earlier Slate 7 that was discontinued earlier this year, is also available. The Slate 7 Plus has 8GB of storage and an older Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 0.3-megapixel front camera. The tablet offers six to seven hours of battery life.
All of the tablets have Wi-Fi and micro SD slots.
Terms of the deal, which was announced Monday, were not disclosed. SkyPhrase’s team has joined Yahoo’s Labs business unit in New York City, a Yahoo spokeswoman said.
Yahoo Labs is a science and research division of Yahoo focused on next-generation products and services. The division is active in a number of areas — human computer interaction, mobile and personalization are just a few — and it’s unclear into which areas specifically SkyPhrase’s technology might be integrated.
What’s clear is that Yahoo wants to make its services smarter at understanding natural language. By joining Yahoo Labs, both companies can “continue to work on our shared vision of making computers deeply understand people’s natural language and intentions,” SkyPhrase said in its announcement of the acquisition. SkyPhrase could not be immediately reached to comment further.
A cached version of the startup’s website offers a clue: sports. In addition to Web analytics, SkyPhrase’s business at one point included technology for National Football League statistics. The technology could be integrated into Yahoo’s Sports services, which include stats, real-time scores and breaking news, and also Yahoo’s Fantasy sports apps.
There are some obvious areas of Yahoo’s Fantasy sports apps that could benefit from SkyPhrase’s technology. The company’s Fantasy Sports Football app, for instance, lets users pick players, chat with others and check message boards. Providing a suite of mobile products focused on personal experiences is a stated goal for Yahoo, so it would make sense for the company to try to improve its services there.
Natural language processing is also a hot area of search critical to the success of Yahoo’s biggest competitors like Facebook and Google. Facebook is working on its own natural language search engine with Graph Search, which was announced earlier this year. And Google is constantly working to improve its search algorithms to better understand more complex queries. Its latest search ranking system, “Hummingbird,” was designed for precisely that.
The phone is a variant, though not an outright successor, of the Lumia 520, and helps Nokia offer Windows Phone at a more accessible price to a larger number of users, a spokeswoman said via email.
The smartphone will go on sale before the end of the year in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Singapore and Russia. In China, it is priced at 1099 yuan ($180) before taxes and subsidies. It will then go on sale in Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Khazakstan and parts of Africa during the first quarter of next year, according to Nokia.
During the third quarter, Lumia sales increased by 19 percent quarter-on-quarter to 8.8 million units, reflecting strong demand particularly for the Lumia 520, Nokia said. The Lumia 525 and the expanded distribution it brings, then, is important to Nokia.
Other than 1GB of RAM, rather than 512MB, the specs of the Lumia 525 are identical to what users get with the Lumia 520. That includes a 4-inch screen with a resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, a 5-pixel camera and dual-core 1GHz processor. There is also 8GB of integrated memory and a microSD card slot.
The market for sub-$200 smartphones is at a crossroads, mostly thanks to Google’s efforts. The recently announced Moto G from Google-owned Motorola Mobility costs as much as the Lumia 525, but is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and has a 4.5-inch 720p screen.
Even though the Lumia 520 has helped increase the popularity of Windows Phone, Nokia and Microsoft can’t afford to rest. Their main priority should now be to bring down the cost of Windows Phones to below $100 without a contract, said Pete Cunningham, principal analyst at Canalys.
Nokia shareholders last week voted to approve Microsoft’s acquisition of “substantially all” of the company’s Devices & Services business. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of next year.
Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic Corp has plans to launch about five compact digital cameras next year, half of this year’s number, as it looks to return the business to profitability by fiscal 2014, the Nikkei reported.
Panasonic has been shifting its focus to products for businesses, such as automotive systems and housing fixtures, as it steps back from struggling operations in TVs and other consumer gadgets.
The new cameras, with features such as high-magnification zoom, will cost at least 30,000 yen ($300). Panasonic will focus on mirrorless single-lens models, the business daily said.
The company expects its digital camera business to report losses for the second straight year, Nikkei said.
Global digital camera sales will likely fall by more than 2 million units this fiscal year to about 4 million, the newspaper reported.
ZTE said on Monday that it was preparing the device, and pointed to the first quarter as a probable date for its arrival. However, it gave no further details.
The company is better known in its home country of China as a low-price smartphone maker, but ZTE also has its eyes on the U.S. market, and wants to introduce more high-end phones while building up its brand recognition.
ZTE’s development of a smartwatch is no surprise, considering that many tech vendors are also coming out with rival devices. Samsung and Sony both have smartwatches on the market, at prices of $299 and $199, respectively. Apple has also long been rumored to be working on a watch.
The gadgets, however, still have some way to go before they catch on among consumers. Over 30 smartwatches are in development, according to research firm Gartner’s count, but the devices have yet to reach mass market appeal.
Current smartwatches are either priced too high, come in bulky designs, or don’t offer enough battery life, Gartner said in an October report. Vendors still need to offer a clear message about the advantages of owning a smartwatch.
In the year-end holiday shopping season, Gartner expects consumers to buy tablets over smartwatches. But over time, demand for the devices will grow, especially from health conscious users, the research firm predicted.
In the fitness and health segment, the wearable devices market is projected to reach US$5 billion in revenue by 2016, according to Gartner, and smartwatches will continue to remain “companion” devices to smartphones at least until 2017.
The company also is hiring its first sales people to pitch the new SurveyMonkey Enterprise product directly to corporations and other large organizations. The product will also be available internationally.
Until now, consumers have signed up for the free or for-pay versions of SurveyMonkey by visiting the company’s website and creating an account.
“We think it could be long term a very good growth driver for the business,” said Chief Executive Dave Goldberg in an interview with Reuters last week.
SurveyMonkey, which allows people to create quick polls that can be posted on Web sites, is already used for business purposes by the majority of its users, Goldberg said.
But company employees have had to sign up for the service on their own, as consumers, which can create problems in corporate settings. Companies have been unable to consolidate data from surveys created by different employees and could not always retain the data when the employee who signed up for the service moves to a different job.
The new service, which corporate customers can offer to up to 25 employees for $65 a month, will also include new workplace collaboration tools. Among the first customers are insurance company Aetna, Hearst Corporation and the New York Giants.
Palo Alto, California-based SurveyMonkey generated $113 million in revenue in 2012 and was valued at $1.35 billion in a funding round in January.
Earlier this month, the 280-employee company launched a version of its service in Turkey, expanding its international reach.
Twitter Inc announced that it would introduce self-serve ads for small- and medium-sized businesses in three countries outside the United States, marking one of its first moves to expand revenue as a publicly listed company.
Businesses in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada will be able to buy “promoted” ads that can be shown to targeted Twitter users, the company said.
Twitter held a successful initial public offering last week that raised $1.8 billion. Its stock price has since soared, implying a market capitalization of more than $24 billion.
Twitter, which made $317 million in revenue in 2012, generates the majority of its sales through selling ad packages directly to large companies and international brands such as Verizon Communications Inc or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. But analysts believe it has the potential to greatly boost sales by letting smaller businesses buy automated ads without the help of Twitter salespeople.
Google Inc, for instance, became an online advertising powerhouse by automating its ad-buying capabilities for small- and medium-sized business.
Twitter gave U.S. businesses early access to the self-serve program earlier this year. The company has said it intends to eventually roll out the program around the world.
Analysts expect Twitter to make more than $1.1 billion in 2014 revenue, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Thousands of YouTube users have petitioned against the forced Google+ commenting system that recently appeared on the video sharing website.
Google’s forced Google+ commenting system first appeared on Youtube earlier this month in a bid to stop anonymous commenters from trolling about videos, and no doubt add more subscribers to Google’s not-so-popular social network.
It seems that Google’s plan has backfired somewhat, however. A petition has been launched calling for the new Youtube commenting system, which means users need a Google+ account to comment on videos on the website, to be reverted back to what it was before.
At the time of publication, the petition has over 113,000 signatures.
The petition reads, “Google is forcing us to make Google+ accounts and invading our social life to comment on a youtube video and trying to take away our anonymous profile. They are also trying to censor us unless we share the same worldview as they do.”
This online petition isn’t the only place that angry Youtube users are voicing their opinions on the revamped service. On the Youtube blog, where word of the new Google+ commenting was first announced, there are almost 2,000 comments from people who were not very pleased with the news.
One not very happy customer wrote, “Great, now I can’t laugh at the idiocy of trolls, converse in intelligent conversations, positively criticize, and not have to be forced to have Google+ to do anything. Seriously Google, shove this new comment system up your rear end.”
Another person who wasn’t pleased with the new commenting system is Youtube co-founder Jawed Karim, who broke the eight-year silence on his personal account to ask, “Why the fuck do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video?”
According to leaked and published advertisements of the sales, which will begin on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 28, Best Buy, Target and Walmart will all sell brand-name tablets at steep discounts.
Electronics chain Best Buy, for example, will sell Apple’s iPad 2, a tablet introduced in 2011, for $300, or $99 off Apple’s list price. Even though Apple recently launched the 9.7-in. iPad Air, and started selling the upgraded 7.9-in. iPad Mini with a high-resolution display, it kept the iPad 2 in its portfolio, reportedly because schools continue to purchase the model and some businesses have standardized on the tablet for point-of-sales devices.
Best Buy will also discount the 16GB iPad Air by $50, selling it for $449, or 10% less than list.
Both Walmart and Target will sells 2012′s iPad Mini — the one that sports 1,024 x 768 screen resolution — at Apple’s $299 stock price, but will throw in a $100 or $75 gift card, respectively, effectively reducing the price to $199 or $224.
Including the gift cards, the Walmart iPad Mini deal represents a 33% discount, while Target’s comes in at 25% below full retail.
Target will also sell the new 16GB iPad Air for $479, then include a $100 gift card, reducing the overall cost to $379, for a 24% savings.
Best Buy was the only one of the three retailers to also list Microsoft’s Surface, formerly tagged the Surface RT, a 32GB tablet that runs Windows RT, the scaled-down version of the legacy application-supporting Windows 8.1. Best Buy’s $200 sale price for the Surface will be 75% below list.
Although Microsoft continues to sell the Surface on its website and online store, the Redmond, Wash. company refreshed the line last month by introducing the Surface 2, which starts at $449.
Apple and Microsoft will probably run Black Friday sales of their own on Nov. 29; both companies did last year.