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Nintendos’s New Healthcare Division To Develop Sleep Tracking Device

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd will develop a device to monitor a user’s fatigue and map their sleep, Chief Executive Satoru Iwata said on Thursday, the first offering from the company’s newly created healthcare division.

The device will be co-created with U.S. firm ResMed Inc, which currently makes products to treat sleep disorders, and will be available in the financial year ending March 2016.

“By using our know-how in gaming… to analyse sleep and fatigue, we can create something fun,” Iwata said.

Nintendo, better known for its Mario video game franchise and Wii and Wii U consoles, has said it expects its healthcare division to turn a profit in 2015/2016. The company already offers fitness games on its Wii console, played with a motion sensor controller.

According to an image Iwata shared at a media conference, the device will be about the size of a hand and can be placed on a user’s bedside table. It will use microwave transmission sensors to track sleep, with the data collected used to help users cultivate healthy sleeping habits.

Iwata refused to discuss the company’s sales expectations for the new device beyond saying that it may be offered via a subscription service rather than a one-off purchase.

“We only start something new if we think we will be able to create a big market, but as I’m not able to discuss pricing plans and other details today I don’t think there’s much point in giving a figure for our projected scale,” he said.

The device was launched a day after Nintendo reported an unexpected quarterly profit, after hit games gave a boost to sales of its Wii U console.

 

 

Xiaomi Becomes World’s Third-Largest Smartphone Vendor

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc has nudged it’s way into being the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor just three years after first hitting the market, trailing only Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc, according to a new industry study.

Strategy Analytics said Xiaomi accounted for 6 percent of all 320 million smartphones shipped during July-September. Samsung made up 25 percent, down from 35 percent a year earlier due to rising competition from several directions.

Apple’s share also fell slightly to 12 percent.

“Xiaomi was the star performer,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

“Samsung continues to face tough competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Xiaomi and Huawei in the middle-tiers, and from Lenovo and others at the entry-level.”

Xiaomi has been the top seller in its home market of China and recently entered India, where it sells phones exclusively through e-commerce site Flipkart.

Vice President Hugo Barra told Reuters in Bangalore last month that the company aimed to sell 100,000 phones a week in India in October when the country celebrates Diwali.

 

 

Charles Schwab To Offer Free Investment Planning Offered By ‘Rob o-adviser’

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Charles Schwab Corp has confirmed that it will begin offering free automated investment plans picked by computer algorithms in the first quarter of 2015.

The program, which will be marketed as Schwab Intelligent Portfolios to retail investors and independent investment advisers, will create portfolios of exchange-traded funds managed by Schwab and other providers.

In offering the service without management, transaction or account service fees, Schwab intends to be “disruptive” to competitors that have rapidly been introducing “rob o-adviser” platforms that charge fees of about 0.25 percent of money invested, Schwab officials said in a conference call with analysts and investors.

Reuters reported Schwab’s plan to introduce a free rob o-program on Oct. 3.

Schwab said it can make money through fees from managing and servicing underlying ETFs and from investing client cash in the portfolios. While the portfolios could draw investors who use conventional Schwab accounts or hire advisers who trade through Schwab, the company is not afraid of “cannibalizing” its own revenue, executives said.

The service will appeal primarily to Schwab’s traditional self-directed investors who do not want to use its fee-based advice programs, Chief Executive Walt Bettinger said.

He would not name specific competitors Schwab expects to undermine, but said they range from independent firms that offer only automated programs, to “wire houses,” a reference to large full-service firms such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG’s U.S. brokerage unit.

“This has the potential to create impact across the entire market,” Bettinger said.

 

 

Western Digital Goes Purple

October 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

WD announced that it will begin shipping larger capacity drives in its surveillance series.

The WD Purple range, launched in February, will now include a 6TB version designed for use in video surveillance environments.

WD Purple drives are capable of recording in groups of eight hard drives, monitoring a total of 32 high-definition camera feeds.

“Video surveillance has long been a pioneering Internet of Things application,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager of WD’s Storage Technology group.

“Driven by machine-to-machine interaction between high-resolution, high bit-rate video cameras and high-capacity surveillance video recorders, IoT brings access and big data analytics to improve users’ security. WD Purple 6TB drives enable innovation in this fast growing market.”

As well as the storage credentials, the firmware of the drives contains a few surprises. Allframe reduces video frame loss, improves playback and increases the number of drives supported. This is coupled with regular firmware updates that improve the quality and reliability of the playback.

Intelliseek analyses its environment to optimise searching speeds for the temperature, system resource workload and power consumption in a given situation, while reducing noise and vibration.

The 6TB version is shipping now at $300. It joins the existing range with capacities from 1TB to 5TB.

WD has had a busy year across its consumer and enterprise ranges, releasing the WD Red and WD Red Pro, the WD Ae range for cold storage, featuring incremental disc sizes, and most recently its first wireless addition to the decade-old My Passport range for consumers.

Courtesy-TheInq

Amazon Acquires Rooftop Media, Expands Digital Content

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is set to acquire online comedy service Rooftop Media, a small deal that underscores the Internet retailer’s broader ambition of becoming a media and entertainment powerhouse.

Amazon is persisting in buying content to round out its service, with designs to take on Netflix Inc and other online digital media services. But that increasing spending has helped keep the company in the red, inviting criticism from investors.

Audible, the audiobooks service it bought in 2008 for $300 million, is picking up the 10-person company for an undisclosed sum. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.

Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple Inc and Yahoo, and it also works with streaming services such as Sirius XM,  Spotify and Pandora.

Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.

Amazon is expected to continue acquiring digital content at a rapid clip. In past years, it began investing heavily to branch out from its online retail roots, delving into Hollywood-style content production as well as developing a line of tablets, smartphones and set-top boxes to accelerate the sale of digital content.

 

 

Samsung Re-thinking The LED Lighting Business

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  said that it will discontinue its light emitting diode (LED) lighting business outside of South Korea, scaling back what was identified as a key growth business just four years ago.

The pullback comes on the heels of Dutch rival Philips recent decision to spin off its century-old lighting business. Price wars have slashed profitability to levels deemed too unattractive in the long run, despite an LED boom that has upended the global incandescent lighting industry.

Analysts say Samsung Electronics’ retreat reflects the growing competition from Chinese manufacturers even as demand for LED lighting remains strong. LED lamps last 10 times longer than fluorescent bulbs and 100 times longer than traditional incandescent tungsten filament bulbs.

“It appears that Samsung decided to fold the business because price competition was so fierce and there was not a lot of room for growth going forward,” said Seoul-based IM Investment analyst Lee Min-hee.

Philips said in September that it will spin off its lighting business to expand its higher-margin healthcare and consumer divisions. Two month earlier, Germany’s Osram Licht AG, which also makes LED lights, announced a cost-cutting plan that included nearly 8,000 job cuts.

A spokeswoman at Samsung Electronics said revenue contribution from the business was small but did not comment on specifics, including how much Samsung had invested.

“We will remain active in the LED industry through our LED component business,” Samsung Electronics said in an emailed statement, adding that it will focus on areas such as backlighting for displays of consumer products like televisions.

 

Microsoft’s Surface Finally Turns A Profit

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years and nearly $2 billion in losses, Microsoft’s Surface finally became profitable in the September quarter.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Microsoft recorded $908 million in revenue for the Surface tablet line, an increase of 127% over the same quarter in 2013. The nearly one billion in revenue was a one-quarter record for the Surface, and beat the combined revenue of the previous two quarters.

Using information in Microsoft’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as data from earlier quarters, Computerworld calculated the quarter’s cost of that revenue at $786 million, leaving a gross margin of $122 million. Cost of revenue is the cost to make and sell a product, but excludes expenses such as advertising and R&D.

Microsoft said that the Surface line posted a positive gross margin — implying that outside estimates of prior losses were correct — but did not disclose a dollar figure.

According to Computerworld‘s estimate, the margin was small, about 13.4%. That’s more than the average for a Windows personal computer, but less than half or a third of the margins on tablets like Apple’s iPad.

It was even smaller by the figuring of Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, who has also used Microsoft’s SEC filings to estimate the Surface’s cost of revenue. He pegged the September quarter’s cost of revenue at $825 million, the gross margin at $83 million, and the margin rate at just 9.1%.

“That’s a gross margin … which is not earth-shattering and in fact about half the gross margin of the phone business at Microsoft. But it’s progress,” Dawson wrote on his blog, where he published his analysis of Surface’s financial performance.

Since its October 2012 introduction, Surface has been a money pit for Microsoft, in the hole to the tune of $1.73 billion through its first seven quarters. With the September quarter in the black, those overall losses have been reduced to about $1.6 billion.

Over the last four quarters, Surface also remained in the red, with losses of $325 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Put another way, for each dollar Microsoft earned on Surface sales, it lost about 12 cents.

 

 

CVS and Rite Aid Stores Block Apple Pay

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Drug retailers CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp have disabled Apple Inc’s  new electronic payments service Apple Pay from their stores over the weekend,according to the New York Times.

Apple Pay, which debuted in September, is a mobile payment app that allows consumers to buy things by simply holding their iPhone6 and 6 Plus devices up to readers installed by store merchants.

A Rite Aid spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company does not currently accept Apple Pay. The company is “still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.”

Rite Aid and CVS are not part of the group of retailers that had teamed up with Apple on its payment system. However, Apple Pay technology was working in Rite Aid and CVS stores over the week, the newspaper said.

The reason for the disabling was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.

According to analysts, disabling the acceptance of Apple Pay is a way to support a rival system that is being developed by Merchants Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of merchants that includes Rite Aid and CVS, the NYT reported.

MCX is developing CurrentC, an app that scans the bar code of the product and initiates the payment transfer by connecting to the customer’s debit card, according to MCX’s website. CurrentC will not be available until 2015.

Apple, Rite Aid and CVS could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

FCC Delays Low-frequency Airwaves Auction Until 2016

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission expects a major auction of low-frequency airwaves to be delayed until early 2016 from mid-2015 because of its complexity and a pending court challenge, an FCC official said in a recent blog post.

The FCC is working on rules for the so-called incentive auction, in which wireless carriers would get the first opportunity since 2008 to purchase airwaves that are considered the “beach-front property” of radio spectrum for their reach and strength.

The auction is regarded as the FCC’s most complex undertaking to date, balancing numerous economic, engineering and political considerations, including the need to woo broadcasters to give up the airwaves in the first place.

The delay gives the FCC more time to sway TV station owners to participate and T-Mobile US Inc to argue for bidding restrictions on larger rivals AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

The National Association of Broadcasters, concerned about the potential impact on TV stations, has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review elements of the FCC’s planned auction process.

The court has pushed back the deadline on final briefs in the case until late January 2015.

“We are confident we will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, we now anticipate accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016,” Gary Epstein, who chairs the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, wrote in the blog post.

The NAB rejected the notion that its lawsuit was the cause of the delay.

“We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

 

Pandora’s Listeners Decline

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Pandora Media Inc, owners of the leading Internet radio service, reported a lower-than-expected increase in listeners in the third quarter, sending the company’s shares down 6 percent in extended trading on Thursday.

Pandora said it had 76.5 million active listeners as of Sept. 30, an increase of 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected 76.7 million, according to market research firm StreetAccount.

Total listener hours rose to 4.99 billion from 3.99 billion, but again fell short of the average estimate of 5.02 billion.

Pandora’s profit and revenue both beat market expectations, however, as more people listened to streamed music on their mobile phones.

Mobile revenue increased 52 percent to $188 million, while local advertising revenue rose 118 percent to $41.8 million.

Despite its huge user base, Pandora faces stiff competition from Spotify, Apple Inc’s Beats online streaming service, Google Inc, and Amazon.com Inc in the fast-growing music streaming business.

 

 

Mobile Phone Growth In U.S. Continues To Slow Down

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The overall mobile phone market in the U.S. will fall off this year by 1% even as many emerging countries around the world see robust growth.

After several years of accelerated growth, the U.S. market is feeling the effects of market saturation and smartphone ownership that’s lasting longer than once expected, Ramon Llamas, an analyst IDC, said in an updated forecast.

IDC’s five-year forecast issued for October significantly undercuts its April forecast, dropping expectations for U.S. smartphone and feature phone shipments by manufacturers to retailers. IDC now expects 1.7 million fewer phones shipped in 2104 than it had expected in April; it predicts 174 million phones will ship this year, with that figure declining gradually to 169 million in 2018.

Smartphone shipments alone will grow just slightly through 2018 in the U.S., but about 5% less than earlier expected, rising from 150 million in 2014 to 160.5 million in 2018. Feature phones shipments have dropped off faster than earlier expected.

Llamas said the signs of decline started in late 2011, prompting carriers in the past year to try to get customers to replace phones more often with easy trade-in plans and relaxed contracts.

It’s too soon to say what effect the early trade-in plans will have on the market, Llamas said. The life of an average smartphone still lasts about two years, but that could be changing.

Paying on installment plans “could really change the market,” Llamas said in an interview. “But if people pay off their devices and then realize they don’t have to pay the carrier as much [at the end of the payoff period] and only pay for wireless service, they might just hold onto their phones. I think people will hold onto their phones as long as they can after they are paid off. If this plays out and they hold on and don’t update, we’ll see flattening of sales volumes year after year, or even declines, all in the name of saving money.”

Realizing what’s happening in the U.S. and among other major economies, both Apple and Samsung have concentrated heavily on selling their new smartphones in China and other areas where smartphone sales are still strong.

 

 

Yahoo To Lay Out Cost-cutting Efforts

October 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc is expected today  to reveal cost-cutting efforts and give details of how it is evaluating possible acquisitions as it faces mounting pressure from an activist investor, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person who was briefed on the plan.

Yahoo is considering purchasing one or more large technology startups with some of the $5.8 billion it made from the initial public offering of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the newspaper said.

Representatives at Yahoo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Last month, activist investor Starboard Value LP publicly pressured Yahoo to cut what it referred to as a “bloated” cost structure.

Starboard, the second activist investor to target Yahoo in the last three years, also said the company should quickly “monetize” its Asian assets, which exceed the enterprise value of its actual business.

Earlier this month, Yahoo said it is reducing the size of its operations in Bangalore, India, the Internet company’s largest engineering facility outside its California headquarters. It is also closing its office in Jordan.

Yahoo is “streamlining” its operations in foreign offices, which might involve a combination of closing offices, cutting jobs and moving workers to its Sunnyvale, California, headquarters, the Journal said.

 

 

Amazon Expands Grocery Delivery Service

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is add more territory to its online grocery delivery program to Brooklyn’s well-heeled Park Slope neighborhood, giving the No. 1 U.S. online retailer a foothold in one of the wealthiest and densest markets in the United States.

The AmazonFresh program, which offers same-day or next-day delivery on more than 500,000 items including fresh and frozen groceries, will soon expand to other areas in Brooklyn.

The move is part of Amazon’s slow build-out of its “Fresh” program, targeting one of the largest retail sectors yet to be upended by online commerce. Amazon declined to say if it will expand to Manhattan or other parts of the New York metro area.

“Currently, we are offering AmazonFresh in Brooklyn and will continue being thoughtful and methodical in our expansion,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Groceries have proven to be one of the toughest sectors for technology companies to manage, and Amazon faces competition from established companies like FreshDirect as well as fast-growing startups like Instacart.

But a successful foray in Park Slope could help Amazon cement customer loyalty and boost sales, especially among wealthy and middle-class families, analysts have said.

The top 10 to 20 percent of wealthiest Americans spend between 3 and 4 times more on food than the average American family, according to Bill Bishop, chief architect at Brick Meets Click, a consulting firm focused on retail technology.

“They are the sweetest of shoppers so anybody who attracts that business is taking the cream of the market,” Bishop said.

Amazon could also use its Fresh program to experiment with its own delivery service, analysts have said.

 

 

 

FCC To Explore Next-Generation Wireless Networks

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, on Friday, stated that U.S. regulators will look “to infinity and beyond” to harness new technology that can help build a new generation of mobile wireless connections.

The FCC on Friday voted unanimously to open a so-called “notice of inquiry” into what it and the industry can do to turn a new swath of very high-frequency airwaves, previously deemed unusable for mobile networks, into mobile-friendly frequencies.

The FCC’s examination would serve as a regulatory backdrop for research into the next generation of wireless technology, sometimes referred to as 5G and which may allow wireless connections to carry a thousand times more traffic.

“Today we’re stepping in front of the power curve,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Friday at the meeting.

In question are frequencies above 24 gigahertz (GHz), sometimes called millimeter waves, that have previously been deemed technically unweildy for mobile connections, though have the potential to carry large amounts of data and give the promise of lightning-fast speeds.

Millimeter waves work best over short distances and have required a direct line-of-sight connection to a receiver. They are now largely used for point-to-point microwave connections.

The FCC said it will study what technologies could help get around the technological and practical obstacles and what kind of regulatory regime could help a variety of technologies to flourish on those airwaves, including the potential for services other than mobile.

The U.S. wireless industry continues to work on deploying the 4G connections, though some equipment manufacturers, such as Samsung are already testing data transmission on the higher frequencies.

 

 

Tablet Sales Growth Dropped Drastically

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The news about tablet sales isn’t good.

Gartner and IDC both recently dramatically lowered their tablet shipment and sales estimates for 2014 and coming years, citing primarily the longer-than-expected time customers keep their existing tablets. (That phenomenon is called the “refresh rate.”)

Gartner said it had originally expected 13% tablet sales growth for the year globally; it has now lowered that growth rate to 11%. IDC’s forecast change was even more dire: In June, it predicted shipment growth this year would be 12.1%, but in September it cut that number to 6.5%.

In the U.S., things are worse, because more than half of households have a tablet and may hold onto it for more than three years, well beyond analysts’ earlier expectations.

IDC said in its latest update that tablet growth in the U.S. this year will be just 1.5%, and will slow to 0.4% in 2015. After that, it expects negative growth through 2018. Adding in 2-in-1 devices, such as a Surface Pro with a keyboard, the situation in the U.S. improves, although overall growth for both tablets and 2-in-1′s will still only reach 3.8% in 2014, and just 0.4% by 2018, IDC said.

“Tablet penetration is high in the U.S. — over half of all households have at least one — which leads to slow growth…,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview. “A smartphone is a must-have item, but a tablet is not. You can do the same things on a laptop as you do with a tablet, and these are all inter-related.”

Tablets are a “nice-to-have and not a must-have, because phones and PCs are enough to get by,” added Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.

In a recent Kantar survey of 20,000 potential tablet buyers, only 13% said they definitely or probably would buy a tablet in the next year, while 54% said they would not, Milanesi said. Of those planning not to buy a tablet, 72% said they were happy with their current PC.

At IDC, analyst Tom Mainelli reported that the first half of 2014 saw tablet growth slow to 5.8% (from a growth rate of 88% in the first half of 2013). Mainelli said the meteoric pace of past years has slowed dramatically due to long device refresh cycles and pressure from sales of large phones, including the new iPhone 6 Plus. That phone has a 5.5-in. display, which is close to some smaller tablets with 7-in. displays.