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Bitcoin Hits Yet Another Record In Value

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Digital currency bitcoin blew past yet another record high this week, surging above $2,400, as demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, is a financial ledger maintained by a network of computers that can track the movement of any asset without the need for a central regulator.

Bitcoin hit a record of $2,409 BTC=BTSP on the BitStamp platform and was last up 4.3 percent at $2,363. So far this year, the price of bitcoin has more than doubled.

A key reason for bitcoin’s dominance in the nefarious online underworld, say technologists and cybercrime experts, is its size – the total value of all bitcoins in circulation is more than twice that of the nearest of hundreds of rivals.

Also, a big part of bitcoin’s recent surge is the increase in demand for other digital currencies being sold in so-called “initial coin offerings”, or ICOs. Under ICOs, blockchain start-ups sell their tokens directly to the public to raise capital without any regulatory oversight.

“Bitcoin up 100 percent in under 2 months. Shanghai down almost 10 percent same timeframe, compared to most global stocks up. Probably not a coincidence!”, Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive at DoubleLine Capital tweeted on Tuesday.

Strong demand for bitcoins in Japan has also fueled the rise of the virtual currency that can be moved like money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority.

Lenovo Return To Profit, Despite Losses In Mobile Business

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, the world’s largest personal computer (PC) manufacturer, has returned to profitability, but said rising component prices may put pressure on its bottom line this year as supply shortages extend to batteries.

Profit reached $535 million in the year to March on revenue that fell 4 percent, just missing analyst estimates. The news sent Lenovo shares up as much as 6 percent in Hong Kong trade.

The result comes as Lenovo navigates a PC market that has shrunk markedly since the advent of tablet computers. According to researcher Gartner, global PC shipments fell for the 10th consecutive quarter in January-March, dipping below 63 million units for the first time since 2007.

Lenovo’s annual shipments fell 1 percent versus a market decline of 3 percent, with its share rising 0.4 percentage point to a record 21.4 percent. Revenue in its PC and smart devices unit – which makes up 70 percent of the total – fell 2 percent.

The company blamed the declines on transition in its smartphone and data center businesses, as well as on a difficult macro environment and component supply constraints.

Memory shortage is likely to continue this year, particularly solid-state drives (SSD), pushing up parts costs, said Corporate President and Chief Executive Officer Gianfranco Lanci at an earnings briefing.

“We are starting to see shortage in batteries,” Lanci added. “That is mainly because of cars consuming many more batteries than before.”

Lanci said it could take a year for battery suppliers to catch up with demand and for prices to normalize, having risen by a single digit percent so far this year.

Lenovo’s mobile business, which accounts for 18 percent of revenue, booked a loss which widened somewhat to $566 million, though the firm said it was enjoying strong growth in Latin America and Western Europe.

Apple And Nokia Resolve Patent Dispute, Sees Future Collaboration

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has resolved a patent fight with Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and agreed to purchase more of its network products and services.

The deal means Nokia will get bigger royalties from Apple for using its mobile phone patents, helping offset the impact of waning demand for its mobile network hardware.

Such legal battles are common in the industry but can drag on for years and analysts had not been expecting such a quick resolution to the dispute that started in December.

Under the deal announced in a joint statement from the companies on Tuesday, Nokia will also supply network infrastructure products to Apple, and Apple will resume sales of Nokia’s digital health products in retail and online stores and look at further collaboration in health.

Digital health is one of the areas Nokia is targeting as it tries to develop new businesses to offset the industry-wide slump in demand for network equipment. Last year, Nokia bought France’s Withings S.A., a small firm with products such as activity trackers and baby monitors built on digital platforms.

“There could emerge big future value from this as Apple could become an important distribution channel,” said Handelsbanken analyst Daniel Djurberg, who has an “accumulate” recommendation for Nokia shares.

“I have not given any value so far for Nokia’s digital health business, but might apply an option value to it.”

Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri told the company’s annual general meeting later on Tuesday that the deal would help expand network sales beyond telecom operators to global internet and technology giants.

“(The deal) involves a business collaboration … in particular in areas of IP and optical equipment, which is quite key to webscale players when they build their data centers,” he said. “It’s a good deal, a multi-year licensing deal, and I love it that it has an industrial deal and aspect to it.”

Under the patent license agreement, Nokia will receive a “significant” upfront cash payment and additional revenues from Apple starting from the current quarter. The companies did not give further details but analysts said the revenue was likely to be far higher than a previous deal.

Inge Heydorn, fund manager at Sentat Asset Management, said it was a smart move to collaborate on digital health products.

“It’s interesting for Nokia in a five- to 10-year perspective since I think it will be hard to be profitable within mobile infrastructure,” said Heydorn, whose firm does not hold any shares in Nokia.

Microsoft To Acquire Cyber Security Firm Hexadite

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has made a deal to purchase cyber security firm Hexadite for $100 million, according to Israeli financial news website Calcalist.

Hexadite, headquartered in Boston with its research and development center in Israel, provides technology to automate responses to cyber attacks that it says increases productivity and reduces costs for businesses.

Microsoft officials declined to comment. Officials at Hexadite could not immediately be reach for comment.

Investors in Hexadite include Hewlett Packard Ventures, and venture capital firms TenEleven and YL Ventures.

Microsoft said in January it plans to continue to invest more than $1 billion annually on cyber security research and development in the coming years. Israel has already benefited from that investment.

India Woos Apple Expansion, Offers Tax Concessions

May 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

India has proposed letting Apple Inc import mobile handset components intended for use in local manufacturing tax free, a top government official said.

The tax concessions will be subject to the condition of increasing local value addition over a period of time.

Apple Inc wants to expand its contract manufacturer’s facility in the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, a federal minister said , as the iPhone maker seeks a bigger share in one of the world’s biggest smartphone markets.

Cupertino, California-based Apple last week started making iPhone SE at its Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron’s plant in Bengaluru..

Apple, which sold over 50 million iPhones in the March quarter, down 1 percent year-on-year, is looking for new markets as its sales in China have weakened.

Among a set of tax concessions, Apple had initially sought a 15-years tax holiday for all components that it would import for setting up a manufacturing facility in India.

A panel of ministries rejected that demand and has offered a phased program to increase the share of local production in the manufacturing, Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and IT said.

“We have offered them tax exemptions on those components which could not be manufactured in India,” Sundararajan told Reuters, adding that local manufacturing component would have to be increased gradually.

Apple has agreed to increase local share in production over a period of time, but there was a difference between the plans of the two sides, she said.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

India wants Apple to raise value addition share in phases of 3,5,7 and 10 years as the local capacity builds up, part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans to boost manufacturing.

Industry estimates the phased manufacturing program could increase local value addition in mobile phones manufacturing to 40-50 percent in the next three years.

Earlier, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the federal minister for Electronics and IT said government officials were in touch with Apple and other mobile phone manufacturers about expanding facilities and setting up new plants.

“It will be a little early to say that India and Apple have agreed on the common ground,” said the official, adding India was ready to work out a roadmap to encourage manufacturing.

Industry estimates total value of mobile phones produced in India touched near 900 billion Indian rupees ($13.90 billion) compared with 540 billion rupees in the previous year.

“We are waiting for Apple to come back,” said Sundararajan.

Samsung On The Hunt For Acquisitions

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to continue their hunt for acquisition opportunities, a company executive said on Monday, as the firm seeks to build software and services to further differentiate its products.

“We are going to be bullish on finding companies that fit our strategy,” Peter Koo, a senior vice president for Samsung’s mobile division, said during an investor event in Hong Kong. He did not elaborate on specific targets or technologies that Samsung is looking to acquire.

The world’s top maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions has grown more aggressive in acquiring companies in recent years, breaking from its past preference to rely on its own talent and use its cash for capital expenditures amid intensifying competition from the likes of Apple Inc and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

In addition to buying firms such as Viv Labs and LoopPay, deals that bolstered Samsung’s existing efforts for artificial intelligence and mobile payments services, Samsung is also spending money to break into new businesses.

The firm completed an $8 billion acquisition of Harman International Industries early this year, its biggest ever deal, in an attempt to speed up its entry into the automotive components industry and develop a new growth engine.

Koo said Samsung’s aim with software and services is to primarily make its products more attractive to consumers, and that the firm will look for partnerships as well as acquisitions to bolster its offerings.

Angry Birds Movie To Get A Sequel, Says Rovio Entertainment

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Finnish mobile games and animation studio Rovio Entertainment approved plans to proceed with a sequel to its Angry Birds movie, it said on Monday, aiming for release in September 2019.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 will be produced with Columbia Pictures and distributed by Sony Pictures, Rovio said.

The first Angry Birds movie, released last year, earned about $350 million at the box office and gave a boost to Rovio’s game sales, helping the company to swing to an annual profit after years of falling earnings, job cuts and divestments.

Rovio said the new movie will be directed by Thurop Van Orman, the creator of animated TV series “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack”.

The original Angry Birds game — in which smartphone players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs — became a phenomenon in 2009, but the franchise faltered in the following years amid tough competition.

Alongside the movie plan, Rovio is looking to reduce its dependence on Angry Birds — earlier this month it launched “Battle Bay”, the firm’s first multiplayer game which does not carry the Angry Birds name.

Ford To Use Over-the-air Updates For Vehicle Software

May 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co announced that it would enter into the growing arena of “over-the-air” software updates, adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to its Sync 3-equipped 2016 vehicles for the first time via a wireless software update.

The latest upgrade to Sync 3, Ford’s interactive touch-screen system, will be accomplished through an over-the-air (OTA) update using Wi-Fi, not unlike how new software gets uploaded to smartphones by manufacturers.

After Tesla Inc’s early lead in 2015 introducing OTAs, traditional automakers are slowly beginning to embrace the new technology, within limits. Concerns about security and resistance from dealers worried about losing service revenue have hampered its adoption.

Thus far, established automakers have not used OTAs for safety systems, only for non-critical systems like infotainment.

Customers can also get the update via the traditional means of visiting their dealer or using a USB drive, Ford said.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are operating systems from Alphabet’s Google and Apple Inc that allow drivers to connect their smartphones to their vehicles’ dashboard.

Ford’s first use of OTAs comes about two months after it said it would hire 400 engineers to work on connectivity, mostly from Blackberry Ltd’s shuttered phone handset business. Blackberry QNX powers Ford’s Sync 3 system.

Besides being more convenient for customers, OTAs can bring automakers cost savings, as a substantial percentage of warranty repair issues and recalls can be corrected through OTAs.

 

Cisco Slashing More Jobs As Revenue Continues To Fall

May 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco Systems Inc forecast current-quarter revenue that widely missed analysts’ estimates and said it plans on slashing 1,100 more jobs, as the world’s largest networking gear maker ramps up efforts to transform into a software-centric company.

Cisco, which announced in August that it would eliminate 5,500 jobs, said the new cuts would result in $150 million in additional pretax charges.

The company said on Wednesday it expected revenue for its fourth quarter to fall between 4-6 percent from a year earlier, implying a range of $11.88 billion-$12.13 billion.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $12.51 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Cisco said orders in its public sector business, which includes sales to federal, state and local governments, fell 4 percent in the third quarter ended April 29.

“It’s a pretty significant stall right now with the lack of budget visibility,” Chief Executive Chuck Robbins said on an earnings call.

Democrats and Republicans agreed earlier this month to provide around $1 trillion to keep the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

However, divisions between the parties are likely to flare up again when the White House unveils President Donald Trump’s first full budget for the 2018 fiscal year on Tuesday.

“So, you’ve got some pretty large pieces of (the) business under duress,” Needham & Co analyst Alex Henderson said.

“Some of it is probably around the lack of a budget agreement on extending the debt limits until fairly late in the quarter, some of it could be related to timing of programs – it’s hard to pin that down.”

Demand for Cisco’s routers remained weak in the latest quarter, contributing to the company’s sixth straight decline in revenue.

Revenue in its closely-watched security business, which offers firewall protection and breach detection systems, rose 9 percent to $527 million, but missed analysts’ estimate of $545.5 million, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet Street Account.

The security business is set to benefit from a likely jump in spending by companies and governments following the recent global “ransomware” attack, according to some analysts.

Cisco, like other legacy technology players, is shifting its focus to high-growth areas such as security, the Internet of Things and cloud computing, amid intense competition from companies such as Huawei and Juniper Networks Inc.

The company said it expected an adjusted profit of 60 cents-62 cents per share for the current quarter. Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 62 cents.

The company’s net income rose to $2.52 billion, or 50 cents per share, in the third quarter ended April 29 from $2.35 billion, or 46 cents per share, a year earlier.

EU Slaps Big Fine On Facebook Over WhatsApp Purchase

May 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

European Union antitrust regulators levied a fine of 110 million euros ($122 million) against Facebook on Thursday for providing misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

Calling it a “proportionate and deterrent fine”, the European Commission, which acts as the EU’s competition watchdog, said Facebook had said it could not automatically match user accounts on its namesake platform and WhatsApp but two years later launched a service that did exactly that.

“The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook’s statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users’ identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility,” the Commission said.

Facebook said in a statement the errors made in its 2014 filings were not intentional and that the Commission had confirmed they had not affected the outcome of the merger review.

“Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close,” Facebook said.

The fine would not reverse the Commission’s decision to clear the purchase of WhatsApp and was unrelated to separate investigations into data protection issues, it added.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Facebook was set to be fined.

The Commission could have fined Facebook up to 1 percent of its turnover – which would have been $276 million based on 2016 results – but said that Facebook had cooperated with the proceedings and acknowledged its infringement.

The EU sanction comes after Facebook received a separate 150,000-euro fine on Tuesday by a French data watchdog for failing to prevent its users’ data being accessed by advertisers.

Last week the Italian antitrust authorities levied a 3 million-euro fine on WhatsApp for allegedly obliging users to agree to share their personal data with Facebook.

Western Digital Files Legal Challenge To Block Sale of Toshiba’s Chip Unit

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Western Digital Corp has sought international arbitration to halt its partner Toshiba Corp from selling its chips division without its consent, potentially derailing a much-needed capital injection for the Japanese conglomerate.

The two companies jointly operate Toshiba’s main semiconductor plant but Western Digital is not a favored bidder for the world’s second biggest NAND chip producer, having put in a much lower offer than other suitors, a source with knowledge of the matter has said.

A legal battle could delay or put an end to an auction that could fetch some $18 billion and has attracted suitors such as private equity firm KKR & Co LP, Taiwan’s Foxconn and U.S. chipmaker Broadcom.

Toshiba is depending on the sale to cover billions in dollars in cost overruns at its now bankrupt U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse. The Japanese firm logged a 950 billion yen ($8.4 billion) annual net loss and had negative shareholder equity of 540 billion yen, it said in an unaudited earnings release on Monday.

After months of souring relations, Western Digital has begun arbitration procedures with the International Chamber of Commerce, demanding Toshiba reverse a move to put their joint venture assets into a newly formed unit – Toshiba Memory – and stop any sale without Western Digital’ s consent.

Western Digital’s “efforts to achieve a resolution to date have been unsuccessful, and so we believe legal action is now a necessary next step,” CEO Steve Milligan said in a statement.

Toshiba CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa told a news conference the complaint was groundless and that Toshiba would push on with the sale, sticking to its plan to complete the second round of bidding on Friday.

“We will make efforts to convince bidders of the legitimacy of the chip-unit sale and wipe away their concerns,” he said.

Toshiba argues neither party can block a change of control by the other partner. It says Western Digital itself acquired the joint venture interest when it bought current unit SanDisk, and never sought or received Toshiba’s approval.

But Western Digital counters that the contract only allows Toshiba not to seek approval if the Japanese company is acquired by a third party.

Google Acquires Virtual Game Studio Owlchemy Labs

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Google has purchased Owlchemy Labs, the VR game studio that behind such game titles as Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality.

The Austin, Texas-based game studio revealed the acquisition in a blog post Wednesday, saying it will continue to build content for the HTC Vive, Oculus Touch, and PlayStation VR after joining Google.

“We are continuing to do all of this with even more support and focus on building awesome stuff,” Owlechemy wrote. “It’s incredibly exciting that Google and Owlchemy are so well aligned on our goals and vision for the future of VR.”

Google confirmed the acquisition in a blog post that praised the company for producing “really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive, and feel natural.”

The acquisition underscores the tech community’s commitment to virtual reality, which promises to transport goggle-wearing users to a computer-generated 3D environment. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is said to be investing big money on content for the platform, much of it going toward development of video games and apps, licensing sports leagues and shooting 360-degree videos.

Google’s latest entry in the market is Daydream, a hardware and software platform unveiled late last year that runs off Google’s Android mobile operating system and helps any Android phone manufacturer create a VR headset themselves.

Terms of the acquisition of Owlchemy Labs weren’t revealed.

Snapchat Reports Slowing User Growth

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc shares took a deep dive after the owner of Snapchat reported slowing user growth and revenue in its first earnings report as a public company, missing some Wall Street estimates as it competes with copycat messaging apps.

Shares tumbled 23 percent in after-hours trading to wipe some $6 billion from Snap’s market value, a reversal for the company after a red-hot March initial public offering that was the biggest for a U.S. tech company since Facebook Inc’s 2012 debut.

The stock fell to $17.66, just above its IPO price of $17.

Some investors were hoping Snap would surprise them with big numbers in its first quarterly report, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said.

“The fact that they failed to live up to expectations, let alone exceed them, disappointed people,” he said.

The performance echoed slides in Facebook and Twitter after they posted debut scorecards following their IPOs. Twitter shares cratered 24 percent the next day, while Facebook’s tumbled 11 percent, still the biggest-ever one-day losses for both.

Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel sought to reassure investors during an earnings call, fielding a dozen questions that ranged from strategy to how it would deal with competitors.

He also did not shy away from one query that allowed him to take a feisty jab at Facebook.

“If you want to be a creative company, you’ve got to get comfortable with and enjoy the fact that people are going to copy your product if you make great stuff,” he said.

Making a comparison to the search industry, Spiegel added: “Just because Yahoo has a search box doesn’t mean they’re Google.”

Snap said its daily active users (DAUs) rose 36.1 percent to 166 million in the first quarter from a year earlier, marking a slowdown from the 47.7 percent rise for the fourth quarter and 62.8 percent jump for the third quarter that the company reported in its IPO filing.

The slowing rate of growth was in line with an estimate from JPMorgan, which accurately expected 166 million DAUs for the first quarter. Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co Inc had pegged them even higher at 173 million.

Snap’s March IPO priced above the company’s target range as investors put aside concerns about a lack of profits and voting rights to get a piece of the action. The IPO raised $3.4 billion and gave the company a market valuation of roughly $24 billion, and shares surged 44 percent in their first day of trading.

Verizon Wireless Tops AT&T Bid To Acquire Straight Path Communications

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier, will acquire wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications Inc for an enterprise value of about $3.1 billion, ending a bidding war with rival AT&T.

The $184 per share all-stock offer represents a discount of 17.8 percent to Straight Path’s close on Wednesday and has an equity value of $2.3 billion.

The stock surged nearly five-fold since April 7, a day before the company first received a $95.63 per share takeover bid from AT&T Inc.

Straight Path’s shares, which had jumped 39 percent since Verizon made its final bid on Monday, plunged 20 percent to $178 on Thursday, indicating some investors were disappointed with the deal.

Straight Path, which holds a large trove of 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave spectrum used in mobile communications, will give Verizon an advantage in fifth-generation (5G) network development.

5G networks are expected to offer faster downloads and boost internet-reliant products such as self-driving cars.

Straight Path had said on Monday an unnamed telecommunications company had raised its offer to buy the company. Reuters reported, citing sources, that the unnamed bidder was Verizon.

Verizon’s bid tops AT&T’s offer of $95.63 per share, or $1.25 billion, which was announced last month.

Straight Path, which earlier agreed to be bought by AT&T, said it would terminate the previously announced deal.

Verizon will pay, on behalf of Straight Path, a termination fee of $38 million to AT&T.

Evercore was financial adviser to Straight Path and Weil, Gotshal & Manges served as company counsel on the deal.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP served as counsel to Verizon.

Apple Acquires Sleep Tracking App Company Beddit

May 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has purchased a sleep tracking app and hardware maker Beddit, the Finnish startup announced,via its website.

The terms of the deal have not disclosed and neither of the companies were immediately available for a comment.

“Beddit has been acquired by Apple. Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy,” the company said.

Beddit manufactures a monitoring device which tracks heart rate, breathing and sleep time when placed on a bed.

The monitor, which sells for $149.95 in Apple’s online store, transfers the data to Beddit’s iPhone app for analysis.

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