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Yahoo To Spinoff Shares In Alibaba

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc plans to spin off its 15 percent stake in China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , caving to demands to hand over to shareholders its prized e-commerce investment valued at roughly $40 billion.

The move to spin off the Alibaba stake satisfies a persistent investor demand, but could also ratchet up pressure on Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer to make quicker progress in strengthening Yahoo’s struggling media and advertising business.

“It’s not going to be easy from now on,” said B. Riley and Co analyst Sameet Sinha. “She has to perform now. There’s nothing shielding her.”

Shareholders feel that Yahoo and its stake in Alibaba would be worth more separately, as long as the Alibaba shares are not subject to the standard 35 percent tax rate that would be incurred from selling the shares.

Yahoo is worth approximately $45 billion. That includes its Alibaba stake of nearly $40 billion, meaning the current Yahoo share price assigns little value to the core business. Some investors believe the email, website and other operations are worth between $7 billion and $8 billion.

Yahoo, which is trying to reverse a multi-year decline in revenue, has faced increasing investor pressure more than two years after Mayer took the reins to lead a comeback plan.

Yahoo said its board of directors has authorized a plan to spin off the stake, tax-free, into a newly formed independent registered investment company. The stock of the company will be distributed pro-rata to Yahoo shareholders and the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2015, Yahoo said.

The new entity will include Yahoo’s 384 million shares in Alibaba as well as an unspecified “legacy, ancillary” Yahoo business, the company said.

 

 

 

 

Dropbox Acquires Startup Pixelapse

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox, never one to shy away from an acquisition, has purchased startup Pixelapse, which provides a GitHub-like version control service for “tens of thousands” of visual designers. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“Our new development efforts will be focused on bringing the same kinds of collaboration and workflow experiences that you’re used to in Pixelapse over to the core Dropbox product,” said the company’s traditional “hey we’ve been acquired” blog post about the deal.

The way Pixelapse works is simple and familiar to anyone who’s used a version control service like GitHub before: Visual design project files get stored in a dedicated folder. Make a change to a project asset, and those changes get synced to the cloud, where they’re viewable from a cloud interface. There’s even an activity feed to see who worked on what within a team.

If you or anybody else (the client you’ve shared the project with, the boss in charge of the project, or just the rest of the project team) wants, they can go back and view the entire history, comparing revisions and rolling back changes if necessary. You can even show off the history of a project to the public with an embeddable code widget.

If that sounds a lot like Dropbox’s existing version control, just tailored to a very specific vertical — namely, designers — collect your prize at the door. From Dropbox’s perspective, this is a shrewd move that enhances the platform’s appeal with a project management feature that developers love but designers could never access. The startup’s origins stem from co-founder Min Ming Lo’s time as a design intern at Google, where nobody had any idea what assets belonged to whom or how to give feedback.

For existing users, never fear. Pixelapse promises on its website that the service is safe for at least another year and that it’s still accepting sign-ups, which is a good omen given that so many similar deals of this type see immediate service shutdown.

 

 

New Internet Browser Vivaldi Launches

January 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Well known software developer Jon von Tetzchner has launched a new internet browser, offering an interface for high-volume users who “have problems fitting all their open tabs on one screen”, he said in a Reuters interview.

Known as Vivaldi and available on desktop computers from Tuesday, the browser’s initial launch covers the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

“A mobile phone and a tablet version are in the pipeline. We are working on it, but they won’t be out until they’re ready,” said von Tetzchner, who owns 90 percent of the company’s shares and has paid for the development.

“At some point it will need to fund it self and to reach that point we will need a few million users. I have no doubt that we will reach that number quite easily,” he added.

With features like personalized notes, bookmarks with small screen shots and speed dials with options for multiple groups and folders, Vivaldi hopes to attract high-volume users.

Despite tough competition from the likes of Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Corp’s Firefox and Opera Software’s browser, von Tetzchner believes there is still room for more.

“We welcome everyone, but this is first of all a browser for people who expect and need more,” he said. “There is without a doubt a demand for this type of browser even though I don’t expect it to take more than a few percent of the total market.”

Vivaldi has signed a few affiliation deals ahead of the launch and is in talks with several potential partners for functionalities like search and online shopping.

“We have made several deals and have started a dialogue with others. But because some of these are potential competitors, we’ve wanted to go live with the browser first.”

Named after the 18th century composer Antonio Vivaldi, the name carries an inescapable reference to von Tetzchner’s previous role as co-founder and long-time head of browser and mobile phone technology firm Opera Software.

 

SAP Sees High Profit Potential In Cloud

January 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

European software giant SAP could eventually see its software delivered via the cloud deliver higher profit margins than its traditional packaged software, its finance chief told a newspaper.

“Such contracts become profitable over time. In the long term, they can definitely become more profitable than our classic license sales,” Luka Mucic told the Euro am Sonntag business weekly in an interview.

SAP said last week its push to deliver cloud-based products via the Internet – which allow customers to access powerful remote data centers for processing and storage – would dampen profitability until at least 2018.

Unlike the packaged software SAP has been selling for decades, for which clients pay a immediate license fee, cloud-based software is generally paid for by subscription over time, but most of the costs for the software provider are upfront.

Mucic said such contracts were loss-making for the first year of operation.

To strengthen its position in the fast-growing cloud market, SAP agreed in September to buy cloud-based travel and expenses software maker Concur for $7.3 billion in cash, its biggest takeover ever.

The company issued a triple-tranche, 2.75 billion-euro ($3.08 billion) bond in November to help finance the deal.

Mucic said SAP might add another, smaller tranche, perhaps as soon as the first half of this year, but said otherwise the company had no need for further capital.

“We are just examining whether this would be advantageous for us,” he said.

 

 

Rumors Say Samsung Is Quietly Seeking To Buy Blackberry

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

For a while, the rumor mill has manufactured hell on earth yarns claiming that Samsung is set to buy the Canadian smartphone maker Blackberry.

The deal always seems to fall through, and in any event has never happened.

However the Financial Post has found evidence that this time Samsung is actively pursuing a plan to take over or buy a significant stake in BlackBerry.

The story is still a rumour because both companies have denied such a plan may be in the works, but a document obtained by the Financial Post, prepared for Samsung by New York-based independent investment bank Evercore Partners, outlines the case for, and the potential structure of a possible purchase of BlackBerry.

The paper is a little elderly and was written in the last quarter of 2014, but a source familiar with the matter said that Samsung remains very interested in acquiring all or part of BlackBerry for the right price.

J.K. Shin, Samsung’s co-chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal that his company is in talks to use some of BlackBerry’s technology in the South Korean company’s devices, but is not interested in an acquisition. “We want to work with BlackBerry and develop this partnership, not acquire the company.”

But it appears that Samsung was caught off guard by a Reuters leak earlier this week. It had hoped it could move in quickly on BlackBerry, and the company’s share price would stay low. When the news went up and the share price rose its bid looked a little weak.

BlackBerry appears to have learned of the price Samsung was hoping to pay through the Reuters leak, before the company could make a formal offer. This is the sort of thing Samsung wanted to avoid.

In five years, BlackBerry thought the return on their turnaround strategy as implemented by John Chen was going to do better than the cash they will be receiving today.

Still, the source maintains that Samsung is still keen on making a deal happen. The talk earlier this week about Samsung extending its cooperation with BlackBerry, which was notably lacking in specifics, is “just setting it up,” the source said. “Samsung hasn’t walked away” from an acquisition. “They’re leaning towards it.”

Courtesy-Fud

Google, The Wireless Carrier?

January 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google has put in place the framework for its own cellular service by acquiring capacity on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, according to news reports.

The sprawling search company would sell the service directly to consumers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources. Tech news site The Information reported on the deals earlier this week.

Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.

The deals would make Google an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), a carrier that doesn’t build or operate its own network but sells services that run on the partners’ infrastructure. Sprint is the third-largest U.S. mobile carrier and T-Mobile is the fourth largest.

As a powerful and well-heeled newcomer, Google might disrupt the cellular industry, just as it has the wired broadband business with its Google Fiberservice. The U.S. mobile industry has been wracked by new business models and falling prices in recent years.

It’s not clear whether the company will launch a full-scale national effort or a more limited rollout. There are terms in Google’s contract with Sprint that would allow for renegotiation if Google draws a huge number of subscribers, the Journal said.

 

 

 

Samsung Dumped Qualcomm Processors In Next Galaxy S Phone

January 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will not use Qualcomm Inc’s  processors for the next version of the South Korean technology giant’s flagship Galaxy S smartphone, according to Bloomberg.

Such an outcome would be a blow for Qualcomm’s prospects for 2015, with the company already having guided for weaker-than-usual annual revenue growth in a five-year outlook issued in November. Samsung, the world’s No.1 smartphone maker, has been one of the U.S. company’s top customers.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 chip overheated during Samsung’s testing, Bloomberg reported. The South Korean company will use its own processors instead, Bloomberg said.

A Qualcomm spokesman declined to comment on the report. A Samsung spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumours.

Analysts have said the Snapdragon 810 chip has been dealing with a variety of performance issues that may not be corrected in time for the launch of Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone.

The South Korean firm is widely expected to unveil the device on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show in early March. Samsung will need to ensure that the phone does not disappoint in order to keep its global market share from slipping further, analysts said.

Samsung has already used its own Exynos processors in flagship devices such as the Galaxy S5 to some extent, though analysts said Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips were more widely used. Greater adoption of Exynos chips in Samsung smartphones would help boost sales for the struggling foundry business.

“Samsung will likely show off the new Galaxy S phone in about a month and a half, so one would have to assume that the chips have been tested a fair amount in order for them to be used,” said HMC Investment analyst Greg Roh.

 

 

IBM Seeking Cloud Expansion Through Acquisitions

January 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

IBM will favor purchases that strengthen its cloud services, the company’s CFO said Tuesday, as it seeks ways to expand its business after 11 straight quarters of declining revenue.

“Most of our acquisitions will probably be on an ‘as a service’ basis, as opposed to an on-premise model,” CFO Martin Schroeter said during IBM’s quarterly earnings call, in response to a question.

“That’s the nature of the market and where we have a lot of opportunity, because we don’t play in some of those areas today,” he said.

IBM could use the growth. On Tuesday it said revenue for the last quarter declined across all major segments — hardware, software and services. Profits were down as well, though they beat the forecast of financial analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

IBM sees cloud services as one of its best chances for growth, as sales of its more traditional products, including mainframes and Unix servers, continue to decline.

Two years ago it bought SoftLayer to help it compete with Amazon Web Services, and last year it bought Cloudant, which provides a database as a service, and Light House Security, another cloud provider. This year, it looks like more cloud deals will be in the works.

Meanwhile, CEO Ginni Rometty has been selling off businesses that produce little or no profit. In October, she announced a plan to sell IBM’s chip manufacturing business for US$1.3 billion to Global Foundries, and before that she sold its x86 server business to Lenovo.

So IBM’s revenue is shrinking in part by design, but it needs to expand its other, more profitable businesses to compensate for the losses. And that isn’t yet happening at a fast enough rate.

 

 

Alibaba Has Major Plans To Court U.S. Business In 2015

January 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd  is gearing up to capture U.S. business this year, by offering American retailers new ways to sell to China’s vast and growing middle class.

Anchored by Alipay, the dominant Chinese electronic payments system that works closely with Alibaba and is controlled by its executives, the world’s largest Internet retailer is using the calling card of China’s consumers to attract U.S. partners, two sources close to the company told Reuters.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

That considered strategy, outlined to Reuters for the first time by the sources and executives who work directly with the Chinese company, is intended to heighten awareness in the United States of what Alibaba does, gain goodwill in an important Western market, and lay the groundwork for a longer-term play.

At the heart of its push are Alibaba’s and Alipay’s trial deals to handle Chinese sales, payment and shipping for some of the biggest names in U.S. retail from Neiman Marcus Group to Saks Inc. Both confirmed the agreement but would not talk about how the pilots are faring.

 

The Chinese companies will also work with U.S. startup Shoprunner, an online mall for U.S. retailers in which it owns a stake, and retail services provider Borderfree Inc  to court Chinese consumers.

And Alibaba is preparing a marketing campaign to raise awareness among U.S. businesses of its global business-to-business wholesale platform, Alibaba.com, so they can buy and sell to and from global suppliers.

 

 

 

Xiaomi Unveils The Mi Note, Challenger To iPhone 6 Plus

January 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc further challenged Apple Inc on Thursday as the world’s third-biggest smartphone maker and most valuable tech start-up unveiled the flagship Mi Note, its answer to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.

Chief Executive Lei Jun introduced the Mi Note in Beijing with a breakdown of the large-screen phone’s technical features, with multiple comparisons to Apple’s equivalent. At 2299 yuan ($371) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, the Mi Note will retail for almost two-thirds less than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Just three years after Xiaomi sold its first smartphone, a $1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at $45 billion. The privately held company has risen to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker and is challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as well as domestic rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd .

Xiaomi takes efforts to play down comparisons with Cupertino, California-based Apple, though it is commonly called the ‘Apple of China’.

“The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone,” Lei told his audience of thousands gathered in the north of China’s capital.

Lei wore a light-blue shirt, eschewing his previously favoured black top, jeans and sneakers, reminiscent of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans.

“Xiaomi is an innovative start-up company, with a short history,” said Lei. The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. “In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents.”

Lei also laid out Xiaomi’s strategy to connect its smartphones with Xiaomi-branded home appliances, allowing phone users to remotely control washing machines, air purifiers and surveillance cameras.

 

 

 

 

Is Dailymotion Going After Twitch?

January 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Dailymotion has hopped onto the game streaming juggernaut and launched a game streaming service.

Dailymotion Games will put the firm into a market that so far includes Twitch, a streamer that has cemented its place as a gaming add-on and a coveted option on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.

The Dailymotion information does not dwell on Twitch, which has been a feature of many a gushing press release from console makers such as Sony, but it does say that the live streaming gaming platform has some decent credentials.

For example, the promotional information says that the platform is backed with “industry leading video and live streaming technology”.

The firm also reminds us that it has some history here, and has been e-gaming for some time.

“Since 2011, with the first Dailymotion Cup on Starcraft, Dailymotion has accompanied e-sport growth on the internet,” said Martin Rogard, Dailymotion’s chief operating officer.

“Dailymotion Games is entirely dedicated to e-sports fans and streamers who come together every evening to form an amazingly talented and gregarious community.

“Over the coming months, we will significantly increase our investment in the e-sports domain to ensure worldwide recognition of all our talented content producers.”

Dailymotion said that live streamers will be able to monetise their content, which Microsoft recently confirmed is fine for its users, and that streamers could run their own “controlled video advertisement” and any number of social tools including search and real-time communications. Android and iOS apps are available.

The service is currently in beta. Dailymotion said that it serves some 180 million game videos a month.

 
Courtesy-TheInq

Is Samsung In Pursuit of BlackBerry?

January 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics recently offered to purchase BlackBerry Ltd  for as much as $7.5 billion, hoping to acquire its valuable patents as it battles Apple in the corporate market, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.

South Korea’s Samsung  proposed an initial price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share, representing a premium of 38 percent to 60 percent over BlackBerry’s current trading price, the source said on Wednesday.

Representatives from the two companies, which are working with advisers, met last week to discuss a potential transaction, the source said, asking not to be identified because the conversations are private.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a statement that it “has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry. Shares of BlackBerry, which soared nearly 30 percent following the Reuters report, fell back about 15 percent in after-hours electronic trading following the statement.

Samsung also told Reuters in Seoul that it has no plans to acquire Blackberry. “Media reports of the acquisition are groundless,” a company spokeswoman said.

Separately on Wednesday, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reported BlackBerry has shunned a handful of takeover overtures in recent months as its board and largest investor think its restructuring strategy will deliver greater shareholder value than current acquisition offers.

 

 

Apple Granted Patent For Wearable Cameras

January 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has been issued a patent for a wearable camera that could possibly challenge action cameras made by GoPro Inc.

The patent, which cites specific weaknesses in GoPro’s cameras, includes details about a camera system that can be mounted on bike helmets or scuba masks, Apple said in an application filed with the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

Shares of GoPro, whose cameras can be mounted on helmets, surf boards, bikes and dog harnesses, fell as much as 15 percent.

Apple’s newly patented camera system can also be used under water to take pictures and record sounds, according to the application.

A potential entry by the iPhone maker into the action camera market could also put pressure on privately held Polaroid Corp, which makes the small and colorful Cube cameras.

JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna, however, said it was premature to assume that Apple would soon launch a wearable camera.

“It does not seem to me that launching an action camera accessory is the most logical product extension for Apple to pursue right now,” Gauna said.

Apple declined to comment, while GoPro was not immediately available for comment.

“I think that it will have about the same impact on GoPro as the iPhone has had on camera makers and that impact is that there are fewer cameras sold but the number isn’t zero,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

Videos shot with GoPro’s cameras have created a buzz on the Internet, attracting millions of views on YouTube.

Olympic gold medal winning snow boarder Shaun White and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater are among well-known athletes who have endorsed the cameras.

Intellectual property blog Patently Apple reported earlier in the day that Apple’s patent, which was filed by the company in 2012, incorporates some intellectual property from Eastman Kodak Co that the company acquired in November 2013.

 

 

Did Sony Learn Anything From It’s Recent Breach?

January 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Sony CEO Michael Lynton has told the Associated Press that the firm’s computer systems are still down, but, and thank someone for this, film and television production has not stopped a beat.

Yes, Sony, the firm that bought us a remake of Annie and a very divisive blunt edged political comedy called The Interview in the past couple of months, is still firing on production cylinders, if not sending emails.

A long interview with Associated Press finds Lynton not mentioning the North Korea words, but admitting that the hackers that have it between its teeth are pretty good at what they do and that Sony is on a real learning experience.

“We are the canary in the coal mine, that’s for sure,” said the CEO. “There is no playbook for this, so you are in essence trying to look at the situation as it unfolds and make decisions without being able to refer to a lot of experiences you’ve had in the past or other people’s experiences. You’re on completely new ground.”

Despite what you might have been led to believe, the assault on Sony has not been very costly, according to Lynton, who said that the firm has not had much more than a ripple to contend with.

“What I’m hearing so far is that they’re very manageable,” he added. “They’re not disruptive to the economic well being of the company.”

There has been some internal disruption, though, and Lynton said that staffers are paid with paper checks.

He confirmed that Sony’s technology people did scuttle about looking for workarounds and started using old BlackBerry handsets as part of a boots and braces response.

In the case of the latter, at least one firm was pleased about this news.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

WhatsApp Announces That It Has More Than 700M Users Now

January 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has amassed more than 700 million monthly active users and appears to be on track to reach 1 billion in about a year, a target Facebook set when it acquired the company in 2014.

The announcement comes about 11 months after Facebook acquired the app for $16 billion, a move that reflected the importance that Facebook places on mobile users.

The latest WhatsApp milestone is significant because it also highlights the recent rise of messaging apps as a more popular and economical option than SMS text messaging, which has suffered declines of nearly 5% in countries such as the U.K. In France operators saw SMS traffic on Jan. 1 decline by 10% to 20% compared to last year, while the use of MMS, messaging apps and other data traffic rose, according to local media.

“We’re thrilled to share that WhatsApp has more than 700 million monthly active users,” CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a post on Facebook. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages.”

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp received European regulatory approval in October following a U.S. nod in April. At its close, the deal was worth about $21.8 billion due to Facebook stock gains.

When the acquisition was announced in February 2014, WhatsApp had over 450 million monthly users, 70% of whom accessed the app on a daily basis.

WhatsApp has been steadily growing by about 25 million users per month. Itannounced April 22 that it had passed the half-billion mark, with new users in countries including Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. In December 2013 it had 400 million users.

WhatsApp’s growth pace suggests it will reach 1 billion about a year from now, in December or January. When the acquisition was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed hopes that WhatsApp would hit that threshold.