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Toshiba AND Western Digital Settle

December 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Toshiba and Western Digital have agreed in principle to settle a dispute over the Japanese firm’s plans to sell its $18 billion chip unit and aim to have a final agreement in place next week.

Word on the street is that the Toshiba board has approved a framework for a settlement.

Western Digital had been able to block a deal to selling the unit to a Bain Capital-led consortium.

The settlement under discussion calls for Western Digital to drop arbitration claims seeking to stop the sale in exchange for Toshiba allowing it to invest in a new production line for advanced flash memory chips that will start next year.

A Toshiba spokesman said that while the company was open to a settlement, it would not disclose discussion specifics or details of board of directors meetings. “It is not a fact that we have reached an agreement with Western Digital,” he said.

Western Digital is not saying anything.

Toshiba was forced to put the unit – the world’s no. 2 producer of NAND chips – on the block to cover billions of dollars in liabilities arising from its now bankrupt US nuclear power unit Westinghouse.

The deal with the Bain-led consortium will, however, see it reinvest in the unit and together with Hoya a maker of parts for chip devices, Japanese firms will hold more than 50 percent of the business – a keen wish of the Japanese government.

As part of the planned settlement, Toshiba and Western Digital would extend existing agreements for their chip joint ventures in Yokkaichi, central Japan, one of the sources said. The current agreements are set to start expiring from 2021.

Western Digital would also invest in a completely new chip plant that Toshiba will start building next year in northern Japan, the source said.

Western Digital, one of world’s leading makers of hard disk drives, paid some $16 billion last year to acquire SanDisk, Toshiba’s chip joint venture partner since 2000.

With data storage key to most next-generation technologies from artificial intelligence and autonomous driving to the Internet of Things, NAND chips have only grown in importance and Western Digital has been desperate to keep the business out of the hands of rival chipmakers.

The sale still needs to clear the snarling mauls of the regulatory watchdogs but they are not expected to rip the trousers of the deal.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Exploring Acquisition of Shazam

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc is holding negotiations to acquire Shazam Entertainment Ltd, whose software helps users identify songs by pointing their phone at an audio source, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Shazam’s smartphone app is already tightly integrated with Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Users of Apple’s iPhone with the Shazam app installed can say: “Hey Siri, what’s that song?” and the app will identify it. But Shazam has other features, such as the ability to identify television shows, that do not yet work with Siri.

Tech news website TechCrunch reported the talks earlier, writing that Apple could pay about $400 million for Shazam and that a deal could be signed as early as next week.

Shazam did not respond to a request for comment.

Privately-held, UK-based Shazam has raised $143 million from DN Capital Limited, Institutional Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others, over its 18-year history, according to PitchBook, a firm that tracks private venture investments.

The price TechCrunch reported would fall far below Shazam’s most recent $1 billion valuation reported by PitchBook.

An acquisition of Shazam could help bolster Apple’s music efforts by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists in its Apple Music service. As of mid-2017, Apple Music had 27 million subscribers, behind rival music streaming service Spotify’s 60 million users.

IS Apple Using Qualcomm Patents Without Paying

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s legal spat with Qualcomm just got even messier as the chipmaker found even more patents which it thinks that Apple is using without permission.

Qualcomm filed three new patent infringement complaints against the fruity cargo cult saying there were 16 more of its patents that Apple was using in its iPhones.

The new complaints represent the latest development in a long-standing dispute and follows Apple’s countersuit against Qualcomm, which alleged that it invented part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile phone chips.

Qualcomm in July accused Apple of infringing several patents related to helping mobile phones get better battery life.

That case accompanied a complaint with the US International Trade Commission seeking to ban the import of Apple iPhones that use competing Intel Corp (INTC.O) chips because of the alleged patent violations.

The three cases filed Thursday were all filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego. One of the cases is a companion civil lawsuit to a new complaint also filed Thursday with the ITC that seeks the same remedy of banning iPhones with Intel chips. The other two cases are civil patent infringement lawsuits.

It all started when Apple tried to increase the margins for its dying iPhone cash cow.  It decided that Qualcomm was asking too much and demanded a reduction.

In January, Apple sued Qualcomm for nearly $1 billion in patent royalty rebates that Qualcomm allegedly withheld from Apple.

In a related suit, Qualcomm sued the contract manufacturers that make Apple’s phones, but Apple joined in to defend them.

Qualcomm in November sued Apple over an alleged breach of a software agreement between the two companies. Apple emailed Qualcomm to request “highly confidential” information about how its chips work on an unidentified wireless carrier’s network, Qualcomm alleged, but Apple had copied an Intel engineer in the email for information.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Commits To A Mergers, Acquisitions Strategy

December 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung Electronics’ $8 billion purchase of automotive and audio electronics company Harman has given the technology giant confidence to pursue additional big deals, its strategy chief said.

Young Sohn, the South Korean company’s Silicon Valley-based president and chief strategy officer, said he was keen for world’s top maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions to expand in automotive markets, digital health and industrial automation.

 Samsung, which this year surpassed Intel to become the world’s biggest semiconductors manufacturer, has signaled its appetite for dealmaking over the past year, saying it was seeking businesses to build software and services to further differentiate its products.

However, it has provided few details on sectors it is targeting in its push for mergers and acquisitions.

“I believe we can do lot more going forward.”

Sohn appeared to dismiss the potential for Samsung to take part in further consolidation in semiconductors or the smartphone markets, where it is also a leading player, suggesting the company is focused on organic growth strategies in these areas.

In September Sohn said Samsung aimed to become a major player in autonomous driving, building on its acquisition of auto parts supplier Harman and its pole position in mobile communications markets.

Asked to spell out Samsung’s potential dealmaking priorities for 2018, he said the company would continue to invest in expanding its automotive business.

Another category he singled out as “an area of opportunity” was digital health, specifically preventive health and related technologies.

 Finally, in business software, he said Samsung is looking at companies in the areas of industrial internet, automation, networking, data transmission and security.

“We are a very careful and conservative company, so we will do it where it makes sense,” Sohn said, adding that it would also look for smaller bolt-on technology deals.

SoftBank Gets Steep Discount On Uber Shares

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp has offered to acquire shares of Uber Technologies Inc at a valuation of $48 billion, a 30 percent discount to its most recent valuation of $68.5 billion, a person familiar with the matter said.

The investment, which was approved by the Uber board in October, would also trigger a string of governance changes at Uber that would limit some early shareholders’ voting power, expand the board from 11 to 17 directors and cut the influence of former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.

The investment and board moves are supported by new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi and come at the end of a year of scandals and change for Uber, including the announcement last week that executives covered up a major hack in 2016.

 The consortium of investors led by SoftBank and Dragoneer Investment Group plan to take a stake of at least 14 percent in the ride-services company. The tender offer will launch on Tuesday, sources told Reuters, and investors have nearly a month to respond.

The SoftBank-led investor group will acquire two of the new board seats, with the remaining four going to independent directors.

Another person familiar with the deal said the offer price was in line with what investors had been expecting. SoftBank’s offer is close to what Uber was worth in 2015, when shares were priced a little less than $40 apiece for a $51 billion valuation, according to data from PitchBook Inc.

Even at the discounted price, Uber is the world’s second-highest valued private venture-backed company, after China’s ride-service company Didi Chuxing, and the offer is a chance for early investors to lock in substantial profits and for employees to cash in shares that have to date only had value on paper. Shareholders, including employees, with at least 10,000 shares are eligible to sell.

Nearly all secondary transactions, when a new investor purchases from existing shareholders, come at a discount to the company’s valuation.

However, the 30 percent discount is steep given Uber’s plan to launch an initial public offering in 2019, said Phil Haslett, co-founder and head of investments at secondary marketplace EquityZen. Usually valuation cuts of this size happen when a company is at risk of being sold at a heavy discount, which Uber is not.

“It really comes down to a re-pricing of Uber’s value,” Haslett said.

Since it was valued at $68.5 billion more than a year ago, the company has been hit by scandals, including accusations of sexual harassment. It has also weathered federal criminal probes into software Uber used to deceive regulators and allegations of paying bribes to authorities in Asia, and a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo, accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets.

The ITC To Investigate Apple

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The United States International Trade Commission today announced that it has launched an investigation into allegations that Apple infringed on patents owned by Aqua Connect.

Aqua Connect and its subsidiary Strategic Technology partners filed complaints against Apple with the United States International Trade Commission and the District Court for the Central District of California accusing Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs of infringing on two of its patents.

The two patents in question include U.S. Patent RE46,386, “Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived Computer System Environment” and U.S. Patent 8,924,502, “System, Method and Computer Program Product for Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived System Environment.”

According to Aqua Connect, the patents relate to screen sharing, remote desktop, and terminal server technology. Aqua Connect says that it built the first remote desktop solution for the Mac in 2008, which Apple later built into its iOS and macOS products in the form of AirPlay and other functionality without permission.

Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect said his outfit invented and built the first fully functional remote desktop and terminal server solution for Mac in 2008.

“Initially, the product had Apple’s full support. But years later, Apple built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems.”

Aqua Connect’s complaint with the International Trade Commission asks for an exclusion order and a cease and desist order that would bar Apple from importing its products into the United States.

The ITC says it will be investigating “certain Apple Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.”

Courtesy-Fud

Roku Signs Licensing Deal For Inclusion On Philips TVs

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku Inc’s shares skyrocketed by 43 percent to a record high earlier this week after the streaming device maker said it signed a licensing deal that would put its technology on Philips-branded televisions in the United States this year.

The company said the licensing partnership with Japan’s Funai Electric Co Ltd, which manufactures Philips N.V. televisions for North American, would place its operating system on Philips’ smart TVs.

 Roku also said that it would give a $20 discount on its $69.99-priced streaming stick for the Black Friday weekend, and separately said its customer would get a free one-month trial of AT&T Inc’s streaming service DirecTV Now.

The barrage of news was well received by investors, who sent Roku’s shares jumping 28.5 percent to close at $42.71 on Monday. The stock hit a high of $47.49 earlier in the session.

“The price move was solely due to long shareholders bidding up ROKU’s stock price” and not due to investors covering their short positions in the stock, financial analytics firm S3 Partners said in a note.

S3 Partners said while the short interest in Roku has risen since its initial public offering (IPO) in late September, it has stayed relatively flat in November and isn’t likely to go up further due to the limited number of shares available to borrow.

Investors who sell securities short first borrow shares and then sell them, expecting the price to fall so they can then buy the shares back at the lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.

Roku, one of the first to make a device to stream content such as from Netflix Inc onto TVs, is now combating deeper-pocketed entrants such as Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc among others.

Still, up to Monday’s close, Roku’s stock has now more than tripled from its IPO price of $14 on Sept. 27. The stock debuted at $15.78 on the Nasdaq on Sept. 28.

 Los Gatos, California-based Roku’s success in the stock market is in stark contrast to the fortunes of other technology companies to make their market debuts this year.

Snap Inc’s shares have fallen 26 percent since its February IPO, while Blue Apron Holdings Inc has lost about 70 percent since its IPO in June.

Qualcomm Rejects Broadcom’s Takeover Bid

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc officially rejected rival Broadcom Ltd’s $103-billion takeover bid, saying the offer undervalued the company and would face regulatory hurdles.

Shares of Qualcomm were up 1.8 percent at $65.74 in early afternoon trading, while those of Broadcom were down 0.4 percent at $263.95.

Broadcom said it would seek to engage with Qualcomm’s board and management, adding that it had received positive feedback from key customers and stockholders.

 “We continue to believe our proposal represents the most attractive, value-enhancing alternative available to Qualcomm stockholders and we are encouraged by their reaction,” the company said.

Both companies count Apple among their top customers. Analysts have said a deal between the two would help Qualcomm settle its legal battle with the iPhone maker as Broadcom has a closer relationship with Apple.

Analysts said Broadcom can now raise its bid, go for a proxy fight or launch a hostile exchange offer.

“Qualcomm’s ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response to the unsolicited bid by Broadcom isn’t surprising and we would be surprised if at this point, Broadcom didn’t move forward with a proxy fight,” Loop Capital analyst Betsy Van Hees told Reuters.

Tencent Takes Stake In Snapchat Company

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat got a vote of confidence from a new investor.

Chinese tech behemoth, Tencent, has taken a 12 percent stake in Snap, the company that gave us disappearing messages first, reported the Financial Times. Tencent sits among China’s three biggest tech companies along with Baidu and Alibaba, collectively known as BAT.

The news, revealed in Snap’s quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, comes after the company posted disappointing results of its growth this quarter.

It’s not Tencent’s first investment in a US company, having bought a five percent stake in Tesla in March. Tencent, the creator of popular Chinese mobile game, Honour of Kings, also owns Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends.

It’s no secret that Tencent has been making efforts to expand to the US. Also the owner of Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, Tencent brought its digital payment service, WeChat Pay, to the country earlier this year.

In the filing, Snap said it has “long been inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Tencent.”

Tencent president Martin Lau said the company “looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences.” This could come in the form of a collaboration between both companies on mobile games and news feed, according to a statement obtained by Reuters.

Broadcomm, Qualcomm Merger May Face Resistance In China

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The proposed mega-merger between chipmaker Broadcom Ltd and U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc is likely to face stern scrutiny from China, antitrust lawyers say, amid a strategic push by Beijing into semiconductors.

Broadcom made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm on Monday, aimed at creating a $200-billion-plus behemoth that could reshape the industry at the heart of mobile phone hardware.

But Chinese regulatory approval could be a hold-up. Beijing and Washington have sparred over technology deals, including in chips, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) knocking back a number of takeovers involving Chinese firms this year.

The thorny topic is likely to come up when U.S. President Donald Trump visits China this week – with Qualcomm executives in tow.

The merger would face a lengthy review from the anti-monopoly unit of China’s commerce ministry, due to strategic concerns, the huge size of the deal and because Qualcomm has come under fire before in the country over competition concerns.

“This is a critical industry for China and Qualcomm has been fined by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) before so it’s on its radar,” said Wendy Yan, Shanghai-based partner at law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Qualcomm agreed to pay a record fine of $975 million in China in 2015 to end a probe into anti-competitive practices related to so-called “double dipping” by billing Chinese customers patent royalty fees in addition to charging for the chips.

China is making a major push to develop its own semiconductor industry under local champions such as Tsinghua Unigroup and Fujian Grand Chip Investment to help cut reliance on global operators including Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp.

Sprint, T-Mobile Ends Merger Talks

November 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc announced they have discontinued merger talks to create a stronger U.S. wireless to rival to market leaders, leaving No. 4 provider Sprint to engineer a turnaround on its own.

The announcement marks the latest failed attempt to combine the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, as Sprint parent SoftBank Group Corp, and T-Mobile parent, Deutsche Telekom AG, show an unwillingness to part with their prized U.S. telecom assets.

The companies’ unusual step of making a joint announcement on the canceled negotiations could indicate they still recognize the merits of a merger and could keep the door open for potential future talks.

The companies said they ended talks because they “were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.”

A combined company would have had more than 130 million U.S. subscribers, behind Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

John Legere, president and chief executive of T-Mobile, said in the statement that the prospect of combining with Sprint was compelling but “we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile’s shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record.”

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said that even though the companies could not reach a deal, “we certainly recognize the benefits of scale through a potential combination.”

Claure said Sprint has agreed it is best to move forward on its own with “significant assets, including our rich spectrum holdings, and are accelerating significant investments in our network to ensure our continued growth.”

Failure to clinch an agreement leaves SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, a dealmaker who raised close to $100 billion for his Vision Fund to invest in technology companies, with the need to find another option for Sprint.

Sprint is in the middle of a turnaround plan and has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. But industry analysts have expressed concern that the company, weighed down with total debt of $38 billion, has few financial options. Even though its customer base has expanded under CEO Claure, growth has been driven by heavy discounting.

Claure said in August that while Sprint could sustain itself, cost savings from a transaction were significantly better than remaining a standalone entity.

Analysts said an end to talks to T-Mobile would leave debt-laden Sprint without the scale needed to invest in its network and to compete in a saturated market.

Sprint has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. To shore up cash over the past two years, the company has already mortgaged a portion of its airwaves and equipment through sale leaseback deals.

Mark Stodden, telecom analyst at Moody‘s, said “To really take the kind of next step from a business that has been stabilized to a business that has been growing is going to require a new more intense investment phase.”

T-Mobile is a better position than Sprint as a standalone company, analysts have said. German majority owner Deutsche Telekom, which owns roughly 65 percent of the U.S. carrier, was the first major carrier to eliminate two-year contracts, a shift quickly embraced by consumers and copied by competitors. The company has also badgered rivals with its unlimited data plans.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges said in a statement on Saturday that T-Mobile has a “strong basis for growth in the upcoming years.”

Nintendo Not Happy With Super Mario

November 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Super Mario Run has now been downloaded 200 million times worldwide, and yet Nintendo still isn’t satisfied with how much money it has made.

Mario’s mobile debut launched in December last year, and it hit 150 million downloads at the end of April. However, despite adding a further 50 million downloads in the six months since then, Nintendo expressed disappointment in how profitable the game has been.

In an investor briefing, the company said that “we have not yet reached an acceptable profit point” with Super Mario Run, and emphasised the amount it has learned that can be used in its future mobile releases. Nintendo is still updating and promoting the game, including a new game mode, Remix10, which was added in September, and a “special price offer” to coincide with the update.

Nintendo saw better performance, relatively speaking, from a different mobile title: Fire Emblem Heroes, which launched in February and, notably, employed a free-to-play business model. In that case, an ongoing program of updates means it is, “on track to meet our overall business objectives, including our profit objectives.”

This difference is arguably evident in the strategy for Nintendo’s next major mobile release, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which will also use a free-to-play revenue model based on a soft currency called “Leaf Tickets.” Nevertheless, Nintendo described Animal Crossing’s business model as “free-to-start” when presenting to its investors.

“There will be Leaf Tickets, which can be used in a variety of situations within the game, as consumable items. They will be available for free as the game advances but players can also purchase these. Our objective is to offer a service that allows even consumers who do not normally play games on a regular basis to have a little fun each and every day.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Appears To Be In Trouble

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint may not happen after all.

Sprint’s parent company, Japanese carrier SoftBank, plans to break off merger talks, according to a new report from Nikkei. The publication cited a dispute over ownership of the combined entity.

SoftBank may approach T-Mobile’s parent company, German carrier Deutsche Telekom, as early as Tuesday to end the deal, Nikkei said. It added that the two companies had reached a broad pact but haven’t agreed who would control the combined company. Deutsche Telekom reportedly had insisted on a controlling stake, something SoftBank initially was open to but then reconsidered, Nikkei said.

A possible merger between T-Mobile and Sprint has been rumored for years but has failed to materialize. The two companies lag behind their bigger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, when it comes to the US market. Combining would give them an advantage, but critics fear having three players would reduce competition and hurt consumers.

Deutsche Telekom said it doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation. Sprint, T-Mobile and SoftBank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nintendo Stock Hits A High Road

October 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo shares have hit a ten-year high following the announcement that Switch production is being increased to two million units per month.

As reported by Digitimes, the Switch is upping production from a previous undisclosed number, estimated to be between 800,000 and one million.

Nintendo shares are now trading at their highest value since March 2008 after rising 2.66% in Tokyo on Friday, gaining a total 77% since the beginning of 2017.

The Switch, which was already Nintendo’s fastest selling console, is expected to sell 20 million units by the end of the year, a source told Digitimes, far exceeding the 13 million predicted earlier this year.

The news comes amid speculation that the Switch could soon be released in China following the announcement that the smash-hit mobile game Honour of Kings was coming to western markets via the Switch.

Honour of Kings reportedly accounts for around 50% of publisher Tencent’s mobile revenue and has over 200 million users in the region. By managing to strike a deal with Tencent, Nintendo could be well positioned to release in China, and the portable format of the Switch plays into the handheld dominated market where the Xbox One and Playstation 4 enjoy little success initially.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Microsoft Put The Surface To Rest

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will drop its Surface laptop line-up by 2019, if remarks made by Canalys CEO Steve Brazier are to be believed.

As reported by The Register, which attended the Canalys Channels Forum, Brazier said that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, hinting that the firm’s bork-ridden Surface laptops and tablets are likely to go the same way as the firm’s all-but-defunct smartphone division.

“The Surface performance is choppy; there are good quarters and bad quarters, overall they are not making money. It doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” Brazier remarked.

“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?'”

Brazier has a point. Last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface revenue was down 2 per cent, and dropped a massive 26 per cent year-on-year in the previous quarter. The devices have been plagued with issues, too, which Microsoft has blamed on Intel’s Skylake chips.

Passing the buck didn’t stop Consumer Reports yanking its “recommended” label from the Surface line-up, though. It slammed the hardware “significantly less reliable than most other brands” after finding that one in four Surface owners were being plagued with  “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo, who joined the Canalys CEO on stage.

“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.

“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”

Courtesy-Fud

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