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Is Twitter About To Go On The Auction Block?

September 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-buy-button-150x150Twitter Inc has initiated discussions with several technology companies to explore putting itself up for sale, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, signaling the start of what is likely to be a slow-rolling auction of the high-profile but profit-challenged social media company.

A sale of Twitter has been the subject of on-again, off-again rumors for many months as the company grapples with stagnant user growth, soft advertising sales and losses running at hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The company’s business struggles have come even as the 10-year-old service has evolved into a potent global source of news, entertainment and social commentary.

CNBC, citing anonymous sources, reported on Friday that Twitter is in talks with companies including Google and may receive a formal bid soon. A source told Reuters that is also in pursuit.

Twitter and Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company did not respond to a request for comment. Salesforce declined to comment.

Verizon, another company mentioned in media reports on Friday as a possible suitor, said it did not comment on M&A rumors but that it had not submitted a bid for the company.

Twitter shares jumped more than 19 percent to $22.22 per share on Friday, marking the largest one-day rise since their first day of trading in 2013. The company now has a market value of around $16 billion.

Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi said Alphabet would be the best acquirer for Twitter since it has not yet been able to crack social media on its own despite several efforts.

“From a strategic standpoint, we think it would be more beneficial for Alphabet as opposed to Salesforce,” Mogharabi said. Former Google executive Omid Kordestani is executive chairman of Twitter.

Morningstar estimates Twitter could be bought for $22 per share. Twitter is working with investment banks Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co in considering possible transactions, sources familiar with the situation said.

Intel Goes Bullish

September 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

It is starting to look like the PC market is picking up and Intel has raised its quarterly revenue forecast for the first time in more than two years.

Shares in Intel as much as 4.1 percent to a more than 15-year high on the back of the news which indicates the PC depression might be finally coming to an end..

Sales in the company’s PC business declined three percent to $7.3 billion in the latest quarter. The unit includes sales of chips for mobile phones and tablets. But Intel said that the green shoots of recovery are here.

Firstly HP said last month that revenue in its computer business rose 7.5 percent in the third quarter from the second as sales of notebooks improved. At the time FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said commentary from Intel and HP suggested that PCs were “not as dead as people were thinking.”

Research firm IDC said in July global PC shipments fell less than expected in the second quarter, helped by strength in the United States.

Intel now says it expected third-quarter revenue to be $15.6 billion, plus or minus $300 million, compared with its prior forecast of $14.9 billion, plus or minus $500 million.

That implies the highest-ever quarterly revenue for Intel. Wall Street analysts on average were expecting $14.90 billion.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani said the pre-announcement was a good first step to the PC story stabilising at Intel. Shares of rival AMD were up about 1 percent, while those of Micron Technology Inc (MU.O) and HP were marginally higher.Shares in Intel had shot ip up 2.6 percent at $37.53


Will Intel Help Apple Make Gains?

September 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

It is starting to look like the rumors that Intel is going to start making Apple’s mobile chip are actually true – despite a lack of official confirmation from anyone.

Gartner Group, which is not likely to make this sort of stuff up, says it is 100 percent sure that Intel is going to start making Jobs’ Mob chips in 2018. The Nikkei has also said something similar and now the Tame Apple Press, which never reports anything without Apple’s covert blessing is also on board with the rumors.

All this is a kick in the bottom line for Apple’s existing partners TSMC and Samsung, but then being an Apple partner must be like being a battered wife of a billionaire. You might have nice things but they come at a cost and eventually he is going to divorce you for someone younger anyway.

In this case a source close to Jobs’ Mob claimed that Apple had already agreed that a move to have Intel made chips for future iPhones and iPads was a priority.

It is unlikely that this could happen before 2018 but it is unlikely that this is so Apple can avoid its TSMC addiction. In fact it is more to do with finding an alternative to Samsung. Apple has huge problems working with Samsung which is its main rival for the iPhone and tablets. There are some Apple executives who still feel that Samsung must pay for stealing the rounded rectangle.

Taking Apple’s chip business away from Samsung will hurt the company overall. The only question is if Intel has the technical ability to make its mobile chips as successfully.


Alibaba’s Revenue Surge By 59%

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd reported a better-than-expected 59 percent jump in quarterly revenue on Thursday, making it a shining start in a slowing Chinese economy.

Alibaba’s total revenue rose to 32.15 billion yuan, or $4.84 billion, in the quarter ended June 30 from 20.25 billion yuan a year earlier.

Mobile revenue increased 119.3 percent to 17.51 billion yuan, while monthly mobile active users increased 39 percent.

Net income attributable to shareholders fell to 7.14 billion yuan, or 2.94 yuan per share, from 30.82 billion yuan, or 11.92 yuan per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume (GMV), the value of transactions carried out by third-party sellers on the company’s platforms, rose 24.4 percent to 837 billion yuan.





Is Blackberry Turning Into A Patent Troll?

August 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Troubled mobile phone maker BlackBerry has decided to make a bit more money by suing those it thinks stole its ideas.

A patent lawsuit has been launched against internet telephony outfit Avaya. However in making its case that Avaya should pay royalties, BlackBerry appears to be looking at what it has done rather than what it is doing. The firm argues that it should be paid for its history of innovation going back nearly 20 years.

The court papers say:

“BlackBerry revolutionised the mobile industry. BlackBerry… has invented a broad array of new technologies that cover everything from enhanced security and cryptographic techniques, to mobile device user interfaces, to communication servers, and many other areas.”

BlackBerry claims Avaya infringes eight US Patents:

Nos. 9,143,801 and 8,964,849, relating to “significance maps” for coding video data;

No. 8,116,739, describing methods of displaying messages;

No. 8,886,212, describing tracking location of mobile devices;

No. 8,688,439, relating to speech decoding and compression;

No. 7,440,561, describing integrating wireless phones into a PBX network;

No. 8,554,218, describing call routing methods; and

No. 7,372,961, a method of generating a cryptographic public key.

The oldest is 1998 and the most recent is 2011..

Products targeted by Blackberry include Avaya’s video conferencing systems, Avaya Communicator for iPad, a product that connects mobile users to IP Office systems, and various IP desk phones. .

The BlackBerry complaint states that the company notified Avaya of its alleged infringement of those specific patents in a letter dated December 17, 2015, which must have come as a bit of a surprise. It has been filed in the Northern District of Texas, which is less because the region is more patent friendly (like East Texas) but because it is where Avaya does business and maintains a two-story office.

BlackBerry has hired top patent lawyer Quinn Emanuel. The firm defended Samsung in the high-profile Apple v. Samsung case and has taken on various cases for Google.

Last year Cisco paid a “license fee” to Blackberry. Details were few and far between but it seems to have been to make Blackberry lawyers go away. In May, BlackBerry CEO John Chen told investors on an earnings call that he was in “patent licensing mode,” eager to monetize his company’s 38,000 patents.



Microsoft Announces Another Round Of Job Cuts

August 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Satya Nadella isn’t stopping the job eliminations at Microsoft any time soon. The company announced that 2,850 people will lose their jobs by the middle of 2017, on top of the 1,850 cuts announced earlier this year.

According to a regulatory filing, those impacted will primarily be in its phone hardware business, which has already been hit hard by layoffs, and in global sales.

The cuts are more fallout from Microsoft’s decision to downsize its smartphone business, which it acquired from Nokia in 2015. Putting that acquisition in motion was one of the last things that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did before announcing that he would be leaving the company’s top job. His successor hasn’t taken the same shine to the phone hardware business that Microsoft bought.

Microsoft declined to comment about the job cuts beyond what was disclosed in the 10-K filing. Nadella has cut thousands of jobs since taking the top spot, many of them in the phone business.

It remains to be seen what this will mean for the company’s business overall. While Microsoft’s most recent quarterly financial report showed a year-over-year revenue decline, the company’s cloud businesses continued to grow. The phone hardware business has been a sore spot on Microsoft’s financials, seeing massive revenue declines for the past several quarters.


Twitter Still Struggling To Add New User, Grow Revenue

July 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest revenue growth since its IPO in 2013 and set a rather grim forecast, fanning concerns that faster growing social media services will make it a niche product.

The microblogging service operator’s shares fell 11 percent in extended trading to $16.40. While Twitter struggles to find a way to boost user growth and win over advertisers, social media services such as Instagram and Snapchat are expanding their footprints.

Co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company as chief executive a year ago, but his plan for reviving Twitter is at best seen as unfinished.

The company’s second quarter revenue missed Wall Street estimates and the revenue forecast for the current quarter of $590 million to $610 million was well below the average analyst estimate of $678.18 million.

Twitter’s user base increased about 1 percent to 313 million average monthly active users in the second quarter from 310 million in the first quarter.

“Clearly, the turnaround is still a work in progress and the question of whether being a platform for a mass audience versus a niche audience needs to be answered,” said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Earlier this year, Twitter laid out a long-term strategy to turn around its business, focusing on five areas: its core service, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety and developers.

In live video, the company has signed deals with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association to revive user growth and attract more advertising dollars. Executives also said Twitter was investing more in user safety as the company continues to grapple with high-profile instances of abuse and harassment.

Struggling with flat user growth and lower spending by advertisers, Twitter has doubled down on attracting more people and encouraging existing advertisers to spend more as it tries to shape its stagnating business.

“We are a year into Dorsey coming back and there is really no end in sight of when it is going to start picking up to where investors are going to be happy,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Twitter is also working to better define its role in the social media landscape. This week it rolled out a video ad that showed it as the place to go for live news, updates and discussion about current events, which executives also emphasized on a call with analysts.


Can Licensing Save Blackberry?

June 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Blackberry is hoping to pull its nadgers out of the fire by licencing its mobile software to other outfits.

However BlackBerry CEO John Chen had to admit that there has been zero revenue from the endeavour, which he started off last month.

Chen said he’s been in discussions with some phone manufacturers and set-top box operators who have expressed interest and “anything was possible.”

He added he’s not opposed to licensing BlackBerry’s security software either if the right deal comes along. He expects BlackBerry to break even or record a slight profit in its new mobility solutions segment, which includes device and software licensing sales, during the third quarter that in November.

Making the segment profitable this fiscal year is one of the company’s top goals, Chen said.

It’s too soon to project how much revenue the software-licensing venture can garner, Chen said, so to achieve the goal by the end of November, BlackBerry will have to ensure its devices are on track for profitability as well.

The company’s newest phone, the Android-powered Priv, has moved slower than hoped. In fact it moved slower than a student who had been up all night playing counterstrike.

During BlackBerry’s first quarter — the second full quarter to include Priv sales — the smartphone segment generated US$152 million of revenue and had a US$21-million operating loss. Chen promised that loss would be significantly smaller in the next quarter.

The company sold roughly 500,000 devices at an average price of $290 each, he said, which is about 100,000 smartphones fewer than the previous quarter and about 200,000 fewer than two quarters earlier. BlackBerry previously said the company needs to sell about three million phones at an average of $300 each to break even, though Chen indicated that may change as the software licensing business starts to contribute to revenue.

Chen said the Priv has proved unaffordable to most people, except for top-level executives.

The company plans to release two mid-range, Android-powered phones before its current fiscal year ends Feb. 28, 2017, he said. More information on the devices is expected next month, but Chen said one will only have a touch screen rather than BlackBerry’s traditional keyboard.

The company is trying to reach the market in more innovative ways. It’s currently hosting a pop-up shop in New York City, and Chen said he’d consider more of them around the world if the trial is successful.

“I really, really believe that we could make money … out of our device business,” he said during a conference call with analysts Thursday morning.

Chen previously indicated the company will stop making smartphones if the device business remains unprofitable. While he said he doesn’t believe that will be necessary, the software licensing plan could help make the transition smoother if the time comes.

BlackBerry  reported a $670 million net loss in the first quarter of its 2017 financial year, but said its recovery plan for the year remains on track.

Revenue was below analyst estimates at $400 million under generally accepted accounting principles, or US$424 million with certain adjustments.



BlackBerry Says Device Business Is Top Priority

June 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd’s top priority this year is to make its devices business turn a profit, its chief executive said, even as it weighs the future of its hardware operation.

“The device business must be profitable, because we don’t want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line,” Chief Executive John Chen told investors at the company’s annual meeting. “We’ve got to get there this year.”

Chen has previously said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.

But at the meeting, attended by around 100 people, he said he sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.

“I don’t personally believe handsets will be the future of any company,” he said.

BlackBerry, once the smartphone market leader before being displaced by Apple Inc and competitors run on Alphabet Inc’s Android platform, has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations.

In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.

But some of those in attendance were skeptical about BlackBerry’s ability to deliver on its strategic pivot.

“The first word that comes to mind is lackluster,” said one shareholder at the meeting who declined to give his name. “Time is running out.”

Chen reiterated that BlackBerry wants to grow its software revenue by 30 percent in this fiscal year, which he estimated would be double overall market growth, and to notch positive free cash flow.

BlackBerry is due to report first quarter results on Thursday.

Chen took up the CEO role in 2013 with a reputation as a turnaround artist. But the company’s stock has only risen modestly since then, with many investors waiting for signs the now-smaller company will be able to carve out new opportunities.

“I appreciate the strategy,” said Ken Tota, an investor in BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. He said he was optimistic a renewed focus on security could help reinvigorate BlackBerry over the next five years.

“It’s a niche, but it’s a worldwide niche,” he said.



Dell Close To Deal To Sell Software Business

June 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Buyout firm Francisco Partners and the private equity arm of activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp are in advanced negotiations to purchase Dell Inc’s software division for more than $2 billion, three people familiar with the matter said.

Divesting the software assets will help Dell refocus its technology portfolio and bolster its balance sheet after it agreed in October to buy data storage company EMC Corp for $67 billion. EMC owns a controlling stake in VMware Inc, a cloud-based virtualization software company.

Dell is seeking to sell almost all of its software assets, including Quest Software, which helps with information technology management, as well as SonicWall, an e-mail encryption and data security provider, the people said.

Boomi, a smaller asset focusing on cloud-based software integration, will be retained by Dell, one of the people added.

An agreement between Dell and the consortium of Francisco Partners and Elliott could be reached as early as this week, the people said, cautioning that the negotiations could still end unsuccessfully.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Dell declined to comment, while Francisco Partners and Elliott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A sale of Dell’s software division would free it from some of its least profitable assets and cap the program of divestitures that the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker embarked on following its deal with EMC. EMC shareholders are due to vote on the deal with Dell on July 19.

While Elliott has sought to buy companies in the past as part of its shareholder activist campaigns, the Dell software deal would represent its first major private equity investment since it hired Isaac Kim, previously a principal at private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, last year to help expand its capacity in leveraged buyouts.

Francisco Partners focuses on private equity investments in the technology sector. It has raised about $10 billion in capital and invested in more than 150 technology companies since it was launched more than 15 years ago.




Does Qualcomm Need Apple?

June 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

The fanboys aka the Apple Press has been running down Qualcomm since its favourite company announced it was buying chips from Intel, but there are good reasons why the American chipmaker should not care that much.

As we have been saying for ages, Jobs’ Mob is no longer exclusively going with Qualcomm to provide modem chips for the upcoming iPhone 7. The deal, while large, is tailored for some of Apple’s partnerships. Intel gets AT&T phones and Qualcomm remains the supplier for Verizon network phones and for China.

The press has been claiming that it is terrible news for Qualcomm. But it appears Qualcomm knew it was coming and had already factored in the loss of the business into its results. The reason Qualcomm is not losing any sleep over the deal is because the most Intel is going to get is a third of the iPhone modems. This is what in financial terms is considered a “pisser” but hardly a reason to jump off any buildings over.

Other good things are happening to Qualcomm which more than balance out what has been lost to Intel. Firstly its latest Snapdragons are selling extremely well and secondly the shine is starting to go off its number one rival MediaTek.

For a while, naysayers have been predicting that MediaTek was going to sink Qualcomm. In fact there was even a suggestion that Qualcomm should get out of chipmaking and become a patent troll.

MediaTek had been luring away Qualcomm customers with cheaper chips, which combined with Apple, Samsung and Huawei making their own chips was creating a perfect storm of doom.

Now there is a suggestion that MediaTek’s growth wagon might have stalled. MediaTek’s sales fell 9.4 per cent annually last quarter to $1.7 billion. Its operating margin halved from 16 per cent last year to eight per cent. The reason was due to higher expenses across the board. This meant that its net income fell to $136 million. MediaTek is still more profitable than Qualcomm’s chipmaking division has a wafer thin 5 per cent last quarter.

Analysts expect MediaTek to post double-digit sales growth fuelled by rising demand for 4G smartphone chips in China. But its margins are also expected to keep contracting due to tough competition from Qualcomm and Spreadtrum.

Another risk for MediaTek is its dependence on China. Taiwan just got rid of the pro-unification KMT party, which controlled the presidency for the past eight years, in favour of the pro-independence DPP party.

MediaTek needs direct investments from mainland China to fight off Qualcomm, but it is finding that the Taiwanese government is blocking that sort of investment cash.

All this is giving Qualcomm a fighting chance in the area where it makes a lot of its cash. Sure its margins might be lower, but it still making more money. Enough so that it does not have to worry about losing a small about of dosh to Intel.



Apple’s Next iPhone Will Use Intel Modem Chips

June 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc’s next iPhone will use modems chips from Intel Corp, taking the place of those made by Qualcomm Inc in some versions of the new smartphone, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Intel’s modem chips will be in iPhones used on AT&T Inc’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

However, iPhones sold in China will use Qualcomm chips, and iPhones on Verizon Communications Inc’s network will also stick with Qualcomm, Bloomberg added.

Qualcomm’s shares fell 1.7 percent on Friday, while Intel’s stock was up 0.3 percent. Apple shares were down 0.5 percent in morning trading.

On an earnings call in April, Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf said he was assuming that a major customer would switch to multiple suppliers.

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on the story. Qualcomm and Apple were not immediately available for comment.


Yahoo Hires Advisors To Help Sale Trove Of Patents

June 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc  has hired boutique investment bank Black Stone IP LLC to aid in the selling of nearly 3,000 of the internet company’s patents, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company has sent letters to a number of potential buyers for the patents, which date back to when the company was founded in 1996 and also include its original search technology, the report said.

The deadline for bids for the patents has been set for mid-June by Yahoo, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In March, Yahoo said it would explore the sale of $1 billion to $3 billion of patents, property and “non-core assets”.

Yahoo and Black Stone IP were not immediately available for comment.


Walmart Aims To Boost Online Sales With Tech Investment

June 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc executives touted the technology investments the world’s No. 1 retailer is making to boost online sales, during the annual shareholder meeting last week.

Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon spoke about initiatives like online grocery pick up, the retailer’s two-day shipping program and its mobile wallet, Wal-Mart Pay. His comments capped off a week-long media event where the company displayed drones in warehouses and announced a partnership with Uber to deliver online groceries.

“We get to reimagine retail again, and that’s what we are going to do,” McMillon said. He also said changes to boost e-commerce sales will take some time to show results.

Wal-Mart onlines sales growth has sharply decelerated for five quarters even though its overall performance has been better than most competitors.

In the first quarter, online sales growth was 7 percent, down from 8 percent, 10 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent in the previous periods. In 2015, Wal-Mart’s online sales rose 12.3 percent to $13.7 billion, which was less than the jump of more than the 16 percent for market leader Inc, to $92.4 billion.

The meeting at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetville, 30 miles from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, was packed with 14,000 people, including workers from around the world and shareholders. Keeping with its practice of showcasing celebrities at the annual event, the meeting was hosted by talk show host James Cordon. Singers like Katy Perry, Andy Grammar and Nick Jonas also performed on stage.

The enthusiastic atmosphere momentarily turned somber after two shareholder proposals demanded higher wages, better treatment of employees and an independent chairman. The proposals did not get adequate votes.

Wal-Mart in February 2015 said it will lift its base pay to $10 an hour in 2016, a step it has implemented this year. Labor groups feel this is not enough.



In-Home Tech Support Companies HelloTech, Geekatoo Merging

May 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Los Angeles-based startup HelloTech and rival in-home tech support company Geekatoo announced that they have merged, in a sign of consolidation in the hotly competitive on-demand sector.

HelloTech will combine its network of about 150 college students who provide on-demand tech repair to Southern California consumers with Geekatoo’s U.S. network of about 5,000 technicians, the companies said in a joint statement.

The merger connects HelloTech with Geekatoo’s national market and provides Geekatoo with more access to venture capital funding, HelloTech co-founder Richard Wolpert said in an interview.

HelloTech, which launched about a year ago, has raised $17 million from investors, while 5-year-old Geekatoo has raised close to $3 million.

“You could either use capital to expand really quickly or you could merge with a company like Geekatoo that had already spent money doing this,” said Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, which backed HelloTech.

The new company keeps the HelloTech name and will be led by Wolpert. He said the deal was a stock transaction, rather than a cash payment, but declined to provide further details.

Both companies dispatch in-home tech support within hours of a request to fix a wonky printer, install a new TV or troubleshoot WiFi problems, among other services.

HelloTech hit a few bumps last year after launching, with some negative customer feedback that its workforce of predominantly college students was unprofessional.

Wolpert said the company has worked out the glitches. HelloTech has a five-star rating on customer review site Yelp.

Geekatoo Executive Chairman Christian Shelton saw demand for tech services rising as more people add internet-connected devices – such as the smart thermostat Nest or WiFi camera Dropcam – to their homes.

The U.S. tech support industry makes about $30 billion in annual revenue, according to research by Parks Associates, a consulting firm.

“The opportunity is massive,” Wolpert said.

The company’s main competition is Geek Squad, a tech support service founded in 1994 and owned by big-box retailer Best Buy.

HelloTech targets baby boomers with disposable income to spend on new gadgets and someone to help get them up and running.

“There is enormous wealth in the baby boomer generation,” Suster said, and their “digital lives are becoming increasingly complicated.”



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