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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

Angry Birds Maker Rovio Looks At Acquiring Rivals

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Rovio, the owner of hit mobile game “Angry Birds,” will look to acquire other players in the gaming industry following its listing on Friday, its main owner Kaj Hed said.

The Finnish company’s shares got off to a flying start on their stock market debut, trading up as much as 7 percent from their initial public offering price (IPO) of 11.50 euros.

Hed, who cut his stake from 69 percent to 37 percent in the IPO, said Rovio now had more muscle to do deals in a gaming sector he believes is ripe for consolidation.

“We have a clear will to be a consolidator, and we are in a very good position to do that,” he told Reuters at Rovio’s headquarters by the Baltic Sea.

“Many good (gaming industry) players face the question of whether they should go public, or whether they should consolidate. Going public is expensive and requires hard work, so finding a partner could be easier.”

Analysts have long urged Rovio to do more to reduce its reliance on the “Angry Birds” franchise.

Hed, the uncle of Rovio’s co-founder Niklas Hed, said he remained strongly committed to the company.

“The reason that I sold shares was to give the company the liquidity, because that is very important. My intention is to remain as a long-term investor in the company.”

Rovio saw rapid growth after the 2009 launch of the original “Angry Birds” game, but it plunged to an operating loss and cut a third of its staff in 2015 due to a pick up in competition and a shift among consumers to freely available games.

But the 2016 release of 3D Hollywood movie “Angry Birds”, together with new games, have revived the brand and helped sales recover.

In the first half of this year, Rovio’s sales almost doubled from a year earlier to 153 million euros, while core profit increased to 42 million euros from 11 million.

Rovio’s market valuation of around 950 million euros ($1.12 billion), looks high based on Rovio’s historical profit, said Atte Riikola, an analyst at research firm Inderes.

Roku Gears Up For IPO, Sets Shares At $14

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku, the video streaming platform, set its initial public offering price at $14 per share, giving the company a value of $1.3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The maker of set-top streaming boxes and software priced at the high end of its expected range, raising roughly $219 million Wednesday night ahead of its debut on the Nasdaq stock market Thursday, The Journal reported.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon. But Roku is the most pervasive box in US households and tends to be one of the main ways people stream long-form TV from services like Netflix and Hulu, according to research firm Nielsen.

Roku, which announced its intention to go public earlier this month, said in June it has 15 million monthly active accounts, a 61 percent increase in the previous 12 months. The company had $400 million in revenue in 2016.

T-Mobile, Sprint Edge Closer To Merger

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

 T-Mobile US Inc is has moved closer to agreeing on tentative terms to merge with Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

The transaction would significantly consolidate the U.S. telecommunications market and represent the first transformative U.S. merger with significant antitrust risk to be agreed since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January.

The progress toward a deal also indicates that T-Mobile and Sprint believe that the U.S. antitrust enforcement environment has become more favorable since the companies abandoned their previous effort to combine in 2014 amid regulatory concerns.

The latest development in the talks between T-Mobile and Sprint comes as the telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, which controls Sprint, and other Sprint shareholders will own 40 to 50 percent of the combined company, while T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom and the rest of T-Mobile shareholders will own the majority, the sources said.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son met with Trump late last year and said in February that the Japanese firm should benefit from Trump’s promised deregulation.

Once terms are finalized, due diligence by the two companies will follow and a deal is expected by the end of October, though talks may still fall through, the sources said.

Did Qualcomm Inadvertently Help Apple

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has published a blog post that praises itself and its Android partners for inventing all the industry firsts that Apple is claiming to have invented in its iPhone X.

These include wireless charging, dual-camera systems, OLED smartphone screens, edge-to-edge displays, and more features that the upcoming iPhone X has.

The blog is a reminder to Apple about how dependent the fruity cargo-cult is on Qualcomm technology.

Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today — on Android and other platforms, Qualcomm said. One great example is Gigabit LTE. The latest Gigabit LTE-enabled Android smartphones can download content from mobile networks 135 times faster than the first Android phones could nine years ago, it continued. “Meanwhile, we’ve been inventing foundational technologies for Gigabit LTE for well over a decade.”

Apple and Qualcomm are currently embroiled in what’s turning into a vicious, global patent licensing dispute and its modems are at the centre of the dispute.

Apple believes it should be allowed to pay Qualcomm what it likes for the technology it invented and it should be allowed to make huge profits while other companies do all the research.

Qualcomm never mentions Apple by name in the blog – the closest the company ever comes is with this line: “Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today – on Android and other platforms.” 

Courtesy-Fud

Roku Prepares For Initial Public Offering

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku is gearing up to go public.

The streaming device maker is seeking $100 million in its initial public offering, according to a filing Friday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker ROKU.

Roku, which makes popular streaming devices like the Roku PremiereRoku Express+ and Roku Streaming Stick, said it’s seizing on the cord-cutting trend. “TV streaming’s disruptive content distribution model is shifting billions of dollars of economic value. Roku is capitalizing on this large economic opportunity,” reads the filing.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, but its products routinely slay in CNET reviews and in sales.

In the filing, Roku said it had more than 15 million active accounts, and that its users streamed over 6.7 billion hours of content on its platform in the first half of this year, a 62 percent increase from the first half of 2016. Earlier reports hinted that Roku planned to go public this year.

Roku declined to comment beyond the filing.

Is Sony Facing Another Class Action Lawsuit

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

A US Federal Court has approved a class action lawsuit against Sony for ‘deceptively advertising’ its Xperia smartphones and tablets as “waterproof”. 

The lawsuit, first reported on by The Verge, alleges that Sony’s Xperia devices have been misrepresented as “waterproof” as they are not designed for or capable of ordinary underwater use and are more on the “water-resistant” level of protection.

“Sony exploited certain international water resistance ratings in order to launch a deceptive marketing campaign promoting the devices,” the lawsuit claims. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Sony’s dodgy “waterproof claims”. Back in 2015, the Japanese firm warned buyers of its Xperia Z5 that, despite having advertised the smartphone as ‘waterproof’, getting it wet could void the warranty.

The class action seeks a 12-month warranty extension for recently purchased devices or a reimbursement of up to 50 per cent off the affected device’s suggested retail price, which means owners of an Xperia Z4 Tablet, for example, could receive a $300 reimbursement.

However, The Verge notes that “this may not be the final value the company is liable to refund”, as Sony will still need to settle with the court again on 1 December and agree on final terms.

The lawsuit is also calling for Sony to make changes to its packing, labelling and advertising. 

Devices included in the class action include the Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia Z3 Tablet, Compact Xperia Z4 Tablet, Xperia M2 Aqua, Xperia M4 Aqua, Xperia ZR Xperia Z Ultra Xperia Z1, Z1s, Z1 Compact Xperia Z2 Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3v, Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3+ Dual, Xperia Z5, and the Xperia Z5 Compact.

The class action only applies to customers in the US. Those eligible and interested in taking part of the claim can sign up here by 30 January 2018. Affected customers will need to have a record of their interactions with Sony or they will not be eligible.

Courtesy-TheInq

Fitbit Commits To Smartwatch Market With Ionic Launch

August 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Wearable device maker Fitbit Inc has launched its newest device, the Ionic smartwatch, with features ranging from fitness tracking to contactless payment, as it gears up to compete with rivals such as Apple Inc.

Once the market leader in wearables, Fitbit has recently struggled due to fierce competition and had earlier blamed a shift among consumers toward feature-rich devices and smartwatches for its revenue decline.

Ionic smartwatches will feature GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, Fitbit Pay, onboard music, multiple clock faces and a battery that will last more than 4 days, the company said in a statement.

 “Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe,” Fitbit said.

The watch also has a new sensor technology — relative SpO2 sensor — for estimating oxygen levels in the blood that have the potential to track sleep apnea among others.

With a price tag of $299.95, Ionic is priced above Apple Watch’s starting price of $269.

“Fitbit can take some market share from Apple by appealing to those who are more focused on fitness, however, we do not expect this to be a significant share of Apple’s overall smartwatch sales,” Wedbush Securities analyst Alicia Reese said.

Ionic will be available for pre-sale from Monday on Fitbit’s website and at some online retailers from Tuesday, the company said in a statement.

The company on Monday also launched Aria 2 smart scale and Flyer wireless headphones.

Is HTC Gearing Up To Go On The Auction Block?

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Signs are emerging that HTC may be in trouble.

The Taiwanese company is exploring its strategic options, according to a report by Bloomberg. That’s business code for shopping itself around because of financial woes. The options range from selling or spinning off its VR arm into a separate business to actually selling the entire company outright, with Google as a possible suitor.

It’s been a long and steady fall for HTC, which was one of the early pioneers of Android phones and a major player in the mobile business. But with Apple and Samsung nudging the competition on premium phones and upstarts like OnePlus and Xiaomi introducing slick budget phones, it’s getting hard to stay interested in HTC phones.

HTC’s newest bet was on virtual reality and its Vive VR system, a partnership with gaming company Steam. But that doesn’t even seem to be working out.

The Vive on Monday got a $200 price cut to boost sales. IDC estimates HTC has sold about 190,000 units in the first quarter, placing it in third place in the VR market behind Samsung (489,000 in the same period) and Sony (429,000 units).

Google, which has pushed its Daydream software as its platform for VR, could use HTC’s hardware know-how. But the search giant previously attempted to run a mobile hardware company in Motorola and ultimately sold it to Chinese PC giant Lenovo.

HTC and Google declined to comment on this report.

TD Ameritrade Unveils Facebook Chatbot

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

TD Ameritrade has rolled out a “chatbot”, an automated program that can communicate with the brokerage’s customers on Facebook Inc’s messaging application, to give them information about markets and their accounts.

TD Ameritrade’s chatbot uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to respond to natural language messages from users on Facebook Messenger about their investments and stock prices, the brokerage said on Tuesday.

For example, customers could ask the chatbot for the price of Apple Inc shares or information on the performance of their portfolio without leaving the messaging app. It also offers educational content such as videos on different investment topics.

Unlike other chatbots, TD Ameritrade’s bot will be backed by a human customer support team, which will receive notifications if the bot detects it is unable to handle some interactions. This will include cases in which the user is expressing frustration through colorful language or if they expressly request human help.

“If salty language is used it will automatically escalate it to the human,” Sunayna Tuteja, director of emerging technologies and innovation at TD Ameritrade, said in an interview.

Chatbots and virtual assistants have become more popular in banking and other consumer facing industries because improvements in artificial intelligence have made them more adept at interacting with humans.

Financial firms are hopeful that they can be used to replace their costly call centers populated by humans while offering 24/7 support.

Tuteja said TD Ameritrade believes that while bots are useful at providing some customer service, a human element will always be required in financial services.

“In our business we feel it will always be an elegant combination of bot and human service,” she said. The company last year launched a voice-bot for Amazon Inc’s Echo device.

While bots have improved in their interactions with humans, the technology is still in its early days and functionality is limited. For example, the TD Ameritrade chatbot does not yet let users transact, but does allow them to initiate the process of opening a new account.

Fujitsu Looking To Exit Mobile Phone Operations, Sell Unit

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Fujitsu Ltd is looking to sell off its mobile operations as the Japanese information technology company faces stiff competition from bigger rivals in a highly lucrative mobile phone market, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The company, which spun off its mobile phone operations into a separate company last February, has drawn interest from investment funds including Tokyo-based Polaris Capital Group and Britain’s CVC Capital Partners Ltd, as well as Chinese personal computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd, the Japanese newspaper added.

First-round bidding could open as soon as September, and is expected to bring offers in the tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars), Nikkei reported.

Tokyo-based Fujitsu would stop developing and manufacturing mobile phones, but looks to keep a minority stake in the business and keep its mobile phone brand alive, the report said.

AT&T May Be Planning On Ditching Home Security Business

August 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is mulling over options for its Digital Life home security business, including selling it, as it seeks to pay down debt following its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, people familiar with the matter said.

The sale would be an about-face for AT&T, which entered the U.S. home security market with the introduction of Digital Life in 2013. The service offers customers sensors and cameras so they can monitor their homes and pets on their phones.

Digital Life accounted for a tiny fraction of AT&T’s $163.8 billion in revenue in 2016. It is estimated to have between 400,000 and 500,000 customers and may fetch close to $1 billion in a sale, the sources said.

While this would do little to reduce AT&T’s debt, which totaled $143.7 billion on June 30, the sale could be a prelude to more divestitures, the sources added.

 They requested anonymity because the deliberations are confidential. AT&T declined to comment.

“AT&T will carry an incredible debt load (after the Time Warner deal closes), which is a risky proposition for a company with declining revenues,” MoffettNathanson research analyst Craig Moffett said in an email. “They will almost certainly have to find assets to sell to appease the bond rating agencies.”

AT&T has said it expects the Time Warner acquisition to close by the end of the year. The deal is currently under antitrust review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Digital Life reaches 80 U.S. markets, including large cities such as Chicago and New York, but it has not matched the scale of U.S. cable company Comcast Corp’s rival service. Comcast introduced its Xfinity Home service in 2012 and said this year that it was approaching 1 million customers.

Cable operators turned to home security services a few years ago for a new revenue stream and as a way to rebuild margins whittled away by swelling programming costs.

Buyout firms and home security companies may show interest in the AT&T unit, the sources said. Private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, for example, bought home security company ADT Corp for about $7 billion in 2016 and merged it with smaller U.S. peer Protection 1.

Will The U.S. ITC Really Investigate Apple

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The International Trade Commission has announced that it will launch an investigation into Apple following allegations from Qualcomm that its devices violate six of its patents.

The move, arguably procedural, means that the ITC will formally investigate Qualcomm’s complaint, rather than dismiss it outright.

“The US International Trade Commission has voted to institute an investigation of certain mobile electronic devices and radio frequency and processing components thereof,” the ITC said.

“The products at issue in the investigation are mobile electronic devices – such as the iPhone 7, and specific components for such

Qualcomm’s complaint alleges that iPhones, which are made in China, should not be allowed to be brought into the United States if they infringe on its patents, and if the chipmaker has its way, the ITC would ban imports and sales of Apple’s handsets.

At the heart of the matter is Apple’s use of cellular baseband processors made by Intel, with Qualcomm arguing that iPhones Intel’s 4G wireless chips are effectively using six Qualcomm patents “unfairly” and “unlawfully”.

Unsurprisingly, Qualcomm said it is “pleased” with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple.

“Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple’s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm’s patents,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm.

“We look forward to the ITC’s expeditious investigation of Apple’s ongoing infringement of our intellectual property and the accelerated relief that the Commission can provide.'”

Apple, when asked for comment, pointed to this prior statement from June: “Qualcomm’s illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry.

“They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products – effectively taxing Apple’s innovation.”

Last month, Intel filed its own statement with the ITC, claiming that Qualcomm’s request for the regulatory agency to intervene was “a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival.”

Courtesy-TheInq

SoundCloud Receives Funding, Lives To See Another Day

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

SoundCloud, the world’s most popular streaming music app, but one that has been plagued by money-losing strategies, said it received new funding on Friday, insulating it from potentially running out of cash this year.

The company, which laid off 40 percent of its staff in July, said in a blog post that the financing was raised from media-focused investment bank Raine Group of New York and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

It did not disclose the amount or its terms. Raine and Temasek were not immediately available for comment.

One source familiar with the investment said it amounted to around $170 million (144 million euros), as reported on Thursday by online news site Axios, which had obtained the deal’s term sheet.

The company said that as part of the new investment, digital media veterans Kerry Trainor and Michael Weissman, respectively the former chief executive and chief operating officer of online video service Vimeo, would take the same roles at SoundCloud.

The arrival of the former leaders of Vimeo – one of the biggest online video rivals to Google’s YouTube and Facebook- raises the prospect SoundCloud may evolve beyond audio streaming in a more music video-oriented direction.

SoundCloud founder and former CEO Alexander Ljung has agreed to step aside to become chairman of the board, it said. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Eric Wahlross will remain at the company as chief product officer.

In July, SoundCloud fired 173 employees and closed its London and San Francisco offices to focus on Berlin and New York. A spokeswoman for SoundCloud said last month it remained fully funded into the fourth quarter while declining to comment on what lay beyond.

“The investment will ensure a strong, independent future for SoundCloud, funding deeper development and marketing of its core tools used by millions of audio creators – musicians, DJs, producers, labels, managers and podcasters,” SoundCloud said.

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