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Tesla Plans Three More Gigafactories

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla is making plans for a total of five Gigafactories, where it will manufacture solar panels and battery systems for both its electric vehicles and for home and commercial energy storage.

“Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4 and possibly 5,” the company stated in a letter to shareholders.

Tesla has already begun installing Model 3 manufacturing equipment in its Fremont, Calif. plant and at Gigafactory 1 in Reno, Nev. It’s first Gigafactory is already producing battery cells for its energy storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2; they have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3 sedan, the company said.

Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 is located in Buffalo, N.Y. and is expected to open in the second half of 2017, when it will begin production of solar panels and shingles.

Ahead of the launch of its Model 3 sedan later this year, Tesla is planning to re-engineer and expand its manufacturing operations as it anticipates a major uptick in sales of its most affordable all-electric car, it said. The news of the shareholder letter was first reported in The Verve.

This month, Tesla began building Model 3 prototypes; it plans to begin production of the sedan, which has a base price of $35,000, in mid-2017, the company said.

Tesla expects to produce about 5,000 EVs per week in the fourth quarter of 2017 and plans to increase that number to 10,000 per week in 2018.

“Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July,” Tesla said in its letter. “Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017.”

Snapchat Wants In On Hardware Development Too

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc hit the roads of London on Monday promoting its initial public offering with a daring proposition: that it can build hot-selling hardware gadgets and ad-friendly software features fast enough to stay one step ahead of Facebook.

No longer just a purveyor of a smartphone app for disappearing messages, Snap has hired hundreds of hardware engineers, built a secretive product development lab and scoured the landscape for acquisitions as it pursues its newly stated ambition to be “a camera company.”

These efforts, which are aimed at developing hardware and so-called augmented reality technologies, are central to the strategy of a company that is seeking a valuation of up to $22 billion in its early March IPO despite heavy losses and the specter of stiff competition for advertising dollars with a far-larger Facebook.

It is a big gamble and the odds against Snap are long.

There is little precedent for a company with its roots in software and social networking succeeding in the notoriously difficult consumer hardware business. Few U.S. firms aside from Apple have made big profits on hardware, and camera and wearable gadget makers have much lower valuations than Snap is seeking. Once-hot camera start-up GoPro  is a cautionary tale: its stock sits 61 percent below its 2014 IPO price.

More broadly, creating new products and features that have mass-market appeal and cannot be readily mimicked is a huge challenge, analysts say.

“It’s worrisome,” said Paul Meeks, chief investment officer at Sloy, Dahl & Holst, which manages more than $1 billion in assets. “Snapchat is going to have to continue to be really innovative and distinctive. It’s going to be very tough to trump Facebook.”

Snap declined to comment for this story.

Snap first signaled its new focus with the September reveal of Spectacles, funky sunglasses with an embedded video camera for posting to the Snapchat app. The company spent $184 million on research and development last year, nearly half its revenue.

 

Verizon Reportedly Gets Discount On Yahoo Acquisition

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc  is close to an updated deal to purchase Yahoo Inc’s core internet business for $250 million to $350 million less than the original agreed price of $4.83 billion, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Since last year, Verizon had been trying to persuade Yahoo to amend the terms of the acquisition agreement to reflect the economic damage from two cyber attacks. A source told Reuters that the deal, which could come as soon as this week, will entail Verizon and Yahoo sharing the liability from potential lawsuits related to the data breaches.

Another person familiar with the situation said the price cut was likely to be around $250 million, a figure that Bloomberg reported earlier on Wednesday.

A representative from Verizon declined to comment. Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Maybe this isn’t quite as much of a discount as initially thought, but it’s at least something,” said Dave Heger, senior equity analyst at Edward Jones.

Verizon hopes to combine Yahoo’s search, email and messenger assets, as well as advertising technology tools, with its AOL unit, which Verizon bought in 2015 for $4.4 billion. Verizon has been looking to mobile video and advertising for new sources of revenue outside an oversaturated wireless market.

But Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo has been under scrutiny by federal investigators and lawmakers since disclosing the largest known data breach in history in December, months after disclosing a separate hack.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a probe into whether Yahoo should have disclosed the breaches, which occurred in 2013 and 2014, sooner, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Wednesday, Yahoo sent a warning to users whose accounts may have been accessed by intruders between 2015 and 2016, as part of a data security issue related to the breach it disclosed in December. A person familiar with the matter said notifications have gone out to a mostly final list of users.

T-Mobile Riding High, Adds Customers And Beats Revenue Forecast

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc, the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier, has reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit as its promotional offers aided in adding new customers.

T-Mobile had a number of promotional offers in the fourth quarter, including a free iPhone 7 offer with eligible trade-in around Black Friday.

Riding on the success of these offers, the company gained market share from rivals Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Sprint Corp in an oversaturated U.S. wireless market.

T-Mobile said in January that it added 933,000 postpaid phone subscribers, or those who pay monthly bills, on a net basis, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

Chatter around a deal between T-Mobile and Sprint Corp resurfaced in December after Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Group Corp is a majority shareholder in Sprint, pledged a $50 billion investment in the United States.

Asked last week about a renewed merger bid with T-Mobile, Son said he was keeping his options open about Sprint.

T-Mobile’s total revenue jumped 23.4 percent to $10.18 billion.

The company’s net income rose to $390 million, or 45 cents per share, for the quarter from $297 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 30 cents per share and revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

 

Twitter Growth Slump Continues, Value Slides

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest quarterly revenue growth since debuting as a public the company continues to face intense competition from Snap Inc’s Snapchat and Facebook Inc’s  Instagram.

Twitter said its user base increased 4 percent to 319 million average monthly active users.

Analysts on average had expected 319.6 million monthly active users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

Revenue rose just 1 percent to $717.2 million, missing analysts’ average estimate of $740.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company’s adjusted profit, however, beat sharply lowered estimates.

“While revenue growth continues to lag audience growth, we are applying the same focused approach that drove audience growth to our revenue product portfolio,” Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in a statement. “This will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results.”

Twitter’s user growth benefited from the social media frenzy that surrounded the U.S. Presidential election as well as the growing follower base of President Donald Trump.

Trump has been using Twitter to air his views, bypassing traditional media outlets.

Twitter was abuzz with takeover chatter last year involving big names such as Salesforce.com Inc and Walt Disney Co. The rumors died down due to the lack of concrete offers.

Twitter has also upgraded its offerings with several new features, including live video broadcasts from its app.

“While none of them will likely materially change Twitter’s user/usage growth, these product innovations are a positive step,” RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a pre-earnings note.

San Francisco-based Twitter was also hit by a string of executive departures in 2016, including in its product team, which has had three heads in less than a year.

Twitter’s net loss widened to $167.1 million, or 23 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $90.24 million, or 13 cents per share, a year earlier.

Fitbit Struggles Continues, Announces Layoffs

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fitbit has revealed that it will institute cost measures and layoff of 6% of its global workforce after experiencing softer-than-expected holiday demand for fitness trackers.

The company and analysts said despite the negative news, there is still a future market for wearable devices as well as for smartwatches made by Apple, Samsung and, soon, Fitbit itself.

In its preliminary financial results for the fourth quarter of 2016, Fitbit said it sold 6.5 million devices, with revenues expected to reach up to $580 million, down from previous guidance of $750 million.

“We are confident this performance is not reflective of the value of our brand, market-leading platform and the company’s long-term potential,” said co-founder and CEO James Park, in a statement.

“We believe the evolving wearables market continues to present growth opportunities for us that we will capitalize on by investing in our core product offerings, while expanding in the smartwatch category to diversify revenue and capture share of the over-$10 billion global smartwatch market,” he added.

Park said consumers want a “stylish, well-designed” smartwatch that has “general purpose functionality with a focus on health and fitness.” Fitbit recently acquired Pebble, Vector Watch and Coin (with its mobile payments technology) to “position the company for long-term success.”

Park and co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Eric Friedman said they will reduce their 2017 salaries to $1. The layoffs will affect about 110 workers, while expenses will be reduced by about $200 million to about $850 million in 2017. The reorganization will affect sales and marketing groups and create “optimization” of the company’s research and development efforts.

Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, said he didn’t think Fitbit’s fourth-quarter results signaled a long-term decline for wearables and smartwatches.

“I don’t think the entire category is in trouble just yet,” he said in an email. “Fitbit is indicative of the larger trend that growth will be slower. This is more of a pause than a continued decline.”

Fitness devices in general have been a “commodity, and a lot of initial excitement has subsided,” Ubrani said. Apple Watches and Android Wear devices have been successful in finding specific niches for sports and fashion, “but none have had mass appeal.”

Dropbox Debuts Two New Products, Focuses On Enterprise Growth

January 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox, the highly valued digital storage firm has debuted two new products – file synch and content collaboration tools – as part of a years-long effort to build up its business offerings.

The effort appears to have bolstered the company’s bottom line. Dropbox Chief Executive Officer Drew Houston said on Monday the company is projected to surpass $1 billion in annual revenue.

“We fundamentally redesigned Dropbox from the ground up,” Houston said.

Dropbox started as a free service for consumers to share and store photos, music and other large files. But that business became a commodity as technology giants Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc began offering storage for free.

In its strategy switch, however, Dropbox continues to face stiff competition in an already crowded market, and must fight for hotly contested business accounts even as it tries to keep a foothold in the consumer market.

“Dropbox is clearly moving in this direction but still has some catch-up to do,” said Forrester analyst Cheryl McKinnon.

At an event in San Francisco on Monday, Dropbox unveiled Smart Sync, a feature that allows users to see and access all of their files, whether stored in the cloud or on a local hard drive, from their desktop. Smart Sync is part of Dropbox Business, which requires companies to pay a fee based on the number of employees who use it.

Dropbox also rolled out Dropbox Paper – which allows groups to create, edit and collaborate on projects in a single workspace – to users globally and in 21 languages.

“Where we see the most important problems to solve are certainly around workplace productivity and collaboration,” Rob Baesman, Dropbox senior product management director, said in an interview. “A lot of investments we make are to solve those challenges.”

The company also announced an array of new features and upgrades all aimed at better employee collaboration and efficiency.

Competitors including Box Inc, Slack, Facebook Inc, Microsoft, Atlassian Corp Plc  and Google already offer team collaboration tools, and many have struck key partnerships with each other.

Dropbox says about 200,000 of its 500 million users are businesses that are paying customers, about double the number two years ago. Many of Dropbox’s users pay nothing.

It remains to be seen whether Dropbox can serve both businesses and consumers well enough to justify its $10 billion valuation, based on the price tag it earned in its last round of private financing.

Seagate Finds Profit In The Cloud

January 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Hard-drive maker Seagate has done better than the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street predicted this quarter.

Apparently Seagate’s bottom line was augmented by strong demand for its cloud-based storage products.

Seagate has been focusing on cloud-based products as businesses cut spending on traditional storage systems.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Luczo said: “From a macro perspective, we remain cautiously optimistic about the current macroeconomic environment and IT spending trends,” on a post-earnings conference call.”

The company forecast third quarter revenue of about $2.7 billion, above estimates of $2.61 billion.

Seagate said it expects to achieve revenue growth this year. This is a bit of a turnaround from July where the outfit slashed 6,500 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce, by the end of fiscal 2017, as part of a major restructuring.

The company’s net income rose to $297 million in the second quarter ended December 30, from $165 million.

Its rival Western Digital will report its second-quarter results today.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Profits Rise By 20%, Despite Galaxy Note 7 Problems

January 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics announced that its profit increased by nearly 20 percent in 2016 despite nearly flat sales and the costly recall of the Note 7 smartphone.

The company reported an annual net profit of 22.7 trillion won ($19.5 billion), up 19.2 percent, on sales of 201.9 trillion won (US$173.5 billion), up just 0.6 percent.

Samsung saw some of its biggest sales gains in memory chips on the back of strong demand from smartphone makers. The company is one of the world’s biggest memory chip manufacturers.

The mobile division saw sales fall 3 percent in 2016 to 97.8 trillion won. It’s Samsung’s biggest division by sales and was hit by the recall of the Note 7 smartphone and slowing demand for high-end phones.

A day earlier, Samsung divulged that battery problems were to blame for the fires and explosions that led to the massive recall. It said batteries from two manufacturers suffered from internal problems that caused a short circuit and fire.

Looking ahead, Samsung said it expects the smartphone market to slow down while artificial intelligence services present a new business opportunity. To date, Samsung handsets have featured Google’s AI personal assistant, but the company reportedly is developing its own assistant.

Samsung also signaled that it plans to boost the competitiveness of its mid-to-low-end smartphones by adding features that were previously only available in more expensive models.

In the consumer electronics business, sales barely rose but profit more than doubled to 2.6 trillion won. Samsung said it sees high-end QLED televisions and large-screen 4K televisions as key to growth in 2017. It will also attempt to expand the business-to-business side of its home appliance division.

 

Verizon’s Acquisition Of Yahoo Delayed

January 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon’s planned purchase of Yahoo will take longer than expected and won’t hapen until this year’s second quarter, the internet company has announced.

The $4.8 billion deal was originally slated to close in the first quarter, but that was before Yahoo reported two massive data breaches that analysts say may scrap the entire deal.

Although Yahoo continues to work to close the acquisition, there’s still work required to meet closing the deal’s closing conditions, the company said in an earnings statement, without elaborating.

Verizon has suggested that the data breaches, and the resulting blow to Yahoo’s reputation, might cause it to halt or renegotiate the deal.

In September, Yahoo said a “state-sponsored actor” had stolen details from at least 500 million user accounts in late 2014. As if that weren’t enough, the company reported another breach in December, this one dating back to August 2013 and involving 1 billion user accounts.

Both breaches were detected months after Verizon announced last July that it would buy the ailing internet company. Reportedly, Yahoo is facing an investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the breaches should have been reported to investors earlier.

The breaches may have shaken confidence in Yahoo’s internet business. But the company has since taken measures, such as password resets, to secure user accounts.

Nevertheless, some user accounts are still vulnerable. On Monday, Yahoo said 90 percent of its daily active users were protected from the breach. That leaves another 10 percent potentially exposed.

Among the information stolen in the breaches were names, email addresses, telephone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers meant to protect the accounts.

Yahoo Under Scrutiny By SEC Over Hacking

January 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a previously disclosed data breach at Yahoo Inc, the company published in a recent filing.

Yahoo said in a November 2016 quarterly filing that it was “cooperating with federal, state and foreign” agencies, including the SEC, that were seeking information and documents about a “security incident and related matters.”

The SEC is investigating whether two massive data breaches at Yahoo should have been reported sooner to investors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

 An SEC spokesman declined to comment. A Yahoo spokesman directed Reuters to the company’s November filing.

Yahoo has faced pointed questions about exactly when it knew about a 2014 cyber attack it announced in September that exposed the email credentials of half a billion accounts.

In December, Yahoo said it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013.

The SEC issued requests for documents in December, as it probes whether the technology company’s disclosures about the cyber attacks complied with civil securities laws, the people said, according to the Journal.

Securities industry rules require companies to disclose cyber breaches to investors. Although the SEC has long-standing guidance on when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents, companies that have experienced known breaches often omit those details in regulatory filings, according to a 2012 Reuters investigation.(reut.rs/2dblx5S)

Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner asked the SEC in September to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives fulfilled obligations to inform investors and the public about the 2014 hacking attack.

The disclosures from Yahoo about both breaches came after the company agreed to sell its main business to Verizon Communications Inc in July, triggering questions about whether the deal would still be viable and, if so, at what price.

Apple Goes After Qualcomm

January 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Apple believes that it can make a more than a billion dollars for suing Qualcomm for charging too much on its patents.

Apple has sued its long term partner days after the US Federal Trade Commission began suing Qualcomm for anti-competitive practices over the same issue. The commission said that Qualcomm had been forcing phone manufactures to pay “disproportionately high” fees for use of patents necessary to make a smartphone

Qualcomm denied all of the commission’s claims, and it says in a statement that Apple’s claims are “baseless.”

Jobs Mob insists that Qualcomm withheld nearly $1 billion “as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them.” That was apparently related to a South Korean investigation of Qualcomm, which led to an $853 million fine last month.

“Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined,” Apple said.

The irony is that Apple has a sweetheart deal with Qualcomm which grants it exclusivity as a modem supplier in exchange. That deal had Qualcomm giving rebates to Apple, which seems to be why this suit is over withheld payments, rather than the fees themselves.

In a statement, Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said that Apple was “has intentionally mischaracterized” the companies’ agreements and has been “actively encouraging regulatory attacks on Qualcomm’s business” around the world. “We welcome the opportunity to have these meritless claims heard in court where we will be entitled to full discovery of Apple’s practices and a robust examination of the merits,” Rosenberg said.

Courtesy-Fud

Atlassian To Acquire Project Management Software Firm Trello

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Atlassian, the company known for HipChat and the JIRA software development tool, will purchase Trello, a vendor of the eponymous collaborative project management software.

The deal will give Atlassian users new ways to organize, discuss and complete their work, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Atlassian’s co-founder and co-CEO, wrote in a blog post Monday.

“By adding Trello to the Atlassian family, we’re giving teams more choice in the tools they use to support the way that they want to work,” he said. Trello will offer “a fun new way for teams to organize the often messy range of information that feeds into great teamwork.”

Trello, with more than 19 million users, is a “break-out success” in the team-building software market. Among Trello’s customers: Google, PayPal, Kickstarter, and Pixar, according to the company’s website.

 “Trello’s pioneering use of an intuitive visual system has been embraced by all kinds of teams to do everything from managing marketing campaigns to tracking action items from team meetings,” Cannon-Brookes wrote.  “Atlassian’s mission is to unleash the potential in every team. In Trello, we found a group that is as dedicated to helping teams get stuff done as we are.”

The Trello card-based system is intuitive and easy to use, he added. It’s popular with marketing, legal, HR, and sales teams.

The acquisition, expected to close later this quarter, is priced at $425 million, with $360 million in cash and the remainder in stock, an Atlassian spokesman said.

Trello, launched in 2011, was spun out from parent company Fog Creek Software in 2014. The company raised $10.3 million in funding led by Spark Capital and Index Ventures.

Yahoo Renames Itself, To Become Altaba

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc has announced that it would rename itself Altaba Inc and Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer would resign from the board after the closing of its deal with Verizon Communications Inc.

Yahoo has a deal to sell its core internet business, which includes its digital advertising, email and media assets, to Verizon for $4.83 billion.

The terms of that deal could be amended – or the transaction may even be called off – after Yahoo last year disclosed two separate data breaches; one involving some 500 million customer accounts and the second involving over a billion.

 Verizon executives have said that while they see a strong strategic fit with Yahoo, they are still investigating the data breaches.

Five other Yahoo directors would also resign after the deal closes, Yahoo said in a regulatory filing on Monday.

The remaining directors will govern Altaba, a holding company whose primary assets will be a 15 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan.

The new company also named Eric Brandt chairman of the board, effective Jan. 9.

Apple Waning, Cutting iPhone Production

January 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc will put into place a reduction in production of iPhones by about 10 percent in the January-March quarter of 2017, the Nikkei financial daily is reporting, citing calculations based on data from the smartphone’s list of  suppliers.

The company had slashed output by 30 percent in January-March this year due to accumulated inventory, the paper said.

Apple’s shares were down 0.84 percent in midday trading, in line with the Nasdaq stock index.

 An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

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