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SIM Card Maker Gemalto Sees Little Impact From Hacking

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Gemalto said  its initial investigations into a reports that U.S. and British spies had gained unauthorized access to it systems showed its products were secure and it thus did not expect a significant financial impact.

Gemalto’s shares fell sharply late last week after news website Intercept reported a hack by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

The hack into the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards allowed the spies to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world, the investigative news website reported.

Gemalto said it would communicate on the results of its investigations on Wednesday, Feb. 25 through a press release and a press conference that will be held in Paris at 0930 GMT.

Gemalto makes smart chips for mobile phones, bank cards and biometric passports and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among its 450 wireless network provider customers around the world.

 

 

Samsung Puts Pressure On Other Internal Divisions

February 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung’s components businesses is finding itself under pressure to pick up the slack and secure external customers for chips and display panels and might even start flogging them to rival mobile companies.

According to Reuters the reason for this is that the Smartphone industry is tanking and the only one making any money out of it is Apple — and even it is suffering a bit.

Samsung Display has begun supplying organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels to Chinese smartphone makers Lenovo, Coolpad, Oppo Electronics and Vivo Electronics.

The subsidiary says it’s on the lookout for more clients, aiming to have half its total revenue by 2017 from sales to outside customers, up from just over a third in 2013.

Industry experts think that external clients account for around a fifth of Samsung Display’s sales of smaller smartphone and tablet panels compared to about 50 percent for large panels for TVs, underscoring a need for more mobile clients.

Samsung was not interested in overseas sales when Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S devices were selling well, but suddenly it is trying to push into new pastures.

Samsung’s systems chips business is also trying to grow its customer base . It lost a $1 billion last year on declining sales of Galaxy smartphones and the loss of a contract to supply the processor for Apple Inc’s iPhone 6.

Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone is widely expected to be powered by its own Exynos processor.

The outfit is in talks with third-party customers about supplying its Exynos mobile processors. Samsung is likely to win back the Apple contract and supply the majority of mobile processors for the next iPhone.

Courtesy-Fud

Yahoo To Spin Off Small Business Unit

February 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has made the decision to spin off its Small Business unit as part of the spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Yahoo Small Business helps small enterprises set up and run their businesses online.

Yahoo announced last week about a tax-free spinoff of its 15 percent stake in China’s Alibaba into a newly formed independent registered investment company responding to pressure to hand over to shareholders its prized e-commerce investment valued at roughly $40 billion.

Yahoo had then said the new entity would include its 384 million shares in Alibaba as well as an unspecified “legacy, ancillary” Yahoo unit.

“We’re mapping out additional investments now for our platform and services,” Yahoo Small Business said on its Tumblr page on Tuesday.

The transaction is expected to occur in Q4 2015. The unit will move to SpinCo prior to completion of the transaction.

 

 

 

Sprint, Amazon Considering Acquiring Some RadioShack Stores

February 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc and Sprint Corp are considering buying some RadioShack stores once the troubled electronics retailer files for bankruptcy, accoring to Bloomberg.

Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, Bloomberg said.

Sprint and RadioShack have had talks about co-branding some of the stores, Bloomberg reported, citing two anonymous sources. The rest of the stores would close down, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), meanwhile, said its regulatory arm was acting to delist RadioShack shares, and would suspend their trading immediately.

Another bidder could yet emerge to buy RadioShack and continue operating the 94-year-old chain, Bloomberg said.

RadioShack declined to comment on the Bloomberg report and said it had not confirmed any of the information. Sprint declined to comment. Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Standard General, a hedge fund and the largest investor in RadioShack, was in talks to serve as the lead bidder at a bankruptcy auction.

On Monday, the NYSE said it started the delisting process as RadioShack did not intend to submit a business plan to address its non-compliance with the exchange’s listing standards.

RadioShack had received a warning from the NYSE last month — the second time in a year — that it had 45 days to come up with a business plan.

The exchange sends such a notification when companies listed on it fail to maintain an average market capitalization of $50 million over 30 consecutive days.

RadioShack warned last September that it faced bankruptcy if talks with lenders and stakeholders about a sale or a restructuring failed.

The electronics retailer was once the operator of go-to shops for innovators and engineers for products ranging from vacuum tube speakers to the first mass-produced PC.

But the company has failed to transform itself into a destination for mobile phone buyers, losing out to rivals such Amazon.com Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

RadioShack said in October that it would seek to convert a loan of $120 million, given by investors including Standard General and Litespeed Management LLC, into equity “in the coming months”.

 

 

Is Nintendo On The Right Course?

February 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo is heading back to black, with the company’s financial announcements this week revealing that it’s expecting to post a fairly reasonable profit for the full year. For a company that’s largely been mired in red ink since the end of the glory days of the Wii, that looks like pretty fantastic news; but since I was one of the people who repeatedly pointed out in the past when Nintendo’s quarterly losses were driven by currency fluctuations, not sales failures, it’s only fair that I now point out that quite the reverse is true. The Yen has fallen dramatically against the Dollar and the Euro in recent months, making Nintendo’s overseas assets and sales much more valuable in its end-of-year results – and this time, that’s covering over the fact that the company has missed its hardware sales targets for both the 3DS and the Wii U.

In short, all those “Nintendo back in profit” headlines aren’t really worth anything more than the “Nintendo makes shock loss” headlines were back when the Yen was soaring to all-time highs a few years ago. The company is still facing the same tough times this week that it was last week; the Wii U is still struggling to break 10 million units and the 3DS is seeing a major year-on-year decline in its sales, having faltered significantly after hitting the 50 million installed base mark.

In hardware terms, then, Nintendo deserves all the furrowed brows and concerned looks it’s getting right now. Part of the problem is comparisons with past successes, of course; the Wii shipped over a million units and the DS, an absolute monster of a console, managed over 150 million. In reality, while the Wii U is having a seriously hard time in spite of its almost universally acclaimed 2014 software line-up, the 3DS isn’t doing badly at all; but it can’t escape comparison with its record-breaking older sibling, naturally enough.

Plenty of commentators reckon they know the answer to Nintendo’s woes, and they’ve all got the same answer; the company needs to ditch hardware and start selling its games on other platforms. Pokemon on iOS! Smash Bros on PlayStation! Mario Kart on Xbox! Freed from the limited installed base of Nintendo’s own hardware – and presumably, in the case of handheld titles, freed to experiment with new business models like F2P – the company’s games would reach their full potential, the expensive hardware division could be shut down and everyone at Nintendo could spend the rest of their lives blowing their noses on ¥10,000 notes.

I’m being flippant, yes, but there’s honestly not a lot more depth than that to the remedies so often proposed for Nintendo. I can’t help but find myself deeply unconvinced. For a start, let’s think about “Nintendo’s woes”, and what exactly is meant by the doom and gloom narrative that has surrounded the company in recent years. That the Wii U isn’t selling well is absolutely true; it’s doing better than the Dreamcast did, to pick an ominous example, but unless there’s a major change of pace the console is unlikely ever to exceed the installed base of the GameCube. Indeed, if you treat the Wii as a “black swan” in Nintendo’s home console history, a flare of success that the company never quite figured out how to bottle and repeat, then the Wii U starts to look like a continuation of a slow and steady decline that started with the Nintendo 64 (a little over thirty million consoles sold in total) and continued with the GameCube (a little over twenty million). That the 3DS is struggling to match the pace and momentum of the DS is also absolutely true; it’s captured a big, healthy swathe of the core Nintendo market but hasn’t broken out to the mass market in the way that the DS did with games like Brain Training.

Yet here’s a thing; in spite of the doom and gloom around downward-revised forecasts for hardware, Nintendo was still able to pull out a list of this year’s million-plus selling software that would put any other publisher in the industry to shame. The latest Pokemon games on 3DS have done nearly 10 million units; Super Smash Bros has done 6.2 million on 3DS and 3.4 million on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 has done almost five million units, on a console that’s yet to sell 10 million. Also selling over a million units in the last nine months of 2014 on 3DS we find Tomodachi Life, Mario Kart 7 (which has topped 11 million units, life to date), Pokemon X and Y (nearly 14 million units to date), New Super Mario Bros 2 (over 9 million), Animal Crossing: New Leaf (nearly 9 million) and Kirby: Triple Deluxe. The Wii U, in addition to Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros, had million-plus sellers in Super Mario 3D World and Nintendo Land.

That’s 12 software titles from a single publisher managing to sell over a million units in the first three quarters of a financial year – a pretty bloody fantastic result that only gets better if you add in the context that Nintendo is also 2014′s highest-rated publisher in terms of critical acclaim. Plus, Nintendo also gets a nice cut of any third-party software sold on its consoles; granted, that probably doesn’t sum up to much on the Wii U, where third-party games generally seem to have bombed, but on the 3DS it means that the company is enjoying a nice chunk of change from the enormous success of Yokai Watch, various versions of which occupied several slots in the Japanese software top ten for 2014, among other successful 3DS third-party games.

Aha, say the advocates of a third-party publisher approach for Nintendo, that’s exactly our point! The company’s software is amazing! It would do so much better if it weren’t restrained by only being released on consoles that aren’t all that popular! Imagine how Nintendo’s home console games would perform on the vastly faster-selling PS4 (and imagine how great they’d look, intones the occasional graphics-obsessive); imagine how something like Tomodachi Life or Super Smash Bros would do if it was opened up to the countless millions of people with iOS or Android phones!

Let’s take those arguments one at a time, because they’re actually very different. Firstly, home consoles – a sector in which there’s no doubt that Nintendo is struggling. The PS4 has got around twice the installed base of the Wii U after only half the time on the market; it’s clear where the momentum and enthusiasm lies. Still, Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8 managed to sell several million copies apiece on Wii U; in the case of Mario Kart 8, around half of Wii U owners bought a copy. Bearing in mind that Nintendo makes way more profit per unit from selling software on its own systems than it would from selling it on third-party consoles (where it would, remember, be paying a licensing fee to Sony or Microsoft), here’s the core question; could it sell more copies of Mario Kart 8 on other people’s consoles than it managed on its own?

If you think the answer to that is “yes”, here’s what you’re essentially claiming; that there’s a large pent-up demand among PlayStation owners for Mario Kart games. Is there really? Can you prove that, through means other than dredging up a handful of Reddit posts from anonymous people saying “I’d play Nintendo games if they were 1080p/60fps on my PS4″? To me, that seems like quite a big claim. It’s an especially big claim when you consider the hyper-competitive environment in which Nintendo would be operating on the PS4 (or Xbox One, or both).

Right now, a big Nintendo game launching on a Nintendo console is a major event for owners of that console. I think Nintendo launches would still be a big event on any console, but there’s no doubt that the company would lose focus as a third-party publisher – sure, the new Smash Bros is out, but competing for attention, pocket money and free time against plenty of other software. It’s not that I don’t think Nintendo games could hold their own in a competitive market, I merely don’t wish to underestimate the focus that Nintendo acquires by having a devoted console all of their own underneath the TVs of millions of consumers – even if its not quite the number of millions they’d like.

How about the other side of the argument, then – the mobile games aspect? Nintendo’s position in handheld consoles may not be what it used to be, but the 3DS has roundly trounced the PlayStation Vita in sales terms. Sure, iPhones and high-end Android devices have much bigger installed bases (Apple shifted around 75 million iPhones in the last quarter, while the lifetime sales of the 3DS are only just over 50 million), but that comparison isn’t necessarily a very useful one. All 50 million 3DS owners bought an expensive device solely to play games, and the lifetime spend on game software of each 3DS owner runs into hundreds of dollars. The “average revenue per user” calculation for Pokemon on the 3DS is easy; everyone paid substantial money for the game up front.

By comparison, lots and lots of iOS and Android users never play games at all, and many of those who play games never pay for them. That’s fine; that’s the very basis of the F2P model, and games using that model effectively can still make plenty of money while continuing to entertain a large number (perhaps even a majority) of players who pay nothing. Still, the claim that moving to smartphones is a “no-brainer” for Nintendo is a pretty huge one, taken in this context. The market for premium, expensive software on smartphones is very limited and deeply undermined by F2P; the move to F2P for Nintendo titles would be creatively difficult for many games, and even for ones that are a relatively natural fit (such as Pokemon), it would be an enormous commercial risk. There’s a chance Nintendo could get it right and end up with a Puzzle & Dragons sized hit on its hands (which is what it would take to exceed the half a billion dollars or so the company makes from each iteration of Pokemon on 3DS); there’s also an enormous risk that the company could get it wrong, attracting criticism and controversy around poor decisions or misjudged sales techniques, and badly damage the precious Pokemon brand itself.

In short, while I’m constantly aware that the market seems to be changing faster than Nintendo is prepared to keep up with, I’m not convinced that any of the company’s critics actually have a better plan right now than Satoru Iwata’s “stay the course” approach. If you believe that PlayStation fans will flock to buy Nintendo software on their console, you may think differently; if you think that the risk and reward profile of the global iOS market is a better bet than the 50-odd million people who have locked themselves in to Nintendo’s 3DS platform and shown a willingness to pay high software prices there, then similarly, you’ll probably think differently. Certainly, there’s some merit to the idea that Nintendo ought to be willing to disrupt its own business in order to avoid being disrupted by others – yet there’s a difference between self-disruption and just hurling yourself headlong into disaster in the name of “not standing still”.

There’s a great deal that needs to be fixed at Nintendo; its marketing and branding remains a bit of a disaster, its relationships with third-party studios and publishers are deeply questionable and its entire approach to online services is incoherent at best. Yet this most fundamental question, “should Nintendo stay in the hardware business”, remains a hell of a lot tougher than the company’s critics seem to believe. For now, beleaguered though he may seem, Iwata still seems to be articulating the most convincing vision for the future of the industry’s most iconic company.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Slack Acquires Screen Hero

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack, the IRC-for-businesses company, has acquired screen-sharing collaboration startup Screenhero with an eye toward adding valuable new communications capabilities to its software.

The deal, which was for an undisclosed sum of cash and stocks, sees Screenhero’s six-person team joining Slack to add screensharing, video chat and voice conferencing to the company’s core enterprise chat room service.

Screenhero is designed to let big teams work together like small teams and has found a dedicated customer base with developers, help desk workers and anybody else who has to work together.

That’s a smart alignment with Slack’s own sales pitch. In fact, Screenhero CEO and co-founder Jahanzeb Sherwani said that 50% of Screenhero’s own customers are also Slack customers, even as both companies made use of each others’ products interally. He added that the company was “under no pressure to sell,” but decided that cozying up with Slack would allow Screenhero to do more with its core concept faster.

It sounds like a match made in “in a Reese’s factory,” quipped Slack CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

Under this deal, Screenhero will continue to operate as a separate entity, and people can use it as they always have been. But eventually, Sherwani said, all of its features will make it into Slack and the standalone product will be discontinued.

Butterfield said that it’s just a natural progression for Slackas it goes after “bigger and weirder” companies. You can still use whatever external services you’d like for video, voice and screen sharing, per Slack’s emphasis on supporting as many services as a customer might want to use with slick native integrations. But Butterfield wants to ensure that out of the box, Slack customers get something broadly useful for collaboration without having to go through the effort.

 

 

 

Yahoo To Spinoff Shares In Alibaba

January 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Rumors Say Samsung Is Quietly Seeking To Buy Blackberry

January 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy-Fud

Is Samsung In Pursuit of BlackBerry?

January 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Apple Granted Patent For Wearable Cameras

January 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sony To Slash Mobile Phone, TV Product Lines

November 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japan’s hemorrhaging technology giant Sony Corp plans to slice its TV and mobile phone product line-ups to cut costs, counting on multi-billion dollar revenue surges for its buoyant PlayStation 4 and image sensor businesses over the next three years.

Having lost ground to nimbler rivals like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in consumer electronics, Sony said on Tuesday its goal for TV and smartphones is to turn a profit, even if sales slide as much as 30 percent.

“We’re not aiming for size or market share but better profits,” Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s newly appointed chief of its mobile division told an investors’ conference. A poor showing by its Xperia smartphones has weighed heavily on recent earnings and Sony said more detail on plans for the unit will be unveiled before end-March.

Under its new three-year electronics business plan, Sony said it was aiming to boost sales for its videogame division by a quarter to as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($13.6 billion). It said that will be helped by personalized TV, video and music distribution services that should lift revenue per paying user.

At its devices division, which houses its image sensor business, Sony said sales could increase 70 percent to as much as 1.5 trillion yen. Sony’s sensor sales are already robust, with Apple using them in its iPhones while Chinese handset manufacturers are increasingly adopting them.

In a similar event last week for its entertainment units, the conglomerate said it was aiming to lift its movie and TV programming revenues by a third over the next three years.

 

 

Facebook Said To Be Launching Social Network For Professionals

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc’s professional version of its social network geared towards businesses will launch in the next few months, a person familiar with the matter revealed to Reuters.

The world’s No.1 Internet social network with 1.35 billion monthly users has been quietly testing a version of its website aimed at workplace collaboration. The service, dubbed Facebook at Work, allows users to exchange messages and share documents using Facebook’s scrolling news feed and other familiar features from the consumer version of Facebook.

The professional version of Facebook, which could compete with services such as LinkedIn Corp, as well as Salesforce.com Inc and Microsoft Corp, would allow users to maintain special profiles that are distinct from their existing Facebook profiles, the person said. Work activities would not be shared on a user’s personal profile, and the baby photos, videos and general banter popular in the consumer version of Facebook would not encroach into the professional version.

A Facebook team in London is leading the effort and a small number of companies are currently running a pilot version of the service, the person said.

It is still unclear how Facebook plans to make money from the professional service. Facebook is not currently charging a subscription fee for the version being tested, according to a report in the Financial Times, which first reported news of the service. Facebook currently generates the bulk of its revenue from ads that appear on its existing service.

 

 

Sprint Clings To 3rd Place, Wards Off T-Mobile Advance In Latest Quarter

November 5, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint had 55 million wireless “connections” at the end of the third quarter, allowing it to barely retain the title of third largest U.S. carrier, just ahead of T-Mobile.

Some analysts had predicted Sprint would fall to fourth place behind T-Mobile, which has 53 million wireless customers, due to Sprint’s losses of postpaid phone subscribers. Those customers pay monthly bills after using a wireless service, as opposed to paying in advance.

In the company’s earnings call late Monday, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure announced a loss of 500,000 postpaid phone connections during the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That’s down from a loss of 620,000 in the second quarter and 693,000 in the first quarter. For the first nine months of the year, Sprint has lost about 1.8 million postpaid customers.

Still, Claure said that Sprint has worked to stabilize is subscriber base with new family service plans and special pricing for the iPhone 6, which he said has been the best iPhone launch by Sprint ever. He cited record sales, but did not disclose any numbers.

“I have now completed 85 days [as CEO], and couldn’t be more excited about the progress made in those short weeks…,” Claure said. “We have started a transformation, while the company faces headwinds. ”

The biggest determining factor in a carrier’s success is postpaid phone customer growth, Claure noted.

Sprint’s wireless customer base includes 29.9 million postpaid connections (for all devices, not just smartphones); 15.1 million prepaid connections; and another 9.9 million connections made from Sprint affiliates, wholesale customers and devices of various types.

In contrast, T-Mobile said last week it had added 2.3 million subscribers in the same quarter, giving it 52.89 million customers.

With the benefit of wholesale and affiliate connections, “we still have the third most [connections],” Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat noted in an email.

Remaining in third place gives Sprint bragging rights, but it wasn’t something anyone at Sprint highlighted, given T-Mobile’s strong surge in recent quarters and Sprint’s problems.

Despite the overall third quarter customer losses, both September and October saw year-over-year improvements — the first such improvements in 2014, Claure said.

 

 

 

 

Yahoo To Lay Out Cost-cutting Efforts

October 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc is expected today  to reveal cost-cutting efforts and give details of how it is evaluating possible acquisitions as it faces mounting pressure from an activist investor, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person who was briefed on the plan.

Yahoo is considering purchasing one or more large technology startups with some of the $5.8 billion it made from the initial public offering of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the newspaper said.

Representatives at Yahoo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Last month, activist investor Starboard Value LP publicly pressured Yahoo to cut what it referred to as a “bloated” cost structure.

Starboard, the second activist investor to target Yahoo in the last three years, also said the company should quickly “monetize” its Asian assets, which exceed the enterprise value of its actual business.

Earlier this month, Yahoo said it is reducing the size of its operations in Bangalore, India, the Internet company’s largest engineering facility outside its California headquarters. It is also closing its office in Jordan.

Yahoo is “streamlining” its operations in foreign offices, which might involve a combination of closing offices, cutting jobs and moving workers to its Sunnyvale, California, headquarters, the Journal said.

 

 

BlackBerry’s Passport Smartphone Sold Out, Says CEO

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.

Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said ShopBlackBerry.com sold out the Passport in six hours, with Amazon.com selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.

“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.

But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.

Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.

Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.

“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”

He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.

The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.