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In-Home Tech Support Companies HelloTech, Geekatoo Merging

May 24, 2016 by mphillips  
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.”

 

 

Nokia Slashes Another 1,000 Jobs

May 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia is eliminating 1,032 jobs in Finland as part of a cost-cutting plan following its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, the telecom network equipment maker said in a statement last Friday.

Finland’s biggest company has cut thousands of jobs in its home country over the past decade as its once-dominant phone business was eclipsed by the rise of smartphone rivals.

Nokia started the latest cost cutting program in April and is targeting 900 million euros ($1 billion) of operating cost synergies from the Alcatel deal by 2018.

The company has declined to give an overall figure for global job cuts, but has said it in talks with employee representatives in about 30 countries.

Nokia employs about 104,000 people worldwide, with about 6,850 in Finland, 4,800 in Germany and 4,200 in France.

 

 

Is There A ‘For Sale’ Sign In Pandora Music’s Future?

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Corvex Management LP disclosed that it owns 9.9 percent of Pandora Media Inc and urged the internet music streaming company to consider being sold instead of pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”

Corvex, a hedge fund run by Keith Meister, a protégé of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, said it had met with the company’s management and had withdrawn a plan to replace some of its board members. However, it now believes Pandora should hire an investment bank to help the company explore its strategic options including a sale.

“We believe there is likely to be significant strategic interest in the company at a substantial premium to the company’s recent stock price,” Corvex said, adding that large internet companies, handset makers and media companies could be potential buyers.

Pandora’s shares are down more than 25 percent in 2016 and more than 45 percent year-over-year. Corvex owns about 22.7 million shares in the company, making the hedge fund Pandora’s largest shareholder.

Pandora said in response that it is in constant dialogue with shareholders and committed to achieving long-term value for them.

“Pandora has a profitable core business, combined with a strong balance sheet. We are confidently investing to fully capture the massive opportunity ahead of us,” the company said in a statement.

Oakland, California-based Pandora has faced tough competition from music-streaming rivals such as Spotify, Apple Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com and has failed to turn an annual profit as a public company.

Analysts have said Pandora, which had a market capitalization of $2.29 billion on Monday, could be an acquisition target for larger media or internet companies looking to beef up their online music offerings.

Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, a former musician who spearheaded Pandora’s music algorithm technology, returned to the company March 28 to become CEO, squashing some investors’ hopes the company could be sold.

Westergren told Reuters on April 15, “If you want to sell a company, you don’t do that by spending half a billion on acquisitions and hiring a new CEO.”

 

 

Lawsuit Against Facebook’s Storage Of Biometric Data To Proceed

May 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc lost the first round in a battle against some of its users who filed suit against the social networking company, alleging it “unlawfully” collected and stored users’ biometric data derived from their faces in photographs.

The judge presiding over the case in a California federal court turned down Facebook’s motion seeking dismissal of the suit.

Facebook filed the motion arguing that the users could not file a complaint under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) as they had agreed in their user agreement that California law would govern their disputes with the company, and that BIPA does not apply to “tag suggestions.”

The court found that Illinois law applies and that the plaintiffs have stated a claim under BIPA.

The complainants had alleged that Facebook’s face recognition feature that suggests “tags” on photos unlawfully collected and stored biometric data, in violation of the Illinois BIPA.

The case was filed by some Illinois residents under Illinois law, but the parties agreed to transfer the case to the California court, the court order showed.

Facebook was also hit with a lawsuit over its plan to issue new stock last month.

The company said in April it will create a new class of non-voting shares in a move aimed at letting Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg give away his wealth without relinquishing control of the social media juggernaut he founded.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Dell Technologies To Become New Name Of Combined Dell, EMC

May 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell’s planned $67 billion purchase of EMC will create a broad collection of businesses called Dell Technologies.

Under that banner, the pure Dell name will live on in the company’s client business, including its PCs, while its enterprise infrastructure division will be called Dell EMC, chairman and CEO Michael Dell announced on Monday at EMC World in Las Vegas.

Dell Technologies will be the only company selling everything from edge devices to core data centers and cloud infrastructure, a mission that rival HP backed away from when it split into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc., Dell said.

He pitched the end-to-end strategy as a boon to customers who want a single partner that can do everything, letting them focus on business growth.

“You want technology made easier,” Dell said.

Dell Technologies will include all of what’s called Dell today, plus EMC’s core Information Infrastructure storage division, Pivotal, Virtustream, the partly public VMware and two security businesses: Dell’s SecureWorks and EMC’s RSA unit.

For EMC, owning a collection of semi-autonomous businesses and making them add up to something more is called federation, and it has come under attack from some investors and skeptics. On Monday, Dell called it a family and said Dell Technologies will be able to align its businesses and invest in new technologies at its own pace as a privately held company.

The acquisition is on track under its original terms and timeline, Michael Dell said. The deal still needs regulatory and shareholder approvals.

 

 

Apple’s Mac Slump Continues, Sales Tumble 12%

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple revealed that it sold 4 million Macs in the March quarter, a 12% decline from the same period the year before, and a larger contraction than for the personal computer business as a whole.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.

Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.

Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.

“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.

Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.

But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.

Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.

 

 

 

Twitter Troubles Continue, Misses Revenue Estimates

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Twitter Inc  disappointed investors once again with first-quarter results that revealed stagnant revenue growth as the microblogging service struggles to grab new users amid efforts to improve its complicated interface with several new features.

Twitter’s user base grew modestly to 310 million monthly active users in the quarter ended March 31 from 305 million in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations. But investors were let down by the revenue miss since outlining a turnaround plan.

“It’s obvious Twitter is having trouble,” said Arvind Bhatia, analyst with CRT Capital. “It’s not growing anywhere close to where people expected a while back.”

On a call with analysts, executives said advertisers, especially in Europe, held back spending ahead of major events, including the Olympics and the European Champions League. They also said users were spending more time watching and sharing video, but that advertisers’ budgets had not yet shifted from legacy advertising products such as promoted tweets.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Twitter’s long-term goal was to have “millions of advertisers like our competitors.” Facebook Inc has more than 3 million advertisers.

Twitter has struggled with stagnant user growth as its complex interface makes it less attractive to new users.

As part of its turnaround plan, the company has emphasized its live offerings, including live commentary and video streaming through its Periscope app, to attract new users. But it faces fierce competition from Facebook Inc  which has recently ramped up its live video product, Facebook Live.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said that talent recruitment was a top priority for the year, especially on the engineering and product teams. Twitter lost several top executives earlier this year and has since added two new board members and a new chief marketing officer.

The company forecast revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the second quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $677.57 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First-quarter revenue rose 36 percent from a year earlier to $594.5 million, but widely missed the average analyst estimate of $607.8 million.

 

 

Intel To Cut 12,000 Jobs As PC Market Slowdown Continues

April 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel Corp announced that it will eliminate up to 12,000 jobs globally, or 11 percent of its workforce, as it refocuses its business towards making microchips that power data centers and Internet connected devices and away from the declining personal computer industry it helped found.

Tech companies including the former Hewlett Packard Co and Microsoft Corp have reorganized in the face of the PC industry decline. Many new tech users around the world turn to mobile phones for their computing needs, and corporations increasingly rely on big machines rather than desktop models to run their businesses. Global personal computer shipments fell 11.5 percent in the first quarter, tech research company IDC said on Monday.

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, lowered its revenue forecast for the year. It now expects revenue to rise in mid-single digits, down from its previous forecast of mid- to high-single digits.

Most of Intel’s factories are in the United States, although it did not identify where cuts would be focused geographically. It said it would record a pretax restructuring charge of $1.2 billion in the second quarter and expected annual savings of $1.4 billion per year starting mid-2017.

The company also said Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith will move to a new role leading sales, manufacturing and operations. Intel said it would begin a formal search process for a new CFO.

Smith said that Intel now expects the PC market to decline by a percentage in the high single digits in 2016 versus a prior forecast of a mid single-digit decline. Declines in China and other emerging markets are also leading to greater than anticipated reductions in worldwide PC supply chain inventory, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said on a conference call.

 

 

Verizon Emerges As Favorite Bidder For Yahoo

April 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc is the clear favorite in the fast approaching bid for Yahoo Inc’s core Internet business, according to Wall Street analysts, in large part because the telecommunications company’s efforts to become a force in Internet content have gone relatively well under the leadership of AOL Inc Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.

Verizon acquired AOL last June for $4.4 billion – its first big foray into the advertising-supported Internet business – and it is not yet clear how well the unit is performing financially. Subsequent moves, including the takeover of much of Microsoft Corp’s advertising technology business, a deal to buy Millennial Media for about $250 million and the recent launch of the mobile video service go90, are also too recent to assess.

Yet analysts have given the big phone company high marks for allowing AOL to operate independently and folding in other recent acquisitions without much drama. And they said Armstrong seems to be driving Verizon’s recent moves in go90 and recent acquisitions.

“The management puts a lot of faith in Armstrong,” BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk said.

That faith derives in part from the belief that Armstrong did a good job at left-for-dead AOL, especially in assembling a strong set of products to deliver targeted digital ads to customers.

Combining AOL and Yahoo, an idea that has come up many times over the years, could instantly make Yahoo a major player in Internet advertising, with Armstrong – one of the world’s top ad executives – at the helm, analysts said.

Armstrong “has good M&A experience, and a pretty solid ad tech stack,” B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha said.

Verizon’s hands-off approach that has worked with AOL, though, might not be suitable if the far-bigger Yahoo were taken over. With Yahoo’s struggling business, “the luxury of autonomy is simply not there,” Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said.

Verizon, AOL and Yahoo declined to comment.

 

 

Is Acer Deciding To Split?

March 25, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Acer plans to implement a corporate restructuring project and divide its business into three major segments – PC, cloud and data center management, and re-investment businesses.

According to Digitimes,  the company may set up three entities to handle related businesses and then transform itself into a holding company to control the three subsidiaries.

Acer’s PC business should cover PCs monitors, projectors and servers, while the cloud and data center business will cover mainly Acer’s build your own cloud and e-Enabling Data Center business units.

The cunning plan is to give flexibility for Acer to either attract strategic investors or off-load businesses that are not making enough cash. The planned holding company may be formed in the second half of the year.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Nintendo Keeps Drop Year Over Year

February 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo’s finances took a dip in the company’s third quarter report for FY 2015 – sales stayed relatively stable with just 3.9 per cent shrinkage to 427.7 billion Yen ($3.5bn), but profits dropped by 32 per cent year-on-year to 40.5 billion Yen ($336m).

Although the bottom line failed to excite, plenty of familiar faces performed well for the publisher’s software arm, as well as a few new names. Top seller was Child friendly Wii U shooter Splatoon, shifting over four million units. Super Mario maker wasn’t far behind on 3.34 million, whilst Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer reached 2.93 million. Collectively the 3DS family sold 5.88 million units of hardware and 38.87 million games. The Wii U totalled 3.06 million consoles and 22.62 million pieces of software. 20.50 million Amiibo figures were sold, and approximately 21.50 million Amiibo cards.

Those eagerly awaiting news of either the new NX system or the company’s first smartphone game will be disappointed – neither was mentioned in the company’s forward looking statements. Instead, the publisher focused on relatively known quantities.

“For Nintendo 3DS, we will globally release a special edition hardware pre-installed with Pokémon title(s) from the original Pokémon series on February 27 which marks the 20th year since the original Pokémon series release,2 read the accompanying statement.

“Furthermore, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and key titles from third-party publishers are scheduled for release. For Wii U, we will strive to maintain the attention level of Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, which are continuing to show steady sales, while introducing new titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. Meanwhile, for Amiibo, we will continue to expand the product lineup in order to maintain momentum. At the same time, we will aim to further expand sales by offering new gaming experiences with the use of Amiibo. In addition, the first application for smart devices, Miitomo, is scheduled for release.”

The company has maintained its full year target of 35 billion Yen in profit.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Twitter Blames Recent Outage On Software Update

January 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc stated that it had reversed a glitchy software update and resolved outages widely reported across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America that affected users of the social network on computers and phones.

In a status update message Twitter said an “intermittent issue affecting some users” was related to “an internal code change.”

“We reverted the change, which fixed the issue,” Twitter said in a statement. There was no immediate way to determine whether full service had been restored for all users.

Wall Street has long worried about Twitter’s stagnant growth in users and advertising revenue, and analysts said the outage added to the concern.

“The current market malaise and the recent site outages are compounding the negatives and having a very negative reaction on the shares,” said Victor Anthony, Axiom Capital Management analyst.

Some users who tweeted with the hashtag #twitterdown reported they had not experienced problems or that their service had been restored. Others said they were still having problems after Twitter’s announcement.

Many pointed out that Twitter could not have been down for everyone since #twitterdown was among the top trending hashtags on the site.

Both Twitter’s Internet and mobile services began experiencing outages concentrated in northern Europe around 0820 GMT.

Users from Scandinavia to Saudi Arabia to South Africa reported outages. India and Russia also suffered performance issues, according to a Twitter technical site.

Intermittent breakdowns later spread to the United States and Canada in the early part of their working day.

Sporadic disruptions continued at 1420 GMT, six hours after they first began to spread. At approximately 1745 GMT Twitter reported that some users were still having trouble accessing the service.

Fifteen minutes later the company announced the service problems had been resolved. A company spokeswoman had no further comment.

 

 

 

Toshiba Struggles Continues, Slashing 7,000 Jobs

December 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japan’s Toshiba Corp announced it will cut nearly 7,000 consumer electronics jobs after a $1.3 billion accounting scandal, in an overhaul that will streamline the sprawling conglomerate into a company focused on chips and nuclear energy.

Toshiba also said it would sell its television manufacturing plant in Indonesia, and that eventual job cuts spanning the entire PC-to-nuclear company could be over 10,000 including previously announced cuts and those seeking voluntary early retirement.

Due to restructuring costs, which include the sale of its Indonesian TV plant, Toshiba said it expected a net loss of around 550 billion yen ($4.53 billion) in this fiscal year ending in March.

“By implementing this plan, we would like to regain the trust of all stakeholders including shareholders and transform ourselves into a robust business,” it said in a statement.

Toshiba confirmed in August that it overstated profits going back to fiscal 2008/09 by 155 billion yen. It also reported a 37.8 billion yen net loss for the last financial year to reflect more costs and conservative estimates on operations, including the South Texas Project, a U.S. power plant project.

An independent accounting probe said in July that the company suffered from dysfunction in governance and a culture of discouraging employees from questioning their superiors.

Toshiba’s stock has fallen about 40 percent since news of its accounting problems began to emerge in early April. The scandal and subsequent earnings restatements highlighted weaknesses in a range of Toshiba’s businesses.

Analysts have said restructuring was long overdue. The company launched the world’s first mass-market laptop in 1985 but has seen its consumer electronics business dwindle amid price competition with Asian rivals.

The change in fortune highlights the decline of the 140-year-old conglomerate, which remains highly influential in the Japanese business community. Over the years, its former executives often played key policy advisory roles in government.

 

 

Yahoo Decides To Keep Alibaba Stake

December 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc squahsed plans to spin off its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, under pressure from activist investors worried about billions of dollars in taxes, and said instead it is looking at creating a separate company to hold the rest of its assets.

The decision, following three days of board deliberations last week, is an explicit rejection of Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s plan to spin off the Alibaba stake and may cloud her focus on reviving Yahoo’s core business of selling ads on its popular news and sports websites.

Investors were unenthusiastic as they digested the complexity of the “reverse spin-off.” Shares of Yahoo the were lower for most of the trading session.

“You’ve got a sinking ship right now,” said Jeffrey Carbone, senior partner with Cornerstone Financial Partners in Cornelius, North Carolina, a former Yahoo shareholder. “Yahoo is just a company in trouble.”

The company, overtaken by Google, Facebook and others since pioneering the commercial web in the 1990s, said it had no plans to sell its core business, as some investors had hoped, but the move effectively invites offers for the new entity.

“There is no determination by the board to sell the company or any part of it,” Yahoo Chairman Maynard Webb said on a call with investors. “We believe that the business remains very undervalued, and we are focused on realizing and unlocking that value.”

The new publicly traded company will house Yahoo’s Internet business and its 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, worth about $8.5 billion at current exchange rates.

Its Alibaba stake, worth more than $30 billion, accounts for the bulk of Yahoo’s current market value of $32 billion.

 

 

Is Yahoo’s Internet Business Up For Sale?

December 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo’s board may be mulling over the sale of its core Internet business, after an activist investor demanded last month that the company explore the sale of its core search and display advertising businesses.

The board will be meeting this week to discuss the sale in a series of meetings from Wednesday through Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo had previously planned to spin off its shares in Alibaba Holding Group, through a company called Aabaco Holdings, but has held back on the move because of uncertainties about potential tax implications.

In a letter last month to Maynard J. Webb, chairman of Yahoo’s board, and its CEO Marissa Mayer, investor Starboard Value’s Managing Member Jeffrey C. Smith wrote that the proposed spin off of Aabaco was not Yahoo’s best alternative, and the company should instead be exploring a sale of Yahoo’s core business of search and display advertising, while leaving Yahoo’s ownership stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan in the existing corporate entity.

Smith threatened that his firm “will look to make significant changes to the Board if you continue to make decisions that destroy shareholder value.”

Yahoo’s core business has not been very strong, despite a turnaround effort by Mayer, including a search advertising agreement with rival Google announced in October. Its revenue grew 6.8 percent in the third quarter to US$1.2 billion, while profit dropped to US$76 million. The company also had some key staff leaving.

A separation of Yahoo’s Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan stakes from the core business would unlock immediate value for shareholders and allow Yahoo’s core business to better recruit and retain talent, according to Starboard Value.