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Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

GameStop Boots Spawn Labs

April 1, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In April of 2011, GameStop acquired streaming tech firm Spawn Labs because cloud gaming was the future. Today, the retailer announced it had closed Spawn Labs because cloud gaming is still the future.

Speaking with GameSpot today, the retailer’s vice president of investor relations Matt Hodges said cloud gaming isn’t a good fit for today’s consumers.

“While cloud-based delivery of video games is innovative and potentially revolutionary, the gaming consumer has not yet demonstrated that it is ready to adopt this type of service to the level that a sustainable business can be created around it,” Hodges said.

For the time being, GameStop’s cloud gaming business will be focused on selling subscription cards for programs like PlayStation Now through its retail locations.

Beyond the closure, the specialty retailer also reported its fourth quarter and full-year financial results this morning. The launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reinvigorated the console market, helping to drive sales and profits growth.

For the year ended February 1, total revenues were up nearly 2 percent to $9.04 billion. At the same time, the company returned to the black, turning the previous year’s $269.7 million net loss into a $354.2 million net profit. The company also underlined the growth of its digital and mobile business, which brought in more than $1 billion for the year.

The fourth quarter saw sales rise more than 3 percent to $3.68 billion, with net income slipping nearly 16 percent to $220.5 million. Those figures include goodwill and asset impairment charges of $28.7 million, “primarily due to the closure of Spawn Labs and store asset impairments.”

GameStop also released its first outlook for the current fiscal year and its first quarter. For the full year, the retailer is expecting total sales to be up 8 to 14 percent, with a net income between $398 million and $433 million. For the current quarter, it has projected year-over-year sales growth between 7 and 10 percent, with profits between $64 million and $70 million.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Amazon Shoots Down Rumors Of Free TV Service

March 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has no plan to provide a free streaming TV service, a spokeswoman said on Friday after a report that the online retailer might enter the streaming arena to challenge Netflix and Hulu.

Speculation about Amazon’s plans for its TV service, including the possibility that it could launch its own streaming device, has increased ahead of a news conference in New York next week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the online retailer was considering a free, add-supported streaming TV and music service. Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said no such plan was in the works.

“We have a video advertising business that currently offers programs like First Episode Free and ads associated with movie and game trailers, and we’re often experimenting with new things,” she said in an e-mail on Friday. “But we have no plans to offer a free streaming media service.”

Amazon’s streaming TV service currently comes included as part of its popular $99-a-year Prime service, which offers unlimited two-day shipping among other perks.

 

 

Cisco Makes Cloud Computing A Top Priority With $1B Pledge

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Cisco Systems Inc will offer cloud computing services, pledging to spend $1 billion over the next two years to make a foray into a market currently dominated by the world’s biggest online retailer Amazon.com Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Cisco said it will spend the amount to build data centers to help run the new service called Cisco Cloud Services, the Journal reported.

Cisco, which mainly deals in networking hardware, wants to take advantage of companies’ desire to rent computing services rather than buying and maintaining their own machines.

Enterprise hardware spending is dwindling across the globe as companies cope with shrinking budgets, slowing or uncertain economies and a fundamental migration to cloud computing, which reduces demand for equipment by outsourcing data management and computing needs.

“Everybody is realizing the cloud can be a vehicle for achieving better economics (and) lower cost,” the Journal quoted Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s president of development and sales as saying.

“It does not mean that we’re embarking on a strategy to go head-to-head with Amazon.”

Microsoft Corp last year said it was cutting prices for hosting and processing customers’ online data in an aggressive challenge to Amazon’s lead in the growing business of cloud computing.

 

Cisco could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S.business hours.

 

Apple, Comcast Discuss Possible Streaming TV Deal

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is having discussions with Comcast Corp to enter into a deal for a streaming-television service that would allow Appleset-top boxes to bypass congestion on the web, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The discussions are in early stages and there are a lot of hurdles to be crossed before a definitive agreement could be reached, the Journal said.

Apple, which wants its TV service’s traffic to be separated from public internet traffic over the “last mile” for faster transmission, is looking for special treatment from Comcast’s cables to bypass congestion, the report said.

Comcast and Apple declined to comment on the report.

Apple has been in talks for a faster TV set-top box with Time Warner Cable Inc, which recently agreed to be bought by Comcast.

Apple’s $99 TV box competes with similar streaming devices from Roku and Google Inc.

Netflix agreed last month to pay Comcast Corp for faster speeds, throwing open the possibility that more content companies will have to shell out for better service.

The Federal Communications Commission is in the process of drafting a new “net-neutrality” bill that would ensure that network operators disclose exactly how they manage Internet traffic and that they do not restrict consumers’ ability to surf the Web or use applications.

 

GoDaddy Considering An IPO Again

March 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Web hosting company The GoDaddy Group Inc is gearing up for a second attempt at an initial public offering, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the 2014 tech IPO pipeline continues to grow.

GoDaddy, the Internet domain registrar and web host known for its racy ads, would join a number of high-profile tech names expected to go public this year in the wake of Twitter Inc’s successful debut. They include “Candy Crush” developer King Digital and cloud services providers Box and Dropbox.

The company is in the process of selecting underwriters for its IPO, one of the two sources said on condition of anonymity.

GoDaddy was not immediately available for comment.

GoDaddy had filed to go public in 2006 but was told at the time that it would be required to take a 50 percent haircut — a percentage that is subtracted from the par value of assets that are being used as collateral — on its initial public offering.

The company instead decided to pull its filing, citing unfavorable market conditions.

The company, founded in 1997, was eventually acquired by a private equity consortium led by KKR & Co and Silver Lake in 2011 for $2.25 billion. Silver Lake declined to comment while KKR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other private equity buyers included Technology Crossover Ventures.

GoDaddy, which provides website domain names, is famous for airing bawdy commercials with scantily clad women for the past decade during the Super Bowl.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the plans.

 

EA Thinks Digital Games Will Reign Supreme In Two Years?

February 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In a keynote conversation with Entertainment Software Association boss Mike Gallagher at the Digital Entertainment World conference, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore talked about industry lessons learned as the business transitions more to digital games.

For now, games remain a hybrid of physical and digital, and the quick sales of the new consoles are enabling the industry to coalesce around two great platforms that offer a tremendous competitive environment, which ultimately benefits the market. While he believes the console sector’s in great shape, Moore does see mobile gaming thriving, and digital revenues should surpass that of physical game sales in just two years, he said.

Looking back at the music industry’s transition to digital (which it still hasn’t recovered from), Moore said that the games industry must embrace “creative destruction” – there’s nothing an industry can do to stop a shift in consumer tastes and habits. The most important thing for EA – and much of the industry is headed this way with the digital transition – is that games are becoming live operations. That means they require a massive infrastructure with customer service and global billing. Moore noted that it’s a completely different industry now, with a global network running live ops, and gamers deserve their games to be always up and available, and it’s EA’s job to provide this access. Moore acknowledged that EA is still learning a lot about what that takes.

The online environment has been incredibly valuable to EA in building a direct customer relationship. Moore said that EA’s customers used to be the retailers, but now they’re the gamers. In fact, EA has tripled its customer facing support staff resources in the last five years. It’s changing how the publisher interacts with, and markets to, gamers. He eschews “marketing” and prefers “engaging”. Social media has become crucial to success, and Moore noted that on Twitter a gamer will get a response from EA within 30 minutes to resolve a problem.

On the marketing end, Moore said that EA’s TV spend is down 20 percent while the company has actually doubled its digital spend and engagement. Social media and community management are changing the rules. Don’t spend tens of millions on TV to see if it lifts sales, Moore said; instead game companies can more effectively use digital channels and focus on performance-based marketing.

“TV ads today are chum in the water. It attracts customers, then reel them in with digital media so you can engage instead of pushing a message out,” he remarked.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Google Teaming Up With Foxconn For Robotic Venture

February 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is collaborating with long-time Apple partner Foxconn to further develop Google’s robotics vision.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.

Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android lead and now the head of the company’s robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.

The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.

“Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “Foxconn is one of the industry’s largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn’t building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently.”

The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google — a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.

“Pretty soon we’ll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II,” said Kerravala.

Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.

In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.

Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.

In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.

 

 

Did The British Go After Anonymous And Lulzsec

February 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Did a British Spy agency linked to GCHQ attacked hacktivists of the Anonymous and Lulzsec collectives, according to leaked US National Security Agency (NSA) documents?

NBC published documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showing that the group codenamed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) proactively attempted to shut down and spread misinformation throughout the Anonymous collective.

The leaked document allege that the unit attempted to phish Anonymous members and launched attacks designed to disrupt and infiltrate its networks as part of an operation called Rolling Thunder.

The documents show the spies mounted a sophisticated espionage campaign that enabled intelligence officers to phish a number of Anonymous members to extract key bits of information.

The documents include conversations between intelligence officers and Anonymous members G-Zero, Topiary and pOke in 2011.

One log shows that a GCHQ spy duped the hacker pOke into clicking on a malicious link dressed up to look like a news article about Anonymous. The link used an unspecified method to extract data from the virtual private network (VPN) being used by pOke.

The documents allege pOke was not arrested, but that the information acquired during the phishing attack was used in the arrest of Jake Davis, who was known as Topiary, in July 2011.

Davis’ arrest was taken as a key victory for law enforcement. British citizen Davis was believed to have acted as a spokesman for many Anonymous cells and is credited as having written several of its statements.

A GCHQ spokesman declined The INQUIRER’s request for comment on NBC’s report, but reiterated the agency’s previous insistence that all of its operations are carried out within the letter of the law.

“It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,” read the statement.

Experts in the security community have questioned the GCHQ’s argument. Corero Network Security COO Andrew Miller said that the secret unit’s use of blackhat tactics was at the very least morally questionable.

“We have to remember that cyber-spooks within GCHQ are equally if not more skilled than many black hat hackers, and the tools and techniques they are going to use to fight cybercrime are surely going to be similar to that of the bad guys,” he said.

“Legally, we enter a very grey area here, where members of Lulzsec were arrested and incarcerated for carrying out DDoS attacks, but it seems that JTRIG are taking the same approach with impunity.”

The campaign against Anonymous is one of many revelations from the leaked Snowden files.

The files initially were leaked to the press in 2013 and detailed several intelligence operations carried out by the UK GCHQ and US NSA. Documents emerged in January alleging that GCHQ and NSA used mobile apps such as Angry Birds to spy on citizens.

Courtesy-TheInq

Disney To Lay Off Workers In Gaming Division

February 5, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Walt Disney Co is making plans to lay off several hundred people in its interactive unit, the division that includes gaming products and the Disney.com website, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week.

The job eliminations are expected to begin after Disney releases its quarterly earnings today, the Journal said. Playdom, a social gaming business Disney acquired in 2010, is one division expected to see cutbacks, the newspaper said.

Disney is trying to turn around the interactive unit, which has about 3,000 employees. Its new Infinity video game enjoyed strong initial sales after its release last August, helping the division report a $16 million profit for the quarter that ended in September, an improvement from the $76 million loss a year earlier.

A Disney spokeswoman had no comment.

 

Yahoo Acquires TomFoolery

January 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Yahoo is purchasing Tomfoolery, a startup that develops software to better connect employees on the desktop and mobile, it was announced Wednesday.

“We’ve reached an agreement to join Yahoo to help build the next generation of communications and community products,” Tomfoolery CEO Kakul Srivastava, a Yahoo alum, said on the company’s blog, confirming reports earlier in the week that Yahoo was in talks to buy the firm.

Terms were not disclosed, although a previous report in The Wall Street Journal cited a price tag of roughly $16 million. Yahoo could not be immediately reached to comment. The deal is expected to close in the next few days, San Francisco-based Tomfoolery said.

Tomfoolery’s flagship product was Anchor, which provided various networking functions aimed at businesses such as group chats, file sharing, and email and voice calling. The software combined features that could otherwise be found in separate services like Facebook or Microsoft Outlook.

Anchor could be accessed from the Web, though it was focused on iOS and Android-based devices. As of Wednesday new user sign-ups were disabled, Tomfoolery said in its announcement, and the product will be shut down upon the deal’s closing.

In its announcement, Tomfoolery said it would be building “the next generation of social Yahoo products.” Few other details were given, though Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has said that growing the Internet company’s offerings in the area of social media would be an important element in Yahoo’s mission to attract users and advertisers.

 

 

Sprint, T-Mobile Move Closer To Merger Deal

December 26, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japan’s SoftBank and German telecom operator Deutsche Telekom are close to a deal that would merge T-Mobile US with Sprint, eliminating one of the four major mobile competitors in the U.S., according to the Nikkei news agency.

SoftBank would pay more than 2 trillion yen ($19 billion) for a stake of up to 70 percent in T-Mobile, which is the fourth-largest mobile operator in the U.S.,Nikkei said, citing unnamed sources. SoftBank already owns a majority of Sprint, the country’s third-largest carrier. T-Mobile is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom.

The Wall Street Journal had reported earlier this month that Sprint was studying regulatory concerns about such a deal and might make an offer for T-Mobile in the first half of next year. The Nikkei story, posted on Wednesday in Japan, said the parent companies of Sprint and T-Mobile were in the final stages of talks on a possible deal. SoftBank might make its offer as early as spring 2014, Nikkei said, roughly matching the earlier report on timing.

A $19 billion price tag for T-Mobile would nearly equal the $21.6 billion that SoftBank paid for 78 percent of Sprint earlier this year.

Combining Sprint and T-Mobile would create a carrier with nearly 100 million customers, close to subscriber parity with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, each of which has more than 100 million. However, U.S. regulators might block such a transaction in order to preserve competition in the nation’s wireless industry. When the government shot down AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile in 2011, some regulators cited the need to keep four major rivals in the market.

T-Mobile has proved a scrappy competitor since emerging from the failed AT&T deal. In the past year, in a successful bid to make gains against its bigger rivals, the company has introduced new service and device-purchase plans that other U.S. carriers have emulated.

 

Apple Scoops Up Topsy, Social Media Analytics Firm

December 3, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has purchased social media search and analytics startup Topsy, an unusual purchase for a hardware-focused company that has made few forays into social networking.

Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it purchased the company, which specializes in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics.

The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news earlier, cited people familiar with the deal as saying Apple forked over more than $200 million.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

Topsy did not respond to requests for comment.

The iPad and iPhone maker often does what it calls “bolt-on” acquisitions, small deals to acquire technology that then gets integrated into existing or future products.

Apple’s main effort in social media has revolved around Ping, a music-centered social sharing network that was at one point integrated into its iTunes app. The service, which lets users post music tracks they liked to a newsfeed, didn’t catch on and was shut down.

But the California gadget maker has been increasingly making it easier for people to share photos, videos and news through its devices and directly to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

It also operates iTunes Radio, an online streaming music service that competes with Pandora and could benefit from Topsy’s data on consumer sentiment.

 

BlackBerry Writes Letter To Investors, Customers

October 16, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd  sought to reassure its leery customers and partners that it was financially stable and “here to stay,” even though it announced massive layoffs and sources say it is in talks to sell all or part of the company.

In an open letter published in 30 news outlets across nine countries, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company stressed that its customers can continue to count on BlackBerry and its products, despite the challenges it is facing and the changes it is undergoing.

BlackBerry’s products have struggled to compete against the likes of Apple Inc’s iPhone and the numerous devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.

A new line of smartphones that run on the BlackBerry 10 operating system has also failed to re-ignite sales, prompting the company last month to announce that it would slash its global workforce by more than a third.

“Our customers read a lot about BlackBerry these days, as we make the headlines quite often – this has created a lot of noise and confusion” Frank Boulben, the company’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview.

“We want customers to know that they can continue to count on us – we are here to stay. We have substantial cash on our balance sheet and we have no debt. We are restructuring our cost base and this is a very painful transition, but it will make us financially stronger and we want to get that message directly to our customers.”

The open letter is being distributed via social media channels and was published in Tuesday’s edition of newspapers across the globe, including the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in the United States, and the Globe and Mail and National Post in Canada.

The company’s future was further thrown into question after it announced this summer that it is weighing its options, including an outright sale.

Sources have told Reuters that the company is in talks with Cisco Systems, Google Inc and SAP about selling all or parts of itself. Such a deal would be an alternative to a preliminary, $9-a-share offer by a group being led by BlackBerry’s biggest investor, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.

Last week, BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin also said that they are considering a bid to buy the smartphone maker.

Boulben said the uncertainty is the reason why BlackBerry is publishing the letter, which highlights the company’s strengths from its security offering to its device management capabilities and its mobile messaging platform.

“Whoever is interested in BlackBerry understands that the company has world class products and services. These are products and services that customers can continue to count on.”

 

Are Some Of The Anonymous Clan Going To Jail?

October 7, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Thirteen people have been indicted, accused of being members of the Anonymous hacktivist group and allegedly involved in Operation Payback.

Operation Payback was the retaliation against payment firms that Anonymous put in motion following their blocking of Wikileaks donations.

The 13 are accused of taking part in a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and the US Department of Justice filed a federal grand jury indictment in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The indictment charges them with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to protected computers.

Anonymous is a loosely linked digital rights collective. In its early days it pulled together volunteers from all walks of life.

Operation Payback struck a number of organisations including Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and the Motion Picture Association of America. The attacks lasted between September 2010 and January 2011. As well as retaliating against payment providers, part of Operation Payback was aimed at parties thought to be involved in a campaign against The Pirate Bay.

Agence France Presse (AFP) has seen the indictment and named those indicted in it. They are Dennis Owen Collins, Jeremy Leroy Heller, Chen Zhiwei, Joshua Phy, Ryan Russel Gubele, Robert Audubon Whitfield, Anthony Tadros, Geoffrey Kenneth Commander, Austen Stamm, Timothy Robert McLain, Wade Carl Williams and Thomas Bell.

According to AFP the 13 alleged Anonymous members “planned and executed a coordinated series of cyber-attacks against victim websites by flooding those websites with a huge volume of irrelevant internet traffic with the intent to make the resources on the websites unavailable to customers and users of those websites.”

In short, they are accused of having conducted a digital sit-in protest

 

 

Courtesy-TheInq