Archive for November, 2017

Chipmaker Broadcom is considering raising its offer to buy rival Qualcomm by offering more of its own stock, following consultation with several of Qualcomm’s top shareholders, according to people familiar with the matter.

While the timing of the new offer is uncertain, Broadcom’s bid preparations indicate that it is planning to apply pressure on Qualcomm to engage in negotiations by offering more to its shareholders, in addition to threatening to replace its board of directors.

Broadcom’s Chief Executive Hock Tan has stated he is open to launching a takeover battle and sources have previously said the company is preparing to submit a slate of directors by Qualcomm’s Dec. 8 nomination deadline. Qualcomm shareholders that want the company to engage in deal talks with Broadcom will be able to vote for that slate at a March 6 shareholder meeting.

Broadcom has offered to pay $103 billion for Qualcomm, made up of $60 per share in cash and $10 per share of its own stock. Raising the offer by adding more of its shares would avoid Broadcom having to raise more debt and further pressure its credit rating, the sources said.

Qualcomm’s shareholders have indicated to Broadcom they expect at least $80 per share in order for Qualcomm to be sold, the sources said. Broadcom’s board has not yet decided on the level of any new offer, the sources added.

Broadcom has made several requests for a meeting with Qualcomm since it unveiled its offer on Nov. 6, the sources said. However, Qualcomm has so far rejected these meeting requests, the sources added. Broadcom had not approached Qualcomm in the weeks prior to announcing its offer, according to the sources.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Qualcomm and Broadcom declined to comment.

Qualcomm shares jumped after the news of the possible sweetened offer and were up more than 2 percent at $68.05 in late afternoon trading. Broadcom shares were down 0.3 percent at $275.82.

Qualcomm invented a number of technologies underlying mobile communications and also sells chips used in cellphones and other devices. It is engaged in a patent infringement dispute with Apple Inc, and is also trying to close its $38 billion acquisition of automotive chipmaker NXP Semiconductors NV after signing a deal in October 2016. Broadcom has indicated it is willing to acquire Qualcomm irrespective of whether it closes the NXP deal.

NXP shares have been trading above Qualcomm’s offer price, as many NXP shareholders, including hedge fund Elliott Management, have been holding out for a better price. Qualcomm does not need to decide to raise its offer for NXP until that deal receives antitrust clearance from all the regulators reviewing the deal around the world.

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The first Pixel smartphones ‘Made by Google’ have received some new features with the latest Pixel Launcher update. The new features, however, seem to be available via a server-side update from Google.

Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones last month received Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview build which brought a lot of bells and whistles from the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. In terms of Pixel Launcher, the update didn’t bring all goodness of the new Pixel 2 devices.

With the new update, the Pixel Launcher on the original Pixel smartphones will now come with a rounded Search bar called Google bar widget which will be seen on the bottom of the home screen and will appear with “G” alphabet on the left of the screen. As before, the search bar remains across home screens, just like the dock. Other changes include the new app drawer which will now initiate search including your history apart from installed apps. The new server-side switch seems to be steadily rolling out to original Pixel and Pixel XL users which means it could take some time for the new Pixel Launcher features to show up.

Some of the other Pixel Launcher changes were announced alongside the Pixel 2 devices in October. The biggest change was said to be the placement of the search bar at the bottom of the home screen, below even the dock. The ‘at a glance’ section was also announced in October and it showed up at the top of the home screen, and showed upcoming events and other alerts including traffic updates and flight statuses.

The new Pixel Launcher changes were spotted by a Redditor and were first picked up by Droid-Life.

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Sensing the need to skill Indian workforce for emerging technologies, Google, in association with technology learning platform Pluralsight and educational institution Udacity, on Thursday announced a new scholarship programme that will help train 1.3 lakh developers and students across the country.

As part of the programme, Google will fund 100,000 scholarships on the Pluralsight technology learning platform and 30,000 scholarships on Udacity platform.

The scholarship would enable students gain access to advanced learning curriculum and further their employability in mobile and web development, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud platforms.

“The new scholarship programme is in tandem with Google’s aim to train two million developers in India. The country is the second largest developer ecosystem in the world and is bound to overtake the US by 2021,” William Florance, Developer Products Group and Skilling Lead for India, Google, told reporters in New Delhi.

In 2015, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had stated that the global Internet search engine giant will train 2 million new android developers in the next three years in India.

“In the last one year, we have engaged over half a million students and developers across India through a variety of programmes and initiatives. Since we announced our skilling initiative in India, 210,000 students have completed Google developed courses on Udacity, with 117,000 students completing the course this year,” Florance informed.

With Udacity, 1,000 developers will also be selected to receive full Nanodegree scholarships.

“Unlike China, India is lagging in innovation but is adopting technologies faster. There is an urgent need to upskill and reskill India’s technology workforce,” Florance said.

According to Arun Rajamani, Country Head and General Manager, Pluralsight, India’s tech workforce is going through a phase of transition.

“We are thrilled to partner with Google to help developers across India understand their skill level using Pluralsight IQ and advance their skill sets in four key roles: Android Developer, Mobile Web Specialist, Cloud Architect and Data Engineer,” Rajamani said.

“With this scholarship programme, students can master web and mobile development skills with the experts from Udacity and Google,” added Ishan Gupta, Managing Director-Udacity India.

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Finland’s Rovio Entertainment, creator of the popular smartphone game Angry Birds, on Thursday posted a loss for the third quarter despite rising sales, as it increased its investments with a view to boost its winnings in future.

Sales reached EUR 70.7 million (nearly $84 million) in the third quarter compared to 50 million the previous year, but year-on-year the company lost EUR 800,000.

Rovio posted a profit of EUR 3.9 million in the third quarter of 2016.

The company said this quarter’s negative result was expected as it invested EUR 22 million in top performing games, hoping this would boost its profits in future.

“In line with our growth strategy, we significantly increased our investments in user acquisition, which predictably led to a decline in profitability,” Rovio chief executive Kati Levoranta said in a statement.

“We expect the payback time for these investments to be 8 to 10 months,” Levoranta said, adding the launch of the new Angry Birds Match game could become one of the company’s “best performing”.

The group entered the Helsinki Stock Exchange at the end of September and was valued at 950 million euros.

On Thursday morning, the company’s share price was down by 19 percent.

Rovio has accelerated its diversification in recent years.

The release of the Angry Birds movie (2016), produced by Sony Entertainment, was a huge success that grossed $350 million worldwide, and is expected to help bolster Rovio profits in 2017 and 2018.

The company also runs Angry Birds theme parks in several countries, including Finland, China and Spain.

It oversees the publication of children’s books in a dozen languages, while boasting an average of 80 million active players per month and 11 million per day.

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Taking on the competition, Facebook is testing a ‘Streaks’ feature in Messenger that is also used by Snapchat. The Menlo Park, California-headquartered company has also added 4K resolution support to its messaging service to uplift the visual experience. The latter feature is arriving for both Android and iOS platforms.

The first of the two updates to Facebook Messenger is the availability of Snapchat-like streaks feature that has been reported by certain users. The new feature would help Facebook to enhance engagements by letting users have a continuous conversation with their contacts. As spotted by Twitter user Case Sandberg, Facebook Messenger shows a lightning bolt icon next to the name of a person you have messaged for at least two days in a row. A counter is also available alongside the streak icon to reveal for how many days you both have been chatting on Messenger.

In a statement to Mashable, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the presence of streaks. The spokesperson stated that the feature was in testing to let you “see at a glance fun facts” about the people you have spoken with on Messenger. It also adds that the feature will be visible if the person has been messaged at least “three days in a row”. Although the formal comment does not reveal an expansion of streaks, the feature could arrive on other Facebook-owned properties including Instagram and WhatsApp following its success on Messenger.

In addition to streaks, Facebook Messenger is receiving 4K support take the visual communication to new levels. The new support enables you to send and receive photos in up to 4096×4096 pixels resolution.

Despite supporting larger images, Messenger is touted to make it quicker to upload your favourite memories. Of course, you won’t have an as fast experience as the lighter version of Messenger offers on Android devices. But in the latest case, you have the ability to zoom into your memories to see the subjects and objects in detail.

You don’t need to select any specific settings to send 4K photos to your contacts. However, the latest version of the Messenger app is required to enable the new experience. Facebook has started rolling out the 4K resolution in the US, Canada, France, Australia, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. Other regions will receive the same update in the coming weeks.

As of September, Facebook Messenger has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users worldwide – on par with WhatsApp that reached the same milestone in July. The messaging service also offers a platform to third-party developers to host their apps and games in addition to features like bots, video calling, and peer-to-peer payments.

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Apple found that its main supplier in Asia has been employing high-school students working illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X.

Interns at a factory operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., part of Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, worked voluntarily and received benefits, though worked longer days than Chinese law permits, Apple said in a statement. The Financial Times reported earlier Tuesday that a group of 3,000 students from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent to work at the local facility.

“During the course of a recent audit, we discovered instances of student interns working overtime at a supplier facility in China,” Apple said. “When we found that some students were allowed to work overtime, we took prompt action.”

The students worked at the factory as part of a three-month stint that was billed as “work experience,” and was required to graduate, the FT reported. Six of the students told the FT they routinely worked 11-hour days assembling Apple’s flagship smartphone, which constitutes illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law.

Apple’s supply chain has faced criticism over poor labour standards for years, and the company has pushed manufacturing partners to improve factory conditions or risk losing business. However, this year the company released two new iPhones for the first time, putting extra pressure on its suppliers and assemblers to churn out millions of handsets ahead of the key holiday shopping season.

“Ultimately it’s about production needs. From Apple’s actions, it seems like they don’t care about the labour standards they set previously,” said Li Qiang, founder of New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch, which monitors working conditions in Apple’s supply chain.

“Apple actually knew about this a couple of weeks ago, however they haven’t resolved the issue yet,” Qiang added. “They could have stopped these students working night shifts and long hours sooner, but they didn’t do that.”

Apple’s latest model, the $999 (Rs. 89,000 in India) iPhone X, faced hiccups in production that stymied some suppliers and held back business for Hon Hai, which gets more than half its sales from the Cupertino, California-based company. Hon Hai is the exclusive assembler of the iPhone X and Apple didn’t start selling its marquee device until November, almost two months after the iPhone 8 hit shelves. The delay led to a 39 percent drop in Hon Hai’s net income in the three months ended September.

Foxconn said company policy doesn’t allow interns, who represent a “very small” percentage of its workforce, to work more than 40 hours a week on “program-related assignments.”

Foxconn did acknowledge, however, a “number of cases where portions of our campuses have not adhered to this policy. We have investigated all of these cases and confirmed that while all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately, the interns did work overtime in violation of our policy.” Foxconn said it has taken action to correct the situation and will review the internship program to ensure that it’s in compliance and that the event “will not be repeated.”

Apple said that the student overtime was voluntary but that it shouldn’t have been permitted. The company said a team of specialists are on site at the facility working with management on systems to ensure appropriate standards are adhered to.

China Labor Watch’s Qiang said there have been improvements in Shanghai factories that work on Apple products. The company requires factories in that city to buy social insurance for all workers, and it plans to put this in place for all factories it works with in China, he said. This type of insurance covers things like health care, work injuries and retirement.

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Research by Apple computer scientists on how self-driving cars can better spot cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors has been posted online, in what appears to be the company’s first publicly disclosed paper on autonomous vehicles.

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, submitted on Nov. 17 to independent online journal arXiv, is significant because Apple’s famed corporate secrecy around future products has been seen as a drawback among artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers.

The scientists proposed a new software approach called “VoxelNet” for helping computers detect three-dimensional objects.

Apple declined to comment.

Academics are used to freely sharing their work with peers at other organizations. Yielding to that dynamic, Apple in July established the Apple Machine Learning Journal for its researchers. Their work rarely appears outside the journal, which so far has not published any research on self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing “LiDAR” units to recognize the world around them. While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time.

But with new software, the Apple researchers said they were able to get “highly encouraging results” in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data. They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR. The experiments were computer simulations and did not involve road tests.

Though Chief Executive Tim Cook has called self-driving cars “the mother of all AI projects,” Apple has given few hints about the nature of its self-driving car ambitious.

Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked regulators not to restrict testing of the technology.

In April, Apple filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.

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Federal prosecutors announced charges Tuesday against a hacker “mercenary” affiliated with the Iranian military, saying he broke into HBO’s computer network in the summer looking to extort millions of dollars from the pay cable channel.

An indictment unsealed in New York on Tuesday said the suspect, Behzad Mesri, “had worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure,” but the document does not allege he attacked HBO on behalf of the Iranian government.

Mesri is not in custody, and officials issued a “wanted” poster seeking help arresting him.

Using a popular line from HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones,” acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim said: “Today, winter has come for Behzad Mesri.”

Because of the new indictment, Kim said, the suspect will not be able to leave his home country without risking arrest and extradition to the United States.

“For the rest of his life – and he’s a relatively young man in his late 20s – he will never be able to travel outside Iran,” he said.

And Kim hinted at more hacking charges to come against other Iranian hacking suspects.

“Unfortunately I suspect this will not be the last time that we charge cyber offenses against hackers with ties to the Iranian government,” he said.

According to the indictment, Mesri “was a member of an Iran-based hacking group called the Turk Black Hat security team. As a member of that group, Mesri conducted hundreds of website defacements using the online hacker pseudonym ‘Skote Vahshat’ against websites in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

But in the HBO hack, authorities say his motives may have been simpler: greed.

The indictment said Mesri threatened to embarrass HBO by publicly releasing unaired episodes of some of their shows, such as “Ballers” and “The Deuce,” as well as full scripts for the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” unless HBO paid “a ‘non-negotiable’ ransom of approximately $5.5 million worth of Bitcoin.”

When that demand wasn’t met, he raised his asking price to $6 million and threatened to destroy massive volumes of data on HBO’s hard drives, the indictment said.

The HBO hack roiled the entertainment industry in August, raising new concerns that studios’ hit shows could lose financial value when episodes leak out early.

But the case has also revealed disagreements inside the Justice Department, where senior officials have been pushing in recent weeks to make public a number of ongoing investigations involving Iranian suspects.

As The Washington Post reported Sunday, the HBO case is one of several that senior officials would like to unseal in coming weeks. The push to announce Iran-related cases has caused internal alarm, according to people familiar with the discussions, with some law enforcement officials fearing that senior Justice Department officials want to reveal the cases because the Trump administration wants Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.

A series of criminal cases could increase pressure on lawmakers to act, these people said.

Asked about that report, Kim did not give a direct answer, saying he decided to unseal the charges in the HBO hacking case before the story published. He did acknowledge the short amount of time it took to unseal the charges was unusual for such a case but said that was because of the FBI’s exemplary investigative work.

Kim spent much of the news conference saying the indictment posed dire potential consequences for the suspect, Mesri, but he also admitted that they have little chance of arresting him anytime soon.

“We made that determination that we were not likely to be able to get him and we should go public with it,” Kim said.

Some federal officials have raised concerns that unsealing cases now could imperil ongoing investigative work or make it harder to catch suspects who might travel out of Iran, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss active investigations.

Several people familiar with the HBO hack case pointed out that the Justice Department will often wait a year – sometimes several years – before unsealing charges in an international computer hacking probe, while this case was unsealed after three months.

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Countering Reliance Jio, Aircel on Tuesday launched its new tariffs in Kolkata. The new tariffs, starting at Rs. 93, include offers on local and STD voice calls, 3G data and local as well as national SMSes for new and existing prepaid Aircel subscribers in the Kolkata circle.

Aircel is offering new subscribers with local and STD voice calls at 20 paisa per minute, data usage of 250MB per month, and 50 local and national SMS for 365 days at a charge of Rs. 93. The pack also includes talk time of Rs. 70. If new Aircel subscribers are looking for unlimited local and STD calls, Aircel has brought a pack for 30 days at Rs. 175 and for 84 days at Rs. 349. Both the packs have 1GB 3G/2G data access per day and 100 local and national SMS for 30 days in addition to unlimited voice calls.

Existing Aircel subscribers can opt for a pack of Rs. 94 to get all local and STD calls at 20 paisa per minute in addition to 1,400 local and national SMS for 365 days. Similarly, existing subscribers can recharge their prepaid connections with a pack of Rs. 148 to get 2GB 3G/2G data in addition to 100 local and national SMS and voice for 250 minutes per day with a maximum limit of 1,000 minutes for 28 days. The telco is also offering an 84-day pack at Rs. 348 that provides voice calls for 300 minutes a day, with a maximum limit of 1,200 minutes per week, as well as 1GB of 3G/2G data per day.

“We want the people of Kolkata to experience the vast and exciting world of the internet, and we want to be the catalyst to this. My colleagues and I thrive on this trust bestowed upon us by the people and have built it into our DNA to continue offering the best in class services to the people,” said Amitabh Akhouri, circle business head, Aircel – Kolkata, in a press statement.

Unlike Aircel’s latest plan, Reliance Jio is offering 1GB of daily data allocation in addition to local and STD calls with a validity of 70 days for Rs. 399. The Mukesh Ambani-led telecom giant has 4G support to deliver faster networks over 3G/2G versions that Aircel supports in the region.

On Monday, Aircel brought a year’s worth of 20 paise per minute voice calls for its subscribers in India at a charge of Rs. 104.

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In order to boost its domestic presence and enhance its existing sales records, Xiaomi on Tuesday launched Mi Exchange programme in India. The Chinese company has partnered with New Delhi-based Cashify to let Indian customers exchange their existing handsets with new Xiaomi smartphones. The new development emerges days after an IDC report claimed that Xiaomi had joined Samsung as the top smartphone vendor in the country in the third quarter this year.

Under the Mi Exchange programme, customers need to visit a Mi Home store nearby their location to buy a new Xiaomi smartphone in return of their old phone. The Cashify team will determine the value of the dated model and then propose a suitable amount that will be discounted for the new Xiaomi offering. The resale value of the handset in exchange will be based on the Cashify app. This means that you can get a preview of the amount you would receive on the exchange of your handset by heading over to the Cashify site.

Customers exchanging their old phones for a new Xiaomi smartphone can also opt for a pickup service from Cashify through which their dated handsets will be picked up right from their phone location. In this case, the customers will be required to pay the complete amount for their new purchase at the Mi Home store and Cashify will pay them for their old models at a later stage.

“In collaboration with Cashify, we have introduced a new programme – Mi Exchange which lets you exchange your old smartphone for a new Xiaomi smartphone. What you need to do is simply bring your old smartphone to a nearest Mi Home,” Xiaomi said while announcing the new development through its community forums.

It is worth noting here that the resale value of the old phone will be evaluated by the Cashify team on the basis of its condition and market value. Also, only one device can be exchanged with an available Xiaomi smartphone at Mi Home, and the unit being exchanger should be well listed in Cashify portfolio.

Debuted in India back in July 2015, Xiaomi already has a strong presence in the market. While the affordable handsets are the key to the success of the Beijing-headquartered company, its expansion through online and offline channels has also helped in taking on the competition. The company established as many as 13 Mi Home outlets across the country in just seven months following the debut of its first brick-and-mortar store in Bengaluru in May. Earlier on Tuesday, Xiaomi announced the establishment of its third Indian facility that is specifically designed to manufacture power banks locally. The company partnered with Shenzhen-based HiPad Technology and launched the two Mi Power Bank 2i as the first creation of the new factory.

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