Is Qualcomm Back in The Black?

July 25, 2016 by  
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Qualcomm has had a better than expected results in its Q3 earnings, beating street and even its own estimates.

Qualcomm offered $5.2 billion to $6 billion revenue guidance and it managed to make $6 billion. Non-GAAP diluted EPS was projected at $0.90 – $1.00 and Qualcomm actually managed to make $1.16.

The MSM chip shipments were guided at 175 million to 195 million while the company actually sold 201 million of these chips.

Total reported device sales was expected to be between $52 billion and  $60 billion and in reality Qualcomm scored $62.6 billion. Qualcomm shipped between 321 million to  325 million 3G/4G devices and estimated reported 3G/4G device average selling price was at $191 – $197.

There are a few reasons for such good results, the first being Samsung. The company chose Snapdragon 820 for some markets with its flagship phones. The Snapdragon 820 ended up in 115 devices and it looks like one of the strongest high end phone chips in a while.

The introduction of the Snapdragon 821 will rekindle the fire and will make some additional sales for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and a few other high end phones including some phones from LG and others. The 4G modem business is in good shape but one has to be careful as Qualcomm might lose some of the iPhone business to Intel. Everyone wants carrier aggregation capable modems these days, that is Cat 6 and up and Qualcomm offers this from Snapdragon 430 to the Snapdragon 820.

It is interesting to notice that while Apple iPhone sales were down, Qualcomm did better mainly as when Apple declines at   the high end, Qualcomm can make money from its high end Snapdragon chips.

We expect to see the announcement of Snapdragon 830 before the end of the year while devices shipping with the new chip in late Q1 2017 or early Q2 2017. As far as we know this might be the 10nm SoC but we will have to wait and see.

Qualcomm is investing heavily in improvements of 4G, current and future generations as well as a concentrated focus on 5G. From where we stand, Qualcomm still has the best chances to dominate the 5G market, especially due to the fact that 5G is an evolution of 4G with some new wave length and concepts added to it.

Last year’s loss of Samsung Galaxy S6 design win hurt a lot, and now the big customer is back, it seems that investing in a custom ARM Kryo core and dominating in Adreno graphics paid off.


Facebook Goes End To End

July 18, 2016 by  
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Facebook Inc announced that it began testing end-to-end encryption on its popular Messenger application to prevent snooping on digital conversations.

The limited testing on Messenger, which has more than 900 million users, comes three months after Facebook rolled out end-to-end encryption to its more popular WhatsApp, a messaging application with over 1 billion users that it acquired in October 2014.

The move comes amid widespread global debate over the extent to which technology companies should help law enforcement snoop on digital communications.

End-to-end encryption is also offered on Apple Inc’s iMessage platform as well as apps including LINE, Signal, Viber, Telegram and Wickr.

Facebook Messenger uses the same encryption technology as WhatsApp, which uses a protocol known as Signal that was developed by privately held Open Whisper Systems.

“It seems well designed,” said Matthew Green, a Johns Hopkins University cryptologist who helped review an early version of the protocol for Facebook.

While WhatsApp messages are encrypted by default, Facebook Messenger users must turn on the feature to get the extra additional security protection, which scrambles communications so they can only be read on devices at either end of a conversation.

Facebook said that it was requiring users to opt in to encryption because the extra security is not compatible with some widely used Messenger features.

“Many people want Messenger to work when you switch between devices, such as a tablet, desktop computer or phone,” the company said in an announcement on its website. “Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone.”

Facebook also said that Messenger users cannot send videos or make payments in encrypted conversations.


Intel And Nokia Joining Forces

July 7, 2016 by  
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Nokia is teaming up with Intel to make its carrier-grade AirFrame Data Center Solution hardware available for an Open Platform Network Functions Virtualization (OPNFV) Lab.

Basically this means that the hardware can be used by the OPNFV collaborative open source community to accelerate the delivery of cloud-enabled networks and applications.

Nokia said the OPNFV Lab will be a testbed for NFV developers and accelerates the introduction of commercial open source NFV products and services. Developers can test carrier-grade NFV applications for performance and availability.

Nokia is making its AirFrame Data Center Solution available as a public OPNFV Lab with the support of Intel, which is providing Intel Xeon processors and solid state drives to give communications service providers the advantage of testing OPNFV projects on the latest and greatest server and storage technologies.

The Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution is 5G-ready and Nokia said it was the first to combine the benefits of cloud computing technologies to meet the stringent requirements of the telco world. It’s capable of delivering ultra-low latency and supporting the kinds of massive data processing requirements that will be required in 5G.

Morgan Richomme, NFV network architect for Innovative Services at Orange Labs, OPNFV Functest PTL, in a release. “NFV interoperability testing is challenging, so the more labs we have, the better it will be collectively for the industry.”

AT&T has officially added Nokia to its list of 5G lab partners working to define 5G features and capabilities. It’s also working with Intel and Ericsson.


Spotify Says ‘No’ To Sales Rumor

June 20, 2016 by  
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Daniel Ek, co-founder of Swedish music streaming service Spotify which boasts the largest paid subscriber base in the world, said on Thursday he had no intention of selling the company.

While investors believe privately owned Spotify is probably heading for a public listing, some industry analysts see the loss-making company as a takeover target for a larger tech giant with deeper pockets.

“My selfish ambition with Spotify is just trying to show … that we can create one of those super companies here in Europe,” he told journalists at the symposium Brilliant Minds, which aims to bring artists and musicians together with the tech community.

Asked if that meant he was not up for selling the firm, Ek said: “I’m not going to sell, no.”

Spotify, founded in 2006, pays more than 80 percent of its revenue to record labels and artists and has not yet shown a profit as it spends to grow internationally. It competes in a business crowded with formidable rivals such as Apple Music, Google Music and YouTube.

Many other European tech start-ups have been swallowed up by bigger Silicon Valley competitors.

Ek said Silicon Valley got an earlier start in building up its tech giants but that Europe finally has the right conditions to support its own entrepreneurs.

“For the first time now there’s an ecosystem around it with capital and experience that can actually help guide entrepreneurs,” he said.

“The number one advice I tell everyone is ‘don’t sell’, because that’s the biggest problem we have. All these things could grow gigantic if you just kept the course and kept doing what you’re doing,” he added.

Last year Spotify made an operating loss of 184.5 million euros ($205 million), widening from 165.1 million in 2014.

Spotify, whose investors include Northzone, DST Global and Accel, does not disclose details about its ownership but the co-founders no longer own a majority, having sold off stakes.


Is Nintendo Going Into Film

May 30, 2016 by  
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Movies like “Mario Kart” and “The Legend of Zelda” may possibly be making it to the big screen soon.

Nintendo Co Ltd is holding discussions with several global production companies about expanding its video content business, including making movies, said Tatsumi Kimishima, president of the Japanese videogame maker.

The move is aimed at strengthening Nintendo’s character business and expanding the global gaming population, he told the Asahi newspaper in an interview published Monday.

“We’re talking with various partners. I think we’ll be able to decide something in the not-too-distant future,” Kimishima told the Japanese daily.

Kimishima declined to say when any projects would be announced but said it would not be as far off as five years. He would not say which of Nintendo’s popular characters were being considered for use.

A Nintendo spokesman told Reuters that Kimishima’s comments referred to “video content” but did not deny the possibility of making movies.

Nintendo is diversifying its operations to counter a shrinking console business. It has entered the fast-growing mobile game segment and reached a deal with NBCUniversal to develop theme-park attractions.

In fact, Nintendo already allows film companies to use its characters through licensing agreements, such as for the “Pokemon” franchise. There was also a Hollywood live-action movie based on “Super Mario” in 1993 but it was a box office and critical bomb.

But Kimishima told the Asahi that this time, Nintendo would like to do things itself as much as possible, rather than just licensing out its content, and said it was unlikely to be live-action.

In 2014, “Super Mario” creator Shigeru Miyamoto screened a 3D short-animation film based on Nintendo’s Pikmin characters at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and in an interview with Reuters left the door open to future film projects.


Is Qualcomm Facing Another Security Flaw?

May 19, 2016 by  
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FireEye has found a vulnerability in Qualcomm software packages which are under the bonnet of hundreds of Android phone models.

Google announced this week that it released an Android update to patch shedloads of vulnerabilities, but the advisory mentioned an information disclosure vulnerability in the Qualcomm tethering controller (CVE-2016-2060) that allows a malicious application to access user information.

FireEye said that this vulnerablity is “high severity,” but Google noted that it does not affect Nexus devices. The patch for the issue is not in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository but might make it in the  latest driver updates for affected devices.

The security outfit said that researchers informed Qualcomm about the vulnerability in January and the vendor developed a fix by early March, when it started reaching out to OEMs to let them know about the issue. Now it’s up to the device manufacturers to push out the patch to customers. So probably a long time then.

The flaw exists in an open source software package maintained by Qualcomm and is related to the Android network daemon (netd).

“The vulnerability was introduced when Qualcomm provided new APIs as part of the ‘network_manager’ system service, and subsequently the ‘netd’ daemon, that allow additional tethering capabilities, possibly among other things,” FireEye said.

The flaw has been confirmed to affect devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop and earlier, which currently account for roughly three-quarters of Android devices. Researchers noted that the affected Qualcomm software package is used in a variety of projects, including the popular CyanogenMod, and the vulnerable APIs appear to have been around since at least 2011.

The vulnerability can be exploited to escalate privileges to the built-in “radio” user, which has permissions that are normally not available to a third-party app. The most efficient way to exploit CVE-2016-2060 is via a malicious application that is granted the “ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE” permission.


TiVo To Be Acquired

May 9, 2016 by  
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Online entertainment company Rovi plans to purchase digital video recording firm TiVo for $1.1 billion in a stock and cash deal, the companies announced on Friday.

TiVo has cloud-based technology for integrating live, recorded, on-demand and Internet television into one user interface, with search, discovery, viewing and recording options from a variety of devices. Its technology has been deployed by operators including Virgin Media and Vodafone Spain.

Rovi announced in March that Sharp’s new Aquos TVs would include its G-Guide electronic programming guide.

The combined company is forecast to have more than $800 million in revenue in the current year. More than 10 million TiVo-served households are expected to be added to the current base of about 18 million homes that use Rovi guides. The new entity will serve nearly 500 service providers worldwide, the companies said.

The deal between Rovi and TiVo, besides creating a large media and entertainment technology company with complementary products and services, will also lead to the setting up of a company with a worldwide portfolio of more than 6,000 issued patents and pending applications worldwide.

The two companies have a strong licensing business and have also sued key players like  Comcast for patent infringement in the past. The companies said they have more than $3 billion in combined IP licensing revenue and past damage awards.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter and the combined company will use the TiVo name. Tom Carson, CEO of Rovi will be the chief executive of the new company.


Google Says A.I. Is The Next Big Thing

May 3, 2016 by  
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Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that influences everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.

So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.

“I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, answering an analyst’s question during parent company Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.

He’s not predicting that mobile will go away, of course, but that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will come via smarter uses of data rather than clever uses of mobile devices like those that brought us Uber and Instagram.

Forms of artificial intelligence are already being used to sort photographs, fight spam and steer self-driving cars. The latest trend is in bots, which use A.I. services on the back end to complete tasks automatically, like ordering flowers or booking a hotel.

Google believes it has a lead in A.I. and the related field of machine learning, which Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has already pegged as key to Google’s future.

Machine learning is one of the ways Google hopes to distinguish its emerging cloud computing business from those of rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, Pichai said.


Verizon Emerged As Favorite Bidder For Yahoo

April 26, 2016 by  
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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.


FCC Votes To Tighten Broadband Providers Privacy Rules

April 19, 2016 by  
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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is moving toward major new regulations requiring ISPs to get customer permission before using or sharing their Web-surfing history and other personal information.

The FCC voted 3-2 last week to approve a notice of proposed rule-making, or NPRM, the first step toward passing new regulations, over the objections of the commission’s two Republicans.

The rules, which will now be released for public comment, require ISPs to get opt-in permission from customers if they want to use their personal information for most reasons besides marketing their own products.

Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly complained that the regulations target Internet service providers but not social networks, video providers and other online services.

“Ironically, selectively burdening ISPs, who are nascent competitors in online advertising, confers a windfall on those who are already winning,” Pai said. “The FCC targets ISPs, and only ISPs, for regulation.”

The proposed rules could prohibit some existing practices, including offering premium services in exchange for targeted advertising, that consumers have already agreed to, O’Rielly added. “The agency knows best and must save consumers from their poor privacy choices,” he said.

But the commission’s three Democrats argued that regulations are important because ISPs have an incredible window into their customers’ lives.

ISPs can collect a “treasure trove” of information about a customer, including location, websites visited, and shopping habits, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I want the ability to determine when and how my ISP uses my personal information.”

Broadband customers would be able to opt out of data collection for marketing and other communications-related services. For all other purposes, including most sharing of personal data with third parties, broadband providers would be required to get customers’ explicit opt-in permission.

The proposal would also require ISPs to notify customers about data breaches, and to notify those directly affected by a breach within 10 days of its discovery.