Category: Business

Angry Birds descend on London

0204b1c0e42878a13d3222610b989234Finnish mobile games and animation company Rovio , which is known for its Angry Birds game, is stepping up its hunt for new hit games by opening a studio in London.

The big idea is to focus on multiplayer games that would not rely on the company’s Angry Birds brand.

Privately-held Rovio has struggled in recent years as profits from the Angry Birds franchise dropped, prompting deep job cuts and divestments.

Last year Rovio launched an animated Angry Birds 3D Hollywood film that it said did well at the box office and yielded new licensing deals.

Rovio wants to build a team of about 20 people in London to create “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) games that support shedloads of players simultaneously, with a focus on new characters.

Wilhelm Taht, head of games said that “MMO is a genre that is growing in mobile, but it is not fully saturated. We are not looking for a niche position but a very wide, inclusive game.”

The original Angry Birds game, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs, was launched in 2009 and it remains the top paid mobile app of all time.

Rovio exploited the brand early on by licensing its use on a string of consumer products. But the company’s failure to bring out new hit games resulted in falling profit, prompting Rovio to cut more than 300 jobs in 2014 and 2015.

“In the long term, our new characters may generate intellectual property and even a brand,” Taht said.

Rovio has a series of smartphone games based on Angry Birds characters. In 2015 it published a puzzle game called Nibblers and it will soon put out Battle Bay, a real-time multiplayer game.

He added that that Nintendo’s hit smartphone game Pokemon GO, put augmented reality (AR) on the gaming map and his outfit would be looking into AR as a technology and a tool.

Rovio has around 200 employees spread between its four game studios in Finland and Sweden and about 400 in total.

South Korea mulls giving Samsung boss a get out of jail free card

monopoly (1)While most countries would have no problem locking a businessman up if they think he has committed a crime, South Korea has to factor in the economic impact the arrest will cause.

South Korea’s special prosecutor said it will take into account the economic impact of whether to arrest Samsung boss Jay Lee in connection with an influence-peddling investigation involving the president.

The office also delayed its decision until later today on whether to seek the arrest of Lee, the third-generation leader of South Korea’s largest conglomerate, or chaebol, citing the gravity of the case.

Spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told reporters on Sunday investigators were deliberating all factors including the potential economic impact of the arrest of Jay Y. Lee.

Samsung appears to have provided $25.46 million to a business and foundations backed by President Park Geun-hye’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the national pension fund’s support for a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The Samsung chief denied bribery accusations during a parliamentary hearing in December.

Effectively if the coppers factor in the economic effect then Jay Lee could be given a get out of jail free card.

Park, the daughter of a military ruler, has denied wrongdoing, although she has said sorry for exercising poor judgment. Her friend, Choi, who is in detention and facing her own trial, has also denied wrongdoing.

The whole thing must feel particularly unpleasant for those who see the rule of law as sacrosanct. The chiefs of South Korean chaebol have over the years had prison sentences shortened or forgiven, or received pardons, with the economic impact of imprisonment cited as a factor.

Jay Lee’s dad Lee Kun-hee was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence in 2009 for tax evasion. He was later pardoned.

It seems that if you have a lot of money and run a business in South Korea you can do what you like.

Facebook says it will reduce fake news

funny-pictures-auto-news-france-387930Facebook said  it will update its social media platforms in Germany within weeks to reduce the dissemination of fake news.

German Justice Minister Heiko Mass has repeatedly called on Facebook to respect laws against defamation in Germany that are stricter than those in the United States.

The Germans are worried that fake news and “hate speech” on the internet could influence a parliamentary election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

Now a Facebook note said the company would make it easier to report items suspected to be fake news and work with external fact-checking organisations.

“Last month we announced measures to tackle the challenge of fake news on Facebook,” the U.S. technology company’s German-language newsroom said.

“We will put these updates in place in Germany in the coming weeks.”

Its partners will be required to sing the U.S. Poynter International Fact-Checking Code of Principles, it said. Warning signs would be attached to reports identified as noncredible, and the reasons for the decision given.

Facebook would also make it impossible for spammers to forge the websites of reputable news agencies, it said.

 

Donald Trump could be Apple’s arch-Nemesis

poison-appleApple is hoping for a better 2017 after an embarrassing fall in dominance last year, but it is starting to look it might have found itself an enemy for all things Applish in the new president Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump.

Apple was a frequent target of Trump’s criticism on the campaign trail. He encouraged supporters to boycott Apple because of its encryption policies while also condemning the company for building its products overseas.

One of the few things we know about Trump’s stated economic and trade policies is that damaging large, multinational tech companies who don’t have a plant in the US is high on the agenda. Apple and any company that relies heavily on overseas manufacturing and the global economy and this is the same business model which will suffer.

Trump said that the aim was to get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.

Things would be bleak had not Trump has backed away from or moderated his tone on some of the issues he brought up during the campaign. He didn’t jail Hillary Clinton and he backtracked on corporate lobbying – several of his cabinet represent big companies. But he did rather go on about Jobs’ Mob.

Trump claimed to have spoken to Apple CEO Tim Cook about building “a big plant in the United States” and about cutting taxes and regulations that would currently keep Apple from doing so.

Trump claims he’s going to get Apple to “build a big plant” in US. Apple will then be made an example of and it could avoid a huge amount of pain if it does what it is told.

Apple makes most of its gear through Chinese outfits Foxconn and Pegatron. Foxconn has already said it is investigating building a plant in the US. It probably will not create many jobs as the outfit has said that it wants to be nearly fully robotic. However, if Trump says that Apple’s tech is being made in the US he will use that to create a sound-bite win and hope the country are too think to notice that it has made no difference to jobs.

If Apple is clever, it will suck up more government money and maybe get a tax break or too to bring its cash pile to the US and have the phones made by Foxconn robots.

But Apple’s Tame hacks at the New York Times reported that Apple’ Chinese manufacturing arrangements would be nearly impossible to replicate elsewhere.

Cook also has a balancing act to play out if Apple wants to stay in the lucrative Chinese market. While the Chinese interest in Apple has fallen lately, the outfit did get its foot in the door.

Trump has hacked off China big time and appears to be itching for a trade war.

Trump has promised to impose a 35 percent import tax on American companies that manufacture their products in countries like China and Mexico. This will be increased to a 45 percent tax on all Chinese imports from the country, compared to an average tax rate of about three percent currently.

While this could jack up the price of consumer goods, particularly smartphones and other technology China has promised to retaliate by further raising prices.

Obama raised taxes on Chinese tyre imports to 35 percent and the country added between two and 21.5 percent to the taxes for cars imported from the US and caused hell for US companies trading in China.

If Trump follows through, China will buy Airbus instead of Boeing. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted.

Apple has promised to invest in China and Chinese companies in an effort to maintain good relations with the country, but if the Trump administration takes a hard line on China, the benefits that the company relies on to keep its costs down and margins high could evaporate.

Tim Cook the chief executive officer of one of the world’s most valuable companies still showed up to Trump’s tech summit in New York last month, despite looking less than pleased about it.

He explained his presence at the meeting to Apple employees in an internal memo saying that he had to show up because Governments can affect the company’s ability to do what Apple does.

This year we will see how much of Apple is going to go down in a blaze of Trump.

Microsoft staff sue over being force to watch smut

687474703a2f2f696d61676573352e66616e706f702e636f6d2f696d6167652f70686f746f732f32393530303030302f41726961476966732d617269612d6d6f6e74676f6d6572792d32393536333539302d3530302d3238302e676966While companies fire their staff for watching porn, Microsoft is being sued by some of its staff for making them watch it.

Former employees who worked for Microsoft’s Online Safety Team have sued their employer for not offering a good health plan while at the same time requiring them to watch the most horrendous porn and snuff films the Internet could throw at them.

Former employees Henry Soto and Greg Blauert allege in a lawsuit filed on 30 December that they were hired to screen Microsoft users’ communications for child pornography and evidence of other crimes. While that was not a problem, they claim that after years of being made to watch the “most twisted” videos on the internet, employees said they suffered severe psychological distress.

They asked Vole to stump up for a shrink or to pay for therapy so that they could cope, but Microsoft told them to have a smoking break instead. After all that is a bit cheaper.

Now the two former employees and their families are suing for damages from what they describe as permanent psychological injuries, for which they were denied worker’s compensation.

Microsoft is a little cross about the court case. “We have put in place robust wellness programs to ensure the employees who handle this material have the resources and support they need,” a spokesVole said.

However, the former employees allege neglect at Microsoft’s hands. Soto even says that he didn’t want to join the department in the first place.

He was already a Microsoft employee and was “involuntarily transferred” to the Online Safety Team in 2008. Soto “was not informed prior to the transfer as to the full nature” of his work, and was allegedly told that he would be reviewing “terms of use” violations.
Volish employee policy dictated that he and all other Online Safety Team members remain in their new posts for at least 18 months before getting a transfer.

Samsung CEO is a suspect in Park probe

downloadA South Korean special prosecutor’s office has said that Samsung supreme dalek Jay Lee is a suspect in an influence-peddling scandal that led to a parliamentary vote to impeach President Park Geun-hye.

Inspector Knacker of the Korean Yard is looking sideways at Samsung payments of $25 million for a business and foundations backed by Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil. The question is if these were connected to a 2015 decision by the national pension service to back a controversial merger of two group affiliates.

Samsung has admitted that it made payments to two foundations as well as a consulting firm controlled by Choi. The prosecution this week summoned two senior Samsung Group officials for questioning, though they were listed as witnesses.

Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecution team, told a briefing the Samsung leader had been summoned for questioning  tomorrow over suspicions including bribery, but did not elaborate.

National Pension Service chief Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested in December after acknowledging he pressured the fund to approve the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015 while he was health minister.

Lee, 48, denied bribery accusations during a parliamentary hearing in December, rejecting assertions from lawmakers that Samsung lobbied to get the fund to vote in favour of the merger.

The special prosecutors’ office said it was considering whether Lee gave false testimony during the parliamentary hearing.

“Samsung is the one that has made the biggest contributions among conglomerates and it had an exclusive relationship with Choi Soon-sil, buying a horse,” Shin said, referring to the firm’s sponsorship of Choi’s daughter’s equestrian career.

 

MacFarlane quits Sonos

flf-JMZhJohn MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos, the outfit he founded 15 years ago.

Sonos makes wireless multi-room music systems for the home and had been doing well. MacFarlane was planning to clean out his desk and move on when Amazon released its Echo speakers, which started to see off his company from the market.

Writing in the company’s bog, MacFarlane said that the changes need to fight back were complete, now it’s about acceleration and leading. “I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better.”

Sonos has become more competitive with UX updates and increased compatibility with music services like Spotify and Apple Music. Last year MacFarlane laid off employees.

The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company’s president, after four years as COO and stints at RIM and IBM Canada.

MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will be resigning from its board of directors.

Linked in and eBay millionaires invest to save us from AI

cybermen__quot_delete_quot__campaign_by_degaspiv-d33hjoaTwo millionaires have each committed $10 million to save the world from the troubles of AI.

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s non-profit are spending a fortune funding academic research and development aimed at keeping artificial intelligence systems ethical.

The fund received an additional $5 million from the Knight Foundation and two other $1 million donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group. The $27 million reserve is being anchored by MIT’s Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

While the project acknowledges that AI has its uses they are worried that things can go wrong. The most critical challenge is making sure that machines are not trained to perpetuate and amplify the same human biases that plague society.

The money will pay for research to investigate how socially responsible artificially intelligent systems can be designed to, say, keep computer programs that are used to make decisions in fields like education, transportation and criminal justice accountable and fair.

The group wants to talk with the public about and foster understanding of the complexities of artificial intelligence. The two universities will form a governing body along with Hoffman and the Omidyar Network to distribute the funds.

Alibaba promises Trump a million new jobs

Donald-Trump-funnyAlibaba Boss Jack Ma met US President-elect Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump to talk about putting a million small US  businesses onto his platform to sell to Chinese consumers over the next five years.

Alibaba thinks it can create a million US jobs as each company adds a position. Alibaba has previously campaigned to bring more small US businesses onto the company’s sites, but this is the first time Ma has discussed specific targets.

Trump and Ma emerged from their meeting at Trump Tower in New York together. The president-elect told reporters they had a “great meeting” and would do great things together. Ma called Trump “smart” and “open-minded”.

Ma said small businesses, especially in the Midwest, such as farmers and small clothing makers, who could tap the Chinese market directly through Alibaba, whose Tmall online shopping platform offers virtual store fronts and payment portals to merchants.  Apparently foreign brands do well selling their stuff to China’s vast and growing middle class by offering to smoothen out Chinese sales, payment and shipping processes.

Ma gets on rather well with the Chinese authorities which is more than can be said for Trump.  During the election he  often targeted China and blaimed it for US job losses and vowing to impose 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports.

About 7,000 U.S. brands including wholesaler Costco Wholesale and apparel seller Levi’s currently sit on Alibaba’s Tmall, an Alibaba spokeswoman said. They made $15 billion in sales to Chinese consumers last year.

There is also the small matter of an ongoing US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Alibaba’s accounting practices. However Trump’s top choice for the incoming head of the commission is Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton who happened to work on Alibaba’s initial public offering so we guess that means it will go through now.

 

Yahoo gone, Mayer to quit

Marissa-Mayer-webex-ART-OLD-SITE (1)Yahoo is to rename itself Altaba and Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer will quit after the closing of its deal with Verizon.

Yahoo has a deal to sell its core internet business, which includes its digital advertising, email and media assets, to Verizon for $4.83 billion.

Five other Yahoo directors would also clean out their desks after the deal closes, Yahoo told regulators. The new company also named Eric Brandt chairman of the board.

The remaining directors will govern Altaba, a holding company whose primary assets will be a 15 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba and 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan.

The terms of that deal could be amended – or the transaction may even be called off – after Yahoo last year disclosed two separate data breaches; one involving some 500 million customer accounts and the second involving over a billion.

Verizon executives have said that while they see a strong strategic fit with Yahoo, they are still investigating the data breaches.