Category: Business

Biggest Twit prepares to flog his stock

TwitterThe markets were all tutting over Twitter founder Ev Williams deciding to flog a third of his shares.

Apparently, Williams did not want to get rid of his shares because the company was suffering, he just wanted to buy something nice for himself.

In fact, his announcement make it clear that he was not selling because of Twitter performance reasons, just for personal reasons.

Of course, a cynic would suggest that those personal reasons could be that he does not want to lose more money on a company which could not successfully sell itself.

If he wants to buy anything more than a mars bar and a packet of crisps with his shares then he might have to do it now. Williams is the company’s largest individual shareholder, so his recent announcement may make some investors worried. However, Twitter stock was only down less than one percent Thursday following this news. Recode reports:

Twitter’s stock is down more than 15 percent over the past three months. Williams explained the sale in a blog post, and wrote that he has spent a lot of money investing through his venture fund, Obvious Ventures, and also donated a lot to charity and political campaigns over the past year.

“I’d like to continue,” he added. Williams sold about $4 million in stock this week, according to an SEC filing, and has set up a 10b5-1 trading plan, which means he will sell at pre-determined dates moving forward to avoid any concerns over insider trading.

Uber had software designed to diddle drivers and users

A class-action lawsuit against taxi outfit Uber claims that the taxi outfit is running a “clever and sophisticated” scheme in which it manipulates navigation data used to determine ‘upfront’ rider fare prices while secretly short-changing the driver.

According to court documents, when a rider uses Uber’s app to hail a ride, the fare the app immediately shows to the passenger is based on a slower and longer route compared to the one displayed to the driver.

The software displays a quicker, shorter route for the driver. But the rider pays the higher fee, and the driver’s commission is paid from the cheaper, faster route, according to the lawsuit.

Uber implemented the so-called “upfront” pricing scheme in September and informed drivers that fares are calculated on a per-mile and per-minute charge for the estimated distance and time of a ride.

“However, the software that calculates the upfront price that is displayed and charged to the Users calculates the expected distance and time using a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one displayed in the driver’s application,” according to the suit.

The rider pays a higher fee because the software calculates a longer route and displays that to the passenger. The driver does not even get any benefit because they are paid a lower rate based on a quicker route.

Uber trousers the difference charged to the User and the fare reported to the driver, in addition to the service fee and booking fee disclosed to drivers.

Samsung has a little trouble in Big China

A Chinese court has ordered Samsung’s  mainland subsidiaries to pay $11.60 million to Huawei Technologies for nicking its ideas.

The patent infringement case is Huawei’s first victory against Samsung. Three units of Samsung were ordered by the Quanzhou Intermediary Court to pay the sum for infringing a patent held by Huawei Device Co Limited, the handset unit of Huawei, the Quanzhou Evening News reported.

The verdict is the first of several Huawei lawsuits against the South Korean technology giant. Huawei filed lawsuits against Samsung in May in courts in China and the United States – the first by it against Samsung – claiming infringements of smartphone patents. Samsung subsequently counter sued Huawei in China for IP infringement.

Huawei sued Samsung China Investment, as well as a unit in Huizhou, a unit in Tianjin and two Chinese electronics companies for making and selling more than 20 kinds of Samsung smartphone and tablet products that it said infringed the patent.

It sought compensation for the more than 30 million products that sold for $12.7 billion, including the Galaxy S7, according to the media report.

The court ordered the five firms to stop infringing Huawei’s copyrights and ordered the three Samsung units to pay the damages.

Bezos flogs Amazon stock to become rocket man

Online bookseller Jeff Bezos said he will flog $1 billion worth of his Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11 minute space rides starting next year.

Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year.

Bezos told hacks  at the annual US Space Symposium in Colorado Springs that the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.

Bezos is Amazon’s largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos’ total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday’s closing price.

Initially Blue Origin will work for  11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six passenger, gumdrop shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.

The reusable rocket and capsule is designed to carry passengers to an altitude of more than 100 miles (62 km) above the planet so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of Earth set against the blackness of space. Unmanned test flights have been underway since 2015.

At the symposium, Bezos showed off a mockup of the passenger capsule, which sports six reclined seats, each with its own large window. Also on display was a scorched New Shepard booster rocket that was retired in October after five flights.

Blue Origin is developing a second launch system to carry satellites, and eventually people, into orbit, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule.

 

Samsung makes record earnings from chips

Never mind the fact that one of your flagship products caught fire and your Vice Chairman is in jail, Samsung is still winning.

Record earnings at Samsung Electronics chip division are set to propel the tech giant’s first-quarter profit to a three and a half year high, and the quarters ahead could be even better if its newest smartphone, Galaxy S8, is a success.

A boom in memory chips spurred by demand from smartphones and servers has helped Samsung tide over the costly failure last year of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and management turmoil.

Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee is on trial for bribery and other charges linked to a corruption scandal that led to the ouster and arrest of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung, Asia’s biggest company by market capitalization and the world’s largest memory chip maker, are near record highs after gaining nearly 17 percent so far this year, on top of the 43 percent surge in 2016.

Wall Street has on average estimated Samsung’s January to March operating profit to have risen 41 percent from a year earlier to $8.44 billion.  This is the highest profit since the best ever profit clocked in the third quarter of 2013.

And as Samsung prepares to start selling its revamped Galaxy S8 from April 21, the average forecast from the same survey tips Samsung to report a record 11.9 trillion won profit in the second quarter.

Analysts expect tight supply conditions for memory chips to continue this year, particularly in NAND flash chips used for long-term data storage, keeping Samsung’s margins padded. That leaves the mobile division as the key earnings variable, they said.

Some analysts and Samsung’s head of smartphone business expect the phone’s first year sales to beat that of predecessor S7, setting a new record for the South Korean company.

 

General Motors connects its robots to StarNet

In living proof that not enough people go to sci-fi movies, General Moters connected a quarter of its 30,000 factory robots to the internet.

The largest US  automaker already is reaping the benefits of less down time by analyzing data they sent to external servers in the cloud.

Mark Franks, director of global automation, said connectivity is preventing assembly line interruptions and robot replacements that can take as long as eight hours. Internet monitoring allows GM to order parts when it detects they’re wearing out instead of having to store them at the factory.

He said that reduces inventory and saves cash.

Hooking robots to the internet for preventive maintenance is just the start of a spurt of new robotics technology, Franks said.

GM is using robots that can work safely alongside humans in the factory that produces the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, he said.

Of course putting stuff on the internet makes it less secure and if an AI collective consciousness develops among internet connected devices, then it could use all these robots to take over the world.

You will know this has happened when a GM robot starts to assemble a robot to look for Sara Conner. But in the meantime, GM will be saving a bob or two before that, so that is ok.

Intel finally gets rid of McAfee

After seven years and a lawsuit from its founder, Intel is finally getting rid of McAfee.

The chip maker has divested its majority holdings in McAfee to investment firm TPG for US$3.1 billion.

McAfee will become a standalone security company, but Intel will retain a minority 49 percent stake. Chipzilla is apparently only interested in internal operations on hardware-level security.

The selloff is a loss for Chipzilla, which spent $7.68 billion to acquire McAfee in 2010. Some analysts think it was the worst thing that Intel ever bought.

Although the idea was good. Intel wanted to add layers of security to hardware and components. It McAfee technology in firmware at the PC and server chip level, and developed security management tools. McAfee technology was used in hardware using real-time operating systems. But most of McAfee was software based and had little ties to Intel’s core hardware strategy.

To fix the problem, Intel ran a parallel hardware security strategy that had little to no ties to McAfee.

US FCC limits broadband competition

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is reversing a requirement imposed that Charter Communications extend broadband service to a million households already served by a competitor.

The requirement was made under the Obama administration to make sure that the telcos competed with each other rather than setting up local monopolies.

It was part of a condition of approval for its acquisition of two cable companies, Charter had agreed in May 2016 to extend high-speed internet access to 2 million customers within five years, with 1 million served by a broadband competitor.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement said the move was like telling two people you will buy them lunch, ordering two entrees, and then sending both to just one of your companions.

“It runs directly against the goal of promoting greater internet access for all Americans.”

The American Cable Association petitioned the FCC to reverse the requirement in 2016.

The group warned it would have “devastating effects on the smaller broadband providers Charter will overbuild” because they would face competition from an “uneconomic, government mandated entry” that could put some companies out of business.

But equally it could create a situation where cable companies divide up regions to get local monopolies.

Google X worked older staff member to collapse

Google X worked an older staff member so hard he finally collapsed and it laid him off.

According to Business Insider the employee was assigned to fieldwork for Project Wing, which is X’s program to create delivery drones for transporting consumer goods and emergency medicine.

While out in private ranch lands in the Central Valley in California one day, the employee succumbed to either a heart attack or a grand mal seizure because of the hot temperatures in the Central Valley, coupled with a gruelling work schedule of 10-12 hours a day and stress may have brought it on.

The Project Wing drone tester, who returned to work after two months’ leave, found himself demoted and sent back into a field gig before eventually being pushed out of the company.

According to Business Insider, some members of the Project Wing field team painted an alarming picture of hostile work conditions driven by engineers and managers back at headquarters who scheduled the group to conduct loads of tests, thereby producing loads of data, despite the long hours outdoors that such a schedule required.

To make matters worse all their demanding work and data was being ignored because their backgrounds in the military were allegedly viewed disdainfully by Google X.

Trump did not change H-1B visa numbers after all

This year’s round of H-1B visa programme applications will be the same as last year, despite comedy president President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s policy changes which were supposed to keep the foreigners out.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services last updated its online page dedicated to the programme, which granted visas to skilled foreign workers, Wednesday with the rules mostly similar to those of last year and quotas remaining the same.

For those who came in late, Trump promised to save American jobs and reform the programme on the grounds that companies exploited it to fill jobs once held by US citizens who earned higher wages. An alleged draft of an executive order was leaked last month and widely circulated, raising fears that the administration was preparing to gut the program. These measures were dropped.

This has led analysts to suggest that that the window in which the White House could have made serious reforms is now closed and it is business as usual.

Earlier this month, the USCIS announced it would neither lower nor raise the quota of H-1B visas, but did reveal a new restriction. For a fee of $1,225, applicants were once able to expedite their processing to just 15 days. From March 3, premium processing was indefinitely suspended for at least six months in a decision the USCIS said was aimed at reducing long processing times.