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.

Apple has Brexit on Imagination tech

Fruity tax-dodging cargo cult Apple has told British graphics maker Imagination it will stop using its graphics technology in the iPhone and other products with two years’ time.

Imagination had been leaning heavily on Apple lately and depends on it as its biggest customer. It is also unclear what Apple is going to do about its graphics technology.

It looks like Apple is trying to slash costs by bleeding its suppliers. It is widely expected to see interest in its iPhone declining and has been putting the thumbscrews on its suppliers to keep its margins and profits up.

Apple paid Imagination license fees and royalties totalling £60.7 million for the year to the end ofApril 2016, half of its total revenue, and is expected to pay about £65 million pounds for this year, Imagination said.

Imagination said Apple had not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer need Imagination’s technology, without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information.

Apple’s notification had triggered talks on alternative commercial arrangements for the current licence and royalty agreement.

US FCC wants to reform big data to help poor telcos

The Republican head of the Federal Communications Commission wants to ease regulatory requirements in the $45 billion business data services market.

This is a win for AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon but a problem for outfits like Sprint who think prices for business data are too high and backed a plan under President Barack Obama that would have cut prices.

Small businesses, schools, libraries and others rely on business data services, or special-access lines, to transmit large amounts of data quickly, for instance connecting banks to ATM machines or gasoline pump credit card readers. Wireless carriers rely on them for the backhaul of mobile traffic.

Writing in his bog FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the commission will vote April 20 to reform the rule that telecommunications experts say would deregulate the market in most of the country but would retain regulations in some places.

“Where this competition exists, we will relax unnecessary regulation, thereby creating greater incentives for the private sector to invest in next-generation networks. But where competition is still lacking, we’ll preserve regulations necessary to prevent anti-competitive price increases,” Pai said.

However consumer groups such as the Public Knowledge and Consumer Federation of America called Pai’s proposal a “bonanza” for big telecommunications companies that “will drain consumer pocketbooks of tens of billions of dollars per year”.

Under President Barack Obama, the then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a reform plan for business data services that aimed to reduce prices paid.

Wheeler wanted to keep and lowering lower price caps using legacy data systems with a one-time 11 percent reduction in prices phased in over three years.

Sprint liked the idea said that thousands of large and small businesses across the country are paying far too much for broadband because of inadequate competition.

Sprint argued:  “A small handful of companies are overcharging the very investors and employers that are critical to our economic growth and are using anticompetitive tactics to ensure that these businesses never have access to competitive alternatives.”

However AT&T argued Wheeler’s plan was “little more than a wealth transfer to companies that have chosen not to invest in last mile fibre infrastructure”.

 

Silver Lake and Broadcom want Toshiba’s flash

Private equity outfit Silver Lake and US chipmaker Broadcom have offered Toshiba Corp about $17.9 billion for its chip unit.

According to the Nikkei Business Daily, 10 bidders have thrown their hats in the ring to buy a stake the NAND flash memory maker.

These include Western Digital which runs a chip plant with Toshiba in Japan, Micron, and South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix and financial investors.

Toshiba wants to make at least $8.93 billion from the sale of part or all the business to cover write-downs at its Westinghouse nuclear unit. It says it expects investors to value its chip operations at about $17.9 billion. This means that the Silver Lake Broadcom offer is close to the asking price.

Toshiba is also asking potential bidders whether they intend to resell their stakes and wants to decide on the sale before a shareholders meeting in June, the Nikkei said, without saying where it obtained the information.

Toshiba shareholders on Thursday agreed to split off its prized chip unit, paving the way for the sale.

 

Apple stops Aussie banks negotiating together for mobile payments

 

Apple has managed to stop banks from banding together to negotiate a better deal for Apple Pay, at least in Australia.

The banks did not want to agree to Apple’s outrageous transaction fees for its mobile banking service and instead wanted to band together to force Apple to agree to something cheaper create something that would not cost them so much.

Apple, of course said no, and complained to the regulator that the banks were ganging up on it.

Australia’s competition watchdog agreed and said that the banks could not work together to introducing their own mobile applications on iPhones and Apple Watches that could be used for contactless payments instead of the Apple Wallet.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman (ACCC) Rod Sims said: “If others need to think it through … we’ve at least got something out there which they can kick off from.”

If the four Aussie banks won two-thirds of the nation’s credit card market, would have given them more negotiating power, and could have sparked similar appeals to regulators for access to Apple’s systems in other jurisdictions around the world.

This would have given Apple a huge headache as it has been running a divide and conquer system all over the world forcing each bank to negotiate for access to Apple gear individually.  If it had to deal with the Aussie banks as a group they could have simply told it to go forth and multiply.

But the Australian watch dog was concerned that giving the banks bargaining power could reduce competition by forcing Apple to act more like Google which owns the more open Android operating system that allows contactless payments from individual apps.

An Apple spokeswoman said it was a great decision for Australians who wanted the “easiest, most secure and private payment experience possible with Apple Pay”.

It is now thought that Apple will extract a pound of flesh from the banks that dared to oppose it by making them pay more for not doing its bidding early.  Although quite why the banks should even bother with Apple Pay is open to question.

Uber self-driving case takes a dark turn

The US judge overseeing the self-driving car technology case has said that Uber could face an injunction if a key Uber executive does not testify.

Google’s Waymo sued ride services company Uber last month, alleging that its former executive, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential documents before leaving the company to join Uber.

Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court, which would temporarily stop Uber from using any of the allegedly stolen intellectual property.

Uber, which has said the allegations are baseless, has not yet responded to Waymo’s complaint in court, and has argued that the trade secrets issue should go to arbitration.

But Uber has fallen foul of District Court Judge William Alsup who told Levandowski’s lawyer that his client was in a mess.

Apparently Levandowski is worried his client could face criminal action and would be asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Uber said that it would like to put Levandowski on the stand, because “he has a good story to tell”,  but could not force him. But were the case sent to arbitration, Levandowski might choose to testify, because arbitration proceedings are not public.

“I’m sorry that Levandowski has got his — got himself in a fix. That’s what happens, I guess, when you download 14,000 documents and take them, if he did. But I do not hear anybody denying that,” Alsup said.

Uber’s strategy would be to convince the court that Uber was “not using any of these things” Waymo says he stole.

“That would be a legitimate point,” responded Alsup. “Maybe you can convince me of that.”

But Alsup warned Uber of its difficulty in dodging a preliminary injunction in light of Levandowski’s Fifth Amendment privilege.

“If you think for a moment that I’m going to stay my hand because your guy is taking the Fifth Amendment and not issue a preliminary injunction to shut down that … you’re wrong,” Alsup said.

Apple’s App store’s days of glory have passed

It was only a matter of time, but Apple’s App Store is no longer the mobile market leader it once was.

For years Jobs’ Mob has bragged that it has the most apps and makes the most money from its app store making it important that developers make sure their code is represented.  However analytics firm App Annie said that all that is slowing down.

The App Store will fall second to the amount of revenue generated by Android app distributors, predicts. In 2017, the App Store will generate $40 billion in revenue, which is not bad, but is being outclassed by Android app stores run by Google and other parties which will generate $41 billion.

The gap will widen in 2021, with Android app stores generating $78 billion in revenue and Apple’s App Store fall to $60 billion.

The surge in revenue for Android comes from a growing number of consumers in China who are buying Android phones and are willing to pay for apps. In 2021, App Annie expects there to be eight Android smartphone users to every single iPhone user in China.

 

Blackberry still trying to escape jam

 

Although BlackBerry appears to have succeeded at getting out of the smartphone handsets that hung like an albatross about its neck, the Canadian outfit has a long way to go before it can convince the world its software business is a goer.

The company, which will report fourth-quarter and full-year results on Friday, says it has no major gaps in its software portfolio, thanks to the integration of a string of recent acquisitions.

However, it admits that more work is needed to get those offerings into the healthcare and automotive industries and other sectors that it hopes will power future growth.

While analysts see Blackberry as something different from what it was ten years ago, it has not really convinced businesses that it has products they might want.

Chief Executive Officer John Chen would need a late bump in sales to hit the 30 percent growth in software revenue BlackBerry targeted for its recently completed fiscal year.

BlackBerry’s enterprise-value-to-forward-revenue ratio is 3.14 lower than the roughly 4.5 ratio which  Oracle and Microsoft have. In fact, Blackberry is expected to barely break even in the fourth quarter and likely notch revenue of less than $1.4 billion. In the good old days, Blackberry was taking more than $5.5 billion a quarter.

The redesigned company has gone from selling its own phones with the servers and software that manage them for businesses and governments to securing an array of rival devices and the information that flows to and from them.

The company’s 2015 purchases of Good Technology and WatchDox helped it secure a leading position in the enterprise mobility market, and its QNX industrial operating system is key to its self-driving vehicle ambitions. However, there is tough competition in these and other areas of interest.

Chen, who took over the helm of BlackBerry in late 2013, said in December the company would take another four or five quarters to halt the steady decline in its overall revenue, with software sales growth projected to slow to around 15 percent in the fiscal year that began in March.

EU to decide if companies can stop online sales

 

Europe’s top court will begin a case today to determine whether luxury goods companies can stop retailers from selling their products via marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay.

Owners of luxury brands have been fighting with online retailers for the last decade, arguing that they should have the right to choose who distributes their products to protect their luxury image and exclusivity.

Online platforms dispute this, saying that such restrictive distribution deals are anti-competitive and hurt consumers.

The European Commission is pushing for more cross-border online sales to boost growth and jobs, and catch up with the United States and Asia.

The case before the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concerns German company Coty, a subsidiary of US beauty products maker Coty, which wants to stop a retailer from selling its goods on online marketplaces such as Amazon.

Coty says this breaches its agreement with the retailer which prohibits the sale of its products via third parties. The case originally went to a court in Germany which later asked the ECJ for guidance.

The EU court’s ruling will be crucial because companies are seeking to curb sales of their products online

Lobby group Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Rakuten and Yahoo, said the problem was broader than just luxury good companies protecting their

CCIA director Jakob Kucharczyk, said: “We do not consider this to be a ‘fight’ with or against luxury brands. This issue is far more relevant because online marketplace bans are imposed with respect to a range of day-to-day, mass market products which makes them anti-competitive and unjustifiable.”

A court adviser is expected to give a non-binding recommendation in about six months, followed by the court judgment a few months later.

Protester wants to broadcast Republican’s browser histories

US dollar - Wikimedia CommonsA protester who is upset at the Republican congress voting to allow ISPs to flog people’s browser histories to the highest bidder has come up with a novel way of doing so.

Online privacy activist Adam McElhaney has launched an initiative called Search Internet History, with the objective of raising funds to buy the browsing history of each politician who voted to do away with privacy.

We guess he will then publish the information for everyone to mock and be shocked at. After all it is pretty likely that more than one Jesus loving, right-wing Republican will have a hard-core donkey porn addition and will order prostitutes and rent-boys online.

On Tuesday, Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump that wipes away landmark online privacy protections.

On the site, McElhaney has also put up a poll asking people whose internet history they would like to see first. The campaign which only needed $10,000 has already raised over $55,000 which should be enough to get a few interesting browser histories.