Business, News

Mark Zuckerberg Urges India To Approve Free Internet Plan

New Delhi (AFP) – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg urged India Monday to approve a controversial plan that would provide a free Internet service to the poor, his latest bid amid an escalating row with authorities.

The head of the social network tried to drum up support for the Free Basics service that offers people without the Internet free access to a handful of websites through mobile phones, in a column in the largest-selling English daily The Times of India.

“If we accept that everyone deserves access to the Internet, then we must surely support free basic Internet services,” the chief executive wrote, comparing the Internet to a library, public health care and education.

“Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India,” he added.

“Instead of wanting to give people free access to basic Internet services, critics of the programme continue to spread false claims — even if that means leaving behind a billion people.”

Zuckerberg’s personal appeal comes amid fierce criticism from net neutrality activists who say his plan violates the principle that the whole Internet should be available to all and unrestricted by any one company.

Earlier this month the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ordered Reliance Communications, the sole mobile operator for the service, to suspend it temporarily without giving a reason, documents seen by AFP show.

Some 3.2 million people have petitioned India’s telecoms regulator not to ban Free Basics, formerly named It launched nationwide last month after being trialled in several states.

Several prominent Indian entrepreneurs and members of the tech community have spoken out against Free Basics, arguing that even for poor citizens, no Internet is better than a hand-picked and corporate-controlled web offering.

But in an attempt to counter claims “that this will make Internet more like a walled garden”, Facebook has taken out billboards and full-page newspaper adverts defending the initiative.

Free Basics is “at risk of being banned” in India, Facebook said in the adverts, adding that the service aims to help a billion unconnected Indians — mostly living in poor rural areas — to get online.



Scandal-Hit Toshiba Warns Of $4.5 Bn Annual Loss, Job Cuts

Tokyo (AFP) – Crisis-hit Toshiba warned Monday it would book a record $4.5 billion annual loss and slash thousands of jobs, as the vast firm’s shares plunged in Tokyo.

The moves are part of a restructuring announced in the wake of an embarrassing accounting scandal that rocked one of Japan’s best-known firms.

Monday’s announcement marked the latest blow to the 140-year-old firm after revelations earlier this year that executives systematically pressured underlings to inflate profits to hide poor results.

Investors dumped Toshiba shares in response to a weekend report about the eye-watering loss, which was confirmed after markets closed Monday.

The stock tumbled 9.80 percent to end at 254.8 yen ($2.10) before the official news.

Toshiba said it expected a 550 billion yen ($4.5 billion) net loss for the fiscal year to March, from a small loss a year earlier.

Among the job cuts are 6,800 positions in its lifestyle division — which makes consumer electronics and home appliances — and about 1,000 jobs at its corporate headquarters.

The company, which has about 200,000 employees globally, earlier said it would cut 2,800 jobs from its memory chip division.

It is also stopping production of televisions overseas.

Known for its televisions and electronics, including the world’s first laptop personal computer and DVD player, Toshiba has a range of other operations including power transmission and medical equipment.

One of the most damaging accounting scandals to hit Japan in recent years, the case forced Toshiba’s incumbent president and seven other top executives to resign.

The company has admitted it had inflated profits by about $1.2 billion since the 2008 global financial crisis.

– Battered shares –

Chief executive Masashi Muromachi pledged Monday that the company would do everything it could to “regain shareholder confidence”.

Toshiba shares have lost about half their value since worries about its financial statements cropped up earlier this year.

“I feel a deep responsibility” for this scandal, Muromachi told reporters.

Toshiba’s statement came two weeks after Japan’s market watchdog said the company should be slapped with a record $60 million fine over the scandal.

The company is also facing lawsuits from hundreds of angry investors, while Toshiba itself is suing several former executives for damages over their alleged role in the affair.

Toshiba’s business was dented by the financial crisis, while the 2011 Fukushima disaster squashed demand for atomic power at home in a big blow to the firm’s key nuclear division.

Top executives had complained of “shameful results” that could not be made public.

The accounting scandal began when securities regulators uncovered problems as they probed Toshiba’s balance sheet earlier this year.

A report by a company-hired panel released in July described a corporate culture where underlings could not challenge powerful bosses who were intent on boosting profits at almost any cost.

In a bid to beef up its corporate governance, Toshiba said earlier it would bring in more outside directors, including a former supreme court justice along with a number of well-known business leaders.

Moody’s downgraded its credit rating on Toshiba last month, saying the move “reflects our ongoing concerns over the company’s operations”.

The move came after Toshiba was booted from a stock index launched to highlight firms with the best return on equity and other shareholder-friendly criteria.



Apple Digital Wallet Heads To China

San Francisco (AFP) – Apple announced a major partnership with China UnionPay to put is digital wallet to work in the world’s most populous country.

China UnionPay customers will be able to add their bank cards to Apple Pay on iPhones, iPads, or Apple Watch wearables, the companies said in a joint statement.

“China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience,” said Apple senior vice president of software and services Eddy Cue.

The service could be available early next year, pending approval of Chinese regulators.

Apple touts its digital wallet as letting people make purchases easily and securely, encrypting and hiding away personal data to thwart thieves.

UnionPay operates China’s national inter-bank clearing and settlement system and reported having issued more than five billion cards to date.

Apple launched its digital wallet last year in a move capitalizing on the popularity of its mobile devices and taking on rivals such as Google and PayPal, which are also competing in the market.


Business, News

Apple Insider Becomes Chief Operating Officer

San Francisco (AFP) – Apple on Thursday made shifts to its executive team, naming its first chief operating officer since Tim Cook moved into the chief executive job some four years ago.

Jeff Williams became Apple’s chief operating officer, formalizing a role some contend he was already handling at the California-based technology colossus.

Williams joined the company in 1998 and “played a key role in Apple’s entry into the mobile phone market with the launch of the iPhone,” according to a release.

Since 2010, Williams duties have included overseeing Apple’s supply chain along with service and support.

“Jeff is hands-down the best operations executive I’ve ever worked with,” Cook said.

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, a familiar face to any who have tuned into the company’s product unveilings, will expand his role to include heading the online App Store, according to the company.

The head of Apple’s chip business, Johny Srouji, was named senior vice president for hardware technologies.

“Johny’s team delivers world-class silicon designs which enable new innovations in our products year after year,” Cook said.

Cook also announced that Tor Myhren will join Apple early next year as vice president of marketing communications, reporting Cook.

“We are fortunate to have incredible depth and breadth of talent across Apple’s executive team,” Cook said.

Cook was chief operating officer at Apple from 2007 to 2011 and took over as CEO from co-founder Steve Jobs, who died that year.



Samsung Takes Apple Patent Case To US Supreme Court

San Francisco (AFP) – Samsung, on the losing end of a massive smartphone patent lawsuit, appealed on Monday to the US Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a ruling that it pay $548 million to rival Apple.

The two hi-tech behemoths went to court over the designs that have now become commonplace on most popular smartphones, with a court ruling in 2012 in favor of Apple.

At issue were design features by now familiar to consumers: a black, rectangular, round-cornered phone front, a surrounding rim, known as the “bezel” and a grid of 16 colorful icons.

Those design elements were protected, prompting the jury to award Apple all the profits from sales of smartphones containing those features, Samsung lawyers said in their filing.

“While Samsung prefers to compete in the marketplace, not the courtroom, the company feels that it is important to appeal this case to the US Supreme Court on behalf of all US companies, big and small, that could be affected if this legal precedent stands,” the company said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

Several of the world’s technology titans filed briefs supporting Samsung while the case was in federal circuit court in Silicon Valley, according to the firm.

Attorneys for the South Korean consumer electronics titan argued that the massive payout was not warranted, because smartphones “contain countless other features that give them remarkable functionality wholely unrelated to their design.”

“Even if the patented features contributed one percent of the value of Samsung’s phones, Apple gets 100 percent of Samsung’s profits,” the appeal said.

In response to an AFP inquiry, Apple said it stands by its comment after the trial victory in 2012.

“The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money,” the Apple statement said.

“They were about values. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”

– Samsung pays up –

Samsung early this month agreed to pay smartphone rival Apple just over $548 million in the years-long patent battle in federal court in California.

However, the agreement came with one key proviso, as the two tech giants agreed to continue “to pursue the existing cases in US courts.”

Samsung said in a legal filing that it would pay Apple the partial judgement awarded but that it reserved the right to get money back if the amount is modified or overturned on appeal or if the validity of patents at issue is successfully challenged.

Apple said in the joint filing that it disagrees with Samsung’s contention that it has a right to be reimbursed.

A court in September awarded Apple the partial judgment. Samsung’s options narrowed to simply paying the money or trying to take its fight to the US Supreme Court.

The hefty sum is significantly less than the billion dollars Apple sought at the outset of the 2012 patent trial in Northern California, and doesn’t put to rest an argument over who should pay Apple’s legal costs said to total $1.8 million.

In another sign that the legal fight would drag on, Apple also asked the court for a green light to file a motion asking for supplemental damages for products that weren’t calculated into the award.

Samsung and Apple decided last year to drop all patent disputes outside the United States, marking a partial ceasefire in a long-running legal war between the world’s two largest smartphone makers.

The arch-rivals have battled in close to a dozen countries, with each accusing the other of infringing on various patents related to their flagship smartphone and tablet products.

But neither has managed to deliver a knock-out blow with a number of rulings going different ways, and in an announcement they agreed to drop all litigation outside the United States, suggesting a line was finally being drawn.


Business, Gadgets

Wearable Tech Market Surge Led By New Gadgets

Washington (AFP) – The global market for wearable technology is seeing a surge, led by watches, smart clothing and other connected gadgets, a research report said Thursday.

IDC said its forecast showed the worldwide wearable device market will reach a total of 111.1 million units in 2016, up 44.4 percent from this year.

By 2019, IDC sees some 214.6 million units, or a growth rate averaging 28 percent.

“The most common type of wearables today are fairly basic, like fitness trackers, but over the next few years we expect a proliferation of form factors and device types,” said Jitesh Ubrani, an IDC analyst.

“Smarter clothing, eyewear, and even hearables (ear-worn devices) are all in their early stages of mass adoption. Though at present these may not be significantly smarter than their analog counterparts, the next generation of wearables are on track to offer vastly improved experiences and perhaps even augment human abilities.”

IDC said it sees smartwatch sales hitting 34.3 million units in 2016, up from 21.3 million this year. And by 2019, it expects total sales of some 88.3 million devices.

“In a short amount of time, smartwatches have evolved from being extensions of the smartphone to wearable computers capable of communications, notifications, applications, and numerous other functionalities,” said IDC research manager Ramon Llamas.

“The smartwatch we have today will look nothing like the smartwatch we will see in the future. Cellular connectivity, health sensors, not to mention the explosive third-party application market all stand to change the game and will raise both the appeal and value of the market going forward.”

IDC said in its most recent quarterly update that some 21.7 million wearables were sold in the past quarter, a jump of 197 percent.

Fitness tracker maker Fitbit maintained the top spot with a 22.2 percent market share and unit sales of 4.7 million, according to IDC.



Silicon Valley Giants Pledge $1 Billion For Artificial Intelligence Research

Several big-name Silicon Valley figures have pledged $1 billion to support a non-profit firm that on Friday said it would focus on the “positive human impact” of artificial intelligence.

Backers of the OpenAI research group include Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.

“It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly,” read the inaugural message posted on the OpenAI website.

“Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” the statement read.

The OpenAI funders “have committed $1 billion, although we expect to only spend a tiny fraction of this in the next few years.”

Artificial intelligence is a red-hot field of research and investment for many tech companies and entrepreneurs.

However leading scientists and tech investors, including Musk, have publicly expressed concern over the risks that artificial intelligence could pose to humanity if mismanaged, such as the potential emergence of “Terminator”-type killer robots.

“We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely,” read the statement, co-signed by the group’s research director Ilya Sutskever.

“The outcome of this venture is uncertain and the work is difficult, but we believe the goal and the structure are right.”

Because of the “surprising history” of artificial intelligence, “it’s hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach.

“When it does, it’ll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.”


Business, Life Hack

US Broadband Service Will Become Tax-free Forever

The US House of Representative will vote on this Friday to permanently ban new taxes on internet access by states and local governments. The voting for the same customs and trade enforcement legislation will take place on Monday in the Senate. US broadband subscribers can be assured that there won’t be anymore jacking up of internet/broadband subscription bills if the congress votes as expected in the coming days.

The state and local governments will prevented from imposing any new taxes as well on Internet access and broadband service.

There are some states which levy addition taxes on internet and broadband service. This legislation if passed successfully would also phase out existing taxes over the next four years in seven states — Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. These states imposed taxes in internet access before 1998 when the federal moratorium was passed.



In A $44M Deal TransUnion Buys Out Trustev

TransUnion in a move to beef up its E-Commerce fraud protection has bought Trustev in a $44 million deal.  Trustev recently disclosed investments of just under $8 million, the previous primary backers of Trustev are Mangrove and Greycroft. Despite a mere $8 million prior investment, TransUnion was willing to pay a Whooping $44 million, because it considers E-commerce fraud protection as a key area.

“As fraud grows in volume and sophistication, TransUnion continues to invest in building our global capabilities to help companies manage their risk,” said Jim Peck, TransUnion’s president and chief executive officer in a statement. “Holistic information is a powerful tool to help our customers approve good transactions and prevent fraud, and Trustev’s innovative capabilities are at the forefront of technology in this increasingly critical field.”

“Together, TransUnion and Trustev create a very powerful combination of software intelligence and rich data to stop online fraud. We will be able to help companies across many industries better spot bad actors online, and block their efforts, while letting good customers through. With TransUnion’s large global reach and Trustev’s online technology, this is a very positive move for all of our customers,” said Pat Phelan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trustev, in a statement.

Financial pundits consider this as a master stroke, as TransUnion until recently was just considered as a credit report provider, however with this acquisition of online technology and its global reach TransUnion will project itself as a provider of backend solutions for enterprises to reduce online fraud.


Business, News

#Samsung Will Pay #Apple $548 Million For Infringing Patents

Samsung has finally accepted to pay the $548 Million fine for infringing the patents owned by Apple. However Samsung did not give up before without offering a tough fight. It tried its best to avoid paying Apple, but Samsung now says it will hand over the $548 Million it owes to Apple for infringing the patents and designs.

Samsung filed the papers in the Federal Court in San Jose, California on Thursday, saying that it will make the payment by December 14 2015, if Apple sends them an invoice.

Asked if it had done so, Apple declined to comment on Friday.

The final amount accepted is much less the amount stated in the original verdict, as the US appeals court last May decreased the amount by $382 Million.

Samsung has not given up hope even after agreeing to pay the amount, it has told the San Jose court that it expects to be reimbursed if it succeeds in the forthcoming appeal.

“We are disappointed that the court has agreed to proceed with Apple’s grossly exaggerated damages claims regardless of whether the patents are valid,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement.