SoftBank Signals Major Ambitions with $100 Billion Tech Fund

Japan’s SoftBank Group, led by chief exec Masayoshi Son, is partnering with a Saudi sovereign-wealth fund to establish a multibillion-dollar tech investment fund. SoftBank is an ambitious tech investor, as evidenced by its recent deals with China’s Alibaba Group, mobile carrier Sprint and chip designer ARM Holdings. Today, the company “plans to invest at least $25 billion over the next five years through a fund dubbed the SoftBank Vision Fund,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund may contribute an additional $45 billion over the next five years as the fund’s lead partner.” SoftBank is in talks with additional global investors, who could “push the new fund up to $100 billion to become the world’s ‘biggest investor’ in technology over the next decade.” Continue reading SoftBank Signals Major Ambitions with $100 Billion Tech Fund

Facebook Launches Marketplace, Battles Sale of Illegal Items

This last Monday, Facebook began gradually introducing a new feature, Marketplace, which, similar to Craigslist, lets users buy and sell items. The app will be first introduced to users in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom, and will also be available on the desktop in the next few months. Because most Facebook users access the site via mobile phones, Marketplace will provide better location data for matching buyers and sellers than Craigslist. Since the launch, however, Facebook has been dealing with illegal items for sale. Continue reading Facebook Launches Marketplace, Battles Sale of Illegal Items

The UK Is Winning the Race to Launch Legal Drone Deliveries

In North America and Europe, Amazon, DHL and UPS are all getting ready to launch fleets of drones to deliver packages. The United Kingdom most likely will be the first country to put unmanned vehicle technology into action because the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) can address issues without having to adhere to the schedule of an outside authority such as the U.S. Congress. Issues include allowing drones to safely fly out of an operator’s sight and managing multiple airborne drones. Continue reading The UK Is Winning the Race to Launch Legal Drone Deliveries

Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

21st Century Fox just invested $6.5 million in the London-based Drivetribe, a new digital media platform for car fans. This comes two weeks after early Facebook investor Jim Breyer and venture capital fund Atomico, led by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, invested $5.5 million. Entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt, former “Top Gear” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and the show’s former executive producer Andy Wilman are the creators behind Drivetribe, which launches in November. Continue reading Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

Samsung Recalls Galaxy Note7 Phablets Due to Battery Fires

On the eve of Apple’s expected new iPhone unveiling September 7, Samsung announced on Friday that it is recalling its Galaxy Note7 due to a problem with the battery cell that could lead to overheating. The world’s biggest maker of smartphones plans to replace 2.5 million phones shipped to consumers and stores. Reports first appeared online when users posted images and videos of charred phones that had reportedly exploded, often while charging. Manufacturing the replacement phones will take two weeks, according to Samsung, although it has yet to say how much the recall will cost the company. Continue reading Samsung Recalls Galaxy Note7 Phablets Due to Battery Fires

European Commission: Apple Must Pay Tax Penalty to Ireland

The European Commission has issued a $14.5 billion tax penalty against Apple, claiming the tech giant owes unpaid taxes following a sweetheart deal with Ireland that constitutes illegal state aid. Apple and Ireland both have plans to appeal the decision. “We never asked for, nor did we receive, any special deals,” wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We now find ourselves in the unusual position of being ordered to retroactively pay additional taxes to a government that says we don’t owe them any more than we’ve already paid.” The Wall Street Journal suggests the “decision is likely to aggravate trans-Atlantic tensions over the investigations into tax deals brokered between U.S. multinational corporations and individual European countries.” Continue reading European Commission: Apple Must Pay Tax Penalty to Ireland

Sony Debuts Immersive Video to Promote Movie on Snapchat

To promote its new thriller “Don’t Breathe,” Sony Pictures Entertainment created the first immersive, 360-degree video ad for the social media platform Snapchat, with its more than 150 million mainly young users. The campaign is a 10-second video that lets users “swipe up” to see the 90-second 360-degree video on a Web page in the app. “Don’t Breathe,” about three burglars who invade the home of a blind military veteran and find themselves trapped and fighting for their lives, opens in theaters August 26. Continue reading Sony Debuts Immersive Video to Promote Movie on Snapchat

SoftBank to Purchase UK-Based Chip Designer ARM Holdings

Japan’s SoftBank Group has agreed to acquire United Kingdom’s ARM Holdings for more than $32 billion in an all-cash deal, which insiders suggest marks a major move by the Japanese telecom toward the mobile Internet. As a top designer of chips for companies such as Apple and Samsung, ARM dominates the smartphone market and is a leader in the mobile revolution. Its designs appear in a range of devices, including Internet of Things sensors. The number of chips featuring ARM processors reached 14.8 billion in 2015, up from 6.1 billion five years earlier. Continue reading SoftBank to Purchase UK-Based Chip Designer ARM Holdings

Amazon’s Prime Day Sales Surge 30 Percent Over Last Year

According to e-commerce giant Amazon, yesterday’s Prime Day sales from third-party merchants were up 30 percent over last year’s event, driven by international demand. The statement was made at 3:00 pm Eastern Time during the company’s day-long promotion designed to attract more subscribers for its $99-per-year Amazon Prime membership. Once the total numbers are in, Amazon anticipates “a record day for small businesses and sellers.” Last year’s event was criticized after deals ran out too early. “The company this year offered more deals and deeper inventory,” reports Bloomberg. “It relied on thousands of third-party merchants who sell goods on Amazon and give the company a cut of each sale to boost the number of deals.” Continue reading Amazon’s Prime Day Sales Surge 30 Percent Over Last Year

Global Markets React to UK’s Decision to Exit European Union

British voters cast their ballots yesterday regarding the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, and surprising to many, the country has opted to exit the European Union. Shortly after the results were announced, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign his position later this year, while leaders in Northern Ireland and Scotland have indicated they will seek independence referendums in order to reenter the EU. The immediate response has been a dramatic ripple effect in markets worldwide with expectations for future uncertainty and potential crises. The tech industry, which often benefits from the EU’s liberal trade and economic policies, will likely be impacted. Continue reading Global Markets React to UK’s Decision to Exit European Union

Viacom Debuts BET Streaming Service for International Market

Viacom rolled out a standalone online service this week dubbed BET Play, targeting an adult audience (last year, Viacom launched Nickelodeon-related app Noggin for kids). The video-on-demand application will feature BET’s award programs, such as this week’s 2016 BET Awards, in addition to TV series, musical performances, documentaries, comedy specials and news. BET Play will launch for iOS, Android and Apple AirPlay-enabled TVs without the need for a broader pay TV subscription. It will be available in 100 countries outside the U.S. for the equivalent of $3.99 per month. Continue reading Viacom Debuts BET Streaming Service for International Market

Twitter Eyes Machine Learning with Acquisition of Magic Pony

Twitter announced it is acquiring London-based artificial intelligence startup Magic Pony Technology to help provide a professional polish to tweeted live videos. The social giant reportedly paid about $150 million to purchase Magic Pony. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he was buying the company “so Twitter can continue to be the best place to see what’s happening and why it matters, first.” Twitter has been emphasizing video in recent months, and machine learning is “increasingly at the core of everything we build,” said Dorsey. In addition to using machine learning, “Magic Pony’s technology uses artificial intelligence for visual effects,” notes Bloomberg. “It can be used to clean up pixelated images or create new images” and “to improve video streaming.” Continue reading Twitter Eyes Machine Learning with Acquisition of Magic Pony

Flix Premiere: New Online Movie Platform Streams Indie Films

Flix Premiere — “the world’s first online Cineplex” featuring international and indie films — has launched in the U.S., two months after its debut in the U.K. Available online and via iOS and Android apps, the streaming service offers exclusive “curated theatrical releases” for $4.99 per title (or five tickets for $19.99). The website describes the service as “the single point of discovery for the 95 percent of films that ‘never’ find their audience.” Flix Premiere plans to introduce 8-9 new films every 10-14 days that will be exclusive to the platform for 12 months. Continue reading Flix Premiere: New Online Movie Platform Streams Indie Films

Android Users Are Spending Less Time with Social Media Apps

SimilarWeb examined the amount of time Android users in nine countries spent on social apps Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat during the first three months of 2016 and found that there has been a year-over-year decline. Facebook-owned Instagram saw the most significant drop of 23.7 percent (36.2 percent in the U.S.), followed by Twitter and Snapchat. Facebook was down 8 percent overall, 6.7 percent in the U.S. However, Facebook users in the U.S. spend a daily average of more than 45 minutes with the app. “Meanwhile, Facebook’s messaging apps — WhatsApp and Messenger — increased installs, up 15 percent and two percent respectively,” notes CNBC. Continue reading Android Users Are Spending Less Time with Social Media Apps

New European Proposals Outline Video Streaming Regulations

European officials have proposed new rules for video streaming companies as part of an effort to regulate online services for the region’s 500 million consumers. Part of that effort would be to require streaming companies to not only carry a certain amount of local content, but to chip in to pay for its development, as do national broadcasters. The goal, say officials, is to boost the region’s local economies. Apple, Facebook and Netflix, which dominate the European online space, would be the U.S. companies most impacted. Continue reading New European Proposals Outline Video Streaming Regulations

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