Sony could be exploring the sale of its film and television unit just a week after announcing the departure of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. From a report: Tokyo's Sony Corp. is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations, several sources told The Post. "Every bank is pushing pitches," said one person familiar with the process. Another confirmed that banks have paid a flurry of visits to Tokyo to advise on a sale of Sonyâ(TM)s film and TV business. The Post was first to report that the Japanese owners were ready to listen to bid proposals if they had the right number attached. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has long signaled interest in acquiring the asset, though several Chinese bidders could be in the wings. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has denied any intent to sell the firm during the five years he's been in the top slot at the company. Still, he has not appointed a successor to Lynton, despite knowing of his intention to depart for some time. That has sparked speculation that there may be no position to fill.
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Amazon's Dash Buttons, those tiny, physical gadgets, make buying products from the online retailer easier when you're not in front of a computer. Now the company is taking that idea back to its digital storefront. From a report on Recode: The new virtual Dash buttons started appearing on the Amazon.com homepage and the Amazon app home screen on Thursday night. The company is automatically creating ones for items you recently ordered or order often. An order is placed with one click or tap on the digital button. An Amazon spokesperson said Prime members can create a virtual one-click button for tens of millions of products available for Prime delivery. "Add to your Dash buttons" is now an option on the product page of all eligible products. Virtual Dash buttons are free to use, while the physical ones cost $4.99. A spokesperson said the idea for the virtual shortcuts came from the success of the physical buttons and is not connected to the reported expiration of the Amazon patent for one-click purchases.
Uber is paying $20 million to settle allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service with false promises about how much they would earn and how much they would have to pay to finance a car. From a report: The FTC claimed that Uber was advertising an annual median income of over $90,000 per year for uberX drivers in New York and more than $74,000 for uberX drivers in San Francisco. But, as the commission found out, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities actually make that much. The complaint also alleges that Uber was inflating the hourly earnings on job boards like Craigslist. New drivers who financed a new car through Uber's Vehicle Solutions Program found out the company's claims were too good to be true as well. Although Uber told new drivers they would be able to lease a new car for around $119 per week, the actual lease rates never dipped below $200 from late 2013 to April 2015. And, despite its promise of delivering "the best financing options available," it turns out that Uber's rates were actually worse than consumers with similar credit scores could have gotten elsewhere. Adding insult to overpriced injury, Uber tacked on mileage limits to lease agreements that were advertised with unlimited mileage.
Who's got two thumbs and a Secret Service-approved phone to tweet from? On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump has handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone, according to Associated Press. From a report: The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who's frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features totally disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A South Korean court on Thursday dismissed an arrest warrant against the head of Samsung Group, the country's largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. But the reprieve for Jay Y. Lee, 48, may only be temporary, as the special prosecutor's office said it would pursue the case. Lee, who has led Samsung since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, was still likely to face the same charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, legal analysts said, even if he is not detained. The special prosecutor's office said it would be continuing its probe but had not decided whether to make another arrest warrant request, and the setback would not change its plans to investigate other conglomerates. Spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said the prosecution was unconvinced by the Samsung chief's argument that he was a victim of coercion due to pressure from Park. The office has accused Lee of paying multi-million dollar bribes to Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal, to win support from the National Pension Service for a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung Group affiliates. The merger helped cement Lee's control over the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire.
randomErr quotes a report from Reuters: London-based fintech firm Trading.co.uk is launching an app that will generate trading alerts for shares based on Donald Trump social media comments. Keeping one eye on the U.S. President-elect's personal Twitter feed has become a regular pastime for the fund managers and traders. Trump knocked several billion off the value of pharmaceutical stocks a week ago by saying they were "getting away with murder" with their prices. Comments earlier this week on China moved the dollar and a pair of December tweets sent the share prices of Lockheed Martin and Boeing spiraling lower. That plays to the growing group of technology startups that use computing power to process millions of messages posted online every day and generate early warnings on when shares are likely to move. Trading.co.uk chief Gareth Mann said the Trump signal generator used artificial intelligence technology to differentiate between tweets or other messages that, for example, just mention Boeing and those liable to move markets.
mmell writes: Apparently, owning 700 acres of land in Hawaii isn't enough -- Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has filed suit to force owners of several small parcels of land to sell to the highest bidder. The reason? These property owners are completely surrounded by Zuckerberg's land holdings and therefore have lawful easement to cross his property in order to get to theirs. Many of these land owners have held their land for generations, but seemingly Mr. Zuckerberg can not tolerate their presence so close to his private little slice of paradise. Landowners such as these came to own their land when their ancestors were "given" the land as Hawaiian natives. If successful in his "quiet title" court action, Mr. Zuckerberg will finally have his slice of Hawaii's beaches and tropical lands without having to deal with the pesky presence of neighbors who were on his land before he owned it. Who knew that Hawaiians were just another kind of Native Americans? CNBC reports: "The cases target a dozen small plots of so-called 'kuleana' lands that are inside the much larger property that Zuckerberg bought on Kauai. Kuleana lands are properties that were granted to native Hawaiians in the mid-1800. One suit, according to the Star-Advertiser, was filed against about 300 people who are descendants of an immigrant Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker who bought four parcels totaling two acres of land in 1894. One of that worker's great-grandchildren, Carlos Andrade, 72, lived on the property until recently, the paper said. But the retired university professor told the Star-Advertiser that he is helping Zuckerberg's case as a co-plaintiff in an effort to make sure the land is not surrendered to the county if no one in his extended clan steps up to take responsibility for paying property taxes on the plots."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Netflix has gleefully poked a stick at its competitors in the video streaming market, after revealing it had added more than seven million subscribers to its service in the last three months of 2016. HBO also got a special mention. In a letter to shareholders, the company's boss Reed Hastings teased the TV drama maker by noting that, if the BBC was willing to stream shows before they air on television, then maybe HBO -- which has rigidly stuck to its strategy of eking out episodes to viewers -- should do the same. He said: "[...] the BBC has become the first major linear network to announce plans to go binge-first with new seasons, favoring internet over linear viewers. We presume HBO is not far behind the BBC. In short, it's becoming an Internet TV world, which presents both challenges and opportunities for Netflix as we strive to earn screen time." But it's worth noting that HBO currently has an exclusive deal with Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, allowing the broadcaster to have first-run rights on the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld until 2020 -- so any such change isn't likely to happen in the near-term. Late last year, it struck a deal with Netflix rival Amazon, allowing Prime members in the US to sign up for a monthly HBO subscription. "We have a very successful partnership with this great company that continues to evolve," said HBO exec Sofia Chang in December. The company's HBO Now streaming service shows no sign of shifting strategy, either, with programs airing simultaneously on traditional TV and online.
Amazon is working on self-driving cars, according to a new patent that deals with the complex task of navigating reversible lanes. From a report on The Guardian: The patent, filed in November 2015 and granted on Tuesday, covers the problem of how to deal with reversible lanes, which change direction depending on the bulk of the traffic flow. This type of lane is typically used to manage commuter traffic into and out of cities, particularly in the US. Autonomous vehicles, the patent warns, "may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane", leading to a worst-case scenario of them driving headfirst into oncoming traffic. More generally, the inability to plan for reversible lanes means cars and trucks can't optimize their routes by getting into the correct lane well in advance, something that could otherwise prove to be one of the benefits of self-driving cars. Amazon's solution to the problem could have much larger ramifications than simply dealing with highway traffic in large cities. The patent proposes a centralized roadway management system that can communicate with multiple self-driving cars to exchange information and coordinate vehicle movement at a large scale.
Netflix's boom in subscribers is a sign that the world is accepting internet TV, meaning without commercials and on-demand, said CEO Reed Hastings during an earnings call with investors. From a report: "The basic demand is increasing as people get more comfortable and more aware of Internet television where you don't get the commercial interruptions, where you get to watch where and when you want," said Hastings. Netflix reported $2.47 billion in revenue during Q4 2016, and earnings per share of 15 cents. The streaming giant wildly beat its original projections for subscriber additions, bringing in 7.05 million new customers compared to its Q3 estimate of 5.2 million. The majority of adds were from international viewers. Even though some shows -- like "Gilmore Girls" -- started as traditional TV shows before moving to Netflix, a large part of the draw for new subscribers came from original shows. Almost half of the most searched for shows this year were Netflix originals, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer. The company has 42 launches coming up, including Marvel's "Iron Fist" and Drew Barrymore's zombie comedy "Santa Clarita Diet."
European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple. From a report: The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon's unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store. The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.
Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
Just weeks after the massive Gigafactory started producing batteries, Tesla has announced plans to hire more workers and use the facility to make the motor and gearbox for its upcoming Model 3 electric sedan. CNBC reports: Tesla will invest $350 million for the project, and hire an additional 550 people, according to the governor's comments. That will be over and above the company's existing commitment to hiring 6,500 people at the Gigafactory, according to comments made by Steve Hill, the director of the governor's Office of Economic Development, to Nevada newspaper the Nevada Appeal. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made manufacturing efficiency a high priority for the company, but Tesla will require a lot of factory floor to meet its goal of to pumping out 500,000 cars by the end of 2018, and then making one million cars by 2020. Meanwhile, the city of Fremont recently approved Tesla's application for an additional 4.6 million square feet of space there.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
Google has acquired a part of Twitter -- the part that isn't about tweets. Twitter's mobile developer platform Fabric will become part of Google, both companies announced Wednesday. From a report: Acquired by Twitter in 2014, Fabric is "a modular mobile platform" designed to help app developers improve the "stability, distribution, revenue and identity" of their products, according to Twitter's blog post. Everything from the ability to natively embed tweets in other apps to signing in with your Twitter credentials were made possible by Fabric. Now that it's been reacquired, Fabric will merge with Google's Firebase development platform. "We quickly realized that our missions are the same -- helping mobile teams build better apps, understand their users, and grow their businesses," the Fabric team wrote in its announcement. "Fabric and Firebase operate mobile platforms with unique strengths in the market today." And if you're an existing Fabric customer, don't worry, the platform will continue to function. You'll just need to agree to the new terms of service, which will be available once the deal is completed.
New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Scientists say they have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that is capable of predicting when patients with a serious heart disorder will die with an 80% accuracy rate. Researchers from the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) believe the software will allow doctors to better treat patients with pulmonary hypertension by determining how aggressive their treatment needs to be. The researchers' program assessed the outlook of 250 patients based on blood test results and MRI scans of their hearts. It then used the data to create a virtual 3D heart of each patient which, combined with the health records of "hundreds" of previous patients, allowed it to learn which characteristics indicated fatal heart failure within five years. The LMS scientists claim that the software was able to accurately predict patients who would still be alive after a year around 80% of the time. The computer was able to analyze patients "in seconds," promising to dramatically reduce the time it takes doctors to identify the most at-risk individuals and ensure they "give the right treatment to the right patients, at the right time." Dr Declan O'Regan, one the lead researchers from LMS, said: "This is the first time computers have interpreted heart scans to accurately predict how long patients will live. It could transform the way doctors treat heart patients. The researchers now hope to field-test the technology in hospitals in London in order to verify the data obtained from their trials, which have been published in the medical journal Radiology.
Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Accenture research has found Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent for eight of the world's ten biggest banks. That equates to annual cost savings of $8-12 billion. The findings of the "Banking on Blockchain: A Value Analysis for Investment Banks" report are based on an analysis of granular cost data from the eight banks to identify exactly where value could be achieved. A vast amount of cost for today's investment banks comes from complex data reconciliation and confirmation processes with their clients and counterparts, as banks maintain independent databases of transactions and customer information. However, Blockchain would enable banks to move to a shared, distributed database that spans multiple organizations. It has become increasingly obvious in recent months that blockchain will be key to the future of the banking industry, with the majority of banks expected to adopt the technology within the next three years.
"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.