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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Samsung overtakes Apple as world’s most profitable mobile phone maker

Samsung's Galaxy S4 and Apple's iPhone 5

Apple has lost its status as the world’s most profitable maker of mobile phones, with strong demand for Samsung’s Galaxy handsets pushing the South Korean multinational into the financial lead for the first time.

The California company made an estimated $3.2bn (£2.1bn) profit from iPhone sales in the second quarter of the year, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics, a marked drop from $4.6bn a year ago and less than Samsung’s estimated $5.2bn haul from both its basic models and smartphones in the same period.

While the high-priced iPhone was the engine that propelled Apple to become the world’s most valuable company, its customers are no longer bent on owning the latest model.

Healthy demand for the three-year-old iPhone 4, which is cheaper than the latest iPhone 5, has reduced the average selling price of its blockbuster device.

As smartphone ownership trickles down the income brackets in both western and emerging markets, Apple’s margins have taken a hit. The company’s latest financial results showed that the average selling price of an iPhone has fallen to $581, down from $613 in the first quarter.

The same trend has squeezed Samsung’s handset profits, which are down from an estimated $5.6bn in the second quarter of 2012, but the strong performance of its flagship Galaxy S4 has, at least for now, put an end to Apple’s four-year reign as the world’s most profitable phone-maker.  Read More

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Activision Soars After Accord to Buy 0ut Vivendi Holding

Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) and a group led by Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick agreed to buy most of Vivendi SA (VIV)’s stake in the company, the biggest U.S. video-game publisher, for $8.17 billion. The stock soared.

 The maker of “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” will take on debt to purchase shares held by Paris-based Vivendi for $13.60 each, or $5.83 billion. Kotick and partners including co-Chairman Brian Kelly, Chinese game maker Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700), Davis Advisors and Leonard Green & Partners, will pay $2.34 billion, according to a statement yesterday.

The accord ends five years of control over Activision by the French media and telecommunications company, and months of uncertainty for the Santa Monica, California-based video-game company as its departing parent sought ways to reduce debt. Activision and Kotick are buying out Vivendi at a 10 percent discount to yesterday’s closing price and said the terms would lead to faster profit growth this year.

“We tried to construct a transaction that rewarded our public shareholders and this structure accomplishes that,”  Kotick said in a telephone interview. His group will own 25 percent of the company, according to the statement.

Activision soared to an almost five-year high, gaining 13 percent to $17.21 at 12:10 p.m. in New York after reaching $17.76. As of yesterday, the stock had risen 43 percent this year, giving the company a market value of $17 billion. Vivendi added 0.6 percent to 16.07 euros in Paris. Tencent climbed 3.9 percent to HK$347.40 in Hong Kong.  Read More

New Nexus 7 Tablet Launches Early at Best Buy, Amazon, More

New Nexus 7

Can’t wait to get your hands on Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet? Several popular retailers have you covered.

The next-gen slate will be available at Best Buy, Amazon, GameStop, and Walmart today, several days before its official launch in the Google Play store.

A quick visit to the Amazon.com Nexus 7 product page shows that the device is in stock, available for $229 (16GB), and ready for two-day Amazon Prime shipping.

Best Buy, meanwhile, confirmed in an email to PCMag that the tablet is on sale now at BestBuy.com and in all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores, in the 16GB and 32GB ($269.99) versions.

GameStop brick-and-mortar and virtual stores will also have the Nexus 7 in stock, starting 1 p.m. Eastern today. For a limited time, GameStop customers can also trade in items — games, consoles, accessories, smartphones, Android tablets — to earn an additional 30 percent of in-store credit for use toward a new Nexus 7.  Read More

Under Code, Apps Would Disclose Collection of Data

Like food packages that display nutrition labels, some mobile apps could soon display information that allows consumers to decide at a glance whether the apps are good for them.
A variety of groups, including app developers and consumer advocates, have agreed to test a voluntary code of conduct that would require participating app developers to offer short-form notices about whether their apps collect certain personal details from users — including health and social networking data — or share user-specific data with entities like advertising networks or consumer data resellers.

The idea is to allow people to compare the data collection practices of, say, flashlight apps and choose one that does not ingest unrelated material like their photos or contact lists. The determination that the notices are ready for testing is the outcome of yearlong negotiations — convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the United States Commerce Department — to increase mobile app transparency for consumers. Participants included app developers, digital marketing, civil liberties, consumer and privacy groups.

On Thursday, many participants in the process voted to support a version of the code drafted by a diverse coalition including the Application Developers Alliance, an industry association, and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the World Privacy Forum.

Although major mobile app developers like Apple and Google, which develops mobile apps for its Android platform, have not indicated whether they intend to sign on to the code of conduct, groups involved in drafting it say it is a significant advance in mobile privacy for consumers — and an unusual agreement among industry and consumer advocates.

“It’s a victory for common sense,” said Tim Sparapani, vice president for law, policy and government relations at the Application Developers Alliance, a group representing more than 100 companies and 20,000 individual developers.   Read More

Secrets Of Successful Marketing Analytics Adoption

When Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business released its latest edition of The CMO Survey recently, it revealed a curious paradox. Some 500 U.S. chief marketing officers surveyed said they expect to increase – and in fact dramatically increase – their spending on marketing analytics over the next three years.  Currently, marketing organizations spend an average of about 6% of marketing budgets on analytics, which is expected to hit 10% within three years. That’s to make sure the other 90% is optimally invested and the right customers are being offered the right things.

But here’s the paradox:  Even as marketers allocate more money to analytics, efforts to apply analytical learnings to organizational decision-making are lagging well behind. In other words, there’s still a big gap in extracting the real value in big data. That gap, I would wager, results from what I call “institutional lethargy” – the tendency toward status quo that keeps organizations from making the changes they need to make.  Read More

Nexus 7 Trade-Ins Suggest Lots Of Upgraders To New Model, Little To No Interest From The iPad Crowd

nexus7-refreshed

The new Google Nexus 7 is a big improvement over the original with a bunch of additions like LTE and a super high-resolution display – the best in tablets, in fact. And that’s driving a lot of first generation device owners to trade in their old Nexus 7, according to gadget buy-back site Gazelle. There was a 333 percent spike in the number of Nexus 7 tablets traded in compared to the same day last week, for example.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, that spike was even higher – a 442 percent jump in Nexus 7 tablets happened between the day before Google’s official unveiling of the new model, and the day of. The Nexus 7 trade-in activity spiked so high that it made up nearly a quarter of all trade-ins for non-iPad tablets since the site began accepting them earlier this year.

Wednesday, the day Google made its announcement, was also the biggest Nexus 7 trade-in day at Gazelle to date, beating the next biggest day by 380 percent. That previous record was set when the new Nexus 7 leaked on July 17, which clearly prompted early adopters to take advantage of a small head start ahead of the big reveal.  Read More

Penguin appeases EU regulators by ditching e-book deal with Apple

iBooks

The European Union’s legislative arm officially approved the conditions it and Penguin reached in April, the commission announced in a press release. Per the terms of those conditions, Penguin will not make any agreements that would allow it, and not a retailer, to set prices on titles.

The agreement brings to an end the so-called “most favored nation” pricing agreement Penguin had with Apple, which allowed the publisher to set content pricing as long as it didn’t sell said content to another retailer for less.

Major book publishers and Apple had agreed to an “agency model” of pricing when the iPad with iBooks debuted. That was a change from the “wholesale model” they had before with book sellers like Amazon, which were allowed to resell e-books at or below cost.

Apple’s e-books deals found the company under fire on both sides of the Atlantic. Apple and the accused publishers outside of Penguin reached a settlement in Europe in December, but Apple fought an antitrust suit from the U.S. Department of Justice in its home country.  Read More

3 Signs the Market Is Near a Top

We may be closer to a major market top than most investors think.

That at least is the conclusion that emerged when I compared the current market environment to what prevailed at major market tops of the past century.

To be sure, there are some dissimilarities as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not peaking. No two tops are exactly alike. As Mark Twain famously said, even if history does not repeat itself, it does rhyme.

With that thought in mind, I examined all 35 bull market tops since the 1920s. I searched for patterns in the performance of not only the market itself, but of various internal market factors, such as earnings and price/earnings ratios. I was also interested in how small company stocks tend to perform in the months leading up to a top, both in their own right and relative to large-cap stocks. Likewise, I searched for patterns in the relative returns of growth and value stocks.

I relied on several extensive databases: Yale University Prof. Robert Shiller’s database of Standard & Poor’s 500 earnings and P/E ratios, as well as a database showing the relative performances of small- and large-cap stocks, as well as of the growth and value styles, maintained by Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago and Ken French of Dartmouth. To determine when bull and bear markets have begun and ended, I relied on the precise definitions employed by Ned Davis Research, the quantitative research firm.

Here’s what I found.

Market rises steeply before bull dies

The typical bull market comes to an end following a period of extraordinary performance. In other words, some of a bull market’s best returns are produced right before it dies.

This is important to know if you thought that this bull market would, before it breathes its last, begin to slow down and go through a period of modest performance. That’s not typically the case: On a price chart, the average market top looks more like a pointed mountain peak than a plateau.

While it is of course possible that the next market top is more like a plateau, it would be the exception rather than rule: Since the 1920s, the average bull market has gained more than 21% over the 12 months prior to a top — more than double the long-term average.

Interestingly, the stock market recently has produced a return that is quite similar to this average 12-month gain prior to market tops: The S&P 500 over this period is up nearly 23%.  Read More

Nvidia’s Logan Could Be A Mobile Graphics Disruptor

Today at Siggraph, the world’s largest graphics show, Nvidia NVDA 0% provided more details on their next generation mobile graphics capabilities inside of Logan, the follow-on to Tegra 4. Logan’s graphics are based on Kepler, the graphics used in Nvidia’s PC, workstation and cloud solutions, which, given its good performance per watt, has the potential to be a disruptor in the mobile space.

 

 

Nvidia is showing off Logan’s graphics capabilities in a couple of videos here and here that help show off its performance and features. The videos of the demos, created by Nvidia, are impressive by any measurement based on my 20 years evaluating graphics.  They are taking advantage of advanced features like tessellation, global illumination, lots of post processing and raw compute performance.  From an advanced standards point of view, Logan excels, supporting OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenGL 4.4, and DX11.  These levels are very hard to achieve, particularly in mobile.  There is no definitive word yet on OpenCL or RenderScript support, but I would it find it hard to imagine if they didn’t.

Compared to Apple AAPL +5.19%’s iPad 4, Nvidia showed benchmarks from its Logan development board with orders of magnitude higher performance.  It’s not the iPad 5, but that doesn’t matter as its nearly 5x more.  On power, Nvidia is measuring graphics power on their development board at nearly 3X lower than the iPad 4 running graphics benchmarks.  This bodes well for Logan, but keep in mind the tests were run on a development board with early Logan silicon. The ultimate tests is performance per watt and the overall mobile experience in a branded tablet or phone by third party benchmarkers.  Nvidia plans to make this  happen in 1H/14.  Read More

Police say teenager arrested, accused of using social media to organize Hollywood ‘bash mob’

A 16-year-old has been arrested for allegedly using social media to organize a mob of teens to attack and rob pedestrians on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, police said Wednesday.

The teen is believed to have incited a chaotic crime spree, dubbed a “bash mob,” at the busy Los Angeles intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Officer Bruce Borihanh said. The teen’s name was withheld because he is a juvenile.

Bash mobs are like a flash mob but instead of dancing in a choreographed number in public places, a bash mob converges to steal and vandalize. Police have been trying to stay one step ahead of such mobs, and have recently issued warnings ahead of possible bash mobs.

Police say the incident came in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, when resources were deployed to protests around the city. KABC-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1c3tfrD) reports some peaceful protesters were present at the Hollywood location.

Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told reporters Wednesday that it was unacceptable for the criminal behavior to taint the purpose of those who were lawfully and peacefully protesting.

“In light of what the good people that were up there for lawful purpose intended to do, it really put a black eye on those days and we can’t have that,” Albanese said.  Read More

 

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