Month: January 2014

Facebook unveils Paper, a Flipboard-style news reader app for iPhone

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Facebook has announced the launch of its first news reader app, called Paper. It will be available for the iPhone in the US on February 3. Facebook says Paper is the first product from the Facebook Creative Labs, where it claims to be “crafting new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.”

The social networking giant had been rumoured to be readying the app earlier in January, and the unveiled app is exactly in line with earlier expectations, featuring a Flipboard-style layout. The newly-unveiled Paper is also the first of the new standalone apps from Facebook, new products in the vein of Messenger and Instagram that CEO Zuckerberg hinted at during Wednesday’s earnings call – a Facebook Groups app is also expected.

The Facebook Paper app in many ways can replace the regular Facebook app, as it allows users to browse and interact with posts/ stories from their News Feed – the primary function of the regular app – in a brand new ‘immersive design and fullscreen, distraction-free layout’. While all the functions of the main app aren’t present, Paper’s layout is certainly an attractive, high-bandwidth alternative.

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The ‘distraction-free layout’ also has us wondering just where Facebook will sticks ads into the application, as without them, it would losing a platform for mobile advertising, which currently bringsmore than 50 percent of its advertising revenue.

You might be wondering why Facebook Paper is called a standalone news reader app, if all it shows are stories from the user’s News Feed. Well, it’s being called one because it also shows curated news and feature content in themed sections to users. 

Themes and topics include more than a dozen choices initially, such as photography, sports, food, science and design. Content in these sections is chosen by Facebook editors from new as well-established publications. Detailed covers will apparently make it easier to spot preferred sources. Users at this point will not be able to add their own sources.

Coming back to the interface of Paper, Facebook is touting intuitive controls, allowing users to easily browse stories with ‘natural movements’. The company says users will also be able pan-through high-resolution panoramic photos by simply tilting the phone. Fullscreen autoplay videos will apparently also aid in the immersive experience. 

As for posting content, Facebook says it has made it “easier to craft and share beautiful stories.” This is via a new compose mode, which will also show users a live preview of their post before they share it.

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Nokia X budget Android smartphone leaked again in purported live images

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Nokia’s long-rumoured Android phone, believed to be dubbed Nokia X (codenamed Normandy) has been leaked again in live images, this time revealing design of the alleged device.

A French publication, No Where Else, has posted three images of the alleged Nokia X which purportedly show the device. One of the leaked images of the alleged Nokia X phone shows the front panel housing a Nokia logo on the top of the panel. Another leaked image shows the rear panel of the rumoured Nokia X, and appears to be made of plastic, similar to the material found on Asha devices, while the third leaked image shows the side panel housing a physical button for power and a volume rocker.

The alleged Nokia X aka Nokia Normandy is expected to be introduced at the upcoming MWC 2014 event held in Barcelona, starting from 24 February.

On Wednesday, a new leak via Browsermark 2 benchmark’s database purportedly revealed the alleged Nokia X phone to comes with model number RM-980.

Unfortunately, the listing did not reveal any details about the device, but includes an image that purportedly showed Nokia X wearing Nexus 5’s wallpaper and home screen icons. However, the current image contradicted earlier reports that claimed that Nokia, following the lead of Amazon, has been working on a fully-tailored or forked version of Android, like the software on the online retail giant’s Kindle Fire tablet range.

The alleged Nokia X was recently listed at a Vietnamese online retailer that revealed most of the specifications, including a 4-inch TFT display with a resolution of 480×854 (FWVGA) pixels; a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor; 5-megapixel rear camera; microSD card support and Android 4.4 KitKat. Further, the listing seemingly confirmed that the rumoured Nokia X would come with dual-SIM support, while connectivity options include 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS, EDGE, AGPS and Micro-USB. Other specifications include 4GB of inbuilt storage and Adreno 302 GPU. Notably, the listing claimed that the alleged Nokia X supports Google services like Google Play store, Google Search, Google Now, Google Maps, Calendar and YouTube.

Yahoo investors appear to be losing faith in Marissa Mayer’s turnaround efforts

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Yahoo Inc’s shares fell 7.5 percent as the company’s declining revenue tempered investor confidence in CEO Marissa Mayer’s turnaround efforts, prompting several analysts to cut their price targets on the stock.

Yahoo’s shares nearly doubled in the past year as investors pinned their hopes on Mayer and surging growth at Chinese online retailer Alibaba, in which Yahoo holds a big stake.

At least four brokerages lowered their price targets on Yahoo’s stock, which fell to a low of $35.30 in early trading on Wednesday.

Yahoo on Tuesday reported a decline in online advertising prices and slower growth at Alibaba.

Yahoo’s overall revenue fell 6 percent in the last three months of the year to $1.266 billion, marking four consecutive quarters of eroding revenue.

The drop in revenue was largely driven by a 7 percent decline in ad unit pricing due to a shift to mobile, where ad rates were lower, and from the roll-out of a new ad format where volumes were strong but pricing was lower, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Robert Peck said.

Mayer, after taking take over in July 2012, moved aggressively to kick-start the company with product makeovers, acquisitions and big media hires. But the ad sales business continues to struggle when at a time rivals Google and Facebook are posting strong revenue growth.

Alibaba posted revenue growth of 51 percent during the July-September quarter, after setting a breakneck pace during the first two quarters of 2013.

“Alibaba remains the prime attraction, though its 3Q13 was perhaps a bit less robust than recent quarters,” CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi wrote in a research report.

The brokerage cut its price target on the stock to $47 from $52.

But Doshi said Alibaba’s revenue growth could show signs of acceleration when Yahoo reports the Chinese company’s fourth-quarter results. That period will include Singles Day (November 11), one of the biggest shopping days of the year in China.

Yahoo reports Alibaba’s results one quarter in arrears as part of its own financial disclosures.

Analysts have estimated that Yahoo’s Asian assets – Alibaba and Yahoo Japan – comprise about three-quarters of Yahoo’s nearly $40 billion market valuation.

Some analysts raised their price targets on Yahoo’s stock, citing the growth potential of Alibaba and another Yahoo asset, blogging service Tumblr.

“We think Tumblr may actually be capable of creating as much value as Yahoo’s core (business),” Bernstein Research analyst Carlos Kirjner wrote in a note.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 education tablet announced, due in April

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Samsung has announced plans to launch a new Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet, which according to the company is exclusively developed for education.

The company has revealed that the new Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet will be available for K-12 school deployments in April for the 2014-2015 academic year and will be sold through Samsung distribution and channel partners. Samsung has not yet announced any pricing details of the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet.

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 has been launched as part of the Google Play for Education program and will come with access to curated educational content, and other features to support dynamic, digital teaching and learning.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 features a 10.1-inch display as the name suggests with WXGA (1280×768 pixel) resolution in an 16:10 aspect ratio. The tablet runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and will include Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity options. Samsung has not revealed complete specifications detail of the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet for students, though we assume that the device would come with identical innards as the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet launched in June last year.

Samsung has not revealed the complete specifications of the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet, as of now.

Samsung’s new tablet comes with Google Play for Education features which give educators access to a wide selection of teacher-approved apps, books, and videos. The tablet will also come with a web-based management console which is provided by Google that will allow schools to easily manage and configure their entire fleet of devices.

Commenting on the launch, Tod Pike, senior vice president at Samsung’s Enterprise Business Division said, “Samsung and Google for Education share a commitment to delivering innovative learning experiences to improve student outcomes. The new Galaxy Tab with Google Play for Education integration was created to specifically address the needs of today’s schools and support our vision for powering education by empowering educators.”

Apart from the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet, Google is also collaborating with other companies in its Google for Education initiative – with Lenovo for the ThinkPad 11e Chromebook series, and withToshiba for its Chromebook.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 key specifications

  • 10.1-inch display with WXGA resolution
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity options

Lenovo steps into ring against Samsung with Motorola deal

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Lenovo Group, the Chinese technology company that earns about 80 percent of its revenue from personal computers, is betting it can also be a challenger to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc in the smartphone market.

On Wednesday, Lenovo said it would buy Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility handset unit for $2.91 billion in the fourth-largest U.S. acquisition by a Chinese or Hong Kong company ever.

“We are not only the number one PC company in the world but with this agreement we will become a much stronger number three smartphone company,” said Wong Waiming, Lenovo’s chief financial officer, on a conference call on Thursday.

Investors, however, took a dim view of the deal, which came less than a week after the company announced it was buying IBM Corp’s low-end server unit for $2.3 billion. The stock fell 8.2 percent on concerns Lenovo might have overpaid for a loss-making business and would dilute the value of shares by issuing new ones to help pay for the purchases.

Together with the IBM agreement, Lenovo has agreed in the last week to fork over as many as 800 million shares, representing about 7.7 percent of its outstanding stock.

With its acquisition of Motorola, Lenovo is emerging as the most viable contender to global smartphone leaders Apple and Samsung – albeit still a distant third-place player.

The deal will allow Lenovo to step outside its China comfort zone and firmly into other regions, including the United States, where Chinese smartphone makers have struggled, and Latin America, where Motorola remains a strong brand.

Google has the opposite problem. China is one place its presence is barely felt since it left the market in 2010 because of network security concerns.

Its search engine, which dominates in most of the world, recorded China market share by usage of just 1.6 percent in December, according to Beijing-based data firm CNZZ. Before 2010, its share reached 29 percent, according to Analysys Mason.

Even Google’s Android operating system, which Samsung also uses, has struggled in China. Only 3.5 percent of Android devices in China have its Google Play app store installed, limiting its profit potential.

Whether the Lenovo partnership might reopen the door to China remains to be seen. Programmes such as Google Maps and Google Plus, which is blocked by censors, would still be unavailable to most mobile users.

New challenger

Lenovo’s global smartphone market share following the acquisition will be more than 6 percent, compared with Samsung’s 28.8 percent and Apple’s 17.9 percent as of December 31, according to Lenovo and IDC.

For Motorola, Lenovo will pay $660 million in cash, $750 million in Lenovo ordinary shares, and another $1.5 billion in the form of a three-year promissory note, Lenovo and Google said in a joint statement.

Lenovo will receive more than 2,000 “patent assets” as part of the transaction, the companies said, but it remains unknown which will change hands and whether they might be subject to extra scrutiny from regulators.

“This has a huge impact not only to the smartphone market but also the Android ecosystem,” said CK Lu, a Taipei-based tech analyst with Gartner. “Samsung dominates in the Android ecosystem but now they have a new challenger which is Lenovo.”

China would like to see a home-grown competitor to both Android and Apple’s iOS. Earlier this month, it launched its own “China Operating System”.

Shares dive

Wong said Lenovo has no “urgent need” to raise additional funds to pay for the IBM or Motorola acquisitions. The deals together require capital outlays of $2.8 billion, while Lenovo has on-hand cash of more than $3 billion, Wong said. Lenovo also raised $1.2 billion in loans in December.

Motorola Mobility lost more than $1.5 billion, after taxes and extraordinary items, since Google acquired the unit in May, 2012, according to a Lenovo filing on Thursday. Google will report its fourth quarter and annual earnings later on Thursday.

“It looks like Lenovo is acquiring the Motorola unit at a premium,” said Linus Yip, a Hong Kong-based strategist at First Shanghai Securities.

But Wong said he was “very confident” Lenovo can return the business to profitability. He declined to give a time frame.

Lenovo’s smartphone business generates about $4 billion in annual sales, said Wong, and with the addition of Motorola the company should approach $10 billion in revenues “within a reasonable time”.

“That actually gives us a much bigger scale platform for us to grow further,” Wong said.

The deal may not be about market share so much as markets.

“It’s not about entering the U.S. but about stepping outside of China,” said Gartner’s Lu. “They have the chance to compete with Samsung and Apple.”

Google’s Motorola misstep could be Lenovo’s boon

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An expensive mistake by Google could turn into a golden opportunity for China’s Lenovo Group as it expands beyond its success in the personal computer industry.

Google is ridding itself of a financial headache by selling Motorola Mobility’s smartphone business to Lenovo for $2.9 billion. The deal announced late Wednesday comes less than two years after Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.4 billion in the biggest acquisition of Google’s 15-year history.

While Google Inc. is backpedaling, Lenovo Group Ltd. is gearing up for a major expansion. Already the world’s largest PC maker, Lenovo is now determined to become a bigger player in smartphones as more people rely on them instead of laptop and desktop computers to go online.

Lenovo already is among the smartphone leaders in its home country, but it has been looking for ways to expand its presence in other markets, especially the U.S. and Latin America. The company had been rumored to be among the prospective buyers for BlackBerry Ltd. when that troubled smartphone maker was mulling a sale last year.

“We will be going from an emerging-market player to a worldwide player in smartphones,” Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said in an interview with The Associated Press.

This marks Lenovo’s second high-profile deal this month. The company announced plans last week to buy a major piece of IBM Corp.’s computer server business for $2.3 billion.

For Google, the sale is a tacit admission that a company that prides itself on employing some of the world’s smartest people miscalculated how much Motorola was worth.

Google previously recovered some of the money that it spent on Motorola by selling its set-top operations last year to Arris Group Inc. for $2.35 billion.

And Google is holding on to most of Motorola’s more than 20,000 mobile patents, providing Google with legal protection for its widely used Android software for smartphones and tablet computers. Gaining control of Motorola’s patents was the main reason Google was willing to pay so much for a smartphone maker that was already losing money and market share.

The Motorola patents were valued at $5.5 billion at the time Google took over, according to regulatory filings.

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Factoring all that, there’s a gap of roughly $1.65 billion between what Google paid for Motorola and what Google is getting from its sales to Arris and Lenovo, plus the original value of the patents. What’s not known is the value of the patents Google is keeping, as Lenovo is picking up about 2,000 Motorola patents in addition to the phone manufacturing operations.

It’s also unclear if Google will have to absorb a charge to account for its apparent miscalculation of Motorola Mobility’s value. The Mountain View, Calif., company may address the issue Thursday when it announces its fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes.

Most investors viewed Motorola as an unnecessary drain on Google’s profit, a perspective that was reflected by Wall Street’s reaction to the sale. Google’s stock gained $28.08, or 2.5 percent, to $1,135 in extended trading.

A cellphone pioneer, Motorola Mobility had its last big hit with the Razr flip phone, which came out in 2004. Its product line became outmoded after Apple Inc. released the iPhone in 2007, unleashing a new era of touch-screen phones. Motorola hasn’t been able to catch up yet, even as last summer’s Moto X received positive reviews.

Motorola’s losses are likely to dampen Google’s earnings at least for the first half of this year. That’s because it’s expected to take six to nine months before the proposed sale gets the necessary approvals from regulators.

Buying Motorola will enable Lenovo to join Apple Inc. as the only major technology companies with global product lines in PCs, smartphones and tablets, putting Lenovo in a better position to become a one-stop shop for companies to buy all their devices from the same vendor, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett.

“This makes Lenovo a company to watch,” Gillett said in an email. “The personal device manufacturer business is consolidating – and manufacturers must compete in all three device markets, plus emerging wearable categories, or get left out of the next market shift.”

Oppo N1 with Android 4.2 and rotating camera launched at Rs. 39,999

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Oppo has entered the Indian market with the launch of its flagship smartphone, the N1 (16GB) at Rs. 39,999. The company has announced that its first smartphone in India will be initially available in 12 cities, including Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai among others.

The company unveiled the Oppo N1 globally in September last year. Oppo N1 comes with support for running CyanogenMod OS, which is an open operating system based on Android 4.3 and developed by Cyanogen Inc.

Oppo’s India twitter handle has also confirmed that the company will be selling a limited edition of the N1 with CyanogenMod OS in the country. The tweet said, “Oppo will be selling a limited edition of their latest flagship device, the OPPO N1, which will ship with CyanogenMod.”

The Oppo N1 runs Color UI which is Oppo’s proprietary OS based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean out-of-the-box. Specifications on the Oppo N1 include a 5.9-inch full-HD (1080p) IPS display with 1080×1920 pixels resolution and 377ppi pixel density, 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB and 32GB of inbuilt storage. However, the company has not revealed the price details for N1’s 32GB model.

The N1 sports a 13-megapixel sensor with dual LED flash, which is the device’s major highlight, as the camera can rotate up to 206 degrees, and can lock at any angle. Connectivity options on the device include USB OTG, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, GPS, NFC and 3G. It packs a 3610mAh battery.

The Oppo N1 will be available in White colour and weighs 213 grams. It comes with dimensions 170.7×82.6x9mm.