Displaying items by tag: competition

US chipmaker Qualcomm has robustly defended its business practices as the antitrust lawsuit against them draws to a close.

In their closing testimony Qualcomm declared that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had ultimately failed to prove that the chipmaker’s business practices had harmed its competitors during the course of the trial.

FTC have alleged that Qualcomm used its market dominance in its smartphone chip development to force phone suppliers to pay higher patent licensing fees, in other words it claims the company which is headquartered in San Diego had an unfair monopoly.

Both parties now must wait for the ruling from the judiciary, although reports have suggested that the decision is not likely to be delivered any time soon.

In a statement which summarized Qualcomm’s closing argument in court, the company’s EVP and general counsel Don Rosenberg said the FTC hasn’t come close to meeting its burden of proof in this case.

Rosenberg said, “All real-world evidence presented at trial showed how Qualcomm’s years of R&D and innovation fostered competition, and growth for the entire mobile economy to the benefit of consumers around the world.”

In addition to this, Rosenberg highlighted that Qualcomm’s licensing rates were established long before it had set up its lucrative chip business and accurately reflected the value of its comprehensive patent portfolio.

The FTC closed their arguments by stressing to the judiciary that the powerful chipmaker had used its muscle and dominance in the 3G and 4G chip market to force smartphone manufacturers like Apple to sing licensing agreements with excessively high royalties.

Prosecutors on behalf of FTC argued this approach would continue in the 5G era if Qualcomm isn’t stopped.

During the trial, the FTC called witnesses from a number of handset companies including Apple, Samsung, Intel and Huawei to testify that Qualcomm had used unfair practices, harming competition in the industry.

Published in Telecom Vendors

South Korean smartphone colossus Samsung has announced that its pre-orders for its Galaxy Note 8 have surpassed the highest-ever for the Note Series. Samsung believes its latest premium smartphone which exceeded the pre-orders enjoyed by the Note 7 – will protect the market dominance it currently assumes as it faces a stiff battle with Apple to remain on the top spot.

Apple has aggressively marketed its latest iPhone - as it focuses on the tenth anniversary of the inception of the inaugural iPhone, which was first launched in 2007. Apple’s newest iPhone will be formally unveiled to much media hype later this week.

Samsung have announced that sales of its Note 8 devices will hit markets in the US and South Korea on Friday – and management within the South Korean conglomerate buoyed by impressive pre-order numbers have expressed their confidence that the Note 8 will be a bug hit amongst consumers.

The smartphone incumbent claimed that it had 650,00 pre-order for the Note 8 handsets over a five day period, with orders coming from over 40 countries. President of Samsung Electronics mobile communications business DJ Koh said the initial response to the new smartphone was ‘very encouraging’.

Samsung suffered a mitigated and well-documented disaster with its Note 7. Reports of the devices catching fires and in some cases self-combusting due to faulty batteries forced the company to recall all of its Note 7 units from the market just a short few months into its life-cycle. Samsung lost billions of dollars due to the Note 7 fiasco, but it also more significantly tarnished its reputation amongst many of its customers.

However, the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer by market share took the decision to retain the Note brand after Samsung conducted a survey of 5,000 Galaxy Note users. 85% of respondents expressed brand loyalty, so executives decided to continue the Note brand. Samsung launched a lengthy investigation into the Note 7 scandal and discovered the root cause of the issues before embarking on the development of Note 8 handsets.

The Note 8 will retail at between $930-960 in the US, and that will include a number of attractive call and data packages incorporated in that deal. When US smartphone giant Apple introduce its new iPhone to the market it will squeeze the Note 8. However, many analysts have claimed that the excessive cost of the iPhone which will reportedly retail at around $1,000 has drained the enthusiasm amongst a lot of consumers worldwide.

Published in Telecom Vendors

An Estonian taxi startup company has announced its bold ambition to take on global ride-hailing colossus Uber in both London and Paris. Taxify announced that it will initially launch its services in London after it signed up 3,000 private hire taxi drivers following an intensive recruitment process which was needed to meet UK licensing and regulatory requirements.

Its expansion into the UK serves to indicate that Taxify is confident it can replicate the success it has enjoyed in other markets. The Estonian company have already benefited from the uncertainty and scandal that has plagued Uber in the last six months - by stealing a march on them in Eastern Europe and Africa.

London is a saturated market when it comes to taxi services. The English capital is home to the world-famous black cabs and private hire firm Addison Lee, who compete with other ride-hailing apps such as GETT and HAILO, which is now incorporated in Daimler’s MyTaxi.

Uber has a large slice of the market share in London, it boasts over 40,000 drivers and has 3 million London users, with the Silicon Valley based company claiming that users make over 1 million trips a week.

Taxify operates in 25 countries which is in stark contrast to that of Uber, who rollout its services in 600 cities across the world. However, its USP is that it allows passengers to pay marked-down fares which in turn lets drivers retain a bigger share of the profits, whilst it’s run on a much lower cost business model that Uber.

Taxify is directly targeting Uber’s customer base by offering a 15% commission on rides booked through the online platform. Uber charges between 20-25% in London. In addition to this, Taxify will accept cash as well as electronic payments unlike Uber.

The CEO and founder of the Estonian startup Markus Villig insisted its policy is that it will always be cheaper than Uber. Uber has just appointed a new CEO in order to bring much needed stability to the organization. It has endured a hugely difficult year, it has been embroiled in sexual harassment cases, legal disputes over the legality of the services it provides, and co-founder Travis Kalanick was forced to resign as CEO.

Uber’s new boss is former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and he has vowed to take the company public in the next few years, and said the company had to change in order for it to continue to expand. Taxify has enjoyed incredible success since its inception and will be confident it can penetrate the UK market.

It’s based in the Baltics and it first staked out in major cities all across Eastern and Central Europe, before expanding operations in Africa. Its CEO has declared that he believes they will overtake Uber by the end of this year. The taxi company has been boosted by investment from China’s rife-hailing firm Chuxing DiDi and aim to expand into Paris before the end of 2017.

Published in Apps

South Korean conglomerate Samsung have announced that its voice-based assistant entitled ‘Bixby’ is now available for Galaxy S8 users in over 200 countries worldwide following its release in the US last month.

The world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer had launched Bixby domestically and in the US, but now voice-assistant technology is available in countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Samsung developed the feature in an attempt to catch-up with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

Bixby currently only supports English and Korean, and issued a statement highlighting the fact that not all accents, dialects and expressions will be recognized. It stressed that it will take time for Bixby to adapt and understand regional dialects.

The statement read, “Natural language understanding allows Bixby to continuously improve its ability to interpret regional dialects. But since Bixby learns more frequently used command terms more quickly, it will take more time for Bixby to fully understand regional dialects that are used less frequently.”

The electronics colossus has revealed that Bixby’s features include Quick Commands which allows users to create a custom voice command to use instead of a sequence of one or more demands. In addition to this, Samsung’s voice-assistant can also grasp the understanding of cross-application commands and features deep learning technology which can improve over a period of time which can then recognize personal preferences and ways of talking.

The statement added that when an application becomes Bixby-enabled, the platform will support every task the application is capable of performing using voice, touch or text. EVP and Head of Research and Development at Samsung Electronics mobile, Injong Rhee has predicted that the emergence and evolution of Bixby will lead to a more seamless connection for users across a range of devices.

Rhee said, “The expansion of Bixby’s voice capabilities is an initial step in the continued rollout of Bixby functionality. In the future, Bixby will have the learning power to offer more intelligent and personalised interactions and seamless connections across more devices.”

It has also been disclosed that Samsung is intending on expanding Bixby’s voice capabilities to additional countries, languages, devices, features and third-party applications. Samsung first unveiled its voice-assistant back in March, but it suffered some teething problems when the launch of the English version of the product was delayed. It then targeted a launch date in May, but that was pushed back to the end of June, before Bixby was eventually launched in the US in July.

However, it now places Samsung amongst the ever-competitive AI voice-assistant market and analysts are predicting Bixby to be a biggest success for the South Korean colossus.

Published in Devices

Chinese e-commerce colossus Alibaba has taken its first venture into developing artificial intelligence home devices by launching its voice assistant speaker, which has drawn comparisons to Amazon’s ‘Echo’.

Alibaba’s voice assistant which will be a low-cost device has been named ‘The T-mall Genie’ after its e-commerce platform T-mall. It will retail at $73.42 which is significantly less than that of its US competitors Amazon and Google’s Alphabet which range between $120-$180 dollars. 

The ‘smart home’ voice assistants are activated by voice commands to perform daily tasks such as searching for weather reports, changing music, using AI to control other ‘smart home’ devices. China’s top technology firms have all expressed their ambitions to become global leaders in relation to AI – which has been evidenced by companies like Amazon and Alibaba increasingly competing in the same markets.

China’s search engine colossus Baidu, has also invested heavily in emerging technologies, and recently announced its investment with the Chinese government for an artificial intelligence lab, whilst it recently launched its own device which was based on its own Siri-like ‘Duer OS system’.

Alibaba’s ‘T-mall Genie has been specifically programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a user recognized by the system utters the words ‘T-mall Genie’ in Chinese. In a demonstration which was streamed live, engineers ordered the device to perform a series of tasks such as order some Coco-Cola, play music, add credit to a phone and activate a smart humidifier and TV.

In addition to its foray into AI devices, Alibaba has continued to invest heavily in offline stores and big data capabilities in an effort to capitalize on the entire supply chain as part of its retail strategy. Analysts have claimed it has striking similarities to strategies already adopted by Amazon.

Published in Internet of Things

The European Commission has fined Google €2.42 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules. Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service, according to a European Commission statement. The company must now end the conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company.

Google has come up with many innovative products and services that have made a difference to our lives. That's a good thing. But Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors,” Vestager added. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Google's flagship product is the Google search engine, which provides search results to consumers, who pay for the service with their data. Almost 90% of Google's revenues stem from adverts, such as those it shows consumers in response to a search query, according to the European Commission statement.

In 2004 Google entered the separate market of comparison shopping in Europe, with a product that was initially called "Froogle", re-named "Google Product Search" in 2008 and since 2013 has been called "Google Shopping". It allows consumers to compare products and prices online and find deals from online retailers of all types, including online shops of manufacturers, platforms (such as Amazon and eBay), and other re-sellers.

When Google entered comparison shopping markets with Froogle, there were already a number of established players. The Commission’s statement points out that contemporary evidence from Google shows that the company was aware that Froogle's market performance was relatively poor (one internal document from 2006 stated "Froogle simply doesn't work").

Comparison shopping services rely to a large extent on traffic to be competitive. More traffic leads to more clicks and generates revenue. Furthermore, more traffic also attracts more retailers that want to list their products with a comparison shopping service. Given Google's dominance in general internet search, its search engine is an important source of traffic for comparison shopping services.

From 2008, Google began to implement in European markets a fundamental change in strategy to push its comparison shopping service. This strategy relied on Google's dominance in general internet search, instead of competition on the merits in comparison to shopping markets.

The company “has systematically given prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service,” the Commission claims. Furthermore, “Google has demoted rival comparison shopping services in its search results.” For instance, rival comparison shopping services appear in Google's search results on the basis of Google's generic search algorithms. Google has included a number of criteria in these algorithms, as a result of which rival comparison shopping services are demoted.

Evidence, according to the Commission, shows that even the most highly ranked rival service appears on average only on page four of Google's search results, and others appear even further down. Google's own comparison shopping service is not subject to Google's generic search algorithms, including such demotions. As a result, Google's comparison shopping service is much more visible to consumers in Google's search results, whilst rival comparison shopping services are much less visible.

Google's illegal practices have had a “significant impact” on competition between Google's own comparison shopping service and rival services, the Commission claims. They allowed Google's comparison shopping service to make significant gains in traffic at the expense of its rivals and to the detriment of European consumers.

Given Google's dominance in general internet search, its search engine is an important source of traffic, says the Commission. As a result of Google's illegal practices, traffic to Google's comparison shopping service increased significantly, whilst rivals have “suffered very substantial losses of traffic on a lasting basis.”

Published in Finance

South Korean conglomerate Samsung have revealed that its latest flagship device the Galaxy S8 will contain its new AI-powered virtual assistant ‘Bixby’ – which is an indicative message of its intent to challenge its rivals which include Apple and Amazon. In a statement issued by Samsung’s EVP and head of R&D, InJong Rhee out months of speculation to bed by confirming that the Galaxy S8 will be equipped with a new digital voice assistant ‘Bixby’. Analysts have claimed that its shows the organization are placing a significant emphasis on AI. (Artificial Intelligence)

It has been leaked that the S8 will have a button dedicated to ‘Bixby’ which will be situated on the side of the device and it will be compatible with a set of preinstalled applications. The portfolio of apps will then be expanded over time, with plans to open up the feature to third party developers. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is expected to be officially launched on March 29th. Samsung has also insisted that their AI voice assistant will be different to those already commercially available in the market – Rhee stated that the ‘Bixby’ offers a deeper experience thanks to proficiency in three areas which are context awareness, completeness and cognitive tolerance.

Samsung elaborated on the three areas outlined, in relation to ‘completeness’ the application can support every task it is performing which is in contrast to rival assistants which only support a limited part of the experience. When it comes to ‘context awareness’ Bixby is able to understand the current context and state of the application and can subsequently enable users to continue the current work in progress on a continuous bases. Finally, the AI voice assistant will be ‘smart enough’ to be able to understand commands and will be able to execute those demands to the best of its knowledge the statement from Samsung reads.

Samsung EVP concluded by saying: “Starting with our smartphones, Bixby will be gradually applied to all our appliances. In the future you would be able to control your air conditioner or TV through Bixby -as the Bixby ecosystem grows, we believe Bixby will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life.”

Published in Gadget

Blow for Australian telecommunications firm as profits slump

Written on Thursday, 16 February 2017 07:30

Australia’s leading telecommunications company Telstra has reported a slump in first half profit - as the combination of increased competition in the market and a shift towards digital have had a significant impact. Its fixed-line and mobile businesses both took a big hit due to the aforementioned factors above, with net profit after tax for the first-half to December 31st also plummeting a sharp 14.4% to AUS$1.79 billion ($US1.38 billion) from the previous period twelve months ago.

The repercussions of this for Telstra has been felt on the stock exchange with the bleak financial report sending shares prices tumbling down to 4.43% AUS$4.96 in mid-table trade in Sydney. Chris Weston, IG Markets chief strategist attempted to dissect Telstra’s failings and stated it as a ‘weak’ result for the Australian colossus.

Weston said, “It’s a weak result, you’ve got revenue and underlying profit all missing (market expectations) by a decent chunk. The implied volatility in a stock like Telstra is so low that this is as big a miss as you are going to get.”

Revenue for services such as fixed-line and mobile fell 4.7% and 8.7% respectively for this period. Overall sales revenue also decreased by 3.4% to AUS$12.79 billion. Telstra also disclosed an interim dividend of 15.5 AUS cents. Despite the poor nature of the financial results reported by the organization, Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn attempted to portray a positive light on reports – declaring the telco had performed well in a highly competitive market.

Penn said, “Data volumes have increased and intense competition on pricing across fixed, bundles, mobile, data and IP has had an impact. Those are in parallel with the acceleration of the rollout of (the National Broadband Network) which, over the longer term, will have a negative impact on EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of AUS$2-3 billion."

The NBN, or national broadband network, aims to connect most Australian homes to superfast Internet over the next few years, replacing Telstra's existing copper network.

Published in Telecom Operators

Vodafone India have announced that they will provide customers with another free increase in 4G data allowances in an attempt to defend its customer base as a ‘price war’ ensues in the country.

A report published by The Economic Times suggest that Vodafone India is preparing to offer customers four-times the data allowance currently provided on many of its 4G plans. This is the latest in a number of marketing gimmicks by the company in an effort to stem off competition from rival competitors.

In January, the operator began selling a ‘super-hour’ of unlimited data for a set price. This was an extremely popular promotion, but it sparked a reaction from other operators and it has subsequently led to what industry analysts have described as a ‘price war’ following the emergence and launch of new entrant Reliance Jio.

At their launch, Reliance Jio declared it would offer free calls, messaging and data to new customers until the end of 2016, with domestic calls remaining free after the expiry of the initial deal.

After adding 600,000 customers per day in its first three months of operation, the free offer was extended until the end of March, but capacity issues mean customers are limited to 1GB high speed 4G before having their data rate reduced.

In response, India’s three largest operators – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular – began offering free additional data on selected plans. Airtel provided customers upgrading to a new 4G handset 3GB of free data per month for the first year of their contract, while Idea boosted existing customer allowances with additional free monthly data. Prior to its January offers, Vodafone had doubled its data allowances on some tariffs.

However, this ‘price war’ is having a severe impact on Vodafone’s financial performance. The company was forced to write down the value of its Indian unit by €5 billion due to the increased and intense competition. Vodafone India also took the decision to put a long-awaited IPO in the country on hold until at least its 2017 to 2018 fiscal year – which covers the period to the end March 2018.

At a half yearly trading meeting, CEO Vittorio Colao admitted they had experienced issues throughout the year , but said the company responded accordingly by strengthening our data and voice commercial offers.

In addition to this, he also revealed that the company was focusing its spectrum acquisition investments to the most successful and profitable areas of the country.

Published in Telecom Operators

Facebook’s Messenger app has introduced a new feature that is similar to that which Snapchat offers. Back in April 2015 Messenger introduced video-calling, but its new tool will allow users to send each other videos, plus photos, gifs, and written messages while texting in the app. Facebook clearly hopes to outcompete Snapchat, following Instagram’s introduction of its new ‘Stories’ feature for users -  an obvious Snapchat rip-off.

Existing video-calling features like Microsoft’s Skype or Google’s Hangouts and Duo give users the choice between a video-based chat or as an alternative to text or voice. The new Instant Video feature by Messenger is meant for short bursts of live footage for users to share in a message. The audio is turned off by default in this Messenger feature, but it can easily be turned on. The purpose of the feature is to enhance the conversation between users, not replace it.

“Sometimes you want to ask a friend’s opinion on a pair of shoes you want to buy, weigh in on what ice cream flavor they should bring home, or just want to see your BFF’s reaction to your witty message when you’re in a place where you can’t actually talk live,” Facebook shared in a blog post. “It’s perfect for sharing quick moments with friends who aren’t right by your side or making your conversations richer by seeing each other face-to-face when you are messaging.”

A CBS News story notes that this is “different from video calls, which have been available in Messenger since 2015. The instant video feature is for those times you don’t necessarily want to make a full-fledged video call, but want to share a moment captured on camera.”

The new feature represents Facebook’s move to keep up with Snapchat, which boasts about 150 daily million users as of June 2016 according to Bloomberg. Facebook Messenger meanwhile has a billion monthly users, but it isn’t clear how many use it on a daily basis. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, also boasts billion users as of February.

Messenger’s Instant Video feature works for both Apple iOS and Android. To send an instant video via the app, both the user and recipient have to have the app open. Simply tap the video icon to begin sharing. When the recipient sees the video, they can reply with video or text. Facebook’s doing all it can to dominate the online messaging market, but Snapchat’s loyal following, including major celebrities, could prove to be stubborn.

Published in Apps
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