"Hi there. I'm Cortana. I can help make life a bit easier for you." These are the first words of Microsoft's still unannounced virtual assistant codenamed "Cortana," according to a new video leaked by UnleashThePhones.com. If it's true, this is the best look we've had of the rumored Windows Phone 8.1 service so far. The video begins by showing Cortana as a dedicated Live Tile, and then takes us through the setup process. You'll be prompted to login with your Microsoft Account, which is required to enjoy all of the service's features; according to the permissions page, Cortana will have access to sources like your location data, voice input, contacts, calendar, search history, emails and texts, browser history and more.
26/02/2014 - Google denies making a bid for WhatsApp
Rumors that Google engaged in a bidding war with Facebook over WhatsApp are false -- at least, if you ask Google's Sundar Pichai. The Senior VP tells The Telegraph that his company "never made an offer" to buy the messaging giant, and that any claims to the contrary are "simply untrue." We're inclined to believe him, although the denial suggests that Facebook may have paid $19 billion so that it wouldn't have to compete with Google (or anyone else) on yet another important acquisition.
Source: The Telegraph
In a word: users. 450 million of them to be precise, and 315 million of those are active on a given day. In fact, WhatsApp's users are so prolific, its messaging volume is roughly equal to that of the entire world's SMS traffic. And, WhatsApp is huge overseas and in emerging markets. According to a report from mobile marketing and research firm Jana, the app is far and away the most used messaging service in India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa. The Information, which got a more in depth look at Jana's research, shows that Facebook Messenger usage is far, far lower in those same countries.
Now, is that massive international user base worth $19 billion? It's hard for us to understand how it possibly could be. WhatsApp's founders have pledged to keep the app ad- and gimmick-free, so there aren't any indications that new revenue streams are coming. And, while the acquisition fits in perfectly with Facebook's plan to expand its app offerings, the social network has promised to use the same hands-off approach it did with Instagram -- leveraging its "expertise, resources and scale" to grow the platform, while keeping WhatsApp operationally independent. So, we'll have to wait and see how WhatsApp plans to prove its worth. Maybe some more music video synergy like the kind found after the break?
19/02/2014 - Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $16 billion
The balance of power in the mobile messaging space is about to shift in a big way -- Facebook has just announced plans to acquire WhatsApp for the equivalent of $16 billion in cash and stock. The deal will see WhatsApp run semi-independently, much like Instagram. The chat service will maintain its brand and existing offices, but it will take advantage of Facebook's "expertise, resources and scale." It's safe to say that the combined entity will have a lot of clout should the deal close later this year. WhatsApp already has over 450 million active users every month; combine that with Facebook Messenger and competitors like Line suddenly appear tiny by comparison.
Up until now, the most we'd heard about the next rumored update to Microsoft's Windows Phone OS centered on two features: Cortana, the company's Siri-like digital assistant, and Action Center, its native notification center. Today, however, we have a clearer idea of where Windows Phone 8.1 could be headed thanks to a Reddit user who's allegedly gained access to the new SDK as part of Microsoft's developer preview program.
Via: The Verge
That was quick -- Aviate hasn't even finished developing its context-aware Android home screen, and it's already an acquisition target. Yahoo has announced at CES that it's buying Aviate for an undisclosed amount; the web giant wants to use Aviate's simplified, ever-changing interface as a "central part" of its Android software in 2014. While it's not clear just what that entails, the launcher replacement will live on for the foreseeable future -- in fact, the first 25,000 people to use the code "YAHOO" will get into the ongoing private beta.
The iPhone 5s can already capture photos at a brisk 10 frames per second, but that apparently isn't fast enough for Apple. The company has confirmed to Recode that it has acquired SnappyLabs, a one-man outfit best known for its popular (and now withdrawn) iOS camera app SnappyCam. Cupertino isn't outlining its plans following the buyout, but the software's party trick is its extremely high-speed photography; it takes full-resolution shots at up to 30fps, and scales up to 60fps. You don't need an oracle-like insight to predict that future Apple devices could snap pictures at a rate that puts many professional cameras to shame.
Bitspin is probably most well known for its swish Timely alarm app on Android, and it seems that Google likes how the Swiss team is doing it, because it's just acquired them. "For new and existing users, Timely will continue to work like it always has," noted the Bitspin team in their announcement post, adding that it will continue to "build new products." The more immediate news, however, is that the premium version of the app, sans banner ads, has gone free in the process. If you like the sound of a Swiss-made (digital) alarm clock, you can give it a try right here.
Prepare for a world of Microsoft-made Windows Phone 8 devices. Hot on the heels of yesterday's Department of Justice decision, Reuters is reporting that the European Commission has granted final approval of Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia. The $7.35 billion deal, which is now all guaranteed, will see Nokia's mobile assets folded into the Microsoft camp, effectively giving Microsoft an end-to-end smartphone vertical for its Windows Phone 8 line, as well as a treasure trove of related patents. There's still no word on whether Nokia's former CEO Stephen Elop will helm Microsoft in Ballmer's absence. But with this merger out of the way, we expect that'll be next on Microsoft's to-do list.
20/09/2013 - FCC approves AT&T acquisition of Alltel assets
In a process that started back in January of this year, the FCC has given the thumbs-up to AT&T on its proposed $780 million acquisition of Alltel assets. The package includes retail stores, approximately 620,000 customers in the midwest, network equipment and spectrum in the 700MHz, 850MHz and 1900MHz bands. AT&T isn't getting away scot-free, however, as the FCC will only approve the deal based on a few conditions: first, the network needs to deploy HSPA+ and LTE in the new areas within 15 and 18 months (respectively); second, AT&T must keep Alltel's 3G EVDO network alive and kicking until at least June 15, 2015. Third, AT&T needs to ensure that every affected customer gets a comparable phone for free without a contract extension. These types of conditions are nothing new for network acquisitions; such transitions are never fun for the customers involved, so it's refreshing that the FCC isn't forgetting their immediate needs in the process. The full details of the approval are located in the FCC docs, which we've included in the source link.
Mobilicity lost out on its chances of a rescue from either Telus or Verizon, and there's now talk that the ailing Canadian carrier has run out of options. The Financial Post claims that Wind Mobile has nearly completed a deal to acquire Mobilicity's cellular subscribers for little to no cash. Mobilicity would only hold on its wireless spectrum and tax losses in the hopes of selling those separately. Neither of the involved companies has commented on the rumor. However, any handover would be relatively painless; when the two carriers have similar coverage and frequency support, customers almost wouldn't notice the difference.
[Image credit: Andrew Currie, Flickr]
Source: Financial Post
Much like how Google bought Motorola Mobility, Microsoft's surprising acquisition of Nokia's devices and services business -- which is expected to be approved by early 2014 -- is no indication that it will cut off ties with other partners in its own little ecosystem. This is emphasized by Terry Myerson, EVP, Operating Systems, on the official Windows blog.
"Acquiring Nokia's Devices group will help make the market for all Windows Phones, from Microsoft or our OEM partners," said the exec. "We collaborate with our Microsoft hardware teams in the same way we partner with our external hardware partners... We look forward to building new products together that will provide valuable business opportunity for the ecosystem and enable OEMs."
In other words, Microsoft will -- surprise, surprise -- continue to license Windows Phone to other OEMs. Despite this reassurance, we highly doubt the handful of partners left are feeling totally comfortable about the situation.
Via: All Things D
Source: Windows Blog
03/09/2013 - Microsoft explains why it's buying Nokia, says it needs 'first-rate' smartphone experience
Microsoft's outlined its reasoning behind why it's gone deep into smartphones in a lengthy presentation file. Alongside cheering Windows Phone's current growth (No.3!), it's reaffirmed that it'll bring its products and services to rival mobile OSes and still involve itself with "iPhone and Android/Galaxy phones." However, it tempers this point, adding that the Redmond company can't risk "having Google or Apple foreclose app innovation, integration, distribution or economics." Given the strength of the top two, Microsoft is telling it straight, adding that it needs a "first-rate Microsoft phone experience for users" to compete, suggesting that its portfolio of devices isn't quite there yet. The slides also outline the purchase of Nokia's patent collection, one which Microsoft believes is one of the most valuable in the tech sector, and that the acquisition will speed up innovation within Windows Phone and protect its future. So, some high hopes for the purchase.
Source: Microsoft (PDF)
30/08/2013 - Google quietly acquired smartwatch maker WIMM Labs
Ok, so here's the deal: WIMM Labs was one of the earliest entrants into the smartwatch space, way back in 2011. While the Android-based WIMM One failed to set the consumer market on fire, it apparently caught Google's eye. In the summer of 2012, the company put a simple message up on its site declaring that it had entered an exclusive partnership with an unnamed entity for its technology and would thus be ending sales of its devices. Now it appears that partner was Google -- a Mountain View spokesperson just confirmed the acquisition to us.
The company's immediate plans for WIMM are not yet public but, according to GigaOM, most of the staff stayed on board and are now working with the Android team. The obvious use would be in developing Google's own rumored smartwatch product, which would likely incorporate many of WIMM Lab's SDKs and existing platform tools. However, it's worth noting that the company doesn't consider itself merely a maker of app-running timepieces, but a manufacturer of wearables in general. We wouldn't be shocked if some of WIMM's tech and experience was put to good use in Glass.
Remember that time Apple launched a new iteration of iOS with a godawful mapping app? Shortly after that, it also recommended that users in major metropolitan areas lean on third-party apps for mass transit navigation, given that iOS Maps had no such functionality. As it turns out, Embark was one of those app makers, and it has very much enjoyed the influx of attention that has arrived thanks to Apple's gaffe. Now, however, the small team will likely not be toiling on future Android apps, as Jessica Lessin is reporting that Embark has been acquired by Apple itself. It's unclear how much money changed hands, but one could surmise that Apple will be using Embark's technology to bolster its own mass transit routing -- an area where Google currently rules the roost. Will proper integration happen prior to iOS 7's release this autumn? It's doubtful, but we've sure seen crazier things happen.
Source: Jessica Lessin
Facebook may not seem like an obvious match for a machine translation company, but its just agreed to snatch up speech recognition startup Mobile Technologies to strengthen its chops in the area. If you're not familiar with the outfit, they're the minds behind the Android and iOS app Jibbigo, which translates your text or dulcet tones into other languages. While Zuckerberg and Co. haven't revealed precise plans for the freshly-acquired firm, they note that the voice tech factors into their long-term plan for the web and mobile devices. "Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution," said Tom Stocky, Facebook's Director of Product Management. "We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company's mission." There's no word if Jibiggo will still receive support once Mobile Technologies joins the social network in Menlo Park, but we've gotten in touch with the team to find out.
Okay, we'll admit that it looks a bit like a baby monitor. But in contrast to those over-engineered pieces of parenting paraphernalia, this DIY cellphone can actually make calls and send texts over GPRS. More importantly, Hackaday claims it was put together by a lone hacker ("Victorzie") from an assortment of off-the-shelf and modded parts, including a TFT touchscreen, lithium ion battery, charging circuit, GPRS module and shield. These components were hooked up to an Arduino Uno microcontroller running a barebones UI and then jammed into a 3D printed case, which makes the device look far more pocketable than some previous hackaphone efforts. The end result inspires big respect for the creator, but also, more grudgingly, for the pro engineers at places like Nokia, who can pull all this stuff together and even get it FCC-approved for just a few dollars.
Ever since Telus dropped its plans to acquire Mobilicity, there have been rumors of other would-be suitors joining the fray. They're not rumors anymore -- Mobilicity has confirmed that it's in talks with "multiple parties" interested in a takeover. The Canadian carrier isn't supplying any names, although previous gossip has mentioned Verizon as a possible candidate. There's no guarantee that Mobilicity will find a buyer and avoid an otherwise uncertain future; even so, we wouldn't count on the provider remaining independent for much longer.
[Image credit: Andrew Currie, Flickr]
Finally, the saga is over. All but a formality once the FCC approved, Softbank has merged with Sprint, and will own about 78 percent of shares in the new Sprint Corporation, while current Sprint equity holders will own about 22 percent. Initially announced last fall, things were suddenly complicated when Dish made its own bid for Sprint and Clearwire in the spring.
09/07/2013 - Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire now complete
Now that the shareholders -- as well as the FCC -- have officially given the go-ahead, Sprint has finally wrapped up the final odds and ends regarding its acquisition of Clearwire at a value of $5 per share in cash, and now holds 100 percent ownership of the company. The deal, which was expected to close today, will likely be quickly followed up by the carrier's merger with Softbank tomorrow. You'll be able to find the press release after the break, which dives a little deeper into investor-speak.
02/07/2013 - Yahoo acquires video sharing startup Qwiki
If you thought Marissa Mayer was done snatching up companies and was ready to turn her focus internally, you were wrong. Clearly the CEO sees no reason why the company can't handle both simultaneously. So, while the forgotten brands are shuttered and the merely struggling ones given fresh coats of paint, new products are joining the Yahoo family. The latest addition is bouncing baby iOS app called Qwiki: a standout from TechCrunch Disrupt 2010, at which Mayer was a judge. The startup combines Vine-like social video sharing with Zoe-esque filters, photo transitions and soundtracks to create "stories." After you've collected and edit your material, you can post your Qwiki (apparently the creators have a slightly sophomoric sense of humor) for others to see. Obviously the purchase is meant to keep Yahoo competitive with Facebook and Twitter, which have their own respective video sharing platforms. If you mosey on past the break you'll find a pleasant little celebratory video from the latest startup to sell out.
Update: Unfortunately it appears that Qwiki's servers are a little overwhelmed right now. We'll add the video back when the service comes back online.
28/06/2013 - Visualized: The Lumia wall at Build 2013
What happens when you take 200 Lumia 820s and pin them to a wall? You get a 12,000 x 6,400-pixel display, natch. This week at Build 2013 in San Francisco, Nokia and Microsoft teamed up to show this tiled monitor made of identical phones each running the same custom-built app. A master handset is used to control what's on the wall by communicating with each phone over WiFi (IP multicast). One demo was showing a massive animated grid of live tiles representing a selection of apps from the Windows Phone store. In another demo, the wall was displaying Bing Maps (using Here data) and being controlled interactively by the master handset. Take a look at our gallery below.
Gallery: The Lumia wall at Build 2013
26/06/2013 - Dish withdraws its offer to buy Clearwire
And with that, Dish is (seemingly) out of the running: following a decision to back away from buying Sprint, the satellite TV giant has also withdrawn its bid for Clearwire. The company is bowing out due to a "change in recommendation" at Clearwire -- in other words, shareholders now prefer Sprint's recently sweetened offer. Between that and Sprint's lawsuit, we're not expecting Dish to make another acquisition attempt, especially when Softbank's acquisition of Sprint (and thus Clearwire) could close in a matter of weeks.
We're deep into a bona fide bidding war here -- Sprint and Dish are both battling for an approximately 50-percent stake in Clearwire, and as of today, that former contestant's bid makes it the new front runner. To catch you up, last month Dish offered $4.40 per share for Clearwire, following Sprint's offer of $3.40 per share made way back in December. Now, the carrier has increased its bid to a whopping 5 bucks per share, which values Clearwire at just about $14 billion. (As you can probably imagine, CLWR's trading price has jumped today to match that new target.) This comes just days after Sprint filed a lawsuit to prevent the other two parties from moving forward. Whether or not CLWR's spectrum and other assets make it worth that sum is a different story, but Sprint clearly sees some solid value there.
Source: Sprint (BusinessWire)