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Samsung tops Q1 TV market with record share [TheKoreaHerald]
Samsung Electronics maintained its status as the world's leading TV vendor with a record market share in Q1’21, as per data from industry researcher Omdia. The company has a share of 32.9% of the global TV market in terms of sales revenue in the January-March period. Samsung was followed by LG Electronics with 19.2% and Sony with 8%. Moreover, global QLED TV sales reached 2.68 million in Q1, up 74.3% from a year earlier, and Samsung accounted for 2.01 million units. In addition, with the launch of its new Neo QLED TV, Samsung said its QLED TV sales will top 10 million units this year. Last year, the company sold 7.79 million QLED TVs.
Samsung NEXT joins Series A funding for warranty app operator Upsie [Pulse]
Samsung NEXT joined $18.2 million Series A round for US-based startup Upsie. The startup is a mobile app that provides warranties for electronic devices and appliances such as smartphones, PCs, tablet devices, TVs, camera and gaming consoles. The round was also joined by Backstage Capital and Matchstick Ventures.
Apple releases iOS 14.6 with support for paid podcast subscriptions [Engadget, TechCrunch]
Apple has started rolling out iOS 14.6 to regular iPhone users. One of the main feature of the update is support for paid Apple Podcasts subscriptions. The company added support for Apple Card Family as well. Now, up to five other people can use Apple Card, with access to features like family expense tracking and optional limits. Moreover, the new update adds an option to Lost Mode so that users can add an email instead of a phone number. The company added that this release will fix an issue with startup performance on some iPhones, as well as a bug that could sometimes cause Bluetooth devices to disconnect when on a call. Apple also released macOS 11.4 and watchOS 7.5 to the public as well. The former adds expanded GPU support for AMD RDNA2 video cards. Whereas, with watchOS 7.5, Apple's ECG app now works in Malaysia and Peru.
Microsoft’s Surface Duo gets dual-screen gaming support [TechCrunch]
Microsoft released an update to Xbox Cloud Gaming for Android that will unlock some of the product’s entertainment potential. The app works by displaying the game on the top screen and transforming the bottom into a virtual version of an Xbox controller in the Compose Mode orientation. Moreover, here are now more than 50 titles that support Xbox Touch Controls, and will be available to users with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
Google now let password-protect the page that shows all searches [TheVerge]
Google has added a way to put a password on the Web and Activity page, which shows all activity from across Google services, including searches, YouTube watch history, and Google assistant queries. To activate the verification, users can go to activity.google.com, and click the Manage My Activity verification link. From there, users can select the Require Extra Verification option, save, and enter password to confirm that they are the one trying to make the change. However, turning on verification will whoever’s trying to see the information to click the Verify button and enter the Google account password before it’ll show any history. Also, while on the Web and App Activity page, users can take a look at what activity Google is saving, and whether it’s being auto-deleted.
SiriusXM partners with TikTok on a new music channel, Pandora Playlists and more [TechCrunch]
Pandora-parent SiriusXM partnered with TikTok to power several new initiatives, including a TikTok channel on SiriusXM, hosted TikTok playlists on Pandora and re-airings of Pandora LIVE events on TikTok. Now, popular TikTok creators will curate, host and promote their own Pandora playlists to their fans on TikTok, starting with Bella Poarch. In addition, Pandora users will be able to tune into the TikTok Hits Playlist at any time, which features popular and trending songs from TikTok. Among the other SiriusXM initiatives is the soon-to-launch TikTok Radio, a full-time music channel featuring tracks trending on TikTok, which will be presented by TikTok creators, influencers and DJs. The channel will debut later this summer, and will stream across SiriusXM, including in vehicles as well as in the SiriusXM app for desktop, mobile and connected devices.
ByteDance’s video editor CapCut is the latest to top the US App Store [TechCrunch]
CapCut topped the overseas app chart of the US App Store. The video editing app allows users to not only add a range of stickers, filters and effects, it also has a simple-to-use green screen function, a zooming feature that works like a Ken Burns effect, etc. which make the app like an accessible Final Cut on the go. The app also features a library of licensed sound clips users can use for their content. Since May 21st, CapCut has been the No. 1 free app on the US App Store, according to analytics company Sensor Tower and ranks ninth on Google Play in the US.
Huawei founder urges shift to software to counter US sanctions [CNBC]
Founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei has called on the company’s staff to “dare to lead the world” in software as the company seeks growth beyond the hardware operations that US sanctions have crippled. The internal memo is the evidence yet of the company’s direction as it responds to the immense pressure sanctions have placed on the handset business that was at its core. Ren said the company was focusing on software because future development in the field is fundamentally outside of US control and Huawei will have greater independence and autonomy.
Google’s data terms are now in Germany’s competition crosshairs [TechCrunch]
Germany’s national competition regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, has continued its investigative charge against big tech, announcing that it’s opened two proceedings into Google. The move follows earlier proceedings targeting Amazon and Facebook, both of which are also looking to determine whether their businesses are of “paramount significance for competition across markets”, as German competition law puts it. In Google’s case, the regulator will confirm whether amended competition rules, apply in its case, which would enable the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) to target it with proactive interventions in the interests of fostering digital competition. The second, parallel procedure will see the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) undertake an in-depth analysis of Google’s data processing terms.
Google's Fuchsia OS debuts on the original Nest Hub [Engadget]
Google is finally releasing its Fuchsia OS to the public. The software, once tipped as an Android replacement, is currently rolling out to the first-generation Nest Hub as part of an update. Though a smart screen from 2018 may not seem like the most ideal device for Fuchsia's launch, Google is probably taking a prudent approach. The device is also powered by Flutter, an open-source app development framework that allows developers to easily bring apps to multiple platforms including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux and the web. Therefore, Google should easily be able to swap in Fuchsia for the Hub's existing CastOS. While the smart screen's functionality will likely remain unchanged, testing Fuchsia on a public-facing device should help Google to further tinker with the software ahead of any broader rollout.
Hyundai is launching in-car payments in the all-electric Ioniq 5 [TechCrunch]
Hyundai developed an in-car payment system that will debut in its upcoming all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover. The system will offer drivers the ability to find and pay for EV charging, food and parking. When the vehicle comes to North America in fall 2021, the payments system will launch with Dominoes, ParkWhiz and Chargehub, the company said. The payments feature works through Bluelink, Hyundai’s branded connected car system that gives users control over various vehicle functions and services. The connected car system can also be linked to a user’s Google Assistant feature on their smartphone to send information to their Hyundai vehicle. The in-car payments system will eventually expand to include other companies that fall into the charging, food and coffee on-the-go and parking categories. Hyundai added that it will continue to add new merchants regularly via the Xevo Marketplace platform.
Facebook’s Dynabench now scores NLP models for metrics like ‘fairness’ [VentureBeat]
Last September, Facebook introduced Dynabench, a platform for AI data collection and benchmarking that uses humans and models “in the loop” to create challenging test datasets. Now, the company updated Dynabench with Dynaboard, an evaluation-as-a-service platform for conducting evaluations of natural language processing models on demand. Facebook claims that Dynaboard makes it possible to perform apples-to-apples comparisons of models without problems from bugs in test code, inconsistencies in filtering test data, and other reproducibility issues. The Dynascore allows AI researchers to tailor an evaluation by placing greater or less emphasis (or weight) on a collection of tests. Dynaboard is available for researchers to submit their own model for evaluation via a new command-line interface tool and library called Dynalab. In the future, Facebook plans to open Dynabench up so anyone can run their own task or models in the loop for data collection while hosting their own dynamic leaderboards.
Germany gives greenlight to driverless vehicles on public roads [TechCrunch]
Germany has adopted legislation that will allow driverless vehicles on public roads by 2022, laying out a path for companies to deploy robotaxis and delivery services in the country at scale. While autonomous testing is currently permitted in Germany, this would allow operations of driverless vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. Moreover, the bill specifically looks at vehicles with Level 4 autonomy, which means the computer handles all the driving in certain conditions or environments. The bill still needs to pass through the upper chamber of parliament. Included in the bill are possible initial applications for self-driving cars on German roads, such as public passenger transport, business and supply trips, logistics, company shuttles that handle employee traffic and trips between medical centers and retirement homes.
Investment and M&A
Weight-loss platform Noom raises $540 million in new funding [TechCrunch]
Noom has raised $540 million in a Series F round led by Silver Lake. Oak HC/FT, Temasek, Novo Holdings, Sequoia Capital, RRE, and Samsung Ventures also participated in the round. Though the Noom app enables users to count the number of calories they consume each day, Noom says the key to its users keeping the weight off in the medium-to-long term lies in its use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that helps people understand and combat the things that trigger negative thoughts, compulsive actions, and unwelcome consequences. In addition, it was reported last week that the startup has reportedly met with potential advisers to gear up for an IPO later this year or early next year with a targeted valuation of nearly $10 billion.
Invoca acquires DialogTech for $100 million to expand its conversational intelligence tools [TechCrunch]
Invoca acquired DialogTech, a startup that builds tools for marketers to analyze inbound phone calls and other contacts for $100 million. As part of the deal, the company will be divesting Swydo, a company that DialogTech acquired in 2018. However, Swydo will remain a partner of Invoca’s, the company said. The combined business will become one of the bigger “martech” startups focusing on conversational insights, with 2,000 customers, more than 300 employees and on track to make more than $100 million this year in revenue.
AI specialist BigBear is in merger talks with GigCapital4 SPAC [Yahoo Finance]
BigBear.ai, an AI company, is reportedly in talks to go public through a merger with GigCapital4. Reports suggest that the SPAC is seeking to raise equity and convertible debt to support a deal that’s set to value the combined entity at more than $1.5 billion. BigBear provides AI and ML, advanced analytics, data science and management to US government clients including the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies. The company is expected to report a revenue of $150 to $200 million in 2021.
Zeta becomes a unicorn with $250 million SoftBank-led funding [TechCrunch]
Zeta, a startup that helps banks and fintech firms launch products, raised $250 million in a Series C funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with existing investor Sodexo also participating. The latest round values the startup at $1.45 billion. Zeta has developed a technology stack that helps it engage with banks and fintech startups, as well as other online consumer platforms. Banks, which have licenses to offer financial services to customers, use Zeta’s cloud-native API and SDKs to launch credit cards, debit cards, loans and offer improved experience to customers, and also work with fintechs. The company currently serves 10 banks and 25 fintech firms, and plans to deploy the fresh capital to reach more clients and increase its headcount.
Korea’s Riiid raises $175 million from SoftBank to expand its AI-based learning platform to global markets [TechCrunch]
Riiid, a startup which builds AI-based personalized learning, including test prep, for students, raised $175 million in an equity round from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. The company as primarily made a name for itself through Santa, a test prep app geared toward people in non-English-language countries to practice and prepare to take the TOEIC English language proficiency exam. The app is used by more than 2.5 million students in Korea and Japan. Riiid has also been partnering with third parties to expand into test prep for other exams. The company plans to use the investment both to expand its footprint internationally, as well as to expand its products.