Samsung case against Ericsson to be probed at U.S. trade agency [BloombergLaw]
The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington said it has launched an investigation into a patent-infringement complaint Samsung filed against Ericsson as the two companies battle for leverage in negotiations for a cross-licensing agreement. Samsung filed the complaint last month, seeking to block U.S. imports of Ericsson base stations that connect mobile-phone users to a network. Ericsson, in a filing with the agency, said Samsung is targeting “a vague laundry list of accused products” and said Samsung is “a new market entrant with a limited track record for supplying market demand.”
Facebook says it will remove more COVID-19 conspiracies that discourage vaccination [TechCrunch, Bloomberg]
Facebook says it will expand the criteria it uses to take down false vaccine claims. Under the new rules, which Facebook said it made in consultation with groups like the WHO, the company will remove posts claiming that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t effective, that it’s “safer to get the disease” and the widely debunked longstanding anti-vaxxer claim that vaccines could cause autism. Facebook says it will place a “particular focus” on enforcement against Pages, groups and accounts that break the rules, noting that they may be removed from the platform outright. Facebook took steps to limit COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in December, preparing the platform for the vaccine rollout while still lagging well behind the rampant spread of anti-vaccine claims. The company began removing posts containing some misinformation about the vaccine, including “false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips” and content claiming that the vaccine is being tested on portions of the population without their consent. Facebook-owned Instagram will also make it harder to find accounts that discourage vaccination, and remove them if they continuously violate the rules.
Twitter confirms plans to experiment with new models, like subscriptions, in 2021 [TechCrunch, Bloomberg]
Twitter is continuing to explore the addition of subscription services and other paid features to supplement its advertising revenues. The company is considering a range of ideas, the report said, including tipping, paid consumer-facing features like profile customizations or an “undo send” option, or subscription-based access to Twitter’s Tweetdeck app. Twitter confirmed the company is researching and experimenting with new models, but declined to provide details. The company last summer ran a survey that asked users which options they were willing to pay for — including things like custom colors, the ability to publish longer and more high-def videos, profile badges, auto responses, an “undo send” (an alternative to the “edit” button users actually want) and, for brands, things like the ability to run brand surveys and added “social listening” analytics. Then, during its Q2 2020 earnings, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told investors it’ll likely run subscription tests.
iPhone users will soon be able to change their default music app with Siri [Engadget]
Apple last week released beta versions of upcoming iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 updates to developers and public beta testers, and among a number of new features, Apple has added the ability to set a default music streaming service when using Siri to play songs. This means you can ask Siri to play a particular song or album and it’ll go straight to Spotify or YouTube Music. Currently, Siri only searches and plays things from whatever music you have in the Apple Music app, be it your own collection of songs or the Apple Music subscription catalog. This isn’t the first time Apple has let users switch up default services — iOS 14 also added the option to set different browsers and email apps as default. Apple also added the option to change the default music service on its HomePod speakers late last year, though currently Pandora is the only app that has added HomePod integration.
IBM rolls out FlashSystem 5200, aims to bring high-end storage to smaller footprint [ZDNet]
IBM launched the FlashSystem 5200 as it rounds out its storage portfolio with a system designed for hybrid cloud, remote offices and edge compute. The launch is part of IBM's plan to simplify its storage portfolio with the same software and features across the product line. Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and vice president of global storage channels for IBM, said the FlashSystem portfolio is container and hybrid cloud centric given that architecture is widely used for digital transformation projects. For instance, Herzog noted that FlashSystem 5200 can connect to Microsoft Azure as well as AWS. Herzog said the aim of the FlashSystem family is to simplify buying and give customers big, medium and small system sizes of integrated systems. The IBM Flashsystem 5200 supports Red Hat OpenShift, Container Storage Interface for Kubernetes, Ansible and Kubernetes and VMware. FlashSystem 5200 starts with 38TB and can scale to 1.7PB with a 1U footprint. The FlashSystem 5200 with all flash will run about $15,000 with a base configuration. If building a cluster of FlashSystem 5200 the price can run $100,000.
Tencent hit with fresh anti-monolopy complaint, this time from GM China venture [Reuters]
Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings has become the target of a fresh anti-monopoly complaint to regulators, this time from a supplier of smart vehicle technology and a General Motors China venture. The supplier, Shanghai PATEO, in a statement accused Tencent of abusing its messaging app’s dominant market position to restrict sales of its products. PATEO offers voice recognition features and other mobile applications that rely on Tencent’s all-in-one WeChat app. It added that Tencent has been asking car companies to stop using PATEO’s Internet of Vehicles products since August 2020. The new complaint comes just a week after ByteDance’s Chinese version of TikTok called Douyin accused Tencent of monopolistic behaviour and filed suit in a Beijing court, seeking ¥90 million ($14 million) in compensation. Tencent has described that claim has false and said ByteDance was illegally using its users’ data. Chinese regulators have stepped up anti-trust scrutiny of tech firms since December, launching a probe into e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and penalising Alibaba-backed and Tencent-backed firms for not seeking anti-trust reviews for deals.
EU's Vestager warns Apple to treat all apps equally amid privacy dispute [Reuters]
Europe’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has warned Apple to give equal treatment to all apps on its platform amid the iPhone maker’s privacy changes that have drawn charges of anti-competitive practices from rival Facebook. Apple will ask iPhone users for consent to track their data for personalized ads in what it says is a move to protect users’ privacy but which will limit apps’ ability to gather data from people’s phones. Facebook has been among the most vocal of the critics which stand to lose a substantial part of their revenue from Apple’s move. Facebook in a December blog post called it anti-competitive behaviour, saying that Apple’s own personalized ad platform would be exempt from the new requirement giving users a choice of whether to opt in to tracking by third parties. Vestager said while the issue is privacy-related, it can morph into an antitrust issue if Apple tilts the level playing field. Apple is currently the target of two EU investigations, one into its mobile payment system, Apple Pay, and the other into its App Store.
Apple supplier Wistron may restart south India factory next week [Reuters]
Apple supplier Wistron Corp could restart operations as early as next week at its factory in southern India which was damaged during staff protests in December, three government officials said on Tuesday. The Wistron plant in the Narasapura industrial area of Karnataka state was shut after contract workers angry over unpaid wages destroyed property, equipment and iPhones on Dec. 12, causing millions of dollars in losses to the Taiwanese company. Apple put Wistron on probation after its audit of the plant found violations of ‘Supplier Code of Conduct’. A reopening of the plant would require Apple’s approval. Wistron, which assembled the second-generation iPhone SE at the site and was expected to start making newer models, would gradually ramp up production at the factory over the next few weeks. Wistron, in a statement, said it was working hard to raise standards and fix issues at the plant. Wistron also said it had paid all its workers and brought in new hiring and payroll systems.
Apple iPhone 12 mini sales slow as smaller smartphones lose appeal [Reuters]
Apple’s iPhone 12 mini U.S. sales were just 5% of overall sales of its new phones during the first half of January, industry data provider Counterpoint said on Tuesday, adding to signs of muted demand for the new smaller version of its flagship device. Smartphone users have switched to larger devices in recent years as they devour more video content on-the-go and binge on visually rich social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and Snapchat. J.P. Morgan analyst William Yang said in a note last week that weak demand for the smaller iPhone 12 and 12 mini might lead Apple to stop production of the mini in the second quarter. The company launched a smaller variant of the iPhone 12 model last year, but demand for the smaller smartphones seems to be weaker, compared to the high-end iPhone 12 Pros and the older iPhone 11s. Last month, the Cupertino, California-based company reported $65.60 billion in quarterly revenue from its iPhones business, beating a record it had set three years ago.
Qualcomm targets markets beyond phones with new 5G chip [Reuters]
Qualcomm on Tuesday released a new chip for connecting devices to 5G networks that it hopes will be adopted for home internet use and inside businesses as a competitor to WiFi. The San Diego chip designer is the biggest supplier of modem chips that connect smart phones and other consumer electronics to cellular data networks. Qualcomm is aiming to take advantage of the faster speeds possible with 5G network technology to expand its footprint in other markets. The newest chip, called the X65 modem, is Qualcomm’s fourth generation of 5G modem but the first capable of hitting peak download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, about 10 times faster than peaks on previous LTE networks and comparable to fiber broadband services. A major focus for the new chip will be commercial and industrial applications, such as connecting computers and equipment scattered across corporate campuses directly to cloud computing services when a traditional WiFi network would not be feasible. Another will be fixed-wireless internet installations, where 5G gear replaces a traditional wire-based home or business broadband internet service.
TSMC to raise $9 billion for expansion, open Japan subsidiary [Reuters]
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) said on Tuesday it would raise nearly $9 billion from the debt markets to help fund expansion and spend around $178 million to open a Japanese material research subsidiary. In a statement after a board meeting, the company said the board had approved the issuance of unsecured corporate bonds domestically not exceeding T$120 billion ($4.29 billion). It also approved the provision of a guarantee to wholly-owned subsidiary TSMC Global for its issuance of U.S. dollar-denominated senior unsecured corporate bonds not to exceed $4.5 billion. The money raised would “finance TSMC’s capacity expansion and/or pollution prevention-related expenditures”, it said, without elaborating. The company said in January it expected to raise capital spending on the production and development of advanced chips to $25 billion-$28 billion this year, as much as 60% higher than the amount it spent in 2020. TSMC also said the board had approved the establishment of a wholly owned Japanese subsidiary in Japan to expand three-dimensional integrated circuit (3DIC) material research, with a paid-in capital of not more than ¥18.6 billion ($178 million).
Microsoft details Speller100, an AI system that checks spelling in over 100 languages [VentureBeat]
In a post on its AI research blog, Microsoft detailed a new language system, Speller100, that the company claims is one of the most comprehensive ever made in terms of linguistic coverage and accuracy. Comprising a number of AI models that understand speech in over 100 languages collectively, Speller100 now powers all spelling correction on Bing, which previously only supported spell check for about two dozen languages. Speller100 is built around the concept of language families, or larger groups of languages based on similarities that multiple languages share. It also employs zero-shot learning, a technique that allows a model to learn and correct spelling without additional language-specific labeled training data. To improve performance even further, Microsoft leveraged the orthographic, morphological, and semantic similarities between languages to build a dozen or so language family-based models. Microsoft says that to date on Bing, Speller100 has reduced the number of pages with no results by up to 30% and the number of times users have to manually reformulate their searches by 5%. It’s also increased the number of times users click on Bing’s spelling suggestion from 8% to 67%. Microsoft says it plans to implement Speller100 in more of its products going forward.
MIT is building a ‘one-stop shop’ for 3D-printing robots [TechCrunch]
MIT’s CSAIL department this week showcased “LaserFactory,” a new project that attempts to develop robotics, drones and other machines than can be fabricated as part of a “one-stop shop.” The system is comprised of a software kit and hardware platform designed to create structures and assemble circuitry and sensors for the machine. A more fully realized version of the project will be showcased at an event in May, but the team is pulling back the curtain a bit to show what the concept looks like in practice. “Making fabrication inexpensive, fast, and accessible to a layman remains a challenge,” PhD student and lead author Martin Nisser says in the release. “By leveraging widely available manufacturing platforms like 3D printers and laser cutters, LaserFactory is the first system that integrates these capabilities and automates the full pipeline for making functional devices in one system.”
EA is purchasing Glu Mobile for $2.4 billion [Engadget]
Electronic Arts is acquiring the mobile game developer behind Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The video game company has announced that it’s purchasing Glu Mobile in a $2.4 billion all-cash deal that the companies are expecting to close in the quarter ending on June 30th. EA Chief Executive Andrew Wilson said his company decided on the deal, because it believes “mobile is the fastest-growing platform on the planet.” With Glu’s acquisition, EA is doubling the size of its mobile business and expand its portfolio. In addition to Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Glu is also known for developing Diner Dash: Adventures and other celebrity games with the likes of Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jason Statham and Gordon Ramsay. Glu and its 800 employees will operate independently, but they will be able to develop titles based on EA’s intellectual property alongside their own projects.
Matterport is in merger talks with Gores SPAC [Bloomberg]
Matterport, a maker of software for virtual walk-throughs of properties, is in advanced talks to list via a blank-check company. A deal with Gores Holdings VI Inc. could reportedly be announced as soon as next week. The transaction is set to value the combined entity at more than $2 billion. Gores Holdings VI’s common shares rose as much as 18% and closed up 14% to $12.26 in New York trading. Matterport has seen a spike in usage during the pandemic, as people didn’t want to leave their homes to tour apartments or houses in person. Its 3D technology is used in more than 130 countries and by clients including Redfin Corp. and Marriott International Inc., according to its website. The company’s investors include DCM Ventures and the venture arms of chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Qualcomm Inc., according to PitchBook. It has raised $168 million to date and was valued at $355 million in 2019, PitchBook data shows.
Micromobility startup Helbiz to go public via a SPAC, and will expand into ghost kitchens [TechCrunch]
Micromobility startup Helbiz, which now operates across Europe and the USA, is merging with a SPAC to become a publicly listed company, giving it a war chest to potentially roll-up smaller competitors in the space, as well as the resources to expand into “cloud” or “ghost” kitchens as part of a move into food delivery. Helbiz intends to merge with GreenVision Acquisition Corp. in the second quarter of 2021. The combined entity will be named Helbiz Inc. and will be listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the new ticker symbol, “HLBZ.” The transaction includes $30 million PIPE anchored by institutional investors and approximately $80 million in net proceeds will be fed into Helbiz’s micromobility and advertising businesses, which have 2.7 million users. Helbiz says the merged entity will have a valuation of $408 million, and by run Helbiz’s existing management under CEO Salvatore Palella. Palella revealed that the company plans to establish “ghost kitchens” in Milan and Washington, DC later this year, with the aim of introducing a five-minute delivery time.
DoorDash acquires salad-making robotics startup, Chowbotics [TechCrunch]
DoorDash is expanding its robotic footprint into the kitchen. The delivery service is set to acquire Chowbotics, a Bay Area-based robotics best known for its salad-making robot, Sally. Founded in 2014, Chowbotics has raised around $21 million to date, including an $11 million round back in 2018. The company’s vending machine-style salad bar robot was already well-positioned for the pandemic, removing a human element from the food preparation process — not to mention the fact that salad bars and buffets tend to be open air affairs. In October, the startup added a contactless feature to the robot, letting users order ahead of time, via app. “Joining the DoorDash team unlocks new possibilities for Chowbotics and the technology that this team has built over the past seven years,” CEO Rick Wilmer said in a statement. “As the leader in food delivery and on-demand logistics, DoorDash has the unparalleled reach and expertise to help us grow and deploy our technology more broadly, so together, we can make fresh, nutritious food easy for more people.”
Chauffeur service Blacklane buys majority stake in Havn to boost electric fleet [Reuters]
German chauffeur service Blacklane has acquired a majority stake in Jaguar Land Rover-backed Havn, a premium all-electric cab service in London, for an undisclosed sum to speed up the electrification of its private hire fleet. The investment was completed in November and permits Blacklane to grow Havn’s service and offer more zero-emission rides in London, the companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday. With this deal, Berlin-based Blacklane, which operates in more than 300 cities in 50 countries, will add Havn’s all-electric Jaguar I-PACE performance SUVs to its global fleet. App-based ride-hailing service Havn was launched in September 2019 by Jaguar Land Rover’s venture capital and mobility services unit, InMotion.
Fuel-cell truck maker Hyzon to go public via $2.7 billion SPAC deal [Reuters]
Hyzon Motors has agreed to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp in a deal that values the fuel-cell truck startup at $2.7 billion, it said on Tuesday. The electric vehicle market has seen a surge in companies choosing mergers with SPACs as the route to go public instead of traditional IPOs. EV charging network EVgo Services LLC and EV maker Faraday Future are set to go public later this year through mergers with SPACs, which are shell companies that raise funds through an IPO to take a private company public. Decarbonization Plus will fund the Hyzon deal through a private investment of $400 million from investors, including funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and private investment firm Riverstone Energy. The transaction is expected to result in total gross proceeds of about $626 million. Hyzon in 2019 developed fuel-cell platforms for more than 400 vehicles and expanded into Europe last year with a facility in the Netherlands.
GlobalWafers secures control over Germany's Siltronic [Reuters]
GlobalWafers said on Tuesday that its bid for Germany’s Siltronic had been successful, after it secured control over the required majority of shares with its €4.35 billion ($5.3 billion) offer. The Taiwanese company said it now controlled a 50.8% stake in Siltronic, clearing a reduced threshold for control under an improved takeover offer made on Jan. 25 that had been due to expire on Wednesday. Separately, the Federal Cartel Office, Germany’s antitrust watchdog, said it had no objections to the deal to create the world’s second largest silicon wafer maker behind Japan’s Shin-Etsu.