Blackberry in $4.7bn takeover deal with Fairfax

On Friday, Blackberry announced 4,500 jobs cuts in a bid to stem huge financial losses.

Blackberry said in statement that Fairfax, its largest shareholder with about 10% of the stock, had offered $9 a share in cash to buy the company.

But Blackberry said it would continue to explore other options while negotiations with Fairfax continued.

On Friday, Blackberry announced 4,500 jobs cuts in a bid to stem losses.

The Canadian company said it expected to make a loss of up to $1bn after poor sales of its new handsets. In August, Blackberry said it was evaluating a possible sale.

On Monday, the company announced that it had “signed a letter of intent agreement under which a consortium to be led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited has offered to acquire the company subject to due diligence”.

The statement continued: “Diligence is expected to be complete by November 4, 2013. The parties’ intention is to negotiate and execute a definitive transaction agreement by such date.”

However, Blackberry said it was not in exclusive talks with Fairfax and would continue to “actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations” with other potential buyers.

Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, Fairfax’s chairman and chief executive, said: “We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for Blackberry, its customers, carriers and employees.

“We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to Blackberry customers around the world.”

‘End game’

Brian Colello, analyst at Morningstar, said that taking Blackberry private would allow the company to reorganise without being under the glare of Wall Street investors.

He said: “Based on the company’s disastrous earnings warning on Friday, I think a deal had to happen and the sooner the better. This is probably the only out for investors and the most likely outcome.

“The benefit to this sort of takeover is the ability for Blackberry and the consortium to reinvent the company without public scrutiny. It appears that the end game is going to be whether Blackberry can emerge as a niche supplier of highly-secured phones to enterprise customers and governments.”

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, also said that a deal with Fairfax would give Blackberry breathing space to assess its strategic options.

“Early indications suggest a retrenchment to the business market. Wider structural changes such as spinning off Blackberry Messenger and cutting back on hardware are also likely be carefully reviewed.”

Blackberry’s financial problems came to a head this year following disappointing sales of its new Z10 model smartphone.

Released in January – after many delays – the phone has failed to enthuse consumers.

Blackberry shares, which fell 17% on Friday after its jobs cut announcement, rose just over 1% on Monday.

Source: BBC News

Apple Has Officially Released iOS 7

iOS-7-logoApple has officially released iOS 7, the long awaited revamp of its mobile operating system.

“iOS 7 is completely redesigned with an entirely new user interface and over 200 new features, so it’s like getting a brand new device, but one that will still be instantly familiar to our users,” notes Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

Apple engineered iOS 7 to take full advantage of the advanced 64-bit technologies in iPhone 5s, including the native 64-bit kernel, libraries and drivers. All the built-in apps have been re-engineered for 64-bit, and iOS 7 provides a seamless developer transition with Xcode support and the ability to run both 32-bit and 64-bit apps. iOS 7 also provides deep integration with the new Touch ID sensor and takes full advantage of the new iSight camera sensor to enable new features like automatic image stabilization, Burst Mode and Slo-Mo video with 120 fps. Combined with the new Camera App in iOS 7, iPhone 5s provides up to two-times faster auto-focus, faster photo capture and better dynamic range. iOS 7 is designed to complement the gorgeous exteriors of iPhone 5c, with matching wallpapers and translucency that carry the color through the entire experience.

Highlighted New Features:

  • Control Center, which gives you quick access to the controls you want in one convenient place with just one swipe from the bottom of your screen;
  • Notification Center, now available from the Lock screen so you can see all your notifications with a simple swipe, and the new Today feature gives you an at-a-glance view of your day with a summary of the important details such as weather, traffic, meetings and events;
  • Improved Multitasking that gives users the ability to switch between their apps in a more visual and intuitive way, and iOS 7 pays attention to which apps you use most and automatically keeps your content up to date in the background;
  • AirDrop, an entirely new way to quickly and easily share content with people nearby;
  • New Camera app filters so you can add real-time photo effects, a square camera option, and you can quickly and easily switch between your four cameras—video, photo, square and panorama—with just a swipe;
  • A redesigned Photos app that introduces Moments, a new way to automatically organize your photos and videos based on time and location;
  • Full-screen browsing with Safari’s new redesigned user interface, the new smart search field helps simplify searching, and there’s a new view for your bookmarks and your Safari tabs;
  • Siri with new male and female voices,* Twitter search integration, Wikipedia integration and Bing web searching within the app; and
  • iTunes Radio, a free Internet radio service featuring over 200 stations and an incredible catalog of music from the iTunes Store, combined with features only iTunes can deliver.

Additional new iOS 7 features include a new Find My iPhone Activation Lock, that requires your Apple ID and password before you can turn off Find My iPhone, erase data or re-activate a device after it’s been remotely erased; FaceTime audio for high quality calls over a data network; and new ringtones, alarms, alerts and system sounds.

Source: iClarified

More Than 1,000 Malicious Android Apps Were Published On Play Store In August: Symantec

The month of August is often the time when families come together to go on a relaxing summer holiday. The kids are off school. The students are usually on an extended break from college or university making it the perfect time for relaxation and vacation. However, it seems that not everyone favors this relaxing mentality, with Internet security company Symantec stating that in August alone more than 1,000 fraudulent and potentially malicious apps were uploaded into the Android ecosystem via the Google Play Store.

android-logoGoogle’s policy of operating an open app marketplace for Android device owners is one that has been largely praised, but also one that offers significant repercussions for users who don’t exercise extreme caution with the apps that they download and use. The recent Symantec report states that more than 1,000 fraudulent apps were uploaded to the Play Store during the month of August, the majority of which were distributed by one single Japanese development company. As you might expect, the apps are nothing more than redirects to adult content and malicious websites.

There has been a growing trend recently on Android of apps of this nature that are nothing more than shells containing advertisements or links to external sites. It’s been estimated that the total downloads of these specific apps in August exceeded more than 10,000, and although Google was quick to act on the situation and delete the offending apps from their servers, the reality is that the developers would have made significant financial gain from the whole process.
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The detailed investigation of the one-click scammer apps also goes on to suggest that developers are using evolving tactics in an attempt to get their malicious apps onto the store for as long as possible. This latest attempt hasn’t proved overly successful in terms of longevity, but one of the more interesting points is that an estimated 97% of the apps in question were actually developed and uploaded by the same person / company.

The Play Store model of being entirely open is one that has come in for as much praise as it has criticism in the past, but it remains something that is unlikely to be changed. The advice to users is to only download and execute apps that they know and trust in order to have as few problems as possible.

BlackBerry lays off dozens of US sales staff

LAYOFFS: Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd cut several dozen jobs from its US sales team on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. — Reuters

LAYOFFS: Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd cut several dozen jobs from its US sales team on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. — Reuters

Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd cut several dozen jobs from its US sales team on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The layoffs are part of rolling job cuts that have been ongoing for several weeks, the people told the paper.

“I can confirm a small number of employees were laid off today,” a company spokesman told the newspaper, without providing additional details.

BlackBerry, which has bled market share to rivals including Apple’s iPhone and phones using Google’s Android technology, said last month it was weighing its options, which could include an outright sale.

News of the layoffs was first reported by Canadian technology blog Cantech Letter.

BlackBerry could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular US business hours. — Reuters

Microsoft acquiring Nokia’s phone business for $7.2 billion

REDMOND, Washington and ESPOO, Finland – Sept. 3, 2013 – Microsoft Corporation and Nokia Corporation today announced that the Boards of Directors for both companies have decided to enter into a transaction whereby Microsoft will purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents, and license and use Nokia’s mapping services.

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Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will pay EUR 3.79 billion to purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, and EUR 1.65 billion to license Nokia’s patents, for a total transaction price of EUR 5.44 billion in cash. Microsoft will draw upon its overseas cash resources to fund the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to approval by Nokia’s shareholders, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

Building on the partnership with Nokia announced in February 2011 and the increasing success of Nokia’s Lumia smartphones, Microsoft aims to accelerate the growth of its share and profit in mobile devices through faster innovation, increased synergies, and unified branding and marketing. For Nokia, this transaction is expected to be significantly accretive to earnings, strengthen its financial position, and provide a solid basis for future investment in its continuing businesses.

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“It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer. “In addition to their innovation and strength in phones at all price points, Nokia brings proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.”

“We are excited and honored to be bringing Nokia’s incredible people, technologies and assets into our Microsoft family. Given our long partnership with Nokia and the many key Nokia leaders that are joining Microsoft, we anticipate a smooth transition and great execution,” Ballmer said. “With ongoing share growth and the synergies across marketing, branding and advertising, we expect this acquisition to be accretive to our adjusted earnings per share starting in FY15, and we see significant long-term revenue and profit opportunities for our shareholders.”

“For Nokia, this is an important moment of reinvention and from a position of financial strength, we can build our next chapter,” said Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman of the Nokia Board of Directors and, following today’s announcement, Nokia Interim CEO. “After a thorough assessment of how to maximize shareholder value, including consideration of a variety of alternatives, we believe this transaction is the best path forward for Nokia and its shareholders. Additionally, the deal offers future opportunities for many Nokia employees as part of a company with the strategy, financial resources and determination to succeed in the mobile space.”

“Building on our successful partnership, we can now bring together the best of Microsoft’s software engineering with the best of Nokia’s product engineering, award-winning design, and global sales, marketing and manufacturing,” said Stephen Elop, who following today’s announcement is stepping aside as Nokia President and CEO to become Nokia Executive Vice President of Devices & Services. “With this combination of talented people, we have the opportunity to accelerate the current momentum and cutting-edge innovation of both our smart devices and mobile phone products.”

Nokia has outlined its expected focus upon the closing of the transaction in a separate press release published today.

Source: Microsoft

Trade-in your third party Apple charger!

SAFETY CONCERNS: People wanting to take part in Apple's USB Power Adapter Takeback Program must bring the unwanted chargers along with a corresponding iPod, iPad, or iPhone to an Apple Retail Store or to an authorised Apple service provider. — ©AFP/Relaxnews 2013

SAFETY CONCERNS: People wanting to take part in Apple’s USB Power Adapter Takeback Program must bring the unwanted chargers along with a corresponding iPod, iPad, or iPhone to an Apple Retail Store or to an authorised Apple service provider. — ©AFP/Relaxnews 2013

SAN FRANCISCO: Fears of dangerous shocks caused by unsanctioned chargers for Apple gadgets prompted the company on Monday to announce a trade-in programme.

Beginning on August 16, people with counterfeit or third-party power adaptors will be able to swap them for certified Apple models for the local equivalent of US$10 (RM32.36).

“Recent reports have suggested that some counterfeit and third party adapters may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues,” Apple said in a blog post.

“While not all third party adapters have an issue, we are announcing a USB Power Adapter Takeback Program to enable customers to acquire properly designed adaptors.”

People must bring the unwanted chargers along with a corresponding iPod, iPad, or iPhone to an Apple Retail Store or to an authorised Apple service provider.

Apple said device serial numbers need to be valid to qualify for the adapter trade-in programme, which will continue until October 18.

Last month, Apple began investigating reports that a women in China was electrocuted while using an iPhone that was charging. — ©AFP/Relaxnews 2013