Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Uber picks VMware's Zane Rowe as CFO: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has picked VMware Inc’s (VMW.N) Zane Rowe as the top candidate for chief financial officer to lead preparations for the ride-hailing company’s initial public offering in 2019, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The logo of Uber is pictured during the presentation of their new security measures in Mexico City, Mexico April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme

The Silicon Valley startup is in advanced talks with Rowe, who is currently CFO at VMware, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

An agreement has not been finalized yet and talks could still fall through, Bloomberg said citing one of the sources.

Uber’s board of directors has agreed to take the company public in 2019 and is searching for a chief financial officer to lead this effort. The position has been vacant since 2015.

VMware declined to comment. Uber was not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair

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Mexico's top court sides with America Movil, says Telmex can charge rivals

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – America Movil’s fixed-line unit Telmex said on Wednesday that the nation’s supreme court has sided with it and ruled the firm should not be barred from charging rivals for calls to its network.

The logo of America Movill is seen on the wall at the company’s corporate offices in Mexico City, Mexico March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

The decision follows a similar ruling from the Supreme Court in August that opened the door for America Movil’s mobile unit Telcel to begin charging its rivals for use of its network.

The rulings weaken a key pillar of a 2014 telecommunications reform intended to loosen billionaire Carlos Slim’s grip on a market he has dominated since taking control of former state phone monopoly Telmex in the 1990s.

Mexico’s Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) will set the rates, which will become effective on Jan. 1, 2019, Telmex said.

A spokeswoman for the IFT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IFT ruled in November that America Movil could resume charging local rivals for mobile calls to its network.

In March, the IFT approved a plan to separate part of America Movil’s fixed-line units into new companies, after about a year of discussion. America Movil submitted a plan for the separation this month, which is intended to open up its infrastructure to competitors.

Telmex held about 62 percent of Mexico’s fixed-lines as of the third quarter 2017, according to IFT data.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Julia Love; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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Why Netflix Stock Jumped as Much as 8% to an (Almost) All-Time High

Growth at big companies chasing mature markets is supposed to slow down. Think about wireless phones or cable TV. But that rule doesn’t seem to apply to Netflix, at least not yet.

Even after more than 20 years in business, the world’s biggest streaming video service experienced some of its fastest growth ever in the first quarter, helping to give its stock a big lift.

Netflix shares, which hit an all-time high of $333.98 last month before selling off in the recent stock market decline, jumped as much as 8% in after hours trading on Monday. That put the stock price just pennies below the all-time high. But as CEO Reed Hastings and other executives answered an analysts’ questions on one of Netflix’s famously dull quarterly calls for investors, the after hours gain shrunk to a 5% gain to $324.32.

Netflix’s overall revenue increased 40% to $3.7 billion in the quarter, but excluding the aging DVD rental business, streaming video service revenue rose 43% to $3.6 billion, the company’s fastest quarterly growth rate ever, Netflix said. That was due to the combination of adding 7.4 million new subscribers, the most ever for Netflix in a first quarter, plus the price hikes the company pushed through last year, leading to a 14% increase in the average monthly subscription price.

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Investors and analysts were most impressed by the subscriber gains, which came in well ahead of the company’s own forecasts. Netflix added 1.96 million new members in the United States, after forecasting a gain of 1.45 million, and another 5.46 million in other countries, after forecasting 4.9 million. Netflix’s forecasts for the second quarter for subscriber and revenue growth were also better than analysts expected.

“We think investors will likely push NFLX stock higher after this earnings report,” UBS analyst Eric Sheridan wrote after the results came out. “We see investors focused on the widening moat that NFLX is creating with its business (faster subscriber growth on the back of original content push).”

Netflix’s head of programming, Ted Sarandos, did use the call Monday evening to shoot down one frequent rumor about the company, while declining to address another.

“Our move into news has been misreported over and over again and we’re not looking to expand into news beyond the work that we’re doing in short form and long form feature documentaries,” he said, when asked about rumors of a bigger push into news.

Recent talk shows from the likes of David Letterman should be considered entertainment, not news, he stressed. “David Letterman is a great talk show host—not a newscaster,” Sarandos said.

And about those rumors that former president Barack Obama or his wife Michelle is in talks to host such a show?

“I can’t comment on the Obamas or any other deals that would be in various states of negotiation right now,” he replied.

CEO Hastings was also asked whether the data privacy problems hounding Facebook (fb) and other tech companies could hurt Netflix (nflx), particularly if new laws limited data collection. Last week, some members of Congress raised the possibility during hearings in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about his company’s data collection and data sharing practices.

“Well, I’m very glad that we built the business not to be ad-supported,” he said. “I think we’re substantially inoculated from the other issues that are happening in the industry…Just objectively, we’re much more of a media company in that way than pure tech. Of course we want to be great at both but, again, we’re really pretty different from the pure tech companies.”

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UK could launch retaliatory cyber attack on Russia if infrastructure targeted: Sunday Times

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain would consider launching a cyber attack against Russia in retaliation if Russia targeted British national infrastructure, the Sunday Times reported, citing unnamed security sources.

A Russian flag is seen on the laptop screen in front of a computer screen on which cyber code is displayed, in this illustration picture taken March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration

Britain’s relations with Russia are at a historic low, after it blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, prompting mass expulsions of diplomats.

Russia has denied involvement, and on Saturday also condemned strikes against Syria by Western powers, which Britain took part in.

Cyber security has become a focal point of the strained relations. On Thursday, a British spy chief said that his GCHQ agency would “continue to expose Russia’s unacceptable cyber behaviour”, adding there would be increasing demand for its cyber expertise.

The Sunday Times also said that British spy officials had been preparing for Russia-backed hackers to release embarrassing information on politicians and other high-profile people since the attack on the Skripals.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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The Airline Whose Planes Are Said to Break Down In Mid-Air More Often Than Anyone's Is About To Have a Big PR Problem

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

They say you should get out ahead of a bad story.

Present your version before the story hits, so that people can have good feelings about you before aspersions are cast.

I wonder, therefore, what Allegiant Air might do this weekend.

I wrote about this airline a couple of years ago, after it had been accused of having planes that break down four times more often than those of other airlines.

In mid-air, that is.

Of the airline’s 86 planes, it was said that 42 of them had broken down in mid-air the previous year.

The airline fought back and claimed that the accusations were “incendiary.” Indeed, its stock went up 24 percent soon after the original Tampa Bay Times article was published.

Now, though, Allegiant might have a bigger PR problem. 

On Sunday, it’ll be featured in a 60 Minutes segment, one that CBS teases will be twice the usual length.

Here’s the teaser.

Just those 48 seconds suggest that Allegiant should brace for something of calm, considered skewering.

I asked the budget airline what it thought of the upcoming exposé. A spokeswoman told me Allegiant would wait until the segment airs before offering a rebuttal.

One of the main issues with Allegiant’s record of breakdowns is that it flies old planes. Very old planes, some 22 years of age.

Recently, though, it has begun to replace these planes with Airbuses. Indeed, last May was the first time that Allegiant enjoyed the experience of fitting out a new(ish) plane.

The question, then, is how much Sunday’s 60 Minutes piece will reflect the whole current scenario.

The problem for the airline’s PR department, though, is that Allegiant will surely come out looking not so good on one of the most respected news programs in America, one that’s watched by 12 million people.

It’s inevitable, then, that it will instantly be associated with the sort of bad reputation that plagued United Airlines over the last year. 

Worse, perhaps, is the idea that instead of a brutal lack of customer sensitivity — as in the United case — Allegiant might be tarred with the notion that it’s simply an unsafe airline.

On Friday, the airline’s stock began to drop. What might happen to it on Monday?

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This is How Small Business Owners Can Take Full Advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Tax time is no one’s favorite time of year. But for small business owners, this year’s filing deadline at least comes with the promise of better rates ahead: Many of the changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in December, are going into effect.

As entrepreneurs, we should expect to benefit–at least, temporarily–from the new tax plan. My company, Manta, conducted a poll in January and found that 83 percent of business owners anticipate their companies will be positively impacted by the changes. Nearly as many, 80 percent, said they support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Some are already feeling the benefits of having more money in their pockets, according to another poll we conducted last month. 34 percent of small business owners said their business income had increased as a result of the tax reform, just three months into the year. 42 percent have already changed their budgeting or financial planning because of the new tax law.

It’s time to start preparing for the changes–if you haven’t already.

For the most part, the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that benefit small businesses go into effect this tax year — meaning they won’t impact the returns that are due this month. 

The 58 percent of small business owners who have not yet adjusted their budgets should get started, however. While that big refund check may be a year away, it’s not too early to plan accordingly and make sure you take full advantage of the potential savings. 

The first step is to review your company’s legal structure and determine how it will affect your taxes. One of the most important changes in the new tax law allows pass-through entities (such as S corporations and LLCs) to deduct up to 20 percent of their business income.

However, this doesn’t apply to certain professional services firms. Review your situation with a tax professional or attorney–you might be able to adjust your business structure to take advantage of this deduction. 

Make the most of your company’s tax savings.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts allows businesses to immediately write off the full cost of new equipment and other property, instead of depreciating the expense over five or more years. The new law also protects these write-offs from being rescinded in the future. 

This is great news for business owners who want to invest in their growth. According to our polls, 28 percent of small business owners plan to use their tax savings to invest in new technology and 21 percent plan to open a new location or expand. The immediate write-off should make these investments (and your cash flow) much more manageable in the short term.

Just check with your tax advisor before making a major purchase–you could run into unforeseen obstacles. For example, the depreciation rules for “heavy” SUVs–those with a gross vehicle weight above 6,000 pounds–are different than for light trucks and vans. You want to be prepared for the potential impact on your taxes.

Streamline your expense tracking and tax prep.

Make sure you accurately track and document all business expenses. Our polls found that 21 percent of small business owners still use paper receipts to track expenses.

Think about that for a second. It’s messy and inefficient, and you risk losing receipts or miscategorizing expenses.

Hiring a pro is probably the best way to ensure that you take full advantage of the new deductions and stay on the right side of the law. The U.S. tax code is confounding to even the most experienced business owners–20 percent of poll respondents told us they didn’t understand all the deductions available to them. Whatever else Congress accomplished with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they definitely didn’t simplify things.

Use a mobile application or accounting software to scan and save digital copies of your receipts and categorize the expenses. Then, when tax time rolls around, you can output a well-organized report or import the data directly into your tax prep software. And if you use an outside accountant or tax preparer, they’ll greatly appreciate you providing a digitized expense report instead of handing over shoeboxes full of paper receipts.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Wins Would-Be Congressional Grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remained calm under pressure during five hours of questioning by U.S. senators about a series of recent crises culminating with the latest involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that gained access to data about up to 87 million Facebook users.

Overall, Zuckerberg appeared to win the day by avoiding any major stumbles and appearing open to the idea of limited privacy regulation. For their part, the senators were generally gentler with Zuckerberg than expected during the hearing, which risked being a dramatic grilling broadcast live to millions of people at home.

Zuckerberg, wearing a suit and tie instead of his signature grey t-shirt, and looking somber throughout, responded to lawmakers without becoming flustered. He readily apologized for the privacy dust up, saying “It was my mistake. I’m sorry,” and that Facebook had failed to take a “broad enough view” of the possible misuse of its service and developer tools by bad actors.

Much of what Zuckerberg reiterated was what he and his lieutenants have been explaining for the past couple weeks of intense criticism and a falling stock price. But saying it on a national stage, under scrutiny of lawmakers, raised the stakes for the CEO, who had never previously given testimony in Congress.

Zuckerberg’s performance stood in sharp contrast to some public appearances earlier in his career, during which he stumbled with answers while perspiration glistened on his forehead. Since then, he’s grown more polished on stage and able to respond at length to questions as if he’s gone through a crash course in public speaking.

When Zuckerberg didn’t know the answer—and that was often—he told senators that his staff would provide more details later. It had the effect of diffusing some more detailed questions that could have opened Facebook to further scrutiny.

Several times during Tuesday’s hearing, Zuckerberg explained that an academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had misled Facebook about his true intentions in creating a personality quiz app on the social network that harvested user data. Kogan then sold that data to Cambridge Analytica, in violation of Facebook policies.

A few years ago, Facebook changed its terms of its service so that developers could no longer access as much data as before. But for many critics, it was too little, too late.

During the hearing, Zuckerberg directed blame away from Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, saying that his employees had been duped. Indeed, several senators questioning Zuckerberg seemed to take his side and expressed more anger at Cambridge Analytica than Facebook, which had such lax data sharing policies that it’s developer platform essentially operated on an honor system.

A few questions caught Zuckerberg off guard, including one by Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who asked him if data analytics company Palantir scraped Facebook user data to allegedly aid Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg seem flustered by Cantwell bringing up Palantir, whose co-founder Peter Thiel is a Facebook board member, and responded, “I’m really not that familiar with what Palantir does.”

Ultimately, Zuckerberg apologized repeatedly for failing to foresee the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and promised that his company is working to prevent similar problems.

Investors appeared to be pleased with Zuckerberg’s performance on Capitol Hill after sending its shares down 15% over the past few weeks for its missteps. On Tuesday, the company’s shares rose 4.5% to $165.04.

Zuckerberg helped his case by reassuring senators that he’s willing to work with them on relatively low-impact legislation that would regulate how online companies handle user data and privacy. Tech companies are notorious for their opposition to regulation, but a small dose would give the industry cover while letting it avoid harsher oversight. Facebook has friends in several Republican senators, who repeated their party mantra that too much regulation would hamstring the next Facebook.

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If anything concrete comes out of Tuesday’s hearing, it may be that Facebook trims its terms of service, which a number of senators complained is too long and confusing. Zuckerberg replied that Facebook tries “to be exhaustive in the legal documents,” but that the company doesn’t “expect that most people want to read a full legal document.”

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg has another appointment with a House committee, where he will likely answer many of the same questions. If Tuesday was any guide, he’ll be able to avoid any major blows unless the representatives come armed with sharper questions and demand answers from him instead of his staff.

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Bad humour: China watchdog shuts Toutiao joke app over vulgar content

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – In China, a platform for risqué jokes is no laughing matter.

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Bytedance’s news feed platform Toutiao is seen as its building in Beijing, China October 21, 2017. Picture taken October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Toutiao, a hugely popular news and online content portal that is luring investors, was forced to pull its joke sharing “Neihan Duanzi” app, literally meaning “implied jokes”, after a watchdog said it included “vulgar and improper content”.

The move comes amid a broader clamp-down targeting online content from livestreams and blogs to mobile gaming, as the country’s leaders look to tighten their grip over a huge and diverse cultural scene online popular with China’s youth.

China’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered the app to be taken down permanently in a post on Tuesday for low values that had “caused strong disgust amongst netizens”. It urged Toutiao to regulate similar content on its other sites.

Toutiao, one of the country’s fastest-growing tech start-ups which was valued at around $20 billion last year, has been in hot water with regulators lately. Earlier this week, its main mobile app was also removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of increased censorship.

In a public letter titled “Apology and Introspection”, Toutiao founder Zhang Yiming pledged to raise the number of in-house censors – referred to as content auditors – to 10,000 people from 6,000 currently to keep its content wholesome.

“This product walked the wrong path and had content in deviation of socialist core values,” he wrote in the letter posted on his official microblog account on Wednesday.

Reporting by Pei Li and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Michael Perry

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Groups Allege YouTube Is Violating Law That Protects Kids

A coalition of more than 20 child-health, privacy, and consumer groups is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether YouTube is violating a federal law designed to protect children on the internet.

The groups are expected to file a complaint with the FTC on Monday. The relevant federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, requires website operators to obtain parents’ permission when collecting personal data about children younger than 13.

The complaint claims that a significant portion of popular content on YouTube is designed for kids, whose personal information—including IP address, geolocation, and persistent identifiers used to track users across sites—is unlawfully collected by Google and then used to target ads.

The complaint follows reports that some YouTube creators are targeting kids with disturbing videos, including some of kids in abusive situations. On Friday, BuzzFeed reported that the company will offer a safer, human-curated option for YouTube Kids, a version of the site for users under 13.

But the complaint to the FTC argues that most children aren’t watching YouTube Kids, which launched in 2015. They’re watching the same YouTube as the rest of us — and the company is aware of that, says Josh Golin, executive director of the Center of a Commercial Free Childhood, a nonprofit behind the complaint. The company could have moved popular children’s content like Peppa Pig or Sesame Street to YouTube Kids, says Golin, rather than leave videos where “kids are going to be exposed to data collection practices and be one click away from really disturbing content for children.” Human curation may be a good first step, “but changes to the YouTube Kids app do not absolve Google of its responsibilities to the millions of children that use the main YouTube site,” Golin says.

An ad for Barbie appearing on a child-directed video on YouTube’s mobile app from October 2017.

YouTube

A 2017 survey conducted by a market research firm specializing in children and families called YouTube “the most powerful brand in kids’ lives,” with 80 percent of American kids ages 6 to 12 using YouTube daily. A survey from October by Common Sense, another nonprofit group that signed the complaint, found that 71 percent of parents said their children watched YouTube’s website or app, whereas only 24 percent used the YouTube Kids app.

In a statement, a spokesperson for YouTube said, “While we haven’t received the complaint, protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us. We will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve. Because YouTube is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”

YouTube’s terms tell kids under 13 years old not to use the service, so Google could argue that kids are watching with their parents and permission is implied. However anyone can watch videos on YouTube without an account. The complaint points out that kids often watch on a mobile device, likely by themselves. In 2015, the company said it launched YouTube Kids as a mobile app “because of this reality – that we’re all familiar with – 75 percent of kids between birth and the age of 8 have access to a mobile device and more than half of kids prefer to watch content videos on a mobile device or a tablet.” COPPA applies to websites that have “actual knowledge” that they are collecting or maintaining kids’ personal information, even if the collection is unintentional.

The complaint claims that YouTube’s advertising practices suggest that executives know children are watching. For example, Google Preferred, a premium service that helps advertisers place their ads in top videos on YouTube’s main site, includes the category “Parenting & Family,” which features channels like ChuChuTV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Song, which has more than 15 million subscribers.

Targeting kids can be lucrative. The complaint points to a popular YouTube channel called Ryan ToysReview, in which a 6 year old reviews toys. The site, which has more than 20 billion views, generated $11 million in revenue last year, according to Forbes.

Targeting Kids

  • After criticism about advertising to kids, YouTube Kids launched an ad-free version, available to parents, for a monthly subscription.
  • Facebook followed YouTube’s lead, launching an ad-free messaging app for kids as young as 6 years old.
  • Most of the experts who vetted Messenger Kids were paid by Facebook

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Tech group urges U.S. to recruit allies to take on China, not tariffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A trade group representing top technology companies on Monday told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that it opposes the Trump administration’s focus on tariffs to try to change China’s unfair trade practices.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a news conference at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The Information Technology Industry Council said in a letter to Mnuchin that it supports the Trump administration’s “Section 301” investigation into China’s abuses of intellectual property, but instead of tariffs, it advocates a U.S.-led international coalition to put pressure on Beijing.

“Our opposition to tariffs is pragmatic. Tariffs do not work,” wrote ITIC President and CEO Dean Garfield.

“Instead of tariffs, we strongly encourage the administration to build an international coalition that can challenge China at the World Trade Organization and beyond,” Garfield added.

“Numerous countries share the United States’ concerns about China and its unfair trade practices. The United States is uniquely well-situated to lead that coalition.”

Garfield called for such a coalition of allies to quickly travel to China to negotiate terms for a “balanced, fair, and reciprocal trade relationship.”

The group, which counts information technology hardware, software, services and social media companies from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), did not make any reference to the Treasury’s forthcoming investment restrictions on Chinese acquisitions of U.S. technology firms.

The restrictions are part of the remedies proposed under the U.S. Trade Representative’s Section 301 investigation, which alleges that China has misappropriated U.S. intellectual property through joint venture requirements that effectively force technology transfer, the use of state funds to acquire U.S. technology companies and other means.

President Donald Trump on Sunday predicted that China would take down its trade barriers, expressing optimism despite the escalating tariff threats between the world’s two largest economies that have roiled global markets.

ITIC said that it believed China had abused the privileges of its membership in the WTO.

“China has promised open and fair trade, but has instead promulgated rules, regulations, and practices aimed at encumbering non-Chinese companies,” Garfield wrote.

“This current approach cannot be sustained.”

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Robert Birsel

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