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Google was an obvious choice after its balloons very successfully supported Peruvians when that country was affected by floods. Google is now looking for a telecoms partner because the balloons have to be integrated with a carrier network for the system to work, as they did in Peru, where Google has a partnership with Telefonica.

In the words of a company spokesperson, “We’re grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it’s possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need. To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand.” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has also been in talks with Tesla’s Elon Musk for the supply of solar batteries.

Alibaba’s $15 Billion R&D: Headed by Alibaba BABA Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Zhang, Alibaba is setting up a global research organization with an initial funding of $15 billion to recruit talented scientists and researchers, collaborate with luminaries in the technology space and top educational institutions to explore technology breakthroughs. The initiative is intended to focus on developing the global technological capabilities and infrastructure that will enable Alibaba to meet its internal target of 2 billion customers and 100 million job opportunities in 20 years.

Netflix Expands to the Middle East: An original Netflix Arabic TV series is coming to users globally in 2018. The company has mostly focused on documentaries so far in the Middle Eastern market and even won an Oscar for the last one. But it is now investing in feature films and TV series (an area of particular local interest), according to CEO Reed Hastings. This series will feature Lebanese comedian Adel Karam along with other popular comedy stars such as Gad Elmaleh, Jack Whitehall and Beppe Grillo. Netflix will also be shooting other movies in the region.

Toshiba-WDC Far from Truce: Last week, Bain Capital indicated that it would try to settle with Western Digital for its lack of consent to the sale, but would go ahead and close the deal by Mar 31, even without it. The investment firm also applied for regulatory approval in a number of countries.

Now, based on additional information provided by Western Digital, it appears that there is considerable intellectual property owned by Western Digital’s SanDisk that can’t simply be set aside by Toshiba. Their agreement specifically prohibits Toshiba from working with other companies to manufacture BiCS or other NAND flash memory being developed or manufactured in the SanDisk-Toshiba JV.

Moreover, SanDisk designs approximately half of all the NAND chips that are manufactured in the JVs. SanDisk has been responsible for breakthrough design and system innovations that have resulted in advancements such as Multi-level cell (MLC), Three-level cell (TLC) and Quad-level cell (QLC) technologies, among others.

It also says that Toshiba doesn’t have the right to make the unilateral investments in Yokkaichi’s Fab 6 equipment that it announced in August, which is why it is seeking an injunction to stay the transfer at the international arbitration court.

Commenting on the Bain transaction it said, “Toshiba implies that our arbitration only seeks to prevent the transfer of its equity, in which case they still intend to close even if Toshiba loses. Toshiba ignores that the arbitration seeks to prohibit the transfer of any JV interests without SanDisk’s consent. Because Toshiba transferred other JV interests, such as its managerial and control rights in the JVs, Toshiba cannot close its transaction if SanDisk prevails.”

Yasuo Naruke, the head of Toshiba’s flash memory chip unit said that considering the competition with Samsung, it was best to maintain good relations with SanDisk. The company had earlier announced an intention to invest an additional 110 billion yen (probably not okay per WDC comments) over and above the initial investment of 195 billion yen (this is okay per WDC). 

Micron Share Issue: Micron MU has announced that it is going to sell 29.3 million shares at $41 a share to raise $1.2 billion and pay off around $400 million of high-interest debt. The potential increase in dilution didn’t have a huge impact on share prices however, as business conditions for the company remain solid.

Despite the past year being more or less supportive of strong DRAM prices (as a result of relatively limited supply), the increased DRAM demand, particularly for data centers is expected to see this trend continue through 2018 (Gartner estimates that DRAM shortage will continue through the end of 2018). So the decision appears to be well timed.

Legal/Regulatory

New Tax Plan Could Benefit Apple: According to RBC Capital Markets analysts Amit Daryanani, Amitesh Bajad, Irvin Liu and Mitch Steves as reported by Barrons, Apple could be a major beneficiary of Trump’s tax reforms. There are four aspects of the new policy that will affect Apple, of which three are positive and one a slight negative. These are: a reduction in the effective corporate tax rate to below 20%, capex deductions on "depreciable assets other than structures" (what constitutes structures needs further clarification), repatriation of offshore cash at a low tax rate

Britain Looking Into Facebook & Google’s News Distribution Role:  A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the government was considering the role, responsibilities and legal status of Internet companies like Facebook FB and Google. There are a number of angles to the investigation, of which two are primary:

The first is with respect to false stories that are at times erroneously treated as news on social media, or racist, sexist, terrorist or other objectionable content that also circulates broadly because of the reach of these platforms. The second is the objections raised by news providers, because these two companies reportedly take 90% of new advertising revenue that would otherwise have gone to them but aren’t bound by the same standards that news agencies have to adhere to.

So they basically want Facebook and Google to be treated as news agencies in the UK. Also on the radar is the harm caused to children who share content and pictures freely and often, unwisely with people they meet online with no idea of the repercussions.

New Products/Technology

iPad Pro Rumor: Famed Apple analyst KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is out with another rumor: this time he’s saying that the next iPad Pro will include TrueDepth technology, enabling Face ID instead of the fingerprint system currently in use. The more advanced camera system will also reportedly help its AR ambitions. Of course, while in the past, Apple has tried out some new features on its iPhone, it still isn’t clear how the new technology will be taken by users. So we don’t really know if it will bring this feature as well.

Amazon Wooing Teens: In an attempt to understand/profile the next generation while easing them on to Amazon, the leading online retailer has launched a special service that will allow teens (aged 13-17) to shop freely on Amazon. For the purpose, Amazon is offering parents the option of attaching up to four accounts to theirs such that things chosen by their teenage children through these accounts can be approved by them on case-by-case basis.

Or, if they prefer not to approve each purchase, they can specify the amount their kids can spend on Amazon and then let them shop as they like. The parents choose the mode of payment.

Collaborations and M&A

Microsoft-Transparency-One: Microsoft has signed an agreement with Transparency-One, which offers companies an end-to-end supply chain solution so they can discover, analyze, and monitor all suppliers, components, and facilities in the entire supply chain. The agreement enables Transparency-One customers to include an additional layer of security to their data by storing critical supply chain information, captured in Transparency-One, in Microsoft Azure's Blockchain Services.

Microsoft-Amazon on AI: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have announced a new deep learning library, called Gluon, with the goal of bringing developers to the Python-based application programming interface (API) that will allow them to prototype, build, train and deploy sophisticated machine learning models for the cloud, edge devices and mobile apps on MXNet, the AI framework backed by Amazon, and later, Cognitive Toolkit, the framework that Microsoft open-sourced in 2015. The idea is to put up some competition to Google’s Tensorflow, (which it open sourced back in 2015 with considerably greater success), and thereby attract developers to their own AI tools, cloud and services.

Some Numbers

HP Financial Outlook: HP estimates GAAP diluted net earnings per share from continuing operations for fiscal 2018 of $1.69 to $1.79, non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share of $1.74 to $1.84 and free cash flow of at least $3.0 billion. The company expects to return 50%-75% of fiscal 2018 free cash flow to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

PC Shipments: According to Gartner, PC shipments were down 3.6% to 67 million units in the third quarter of 2017 with signs of stabilization in the key regions of EMEA, Japan and Latin America, However, this was offset by the U.S., which saw a 10% year-over-year decline partly because of a very weak back-to-school sales season. HP was the top vendor globally (21.8% share), followed by Lenovo (21.4%), Dell (15.2%), Asus (7.3%), Apple (6.9%) and Acer (6.5%). HP was the only one to have grown market share.

Back in the U.S., HP (31.6%), Dell (25.6%), Apple (12.8%), Lenovo (12.2%) and Asus (4.4%) were the top vendors. All vendors saw declines, but HP’s decline was the smallest.

Gartner’s numbers exclude chromebooks and iPads.

 

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