Google Parent Alphabet Reports Strong Results on Mobile Ads, YouTube, Other Bets

Google Parent Alphabet Reports Strong Results on Mobile Ads, YouTube, Other Bets

Google’s parent company Alphabet on Thursday reported profit in the recently-ended quarter leapt as money poured in from ads delivered to mobile devices and returns improved on “other bets.”

Alphabet profit was up 32.4 percent to $6.7 billion (roughly Rs. 43,555 crores) on in the quarter on revenue that increased 24 percent to $27.8 billion (roughly Rs. 1,80,724 crores), up 24 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Chief financial officer Ruth Porat credited “strength across Google and Other Bets.”

The earnings topped market expectations, and Alphabet shares jumped in after-market trade on the Nasdaq exchange before concerns about growing expenses apparently caused them to settle back a bit to be up nearly 3 percent to $1,021.

“It is what everybody looks at every time: what is going on with expenses?” independent analyst Rob Enderle told AFP.

“For the most part they seem to be well managed, but you watch to make sure they remember they still have limits even though they are printing money.”

While mobile ads were a main area of growth, they brought with them higher traffic acquisition costs, pushing up Google expenses in a trend seen as unavoidable.

Investing in cloud services and artificial intelligence also means spending more on data centers to provide the massive computing power involved.

“I’ve been really proud of the progress this quarter; launching popular new products and continuing to grow our business in new areas,” Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an earnings call with analysts.

“It’s been particularly exciting to see our early bet on artificial intelligence pay off and go from a research project to something that can solve new problems for 1 billion people a day.”

YouTube continued to see “phenomenal growth” with more than 1.5 billion people spending an average of an hour a day watching videos there on mobile devices, and surging use on television screens in homes, according to Pichai.

He boasted of progress winning businesses over to Google services hosted in the internet cloud, where the company competes with Amazon and Microsoft in that market.

Pichai also said that opening day pre-orders for recently unveiled Pixel 2 smartphones were double that seen for the first-generation Pixel.

Google is “seriously committed to making hardware” as well as working with partners such as South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung which is a major producer of smartphones powered by Android software made available free by the US Internet company.

“The intersection of hardware and software is how you drive computing forward,” Pichai said.

“I think it’s important we thoughtfully put our opinion forward.”

Smartphones and other devices “made by Google” can showcase the potential of its Android and Chrome software, setting a bar for partners.

Moonshots
A corporate reorganisation started two years ago created Alphabet, which has holdings including cash-engine Google and ventures devoted to innovative “moonshots” such as Waymo self-driving car unit and a Loon project for delivering internet service from high-altitude balloons.

Subsidiaries other than Google were put into an “other bets” group which saw revenue in the quarter rise to $302 million (roughly Rs. 1,963 crores) from $197 million (roughly Rs. 1,280 crores) during the same three-month period last year.

Google ads accounted for the bulk of Alphabet revenue, contributing $27.47 billion (roughly Rs. 1,80,369 crores), according to the earnings release.

Alphabet earlier this year spun off a little-known unit working on geothermal power called Dandelion, which will begin offering residential energy services.

Dandelion chief executive Kathy Hannun said her team had been working for several years “to make it easier and more affordable to heat and cool homes with the clean, free, abundant, and renewable energy source right under our feet,” and that the efforts culminated in the creation of an independent company outside of Alphabet.

Meanwhile, Alphabet’s life sciences unit Verily announced a study to track people for years, right down to their genetics, in a quest for insights into staying healthy.

Alphabet also owns Nest, which recently expanded its line-up of smart home devices to include a security system.

Nest, Fiber, and Verily were said to be top performing other bets in the quarter.

Waymo on Thursday announced plans to begin testing self-driving cars in notoriously troublesome ice and snow conditions in the US state of Michigan this winter.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

iOS 11.1, tvOS 11.1, watchOS 4.1, macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 Updates Now Available to Download: What’s New

iOS 11.1, tvOS 11.1, watchOS 4.1, macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 Updates Now Available to Download: What's New

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The iOS 11.1 update has 70 new emoji characters
  • The update brings back 3D Touch App Switcher that was live until iOS 11
  • Apple has also released new watchOS and tvOS updates

Weeks after rolling out three minor updates to iOS 11, Apple has released iOS 11.1 as the first major point release of its latest platform. The new update is available for all iOS 11-compatible iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models. The company has added a bunch of new emoji models as well as brought back the gesture-enabled 3D Touch App Switch through the newest update. Separately, it has released watchOS 4.1 and tvOS 11.1 updates.

You can download the iOS 11.1 update on iPhone 5s and above models, iPad Air and above models, iPad mini 2 and above models, or the sixth generation iPod touch. To download the update, you need to go to Settings > General > Software Update and then follow the on-screen instructions. Your device should be running on a Wi-Fi connection to download the over-the-air (OTA) update. Also, it is advisable to back up your data before beginning the update process.

The first major change that comes with the iOS 11.1 update is the range of over 70 new emoji characters that include new food types, animals, mythical creatures, clothing options, some more expressive smiley faces and gender-neutral characters. You would notice ten Unicode emoji models such as a crazy face, pie, pretzel, t-rex, vampire, exploding head and face vomiting among others. Similarly, there are improvements to existing creatures like dolphin, bee, snail, and whale to enhance your messaging experience.

In addition to the new emoji characters, the iOS 11.1 update has tons of fixes and improvements for Photos and VoiceOver. The update has also brought back support for accessing the app switcher using 3D Touch. This means you can now press the left edge of the 3D Touch-enabled display of your iPhone to access the multitasking App Switcher interface – without using the home button. The feature was well present until the release of iOS 11, but Apple disabled its existence supposedly to promote the button-less gestures of the iPhone X.

The iOS update also includes a list of security improvements. Notably, it patches the widespread vulnerability that was recently spotted in the WPA2 Wi-Fi protocol and was letting attackers use a key reinstallation attack (KRACK) to decrypt network traffic and gain access to personal data.

watchOS 4.1 and tvOS 11.1

Alongside the release of iOS 11.1, Apple has brought watchOS 4.1 and tvOS 11.1. The new watchOS version is compatible with all the Apple Watch models, including the Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3, while the new tvOS is available for the fourth- and fifth-generation Apple TV devices.

The watchOS 4.1 update brings access to iCloud Music Library within the native Music app. There is also support for streaming music from both Apple Music and Radio. You leverage the LTE support of your Apple Watch Series 3 or connect your older Watch model to an active Wi-Fi network to stream your favourite tracks. Additionally, Apple has enabled GymKit support that will let you share your workout data through advanced gym equipment.

Here’s how you update to watchOS 4.1. First, you need to have at least 50 percent charge on the Apple Watch before you start the update – it is also recommended to keep it charging while updating. Your iPhone will to be in close proximity to the Apple Watch, and will need to be on Wi-Fi. After this, users will need to launch the Watch app on their iPhone and head to the My Watch tab and then General > Software Update. Enter the Watch passcode if prompted and then follow the prompts from your iPhone. The Apple Watch should restart twice before the update is completed.

Unlike the feature-rich watchOS 4.1, the tvOS 11.1 update doesn’t include any noticeable upgrades. The new version, however, fixes the WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability. Apple is also set to bring more settings control to Apple TV 4K users, but through tvOS 11.2, as spotted from the first developer beta of the next update.

To update to tvOS 11.1, users need to open the Settings app on their Apple TV, and then navigate to Settings > Systems > Software Update. Once this is done, the Apple TV will search for the update and you can proceed to download tvOS 11.1 following the on-screen prompts.

macOS High Sierra 10.13.1

Apple on Tuesday also released macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 update, which brings new features apart from security and stability fixes. To start with, it supports 70 new emoji, including food types, animals, mythical creatures, clothing options, more expressive smiley faces, gender-neutral characters, and more. It fixes a bug where Bluetooth appeared as unavailable during Apple Pay transactions. It also improves the reliability of Microsoft Exchange message sync in Mail. Finaly, it fixes an issue where Spotlight does not accept keyboard input.

There are several changes for the enterprise crowd, but what’s more interesting are the number of security fixes, including a fix for WPA2 Wi-Fi protocol vulnerability that exposes it to KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attacks). To install the macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 update, users need to open to the Mac App Store and navigate to the Updates tab to find the update.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Microsoft HoloLens Is Headed to 29 New Markets

Microsoft HoloLens Is Headed to 29 New Markets

As demand for mixed reality grows in the modern workplace, Microsoft has announced that it has brought its mixed reality smart-glass HoloLens to 29 new European markets.

At the Future Decoded event in London on Wednesday, Microsoft outlined its vision for mixed reality in front of over 15,000 IT and business decision makers who came to talk about current and emerging trends happening at the intersection of business and technology.

“We shared how technologies like Microsoft 365, Microsoft HoloLens, Windows Mixed Reality, and 3D are helping companies, Firstline Workers, and Information Workers become agents of change in the modern workplace and digital transformation,” said Lorraine Bardeen, General Manager, Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences, in a blogpost.

She said that mixed reality empowers people and organisations to achieve more and the experiences would help businesses and their employees complete crucial tasks faster, safer, more efficiently, and create new ways to connect to customers and partners.

“The era of mixed reality will serve as a catalyst for innovations in the workplace and we expect ‘Firstline Workers’ and ‘Information Workers’ to benefit significantly from solutions that blend our physical and digital reality,” she said.

With mixed reality, workers can change the content, the people, or even the location of a meeting, in a matter of seconds.

Mixed reality delivers interfaces that help workers act upon data generated from instrumented/intelligence devices, and connect seamlessly with others across physical space.

To make innovation easy and address growing demand for mixed reality solutions around the world, Microsoft said HoloLens is now coming to 29 new European markets, bringing the total number of HoloLens markets to 39.

“We are also working to bring some of the most-asked-for software updates for HoloLens to our existing customers. We are committed to delivering an update to existing customers sometime early next year,” she said.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Paradise Papers: Seven Steps Modi Must Take Against Black Money

Workers wait for a cargo ship to beach at Mundra Port in Gujarat April 2, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave

The ‘Paradise Papers’ expose carried out by the Indian Express in collaboration with a German newspaper and the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ) once again reveals the extent of the black money menace and the lack of political will to take it on. By now it is clear that the Narendra Modi government that rode to power on widespread popular anger against corruption and black money has let the people down and is actively collaborating in covering up rather than uncovering black money. In this context, celebrating ‘Anti-Black Money Day’ on the anniversary of demonetisation is nothing but a cruel joke on the people of this country.

There is a set pattern by now. Instead of taking proactive and concrete action, the government reacts only to leaks that come out from time to time. Whether it is the leaks about accounts in Liechtenstein’s banks or in HSBC bank or the Panama Papers or Paradise Papers, every time the government defends its own people and says that it has set up some task force or the other. Thereafter, we don’t know what happens. We have not seen any details of any accounts of Indians abroad obtained by the government on its own proactively or any amount recovered or any culprits jailed. For all big claims of black money caught through demonetisation, we are yet to see any names or lists. Even very specific information on black money given to the government has not led to any prosecution. Since all such exposés name politicians of the ruling party as well as the opposition, there is no concerted public campaign to bring the guilty to the book.

This is a global menace and arguably the biggest challenge to democracy today. The Paradise Papers, and Panama Papers earlier, present another example of how big corporates and the ultra-rich of various countries move their money to tax havens and out of their countries through shell companies and trusts created for this purpose. Siphoning off funds of corporations to tax havens in this manner is today arguably the biggest business in the world, involving amounts in excess of $100 billion a year. It is a malaise which lies at the root of corruption, black money, income inequalities and the continuing hold of corrupt politicians and their parties over the levers of power through this illicit money.

These two exposés reveal a standard modus operandi. In most cases, the money is the product of siphoned off funds from domestic companies by over-invoicing and under-invoicing through intermediary shell companies. Siphoning out of huge funds leads to non-performing assets (NPAs) since most of these companies take loans from public sector banks on the basis of over-invoiced costs, as the Adani, Essar as well as Sterling cases show. This also leads to the defrauding or cheating of electricity consumers by higher tariffs imposed upon them, as well as cheating of these public companies by their promoters. This is why we see this phenomenon of companies like those of Vijay Mallya going into bankruptcy, while the promoters manage to have huge assets, mostly abroad. Some of these funds could also be cases of tax evasion and not necessarily siphoning out by over-invoicing and under-invoicing. However, hardly any part of it is likely to be legitimate or above-board, because there was no reason to park it in tax havens. And it should have been declared upfront to the authorities.

This phenomenon is widely used by large corporates, and known and understood by the politicians and bureaucrats, and by this government. This device has been transparently visible in a number of big cases investigated recently by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Income Tax Department, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. Unfortunately, as the following cases show, the government has not taken any effective action.

The Modi government’s failure to tackle black money is quire evident from some of these cases:

1. Sterling Biotech: More than Rs. 5,000 crore allegedly siphoned through over-invoicing and under-invoicing

On June 28, 2011, the Income Tax Department conducted a search and seizure under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act covering 25 premises of the Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara Group of Companies.

During the raid, certain incriminating documentary evidence was found and seized from the premises of the group at Mumbai and Vadodara. As per the FIR, a “Diary 2011” was found from the company premises during a raid, which detailed the monthly payouts to the accused income tax officials and several police officials and politicians in Gujarat. The FIR states that:

“The Documents seized revealed that the Sandesara group has been acting as a depository for receiving funds on behalf of persons including public servants and for further delivery to them at the place of convenience. The evidence collected by the Income Tax Department showed corruption of various public servants including three senior IRS officers”. More than 5000 crores were found to have been loaded by this company through over invoicing and under invoicing and more than 74 accounts were opened in foreign jurisdictions particularly tax havens. (FIR dated 25.10.2017 registered by CBI)

The Modi government, however, promoted Rakesh Asthana and appointed him as special director in the CBI despite the fact that his name figures in the list of persons who have received the payment and also despite the fact that the CBI director had strongly opposed his promotion citing the ‘integrity clause’ requirement.

A second, more incriminating FIR was lodged by the CBI on October 25, 2017 against the Sandesara Group company Sterling Biotech Limited, its directors, chartered accountant and the then director of Andhra Bank for allegedly cheating public sector banks of Rs 5,383 crore. The FIR alleges that the Sterling Biotech group companies availed of more than Rs 5,000 crore in loans from State Bank, Andhra Bank and other public sector banks, which turned into non-performing assets. The CBI has alleged that the group was laundering money through a circuitous route and indulged in insider trading. The FIR states that the directors falsified the records of the company related to production, turnover and investment in capital assets using various India-based entities and entities situated abroad. On the basis of these false and fabricated documents, manipulated balance sheets were prepared to induce the banks to sanction higher amounts of loans, which were later diverted for personal purposes.

The CBI has alleged that the company even falsely represented its market capitalisation. For this, the CBI says, “the shares in India and abroad in the names of non-promoters were in fact held by the directors themselves which were concealed from the banks with the dishonest intent to cheat them.” According to the CBI, manipulations were done in reporting turnover, investment in capital goods and taxes to be paid on the turnover. The bogus turnover was in turn arrived at through bogus sales to benami companies in Dubai and India and inflated export bills. (FIR dated 25.10.2017 registered by CBI)

2. DRI investigations of Adani Power and Essar

Indian power companies directly import the coal/equipment from the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), based mostly in China. The foreign intermediary company is a wholly controlled/owned subsidiary of these Indian companies, set up solely for the purpose of generating two sets of invoices for such imports. The invoices generated by the OEMs on the intermediary company reflect the actual price of the imports. The invoices generated by the intermediary company on the Indian companies can be inflated almost to the extent of 400%. The amount of over-valuation is the illegal profit generated by the promoters of the Indian companies, in the garb of costs, which is siphoned out by their subsidiary intermediary foreign companies, into accounts owned by the promoters situated mostly in tax havens.

Artificial over-invoicing of coal and power equipment by such companies is a practice adversely impacting millions of consumers in the form of higher tariffs since the increase in the inflated costs of coal/equipment is realised from the consumers in the form of higher electricity tariffs. Further, the share holders of such power generating companies have been cheated of their rightful dividends since these companies artificially reduce profits by showing higher costs. Moreover, the loans issued by banks for the purpose of imports, are used to disburse the loan amount to foreign intermediaries, in the garb of inflated invoices, for generation of unaccounted profit. This is a major reason for the alarming growth of non-performing assets in the banking sector. The Income Tax Department is also unable to tax huge profits since the amount is absorbed by the foreign intermediary company, incorporated in tax havens such as UAE and Mauritius, leading to the evasion of tax of thousands of crores of rupees.

For more than three years since May 2014, the DRI sat over this matter, after its initial show cause notices to various companies which detailed the entire modus operandi of over invoicing through shell companies and money laundering to tax haven accounts owned by the relatives of the promoters. However, after The Guardianpublisheda detailed and very embarrassing story on Adani, the adjudicating officer of the DRI passed an order saying that this does not amount to over-invoicing, citing some untenable reasons.

In March 2016, the DRI issued an alert that about 30 power generating companies have been indulging in artificial over-invoicing of coal which is being imported from Indonesia. The DRI alert said that this is being done for two objectives: “(i) siphoning-off money abroad and (ii) to avail higher power tariff compensation based on artificially inflated cost of the imported coal.” (DRI alert circular dated 30.03.2016). However, no action has been taken despite the passage of more than one and a half years. No show-cause notice has also been issued so far to major companies like Adani etc mentioned in that note.

3. Complaint against Mukesh Ambani

The Indian high commission in Singapore made a starting disclosure to the government of India in a letter dated August 31, 2011. The high commission stated that Rs 6,530 crores have come into India from Bio Matrix Marketing Ltd., a one room company in Singapore that does not do any business. It was pointed out that this is a company with no assets, no equity and does not file an income tax returns in Singapore claiming to be a small company. Yet, the huge investment by this company of Rs 6530 crores is the single biggest FDI into India from Singapore. The high commission had stated that all this money has gone into the Reliance group of companies in India with the major chunk going to Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure Ltd, which is a company 100% owned by Mukesh Ambani personally.

We had, therefore, made a detailed complaint on July 8, 2014 to the SIT on Black Money but still not action has been taken.

4. Complaint against Anil Ambani

The CBI in its chargesheet in the 2G scam had confirmed that Swan Telecom was set-up by Reliance Telecom owned by Anil Ambani. We all know that as consideration of the transfer of Swan Telecom to Balwa and Goenka, they could not have directly transferred the money to Anil Ambani companies since that would have exposed the fact that Swan Telecom was owned by Reliance. Hence a circuitous route had to be followed. We had therefore found and complained to the SIT on Black Money on July 18, 2014 that M/s AAA & Sons Enterprises (an Anil Ambani company) received a huge sum of $750 million from a company, EMITS Singapore in December 2007, which was later transferred to other Anil Ambani-owned Reliance group companies. The entire amount transferred by EMITS Singapore was not used for any project by AAA & Sons but only transferred to other group companies. Though this was also an apparent case of taking funds abroad and then bringing them back to India circuitously, no action was taken even on this complaint, which was backed by all documentary evidence.

5. Finance Act amendments

Instead of taking action on such clear cases of siphoning of funds through over invoicing and instead of using that money and bringing the culprits to book, the Modi government has made many retrograde amendments to the laws dealing with political funding in order to allow foreign companies and Indian corporates to donate unlimited anonymous funds to political parties.

Retrograde amendments have been made by the government through the Finance Act, 2016 and Finance Act, 2017, both passed illegally as money bills. These amendments have opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy. These amendments have removed the caps on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations.

The Finance Act of 2017 has introduced the use of electoral bonds which is exempt from disclosure, opening the door to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties. The Finance Act, 2016 has also amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, to allow foreign companies with subsidiaries in India to fund political parties in India, effectively, exposing Indian politics and democracy to international lobbyists who may want to further their agenda. These Amendments pose a serious danger to the autonomy of the country and are bound to adversely affect electoral transparency, encourage corrupt practices in politics and have made the unholy nexus between politics and corporate houses more opaque and treacherous and is bound to be misused by special interest groups and corporate lobbyists.

Seven demands

If this government is at all serious about the menace of black money, it should take some immediate steps and carry out some long-term changes in the legal framework instead of sham exercises like ‘Anti Black Money Day’.

One of us (Prashant Bhushan) had, in fact, written a letter to Prime Minister Modi as far back on June 23, 2014 pointing out the steps that need to be taken to tackle black money.  The letter had suggested the following changes in the legal frameworkFirst, a new law, or an amendment to an existing law (such as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act), requiring all Indian citizens to disclose all their assets and liabilities, including their stakes in companies or trusts registered abroad, needs to be introduced. Second, any income or assets not disclosed in the required form would be deemed to be “proceeds of crime”, and included as ‘predicate offences’ defined under the UNCAC. Third, instruments such as participatory notes and anonymous investments by funds or shell companies need to be disallowed with immediate effect.  In the case of investments made in the name of a company or a trust, the major stakeholders of the company, or the trustees of the trust, must be determined and duly recorded, before the investment is allowed.

We therefore demand that:

  1. Specific and immediate action must be taken in all the cases detailed above.
  2. The government must disclose full details of the action it has taken on black money by way of recovering any money from named individuals as well as prosecutions of named individuals.
  3. Instead of making vague claims about the unearthing of black money through demonetisation, the government should disclose the details and make public all the cash deposits made by all MPs, MLAs or political parties and their office bearers between November 8 and December 31, 2016.
  4. We understand that the SIT on Black Money has also made several recommendations to the government but in most cases these recommendations have not been implemented. The government must therefore place the reports and recommendations of The SIT before the people as well as the action taken by it on those.
  5. The government must rollback the retrograde amendments made in the finance act of 2016 and 2017 relating to the FCRA as well as the funding of political parties, including electoral bonds.
  6. A law must be passed on the lines suggested above requiring all citizens to declare their foreign assets and providing for confiscation of all undisclosed assets.
  7. Rakesh Asthana must be removed from the CBI forthwith as suggested by the CBI director.

Source:-thewire.