Apple Music Hits 38 Million Paid Subscribers

Apple Music Hits 38 Million Paid Subscribers

Apple’s streaming music service now has 38 million paid subscribers, up from 36 million in February, the company said on Monday.

Apple is locked in race for subscribers with, Alphabet’s Google and others as streaming music becomes the dominant form of paid music consumption. Apple’s number compares to 71 million premium subscribers at the end of 2017 at industry leader Spotify, which plans to list shares in the coming weeks on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SPOT.

Apple said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet software and services, disclosed the most recent subscriber number for Apple Music at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Amazon Music Unlimited has 16 million paying subscribers, and Pandora Media has 5.48 million total subscribers. Google does not release paid subscriber numbers for its service, Google Play Music.

Apple, Spotify, Google and other services charge $9.99 (roughly Rs. 650) a month for music. Amazon offers its service to members who already pay for its Prime membership, which includes shipping, video content and other benefits, for $7.99 per month.

In addition to its paid service, Spotify also offers an free ad-supported version to help draw users into the service. Apple Music does not offer an ad-based version and instead uses a three-month free trial to lure customers. Cue said Apple has 8 million subscribers currently in the free trial period, the first time Apple has disclosed the number of trial users.


AMD hits LG, Vizio products with patent infringement


AMD filed the claim last month, saying that the four companies are manufacturing products that infringe on two patents filed by ATI, and one owned by AMD as well. The patent infringements claim that the companies are infringements with unified shaders, graphics processing architecture, and parallel pipeline graphics systems.

An interesting take on AMD’s pursuit is that MediaTek, LG, Vizio, and Sigma Designs normally license their GPU technology from third-party companies like Imagination and ARM. AMD is now suing the manufacturers direct, versus the physical products that the companies are making. AMD is alleging that the infringed products include MediaTek’s Helio P10 processor that powers a few LG smartphones, while the Sigma Design SX7 (STV7701) processor for 4K TVs with HDR support, something Vizio uses inside of their high-end TVs.

AMD also makes a note about Samsung and GlobalFoundries having licensed the IP covered by the infringed patents, continuing that anyone infringing on its patents damages the legitimate licensees of AMD’s IP. AMD is aiming for the infringing devices banned from import and sale in the US, which would affect many different products between LG and Vizio


Facebook Hits 1.86 Billion Monthly Active Users as Earnings Surge

Facebook Hits 1.86 Billion Monthly Active Users as Earnings Surge

Facebook Hits 1.86 Billion Monthly Active Users as Earnings Surge
Facebook said it made a net profit of $3.7 billion
Daily active users went up to 1.23 billion
India was a hot market in the fourth quarter
Facebook shares bounced Wednesday with word that profit more than doubled in the final quarter of last year, coming back down after a vow to spend heavily on the future.

In earnings that topped most forecasts, Facebook said it made a net profit of $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 24,943 crores) on revenue of $8.6 billion (roughly Rs. 57,979 crores) in the fourth quarter, as compared with profit of $1.6 billion on $5.6 billion in revenue in the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of people using the leading social network monthly increased 17 percent to 1.86 billion. The ranks of people accessing Facebook from mobile devices each month grew to 1.74 billion, an increase of 21 percent from the same period a year earlier. Daily active users went up to 1.23 billion, up 18 percent year on year, while mobile daily active users went up to 1.149 billion, up 23 percent year on year.

Money taken in from ads on mobile devices accounted for about 84 percent of the social network’s overall advertising revenue in the final quarter of last year.

“We believe concerns over user engagement and other social competitors are likely overblown, as few companies share Facebook’s combination of scale, strong technology orientation, and platform breath/diversity,” Baird research analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note to investors.

Facebook saw strong growth in Asia, with India being a hot market in the quarter. The social network still hopes to get into China, where the service is not allowed.

“Our mission is to connect everyone in the world and it’s hard to do that over the long term if we don’t find a way to serve the more than billion people who live in China,” Zuckerberg said while answering questions from analysts on an earnings call.

“But one of the big things that we need to think about here is of course we’re only going to do this in a he way that we’re comfortable with over the long term.”

Facebook shares jumped more than two percent in after-market trades, returning to 15 cents above the closing price of $133.23 after chief financial officer David Wehner reminded analysts that the social network has essentially run out of spare room for ads and plans to invest “aggressively.”

“Our business did well in 2016, but we have a lot of work ahead to help bring people together,” said Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

“Our mission to connect the world is more important now than ever.”

Tackling hoaxes
Under pressure to stymie the spread of fake news, Facebook last month modified its system for showing trending topics.

The change was intended to surface topics more quickly, capture a broader range of news, and help ensure that trends reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets.

Zuckerberg has sought to deflect criticism that the social network may have been used to fuel the spread of misinformation that influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential race.
“We don’t write the news that you read but we want to be a place where people can access information and have meaningful conversations,” Zuckerberg said.

“In the past, we’ve taken steps to reduce spam and click-bait and now we’re you approaching misinformation and hoaxes the same way.”

Facebook executives expected spending on investment and hiring by the California-based company to leap 50 percent or so from last year.

Company priorities include data centers, virtual reality, search and artificial intelligence.

AI has the potential to help figure out and find videos or other content people might like at Facebook, and to quickly recognize and remove posts that violate community standards, according to Zuckerberg.

“There’s an increasing focus on objectionable content and a lot of unfortunate things that people share on Facebook,” Zuckerberg said, stressing that it was a small piece of what was is shared at the social network.

“AI is both going to be great for showing people content that’s really good and helping us enforce the community standards that we have to make sure that everyone has a good and fair experience.”

ALSO SEEFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Posts Video of Jarvis Robot Assistant at Work

Stolen tech suit
Zuckerberg described virtual reality as a long-range investment and asked investors to be patient.

“We are going to keep making big investments in VR content and I’m excited about what’s coming they 2017, from new games to more immersive educational experiences,” Zuckerberg said.

A Texas jury Wednesday ordered Facebook and creators of its Oculus Rift to pay $500 million to gaming software firm ZeniMax in a lawsuit that claimed the virtual reality technology was stolen.

The lawsuit claimed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and his colleagues developed the virtual reality gear using source code illegally obtained from the gaming firm.

ZeniMax had sought $4 billion in damages in the case, in which Zuckerberg testified to defend his company.

Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for more than $2 billion and last year began selling the Rift headsets as part of the social network’s push into virtual reality.

Tags: Facebook, Facebook Earnings, Facebook Users, Social, Apps, Oculus ZeniMax Trial


Google’s Plan to Spread Its AI Assistant Hits Samsung Roadblock

Google's Plan to Spread Its AI Assistant Hits Samsung Roadblock

Google’s Plan to Spread Its AI Assistant Hits Samsung Roadblock
Google just debuted a digital assistant, which it hopes to place inside smartphones, watches, cars and every other imaginable internet-connected device. It’s already hit a snag.

The Alphabet Inc. division launched new smartphones last week with the artificially intelligent Assistant deeply embedded. It also rolled out a speaker with the feature at its core and announced plans to let other companies tie their apps and services to the Assistant.

(Also see: Google Assistant Takes Centre Stage at Made by Google Event)

A day later, Samsung, one of the largest manufacturers of smartphones and other consumer devices, said it was acquiring Viv Labs, a startup building its own AI voice-based assistant.

At first, the deal looked like a counter-punch to Samsung rival Apple – Viv is run by the creators of Apple’s Siri assistant. But buying Viv may be more of a problem for Google, because Samsung is the biggest maker of phones running Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Google’s strategy is now centered on the assistant, rather than its search engine, because it’s a more natural way for people to interact with smartphones and other connected devices. Getting all Android phone makers to put the Google Assistant on their devices would get the technology into millions of hands quickly. But Samsung’s Viv deal suggests assistants are too important for phone makers to let other companies supply this feature.

Last week, Samsung executive Injong Rhee said the company plans to put Viv’s technology in its smartphones next year and then embed it into other electronics and home appliances. A Samsung representative and a Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

That’s a necessity for Samsung, according to some analysts and industry insiders.

“As AI is becoming more sophisticated and valuable to the consumer, there’s no question it will be important for hardware companies,” said Kirt McMaster, executive chairman of Cyanogen, a startup that makes Android software. McMaster, a frequent Google critic, said other Android handset makers will likely follow Samsung’s move.

“If you don’t have an AI asset, you’re not going to have a brain,” he added.

Google may already have known that some Android phone makers – known as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs – were reluctant to embrace its assistant.
“Other OEMs may want to differentiate” Google’s Android chief Hiroshi Lockheimer told Bloomberg before it released its own smartphones. “They may want to do their own thing — their own assistant, for example.”

Samsung and Google have sparred in the past over distribution. Google requires Android handset makers to pre-install 11 apps, yet Samsung often puts its own services on its phones. And the South Korean company has released devices that run on its own operating system, called Tizen, not Android.

Keeping up
Viv was frequently on the short-list of startups that could help larger tech companies build assistant technology. Founded four-years ago by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham, the startup was working on voice technology to handle more complex queries than existing offerings.

While it drummed up considerable attention and investment, Viv has not yet released its product to the public. And some analysts are skeptical of Samsung’s ability to convert the technology into a credible service, given its mixed record with software applications.

“It will be very hard to compete with Google’s strength in data and their AI acquisitions,” said Jitendra Waral, senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Samsung would need to prove that its AI solutions are superior to that of Google’s. They are handicapped in this race.”

Samsung is also focused on handling the fallout from its exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones, potentially taking management time away from its Viv integration.

(Also see: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Production, Global Sales Completely Halted)

But it’s a race Samsung has to join. In recent years, Samsung acquired mobile-payments and connected-device startups to keep up with Apple, Google and Amazon. Digital voice-based assistants may be more important, if they become the main way people interact with devices.

Silicon Valley titans are rushing into the space because of this potential. Amazon is trying to sign up developers for its Alexa voice technology. Apple has recently touted more Siri capabilities and opened the technology to other developers. And now Google, considered the leader in artificial intelligence, is making its own push.

“I don’t ever remember a time when every single major consumer tech company – and even enterprise companies – have been singularly focused on an identical strategy,” said Tim Tuttle, chief executive officer of MindMeld Inc., a startup working on voice interaction software. “They’re all following the exact same playbook.”

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.

Tags: Google, Google Assistant, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Samsung, Viv Labs, Android, Apps