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3rd Time's a Charm: T-Mobile Looking for Merger with Dish Network

posted Saturday Jun 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

3rd Time's a Charm: T-Mobile Looking for Merger with Dish Network

The telecom world has always been an incestuous one, filled with partner swapping and friends quickly becoming enemies. The best proof of this comes from a report this week from The Wall Street Journal that suggests that T-Mobile and Dish Network have begun talks about a possible merger. The talks are said to be very early and might not ever be finalized. The combined company would be led by CEO John Legere (T-Mobile CEO) and board chairman Charlie Ergen (Dish CEO).

While it may seem like this combined company is an odd idea, it is by far not the weirdest part of the story. To get a feel for just how odd all of this really is, let's go back to 2010. This was a time before John Legere, and long before anyone knew the name Softbank. The quickly failing T-Mobile was looking for a way to stay in business, and it started with a simple talk with Clearwire. The company was powering Sprint's WiMax network and T-Mobile wanted in. Ultimately this partnership was not to be, with Sprint owning over half of Clearwire it just didn't make sense.

T-Mobile's next step was to try for a merger, their first try, with AT&T Mobility for $39 billion. This announcement took place almost exactly 1 year after rumor broke of the Clearwire talks. The timeline suggests that T-Mobile's management must have left Clearwire's offices and drove directly to AT&T. Famously, however, this merger did not work out, costing AT&T $2 billion care of the federal government. At the same time that all fell apart, it was revealed that Sprint had been in talks with MetroPCS - that also didn't work.

In October of 2012, T-Mobile purchased MetroPCS despite their seemingly incompatible networks. T-Mobile put the purchase to good use, however, finally adding 4G to their network instead of blatantly lying up to this point. Not to be outdone, Sprint announced a purchase by Softbank just a few days later. Dish Network began their interest in telecom by offering a bid against Softbank. This wasn't Dish's only challenge, and the other came against Sprint itself, making an offer on Clearwire, which Sprint was in the process of purchasing.

When the Softbank-Sprint merger was approved, Softbank set their sights on T-Mobile, beginning their 2nd attempt at a life-saving merger. These talks never went anywhere, and T-Mobile instead rolled out their Un-carrier marketing, attempting to separate themselves from the big 3 instead of attempting to join them. Meanwhile, Dish Network also lost Clearwire to Sprint, leaving them with a lot of exposure and zero result in the mobile world.

Now, here we are 5 years after the beginning of this weird drama, and Dish Network has found itself a third acquisition target, and T-Mobile has found themselves a third suitor. Will the third time be the charm for both of these companies, or will lightning refuse to strike on a successful merger for either of these companies? It is likely the latter, as management for both companies seems to be the limiting factor, but maybe when 4 failures add up, it becomes the catalyst for success. I wouldn't hold my breath on it, though.

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Microsoft Teams with Duke University to Slash Cloud Computing Bandwidth

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Teams with Duke University to Slash Cloud Computing Bandwidth

Microsoft, in its persistent effort to push the boundaries of cloud computing and gaming, have teamed up with a Duke University researcher to continue to do just that. The pair will be collaborating on reducing the bandwidth required to stream games from the cloud.

So far, Microsoft says it is able to cut the bandwidth needed by over 80 percent. The idea is that the workload can be split up between powerful servers and local CPUs, effectively cutting the overall load and making cloud gaming a more viable option.

The new method and toolset, named Kahawai, is already being used in test environments with much success. In fact, Doom 3 was loaded under this new way of computing and was consistently running at 60 frames per second.

In the end, this benefits those with slower connection, as it won't take a super high-end Internet speed to enjoy cloud gaming. It also helps those who are suffering from ISP bandwidth caps.

Duke computer scientist Landon Cox is excited about Kahawai's potential.

That's a huge win, especially if your cellphone plan has a data cap. You'll be able to play a lot longer. You essentially get the same gaming experience, but you save a lot of data.

He added that the technology can even be expanded beyond gaming.

Games are a natural place to start understanding how collaborative rendering can work, but any graphics-intensive application could potentially benefit from Kahawai, from 3-D medical imaging to computer-aided design software used by architects and engineers.

We have a demo video of the new technology after the break.

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Charter to Purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 Billion

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Charter to Purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 Billion

As you may have heard, the Comcast-Time Warner merger was nixed by the government, with Comcast simply walking away from the deal without much damage. As the dust has begun to settle, it appears a new contender has entered the arena, on the heels of the company already acquiring Brighthouse Networks last month. Charter is now looking to acquire Time Warner Cable for $55 billion, and this deal is a bit different than the previous attempt by Comcast.

Charter will end up paying just over $195 per share, almost 15 percent higher than TWC's stock price as of close on May 22. In addition, Charter's recent pickup of Brighthouse Networks will be merged into the end product.

Back in January of 2014, Charter attempted a deal with TWC at $132 per share, which was rejected and called a "low-ball offer" by Time Warner. Comcast then tried to make a merger happen and when they failed, Charter came back in with a higher offer to seal it.

Unlike the Comcast-Time Warner merger, where there was practically no public benefit from having the big two join forces, a deal between Charter and Time Warner joins the distant number four ranked telecom with Time Warner, which stands in second place.

MoffettNathanson business analyst Craig Moffett said that TWC came out the victor in the end.

Time Warner Cable is the obvious winner here; their management team deserves kudos for having played their hand masterfully. That play-one-against-the-other tactic resulted in a huge premium.

By merging with Time Warner and Brighthouse, Charter now moves into big markets like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. It will also bring the telecom trifecta up to 17 million basic cable customers. For reference, Comcast has 22 million of the same customer.

The deal will still have to go through the FCC's approval process, but Charter's CEO - much like Comcast's CEO - says he's sure it won't be a problem. If it doesn't pass or if one of the companies decide to back out, there is a breakup fee of $2 billion.

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Mozilla's Firefox OS is Back with a New Strategy

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Mozilla's Firefox OS is Back with a New Strategy

Two years ago at Mobile World Congress, Mozilla announced its Firefox OS that would be available for smartphones. The problem was that nobody has really cared much about it and it really never took off. The devices were available on $25 phones, but that wasn't enough to make the platform a viable competitor. Now, Mozilla has rekindled the Firefox OS and will be re-entering the mobile world with a new plan.

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard said in an email that the company is working on introducing attractive features to smartphones instead of making affordable options. Beard also mentioned that Mozilla may allow Android apps to run on its devices.

We will build phones and connected devices that people want to buy because of the experience, not simply the price. We have not seen sufficient traction for a $25 phone, and we will not pursue all parts of the program.

Beard's 1,968 word email contains a lot about the vision of Firefox OS, but at the heart of it all is Mozilla's mission to offer something that's "so valuable that people are willing to give up access to the broader ecosystem." Dubbed the Ignite initiative, the new Firefox OS will be aimed at giving users a new way to work offline, a better method of updating software and bringing the platform to more than just smartphones. Beard even said he was going to have Firefox OS support flip phones.

The work is already underway, with the dev team launching Firefox OS 2.0 in the coming weeks. According to Beard's memo, v2.2 will be shipping on entry-level smartphones with partners Mozilla has already lined up.

Can Firefox OS really sustain in the ever-changing landscape of mobile devices? It is safe to assume that Linux users will adopt the OS early, but we'll have to see if that will trickle into the average consumer market.

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HBO Now's Apple Exclusivity Ends, Coming to Android & Chromecast

posted Friday May 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

HBO Now's Apple Exclusivity Ends, Coming to Android & Chromecast

Ever since HBO Now was officially announced, the fact that it was exclusive to Apple devices was a shock. Apple holds a minority percentage of almost every market they are involved in; Android phones and tablets outnumber iPhones and iPads, Macs are statistically insignificant in the computer world and the Apple TV is outsold by many other set-top boxes, like the Roku. Why, then, did HBO Now release exclusively for Apple devices?

It is likely that Apple paid for exclusivity, to make the announcement for the much anticipated service part of their event. That exclusivity seems to have come to an end, however, as Google announced at their annual Google I/O developer event that HBO Now is headed to Google platforms. Some Google platforms, that is - it will be available on Android and Cast, but will seemingly not be natively available on Chrome OS devices.

With the end of Apple exclusivity, and a move to Google platforms, means the beginning of actual availability for the service. Hopefully this is just the beginning, with Windows 10 and web coming soon behind. The issue at hand is that we still don't know when the Google platforms will actually get the service, just that it is coming soon. Soon could be next week, or it could be after Windows 10 ships - there is currently no way to know.

As someone who spends much of his time surrounded by as many as 15 Windows screens and only two Android and one iOS screen, I really hope that HBO Now will come to Windows 10 and Xbox One in the near future and, failing that, at least the web. That would certainly expand their reach for the service, as Xbox 360 and Xbox One have been within the top streaming devices for many other services. Maybe at the official Windows 10 launch, or even at E3, we will hear about HBO Now on more platforms.

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FBI Forgets to Renew Major Domain, New Owner Runs Ads on Seized Sites

posted Friday May 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

FBI Forgets to Renew Major Domain, New Owner Runs Ads on Seized Sites

In the original days of the Internet, domain registrations did not auto-renew. This meant that at the end of your year, you had to remember to renew it manually or face losing the domain to someone else. This was especially bad when you had a popular domain, as hijackers would just wait for you to make a mistake and swoop in and steal the domain away from you. I lost my personal domain name years ago to exactly this type of mistake.

Luckily, in modern times, this is no longer an issue. All domain registrars offer auto-renewals and, for that matter, turn the option on by default. Unless you actively disable the option, or cancel you credit card or close your bank account, your domains will continue to renew for as long as you let them. This is a good thing, as it prevents hijackers from taking ownership of your domain because of a simple mistake.

This week, however, the federal government proved that if something can be screwed up, they will be the ones to pull it off. The FBI managed to lose one of their primary domains because they simply forgot to renew it. The domain, CIRFU.net, if the domain that they redirect seized domains to prevent further access to the seized materials. This is done with websites dedicated to drugs, child porn, copyright violations and the like. The most famous of those seized domains in recent memory is megaupload.com, which provided access to all sorts of content.

After failing to renew their domain, a black-hat hacker purchased the domain through a GoDaddy auction and turned into a server hosting ads, scams, drugs and porn. This is not an unusual situation in this case, especially not with a domain that is so highly in demand. What is unusual, in this case, is that it affects every domain that the FBI has seized. All of them point to this single server, meaning that every seizer domain began hosting this content.

As of right now, CIRFU.net is returning a domain error and related domains are now returning a Bing search, meaning that the domains cannot be reached and the browser's natural search feature is kicking in instead. It will be interesting to see if the FBI seizes their own domain back, if they switch to another, or if they have another plan up their sleeves.

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