Another Buyer for Dell?

Michael Dell is approaching the end of a 45-day deadline for the buyout of his troubled namesake computer company, Dell Inc., and it appears that there might be another buyer willing to top his original offer to sell the company. The board of directors had previously agreed to sell the company back to Dell, its founder and CEO, for $24.4 billion.

The company could have another potential suitor: the Blackstone Group, a company specializing in buyouts, could bid higher than the current asking price of $13.65 per share. Dell currently has a market capitalization of $23.35 billion.

If the deal goes through, Michael Dell could end up replaced as CEO by Michael Hurd, former CEO of rival PC maker HP, whom Blackstone has been courting as a potential hire to lead the company.

The belief that another company is planning to swoop in at the last minute and make a higher bid has kept Dell’s share price above $14, though Southeastern Asset Management, a major shareholder, has asserted that the company is worth closer to $24 per share.

Michael Dell’s move to buy out the company he founded in 1984 comes in a period of turbulence for the old PC manufacturers, as consumers increasingly opt for tablets and smartphones instead of traditional desktop and laptop PCs, where Apple clearly dominates with its iPhone and iPad product lines.

If either Dell or another company succeeds, it could mean a Pyrrhic victory for the buyers and shareholders, as they find themselves saddled with increasingly obsolete product lines as Dell’s customer base shifts toward mobile devices.

On the other hand, Dell has moved into the tablet space with the Latitude 10, a Windows 8-based tablet which uses the Intel Atom processor, which is scheduled to arrive in April. Market reception to Windows 8 tablets, especially Microsoft’s Surface line, has been lackluster, with buyers preferring iOS and Android-based tablets using ARM processors over Windows devices.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

Shadow Financial Systems Adds EUCLID Interface to ShadowSuite 9.1

With financial technology rapidly gaining around the world, it's not surprising to see new additions come out for old systems. Shadow Financial Systems is proving to be no exception as it augments its ShadowSuite 9.1 with support for Euroclear's proprietary EUCLID interface. Adding EUCLID to the ShadowSuite roster looks to provide a new set of tools for the software geared toward helping out at the mid- and back-office levels, and for global users, an especially powerful set of features should also come into play.

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The addition of EUCLID allows for a series of new tasks to be introduced into the ShadowSuite platform, including reconciliation reporting, the processing of dividends from Euroclear accounts, clearing securities, and several more, all while being done in a set of ISO-15022 message formats to make reporting even easier. Designed for low and medium volume users (those with less than 100 total instructions per day), EUCLID works on most any PC as either the main communications channel to Euroclear, or it can be kept in reserve as a "contingency arrangement" for when it's needed.

Shadow Financial Systems' CEO, Don Marino, offered some further elaboration as part of the introduction of the new tools, calling the addition of EUCLID a way to "increase the versatility of our system" by giving clients that weren't operating under the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) a way to connect to Euroclear directly, even without the kind of communications muscle that SWIFT provides. Thanks to the introduction of EUCLID, Marino elaborated, international traders can make clearing easier, but also do so in a cost-effective fashion.

This is an important addition to ShadowSuite, but ShadowSuite wasn't really wanting for upgrades as it already offered a very robust platform for its users. An entire core revolved around such functions as general ledger functions, stock records, and cash and position management all on a real-time basis. From there, it goes on to a variety of other functions including trade capture and reconciliation, corporate actions, client management and more.

That's a terrific list of features and functions, no mistake, but adding on the clearance options makes things only that much better from there. Those who deal in a lot of high-end stock matters may want to look more closely at the ShadowSuite 9.1 offering from Shadow Financial Systems, as it certainly looks to put a lot of power in the individual user's hands.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

Verizon, Cablecos Bring the Heat to Big Media Over TV Content Licensing

Verizon, the nation's sixth-largest TV provider, is considering its options when it comes to TV channel bundling. Verizon's lead programming negotiator, Terry Denson, told the Wall Street Journal that under the plan Verizon would pay only when a subscriber tunes in for at least five minutes at a stretch. He also said that the IPTV provider wants to begin charging its FiOS TV subscribers only for the channels they actually watch.

In order to do that, Verizon would leverage the set-top boxes that its 4.7 million FiOS customers have at home, in a move that would cut Nielsen out of the ratings measurement process.

Pay-TV operators have increasingly complained about the practice of bundling networks — media companies ask for a bundled fee to cover a wanted, high-rated channel, but often insist that distributors also take and pay for lesser-known, less popular channels as part of the same bundle. An example would be AMC Networks, which bundles the popular AMC network with others, like the Sundance Channel, that are more niche plays.

Instead, an a la carte approach would allow them to be more flexible in their subscription bundling and pricing, generating positives for consumers in terms of choice and cost, they argue. Of course, moving to a full a la carte scheme would require an overhaul of the entire TV revenue model, but small steps are nonetheless being taken to break media companies’ stranglehold over programming costs.

This is not Verizon’s first experimentation rodeo. Earlier this year it launched a slimmed-down IPTV package that takes sports content out of the equation, featuring a steep discount. The Select HD package service goes for $49.99 per month, compared to Verizon's standard Prime HD package that costs $64.99 per month. The service's 140 channels includes local broadcast TV networks and what Verizon says is "19 of the top 30" basic-tier cable networks, including Disney, Nick, Cartoon Network, CNN, MSNBC, The Weather Channel, The Discovery Channel, USA, TBS, AMC, FX, BET, Bravo, Food Network, HGTV and TLC. It also includes 30-plus HD channels and video-on-demand (VOD). But not sports.

"Sports is not everyone's cup of tea," said Verizon spokesperson Bill Kula, in a blog post. "In fact, we have many customers for whom watching sports is akin to me watching a fashion or dance program (not fun for me at least)."

He added, "We understand that many households are on a tight budget, and we want to help make sure you aren't paying for something you think you don't need."

Others have joined the chorus. In December, Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt warned that he would drop pricey but low-rated channels from the TWC line-up where it makes sense. Speaking at a UBS investor conference, he said that he plans to take a "hard look" at programming contracts, evaluating channels that "cost too much relative to the value of the service," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Low-rated nets will from now on see a "different kind of conversation ... than we had with them five, six or ten years ago," he said, because programming is "just starting to cost too much.� And the cableco did put its money where its mouth is when it dropped Ovation, the niche arts network, from the lineup.

Verizon’s proposed approach would actually protect independent niche channels like Ovation, however, by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other small networks.

"This is the beginning," said Gene Kimmelman, a former senior antitrust official at the Justice Department. "If the conflict between cable distributors and content owners persists and prices keep rising, there will be enormous market pressure to begin unbundling offerings, give consumers more choices and, from my perspective, ultimately let consumers control what they buy and how much they pay."

The Verizon move comes at a time when the industry is facing an antitrust backdrop over just these issues. Cablevision Systems has slapped an antitrust lawsuit against Viacom, accusing the media giant of demanding a $1 billion penalty if the MSO did not agree to Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 unpopular networks, such as Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic, along with must-have networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

"Viacom's conduct harms Cablevision and its customers, and impairs competition by making Cablevision pay for and carry networks that many subscribers do not want to watch, while other networks are excluded from distribution, preventing Cablevision from being able to differentiate its services and harming subscribers," the suit said.

The outcome could have serious ramifications for the way TV packages are built and paid for; in fact, some industry watchers expect the dispute to put the idea of true al la carte channel bundling into laser-like focus as the industry considers the next generation of television service.

The two companies reached a renewed carriage deal in December, but the cableco is essentially saying now that it was suckered into signing it. Viacom, it alleges, abused its market power to coerce Cablevision into a deal by threatening to impose financial penalties (that alleged $1 billion) unless Cablevision complied with Viacom's demands to take the ancillary networks. If the MSO didn’t pony up to pay for the niche networks, then there would be not MTV or Nick at Night on offer either.

The suit, parts of which were just made public, alleges that the increases for Viacom alone over the contractual period “exceeded Cablevision’s entire 2013 budget for programming.�

Viacom, unsurprisingly, begs to differ. “Cablevision is crying foul over a standard business practice that expands choice and lowers cost for consumers – a practice they use extensively to sell their own services,� Viacom said by way of the company blog. “Cablevision received significant discount on a package of networks that account for nearly 20% of the total viewing audience. Now they want the lower price without the obligation to offer our networks to their customers. For Cablevision it’s ‘do as we say and not as we do’ – an arrogant approach all too familiar to its customers.�

Taken together, it’s clear that there’s a groundswell for change in the way content is licensed—a move that should be good for consumers. "The fact that these cable companies are coming out publicly about their disputes with programmers [is] in itself significant," said David Kaut, an analyst at investment research firm Stifel Nicolaus. "These developments hold some potential for disrupting current cable TV bundling, and more generally, I suspect the drip, drip, drip of broadband Internet video developments will put market pressure on the bundle over time."

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

Looking to Protect H.264, Nokia Blocks Google’s Video Encoding Dreams

Nokia and Google are facing an impasse when it comes to a video encoding technology that Google says that it owns and which Nokia says that it has patents for.  At issue is how to best enable code-once, run-anywhere video content online.

According to the BBC, Google is angling for its VP8 video encoding suite to become part of the WebM project, which is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the Web that's freely available to everyone. That format would allow video content to seamlessly be ported across mobile devices as well as standard browsers and connected device interfaces. Eventually, WebM would like to gain full integration with HTML5, which is a key enabler of a multiscreen Internet.

All of that touchy-feely open-standards talk came to a screeching halt when Nokia sent a submission to the Internet Engineering Task Force saying that VP8 depends on numerous Nokia patents—and that the Finnish giant was not prepared to license any of them (64 patents and 22 pending patent applications) in order to let Google go ahead with its plan.

There’s a reason for the intransigence. Nokia is saying that Google is trying to muscle out other, more open, existing standards, notably the H.264 compression technology. Elevating VP8 to the level of a standard would merely allow Google to take over what is already an open ecosystem with proprietary technology, Nokia said.

"Nokia believes that open and collaborative efforts for standardization are in the best interests of consumers, innovators and the industry as a whole,� it told the Foss Patents blog. “We are now witnessing one company attempting to force the adoption of its proprietary technology, which offers no advantages over existing, widely deployed standards…and infringes Nokia's intellectual property.�

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

PayPal and Vivo Customers Can Add to Credit with Giesecke & Devrient

March 25, 2013

As more and more consumers use their smartphones for shopping, e-commerce businesses are thriving. Sales conducted online are predicted to reach $361.9 billion by 2016. Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), a German company that provides cash handling systems and securities, along with bank notes and smart cards, is extending its mobile payment solution to PayPal and Vivo, a Brazilian network operator.

G&D, which was founded over 160 years ago, premiered its SmartTrust Mobile Transaction Gateway last year as a way to ensure that transactions are safe and foolproof. The service now enables users with prepaid accounts to add to their lines of credit directly on their cellphone using PayPal.

Here's how it works: Users set up a PayPal account on their mobile phone. They then modify their account details – adding and removing chosen credit card information. By allowing shoppers to access their credit directly, certain inconveniences are ruled out; for instance, a user doesn't have to wait until store hours to buy a recharge card. They can simply recharge their accounts themselves.

The solution uses USSD technology and is compatible with all types of cellular phones – not just smartphones, and no extra downloads are required. The SmartTrust Mobile Transaction Gateway is based on the SmartTrust DP framework, G&D's signature platform that was developed to support advanced SIM and mobile device management.

The platform provides a shared environment for the G&D SmartTrust portfolio of management applications, implementing functionality for a number of services including event reception interfaces, configuration management, data storage, and more.

predicted to reach $361.9 billion by 2016. Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), a German company that provides cash handling systems and securities, along with bank notes and smart cards, is extending its mobile payment solution to PayPal and Vivo, a Brazilian network operator.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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2013 FinTech50 Watchlist Tracks eToro Among Big Names in Financial Technology

When it comes to financial technology, there are almost as many firms trying to get in on supplying the market as there are firms taking advantage of the supply offered for their own operations. One of the biggest new tracking apparatuses for finding out just who the biggest names in financial technology recently came out in the form of the FinTech50 Watchlist, and one of the names on that list was none other than eToro.

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The FinTech50 Watchlist is a collaborative effort undertaken by a group of organizations geared toward spotting and highlighting some of the biggest names in the field. Among those firms involved in the establishment of the FinTech50 Watchlist are The CEO Agenda, Hotwire, Silicon Valley Bank, ICON Corporate Finance, and Fox Williams, part of what's being called the Watchlist Panel. This represents the first such list ever, and is expected to show up annually.

As for what landed eToro on the FinTech50 Watchlist, it's eToro's unusual vision that had a lot to do with it. eToro is, essentially, the equivalent of Facebook (News - Alert) for investors. Those who join eToro will be able to select from a wide variety of traders who offer their own individual trading strategies. From there, users will be able to learn just exactly what trades these traders make, allowing individual users to make their own judgment calls about whether or not to funnel their own money into similar trades, allowing individual users who may not know much about stock trading to make their own moves, or follow along with the moves of traders who have done well in the past.

Given that eToro has had over 38 million trades opened since its listed date of January 1, 2012, it's clear that there are plenty of users interested in getting some extra help with very specific trade information. eToro's CEO, Yoni Assia, had some remarks on the recent success of eToro and eToro's naming to the FinTec50 Watchlist, saying, "We at eToro could not be more honored to have been chosen to figure on such a prestigious list, amidst such stellar companies. Our selection will serve as a powerful engine to drive our innovation even further in order to continue to supply our customers with unique and practical solutions, and inspire the financial investment industry to embrace more social avenues."

Investment advice may be easy to come by--most anyone can suggest a certain stock or fund--but it's not just anywhere users can track the performance of all that investment advice before taking the hints proffered and running with them to their inevitable end, one way or the other. While it's not a sure thing--even the highest successes on the site top out at 99.5, from a quick look at the site--it's still going to give some people at least the impetus they need to start considering their futures. It's an interesting idea, executed well, and as such makes perfect sense that it would be included in the new FinTech50 Watchlist. It will likely make it back on the list at some point as well.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

Netflix Expects 4K Streaming Within Two Years

Netflix expects to be streaming UltraHD 4K content within a couple of years—which, if it happens, would be a watershed moment for the evolution of the next-generation of video resolution.

The upper end of HDTV offers a 2K resolution (2048 pixels over 1080 lines), but UltraHD ups the ante with 4K resolution (4096 pixels over 2160 lines). It thus delivers a resolution of eight million pixels, or four times the resolution of HDTV. It’s a big change, and only a handful of films have been produced using 4K cameras. Also, there is no broadcast standard for television feeds, nor compatible Blu-ray players or other STBs, meaning that the majority of TV companies have thus far opted out of spending the money to upgrade their equipment to deliver the content.

Thus, “streaming will be the best way to get the 4K picture into people's homes,� said Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, in an interview with the Verge. “That's because of the challenges involved in upgrading broadcast technologies and the fact that it isn't anticipated within the Blu-ray disc standard. Clearly we have much work to do with the compression and decode capability, but we expect to be delivering 4K within a year or two with at least some movies and then over time become an important source of 4K.�

He pointed out that while one of Netflix’ original series, House of Cards, was mastered in full HD and shot in 4K. The company expects to take that raw footage and “have some House of Cards 4K encodes later this year,� Hunt noted.

Outside of having content available, the other key to everything, of course, is reaching an install base of devices that can properly render 4K content. High-end models of UltraHD TVs (going for $10,000-$25,000 a pop) were showcased at CES (News - Alert) and Mobile World Congress this year, but the industry has a long way to go to get 4K capability into consumer hands.

But one analyst argues that if set-makers wrap a range of content types into their offerings, 4K could become much more than simply a path to a crisper picture.

“Video standards and broadcasting count for less – at least as far as TV brands’ strategies are concerned,� said Paul Gray, researcher at DisplaySearch. “TV is becoming a mixture of video and graphics. As smart TV services mature and the big processor cores in the next generation of TV chips are used, graphics and Internet content become increasingly important.�

Enter, of course, Netflix. Hunt said that his company is ready for the transition. “Our goal is for people to get immersed in the story, whatever that is,� Hunt said. “And to that end we try to make the technology as seamless and smooth as possible. If people notice the rendering of the picture or the user interface, then that's subtracting from the experience we're looking for. The goal is to deliver the best possible picture that your equipment and network and source material is capable of. That way, we let people connect most closely to what they're watching.�

Meanwhile, David Hsieh (News - Alert), NPD DisplaySearch vice president for the greater China market, said panel manufacturers are also looking to accelerate 4K panel adoption by strengthening their relationships with LCD TV brands with more aggressive manufacturing and sales efforts.

 “4K×2K LCD TV is the newest TV technology available, and in order for it to be successful, it will be critical for the supply chain to avoid falling behind when making their purchases, even if content is still scarce,� Hsieh added. “Some panel makers are also working with design houses to develop circuits built into the panel, to enable up-scaling of HD to 4K×2K content. This will help to drive the 4K×2K LCD TV market and encourage panel makers, especially those that have already started design-in work with TV brands in 2013.�

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

CSS Selects Compushare as a Strategic Alliance Provider for Cloud Computing Services

CUNA Strategic Services (CSS (News - Alert)) has picked Compushare, a technology management provider serving the needs of the financial industry, as the exclusive strategic alliance provider for its cloud computing solutions.

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Wes Millar, CSS senior vice president, said, “We know credit unions will be looking for ways to leverage cloud computing in the near future to take advantage of its cost, operational and efficiency benefits. Very few providers have built a cloud environment specifically for financial institutions.�

Cloud computing is essential for the financial services industry and all applications, including core processing, that are migrating to the cloud. This allows credit unions to stop maintaining on-premises technology and focus instead on serving members.

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the state leagues own CSS, which provides credit unions with access to high quality products, services and technologies. CSS has picked Compushare for providing credit unions with a solution that will allow them to focus on their core business instead of owning and managing technology.

Romir Bosu, CEO and founder of Compushare, stated, “Compushare is very excited to have been selected as the exclusive alliance provider for cloud computing by CUNA Strategic Services. What an honor and validation of our commitment to serving the credit union market.�

The adoption of cloud computing among credit unions has become prevalent nowadays. The market needs a solution that helps in controlling costs and preparing for increased compliance requirements. Compushare and CSS will collaborate to deliver the right technology solutions to the credit union market, noted Bosu.

Compushare’s C3 (News - Alert) solution has been widely adopted by the financial services industry. C3 is a fully hosted cloud computing solution that is designed specifically for financial institutions, said officials.

The C3 platform can host over 200 applications and is designed to meet credit unions’ growing regulatory requirements. Also it is integrated with many of the primary core processors.

For the third year in a row, Compushare has landed on the top of Nine Lives Media’s MSPmentor Global Edition. This year, Compushare ranked 24th on the list identifying the world’s top 501 managed service providers (MSPs).

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

Dell Wants Software-Defined Networking Standards Committee in OMG

Dell wants to see a Software-Defined Networking (SDN) standards committee in the influential Object Management Group (OMG).

The first meeting of interested parties will take place next month. The SDN proposal comes as a result of the interest in network virtualization seen by hundreds of vendors, end-users, government agencies and other OMG members.

“Networks are the last bastion of unvirtualized computing infrastructure,� Richard Soley, chairman and CEO of OMG, explained in a statement carried by HealthTechZone.  “The growing interest in software-defined networks needs to be met as early as possible with flexible, transparent, powerful standards that help the industry grow rapidly and allow interoperable and portable solutions, and give customers real choice.�   

Major vendors, end users, government agencies and research institutions will contribute to the standard-setting process started by Dell.

“We are extremely excited to join OMG and further Dell’s commitment to open standards through our participation,� Tom Burns, general manager of Dell networking, said in the statement. “We have a history of working with open standards and open source groups including the OMG, Open Networking Foundation, the Open Compute Project, OpenStack and many others to enable ecosystem development and growth, and customer choice for IT and data center applications and technologies. These communities give customers value because contributions from member companies are advanced based on merit and openness of the contribution. We look forward to furthering that value with OMG, and with companies that join this new working group as OMG advances the SDN concept.�

OMG has been an open membership, not-for-profit computer consortium since 1989. Any organization can join OMG and take part in the democratic standards-setting process, the group said in an online statement.

There could be some industry controversy about the standard-setting process on SDN. The role of standard-setting groups, such as the Open Networking Forum (ONF), needs to be clarified, too, Network World reported.

“The politics of setting standards are always confusing and deeply technical,� added a report from All Things D. “But the fact that this process is getting under way at all is an interesting development around the whole SDN trend, and bears watching.�

Edited by Rachel Ramsey