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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Munich and Shanghai are getting their own Nvidia esports boot camps

Nvidia has been running an esports “boot camp” in Silicon Valley for the last few years, giving players a chance to hone skills before events, and the hardware giant will soon open two boot camps in Shanghai and Munich.

The post Munich and Shanghai are getting their own Nvidia esports boot camps appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Crypto mining giant Bitmain on target for $10B revenue this year

During a gold rush, Silicon Valley’s line is to always invest in picks and shovels instead of mining. Sometimes it pays just to do both.

TechCrunch has learned through a company fundraise overview that Beijing-based mining equipment seller Bitmain hit a quarterly revenue of approximately $2 billion in Q1 of this year. Despite a slump in bitcoin prices since the beginning of the year, the company is on track to become the first blockchain-focused company to achieve $10 billion in annual revenue, assuming that the cryptocurrency market doesn’t drop further.

Fortune has previously reported that the company had $1.1 billion in profits in the same quarter, a number in line with these revenue numbers, given a net margin of around 50 percent.

That growth is extraordinary. From the same source seen by TechCrunch, Bitmain’s revenues last year were $2.5 billion, and around $300 million just the year before that. The company reportedly raised a major venture round of $300-400 million from investors including Sequoia China, at a valuation of $12 billion.

For comparison, popular cryptocurrency wallet Coinbase made $1 billion in revenue in 2017. In addition, Nvidia, a company based out of California that also makes computer chips, generated revenues of $9.7 billion in its 2018 fiscal year (2017 calendar year). Nvidia’s revenues were $3.21 billion in Q1 fiscal year 2019 (Feb-April 2018), and historical revenue figures show a general seasonal uptrend in revenue from Q1 through Q4.

The same overview also shows that Bitmain is exploring an IPO with a valuation between $40-50 billion. That would represent a significant uptick from its most recent valuation, and is almost certainly dependent on the vitality of the broader blockchain ecosystem.

Several of Bitmain’s competitors have filed for IPO since the beginning of 2018 but most of them are significantly smaller in size. For example, Hong Kong-based company Canaan Creative filed for an IPO in May, and the latest was that it was aiming for $1 billion to $2 billion in fundraising with 2017 revenue of USD $204 million.

When contacted for this story, Bitmain declined to comment on the specific numbers TechCrunch has acquired.

A brief overview of Bitmain

Bitmain is the world’s dominant producer of cryptocurrency mining chips known as ASICs, or Application-Specific Integrated Circuit. It was founded by Jihan Wu and Micree Zhang in 2013, and the company is currently headquartered in Beijing.

As the story goes, back in 2011, when Wu read Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper on Bitcoin, he emptied his bank account to buy them. Back then, one bitcoin could be purchased for under a dollar. And by 2013, Wu and Zhang decided to build an ASIC chip specifically for bitcoin mining and founded Bitmain. Wu was just 28 at the time.

Cryptocurrency mining is the process of checking and adding new transactions to bitcoin’s immutable ledger, called the blockchain. The blockchain is formed by digital blocks, where transactions are recorded. The act of mining is essentially using math to solve for a cryptographic hash, or a unique signature if you will, to identify new blocks.

The general mining process requires massive processing power and incurs hefty energy costs. In exchange for those expenses, miners are rewarded with a number of bitcoins for each block they add onto the blockchain. Currently, in the case of Bitcoin, the reward for every block discovered is 12.5 bitcoins. At the current average trailing bitcoin price of approximately $6,500, that’s $81,250 up for grabs every 10 minutes, or $11.7 million dollars a day.

Bitmain has several business segments. The first and primary one is selling mining machines outfitted with Bitmain’s chips that are usually a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each. For example, the latest Antminer S9 model is listed as $3,319. Secondly, you can rent Bitmain’s mining machines to mine cryptocurrencies.

Third, you can participate to mine bitcoin as part of Bitmain’s mining pool. A mining pool is a joint group of cryptocurrency miners who combine their computational resources over a network. Bitmain’s two mining pools, Bitmain’s AntPool and BTC.com, collectively control more than 38 percent of the world’s Bitcoin mining power per BTC.com at the moment.

The future of Bitmain is closely tied with the crypto market

Bitcoin mining is a massive business with influence over energy prices across the world. (LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite its rapid rise to success, Bitmain is ultimately dependent on the price of cryptocurrencies and overall crypto market fluctuations. When there is a bull crypto market, investors would be willing to give a different valuation multiple to the company than if it were in a bear market. In a bear market, the margins are reduced for both the company as well as for its customers, as the economics of mining cryptocurrencies are no longer as compelling. For example, at the end of 2014, Mt. Gox, a famous Bitcoin exchange at the time, was hacked, spurring a crash in cryptocurrency prices.

Subsequently, Bitmain went through a bitcoin drought as Bitcoin prices hit low points, and its ASIC chips did not see much demand. It was not appealing to miners to pay for expensive electricity bills to mine a digital currency that was falling in value. But fast forward to now, we have gone through several bull and bear crypto market cycles. According to Frost & Sullivan, in 2017, Bitmain is estimated to have ~67% of the market share in bitcoin mining hardware, and generated 60% of computing power.

Canaan Creative IPO filing. Company A is Bitmain

One of the fundamental challenges facing any cryptocurrency mining manufacturer such as Bitmain is that the valuation of the company is largely based off of the price of cryptocurrencies. The market in the first half of 2018 has shown that no one really knows when bitcoin prices and the cryptocurrency market will start picking up again Additionally, according to Frost & Sullivan, the ASIC-based blockchain hardware market, which is the market segment that includes Bitmain and Canaan, will see its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) slow to around 57.7 percent annually between 2017 to 2020, down from 247.6 percent between 2013 and 2017.

Nonetheless, it seems that Bitmain has planned well ahead to prepare for these macro risks and exposures. The company has raised significant private funding and has been expanding its business into mining new coins and creating new chips outside of cryptocurrency applications.

First, with it’s existing mining rigs, Bitmain can essentially broaden into all SHA256-related coins. So coins such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, can all be mined on Bitmain’s equipment. The limitation here is largely how fast they can build up more mining equipment and mining centers. The company has broadened it’s geographic reach by developing new mining centers. Most recently, Bitmain revealed that it will build a $500 mn blockchain data center and mining facility in Texas as part of its expansion into the U.S. market, aiming for operations to begin by early 2019.

Secondly, Bitmain is also looking to launch their own AI chips by the end of 2018. Interestingly, the AI chips are called Sophons, originated from the key alien technology in the famous trilogy, the Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. If things go as planned, Bitmain’s Sophon units could be training neural networks in data centers around the world. Bitmain’s CEO Wu once said that in five years, 40 percent of revenues could come from AI chips.

Lastly, Bitmain has been equipping itself with cash. Lots of it, from a number of the top and largest investors in Asia. Two months ago, China Money Network reported that Bitmain raised a series B round, led by Sequoia Capital China, DST, GIC, Coatue in a $400 million raise, putting the company at a value of $12 billion. Just last week, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent and Japan’s SoftBank, another tech giant whose 15% stake in Uber makes it the drive-hailing app’s largest shareholder, also joined the investor base.

For Bitmain, there are many reasons to stay private as a company, including keeping its quarterly financials private as well as dealing with market fluctuations and the ongoing volatility and uncertainty in the cryptocurrency world. However, the con is that early employees may not get liquidity in their stock options until much later.

Wu has said that a Bitmain IPO would be a “landmark” for both the company and the cryptocurrency space. However, with the current rich crypto private market financing, it’s not so bad of an idea to continue to raise private money and stay out of the public eye. Once Bitmain’s financials become more diversified and cryptocurrency becomes more widely adopted worldwide, the world may then be ready for this $10 billion revenue blockchain company.

Source: TechCrunch

Google will lose $50 million or more in 2018 from Fortnite bypassing the Play Store

When Fortnite Battle Royale launched on Android, it made an unusual choice: it bypassed Google Play in favor of offering the game directly from Epic Games’ own website. Most apps and games don’t have the luxury of making this choice – the built-in distribution Google Play offers is critical to their business. But Epic Games believes its game is popular enough and has a strong enough draw to bring players to its website for the Android download instead. In the process, it’s costing Google around $50 million this year in platform fees, according to a new report.

As of its Android launch date, Fortnite had grossed over $180 million on iOS devices, where it had been exclusively available since launching as an invite-only beta on March 15th, before later expanding to all App Store customers.

According to data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the game has earned Apple more than $54 million thanks to its 30 percent cut of all the in-app spending that takes place on apps distributed in its store.

That’s money Epic Games isn’t apparently willing to give up to Google, when there’s another way.

Unlike Apple, which only allows apps to be downloaded from its own storefront, Google’s platform is more open. There’s a way to adjust an Android device’s settings to download apps and games from anywhere on the web. Of course, by doing so, users are exposed to more security risks, malware infections, and other malicious attacks.

For those reasons, security researchers are saying that Epic Games’ decision sets a dangerous precedent by encouraging people to remove the default security protections from their devices. They’re also concerned that users who look for the game on Google Play could be fooled into downloading suspicious copycat apps that may be trying to take advantage of Fortnite’s absence to scam mobile users.

Google seems to be worried about that, too.

For the first time ever, the company is informing Google Play users that a game is not available for download.

Now, when users search for things like “Fortnite” or “Fortnite Battle Royale,” Google Play will respond that the app is “not available on Google Play.” (One has to wonder if Google’s misspelling of “Royale” as “Royal” in its message was a little eff u to the gamemakers, or just a bit of incompetence.)

In any event, it’s an unusual response on Google’s part – and one it can believably claim was done to serve users as well as protect them from any potential scam apps.

However, the message could lead to some pressure on Epic Games, too. It could encourage consumer complaints from those who want to more easily (or more safely) download the game, as well as from those who don’t understand there’s an alternative method or are confused about how that method works.

In addition, Google is serving up the also hugely popular PUBG Mobile at the top of Fortnite search results followed by other games. In doing so, it’s sending users to another game that can easily eat up users’ time and attention.

For Google, the move by Epic Games is likely troubling, as it could prompt other large games to do the same. While one odd move by Epic Games won’t be a make or break situation for Google Play revenue (which always lags iOS), if it became the norm, Google’s losses could climb.

At present, Google is missing out on millions that will now go directly to the game publisher itself.

Over the rest of 2018, Sensor Tower believes Fortnite will have gained at least $50 million in revenues that would otherwise have been paid out to Google.

The firm expects that when Fortnite rolls out to all supported Android devices, its launch revenue on the platform will closely resemble the first several months of Apple App Store player spending.

It may even surpass it, given the game’s popularity continues growing and the standalone download allows it to reach players in countries where Google Play isn’t available.

Meanwhile, there have been concerns that the download makes it more difficult on users with older Android devices to access the game, because the process for sideloading apps isn’t as straightforward. But Sensor Tower says this will not have a large enough impact to affect Fortnite’s revenue potential in the long run.


Source: TechCrunch

Galaxy Note 9's 5G dilemma: Upgrade now or wait for 2019's mobile revolution – CNET

We’re on the cusp of massive improvements.
Source: CNET

Grab-Uber deal wins Philippines approval but ‘virtual monopolist’ concern remains

Grab’s acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia business in May has been embroiled in regulatory scrutiny, but the ride-hailing firm has some positive news after the Philippines’ regulator gave the deal the all-clear. It did so, however, whilst laying out terms to prevent the company from becoming overly dominant.

Singapore’s watchdog said in July that competition concerns may see it unwind the deal, which saw Grab pick up and then shutter Uber’s ride-hailing and food delivery business while the U.S. got a 27.5 percent stake in its recent. Competition is also a concern in the Philippines, but the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) ruled today that Grab will submit to “service quality and pricing standards” in order to ensure consumers are treated fairly.

Singapore and the Philippines have been the most staunch investigators of the deal, so today’s news is a significant boost for Grab, which recently scored $2 billion in funding from Toyota and a range of other investors. Despite the okay, the PCC is keeping a firm eye on the situation after it concluded that “Grab operates as a virtual monopolist.”

The commission said that, post-Uber, Grab has committed to a series of terms that include more consistent and transparent pricing, the removal of exclusivity deals for drivers, and more.

Here is the full list of clauses from the PCC website:

  • Service Quality Commitment: Grab shall commit to bring back market averages for acceptance and cancellation rates before the transaction, and response time to rider complaints.
  • Fare Transparency Commitment: Grab will revise its trip receipt to show the fare breakdown per trip, including distance, fare surges, discounts, promo reductions, and per-minute waiting charge (if reinstated by LTFRB).
  • Commitment on Pricing: Grab shall not have prices that have an “extraordinary deviation” from the minimum allowed fares. Grab will be penalized equivalent to 5% of Grab’s commissions, or up to P2 million, in the identified trips with extraordinary deviation that do not have sufficient justification.
  • Removal of “See Destination” Feature: Grab will remove “see destination” feature for drivers with low ride acceptance rate.
  • Driver/Operator Non-Exclusivity Commitment: Grab shall not introduce any policy that will result in drivers and operators being exclusive to Grab. Current Grab drivers/operators are allowed to register/operate under other Transport Network Companies (TNCs) through a multi-homing scheme.
  • Incentives Monitoring Commitment: Since incentives may result in drivers remaining exclusive to Grab, and thus affect its competitors’ conditions of entry and the ability to expand, the Commission shall monitor and evaluate Grab’s incentives on the basis of mandatory quarterly reports.
  • Improvement Plan Commitment: Grab will implement the following: (1) enhance driver performance standards, (2) adopt a Driver Code of Conduct, (3) establish a Grab Driver Academy; (4) adopt an emergency SOS feature, help center, and passenger no-show feature; (5) adopt a Passenger Code of Conduct; (6) maintain dedicated service lines subject to prevailing labor regulations; (7) adopt a Driver Welfare Program; and (7) implement a Driver Rewards Program.

The PCC said it will appoint a third-party to monitor Grab’s progress in adhering to these terms, which it hopes will hold the company to account in the same way Uber’s competition did.

“The PCC’s Commitment Decision holds Grab to a standard as if Uber were present in the market. In effect, while Grab operates as a virtual monopolist, the commitments assure the public that quality and price levels that would prevail are those that had been when they still faced competition from Uber. Moreover, the commitments ensure that the merger will not make it more difficult for new players to enter and grow,” PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan said in a statement.

The pricing component is particularly important.

Since Uber’s departure many users, particularly those in the Philippines, have complained about rising prices on Grab since the exit of Uber. The company previously brushed that concern aside, claiming that it hasn’t increased prices but the differences between its costs and Uber’s are down to an alternative pricing model. In Grab’s case, the company told TechCrunch it has “always maintained a competitive per KM fare with 2.0 surge max.” Uber’s surge, it said, could reach 4X.

That’s been dismissed by many users but those in the Philippines can at least take hope from the fact that their regulator is pushing the issue.

There’s also very legitimate concern that Grab’s position has made it impossible for new entrants to challenge its business.

Indonesia’s $5 billion startup Go-Jek is in the process of expanding its business regionally after it went live in Vietnam this monthThe Philippines and Thailand are also on its new market list for 2018. But Go-Jek has had to raise over $1 billion to get its shot, and there’s no guarantee it will replicate its dominance in Indonesia in other countries.

The fact remains that other ride-hailing rivals of scale are near-impossible to find in Southeast Asia even though Grab co-founder Hooi Ling Tan said publicly that “there’s still a lot of existing competition.” In most cases, Grab’s stiffest competition is local market taxi firms, many of which have added app-based bookings to bolster their business.

Grab said in a statement that it has made the commitments voluntarily and that it supports competition:

We are happy that the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has recognised the legality of Grab’s deal with Uber in Philippines and accepted Grab’s voluntary commitments. PCC’s pro-innovation approach and forward-looking decision sets a strong example for other regulators examining the Grab-Uber deal, and encourages fair competition and a level playing field that ultimately benefits consumers and drivers. As we move forward to become an everyday app that serves the daily essential needs of people in Southeast Asia, we will continue to stay focused on serving the best interests of our consumers and partners.

Aside from its new funding, which takes the company to $6 billion raised to date and gives it a valuation of $11 billion, Grab has been busy expanding its reach.

The company widened its GrabFood service across the region thanks in no small part to the UberEats, while it is rolling out a revamped version of its app that emphasizes its collection of services that include deliveries, payments and ride-hailing. Part of that strategy included the launch of a platform that allows third-parties to tap the Grab platform and bring their services into its app. The launch partner for that was food delivery service HappyFresh, which is rumored to have picked up funding from Grab.

Investment is another area where Grab is stepping up. It recently announced Grab Ventures, a division that will handle strategic investments and manage an accelerator program called ‘Velocity.’

Source: TechCrunch

Ericsson wants to speed up 5G development in the US – CNET

The networking gear maker will invest more in the next-generation wireless tech.
Source: CNET

Facebook adds requirements for page managers amid concern over fakers – CNET

Get ready to confirm your home country and add security.
Source: CNET

Ford's 'baby Bronco' will use Focus, Escape components – Roadshow

It might not be very rugged, but it’ll probably look the part.
Source: CNET

Workona helps web workers finally close all those tabs

A new startup, Workona, this week launched software designed for those who primarily do their work in a browser. The company’s goal is to become the OS for web work – and to also save web workers from the hell that is a million open tabs. To accomplish this, Workona offers smart browser windows you set up as workspaces, allowing you a place to save your open tabs, as well as collaborate with team members, search across your tabs, and even sync your workspace to different devices.

The Palo Alto-based company was founded in fall 2017 by Quinn Morgan (CEO), previously the founding product manager at Lucidpress, and Alma Madsen (CTO), previously the first employee and Director of Engineering at Lucid Software, the makers of Lucidpress.

“Last year, Alma and I decided we wanted to build something together again, and initially began working on a different startup idea,” explains Morgan, as to how Workona began. “As a remote team at the time, we were using cloud apps like Google Docs, Asana, Slack, and Zoom to stay connected. Both of us were wearing multiple hats and juggling ten different projects at once.”

“One late night, with ten windows open for each project, the idea just struck us: ‘Why doesn’t the browser – the tool that we actually do most of our work in – not have a good way to manage all of our projects, meetings, and workflows?’”

Of course, there are already browser add-ons that can help with taming the tab chaos, like OneTab, toby, Session Buddy, The Great Suspender, TooManyTabs and others.

But the co-founders didn’t want just another tab manager; they wanted a smart browser window that would save the work you do, automatically. That way, you wouldn’t have to keep all the tabs open all the time, which can make you stressed and less focused. And you wouldn’t have to remember to press a button to save your tabs, either.

With Workona, the software guides users to create workspaces for each of the projects, meetings, and workflows they’re currently working on. (Working on…Workona…get it?).

You can also take a browser window that represents one project and save it as a workspace.

These workspaces function like a folder, but instead of holding a set of files, they can save anything on the web – cloud documents, task lists, open websites, CRM records, Slack sessions, calendars, Trello boards, and more. In each workspace, you can save a set of tabs that should reappear when that workspace is re-opened, as well as set of “saved tabs” you may need to use later.

After creating a workspace, you can use Workona to re-open it at any time. What that means is you can close the browser window, and later easily pick up where you left off without losing data.

A list of workspaces will also appear in the left-side navigation in the Workona browser tab. Within this tab, you can click to open a workspace, switch between workspaces in the same browser window, search for tabs or workspaces from the included search bar, or open workspaces from their URL.

In a shared workspace, you can also collaborate with others on things the team is working on – like everything needed for a project or meeting.

“Our vision is to build the missing OS for work on the web and workspaces are just the start,” says Morgan.

The company is currently working on making the workspaces and its search features more powerful, he adds.

Workona will be sold as a freemium product, with a free tier always available for moderate use. Pro accounts will be introduced in the future, removing the limit of 10 workspaces found in the free version.

The company has been beta testing with users from tech companies like Twitter, Salesforce and Amazon, as well as NASA.

The company is still pre-seed stage, with funding from K9 Ventures.

Traditional OS’s spent a lot of time and effort in designing the ‘desktop experience’ and switching between applications. But in a browser, all we have is tabs,” said K9 Ventures’ Manu Kumar, as to why he invested. “There are tab managers but none of them really solved my problem well enough, and none of them allowed me to maintain a shared context with other people that I’m collaborating with,” he added.

Workona is available for Chrome as a plugin you download from its website.

Source: TechCrunch

Hollywood gets its own open-source foundation

Open source is everywhere now, so maybe it’s no surprise that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the organization behind the Oscars) today announced that it has partnered with the Linux Foundation to launch the Academy Software Foundation, a new open-source foundation for developers in the motion picture and media space.

The founding members include a number of high-powered media and tech companies, including Animal Logic, Blue Sky Studios, Cisco, DreamWorks, Epic Games, Google, Intel, SideFX, Walt Disney Studios and Weta Digital.

“Open Source Software has enabled developers and engineers to create the amazing effects and animation that we see every day in the moves, on television and in video games,” said Linux Foundation CEO Jim Zemlin. “With the Academy Software Foundation, we are providing a home for this community of open source developers to collaborate and drive the next wave of innovation across the motion picture and broader media industries.”

The Academy Software Foundation’s mission statement notes that it wants to be a neural forum “to coordinate cross-project efforts; to provide a common built and test infrastructure; and to provide individuals and organizations a clear path to participation in advancing out open source ecosystem.”

According to a survey by the Academy, 84 percent of the industry uses open-source software already, mostly for animation and visual effects. The group also found that what’s holding back open-source development in the media industry is the siloed nature of the development teams across the different companies in this ecosystem.

“The creation of the Academy Software Foundation is an important and exciting step of the motion picture industry,” said Nick Cannon, the chief technology officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. “By increasing collaboration within our industry, it allows all of us to pool our efforts on common foundation technologies, drive new standards for interoperability and increase the pace of innovation.”

The fact that even Hollywood is now embracing open source and its collaborative nature is yet another sign of how the world of software development has changed in recent years. Over the last few years, traditional enterprises realized that whatever technology they developed to run their software infrastructure isn’t what actually delivers value to their customers, so it made sense to collaborate in this area, even with their fiercest competitors — and the same, it seems, now holds true for the Hollywood studios, too (or at least for those that have now joined the new foundation).

Source: TechCrunch