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Samsung acquires analytics startup Zhilabs to prepare for the coming 5G era

Samsung has made clear that it’s got a cash horde of more than $20 billion it wants to spend investing in businesses that will in some way lay groundwork for the company’s future growth — businesses that focus on everything from AI to autonomous cars. 5G is also a component of that, as we see today thanks to the company’s announcement of a new acquisition.

Samsung disclosed that it’s acquired Barcelona-based Zhilabs, a network analytics startup, and while Samsung hasn’t shared terms of the deal, it is saying the purpose is pretty straightforward. The acquisition, according to Samsung, is about helping the company get better prepared for the era of widespread 5G availability.

In its announcement, Samsung said that Zhilabs is known for its AI-based network and service analytics. AI-based automation, the hardware giant continues, “will play a central role in the introduction of new services in the 5G era, such as industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and connected cars, as carriers will require automated solutions and network analytics beyond what was possible in previous generations. AI-based transformation can be used to analyze user traffic, classify applications being used, and improve overall service quality, as such needs can no longer be addressed by existing solutions.”

Existing customers of Zhilabs include companies like Vodafone and Telefonica, which rely on it to help get real-time insight into network performance. While it will be fully owned by Samsung, Zhilabs will continue to operate independently under its own management. Samsung went on to say the company is looking forward to teaming up and sharing “joint capabilities” to create new technology as the world evolves from 4G to 5G.

Zhilabs CEO Joan Raventos in a statement explained that 5G technology will disrupt the communications landscape for the better, albeit with this caveat: It will only be successful if the quality of the networks transferring information can be measured and thus improved upon. Samsung, of course, has already teamed up with large carriers to start powering commercial 5G networks. As noted by SamMobile, the company recently conducted tests on commercial 5G network equipment with SK Telecom in South Korea — a test that will result in the launch of mobile router-powered 5G service there by the end of the year.

“5G will enable unprecedented services attributed to the generation of exponential data traffic, for which automated and intelligent network analytics tools are vital,” said Youngky Kim, President and Head of Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.

Apple’s new privacy management tools throw epic shade at Facebook and Google

Tim Cook is a pretty straightforward guy. Dresses like your uncle. Avoids the flash of his predecessor. And he has a few key things he repeats, mantra-like, in that distinctive Alabama drawl. Things like – privacy is a human right. And, you are not our product. Of course, we can argue about the extent to which that’s true, and about just how much the average smartphone consumer really stops and ponders privacy considerations before they spring for a new handset. Nevertheless, Apple today is taking its steadfast message about how we’re the ones you can genuinely trust with your data to the next level.

The company has added new tools to its Privacy page which include, starting today, the ability of consumers to download all the data from Apple that it has about them. (Head here and sign in with your Apple ID to get started, if you want to try it.) The tools also include an easy way to delete your account, if you want — which certainly calls to mind the Byzantine process of trying to do the same with your Facebook account.

“So much of your personal information — information you have a right to keep private — lives on your Apple devices,” the company explains on its updated privacy portal. “Your heart rate after a run. Which news stories you read first. Where you bought your last coffee. What websites you visit. Who you call, email, or message. Every Apple product is designed from the ground up to protect that information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.”

The revamped site also goes on to talk up Apple’s practices around data-retention and gives users the option to opt out of targeted ads from Apple.

This all follows Apple’s introduction earlier this year of an icon you see when Apple collects data from any software. Tap the icon, and Apple gives you a list of the data it gathers from that application, with even more information available at its now-updated privacy page.

The iPhone’s Safari browser, Business Insider goes on to note, also now includes an iOS 12 workflow for creating a unique, secure password and saving it across Apple devices for new accounts. Presumably weaning people off of the ease of using something like a Facebook log-in.

“Part of the (updated privacy) website focuses on Apple’s privacy features and the ways it limits the data it collects,” BI continues. “The other part focuses on how a user can limit the data that’s collected about him or her, including a new portal for downloading your personal data and deleting your Apple account.

“‘We believe privacy is a human right,’ it starts, echoing language that Cook has made in public speeches. The Apple CEO will give a speech at a European privacy conference next week, where he will likely use that phrasing or something similar again.”

Netflix posts impressive earnings as subscriber base jumps by 7 million

Following the close of trading today, Netflix posted its earnings report for the September quarter and easily bested analyst expectations. During the latest quarter, Netflix generated $4 billion in revenue with an EPS of $0.89. Notably, investors on Wall Street were anticipating Netflix’s EPS to fall somewhere in the $0.68 range. Not surprisingly, shares of Netflix are up more than 11% in after-hours trading.

Financial metrics aside, the streaming giant did a pretty solid job of adding new subscribers for the quarter. All told, Netflix during the September quarter added nearly 7 billion new subscribers, a figure which also bested estimates on Wall Street. As a point of contrast, Netflix during the same quarter a year-ago added 5.3 million new subscribers. As it stands now, Netflix now boasts upwards of 137 million subscribers across the globe.

Looking ahead, Netflix anticipates that it will add 9.4 million new subscribers during the 2018 holiday quarter, a figure which eclipses the 8.3 million new subscribers the company added during last year’s holiday quarter.

Taking a look at Netflix’s letter to shareholders, the streaming giant took some time to talk about its in-house film and TV studio:

It was just two years ago when we began building the third category: a film and TV studio within Netflix. Some of our notable owned-titles in addition to Stranger Things include: Big Mouth, The Ranch, Bright, Godless, The Kissing Booth, 3%, Dark, Sacred Games and Nailed It. In addition to reducing our reliance on outside studios, this initiative provides us with greater control over the content we create (e.g., long term global rights), the ability to strengthen title-brand-love and franchise value (like consumer products) and potentially lower costs (as we can avoid the markup 3rd party studios charge us). To do
this, we’ve had to develop new capabilities to manage the entire production process from creative support, production planning, crew and vendor management to visual effects, to name a few.

Netflix also took some time to boast about the bevy of awards and nominations it has enjoyed as of late:

This year, Netflix originals led with 112 Emmy nominations spanning 40 of our shows, docs and 4 specials across nearly every category and we’re humbled to have tied HBO with the most number of Emmy wins with 23.

All in all, it was a stellar quarter for Netflix. Presumably, we’ll hear some more items of interest during the company’s earnings conference call.

Lyft’s monthly subscription service gives you 30 rides for $300

Lyft announced the wide release of its All-Access Plan on Tuesday, giving frequent Lyft riders an opportunity to save money by spending more up front. First rolled out to a small subset of users earlier this year, the subscription service is now available across the country, and for $299, you get 30 rides up to $15 a piece and 5% off any additional rides. If any of your first 30 rides go over $15, you’ll have to pay the difference.

For now, the All-Access Plan only applies to single-passenger trips and shared rides — bikes and scooters are not included. Lyft also notes that rides don’t roll over to the following 30 day period. If you don’t use all of your rides in a month, any rides you didn’t use will be forfeited and you’ll start anew the next month.

“When you spend less time driving (and parking), you have more freedom — and more savings,” says Lyft on its blog. “Americans who use the All-Access Plan for all of their personal car needs can save up to 59%* per month compared to owning a car. This is the first step toward delivering on our goal of making car ownership optional.”

That last point is especially salient, as this service is probably only worthwhile if you plan on taking Lyft rides about as frequently as you would drive your car around wherever you live. $299 is way below the average that most Americans pay for their cars every month, so as long as you plan on taking advantage of the plan at least every other day of the month, you could end up saving a few hundred bucks while avoiding the hassle of car upkeep.

Lyft says the plan is valid for rides taken anywhere in the US where the company operates, and that everyone should have access to the plan before the end of the week. You can cancel anytime as well.

An Apple Music and TV streaming bundle could net Apple billions in additional revenue

Like it or not, subscriptions appear to be the wave of the future, and Apple isn’t keen on getting left behind. Just a few years ago, for example, Apple realized that the iTunes business model it introduced more than a decade earlier was becoming antiquated. In turn, Apple in 2014 acquired Beats and subsequently rolled out Apple Music — a Spotify competitor — just one year later. Though Apple Music launched with a number of frustrating bugs and UI issues, Apple’s music streaming service currently boasts more U.S. based subscribers than Spotify — an impressive feat to say the least.

Apple, however, appears poised to embrace subscriptions with even more rigor in the years ahead. As a prime example, Apple over the past few months has been spending millions of dollars acquiring content for a TV streaming service that may or may not be bundled together with Apple Music. In light of that, a new research note from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty (via Barron’s) relays that Apple stands poised to generate $37 billion in revenue from subscriptions by 2025.

Specifically, Huberty envisions a scenario where Apple offers an umbrella subscription price of $12.99 whereby users would have unfettered access to Apple Music, Apple’s collection of TV shows, and digital magazine content thanks to the company’s March 2018 acquisition of Texture.

Huberty’s note reads in part:

Combined with Apple’s stand-alone streaming music business, which we project grows into an $18 billion revenue generator over the same time period (from roughly $4 billion at the end of [calendar] 2018, streaming video and music would become a $22 billion business by 2025, roughly equal to the size of Netflix (NFLX) and Spotify Technology (SPOT) combined today but just 8% of Apple’s 2018 projected revenue.

Truth be told, it’s almost foolish to predict what the technological landscape is going to look like seven years down the road given how quickly things tend to change. Additionally, predicting future revenue based on said predictions is even less instructive. Regardless, Huberty is right about one thing: If Apple doesn’t strike licensing deals with third-parties for established movies and TV shows, an Apple Music/TV bundle is clearly the way to go and might one day prove to be a compelling offering.