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Tech Stock Roundup: FB User Restraint, NVDA AI, BABA News

With the FBI finally managing to hack Apple’s AAPL phone, governments and private bodies have been questioning the security of Apple products. The FBI said that it was just an older version of iPhone that it got into. Apple confirmed that it was increasing encryption on future operating systems, but everyone was left feeling uneasy.

That was the backdrop for the week’s news, which included concerns about private sharing on Facebook FB, Alphabet GOOGL Google’s efforts to build Intel alternatives, NVIDIA NVDA launching some pretty exciting products and Alibaba BABA news and rumors among other things.

Here are the top stories. 

Facebook Users Getting Cagey

Facebook users have stopped sharing what they’re doing every moment of the day. While this is a most-welcomed change for people like me, the media is making a big deal of it. It’s not as if there is a dearth of reactions either, there are plenty of heated debates and engagements despite the repeated removal of content for daring to make “politically incorrect” statements. Just the personal details of users are down and who can complain about that!

Also, professionally shared content is on the rise, more monthly users are converting to daily users and engagement on the platform is up. In fact, a recent comScore report shows that 18-34 year-olds spend more time on Facebook than any other platform (more than 30 minutes a day compared to 300-400 minutes a month for Snapchat and Instagram. Twitter TWTR is far behind at 200 minutes a month. All this goes to show that the platform is increasing in popularity, which in turn means more $$$.

NVIDIA Mega Launch

Last week saw NVIDIA launch the 16nm Tesla P100 GPU based on its Pascal architecture. With 15 billion transistors, it’s being touted as the world’s biggest chip. Data center providers like Dell, HPE and IBM are already using the product.

The other big announcement was DGX-1, which is being considered the world’s fastest super computing cluster tailored for deep learning. This product combines two Intel INTC Xeon chips with 8 Tesla P100s, packing in massive compute power and speed.

NVIDIA’s advantage is its advanced GPUs, which are built for simultaneous processing, thus allowing more data to be processed simultaneously and thereby increasing speeds. This is what gives it an edge in the high performance computing (HPC) segment where Intel has been slow to take share. 

Google Pushing for Intel Alternative

While Intel has successfully sold it custom chips for some time now, Google is determined to keep its options open. The search engine provider currently consumes a large number of chips and this usage is only likely to go up as it grows into a more significant supplier of cloud infrastructure services. So it has every incentive to push prices down either with its own development efforts or by keeping the pressure on Intel.

That’s the reason it remains a member of the Open Compute Project that Facebook started some time back. Google and Qualcomm are also using ARM designs to make devices for the data center. Recently it announced a separate development effort with Rackspace using IBM Power 9 architecture (Power 9 will release next year and Google will subsequently make the design available to the Open Compute Project).   

Alibaba Active Last Week

Alibaba made some important announcements and took some important decisions last week. The first of these was with respect to GMV in the ecommerce business, which it says has doubled from 2012. It also set new targets (GMV of 6 trillion yuan by 2020, implying an 18.9% CAGR ). It also announced that it was taking Alipay to Europe to help Chinese tourists pay seamlessly on their European travels.

It also announced an agreement between Ali Health and Tmall for medicine sales. The South China Morning Post it bought last December is now being offered free as the company tries to maximize the number of users. Then there were unconfirmed rumors that the company was thinking of increasing its stake in messaging platform Weibo and had also agreed to back the buyout of dating site Momo.

Company

Last Week

Last  6 Months

AAPL

-1.21%

-3.08%

FB

-4.67%

+27.64%

YHOO

-1.12%

+27.64%

GOOGL

-1.33%

+21.98%

MSFT

-2.06%

+25.28%

INTC

-2.52%

+8.16%

CSCO

-3.49%

+8.00%

AMZN

-0.65%

+19.85%

Other stories you might have missed-

Corporate

Intel Segment Change, Executive Departures: Intel has decided to separate out the non volatile memory, security and programmable solutions groups to provide greater clarity on how these businesses are doing. But given that its PC business is dwindling and the data center business is seeing increased competition, the growth rates in these still-small efforts may be used to divert investor attention from struggles in its main businesses.

Separately, and possibly more significantly, the company saw the departure of some key executives (IoT head Doug Davis and PC head Kirk Skaugen), which could be an indication of ongoing internal restructuring of the company’s mobile business. Notably, the shakeup comes after Intel brought on board former Qualcomm executive Vankata Murthy Renduchintala.

Google Renewable Energy Plans for Asia: Google would like to use clean energy in all of its data centers across the world but lack of certification programs in Asia for identifying reliable sources of clean energy has made things a bit difficult. The company is therefore providing seed funding (amount not disclosed) to Center For Resource Solutions, which it says has 20 years experience developing and operating renewable energy certification programs. The initiative will start in Taiwan.

Amazon Recognizes Key Executives: There don’t immediately seem to be any change in responsibilities or pay, but Amazon is certainly offering titles in an attempt to keep its key executives happy. The company announced last week that consumer business SVP, Jeff Wilke will now be called CEO of Worldwide Consumer and cloud computing SVP Andy Jassy will be called CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Does Amazon intend to split itself up Google-style? Who knows? We’ll have to wait and see.

Amazon Same Day Delivery Adds 11 Cities: Amazon added Charlotte, Cincinnati, Fresno, Louisville, Milwaukee, Nashville, Raleigh, Richmond, Sacramento, Stockton, and Tucson to its list of same-day delivery cities, which now number 27. The service is available to Prime members when they order items worth at least $35.

Alibaba’s Ant Seeks Funding: Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial arm has said that it intends to raise up to $3.5 billion at a valuation of up to $60 billion. The earlier target of $1.5 billion was significantly lower and a person familiar with the matter says it was raised because of high demand from investors. The lead investors are China Investment Corp., the country’s sovereign wealth fund, and an investment vehicle of China Construction Bank Corp.

Groupon Gets Fresh Funding: Groupon shares jumped yesterday as private investment fund Atairos agreed to invest $250 million in the company. Groupon will issue 3.25% bonds which will convert at $5.40 a share. Atairos is backed by Comcast, so the investment could see greater integration between these two companies. The funds will be used to boost the daily deals business and for share repurchases.

New Technology/Products

WhatsApp Enables Full Encryption: WhatsApp is now allowing end-to-end encryption for messages, photos, videos, group chats and voice calls as a simple update for iOS or Android users. The goal is to enable private communication between people without the possibility of hackers, terrorists and governments intercepting or accessing the messages.

Amazon Expands Payments Processing Service: Amazon doesn’t want to be left out of the payments revolution, nor does it want to pass up the opportunity to make money from retail sales outside its platform. So last week, the company launched the Premier Partner, Certified Partner and Certified Developer programs on an invitation-only basis in the U.S., UK and Japan.

This basically allows retailers to include Amazon payments as an option on their online sites, thereby facilitating easy checkout by users with an Amazon account. Since the majority of netizens in these countries have an Amazon account, retailers have a good chance of reducing abandoned carts and thereby increasing sales. 

M&A

Intel Makes Self-Driving Auto Focused Acquisition: Intel has always made performance a big factor in its products. In the modern world, with everything getting increasingly connected and automated, there is the need to ensure that this automation is reliable. Intel’s Yogitech acquisition is intended to take care of this problem.

Some of the markets that it expects will require this technology are Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS, robotics and autonomous machines in addition to IoT devices overall. If Intel can make its products more reliable, it will be able to claim the performance advantage yet again.

Verizon Bid for Yahoo: Bloomberg reports that with the first round of bids extended by a week to Apr 18, Verizon is likely to make a serious offer. The company has apparently employed at least three financial advisors and estimates the core business to be worth not more than $8 billion. It is also willing to buy out Yahoo Japan, if that sweetens the deal for Yahoo. While there are no reports of a specific offer from Google, the search giant is also considering a bid according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Microsoft Azure Partners R3 Blockchain Consortium: R3 CEV as it is called is a consortium of 40 banks that has agreed to test its blockchain products on Azure. WSJ reports that Microsoft will be providing R3 with Azure online services, dedicated IT support, project managers and lab assistants in New York, Milan, Beijing and Sao Paulo but it’s not yet known what it will be getting in return.

Of course Microsoft won’t be satisfied with this deal alone; it would want to be the backbone the banks use to carry out their cloud-based transactions. But it’s early days yet because R3 expects the products to take 12-18 months to develop and up to five years to commercialize and release.

Some Numbers

Android, iOS Share in China: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that Android gained China market share from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016 while iOS lost. Android’s share went from 73.0% to 76.4% while iOS share went from 25.4% to 22.2%.

Facebook Messenger Milestone: Facebook Messenger touched 900 million users, the company announced last week. This makes it an important platform in its own right and one that Facebook intends to use to the maximum advantage. It has already started integrating other services within Messenger so users can book a cab (Uber), an air ticket (KLM Airlines) or a hotel (Hyatt Hotels) without ever leaving the app. The company is now coming up with tools to make it easier for consumers and businesses to interact (such as an easy link that you can click to chat), thus improving monetization prospects.

Oculus Rift Estimates: With Oculus Rift barely out the gate, analysts have started offering estimated sales numbers. No wonder the estimates vary wildly: Axiom says $300 million this year and one million units in 2017; Piper Jaffray ~500K units in 2016 at $599 each; Cantor Fitzgerald 600K+ units in 2016 and 2 million+ in 2017 generating $1.6 billion+ of revenue in 2017; Evercore 950K units in 2016, growing to as many as 12 million units over 5 years, with ASPs dropping from $600 to ~$250; Deutsche Bank 1 million units in 2016; and Monness, Crespi & Hardt $1.2 billion revenue.

Yahoo Projects 2016 Revenue Drop: Re/code reports that Yahoo has said that both revenue and earnings will decline this year. Revenue will be down 15% and earnings 20%.

Netflix Price Hike Coming Up: Netflix had announced a price hike from $7.99 to $9.99 in May 2014 but had postponed its implementation for existing users by a couple of years. So a large chunk of users, reportedly 37% of domestic subscribers will feel the change this year. Whether this results in switching is something we will have to wait and see, but it won’t affect subscriber adds because the new price has from the start been applicable for them.

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APPLE INC (AAPL): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
INTEL CORP (INTC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
NVIDIA CORP (NVDA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
FACEBOOK INC-A (FB): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ALPHABET INC-A (GOOGL): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ALIBABA GROUP (BABA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
TWITTER INC (TWTR): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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