TechSummit Rewind #047



Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Nielsen: Facebook 2015’s top app, Messenger was fastest-growing

Facebook Messenger

Facebook continued to be the No. 1 app installed on U.S. smartphones based on the average number of unique users, according to a new Nielsen report, but its spinoff Messenger messaging app was 2015’s fastest-growing app.

Throughout the year, Messenger had a 31 percent increase in users from last year. That’s slower than the 242 percent growth Messenger saw in 2014, when Facebook pushed it heavily.

Also in the running for fastest-growing app was Apple Music, which grew 26 percent year-over-year. However, that comes with the grain of salt that Apple’s streaming service launched in June.

In terms of user numbers, Facebook led the way with over 126 million unique users monthly, up eight percent over last year. YouTube was hot on its trail with 97 million unique users monthly, up five percent over last year.

Other top apps include the following:

  • Google Search: 95 million
  • Google Play:7 million
  • Google Maps:1 million
  • Instagram:4 milion
  • Apple Maps:4 million

According to Nielsen, Instagram grew 23 percent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, in terms of operating systems, the U.S. still favors Android slightly with 52.6 percent market share compared with 42.7 percent market share for iOS. Barely three percent of smartphone users use a Windows Phone device over the past year, followed by BlackBerry’s 0.7 percent of the market.

Mobile subscribers also slightly increased from 78 percent at the beginning of the year to 80 percent by the end of September.

Qualcomm rejects split after strategic review

Qualcomm has rejected calls to split itself into two. The company also updated its outlook for its fiscal first quarter that ends this month, saying it may “modestly” exceed its prior profit forecast.

“We have a focused plan in place that we believe will drive growth and we are off to a good start implementing that plan. The strategic benefits and synergies of our model are not replicable through alternative structures.”

Steve Mollenkopf, Qualcomm CEO

“We thought there wasn’t a significant difference from a legal standpoint.”

-Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm chairman

“I never thought a split made sense. I always thought they were worth more together than they were apart. The businesses don’t work as well apart as they do together.”

-Stacy Rasgon, Stanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst

Juniper Networks finds malicious code in its firewall software

Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks has found “unauthorized code” in its NetScreen firewall devices, which could be used to decrypt VPN connections that would unmask sites being accessed through the VPN.

The vulnerability was found in ScreenOS, which powers NetScreen firewall devices. The unauthorized code was unveiled in a recent internal code review.

Once the vulnerability was discovered, Juniper Networks began investigating what happened, and released a patch for the vulnerability. The Sunnyvale, CA-based company is urging anyone using NetScreen devices running ScreenOS 6.2.0r15 through 6.2.0r18 and 6.3.0r12 through 6.3.0r20 to install the patch.

Luckily, there are no known incidents of the code being exploited by attackers, but Juniper doesn’t want device owners to become complacent, and advises users to make updating their software their “highest priority.”

Flytenow flight-sharing service shot down by U.S. court


Flytenow, an Uber-style business that connects private pilots with travelers willing to split fuel costs and other expenses was shot down by a Washington-based court.

The judges declined Flytenow’s request to review a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling that pilots who use the service to find passengers must have commercial licenses.

Flytenow connects members that share expenses in exchange for flights on a predetermined route.

The company asked the court to consider whether the FAA was permitted to conclude that private pilots using its service violated their non-commercial licenses by representing themselves as common carriers for compensation. The court said yes.

According to the court, the FAA is justified in making a distinction between pilots offering expense-sharing services to a limited group and those offering the same services to a wide audience. There’s a risk that unsuspecting passengers “will contract with pilots who in fact lack the experience and credentials of commercial pilots,” according to the court.

Riot Games now entirely owned by Tencent

Riot Games

Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, has sold its remaining equity to Chinese online company Tencent, according to an update to the studio’s employment page.

“As a result of our continued growth and changing circumstances, we’re shifting to a new structure to recognize and reward Rioters’ contributions, and that first involves a big change to our existing equity program. As part of this effort, our majority investor, Tencent, recently purchased the remaining equity of Riot Games.”

-Riot Games, on their employment page

Members of the studio can now participate in a “cash-based incentive program’ that rewards them based on the company’s overall success.

Qihoo 360 gets taken private

Qihoo 360

Qihoo 360 has been acquired by an investor group in a $9.3 billion deal.

The offer represents a 16.6 percent premium on the stock’s June 16 closing, the day before the company announced that it received a buyout offer from a consortium led by CEO Hongyi Zhou at $77/ADS.

According to the company, entities controlled by Zhou and chairman Xiangdong Qi agreed to vote their shares in favor of the deal. That combined stake represents about 61 percent of the voting rights attached to outstanding shares.

The deal, which is currently expected to close during the first half of next year, includes about $1.6 billion of debt.

The consortium taking the company private includes the following:

  • Citic Guoan
  • Golden Brick Silk Road Capital
  • Sequoia Capital China
  • Taikang Life Insurance
  • Ping An Insurance
  • Sunshine Insurance
  • New China Capital
  • Huatai Ruilian
  • Huasheng Capital

Jolla secures series C funding to keep Sailfish OS alive


Jolla, the Finnish mobile OS maker responsible for the Sailfish OS platform, has closed a delayed Series C financing round.

“It’s not often that you can actually recover from the very, very difficult situation but we have done it.

“The total amount we can’t unfortunately disclose yet because it is part of the bigger financing package. The next packages will be securing our growth and further investment to the operating system agenda. So that’s why we don’t want to start disclosing the size of the investment because it will basically start speculations on how long this money will last and so on.

“It’s a sizable investment what we are receiving but it also includes some other instruments which we are continuing to negotiate at the moment. But at the moment, we have received enough financing to continue the operations and stabilize the company’s financial position.”

-Antii Saarnio, Jolla chairman

According to Saarnio, the company will be canceling the layoffs made last month but “many people already resigned.”

“Things are looking good. I’m not saying that the ship is in perfect shape at the moment – we have lots of repair work to do but we are operational and able to continue with the agenda.”

-Antii Saarnio

The funding crunch has impacted the crowdfunded Jolla tablet, causing ongoing shipment delays and leaving most backers waiting for their tablets. According to Saarnio, the company is still considering options like potentially canceling the tablet and refunding backers since they secured fresh funding.

“This is a quite challenging situation because it’s not linear what is the harm done on the tablet program. It’s something that if you delay or stop working with your production partner for a couple of months, it basically means that it’s difficult to [re]start the process as well.

“So we are now looking into different alternatives. One of them is to continue with the tablet production. One is refunding the tablets… We are now working to find out what is the realistic way to serve our customers.”

-Antii Saarnio

Sailfish OS will continue on its licensing path but with more flexibility to let customers “tailor” the OS, and a focus on working with businesses and governments with immediate security and privacy needs, rather than attempting to sell to general consumers.

“We are focusing on licensing the operating system to industrial customers and we are maybe more ready to support tailoring of the OS for different players because it clearly seems that – especially the big players – they want to have a possibility to tailor the OS for themselves.

“Of course, that’s exactly what’s happening on the Android side as well, I would say. This is the same as what CyanogenMod and others are examples of the same business model.”

-Antii Saarnio

Now, a big question is whether Jolla will exist this time next year.

“This was now our third debt valley, basically, and I believe that this was the last one. I do see a serious interest from licensing partners and others to pay for projects where they can utilize the Sailfish OS.

“Requests are coming from the corporate side, from the government side, what is still to be seen is how the consumers are going to see the need for an alternative operating system – are they waiting for that? And we all see that consumers are starting to understand the importance of privacy, and understanding that the current system doesn’t provide any privacy. But whether it becomes a volume demand for an OS that’s a big question mark for me.

“It’s really difficult to see the world after five years being based on the operating system which are actually making money by people’s private information. I think that’s really difficult to see how the world would work – when everybody’s money is in the mobile, even credits, person[al] information, all your business information is all open. So I believe in that world but the consumer demand remains to be seen. That’s hard to predict.”

-Antii Saarnio



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