Facebook-owned WhatsApp boasts of billion users

Facebook-owned WhatsApp boasts of billion users

Facebook-owned smartphone messaging service WhatsApp has hit the billion-user mark, according to the leading social network’s chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“One billion people now use WhatsApp,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page.

“There are only a few services that connect more than a billion people.”

Google’s free email service, Gmail, is the latest of the Internet giant’s offerings to crest the billion-user mark, chief Sundar Pichai said Monday during an earnings call.

The ranks of people using WhatsApp have more than doubled since California-based Facebook bought the service for $19 billion in late 2014, according to Zuckerberg.

“That’s nearly one-in-seven people on Earth who use WhatsApp each month to stay in touch with their loved ones, their friends and their family,” the WhatsApp team said in a blog post.

After buying WhatsApp, Facebook made the service completely free. The next step, according to Zuckerberg, is to make it easier to use the service to communicate with businesses.

Weaving WhatsApp into exchanges between businesses and customers has the potential to create revenue opportunity for Facebook.

Recent media reports have indicated that Facebook is working behind the scenes to integrate WhatsApp more snugly into the world’s leading social network by providing the ability to share information between the services.

Via OmniGhana

Alphabet Close to Overtaking Apple as Most Valuable Company

Google (aka Alphabet) Is About to Surpass Apple as the Most Valuable Company In the Galaxy

Alphabet could soon become the most valuable company in the world.

The Google powerhouse traded on Friday morning with an equity value above $500 billion, less than 10 percent shy of Apple’s value. Investors value the search firm’s earnings from rapidly growing digital advertising more than twice as highly as Apple’s in a saturating smartphone market. Wall Street, however, may be overlooking Alphabet’s risks.

Global smartphone sales growth slowed to 10 percent last year, according to the consulting firm IDC. Reports of cutbacks at Apple suppliers suggest tepid demand for its latest phones. Analysts fear that the company may struggle this year to match the 230 million or so iPhones sold in the last fiscal year to September.

An oversupplied market could bring price wars, which could hurt margins — and the iPhone accounts for about 60 percent of Apple’s revenue and a bigger chunk of its profit. As a result, investors expect little growth in the company’s top line this year and are paying only about 10 times estimated 2016 earnings for the stock.

The mobile digital advertising market, meanwhile, should almost triple to nearly $200 billion globally by 2019, consultants at eMarketer reckon. Alphabet’s sales are forecast to grow about 15 percent this year. This wind at Alphabet’s back and the possibility that its self-driving cars, robots or medical endeavors will pay off help explain why it commands a price-to-earnings multiple above 20.

A subpar earnings report from Apple next week, or a strong one from Alphabet the week after, could bring a new name to the top of the world’s most valuable companies list.

Investors are, however, prone to overconfidence in technology trends. Facebook is snagging more and more ad dollars. European antitrust authorities are circling. Moreover, some of Alphabet’s revenue comes courtesy of iPhone users: it cost Google $1 billion in 2014 to keep its search bar on the Apple device, Bloomberg reports based on transcripts of a court case.

Alphabet is far more reliant on Internet advertising than Apple is on the iPhone. Ads bring in about 90 percent of the company’s revenue. Any hint of investor skepticism about that market could keep Apple at the top of the list.

Via New York Times

APPLE DISAPPOINTS WITH FLAT IPHONE SALES

The Apple logo is seen from inside the company’s Boylston Street store in Boston on Sept. 16, 2015. Credit: Blair Hanley FrankApple logo from inside Apple Store in Boston

Sales growth in the last quarter was the slowest in the iPhone’s history

Apple sold roughly as many iPhones during the last quarter of 2015 as it did during the same period in 2014, signaling a possible end to continual gains for the phone and a potential shift in Apple’s business and the smartphone market at large.

That’s according to financial results from the company’s first fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 26. They showed Apple sold 74.8 million smartphones during the previous quarter, compared to 74.5 million handsets during the same period in 2014. Over the past several years, Apple could be relied upon to post massive iPhone sales that passed the preceding year’s handily. That wasn’t the case this time.

The news was preceded by weeks of dark predictions, with media reports claiming Apple had cut manufacturing orders from the companies that build the iPhone because inventory of the smartphone was backing up in retail channels.

Apple posted record quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion, compared to $74.6 billion in sales during the same period in 2014. Its profit for the quarter was $18.4 billion, up by almost $400 billion year-over-year. The company, like many others in the U.S., blamed a stronger dollar for keeping its revenue roughly flat. In a conference call with financial analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is vulnerable to significant impacts from foreign exchange rates, since two-thirds of its business comes from outside the U.S.

Looking forward, there are more clouds on the horizon. Apple expects its revenue for the current quarter to be between $50 billion and $53 billion, compared with $58 billion in revenue during the same period last year. It’s not clear yet what will drive that decline, but it seems likely that iPhone sales and currency impacts may be at least partly to blame.

Via IT News

New rail franchise deals bring northern train improvement promise

Northern Rail train

Widespread improvements to trains in the north of England and Scotland have been promised with the announcement of new contracts for two rail franchises.

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Yahoo reverses Alibaba spin-off plan

Marissa Mayer

Yahoo has abandoned a plan to spin off its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Most of the internet company’s $33bn (£21.8bn) value is attributed to its shareholding in Alibaba.

The decision is the opposite of the strategy announced in January to spin off its 15% stake in Alibaba.

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