|Bid||67.36 x 800|
|Ask||67.88 x 1000|
|Day's range||66.55 - 67.55|
|52-week range||49.00 - 73.86|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||1.14|
|PE ratio (TTM)||14.15|
|Forward dividend & yield||0.37 (0.56%)|
|Ex-dividend date||27 Sep 2019|
|1y target est||74.08|
(Bloomberg) -- HP Inc. will get to keep all the cash, factories and patents Quanta Storage Inc. was ordered to turn over to satisfy a $439 million antitrust judgment from 2019, a federal appeals court ruled.The Taiwanese disk drive maker was ordered to surrender almost all its assets before its appellate challenge had played out because it failed to post an $85 million bond to prevent early collection of the crippling award. The appellate court did agree to give it more time to comply.“Quanta risked bet-the-company litigation and lost, so the district court ordered it to hand over the company,” a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in New Orleans said Friday in a 21-page ruling.Quanta tried repeatedly in April to delay HP’s push to collect on the judgment. It claimed that coronavirus travel and business restrictions in Taiwan and China, where most of its executives and factories are, prevented it from posting the bond while complying with Taiwanese regulations on asset transfers by publicly traded companies. HP said Quanta was using the pandemic as a ploy to dissipate assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment.“It is not apparent from the record that the district court considered the amount of time it would take for Quanta to complete the asset transfer process required by Taiwanese law,” the panel said Friday.‘Cannot Go Unpunished’HP said it was pleased that the panel agreed with the trial judge and jury.“Quanta violated U.S. antitrust laws by conspiring to fix prices,” Alex Roberts, one of HP’s lawyers, said in an email. “That conduct cannot go unpunished. HP took them to task for those violations, and now we look forward to ensuring they comply promptly” with the turnover orders.Quanta’s attorneys Marie Yeates and Zach Levine didn’t immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on the decision.A Houston jury awarded HP $176 million in damages after a price-fixing trial in late 2019. Quanta was the only optical disk drive maker that didn’t settle out of court when HP sued more than a dozen manufacturers over a decade-long conspiracy to rig prices for components used to store and read media and data on DVDs, CDs and Blu-Ray discs. Industry giants including Toshiba Corp., Samsung Electronics, Hitachi-LG and Sony Electronics jointly controlled 90% of the market.Damages TripledAfter the jury tagged Quanta with all of HP’s losses from the racket, U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston compounded Quanta’s woes by tripling the damages, as allowed under U.S. antitrust law, subtracting settlement credits HP had already received.On appeal, Quanta argued that the damages were incorrectly calculated at trial because jurors included purchases by HP’s foreign subsidiaries, which Quanta claimed aren’t covered by U.S. antitrust protections. HP said its economic expert excluded purchases by the foreign units, and the appeals court agreed, upholding the money judgment.Quanta, which has surrendered some assets to a court custodian, had sought more time to comply with Taiwanese regulations before turning over the keys to its Asian factories. It had also said it needs to make sure the HP judgment is enforceable under local law before complying with an overseas court order that essentially liquidates the company.It urged the courts to respect international comity and require HP to confirm the judgment in Taiwanese courts -- or risk retaliation by foreign judges who might strip American companies of the protection of U.S. courts in overseas disputes. The appeals court rejected those arguments.The case is Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Quanta Storage Inc., 19-20799, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).(Updates with HP comment)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- It’s the rise of the robots: Japan’s second-largest company is now a maker of industrial automation systems, highlighting the rising importance of a less visible sector to a nation long associated with consumer-facing brands.Keyence Corp., a maker of machine vision systems and sensors for factories, has jumped 19% this year to become Japan’s second-largest company by market value. At a valuation of over 11 trillion yen ($100 billion), it has overtaken telecommunications giants SoftBank Group Corp., and NTT Docomo Inc., which have jostled for the honor to sit behind Toyota Motor Corp. over most of the past decade.Keyence is famed for its dizzying profitability with an operating profit margin of more than 50%, among the country’s highest. That’s enabled by its “fabless” output model, according to analysts, with production of its array of pressure sensors, barcode readers and laser scanners outsourced to avoid high capital costs.Its industry-leading sales system creates bespoke solutions for clients, and its frequently listed as the highest-paying company in Japan. The surge in its shares has also benefited founder Takemitsu Takizaki, who has overtaken SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son by a good margin to become Japan’s second-richest man.“It’s got everything — high growth, high dividends and a high operating margin,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. “It’s the type of long-term stock you want to leave to your kids or your grandkids.”Keyence has more than tripled in market value since early 2016. “We feel the sense of expectation from our shareholders,” said Keyence director Keiichi Kimura when asked to comment on the milestone. “We’ll do our best to live up to those expectations.”The rise has also underscored how important the country’s parts and robot makers have become to the stock market, shown in the weighting of companies that make up the the country’s benchmark Topix index. Japan stocks were once dominated by banks and automakers — but years of zero rates which now dip into negative have hurt the profitability of the former, while the importance of the latter was declining even before the coronavirus sent the industry into reverse gear.The weighting of the Topix’s Electrical Appliance sector, also home to the likes of Sony Corp., Murata Manufacturing Co., and Fanuc Corp., has increased to almost 15%, the highest in about a decade, as the importance of the Banks and Transportation Equipment sectors have declined. The Information and Communication sector, headed by the five listed companies that dominate Japan’s mobile carriers, is the second-most heavily weighted segment.The growing presence of IT shares has also been a feature in the U.S. stock market, with the sector making up the highest proportion of the S&P 500 Index since the dot-com bubble burst. The coronavirus pandemic has amplified a trend for investors to prefer companies that eliminate humans from the process — a trend Keyence benefits from both with its fabless production model, and by enabling companies to automate their own production.“It’s a business model that grows the more factory automation throughout the world progresses,” said Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities’ Fujito.Founder Takizaki holds about 23% of Keyence’s shares, Bloomberg-compiled data show. For the Topix, which takes the free float of the shares into account in its weightings, those holdings mean Keyence is less heavily weighted than Sony, whose market value trails by comparison. Toyota the biggest company on the index, and even forecasting an 80% drop in profit this year, the automaker remains Japan’s largest business with a market value double that of Keyence.“We like Keyence as it outsources production instead of owning factories, allowing it to focus on R&D,” HSBC analysts including Helen Fang wrote in a May 26 report that initiated coverage of the company with a buy rating. “It also uses a direct-sales model that keeps it close to clients. This strategy means it can better capture market share in a widening array of industries and can focus on high-value client solutions.”While the coronavirus pandemic will depress profits this year, Nomura sees a recovery “to record-high profit levels” the following year and sees a record profit the next, analyst Masayasu Noguchi wrote in a report May 28 raising its target price on the stock.“It’s unclear how long the coronavirus pandemic will continue,” Keyence’s Kimura said. “The global uncertainty is likely to continue and in the midst of that we’ll continue to do what we can.”Factory Automation in Asia May Be First to Recover From PandemicThe notoriously tight-lipped Osaka-based company does not provide earnings guidance in its sparse quarterly disclosure. It’s an outlier in a country where companies are being encouraged to boost their transparency and communication with the market.“They are an efficiency-above-any-other kind of company, so doing extra that doesn’t result in revenue addition is probably less of a priority,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Takeshi Kitaura. “They think generally those following the company are happy when they manage solid earnings and growth.”Yoshiharu Izumi, an analyst at SBI Securities Co., says that Keyence holds talks with shareholders and that reassures investors, and doesn’t view the paucity of disclosure as a problem. “Keyence has overtaken Sony, which is extremely proactive in responding to shareholders,” he said. “When Keyence starts putting energy into disclosure, that might be the time to sell.”(Updates with quotes from Keyence from sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. said it’s postponing a virtual news conference for the upcoming PlayStation 5 game console, one of the most high-profile corporate events to be put on hold in deference to protests against police brutality in the U.S.Electronic Arts Inc. also scrapped an event to introduce the Madden NFL 21 game that was set for Monday. Airbnb Inc. said Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky won’t deliver a planned video message to discuss the home-rental startup’s vision for travel. And Alphabet Inc.’s Google postponed the introduction of its Android 11 mobile operating system previously planned for June 3.Demonstrations against the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minnesota last week have turned violent in cities from New York to Los Angeles. Officials have set curfews in major cities to deter late-night protests and looting. The situation has reopened racial wounds and cast a somber tone in the country.For the PS5 event, which had been scheduled for June 4, Sony said, “We do not feel that right now is a time for celebration, and for now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.”Electronic Arts issued a statement with a black background that said: “We stand with our African American/Black community of friends, colleagues and partners.” The company said, “We’ll find another time to talk football with you because this is bigger than a game, bigger than sports and needs all of us to stand together and commit to change.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The company noted via Twitter, “While we understand gamers worldwide are excited to see PS5 games, we do not feel that right now is a time to celebrate and for now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.” The event was set to unveil new titles for Sony’s next-gen console due out at the end of the year.
Then came an overview of the specs — like that it'll have a super-fast solid-state drive by default. This morning Sony announced that they'll be hosting a live-streamed event on June 4th at 1pm Pacific. In a video that managed to pull in millions of views, Epic Games recently gave a first look at its upcoming Unreal Engine 5 running on pre-release PS5 hardware.
Sony has long subscribed to the belief that each new console generation should have games that take advantage of the new technology's enhancements.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Buried in a set of little-known data are early signs that the hardware side of the technology sector may be rebounding from the pandemic-driven plunge.Investors generally need to wait until a few weeks after a quarter closes to get a sense of how well (or badly) business has been, or hope that a company will provide an update when the situation changes. Except in Taiwan. A decades-old regulation requires companies there to report sales every month. This information isn’t useful only to investors in locally traded stocks. What’s listed is a broad range of companies that make chips, components, half-assembled modules and final products used in almost every electronics device in the world. The numbers can also provide a snapshot of output in China, where most Taiwanese technology manufacturers have the bulk of production.As early as January, it became obvious that the coronavirus would be a nightmare for tech companies. We now know that Apple Inc. posted a 7.2% drop in March-quarter sales of iPhones and iPads, while its major supplier, Foxconn Technology Group, suffered its biggest dive in revenue for seven years.More interesting is to see what’s been going on since. A look at April sales data from Taiwan enabled me to crunch numbers. What we find is a bounce in revenue that gives some hope for the global sector.Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. are the most famous names in this data set, because they’re the biggest in their category and have a VIP client list that includes Apple, Qualcomm Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. and Sony Corp. Yet hundreds of others, such as Pegatron Corp., Quanta Computer Inc. and Largan Precision Co., collectively supply most of the industry.By aggregating the data month by month, comparing to a year earlier to smooth out seasonality, and looking at the sub-sectors within tech — defined by the Taiwan Stock Exchange — such as components suppliers, chipmakers, or computer assemblers, we can get an understanding of what was happening just a few weeks ago.Computers and peripherals, which include major PC and server makers Quanta and Compal Electronics Inc., showed the largest rebound, from an 11.9% drop in the January to March period to a 7.9% rise in April. Electronics parts and components, such as circuit-board supplier Compeq Manufacturing Co., turned a mild decline into solid growth, from a 3.1% decline into a 9.1% increase. Other electronics, including Hon Hai, which not only assembles iPhones but servers and networking equipment, went from an 11.8% fall to flat. Chips, headlined by TSMC, remained incredibly strong. Optoelectronics, which is largely displays and camera modules, shows a prolonged decline.One of the key takeaways is the relative strength in corporate-focused hardware, and possible continued weakness in gadgets. Foxconn pointed to this earlier in May, when it told investors that its consumer-devices division, which encompasses iPhones, would fall at least 15%, while enterprise products would climb 10%.There are two important caveats to the data.The first is that they track just Taipei-listed companies, and not some big names like Huawei and Samsung Electronics Co., which also manufacture their own hardware. However, it’s a like-for-like comparison — those companies aren’t included in last year’s data, either — and the broad reach of Taiwan’s tech sector means that even Huawei and Samsung are likely part of its supply chain.A more important note is that this is just for one month. Some of that April uptick is simply catch-up production for time lost at the height of the pandemic. Yet clients wouldn’t place orders if they didn’t feel that there’s end-demand somewhere. Autos and textiles are cutting production and shuttering factories in the knowledge that such a pickup in sales isn’t likely. With global turmoil making companies reticent to give predictions, investors wait in the dark for an update or a quarterly conference call. Even if we don’t know whether this is a true rebound, or merely a dead-cat bounce, at least there’s more timely data available to examine.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. is planning a digital event to showcase games for its next-generation PlayStation 5 console that may take place as early as next week, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.The virtual event could be held June 3, though some people also cautioned that plans have been in flux and that the date may change. Other PlayStation 5 events may follow in the coming weeks and months, and Sony is not expected to reveal every essential detail on the console during its first presentation.Read more: Sony Is Struggling With PlayStation 5 Price Due to Costly PartsA Sony spokesperson declined to comment. The company’s shares were largely unchanged in early Thursday trading in Tokyo.The Japanese tech giant has only let out a trickle of information on the PlayStation 5 so far, which the company says remains on track for release this holiday season despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said earlier this month that Sony “will soon be announcing a strong lineup of PS5 games.”June is traditionally highlighted by the biggest games industry conference, E3 in Los Angeles, but that was canceled this year due to the spread of the virus. In response, Sony and many game publishers are refashioning their promotional plans around streamed online presentations.Read more: Sony Is Said to Limit PlayStation 5 Output in Its First YearWhile only a small circle within Sony are privy to the appearance of the PS5 console, the controller has been shared with outside developers and, fearing it wouldn’t be able to control leaks, the company made it public in early April.Fans have been eager to hear about the lineup of video games that will launch alongside the console and later.Microsoft Corp., Sony’s most direct rival in the console wars, has put out regular streams and updates about the upcoming Xbox Series X, which is also planned for release this fall.(Updates with chart and share action in third paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- DefinedCrowd, an Amazon.com Inc.-backed startup that provides data sets to train artificially intelligent speech programs, is setting its sights on a public listing in the next five years as voice interactions between humans and machines become more common.The Seattle-based company raised $50.5 million in a recent funding round led by existing investors, paving the way for an initial public offering within the next five years, Chief Executive Officer Daniela Braga said in an interview. The company declined to comment on its valuation.“It’s the road to an IPO,” Braga said, adding her company’s ambition is to support the development of AI so that people eventually will “communicate with machines the same way we do with humans.”Founded by Braga in 2015, DefinedCrowd curates voice and text data for clients including BMW AG and Mastercard Inc. to train virtual assistants and customer-service chatbots. The company designs the sets to be diverse and balanced, representing certain dialects or age ranges for audiences most likely to use the systems. Revenue grew 656% last year and is expected to triple this year, Braga said.Once the pandemic subsides, Braga said she expects businesses from a range of industries – including telehealth and education – to build AI personal assistants to better serve customers, something that might require more specific data that incorporates an industry’s vocabulary.Amazon, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have come under fire over revelations they used recordings of customers’ interactions with virtual assistants to train their AI systems. A former contractor working on Apple’s Siri transcription project in Ireland last week complained to European privacy authorities over the “massive violation of the privacy of millions of citizens.” The companies said they’ve made changes to provide users with more control over their data.By contrast, DefinedCrowd uses a crowdsourcing platform, Neevo, to generate data from a paid community of more than 290,000 members in 70 countries. Crowd members are asked to complete tasks like recording their voices or transcribing and annotating recordings rather than pulling data from customers who are using voice AI products.Braga said the newly raised funds will help the company expand its products and nearly double the number of employees in 2020. The company current employs around 268 people. Existing investors that participated in the funding round include Evolution Equity Partners, Kibo Ventures, Portugal Ventures, Bynd Venture Capital, EDP Ventures, and Ironfire Ventures as well as new investors Semapa Next and Hermes GPE.Amazon and Sony Corp., which is also an existing investor, didn’t increase their stakes in the latest round, Braga said, adding it was a strategic move not to increase the involvement of other companies as DefinedCrowd moves toward an IPO.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Peter Chou, the man who led HTC Corp. through its most prosperous years as an Android phone maker, is returning to consumer electronics with the unveiling of a new virtual reality headset, platform and company.Called XRSpace, the project has been in the works for three years and its centerpiece is a mobile VR headset equipped with fifth-generation wireless networking and over three hours of battery life. Partnering with Deutsche Telekom AG and Chunghwa Telecom Co., XRSpace is also building the VR platform on which services, games and social activities can be accessed and experienced.Priced at $599, the XRSpace headset has a high cost of entry, but the company envisions bundling it with carriers’ 5G service packages or in other forms for educational institutions. After its home market of Taiwan, it’ll look to expand to the U.S. and Europe, Chou said in an interview with Bloomberg News, with the rest of Asia to follow.Chou’s headset is the latest in a long line of devices like Facebook Inc.’s Oculus Rift, which have tried to bring VR into the mainstream without much success so far. The XRSpace gadget is still months away from store shelves and few have had a chance to test or even view it. But the entrepreneur says he’s already signed up 40 to 50 apps for his VR platform.XRSpace’s ambition is to come up with uses for the 5G networks that carriers are rolling out globally.“5G is coming. It feels like 2002, when we first had 2.5G data networks and the first smartphones like the O2 XDA started coming out,” Chou said. “Today, the smartphone experience of togetherness is primitive” because it fails to capture the full range of human expression. XRSpace’s headset uses cameras to pick up hand gestures and track the wearer’s motions, and it creates a lifelike avatar from a selfie. Chou promised it’ll let users perform real-world actions like shaking hands or shooting a basketball in a natural way.The XRSpace founder quit HTC after the popularity of its smartphones waned, but now he’s hoping VR will help a comeback.To build its virtual world, XRSpace has been designing public and private spaces for users to inhabit and even creating virtual stadiums where sports fans can gather together for a shared viewing of a ballgame. The coronavirus outbreak has triggered an uptick in interest in shared remote experiences, as signaled by rapper Travis Scott’s virtual concert in the game Fortnite and Sony Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida expressing interest in streaming live concerts to the company’s PlayStation VR headset.Read more: Fortnite, Rappers and the Billion-Dollar Pandemic Gaming BoomThe pandemic was initially an obstacle for XRSpace, whose launch had been planned for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, one of the first global events to be canceled by the spread of the virus. Chou said that manufacturing was set back by roughly two months because of it, and the XRSpace headset is now expected to launch in the third quarter of this year, starting with Taiwan where the company has the most partnerships lined up.But the upside for XRSpace, according to Head of Content Kurt Liu, is that many more interested parties -- such as educational institutions asking about distance learning and collaboration tools -- have been reaching out. Liu’s team has been working with hundreds of developers since last year and already has more than 40 apps embedded in the platform, he said. Those include games as well as wellness and relaxation applications, for which the company has recruited health care experts with decades of experience.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Amazon has a big-budget game, another in the works, and a secretive cloud gaming service in the making. All of that could prove to be a problem for the industry's old guard.
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. faces a crucial test on Wednesday with the release of its first original big-budget video game. The reception from homebound gamers will signal whether the company can become a force in a $159-billion global industry dominated by the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Activision Blizzard Inc.Crucible is a free-to-play PC game in which teams hunt down opponents and creatures on a distant planet. Amazon plans to start selling another game in August. Called New World, it will put players on a mysterious island where they will battle one another and hunt. The company is also working on The Lord of The Rings game and some unannounced projects.Crucible will make money by selling digital merchandise as well as seasonal battle passes. New World should fetch $40 for a standard edition and $50 for a deluxe version, including additional in-game items and a digital art book.“There’s tremendous room for invention in games,” says Mike Frazzini, the vice president of Amazon Games. “We’re just getting started.”If the first two titles are well received, Amazon’s gaming division could attract talent and shed a reputation for fits and starts. Popular games could also help build momentum for the company’s widely expected launch of a game-streaming service to rival Google Stadia, which lets users play a bunch games from any compatible device, without needing to download or update them. “There is much riding on the success of Crucible and New World,” says Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Go Play Research.Amazon has been selling games from independent as well as the world’s largest publishers for decades, and its Amazon Web Services and tools support development of other companies’ games. It entered game publishing in 2012, partly to give consumers another reason to sign up for its Prime subscription, which along with free shipping offers a variety of entertainment options including television shows and movies. Early efforts that focused on mid-tier games, including some designed for Amazon's Fire TV streaming devices, didn't make a splash.Amazon constructed its game strategy from various pieces. In 2014, the Seattle-based company purchased Twitch, where people stream themselves playing such games as Fortnite and Valorant. Two years later, Amazon launched Twitch Prime, which gives game-playing Prime subscribers extra perks for no additional cost.The company began working on its own titles by hiring famed designers like Kim Swift. But Amazon has struggled to retain key talent, including Swift, who left for Electronic Arts Inc. and now works at Google. In 2018, Amazon canceled a game called Breakaway, in which teams tried to move a ball to their opponent’s goal. Last summer, the gaming news publication Kotaku reported that the company had laid off dozens of game developers and shelved some unannounced titles. Even the Crucible and New World release dates have been pushed out; Amazon blamed fallout from Covid-19.There’s plenty of competition. Microsoft, Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. all have their own hardware—often an advantage because consoles enable advanced features. Facebook Inc., meanwhile, offers games like FarmVille on its social network, and its Facebook Gaming live-streaming service has been stealing share and streamers from Twitch. Amazon is also competing with established game publishers such as Activision and EA, which are constantly improving their existing games and coming up with new hits.Amazon has called in some extra help to push its games across the finish line. In 2017, former EA veteran Bing Gordon left Amazon’s board to help guide the division as a consultant. He has advised on marketing strategy and even played some games and offered feedback. Gordon is renowned for leading EA’s product development and creating an innovative pricing strategy for its online games.His initial agreement to consult for Amazon’s games division was extended and runs for about another year, according to a person familiar with the matter. A company spokesperson confirmed Gordon is advising the division. His involvement with Amazon’s game unit was previously reported by the tech news site The Information. Gordon is also on the board of mobile game maker Zynga Inc.“Amazon Game Studios is still finding its way,” says Susan Eustis, president of Wintergreen Research. But one hit game could provide a huge lift, she adds, and Amazon's 150 million paid Prime members globally represent a big market advantage.Launching a product in the midst of a pandemic may seem counter-intuitive. But gaming has become a go-to entertainment choice for people hunkered down at home—a captive audience if ever there was one. Players have been flocking to new releases like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as rediscovering old favorites like Fortnite. Still, as the lockdowns ease, the recent surge in game playing could abate. Whether people keep paying for games amid skyrocketing unemployment remains to be seen.Amazon’s new games are likely to get a bump from Twitch, which can help publishers market new releases. Twitch’s players and streamers have been involved in the development of Crucible from early on. The game itself is specifically adapted to show well on the service: Characters are easily recognizable from a distance. It’s fast-paced from the get-go, an effort to make it exciting to watch. Twitch has said that ads on the platform to promote EA’s Apex Legends game helped it get 25 million unique users in a week.“One of the things that we hear most often from people who try Crucible is that it feels unique,” Frazzini says. “There are elements and gameplay mechanics that feel familiar, but they’re combined in a way that’s different from anything else they’ve played.”But making a blockbuster game is not easy, for anyone. Some reviewers who got an early peek at the two games liked them; others have not.“The buzz on these games has not been that great,” says David Cole, founder of DFC Intelligence, which tracks digital entertainment. “They are ambitious, but the market changes fast and both products already look passe now.”There have been plenty of naysayers with many titles that have gone on to become a success. Ultimately, it’s the players who will decide whether Amazon will become a gaming powerhouse.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The IMX500 line of intelligent video sensors will come with embedded access to artificial intelligence (AI) tools from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure. Camera systems built around these sensor chips will be able to analyze their video streams in real time. Paired with a custom data management, Sony's chipset can analyze the video stream locally.
The combination of Sony's (SNE) imaging and sensing technology with Microsoft's cloud AI services will create a powerful platform in the smart camera market.
Image source: The Motley Fool. Bilibili Inc. (NASDAQ: BILI)Q1 2020 Earnings CallMay 19, 2020, 9:00 p.m. ETContents: Prepared Remarks Questions and Answers Call Participants Prepared Remarks: OperatorLadies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome to the Bilibili 2020 First Quarter Earnings Conference Call.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. said it intends to take full control of its finance unit for about 395.5 billion yen ($3.7 billion), buying out one of its most lucrative businesses to inject more stability into a largely electronics and entertainment-focused operation.The Japanese giant will offer 2,600 yen a share for the part of Sony Financial Holdings Inc. it doesn’t already own, it said in a statement Tuesday. That’s a premium of about 26% to Monday’s close. Shares in the finance unit surged 19% Tuesday, while Sony itself gained more than 3%.Sony last week warned that operating profit could fall 30% or more this fiscal year because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on production and consumption. The financial services business, one of its most profitable, had seen a deterioration because its sales people can’t go out to pitch customers on insurance and other products, it said. The difficulty in projecting future performance for that unit affected Sony’s ability to give a companywide forecast for the year.But the mainly Japanese-focused finance unit could help offset a wider operation vulnerable to global shocks, including an image sensor unit grappling with U.S.-Chinese trade tensions. Once wholly owned and controlled, the business could help raise the parent’s overall profit by 40 billion yen to 50 billion yen annually starting next fiscal year, the company said.“The financial unit is based in Japan, and its profit stability will benefit Sony, as a global company, amid geopolitical risks,” Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida told investors during Sony’s annual strategy briefing Tuesday. “The financial business is as important as our electronics and entertainment units, and we see long-term growth potential in the business.”Read more: Sony Slides After Warning of 30% Profit Drop in Fiscal YearYoshida has overhauled the technology icon in recent years to focus on franchises such as sensors for smartphone cameras and the PlayStation games business. Activist investor Dan Loeb has pushed for a sale of the finance operation but Yoshida has said the division, which sells insurance policies among other services, is integral to enhancing the company’s value.The Tokyo-based company, also a major Hollywood entertainment producer, has been diversifying into banking since 2001. Sony Financial itself was set up in 2004 and at one point was expected to bring in the majority of the Japanese conglomerate’s operating profit.“The move could help stabilize Sony’s profit even when electronics businesses are in trouble,” Morningstar Research analyst Kazunori Ito said. But “there’s no synergy between the domestic financial units and other arms.Shares in potential candidates to take Sony Financial’s spot on the benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed Tuesday after the report, including Japan Post Bank Co. and Seven Bank Ltd.(Updates with CEO’s comments from the fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have partnered to embed artificial intelligence capabilities into the Japanese company’s latest imaging chip, a big boost for a camera product the electronics giant describes as a world-first for commercial customers.The new module’s big advantage is that it has its own processor and memory built in, which allows it to analyze video using AI tech like Microsoft’s Azure, but in a self-contained system that’s faster, simpler and more secure to operate than existing methods.The two companies are appealing to retail and logistics businesses with potential uses like optimizing warehouse and factory automation, quantifying the flow of customers through stores and making cars smarter about their drivers and environment.At a time of increasing public surveillance to help rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus, this new smart camera also has the potential to offer more privacy-conscious monitoring. And should its technology be adapted for personal devices, it even holds promise for advancing mobile photography.Read more: Sony Releases Faster Camera Sensors With Integrated AIInstead of generating actual images, Sony’s AI chip can analyze the video it sees and provide just metadata about what’s in front of it -- saying instead of showing what’s in its frame of vision. Because no data is sent to remote servers, opportunities for hackers to intercept sensitive images or video are dramatically reduced, which should help allay privacy fears.Apple Inc. has already proven the efficacy of combining AI and imaging to create more secure systems with its Face ID biometric authentication, powered by the iPhone’s custom-designed Neural Engine processor. Huawei Technologies Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google also have dedicated AI silicon in their smartphones to assist with image processing. These on-device chips represent what’s known as edge computing: handling complex AI and machine-learning tasks at the so-called edge of the network instead of sending data back and forth to servers.“We are aware many companies are developing AI chips and it’s not like we try to make our AI chip better than others,” said Hideki Somemiya, senior general manager of Sony’s System Solutions group. “Our focus is on how we can distribute AI computing across the system, taking cost and efficiency into consideration. Edge computing is a trend, and in that respect, ours is the edge of the edge.”Sony’s advance is to eliminate the need for transfers within the device itself. Whereas Apple and Google still use conventional image sensors that convert light particles into computer-readable image formats for their chips to read, Sony’s new part is capable of doing the analytical work without any data leaving its physical boundaries.The AI-capable sensor may also help advance augmented reality applications. The two U.S. giants, whose iOS and Android operating systems control practically the entire smartphone market, are heavily invested in AR development. Google Maps now offers the option to show 3-D directions atop a video feed of a user’s surroundings while Apple is planning new 3-D cameras on its next set of iPhones in the fall. The agenda-setters of the mobile industry are looking for ever smarter mobile cameras, spurring the demand for more sophisticated imaging gear.Read more: Google Delivers an Answer to Apple on Augmented RealitySony already enjoys a substantial lead as the world’s foremost provider of image sensors, counting Apple, Samsung Electronics Co. and every major Chinese smartphone maker among its customers along with pro camera stalwarts like Hasselblad V, Fujifilm Holdings Corp. and Nikon Corp.Its next set of customers may be automakers.The AI-powered Sony sensor is capable of recording high-resolution video and simultaneously conducting its AI analysis at up to 30 frames each second. That rapid, up-to-the-microsecond responsiveness makes it potentially suitable for in-car use such as detecting when a driver is falling asleep, Sony’s Somemiya said. Without the need for a “cloud brain” as some existing systems have, Sony’s AI sensor could hasten the adoption of smart-car technology.”This on-chip approach enables a system design to be more flexible and even optimized, given that the cost of image processing, which is one of the most compute-intensive tasks for autonomous driving, can be offloaded from an electronic control unit,” said Shinpei Kato, founder and chief technology officer of Tokyo-based Tier IV Inc., which develops self-driving software.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. confirmed it acquired NextVR, a startup that provides sports and other content for virtual-reality headsets.The acquisition may help Apple’s development of VR and AR headsets with accompanying software and content. NextVR supplies content to several existing VR headsets, including Facebook Inc.’s Oculus and devices from Sony Corp., HTC Corp. and Lenovo.NextVR has deals with sports leagues including the National Basketball Association and entertainment networks such as Fox Sports. The startup also has expertise in live streaming in virtual reality, which could also be useful for live concerts and games.The Newport Beach, California-based startup officially shut down this week, saying on its website that it is “heading in a new direction.” Apple said it buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and generally does not discuss its purpose or plans. It didn’t disclose a purchase price, but website 9to5Mac reported in April that Apple was in talks to buy NextVR for about $100 million.The deal is at least the third for Apple this year, following the purchase of Voysis, an Irish startup that focuses on voice technology, and Dark Sky, a popular weather app.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. touted on Thursday the world’s first image sensors with built-in artificial intelligence, promising to make data-gathering tasks much faster and more secure. Calling it the first of its kind, Sony said the technology would give “intelligent vision” to cameras for retail and industrial applications.The new sensors are akin to tiny self-contained computers, incorporating a logic processor and memory. They’re capable of image recognition without generating any images, allowing them to do AI tasks like identifying, analyzing or counting objects without offloading any information to a separate chip. Sony said the method provides increased privacy while also making it possible to do near-instant analysis and object tracking.Sony joins tech giants like Huawei Technologies Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google that have been building dedicated AI silicon to help accelerate everything from image processing to machine learning. Its latest semiconductors could offer a big boost to augmented reality applications, should the technology be adapted for the smartphone or consumer markets, where the Japanese company is a leader.The new AI-augmented sensors are capable of capturing a regular 12-megapixel image, 4K video at up to 60 frames per second or neither, providing only metadata about what the sensor has seen. Among the applications suggested by Sony are the counting and tracking of visitors to public spaces, heat and congestion mapping and measuring shopper behavior in retail locations.Though intended for commercial customers in its present iteration, the technology has promise for consumer applications as well. Without generating any actual images, it can help a personal device such as a smartphone identify objects and users securely. The accelerated object detection would also be an advantage for maintaining sharp focus when filming fast-moving subjects such as sports players or pets.Sony is the world leader in providing image sensors for smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and dedicated photo and video cameras from the likes of Nikon Corp. Its sensor division has been its most reliable growth driver over the past few years, boosted by the proliferation of multi-camera phones. The new products are in line with the company’s long-term goal, as articulated by Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida, of expanding the variety of sensing solutions it offers and pursuing more forms of recurring revenue.Sony said it has already shipped samples of its new sensors to potential customers, who are mostly in the business-to-business segment, including factory automation.(Updates with background on potential advances from fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. warned operating profit could fall 30% or more in the current fiscal year as the coronavirus hampers production of devices like smartphones and saps consumer demand for digital cameras and other electronics.The company sounded the note of caution as it reported operating profit of 35.45 billion yen ($331 million) for the quarter ended in March, down 57% from the same period a year earlier. Revenue also fell, to 1.75 trillion yen. Sony declined to provide a specific forecast for the current fiscal year for the first time since 2016 when the Kumamoto earthquake disrupted its operations.The company’s shares were down as much as 3.9% in Thursday morning trading in Tokyo, the biggest drop on an intraday basis since April 1.Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida has overhauled the technology icon in recent years to focus on franchises such as sensors for smartphone cameras and the PlayStation games business, yet many of its operations remain vulnerable to people getting stuck at home. Consumers can’t go out to buy phones or electronics or watch Sony movies in the cinema, while factories that make its products are struggling to return to full capacity.“We will hold off on making additional capital investments on our sensor factories as long as we can so that we can gather more information and make the most-informed decisions,” said Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki on a conference call after the results.In a presentation, the company warned of unusual uncertainty because of the pandemic’s effect on production and demand. Based on its best assumptions now, “operating income for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021 is currently estimated to be at least 30% lower than the level achieved in the previous fiscal year,” it said.However, Sony’s outlook anticipates the effects of Covid-19 on its various businesses to start abating after June. “That sounds a bit too optimistic, given the latest situation in China and South Korea,” said Atsushi Osanai, a professor at Waseda Business School.The virus is impacting operations in unusual ways. Sony said its most affected unit is consumer electronics, with disruptions hitting factories that make televisions in Malaysia, Mexico and Slovakia, although they have resumed partial operations. Television sales have also slumped, especially in Europe, India and Vietnam, while demand for digital cameras has decreased.The flagship gaming business saw PlayStation 4 console sales decline 42% to just 1.5 million units in the quarter, partially because of the widely anticipated launch of the successor PlayStation 5 at the end of the year. Subscribers to Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, however, surged to 41.5 million, showing one positive impact for the company from the millions of people stuck at home in search of entertainment.What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysSony’s profit could drop in fiscal 1H ending September due to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet may start to recover in 2H driven by PlayStation 5 and image sensors.\- Masahiro Wakasugi and Ian Ma, analystsSony’s financial services business, one of its most lucrative, has seen a deterioration because its sales people can’t go out to pitch customers on insurance and other products. The difficulty in projecting future performance for that unit affected Sony’s ability to give a companywide forecast for the year.Totoki also said Sony now finds it difficult to make movies and music, essential parts of its entertainment portfolio. The company is not certain whether consumer behavior will change over the long term, with for example a new reluctance to gather in large groups at movie theaters or concert halls.“Covid-19 may have a lasting impact on markets like Brazil, India and Southeast Asia because it could decrease demand for consumer electronics, movie theaters and music concerts,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Masahiro Wakasugi.Sony said the virus hasn’t had a large impact on its manufacture of image sensors, which are incorporated into many of the world’s leading smartphones, including Apple Inc.’s iPhones. But the company is uncertain whether Apple and other phone makers can keep up their production -- or whether consumers will keep buying. Smartphone shipments fell in the first three months of the year by the fastest rate on record because of constraints on supply and demand.”While we expect demand for our image sensors would continue to grow in the mid- to long-term, we see a risk that revenue from the business this fiscal year would be flat from the year-earlier period,” Totoki said.Sony said production of the PlayStation 4 game console has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic to some extent, but the output is sufficient to cover the current demand for the console and sales are stable. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 5 remains on track for a release at the end of this year. Software for the new console is also on schedule, the company said, as it hasn’t seen any major impact on games development.“We may beef up PlayStation’s network services because of a potential increase in demand from Covid-19,” said the CFO, adding he couldn’t comment on the likely demand for the new game console.(Updates with share price and analyst reaction)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
In reporting fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, the Japanese entertainment company said that even though it faced challenges in testing and the qualification of production lines, due largely to employees working from home and restrictions placed on international travel, its newest game console is still on track for a launch during the holiday shopping season. As for game development, Sony said it's not seeing interruptions. In April the company said it was delaying The Last of Us 2, one of the most anticipated game titles of 2020, because of logistic issues.
It is now time for us to start the Sony Corporation Consolidated Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year 2019. My name is Kato from the Corporate Communications Department. Today, first of all we will hear from Hiroki Totoki, who is our CFO and Senior Executive Vice President.