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China lifts 14-year-old ban on gaming consoles

Posted by Rattana_S On January - 9 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

China has lifted its longtime ban on video game consoles, opening a lucrative new market for manufacturers including Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.

The State Council said in a statement that it will now allow consoles to be manufactured in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, an experimental testing ground for economic reform.

China had implemented a blanket restriction on the manufacture and sale of consoles and games in 2000, denying gaming companies access to the world’s most populous nation. Chinese officials had cited worries over violent content and the potential for moral decay in explaining the ban.

Nintendo shares jumped more than 10% in Tokyo, while Microsoft (MSFTFortune 500) added 1%.Sony (SNE), which had unveiled a new streaming game service in Las Vegas, was flat in New York trading on Tuesday.

With the ban in place, Chinese gamers keen to try consoles were forced to rely the black market to find the latest hardware. Controversial game titles — which are still frequently banned by the government — were also available from underground suppliers.

Yet the restrictions did little to slow the proliferation of PC, online and mobile gaming in China, all of which flourished in the absence of console-based entertainment.

It’s not yet clear whether manufacturers will embrace the Shanghai experiment.

While most video game consoles are already manufactured by contractors based in China, the new rule requires units sold domestically in China to be built in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The requirement could force manufacturers to shift supply chains and open new facilities in order to sell in China.

There is also no guarantee the rule change will stick. The State Council described the repeal as “temporary” and regulators will need to approve foreign products.

Still, the rule change suggests the government is moving forward with reforms in Shanghai.

The city’s free trade zone — 29 square kilometers in area — is an experiment in promoting trade, expanding foreign investment access and liberalizing the financial sector, all of which are tightly controlled and regulated now by the government.

China’s general framework for the area includes expanded foreign access in industries that previously placed heavy restrictions on outside companies, including banking.

— CNN’s Vivian Kam contributed reporting. To top of page

Surface Pro 2 tablet gets a quiet speed bump to 1.9GHz

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 3 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Sometimes, it pays to avoid the bleeding edge of technology. Microsoft hasconfirmed to The Verge that newer Surface Pro 2 tablets are shipping with a faster 1.9GHz Core i5 inside instead of the 1.6GHz chip that came with the earliest models. The company isn’t saying just why it rolled out the stealthy upgrade, although it notes that “routinely” tweaks designs based on part availability and customer value. The move may frustrate early adopters whose two-month-old Windows slates are already behind the times, but it’s good news for latecomers who’ll get more for their money.

As a late holiday gift, Microsoft is finally syncing up some of the popular software from its desktop and tablet Windows OS with the latest version of Windows for phones. We are, of course, referring to classic Windows games like Microsoft Solitaire CollectionMinesweeper (which also has a WP7 version) and Mahjong, which as of today are available on Windows Phone 8. Better still, they’re enhanced for Xbox leaderboards, achievements and stat-tracking, with the ability to pause and resume games across Windows PCs, phones and tablets. They’re all free, so hit the links to download them and waste time on the go just like you do at work.

Qualcomm promotes Mollenkopf to CEO, ends Microsoft talk

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 14 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc, the world’s biggest maker of cellphone chips, unexpectedly named Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf as chief executive on Friday, heading off the possibility he might be poached to run Microsoft Corp.

Mollenkopf had been in line to eventually succeed CEO Paul Jacobs, the 51-year-old son of a Qualcomm co-founder, but that plan was sped up in order to keep the senior executive from leaving, Jacobs told Reuters in an interview.

“Our executives are very talented and very sought after,” Jacobs said, when asked by Reuters whether the promotion was related to an offer from Microsoft.

“The timing is a little faster than we originally planned but the key thing is to make sure we kept management continuity,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs and Mollenkopf declined to specifically discuss Microsoft or whether Mollenkopf had a job offer from the world’s largest software company, which is seeking a candidate to replace retiring CEO Steve Ballmer.

On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported that Microsoft has been considering Mollenkopf as a candidate for CEO.

“He would have been an awesome (Microsoft) CEO,” said FBR analyst Chris Rolland. “But Qualcomm didn’t want to lose him, and it makes sense to me.”

“If I were the son of a founder of a $130 billion company, I would want to make sure I have the top guy behind me – and Steve is definitely that guy,” Rolland said.

Removing Mollenkopf from the shortlist of CEO candidates at Microsoft could complicate matters for its board. The company was down to a “handful” of candidates with no clear leader, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.

Mollenkopf, 44, will take the reins in March, as Qualcomm faces a shift in smartphone growth away from the United States toward China, where it faces an antitrust investigation and where consumers often spend less on their phones.

Qualcomm shares were flat at $72.73 on Nasdaq, suggesting investors saw little impact from the change.

Jacobs, who replaced his father Irwin as Qualcomm CEO in 2005, will serve as executive chairman and focus on developing new technology and long-term opportunities, the company said.

“Paul is a visionary guy and Mollenkopf really knows how to run things. So I think this division of labor makes a ton of sense, although it’s a little earlier than I would have expected,” said Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon.

Under Jacobs, Qualcomm, founded in 1985, has become the top chip supplier for smartphones and its stock value has surpassed that of Intel Corp. Intel is still the world’s largest chipmaker by revenue but is struggling to gain a foothold in mobile.

Investors have been urging Qualcomm to give back more of its profits, and last month Jacobs promised to return three-quarters of its free cashflow to shareholders.

Mollenkopf, an engineer, led Qualcomm’s $3.1 billion acquisition of radio frequency chipmaker Atheros Communications Inc in 2011, its biggest acquisition. He will replace Jacobs on March 4, after the annual shareholder meeting.

Under Jacobs’ leadership, the company’s share price has more than doubled, giving Qualcomm a market capitalization of over $120 billion, while earnings have tripled. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index has risen just over 20 percent in the same period.

While most of Qualcomm’s revenue comes from chips that allow phones to communicate with carrier networks, most of its profit comes from licensing patents for its CDMA cellphone technology – a component in new fourth-generation mobile phones.

Mollenkopf focuses mostly on the semiconductor side of Qualcomm’s business.

“If anything, Mollenkopf in the lead means (an) intense commitment to the semi business,” said Argus Research analyst Jim Kelleher.

CHINA TROUBLE

The antitrust investigation in China will be a key concern for the new CEO. China’s top economic planning agency has substantial evidence against Qualcomm, state media quoted a senior official as saying on Thursday.

Half of Qualcomm’s revenue comes from China, including Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles most of the world’s top-selling electronic gadgets including Apple Inc’s iPhone.

Most of the chips the company sells in China are used in devices that are exported. But domestic Chinese sales make up around a fifth of Qualcomm revenue and it is positioned to reap the vast majority of licensing fees for phone chips in the world’s biggest smartphone market.

Qualcomm denies any wrongdoing and says it is cooperating with the probe, which analysts say is likely tied to royalty negotiations ahead of the impending $16 billion rollout of commercial fourth-generation services by China’s big telecoms carriers.

(Additional reporting by Nadia Damouni and Sinead Carew in New York; Writing by Rodney Joyce; Editing by Kirti Pandey, Ted Kerr and Richard Chang)

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