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TikTok draws interest from bidders other than Microsoft

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By: Bloomberg |

Updated: August 1, 2020 11:39:14 am


tiktok, tiktok banned, tiktok donald trump, tiktok microsoft, tiktok in US, tiktok bidders ByteDance is considering changes to the structure of TikTok because President Donald Trump is weighing ordering a divestiture of TikTok’s U.S. business, a decision that could come at any time. (Bloomberg)

Microsoft Corp. isn’t the only company interested in buying TikTok’s U.S. operations, according to people familiar with the matter.

U.S. government officials probing national-security concerns around the Chinese-owned video-sharing app have had talks with at least one other large company as well as investors in TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. who are interested in taking a stake in TikTok, according to one of the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. This person declined to identify these companies.

ByteDance is considering changes to the structure of TikTok because President Donald Trump is weighing ordering a divestiture of TikTok’s U.S. business, a decision that could come at any time.

Venture investors in ByteDance have approached Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming with a range of proposals to address U.S. concerns that the app, especially popular with teens, is a security threat, people familiar with the matter have said. Any solution would likely have to pass scrutiny from U.S. regulators in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, as well as U.S. antitrust regulators.

The deal provides a rare opportunity to profit off the momentum of the fastest-growing social media app in the U.S. Still, not all companies likely to be attracted to such a deal will even be in the running. TikTok’s valuation is estimated at $20 billion to $40 billion, so few companies would be able to afford it. Most of those that would are likely to find it politically difficult to make the move.

The CEOs of Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. testified this week in the U.S. House of Representatives to answer lawmakers’ questions about their enormous market power. While any one of the four companies could fit TikTok into their product offerings, deals by these giants are already under a microscope.

Google, whose YouTube is a competing video offering, is already facing a European Union probe for its much smaller acquisition of Fitbit Inc. Apple doesn’t tend to make acquisitions anywhere near large as TikTok. And Facebook’s years-ago purchases of smaller rivals Instagram and WhatsApp have been brought up anew amid the antitrust scrutiny. The world’s largest social network has already worked to turn lawmakers against TikTok, and is unlikely to court further risk to its already tenuous position on data security. Facebook also looked at purchasing Musical.ly, the predecessor to TikTok, in 2016, and passed.

Microsoft, with a market value of $1.55 trillion, is bigger than Google or Facebook, but currently has a better reputation in Washington. The company wasn’t invited to the antitrust hearing on July 29, and has largely escaped recent criticism of Big Tech’s outsize influence. It’s unclear whether Microsoft would seek to integrate TikTok into its own operations, or join with other investors from private equity or venture capital to finance spinning out TikTok as a separate entity based in the U.S. With the second option, investors could seek to gain even more from a TikTok stock listing in the future.

Media companies, such as Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications Inc., have been interested in purchasing social-media assets in the past. Disney in 2016 considered but ultimately decided against purchasing Twitter Inc., for instance. TikTok’s U.S.-based CEO, Kevin Mayer, was formerly the head of streaming for Disney, and may be better positioned to help broker a deal in the media world.

Other social-media companies, such as Twitter and Snapchat parent Snap Inc., have smaller valuations than TikTok and therefore are unlikely bidders. They would need to use stock or outside financial help to complete such a transaction.

It’s still not clear how a U.S. divestiture of TikTok would work, and how completely the app would have to separate from its current Chinese ownership. The company hasn’t said how such a move would affect employees, the technology or its product. However the ownership shakes out, there is one group that no potential buyer or investor wants to alienate: TikTok’s 165 million American users.

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Former Google engineer gets 18 months in prison for stealing files

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A federal judge Tuesday sentenced former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison for stealing a trade secret from Google related to self-driving cars months before becoming the head of Uber’s rival unit.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Levandowski, who was convicted after a March plea agreement, could enter custody once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

Alsup said a sentence short of imprisonment would have given “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets,” comparing what Levandowski took to a “competitor’s game plan.”

The 75-year-old judge, who has been involved in Silicon Valley litigation for nearly five decades, described Levandowski’s conviction as the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

“Billions [of dollars] in the future were at play, and when those kind of financial incentives are there good people will do terrible things, and that’s what happened here,” Alsup said.

Prosecutors sought a 27-month prison sentence.

Levandowski requested one-year confinement at his Marin County home, contending that bouts with pneumonia in recent years would make him susceptible to death from the novel coronavirus while in prison. His attorneys asked the judge to consider that investigators found no evidence that “Levandowski used any of Google’s trade secrets after leaving Google’s employment.”

Levandowski transferred more than 14,000 Google files including development schedules and product designs to his personal laptop before leaving the company and while negotiating a deal with Uber, where he briefly led its self-driving car unit.

Uber fired Levandowski in 2017 and then settled a lawsuit from Google parent Alphabet over the misuse of trade secrets, setting back the ride-hailing company’s self-driving project.

The dispute between the companies is ongoing. Levandowski filed for bankruptcy in March because he owes $179 million to Google for his actions before resigning in January 2016.

Google last week asked the bankruptcy judge to reject Uber’s argument that it is not responsible for paying the $179 million under his old employment agreement.

Levandowski, who now runs self-driving truck company Pronto, apologized to Google and said he plans to share his story of regret with others in the tech industry.

“Today marks the end of three and a half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead,” he said in a statement.

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Tech News | Google Play Music to Shut Shop by October

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California [US], Aug 4 (ANI): Tech giant Google is winding up Google Play Music in favour of YouTube Music. The music streaming service will no longer be available for users from September 2020 in New Zealand and South Africa, and from October 2020 in all other global markets.

According to Mashable, the news of Google ending support for Google Play Music as starting from Android 10, the company replaced Google Play Music with YouTube Music as the default music player on Android smartphones.

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In May, Google’s introduction of a transfer tool to help users transfer their Google Play Music library to YouTube Music only backed the fact that Google would soon be ending support for its older music streaming service.

Mashable reported that as per Google, from late August onwards users will not be able to pre-order music or upload/download music from Google Play Music through Music Manager.

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And it will also transfer the user’s playlists and existing purchases.If the user is interested in staying with Google’s new offering, YouTube Music, one can make use of the transfer tool that helps in transferring the existing Google Play Music library.

The transfer tool will transfer everything from one’s likes and dislikes from playlists to the user’s YouTube Music account.

Alternatively, one can also make use of Google Takeout that will help export and download all the music files and account-related data and store it in a preferred location.

A key feature of Google Play Music has also made its way to YouTube Music, just like GPM, the user can also upload his/her own music to the account. It can then be accessed via the cloud on any device on which the user can access YouTube Music. (ANI)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)



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Google Bringing Cash, Nest to ADT | Home Tech

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By John P. Mello Jr.

Aug 4, 2020 4:00 AM PT

Google’s Nest line of smart home products will be combined with ADT’s security services in a partnership announced Monday by the two companies.

As part of the deal, Google will invest US$450 million into ADT to acquire a 6.6 percent interest in the security and smart home solutions provider.

The companies also agreed to each spend $150 million for co-marketing, product development, technology and employee training.

In a statement, the pair explained that the partnership will integrate Google’s hardware and services and ADT’s DIY and professionally installed smart home security solutions to innovate the residential and small business security industry.

The future ADT and Google home security solution is expected to advance smart home offerings and attract new consumers seeking premium technology, end-to-end smart home service and trusted security, they added.

Risky Bet

Home security is one of the most popular reasons households purchase smart home devices, observed Jessica Ekholm, a research vice president with Gartner.

She cited a 2018 survey by the firm that found 66 percent of U.S. responders said they were likely to use smart home devices for preventing access to the home while they were away, while 64 percent noted they were likely to use the devices for security when away from home for long stretches of time.

“Partnering with ADT will help Google reach potential new customers that are currently opting for managed security services, thus reaching beyond Google’s Nest usual clientele,” Ekholm told TechNewsWorld.

Frank E. Gillett, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, though, sees the partnership as a risky move.

“This is a very big bet by Google on physical security being a big motivation for people adopting Google products,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I find that puzzling because I don’t think consumers want another $50 a month bill, unless Google can flip ADT’s value proposition and change it from an annoying monthly fee and occasional valuable service to a constantly valuable service for which you gladly pay for.”

Tapping Into Valuable Channel

However, Gillett acknowledged the deal could give Google an advantage over its rivals in the market. “It recruits a motivated partner to emphasize Google over Amazon or Apple as a smart home control system,” he said.

The deal also gives Google access to an important channel for its smart home products.

“Today, Nest products are, by and large, sold at retail,” explained Ross Rubin,
the principal analyst with Reticle Research.

“An important channel for home security and home automation is the professionally monitored service business where ADT is one of the most recognized brands,” he continued.

“In making Nest products available through ADT,” he told TechNewsWorld, “Google can expose them to customers who are specifically interested in this kind of functionality and are actively seeking that out by contacting a monitoring service provider.”

“Google will get better access to that customer base and for ADT,” he said, “they get access to products that are more sophisticated, have a broader ecosystem than products they have distributed in the past.”

Changing Dynamics

Adam Wright, smart home senior research analyst at IDC, observed that the Google-ADT deal illustrates the changing dynamics of the smart home market.

“For some time, the market has been categorized as one with clearly defined segments — do-it-yourself versus fully managed services,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“In the past 12 months or so, DIY vendors are finding added success in areas that have traditionally been exclusive to managed service providers,” he continued.

“Vendors like Nest, Ring, Samsung, and others have launched installation and professional monitoring services for their DIY home automation and security solutions, which essentially blurs the lines of differentiation between DIY vendors and managed service providers and may increase the appeal of adopting a DIY approach to smart home solutions,” Wright explained.

He argued that managed services providers need to respond to encroachments on their market by DIY outfits by pivoting their strategies to allow for a more agile, a la carte approach to their solutions and customer acquisition strategies.

That kind of strategy was behind ADT’s launch in January of Blue by ADT. The DIY smart home security offering allows customers to customize a smart home security system on their own terms, with no long-term contracts required.

“By offering DIY products alongside the full suite of managed services solutions, managed service providers will be better equipped to reach a broader range of consumers that might be at first reluctant to invest in a whole-home package,” Wright said.

“So,” he added, “for Google, this deal can provide a significant boost to its lineup of DIY smart home monitoring and security solutions by positioning it to compete more strongly against both other DIY competitors and also other fully managed service providers like Vivint, Brinks and others.”

Cash Welcomed

Google’s infusion of $450 million into ADT is more important to the home security company than to the search giant, maintained Mark N. Vena, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

“This cash infusion will allow ADT to operate as an ongoing entity without disrupting their current business,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It will also help ADT design more bleeding edge products that integrate Google Assistant functionality at a more robust and intuitive level,” said Vena.

“For Google,” he added, “it helps them get into the residential and businesses services business. Google could probably do that without investing in ADT, but many customers might be wary of partnering with Google for security services due to Google’s somewhat compromised privacy and data protection reputation.”

“ADT is a trusted brand in this space and this would aid Google as they try to expand their brand and product line in the security services area,” Vena explained.

Slicker Hardware

ADT, in turn, can benefit from Google’s reputation.

“ADT, like most professional services security companies and cable companies, has ugly and badly designed equipment,” observed Forrester’s Gillett.

“If ADT uses the slicker hardware and better applications of Google, it will drive sales for Google and customer engagement for ADT,” he said.

“ADT wants to expand beyond the 20 percent of the market that pays for professionally monitored security because it and others in the industry have been under assault from cable TV and Internet service providers,” he added. “So for this partnership to be successful, ADT will need to grow its share of the market.”


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.



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