Facebook Purchases Virtual-Reality Startup

Facebook plans to purchase Oculus VR—a California startup that makes virtual-reality (VR) systems used primarily for electronic gaming—for about $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in Facebook stock. Oculus is best known for its Oculus Rift immersive VR headset, which is not for sale yet. This is the second big deal in as many months for Facebook, which recently bought online messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion. Analysts contend this activity demonstrates Facebook’s intent to move into new business sectors and technologies. (The San Jose Mercury-News)(Information Week)(Mark Zuckerberg @ Facebook)

US Tax Agency: Bitcoin Will Be Treated Like Property

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued information regarding how it intends to treat virtual currencies including bitcoin. They IRS stated that it will tax virtual currencies like property, governed by the rules applying to barter transactions. The agency also said it doesn’t consider virtual currencies to be legal tender and they cannot be used to pay tax debt. But those who receive a wage in a virtual currency still must pay taxes on it, based on the currency’s fair market value at the time of the transaction. Investors must treat virtual currencies as commodities. This means that upon selling them, an individual must pay capital-gains taxes if they have gained value but can claim a capital loss if they have lost value. (Associated Press)(USA Today)

US Consumers Receive Credits from E-book Antitrust Case

Consumers who purchased electronic books in 2010 and 2012 have begun receiving notices that they will receive credits from a $166 million settlement in a high-profile, price-fixing antitrust case that the US Department of Justice and state attorneys general brought  against five large publishers. The publishers—Macmillan, Penguin Group (USA), Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins—were accused of collaborating on their pricing strategies to ultimately raise the retail price of books. As a result, books sold on Amazon that had cost $9.99 rose to $12.99 or $14.99, causing consumers to pay more than they should have. Most consumers who bought e-books from the publishers between 1 April 2010 and 21 May 2012 were given credits ranging from 73 cents to as much as $3.17 per book, the higher amount for a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers in the state of Minnesota will receive between 94 cents and $3.93 per book as that case was settled separately. Most of the affected consumers were Amazon customers who can use the credit to purchase print or e-books from the company, which was not a party in the suit. Other retailers are also providing customers with credits or, in the case of Sony, checks. Apple, which also sells e-books, has yet to settle its case with the government and is scheduled to go to trial in May. (Reuters)(Bloomberg Businessweek)(San Francisco Chronicle)(Attorneys General and Class E-books Settlements)
 

Study: Print News Is Shrinking, but Digital News Is Growing

Digital news sites are growing at a time when traditional print media is experiencing ongoing decreases in readership and employment, according to a newly-released report by the Pew Research Center, a US think tank. In its State of the News Media 2014 report, the organization found full-time newspaper employment dropped 6.4 percent in 2012 and continued to contract. But, the study said, digital news sites like BuzzFeed and Mashable are seeing considerable growth. Almost 3,000 of the new jobs in journalism, Pew reported, were created by 30 large digital-only news outlets such as Business Insider, Gawker, and Vice Media. The full report is available at www.journalism.org/packages/state-of-the-news-media-2014. (Associated Press)(American Journalism Review)(The Pew Research Center State of the News Media 2014) 

Google and Eyewear Manufacturer Announce Google Glass Partnership

Italian eyewear maker Luxottica—manufacturer of glasses for brands such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Chanel, and Armani—will design, develop, and distribute the Google Glass wearable computer. Although Google and Luxottica have been collaborating since 2013, the deal was made public only this week. Neither company disclosed the deal’s terms. Astro Teller, who runs the Google X laboratory, said the company wanted to partner with an eyewear designer because getting consumers to wear a computer on their face is “a fashion problem as much as it is a technology problem.” Analysts say the deal could bring Google Glass—which has not been well-received by the public, even though it hasn’t been released yet—more mainstream product support and recognition that it is a serious product. “Partnering with Luxottica is a huge coup for Google,” said Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder. “In one fell swoop, Google could get Glass in front of tens or hundreds of millions of consumers in an eyewear-appropriate setting.” Google has yet to say when Glass will be commercially available and how much it will cost. (The Wall Street Journal)(Tech Crunch)

Cisco Launching $1 Billion Cloud Initiative

Cisco Systems says it plans to spend $1 billion in the next two years on cloud computing services, mostly to build datacenters, expected to be on line in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia this year. The company plans to deliver its Cisco Cloud Services through partnerships with Australian telecommunications provider Telstra, IT distributor Ingram Micro, and Indian IT company Wipro. “Here’s the reality behind the moves: Cisco wants to be an IT partner of choice for the enterprise. The problem for Cisco was that it was selling gear to enable cloud computing but not offering services,” wrote Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief of the business technology news website ZDNet. He said, “The big question is whether Cisco’s cloud efforts ring true to IT buyers or just sound like a case of ‘me, too.’ ” InformationWeek said the service is intended “to serve as a backbone for the Internet of Things.”  (Reuters)(ZD Net)(InformationWeek)

SMS Messaging Allows Crooks to Cash Out at ATMs

Security experts have found a short message service (SMS)-based malware attack that lets hackers force ATMs to give them cash. The attack uses a smartphone connected via a USB port to the computer that manages an infected ATM. Security vendor Symantec says the Backdoor.Ploutus malware has been used in Mexico and is spreading to English-speaking countries. A bigger problem, according to Symantec researchers, is that 95 percent of ATMs still use Windows XP, which Microsoft will stop supporting on 8 April 2014. This will make these ATMs a target for many types of attacks. (SlashDot)(ZD Net)(TechWeek Europe)

Criminals are Increasingly Using Virtual Currencies

Criminals are increasingly utilizing virtual currencies, including bitcoin, for money laundering, according to the Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency. Europol director Rob Wainwright said police should have more powers to identify anonymous criminal suspects operating on the Internet so that they could prosecute their crimes. “We’re seeing that virtual currencies are being used as an instrument to facilitate crime, particularly in regard to the laundering of illicit profits,” Wainwright told Reuters. The European Banking Authority is reportedly investigating how criminals use virtual money and may press for its regulation in Europe. (Reuters)(IT Pro)

Apple, Comcast Discussing TV Service

Apple is negotiating with Comcast for the ability to offer congestion-free, live and cloud-based on-demand content through Apple’s set-top boxes. Apple is asking Comcast to guarantee that its service would circumvent common traffic congestion between the cable operator’s system and the customer, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is the way Comcast treats its own on-demand video and Internet phone service, Apple is also reportedly asking for a portion of Comcast’s subscription fees in return. Neither Comcast nor Apple has commented on the report. Although there are devices on the market designed to provide consumers with television content, “none offer the kind of fully formed TV service, with the guarantee of network quality, that Apple desires,” noted the Wall Street Journal. “If it goes through, the deal would signal a new level of cooperation between technology and cable TV companies.” Apple reportedly was previously in talks about the same type of service with Time Warner Cable, which Comcast is acquiring. (Venture Beat)(USA Today)(The Wall Street Journal)
 

Regulators Delay Microsoft, Nokia Deal until April

Chinese and Indian regulators are slowing the closure of a pending $7.4 billion deal between Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia, which wants to sell its handset business to Microsoft, is mired in discussion with Chinese regulators and Indian tax authorities. Google and Samsung Electronics are reportedly asking Chinese regulators to ensure the Microsoft-Nokia deal would not increase licensing fees. Nokia is also working with Indian authorities over a new $414 million tax claim against the company in Tamil Nadu. The Indian Supreme Court earlier ordered Nokia to provide a $571 million guarantee related to its disputed tax debt before allowing it to transfer ownership of its Chennai factory to Microsoft. Nokia reportedly owes the Indian government $340 million in unpaid taxes, which could reportedly increase to $3.4 billion. Nokia and Microsoft are reportedly eager to finalize the deal in April. They have been trying to gain regulatory and antitrust approvals in 15 countries across five continents, and have already received them from the European Commission and the US Department of Justice. (United Press International)(ZDNet)(Reuters)
 

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