In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:
- AT&T extends its deal deadline for DirecTV
- IBM receives final OK to sell chip plant
- Two Uber managers detained for questioning in France
- Foursquare’s “mayorships” are back
- Novartis buys a U.S. pharma firm
- AT&T extends DirecTV deadline
With rumors circulating that final FCC approval is at hand, AT&T on Monday said it had extended the “termination date” for its acquisition of DirecTV.
It’s the second extension in the last two months as AT&T continues to seek approval.
The extension is for a “short period of time,” according to Reuters.
- IBM nears wrapup of chip plant sale
GlobalFoundries says it has received the last government approval needed for its acquisition of IBM’s chip business.
Big Blue is paying GlobalFoundaries $1.5 billion to take over the plants which employ several thousand people.
The deal will now close in the near future, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, which cited the company as the source for the report.
“In a reverse of the usual situation, IBM will pay Global $1.5 billlion to take over the business, which remains important to Big Blue as a supplier of semiconductor chips used in products like the mainframe computers made in Poughkeepsie,” the paper said.
Read more at: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/money/2015/06/29/globalfoundries-gets-last-ok-buy-ibm-chip-business/29491095/
- 2 Uber managers detained in France over low-cost service
French authorities detained two senior Uber managers for questioning on Monday over “illicit activity” involving its low-cost ride-hailing service.
The detentions came amid rising tensions between the government and the American company, which culminated last week in a violence-marred taxi strike that blocked roads around the country.
French authorities are frustrated that Uber doesn’t pay the same taxes and social charges as traditional taxis, whose drivers have lashed out against what they see as unfair competition. Uber, meanwhile, argues that the French system is outdated and needs reform to keep up with apps and geo-localization.
Uber said in a statement that its general managers for France and Western Europe were questioned Monday.
“We are happy to answer questions the authorities have about our service and look forward to resolving these issues,” it said.
- Foursquare’s “mayorships”
For a certain subset of people, life started to have meaning again last week, when the startup Foursquare announced that its location-sharing app Swarm is bringing back mayorships.
Come again? Foursquare, you see, was an app that allowed users to “check in” to bars, restaurants and other places. You became the “mayor” of a place if you checked in more than anyone else in a given period. There were fierce competitions for mayorships. While Foursquare’s user base stayed small, many users were fiercely loyal.
In 2014, with user growth stalling and competitors like Yelp eclipsing it, Foursquare split itself into two apps. Foursquare became the place for people to discover businesses and venues around them, while the social features migrated to a new app called Swarm. At Swarm, you can check in to places and share this information with your Swarm buddies.
The Swarm app also let users compete for mayorships, but only among their friends. This, Foursquare said, “just wasn’t as much fun.”
So in a blog post, Foursquare said it was “upping the ante and letting you compete for mayorships against everyone.”
Let the battles begin.
- Novartis buying U.S. firm
Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis says it is buying Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, a U.S.-based biotechnology company that specializes in developing treatments for chronic pain.
Novartis didn’t disclose financial details Monday of the agreement to buy privately held Spinifex, which has its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, and an office in Melbourne, Australia.
The head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, David Epstein, said that Spinifex’s lead product, EMA401, “could provide a novel, differentiated treatment approach to provide relief for patients and healthcare providers worldwide.”
Amazon is expanding the availability of a wireless speaker that responds to voice commands.
The biggest feature in Amazon’s Echo speaker is a voice-recognition system called Alexa that is designed to control Pandora, Amazon Music and Prime Music services as well as give information on news, weather and traffic. You can also re-order items in your order history using your default payment and shipping settings. The Echo can also sync with Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue products to control home light bulbs and other devices.
Amazon had been selling the Echo on an invite-only basis since it came out last November. Now, anyone can buy one. Echo will start shipping on July 14. The price was also cut to $179, from $199 (though Amazon has offered it for lower to members of its $99-a-year Prime loyalty program).
Begun as a bookseller, Amazon has been selling many of its own products, including a video streaming device, e-book readers and tablets. It also has a streaming video service, grocery delivery and music streaming and has created original TV shows such as the critically acclaimed “Transparent” starring Jeffrey Tambor.
Times are tough for Uber in many parts of the world, from a recent California ruling that its drivers cannot be classified as contractors to a Paris taxi protest that became a riot and led France’s president to promise a crackdown.
But the smartphone-based ridesharing app may soon get some good news in Mexico City.
Ahead of a city government decision on its future, Uber recently got a ringing, though nonbinding, endorsement from the influential Federal Commission on Economic Competition. Even Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission has weighed in favoring the service.
While Uber has faced legal hurdles that forced it off the road in some places, officials have signaled it may be allowed to remain in this megalopolis of 20 million-plus inhabitants.
“Generally speaking, the more options consumers have, the better off they are,” competition commission chairwoman Alejandra Palacios Prieto told The Associated Press. “They will receive better services and pay better prices for those services.”
That’s not to say it hasn’t been a bumpy road.
Licensed cabbies have staged protests demanding authorities arrest Uber drivers and seize their cars. Some vowed to “hunt down” Uber vehicles and in one case cabbies bashed doors and a windshield with baseball bats while a terrified client sat inside. A large taxi union has vowed not to obey cab regulations if Uber isn’t required to do the same.
Legal approval would amount to recognition that despite complaints of unfair competition, app-based services like Uber and the smaller Cabify have become widely popular here, in part because much old-school cab service is terrible.