Archive for May 29th, 2012

Facebook could pay over $1 billion for Opera

Opera Software shares soared over 20 percent on Tuesday on talk Facebook Inc. was in discussion to buy the firm, while analysts said competition from Google and others could push the price tag of any deal over $1 billion.

Shares of Oslo-listed Opera, coveted for its advanced mobile phone software technology, jumped as much as 26 percent, valuing the firm at over $800 million.

Opera’s mobile technology, along with 170 million Opera Mini users, give the firm extensive commercial relationships with mobile phone manufacturers and operators.

Facebook has struggled to convert its rapidly increasing traffic from mobile platforms to revenue, and purchasing Opera would be a faster solution than building its own platform or browser, analysts added.

“Opera would be sensible for Facebook on several levels as it would enhance the now limited mobile experience of Facebook, improve Facebook’s mobile monetization problem, help Facebook retain online game developers leaving the social network over a lacking mobile platform and further improve Facebook’s ability to target ads,” Arctic Securities said.

It would be such a perfect fit for Facebook, analysts said it would have to pay a hefty premium.

DNB, Norway’s top bank, said the price would have to be double Friday’s closing level, or 68.6 crowns, valuing the firm at $1.35 billion, while Danske Bank predicted a price between 50 and 60 crowns a share, or between $1 billion and $1.2 billion.

At 1021 GMT, the stock traded up 16.9 percent at 40.1 crowns a share, valuing the firm at around $800 million.

Opera officials have repeatedly declined to comment.

OBSTACLES

Still, several obstacles remain.

Opera founder and top shareholder Jon S. Von Tetzchner said the firm should focus on organic growth.

“I want Opera to focus on growth and delivering good results; there are big opportunities for Opera,” Tetzchner, who holds 10.9 percent of Opera told Reuters. “We have been promised 500 million users by 2013 and I think that’s a good goal and the firm should keep going for it.”

“I personally think that an ARPU (average revenue per user) goal of $1 is even modest,” he said. “I am not pushing for a takeover.”

Tetzchner said he was not aware of a bid and had not decided how he would react to one but added it would be “undemocratic” for him to try to block it if others supported it.

Another obstacle could be Google, which has extensive relationships with Opera.

“A takeover by Facebook will likely send cold water down Google’s spine,” Arctic Securities said.

Google is Opera’s default search partner for Opera Mini and Opera Mobile worldwide outside Russia/CIS, making the firm a key relationship for Google.

If the firm continued to grow organically, it would be able to maintain several parallel relationships with firms like Facebook and Google so if one of them wanted full control, the premium would have to be hefty, analysts added.

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First Kinect in space is like the first dog in space but it has more use

Engineers in Surrey are using Kinect technology in a pair of satellites, hoping to make them dock together, in orbit, using the peripheral’s motion-sensing capabilities.

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited’s STRaND 2 satellites will use components of Kinect tech to scan their immediate surroundings and gather spatial awareness from all directions: They are planned to launch, separate and perform safety checks, and then dock with each other again. In space.

In-orbit docking has so far been reserved for the rich kids at space camp, only available in multi-billion-dollar ships. The STRaND 2 satellites will be the smallest yet to link up in orbit.

We think this raises the Gaming vs. Miscellaneous Uses For Kinect tally to 36-5,690, or something in that area. Space points count as triple, because seriously, that’s awesome.

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BioWare to sell fan-designed Mass Effect hoodies

DeviantArt user Christine Schott is pretty good at designing Mass Effect hoodies. So good, it seems, that BioWare has decided to manufacture her designs and sell them to the public. Schott recently posted her designs, which reflect many of Mass Effect’s most popular characters, and her work inspired BioWare to reach out with the offer.

Schott does note that her designs are likely “nowhere near the final product” and that BioWare will be redesigning them before selling a selection of them as a trial run. BioWare is compensating Schott for her work, though the details are still being “worked out.” Frankly, we just want to know when we can get our Mordin on.

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Capcom registers trademark for potential new game ‘Remember Me’

It would seem Capcom is gearing up to announce a brand-new game. According to a trademark that recently surfaced online, the new title is called Remember Me. There isn’t anything else to go on right now outside of a filing date of May 22, 2012, and that the trademark was filed in both the US and Europe.

With E3 around the corner, it’s likely we’ll hear about this game next week. We’re not ones to usually speculate, but our money’s on Remember Me being an entirely new property. Nothing in Capcom’s past suggests Remember Me is a reboot or an installment in one of Capcom’s numerous established franchises.

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An app that indicates when plants need watering

TORONTO: Wilted, starving, thirsty houseplants could soon be getting more tender loving care, thanks to a new plant sensor and app that tells owners when it is time for watering and feeding. The Koubachi Wifi Plant Sensor, which is placed in the soil of the potted plant, connects with a smartphone app that alerts users when plants need watering, misting, fertilizer or more sun or shade.

“There’s very little information when you buy a plant. Most of the time there’s a little sticker that will say it needs a medium amount of light and water every few days. But that’s very rough and doesn’t apply for most plants,” said Phillipp Bolliger, the inventor of the system and CEO of Koubachi, which is based in Zurich, Switzerland.

The sensor collects data such as soil moisture, light intensity and ambient temperature, which is sent to the app, available for iOS devices and through the Web.

Bolliger said water monitoring is particularly important.

“The problem people run into most often is that they give too much water – that’s the main cause of killing plants,” he explained in an interview. The data is used to customise care plans, delivered via the app, for more than 135 species of plants, including orchids, tomatoes and umbrella plants. The care plans were developed in conjunction with plant physiologists at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Institute of Technology.

Bolliger said the plant care plans can be accessed through the app without purchasing a sensor, but they are more accurate when paired with it. “We run different experiments with a lot of different plant types in the greenhouse,” said Bolliger. “We have our experts assess the vitality of the plant. Then we verify our models given the actual expert analysis of the plant’s vitality.”

He added that it is not necessary to purchase a sensor, which costs 100 euros ($125), for each plant because there is a multi-plant feature that allows the system to learn the specifics of the plant in a few weeks, depending on the size of the plant. It will have enough information to tailor the plant care plan and the sensor can then be used in a different plant. The sensor, which took three years to develop, can run for more than a year on a single set of batteries, according to Bolliger. “It kind of resembles a stone that is in the plant,” he said.

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