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News Roundup: Dell-MC, drone destruction and AI concept cars

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Walmart the software company, big VR and Pepsi phones.

M&A – Dell/EMC and other headlines

The rumours were true; Dell is officially merging with EMC in the world’s largest ever tech acquisition. The very complicated deal will see Michael Dell’s company leverage a lot of debt, but keep VMWare as a public company. EMC CEO Joe Tucci described his new boss as “my brother from a different mother”, while VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said he “could not be more excited about today’s announcement.”

Not everyone is impressed with the news, however. HP CEO Meg Whitman – whose company was in talks to make a similar deal last year – said the move would cause the new tech giant a wave of new distractions and was actually a good thing for HP. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told Fortune that the merger will have no impact on her company’s direction. Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen said this deal “comes out of weakness, not strength.”

Headlines related to the news include the fact EMC would have to pay Dell up to $2.5 billion if they find a better offer between now and the end of the 60-day cooling off period, the news that Silverlake explored offloading Dell’s PC business to the likes of HP, Lenovo and Huawei  last year, and VMWare has itself acquired a startup called Boxer Inc.

Elsewhere, LogMeIn has acquired password management provider LastPass, Imation has bought Connected Data, PTC has done a deal with Qualcomm to take over Vuforia, Marvel has snapped up design tool Plexi, PhishMe has purchased Malcovery Security, DivShot has snaffled Firebase, Zendesk now owns We Are Cloud, and Rapid7 has splashed out for Logentries.

In the rumours department, could SanDisk be the next big company to be swallowed up? Citing “people with knowledge of the matter” Bloomberg reports the chip manufacture is being offered up to Micron Technology Inc. and Western Digital Corp in a deal worth around $12-13 billion.

Another week, another crowdfunding failure. Pirate3D, a 3D printer manufacturer that raised over $1.5 million on Kickstarter, is shutting up shop. Posting a note to backers on the crowdfunding site, the company said that it was having “a major cash flow issue” and would be freezing operations for the rest of the quarter at least.

Walmart the software company

Is Walmart now officially a technology company? The retail giant has made several tech acquisitions through its @WalmartLabs arm in the last couple of years, and this week has released its Cloud-hopping technology as Open Source. Called OneOps, this software allows companies to easily move data between different sets of cloud infrastructure and avoid lock-in. “It’s great news for companies who have considered switching cloud providers but experience the 'Hotel California Effect’, where they can ‘check out but never leave’ their cloud provider because they’re locked into the provider’s proprietary APIs, architecture and tools,” the company said in a statement.

New toys

If you like Android phones, your luck is in; there’s a whole new stack of them coming your way:

Pepsi has followed in the footsteps of Commodore, Marshall, Bentley, Kodak and CAT and lent its name to a new mobile. Available only in China, the Pepsi P1 is an average spec Android phone that shows how smartphones are now just commodity tools for branding. ”Pepsi has always moved at the speed of culture, and today technology is a key cultural pillar at the heart of consumer interaction,” PepsiCo said in a statement.

Granitephone, another privacy focused phone to rival the “NSA-proof” Blackphone is now available. This $800 device - using an Android fork called Granite OS - encrypts all data on your phone and provides encrypted cloud storage.

Despite the fact neither BlackBerry or Microsoft can get their mobileOS marketshare into double figures, Samsung is still trying to push Tizen onto the world. The Korean electronics giant this week announced the Z3, the company’s second TizenOS powered phone.

In VR news, Japanese camera giant Canon has revealed its own take on the hardware, and it sure is bulky. Canon VR may boast better resolution than most of its rivals, but it’s so heavy it has two handles you need to hold as it covers your entire face. Mattel’s new Virtual Reality-based update of the View Master arrived at the IDG Connect office this week and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

And in related news, eye-tracking specialists Tobii Tech has released new components for consumer devices. While not big news in itself, it means everyday devices such as phones, tablets, VR headsets and more could come with eye-tracking technology built in, which is pretty cool.

An IT Brexit

In July we reported that nearly half of MPs think a “Brexit” would either be good for businesses or have no impact, despite the fact the majority of UK businesses would rather stay in the EU. A new survey by Redshift Research and IP Expo Europe found that the UK IT sector is also in favour of remaining in the Union.

The poll found that over two thirds (67%) of the 500 UK-based IT professionals surveyed think being a part of the EU gives them greater business confidence. It’s a shame that many politicians seem to disagree; just under 60% of Conservative MPs think Britain leaving the EU would be good for business, compared to 95% of Labour supporters who think it would be bad for business.

Verbatim

Could BlackBerry leave the smartphone hardware industry altogether? Depends on how well the new Andoird-based Priv device does. BB CEO John Chen told a Re/Code conference that if the hardware side of the business isn’t profitable next year he’d have to “think twice about what I do there.”

Tesla is better than Apple, according to Elon Musk. “They [Apple] have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the “Tesla Graveyard.” The Tesla CEO said in an interview with Handelsblatt. “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.” He later went back on some of his comments and Tweeted that he doesn’t hate Apple and that “It's a great company with a lot of talented people.”

Privacy-respecting search engine DuckDuckGo is keeping two fingers stuck up at Google and Bing. Founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg has revealed that his company, DuckDuckGo, is actually profitable. “It is a myth you need to track people to make money in web search,” he said during an AMA on Hacker News.

There needs to be more rules on the internet, according to a director at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. ”It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date,” Wang Qun, Director-General of the Arms Control Department, told the UN General Assembly.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA & privacy-related headlines

-          GCHQ can legally spy on MPs if it wants to

-          If Ed Snowden bigs you up on Twitter, expect a flood of traffic to crash your site

-          The UK Government won’t give Julian Assange free passage to go to the hospital, even if they don’t have a policeman constantly guarding outside the embassy

-          Tim Berners-Lee says internet users should “just say no” to Internet.org and should be concerned about the Snooper’s Charter

-          A former head of MI5 says backdoors aren’t the answer to fighting crime  

-          President Obama says Hilary Clinton could have handled the email sever news better, but it’s been “ginned up” because of politics

-          IBM says it will allow the Chinese Government access to its source code

Microsoft has just released its latest Transparency report. The Redmond company saw a quarter on quarter increase on requests for user info to 35,228 requests, and data was given out in 3% of cases.

The Democratic presidential candidates had their first televised debate this week (also available in VR). Bernie Sanders said we should all give Clinton a break over her email server, he wouldn’t give Ed Snowden a pardon but would end NSA spying.

Driverlessness

Driverless cars are causing the DMV no end of headaches. “We didn’t ask to be in the business of regulating a technology. We haven’t been in that business before. It was forced upon us by legislation,” said Brian Soublet, deputy director of the California DMV. “We’re not an agency that is filled by automotive engineers, we’re not an agency that is filled with automotive safety experts, and so how do we go about doing that?”

Want self-driving cars now? Get a Tesla. This week’s over-the-air software update introduced the new “AutoPilot” update. Essentially glorified cruise control, the feature allows Model S cars to automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic. CEO Elon Musk said that users shouldn’t assume too much from the cars, yet however. ”It should not hit pedestrians, hopefully,” he said. ”It should handle them well.”

What if your driverless sports car came with a drone? It’s an idea Swiss automaker Rinspeed has considered. The driverless Ʃtos concept car is due to be shown off at next year’s CES, and comes with a personal UAV to “fetch a bouquet of flowers the driver ordered online and even deliver it directly to the lucky recipient” or film the wild ride that autonomous cars will no doubt give its drivers.

Drone and destruction

For a long time, Google’s Project Loon was leading the charge for bringing internet to remote regions from the sky. Now, just a few weeks after Facebook announced a partnership with French satellite operated Eutelsat, Google [x]’s Wael Fakharany has described the project as “almost perfect” and deals with operators will be announced “very soon.”

Elsewhere, US research agency DARPA wants to create drones that self-destruct. The agency has put out a request – codenamed Project ICARUS – for single-use drones that can travel up to 150km, handle a weight of three pounds, and disintegrate within 30 minutes of dropping a payload.

And finally, some geniuses have created a drone-death ray. Researchers at Battelle recently demonstrated the DroneDefender, a funky-looking weapon that disrupts the radio control frequencies of the offending UAV, causing it to think it is out of range of its controller. The drone will then either land, fly back to base or just stay in a hovering state. 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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