Samsung’s Gear S2 launches on October 2 in the U.S. starting at $299

Samsung S2

Samsung has announced its making the Gear S2 watch available for purchase in the U.S. starting on Friday. The watch will cost $299 for the original version and $349 for the higher end S2 Classic.

The S2 was first announced back in late August, but at the time pricing and availability details were scant.

The round faced S2 is the first Samsung smartwatch to use its proprietary operating system Tizen, rather than Android Wear. Though Samsung says the watch will have be able to execute best when paired with Samsung Galaxy devices, consumers can also pair the watch with Android phones running KitKat or higher.

The S2 features a unique rotating bezel fitted around the face of the watch that allows for easy navigation of the device. In addition to a variety of apps, the watch can make voice calls, send texts, and translate dictated speech into messages. When paired with a Samsung Galaxy phone, the S2 can also handle contactless payments through Samsung Pay. Perhaps most notable is that the original S2 watch can be connected to a 3G wireless plan through which it can operate autonomously.

All these features make the watch a formidable competitor to the Apple Watch. At $299, the S2 also comes in below the minimum $349 price tag for the Apple Watch.

As far as other watches go, the S2 is roughly matched on price. Motorola’s Moto 360 watch costs $300, while the LG Urbane LTE costs $349.

Starting Friday, consumers can purchase the S2 watch at Samsung.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy, and Macy’s. The connected S2 model will launch later this fall through AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. U.S. Cellular will also carry a Bluetooth connected version of the S2.










Nvidia finally launches GeForce Now cloud gaming for Shield set-top console

Nvidia Shield set-top box, Shield remote control, and Shield Controller

Nvidia launched its Shield Android TV set-top box back in May, but one of the prime benefits is coming on Thursday with the launch of Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service.

Competing with the new Apple TV, Nvidia hopes to position the Shield as the ultimate Android TV alternative and the Netflix of gaming. And the GeForce Now service — which streams high-end games to your living room without the need for an advance download — is one of the linchpins of Nvidia’s strategy.

The Shield offering has now become much more interesting since Nvidia launched it on May 28. Nvidia is also announcing new apps such as Showtime, a launch in Europe, and other good stuff. All told, more than 1,000 apps are available on Android TV and there are 135 games available on the Shield Hub app and 300 games on Google Play.


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“Apple TV has come out, but if you are an Android user, Shield is the best device for you,” said Ali Kani, general manager for Shield at Nvidia, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We like Apple TV because it confirms our theory that the smart TV category is exciting.”

We all expected Nvidia to launch GeForce Now with the Shield itself, but the company did more testing than expected. In a nine-month test, 100,000 people tested the GeForce Now service in 180 countries. Nvidia streamed more than 600,000 hours of gaming during that test. The average rating was 4.5 stars out of 5, said Phil Eisler, general manager of GeForce Now at Nvidia, in a talk at the Cloud Gaming Summit in San Francisco this week. People played 2 million gaming sessions and had an average speed of 15 megabits a second.

The Shield outdoes the processing power of the new Apple TV since it has the new Tegra X1 mobile processor — with a 256-core Nvidia graphics processing unit (GPU) and a 64-bit central processing unit (CPU). Nvidia says that gives Shield three times the processing power of the new Apple TV, and it enables it to support ultra-high-def 4K displays, without compromise. About 10 current games can take advantage of 4K resolution on Shield.

Jen-Hsun Huang unveils the Nvidia Shield Android TV console.

Above: Jen-Hsun Huang unveils the Nvidia Shield Android TV console.

Image Credit: Dale North

With GeForce Now, Nvidia processes a game in the cloud, or Internet-connected data centers. It then streams the game imagery to the Shield, which displays it on a TV. By contrast, consoles and PCs process a game on local hardware, and the games are limited by the power of that particular hardware.

GeForce Now (formerly known as GeForce Grid) has more than 50 popular PC games available, including titles from the Batman, Lego, Witch, and Resident Evil series. GeForce Now is available on Thursday, with three months free on Shield devices. After that, you pay a subscription fee of $8 a month. Available games include The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mad Max, and Lego Jurassic World.

Kani said the rebranded GeForce Now is the culmination of five years of work, which included adding video encoding to GPUs and developing cloud infrastructure. That work, as well as better bandwidth, means you could play a game like Batman: Arkham Knight, which takes 213 minutes to download, in a matter of seconds or minutes via the cloud.

“We think it’s going to be the most convenient way to enjoy games,” Kani said.

Nvidia had to work on a lot of things to get the latency, or delays in interaction, down as low as possible, Eisler said.

As long as you have a connection of 50 megabits a second or better (my Comcast connection is about 172 megabits a second), you can play a game at up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second, with gameplay starting in 30 seconds. If you have 25 megabits a second, you can play at 1080p resolution with 30 frames per second. And if you have 10 megabits a second, you can play with 720p resolution.

Shield is now available in Google Fiber Spaces (which provides bandwidth at 1 gigabit per second) such as Provo, Utah; Kansas City, Missouri; and Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, Shield (the 16-gigabyte version) and Shield Pro (with a 500 gigabyte hard drive) are available on Oct. 1 in the U.K., France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. In the U.S., Shield is available in more than 1,000 stores.

In a software update, Shield will now support lossless audio, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio pass-through plus WMA-Lossless decode. It provides movie-watching at 23.976 fps playback, and hardware acceleration support for video codec formats such as VC-1 (including M2TS and ASF/WMV container support), MPEG-2 and WMV9.

Eisler said that average broadband speeds are rapidly improving, particularly Nvidia now has access to a lot of cloud-gaming data center locations around the world, said Eisler.

“The question is not if, but when cloud gaming will take off,” Eisler said. “I feel like we have the GPU requirements and the bandwidth to put cloud gaming onto an exponential growth curve.”

Nvidia Shield vs. Apple TV and Nexus.

Above: Nvidia Shield vs. Apple TV and Nexus.

Image Credit: Nvidia

 

 










Sequoia-backed Quick Heal files for IPO

MUMBAI: Anti-virus software maker Quick Heal Technologies Ltd, which is backed by Sequoia Capital, filed a prospectus for a stock listing with the domestic market regulator on Wednesday. The IPO will involve the sale of new shares worth up to 2.5 billion rupees and 6.8 million shares currently held by promoters including Indian units of Sequoia Capital and company founders, Quick Heal said in a statement.

Fintech unicorn Adyen grabs first Silicon Valley investor at $2.3B valuation

adyen

Adyen, the Amsterdam-based payment processing company, announced today that its valuation had jumped to $2.3 billion after a new investment from its first Silicon Valley investor.

Iconiq Capital invested an undisclosed amount in Amsterdam-based Adyen. While Adyen said it couldn’t reveal the amount, the latest funding comes less than a year after the company raised a round of $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.

While the new money and the eye-catching valuation are nice, Adyen chief commerce officer Roelant Prins said building the company’s network in Silicon Valley was just as critical. Prins had just spent a year living in San Francisco building a team out there, and the company is eager to make an even bigger push into the U.S. market.

“We have very strong ambitions about growing in the U.S.,” Prins said. “We really feel like they can help with that.

Adyen’s previous investors include General Atlantic, Index Ventures, Temasek, and Felicis. But Iconiq is known for, among other things, its role in managing finances for big shots like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Reid Hoffman.

The company already is profitable and 40 percent of its revenues come from the U.S., according to Prins. Now the company wants to grow closer to some of the fastest-growing new companies in Silicon Valley. And it wants to pursue more clients among larger national and international retailers.

The goal: To pitch its payment processing system that runs over the Internet and can streamline the patchwork of legacy payment systems many companies use across different regions and countries.

And with an office in San Francisco that has grown from 20 to 50 people, Adyen hopes Iconiq name can help with the fierce competition for talent in Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, Prins said Iconiq isn’t focused on an IPO any time soon.

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Foodpanda confirms it is removing restaurants in ‘clean up,’ no plans to sell India stake

panda-foodpanda

Restaurant delivery service Foodpanda confirmed on Wednesday it is removing restaurants from its listings as part of a “thorough clean-up” following the acquisition of India-based competitors After TastyKhana and Just Eat over the past year. It also comes just months after foodpanda raised $210 million in funding between March and May to help it push deeper into markets like India, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.

In a statement sent to VentureBeat, foodpanda spokesman Tim Schefenacker said:

As a managed marketplace, foodpanda is determined to solve and improve the connection between users and restaurants. It’s part of our core activities to constantly monitor, review and control every restaurant and any usage behavior on our platform, and we take immediate actions if needed. Especially following the acquisitions of two big competitors in India we have carried out a thorough clean-up of our restaurant base. Foodpanda India has an excellent new management team and we will keep on investing. Neither foodpanda nor Rocket Internet are looking to divest their stake in foodpanda India.

However, a report out today by the Economic Times in India suggested that the removal of “more than 500” restaurants was part of a broader attempt to “stabilise operations hit by frenetic growth and upheaval in top management…The company has been under fire for alleged booking of fake orders by restaurants on its network, even as its Berlin-based parent is actively looking to divest its stake.” The comments from Schefenacker, though, plainly deny any such divestment claims.

Foodpanda declined to comment on exactly how many restaurants it has removed as part of the clean up, but said it was ongoing and an a standard procedure. Read into that as you will. On a side note, Rocket Internet today reported explosive growth for foodpanda in the first six months of this year, up more than 1,000 percent from the same period a year ago.

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Foodpanda confirms it is removing restaurants in ‘clean up,’ no plans to sell India stake

panda-foodpanda

Restaurant delivery service Foodpanda confirmed on Wednesday it is removing restaurants from its listings as part of a “thorough clean-up” following the acquisition of India-based competitors After TastyKhana and Just Eat over the past year. It also comes just months after foodpanda raised $210 million in funding between March and May to help it push deeper into markets like India, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.

In a statement sent to VentureBeat, foodpanda spokesman Tim Schefenacker said:

As a managed marketplace, foodpanda is determined to solve and improve the connection between users and restaurants. It’s part of our core activities to constantly monitor, review and control every restaurant and any usage behavior on our platform, and we take immediate actions if needed. Especially following the acquisitions of two big competitors in India we have carried out a thorough clean-up of our restaurant base. Foodpanda India has an excellent new management team and we will keep on investing. Neither foodpanda nor Rocket Internet are looking to divest their stake in foodpanda India.

However, a report out today by the Economic Times in India suggested that the removal of “more than 500” restaurants was part of a broader attempt to “stabilise operations hit by frenetic growth and upheaval in top management…The company has been under fire for alleged booking of fake orders by restaurants on its network, even as its Berlin-based parent is actively looking to divest its stake.” The comments from Schefenacker, though, plainly deny any such divestment claims.

Foodpanda declined to comment on exactly how many restaurants it has removed as part of the clean up, but said it was ongoing and an a standard procedure. Read into that as you will. On a side note, Rocket Internet today reported explosive growth for foodpanda in the first six months of this year, up more than 1,000 percent from the same period a year ago.

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Rocket Internet’s value surges as HelloFresh and Foodpanda report explosive growth

rocketinternet

After a year of being a public company, it can still be difficult at times to judge the progress of Berlin-based Rocket Internet.

Certainly, the company is moving fast and placing some big bets. But is its factory-like approach to creating startups based on what it calls “proven business models” a winner?

Probably still to early for a final judgment. But in the company’s favor, it reported earnings today which indicate that the value of its so-called “proven winners” jumped about $4 billion from the same period a year ago, or 38 percent.


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That’s certainly a healthy jump. That increase was driven in large measure by the massive investments Rocket is making on food-related startups.

In particular, the company reported that HelloFresh grew its revenues in the first half of 2015 to $126 million, up 408 percent from the same period a year ago.

HelloFresh, the Berlin-based company that delivers meal kits and recipes to subscribers, just recently announced that it had raised another $85 million in venture capital at a $2.9 billion valuation.

Rocket also has a 30 percent stake in Delivery Hero, the Berlin-based ecommerce startup that facilitates delivery from local restaurants. Delivery Hero is part of Rocket’s Global Online Takeaway Group and saw a 154 percent increase in revenue the first half of this year, according to Rocket.

That Takeaway group also includes the Rocket-backed Foodpanda, which is focused in large part on Asia. Foodpanda reported revenues that increased to $14.6 million during the first six months, an increase of more than 1,000 percent.

In addition, Rocket’s Global Fashion Group, which includes five online fashion firms in developing markets, reported revenues that rose 63 percent to $470 million.

But, as Reuters notes here regarding Rocket’s top portfolio companies: “they all continued to make hefty losses.”

So, the challenge remains: For Rocket to show that beyond driving rapid scale and increasing valuations, its model can also build sustainable, profitable businesses for the long run.

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McDonald’s now accepts ‘two-second’ mobile payments in China amid big data push

shutterstock_253427353

McDonald’s has teamed up with Ant Financial — the financial services subsidiary of Alibaba, China’s largest ecommerce player — to start accepting mobile payments in more than 2,100 of its restaurants in China using Alipay. (Think of Apple Pay or Android Pay in the U.S.)

McDonald’s Shanghai chains will be the first to integrate the new mobile payment option, with the countrywide rollout to be completed by March next year.

The fast-food chain is also looking to partner with Alipay on “data technologies” to learn more about its customers, businesses, and ecosystems — essentially to compile big data on Chinese consumers to really take its business in the country to the next level.

“It will take customers only two seconds to pay their meals at McDonald’s after introducing Alipay to its outlets, by scanning the QR code in users’ Alipay,” Ant Financial said in a statement.

While for now it’s just getting started, the timing is interesting. Just yesterday, Alibaba inked a strategic investment in India’s largest ecommerce and mobile payments company Paytm, in a deal that is said to be worth $680 million and leave Paytm valued at $4 billion.

Alibaba is now estimated to own around 40 percent of Paytm, making it a global ecommerce/payments force to be reckoned with — no longer just inside China. It also makes you wonder if this latest tie-up in China between McDonald’s and Alibaba means that there could eventually be new synergies for the fast-food chain to expand its mobile payments into India on the back of the Paytm deal.

In the U.S., McDonald’s already accepts Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

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