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A fake PR creates temporary tension at Intel (INTC - Analyst Report) as Xiaomi takes the lead in China and Google’s smartphone strategy takes shape.

Fake PR Says Intel to Close Israel Operations

A press release purported to have come from Intel’s PR department said that Intel had decided to abandon/delay its Israel operations (in which it has invested $6 billion) because of the ongoing conflict with Gaza. Intel has since assured that both the release and claims weren’t authentic, but someone seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to set up a false website and have a person “with an American accent” answering the PR contact number enlisted on the release.

Business Insider said that the person confirmed Intel’s plans to close/postpone operations in Israel and WSJ reported that the said person who identified himself as Nick Veritas later agreed that the whole thing was a hoax intended to prove disconnect between what companies said and did “regarding corporate responsibility and human rights.”

China Answers Samsung, Apple

As the smartphone war heats up in China, local players are sprouting up all over. But heading the list is Xiaomi, which initially made strides copying Apple (AAPL - Analyst Report). But it’s now a serious contender, with its 15 million Q2 units and strong growth rates giving it a leading 14% share of the Chinese smartphone market. Xiaomi uses a forked version of Android and also sells a few phones based on an internally developed OS. Strategy Analytics says that Xiaomi has jumped to the fifth largest global vendor on the basis of its growth in China and preliminary success in India.

Samsung has plenty to worry about: a separate report indicated that it also dropped to number two in India where local player Micromax took over the leading position. Apple continues to do well in the premium segment.

Google Cornering the Smartphone Market

There have been a few rumors that Google (GOOGL - Analyst Report) is retiring its Nexus Line in favor of Android Silver, where it will retain more control over the OS, ensure faster updates and attract premium pricing. However, reports in the media have also said that these plans were shelved.

But Nexus may have already served its purpose because of the Google Play versions that have actually caught on very well. Contrary to what may have been believed, the closed OS (that was developed by the Open Handset Alliance, or OHA) is doing better than the open one (Android Open Source Project, or AOSA), according to a new report from ABI Research.

OHA now has a global market share of 65% compared to AOSA’s 20%. The latter is however growing faster because of rapid adoption in Asia. For all practical purposes, Google is providing an entry-level OS and enabling migration to a more advanced one.

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Other stories you may have missed-

Corporate

Yahoo Gets New CIO: Yahoo (YHOO - Analyst Report) has hired Mike Kail, the VP of IT operations at Netflix to be its Chief Information Officer. Yahoo said that Kail would also e in charge of its IT and data center operations, reporting directly to CEO Marissa Mayer. The decision seems to indicate Yahoo’s increased focus on video for the future where it seeks to deliver “the best possible user and advertiser experiences”.

Microsoft Nabs Qualcomm Exec: Microsoft (MSFT - Analyst Report) has signed on Margaret Johnson, Qualcomm’s (QCOM - Analyst Report) executive VP and President of global market development. Johnson ends her 24-year stint at Qualcomm for a similar role at Microsoft on Sep 1. She remains on the board of concert promoter and ticket seller Live Nation Entertainment Inc.

Regulatory

China Restrictions on Instant Messaging: China’s State Internet and Information Office has announced new rules for instant messaging that require public accounts to be registered in the users’ real names and allow only news organizations and other authorized websites to post or share political news through these accounts. The rules were made to deal with security issues and don’t apply to private messaging between personal contacts. 

But they could have positive implications for companies like Tencent, which promised to comply soon after the rules were announced. That’s because Tencent owns the two most-used messaging apps and removing anonymity from user accounts automatically makes the accounts more valuable for advertising purposes.

Yelp Could be in Trouble: A class action lawsuit was initiated against Yelp (YELP - Snapshot Report) on the following grounds that first that the reviews generated weren’t authentic and second, that it did not adequately suppress unreliable reviews and did instead support the suppression of negative reviews.

New Technology/Products

Apple Siri For Macs: Siri could soon be migrate from a personal assistant to a professional one, or move between the two. According to a recent patent filing that was released last week, the iPhone maker is all set to expand Siri’s functionality to more complex activities in a desktop environment. These activities would include file and system management.

Yahoo Integrates ComScore vCE: comScore’s validated Campaign Essentials will now enable advertisers on Yahoo to buy video and display campaigns (programmatic or direct) in a more integrated fashion as they target audiences through multiple channels. It is expected that the more sophisticated measurement techniques will speed up the ad buying process and therefore show more quickly in Yahoo’s results.

Microsoft Previews Windows Phone 8.1 Update: Microsoft phones running the developer preview of WP8.1 are seeing Live Folders and Apps Corner among other things. With this update, Microsoft extends Cortana support to the U.K., Australia, Canada and India for the first time. While Cortana is in beta testing in the U.S. and U.K., it is said to be in alpha testing in the other regions. This is a positive for developers, however, who can get a good look at the system and start working on it.     

Microsoft Working On New Tactile Tech: Microsoft is working on technology that will make you feel like you are using a real keyboard or moving an actual file but without the difficulty of carrying around the extra weight related to these items. It’s probably not the only company thinking along these lines however: a startup called Tactus has reportedly announced what it calls iPad case, which generates physical keys from the iPad’s display.

HTTPS Sites To Move Up in Search Rankings: Google is using its strong position in search to force websites to migrate from http to the more secure web format https. Since Google is responsible for driving traffic to a large number of sites and smaller, less-known sites are all the more dependent on it, its plan could actually work. It’s all for the user’s gain because although https isn’t perfect, it’s preferable to http for data protection.

Google Fit Preview SDK is Launched: The SDK enables developers to access activity data from fitness apps and sensors running Android, or even other devices such as wearables, heart rate monitors or even connected weighing scales with the user’s permission. Google Fit will be a part of Google Play Services with the advantage of cloud synchronization (background tracking, recording and uploading of data, saving battery life).

New Apps for FireTV: The apps are intended to extend the video selection to things like MLB.tv, WWE Network, Animal Planet and Watch Disney. Coming later this year are NFL Now, Watch ABC, A&E and Dailymotion.

A Smartwatch with a Difference: The popular watchmaker Timex is about to launch Ironman One GPS+, which for the first time, will not require a smartphone to operate. Waterproof up to 50 meters and equipped with a Qualcomm Mirasol display, it looks like an ideal device for sports people, whether working out indoors, in open sunlight, or even under water.

M&A

Facebook Acquiring PrivateCore: Facebook (FB - Analyst Report) didn’t say how much it is forking out for the company, which raised $2.25 million in 2012. The company is engaged in the protection of computers and data centers that are used for providing services.

Google Picks Up Directr and Emu

GF May Have Refused IBM’s Chip Unit: IBM (IBM - Analyst Report) was reportedly willing to pay Globalfoundries a billion dollars to take over its loss-making trailing-edge chip-making facility, but the talks fell through because GF said this was just half of the losses being incurred by the unit. Manufacturing is an area it has been pushed out of by Intel (INTC - Analyst Report).

But chip design clearly remains a focus area in which it recently said it would invest $3 billion over 5 years. In fact last week, it announced a postage stamp-sized, super-efficient, low-power chip that can accept heterogeneous data from multiple sources and deal with future advances in memory, 3G integration, logic and sensor technologies.

Collaborations

Apple and Visa: A Pacific Crest analyst surmised that Apple and Visa could be on the brink of a mobile payments collaboration as Apple gets ready to launch its NFC-enabled iPhone 6.

Google and Barnes & Noble: Google just added Barnes & Noble books to its Shipping Express service in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Pandora and Merlin: The agreement with the global rights agency is a big deal for Pandora (P - Snapshot Report) since it means access to thousands of independent artists and bands and more than 20K independent record labels and distributors, or about 10% of the global music market. Moreover, these parties will be able to access its 75 million-strong user base to determine popularity, venues and tour plans.

Some Numbers

Russian Crime Ring Steals Records: Hold Security, a research firm in Milwaukee discovered that a Russian crime ring had acquired 1.2 billion username and password combinations as well as 500 million+ email addresses in one of the largest data breaches in recent history.

Netflix Moves Ahead of HBO: Netflix (NFLX - Analyst Report) is moving ever closer to the big league of video delivery. CEO Reed Hastings’ Facebook post says that the company generated $1.146 billion in streaming revenue, just ahead of HBO’s $1.141 billion.

Some Earnings Reports: NVIDIA, Groupon, Cognizant, Harman, Teradata, Zynga, Monster and Activision reported last week.

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