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Siri gets real with VocalIQ

Apple buys an artificial intelligence start-up that could help make iPhone users' Siri interactions more natural.

Read time 12min 30sec

The rumour of a merger between Dell and EMC dominated the international ICT market during the last two weeks.

At home, the Dimension Data acquisition and the interim loss from Altron were the main local stories.

Key local news of the past two weeks

* Good interim numbers from ISA, with revenue up 13.4% and profit up 27.4%.
* Mediocre year-end figures from Cognition Holdings, with revenue down 13.2% and profit down 4%.
* Mixed year-end figures from Digicore, with revenue down 3.7% (but back in the black); and Telemasters, with revenue down 5.1% but profit up 3.2%.
* A half-year loss from Altron, with revenue down 8%.
* A positive trading update from Datacentrix.
* Negative trading updates from Alaris Holdings and Datatec.
* The delisting of the shares of Digicore on the JSE.
* Dimension Data acquired the remaining 60% of software house Britehouse it didn't already own, from a consortium made up of Remgro, Convergence Partners and Britehouse management.
* MTN bought Smart Village, the fibre provider of MultiChoice, in a move that will accelerate the mobile operator's fibre to the home (FTTH) strategy.
* Open source software supplier Obsidian Systems made a 25% investment in Cape-based IT consultancy Autumn Leaf, in a move that expands its footprint in SA. Autumn Leaf is an IT service provider focused on the development of Java applications, Hadoop and services.
* Former Absa CEO Steve Booysen, currently CEO of Metrofibre Networx, said his company will become the latest player to target SA's fast-growing FTTH market.
* New JSE cautionaries by Pinnacle Holdings and Telkom SA.
* A renewed JSE cautionary by TCS.

Key African news

* Millicom made a 24% investment in Helios Towers Africa following a reshuffle of various shareholdings.
* Agilitude has opened an office in Nairobi, Kenya that will serve the East Africa region.
* Hisense has officially entered Zambia.
* Facebook and the Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat have reached a deal to offer Internet access to underserviced areas in Africa, including SA, using the entire broadband payload of a new satellite, the Spacecom-built Amos-6, which will be launched later this year.
* Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks, the undersea cables subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent, has been awarded the development of the Sonangol Offshore Optical Cable (SOOC), a critical infrastructure project which will dramatically reduce the cost-per-bit associated with the delivery of data traffic to Angola, including its offshore oil and gas production facilities. Spanning 1 900km, the SOOC undersea network will connect to landing points at four locations along the Angolan coast and will allow the country's oil and gas industry to benefit from very large offshore data bandwidth with high availability, high reliability and low latency.
* The appointments of Jawad Abbassi as GSMA's head for the MENA region; Peter Arina as CEO of cable manufacturer East Africa Cables; Jonas Bogoshi as EMC's country manager for southern Africa; David Bunei as Cisco's GM for East Africa; Bruno Mettling as deputy CEO of Orange, who will also be in charge of its operations in Africa and the Middle East; and Charles Molapisi as CEO of MTN Zambia.
* The resignation of George Mwangi, CEO of East Africa Cables.

Key international news

Microsoft and Google have agreed to bury all patent infringement litigation against each other.

* Apple acquired Perceptio, a start-up developing technology to let companies run advanced artificial intelligence systems on smartphones without needing to share as much user data.
* Apple also bought VocalIQ, an artificial intelligence start-up that could help make iPhone users' interactions with the virtual assistant Siri more natural.
* Avnet purchased Orchestra Service, a German IT distributor of storage solutions and services, in a move intended to strengthen its portfolio in the region.
* CDI acquired EdgeRock Technologies, a privately held emerging leader in specialist IT staffing.
* CDI's UK subsidiary, CDI AndersElite, bought the recruitment business of London-based Ship Shape Resources, a privately held company that provides payroll solutions to the recruitment industry.
* Cisco purchased Portcullis, a UK-based consultancy firm specialising in enterprise and government security.
* CSC acquired UXC, Australia's largest independent and publicly owned IT services company, for $300 million.
* Digi International, M2M solutions expert, bought bluenica, a Canadian company focused on temperature monitoring of perishable goods in the food industry.
* Edotco purchased Digicel's 75% stake in Digicel Asian Holdings, the parent of Digicel Myanmar Tower Company.
* Electronics For Imaging acquired Corrugated Technologies, a provider of manufacturing execution software for the corrugated packaging market.
* IBM bought Cleversafe, a developer and manufacturer of object-based storage software and appliances.
* IBM also purchased Meteorix, a premier Workday services partner, in a move designed to help companies gain new competitive advantage by aligning people with financial performance and redefine work with the speed and simplicity of cloud-delivered finance and HR services.
* Intel acquired part of VIA Technologies' mobile phone chip subsidiary VIA Telecom's assets.
* Remote-access firm LogMeIn bought LastPass, a password management company, in a move to beef up its position in the identity and access management market. The deal was worth $110 million.
* Mellanox Technologies purchased EZchip, a provider of high-performance processing solutions for carrier and data centre networks.
* China's analogue chipmaker Montage Technology Group acquired Pericom Semiconductor, trumping an offer from Diodes last month. The company paid $430 million.
* Microsoft bought Havok, a game development technology provider, from Intel. The latter bought the Dublin-based company in 2007 for $110 million.
* OpenText purchased Daegis, a global information governance, data migration solutions and development tools company.
* Rudolph Technologies acquired Stella Alliance, a US-based semiconductor inspection technology intellectual property portfolio company.
* Skyworks Solutions bought PMC-Sierra, a semiconductor and software solutions company in storage, optical and mobile networks, for $2 billion.
* Sony purchased Belgian image sensor technology company Softkinetic Systems.
* Indian telecoms vendor Sterlite Technologies acquired Elitecore Technologies, a telecoms software specialist.
* Teo, a Lithuanian fixed-line operator, bought Omnitel, a Lithuanian mobile operator, for $220 million. Both companies are owned by TeliaSonera.
* Vasco Data Security International, a global firm in authentication, electronic signatures, and identity management, purchased Silanis Technology, a provider of electronic signature and digital transaction solutions used to sign, send and manage documents.
* Veeva Systems axquired Zinc Ahead, a provider of commercial content management solutions.
* An investment vehicle representing many of Silicon Valley's wealthiest individuals, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, made an investment in Dutch payment processing company Adyen.
* An arm of China's Tsinghua Unigroup made a $3.78 billion (15%) investment in Western Digital.
* SoftBank Group led a $1 billion investment in US financial technology start-up SoFi, the largest single financing round in the fintech space to date.
* Vivendi made an additional investment in Telecom Italia, raising its stake to 19.9%.
* Two of China's biggest tech start-ups, Meituan.com and Dianping Holdings, merged. This creates a company with a combined value of over $20 billion that will be the country's biggest online-to-offline provider of services ranging from movie tickets to restaurant bookings.
* A strategic partnership was announced between FireEye, a player in stopping today's advanced cyber attacks, and F5 Networks, in a move designed to defend against the evolving security threats to the enterprise.
* Microsoft and Google have agreed to bury all patent infringement litigation against each other, settling 18 cases in the US and Germany.
* The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Vringo subsidiary I/P Engine, which was seeking to restore a $30 million patent infringement verdict it won against several companies, including Google.
* Kyocera has resolved its patent infringement lawsuit against Hanwha Q Cells Japan.
* Samsung Electronics has been cleared on its use of graphics chip technology owned by Nvidia without permission, in a US International Trade Commission ruling.
* The Telenor Group intends to divest all its shares in VimpelCom, where the company has an economic stake of 33%.
* Yahoo will proceed with the planned spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding.
* Vodafone has ended its talks with Liberty Global regarding possible asset swaps.
* Cypress Semiconductor has withdrawn its offer for Atmel, the second failed attempt by the company to acquire a chipmaker this year.
* Satisfactory quarterly results from CalAmp.
* Mediocre quarterly results from Comtech Telecommunications and Micron Technology.
* Mixed quarterly figures from CSI, with revenue up but profit down; and Synnex, with revenue down but profit up.
* Quarterly losses from Barracuda Networks, HTC and Progress Software.
* Half-year losses from Quindell and Rocket Internet.
* The appointments of Vincent Bollor'e as chairman of Canal Plus; Jyoti Bansal as chairman and chief strategist of AppDynamics, a software management company (was CEO); Jonathan H Chou as interim CEO of Kulicke & Soffa Industries; Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter, the company he co-founded; Pei Ing Lee as president of Nanya Technology; and David Wadhwani as CEO of AppDynamics.
* The resignations of Charles Kau, president of Nanya Technology; and Keith Krach, chairman and CEO of DocuSign.
* The retirement of Bruno Guilmart, CEO of Kulicke & Soffa Industries.
* A disappointing IPO on the NYSE by Pure Storage.
* A postponed IPO by Digicell.

Research results and predictions

EMEA/Africa:
* Governments in the Middle East and North Africa will spend $11.4 billion on IT products and services in 2015, according to Gartner. This forecast includes spending on internal services, software, IT services, data centre, devices and telecoms services. Government comprises state and local governments and national government.
* The MEA server market, comprising x86 and non-x86 servers, contracted 10% year on year in Q215 to total 65 000 units, according to IDC. This decline can primarily be attributed to the poor political and socio-economic conditions that have hampered a number of countries in the region. This was particularly notable in the x86 server market, where a number of significant projects within the government sector were delayed. In revenue terms, the market remained flat as there was a slight increase in the number of higher-end servers sold during the quarter. However, the South African server market expanded 24% year-on-year in revenue terms as a result of some non-x86 deals in the banking and telecommunications sectors. The declining average price of x86 servers has resulted in an increase in the number of units being purchased.
* The Egyptian PC market suffered a 32.4% year-on-year decline in shipments during Q215, according to IDC. The decline in the tablet market (which includes two-in-one devices) was less severe, with shipments down 6.1% over the same period. Both markets began to contract at the start of 2015, with PC and tablet shipments totalling 116 000 and 166 000 units respectively in Q215.

Worldwide:
* Worldwide shipments of 3D printers will reach 496 475 units in 2016, up 103% from the predicted 244 533 units in 2015, according to Gartner. 3D printer shipments are forecast to more than double every year between 2016 and 2019, by which time worldwide shipments are expected to reach more than 5.6 million units.
* Worldwide PC shipments totalled 73.7 million units in Q315, a 7.7% decline from the third quarter of 2014, according to Gartner. Desktop PCs continued to show weakness, with a high-single-digit decline, while the segment that combines notebook PCs and premium ultramobiles (such as the MacBook Air and Microsoft Surface Pro) recorded a low-single-digit decline. Lenovo secured the top position in worldwide PC shipments, as its market share increased to 20.3%, despite a 4% decline in shipments.
* Worldwide semiconductor revenue is forecast to total $337.8 billion in 2015, a decline of 0.8% from 2014, according to Gartner. This is the first decline in revenue since 2012, when the market declined 2.6%.
* According to IDC, $901 billion was spent worldwide on mobile technologies in 2014. Wireless data and smartphones comprised the lion's share of this spending. The opportunity is forecast to reach $1.2 trillion by 2019. Excluding consumer spending, the industries expected to spend the most for mobile technologies include discrete and process manufacturing and professional services. Combined, these three segments will represent 17% of the market in 2019. The areas of greatest growth include personal and consumer services, media, and the banking industries.
* Total spending on cloud IT infrastructure (server, storage, and Ethernet switch, excluding double counting between server and storage) will grow by 24.1% and will reach $32.6 billion in 2015, according to IDC. This amount will account for a third of the overall end-user spending on enterprise IT infrastructure, up from 27.9% in 2014. In comparison, spending on IT infrastructure deployed in traditional non-cloud environments will decline by -1.6% in 2015, although at $66.8 billion, will remain the largest segment of the market. Spending on private cloud IT infrastructure in 2015 will grow by 15.8% year over year to $12.1 billion, while spending on public cloud IT infrastructure will increase by 29.6% to $20.5 billion.

Stock market changes

* JSE All share index: Up 4.6%
* Nasdaq: Up 2.6%
* NYSE (Dow): Up 3.7%
* S&P 500: Up 2.6%
* FTSE100: Up 4.7%
* Nikkei225: Up 4%
* Hang Seng: Up 4.4%
* Shanghai: Up 4.3%

Look out for

International:
* A merger between Dell and EMC.
* The outcome of the discussions between Google, which has now morphed into holding company Alphabet, and messaging start-up Symphony Communication Services.

Africa:
* An IPO in 2016 from Liquid Telecom.

South Africa:
* Further news on the Vodacom/Neotel deal.

Final word

Fortune magazine has published its 2015 "25 Most Powerful Women in EMEA" list. From a technology perspective, the following were included:
* 12: Dominique Leroy, CEO, Proximus
* 15: Serpil Timuray, regional CEO, AMAP, Vodafone

Also recently published was the similar list for Asia-Pacific. From a technology perspective, the following were included:
* 3: Chua Sock Koong, group CEO, Singapore Telecommunications
* 11: Lucy Peng, CEO, Ant Financial; chief people officer, Alibaba, Alibaba Group
* 14: Cher Wang, CEO and chairman, HTC
* 15: Maggie Wu, CFO, Alibaba
* 18: Zhou Qunfei, CEO, Lens Technology
* 21: Sun Yafang, chairman of Huawei Technologies

See also