Apple CEO Tim Cook Refutes Tax Avoidance Claims

Apple has been accused of tax avoidance and exploiting loopholes in US legislation to move profits to tax havens. For example, Apple’s tax base is in Ireland with a 12.5% corporate rate while the US taxation figure is around 35%. As a result, some critics have argued this is a sophisticated way to either delay paying tax or reduce Apple’s bill. Recently, Tim Cook described the current US tax system in an interview with Charlie Rose on the programme 60 Minutes:

“This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done.”

Cook became quite aggravated and described the claims of tax avoidance as:

“total political crap.”

He also went onto say that moving the assets into the US would have severe financial implications:

“Because it would cost me 40% [in taxes] to bring it home. And I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do,”

Clearly, Tim Cook believes that the current US tax system is completely broken and in need for huge reforms. Not only that, he made bold statements about Apple’s behaviour and the amount of tax they put into the US economy:

“There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,”

“We pay more taxes in this country than anyone.”

This is an interesting statement to make, and the idea that Apple pays a large amount of tax seems fairly credible. However, the amount paid is due to how successful Apple is compared to other companies. What really matters is the percentage of tax paid in regards to Apple’s total earnings. Are they actually paying the full amount, or employing complex schemes to maximize profits? Sadly, I don’t think we will ever know unless there is an independent investigation.

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Razer Launching Corporate Investment Fund in 2016

Razer is one of the leading peripheral manufacturers in the world and continues to grow at an impressive pace. More specifically, in 2014, the company was valued at over $1 billion due to an undisclosed investment from Intel. Over the last few years, Razer has expanded beyond the peripheral market and sold products in other sectors such as the Razer Blade 2015 ultrabook. Their financial success has given them the room to open a corporate venture capital fund which allow clients to use Razer’s industry expertise. CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan told Techcrunch:

“The plan is really to find strategic companies that we can help and [that can] leverage off of our profile,”

“We’re really globally covered… and can pretty much [assist them] before they even more into a new geographies or jurisdictions.”

“We can [tell portfolio companies that] this is what we learned in this jurisdiction. For example, here’s our European sales manager and they can talk to him. He’s not going to help you do your work, but he’s sure as hell going to take you 70 percent of the way there by telling you what the pitfalls are. We’ve got people on the ground who have been doing the exact same work [for years],” 

Razer is already a massive brand name and believes they can employ their marketing skills to help clients become a success story. The current market situation is fragile, and it’s incredibly difficult to be a commercial success. As a result, I can see this venture becoming quite popular as companies or individuals seek an investment. Currently, there isn’t a specific date set for Razer’s capital fund, but it looks likely to begin sometime in 2016.

AMD Loses Corporate Fellow Phil Rogers to Nvidia

AMD has been making the corporate news lately and much of it has not been great to say the least. Today, AMD lost a member of their corporate team, Phil Rogers. Rogers has spent 21 years working with AMD/ATi so his departure is quite surprising. What must be more galling to AMD and their fans is that he left to join Nvidia to be their Chief Software Architect – Compute Server.

Rogers was one of the main driving forces behind AMD’s compute efforts. This was quite evident as he was in charge of System Architecture and Performance at AMD and managing the HSA initiative. He also was part of the HSA Foundation as a vice-president, an area which AMD has been pushing hard on with their APUs. With his departure to Nvidia, it looks like the green team may be looking for his compute experience in general than HSA as Nvidia doesn’t have a CPU heavy focus.

AMD has been bleeding quite a lot of staff lately with some other notable departures, among them Jim Keller. In line with the 5% cut in staff, AMD may have simply cut salaries too deep and Nvidia may have offered more. With Zen and Greenland largely complete, AMD will need to execute their upcoming products in order to survive. Only then will the firm likely have the resources to bring back the talent they have lost.

Thank you ComputerBase for providing us with this information 

AMD Could Spin Off Server Division

Despite the successful launch of the Rx 300 series this week and Fury later this month, AMD is still considering all options. According to three people familiar with the matter, nothing is off the table as AMD seeks to turn its finances around. Two notable options being considered are to split the firm in two or spin off the server division. Of course, these options are still in the deliberation stage and it’s unlikely that AMD would take such a dramatic move as splitting the entire company in two straight away.

Since before CEO Lisa Su took the helm, the red team has been looking for a way to return to long-term profitability. AMD has already cut down staff size and reduced R&D but is facing tough competition from Intel and Nvidia. Market share has not been doing well for the GPU segment while the CPU and server segments have been doing worse. In a bid to consider all options, AMD asked a consulting firm to come with scenarios for how each path would play out.

While spinning off divisions can help in the short term, AMD may be losing out on future growth. AMD had previously spun off its mobile GPU business and semiconductor fabs. Qualcomm took on the mobile GPU business and now is the dominant mobile SoC provider. Global Foundries was created from spinning off the fabs and now is somewhat viable on its own. If AMD spins off the server side, the new Zen architecture won’t have a crack at that lucrative market. Breaking up the CPU and GPU divisions would mean giving up on the APU project, HSA and put AMD’s CPU business at a disadvantage without integrated graphics.

There seems to be little AMD can spin off without losing out on their core business. If AMD does decide to spin off something, the server business seems most likely. I would consider a breakup of the core CPU and GPU almost impossible given the investments they made starting with ATI and continuing with the APU and HSA. Nevertheless, AMD has long been in the red and unless they are so desperate and in need of immediate cash, going back to having a server business and most likely, bringing back the ATI brand for their GPU division; spinning off their core business would be in my mind, a bad choice. With 300 series, Fury and eventually Zen kicking in, I don’t doubt AMD will still be around in one piece, but they’ve still got a rough road ahead.

Thank you Reuters for the information

Parental Spyware Firm Hacked by Blackmailers

Spy software firm MSpy has just found out what it feels like to have its privacy violated. Creator of various mobile spying software, the firm has been approached with predatory demands by blackmailers over customer information. However, MSpy is claiming that any such allegations that they had been hacked and customer data stolen is on the web is false. Separate desktop monitoring software created by MSpy has not been found to be impacted by this alleged hack.

Word of the hack first came out via noted security expert Brain Krebs. Krebs received word from an anonymous source who notified him of a data dump. Hosted on a Tor Hidden Service site, the data weighed in at over several hundred gigabytes. The information spanned emails, conversations and photos taken from devices purportedly running MSpy’s mobile products as well as customer support emails to MSpy.  As the data has now been removed from the Hidden Service, it is hard for anyone to verify the legitimacy of the data to determine if it did indeed come from a breach of MSpy, as it is possible the data could be fake or come from a non-MSpy source.

MSpy markets its spying applications as a way to monitor children or employees activity on mobile devices. It captures movements, messages and calls of any mobile device it is installed onto. Unlike malware, MSpy products do require permission to install and spy. While limiting abuse, it does mean anyone with physical access and the passkey can install, someone like a jealous partner or spouse. While the company has denied itself has been hacked, it is possible the mobile applications themselves contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited to obtain said customer information. Hopefully, researchers will be able to get to the bottom of this to prevent more abuse if it is occurring.

Thank you BBC for providing us with the information.

AOL Being Bought for $4.4 Billion by Verizon

Verizon is moving into the content and media business with its planned purchase of AOL. If regulators approve the $4.4 billion USD deal, Verizon will join the likes of Comcast which is not only a telecommunications giant but also a major media conglomerate.

The acquisition would involve the entirety of AOL becoming a wholly owned subsidiary. Of course, the purchase includes the old dial-up internet service with 2 million customers that AOL is famous for. This will net Verizon about $168 million in revenue a year. Other noteworthy mentioned include The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, MAKERS, and AOL’s advertising network. AOL is expected to operate independently of Verizon at least in the short-term and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong will stay on.

One major hurdle being faced by Verizon and AOL is regulatory approval. On one hand, an approval has precedence. Comcast was able to move ahead with its acquisition of NBC after the previous Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman gave approval. However, the regulatory landscape has changed with new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler who recently implemented Net Neutrality rules which aim to prevent companies from using their monopoly to leverage advantages. What is likely to happen is that the FCC will grant approval but with some rules that Verizon will have to follow regarding AOL.

While purchasing AOL’s dial-up service sort of makes sense, it will be interesting to see how Verizon will make use of their media and content acquisitions. Both consumers and the FCC will be sure to watch the acquisition carefully to guess if Verizon will abuse its new position as a media outlet.

Apple is Now Twice the Size of the World’s Second Largest Company

Apple’s market cap has just risen to $775 billion – a new record making it twice the size of the world’s second largest company, Exxon Mobil. For the last few years, it’s always been neck and neck between Apple and Exxon, a global oil giant. Many are seeing this as significant, as consumer technology is now a significantly bigger business than oil; a business which for years has been likened to printing money.

Apple is only the second company to achieve such a feat in the last 30 years – IBM was the last company to double second place, that being Exxon as well.  The difference between Apple and IBM today is symbolic, as Apple famously saw itself as the underdog to ‘Big Blue’, likening them to ‘Big Brother’ in its famous ‘1984’ ad. Just late last year, Apple announced that it was joining IBM in a partnership to bring iOS to the enterprise. Many saw this as IBM asking Apple, its former underdog, for help.

What’s next? Well, Apple isn’t far off becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company. It was always a question of whether it could happen, but now it’s more of a question of when will it happen. Something incredible when you consider Apple was a company 90 days from bankruptcy in 1997.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Apple Plans New R&D Facility in Cambridge, UK

A new report suggests that Apple is planning to join the likes of Microsoft and Sony in opening a specialist Research and Development facility in Cambridge, UK.

The building is said to be located at 90 Hills Road in an area of highly sought after corporate office space. The report notes that Apple plans to start with 20 employees at the facility, growing to 40 in the next year.

It’s said that over 1000 technology companies have taken up offices in Cambridge, earning the city the nickname of “Silicon Fen”.

The UK government has apparently been working on getting Apple to establish a more significant presence in country for 25 years, with Apple currently only holding a small office on Regent Street in London and a medium size facility in Uxbridge, Middlesex. Most of Apple’s European operations are based in Cork, Ireland, a facility they’ve operated since the early 1980s.

Source: MacRumors

Hackers Use ‘The Cloud’ to Control Malware and Botnets

Security firm Trend Micro has apparently revealed new evidence of botnets and malware not only being hosted in the cloud, but also being remotely controlled from cloud servers. The main goal for hackers has been revealed to be disguising their malicious software as regular traffic between corporate end points and cloud services.

Trend Micro has revealed in a blog post a case where hackers were using DropBox in order to host the command and control instructions for malware and botnets, which eventually made it past corporate firewalls. While the news is not new, the cloud has apparently increased in popularity as well as security risk. In the past, small files needed to be controlled by a command and control (C&C) system, which was usually hosted by hackers or placed on servers easily identified as suspicious.

With cloud-based systems however, hackers can now place the C&C on cloud servers and communicate with the botnets and malware like ‘normal traffic’, making it harder to be identified. The company has emphasized that any cloud-based solution can eventually be used as a host for C&C software. Companies not using any type of cloud-based solution but receive traffic spikes from any of them have some type of warning and are encouraged to investigate the activity.

However, this does not mean that every company using cloud-based solutions is now infected. Trend Micro has just shed some light on how hackers are able to and could try infecting corporate systems using the technique described above. A good counter-technique for security specialists in order to prevent such hacking practices is to closely monitor all traffic between end-point users and cloud-based solution, marking anomalies and suspicious activities as threat until otherwise proven to be ‘safe’.

Thank you Network World for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of LifeHacker