Weekend news round-up: Apple’s tax affairs in Ireland, proposed Yahoo!-AOL merger, ad-free Ello

29 Sep 2014

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, the EC is to reveal details of its probe into Apple’s tax affairs in Ireland, a merger has been proposed between Yahoo! and AOL, and say hello to social network Ello.

European Commission to reveal details of Apple Ireland tax probe

Consumer tech giant will be accused of prospering from illegal tax deals with the Irish Government for more than 20 years when the European Commission (EC) this week – even as early as today – releases details of an investigation, The Financial Times reported.

Apple, which has operated in Ireland since 1980, could face a record fine of billions of euros.

Preliminary findings from EC’s investigation into Apple’s tax affairs in Ireland, where it has had a rate of less than 2pc, claim the company benefited from illicit State aid after forming backroom deals with Ireland’s authorities, The Financial Times cites people involved in the case as having said.

Apple maintains its agreements with Ireland did not break any laws.

Yahoo!-AOL merger would diminish both companies – experts

Activist investor Starboard on Friday pressured Yahoo! and AOL to merge, in a pairing that could create a nimbler player in web video, but strong growth, the measure of success in Silicon Valley, would remain elusive, Reuters reported.  

While a merger could help both companies compete in their core advertising business, they would remain a shadow of the internet powerhouses they once were, analysts and advertising experts said.

“Neither company is a leader in ad dollars, and other than cost savings, there is little to gain by combining them,” Reuters quoted Erik Gordon, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, as having said.

A merger would suck up a lot of management time as the companies integrate staff and systems. In the meantime, the combined company could fall even further behind the competition, said Gordon.

Social network Ello wants to be the anti-Facebook

Ello is a social network that launched about six weeks ago and pitches itself as an alternative to behemoth Facebook. Its biggest selling point is the feature it doesn’t have: advertising, CNET reported.

“Your social network is owned by advertisers,” Ello says, adding that every post, friend and link is tracked meticulously by competing social networks, and all of that data is used to help advertisers send you ads. “You are the product that’s bought and sold.”

Ello’s growing popularity, pegged at more than 35,000 people asking to sign up per hour, taps into an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among some of its users. For them, Facebook “lost some of its cool factor,” CNET cited Kenneth Wisnefski, head of WebiMax, an advertising technology firm, as having said.

Telecom giant SoftBank may buy DreamWorks Animation

Japanese telecommunications and internet powerhouse SoftBank is making a run to acquire DreamWorks Animation, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter.

Sources close to the matter say SoftBank has offered US$32 per share compared to DreamWorks Animation’s current US$22 price.

DreamWorks Animation, the Hollywood studio behind films such as ShrekMadagascar and How to Train Your Dragon, could provide a unique way for SoftBank to bolster its wireless offerings. For example, SoftBank could use content from the animation studio to make Sprint more competitive in the US.

World wide web inventor calls for internet bill of rights for greater privacy

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has warned that the freedom of the internet is under threat by governments and corporations interested in controlling the web, The Guardian reported. 

Berners-Lee, at the Web We Want festival on the future of the internet in London on Saturday, called for an internet version of the Magna Carta – the 13th-century English charter credited with guaranteeing basic rights and freedoms – to guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users’ privacy.

“If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life,” Berners-Lee said.

Campaign lets users buy personalised bricks for Nikola Tesla Museum

A new Indiegogo campaign is letting sponsors purchase a brick with their name or a brief saying on it that will be used to build a museum dedicated to inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla at the site of his former lab in Shoreham, New York, CNET reported.

The campaign started with a goal of US$200,000, which it has quickly exceeded by more than $50,000 – and there’s still more than a month left in the campaign.

Sponsors may buy a 4 x 8-inch brick with three lines of text for US$125; an 8 x 8-inch brick with five lines for US$250; an 8 x 8-inch brick with a logo for US$350; or a four-brick array for US$1,200.

Apple building image via Shutterstock

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