Developing – Canadian Investment Firm Offers to Purchase Blackberry

The consortium has offered $4.7B dollars for the once dominant smartphone manufacturer

blackberry_logoTo be honest with everyone, this one took me by surprise. If you didn’t know Blackberry was looking for a buyer, you were likely living under a rock. I thought this might come eventually, but not as quickly as it did.

This story is developing, so you should watch Soft32 for updates to this over the next few days. I’ll try to have something on this as developments occur. In short, though, a consortium, led by Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, has offered $4.7B in cash for the once dominant smartphone manufacturer. The deal is supported by Blackberry’s Board of Directors. (honestly, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t).

Fairfax is said to currently own 10% of Blackberry now. Their all cash offer would acquire the remaining 90% of outstanding shares at $9 per share. When the offer was announced, BBRY was trading at about 8.25. The company’s stock closed at 8.76, after peaking at 9.01.

The deal, outlined in a letter of intent, gives Fairfax and Blackberry until 2013-11-04 to complete Due Diligence. During this time, Blackberry can continue to shop the company for a better offer.

Blackberry has decided to abandon their pursuit of the consumer market and will instead concentrate on the enterprise. However, this won’t save the currently 4500 employees worldwide that are currently targeted in a downsizing. In foregoing the consumer market and concentrating on the enterprise, its thought that Blackberry can retain what value it currently has, despite its $1B charge against unsold Z10 smartphones and a drop to number 4, behind Windows Phone, in the smartphone market.

We’ll have to wait and see.

This story is currently developing and I’ll have more on this as the facts come to light. I’ll also have some personal insight after I have a chance to digest all of the facts. As it stands, there’s a lot going on here, and the entire tale has yet to be told.

Stay tuned to Soft32 for more.

I have a concern about this, as it seems like a little too late to make much of a difference…

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Microsoft to Shut Down TechNet Subscription Service

TechNetSubShutDownThe service stops taking renewals on 2013-08-31.

In a letter to TechNet Subscribers today, Microsoft announced their intention to shut down the software subscription service. New subscriptions or renewals will not be taken after 2013-08-31. The service ends for subscribers when their subscription terms.

Thus ends a 15 year journey, which started in 1998 with a package of CD’s the size of Montana.

Historically, this has been the best deal in town for small businesses, fugal IT shops or anyone with a great deal of PC’s to maintain on a small budget. For $299 ($249 renewal) a year, TechNet Professional got you access to just about everything Microsoft had to offer, including consumer and enterprise versions of Windows, Windows Server and Office. With a small business of my own and up to 7 physical PC’s in my house, as well as any number of VM’s, TechNet Professional was the best way to get Microsoft Software.

The deal was a winner for me; but for Microsoft, it was an invitation to global piracy. Many users would simply purchase the subscription, grab all the keys they were entitled to for the numerous versions of the software they were given access to, and then sold them, at times with counterfeit media, to unsuspecting customers looking for a cheap deal of “genuine” software. Killing the TechNet service stops this flagrant form of piracy.

While it may help MS put a stop to piracy, for me, with potentially 8-10 MS powered PC’s in the house, it completely sucks.

If Windows goes to a subscription model, they better make it VERY affordable, otherwise, many PC’s, worldwide, in my opinion, will either NOT get upgraded OR will simply move to some form of Linux… if something else is needed. Open Office or Libre Office is also looking really good for those laptops and PC’s that don’t have mobile broadband or reasonable access to cloud based services like Google Apps, MS 365 or the upcoming iWork for iCloud.

TechNet’s shutdown is a good thing for MS as it cracks down on license abuse as well as piracy; but its also a huge win for open source products as many consumers will likely take harder looks at them if they decide to upgrade existing PC’s to newer operating systems and newer office suites.

It also lends additional credibility to alternative PC’s – tablets and smartfphones – and the Office compatible software available for those devices. That software is traditionally much more affordable, and this only creates incentive for users to move to that form of economically affordable computing .

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Diablo III Launching May 15

Great news, folks. Blizzard has finally announced officially their release date for Diablo III which is set for May 15.

“After many years of hard work by our development team and months of beta testing by hundreds of thousands of dedicated players around the world, we’re now in the homestretch,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We look forward to putting the final polish on Diablo III over the next two months and delivering the ultimate action-RPG experience to gamers worldwide starting on May 15.”

In Diablo III, players take on the role of one of five heroic characters — barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, or demon hunter — and engage in combat with endless legions of evil. In your journey, you will explore diverse and perilous settings, grow in experience and ability, acquire artifacts of incredible power, and meet key characters who’ll join them in battle or aid them in other ways.

One of the most interesting things in Diablo III is the auction house – a place where the players can trade their hard-earned treasures. You’ll be able to buy and sell weapons, armor, and other valuable items in the auction house in exchange for in-game gold. Players will also have the option to receive real-world currency for auction house sales, which they can apply to their Battle.net Balance for the purchase of a variety of digital products through Battle.net, including Diablo III auction house items, or cash out through a third-party payment service such as PayPal in most regions.

Diablo III will be available for Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7 and Macintosh at a suggested price of $59.99 USD for both the retail DVD-ROM version and the digital version sold directly from Blizzard.

For more information, please visit the official website.

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Kindle Fire Lacks (even BASIC) Purchase Controls

Let’s face it, despite what Amazon has to say, the Kindle Fire really just isn’t kid friendly…

I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas. After a couple of days hesitation with the device, she really got into it, and now, really likes it. Small, easy to carry and for her AND the kids to use, it’s become a standard in her daily gadget line up. In fact, neither her nor the kids have it far from them during the day. Clearly, a sign of a good purchase and gift decision on my part.

However, the tablet, and subsequently Amazon’s ecosystem, have a major flaw in them; and it’s one that you won’t even bump into unless you either have kids that share your Fire or you lose/misplace the device – it has absolutely NO purchase controls.

If you order the device directly from Amazon, the device comes in a clearly MARKED box and comes preactivated with links directly to your credit card and your account. Anyone smart enough to intercept the shipment will have the ability to purchase away inside of Amazon’s online store, with YOU responsible for all of the purchases.

Strike one – Pre-activation

The device itself doesn’t have any method, or way of either excluding your purchasing credentials/credit card info or even password protecting all purchases with your Amazon.com site password. If you have the device, again, you have direct access to your account, and as long as you have money in your debit account, available credit on your card, etc., anyone possessing the device can make all the purchases they want.

Strike two – Have device, can purchase

When I confronted Amazon with this HUGE security (and frankly, clearly common sense) hole, they let me know that Amazon addressed this by putting a password on Wi-Fi access, so if you wanted to prevent purchases, you could password protect the device’s ability to get online.

This made me to a double take; and really ticked me off.

Strike three – Failure to address the specific issue: Purchase control

I think Amazon wants to differentiate themselves in the tablet market by giving their users the clear ability to purchase anything and everything they would want or need on the Kindle Fire without having to enter a password. Really..?! Am I the only one who sees this huge security hole? I give them points for wanting this to be easy, but talk about your advanced identity theft tools..! Apparently, all I need to steal someone’s credit is not their credit card number, their social security number or any of their personal, private information. All I really need is their Kindle Fire.

Nice.

Let’s forget the real world scenario that I bumped into with my 4 year old ordering an entire season’s worth of Olivia, and that I just want to gate purchases on the device with the linked account’s Amazon password (which you see on every Apple iDevice in town, including the iPad). According to Amazon, this is unreasonable. It’s also something they are NOT going to address.

They’ve given users the ability to limit the use of Wi-Fi instead. You need Wi-Fi to make purchases. With Wi-Fi password protected, you can’t purchase new content. That’s true; but it also fails to address the problem. The Kindle Fire is a content streaming device.

Amazon Prime’s streaming service requires an internet connection. The Fire is a Wi-Fi only device, and in order to view/stream content that I’ve already purchased, Wi-Fi must be on. Effectively want Amazon is telling me is that I have to unlock Wi-Fi every time my child wants to view content that’s already been purchased…and once they are streaming content, I have to watch them watch it so that they don’t go looking for something else.

But, as I said, let’s forget this and the fact that its backwards.

The unlocked device represents a huge security hole. Amazon needs to address this with a software update and needs to require the account holder’s Amazon password for all purchases and not for Wi-Fi access. Until it does, Kindle Fire, and really ALL Kindle owners, need to be careful about where they store their Kindle, who has access to the device, and who is using it. You could find yourself the recipient of a HUGE content bill if your kids, or worse, a thief, happen to get a hold of your device and make unauthorized purchases.

NOTHING you can do, either on the web site or on the device, aside from crippling it, can prevent unauthorized purchases; and this is clearly documented by a number of different complaints and posts in Amazon’s own forums.

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Google’s Android Market gets new look, movies and books

Android Market? We all love it — in the end it is the best source for apps and games for our Android phones.

I personally like the the interface and it’s simplicity, but it feels like there could be more. Oh well, Google felt that too and  they began rolling out an update to the Android Market which gives the app storefront not only a new great look, but also opens the Movie and Book doors to the world for full rental and purchase options.

Thе nеw Market computer іѕ premeditated tο meliorate background crowning apps аnԁ games, vow users wіth аn reinforced UI, аnԁ wage a qυісkеr distinction tο downloading οr purchase уουr products”, wrote Android developer Eric Chu іn a journal post.

Google began updating the Android Market on phones Tuesday for those running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and newer and the update should be available  worldwide in the upcoming weeks.

Note: Books and Movies are available only in the U.S. — at this moment…

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