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April 2018

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A lot has been happening in the world of The Division

Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s (EPY:UBI) The Division has a lot going on lately. The developers of the game seem to have a lot on their hands thanks to the APC glitch that has been making the fight easier to complete. However, it looks like that easiness was short lived as a hotfix is now live to rectify this issue.

According to recent reports, The Division servers were taken offline recently for thirty minutes and a hotfix was released to fix the APC exploit that allowed players to damage the APC without having to trigger a new wave. The update also fixes the weekly reward glitch that players have been using and will now receive rewards how they are supposed to. Following the update, it was reported that the reward glitch was still doable and was not fixed. Due to this, Ubisoft issued another hotfix for the game just moments later which disabled weekly rewards altogether until the next weekly reset. The update also fixes the reported missing characters issue that has caused an outcry among the players. The characters have now been restored according to their status on April 12 and all of the progress after that has been lost, unfortunately.

Ubisoft also commented on the matter of exploitation recently. The developer said that those who have taken part in using exploits to get loot drops over the normal allowance are going to be penalized for this and that all of their additional loot drops are just temporary as of right now. There were no other details revealed on the matter but it is safe to say that all of that extra gear is going to disappear soon.

That being said, The Division’s present game status is pretty sad to say the very least. The game is having numerous problems, bugs and glitches. If Ubisoft does not get their act together really soon, it is going to be game over for them because the entire player base has to suffer because of a few people who decide to use exploits to gain an unfair advantage. Even if we overlook the fact that there are going to do rewards this week, the patches and the fixes being released are not actually fixing the problem at hand. The game has numerous bugs and glitches that are not being addresses as they should and it is only a matter of time before the game self-destructs if it is not fixed and worked on accordingly.

Numerous iPhone 7 are reportedly producing a hissing sound after intense usage

Earlier, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) landed itself in deep water after numerous reports regarding iPhone 7 and 7 Plus creating a particular hissing sound after intense usage. This has created a significant dilemma for owners, especially after the recent reports regarding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 malfunctioning and ultimately exploding. Fortunately for the Cupertino-based tech giant, there have been no reports so far regarding any models exploding but such an unusual hissing sound should not be ignored by Apple or customers.

So far, Apple is yet to give any official statement regarding numerous reports of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus producing a strange hissing sound but there are a few theories as to why the devices seemingly crack under pressure. Reliable sources have blamed the coil and the presence of a suspicious electromagnetic effect that is causing both iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to create such an unwanted sound with heavy usage. Strangely, many sites have conducted standard bench tests for the models and have found no such sound. So, it is likely that only a few devices are acting with heavy usage which will prove to be a huge relief for Apple.

If you are one of the unlucky iPhone 7 owners who have experienced such a sign of distress in your smartphone device, then you should immediately look to get your device replaced from Apple Store. There is still a slight chance that your smartphone device can exhibit such an unusual sound, so make sure you test out your iPhone under maximum stress before your final purchase.

The malfunctioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 units also demonstrated an unusual distress sound before the device eventually exploded. Hence, iPhone owners are best advised to take the necessary precautionary steps to avoid a similar fate.

SBUX remains well positioned and the long term strategy favors growth, however, premium valuation makes the stock risky

Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) has been downgraded at Deutsche Bank as potential for upside remains little and the premium valuation makes the risk reward profile tip a little on the wrong side. The analyst has declared a cautious stance in response to premium valuation and lofty expectations.

Analyst Brett Levy believes that SBUX stock is very well position for the long term and their strategy is likely to stimulate further growth. The company has a made point to use technology and innovations as a means to harness growth and a well-defined execution plan to go with it. Despite the positives, the investor expectations might be a little too much to provide for in the short term and will lead to disappointment. The analyst, however, remains largely impressed by SBUX and believes that the stock will achieve industry leading growth in same store sales and profits. Despite accounting for such humongous growth potential, the analyst believes that the share prices are way too high and some downside maybe likely given investor disappointment in the short term.

Mr. Levy concluded his remarks with the comment that the current price is quite a fair estimate and thus the hold rating makes much more sense given the absence of a massive upside that could exceed expectations in a flashy manner. Revenue growth has been rather solid and driver profitability growth over the past financial periods. The analyst advises investors to look for better alternatives for the time being. The price target was cut to $64 from $70, while, the general analyst opinion for SBUX is 13 strong Buy, 11 Buy and four Hold ratings. The stock is currently traded at $59.65 in the premarket.

New rumors about the Microsoft’s Surface Phone show a powerful new device

Microsoft Corp.’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Phone has seen its share of rumors over the last few months, as reports indicate that the company is finally looking to release the much anticipated Surface Phone. Previous reports indicate that the company was expected to release the Surface Phone in the second half of this year, but new reports suggest that Microsoft is planning to launch it in the first quarter of 2017. After Microsoft’s failure to capture the market with the Lumia lineup, the company hopes to gain market share with the new Surface lineup, as the company is expected to release three different models of the Surface Phone.

According to reports, Microsoft’s Surface Chief, Panos Panay has been given the task of delivering the latest device of the company. The new device is rumored to feature an all-metal design and will share the same design elements of Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Reports also indicate that the device will offer the same kick-stand found on Surface tablets. The new Surface Phone is expected to be offered in three different models, with each offering different display sizes ranging from 5inches to 6 inches.

The new Surface Phones will also be powered by Intel’s latest processor, the 14nm Kaby Lake and will not feature the previously reported Intel Atom processor. Two of the devices will be offered in business and consumer variants, with the consumer variant packing 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, while the business variant will be powered by a hefty 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The third model, according to reports, will be a beast of its own, as it will be powered by Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 830 chipset. The device will feature 8GB of RAM and 512GB of on-board storage

The new devices will run on Windows 10 Mobile and look to be the perfect platform to make the most out of Microsoft’s Continuum feature. The devices will also be powered by an impressive 21MP rear camera and 8MP front camera while featuring a 3000 Mah battery. The device was expected to release this May but after the failure of the Lumia 950, Microsoft is holding on the release until early 2017. If reports are true, the new device will be the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to capture part of the lucrative mobile market.

Apple is performing in accordance to the expectations

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been able to keep the shipping of the smartphones in-line with the analyst expectations for December quarter. Brean Capital analyst, Ananda Baruah, performed some channel checks and noted that the number of units shipped during the quarter ending December 31 is in-line with expectations. With only 9 days remaining in the quarter, it is expected that Apple will be able to meet the target shipment of 77-78 million units with relative convenience.

While the number of phones shipped during Q1 FY17 is in line, there are some doubts regarding the shipment levels in Q2. Analyst Baruah has cut shipping estimates for the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 down to 52-54 million units from 56-57 million units. For the upcoming quarter, the Street expects revenue of $54.7 billion with EPS of around $2.14. The analyst, on the other hand, expects revenue of $55 billion with earnings per share of $2.20.

The analyst commented that while Apple does have the potential to outperform the Street estimates, it remains highly unlikely due to the prevailing weakness in certain geographic regions. The company has not been able to perform to expectations in Asia, specifically China, and has continued to struggle in the segment ahead of Christmas. As far as the annual estimates are concerned, the analyst sees Apple posting revenue of $230 billion with earnings per share of $9.54 at the end of fiscal year 2017. The Street estimate for 2017 revenue is $232 billion, while the EPS estimate is $9.26. The analyst reaffirmed Apple at Buy with a price target of $135.

The analyst ratings for Apple from 48 analysts are 16 Buy, 24 Outperform, 7 Hold, and 1 Sell. The stock currently trades at a price of $117.

The e-commerce giant is growing at a steady pace and the four-digit price may soon become a reality

Earlier this month, The Country Caller discussed analysis, which said that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) would reach the $1000 mark before Alphabet Inc. While that may have been a bit too optimistic from valuation point of view, the company’s recent efforts suggest that the four-digit price may soon be a reality. Credit for all the efforts goes to CEO Jeff Bezos, who has been trying to expand Amazon’s presence lately outside its home country.

In the past one year, Amazon stock prices have risen by more than 30%, considering the company’s emergence as the top e-commerce organization in the U.S. Amazon’s presence into e-commerce and cloud-computing has helped the Seattle-based company to gain traction from investors. Its initiative for emerging economies is an added plus as these regions have a significant untapped potential.

The efforts of the company are welcomed by the Street as well. Many brokerage houses have raised their price targets for the company. However, their targets are still with three-digit price. Now the point arises that how soon can it reach that mark? The trend for the past one year suggests that it might take another year for it to reach that point.

Many fundamentalists would argue about why Amazon.com is so overrated that we talk of such high prices, when it is highly overvalued. Maybe they still insist that Amazon should trade at lower multiples as the current multiple is already very high. However, the bullish side of the coin is always looking at the future of the company, which is very bright in their opinion.

Amazon currently dominates the U.S e-commerce market and can continue to perform in emerging markets too.  Its initiative in logistics would help it to improve its financial position. Thus, the possibilities of the $1000 mark are much intact. Amazon shares were up 1.08% to $714.01 in yesterday’s trading session.

Google’s latest smart-home hub, the Google Home, is finally available for purchase

The rising usage of smart-home assistants has led to the inevitable launch of Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) very own smart-hub; the Google Home. The tech giant hopes that the launch of its own smart-home device will help give rivals like Amazon.com, who have also experimented with a smart-speaker, a run for its money.

Powered by the Google AI Assistant, the tech giant’s new smart-home controller enables users to perform a variety of tasks with voice-commands. Users can choose to playback music, use it as a multi-room feature as well as a controller for their smart-home appliances. 

With a price tag of $129, the speaker-device is available for online orders and at brick-and-mortar outlets. Considering that retail chain, Walmart, created quite a stir last week after bringing the company’s connected gadget on shelves earlier than their scheduled launch, the smart-home hub’s availability prior to its launch may have worked as a marketing boost for the device.

However, since the stores’ employees made sure that no purchases were made prior to Google Home’s release date, it seems that the wait is finally over. Interested buyers can also purchase the device from the Google Store alongside retail chains such as Best Buy and Target.

We believe that Google’s decision to unveil its new-generation smart-home controller at third-party retail outlets will work as a great way to boost sales. Since the retail giant already has excessive competition in markets thanks to Amazon’s rapid expansion plan for its line-up of smart-speakers, such a step helps Google to eliminate some of its existing competition. Subsequently, since the device is almost $50 cheaper than the Echo, Google seems to have planned its pricing structure to appeal to more buyers.

Even though Amazon has ramped up on its number of offerings or “skills” since last year, there is a chance that Google’s emergence in markets will decrease some of Echo’s hype. The Echo’s Skills Kit is a feature which incorporates a wide range of third-party services in order to provide Echo-owners with options to order an Uber or get a weather update simply by asking the speaker’s virtual assistant, Alexa. While Echo-owners may remain adamant to continue using Amazon’s smart-speaker, there is a probability that the emergence of Google Home might cause some Echo-owners to switch allegiance.

Considering setbacks in its defense projects, Boeing replaces its defense and space unit development president

As part of its restructuring plan, Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) recently announced another change in its executive management. According to the current news, president of company’s defense unit development, James O’Neill, will retire and will be replaced by Patrick Goggin as early as next month.

The company remains confident that the current change in management will support the manufacturer’s growth in future. Furthermore, the company was also of the opinion that Mr. Goggin will further develop the unit on the foundation laid by Mr. O’Neill.

Boeing’s defense unit’s development group takes cares of the pre-production phases of major space and defense programs. Analysts related to the industry believe that the recent setbacks in the company’s space and defense programs might have forced it to change the unit’s head.

Mr. O’Neill was selected as president of Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security Development unit earlier last year who joined the company back in 1982 as F/A-18 Hornet program’s structural engineer. However, as the aircraft manufacturer is starting to take in charges against delays of its military projects, the management is coming under great pressure.

Earlier last month, Boeing reported that it is expected to take charge against delays in its space taxi program along with charges related to its military tanker project based on design issues. The aircraft manufacturer also reported that based on some technical and supplier issues, its CST-100 Starliner Capsule program will be pushed back till mid of fiscal year 2018 (FY18).

Based on tough market competition, Boeing cannot afford any further delays in its defense projects. The heavy industry player also reported additional charges in its second quarter of fiscal 2016 (2QFY16) earnings that affected its bottom figures. Similarly, investors are also worried that if the company reports any more additional charges by the end of this year, its net earnings would be further affected.

In addition to this, with Donald Trump being elected as the new US president, analysts related to the industry expect increase in military spending in the near future. In other words, Boeing will need to cope up with delivery schedule in order to receive new orders—when announced—by the new government.

The iPhone maker is witnessing undeniable saturation in the high-end market for mobile devices as volume leaders like Huawei gain higher traction

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the leader in the high-end segment of the mobile market but Chinese mobile company Huawei has aggressively moved into the same market through its sheer sales volume, making itself a contender. Huawei has postured as a premium mobile device manufacturer; although it does not have astounding Apple-like margins, the company has certainly grabbed a sizeable market share and is growing at an unprecedented pace.

Huawei’s revenue grew 73% year-over-year in 2015 through its sale of smartphones and sister devices. The company brought home $20 billion from sales of 100 million smartphones, reflecting a rudimentary calculation which ignores revenue generated from other devices, which would have concluded an average selling price of $200. Therefore, it may be safely said that Huawei’s ASP for its mobile units is below $200. In contrast, Apple’s devices would have an ASP of $600 or above, considering prices of the latest iPhones. The latest IDC figures show that mobile growth has slowed down primarily due to a slump in demand for high-end devices such as Apple’s, while demand for low-end devices is still going strong.

That’s not the entire story though, as Huawei’s had a 41.7% gross profit for 2015, which is an impressive feat, while the company’s operating margin stood at 11.6% for the same period. While casting an eye at Apple, however, one must consider that the company has been selling tremendous volumes of its devices globally at an ASP higher than $600, for which it has a stupidly large revenue base which provides it great operating leverage. Apple’s operating income last year was $71.23 billion, marking 30.5% of the total revenue it generated.

It must also be noted that Apple spent a negligible share of its revenue on research & development compared to Huawei. This brings us back to the fact that even though Apple is currently at the top of the smartphone game, Huawei is a quick learner and is making stride toward creating innovative high-end devices. Their high-end devices sell at significantly lower price points than Apple’s iPhones, which is why the company might enjoy growing demand as consumer spending shifts from the high-end smartphone market toward more mid-range yet premium devices, such as the one Huawei sells. Apple’s leadership is largely subject to the continued success of its flagship device, and it better not slip off because there are great manufacturers growing at a fast pace, ready to dethrone the iPhone.

The new update brings in major visual changes to the OS and provides a sneak peek of what is yet to come

Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 10 insiders can rejoice, as the latest build 14328, for both Windows 10 desktops and mobile, is now live. The latest build brings in a ton of new features from the upcoming Windows 10 anniversary update. Let us have a look at what this massive update brings to the table.

According to recent reports, the latest update brings in many new changes to the Windows 10 OS. The much awaited updates to the Action Center are finally here, and some features and improvements that are to come with the Anniversary update for Windows 10 are also included in this preview build. It also includes the upcoming changes to the Windows 10 lock screen, which adds the Cortana personal assistant to it along with the much awaited Windows Ink.

Interestingly, the latest update sort of brings in a completely revamped Windows experience and every visual aspect of the operating system has been changed. This includes major changes to the Start Menu, Action Center, Lock Screen and Settings menu. Also, the new update brings in battery life improvements, and if you are using Windows Mobile based devices or the Surface Pro, you are going to notice a bit of improvement in the battery life area.

The new update is possibly one of the most feature packed updates that Windows 10 insiders have seen so far. However, there is the fine print that comes attached with every insider build, which means that all of the features and the changes are implemented with “very little stabilization work done in the background”. This basically means that there are bound to be issues and problems after you update to this new build. So, keeping that in mind, if you are planning to check out the new features, be sure to install the latest update on a PC that is not important in your daily cycle. You could install it on your backup computer if you have the itch to check out the sneak peek to the new update.