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INDIAN (T)

INDIAN (T)

South Korea, Italy also calling out Apple for slowing iPhones

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Apple continues to get into hot water over a power management feature that throttles performance on older iPhones to avoid unexpected battery shutdowns.

A South Korean consumer group has now filed a complaint, though it’s not clear whether the complaint will trigger a formal investigation (via Reuters).

The group, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, had already filed a lawsuit against the company.

This is just the latest in a series of complaints Apple is facing over the issue around the world. Earlier this week a consumer group in China wrote to company with concerns.

While the French government is investigating whether Apple’s actions constitute ‘programmed obsolescence’ (which is illegal in the country).

US senator John Thune has also written to Apple to express concerns and raise questions.

And yesterday Italy’s antitrust body opened a formal investigation into iPhone ‘performance-gate’. Though its probe is wider as it’s also investigating whether Apple rival Samsung has used software updates to slow its phones to drive consumer upgrades — as is alleged.

At the time of writing neither company had responded to a request for comment.

The watchdog suspects Apple and Samsung of orchestrating “a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions”, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week Apple CEO Tim Cook said it’s working on an iOS update that will inform iPhones users if their phone is being performance throttled because of the age of its battery. It will also be giving users the ability to switch off the power management feature if they wish (though Apple does not advise doing so).

It’s not clear when the update will drop for all iPhones users but it’s slated to ship to developers sometime next month.



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Apple’s enterprise evolution

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Back in 2010, Apple’s iconic co-founder Steve Jobs was not entirely enthralled with the enterprise. In fact, Jobs is famously quoted as saying, “What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves.”

He added, “They go ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and if enough of them say ‘yes,’ we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works.”

That was an accurate enough representation of the way things worked when Jobs made the statement. Back in those days, IT kept tight control over the enterprise, issuing equipment like BlackBerries and ThinkPads (and you could have any color you wanted — as long as it was black). Jobs, who passed away in 2011, didn’t live long enough to see the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) and “Consumerization of IT,” two trends that were just hovering on the corporate horizon at the time of his death.

I have the feeling he would have quite liked both movements and would have taken great pleasure in the fact that in many ways those trends were driven by his company’s mobile devices, the iPhone and the iPad. People were using those devices at home and they were increasingly bringing them to work. IT had little choice but to begin accommodating them.

That movement has helped fuel Apple’s enterprise evolution. Over time, Apple has partnered with enterprise stalwarts like IBM, SAP and Cisco. It has provided tools for IT to better manage those i-devices, and Macs, too, and it has built the enterprise into a substantial business (to the extent that we can tell).

What do we have here?

Trying to find data on the size of Apple’s enterprise business is a challenge because it doesn’t often break out enterprise revenue in earnings calls, but to give you a sense of the market, Tim Cook did reveal a number in the Q4 2015 earnings call.

“We estimate that enterprise markets accounted for about $25 billion in annual Apple revenue in the last 12 months, up 40 percent over the prior year and they represent a major growth vector for the future,” Cook said at the time.

In a June 2017 Bloomberg interview, Cook didn’t provide any numbers, but he did call the enterprise, “the mother of all opportunities.” That’s because enterprises tend to buy in bulk, and as they build an Apple support system in-house, it feeds other parts of the enterprise market as companies buy Macs to build custom apps for both internal users and consumers of their products and services.

This connection did not escape Cook in the Bloomberg interview. “For most enterprises, iOS is the preferred mobile operating system. IOS is a fantastic platform because of the ease with which you can write apps that are great for helping you run your business efficiently or interface with your customers directly. We see many, many enterprises now writing apps. Well, what do they use to write the apps? They use the Mac. The Mac is the development platform for iOS,” Cook told Bloomberg.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Another way to look at the market is to look at Jamf, an Apple enterprise tool partner that helps companies manage Apple devices in large organizations. The company, which launched in 2002 long before the iPad or the iPhone, has been growing in leaps and bounds. It reports it has 13,000 customers today. To put that into perspective, it took 13 years to reach 6,000 customers and just 2.5 years to more than double to 13,000.

“A lot of people say Apple is getting more focused on enterprise, but I believe Apple helped enterprise focus more on users and they’ve had more success,” Jamf CEO Dean Hager told TechCrunch. “It started with Apple creating great products people wanted to bring to work and then they just demanded it,” he said.

Forcing their way into the enterprise

That organic momentum can’t be underestimated, but once it got in, Apple had to give IT something to work with. IT has always seen its role as hardware and software gatekeeper, keeping the enterprise safe from external security threats.

Ultimately the company never set out to build out enterprise-grade devices with the iPhone and iPad. They simply wanted devices that worked better than what was out there at the time. That people liked to use them so much that they brought them to work was an extension of that goal.

In fact, Susan Prescott, vice president of markets, apps and services at Apple was at the company when the first iPhone was released, and she was aware of the company’s goals. “With iPhone, we set out to completely rethink mobile, to enable the things we knew that people wanted to do, including at work,” she said.

Susan Prescott of Apple. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The notion of apps and the App Store and bringing in developers of all ilks to build them was also attractive to enterprises. When IBM and SAP got involved, they began building apps specifically geared towards enterprise customers. Customers could access these apps from a vetted App Store, which also was appealing to IT. The Cisco deal gave IT faster on-boarding of Apple devices on networks running Cisco equipment (which most enterprises use).

At the 2010 iPhone 4 keynote, Jobs was already touting the kinds of features that would appeal to enterprise IT, including mobile device management, wireless app distribution through the App Store and even support for Microsoft Exchange Server, the popular corporate email solution of choice at the time.

He may have spoken derisively about the enterprise in a general sense, but he clearly saw the potential of his company’s devices to transform the way people worked by giving them access to tools and technologies that previously were not in reach of the average worker.

Apple also was quietly talking to enterprises behind the scenes and figuring out what they needed from the earliest days of the iPhone. “Early on we engaged with businesses and IT to understand their needs, and have added enterprise features with every major software release,” Prescott told TechCrunch.

Driving transformation

One of the factors driving the change inside organizations was that mobile and cloud were coming together in that 2011 time frame, driving business transformation and empowering workers. If IT wouldn’t give employees the tools they wanted, the App Store and similar constructs gave them the power to do it themselves. That fueled the BYOD and Consumerization of IT movements, but at some point IT still required some semblance of control, even if that didn’t involve the same level they once had.

The iPhone and other mobile devices began to create the mobile worker, who worked outside the protection of the firewall. People could suddenly look at their documents while waiting for the train. They could update the CRM tool in-between clients. They could call a car to get to the airport. All of this was made possible by the mobile-cloud connection.

It was also causing a profound change inside every business. You simply couldn’t do business the same way anymore. You had to produce quality mobile apps and you had to get them in front of your customers. It was changing the way companies do business.

It was certainly something that Capital One saw. They realized they couldn’t remain a “stodgy bank” anymore, and control every aspect of the computing stack. If they wanted to draw talent, they had to open up, and that meant allowing developers to work on the tools they wanted to. According to Scott Totman, head of Mobile, Web, eCommerce, and personal assistants at Capital One, that meant enabling users to use Apple devices for work, whether their own or those issued by the company.

Workers at Capital One. Photo: Capital One/Apple.

“When I came in [five years ago], the Apple support group was a guy named Travis. We weren’t using Apple [extensively] in the enterprise, [back then],” he says. Today, they have dozens of people supporting more than 40,000 devices.

It wasn’t just people inside the company whose needs were changing. Consumer expectations were changing, too, and the customer-facing mobile tools the company created had to meet those expectations. That meant attracting those app developers to the enterprise and giving them an environment where they felt comfortable working. Clearly, Capital One has succeeded in that regard, and they have found ways to accommodate and support that level of Apple product usage throughout the organization.

Getting by with a little help

Capital One wasn’t an outlier by any means, but if Apple was, at its core, still a consumer company, it was going to need help to capture the enterprise market and understand the needs of a large organization. That’s why it made a series of moves over the last several years to partner with enterprise bedrock companies, forging agreements with IBM, SAP and Cisco, with professional services giants like Accenture and Deloitte and, most recently, GE. That latter gives the company a foothold in the industrial Internet of Things market. Meanwhile, GE has committed to standardizing on the iPhone and iPad for its 300,000+ employees, while also making the Mac an official computer offering.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, sees partnering as a sound approach for Apple. “Apple knows it’s a consumer company and therefore needs to partner with pure enterprise players to execute its enterprise strategy. Each company adds a different element to the strategy. IBM and SAP are mobile app plays. Cisco is about accelerated networking and edge security. GE is all about IoT software,” Moorhead explained.

Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J Gold Associates says, these companies provide a primary entrée into the enterprise for Apple. “They aren’t really a component supplier as much as a solutions provider, and without the partnerships, it would be much harder for them to have an impact. The leveraging of partnerships allows them to compete at the full solutions level rather than have to compete on a component basis,” Gold said.

The IT jury is still out

While Apple spent the last decade building up that enterprise business, and the internal and external support components, the partnerships they have built along the way didn’t just give them enterprise street cred, they also often provided a level of coverage that would have been more difficult to provide on their own.

“IT is very accustomed to having a good deal of support as an ability to work directly with major suppliers. In Apple’s case, the really big companies can do so, but many have to go through an intermediary. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is a way for Apple to leverage its more limited enterprise resources,” Gold said.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, sees some challenges for Apple enterprise customers. ”Their challenge with Apple is that companies such as Dell have made it so easy to take care of their devices that Apple would have to replicate that level of service. Being told to go to a Genius Bar isn’t the right answer for most IT shops,” he said.

To be fair, Apple does have enterprise-level AppleCare support, which happens to be run by partner IBM. Prescott says that Apple is working with larger customers to give them what they need. “We work directly with customers to help them integrate and manage Apple devices. We offer technical support through AppleCare, and our Apple at Work website offers IT resources and guides. We strategically partner with world class companies to complement our enterprise efforts and help customers get started, all the way to rethinking business processes with mobile at the core,” she explained.

It’s worth noting that a survey conducted by Jamf in 2016 found a strong preference of 79 percent for iPhones among respondents when it came to mobile phones.

Source: Jamf 2016 survey

The survey included 480 executives, managers and IT professionals from small, medium and large organizations from around the world. The numbers suggest that IT has little choice but to support iPhones and other Apple products, and Apple has been finding ways to help them.

Apple has clearly made great strides in the enterprise since Steve Jobs made that comment on the enterprise in 2010. With companies like Capital One, Schneider, Lyft and British Airways it has shown it can work with the largest companies around. Indeed, the partnerships with enterprise titans has further helped find its place in the enterprise.

Featured Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images



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The latest iOS update fixes a glitch that would let others crash your phone with a text message

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Last week, software developer and researcher Abraham Masri shared details of a bug that would allow others to freeze your iPhone with little more than a quick text message.

Apple has just pushed out iOS 11.2.5, which patches that issue.

This bug, the likes of which are often referred to as a “text bomb,” had a would-be attacker send a URL via text message. When the recipient’s phone started processing it for preview, the device would start doing all sorts of weird things — from freezing, to home screen crashes, to kernel panics.

The company rarely says much about the whats and whys of a bug, but it mentions in the security notes that it stemmed from the way links received in text messages are processed and presented. Apple credits Masri for finding the bug.

This update also preps iOS devices for the coming launch of Apple’s HomePod speaker, and teaches Siri how to read the news (albeit only in the U.S., U.K. and Australia) when you say the right magic words — which, wouldn’t you know it, are “Hey Siri, play the news.” You also can get a bit more specific, saying things like “business news” or “sports news.”



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Apple reportedly under investigation by SEC and DOJ for phone slowdown

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The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are jointly investigating Apple’s communications about the software update that slowed down older models of the iPhone, Bloomberg is reporting.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the government has reportedly requested details on the company’s communications about the software update.

The Bloomberg report indicates the two agencies are in very early stages of their investigation.

We’ve reached out to Apple, the SEC and the DOJ for comment and will update when we hear back.

For background, Apple got into a lot of trouble with customers who noticed that the performance of their older model phones was degrading over time. Apple was pushed to disclose that it had issued a software update that privileged power management over performance in older devices that had degraded batteries.

There was, unsurprisingly, some pushback, and Apple was forced to apologize for the way it handled the update.

The U.S. isn’t the only country where people are pressing Apple for more information. Consumer advocacy groups around the world — from Europe to Asia — are pressing for an investigation into the slowdown.



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iPhone sales numbers dipped slightly, but revenue is up courtesy of the iPhone X

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As far as sales figures go, this last quarter wasn’t entirely rosy for Apple. During today’s earnings report, the company posted sales of 77.3 million iPhones, down just under a million from this time last year.

Of course, that 78.2 million figure from 2017 represented a new record for the company. It’s also worth noting that this fiscal quarter was only 13 weeks, versus last year’s 14, which no doubt contributed to the overall decline. 

But Wall Street still expected another increase, up to 80.2 million phones for the quarter, as the company added a 10th anniversary flagship to the line. In spite of that disappointment, Apple actually saw a 13-percent bump in revenue for Q1 2018, thanks in no small part to the fact that the iPhone X represents a significant price premium over the iPhone 8 and past models. The average price per iPhone is ~$40 higher than it was this time last year.

The price premium hasn’t stopped the iPhone X from topping Apple’s own sales charts, either. An analysis of the industry recently singled out the high-end handset as the top selling phone for the holidays, in spite of failing to hit some industry goals. Today Apple added that the X has been the best-selling iPhone model since launch.

“We’re thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple’s history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup,” Tim Cook says in a press release tied to this evening’s news. “iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November.”

Cook also notes that the company’s overall active installed device base just hit 1.3 billion.

Likely the company is still viewing all of this disappointment, but still a net positive. After all, revenue is really the bottom line here, even if the optics of a sales dip aren’t as cheery. Apple’s shifted to a new sales model, and even if the iPhone X wasn’t a wild success by every metric, the company’s demonstrated that people are willing to pay $999+ for a premium smartphone experience.



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Snapchat slips our features like fonts and do not disturb amidst redesign

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Snap is waking up to the “Time Well Spent” movement Facebook is already reckoning with. Snapchat is offering a way to mute specific people without formally blocking them. Meanwhile, the sweeping redesign that’s slowly rolling out comes with ways to jazz up your Snaps with colorful text styles.

The new features focus around making Snapchat the most flexible visual messaging app, doubling down on its most popular use case as its Stories stop growing in the face of competition from Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp. Instagram just added its own special fonts which threatened to make Snapchat’s text look boring. A TechCrunch reader tipped us off with these screenshots.

Snapchat tells me Do Not Disturb quietly rolled out a few weeks ago. By tapping and holding on a person or group, it lets you mute notifications from them so you don’t get constantly alerted but also don’t have to block them or leave the group. They won’t know you silenced them. That’s especially helpful if a close friend won’t shut up on Snapchat, but it’d be rude to cut them out entirely.

Protecting our sense of focus and attention is critical if we’re going to stay sane as mobile phones become more central to our lives. Muting your phone entirely can produce its own form of stress as you wonder if you’re missing something important. That’s why thread-by-thread do not disturb features are necessary. Facebook Messenger has had the feature for years.

In fact, Do Not Disturb was championed by Tristan Harris, leader of the Time Well Spent movement who today launched the Center For Humane Technology that will fund anti-tech addiction research, education, and lobbying. The next step for Snap would be allowing users to select how long they want to mute someone rather than it being indefinite. It could also offer a “notify anyway” option that tells the sender you’re busy but that they can message again to bypass the Do Not Disturb barrier.

In more lighthearted fare, Snapchat confirms it’s starting to roll out new text styles just a week after Instagram added its new “Type Mode” with modern, signature, typewriter, and billboard fonts. They’re coming as part of the big redesign that’s currently reached the UK, Australia, and Canada but that’s wider rollout has been steadily delayed.

When typing, Snapchatters will see the option to switch between the existing small and big text option as well as new Glow neon lettering and Rainbow that swashes color gradients across your words. These could help users express ideas with more style or silliness.

Snapchat has been trying to keep the features coming despite being cautious with its massive redesign that received mostly negative reviews from its first users. Instagram’s deep pockets have allowed it to rapidly release Stories and ephemeral messaging features, in some cases leapfrogging Snapchat. We’ll get a closer look during tomorrow’s earnings call about whether Snapchat can reduce its losses that hit $440 million last quarter, and revive its sluggish growth rate. But for now its best bet looks to be locking down the disappearing messages market where Facebook is still weak.

For more on Snapchat’s latest troubles, check out our piece: “What is Snapchat now that Stories sharing has stopped growing”



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Nike ramps up membership benefits with Apple Music, ClassPass and Headspace unlocks for app users

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The top line is that Nike is rolling out some membership related updates to its app for iPhone and Android today. The updates will come in the form of new unlocks with partnerships like ClassPass, Apple and Headspace. There will also be a bunch of new unlocks coming for exclusive shoes and clothing.

NikePlus Unlocks, the official name for these cards that appear in the Nike+ app Members section, were introduced late last year. They’ve been doing well but as a, let’s just say avid, shoe and clothing hound I personally haven’t found them all that impactful yet. The amount of unlocks was not varied or frequent enough to be habit forming and they’re tucked away in the profile section of the app so you really have to go fishing for them if you want to take advantage.

Among the best uses so far have been exclusive colors of new and classic designs just for members and the occasional exclusive clothing drop for runners or athletes.

Nike says that they’re trying to expand not just the frequency but also the spectrum of the rewards for members, hopefully creating more of a habit and a feeling that the memberships are about more than just finding your order history when you need it.

Some of the Unlocks in partnership are quite nice and align well with the Nike performance audience. Buy a Nike Epic React Flyknit shoe in an exclusive color (Nike’s newest comfort design that many are seeing as a response to the Adidas Ultraboost) and you’ll get four months free of Apple Music. Doing workouts can earn you exclusive playlists and more.

Headspace, a guided meditation app, will ship exclusive playlists, discounts on membership and guided runs that focus on the more self-aware side of exercise.

ClassPass is giving out class credits when you make Nike purchases, which should align well with current members and boost membership via lead generation.

The biggest and most popular new Unlock will likely be the Birth Month promotion, which gives you discounts that last an entire month and gifts when you make purchases like a one-month ClassPass subscription or even tickets to a home game of your favorite team. The personalized promotions are an enormously rich vein for Nike to mine and I’ve not seen a lot of it in the apps to date, so it’s encouraging when they say that they’re explicitly tailoring this based on activity in the apps and purchase history.

A couple of the exclusive releases of shoes in February include the Kyrie 4 iD, an exclusive Zoom KDX and the aforementioned Epic React in “White Fusion”.

Nike has a long history of running events for runners and athletes through the Nike Run Club and that will continue here. Points earned in the Nike Training Club app or the Nike Run Club app will also trigger rewards as you run more miles or complete routines. Exclusive products and ‘experiences’ are also on the docket here.

Though Nike has been in this member game longer than almost any other sporting goods company, the apps themselves have only become really rich with this kind of content over the last year. Between the expanded offerings for the Unlocks category and the bolder bets that Nike has been taking in the SNKRS app with location and computer vision-based rewards, the apps are starting to feel like they’re moving up towards home screen status. I do long for better alerts and push notifications for exclusive releases and ‘Reserved For You’ drops that let you grab an upcoming sneaker without hassling on release day. It feels like there is work yet left to do to make the conversation two-way between the customer and the app.

Still, with launches like the physical Nike Stash locations and the SNKRS AR experiences, Nike is really ahead of the game when it comes to leveraging mobile in interesting ways for a highly engaged audience that’s ravenous for new product. These generate fervor, they make the app a daily habit and create a feeling that there could always be something there. And it provides opportunities for Nike to link the apps with physical experiences like being in Nike flagships or at venues that complete the digital-to-physical loop in compelling ways. It will be interesting to see how the Unlocks continue to evolve.



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Apple reportedly under investigation by SEC and DOJ for phone slowdown

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The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are jointly investigating Apple’s communications about the software update that slowed down older models of the iPhone, Bloomberg is reporting.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the government has reportedly requested details on the company’s communications about the software update.

The Bloomberg report indicates the two agencies are in very early stages of their investigation.

We’ve reached out to Apple, the SEC and the DOJ for comment and will update when we hear back.

For background, Apple got into a lot of trouble with customers who noticed that the performance of their older model phones was degrading over time. Apple was pushed to disclose that it had issued a software update that privileged power management over performance in older devices that had degraded batteries.

There was, unsurprisingly, some pushback, and Apple was forced to apologize for the way it handled the update.

The U.S. isn’t the only country where people are pressing Apple for more information. Consumer advocacy groups around the world — from Europe to Asia — are pressing for an investigation into the slowdown.



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Appeals court rules that Tinder’s pricing violates age discrimination laws

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A California appeals court has sided with Allan Candelore, a man suing Tinder over the pricing for its premium service, Tinder Plus.

Specifically, Candelore and his lawyers argued that by charging $9.99 per month if a user is under 30, versus $19.99 per month if you’re 30 or older, Tinder is discriminating based on age, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Unfair Competition Law (those are both California laws).

Tinder co-founder Sean Rad defended the pricing at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference back in 2015 by saying, “Our intent is to provide a discount for our younger users.” Apparently a lower court agreed with Tinder’s reasoning, particularly the argument that younger users have less money to spend.

However, the appeals court came to a different conclusion:

No matter what Tinder’s market research may have shown about the younger users’ relative income and willingness to pay for the service, as a group, as compared to the older cohort, some individuals will not fit the mold. Some older consumers will be “more budget constrained” and less willing to pay than some in the younger group. We conclude the discriminatory pricing model, as alleged, violates the Unruh Act and the UCL to the extent it employs an arbitrary, class-based, generalization about older users’ incomes as a basis for charging them more than younger users. Because nothing in the complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing, the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer. Accordingly, we swipe left, and reverse.

(Yes, that’s a real quote from the ruling.)

We’ve reached out to Tinder for comment and will update if we hear back.



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Samsung topples Intel to become the world’s largest chipmaker

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Samsung has ended Intel’s 25-year run as the world’s biggest seller of chipsets after it posted its 2017 end of year financials.

The Korean tech giant’s chipset division — which has long been its biggest hitter — grossed total revenue of $69 billion in 2017, eclipsing the $62.8 billion Intel reported for last year. That was a record year for Intel — and an annual increase of six percent — but it wasn’t enough to stop Samsung from knocking it from the top spot, which Bloomberg reports it had occupied since 1992.

The writing was on the wall last year when Samsung beat Intel on a quarterly basis, but now it has held out for an annual win.

The change of position highlights Samsung’s focus on mobile, and in particular memory chips which are an essential part of smartphones. Intel’s chips may be in 90 percent of the world’s computers, but it missed the mobile boom and is playing catch-up.

Overall, Samsung’s entire business reported full-year profit of KRW 53.65 trillion ($50.7 billion) on revenue of KRW 239.58 trillion, $225 billion. For the final quarter of 2017, revenue was KRW 65.98 trillion ($62 billion) with KRW 15.15 trillion ($14 billion) in operating profit.

That’s a higher profit but slightly lower revenue than the previous quarter. The company’s mobile business actually saw its take-home drop by 3.2 percent year-on-year during Q4.

Looking ahead to 2018, Samsung said it intends to increase its chipset focus on cloud services, AI and automotive. On the smartphone front, where its name is best known among consumers, the company said it plans to adopt “cutting-edge technologies” like foldable displays. Samsung said also that it would continue to develop its smart services with a focus on its Bixby assistant and upcoming 5G technologies.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Contributor/Getty Images



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