Yahoo Isn’t Buying Foursquare

Yahoo Foursquare not in talks

Earlier today, TechCrunch published a report indicating that Yahoo may be in talks to purchase local search and discovery service Foursquare for $900 million. “One source says that the “deal is done” but details are still being ironed out. Others have also confirmed a Yahoo/Foursquare deal is in the frame,” TechCrunch wrote.

However, just a few minutes ago, Peter Kafka of Re/Code debunked TechCrunch‘s report after talking to “multiple people familiar with the companies.” WSJ reporter Doug MacMillan (particularly notable for his direct access to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer) also cited a source saying that Yahoo isn’t in talks to buy Foursquare.

Sources The Michael Report have pinged since the news broke  confirmed both Kafka and MacMillan’s account, adding that the rumors originated from Foursquare’s side rather than Yahoo’s.

Scoop: No One’s Taking Over Twitter – Just Yet

Recent reports have indicated that Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Google may be looking to purchase Twitter in a hostile takeover bid. Twitter’s stocks rallied to $52.62 (3.5%), close to the 52-week high for the company, when news broke from within the investment community.

However, plugged-in sources The Michael Report spoke to over the last day have said that there is currently no discussions ongoing between Twitter and other companies for a possible takeover attempt.

The Barrons report also cited unnamed sources saying Goldman Sachs has been retained by Twitter to fend off any possible hostile takeover attempts. This is false: Goldman Sachs has long been Twitter’s banker, and was not retained specifically to fend off takeover bids.

Updating as we learn more…

WITCH HUNT: The Scramble To Find Out Who Is Leaking Secrets Within The Secret Service

Loose_lips_might_sink_ships

The pillars holding up America’s most elite security agency are beginning to crumble.

The Secret Service, whose main task is to protect the President of the United States and individuals close to him, has been beleaguered by problems ranging from incompetency to budget mismanagement for a very long time. The public, however, was never aware of it… until The Washington Post’s Carol Leonning spilled the agency’s secrets to the public.

In less than a month, Leonning managed to report on at least three different occasions when the Secret Service endangered the President’s life due to its incompetency, including one instance when the Secret Service allowed a knife-wielding man to enter the White House through an unlocked door, failing to stop him until he reached the East Room. After being exposed, Secret Service director Julia Pierson first tried to spin the agency’s failings as an isolated incident but, after failing to convince Congress of this version of events, resigned less than 24 hours later.

And now, rather than thinking up ways to improve, the Secret Service is instead devoting large portions of their time and management to answer one question: who is leaking all this information to Leonning?

Over the course of the past two weeks, The Michael Report has contacted numerous sources within the Secret Service to get a fuller picture of how the agency is dealing with the leaks; these sources spoke on background due to a fear of retribution from the agency they still work for.

WITCH HUNT

According to an insider, the “witch hunt officially began” on March 12, the day Leonning published her latest explosive report, which chronicled the agency’s effort to disrupt an investigation into an incident involving two of its agents. The agents, who were under influence at the time, drove through an active bomb investigation on White House grounds, passing directly by the the suspicious package in question and narrowly escaping the arrest by the uniformed agents working on the bomb threat.

The source added that the search for those leaking information “just can’t be done in front of the media. That’s just not how the Secret Service works.”

In what is perhaps largely seen as a symbolic move, a source confirmed to the The Michael Report that the leaks have become so “problematic” that those in the upper-echelons of the agency have begun issuing directives for trusted subordinates to screen the agency’s email servers for any unapproved communication with the media. The internal investigation hasn’t yielded any result thus far.

Several sources have corroborated that a more concerted and coordinated effort to root out the leakers is set to take place within the next few days. However, none of the sources The Michael Report talked to were willing to share exactly what this effort will entail.

As more secrets continue to leak out of the agency and onto the front pages of The Washington Post, the Secret Service is getting increasingly desperate to root out the leakers – except, they don’t really know where to start looking. For an organization highly averse to scrutiny, with more than 4,400 sworn members, sources are starting to doubt if the leakers will ever be exposed at all.

“Maybe the only way to stop these leaks is to improve, you know, just maybe,” an exasperated insider with more than a decade of experience within the agency quipped when asked to comment on the current state of the Secret Service.

TENSION BREWING

With the lack of concrete evidence, many within the Secret Service have begun pointing fingers at each other.

According to those familiar with the situation, tension has been brewing between the uniformed and the undercover divisions of the Secret Service ever since the stories began leaking to The Washington Post.

The general sentiment from the uniformed division is that the undercover division’s recklessness and unprofessional behavior is tarnishing the Secret Service’s traditionally esteemed image; meanwhile, the undercover division believes that their unformed counterparts are the ones leaking information to the press, due to their envy of the privileges afforded to the undercover division.

Some of the people we spoke to also suspect an internal power struggle, springing from a recent situation where several people were denied the promotions they’d been angling for – “a real f*cking dangerous mess,” as one puts it.

Though the leaks have been a point of contention for the last few weeks, there are some who believe it is for the greater good. “We’ve come to a point where The Washington Post is more effective than our own management… think about that for a second,” a source adds.

“Just… what happened?”

The Secret Service has declined to comment on this article, citing an internal investigation.

Exclusive: Anti-Facebook Social Networking Site Ello Is In Deep Trouble

Ello Sad Logo

Ello, the ad-free social networking site, may not exist for much longer in its current form, The Michael Report has exclusively learned after talking to several people (including investors) familiar with Ello’s current situation and future plans. Launched with great fanfare in August last year after being billed as the “anti-Facebook competitor” by the press, the company has since struggled to stay relevant in the increasingly saturated social network business.

Ello’s entire existence hinges only on one idea: that users are willing to try a completely new social network site in exchange for more privacy and control. With that manifesto, the site went on to raise $435,000 in January last year and a $5.5 million Series A round a few months later, in October. For a while, everything seemed great: the site was getting tens of thousands of requests to join per hour (it is currently in beta and the only way to join is to request an invite).

But that initial hyper-growth stage did not last very long.

These days, the requests for invites have dropped dramatically since Ello’s peak in October last year, and even worse still, the site is suffering from what is commonly referred to as the “Twitter Syndrome” – a user-retention problem.

While Ello may be doubling its user base every few days, internal metrics show that only a tiny percentage (our source pegs this number at 3-8%) of the users who got an invite went back to visit the site regularly, after the initial interaction. Most just never returned. After a week of signing up, only 10-15% of Ello’s members returned, according to people familiar with situation.

Some of the sources we talked to have likened Ello’s fate to what happened with App.net, a doomed social networking site launched by entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell in 2012.

App.net, which promised developers more control over the site by going open-source, was made public at the height of the anti-Twitter sentiment after Twitter announced that it was going to restrict much of the privileges developers have enjoyed since the site’s inception. Many suspected that Twitter did this to fatten their bottom line in preparation for a future IPO, which came in late-November of 2013. But after riding the anti-Twitter wave for a few months, App.net began to realize that growth fueled by hatred for another company wasn’t a viable business model, as its users slowly returned to Twitter. The founders of the site has since announced that the site is no longer in active development, and no new features will be introduced in the future – in other words, it’s dead.

The parallels between Ello and App.net cannot be more obvious: both sites were created as a reaction to other bigger, and much more successful sites’ problems (Facebook’s ads in Ello’s case and Twitter’s developer strategy in App.net’s case) and both sites aren’t exactly better (feature-wise) than the more established sites it’s trying to compete against… at least not good enough to warrant an exodus from the more popular sites.

In short, there’s no way a site like Ello can beat Facebook at its own game. Maybe Ello could have, but at the same time, the company is also almost a decade late into the game so unless it could bring something revolutionary on to the table, it is more or less doomed to fail.

Ello, in light of the gradual decline in user interest, has taken several stop-gap measures, including introducing the ability for users to share music and videos on its feed (a feature Facebook introduced years ago), a “NSFW Month” feature (the company justifies this by saying users shouldn’t have to self-censor on social media just to please advertisers; sources we talked to says this “feature” will eventually devolve Ello into “nothing more than a porn blog”) and the hiring of Chief Marketing Officer Rene Alegira, whose previous stint was leading Mamiverse – a digital platform for Latina mothers and their families.

Beyond these stop-gap measures, however, Ello seems to have a pretty robust plan for the future.

Sources reveal that Ello plans to launch an app store in the near future, where users can purchase more products and features for a small sum of money (think of this as more of like a web version of WeChat/LINE’s mobile app store rather than Apple’s App Store). This app store, we were told, was a huge selling point to investors during its fund raising pitches. Ello also plans to release a mobile app in the next few months and introduce a huge website overhaul, which would take the service out of its current beta stage.

No one knows if these measures will turn around Ello’s fate – and by extension, save its future. But at least the game for Ello isn’t over yet.

EXCLUSIVE: Apple To Unveil The Long-Awaited Retina MacBook Air At Its “Spring Forward” Event

exclusive report macbook air retina picture

Last week, Apple sent out the invites for its “Spring Forward” event, slated to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on March 9th.

Many are expecting Apple talk more about the Apple Watch. However, sources familiar with the matter within Apple have exclusively told The Michael Report that Apple plans to unveil the long-awaited Retina MacBook Air at the same event. The Michael Report has independently verified this information to be highly credible.

We should note that this information falls in line with what Apple analysts such as KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo and Oppenheimer’s Andrew Uerkwitz have been predicting for months. Supply chain sources who spoke to the press have also said that Apple ramped up their production in late 2014 and entered the mass production stage in December, with the goal of producing enough units for an early-2015 debut.

Apple’s MacBook Air line, which got upgraded in April last year (the only real upgrade being a small speed bump), still features a non-Retina screen with the same screen resolution that hasn’t been updated since late 2010. This is a stark contrast from the rest of the Apple computer lineup, which have been steadily upgraded to a Retina (or at least, a version of it is offered) screen since the first Retina MacBook Pro was unveiled in 2012.

The upcoming Retina MacBook Air, if earlier reports are to be believed, will come in an ultra slim design that combines the productivity of the current larger-screened 13-inch MacBook Air with the portability of the 11-inch MacBook Air.

Internally, the new Retina MacBook Air is said to feature Intel’s next-generation Broadwell Core M low-power processors, which would allow Apple to strip the computer of its fan assembly to create an even thinner profile. Other compromises Apple reportedly made in exchange for a thinner and lighter body includes the full-sized USB ports, MagSafe connectors and SD card slots.

The Retina MacBook Air, currently codenamed “MacBook Stealth” internally, will also come with a modest price decrease according to previous reports.

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EXCLUSIVE: The Haunting Tale Behind Why Samsung’s Profits Fell By More Than 1/4

An Empire Falls: Samsung by Michael Andrew

It only took Samsung three years to produce a phone worthy of competing with the de facto smartphone at the time: the iPhone 3G.

In 2010, Samsung released the Samsung Galaxy S to much fanfare, with specifications worthy of competing with Apple’s iPhone toe to toe.

For a couple years, everything at Samsung’s mobile division was well and rosy. The team continuously beat internal sales targets for almost every device they produced, and had a strong brand that rivaled Apple’s in both the media and the minds of consumers.

However, just as soon as they caught up with the iPhone, Samsung’s entire mobile division started to crumble.

At first, no one noticed the hairline fractures appearing on the pillars of Samsung’s mobile division. The team continued to do what they did best, often using the same tactics that made them successful in the first place, over and over again.

But although no one noticed, the cracks were slowly widening.

It was a slow, gradual process. Those who did notice it thought nothing of it: colossal amounts of money were still flowing into the company. Who had the time to care about those tiny cracks?

But slowly, as the months passed, people began taking note of the ever-widening cracks. And they tried – they really did – to fix it. But it was too late. The pillars – and the division they supported – were on the verge of collapse.

What you’re about to read is the true story of how Samsung’s mobile division took the world by storm, and then, just as rapidly, crashed. It’s a story of arrogance, money, and toxic culture.

Welcome to Samsung Mobile.

Read the entire story…

BLOCKBUSTER EXCLUSIVE: This Is The iPad Air 2

Hot Off The Heels Of The iPhone 6 Announcements…

Apple is set to unveil their latest offering of tablets, the iPad Air 2 (or iPad 6, if you will) as well as the iPad mini 3 (we haven’t heard much about the name internally), little more than a week from today in an event (Re/code reported the date to be on the 16th of October).

In the event, they’re also set to unveil a new lineup of iMacs (with an updated Retina display, finally), the latest version of Mac OS X, Yosemite, as well as a whole bunch of updated software (iMovie, FCP X, etc.). It’s going to be a huge event, although not as big as the one they just had for the new iPhones – hence the change in location, to the smaller Town Hall on Apple’s own campus.

But that wasn’t why you clicked on this article.

You wanted to know more about the iPad Air 2. And we’ve got all the details, right here.

Two researchers working for The Michael Report have obtained pictures and illustrations of the new iPads from sources within Apple, and have been able to independently verify both the design and the specifications to be true. As with all things Apple, there’s no doubt that they may change some minor details before the keynote… however, because we’ve heard that they’re already producing these new iPads at a large-scale, it’s unlikely that they’d make any drastic changes – which means that it’s almost 100% likely that the product we’ve seen is of the actual product.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve made the editorial decision to not publish the pictures and illustrations we’ve seen out of an abundance of caution in protecting the identity of our sources within Apple. Journalists who have covered Apple for a long time will understand that an internal team at Apple in charge of rooting out leaks will often change (or implement something minor into) the design of a product before letting it be seen by anyone else in the company (with exception to the team directly working on it), in an attempt to source the leakers, should it actually leak. We will, however, attempt to describe what we’ve seen as accurately as possible in words.

Display: 

Produced by TPK, GIS, Sharp, Samsung and LG (among a few others, we’re sure), the new iPad Airs will come with a fully-laminated display (this is done by manufacturing the cover glass and Retina LCD as a single unit – something they have done with the iPhone for years), which means that it’ll be quite a bit thinner than the current iPad Air. Along with this improvement in manufacturing technique, the quality of the screens should improve too (although we’re not sure if Apple is ready to make the jump to the iPhone 6 duo’s Retina HD screens just yet).

Design:

This is where it gets interesting: although there are lots of minor design changes, it’s not going to look like it at the first glance. Based on what we’ve seen, the form function of the iPad Air 2 is identical to the current iPad Air’s and there are no changes in the bezel.

Looking at the two iPad Airs from the front, there are no  changes that we could discern.

Due to the improvement in manufacturing technique (fully-laminated displays, as we talked about above), the iPad Air 2 is around 0.5 mm thinner than the current iPad Air… we’re hearing some whispers within Apple that they are going to market the new iPad Airs as the thinnest tablets on the market.

The speakers on the new iPad Airs have been re-engineered to take up a single row grill instead of the current two, and the holes are drilled to be slightly larger as a result (if you’ve got an iPhone 6/6 Plus, take a look at its speakers: it’s around that size, just ever so slightly larger).

The mute/vibration switch is completely gone in the new redesign, with sources from within Apple telling us that it was a necessary move to achieve the thinner profile of the new tablets.

The volume controls in the new iPad Airs are also slightly more recessed than the one on the current iPad Airs. Not a major change, but the change means that those volume buttons now blend in better with the contour of the new iPad Air.

The microphones on the iPad Air 2 have been relocated from the top of the iPad Air (where it currently is; within the antenna band) to next to the back camera modules. One of them is to the right of the camera module, the other is to the left – on the sides of the iPad Air.

Also, Apple will debut a gold colored version of the iPad Air 2, in addition to the current options of Black and Silver.

Cameras:

Both the ambient light sensor and the camera are in the same position in the new iPad Airs as they were in the current iPad Airs, although we’ve heard that Apple is upgrading the front-facing camera on the new iPad to FaceTime HD (with support for 720p video calling).

The camera on the back of the new iPad Air is getting an upgrade to 8 megapixels, instead of the current 5MP. This will result in faster, clearer and more detailed shots if you don’t mind looking ridiculous taking pictures with an iPad.

Internals: 

The iPad Air 2 will come with an upgraded A8 chip manufactured by TMSC and a 1GB bump in RAM, to 2GB. Apart from that, the new processor is supposed to run more efficiently than the current A7 chips, which translates to longer battery life for the new iPad Airs.

As for storage options, we’re hearing that Apple might ditch the 16GB option for the new iPad Airs (the option might still be available for the iPad mini 3) and limit customers to the 32, 64 and 128GB variants.

Touch ID and Apple Pay:

Unsurprisingly, the iPad Air 2 will come with the long-awaited Touch ID scanner on the home button (we heard internal chatters within Apple that due to the high failure rate of these Touch IDs last year, they’ve re-engineered a lot of the components to make them more durable and accurate).

In conjunction with incorporating Touch IDs into the new iPad Airs, Apple is also launching Apple Pay for customers of the new iPads (ridiculousness of pulling out a 9.7-inch tablet in front of everyone to pay for something be damned). Sources say that even if Apple Pay isn’t announced at the keynote, it will be shortly after the event.

iPad Pro:

There has been lots of rumors that Apple might unveil a 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the near future. So far, we haven’t heard anything about it.

That’s all we’ve got for now. If what we’ve seen is indeed Apple’s next iPad Air, then it’s undoubtedly going to be a winner for a consumer base that’s currently stagnant.

We can’t wait.

If you’ve got any further tips on the iPad Air 2 (or anything that you think we’d be interested in), drop us a line.