Baidu profit falls 34% in Q2 after ads scandal

Chinese Internet giant Baidu’s second-quarter profits plunged 34 percent, it reported, as a scandal over its policies for displaying paid ads cut into customer growth.

In May, Baidu was summoned by regulators and lashed by Chinese media over the death of a student whose family used the search engine to seek a cancer cure that did not work.

Following the public outcry, the government announced stricter controls over internet advertising, while Baidu itself stepped up checks on customers.

“Baidu faced a challenging second quarter with heightened regulation in the healthcare sector and on internet advertising impacting our business and operations,” Baidu chairman and chief executive Robin Li said on a conference call.

Net income for the quarter ending June 30 was 2.4 billion yuan ($363.2 million), down 34.1 percent on-year, the Nasdaq-listed company said after the market closed on Thursday.

Revenue rose 10.2 percent to 18.3 billion yuan for the period, it said.

“The implementation of new regulations and the stricter standards that we proactively imposed to make our platforms more robust will likely suppress revenue for the next two to three quarters,” Li said.

Chinese regulators have ordered Baidu to change how it displays search results following the death of Wei Zexi, 21.

Wei had been diagnosed as having a terminal soft tissue disease when his family found an experimental immunotherapy treatment at a Beijing hospital run by the armed police force via a Baidu search.

When it did not work, Wei accused the hospital of exaggerating the treatment’s efficacy and accused Baidu of ranking medical information search results by the amount paid by advertisers.

Chinese regulators found Baidu’s system for ranking results depended on prices paid and that the company did not clearly state which ads were paid for by a sponsor.

The government will implement a new law on internet advertising on September 1, while Baidu has increased requirements for online healthcare advertisers and is expanding them to other business sectors, company officials said.

“A portion of our healthcare customers who were not immediately compliant to our requirements were not able to spend with us, reducing the number of online active customers,” Jennifer Li, chief financial officer of Baidu, told analysts on the conference call.

Baidu, sometimes referred to as the Google of China, said 667 million people used it for online searches from mobile devices in June.

While that was a six percent rise year-on-year for the month, it was a slower rate of growth than the 21 percent leap in December 2015 or the nine percent gain for March.

Results were also hit by higher costs in a number of key areas, including bandwidth and traffic acquisition.

Content costs accounted for 9.3 percent of revenues, up from 5.1 percent in the year-ago period, mainly due to higher costs for Baidu’s online video platform, iQiyi, which has been likened to Netflix.

Just days ago, a consortium led by Baidu chairman Li and iQiyi chief executive officer Yu Gong said they were withdrawing an offer to take the video platform private, after failing to reach agreement with the parent over the potential acquisition.

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Google in hot water over Crimean street names

Google in hot water over Crimean street names

AFP Photo / Georges Gobet

US tech giant Google came under fire on Thursday in Russia for “decommunising” street names in parts of Crimea, annexed from Ukraine two years ago, by using Ukrainian spellings.

“I think it’s a short-sighted policy,” Russian Minister of Communications Nikolai Nikiforov told Rossiya 24 television, adding he hoped “the mistake is corrected.”

“If Google pays so little attention to Russian law and the names of Russian localities then it will not be able to do business effectively on Russian territory,” Nikiforov warned.

In a Facebook post, Sergei Aksyonov, prime minister of the disputed region, accused Google Maps of producing a “propaganda product rather than real maps” in using Ukrainian transliterations for the area.

Several Russian users of Google Maps had earlier in the week pointed out use of the Ukrainian versions in line with a “decommunisation” law passed last year in Ukraine.

Some 900 place names are affected and the dispute adds to the deep discord between Moscow and Kiev, already at loggerheads over a two-year war in east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have revolted against Kiev’s pro-Western government.

The United Nations has rejected the Russian annexation of Crimea.

A Russian spokesman for Google said the firm was working on ensuring that the Russian version of the localities concerned would be incorporated into the Russian-language version of Google Maps.

“We are actively working on giving (localities) their old names in the Russian version of Google Maps,” the spokesman told Ukrainian financial daily RBK.

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Oracle boosts cloud business with $9.3 bn acquisition

Oracle boosts cloud business with $9.3 bn acquisition

PHOTO:AFP

Software giant Oracle agreed to acquire cloud computing company NetSuite for $9.3 billion in cash, the companies announced Thursday.

Oracle will incorporate NetSuite’s cloud-based financial management and resource planning products into its offerings to corporate clients.

“Oracle and NetSuite cloud applications are complementary, and will coexist in the marketplace forever,” said Mark Hurd, chief executive, Oracle. “We intend to invest heavily in both products –- engineering and distribution.”

“NetSuite will benefit from Oracle’s global scale and reach to accelerate the availability of our cloud solutions in more industries and more countries,” said Zach Nelson, chief executive, NetSuite.

Oracle reported $37.0 billion in sales last year, while NetSuite’s revenues were $741.1 million.

NetSuite’s biggest shareholder is Oracle co-founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison, with about 40 percent.

The transaction must clear regulatory hurdles and win support from a majority of NetSuite’s outstanding shares not owned by NetSuite officers or by persons affiliated with Ellison, the companies said.

Shares of NetSuite surged 18.2 percent to $108.25 in pre-market trade, while Oracle advanced 1.3 percent to $41.50.

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How tablets and the cloud could transform education in South Africa

How tablets and the cloud could transform education in South Africa

South African schools and universities are struggling with the high costs of textbooks and other educational materials, a shortage of teachers in key subjects like maths and science, and difficulties in funding IT infrastructure. However, technology continues to offer some compelling answers to these challenges.

Related: 2nd Healthcare Innovation Summit set for Johannesburg

A combination of falling data connectivity prices, more widespread fibre and 3G/4G/LTE networks, and affordable, reliable tablet computers means that schools and tertiary institutions can start tapping into the cloud for learning materials. Here are a few reasons education is likely to head for the cloud in the years to come.

No more IT support headaches
One of the biggest reasons technology has stumbled in South African schools is a lack of IT skills at schools to install software, manage servers and maintain networks. But with the cloud, students will just need a device with a modern web browser and a decent Internet connection to access the latest learning materials from the cloud.

A world of resources available online
Textbooks are expensive and so are many traditional software packages aimed at schools, teachers and students. The cloud changes the economics by offering resources for a low monthly subscription fee or even for free.

This includes school management and administration systems, tools for teachers, productivity software (like Dropbox and Gmail) and learning software (like interactive maths or language software for schoolchildren).

From maths to physics, English to biology, schoolchildren have a wide range of content at their fingertips through mobile apps or online services.

Less upfront IT investment
Teachers and principals know that schoolchildren will need to be computer-literate to succeed in the information economy. But the costs of installing a computer lab with a network and server infrastructure are prohibitive; what’s more, expensive IT infrastructure is a target for thieves.

With the cloud, the school simply needs to be in an area with good mobile broadband coverage or to install fibre and Wi-Fi access points.

Students can access cloud applications from a tablet computer that could cost just a couple of thousand rands, greatly reducing the upfront cost of creating a high-tech learning environment.

Schoolwork on demand
One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is that it enables the world to become the classroom. Students and learners can access content wherever they are, including textbooks, coursework, tests, videos and other materials their teachers put online. Whether they are sick at home or at school, schoolchildren are still able to access the learning resources they need.

The cloud can also encourage independent learning, allowing students to learn at their own pace. Advanced students can challenge themselves with more difficult work; meanwhile, a child that is struggling with a maths problem can revise and revisit the materials in his or her own time.

Better classroom collaboration
Of course, technology isn’t just about working independently. It can also facilitate collaboration, even helping schoolchildren and students prepare for how people work together in today’s business world.  For example, learners can work together on essays in Google Apps or reach out to friends on Slack for help with an algebra problem. They can even collaborate with children and teachers on the other side of the world.

Taking the cloud to the classroom
Tablets, as flexible and functional media consumption and creation devices, are arguably the most natural way to give learners access to the cloud’s learning resources. They’re cost-effective (especially entry-level Android-based models), offer decent battery life, and are easy to support from an IT perspective.

In addition, tablets are lighter and more portable than notebooks, yet offer larger screens than smartphones. Another benefit is that tablets offer schoolchildren a range of learning tools in one place. They can record the classroom session for later review, use calculators and other tools, and do so much more on one interface.

By Ernst Wittmann, Regional Manager for Southern Africa at ALCATEL

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Networks Unlimited invests in securing Africa ’s Wi-Fi connections

Networks Unlimited invests in securing Africa ’s Wi-Fi connections

Networks Unlimited invests in securing Africa ’s Wi-Fi connections.

It is estimated that 33 billion endpoints will be connected by 2020. With more than half of organisations allowing both multiple types of Internet of Things (IoT) devices as well the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomena, it really is not a great surprise that the majority of CIOs are being kept awake at night by concerns that their wireless security is not good enough.

“Operating in a BYOD/ IoT environment brings with it as many rewards as risks,” says Anton Jacobsz, managing director at leading value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited. “Strategically all companies should adopt a BYOD / IoT policy in order to protect both themselves and their customers. The right security solution will solve the challenge experienced by organisations to operate safely, more productively and cost effectively in this future business scenario.”

He adds that Networks Unlimited is focusing its efforts on securing its customers wireless access, and has started to create awareness through hosting training and roadshows across South Africa in order to educate security teams on Fortinet’s Secure Access Architecture (SAA) solution – one of the suite of Fortinet products it distributes across more than 20 African countries.

“We plan on taking this training to both East and West Africa where the need for Fortinet’s SAA solution is on the rise,” says Jacobsz.

Fortinet, according to the company, holds the title as being the only company world-wide with security solutions for network, endpoint, application, data centre, cloud, and access designed to work together as an integrated security fabric to provide true end-to-end protection.

“Our SAA solution extends security policies to the very edge of the network where most vulnerabilities target. FortiAP and FortiSwitch communicate to the rest of the network, with FortiGate at the core. With one operating system across the entire network, customers get better visibility and awareness with simplified management,” says Matthew Barker, Secure Access Architecture sales manager for Africa at Fortinet.

Barker explains that today’s organisations are changing the way they deploy access networks, connect devices, and enable business applications to address a number of challenges.

These include:

The number and types of network-connected wireless devices and mobile applications continue to grow exponentially, presenting new vulnerabilities and increasing the attack surface;

Users who want fast Wi-Fi and a smooth seamless experience across wired and wireless networks; and IT’s requirement to reduce complexity of network management, application management, and device management.

He points out that securing business communications, personal information, financial transactions and mobile and IoT devices involve much more than network access control. It requires scanning for malware, preventing access to malicious websites, end-point integrity checking, controlling application usage and much more.

“But”, he highlights, “typical networking and specifically Wi-Fi solutions do not cater to these requirements. They only address connectivity and access security.”

Fortinet says that its network access solutions are different as they include comprehensive world-class network security at their core.

“Fortinet’s SAA solution ensures the same award winning security that is validated by independent certification agencies is available to every type of wired and Wi-Fi deployment, from a stand-alone AP and switches in an isolated office, to a handful of APs and switches in a retail store to thousands deployed across a large enterprise campus,” continues Barker.

“To meet the diverse requirements of different use cases from large to small, on-premise versus cloud-based management, and organizational differences, different WLAN architectures and topologies have emerged. While other WLAN vendors presentthe same solution for every problem, Fortinet enables enterprises of any size, in any industry to choose the topology and network management that’s suited for their network and organisational structure, without having to compromise on security protection.”

Three distinctly different WLAN offerings are available as part of the Fortinet SAA solution: an Integrated wireless solution in which WLAN control and security are combined on a single high-performance appliance; an Infrastructure wireless solution made up from best-of-breed wireless, switching and security components; and third, a Cloud Wi-Fi solution which embeds security intelligence into cloud-managed access points.

“Securing Wi-Fi is not only a challenge from SME to large corporation,” stresses Jacobsz. “Coffee shops offering free Wi-Fi are drawing people in, as are educational institutions where free Wi-Fi is an advantage to learners, plus shopping centres, medical clinics, metros – the list goes on. In addition, we need to take into account that there will be roughly 23 billion active IoT devices by 2019.

“We are a mobile society who crave constant access – but also require peace of mind that our access is secure and that both company and personal data is kept safe.”

Staff Writer

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African entrepreneurs need to become Always-On

African entrepreneurs need to become Always-On

Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam.

With South Africa’s unemployment rate rising to 26.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, there is increased strain on the market to find a way to address this. Now, more than ever, there needs to be a drive for entrepreneurship to help grow the economy of the country.

The pressure is on for entrepreneurs who cannot afford even the smallest amount of downtime. Any interruption to normal service can result in a loss, especially for those companies whose business relies on continuous operation and 24.7.365 customer service.

Embracing availability
The implications of this extend beyond monetary value and encompass a significant reputational risk. According to the 2016 Veeam Availability Report, 73 percent of local IT managers and decision-makers felt that application downtime or data loss will negatively impact customer confidence and brand integrity. Restoring business reputation requires much more time and effort than the restoration of a working infrastructure, which is why it is vital to protect yourself in advance. However, until recently, most business have neglected this mindset, despite many high-profile incidences of data loss.

In order for businesses of all sizes to protect themselves from unscheduled downtime, they must embrace the ‘Always-On’ mantra. The Veeam Availability Report found that the average cost of downtime globally for mission-critical applications is almost $80 000 per hour. For non-mission-critical applications, this decreased to just under $60 000 per hour. It also revealed that 84 percent of respondents even acknowledge that their business suffers from an ‘Availability Gap’ – otherwise known as the gulf between what IT can deliver and what users demand.

Leveraging technology
An Always-On environment requires modern data centres that are able to scale according to organisational needs. A main driver for organisations to modernise their data centre is to lower operational IT costs. These savings must be balanced by the value delivered by a solution.

Alongside being always-on, it is important for businesses to ensure the safety of its storage and have the ability to recover data in a critical situation. Here the main role is played by the availability solution, which is charged with the task of ensuring the continuity of business processes and the ability to restore the infrastructure from anywhere, with no load on the environment.

There is an increased need for a new generation of solutions for backup and recovery systems, especially if such hardware can provide snapshots every 15 minutes and create backups for restoring either an entire system or a small section.

Backup should always follow the “3-2-1” rule – three copies of your data, stored on two different media types, with one copy always being off-site. This method gives the user access to the files permanently and from anywhere in the world, despite any potential failures.

Taking availability mainstream
In the past, these availability technologies were not available to most entrepreneurs and managers due to high cost and a limited number of business applications. Fortunately, today there are solutions for small and medium enterprises that provide the necessary level of protection, allowing data backup to be carried out in a short space of time.

Thanks to new, high-quality solutions making it both affordable and easier than ever before to prevent the loss of data, it is no longer the case that businesses have to choose between optimising their budget or safeguarding their data. The availability of information around the clock is becoming a reality for millions of entrepreneurs around the world, paving the way for the era of the Always-On business.

By Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam

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Talent shortage crisis impacts cybersecurity industry globally

Talent shortage crisis impacts cybersecurity industry globally

Global report reveals 82% were impacted by shortage in cybersecurity talent. (Image Credit: Darryl Linington).

Intel Security has released Hacking the Talent Shortage, a global report outlining the talent shortage crisis impacting the cybersecurity industry across both companies and nations. With a majority (82 percent) of respondents admitting to a shortage of cybersecurity skills throughout the field, this crisis is resulting in direct and measureable damage to organisations whose lack of talent makes them more desirable hacking targets.

In 2015, 209,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled in the United States alone.  Despite one in four respondents confirming their organizations have lost proprietary data as a result of their cybersecurity skills gap, there are no signs of this workforce shortage abating in the near-term. Respondents surveyed estimate an average of 15 percent of cybersecurity positions in their company will go unfilled by 2020. With the increase in cloud, mobile computing and the Internet of Things, as well as advanced targeted cyberattacks and cyberterrorism across the globe, the need for a stronger cybersecurity workforce is critical.

“The security industry has talked at length about how to address the barrage of hacks and breaches, but government and the private sector haven’t brought enough urgency to solving the cybersecurity talent shortage” said Chris Young, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel Security Group. “Welcoming non-traditional sources of education, providing training opportunities, evolving skills for automation and diversifying the industry are all critical next steps to address this workforce crisis.”

The demand for cybersecurity professionals is outpacing the supply of qualified workers, with highly technical skills the most in need across all countries surveyed. In fact, skills such as intrusion detection, secure software development and attack mitigation were found to be far more valued than softer skills including collaboration, leadership and effective communication.

This report studies four dimensions that comprise the cybersecurity talent shortage, which include:

Cybersecurity Spending: The size and growth of cybersecurity budgets reveals how countries and companies prioritize cybersecurity. Unsurprisingly, countries and industry sectors that spend more on cybersecurity are better placed to deal with the workforce shortage, which according to 71 percent of respondents, has resulted in direct and measureable damage to their organization’s security networks.

Education and Training: Only 23 percent of respondents say education programs are preparing students to enter the industry. This report reveals non-traditional methods of practical learning, such as hands-on training, gaming and technology exercises and hackathons, may be a more effective way to acquire and grow cybersecurity skills. More than half of respondents believe that the cybersecurity skills shortage is worse than talent deficits in other IT professions, placing an emphasis on continuous education and training opportunities.

Employer Dynamics: While salary is unsurprisingly the top motivating factor in recruitment, other incentives are important in recruiting and retaining top talent, such as training, growth opportunities and reputation of the employer’s IT department. Almost half of respondents cite lack of training or qualification sponsorship as common reasons for talent departure.

Government Policies: More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents say their governments are not investing enough in building cybersecurity talent. This shortage has become a prominent political issue as heads of state in the U.S., UK, Israel and Australia have called for increased support for the cybersecurity workforce in this past year.

Closing the gap in this global shortage of cybersecurity talent requires countries and organizations to develop critical technical skills, increase cybersecurity budgets, cultivate a larger and more diverse workforce and reform education and training programs to include more hands-on learning opportunities, especially in areas such as the  automation of security networks.

For more information on these findings, along with Intel Security’s proposed recommendations, please read the full report: Hacking the Talent Shortage: A study of the international shortage in cybersecurity skills.

Staff Writer

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NBA 2K17 to feature 2016 USA Basketball Men’s national team

NBA 2K17 to feature 2016 USA Basketball Men’s national team

2K has revealed a partnership with USA Basketball that will bring the full roster of the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s National Team, including coach Mike Krzyzewski, to NBA 2K17.

Consumers who, according to 2K, pre-order NBA 2K17 will receive the legendary 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team”, along with a special USA Basketball My Player jersey to fully customize their USA Basketball experience.

2K has also revealed that Duke University and USA Basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, will be making his debut in the NBA 2K series. Krzyzewski – or “Coach K,” as he’s widely known – will appear on the sidelines coaching the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s National Team in NBA 2K17. His likeness will also be found in a revamped tutorial mode focusing on teaching fundamental basketball strategies including pick and roll execution, proper defensive positioning, ball movement, boxing out, court awareness and more.

“Basketball has become an iconic part of American sports heritage, and I’m thrilled that fans can play with this year’s roster in NBA 2K,” said Krzyzewski who, since 2008, has coached the USA Basketball Men’s National Team to four straight international tournament gold medals. “NBA 2K17 is the best way to connect to legends of the past ‘Dream Team’ while celebrating the success of this year’s roster.”

Comprised of NBA Hall of Famers, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone and David Robinson, the 1992 “Dream Team” is universally considered one of, if not the greatest, team ever assembled in basketball history. Fans will be able to pit that roster against this year’s athletes on the USAB Men’s National Team, which includes NBA 2K17 cover athlete Paul George and Team 2K athletes Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving.

“We’re always looking to bring fans closer to basketball’s signature teams and players, which is why we’re collaborating with USA Basketball and Coach K for NBA 2K17,” said Alfie Brody, Vice President of Marketing for NBA 2K. “We couldn’t think of a better way to send off the 2016 team by celebrating USAB’s legacy in this year’s title, while giving fans an opportunity to play as historical and current teams.”

The NBA 2K17 Standard Edition will be available in both digital and physical formats on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 computer entertainment systems, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows PC platforms. 2K previously announced that the NBA 2K17 Kobe Bryant Legend Edition, celebrating the storied career of the recently retired Lakers icon, will be available in digital and physical formats on PlayStation 4 system and Xbox One. Also available for pre-order is the NBA 2K17 Kobe Bryant Legend Edition Gold with all of the regular NBA 2K17 Legend Edition contents plus bonus items. All fans who pre-order any version of NBA 2K17 will receive their copy at Early Tip-Off four days early, September 16.

Darryl Linington
Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter

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Chinese tech giant LeEco buys Vizio for $2bn

Chinese tech giant LeEco led by billionaire Jia Yueting announced a deal Tuesday to buy US television manufacturer Vizio for $2 billion.

The deal expands the US presence for the company, formerly known as Letv, which operates a streaming television service, makes smartphones and other electronics, and has been working on research for autonomous cars.

“LeEco believes in breakthrough technologies, a complete ecosystem and disruptive pricing,” Jia, the founder and chief executive of LeEco, said in a statement.

“Acquiring Vizio is an important step in our globalization strategy and building our North American presence.”

He added that Vizio’s business model “changed the industry and aligns with our vision of breaking boundaries to deliver consumer-focused products, software and services.”

Vizio, founded in California in 2002, has been a major maker of smart TVs and related products.

The deal calls for Vizio’s data business called Inscape, to be spun out and operated as a separate, privately owned company.

In April, LeEco announced plans for a North American headquarters in San Jose, California, dedicating a facility that can support as many as 800 employees, and which will be the home for its autonomous driving research center.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, LeEco announced plans to rapidly expand its global footprint by entering India and the US market with technology and content offerings.

Jia is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a fortune worth some $4.1 billion, making him the 22nd richest person in China.

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Huge quarter for Facebook lifts shares

Huge quarter for Facebook lifts shares

(FILES) This file photo taken on February 21, 2016 shows Chairman, chief executive, and co-founder of the social networking website Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a press conference presenting Samsung’s new Galaxy 7 mobile device, on the eve of the official opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona./ AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE

Facebook on Wednesday reported a huge quarterly profit jump fueled by strong growth in revenues and its global user base, powering shares higher for the top social network.

Net profit leapt 186 percent from a year ago to $2.05 billion in the second quarter, as Facebook blew past most analyst forecasts.

With its global base of monthly active users growing to 1.7 billion, Facebook saw a 59 percent jump in total revenues to $6.4 billion, mostly from online advertising.

Facebook shares jumped 6.3 percent in after-hours trade on the stronger-than-expected results.

“Our business is growing at a healthy rate,” Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told a conference call, noting that the company has strategic plans for the next five and 10 years.

“Our results show our progress in our goal of making the world more open and connected.”

Zuckerberg said a key part of Facebook’s strategy was using video, which he said was “at the heart of all our apps and services.”

Facebook used video to boost engagement and has drawn considerable interest in its Facebook Live platform that allows any user to stream live video.

Facebook has been dominating the social media space as well as related online advertising as it seeks to diversify into areas such as messaging, virtual reality and other fields.

The research firm eMarketer estimates Facebook is taking in two-thirds of social media ad revenues, trouncing rivals such as Twitter, which this week reported disappointing results.

The number of monthly active users, a key metric for social networks, grew 15 percent from a year ago, Facebook said.

– Mobile, mobile and mobile –

Almost all of Facebook’s revenue, $6.2 billion, came from advertising, and 84 percent of ad revenues came from messages delivered to mobile devices.

Facebook said it had more than one billion daily active users on mobile at the end of the quarter June 30, up 22 percent from a year ago. Monthly active users on mobile grew 20 percent to 1.57 billion.

It ended the quarter with more than $23 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

Zuckerberg said he sees “one of the biggest opportunities” for growth in developing countries, where high-speed internet is not widely available.

He noted that Facebook is working to expand internet access around the world through a variety of initiatives, including its drone project aimed at bringing online access to underserved areas.

Last week, Facebook announced it had completed the first successful test of its solar-powered Aquila drone, calling it a “major milestone” for the project.

Facebook has been winning plaudits from analysts as it grows its base and extends into new services, including its Instagram photo-sharing service, messaging applications and its Oculus virtual reality gear.

“Facebook remains a top pick for us, given its position as the largest/most engaging mass-reach Internet platform for advertisers, unmatched targeting potential, and very potent monetization formats,” said a note this week from Cantor Fitzgerald analysts.

“Mobile has been the main driver of growth to date, video and Instagram should start moving the needle more meaningfully in the second half of 2016.”

RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a research note they see room for Facebook to grow further.

“Facebook still has many growth levers left to pull, not least of which is video advertising,” the analysts wrote.

Facebook said earlier this month it was ramping up availability of its Oculus virtual reality gear.

Oculus began selling its Rift virtual reality headsets earlier this year for $599, a price that does not include the cost of a computer that can handle the processing and graphics demands of the technology.

Oculus is also increasing inventory at US shops.

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