Edge browser plug-ins are now available

Microsoft Enhances Edge, Bash in Latest Windows 10 Build

By Pedro Hernandez

Microsoft Edge, Bash updates for Windows 10 anniversary

Edge browser plug-ins are now available in the Windows Store and Microsoft issues a new batch of fixes for the new Bash command line tool.

Members of Microsoft’s Windows Insider early access program can now test the new Windows Store-powered Edge extension model and expanded Bash functionality ahead of this summer’s highly anticipated Windows 10 Anniversary Update.A new preview build released this week (number 14342) includes a new method for installing Edge browser extensions. When Edge, Internet Explorer’s successor, shipped alongside Windows 10 last summer, add-on support was conspicuously lacking.In March, Microsoft announced the first batch of Edge browser extensions, including Microsoft Translator, Mouse Gestures and Reddit Enhancement Suite. At the time, the company said that future extensions would be made available in the Windows Store app marketplace, a move that the company claims will simplify the extension discovery and installation process as well as improve security.Now, Insiders can take the Windows Store-powered experience for a spin, although it will require them to reinstall any previously loaded plug-ins, Gabe Aul, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Windows and Devices Engineering Systems group, wrote in a blog post. When they scan the app shop’s listings, users will notice two new additions: AdBlock and Adblock Plus. To avoid problems, Microsoft advises users to install one or the other, but not both.

As is often the case with preview software, users may run into issues. Microsoft cautions that Windows 10 build 14342 contains a bug that causes Edge to freeze if users turn off all of their browser extensions without uninstalling them, requiring them to kill the corresponding process in the Windows Task Manager.

In this build, Edge also gains a new swipe gesture that enables users to navigate back and forward. A new real-time Web notification feature alerts users to notifications sent by select Websites when they’re busy using other applications. The notifications appear in the operating system’s Action Center and require that users grant their permission. Users can now dismiss Action Center notifications by middle-clicking the app’s name.Microsoft also made some improvements to the Bash command-line tool. The software giant caused a stir during this year’s Build 2016 developer conference when it announced it was bringing the Unix shell and command language to the upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary Update.”Symlinks within the Windows Subsystem for Linux are now functional on the mounted Windows directories. This fix helps support many scenarios, including the npm installer,” wrote Aul. Additionally, Bash on Ubuntu on Windows can now be installed by users with non-Latin Windows usernames. A more comprehensive list of new command line functionality and fixes is available inthis MSDN support document.Microsoft is setting the groundwork for Windows apps that launch when users visit certain Websites, a common occurrence on iOS and Android. Build 14342 includes new configuration settings, but there are currently no apps that support the feature.Other tweaks include dark mode support for User Account Control dialogs, a new suggestion feature in the Feedback Hub and an updated Windows Ink Workspace icon.

72% of shoppers research items on their smartphones

72% of shoppers research items on their smartphones before buying

And 37% of consumers who shop with their mobile devices say in a recent poll that they begin their shopping journeys with a smartphone or tablet between 26% and 50% of the time.

A new report from The Nielsen Company offers a mobile screen shot of how consumers use tablets and smartphones for shopping-related activities and also what mobile features are most important to consumers using mobile devices to shop.

It finds 72% of the 3,734 respondents who had used a smartphone or tablet for mobile shopping, paying or banking in the past 30 days say they research items on their smartphones before buying. That was the most frequently chosen response.

The report, Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2015 Mobile Wallet Report, also finds 70% check the price of an item, ranking that shopping activity No. 2 on their smartphones. That is followed by 60% who use a store locator on their smartphones to find a store where they can buy their product of choice.

When it comes to tablets, the greatest percentage (66%) of shoppers research items on their tablets before purchasing, followed by 57% who check the price of an item via a tablet. Coming in third place, 51% of tablet shoppers read a review of an item they purchase or plan to purchase on their tablets.

Additionally 37% of respondents say their purchases start with mobile shopping (tablet or smartphone) between 26% and 50% of the time.

The study also explores top requested shopping features among smartphone and tablet shoppers.

The ability to see product images ranks first as a priority for both smartphone (62% of respondents) and tablet (63% of respondents) shoppers.

Smartphone shoppers’ next most important priority is the ability to access mobile-friendly versions of the websites they visit via mobile (48%), followed by being able to read product descriptions (44%).

After product images, tablet shoppers request being able to read product reviews (46%) and having access to product descriptions (45%).

Nielsen also finds after analyzing a separate panel of 9,000 U.S. iOS and Android smartphone owners that app use on smartphones is increasing. App use rose 15% in both time spent and unique visitors year over year between Q4 2014 and Q4 2015.


Source: The Nielsen Company

Payouts Fit For Hedge Fund Kings

Payouts Fit For Hedge Fund Kings?
 

Posted: 10 May 2016 08:38 PM PDT

Svea Herbst-Bayliss of Reuters reports, Best-paid U.S. hedge fund managers take home $13 billion:

Hedge funds lost money for their investors last year but the industry’s top-paid managers had a banner year, with five men earning more than $1 billion each in 2015, an industry survey released on Tuesday showed.

Together, the 25 best-paid hedge fund managers took home $13 billion, 10 percent more than the previous year. For many, computer models played a critical role in their success, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha’s 15th annual ranking of the industry’s highest-earning managers.

Citadel’s Kenneth Griffin, who started trading from his Harvard dormitory in the 1980s, and Renaissance Technologies’ James Simons, a former code breaker who launched his fund in 1982, each took home $1.7 billion in 2015 to tie for top honors. In 2014, they also took home 10 figures each but slightly less than in 2015, to claim the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.

Bridgewater’s Raymond Dalio, Appaloosa Management’s David Tepper and Millennium Management’s Israel (Izzy) Englander rounded out the top five spots, with each man making more than an $1 billion in 2015, the survey shows.

The higher payday came “despite the fact that roughly half of all hedge funds lost money last year,” said Institutional Investor Editor Michael Peltz. He added that “about half of the 25 highest-earning hedge fund managers used computer-generated investment strategies to produce their investment gains.”

The lucrative pay came as the average hedge fund lost 1 percent in 2015, with some managers, including David Einhorn, Larry Robbins and William Ackman losing much more than the high-earners took in. Ackman and Robbins, who ranked in the No. 4 and No. 7 spots in the previous Rich List did not make the recent roster.

Instead, John Overdeck and David Siegel, who run the data and technology-driven investment firm Two Sigma, made an appearance for the first time, earning $500 million each. Their firm produced positive returns of 13 percent and 14.5 percent in two of its funds through November, according to return information seen by Reuters. The firm’s assets were up more than 29 percent to $31 billion as of Nov. 30.

Millennium’s Englander, who has made the list previously, also reached a personal milestone by topping 10 figures with compensation of $1.15 billion after his firm’s multi-strategy funds gained 12.5 percent in 2015.

Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times also reports, Hedge Funds Faced Choppy Waters in 2015, but Chiefs Cashed In:

JPMorgan Chase paid its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, $27 million in 2015. In another Wall Street universe, the hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin made $1.7 billion over the same year.

Even as regulators push to rein in compensation at Wall Street banks, top hedge fund managers earn more than 50 times what the top executives at banks are paid.

The 25 best-paid hedge fund managers took home a collective $12.94 billion in income last year, according to an annual ranking published on Tuesday by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine.

Those riches came during a year of tremendous market volatility that was so bad for some Wall Street investors that the billionaire manager Daniel S. Loeb called it a “hedge fund killing field.” A few hedge funds flamed out; others simply closed down. Some of the biggest names in the industry lost their investors billions of dollars.

Yet for the biggest hedge fund managers, these men (and the occasional woman) have more money and more influence than ever before.

Their firms do more business in some corners of the financial world than many banks, including lending to low-income homeowners and small businesses. They lobby members of Congress. And they have put large sums of money behind presidential candidates, at times pumping tens of millions of dollars into super PACs.

The hedge fund industry has now ballooned in size, to $2.9 trillion, from $539 billion in 2001. So, too, has the pay of the industry’s leaders.

When Institutional Investor first started ranking hedge fund pay 15 years ago, George Soros topped the Alpha list, earning $700 million. In 2015, Mr. Griffin, who started trading as a Harvard sophomore out of his dorm room, and James H. Simons, a former math professor, each took home $1.7 billion, according to Alpha magazine. The two topped the list last year, too.

Mr. Griffin’s firm, Citadel, has grown from a hedge fund that managed family and pension fund money into a $25 billion firm that has expanded into the securities business, taking business away from the brokerage units of banks like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Along the way, his own personal wealth has grown exponentially, and is estimated by Forbes at $7.5 billion.

He recently made headlines when he paid $500 million for two pieces of art. In September, Mr. Griffin, 47, reportedly paid $200 million to buy several floors in a new luxury condo tower that is being built at 220 Central Park South, in Manhattan.

Yet it is arguably on the national and political scene where his money has had the most impact. He was the biggest donor to the successful re-election campaign of Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. More recently he has poured more than $3.1 million into the failed presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, as well as the Republican National Committee.

Citadel’s flagship Kensington and Wellington hedge funds returned 14.3 percent over 2015.

Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund firm started by Mr. Simons in 1982, uses computers to track and outsmart the stock market. It is a strategy that has worked well. The main Renaissance funds gained between 15.6 percent and 16.5 percent.t and 16.5 percent.

Mr. Simons, 78, has been a major political donor of the Democrats, donating $9.2 million in 2016, including $7 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton.

Robert Mercer and Peter Brown, co-chief executives of Renaissance, also made the list this year, each earning $135 million in 2015. Mr. Mercer emerged last year as a major donor to Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, and also gave to Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina, pumping $11.3 million into the election race.

To come up with its estimates, Institutional Investor’s Alpha calculates the gains on each manager’s capital in their funds in addition to their cut of the fees they charge. On average, investors pay an annual management fee of 2 percent of total assets under management and 20 percent on any gains.

Among 2015’s top hedge fund earners are five men who actually lost money for some investors last year but still made handsome profits because their firms are so big.

Ray Dalio, 66, made $1.4 billion in 2015 through Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund firm with $150 billion of assets under management. Mr. Dalio, who founded Bridgewater, is frequently quoted promoting a strategy he calls risk parity. Yet Bridgewater’s risk parity fund, called All Weather, lost investors 7 percent in 2015.

Still, two funds using a different strategy had gains: Pure Alpha II was up 4.7 percent, and Pure Alpha Major Markets was up 10.6 percent for the year.

Mr. Dalio’s associates and Bridgewater co-chief investment officers, Robert Prince and Greg Jensen, also made the top earners list, with each bringing home $250 million.

Bridgewater was thrust into a spotlight this year when The Wall Street Journal reported that there was a schism between Mr. Dalio and Mr. Jensen, who had been largely seen as Mr. Dalio’s successor. Soon after, Mr. Jensen stepped away as co-chief executive, and Bridgewater hired Jon Rubinstein, a former high-ranking Apple executive. The move further fueled questions over whether there had been an internal power struggle at the firm. Bridgewater denied that anything was amiss. Mr. Jensen remains co-chief investment officer.

For many managers, collecting large pay, even when performance was not tops, has become a side effect of growing bigger.

“Once a hedge fund gets to be large enough to produce incredibly outsized remuneration, the hardest part of due diligence is determining whether the investment process is affected,” said Todd Petzel, chief investment officer at the private wealth management firm Offit Capital.

“Is the goal to continue to make money in a risky environment or is the goal to preserve assets on which you collect fees?” Mr. Petzel added.

Other managers hauled in large pay packages despite losing some of their investors money.

Daniel Och, the founder of the Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, made $140 million in 2015. His firm’s flagship fund, OZ Master Fund, lost 0.28 percent last year. Other funds within the firm fared well, with its OZ Asia Master Fund up 9.64 percent.

After reading these articles, you quickly realize that Thomas Piketty should rewrite his seminal treatise on inequality to include a discussion on hedge fund and private equity titans. The very best of them are making an obscene amount of money that would make Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Walt Disney, and Ray Kroc turn in their graves.

The irony is that public pension funds around the world led by the ones in the United States are investing billions in these alternative investment shops, fueling massive inequality. The so-called death of 2 & 20 is nothing more than rhetoric; hedge fund chiefs are still making off like bandits.

Who cares? That’s capitalism, the best of the best rise to the top and make Fortune’s silly annual list of the world’s richest people. Like Bobby Axelrod says in the show Billions: “When did it ever become a crime to succeed in this country?” 

Well it turns out it’s not that easy because as I keep harping, a huge chunk of the profits generated by very large hedge funds comes from that 2% management fee they charge their institutional clients. Even if it’s 1% or 1.5%, when funds are managing multibillions, they still collect that management fee no matter how poorly they perform. So yes, a lot of these hedge fund managers are overpaid no matter what they claim.

Again, do the math. Bridgewater manages $150 billion Forget 2%, let’s say it collects only 1% in terms of its average management fee. That’s $1.5 billion merely for “breathing air” as Warren Buffett recently stated in his epic rant on hedge funds (and I’m pretty sure Bridgewater collects a lot more than that amount in management fees alone).

This example merely illustrates a point I’m trying to make. When hedge funds get too big — partly because of their track record but also because of their ability to market themselves to useless investment consultants and dumb institutional clients jumping on the latest hot hedge fund they should be avoiding — their incentive is to focus mostly on “business development” (a euphemism for asset gathering), not performance. This throws their alignment of interests out the window.

Wait a minute, don’t hedge funds have skin in the game, ensuring alignment of interests? Yes but they have a lot more skin in the game early on when the fund is getting up and running than what they have when assets start mushrooming way past the billion dollar mark.

This is why I’ve long argued that hedge funds shouldn’t be charging any management fee whatsoever once they’re performing well and assets under management pass a certain threshold (we can discuss what this should be but it needs to be implemented by all investors). Even that 20% performance fee for leveraged beta is a slap in the face in a deflationary world but at least they earn that one as opposed to feeling entitled to get it like they do with that management fee.

Interestingly,  following my comment on the death of 2 & 20,  I received a message on LinkedIn from a risk manager of a major US public pension fund asking me what I think of “risk mitigation buckets” that CalSTRS and others are implementing via investments in global macro and CTA funds. He told me consultants have been pushing these strategies hard on US public pensions.

I told him flat out that I’m inherently suspicious of any risk mitigation strategy consultants are peddling and think it’s yet another excuse to shove billions into hedge funds, enriching the Wall Street mob milking public pensions dry.

I also told him even if ultra low or negative rates are here to stay, the ultimate risk mitigation strategy when the deflation tsunami strikes will be good old US nominal government bonds (TLT not Hotel HYG that big funds are flocking to in record numbers). But you will never hear anyone on Wall Street peddling boring government bonds to any investors because there are no big fat fees involved. Instead, Wall Street’s chief banker is warning us of a rout in Treasuries (I’ll take the opposite side of that bet any day!!).

What I find absolutely infuriating is while consultants are peddling “risk mitigation buckets” to public pension funds, the hedge funds they’re recommending have a built-in risk mitigation strategy in the form of a big fat management fee which they collect no matter how poorly they perform. And this helps them absorb the blow in bad years and it ensures the ongoing bifurcation of the hedge fund industry where the big funds get ever bigger.

Like I stated, pay people for performance, not asset gathering. And in a deflationary world, you need to negotiate hard on all fees, not just the management fee. If you can’t negotiate down fees, you have no business whatsoever investing in hedge funds. Period.

I’m utterly dismayed at how many US public pensions are getting roiled by hedge funds promising them the moon and the sun but failing to deliver consistent alpha in all market environments.

I know, you need to make that delusional 8% 7% bogey but stop falling in love with hedge fund gurus and start grilling them no matter how well or how poorly they’re performing. As you can read, these guys (and they’re almost exclusively alpha males) are enjoying unfathomable wealth, much of it earned by hard work and investment acumen, but a lot of it earned through pure marketing hype.

So the next time Ray Dalio shows up at some conference to defend Bridgewater’s unique culture, tell him you’re not interested in radical transparency nonsense and ask him straight out: “Ray, what have you done for me lately? Are you guys getting too big? Who’s this new Apple executive you hired and how is he going to get you guys back on track?!?”

And trust me, I might be picking on Ray Dalio but I like him and his fund a lot, which is why I can’t stand reading nonsense about Bridgewater. I’m a lot more critical of other hedge fund “gurus” making pathetic and lame excuses for their underperformance.

As far as the hedge fund rich list, not surprisingly, some within the industry think it’s much ado about nothing. I beg to differ and think they are missing the bigger picture, namely, US public pensions need fixing and investing more in hedge funds isn’t the solution as it disproportionately benefits ultra rich hedge fund titans and doesn’t address chronically underfunded public pensions.

King Ken topped the list last year because Citadel was among the top performers of 2015. This year is proving to be a lot more challenging for large multi-strategy hedge funds like Citadel, many of whom got clobbered in the first quarter. But I guarantee you Griffin will collect that big fat management fee no matter what and keep funneling money to Rahm Emanuel who is having no luck addressing Chicago’s pension nightmare.

In fact, what really irks me is while everyone is focused on fixing the US public pension crisis, nobody dares raise a peep at the outrageous fees hedge fund and private equity “superstars” are charging their clients. They then use those profits to fund Republican and Democratic candidates of their choice, ensuring the quiet screwing of America continues unabated.

This why I’m not too concerned about regulators clamping down on hedge funds to treat their investors better (fiduciaries should read this comment by Susan Mangiero). It’s all a farce, a big fat smokescreen to make it look like they’re doing something when in actuality, the rich and powerful hedge fund titans are becoming richer and more powerful by the day.

Meanwhile, the United States of pension poverty is getting a lot poorer by the day and instead of adopting a revolutionary retirement plan which will benefit all citizens, we have retirement solutions that are centered around Wall Street, not Main Street. In others words, don’t rock the boat, keep the status quo for as long as possible so all these alternative investment shops can continue collecting big fat fees no matter how poorly they perform or how terribly their big public pension clients are doing.

Below, Michael Peltz from Institutional Investor reveals this year’s top hedge fund earners, including Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio and Appaloosa’s David Tepper.

I listen and think to myself maybe Canada’s pension plutocrats are grossly underpaid because many of them are delivering better long-term risk-adjusted returns than these big hedge funds who have become nothing more than glorified asset gatherers charging alpha fees for leveraged beta.

As far as the American dream, Noam Chomsky is right, it, not the 2 & 20 model fueling massive inequality, is dead. But before Chomsky’s new documentary and Bernie “feel the Bern” Sanders, there was another fellow called George Carlin who pointed all this out to us years ago in his classic skit on the American dream (ironically, I’m pro-American!!).

That’s why when people ask me about hedge funds and public pensions, I tell them: “Like politics, it’s all bullshit and it’s bad for you.” And that my dear Ray Dalio is real radical transparency!

 

PayPal flexes muscle in $600bn remittance market

PayPal flexes muscle in $600bn remittance market

xoom remittance

PayPal is flexing its muscle in the online remittance space through its Xoom acquisition, looking to take a bigger share of the money transfer industry as it increasingly heads online.

Xoom, which PayPal snapped up for just under $1bn last year, just pushed out into 11 new countries including Kenya and Haiti with another two coming soon. Now available in 52 countries, new markets for Xoom will include Finland, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and Estonia. Xoom users can now send money from the US to users of the mobile money transfer service M-Pesa in Kenya and the firm is also integrating with other mobile wallets and financial services including Barclays, UniTransfer in Haiti and Bank of Everest in Nepal.

With such a tiny fraction of the $600bn global remittance market happening online, the opportunity for digital players to gain significant ground is great. Fragmentation, high costs and waiting times mean technology has an important role to play in galvanising, speeding up and bringing down the costs of international payments traditionally processed via networks of brick and mortar agents.

PayPal stayed relatively quiet about its Xoom acquisition in the firm’s earnings call last week, in terms of hard numbers at least. However a note on Xoom’s website says it has more than 1m customers and processed around $6.9bn in payments during 2014. Overall, PayPal posted profits up 28% to $452m, with 4.5m new active customers taking its total to 184m and $81bn in total payment volume.

Meanwhile there are clouds over a different part of the business, namely the company’s phenomenally popular social payments service Venmo. The service is reportedly under investigation from the Federal Trade Commission to find out whether it is or has been involved in deceptive or unfair practices.  Venmo, which lets users send each other money to pay for things like shared meals, road trips and housemate bills, processed $3.2bn in Q1, up 154% year on year.

Small Business Hosting

The Best Small Business Web Hosting Services for 2016

Does your small business have a website? If not, it’s time to build one. Companies without an online presence face an incredibly difficult uphill climb, because we live in a connected world where people discover products and services by searching on the Internet—you don’t want to miss that potentially lucrative boat. Sure, creating a business website may take months of painstaking planning, debating, and compromise, but setting up a decent website doesn’t have to be painful, provided you have the proper tools. And the most important tool is the right Web hosting service.

The Small Business Hosting Basics
If you aren’t familiar with Web hosting, here’s a simple explanation. A Web host is a company that has servers that you’ll use to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, and other files that make up your website and its content. These servers can be of the shared, dedicated, or virtual varieties. If you want to learn more about those hosting types, please visit the highlighted links that are sprinkled throughout this article for primers on each of them.

There are dozens upon dozens of Web hosting services clamoring for your dollar, including super-popular services (such as GoDaddy) and the lesser-known offerings (such as such as SiteGround). Large businesses can spend hundreds and (sometimes thousands!) of dollars each year on dedicated hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting, the two categories we’re focusing on for small businesses with website needs.

One thing we learned while reviewing Web hosting services is that reading the fine print is a must, especially if you are concerned about keeping prices low. Many Web hosts have several increasingly expensive tiers, with introductory features in starter packages and more robust offerings in higher-priced plans. We recommend a healthy course of comparison-shopping before pulling out a credit card; you’ll want to sign up with a service that has the features that best align with your website-building goals.

Small Business Hosting Prices
If you’re a small business owner, you’re going to want to run with either dedicated or VPS hosting. A dedicated server will likely cost you more than $100 per month; it’s definitely not cheap web hosting. The benefit? Your website lives on a server all by its lonesome, so it takes advantage of the server’s full resources. You’ll probably need to handle firewalls and maintenance yourself, however, unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more money.

If you want to save some cash, VPS hosting is generally a sufficient—and more wallet-friendly—option. VPS hosting falls midway between shared and dedicated hosting. By building your website in a VPS environment, you won’t share resources with the other sites that live on the same server, the way you would with shared hosting. In fact, your site lives in a partitioned server area that has its own operating system, storage, RAM, and monthly data transfers, so you can expect smoother, more-stable site performance. You can get solid VPS hosting for approximately $20 to $30 per month.

Don’t be swayed by the big fonts touting the monthly fee: Make sure that a particular pricing tier actually offers what you need. Some hosts charge extra for access to website builders that can help you design your site. Other hosts require you to commit to a three-year hosting agreement in order to get that low per-month price. Or the price is an introductory one, and after a month, you will revert to a higher price. Until you know what features you need and how quickly you plan to grow, you might not want to commit to annual plans.

The Features You Need
When you begin shopping for a site, it’s good to have a list of the features you need. For example, you’ll want a Web host that offers unlimited monthly data transfers and email, a choice of solid-state or traditional hard drive storage, and 24/7 customer support. Even the server’s operating system selection is important; Windows-based servers offer an environment to run scripts written in a Microsoft-centric framework, though Linux-based servers are also available (and more commonplace).

Please note that if you’re planning on selling a product, look for a Web host that offers a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, because it encrypts the data between the customer’s browser and Web host to safeguard purchasing information. You’re probably familiar with SSL; it’s the green padlock that appears in your Web browser’s address bar as you visit an online financial institution or retail outlet. A few companies toss in a SSL certificate free of charge; others may charge you $100 for that extra layer of security.

Uptime’s Importance
All the aforementioned features are valuable parts of the Web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.

To test this important aspect of hosting, we include uptime monitoring as part of our review process, and the results show that most Web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Sites with uptime problems aren’t eligible for high scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to quickly address the problem are penalized accordingly.

Are You Ready to Get Started?
PCMag understands that no two businesses have the same Web hosting requirements, so we’ve rounded up our best-reviewed Web hosting companies for small businesses and detailed their offerings in the table above so that you can get a jump-start on picking a service. If an offering catches your eye, make sure to click the appropriate link from the capsules below to read the in-depth review of the service in question.

Alipay has 450 million active users

450 million people can now book Ubers through Alipay

Uber has partnered with Alipay, the world’s largest third-party payments platform to allow Chinese travellers to book and pay for Uber rides from either the Uber or Alipay app, in all the cities where Uber operates. 

Alipay has 450 million active users and is operated by Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial, which has very recently closed a $4.5 billion funding round and revealed that the money will be used to drive international growth.

“Alipay’s collaboration with Uber reflects a step forward of Ant Financial’s global strategy, and the collaboration also extends to the Alipay’s strategic global partners like Paytm in India. The collaboration aims to bring better experiences for our users globally,” Eric Jing, President of Ant Financial said.

This partnership works internationally, in 68 overseas countries and territories including the US, and 400+ cities across the world.

If an Alipay user is travelling outside China, they can open the Uber app, log-in and link to their current Alipay account.

In the Alipay app, users just have to click the ‘Uber’ image on the home screen to book a ride.

screenshot of the Alipay app showing Uber icon

Uber users have been able to use Alipay to pay for their rides in the Chinese Mainland since 2014, and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau since early 2016; but internationally it has been a more convoluted process. Until now, Chinese riders using the Uber app outside of China had to add a dual-currency credit card to their account, and were billed for their rides in U.S. dollars.

The partnership with Alipay will enable Uber riders to pay for their international rides directly in RMB using their connected Alipay accounts, eliminating the need for dual currency credit cards or currency conversion.

Alipay and Uber also announced an extension of their collaborative global expansion efforts in India, through a similar strategy and product integration between Alipay, Uber and Paytm.

“We want to bring better payment services to people in India and we are achieving our goals with technologies powered by Alipay,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO and Founder of Paytm. “Leveraging the strategic partnership with Ant Financial, we look forward to working closely with more global partners like Uber to grow our influence in order to benefit our 126 million users.”

The Great Canadian Pension Heist?

The Great Canadian Pension Heist?
 

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 08:19 PM PDT

Andrew Coyne of the National Post warns, Funding government projects through public pension plans a terrible idea:

The federal government, it is well known, is determined to spend $120 billion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. If traditional definitions of infrastructure are insufficient to get it to that sum, then by God it will come up with whole new definitions.

Ah, but whose money? From what source? The government would appear to have three alternatives. One, it can pay for it out of each year’s taxes. Two, it can borrow on private credit markets. Or three, it can finance capital projects like roads and bridges by charging the people who use them. Once these would have been known as user fees or road tolls; in the language of today’s technocrats, it’s called “asset monetization” or “asset recycling.”

Governments at every level and of every stripe have been showing increasing interest in this option, and with good reason. Pricing scarce resources encourages consumers to make more sparing use of them, while confining ambitious politicians and bureaucrats to providing services people actually want and are willing to pay for.

Moreover, by charging users where possible, scarce tax dollars are freed up to pay for the things that can only be paid for through taxes: public goods, like defence, policing and lighthouses.

Of course, if it is possible to charge users, it raises the question of whether the service need be provided, or at least financed, by the state at all. Rather than front the capital for a project themselves, governments can open it to private investors to finance, in return for some or all of the revenues expected to flow from it. As with user fees, this need not be limited to new ventures: “asset recycling” can also mean selling existing government enterprises — what used to be called “privatization.”

Again, there’s much to recommend this. If a project can be financed privately, it usually should, as this provides a truer measure of the cost of capital. (This point eludes many people: since the government has the best credit and pays the lowest interest rate, they ask, doesn’t it make sense to borrow on its account? But by that reasoning we should get the government to borrow on everybody’s behalf. If not, then it is privileging some investments over others, in the same way as if it were to directly subsidize them, and subject to the same critiques.)

The further removed from government, moreover, the less the chances of politicization. There’s a reason we set up Crown corporations at arm’s length from the government of the day, in the hopes of insulating them from politically-minded meddling.

Privatization simply takes that one step further. At the same time, a company in private hands can be regulated in a more disinterested fashion, without the inherent conflict of interest of a government, in effect, regulating itself. Last, experience teaches that when people own something directly, and have an interest in its value, they tend to take better care of it — whereas when the state owns something, no one does.

Yet government and private sector alike are too willing to blur this distinction. Rather than simply put a project out to private tender, with investors bearing all of the risk in return for all of the profit, public and private capital are frequently commingled. All too often, this means public risk for private profit.

That, alas, seems where we are headed — with an extra twist of malignancy. For, as the Canadian Press recently reported, the “private” investors the feds have their eyes on are in fact the country’s public pension plans, notably the Canada Pension Plan’s $283-billion investment fund and Quebec’s Caisse de dépot et placement — much as the Ontario government had earlier suggested it would use its planned provincial equivalent.

This is a truly terrible idea. On the one hand, it offers governments a way to finance their spending on the quiet, without subjecting their plans to the scrutiny of either the credit markets or Parliament. On the other hand, it opens pension funds to pressure to invest in ways that may not be in the best interest of pensioners, but rather of their political “partners.”

I know, I know: the public pension plans are independent of government, at arms’ length, and all that. But the history of the Caisse is rather less than reassuring in this regard, while the presence of the CEOs of both the Caisse and the CPP Investment Board on the Finance minister’s new economic advisory council does not quite scream independence.

Even more disquieting is the Caisse’s latest venture, a $5.5-billion light rail project in Montreal, of which the Caisse itself would put up a little more than half — with the remainder, it hopes, to come from the federal and provincial governments.

Is it too hard to imagine, in the negotiations to come, the governments in question suggesting a little quid pro quo: we’ll fund yours if you’ll fund ours?

Well now. If I lend you $100 and you lend me $100, are either of us $1 better off? Now suppose you and I are basically the same person, and you have some idea of the nonsense involved here. The pension plans will fund government infrastructure projects with the money they make on investments funded in part by governments out of the return on investments that were financed by the pension plans and so on ad infinitum.

A government that borrows from others acquires a liability, but a government that borrows from itself may be accounted a calamity.

Poor Andrew Coyne, he just doesn’t get it. Before I rip into his idiotic comment, let’s go over another equally idiotic comment by an economist called Martin Armstrong who put out a post, Asset Recycling – Robbing Pensions to Cover Govt. Costs:

We are facing a pension crisis, thanks to negative interest rates that have destroyed pension funds. Pension funds are a tempting pot of money that government cannot keep its hands out of. The federal government of Canada, for example, is looking to reduce the cost of government by shifting Canada’s mounting infrastructure costs to the private sector. They want to sell or lease stakes in major public assets such as highways, rail lines, and ports. In Canada, they hid a line in last month’s federal budget that revealed that the Liberals are considering making public assets available to non-government investors, such as public pension funds. They will sell the national infrastructure to pension funds, robbing them of the cash they have to fund themselves. This latest trick is being called “asset recycling,” which is simply a system designed to raise money for governments. This idea is surfacing in Europe as well as the United States, especially among cash-strapped states.

This is the other side of 2015.75; the peak in government (socialism). Everything from this point forward is a confirmation that these people are in crisis mode. They are rapidly destroying Western culture because they are simply crazy and the people who blindly vote for them are out of their minds. They are destroying the very fabric of society for they cannot see what they are doing nor where this all leads. Once they wipe out the security of the future, the government will crumble to dust to be swept away by history. We deserve what we blindly vote for.

Wow, “peak government socialism”, “destroying the very fabric of society”, and all this because our federal government had the foresight to approach Canada’s big, boring public pension funds to invest in domestic infrastructure?

These comments are beyond idiotic. Forget about Martin Armstrong, he sounds like a total conspiratorial flake worried about the end of humanity as we know it (not surprised to see him publishing doom and gloom articles on Zero Hedge).

Let me focus on Andrew Coyne, the resident conservative commentator who also regularly appears on the CBC to discuss politics. People actually listen to Coyne, which makes him far more dangerous when he spreads complete rubbish like the article he penned above (to be fair, I prefer his political comments a lot more than his economic ones).

In my last comment on pensions bankrolling Canada’s infrastructure, I praised the federal government’s initiative of “asset recycling” and stated why it makes perfect sense for Canada’s large pensions to invest in domestic infrastructure:

§ Federal, provincial and municipal governments are cash-strapped and they need funds to invest in infrastructure. Increasing taxes to do this is simply not a viable option when the economy is weak.

§ Unlike other investments, investing in infrastructure has huge long-term economic benefits to any country and infrastructure jobs pay well, which means there is an important multiplier effect to the overall economy from these jobs.

§ Pensions need yield. They can invest in public and private markets or in hedge funds. Increasingly, they’re avoiding volatile public markets where bond yields are at historic lows and they’re even starting to shun hedge funds which promise absolute returns but have failed to keep up with simple stock and bond indexes.

§ Where are pensions turning to? Private equity, real estate and infrastructure. But unlike private equity, Canada’s large pensions invest directly in infrastructure, avoiding hefty fees to general partners (GPs), and unlike real estate, the duration of infrastructure assets is a better match to the duration of their long dated liabilities which typically go out 75+ years.

§ What else? infrastructure assets are highly scalable, meaning these large pensions can put a huge chunk of money to work in one infrastructure investment instead of many private equity or hedge funds which charge big fees and don’t offer safe, predictable returns.

§ Most of Canada’s large public pensions target an actuarial rate of 6.3% (nominal), so if Michael Sabia is right and infrastructure offers a stable, predictable and low-risk return of 7-9%, then why not invest directly in infrastructure? It makes perfect sense.

§ Canada’s large public pensions are internationally renowned infrastructure investors, investing in airports, highways, ports, and other infrastructure investments all around the world. Their focus has mainly been in Britain and Australia where the rule of law is similar to the one in Canada.

§ But if the federal government makes public infrastructure available to them here, either through long-term leases or outright sales, then why not invest in domestic projects, foregoing any currency risk or foreign regulatory risk? Again, it makes perfect sense, it’s simple logic, not rocket science.

§ Of course, if the federal government opens public infrastructure assets to Canada’s large pensions, it has to do so for international mega pension and sovereign wealth funds too, introducing competition and leveling the playing field.

§ Typically Canada’s large pensions invest in mature infrastructure investments that have been operational for years and offer well-known cash flows, avoiding riskier greenfield projects with uncertain cash flow projections.

§ But the Caisse is dipping into greenfield projects here in Quebec. It can do so because it has hired an experienced team of infrastructure professionals with actual operational experience who have project management experience and have overseen previous greenfield projects.

I also stated the following:

No doubt, greenfield infrastructure projects carry bigger risks but they also offer bigger rewards down the road. Will everything go smoothly in this project? Of course not, there isn’t one major greenfield infrastructure project that goes off without a hitch but the people working on this project have actual operational experience and a track record of delivering on such projects below budget (which isn’t easy) easing my concerns about recouping operating and capital costs.

So, I would tell the media and critics to ease up and have faith in Macky Tall and his team at CDPQ Infra. They are all very experienced and highly ethical individuals who will deliver on this and other greenfield projects if they are asked to in the future. And trust me, there will be no Charboneau Commission on this project which is great news for Quebec’s taxpayers.

Now, let’s get back to Coyne’s article. He states the following:

This is a truly terrible idea. On the one hand, it offers governments a way to finance their spending on the quiet, without subjecting their plans to the scrutiny of either the credit markets or Parliament. On the other hand, it opens pension funds to pressure to invest in ways that may not be in the best interest of pensioners, but rather of their political “partners.”

And follows up right away with this:

I know, I know: the public pension plans are independent of government, at arms’ length, and all that. But the history of the Caisse is rather less than reassuring in this regard, while the presence of the CEOs of both the Caisse and the CPP Investment Board on the Finance minister’s new economic advisory council does not quite scream independence.

First of all, it’s arm’s length, but leaving that typo aside, what is Coyne talking about? Canada’s large public pensions have a fiduciary mandate to invest in the best interests of their beneficiaries by maximizing their return without taking undue risk. It is stipulated in the law governing their operations and it’s part of their investment policy and philosophy.

Second, Canada’s large public pensions operate at arm’s length from the government precisely because they want to eliminate government interference in their investment process. Importantly, the federal government isn’t forcing Canada’s large public pensions to invest in infrastructure, it’s consulting them to see if they can strike a mutually beneficial policy which will allow the government to deliver on its promise to invest in infrastructure and public pensions to meet their actuarial target rate of return by investing in domestic as opposed to foreign infrastructure (lest we forget their liabilities are in Canadian dollars and there is less regulatory risk investing in domestic infrastructure).

Here you have world class pension experts investing directly in infrastructure assets all around the world and Andrew Coyne thinks it’s shady that Mark Wiseman and Michael Sabia are sitting on the Finance minister’s economic advisory council? If you ask me, our Finance Minister would be a fool if he didn’t ask them and others (like Leo de Bever, AIMCo’s former CEO and the godfather of investing in infrastructure) to sit on his advisory council.

In the height of the 2008 crisis, I was working as a senior economist at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and I clearly remember our team preparing that organization’s former CEO, Jean-René Halde, for his Friday morning discussions with then Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Other CEOs of major Crown corporations (like Steve Poloz the current Governor of the Bank of Canada who was the former CEO of Export Development Canada), were on that call too looking at ways to help banks provide credit and invest in small and medium sized enterprises. There was nothing shady about that, it was a very smart move on Flaherty’s part.

Speaking of shady activity, I have more confidence in the people at the Caisse overseeing the $5.5 billion light rail project than I do with anyone working in the municipal, provincial or federal government in charge of our infrastructure assets. If you want to cut the risk of corruption, you are much better off having the tender offers go through CPDQ Infra than some government organization which isn’t held accountable and doesn’t have skin in the game.

That brings me to another topic. Canada’s large public pensions aren’t in the charity business, far from it. If they’re investing in domestic infrastructure, it’s because they see a fit to meet their long dated liabilities and make money off these investments. And let’s be clear, they all want to make money taking the least risk possible because that is how they justify their hefty compensation.

The notion that any provincial or even the federal government is forcing public pensions to invest in infrastructure is not only ridiculous, it’s downright laughable and shows complete ignorance on Coyne’s part as to the governance at Canada’s large public pensions and their investment mandate and incentive structure.

Andrew Coyne should stick to political commentaries. When it comes to public pensions and the economy, he’s just as clueless as the hacks over at the Fraser Institute claiming CPP is too costly. It isn’t, we should build on CPPIB’s success.

By the way, if you want to see a really terrible idea, check out China’s pension gamble. That is a perfect example of a country where there’s no pension governance whatsoever (either you follow the government’s instructions or your head is chopped off).

There’s another bubble going on in China, a great ball of money rushing into commodities. Below, CNBC reports on how China just raised transaction costs to cool commodities frenzy. God help us!!

If I was Andrew Coyne, I’d be far more worried about Chinese speculating in the stock and commodities markets than Canada’s large public pensions investing in domestic infrastructure. Then again, Coyne loves hearing himself speak even when he doesn’t have a clue of what he’s talking about.

 

Amazon wins a contract to sell e-books

Amazon wins a contract to sell e-books to New York’s public schools

The $30 million, 3-year contract includes an Amazon-developed e-marketplace designed to accommodate blind students.

Amazon.com Inc., won a contact yesterday to sell e-books to the New York City Department of Education after modifying its online marketplace to make it more suitable for blind students.

The city’s education department will purchase about $30 million worth of e-books for its 1,800 public schools and make them available through the marketplace for a download by students, according to Amazon. The contract gives the education department the option to renew it for an additional two years, with estimated sales of $34.5 million. New York City’s public schools have about 1.1 million students.

The contract, reported in today’s Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Amazon, finalizes an effort by Amazon that stalled last summer after city school officials objected. They argued that the Amazon system wasn’t sufficiently accessible to blind and other visually impaired students.

But with help from the National Federation of the Blind, an organization whose services include promoting website accessibility, Amazon will provide the city’s education department with a marketplace through which the education department will be able to purchase e-books for several types of devices, including laptops, tablets and other devices designed for use by blind and other visually impaired people. The city and Amazon didn’t specify the changes made to accommodate blind students, but website accessibility methods include such tools as text-to-voice screen reader software.

The contract will cover e-books from multiple publishers, but will not include the sale of Amazon’s Kindle or other e-book readers.

“This partnership is illustrative of Amazon Education’s overall commitment to making connected classrooms a reality by helping students and educators with the transition to digital learning,” Amazon said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working closely with the New York City Department of Education to serve the educational needs of their students.”

The city’s department of education did not immediately return a request for comment.

Amazon’s other forays into the education market include its TenMarks unit, which provides schools with a web-based mathematics-learning program, andWhispercast, which provides online access to textbooks, e-books and mobile apps. Amazon is No. 37 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, which ranks companies on their annual web sales.

U.S. mobile advertising grows 66% in 2015

U.S. mobile advertising grows 66% in 2015

Mobile accounted for the biggest single segment—35%—of $59.6 billion in online advertising revenue, a study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau finds.

U.S. mobile advertising is on a tear, increasing 66.1% in 2015 to $20.68 billion, up from $12.45 billion the year before, according to a new study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Mobile revenue now represents the largest segment of U.S. online ad revenue, at 35%, up from 25% in 2014, the IAB’s Internet Advertising Revenue Report says. Total Internet ad revenue in the United States for 2015 increased 20.4% to $59.6 billion from $49.5 billion in 2014, according to the IAB.

“Mobile’s impressive upswing is a testament to its increasing importance to marketers,” said Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB. Mobile advertising is tailored for such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets and includes search ads, rich media display ads and text messaging, according to the study.

The report notes that the surge in mobile advertising represents retailers’ and other advertisers’ recognition that consumers are increasingly reachable on their smartphones and tablets. “Internet advertising was a disruptive innovation when the industry was formed,” says David Silverman, partner, PwC US. “Twenty years later we still see double-digit growth rates, including 20% in 2015. Three key disruptive trends—mobile, social, and programmatic—continue to fuel this exceptional rate of growth.”

Social media advertising increased 55.7%, generating $10.9 billion in revenue last year compared with $7.0 billion in 2014. That exceeds a 2011 prediction from BIA/Kelsey, a media research and consulting firm, which said U.S. social media ad spending would hit $8.3 billion in 2015. IAB’s data indicates that category is on track to beat a 2014 BIA/Kelsey projection said that social media advertising will hit $15 billion by 2018. The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines social media as advertising delivered on social platforms, including social networking and social gaming websites and apps, across all device types, including desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet.

Revenue from search advertising (non-mobile) increased 8.0% in 2015 to $20.48 billion from $18.96 billion in 2014, and accounted for 34% of total U.S. online revenue, the IAB study finds.

“Retail advertisers continue to represent the largest category of Internet ad spending, responsible for 22% percent last year, followed by automotive and financial services which each accounted for 13% of the year’s revenues,” the report states.

Google, the leading Internet search provider, and Facebook, the biggest social network operator, claimed 64% of the $59.6 billion in online advertising revenue, according to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser. Google scooped up $30 billion and Facebook gathered $8 billion, while other smaller companies lost market share, the analyst noted. “Smaller companies will continue to operate in the shadows of the industry’s two dominant players,” Wieser wrote in a note to investors.

The report is based on data from companies that report meaningful online advertising revenue and includes data concerning online advertising revenue from websites, commercial online services, free email providers and other companies selling online advertising.

Bloomberg contributed to the report.

Commercial Cloud a $10 Billion a Year Business

Microsoft: Commercial Cloud a $10 Billion a Year Business

By Pedro Hernandez  |

Microsoft

Following Amazon, Microsoft declares that its commercial cloud portfolio now contributes $10 billion in revenue to the software giant’s bottom line.

Microsoft announced mixed third-quarter fiscal 2016 results April 21, but one figure is likely to stand out among IT watchers. The company revealed that its annual commercial cloud revenue has crossed the $10 billion mark, up from $9.4 billion the previous quarter.Microsoft follows Amazon in revealing that the cloud has lifted its fortunes beyond that major milestone. In an April 5 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said Amazon Web Services (AWS), the e-tailing giant’s cloud computing unit, was “bigger than Amazon.com was at 10 years old, growing at a faster rate, and—most noteworthy in my view—the pace of innovation continues to accelerate—we announced 722 significant new features and services in 2015, a 40 percent increase over 2014.”According to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, enterprises are flocking to his company’s cloud.”Organizations using digital technology to transform and drive new growth increasingly choose Microsoft as a partner. As these organizations turn to us, we’re seeing momentum across Microsoft’s cloud services and with Windows 10,” said Nadella in a statement.

 

Microsoft reported non-GAAP revenues of $22.1 billion last quarter, a 6 percent year-over-year decline but in line with Wall Street estimates of $22.09 billion. Net income was $5 billion, or 62 cents per share, falling short of analyst expectations of 64 cents a share.Business software continues to perform strongly for Microsoft. Largely driven by offerings like Office 365 and Dynamics CRM and ERP, the company’s Productivity and Business Processes segment generated $6.5 billion in sales, a 1 percent year-over-year increase, or 6 percent using constant currency calculations that account for currency fluctuations.Backed by the company’s massive Azure cloud computing infrastructure, the Intelligent Cloud segment grew revenues by 3 percent (8 percent in constant currency) to $6.1 billion. A bright spot is Microsoft’s cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) offerings, which have doubled their customer base in a year to 27,000.Things are more turbulent over at More Personal Computing, which encompasses Windows, devices, Xbox Live and search advertising. Signaling a persistent decline in the PC market, Windows OEM Pro revenue declined 15 percent as businesses hold off on commercial PC purchases. On the other hand, consumer Windows OEM revenue climbed 15 percent.Surface devices are strong sellers for the company, with over $1.1 billion in sales during the quarter. Microsoft’s Windows smartphones continue their freefall with a 46 percent year-over-year decline in sales on a constant-currency basis. All told, the More Personal Computing segment saw its revenues climb 1 percent to $9.5 billion.While Windows Phone isn’t faring well against Apple’s iPhone and a galaxy of Android devices, Microsoft has other avenues to explore in its quest for success in the mobile space.”They have quickly pushed their mobile reach with their new device-agnostic strategy, and even though they still have twice as many users using Microsoft services on PCs versus smartphones, the mobile segment is the growth area,” Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics, said in a research note sent to eWEEK. “Microsoft has four significant digital brands with more than 100 million unique users monthly in the US. Skype is still big, with 84 million unique U.S. users, and OneDrive has started to compete with other cloud storage services.”