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Obama: Ich Bin Ein VR-er

While most Republicans would insist President Obama has a loose grasp on the real world, the President recently decided to enter the virtual world by trying out a virtual reality headset at an industrial technology trade fair during his recent trip to Germany. He reportedly reacted to that the technology by saying that it was a “brave new world.”

Patent Troll Case Hits The Supreme Court

The battle over “patent trolls” continues as The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee, a case that centers on the Patent and Trademark Office’s process for reexamining patents after they’ve been issued. The process, created by the 2011 America Invents Act, has been a friction point in the larger debate over the nation’s patent system, with pharmaceutical and biotech companies saying it makes it too easy to invalidate patents, and tech and retail firms arguing it’s a crucial tool for weeding out bad patents that often fall into the hands of patent trolls. The justices will consider whether the PTO’s Trial and Appeal Board uses the right standard in deciding on challenges, and whether federal courts have the ability to review the board’s decisions. The case has drawn amicus briefs from a host of major players, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Intellectual Ventures. On the other side, Apple, EMC, Dell and a host of retailers largely have defended the board’s standards.

Justice Department Drops Second Case Against Apple

The Justice Department no longer needs Apple to help access the contents of an iPhone in New York. DOJ said that an individual came forward with the passcode to unlock the phone in the Brooklyn drug case. The DOJ last month dropped a similar case regarding the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone after the FBI said it was able to get into the device with the help of a third party. “As we have said previously, these cases have never been about setting a court precedent; they are about law enforcement’s ability and need to access evidence on devices pursuant to lawful court orders and search warrants,” the DOJ said.

Consumer Tech Sentiment On The Rise, Says CTA

Consumer confidence toward tech spending rose slightly in April, according to the latest data released today by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the third consecutive month the index has climbed.

The CTA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, increased 0.7 points to reach 87.1 in April.

“Consumer sentiment toward technology spending continues to move higher in Q1,” said Shawn DuBravac, CTA’s chief economist. “While consumer spending on durable goods slipped in recent months, year-over-year growth in tech spending has been accelerating. The ability of this trend to continue will increasingly depend on adoption of emerging categories, such as smart watches and smart-home devices.”

Forthcoming results from CTA’s “18th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study” find 8 percent of American households now own a smart watch.

According to other CTA research, smart-watch sales are expected to increase 28 percent to 13.6 million units, earning $3.7 billion in revenue, an increase of 22 percent this year.

The CTA Index of Consumer Expectations, which measures consumer sentiment about the U.S. economy as a whole, dipped 4.4 points in April to 174.3.

“Consumer confidence toward the overall economy dropped this month, as a number of economic indicators, such as housing, retail and industrial production, point to a continued economic slowdown in the U.S.,” said DuBravac.

Nokia Eyes Wearables Market With Deal To Buy Withings

Nokia said it is staking a claim in the consumer wearables and connected-home markets with the acquisition of Withings, the French manufacturer of fitness and health tracking devices and Internet-connected smart devices.

The purchase price was not announced but Nokia will pay cash for Withings and intends to close on the deal in Q3.

Withings will become part of Nokia’s revamped consumer electronics business, which includes selling licensed smartphones and its own virtual-reality cameras.

The Finnish company sold its mobile devices business to Microsoft two years ago.

Withings’ product portfolio includes app-driven fitness bands, health monitors and scales, as well security cameras and home thermostats.

A Nokia statement said Withings’ leadership in the connected-health space “melds perfectly with Nokia’s heritage of connecting people.”

“We have said consistently that digital health was an area of strategic interest to Nokia, and we are now taking concrete action to tap the opportunity in this large and important market,” said Rajeev Suri, chief executive of Nokia.

“Since we started Withings, our passion has been in empowering people to track their lifestyle and improve their health and well-being,” said Cédric Hutchings, Withings CEO.

Withings has approximately 200 employees in four offices around the globe.

The deal marks a change in Nokia’s strategic direction in recent years, one that took the company away from the mainstream consumer devices market and instead focusing on its vast portfolio of patents in the mobile market. But Withings also holds a number of patents, and Nokia said Withings’ business “will also ensure the ongoing renewal of Nokia Technologies’ world-class [patent] portfolio.”

Nokia’s statement said the acquisition of Withings was driven by the growth of the “connected-health revolution,” citing analysts’ predictions that the healthcare segment of the Internet of Things will grow by 37 percent from 2015 to 2020.

T-Mobile Opening Stores At A Furious Pace

T-Mobile, the country’s fastest-growing mobile carrier, will open about 1,400 more retail stores this year to keep pace with its expanding network footprint.

On an earnings call that followed the release of its first-quarter results, president/ CEO John Legere noted that the Magenta Carrier will add approximately 1,000 MetroPCS prepaid stores to its current roster of 7,500 dedicated locations, and chief operating officer Michael Sievert said that 400 flagship T-Mobile showrooms will join the estimated 2,000-store chain, with dozens already built this quarter.

Sievert said the brick-and-mortar buildout should extend the carrier’s “marketing footprint” to upward of 270 million consumers by the middle of next year, up from the current 230 million who live within 10 miles of its stores.

T-Mobile’s storefront presence lags its 4G LTE network coverage, which now encompasses 308 million Americans thanks to the company’s 700 MHz Band 12 spectrum acquisitions (largely from Verizon), over which it is aggressively deploying its “Extended Range LTE” service. The low-frequency spectrum, which travels well through buildings and over long distances, is improving coverage in cities and rural areas, and is now available to about 194 million people across more than 340 markets.

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