Company News: Apple, Toyota, Bank of Americaby
Apple: Plans for a mini iPhone
Apple will likely launch a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone later this year. The move is part of a push to gain customers in developing nations, though Apple has spoken to at least one U.S. carrier, according to a person familiar with the plans who asked not to be named because the talks are private. Apple has been working on the phone since at least February 2011. The company is weighing retail prices of $99 to $149 for a device that would debut in late 2013, at the earliest. A more affordable iPhone would help Apple play catch-up with smartphone makers such as Samsung Electronics who use Google’s free Android mobile software.
Toyota Motor: My car is my co-pilot
Toyota Motor is developing technology to create a virtual “co-pilot” in vehicles to help drivers avoid accidents. The Japanese carmaker is testing a modified Lexus LS sedan with sensors and automated systems to help motorists improve driving skills. The move is an extension of safety features already available on some models, such as cruise control that keeps a car a safe distance from other vehicles, sensors to warn a driver who’s swerving out of a lane, and automated braking.
Bank of America: Shedding its risky mortgage legacy
Bank of America is trying to move past old mortgage troubles and focus on rebuilding its home loan business. On Jan. 7, BofA announced a trio of actions: an $11.7 billion agreement to resolve disputes with Fannie Mae over misrepresenting loan quality; a deal to sell the rights to service about 2 million mortgages; and, with nine other banks, an $8.5 billion settlement to end reviews of foreclosure-abuse claims by federal regulators. BofA has been losing mortgage market share to JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
Goldman Sachs: More visibility in money markets
Goldman Sachs announced that it is starting to report the true net asset value of some of its money-market mutual funds every day, rather than monthly. Customers will continue to buy and sell shares at a fixed $1 price, but they will have greater visibility into the small fluctuations in the value of the short-term debt securities the fund holds. After Goldman’s announcement, JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and BNY Mellon said they would also start disclosing the daily values of some funds.
Dish Network: A real-time ad auction
Dish Network is at work on a way for advertisers to see what people are watching in real time, setting the stage for last-minute auctions of ad space. The No. 2 satellite-TV provider in the U.S. is basing the program on a service it introduced in November that lists the most popular shows at a given moment. The plan may help smooth relations with advertisers who are upset about a Dish technology that allows viewers to skip commercials by pressing a button on a remote control.