China-based consumer electronics firm Xiaomi, known for its Apple ( AAPL ) copycat smartphones, has come out with a low-cost flying camera drone that could shake up the nascent market. On Wednesday, Xiaomi, roughly pronounced “show me,” introduced its first drone, the Mi Drone, which costs about $380 for the entry-level model with a 1080p camera. A higher-end model with a 4K camera costs about $450. The Xiaomi drones will be sold in China, at least initially, TechCrunch reported . Camera drones from market leader DJI start at $500, with 4K drones starting at $800. And those prices are after recent discounts. Action camera maker GoPro ( GPRO ) is expected to enter the drone market in time for the holiday shopping season. Pricing has not been announced for its Karma drones. U.S. Drone Sales Skyrocketing Retail tracker NPD Group reported Wednesday that drone sales in the U.S. have grown 224% year over year to nearly $200 million in the 12 months ending in April. Drones with 4K cameras accounted for more than one-third of dollar sales in that period, while drones with built-in GPS accounted for 64% of revenue. The average drone sold for more than $550 in April, NPD said. “It’s not surprising that drones were highly sought after during last year’s holiday season,” NPD analyst Ben Arnold said in a statement. “But even after the holidays, NPD’s consumer research indicates drone purchase expectations remain high, especially among younger consumers. This points to continued growth and healthy demand for the category.” China-based DJI was the top U.S. drone vendor in terms of dollar sales. French company Parrot was second, followed by Protocol, Yuneec and 3D Robotics, NPD said. RELATED: Red Bull Gives GoPro Wings, But Camera Maker Still Low-Flier Drone Market Positive For AeroVironment, Not GoPro, Piper Says
One week after Microsoft ( MSFT ) sold its low-end feature phone business, the company on Wednesday announced plans to streamline its remaining smartphone business and take a $950 million impairment and restructuring charge. Microsoft expects to cut up to 1,850 jobs as part of the realignment. It will record the financial charge in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends June 30. “We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement . “We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.” Microsoft acquired the feature phone and smartphone businesses from Nokia ( NOK ) for $7.5 billion in April 2014. Microsoft wrote off the entire value of the deal in July 2015 when it recorded an impairment charge of $7.6 billion related to the Nokia assets. At the time, it also laid off 7,800 workers from those operations. On May 18, Microsoft announced it is selling its entry-level feature phone business for $350 million to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based contract manufacturer Foxconn, and HMD Global, a newly created company in Finland that has licensed Nokia’s brand and intellectual property. Microsoft has had a tough time competing in the mobile phone market against Apple ‘s ( AAPL ) iPhone and handsets using the Android operating system from Alphabet ‘s ( GOOGL ) Google. Microsoft’s Windows phones accounted for less than 1% of smartphone sales to end users worldwide in the first quarter, research firm Gartner said. Microsoft shares rose 1% to 52.12 on the stock market today . RELATED: Microsoft Stock Oversold, Gets Upgrade On Cloud Prospects
The Nasdaq traded 2.6% higher for the week in afternoon trade Wednesday, easily outpacing the S&P 500 and the Dow and suggesting that beleaguered tech stocks might be regaining their groove. Two of the strongest tech groups over the past five days have been chip equipment makers and fabless chip designers. The chip equipment group is up almost 7% in the past week. The 41-stock fabless group gained more than 5%. That wasn’t enough to lift either group into IBD’s top industry rankings. Chip equipment makers ranked No. 57. Fabless ranked No. 86. Those rankings make them stronger than most of the 197 industries tracked by IBD . But they still have work to do before reaching the top groups, which are known to produce leading stocks in rising markets. Use IBD’s Stock Checkup function to check into this tech stock that broke out Wednesday. But both groups do show some potential fodder for investors seeking stocks to place on watch lists. Among chip equipment makers, Lam Research ( LRCX ) and KLA-Tencor ( KLAC ) are basing amid expected earnings turnarounds. The two agreed to a $10.6 billion merger, sending both stocks abruptly higher in late October. Lam has since gyrated widely, stretching to retest both old lows and highs. It rebounded from 40-week support last week, and retook its 10-week line on Tuesday. It is below an 83.93 buy point. KLA has been behaving better. Two weeks off the bottom of its second shallow base since January, the stock retook its 50-day line Tuesday. Shares have been in a slow uptrend since October and are less than 3% below a 73.69 buy point. The Department of Justice last week requested additional information on the proposed combination of the two companies. The DOJ has been no friend to big mergers of late. But both Lam and KLA are California-based companies, so they don’t trigger the same tax-scheme alarms as cross-border inversion deals. The companies expect to close the deal in the third quarter. Combined, the two companies’ revenue would almost measure up to that of Applied Materials ( AMAT ), which reported $9.6 billion last year. Applied Materials broke out to 52-week highs last week, clearing a 21.77 buy point in heavy trade on Friday. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based outfit sharply raised its EPS and revenue guidance to above consensus expectations after Thursday’s close. Shares ended Wednesday almost 9% past the buy point. The fabless chip group is made up of chip designers that outsource the bulk of their manufacturing. These tend to have lower costs and higher profit margins than full-blown chip manufacturers, and so they are considered a separate group. Within this group, Nvidia ( NVDA ) is soaring. A specialist in high-end video-processing chips, it cleared a cup-with-handle base in March, then spiked after a test of support at its 10-week line early in May. Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD ) has also gone vertical since clearing a cup-with-handle base in massive trade in May. The stock is low-priced, but the company is a leader in microprocessing chips. Also in the group, Silicon Motion ( SIMO ) appears unstoppable, tinkering with new highs after climbing in 17 of 19 recent weeks. MaxLinear ( MXL ) has advanced through as series of bases over the past eight months. It’s near the top of a buy range from a 19.20 buy point in a six-week cup base. It is also edging for the first time into new highs, above its prior zenith set in March 2010 – in the session after its IPO. Broadcom ( AVGO ) is basing; it’s 3% below a 158.02 buy point in a flat base. Cirrus Logic ( CRUS ) is building what may become a base, but has been struggling below a May 2015 high. One wild card in the group is Taiwanese Himax Technologies ( HIMX ). It is rising off a test of its 40-week line in the seventh week of a possible base. Analyst consensus calls for a 100% EPS gain in the current quarter – its first gain in seven quarters. Revenue is projected to jump 19% – its best increase since 2011. For the year, forecasts call for a 128% EPS increase on a 33% gain in sales.