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Google Discontinue ‘View Images’ Feature In Searches

February 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has nixed its “view image” button following criticism from Getty Images.

In 2016, the stock- and news-photo service complained to the European Commission that Google’s image search made it too easy for people to find and use images from Getty without proper attribution.

In response and as part of a new agreement between the two companies announced last week, Google has made it harder to save pictures from the search engine by removing certain features, including a button that allows people to view an image in isolation and a “search by image” button.

“Today we’re launching some changes on Google Images to help connect users and useful websites. This will include removing the View Image button. The Visit button remains, so users can see images in the context of the web pages they’re on,” Google’s said.

However, not everyone is okay with the tweak, and many are using Twitter to vent their anger.

Getty, by contrast, is relieved. “This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” Dawn Airey, CEO of Getty Images, said in a statement.

Is A.I. Ready For The Big Time

February 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Computing

AI is set to be a massive disappointment for those who think it is going to take over the world.

While there have been remarkable advances in AI, after decades of frustration there are too many things that people can do quickly that smart machines cannot.

For example, natural language is beyond deep learning, sure AI machine translators are great tools, but they are leagues behind a competent human translator and will remain that way for decades. AI can’t handle new situations.

Senior partner at Flagship Pioneering, a firm in Boston that creates, builds, and funds companies that solve problems in health, food, and sustainability Jason Pontin has written in Wired that AI is good at a few things but terrible at others.

“Deep learning’s advances are the product of pattern recognition: neural networks memorise classes of things and more-or-less reliably know when they encounter them again. But almost all the interesting problems in cognition aren’t classification problems at all.”

Google researcher François Chollet said that people naively believe that if you take deep learning and scale it 100 times more layers, and add 1000 times more data, a neural net will be able to do anything a human being can do… But that’s just not true.

Gary Marcus, a professor of cognitive psychology at NYU and briefly director of Uber’s AI lab, recently published a trilogy of essays blasting deep learning.

He said that deep learning was not “a universal solvent, but one tool among many”. And without new approaches, Marcus worries that AI is rushing toward a wall, beyond which lie all the problems that pattern recognition cannot solve.

Deep learning is greedy, brittle, opaque, and shallow. The systems are greedy because they demand broad sets of training data. Brittle because when a neural net is given a “transfer test”—confronted with scenarios that differ from the examples used in training—it cannot contextualise the situation and frequently breaks.

Unlike traditional programs with their formal, debuggable code, the parameters of neural networks can only be interpreted using their weights within mathematical geography. Consequently, they are black boxes, whose outputs cannot be explained, raising doubts about their reliability and biases. Finally, they are shallow because they are programmed with little innate knowledge and possess no common sense about the world or human psychology.

Pedro Domingos, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington said that a self-driving car could drive millions of miles, but it will eventually encounter something new for which it has no experience. Of course a driver in Rome or Sofia encounters these random events every ten minutes so we suspect the AI driving unit would explode.

The theory is that humans might have a better learning algorithm in our heads than anything we’ve come up with for machines.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Already Increasing The Price Of YouTube TV

February 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Alphabet Inc’s Google is increasing the price of its YouTube TV online service for new customers as it adds channels from Time Warner Inc’s Turner, National Basketball League, and Major League Baseball, the company said Wednesday.

Less than one year after launching YouTube TV, the company is increasing its pricing to $40 per month from $35 per month as it adds Turner’s channels, which include TNT, CNN, and TBS, and soon will be adding MLB Network and NBA TV, the company said.

Google is expanding its offering at a time when a growing number of competing services, such as Dish Network Corp’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirectTV Now and Hulu, are vying to win over the growing number of viewers who are canceling their cable subscriptions to watch their favorite shows online.

The four largest cable and satellite companies lost 1.5 million pay TV customers in 2017.

DirectTV Now has over 2 million subscribers, according to AT&T. Sling TV, Hulu, and YouTube TV do not disclose how many users they have, but research firm BTIG estimates they respectively had 2.1 million, 500,000 and 350,000 as of the end of 2017.

The costs for these competing offerings range from $20 for Sling TV’s most basic offering of 30 channels to $39.99 for Hulu’s one with more than 50 channels and its library of shows and movies, which costs $7.99 separately.

Google is betting that its strong sports offering will help win over more subscribers, said Heather Moosnick, director of content partnerships, YouTube TV.

“Sports is really one of the key offerings that a millennial would be willing to pay for a live TV service,” she said.

To that end, Google has targeted sports fans with its TV ads this year. Ninety-six percent of YouTube TV’s ads on television so far this year have appeared during sports programming, including the Super Bowl, according to iSpot.tv, which tracks TV ads.

When Google launched YouTube TV last April it was cautious with how much content it was offering so that it could keep the price low enough to entice cord cutters or people considering cutting the cord, Moosnick said.

At launch YouTube TV offered almost 50 channels in five markets. With these additions, YouTube TV will have almost 60 channels, and be in 100 markets, Moosnick said.

The new pricing will take effect for new users who sign up after March 13, the company said.

Google Shipped Nearly 4M Pixel Phones, Analyst Says

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google won’t reveal the number of Pixel phones it shipped in 2017, but one analyst from the research firm IDC has a number: 3.9 million.

The analyst, IDC Research Director Francisco Jeronimo, said the figure includes both generations of the phone, the Pixel 1 and 2. For comparison, it’s a “tiny portion” compared with the entire 1.5 billion market size for smartphones altogether, Jeronimo said. And it’s just a sliver compared with the 77.3 million iPhones Apple sold in the last quarter alone.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Though the numbers are small, the good news for Google is that they’re growing. Jeronimo said Google doubled its Pixel sales in the last year.

Google debuted the Pixel, the search giant’s first branded phone, in October 2016, and unveiled the second generation of the device exactly one year later. The company has made a serious investment in hardware. In 2016, Google brought in former Motorola executive Rick Osterloh to lead its hardware division, which includes its Google Home smart speakers, Chromecast streaming devices and Google Wi-Fi routers.

The company also said last year it made a $1 billion investment in hardware maker HTC to bring to Google 2,000 engineers, many of whom worked on the Pixel. And the search giant’s hardware division keeps growing. Last week, Google said it’s folding Nest, the smart device maker, into the Google hardware team, after Nest was spun out into a separate company under Google’s parent Alphabet in 2015.

Google Unveils Continuously Updating Email Feature

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Gmail became dynamic. Alphabet Inc’s Google on Tuesday demonstrated a software programming system that would enable emails to feature continuously updating information and greater interactivity.

Users could see automatically updated flight information in a booking confirmation email. They could fill out surveys without leaving a message or review close-up shots of products in a marketing pitch without opening a browser window.

The envisioned changes are an outgrowth of Google’s AMP project, or accelerated mobile pages, Aakash Sahney, a product manager overseeing Gmail, said in a blog post Tuesday.

AMP is a set of programming intended to make webpages load faster by stripping out layers of technology.

It has drawn praise from publishers such as Hearst Corp and the Washington Post for making their websites more inviting for users. But some web developers have expressed concern that Google is getting too much say in how the web operates.

Google is pushing forward. The Gmail integration marks the first broader use for AMP. Other email providers can adopt AMP as well, Google announced as it kicks off an AMP-focused conference for software developers in Amsterdam.

The initial version of AMP for email is aimed at bulk senders. A retailer, for example, that sends a weekly sales notice could ensure that recipients see the current price or availability of an item no matter when the email is opened.

Bookmarking service Pinterest, scheduling app Doodle and Priceline Group Inc’s Booking.com are testing AMP for email, according to Google.

Uber Agrees To $245M Settlement With Google’s Waymo

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber Technologies Inc will shell out $245 million worth of its own shares to Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit to end a legal dispute over trade secrets, allowing Uber’s chief executive to move past one of the company’s most bruising public controversies.

The settlement announcement on Friday brought an abrupt halt to the captivating case just before the fifth day of testimony was to begin at a jury trial in federal court in San Francisco.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Waymo said that one of its former engineers who became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents.

The lawsuit cost Uber precious time in its self-driving car ambition, which is a key to its long-term profitability. Uber fired its self-driving chief after Waymo sued, and it is well behind on its plans to deploy fleets of autonomous cars in one of the most lucrative races in Silicon Valley.

The settlement allows Uber’s chief executive officer, Dara Khosrowshahi, to put another scandal behind the company and move ahead with development of self-driving technology, following the tumultuous leadership by former CEO Travis Kalanick, who testified at the trial on Tuesday and Wednesday.

As part of the deal, Waymo gets a 0.34 percent stake in Uber, worth about $245 million based on Uber’s current $72 billion valuation, a Waymo representative said. The settlement includes an agreement to ensure that Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated into Uber technology, which Waymo has said was its main goal in bringing the lawsuit.

In settlement talks last year, Waymo had sought at least $1 billion from Uber, and wanted an independent monitor to ensure that Uber would not use Waymo technology in the future, Reuters reported. Waymo also asked for an apology. Uber rejected those terms as non-starters.

Waymo had agreed earlier this week to a settlement proposal valued at $500 million, and Khosrowshahi brought the proposal to the Uber board of directors, offering his support.

But Uber’s board rejected those terms on Tuesday, two sources familiar with the discussions said, sending Khosrowshahi and chief legal officer Tony West back to renegotiate.

In the interim, the famously pugnacious Kalanick testified in court, maintaining a calm demeanor as he answered questions about Uber’s soured relationship with Alphabet and his admiration for Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving-car engineer whose actions led to the lawsuit.

After four days of testimony, Waymo had presented little public evidence that Uber used Waymo’s trade secrets.

By late Thursday, Waymo agreed to the $245 million deal, one of the sources said.

In a statement on Friday, Khosrowshahi expressed “regret” for Uber’s actions.

“While we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

Microsoft Offering OneDrive For Business For Free

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft is stepping up plans to win over customers from its cloud content storage rivals, offering free usage of OneDrive for Business platform in a new promotion. 

Under the deal announced Tuesday, current customers of Box, Dropbox or Google can switch to OneDrive and use the service for free for the remainder of their existing contracts. The offer is valid until June 30 and is available for organizations that are not currently OneDrive for Business or Office365 customers. Those making the switch must also commit to moving a minimum of 500 users to the platform.

“We want new customers to be able to experience OneDrive without incremental costs above and beyond what they are paying for today,” said Seth Patton, OneDrive general manager of product marketing at Microsoft.

Forrester principal analyst Cheryl McKinnon said the cloud content platform market is “rapidly consolidating” into a handful of large providers, and the Microsoft move could entice customers already on the fence about switching or driven primarily by cost concerns.

But McKinnon argued that customers need to “look beyond just discounts and bold offers” to ensure they’re investing in the content and collaboration services that best help employees and allow for easy sharing and collaboration when needed.

Patton said many organizations are keen to consolidate the number of vendors they rely on for content storage and collaboration. “They are interested in looking at OneDrive for Business but they have existing contracts that they are paying for which they can’t get out of,” he said. “We are reducing that cost and making it easier for new customers to move over.”

To that end, Microsoft provides FastTrack support services to help customers migrate onto OneDrive and Office365.

However, even with support from Microsoft, migrating from one cloud provider to another is no small feat. The offer may appeal to organizations that use cloud platforms for simple file storage or sharing internally, but it will not necessarily work for those that have applications more deeply embedded with their processes.

“Customers who are using these cloud platforms for more strategic content applications…may be less likely to leap within this window, and face rebuilding or reworking key apps or business processes,” McKinnon said.

Alongside the offer, Microsoft noted that 350,000 organizations now use OneDrive for Business, including both Office 365 and standalone customers. OneDrive is a standard part of the cloud application suite.

Among the customers to make the switch to OneDrive for Business are Accenture, Lowe’s, DBS Bank and Land O’Lakes.  Meanwhile, monthly active usage rates doubled during 2017, and the volume of OneDrive for Business storage more than tripled.

Patton also pointed to recent additions and improvements to OneDrive for Business. This includes   Files on Demand file sync service, File Restore and new search capabilities thanks to integration with Microsoft Graph.

McKinnon said the Office 365 suite is rich in what it offers, with only Google offering a near-comparable set of capabilities. “However, there is still some confusion among customers when trying to figure out how the O365 pieces can best complement each other.”

For example, OneDrive for Business is positioned as a personal file storage workspace, facilitating file or folder sharing with internal or external participants, yet SharePoint Online is pushed by Microsoft as the team or company-wide content repository for documents and related metadata.

“Box, Dropbox Business and Google have a clearer story when it comes to personal, team or enterprise content workspaces,” McKinnon said.

She added that the latest OneDrive for Business offer “adds fuel to the fire” in what is a hugely competitive cloud content management and collaboration market. “There has been tremendous innovation in this market over the last five years, with vendors traditionally known for ‘enterprise file sync and share (EFSS)’ capabilities moving into broader collaboration and cloud-native content repository services.”

Google Brings Nest Thermostat Unit Into The Fold

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

 Alphabet Inc has combined smart thermostat maker Nest, which had operated as an independent unit, into its Google hardware group, the company announced in a blog post.

The move unifies Google’s growing hardware team, which designs smartphones, laptops and speakers, with Nest, which sells video doorbells, security cameras and thermostats that automatically adjust settings based on user behavior.

Rick Osterloh, who leads Google’s hardware efforts, and Nest Chief Executive Marwan Fawaz, said in the blog post that they hoped integration of their teams would “supercharge Nest’s mission” to make homes safer, friendlier to the environment and more affordable.

Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014. Nest operated on its own as part of the establishment in 2015 of holding company Alphabet, which also explored selling the firm in 2016, Reuters reported.

Alphabet has not taken impairment charges in the last three years on its acquisitions.

Nest device sales represented a big chunk of revenue for Alphabet’s “Other Bets” division, which brought in $1.2 billion last year. Other Bets now is left with revenue-generating units such as Access, which sells Internet services, and Verily, which licenses medical technology.

Google spokeswoman Lily Lin said “significant role reductions” are not expected at Nest because the businesses are not being combined “to gain efficiencies.”

 Nest and Google also will stay at their separate offices “for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The companies had already begun to collaborate on hardware development, with Google last year testing acoustics and its speakers at a Nest facility.

Google Pixel 2 To Get AI Boost For Photos

February 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

One of the biggest differences between the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 is that Google’s flagship Android phone has just one camera while Apple’s phone comes with two. The pair of lenses in the iPhone X is designed to let you zoom in on distant subjects better.

Now, Google is throwing some of its computer brains at the issue, building a technology called RAISR into its Pixel 2 phones. The change came with a Pixel 2 update to take advantage of the phone’s Pixel Visual Engine, a custom chip that accelerates some processing tasks. That includes running artificial-intelligence software and rapidly merging multiple raw photos into a single “HDR+” photo that avoids dark shadows and blown-out highlights.

“Pixel Visual Core also runs RAISR, which means zoomed-in shots look sharper and more detailed than ever before,” said Ofer Shacham, the Pixel Visual Core engineering manager, in a blog post Monday.

RAISR, short for Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution, takes a different approach from ordinary digital zoom. It uses a machine learning system trained on real photos to make more intelligent guesses at filling in details.

High-quality photos are a crucial part of staying ahead in the smartphone business. More and more, we’re using our phones to replace traditional cameras and to capture events we wouldn’t have photographed in the first place. A good photo is more fun to share with family and friends, so it’s no wonder that Google, Samsung, Apple, Huawei and others are trying to include the best camera technology in their phones.

Digital zoom has long been a bugbear for cameras whose actual optical hardware can’t magnify distant subjects. Results are often blurry, noisy and pixelated.

Image processing has been part of digital photography since day one. RAISR adds another step of computer manipulation between the original photons that reach a camera’s image sensor and the final product. It goes along with filters that make your skin look smoother, noise reduction to remove speckles that detract from a shot and sharpening that makes a photo look crisper.

YouTube Go App Has Worldwide Ambitions

February 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The app is part of YouTube’s rivalry with Facebook, as the two giants race to lure video viewers in regions where mobile internet is more of a luxury.

YouTube’s data-light app YouTube Go, now in 15 countries, will expand to more than 130 nations, the company said in a recent blog post.

Launched first in India last year, the YouTube Go app is designed to work with little to no connectivity, use less data and make recommendations more tailored to where you live.

YouTube Go is also a crucial competitive move against rivals like Facebook. Both Facebook and Google’s YouTube have amassed billions of users across the world. Now they face the challenge of recruiting new members in places where mobile internet can be hard to come by or expensive. As Facebook campaigns to swipe more video viewing away from YouTube, both companies are jockeying to lure in consumers in emerging economies, and those viewers are more likely to shy away from a data-draining format like video.

Facebook, for example, started an initiative called Free Basics, which provided no-cost free access to Facebook and several other approved services. The venture, however, ran into backlash for potentially setting up a two-tier Internet that would divide the rich and the poor.

Since YouTube Go’s launch in India, Google’s service has widened to 14 more countries, including Indonesia, Nigeria and Thailand. “We’re excited to expand YouTube Go to over 130 countries around the globe starting today,” YouTube product manager Jay Akkad said Thursday in YouTube’s blog post.

YouTube also touted some feel-good examples of how YouTube Go has been used. A startup in Indonesia uses it to equip women with financial skills to start and run small businesses, and a primary-school teacher for low-income children in Lagos, Nigeria, says it gives her videos that help teach math and other lessons.

The company also noted it has made some design changes to YouTube Go. It’s given viewers more control over the quality that they stream or download and made it easier to share multiple videos at once or share from the home page. The app also introduced a feature to refresh its home screen with new personalized content with a pull-down of the screen.

Researchers Find Dark Caracal Malware Targeting Android Devices

January 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

Researchers have uncovered a new malware espionage campaign that has allegedly turned thousands of Android phones into spying machines.

Researchers at mobile security firm Lookout worked with digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the investigation, which uncovered a group of hackers they christened Dark Caracal (‘a secretive cat native to Lebanon’, according to Wikipedia).

While Lookout has been tracking mobile security events worldwide since 2007, this is one of the most prolific it has seen to-date. The platform appears to be run from the offices of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate (GSD) in Beirut.

Although Dark Caracal has targeted desktop, it prioritises mobile devices as the attack vector. It is one of the first advanced persistent threat (APT) actors to work with mobile on a global scale. Lookout is aware of “hundreds of gigabytes of exfiltrated data, in 21+ countries, across thousands of victims”.

Most of the victims are in the Middle East and Europe, although others have been tracked in North America, Asia and Africa.

Dark Caracal has mostly targeted “individuals and entities that a nation state might typically attack, including governments, military targets, utilities, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, and defense contractors”, Lookout claims.

The attackers used malware, mostly installed through phishing techniques, to take control of Android smartphones and use them to monitor victims while also stealing data.

Lookout found Dark Caracal after the EFF released its Operation Manual (another cat) report, which highlighted a campaign targeting individuals who spoke out against Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan. They were able to link the group back to the GSD because Dark Caracal had failed to properly secure its own command and control servers.

“Looking at the servers, who had registered it when, in conjunction with being able to identify the stolen content of victims: That gave us a pretty good indication of how long they had been operating,” Michael Flossman, Lookout’s lead security researcher, told Reuters in an interview. However, they cannot say for certain whether their work definitively links the GSD to Caracal, or if it is the work of a rogue employee.

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, director general of the GSD, said ahead of its publication that he could not comment on the report without seeing its contents.

Courtesy-TheInq

Samsung To Launch Galaxy S9 On February 25th

January 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung has officially chosen Feb. 25 as the date it will launch its next big phone, all but confirmed to be called the Galaxy S9.

We already knew the global smartphone titan would drop the device at Mobile World Congress — better known by its initials, MWC — next month in Barcelona, the world’s largest show for all things mobile. What we didn’t have was a launch date. If you’re keeping tabs, this Unpacked event shares the same time and weekday as Samsung’s past phone unveilings at MWC: the Sunday night before the show officially kicks off.

Samsung’s invitation shows a large purple “9” on a black background, highlighting the words “The camera. Reimagined.” The invitation doesn’t offer much in the way of hints, but it does give credence to rumors that the S9 will improve its camera performance. One or both of the S9 phones are expected to use a dual-camera setup, the second to do so after 2017’s Galaxy Note 8.

MWC, which runs from Feb. 26 to March 1, is a crucial opportunity for brands to showcase their new phones for 2018, and Samsung will be its most important anchor by far. While Samsung has a long history of introducing Galaxy devices at MWC, it’s also unwrapped them at standalone events later in March. Last year’s absent Galaxy S8 was the elephant in the room.

Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus rumors have been mounting, painting a picture of a large-screen, slim-bezel phone with the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and a dual-camera setup (at least the larger S9 Plus). Rumors also include Samsung’s own version of Apple’s Face ID secure face unlocking, and an in-screen fingerprint reader.

Whatever the Galaxy S9 phones bring will do battle against the iPhone X, 8 Plus and 8 handsets in 2018. Although we likely won’t see the S9s go on sale until March, they’ll spend more than half the year as major Android contenders to Apple’s top phones, especially if they hit the market before other Android rivals.

For example, LG heavily hinted that it may wait until after MWC to introduce its next top-tier phone, expected to be called the LG G7, and it’s suggested that it will debut an LG V30 variant instead. Huawei is also rumored to forgo an MWC phone launch. The Nokia brand, which has cryptically promised something “awesome” for the mobile show, could produce a challenger as well, though rumors are sparse.

The rumors are sure to pile up in the next month as we approach Unpacked. And of course, we’ll bring you all the details as we cover the event live from Barcelona.

Alphabet Unveils New Cybersecurity Business Chronicle

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc has unveiled Chronicle, a cybersecurity business developed in its X incubation unit in February 2016 that is focusing on developing digital “immune systems” for customers.

Chronicle becomes the third company spun out of X and into the holding company Alphabet, joining self-driving vehicle technology company Waymo and life sciences company Verily as independent units alongside Google.

Stephen Gillett, a former Symantec Corp chief operating officer serving as Chronicle’s chief executive, said in a blog post that the new business is developing software to analyze corporate computer usage data and identify malicious programs that have infiltrated the system.

The technology is being tested at an unspecified number of Fortune 500 companies, he said.

Chronicle also houses VirusTotal, a virus-scanning tool Google acquired in 2012.

Selling cybersecurity services broadens Alphabet’s expanding efforts to become a player in enterprise technology. Google is a distant rival to Amazon.com Inc in offering cloud computing infrastructure and Microsoft Corp in both cloud services and workplace productivity software but is heavily investing to catch up as it seeks to grow revenue outside of its online advertising sales business.

“We’ll have our own contracts and data policies with our customers, while at the same time having the benefit of being able to consult the world-class experts in machine learning and cloud computing (among many other topics) that reside in other parts of Alphabet,” Gillett said.

Chronicle aims to go beyond the “dozens of security tools” organizations already use, the company said, by conducting automated data analysis to reduce the time it takes to discover an incident to minutes from hours or days.

The company would seek to lower customers’ data storage costs to make its technology affordable, Gillett said.

Astro Teller, head of Alphabet’s X, said his team pursued cybersecurity technology after noticing that dealing with cyber attacks had become a “yeah, yeah” problem, as in “yeah, yeah, a lot of people have diabetes, there are things to manage it.”

“The reality for most companies today when it comes to cybersecurity is reactive: find and clean up the damage,” Teller said in a blog post. “The real moonshot, which is still several years away, is predicting and deflecting cyber attacks before they infiltrate an organization’s network.”

Gillett, also a former Starbucks Corp chief information officer, co-founded Chronicle with former Google cybersecurity leaders Shapor Naghibzadeh and Mike Wiacek. Gillett met them after becoming executive-in-residence at GV, Alphabet’s venture capital investment arm, in 2015.

 

Apple’s HomePod Going On Sale February 9th

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The HomePod is almost here.

Apple’s first smart speaker will go on sale Feb. 9 in the US, the UK, and Australia, the company said Tuesday. You’ll be able to preorder it on Apple’s website starting Friday — or Saturday in Australia.

The Siri-powered speaker will be available for $349, £319 or AU$499 in white and space gray.

The speaker faces a challenging road ahead. Apple botched its debut by delaying the HomePod’s expected December launch and instead bringing the speaker to market outside of the lucrative holiday shopping season. The HomePod will also have to go up against the Amazon Echo lineup, which first launched in late 2014, and Google Home speakers, which went on sale in late 2016. Both Amazon and Google have used the time that Apple has sat out of the market to add more kinds of speakers to their lineups — priced as low as $50 apiece — and add thousands of apps to their devices.

Apple is limited in both counts, offering just one speaker at one price that doesn’t do nearly as much as its rivals. But, industry watchers warn against writing off a new Apple product before it goes on sale, pointing to Apple fan’s strong loyalty to the company and Apple’s ability to take over markets it comes into late, such as with its Apple Pay mobile payments service.

In Apple’s announcement Tuesday, it said the HomePod will support messaging apps, like WhatsApp, so users can ask Siri to send a message to a friend. Other tools, available through SiriKit, will include reminders, note-taking and to-do list apps like Evernote. Using Apple’s HomeKit, the HomePod can also control smart home gadgets, such as lights and thermostats.

This list, though, may seem underwhelming for customers used to the Echo or Home speakers, which have already partnered with dozens of other companies to enable far more voice controls. For instance, both speakers let you order a pizza through Domino’s, hail an Uber car and buy from a selection of millions of physical goods.

Researchers have found Siri to be a subpar voice assistant, so Apple will also have to strengthen that part of its speaker. Likely to sidestep some of these issues, Apple has been highlighting the HomePod’s audio quality, calling it an “incredible music listening experience.” Unfortunately, the ability to connect two or more HomePods together for multi-room listening isn’t coming until later this year, Apple said Tuesday. The ability to pair two HomePods in the same room for stereo sound is another feature that’s coming later this year.

The HomePod was also noticeably absent at CES earlier this month, while smart speakers essentially dominated the show.

These hurdles aren’t insurmountable. Apple, the highest-valued company in the world, has the resources to improve Siri and the App Store partnerships to built up the HomePod ecosystem. Its plans to repatriate a large chunk of its $252.3 billion from overseas could help it jump-start these efforts. Plus, HomePod customers will benefit from continued improvements to the device’s cloud-based software, which should get smarter and better at answering user queries over time.

Despite lagging Google and Amazon, Apple has the privacy advantage — all conversations are encrypted to a higher degree than Alexa and Google Assistant.

But, with millions of people now used to paying well under $100 for smart speakers, the biggest hurdle for Apple — and customers — may be the $349 price.

Google and China’s Tencent Agree On Patent Deal

January 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to a patent licensing agreement with Tencent Holdings Ltd as it seeks ways to expand in China where many of its products, such as app store, search engine, and email service, are blocked by regulators.

The U.S. technology company has signed similar agreements before with Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Cisco Systems Inc, but the deal with Tencent is a first with a large Chinese tech firm.

 Google has previously said that agreements such as these reduce the potential of litigation over patent infringement.
 The agreement with the Chinese social media and gaming firm Tencent covers a broad range of products and paves the way for collaboration on technology in the future, Google said on Friday, without disclosing any financial terms of the deal.

Tencent oversees China’s top social media and payments app, WeChat, which has close to a billion users. It also oversees one of the country’s most popular app stores and hosts the country’s biggest gaming and livestream platforms.

Google did not disclose the scope of the new patent deal and Tencent did not immediately respond to questions about which products the patent agreement will cover.

“By working together on agreements such as this, tech companies can focus on building better products and services for their users,” said Mike Lee, Google’s head of patents.

Over the past year, Google has indicated that it was looking to increase it presence in the restrictive Chinese market, with the launch of a local AI research lab, introduction of a version of its translation app and expansion into new cities.

The company announced this month that it had invested in Chinese livestream gaming app Chushou, which is similar to Google’s own YouTube game livestreaming services.

In December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke at a conference in China hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which oversees censorship in the country.

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