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Microsoft Adds Anti-snooping Safeguards to Outlook, OneDrive

July 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has added encryption safeguards to the webmail service and to the OneDrive cloud storage service, in part to better protect these consumer products from government surveillance.

“Our goal is to provide even greater protection for data across all the great Microsoft services you use and depend on every day. This effort also helps us reinforce that governments use appropriate legal processes, not technical brute force, if they want access to that data,” Matt Thomlinson, vice president, Trustworthy Computing Security, at Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

The move follows similar ones from other cloud computing providers. For example, Google announced end-to-end encryption for Gmail in April, including protection for email messages while they travel among Google data centers. It recently announced similar encryption for its Google Drive cloud storage service.

It’s not clear from Microsoft’s announcement whether the encryption protection it announced covers messages and OneDrive files as they travel within Microsoft data centers. It’s also not clear what, if any, encryption OneDrive and have had until now. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cloud computing providers like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and many others have been rattled by disclosures from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden regarding government snooping into online communications, due to the effect on their consumer and business customers.

As a result, these companies have been busy boosting encryption on their systems, while also lobbying the U.S. government to stop the stealthy and widespread monitoring of Internet services.



IBM’s BlueMix Leaves Beta

July 3, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM announced the general release for its cloud development platform as a service (PaaS) offering Bluemix.

The Cloud Foundry suite, which has been in open beta since February, now boasts more than 50 services and has been adopted at a rate which, the company claims, makes it one of “the largest Cloud Foundry deployments in the world”.

IBM launched Bluemix as part of a $1bn investment in cloud computing, and it’s a framework that allows users to create cloud based applications, slotting in open source services from the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

New services added to the list include Gameification, to add incentives to apps, MQ Light, a messaging service, Redis Cloud, allowing Redis users to run datasets easily and Sonian Email Archive which allows mining of big data from emails and their attachments.

“Organizations are rapidly moving new, innovative apps to Cloud Foundry’s scalable, user-friendly model,” said James Watters, vice president of Cloud Foundry Product and Ecosystem at Pivotal.

“IBM Bluemix furthers the Cloud Foundry vision for rapid app development, as well as the ability for developers to work easily between platforms and tools from multiple providers.”

The investment in Bluemix stretches far beyond the technology infrastructure with over 80,000 consultants trained to advise developers on how to use it, and the first of a series of so-called Bluemix Garages opening in San Francisco as a place where developers from different companies can get advice both from IBM itself and through cross-pollenation of ideas from other companies.

The news coincides with the announcement of a new IBM data centre in London.


Microsoft Set To Double OneDrive Free Space

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced on Monday that it would double OneDrive’s free storage space for consumers to 15GB from its previous allowance of 7GB.

The expansion of the free tier, and other changes to OneDrive, will go into effect in July.

Microsoft’s moves come as all the major players are scrambling to offer customers more for less. Earlier this month, Apple said it would cut prices by up to 70% for paid iCloud plans. And last week Amazon said that users of its Fire phone would have an unlimited amount of storage for photos taken with the device’s camera.

Along with the doubling of the free allotment, Microsoft also said that it would hand subscribers of Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal — the two consumer-grade rent-not-own plans — 1TB (terabyte) per user, up from a comparatively paltry amount of just 27GB. Students who have subscribed to Office 365 University, an $80 four-year program, also will receive 1TB free of charge.

The bump to 1TB per user on the consumer side matched the move Microsoft made in April on Office 365 commercial accounts.

Microsoft will also slash prices for additional storage for those consumers and students who need more than the standard 15GB or 1TB. An extra 100GB will cost $1.99 per month — or $23.88 per year — 52% less than the current $50 annually; the price of 200GB will also drop by 52%, from $100 per year to $3.99 per month ($47.88).

The cuts appear deeper when compared to the monthly payment plan Microsoft offers as an option: Then, the new prices will be 65% to 73% less than the current ones.

On a per-megabyte-per-year basis, the new OneDrive paid-plan prices of about 24 cents will be competitive with Google Drive’s 100GB bump-up (also 24 cents) and Apple’s 200GB offer (24 cents), but will remain twice that of Google’s 1TB deal (12 cents).

Apple has said it will offer a 1TB iCloud plan, but has not revealed what it will charge for that amount.


A Possible Deutsche Telekom, Netflix Collaboration In The Works

June 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Deutsche Telekom is having discussions with U.S. video streaming company Netflix about a possible marketing alliance, a according to a German magazine.

German monthly Magazine Manager cited people familiar with the matter as saying the talks were far advanced but no deal had been clinched and that Netflix was also in touch with other German telecoms groups.

Netflix in May unveiled plans to launch in both Germany and France this year, in the biggest test so far of its global expansion strategy.

Manager Magazine said Deutsche Telekom was open to accommodate Netflix’s expansion even though the service would compete with the German company’s own web-based TV offering called “Entertain”.

Deutsche Telekom declined to comment.

Netflix, whose internet-based delivery of movies and TV series such as “House of Cards” has disrupted pay-TV markets in the United States and elsewhere, wants to grow its international business to reach new customers and increase its buying clout with content providers.

It is already in more than 40 countries, mostly in Latin America, and has entered Britain, Ireland, the Nordics and the Netherlands in the past two years.

In Germany, it would compete with Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, ProSiebenSat.1′s Maxdome, Sky Deutschland’s Snap and Vivendi’s Watchever.

Germany has the highest number of broadband households in Europe, with 29.1 million in 2013, according to estimates from SNL Kagan.


BlackBerry, Amazon Team Up To Offer Android Apps

June 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd has agreed to a licensing deal with Inc that will let the Canadian smartphone maker offer some 240,000 Android applications from Amazon’s app store on its lineup of BlackBerry 10 devices this fall.

The move allows the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to add a vast array of consumer-focused apps to its devices, while at the same time directing its own efforts toward developing enterprise and productivity applications.

Customers who own smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system will now be able to access popular Android apps such as Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga on their BlackBerry devices this fall. Google Inc makes Android, the mobile operating system used in more than a billion phones and tablets.

The apps will become available after the Canadian smartphone maker rolls out the upgraded BlackBerry 10.3 operating system, the company said.

The move is the latest by the smartphone pioneer to streamline its focus as it attempts to reinvent itself under new Chief Executive Officer John Chen as BlackBerry phones have lost ground to Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices.

Analysts saw the move as a step in the right direction, but are not sure whether it will help turn the tide for BlackBerry.

“While this will widen the BB10 app ecosystem, the consumer

smartphone environment still remains challenging,” Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.

Um views the announcement as a positive for BlackBerry, but said “whether it stems consumer churn remains to be seen.”

Chen wants to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment, but is focused on making BlackBerry a dominant force in machine-to-machine communications. The company’s QNX software already is a mainstay in the automotive industry, powering electronic and other systems in a wide range of cars.

BlackBerry already works with hundreds of large enterprise clients, including corporations and government agencies, to manage and secure mobile devices on their internal networks.

Chen intends to build on those ties and BlackBerry’s security credentials to let these enterprise clients build and customize in-house corporate and productivity applications for their employees.


Amazon Claims Mayday Button On Fire HDX Tablet Is A Hit

June 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon is bragging that its Mayday tech support button on the Fire HDX tablet has become the most popular way to get 24/7 tech help, with an average response time of just 9.75 seconds.

When the Mayday button was announced with the Fire HDX eight months ago, Amazon said its response time goal was 15 seconds or less.

Amazon Customer Service Director Scott Brown said in a statement that the Mayday concept is working well and has helped revolutionize tech support.

About 75% of customer contacts regarding the Fire HDX come via the Mayday button to get a tech response. A tech then appears in a live video stream on a portion of the display (although the tech cannot see the customer). The tech can then make notations on a user’s display or help a user navigate through a process.

Amazon touted the lighter side of instant tech support using Mayday in a statement. Customers have asked tech advisors to draw on their screens, including everything from happy faces to rainbows, unicorns, fire-breathing dragons and aliens. One customer asked a tech adviser to sing happy birthday to someone receiving the Fire HDX as a gift as the person was receiving it.

Some tech advisors have even received date requests and marriage proposals, Amazon said.

There’s also a more serious side to the concept, analysts said: The Mayday button’s popularity should be a wake-up call to product manufacturers, many of whom suffer low customer-service ratings and should consider more personal contact with users.

“Companies could learn a lot from the way Amazon does customer service,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. “The focus Amazon has on customers, and has had for years, is often what makes users so sticky to them. It’s true of their general Amazon Web site, too. Consumers love good customer service.”

Gold said that what Amazon’s done with Mayday is not completely new, as enterprises have provided remote screen control, without video streaming, to IT help desk personnel serve users for years. “Remote control is not as slick as the Mayday button, and Amazon has made it work fast and easy,” he said.



Amazon Launches Streaming Music Service, Free For Prime Customers

June 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc  rolled out a streaming music service on Thursday that comes free with its $99-a-year Prime membership program, but offers a smaller selection of recent hits than rivals Spotify and Apple Inc’s Beats Music.

The new feature, named “Prime Music,” allows subscribers of the $99-a-year program to stream or download more than a million songs without added fees or interruptions from advertisements.

This is one of many steps Amazon has taken in recent months to broaden the appeal of Prime, which includes perks such as free two-day shipping, after increasing its price to $99 from $79.

But the selection on Amazon’s streaming service is less robust than Spotify and Beats, which both offer more than 20 million songs. Amazon will also have fewer new songs and will not include songs from Universal Music Group Inc’s catalog, which includes work from artists Kanye West and Lady Gaga.

Amazon’s head of digital music, Steve Boom, acknowledged those shortcomings, but added that because the service is free with Prime, it offers more bang per buck than standalone streaming services that can cost $10 a month.

“If there are a few tracks you want to buy, the cost of doing that in our store will be dramatically less than paying $120 a year for, frankly, a lot of music people don’t listen to,” Boom said in an interview.

Amazon’s own data shows that a “substantial” portion of the 25 million to 30 million songs sold on its website are never purchased, he said. He declined to elaborate.

Universal, the world’s largest record company, and Amazon are still in negotiations about the service, he said, declining to elaborate on the negotiations or its sticking points.

Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and other smaller labels have signed on to the Amazon service. In some of its deals with labels, Amazon will have to wait up to six months after songs are released to add them to its service. In other cases, Amazon will be able to add new songs immediately.

The new service is a reflection of Amazon’s aggressive push into new areas such as digital content and hardware. Next week, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is expected to unveil Amazon’s first smartphone during an event in Seattle.



HP Goes Networking In the Clouds

June 12, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP has extended its reach in software defined networking (SDN) with an application that lets firms quickly create secure clouds with more flexible data centre networks.

Unveiled at HP Discover in Las Vegas, the Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application is a network virtualisation offering based on open-source standards, according to HP. It broadens HP’s support for the Openstack environment, integrating with the Neutron plugin on HP’s Helion cloud platform, and works with HP’s Virtual Application Networks SDN controller.

HP also launched two Flexfabric data centre 7900 switches, which the firm said offers power savings and lower total cost of ownership for cloud and SDN infrastructures.

Antonio Neri, SVP and GM of HP’s Servers and Networking Business, said that legacy networks are holding back the full potential of cloud in the data centre. “It’s very complex to manage networks. Networks of today are not agile for the cloud speeds required for the business of tomorrow,” he said.

“There’s too much manual intervention in managing these networks.”

Key to resolving all this is SDN, according to Neri, without which there can be no cloud computing.

Neri said that the new SDN infrastructure HP has announced lowers cost by 35 percent, and along with Helion, HP’s Openstack-based cloud system, supports data centres that can scale up for the cloud with no lock-in or incremental hardware required. He added that firms can also save 50 percent on space requirements and 20 percent power in the datacentre with the Flexfabric 7900, of which 50 switches have already shipped.

Clive Freeman, UK chief technologist for HP’s Enterprise Group, told The INQUIRER that the 7900 offers the required reduction in complexity for getting the most out of the cloud.

“Critically it enables people to start scaling up their SDN environment in the data centre,” he said.

“I’ve seen some customers in the financial services space, they have 10,000-plus nodes in their data centres, and they need to rewire those things very dynamically several times a day. Doing that in a traditional networking environment is very difficult, but doing it in a software environment allows them this flexibility.”

Jason Cohen, global chief information officer at DAS Group, a marketing services company, said that the need for this flexibility, and tools like HP’s networking range, is due to the shift from offline to digital services.

“When I talk to my daughter about today’s technology, we talk about house phones versus cell phones – I’m not even sure she knows our home phone number – we talk about TV shows versus technology like Netflix. Everything I’ve just described using those examples, demonstrates our industry,” Cohen, pictured above left, explained.

“We’ve rapidly moved from an analogue world to a digital world, it is no longer a blur, everything is digital. Digital means that we need to, in real time, support our clients’ needs with technology.”

Cohen explained that with 100 different groups and 400 offices comprising the DAS Group, centralisation is key to supporting its clients and as such the firm has recently consolidated around 100 different entities into 3 data centres.

Cohen said there have been two key benefits from deploying the HP networking tools: security and time to market.

“Security – who in this industry doesn’t hear about security every single day,” he pointed out. “These technology tools have allowed us to provide our agencies and clients the best opportunity for secure data. Big data, we all talk about big data, but security goes hand in hand.”

DAS Group has also been able to deliver services quicker to clients using the HP networking tools, according to Cohen.

“One of our divisions does field marketing. We could have a company say, ‘Hey you know what, we’ve changed our mind, we want to throw in a couple of service desks for the World Cup, can you make it happen?’ If the client says we’ve got a change in strategy we have to change with them,” he explained.

“What used to take weeks or months, now takes days. Our standards and our tools have given us the opportunity to service them quicker.”

The HP Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application will be available in August, while the 7900 switch is available now, priced from $55,500.




Chinese Server Makers Takes A Bite Out Of U.S. Vendors Sales

May 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Shipments of servers from Chinese vendors grew at a rapid pace while the top server vendors in the U.S. declined during the first quarter of this year.

Worldwide server shipments were 2.3 million units during the first quarter, growing by just 1.4 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to Gartner.

Growth was driven by Chinese server vendors Huawei and Inspur Electronics, which were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, behind the declining Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM.

Huawei has been in the top five for server shipments for more than a year, but Inspur Electronics is a new entrant. Inspur builds blade servers, rack servers and supercomputers, and is best known for being involved in the construction of China’s Tianhe-2, which is currently the world’s fastest supercomputer, according to

Chinese servers partly benefitted from the 18 percent shipment growth in the Asia-Pacific region, while shipments in other regions declined, Gartner said in a statement.

Server buying trends have changed in recent years. Companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, which buy servers by the thousands, are bypassing established server makers and purchasing hardware directly from manufacturers like Quanta and Inventec. That trend in part led to the establishment of the Open Compute Project, a Facebook-led organization that provides server reference designs so companies can design data-center hardware in-house.

Similarly, Chinese cloud providers are building mega data centers and buying servers from local vendors instead of going to the big name brands, said Patrick Moorhead, analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.

The trend of buying locally is partly due to the security tension between the U.S. and China, but servers from Chinese companies are also cheaper, Moorhead said.

The enterprise infrastructure is also being built out in China, resulting in a big demand for servers. There is also a growing demand for servers from little-known vendors based in Asia — also known as “white box” vendors — in other regions, Moorhead said.


Additional Security Concerns Keeps Focus on eBay

May 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

EBay’s security team could be in for a bumpy ride.

Following an attack disclosed last week that exposed sensitive information of up to 145 million people, the auction giant is scrambling to repair several other problems reported in its vast network by security enthusiasts.

“As a company, we take all vulnerabilities reported to us very seriously, evaluating any reported issue within the context of our entire security infrastructure,” wrote Ryan Moore, lead manager of eBay’s business communications, in an email to IDG News Service.

EBay has long been a target for cybercriminals. It is the seventh most visited site in the U.S, according to statistics from Amazon’s Alexa Web analytics unit. Its combination of a marketplace and payments platform, PayPal, means it holds sensitive data and poses opportunity for fraudsters.

Three U.S. states — Connecticut, Florida and Illinois — are jointly investigating eBay’s data breach, a sign that regulators and law enforcement are taking a keen interest in how consumer data is protected following Target’s data breach last year.

EBay’s size puts it in the league of companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft. All run large networks constantly prodded by “black hat” hackers, those who are seeking to damage a company or profit from attacks, and “white hats,” who alert companies to problems.

Yasser Ali, a 27-year-old who lives in Luxor, Egypt, said it took him all of three minutes last week to find a serious vulnerability that could let him take over anyone’s eBay account if he knows a person’s user name, which is public information.

Ali shared a video with eBay showing how the flaw could be exploited, he said in a phone interview Tuesday night. He hasn’t received a response from eBay, but said the video was viewed by company officials 17 times, according to a statistics counter on the clip. Moore said eBay has now fixed the bug, and Ali plans to release details of it.



Is Far Cry Playing With Fire?

May 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In the Far Cry games, fire is a wonderful tool. It spreads dynamically, opening up a wealth of creative and strategic possibilities for players to achieve their goals. However, it also gets out of control in a hurry, potentially coming back to hurt the player in sometimes unpredictable ways.

It’s an appropriate metaphor for the series’ approach to controversial subject matter. Last week, Ubisoft announced the development of Far Cry 4, showing off some key art in the process. The picture depicts a blonde light-skinned man in a shiny pink suit against the backdrop of the Himalayas, smirking as he uses a defaced statue as a throne. His right hand rests on the head of a darker skinned man who is kneeling before him, clutching a grenade with the pin pulled. Though we know very little about the characters depicted, their backgrounds, or their motivations, the art got people talking (and tweeting). Some were concerned about racism. Others were worried about homophobia. Many saw neither. At the same time, details about the game are so scant that it’s entirely possible the problematic elements here are properly addressed within the context of the game itself.

But at the moment, we don’t have that context. It’s promotional art, so to a certain extent, it’s designed to exist out of context, to catch the eye of someone on a store shelf, even if they’ve never heard of the series before. And while we lack the context the actual game would provide, there’s no such thing as “without context.” Here, the context we have is that this is a Far Cry game, the latest entry in a series that has been earning a reputation for boldly storming into narrative territory where other games fear to tread (often with good reason).

Like the fire propagation mechanic, this narrative ambition was introduced to the series with Far Cry 2. What had previously been just another shooter (albeit one in a tropical setting more attractive than most) became a series that embedded its stories within thorny issues. Far Cry 2 cast players as a mercenary in a fictitious African country’s prolonged civil unrest, using blood diamonds, malaria, and Western imperialism as texture in a story emphasizing the moral vacuum of war. Far Cry 3 took things a step further, with players controlling a spoiled rich white kid on a tropical island vacation who suddenly must deal with nefariously swarthy pirates and intentionally stereotypical natives. And just in case that didn’t stir up any controversy, the story also weaves in rape, sex, drugs, and torture. In both cases, some critics and players felt the games offensively trivialized important or tragic subjects.

Given this history, it’s not surprising that Far Cry 4 would not universally receive the benefit of the doubt. Much more surprising (to me, at least) is that Ubisoft is continuing down this path with the franchise. Far Cry 3 sold a staggering 9 million units, putting it in the same class of blockbuster as Assassin’s Creed (last year’s version of which sold 11 million units). However, the publisher’s narrative approach to the two games could not be more different.

Assassin’s Creed is a fascinating case study for dealing with touchy subjects in AAA video games. It wasn’t long after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq that work on the first Assassin’s Creed started. You know, the one set in the middle of a holy war between Christians and Muslims. Assassin’s Creed II had players attempt to assassinate the pope. Assassin’s Creed III put players in control of a Native American protagonist during the Revolutionary War. Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry saw the gamification of emancipation.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise draws some criticism from time to time for its handling of these subjects, but the series has rarely found itself at the flashpoint of controversy. Part of the reason for that is the Assassin’s Creed developers research their subjects thoroughly. They understand what the concerns surrounding the sensitive topics are, and by virtue of the games’ historical settings, they can point to factual evidence of certain people’s actions, or common situations of each era.

When it comes to dealing with controversy, Assassin’s Creed is much like its stealthy protagonists are imagined to be: quiet, cautious, and efficient. Far Cry, on the other hand, deals with these topics more like the way Assassin’s Creed protagonists behave when I play them: recklessly uncoordinated and endlessly destructive. Even when it’s clear Far Cry’s developers have put plenty of thought into what they’re saying, it’s not always clear they’ve put much thought into what people will hear them saying through their games.

It speaks volumes about how Ubisoft perceives the long-term value of the two series. Assassin’s Creed is the company’s biggest and most adaptable blockbuster, an annual gaming event based on a premise that can be mined and iterated on endlessly in almost any medium, a recurring revenue stream to be nurtured over time. Far Cry, this key art release suggests, is just another first-person shooter, a brand defined primarily by how hard it works to shock people, perhaps because the company doesn’t have faith that it can sell on its other merits. One of them is the kind of project you make a Michael Fassbender film around. The other might be more of an Uwe Boll joint.

I’m not saying that Far Cry should avoid these subjects. I actually love to see games of all sizes attempting to tackle topics and themes often ignored by the industry. But the right to explore those subjects should come with a responsibility to do so with care. These are legitimately painful subjects for many people. If developers want to force players to confront them, they should have a good reason for it that goes beyond pushing people’s buttons, exploiting tragedy for shock value and an early preorder campaign. In video games, we don’t push buttons for the sake of pushing buttons. We push them to do things.

Is IBM Going After HP In The Cloud?

May 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has announced a unified branding for its commerce cloud based enterprise products and services with a presentation at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Tampa, Florida.

Hot on the heels of HP, which unified its cloud offerings under the Helion brand last week, IBM Experienceone is designed to allow companies to improve engagement with their customers by leveraging big data through the cloud.

Deployment comes from a unified offer of consulting services, software and infrastructure from IBM subsidary Softlayer, which can be used to gather data, mine analytics and improve customer commerce via a mixture of traditional and cloud services.

IBM has already committed 1,000 new employees for its IBM Interactive Experience who will staff 10 “IBM Interactive Experience Labs” that are being set up to help customers understand the rules of engagement and hopefully increase their level of customer engagement.

IBM GM of Industry Cloud Solution Craig Hayman said, “IBM Experienceone provides a secure and simplified portfolio – including innovation from more than 1,200 partners – to help clients design and deliver more valuable customer engagements. With cloud, on premise and hybrid options, IBM Experienceone quickly scales to engage every customer in the moment while protecting their privacy.”

The IBM Experienceone brand is a coming together of many acquisitions that IBM has made in the field over recent years, including Sterling Commerce, Tealeaf, Coremetrics, Unica, Demandtec, Xtify and Silverpop. The only obvious omission from the top to tail offer is a specific CRM database, however IBM Experienceone is compatible with most of the leading solutions, including those of its arch rivals. This leads to the question, could a CRM be next on the company’s shopping list?

As well as on desktop and server equipment, Experienceone analytics will also be available through apps for iOS and Android.


Did MediaTek Score An SoC Deal With Amazon?

May 12, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

According to the Taiwan Economic Daily, the chipmaker will supply SoCs for upcoming Amazon tablets. Details are sketchy and it is unclear whether MediaTek has landed an order for all Kindle Fire SKUs or just one of them. The paper claims MediaTek will start shipping the chips later this year, but we have no way of confirming or denying the report.

The chip in question appears to be the MT8135. It is a mid-range big.LITTLE part announced last year and it features two Cortex A15 and two Cortex A7 CPU cores. The GPU comes from Imagination and it’s the relatively fresh PowerVR G6200. The GPU is capable of churning out 83.2 GFLOPS at 650MHz, depending on the configuration of course.

It sounds like a decent all-round SoC, with a substantially faster GPU than previous MediaTek offerings in the same segment, which were powered by venerable SGX 54x and Mali 400/450 GPUs.

Information is limited and we can’t say for sure whether or not MediaTek actually landed the deal, or whether the deal includes more than a single Kindle Fire SKU. If true, it is a big coup for the Taiwan-based chipmaker, as Amazon ships up to two million Kindle tablets each quarter.

It would also help MediaTek’s ambitious tablet plans. The company hopes to double shipments of tablet-centric SoC products this year.


HP Heads To The Cloud With Foxcomm

May 5, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP and Foxcomm have announced a joint venture to create a line of cloud optimized servers for service providers.

The venture involving a non-equity, strategic commercial alliance will see the pair offering a range of products. Particulars and specifications are yet to be announced but the companies are aiming to target low total cost of ownership (TCO), scale and service.

This announcement is separate to the existing HP Proliant server portfolio, which includes the software defined server codenamed Moonshot.

HP CEO Meg Whitman said, “With the relentless demands for compute capabilities, customers and partners are rapidly moving to a New Style of IT that requires focused, scalable and high-volume system designs. [The partnership] will enable us to deliver a game-changing offering in infrastructure economics.”

News of the alliance will raise eyebrows at Apple, which reportedly returned an eight million unit shipment of iPhones to Foxconn last year, describing them as “dysfunctional” and “non-compliant”.

HP has had its own troubles recently, after settling two lawsuits this month, one to the former shareholders of Palm over its handling of WebOS, and another that revealed that HP executives were guilty of corruption in negotiations for lucrative contracts. Total payouts across the two settlements totaled $165m.

The HP joint venture with Foxconn will take effect from 1 May, when we hope to find out more details about what it will entail.


PayPal Finally Gets A Makeover

May 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The online payment company PayPal is getting a much over due new look and its first-ever global marketing push as parent eBay Inc tries to grab back attention from the growing number of rivals piling into the mobile payments market.

The brand overhaul includes a more vibrant, simple logo designed to suit mobile phones and wearable devices like wristbands and PayPal’s first-ever television ads in the U.S. market. The campaign will last throughout the summer and into fall 2014.

The move comes as PayPal, the dominant online payment processor, shifts its focus toward mobile phones and the fast-growing market to enable consumers to pay for physical goods and services with their smartphones.

“If you look at us visually online, we look very similar to financial service companies,” said Christina Smedley, vice president of global brand and communications at PayPal.

“Our brands and the ways consumers are going to experience them, the way people are going to touch us, is going to change hugely in coming years,” she said.

The company declined to specify the total cost of the marketing campaign, but said it was the largest ever planned for PayPal, which accounts for a large chunk of eBay’s overall stock market value and its growth outpaces the rest of the company.

The U.S. mobile payment market will reach $90 billion by 2017, up from $12.8 billion in 2012, according to Forrester Research. Research firm Gartner expects the global market will see a more than threefold rise by 2017 to $721 billion.

That potential has attracted the likes of Inc, Google Inc and Square Inc. Between 3 percent and 7 percent of consumers worldwide use in-store mobile payments, but up to 27 percent are willing to try, according to Bain & Company.

With 143 million active users at the end of 2013, PayPal is the dominant online payment provider, but it is not used widely for in-store payments in the United States, Bain said.

“Our research showed that people needed to be reminded of some of the core benefits that we have and this felt like a way we could bring it together,” Smedley said.

This is the first makeover for PayPal since 2007. The logo was developed by the firm led by designer Yves Behar, who is also chief creative officer for Jawbone, a maker of headsets and a fitness-tracker product.