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Microsoft’s Updates Sway, Adds Paid Features

June 30, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

After a year on the market, Microsoft’s Sway presentation software has been updated with new functionality available to paying customers.

Office 365 subscribers will be able to lock their Sway presentations with passwords, load them up with more multimedia content, and conceal the software they used to make them with an update that Microsoft announced Tuesday.

That last feature will be an important change for users who don’t want to have a big banner at the end of their presentations saying they were made with Microsoft Sway. This change means that the presentation software will be more useful for creating shareable, public-facing documents that are either presented live or published to the web.

Adding paid features is a big step for Sway, which was launched in beta last year as the new kid on the block in Microsoft’s Office suite. It feels like the sort of presentation software that Microsoft might have created if it set out to make PowerPoint for the 21st century.

The news came as part of a major end-of-month Office update from Microsoft, which also revealed that users of Outlook will start seeing new cards that inform them about upcoming flights and inbound packages when they get notifications sent to their email inbox.

Those capabilities are rolling out to the Outlook web client and Outlook for the Mac. In the future, they’ll be available on Windows, iOS, and Android, along with the Mail and Calendar apps built into Windows 10.

 

Is Intel Going To Dump McAfee

June 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Uncategorized

Intel has run out of ideas about what it is going to do with it its security business and is apparently planning to flog it off.

Five years ago Intel bought McAfee for $7.7bn acquisition. Two years ago it re-branded it as Intel Security. There was talk about chip based security and how important this would be as the world moved to the Internet of Things.

Now the company has discussed the future of Intel Security with bankers, including potentially the outfit. The semiconductor company has been shifting its focus to higher-growth areas, such as chips for data center machines and Internet-connected devices, as the personal-computer market has declined.

The security sector has seen a lot of interest from private equity buyers. Symantec said earlier this month it was acquiring Web security provider Blue Coat for $4.65 billion in cash, in a deal that will see Silver Lake, an investor in Symantec, enhancing its investment in the merged company, and Bain Capital, majority shareholder in Blue Coat, reinvesting $750 million in the business through convertible notes.

However Intel’s move into the Internet of Things does make it difficult for it to exit the security business completely. In fact some analysts think it will only sell of part of the business and keep some key bits for itself.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Can Licensing Save Blackberry?

June 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Blackberry is hoping to pull its nadgers out of the fire by licencing its mobile software to other outfits.

However BlackBerry CEO John Chen had to admit that there has been zero revenue from the endeavour, which he started off last month.

Chen said he’s been in discussions with some phone manufacturers and set-top box operators who have expressed interest and “anything was possible.”

He added he’s not opposed to licensing BlackBerry’s security software either if the right deal comes along. He expects BlackBerry to break even or record a slight profit in its new mobility solutions segment, which includes device and software licensing sales, during the third quarter that in November.

Making the segment profitable this fiscal year is one of the company’s top goals, Chen said.

It’s too soon to project how much revenue the software-licensing venture can garner, Chen said, so to achieve the goal by the end of November, BlackBerry will have to ensure its devices are on track for profitability as well.

The company’s newest phone, the Android-powered Priv, has moved slower than hoped. In fact it moved slower than a student who had been up all night playing counterstrike.

During BlackBerry’s first quarter — the second full quarter to include Priv sales — the smartphone segment generated US$152 million of revenue and had a US$21-million operating loss. Chen promised that loss would be significantly smaller in the next quarter.

The company sold roughly 500,000 devices at an average price of $290 each, he said, which is about 100,000 smartphones fewer than the previous quarter and about 200,000 fewer than two quarters earlier. BlackBerry previously said the company needs to sell about three million phones at an average of $300 each to break even, though Chen indicated that may change as the software licensing business starts to contribute to revenue.

Chen said the Priv has proved unaffordable to most people, except for top-level executives.

The company plans to release two mid-range, Android-powered phones before its current fiscal year ends Feb. 28, 2017, he said. More information on the devices is expected next month, but Chen said one will only have a touch screen rather than BlackBerry’s traditional keyboard.

The company is trying to reach the market in more innovative ways. It’s currently hosting a pop-up shop in New York City, and Chen said he’d consider more of them around the world if the trial is successful.

“I really, really believe that we could make money … out of our device business,” he said during a conference call with analysts Thursday morning.

Chen previously indicated the company will stop making smartphones if the device business remains unprofitable. While he said he doesn’t believe that will be necessary, the software licensing plan could help make the transition smoother if the time comes.

BlackBerry  reported a $670 million net loss in the first quarter of its 2017 financial year, but said its recovery plan for the year remains on track.

Revenue was below analyst estimates at $400 million under generally accepted accounting principles, or US$424 million with certain adjustments.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Apple Pulls The Plug On Thunderbolt Display

June 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple announced that is will discontinue its Thunderbolt Display, the high-resolution external display that users of the MacBook and other Macs could use to get a better picture and work with more apps.

The company said Thursday that the 27-inch widescreen display with LED backlight technology will be available on Apple’s online store, in Apple retail stores and from authorized resellers while supplies last.

The Thunderbolt Display currently retails on the Apple online store at $999. It has a 2560 x 1440 resolution.

It isn’t clear whether Apple plans to follow with newer versions that use 5K resolution displays at 5120 by 2880 pixels, which is the display technology Apple uses on its high-end iMac. There was speculation earlier that a new version would be announced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference this month.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Apple planned to offer a refresh to the display.

Apple said in an emailed statement that “there are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.”

 

 

Apple Begins Testing Of Safari 10 Browser

June 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has begun testing Safari 10 with developers running the 2014 and 2015 editions of macOS, gearing up for a fall release of the updated browser to users of Yosemite and El Capitan.

Safari 10 was introduced earlier this month as part of macOS Sierra, this year’s operating system upgrade.

Apple typically supports its newest browser on three editions of macOS: The latest version and its two predecessors. The now-current Safari 9, for example, receives updates, including security patches, on last year’s El Capitan, 2014′s Yosemite and 2013′s Mavericks.

Safari 10 will be supported on Sierra, El Capitan and Yosemite. Meanwhile, Mavericks will remain on Safari 9.

The Safari 10 preview is currently available only to registered Apple developers, who pay $99 annually for access to early builds, development tools and documentation.

The general public will get its first look at Safari 10 next month after Apple opens up its broader-based public beta program for Sierra. Those who have signed on to the beta preview will also be able to download preliminary versions of Safari 10 for El Capitan and Yosemite, running the preview browser but sticking with their older, more stable operating systems.

Some of Safari 10′s signature features will be available only within macOS Sierra, including web-based Apple Pay — where payment is authorized with an iPhone or Apple Watch — but others will be supported by older versions of the operating system. Among the most notable are the new ability for developers to distribute and sell Safari add-ons in the Mac App Store, and easy portability of iOS content blockers to macOS.

If Apple replicates last year’s beta schedule, it will release the first public preview of macOS Sierra and Safari 10 around July 14.

 

 

BlackBerry Says Device Business Is Top Priority

June 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd’s top priority this year is to make its devices business turn a profit, its chief executive said, even as it weighs the future of its hardware operation.

“The device business must be profitable, because we don’t want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line,” Chief Executive John Chen told investors at the company’s annual meeting. “We’ve got to get there this year.”

Chen has previously said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.

But at the meeting, attended by around 100 people, he said he sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.

“I don’t personally believe handsets will be the future of any company,” he said.

BlackBerry, once the smartphone market leader before being displaced by Apple Inc and competitors run on Alphabet Inc’s Android platform, has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations.

In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.

But some of those in attendance were skeptical about BlackBerry’s ability to deliver on its strategic pivot.

“The first word that comes to mind is lackluster,” said one shareholder at the meeting who declined to give his name. “Time is running out.”

Chen reiterated that BlackBerry wants to grow its software revenue by 30 percent in this fiscal year, which he estimated would be double overall market growth, and to notch positive free cash flow.

BlackBerry is due to report first quarter results on Thursday.

Chen took up the CEO role in 2013 with a reputation as a turnaround artist. But the company’s stock has only risen modestly since then, with many investors waiting for signs the now-smaller company will be able to carve out new opportunities.

“I appreciate the strategy,” said Ken Tota, an investor in BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. He said he was optimistic a renewed focus on security could help reinvigorate BlackBerry over the next five years.

“It’s a niche, but it’s a worldwide niche,” he said.

 

 

Twitter Moves Further Into Video With New ‘Watch Mode’ Feature

June 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is looking to compete even more with Facebook. The platform is moving into video in a major way with 140-second clips in both Twitter proper and Vine, a new video section called Watch Mode, and video recommendations for other videos to watch. The network’s most popular users, like President Barack Obama and Justin Bieber, are getting a stand-alone app called Engage, which sounds a lot like Facebook Mentions.

Twitter is making video a huge priority by extending video length from 30 seconds to 140 seconds (staying on-brand, of course). Those longer videos are also coming to Vine, but don’t worry, the popular app for creating hilarious video loops isn’t changing its 6-second limit. Instead, you can post 140-second clips alongside your Vines.

You won’t have to watch these longer videos in-tweet. Now tapping on a video in your timeline will launch a new full-screen viewing mode with recommended clips surfaced just below. The same experience applies to longer videos on Vine.

The new features are rolling out soon on Twitter for iOS and Android.

Twitter Engage launched Tuesday on iOS to help video creators and other important people see metrics on their clips, including likes, retweets, mentions, and views. They can also see demographics for their videos and a feed of what their fans are talking about.

Unlike Facebook Mentions, Engage isn’t solely aimed at celebrities. But the two apps are similar in that they show mentions from so-called “influencers” and filter comments from fans.

Twitter has to try new things, especially since its user growth has stalled at 310 million monthly active users and Wall Street isn’t happy about it. To compare, Instagram just announced it has more than 500 million monthly active users, 300 million of whom check the app on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

Does Qualcomm Need Apple?

June 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The fanboys aka the Apple Press has been running down Qualcomm since its favourite company announced it was buying chips from Intel, but there are good reasons why the American chipmaker should not care that much.

As we have been saying for ages, Jobs’ Mob is no longer exclusively going with Qualcomm to provide modem chips for the upcoming iPhone 7. The deal, while large, is tailored for some of Apple’s partnerships. Intel gets AT&T phones and Qualcomm remains the supplier for Verizon network phones and for China.

The press has been claiming that it is terrible news for Qualcomm. But it appears Qualcomm knew it was coming and had already factored in the loss of the business into its results. The reason Qualcomm is not losing any sleep over the deal is because the most Intel is going to get is a third of the iPhone modems. This is what in financial terms is considered a “pisser” but hardly a reason to jump off any buildings over.

Other good things are happening to Qualcomm which more than balance out what has been lost to Intel. Firstly its latest Snapdragons are selling extremely well and secondly the shine is starting to go off its number one rival MediaTek.

For a while, naysayers have been predicting that MediaTek was going to sink Qualcomm. In fact there was even a suggestion that Qualcomm should get out of chipmaking and become a patent troll.

MediaTek had been luring away Qualcomm customers with cheaper chips, which combined with Apple, Samsung and Huawei making their own chips was creating a perfect storm of doom.

Now there is a suggestion that MediaTek’s growth wagon might have stalled. MediaTek’s sales fell 9.4 per cent annually last quarter to $1.7 billion. Its operating margin halved from 16 per cent last year to eight per cent. The reason was due to higher expenses across the board. This meant that its net income fell to $136 million. MediaTek is still more profitable than Qualcomm’s chipmaking division has a wafer thin 5 per cent last quarter.

Analysts expect MediaTek to post double-digit sales growth fuelled by rising demand for 4G smartphone chips in China. But its margins are also expected to keep contracting due to tough competition from Qualcomm and Spreadtrum.

Another risk for MediaTek is its dependence on China. Taiwan just got rid of the pro-unification KMT party, which controlled the presidency for the past eight years, in favour of the pro-independence DPP party.

MediaTek needs direct investments from mainland China to fight off Qualcomm, but it is finding that the Taiwanese government is blocking that sort of investment cash.

All this is giving Qualcomm a fighting chance in the area where it makes a lot of its cash. Sure its margins might be lower, but it still making more money. Enough so that it does not have to worry about losing a small about of dosh to Intel.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Patent Dispute May Hamper Apple’s iPhone 6 Sales In China

June 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus face a looming sales ban in China over a patent dispute with a little-known local company.

The phones infringe a design patent held by Chinese device maker Shenzhen Baili, a Beijing intellectual property office ruled, according to a notice posted Thursday.

The office ordered Apple and its partners to halt sales of both products, though Apple has appealed and the phones are currently still on sale there.

“We appealed an administrative order from a regional patent tribunal in Beijing last month and as a result the order has been stayed pending review by the Beijing IP Court,” Apple said Friday in an email.

The iPhone 6 models violate an “exterior design patent” held by Shenzhen Baili. The company was granted the patent in China in July 2014, shortly before Apple released the iPhone 6.

Shenzhen Baili used the patented design to make smartphones under its 100+ brand. The devices start at only 799 yuan, or about US$120, while the iPhone 6 initially sold for 5,288 yuan.

Shenzhen Baili warned Apple in 2014 that it might sue for patent infringement.

It’s not Apple’s first legal challenge in China. In 2012 the company battled a different company there which claimed ownership of the iPad trademark. Apple ended up paying US$60 to resolve that dispute – not a huge sum considering the importance of the Chinese market.

Earlier this year, in April, Chinese regulators shut down Apple’s iTunes Movies and iBooks services without publicly stating why. Those services appear to be still offline.

China is the world’s biggest smartphone market but Apple products face stiff competition there from local handset makers. In the first quarter this year, Apple ranked fifth among smartphone makers in China, according to research firm Canalys.

“‘Local vendors, such as Huawei, Vivo and Oppo, are eating into the premium segment that Samsung and Apple considered their own,” Canalys said at the time.

 

 

 

 

AT&T Expands Wi-Fi Calling To LG G4

June 17, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T revealed that it will support calling over a Wi-Fi network from the LG G4 phone, with other Android devices to follow.

Wi-Fi calls recently became available to customers usingiPhones and other iOS 9.3 devices on all four major U.S. carriers, which includes AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. That iOS update first became available March 21.

Wi-Fi calling is ideal for places were there is limited or no cell coverage. Many indoor spaces don’t provide good cellular connections, so Wi-Fi calling is a suitable alternative. Travelers abroad can reduce roaming costs by using Wi-Fi calling as well.

“Wi-Fi calling is a feature that customers want, so that’s the most important reason for carriers to do it,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.

T-Mobile advertised Wi-Fi calling as a replacement for inconsistent cellular service as early as 2007 before getting a permit from the Federal Communications Commission to do so.

AT&T explained that its Wi-Fi calling requires a compatible device and a postpaid wireless account set-up for HD Voice as well as the Wi-Fi connection.

Users on AT&T’s Wi-Fi calling system can make and receive calls and texts and keep the same phone number. The bill for a call is based on the number being called. For AT&T customers, making a call on a U.S. number to another U.S. number is free, even if the customer is overseas, according to an AT&T blog and a separate online description.

 

 

Apple Adds Panic App To Apple Watch

June 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple took the idea of a quick wireless call for help one step further with the announcement of the SOS feature for Apple Watches, coming this fall in the new watchOS 3.

SOS will quickly let a user call for help by pressing and holding the side button on an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 “no matter where they are in the world,”according to Apple publicity.

The call is made via cellular wireless through an iPhone connected by Bluetooth to the watch or through Wi-Fi if the watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network. The call will go to local emergency services, such as 999 when a user is in Hong Kong and 911 in the U.S., according to Kevin Lynch vice president of technology at Apple.

After the call is made, the watch will automatically send a map and a message to a user’s emergency contacts so they know where the user is. There will also be the ability to add a user’s medical ID to the watch, with information such as age and allergy information, he added.

“We’re finding people who wear an Apple Watch wear it all the time,” Lynch said, which gives the SOS feature the ability to be a quick-response app, referred to in the industry as a panic app.

Lynch and Apple certainly didn’t headline SOS in presenting the various watchOS 3 improvements, and it is mentioned only in passing on the Apple web site. The biggest and most promoted improvements to watchOS 3 include quicker interactions, such as an app launch time that’s seven times faster than before.

 

 

Apple Pay Being Updated To Allow Online Purchases

June 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Consumers will soon be able to make purchses with Apple Pay over the web from a Mac desktop or laptop, with the transaction being authenticated via a buyer’s fingerprint scan on their iPhone or a touch on their Apple Watch.

The new Apple Pay capability will be released as part of the free, rebranded (from OS X) macOS Sierra upgrade coming sometime this fall, Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of software engineering, announced at the Worldwide Developer Conference held in San Francisco on Monday.

Currently, shoppers can pay for merchandise using Apple Pay via an app on an iPhone or Apple Watch at hundreds of thousands of point-of-sale merchants in the U.S. and five other countries — Canada, the UK, Australia, China and Singapore. Hong Kong, France, Spain and Switzerland are getting the service soon, Apple said recently.

Although a leader in mobile payments, Apple Pay, as well as other other mobile payment technologies, have not caught on as well as expected.

Putting Apple Pay on Mac computers will greatly expand the number of purchases made with the service, analysts said. It will also put Apple in competition for web payments with companies like PayPal.

“Extending Apple Pay to the web is a really big deal because up to this point, there have been no secure methods to buy over the web that used biometric technology without sending your credit card information to the e-tailer,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

To use the service, an Apple Pay on-screen button will be available at a participating online retailer when a person shops via a Safari browser, Apple said in a statement. Apple showed dozens of participating retailers on a slide during the WWDC presentation.

 

 

Amazon To Get Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch a standalone music streaming subscription service, placing it squarely in competition with rival offerings from Apple Inc and Spotify, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The service will be offered at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals, and it will offer a competitive catalog of songs, the sources said. Amazon is finalizing licenses with labels for the service, which likely will be launched in late summer or early fall, the sources said.

Amazon, which offers a free streaming music service with a limited catalog to subscribers of its Prime shipping and video service, did not respond to a request for comment about the new, full-fledged music plan.

Although it will be a late entrant to the crowded streaming space, Amazon believes a comprehensive music service is important to its bid to be a one-stop shop for content and goods, the sources said.

The new music offering also is intended to increase the appeal of the Amazon Echo, its home speaker, which searches the Internet and orders products from the retailer with voice commands.

“A music service will further increase the daily interactions between Amazon and its customer base,” said former music executive Jay Samit when told about the company’s plan.

The new Amazon effort will compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify, which boast more than 30 million songs. Apple launched its service last year in one of the highest profile signs that listeners wanted subscription services, rather than paying for individual songs or albums.

The service also will diversify Amazon’s subscription offerings and be another step away from a single, annual subscription. Amazon recently began allowing subscribers to Prime to pay monthly, for instance.

Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google have muscled into music streaming in recent years, aiming to weave themselves more tightly into their customers’ daily routines and drive device sales.

Amazon similarly hopes its new service’s tight integration with the Echo will help it stand out and reinforce the speaker’s appeal, the sources said.

Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit that rival Google is now seeking to emulate with a speaker of its own.

The move suggests that Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper. The company recently launched a standalone video service.

The new music service is unlikely to steal many customers from Spotify, but it could pose a threat to other players, said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock who headed early Apple music efforts, when informed of the move.

 

 

Apple’s Next iPhone Will Use Intel Modem Chips

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc’s next iPhone will use modems chips from Intel Corp, taking the place of those made by Qualcomm Inc in some versions of the new smartphone, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Intel’s modem chips will be in iPhones used on AT&T Inc’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

However, iPhones sold in China will use Qualcomm chips, and iPhones on Verizon Communications Inc’s network will also stick with Qualcomm, Bloomberg added.

Qualcomm’s shares fell 1.7 percent on Friday, while Intel’s stock was up 0.3 percent. Apple shares were down 0.5 percent in morning trading.

On an earnings call in April, Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf said he was assuming that a major customer would switch to multiple suppliers.

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on the story. Qualcomm and Apple were not immediately available for comment.

 

Has The Bubble Busted For Smartphones?

June 13, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Uncategorized

After sliding its slide-rules, flicking its abacus, and counting its toes, the bean counters at Gartner have decided that the smartphone business bubble has burst splattering in the face of those who depend on it.

Big G says the market will shrink from 14.4 per cent growth in 2015 to just 7 per cent in 2016 — with only 1.5 billion smartphone units being shipped globally this year. Compair this with 2010, when Gartner notes the market grew 73 per cent.

However the signs have been obvious for about a year. Mature Western markets saturated, China’s growth engine slowing as demand has topped out and other markets unable to afford the higher margin gear. The smartphone has come to the end of its ability to provide new technology too with companies only able to offer incremental upgrades. Carriers are moving away from subsidizing upgrades which means that them wasting their own profits to prop up the likes of Apple are over.

In emerging markets it says the average lifetime of premium phone is between 2.2 and 2.5 years, while basic mobiles have an average lifetime of three years and up.

Gartner sees the biggest remaining opportunity for smartphone growth in India, noting that sales of feature phones — aka dumbphones — accounted for a majority (61 per cent) of total mobile device sales last year, leaving plenty of scope for upgrades as smartphones continue to become more affordable.

It is estimating 139 million smartphones will be sold in India this year, growing 29.5 per cent year-over-year. It notes the average selling price of mobiles in the country remains below $70, and it expects smartphones priced under $120 to continue to contribute around half of overall smartphones sales there this year.  Apple’s hope that it can save its flailing business numbers by selling into India show the complete lack of understanding of how that market is working. It is tending to favor small local smartphone makers like Intex.

China is going to offer Apple no help either Gartner is expecting “little growth” in the region in the next five years. IT says it is “saturated yet highly competitive” market. Smartphones represented 95 per cent of total mobile phones sales last year.

Gartner analyst Annette Zimmerman said that “non-traditional” vendors in China could do well and thinks that by 2018 at least one such phone maker will be among the top five smartphone brands in the country.

“Chinese internet companies are increasingly investing in mobile device hardware development, platforms and distribution as they aim to grow their user bases and increase user loyalty and engagement,” she said.

The Sub-Saharan African region is also couched as an attractive region for smartphone vendors, with smartphone sales only overtaking mobile phones sales there for the first time last year. Nokia brand licensee and newly formed smartphone OEM HMD will want to take note, given it has paid for the right to build feature phones (and smartphones) bearing the previously iconic Nokia brand name.

Courtesy-Fud