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Humana Integrates Health App With Apple’s HealthKit

October 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Humana Inc, which manages private Medicare and individual Obamacare insurance plans, has announced that it has integrated its consumer health application with Apple Inc’s HealthKit.

The move, the first announced by a major insurer, allows Humana customers to more easily manage fitness data and other personal health goals, the company said in a statement.

Humana’s wellness program, called HumanaVitality, rewards members for hitting these goals, which include being more active, eating better or losing weight, with items such as movie tickets and fitness equipment.

Apple’s HealthKit gathers data such as blood pressure and weight from various applications, enabling it to be viewed by consumers and doctors in one place. Its ease of use is expected to increase the data sharing between doctors and patients.

Apple delayed the launch of HealthKit earlier this month when it pulled back its iOS 8 operating system for iPhones and iPads. HealthKit and the new Humana application, which has about 3.8 million eligible members, launched lastFriday.

 

 

 

Kuddle, Microsoft To Launch Child Safe Tablet

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Kuddle, a Norwegian photo-sharing app created for children, plans to roll out a child safe tablet with Microsoft on Dec 1, and expects to sign funding deals with several venture capital firms within weeks, its chief executive said on Monday.

The Oslo-based company said it was on track to reach its goal of one million users by year-end and plans to soon raise another $5 million of fresh funds on top of the nearly $6 million it has already raised.

“We are working with Microsoft on several child safe devices which will be sold on our online store,” Chief Executive Ole Vidar Hestaas said. “The first device will be an Ipad Mini sized tablet prized under $100 that will be ready ahead of the Kuddle Store launch.”

“This is a child friendly device and it is not possible to download games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) or apps like Snapchat,” Hestaas said.

Kuddle, which bills itself as a rival to Instagram, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and “likes” are anonymous.

Hestaas said the company also is in talks with Samsung and Microsoft’s Nokia phones unit on similar cooperation, and that it was also working on deals with European telecoms operators Telenor and Vodafone for child safe Kuddle SIM cards to be sold separately or linked up to one of its devices.

The app, which has a target of 1 million users by the end of 2014, is now available in 7 languages. The most significant growth has recently come from Brazil and the US.

Hestaas said he expects to conclude funding deals with several major international venture capital funds within weeks.

The firm’s present investors include Norwegian golf ace Suzann Pettersen.

 

 

FBI Is Concerned About Encryption On Smartphones

September 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation expressed some concerns about moves by Apple and Google to include encryption on smartphones, the agency’s director has stated.

Quick law enforcement access to the contents of smartphones could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases, FBI Director James Comey said in a briefing with some reporters. Comey said he’s concerned that smartphone companies are marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” according to news reports.

An FBI spokesman confirmed the general direction of Comey’s remarks. The FBI has contacted Apple and Google about their encryption plans, Comey told a group of reporters who regularly cover his agency.

Just last week, Google announced it would be turning on data encryption by default in the next version of Android. Apple, with the release of iOS 8 earlier this month, allowed iPhone and iPad users to encrypt most personal data with a password.

Comey’s remarks, prompted by a reporter’s question, came just days after Ronald Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, decried mobile phone encryption in a column in the Washington Post.

Smartphone companies shouldn’t give criminals “one more tool,” he wrote. “Apple’s and Android’s new protections will protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially. They will protect those who desperately need to be stopped from lawful, authorized, and entirely necessary safety and security efforts. And they will make it impossible for police to access crucial information, even with a warrant.”

Representatives of Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments on Comey’s concerns.

 

BlackBerry Shrink Loss, Sees Rising Sales

September 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd reported a smaller quarterly loss on Friday and is showing encouraging signals about its endangered smartphone business as well as its software and services sales, spurring a more than 4 percent jump in its shares.

The Canadian company, a smartphone pioneer pushed to the margins by Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android software, is now focusing more on software and services than on hardware as it works through a long turnaround.

On the services front, the company reported a huge number of conversions in its second quarter to its heavily promoted new device management platform. But BlackBerry’s hardware unit also offered hopeful news, posting an adjusted profit for the first time in five quarters, helped by lower manufacturing costs and strong demand for its low-end Z3 handsets in emerging markets.

“This is the first time in a long time that we have actually made money on hardware,” Chief Executive John Chen told reporters, while hinting at plans to unveil new phones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2015. “We think we can continue on that track, so hardware is no longer going to be a drag to the margin and the earnings.”

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s revenue in North America rose from the previous quarter, but sales slipped elsewhere. Its total revenue was down more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

“They’re taking all the right steps, which is great. It’s encouraging to see,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “Now we’ve got to see what Chen can do about the revenue decline.”

BlackBerry shares were up 5.2 percent at C$11.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and up 4.6 percent at $10.26 on Nasdaq.

 

BlackBerry Launches New Passport Smartphone

September 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry launched an unconventional new smartphone dubbed the Passport on Wednesday, as it undertakes one of the most critical phases of its long turnaround.

The one-time smartphone industry pioneer recently concluded a three-year long restructuring process and has largely halted the bleed, but it is now up to Chief Executive John Chen to prove that the company’s new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profitability.

“BlackBerry is still fighting for survival. They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.

“Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market.”

BlackBerry debuted the Passport on Wednesday in Toronto, with simultaneous events also held in London and Dubai.

The launch of the Passport, which boasts a big square screen and a unique touch-sensitive tactile keyboard, will kick off a frenzied spell for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry. The company is set to report fiscal second-quarter results on Friday and within a couple of months it is also expected to launch the long-awaited BlackBerry Classic, which bears similarities to its once wildly popular Bold smartphone.

“BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now,” Colello said. “It doesn’t quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again. The big question really is whether any of these devices will kick-start it.”

The company is hoping the Classic and the launch of its new mobile device management system – BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) – will help it claw back ground ceded to rivals in both the hardware and services market.

The BES 12 platform will allow IT managers at large firms and government agencies to not only manage and secure BlackBerry devices, but also all Android, iOS and Windows-based devices on one platform.

Chen, a well-regarded turnaround expert in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.

 

 

Lyft Car-Sharing Service Acquires Rival Hitch

September 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Car-sharing service Lyft has purchased Hitch, a startup in the mobile app-enabled car-pooling business, to integrate the service with its own shared rides business that it set up last month.

“Similar to Lyft, Hitch has always believed the shared rides experience is inherently social, and we’re excited that they’re joining the team to accelerate this movement together,” Lyft wrote in a blog post Monday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hitch co-founders Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro will join the Lyft team as the company expands personal transit to more cities across the U.S. Hitch offers its service in San Francisco.

“We observed too many empty cab seats and noticed that public transit could be improved with the addition of dynamic routing,” the Hitch co-founders wrote in a blog post. “We built an app, a sophisticated engine optimized for pairings, and started to grow our platform–with new users and drivers alike.”

The Hitch platform will close for drivers and passengers starting Tuesday. Current Hitch drivers will move to the Lyft community, to which many are already signed on as ride-sharing drivers, Lyft said.

The company said it had seen “incredible” growth and demand for its shared rides business Lyft Line in San Francisco, which launched in August. Lyft Line held out the promise that it would connect people with a ride already going the same way for up to 60 percent less than an original Lyft ride. Lyft Line would roll out first in San Francisco on iOS, with support on Android and services in other cities to follow, the company said at launch.

Rivals Uber and Sidecar have also begun similar car-pooling services.

 

 

 

Sony PlayStation TV Will Arrive At Stores On October 14th

September 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp said PlayStation TV set-top box, which allows users to access movies and TV episodes from the PlayStation store, will arrive at retail locations in the United States and Canada on Oct. 14.

The price for a standalone PlayStation TV (PS TV) is $99.99, the company wrote in a blog. For $139.99, customers can get a wireless controller, an 8 GB memory card and “The Lego Movie” videogame along with the PS TV.

Around 700 games will be available to PS TV users, including “Metal Gear Solid” and the franchise “Killzone: Mercenary”.

PS TV was released in Japan and other Asian countries under the name “PlayStation Vita TV” last fall. Sony is trying to expand its entertainment network services to compete against players like Amazon.com Inc.

Sony did not say when it will launch its online TV service.

The company signed a deal earlier this month to carry 22 Viacom Inc channels, including Comedy Central and MTV, on its planned online TV.

PlayStation boss Shaun Layden told tech blog Re/code in June the company was “on track” to unveil its product some time this year.

Sony’s web TV service will join the ranks of an already crowded market with devices from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Roku.

 

 

IBM Launches Watson Analytics

September 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

In an effort to expand its Watson analysis technology, IBM is trying out a new service that can answer questions business managers might have about their data.

IBM has launched a beta of Watson Analytics, an interactive Q&A service designed to answer questions and highlight trends within sets of enterprise data.

The service “is about putting powerful analytics in the hands of every business user,” said Eric Sall, IBM vice president of marketing for business analytics.

Traditional business intelligence tools remain too difficult to use for business managers, Sall said. “It is hard to get the data. It is hard to analyze the data if you’re not a specialist, and it is hard to use the tools,” he said. Watson Analytics attempts to streamline the process.

Natural language systems are becoming increasingly prevalent as a form of human-computer interface. Apple’s Siri, Google’s GoogleNow and Microsoft’s Cortana all act as virtualized personal assistants, able to answer a range of simple questions on behalf of their users.

Watson Analytics operates in a similar manner, in that it can offer responses to questions posed by the user in their chosen language, rather than forcing the user to develop a SQL query, master a complex statistical package or write data-parsing code to better understand some large set of data.

The effort is the latest move in IBM’s $1 billion initiative to commercialize Watson technologies.

IBM Research developed Watson to compete with human contestants on the “Jeopardy” game show in 2011, using natural language processing and analytics, as well as many sources of structured and unstructured data, to formulate responses to the show’s questions.

In the years since, the company has been working to commercialize the Watson technology by identifying industries that could benefit from this form of cognitive computing, such as health care, law enforcement and finance.

Earlier this year, IBM launched the Watson Discovery Advisor, which is customized for scientific researchers who need to deeply probe one specific body of scientific knowledge, such as chemistry or cellular biology.

Another service, the company’s Watson Engagement Advisor, uses the artificial intelligence technology to aid in customer support.

 

 

Is PayPal Taking Shots At Apple Pay?

September 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Paypal has taken out some full page newspaper ads that try to lure users away from Apple Pay and back to its long-standing alternative.

eBay-owned Paypal has already swiped at Apple Pay in a blog post, but it wasn’t very critical.

It asked consumers a number of questions about how they might choose a payment provider, and reminded them of the things that they should consider before deciding to embrace Apple Pay.

That was on 9 September, at which time the firm kicked off a marketing campaign, which was backed by some online videos, to remind people of its length of time in the industry.

“We’ve been centered on payments for 15 years working across all platforms, all parts of the ecosystem and compliant with regulations. Keeping people’s money safe is our top priority,” it said, before asking punters to consider what kind of outfit they place their trust in.

The newspaper ads go further and straight for the jugular, and bring up a recent incident in which Apple was criticised for lack of security.

Inciting the market, and hopefully taking its mind off the fees Paypal takes on transactions, Paypal said that “people rule” and that these ruling people demand that their money be kept safer than their selfies.

This is a very obvious dig at Apple over the recent celebrity pictures leak that was traced to iCloud.

Remember though, that while Paypal asked merchants and customers to connect only with providers that they trust, its service is accepted as a payment mechanism on iTunes.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple iPhone 6 Pre-orders Sets Record With 4M On First Day

September 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc said many customers will have to wait until October for their new iPhones after a record 4 million first-day pre-orders were logged, double the number for the iPhone 5 two years ago.

The company said demand had outstripped supply of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which feature larger screens and longer battery life. Deliveries of pre-orders will begin on Friday and will continue through October.

Bumper first-day pre-orders point to first-weekend sales of up to 10 million units, analysts estimated.

“Assuming preorders are similar to the 40 percent of first weekend sales for the iPhone 5, this would imply iPhone 6/6Plus first weekend sales could be around 10 million,” Wells Fargo Securities analysts wrote in a note.

About 2 million pre-orders were received for the iPhone 5 in the first 24 hours after it went on sale in September 2012. Apple sold 5 million of these phones in the first weekend.

Apple sold 9 million iPhone 5Ss and 5Cs, which were launched last year, in the first three days in stores. The company did not reveal pre-order numbers for these phones.

Raymond James analysts said they expect sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to top 9 million in the first weekend.

“Apple will be selling every iPhone it can make, at least through October. Because of this, the first weekend sales are typically more indicative of supply than demand,” they said.

The company routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design.

Apple’s website showed last week that the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models displayed a wait time of up to a month. The 4.7-inch version was available for delivery on Sept. 19.

Janney Capital Markets analysts said the large number of pre-orders was due to “pent-up demand” for bigger iPhone screens.

The brokerage raised its sales estimate for the latest iPhones to 37.4 million units for the current quarter and 60 million for the quarter ended December.

 

 

iPhone 6 Plus Already Delayed Due To High Demand

September 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Customers may have to wait three to four weeks to get their hands on Apple Inc’s  iPhone 6 Plus, after a record number of orders for the company’s latest smartphones put a huge dent in the available supply.

The new iPhone 6 goes on sale on Sept. 19 in the United States but the company began taking online orders on Thursday. While the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models now display a wait time of up to a month, the 4.7-inch version remains available for delivery on Sept. 19, Apple’s website showed.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Corp, also showed shipment delays of up to six weeks on their respective websites. Apple said the pace of orders has so far outstripped any of its previous iPhones.

“Response to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has been incredible, with a record number of pre-orders overnight. Pre-orders are currently available online or through the Apple Store App,” spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.

Apple routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design. The latest iPhones come with larger screens and some analysts had anticipated that production issues may keep a lid on initial runs.

Its suppliers had scrambled to get enough screens ready because the need to redesign a key component had disrupted panel production, supply chain sources told Reuters last month.

It was unclear whether the hiccup could limit the number of phones available to consumers, the sources said at the time. Apple declined to comment on supply chain issues.

In addition, Chinese customers may also have to wait until the year-end before they can buy the iPhone 6. Apple is yet to set a release date for China, the world’s biggest smartphone market.

The company unveiled its latest iPhones along with a watch and a mobile payments service last Tuesday.

 

4K Television Sales Finally Picking Up Steam

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Approximately 14 million ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K2K television sets have been shipped worldwide in 2014, penetrating 6-7% of the overall TV market, according to WitsView, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.

Chinese vendors, including Skyworth, Changhong and Hisense, have the highest shipment rates. The six largest Chinese brands, which also include Konka, TCL and Haier, will achieve a 13-15% penetration rate in the UHD TV market this year, the firm projects.

The spec of 4K2K TV means 3,840 X 2,160 pixel resolution compared with HD TV, which has a resolution of 1,920 X 1,080. UHD TV has four times the resolution of HDTV.

“China’s six major 4K2K TV brands price their products very competitively,” Anita Wang, a research manager at WitsView, said in a statement. “Other vendors can’t offer such an attractive price proposition.”

Last month, the retail price difference in China between 65-in 4K2K 3D and HD 3D TVs was 32%, but in other markets it was as high as 63%, Wang said. As a result, Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase 4K2K televisions, Wang added.

One of the biggest issues facing the UHD TV market is a lack of “available” content. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of 4K movies and TV shows ready to be streamed to the public. Since 2004, the movie and television industry has been producing 4K content for the digital market.

“Broadcasters will always use the best equipment they can, because they want to be able to archive and repurpose that content in the future. But that’s a long ways from saying they have 4K content in the production chain,” said Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch.

Buying a 4K UHD TV today requires a leap of faith in two ways: You need to believe broadcasters will begin streaming 4K content soon and feel confident that the content will conform to a standard a new UHD TV can decode and process.

“Neither of those things are clear because there are no standards for 4K video,” Gray said.

LCD computer monitors are also starting to become available in UHD and feature attractive price tags, she said. For example, the 28-in 4K2K monitor retailed at an average of just $630 in August. In the coming months, panel makers will continue to introduce new 4K2K monitors in different sizes.

For example, Samsung is expected to launch a 23.6-in model that will be priced lower than the existing 23.8-in model. That will help to further drive down retail prices and stimulate 4K2K monitor demand.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release the 27-in 5K3K high-resolution iMac by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.

 

 

 

Verizon Has A Deal To Offer Free iPhone 6

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications will give customers who trade in an old iPhone a free iPhone 6 in exchange for a two-year contract, the country’s largest wireless carrier announced hours after Apple Inc introduced the widely anticipated device.

The announcement came as critics speculated that Apple’s newest phone, starting at $199 with a two-year contract, would not be competitive as more carriers eliminate contracts and unbundle service charges from the cost of devices.

Analysts say that by making the cost of devices more transparent, equipment financing plans make expensive handsets like the iPhone less appealing. On the other hand, the plans allow customers to pay for devices in installments, making pricy devices like the iPhone more accessible.

Customers who trade in an iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c or 5s in working condition will receive a $200 gift card to pre-order the 16-gigabyte version of the newer model, Verizon said in a statement. The offer does not apply to Apple’s other new phone, the larger iPhone 6 Plus.

Verizon has been more reluctant than competitors to dive into equipment financing, and its promotion indicates its attachment to the older contract model, which binds subscribers to the carrier for a fixed term, said Jan Dawson, analyst at JackDaw Research.

“There is an inherent risk in the shift to installment billing that it creates more loyalty to the device than to the carrier,” said Dawson.

“Verizon sees the value of the two-year contract in that tying a device to a two-year plan can prevent churn,” said Dawson.

He pointed out that new device releases are major factors for subscribers in deciding whether to switch carriers.

As the market for new smartphone customers shrinks, carriers have been competing aggressively for subscribers, slashing prices and engaging in creative promotions to poach each others’ customers.

On Monday, T-Mobile announced it would beat any other major carriers’ trade-in rates and give customers a $50 credit as well.

 

 

Amazon Slashes Fire Phone Price To Less Than $1

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon drastically reduced the price of its three-month-old Fire Phone to 99 cents, an obvious attempt to boost slow sales.

The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.

Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.

In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.

Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”

StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.

In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.

“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.

“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.

She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.

Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”

 

 

Facebook Trying To Do Damage Control Over Messenger App

September 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is trying to do damage control for its Messenger app,due to recent negative publicity.

The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.

Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.

“You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,” Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network’s mobile app. “Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone’s camera and microphone to see and hear what you’re doing. These reports aren’t true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.”

The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.

“We’re testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. “We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.”

The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.

Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users’ smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.

Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store.

On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, “Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.”

The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.

According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.

“If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone’s camera and capture that photo,” the company said in its message to users. “We don’t turn on your camera or microphone when you aren’t using the app.”