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Apple’s Mac Slump Continues, Sales Tumble 12%

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple revealed that it sold 4 million Macs in the March quarter, a 12% decline from the same period the year before, and a larger contraction than for the personal computer business as a whole.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.

Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.

Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.

“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.

Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.

But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.

Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.

 

 

 

Mac Finally Gets Skype For Business App

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally making its way to the Mac.

The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.

When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.

Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.

The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.

In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.

This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.

 

Apple Optimistic About iPhone SE Sales

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

After experiencing its first-ever drop in iPhone sales, Apple Inc sought to reassure investors by saying its latest and cheapest model was in strong demand after being launched in late March. Some retailers and suppliers in Asia aren’t so sure.

In a Reuters survey of 10 retailers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seven – including four Apple Stores – reported solid early demand, but three third-party retailers said sales were weak. Two suppliers of components for Apple phones, including the new iPhone SE, said they were seeing lower orders.

“I’ve been dealing with iPhones for five to six years now. This current quarter for Apple feels weak,” said an executive at a Taiwan-based company whose components are used in iPhones including the SE model, which markets for $399. “Our current shipment situation for Apple is not like the last two years. There are more iPhone models, but the total volume of iPhones is falling.”

Such a mixed outlook from Greater China, its most important market after the United States and generator of a quarter of the company’s revenue, could be a major cause of concern for Apple.

The company’s revenue from the region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped 26 percent in the March quarter, making it the weakest region in the world.

“iPhone is still popular but sales have dropped because… there’s no new model and the SE is similar to 5C. So it doesn’t sell well,” said Zhu You Peng, a salesman at Apple product reseller Xiongyu in Shenzhen. The 5C was Apple’s last attempt to produce a cheaper phone, back in 2013.

Zhu said it sold around 300 iPhones per month last year but the number has dropped to around 100-200 this year.

That view contrasts with upbeat comments about the phone from Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri on Tuesday.

“The situation right now around the world is that we are supply-constrained,” he told Reuters, referring to the iPhone SE. “The demand has been very, very strong.”

The iPhone SEs are sold out in Apple’s own stores in mainland China and customers have to wait about three weeks to get the product delivered by Apple, according to Apple’s websites. The size of the original supplies to the stores is unclear.

 

 

 

Qualcomm and LG Settle Dispute

April 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm has buried the hatchet with LG after the smartphone vendor agreed to pay more for its chips.

LG said the dispute with Qualcomm has been completely settled, although it did not say how much it had agreed to pay. Earlier it had claimed Qualcomm had overcharged for the chips under a licensing contract.

The news about the lawsuit settlement emerged following Qualcomm’s profit forecast for the second quarter in January, which was below what Wall Street’s tarot readers had predicted.

The company expected its mobile chip shipment to fall by 16-25 per cent in the second quarter. Additionally, it expected 3G and 4G device shipment to decline by 4 to 14 per cent. As for the first quarter of 2016, Qualcomm’s chip shipment fell 10 per cent , with a drop in revenue by 21.6 per cent. Revenue from licensing declined 10.4 per cent, suggests a Reuters report.

An LG spokesperson said that this kind of dispute was “actually nothing” and was similar to the ones that the industries had in the past.

“Qualcomm has lowered its royalty rate to LG in return for LG’s guaranteed purchase of Qualcomm processors, which are currently being used in its flagship handsets and will be used in upcoming flagship models,” added the official.

Qualcomm might have been a little nervy.  LG has invested millions to develop its own chipset, in an attempt to cut down its dependency on Qualcomm for mobile processors.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Sirin’s Ultra High-end Smartphone To Retail For $20,000

April 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A British-Israeli start-up is making plans to offer a mobile phone next month that will provide users unprecedented levels of technology and security — and retail for close to $20,000.

Sirin Labs AG said on Monday it had raised $72 million in private funds to launch the device, which would be aimed at executives. It plans to open its first store, in London’s Mayfair, in May.

“(Our) smartphone …brings the most advanced technology available – even if it is not commercially available – and combining it with almost military-grade security,” said Sirin co-founder and president Moshe Hogeg.

The phone will be based on the Android operating system and run otherwise unspecified technology two to three years in advance of the mass market, he said.

Hogeg told Reuters the phone would sell for less than $20,000.

He believes thousands of executives in the United States and Europe will pay that sort of price, since the cost of being hacked could be more expensive in terms of information lost.

Hogeg put the value of the global luxury phone market at about $1.1 billion, a fraction of total mobile phone sales. Most top end phones sold are more for status – regular phones with gold and diamonds.

Britain’s Vertu sells phones in that category from $10,000 to $300,000, while Apple’s iPhone 5 Black Diamond sold for $15.3 million.

Sirin’s financing came from Israeli venture capital fund Singulariteam – which Hogeg co-founded and included backing from Kazakh investor Kenges Rakishev – and Chinese social networking company Renren.

The idea for the start-up came about after Rakishev’s phone was hacked in 2013. He asked Hogeg why he couldn’t find a mobile phone that would ensure privacy and why new technology seen in tech shows and publications was not available in consumer devices.

“There were no good solutions that combined high-end technologies with maximum security,” Hogeg said.

 

Did Researchers Create Batteries That A Lifetime?

April 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally – yes, accidentally – discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times.

Mya Le Thai, a PhD candidate at the university, explained in a paper published this week that she and her colleagues used nanowires, a material that is several thousand times thinner than a human hair, extremely conductive and has a surface area large enough to support the storage and transfer of electrons.

Nanowires are extremely fragile and don’t usually hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. They expand and grow brittle in a typical lithium-ion battery, but Le Thai’s team fixed this by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel to improve its reliability. All by accident.

The breakthrough could lead to laptop, smartphone and tablet batteries that last forever.

Reginald Penner, chairman of UCI’s chemistry department, said: “Mya was playing around and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it.

“She discovered that just by using this gel she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity. That was crazy, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

The battery-like structure was tested more than 200,000 times over a three-month span, and the researchers reported no loss of capacity or power.

“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”

The breakthrough also paves the way for commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in appliances, cars and spacecraft.

British fuel-cell maker Intelligent Energy Holdings announced earlier this year that it is working on a smartphone battery that will need to be charged only once a week.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Apple To Pay Nearly $25M In Siri Patent Lawsuit Settlement

April 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to shell out $24.9 million to a patent holding firm to resolve a 5-year-old lawsuit accusing Siri of infringing one of its patents.

Apple will pay the money to Marathon Patent Group, the parent company of Texas firm Dynamic Advances, which held an exclusive license to a 2007 patent covering natural language user interfaces for enterprise databases. Marathon reported the settlement in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

In response to the settlement, Magistrate Judge David Peebles of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit against Apple filed by Dynamic Advances and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where the natural language technology was created.

A trial had been scheduled to begin early next month in Syracuse, New York. Dynamic Advances first filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple in October 2012.

A “portion” of the settlement will go to RPI, Marathon said in its SEC filing. The company believes “other voice recognition services also infringe patents involved in the settled action,” it said in the filing.

The natural language technology covered in the patent was invented by Cheng Hsu, then a professor of decision sciences and engineering systems, and Veera Boonjing, then a doctoral student at RPI, according to an amended complaint filed in June 2013.

The patent covers “novel methods” for processing natural language, wrote lawyers for the plaintiffs. The technology gives computer and smartphone owners “the ability to input search queries or commands in language they would use in conversation with another person,” they wrote in the complaint.

Apple’s Siri voice-enabled digital assistance service encourages users to use technology that “processes natural language inputs” as claimed in the patent, the complaint said. Since the first lawsuit in 2012, “Apple has known that, or has been willfully blind to the fact that” its customers are infringing the patent, the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

 

 

Are Thunderbolt Based SSD’s The Next Big Thing?

April 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

As UHD tellies promise that huge amounts of data will need to be shifted the question of how to do it fast enough is being answered by a new generation of SSDs based around Thunderbolt.

This week two new drives were announded. One by Sonnet and the other by Akitio  and both combine Thunderbolt 3 and the latest PCIe SSD technology.

Sonnet’s CEO Robert Farnsworth said:

“The Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive can sustain the ultra-high file transfer speeds required for just about any 4K workflow – whether users need an ultra-fast shuttle drive or a take-anywhere scratch drive for editing high frame rate 4K video at offsite shoots.”

The 512 GB storage unit is compatible with Windows 7 and 10 machines, and features the latest PCIe Gen 3 flash memory technology and a 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 interface on the end of an included 0.5 m (1.6) cable. Sonnet claims it can manage data transfer speeds of up to 2,100 MB/s.

The drive is 2.8 in (70 mm) wide, 4.1 in (103.2 mm) deep and 1.25 in (31.5 mm) high, and placed in an aluminum enclosure. The Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive is available at the end of this month for a suggested retail price of $799.

Akitio’s Thunder3 PCIe SSD is not as portable. It is 9.17 x 5.96 x 2.99 in (233 x 152 x 76 mm) dimensions and will need to be powered via the an adapter. However it has 1.2 TB of storage capacity using a PCIe Gen 3 Intel 750 Series SSD. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a DisplayPort video output for connection a 4K monitor. It claims to ahve a data transfer speeds of a 2,500 MB/s.

The Akitio drive is housed in an aluminum enclosure, comes with a 40 Gbps cable included and is compatible with Windows 7 or newer computers. It can also be daisy chained to up to six other units.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Homeland Security’s CERT Advises Windows Users To Uninstall QuickTime

April 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The cyber readiness team that’s part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has advised Windows users to get rid of Apple’s QuickTime media player.

“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends,” US-CERT wrote in an advisory published Thursday. “However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats. Potential negative consequences include loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, as well as damage to system resources or business assets. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”

US-CERT (U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team) based its alert on news Thursday from Trend Micro’s TippingPoint group, which said it had been told by Apple that QuickTime on Windows had been deprecated, or dropped from support, meaning no future security updates will be issued and development has been halted.

The last wasn’t new: Apple hasn’t significantly upgraded QuickTime for Windows since 2009, when it launched QuickTime X for OS X but didn’t port the new player to Windows. The most recent security update for QuickTime on Windows was issued three months ago.

Apple let TippingPoint in on the deprecation because the latter’s researchers had forwarded details about two vulnerabilities submitted to its Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) bug bounty program. After TippingPoint asked Apple for a status update on the bugs’ patches — it had handed Apple information about the vulnerabilities in November — representatives from the Cupertino, Calif. company got on the phone and told the researchers that QuickTime for Windows was a dead product.

On the same day that Apple and TippingPoint talked, Apple published instructions for uninstalling QuickTime from Windows PCs.

Apple has not changed its support policies for QuickTime on OS X, which will continue to receive security updates.

Few Windows users will miss QuickTime: Although the media player was once an integral part of its iTunes, Apple stopped bundling QuickTime with iTunes on Windows in 2011.

 

 

 

Is the Apple SE A Hit?

April 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Remember when some analyst  told us that the world wanted to go back to small phones and that the iPhone SE would be a money spinner? It turns out that we were not the only ones who thought that idea was rubbish – Apple does not believe it either.

Apple has continued to have a limited production run of iPhones in the quarter ending June. According to the  Nikkei business daily this will be the second quarter that Apple will run reduced production of its main bread and butter – the iPhone. Practically it means that not is well behind Apple’s Walled Garden of Delights. It also suggests that the iPhone SE is as pants as we expected.

For those who came in late, Apple re-released its iPhone 5C with a slightly better chip and called it the SE. This old design was tiny in comparison to later models and clearly out-of-date.  This has been a bad time for Jobs’ Mob the Nikkei reported in January that the technology giant was expected to cut production of its iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models by about 30 percent in the quarter ended March, but production was expected to return to normal in the current quarter. Clearly it didn’t and the SE failed to interest anyone.

Apple’s shares fell 1.8 percent to $110.05 and some of its partners went the following way. The production cut could last longer than the one it implemented in 2013, when Apple cut production orders for its cheaper iPhone 5C a month after its launch.

Apple has told parts suppliers in Japan and elsewhere that it will maintain the reduced output level in the current quarter, the Nikkei report said.

In January, Apple said it expected a fall in revenue for the quarter ending March – its first forecast for a revenue drop in 13 years – as the critical Chinese market showed signs of weakening. It also reported the slowest-ever increase in iPhone shipments.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Apple Said To Be Re-branding OS X To ‘MacOS’

April 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple may be gearing up to rebrand its OS X operating system as MacOS, according to a since-altered page on the Cupertino, Calif. company’s website.

The page, which touted Apple’s environmental efforts, used “MacOS” rather than “OS X” to label the Mac’s operating system. The Apple-focused website 9to5Mac noted the use of the new name late Thursday.

Apple has changed that page, which now refers to “OS X.”

The rebranding would put the Mac’s operating system more in sync with the nomenclature of Apple’s other OSes, including “iOS,” “tvOS” and “watchOS.”

OS X as a brand originated in 2000, when it was officially designated “Mac OS X.” But “Mac OS” was used before that, notably during the span of 1995 through 1997, when Apple licensed third-party OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to build and sell Mac clones. Co-founder Steve Jobs ended that strategy shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997. Apple retains U.S. trademark rights to “Mac OS;” those rights were last renewed in 2015. No active trademarks for “MacOS” were found in a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database.

Prior to Mac OS, Apple simply dubbed the Macintosh operating system as “System.”

OS X is currently at version 11, and carries the moniker “El Capitan,” in line with Apple’s 2013 switch to California place names.

Because Apple traditionally announces the year’s OS X upgrade at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), any rebranding to MacOS would likely occur there.

 

 

Apple Decides To Extend iPhone Production Cut

April 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc will maintain its reduced production of iPhones in the quarter ending June in light of sluggish sales, the Nikkei business daily reported, citing parts suppliers notified of the plan.

Apple apparently does not plan to make enough of the newly launched iPhone SE model, the Nikkei report said.

The company’s shares fell 1.8 percent to $110.05. Shares of some Apple suppliers also fell following the report. Skyworks Solutions Inc was down 1.4 percent, Broadcom Ltd fell 2.4 percent while Jabil Circuit lost 1.7 percent. The Nikkei reported in January that the technology giant was expected to cut production of its iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models by about 30 percent in the quarter ended March, but production was expected to return to normal in the current quarter.

The production cut could last longer than the one it implemented in 2013, when Apple cut production orders for its cheaper iPhone 5C a month after its launch, the Nikkei said.

Apple has told parts suppliers in Japan and elsewhere that it will maintain the reduced output level in the current quarter, the Nikkei report said.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, Apple said it expected a fall in revenue for the quarter ending March – its first forecast for a revenue drop in 13 years – as the critical Chinese market showed signs of weakening. It also reported the slowest-ever increase in iPhone shipments.

Global smartphone sales in 2016 are expected to grow at their slowest rate – in single digits in percentage terms, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

 

Fingerprint Technology Firms Looking To Move Beyond Unlocking Smartphones

April 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A tap of a finger could soon suffice to identify credit card shoppers and rail commuters, offering areas of new business for firms which have benefited from the use of such technology in smartphones.

Sweden’s Fingerprint Cards (FPC) sees biometric smart cards — those using fingerprint identification — becoming its fastest growing market as early as 2018, having already become the market leader in a crowded sector for supplying such sensors for smartphones.

Others within the industry are not convinced the smart card business will take off so quickly, prompting questions about whether FPC can maintain its runaway rise in valuation.

FPC’s share price surged around 1,600 percent last year as demand for fingerprint sensors in phones soared after Apple, which uses its own in-house supplier, helped to popularize the technology. FPC now has a market value of around $4.1 billion.

Advocates say the technology offers greater security and simplicity when compared to techniques such as using pin codes to confirm identification.

The fingerprint sensor business has a handful of companies supplying significant volumes today, with an equal number planning to enter the market. Three are based in the Nordic region where technology companies have thrived.

Needing to maintain its momentum, FPC says it is in initial talks with potential big customers for smart cards. It declines to name names at this stage.

“Our ambition for smart cards, and all other segments, is that we shall continue to be number one,” FPC’s Chief Executive Jorgen Lantto told Reuters.

Silicon Valley firm Synaptics, the closest rival to FPC in sensors for smartphones, is more cautious on new markets.

“It’s hard for me to project market share in a segment of the market (when) we’re not sure when it’s going to happen,” said Anthony Gioeli, vice president of marketing in the biometrics division of Synaptics.

Sascha Behlendorf, a card systems product manager at Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient, one of the top three smart card makers, expects widespread adoption of biometrics in smart cards could take some five to 10 years.

 

 

Facebook Gives Its Live Streaming Service A Boost

April 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is increasing its focus on video with a new tool that will help hardware makers build devices to stream live to the social networking service.

The new Facebook Live API will let publishers and hardware makers build tools that connect with the social network’s live video streaming feature. That means broadcasters will be able to stream video from hardware that integrates with the service like DJI drones and the new Mevo camera, along with broadcast software like Livestream, ffmpeg and Xsplit.

It’s a move to help video producers bring live video to Facebook without having to do something extreme like strap an iPhone to a camera rig, which is what they currently have to do. With the new tool, Facebook also makes it easier for developers and broadcasters to bring higher quality video to Live, too.

Users will also have the ability to share a live broadcast with members of a group, or people who are registered for an event, in addition to broadcasting to their friends or to the world at large. People watching a live broadcast can add live emoji reactions, similar to adding reactions to a news feed.

The functionality is a push by Facebook to compete with other live streaming services like Periscope, which is owned by rival social network Twitter. With the rise of pervasive, high-speed mobile connectivity, live streaming is becoming more prevalent. Facebook is likely feeling the pressure from its competition, but it’s in a strong position, according to Forrester analyst Nick Barber.

“Paired with its active users and algorithm, Facebook stands to create a new revenue stream with live events,” he said in an email. “It makes Facebook a one-stop shop for users who want to consume news, live events and connect with family and friends.”

Improving live streaming may make the platform more appealing to people who know they want to stream their event to the Web somehow, but haven’t yet decided how to do it. If Facebook can become the de facto home for live broadcasts from celebrities and big brands, that could put the company in a lucrative position.

“Recorded video is very engaging on social channels, and live creates even more opportunities for brands and individuals,” Barber said.

 

 

 

Is Oculus Giving Your Private Data To Facebook?

April 11, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Last week, a report in The Independent said that the Oculus Rift VR headset knows when it’s switched on and when its user is moving around. All this is a given, surely, but not so ideal are the parts about marketing and advertising, which is where most of the news site’s concerns lie.

Buried among the mundane it finds this: “We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our service. We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.”

Oculus has spoken out about the report. In a statement given to UploadVR, Oculus said that the policy is in place to ensure it offers the best virtual experience and made no suggestion that things would be changing.

“We want to create the absolute best VR experience for people, and to do that, we need to understand how our products are being used and we’re thinking about privacy every step of the way,” a rep for the company said.

“The Oculus privacy policy was drafted so we could be very clear with the people who use our services about the ways we receive or collect information, and how we may use it.

“For example, one thing we may do is use information to improve our services and to make sure everything is working properly—such as checking device stability and addressing technical issues to improve the overall experience.”

Oculus also noted that, while Facebook owns it and runs some of its services, they are not currently sharing the collected data.

“We don’t have advertising yet and Facebook is not using Oculus data for advertising—though these are things we may consider in the future,” it said.

This isn’t the first time Oculus has ticked real people off, with the firm falling victim to a fallout over prices and upset Minecraft when it was only a flicker in the Zuckerberg eye and a rustle through the pages in his wallet.

The once loved and Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift took a bit of a personality whacking after going through the Zuckerberg system and, while it was a market leading proposition, now finds itself at elbow, or temple, level with a range of competitors.

 

Courtesy-TheInq