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Google May Launch ‘Android Auto’ For Cars

December 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google may be planning to roll out a version of Android Auto for vehicle infotainment centers — also known as head units — that will eliminate the need for a smartphone to be connected, giving native access to the Internet and mobile applications.

Currently, Apple’s CarPlay, or open source standards such as MirrorLink or GENIVI, enable vehicle infotainment centers to mirror a version of a smartphone OS onto a vehicle’s head unit, thereby enabling the driver to use specific applications, such as Google Maps or iTunes. Google also announced Android Auto earlier this year, which when available next year, will mirror a connected Android smartphone to the car’s head unit.

The difference with what Google may be planning, according to one report, is that Android Auto would be native on the head unit, and a driver would no longer necessarily need a smartphone to connect to those applications and the Internet.

Thilo Koslowski, a vice president at industry research firm Gartner, said what Google may be planning should be no surprise as executives talked about it when they announced the formation of the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) earlier this year. The OAA includes Google, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and processor chip company Nvidia.

During the initial OAA announcement, Google talked about the car eventually becoming another device platform, Koslowski said.

The difference, according to the Reuters report, is that the upcoming version of Android Auto (or whatever Google decides on calling it) won’t be mirroring an application interface from a connected smartphone; it will have that interface natively.

 

 

 

How About A Self-destructing BlackBerry?

December 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd  is collaborating with Boeing Co on Boeing’s high-security Android-based smartphone, the Canadian mobile technology company’s chief executive said last Friday.

The Boeing Black phone being developed by the Chicago-based aerospace and defense contractor, which is best known for jetliners and fighter planes, can self-destruct if it is tampered with.

The Boeing Black device encrypts calls and is aimed at government agencies and others that need to keep communications and data secure.

“We’re pleased to announce that Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide a secure mobile solution for Android devices utilizing our BES 12 platform,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen said on a conference call held to discuss its quarterly results.

“That, by the way, is all they allow me to say.”

The BlackBerry Enterprise Service, or BES 12, will allow clients such as corporations and government agencies to manage and secure not just BlackBerry devices on internal networks, but those that run on rival operating systems such as Google’s  Android and Apple’s iOS.

The Boeing phone uses dual SIM cards to enable it to access multiple cell networks and can be configured to connect with biometric sensors and satellites. Boeing has begun offering the phone to potential customers.

 

Will ARM Have A Profitable 2015?

December 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

British chip designer ARM could cash in on the mobile industry’s rush to transition to 64-bit operating systems and hardware.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Matt Ramsey argues that ARM is still a ‘Buy’ stock, as it’s trading at $43, while his price target is $54 to $56. Ramsay is upbeat for a number of reasons and the 64-bit craze is one o them.

He pointed out that sales of ARMv8 chips are raping up and are no longer limited to Apple. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 is also based on ARMv8, along with all other upcoming 64-bit SoCs. Ramsey named Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung as the three biggest contributors to ARM’s 64-bit business.

In addition to smartphones, ARMv8 designs are finding their way into enterprise networks and servers, creating even more opportunities. This is good news for ARM, as its royalties for processor designs based on the ARMv8 instruction set are significantly higher than for venerable 32-bit parts.

Courtesy-Fud

BlackBerry Launches ‘Classic’ Smartphone

December 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd rolled out its much anticipated Classic on Wednesday, a smartphone it hopes will help it win back market share and woo those still using older versions of its physical keyboard devices.

The Canadian mobile technology company said the new device, which bears striking similarities to its once wildly popular Bold and Curve handsets, boasts a larger screen, longer battery life, an expanded app library with access to offerings from Amazon.com Inc’s Android App store, and a browser three times faster than the one on its legacy devices.

“The conversation about BlackBerry has changed in the last year,” Chief Executive John Chen said as he launched the Classic at Manhattan’s upscale Cipriani restaurant. “We are here to stay, there is no question about that. Now we have to engineer our growth.”

He said BlackBerry had listened to its fans and brought back the command bar functionality that helped make its legacy phones easy to navigate.

When the company initially introduced its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and devices early in 2012 it put more emphasis on touchscreens, alienating many fans of its physical keyboard.

Those who moved to the new physical keyboard phones that BlackBerry launched later were unhappy that command keys such as the Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, along with the trackpad had been dropped.

With the Classic and the recent launch of its Passport smartphone, Chen is in some ways taking the company back to its roots, re-emphasizing the physical keyboard, rather than trying to compete directly against the touchscreen handsets of dominant rivals like Samsung Electronics and Apple.

“We expect the Classic to be the most popular BlackBerry enterprise device and the easiest transition for current BB7 (legacy device) users,” said Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um.

 

 

Study Finds Android Apps Frequently Using Permissions Granted

December 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Android apps really take advantage of those permissions they ask for to access users’ personal information: one online store records a phone’s location up to 10 times a minute, French researchers have found. The tools to manage such access are limited, and inadequate given how much information phones can gather.

In a recent study, ten volunteers used Android phones that tracked app behavior using a monitoring app, Mobilitics, developed by the French National Institute for Informatics Research (INRIA) in conjunction with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL). Mobilitics recorded every time another app accessed an item of personal data — the phone’s location, an identifier, photos, messages and so on — and whether it was subsequently transmitted to an external server. The log of the apps’ personal information use was stored on the phone and downloaded at the end of the three months for analysis.

The volunteers were encouraged to use the phones as if they were their own, and together used 121 apps over the period from July to September. A similar study last year used a special iOS app to examine the way iPhone apps access users’ personal data.

Many apps access phones’ identifying characteristics to track their users, the researchers said. One of the few options users have to avoid this tracking is a switch in the “Google Settings” app to reset their phone’s advertising ID. That’s not much help, though, as apps have other ways to identify users. Almost two-thirds of apps studied in the three-month real-world test accessed at least one mobile phone identifier, a quarter of them at least two identifiers, and a sixth three or more. That allows the apps to build up profiles of their users for advertising purposes.

Location was one of the most frequently-accessed items of data. It accounted for 30 percent of all accesses to personal information during the test, and 30 percent of the apps studied accessed it at some point. The Facebook app recorded one volunteer’s location 150,000 times during the three-month period — more than once per minute, on average, while the Google Play Store tracked another user ten times per minute at times. Often, the only use apps make of such information is to serve personalized advertising, as was the case with one game that recorded a user’s location 3,000 times during the study.

 

 

Samsung Finally Starts 14nm FinFET

December 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A company insider has spilled the beans in Korea, claiming that Samsung has started Apple A9 production in 14nm FinFET.

The A9 is the next generation SoC for Apple iPhone and iPad products and it is manufactured on the Samsung – GlobalFoundries 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. In the other news, Samsung’s Ki-nam, president of the company’s semiconductor business and head of System LSI business has confirmed that the company started production of 14-nanometre FinFET chips.

The report mentions Austin as a possible site for Apple products but we wonder if the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 in New York State could become one of the partners for the 14nm FinFET manufacturing. Samsung didn’t officially reveal the client for the 14nm FinFET, but Apple is the most obvious candidate, while we expect to see 14 / 16nm FinFET graphics chips from AMD and Nvidia but most likely in the latter half of 2015 at best.

Qualcomm is likely to announce new LTE modem based on 14nm FinFET and the flagship SoC Snapdragon 810 is a 20nm chip. Qualcomm is manufacturing its 810 chips as we speak to meet demand for flagship Android phones coming in Q1 2015. Flagship Samsung, HTC and LG phones among others are likely to use Snapdragon 810 as a replacement for this year’s Snapdragon 801, a high end chip that ended up in millions of high-end phones.

Samsung / GlobalFoundries14nm FinFET process is 15 percent smaller, 20 percent faster, and 35 percent more power efficient compared to 20nm processors. This definitely sounds exiting and will bring more performance into phones, tablets, GPUs and will significantly decrease power consumption. The move from 28nm is long overdue.

We believe that Qualcomm’s LTE modem might be the first chip to officially come with this manufacturing process and Apple will probably take most of the 14nm production for an update in its tablets and phones scheduled for 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Acquires Startup Accompli

December 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Putting a plan in motion for advanced Office mail functionality on non-Windows platforms, Microsoft has acquired Acompli, a startup that provides software for organizing email on mobile devices.

“Our goal is to deliver fantastic cross-platform apps that support the variety of email services people use today and help them accomplish more,” wrote Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365, in a blog post announcing the purchase.

Over the past year, Microsoft has been extending its Office set of office productivity software and services so they can be accessed on non-Windows devices. The company has released Office apps for the iPad and iPhone, and is working on a version of Office for Android.

Founded in 2013, Acompli offers an iPhone and Android mobile e-mail client that streamlines many of the basic tasks around managing e-mail so they can be completed on the device itself, rather than by using a desktop client. Users have reported that the software works particularly well with Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail servers. Microsoft offers a basic version of Outlook for iPhones, though thus far it has seemingly garnered only a lukewarm response from users.

The free Acompli app offers advanced features such as the ability to view both calendar items and email side by side on the same screen. The calendar lets users email available times for proposed meetings and send a message when they are running late.

Microsoft plans to pair the Acompli development team with the team for its own Outlook e-mail client.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though tech website Re/Code reported that the acquisition was worth more than $200 million.

 

 

Samsung Sheds Fiber Optics Unit

December 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed to sell its fiber optics operations to U.S. specialty glass maker Corning Inc, shutting the door on another non-core business to focus on shoring up underperforming key areas like smartphones.

Terms of the sale, including plants in China and South Korea, weren’t disclosed. Announced by both parties on Tuesday, the South Korean firm’s second exit from a business line this quarter comes as it braces for its lowest annual profit in three years, squeezed by stiff competition.

The world’s top maker of smartphones has been caught between Chinese rivals like Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd  at the low end and Apple Inc’s iPhones at the top. Samsung Electronics’ share of the global smartphone industry has shrunk year-on-year for the last three quarters.

“We have decided to sell our fibre optics business, in order to focus on our core business areas,” a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. The company declined to comment on how much revenue the division generates.

The firm also said in October it will halt its light emitting diode lighting business outside of its home country, which was also considered a non-core business.

 

 

Samsung To Decides To Launch Tizen Smartphone In India

December 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd had decided to launch a new sub-$100 smartphone running on its own Tizen operating system in India later this month, South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper is reporting.

The paper, a local business daily, said Samsung will hold a press conference on Dec. 10 to launch its first Tizen smartphone, to be called the Z1. A Samsung Electronics spokeswoman declined to comment.

Samsung had initially planned to launch a Tizen smartphone in Russia in the third quarter but scrapped the plan. The firm said at the time that it wanted to further enhance the ecosystem behind Tizen. Only a handful of devices, including the firm’s smartwatch products, currently run on the platform.

The majority of Samsung’s mobile devices are based on Google’s Android platform. The South Korean firm’s push to develop its own operating system is part of efforts to reduce dependence on the U.S. firm, but delays in product launches have undercut expectations.

 

 

 

 

Amazon Cuts Fire Phone Price Again

December 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon has dropped the price for its unlocked Fire smartphone by 69% just four months after the phone first went on sale.

The company also just deleted thousands of negative online customer reviews of the smartphone on its website.

The latest discount first appeared on Amazon.com last week, dropping the unlocked 32GB price from its original $649 to $199; the price still includes one year of Prime service, worth $99, and is good through Cyber Monday (Dec. 1).

In addition to the price cut, Amazon deleted thousands of customer reviews of the product, leaving up only reviews posted since the price cut went into effect.

Just one review appeared as of noon ET Wednesday: “Dan” gave the Fire four stars out five and called the $199 price “awesome,” adding that he wished it ran pure Android. (It runs the Fire OS, an Android variant.)

An Amazon spokeswoman said there weren’t more reviews because the revised unlocked version just launched on its Web site. She said it has been upgraded with added features such as text translation, a secure corporate VPN and user interface and performance improvements; those added features will be rolled out to existing Fire customers over-the-air in coming weeks, she added.

By comparison, customer reviews back in late October scored the device with just 2.4 stars out of five, based on nearly 4,000 reviews.

Various negative complaints included access to too few apps and concerns that the Fire got hot to the touch. Some users called the phone “gimmicky,” pointing to various innovative features like Firefly for instant access to information on products and objects, customer support with Mayday and a sensor system with 3D-like capabilities called Dynamic Perspective.

 

 

McAfee’s Biometric Authentication Software Coming By End Of The Year

November 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A McAfee security product that will use biometric technology to authenticate users will be available for download by the end of the year, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, last week.

“Your biometrics basically eliminate the need for you to enter passwords for Windows log in and eventually all your websites ever again,” Skaugen said.

Further product details were not immediately available. But one of the major inconveniences in using PCs and tablets is remembering passwords, which biometrics can tame.

An average user has about 18 passwords and biometric authentication will make PCs easier to use, Skaugen said.

Biometric authentication isn’t new. It’s being used in Apple Pay, where fingerprint authentication helps authorize credit card payments through the iPhone or iPad. Intel has been working on multiple forms of biometric authentication through fingerprint, gesture, face and voice recognition.

McAfee is owned by Intel, and the chip maker is building smartphone, tablet and PC technology that takes advantage of the security software. Intel has also worked on biometric technology for wearable devices like SMS Audio’s BioSport In-Ear Headphones, which can measure a person’s heart rate.

Intel also wants to make PCs and tablets easier to use through wireless charging, display, docking and data transfers. Such capabilities would eliminate the need to carry power brick and cables for displays and data transfers. Such capabilities will start appearing in laptops next year with sixth-generation Core chips code-named Skylake, which will be released in the second half.

 

 

Sony To Slash Mobile Phone, TV Product Lines

November 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japan’s hemorrhaging technology giant Sony Corp plans to slice its TV and mobile phone product line-ups to cut costs, counting on multi-billion dollar revenue surges for its buoyant PlayStation 4 and image sensor businesses over the next three years.

Having lost ground to nimbler rivals like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in consumer electronics, Sony said on Tuesday its goal for TV and smartphones is to turn a profit, even if sales slide as much as 30 percent.

“We’re not aiming for size or market share but better profits,” Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s newly appointed chief of its mobile division told an investors’ conference. A poor showing by its Xperia smartphones has weighed heavily on recent earnings and Sony said more detail on plans for the unit will be unveiled before end-March.

Under its new three-year electronics business plan, Sony said it was aiming to boost sales for its videogame division by a quarter to as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($13.6 billion). It said that will be helped by personalized TV, video and music distribution services that should lift revenue per paying user.

At its devices division, which houses its image sensor business, Sony said sales could increase 70 percent to as much as 1.5 trillion yen. Sony’s sensor sales are already robust, with Apple using them in its iPhones while Chinese handset manufacturers are increasingly adopting them.

In a similar event last week for its entertainment units, the conglomerate said it was aiming to lift its movie and TV programming revenues by a third over the next three years.

 

 

Apple Pay Enjoys Success As More Retailers Jump Onboard

November 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. consumers have been leery of in-store mobile payments for years, but Apple Pay is making gains in that area just a month after the service launched Oct. 20.

Apple’s latest success with Apple Pay includes the addition of support from hundreds of grocery stores within six major chains in the past week: BiLo Holding, 830 stores; Harvey’s and Winn-Dixie, 530; Albertson’s and Jewel-Osco, 180; Shaws and Star Markets, 150; United Food Stores, 60; and Associated Food Stores, 135. Wegmans and Whole Foods were already part of the original 35 retail chains offering Apple Pay in an estimated 225,000 stores, about 5% of all possible U.S. retail locations.

In addition, on Thursday, American First Credit Union said its Visa card now supports Apple Pay, joining more than 500 U.S. banks already supporting the service through Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards.

In the past week, SunTrust and Regions Bank added their support.

McDonald’s has confirmed that more than 50% of its in-store mobile payments at 14,000 restaurants were made with Apple Pay in its first month. Whole Foods recently said it processed more than 150,000 Apple Pay transactions in the first three weeks of the service. And Walgreens, the national drug store chain, said in-store mobile payments had doubled since Apple Pay launched.

 

 

Apple To Bundle Beats Music Into iOS

November 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, according to an article by the Financial Times.

The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update, which would instantly make it available on millions of iPhones and iPads, could happen as early as March, the daily reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The move will mark the company’s first big push into subscription music, at a time when downloads from its iTunes are in decline, the paper said.

The service, which is likely to be rebranded under the iTunes label, will compete with music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Soundcloud.

Google Inc said last week that YouTube is rolling out a long-awaited paid monthly music subscription service called YouTube Music Key.

Apple, which bought music streaming and audio equipment company Beats in May for $3 billion, could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

 

WhatsApp Adds End-to-End Encryption

November 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Stepping up efforts to keep its users messages safe from prying eyes, WhatsApp announced that it now supports end-to-end encryption for messages sent between users.

The end-to-end encryption comes thanks to a collaboration between WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems, an open-source development company focused on secure communications.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has more than 600 million users who log in monthly, making Open Whisper’s encryption deployment the largest ever in the area of end-to-end encrypted communication, Open Whisper said.

The encryption is on by default. It’s only available for Android right now, though the companies are working to roll out support for other platforms.

End-to-end encryption has gained attention following the disclosures about government surveillance last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, the flood of cyber attacks targeting retailers and Internet companies alike have highlighted the need for better data security.

Edward Snowden himself has called end-to-end encryption the best possible form of encryption, because it keeps people’s data encrypted even while it’s on company servers. The data, in theory, can only be decrypted on people’s personal devices. That means outside groups must target individuals’ machines if they want to access the data.

Some other mainstream services like Google have released products to facilitate end-to-end encryption. And along with Apple, Google’s also working to make encryption the default on smartphones.

But end-to-end encryption still is primarily offered by lesser known companies that don’t rely on people’s data for advertising.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption uses Whisper’s TextSecure protocol, which encrypts text messages over the air and on people’s phones.

WhatsApp declined to comment further on the encryption deployment.