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Dell, BlackBerry Downplay Apple-IBM Alliance

July 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

IBM Corp’s recent move to team up with Apple Inc to sell iPhones and iPads loaded with corporate applications has excited investors in both companies, but two rivals say they are unfazed for now.

Top executives at Dell and BlackBerry Ltd scoffed at the threat posed by the alliance, arguing the tie-up is unlikely to derail the efforts of their own companies to re-invent themselves.

“I do not think that we take the Apple-IBM tie-up terribly seriously. I think it just made a good press release,” John Swainson, who heads Dell’s global software business, said in an interview with Reuters in Toronto last week.

PC maker Dell and smartphone maker BlackBerry are in the midst of reshaping their companies around software and services, as the needs of their big corporate clients morph.

Swainson, who spent over two decades in senior roles at IBM, said, “I have some trouble understanding how IBM reps are going to really help Apple very much in terms of introducing devices into their accounts. I mean candidly, they weren’t very good at doing it when it was IBM-logoed products, so I do not get how introducing Apple-logoed stuff is going to be much better.”

While conceding that Apple products hold more allure, Swainson said they lack the depth of security features that many large business clients like banks covet.

IBM and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen similarly downplayed the threat of the alliance in an interview with the Financial Times, likening the tie-up to when “two elephants start dancing.”

 

 

Sony Wants To Capitalize On The ‘Selfie’ Boom

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp said that it has plans to invest 35 billion yen ($345 million) to increase production of image sensors for smartphones and tablets, as the company courts handset makers to get more orders for front-facing camera sensors, used to take selfies.

The Japanese firm said it will increase production of stacked CMOS sensors at two factories on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, while completing work on a factory in northwestern Japan it bought from Renesas Electronics Corp for a total investment of 35 billion yen.

Sony, which currently supplies image sensors for the main camera in Apple Inc’s iPhone said the investment will allow it to raise production by 13 percent to 68,000 wafers a month by August 2015, a step closer to its mid-term goal of 75,000.

Imaging sensors are an area of strength for Sony, which leads the market ahead of Omnivision Technologies Inc, whose sensors are mostly used in front-facing smartphone modules that typically have lower specifications than the main rear camera.

Sony told Reuters in March that it was looking to supply more sensors for front-facing cameras as smartphone makers were looking to improve their quality in response to consumers taking more ‘selfies’, or self-portraits, as well as video calls.

Of the total investment, 9 billion yen will be spent this year, which will come out of the 65 billion yen capex budget for semiconductors announced in May. The remaining 26 billion yen will be spent in the first half of the fiscal year starting next March.

 

Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Are Governments Doing Enough To Warn People On The Risk of Cybercrime?

July 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The UK Government isn’t doing enough to warn about the risks of cybercrime on a mass level, security firm Kaspersky has claimed.

Speaking at a company roundtable event at the firm’s European hub in London on Thursday, Kaspersky security researcher David Emm said isn’t doing as much as it could be to educate people about cyber security.

“I’d like to see the government doing more to get the message out to mainstream citizens and individuals because that’s the bone in which the industry is growing; the individuals with ideas,” Emm said

“If you look at it, the recent Cyber Street Wise campaign aside, I don’t think the government is doing very much in terms of mainstream messaging and I would certainly like to see it do more.”

Emm used the example of major UK marketing campaigns promoting the dangers of drink driving as an ideal model because they have been drilled into us over the years.

“As parents, we’ve this body of common sense, such as drinks driving, and it’s drip, drip, drip, over the years that has achieved that and I think we need to get to a point where we have some body of online common sense in which business people can draw upon; there’s definitely a role for education.”

Barclay’s bank, which was also present at the roundtable, agreed with Emm.

“The government really needs to recognise this is a serious issue – if you’re bright enough to set up your own business, you’re bright enough to protect yourself,” added the firm’s MD of fraud prevention Alex Grant.

Emm concluded by saying that the government’s Cyber Street Wise campaign that was launched in January was good enough to make people aware of the risks of cybercrime in the metropolitan areas. However, he said he’d like to see the government focus more on regional areas as people in sparsely populated areas weren’t as aware of it.

Kaspersky’s roundtable took place as part of the firm’s launch of a report that found small businesses in the UK are “woefully unprepared” for an IT security breach, despite relying increasingly on mobile devices and storing critical information on computers.

The study found that nearly a third, or 31 percent, of small businesses would not know what to do if they had an IT security breach tomorrow, with four in ten saying that they would struggle to recover all data lost and a quarter admitting they would be unable to recover any.

Courtesy-TheInq

Sony’s FeliCa Smartcard Chip Is Gearing Up For Wearables

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re waiting for that multi-functional smartwatch of your dreams, Sony is working to add contactless payments to wearables with a new chip.

The electronics giant’s FeliCa Networks subsidiary is modifying its FeliCa contactless card technology, widely used in Japan for public transit and e-money payments, for wearables.

The company is designing a low-power chip that could be used in wearables such as smartwatches and smart bands, giving them contactless e-money or transit functions or access to restricted areas.

That would allow users to board a train or bus simply by waving a smartwatch near a chip reader, eliminating the need for a separate smart card.

“The wearables field is just beginning so we’re considering what users will want with this functionality as well as what degree of compactness and power savings it will have,” a spokeswoman for FeliCa Networks said.

The company is also developing FeliCa smartcards with small LCD screens and a touch interface that can display information when users swipe their fingers across the cards.

This “interactive FeliCa card,” still in the prototype stage, can show the remaining balance of money stored in the card, for instance, or payment history.

While about 45 million Android smartphones in Japan have had the FeliCa chip since 2012, iPhones do not support it. The LCD smart card could link with iPhones via Bluetooth so users could check their balances on their phones.

FeliCa Networks hopes to introduce the LCD smartcards in the year to April 2016.

One in two people in Japan has a mobile phone with NFC FeliCa phone functions, according to FeliCa Networks.

The company has shipped more than 236 million of its Mobile FeliCa chips as of December 2013, while Suica, a FeliCa-based smartcard for railways in the Tokyo area, can be used in 230,000 stores.

 

 

The EC Goes After Apple

July 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The European Commission (EC) has scolded Apple for its lack of action on its “misleading” in-app purchase practices, while praising Google for its impending changes.

The EC said on Friday that has teamed with national authorities to put an end to the ongoing in-app purchases problem , which has lead to it receiving a “large number of complaints” related to inadvertent purchases of virtual crap by children.

EU commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said in a statement, “This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces. I am happy to see that it is delivering tangible results.

“This is significant for consumers. In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organise the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union. It has demonstrated that cooperation pays off and helps to improve the protection of consumers in all member states.”

The EC has singled out Apple and Google as the worst culprits, and said that it is looking to the two firms to prevent games from luring children into the world-of in app purchases.

It has had a word with Google about such practices, following Apple’s complaint to the FTC in the US about it, and the firm has already put together a list of changes that it will implement by the end of September. These include not using the word “free” when games contain in-app purchases, developing reworked guidelines for developers, and to better monitoring of apps.

The EC has called out Apple about this too, after the US FTC hit the firm with a whopping $32.5bn fine earlier this year, which it had to pay back to disgruntled parents whose kids racked up in-app purchases bills on their iPhone or iPad.

However, in its latest release, the EC has criticized Apple for its lack of further action, noting that – unlike Google – the firm hasn’t proposed any changes. However, the EC did say that Apple has promised it will address EC concerns, although it hasn’t yet made any commitments.

The EC made no mention of Amazon, despite the firm having been sued by the FTC over its in-app purchases practices.

Courtesy-TheInq

Nearly 1M Fake Apps Are Targeting Your Mobile Devices

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Fake apps purposely masked to look like official ones but actually designed to steal user data are increasingly targeting Android phone users, according to a study by Trend Micro.

The company looked at the top 50 free apps in Google’s Play Store and then searched Google’s app store and others to see if fake versions existed. It found fake versions existed for 77 percent of the apps. The fake apps are often made to look like the real ones and have the same functions, but carry a dangerous extra payload.

“We’ve been tracking the activity of malicious or high-risk apps for nearly five years,” said JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro. “The potential for people to slip things past the gate and appear legitimate is much easier.”

Tokyo-based Trend Micro, which makes antivirus and antimalware software that guard against such risks, said it cataloged 890,482 fake apps in a survey conducted in April this year. More than half were judged to be malicious of which 59,185 were aggressive adware and 394,263 were malware.

The most common type of fake app purports to be antivirus software — targeting users who think they are protecting themselves from such problems. In some cases, the apps ask users to approve administrator privileges, which allow the app wider access to the phone’s software and data and make it more difficult to remove.

While many of the fake apps exist on forums or third-party app stores where security is either weaker than Google’s Play Store or nonexistent, fake apps can also invade the official Google store.

“A more recent example of a rogue antivirus app known as “Virus Shield” received a 4.7-star rating after being downloaded more than 10,000 times, mostly with the aid of bots,” Trend Micro said in its report.

Cheekily, scammers charged $3.99 for the fake app, which promised to prevent harmful apps from being installed. It was removed by Google after a few days, but not before it fooled thousands of users and even became a “top new paid app” in the Play Store. Trend said it was “perplexing” how the app achieved “top” status.

Attackers sometimes play on hype for apps.

When the “Flappy Bird” game was taken off the Play Store, fake versions appeared, some of which sent premium text messages. And before BlackBerry released its BBM messenger app for Android, a number of fake versions appeared that were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Trend Micro’s report was published on the same day Google said it had formed a security team to go after so-called “zero-day” exploits in software that allow attackers to target users before software companies issue patches.

Sherry said he thought Google’s announcement was “ironic” considering the large number of problems Trend Micro found in Google’s own backyard.

 

Will Qualcomm And Apple Give TSMC The Boot

July 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

TSMC saw its share price drop dramatically on Thursday as analysts predicted a loss of orders for next generation chips from Apple and Qualcomm.

Falling by almost six percent, the share price fell after industry expert and KGI Securities analyst Michael Li predicted that big device and chip designers such as Apple and Qualcomm will likely buy a larger proportion of 14nm smartphone chips from Samsung rather than TSMC beginning in the second half of 2015, according to Reuters.

Liu did not reveal the source of his information, which he issued late on Wednesday following an investor conference held after TSMC reported its second quarter earnings.

Despite the news, TSMC, which is the world’s largest contract chip maker, reported its highest quarterly profit since the end of 2006, and said it expects revenue to grow at least a record 20 percent this year.

However, reports sent TSMC’s share price down by around 5.75 percent in Thursday trade compared with a one percent decline in the benchmark index.

On Wednesday, chip maker Intel posted a quarterly record for microprocessor unit sales with better than expected earnings for the second quarter.

The record-breaking figures showed second quarter earnings of $2.8bn  on $13.8bn  in revenue, and were owing to the firm’s surprisingly strong sales in the PC client group, which pulled in $8.7bn in revenue, as well as its data center and internet of things divisions.

Intel’s earnings of $0.55 per share were slightly above the expectations of Wall Street analysts, which had forecast lower earnings per share of $0.52 on revenue of $13.69bn.

The boost in the earnings of Intel’s PC client group could be attributable to a growing number of businesses upgrading their old PC systems due to the end of life of Windows XP.

Courtesy-TheInq

Apple Agrees To $450 Settlement In E-book Antitrust Case

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has agreed to pay $450 million to settle U.S. state and consumer claims the iPad manufacturer conspired with five major publishers to fix e-book prices, according to court records filed Wednesday.

The settlement, which would provide $400 million for consumers, is conditioned on the outcome of a pending appeal of a New York federal judge’s ruling last year that Apple was liable for violating antitrust laws.

A ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reversing the judge could, under the settlement, either reduce the amount Apple pays to $70 million, with $50 million for consumers, or eliminate payments altogether.

“While we cannot predict the outcome of the appeal with certainty, we are confident in the case we made against Apple at trial,” Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement.

Apple in a statement denied that it had conspired to fix e-book prices and said it would continue pressing its case on appeal.

“We did nothing wrong and we believe a fair assessment of the facts will show it,” Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, said.

The settlement, which requires approval of U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, had been announced in June. Terms were not disclosed at the time.

It came ahead of an Aug. 25 damages trial, in which attorneys general in 33 states and territories and lawyers for a class of consumers were expected to seek up to $840 million.

The deal follows earlier settlements with five publishers that provided $166 million for e-book purchasers.

Combined with the $400 million from Apple, the recovery is “among the exceedingly rare cases that provide consumers nationwide with double the amount of their estimated damages,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in a motion.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the state attorneys general sued Apple and five publishers in April 2012, accusing them of working together illegally to increase e-book prices.

In July 2013, Cote found Apple liable for colluding with the publishers to impede e-book competitors such as Amazon.com Inc after a non-jury trial.

The publishers include Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan.

 

IBM To Partner With Apple To Sell iPads, iPhones For Business Users

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

International Business Machines Corp will join forces exclusively with Apple Inc to offer iPhones and iPads loaded with applications geared at enterprise clients this fall, the company announced.

The announcement, just days before IBM releases its second quarter earnings, comes as the company attempts to shift its focus to software and services as its hardware unit continues to slump, and follows a string of mobile software acquisitions. The company hopes software sales will contribute half of its total profit by 2015.

The company will release more than 100 apps targeting industry specific issues in retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation and telecommunications IBM said on Tuesday.

“We wanted to focus on creating an absolutely irresistible workflow and processes and a design of apps that can be used by every user in the organization,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global business services told Reuters from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“We wanted to remove some of the existing barriers of mobile in enterprise,” she said adding that chief information officers worry about security, utilizing cloud and installing apps in mobile devices.

The partnership, which was six months in the making, will offer services geared at security, mobile device management and big data and analytics. The company also plans to develop cloud services optimized for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The devices will operate through wireless carriers chosen by the client, she said.

BlackBerry Ltd shares were down 3 percent following the announcement. The Canadian smartphone maker has increasingly targeted its secure software at businesses as part of an effort to turn the company around after losing ground to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co.

Apple and Samsung have steadily expanded their share of the mobile enterprise market in recent years, mostly at Blackberry’s expense, while Microsoft Windows phones have made little headway.

Increasingly, Apple’s expansion has been driven by employees bringing in their own devices and requesting corporate support, the so-called bring-your-own-IT trend.

Hooking up with IBM may help address lingering concerns about smartphone software security and data privacy, in the form of a veteran partner that’s led in enterprise IT for decades.

“This deal is a very targeted attempt by Apple with the help from IBM to focus on the enterprise, corporate market which has really been the main business of Blackberry,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

 

 

Is Apple Having Issues With Sharp?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

There is a spat brewing between Apple and its long term supplier Sharp. Sharp has been making Apple displays for ages and has an entire plant dedicated to this purpose. The manufacturing gear now belongs to Apple and Sharp wants to buy the equipment back for $293 million.

Apparently, Sharp wants to diversify its production and shift away from supplying only to Apple. Jobs’ Mob is amenable to the idea of selling the facilities but only if Sharp never sells anything to Samsung. Samsung mostly utilizes OLED screens in most of its products, so there is little for Apple to worry about. However some devices still use LCD screens and might have Sharp gear under the bonnet.

An agreement has not yet been reached and it seems unlikely as the manufacturer is not keen on accepting the blatant anti-competitive behaviour or as Apple would say “shrewed negotiation ability.”

Sharp does not want to piss off Apple. It is busy producing iPhone 6 screens for Apple and the Kameyama Plant No. 1 which is the one that Sharp wants to buy back, flat out.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Rumored To Be Cutting Jobs Soon

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp is said to be planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the software giant moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The reductions, expected to be announced as soon as this week, could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering, Bloomberg reported.

Since absorbing the handset business of Nokia this spring, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall Street is expecting Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, which would represent Microsoft’s first major layoffs since 2009.

The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, the report said.

Some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other job cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization, Bloomberg reported.

Last week, Nadella circulated a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but deferred any comment on widely expected job cuts at the software company.

Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month, when Microsoft reports quarterly results on July 22.

 

Is Super-AMOLED Technology Taking Off?

July 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung is finding that only it is interested in its Super AMOLED display technology. Although the technology has been improving with every new flagship since the original Galaxy S, the outfit is finding that no one is really interested.

Samsung Display CEO Park Dong-geun told CNET, Samsung has nowhere else to sell our products besides Samsung Electronics’ mobile division. In the case of China’s smartphone market, we are only just beginning to expand there. Other major manufacturers have expressed an interest in AMOLED displays, including Motorola and Nokia. But they have instead focused on their own tech or licensed standard AMOLED displays from other firms.

Most of them have been content with using LCD displays. Park has been unable to offer a reason why other OEMs continue to avoid its Super AMOLED technology. It is possible that they are unwilling to license a technology from Samsung, the largest player in the smartphone world.

In case of players like HTC, another reason could be the fact that Super AMOLED displays have always had problems such as not-so-natural colors and bluish or greenish whites. However these problems are have been going away since last year and the technology is getting better.

Courtesy-Fud

Standalone Wearables Coming This Year, Says AT&T

July 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The most successful wearable devices will be ones that can operate without a phone, and AT&T will have at least one of them by the end of this year, the man who manages the carrier’s partnerships said.

“It needs to be an independent device. It needs to do something different for the end user, for people to buy it en masse,” said Glenn Lurie, AT&T’s president of emerging enterprises and partnerships.

A likely place to start could be wearables for wellness, such as a device that knows when your workout’s begun, holds your music, and lets you post information about your performance to social networks, he said. “I think you’ll see devices like that this year,” Lurie said.

The hottest devices will be able to work both on their own and with a phone, Lurie said. They’ll also have to be simple to use, a bar that no wearable has crossed yet, he said.

Once wearables start talking to LTE on their own, the sky’s the limit of what consumers will take with them, Lurie said. “Just like tablets, it’s going to all of a sudden explode.”

Cars will be another hot category of connected devices, with natural-language commands letting drivers do many things, he said.

“We believe technology in a car can make the car not only a safer place, but a place where you can do everything you can do today with your smartphone in your hand,” Lurie said. But there are hurdles left to be crossed: Cars will need to be able to talk to both Android and iOS phones without those phones coming out of the driver’s pocket. And as cars age through several generations of mobile technology, their software will have to be upgradable over the air. “The car is going to become a smartphone with four wheels.”

Lurie has overseen AT&T’s new businesses and partnerships for years, going back to the carrier’s blockbuster deal to carry the Apple iPhone exclusively for five years. Speaking before the audience at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, he wasn’t giving away any secrets about what manufacturers are showing off to AT&T.

“The things I’m seeing are pretty darn exciting,” Lurie said.

 

Firefox Losing Share Of Browser Market

July 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has spiraled downward in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Apple’s Safari fared almost as poorly since April, also losing significant user share, with a continued decline on mobile and a sudden slide on the desktop to blame.

During June, 17.3% of those who went online surfed the Web using a mobile browser, according to Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications. Mobile browsing’s climb of nearly 6 percentage points in the last 12 months represented a growth rate of 52%.

As in April, when Computerworld last analyzed desktop + mobile browser user share, June’s numbers put the hurt on Mozilla most of all: Firefox’s total user share — the combination of desktop and mobile — was 12.9% for June, its lowest level since Computerworld began tracking the metric five years ago, and 1.2 percentage points lower than just two months before.

Mozilla’s problem remains an inability to attract a mobile audience. Although the company has long offered Firefox on Android and its Firefox OS has begun to appear on a limited number of smartphones, its mobile share was just seven-tenths of one percent, about three times smaller than the second-from-the-bottom mobile browser, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Firefox hasn’t helped itself of late, either. For the eighth straight month, the desktop version lost user share in June, falling by 1.3 percentage points to end with 15.4%. In the last year, Firefox’s desktop user share as measured by Net Applications has dropped 3.6 percentage points, representing a 19% decline.

The timing is terrible, as Mozilla’s current contract with Google ends in November. That deal, which assigned Google’s search engine as the default for most Firefox customers, has generated the bulk of Mozilla’s revenue. In 2012, for example, the last year for which financial data was available, Google paid Mozilla an estimated $272 million, or 88% of all Mozilla income.

Going into this year’s contract renewal talks, Mozilla will be bargaining from a much weaker position, down 43% in total user share since June 2011.

Apple remained behind Mozilla in desktop + mobile browser user share, with a cumulative 12.3%, down from 13.1% two months earlier. Nearly two-third of its total was credited to Safari on iOS.