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Smartwatch Sales In 2016 Experienced Signficant Decline

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The global smartwatch market experienced a decline by 32% in the second quarter of 2016, with Apple Watch shipments down by 55% when compared to a year earlier, according to research firm IDC.

The decline — the first since the market started in 2013 — is expected to reverse next year after Apple and Google launch important operating system updates this fall, IDC said. Also, more watches will launch with cellular connections to LTE wireless without the need to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone.

Apple was the only smartwatch maker in the top five to see a decline in the second quarter, although the Apple Watch remained the top smartwatch by far, with 1.6 million devices shipped and 47% of the market, IDC said.

Samsung smartwatches placed second, with 600,000 shipped and 16% of the market. Lenovo, LG Electronics and Garmin rounded out the next three positions, each with less than 300,000 smartwatches shipped.

In all, 3.5 million smartwatches shipped in the second quarter, down from 5.1 million in the second quarter of 2015, for a 32% decline.

For all of 2016, smartwatch shipments are forecast to reach 19.2 million, just slightly below the 19.3 million units in 2015. The big rebound will come in 2017, when shipments reach 28 million, IDC said.

“There’s definitely optimism down the road, but not so much in 2016,” said IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani, in an interview. IDC’s smartwatch category doesn’t include most fitness bands, which don’t run third-party applications, as smartwatches do.

The second-quarter decline for the Apple Watch came even as the device’sstarting price was dropped to $299, down from $349. Apple is expected to launch its next-generation Apple Watch and WatchOS 3 as early as September. The new device is expected to support LTE independent of a Bluetooth connection to an iPhone.

In the next two years, more traditional watch makers will enter the smartwatch market. So far, Casio, Fossil and Tag Heuer have launched their own smartwatch models. As more traditional watch brands start selling the devices, the market will grow, IDC said.

New applications and games will also help smartwatch growth, Ubrani said. Some users might want to play Pokemon Go on a smartwatch, Ubrani said. However, a Pokemon Go Plus wearable has already been announced that can be worn on the wrist with a polyester wristband to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone running the game. It will sell for $35.

 

 

 

 

Adobe’s Flash Days Are Numbered In Firefox Browser

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced that  it will follow other browser markers by limiting the use of Flash in Firefox next month.

The open-source developer added that in 2017 it will dramatically expand the anti-Flash restrictions: Firefox will require users to explicitly approve the use of Flash for any reason by any website.

As have its rivals, Mozilla cast the limitations (this year) and elimination (next year) as victories for Firefox users, citing improved security, longer battery life on laptops and faster web page rendering.

Starting in August, Firefox will block certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience, while continuing to support legacy Flash content,” wrote Benjamin Smedberg, the manager of Firefox quality engineering, in a post to a company blog.

Firefox 48 is slated to ship on Aug. 2.

The initial blocking Smedberg mentioned will be based on a list Mozilla will generate by crawling the home pages of the top 10,000 websites as ranked by Alexa. Flash content that those sites use to “fingerprint” users, or as “super cookies” — two techniques to track visitors for advertising purposes — will land on the list, and thus not be run by Flash.

Through 2016, Mozilla will expand the list in Firefox by blocking other Flash content, including that used by advertisers to measure “viewability;” whether the ad has been seen, not erased, for example, by an ad blocker.

In 2017 — Smedberg did not say when, exactly — Firefox will require users to click on Flash content to activate the plug-in, and thus show that content. The click-to-activate demand will be enforced for all Flash content on all pages of all sites.

Firefox is late to the dump-Flash party.

Other browser developers — Apple, Google and Microsoft — have been more active in limiting Flash. Safari has frozen some Flash content since 2013, while Chrome did the same in September 2015. Edge will follow suit with the release of the Aug. 2 upgrade, Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

 

 

Google’s Transparency Reports Uptick In Governments Requesting User Data

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Government requests worldwide for user data related to search engine traffic on Google surged by 29% from 2014 to 2015, according to the search site’s most recent Transparency Report.

Google reports on the government requests every six months. In the second half of 2015, it said it received more than 40,000 requests for data related to more than 81,000 user accounts; That compares to the first half of the year when Google received about 35,000 requests related to about 69,000 accounts.

In the second half of 2014, Google received 31,140 requests from U.S. entities for user information related to more than 50,000 accounts.

“Usage of our services [has] increased every year, and so have the user data request numbers,” Google said.

By far, the U.S. leads the world in government requests for data: it submitted 27,157 requests related to 12,523 user accounts in the second half of last year. The next highest country was Ireland with 12,114 requests, followed by Germany with 11,562 reqeusts.

Google agreed to hand over “some” user data for 64% of the requests worldwide, but it handed over data for U.S. government requests 79% of the time.

Several search engines and social media sites voluntarily offer annual or semi-annual transparency reports related to state and federal law enforcement information requests about user data.

Google has been publishing its semi-annual Transparency Report since 2011; the latest statistics show that requests for user data is at an all-time high.

In 2014, Apple, Microsoft, and Google were among 10 top tech companies that signed  a letter backing passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would curtail bulk collection of Internet metadata by government agencies.

Passed in June 2015, the USA Freedom Act now requires transparency when the government demands user information from technology companies. Nevertheless, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said there still needs to be more transparency when it comes to government-mandated back doors, as well as what deleted data is kept around in case government agents seek it in the future.

 

 

 

Is Google Really Working On Augmented Reality Devices?

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn claiming that Google has abandoned its VR projects and is secretly working on a an augmented reality-style headset.

Engadget reported that the Californian technology giant is building the head-mounted computer that will work independently of smartphones and desktop PCs.

It claims that this secret project, which is quietly in development, is a replacement for an Oculus Rift style project that has been axed.

Actually the project sounds more like a hybrid VR-AR setup: “While it does have a screen, it will offer features more in line with augmented reality systems than existing VR headsets.”

Google is not saying anything and it does have a habit of working on things and then giving up on them. But the rumours are indicative of just how important AR and VR is becoming for the industry’s major players:

It is widely viewed as the next major platform, with similar possibilities to the early days of mobile. Facebook has the Oculus Rift, Microsoft has its AR Hololens headset, and there are rumours about Apple’s intentions to get into virtual reality after everyone else has done the legwork and then it will arrive and claim it has invented it.

Google was into mobile-powered VR game early with its DIY Cardboard headset, and earlier this year it announced Daydream — a virtual reality platform that, like Cardboard (but much more sophisticated), uses a smartphone as its hardware base.

Engadget claims that employees working on the secretive alternative headset have been told that Daydream is “not the company’s long-term plan for virtual and augmented reality.”

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is LG Making Gains In The 4K Display Arena?

July 18, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

LG Display has said that it is seeing signs of improvement in the display panel industry and expects its business performance to pick up in the second half of the year.

LG Display CEO Han Sang-beom said that times are a changing thanks mostly to the outfit’s cost cutting.

Panel makers have suffered from price declines in recent quarters due to weak sales of consumer electronics such as smartphones and televisions. But there are signs that things have bottomed out and panel prices for some televisions, tablets and monitors picking up in June.

This will be a great relief for LG which has had a tough time of it. It is expected to post a 96 percent fall in April-June operating profit to $15.72 million, according to the average forecast of analysts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/ survey. The fact that it backed Apple so closely over the years has also caused problems when iPhone sales dried up. Things are expected to be worse when the iPhone 7 comes out with very little new under the bonnet.

Han said flexible organic light-emitting diode screens were proving popular and LG Display was preparing to supply them to “major” Chinese clients for mobile products. The company currently supplies such screens, mainly for smartwatches, to LG Electronics and Apple.

“It’s clear that plastic OLED is a major trend. While the smartphone market has stagnated it is still a growth market, so we will focus on preparing capacity and developing products accordingly,” Han said.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Nintendo Questioned Over Pokemon GO Data Collection, Privacy

July 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A Democratic U.S. senator requested the software developer behind Nintendo Co Ltd’s Pokemon GO to clarify the mobile game’s data privacy protections, amid concerns the augmented reality hit was unnecessarily collecting vast swaths of sensitive user data.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota sent a letter to Niantic Chief Executive John Hanke asking what user data Pokemon GO collects, how the data is used and with what third party service providers that data may be shared.

The game, which marries Pokemon, the classic 20-year-old cartoon franchise, with augmented reality, allows players to walk around real-life neighborhoods while seeking virtual Pokemon game characters on their smartphone screens – a scavenger hunt that has earned enthusiastic early reviews.

Franken also asked Niantic to describe how it ensures parents give “meaningful consent” to a child’s use of the game and subsequent collection of his or her personal information.

“I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent,” Franken wrote.

“As the augmented reality market evolves, I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players,” he added.

Franken additionally asked Niantic to provide an update on a vulnerability detected on Monday by security researchers who found Pokemon GO players signing into the game via a Google account on an Apple iOS device unwittingly gave “full access permission” to the person’s Google account.

Pokemon GO on Tuesday released an updated version on iOS to reduce the number of data permissions it sought from Google account users.

Niantic did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Franken’s inquiry.

The company, spun off by Google last year, created the game in tandem with Pokemon Co, a third of which is owned by Nintendo.

 

Microsoft Teams Up With IBM To Push Enterprise Surface Tablet

July 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft said its Surface devices pulls in about $1 billion in revenue every quarter, and the company hopes to raise that number by putting the devices on more corporate desktops.

The company is teaming up with IBM, one of the world’s largest software makers, to write applications specifically for Surface devices. The goal is to tailor Surface devices to meet the needs of financial, consumer goods and retail organizations.

The deal is significant for Microsoft, which wants to make Surface devices more attractive to enterprises. Market research firm IDC expects enterprise PC upgrades to pick up in the second half of this year, and Surface devices with tailored software could appeal to companies.

Surface tablets are already used by organizations like the National Football League and Emirates airline. It is one of the better Windows PCs available, but it has had more success with consumers and professional buyers than enterprises.

For IBM, the deal is much like the one it struck with Apple in 2014 to develop apps for iPhones and iPads. IBM will acquire more enterprise software customers, and it won’t have to worry about supporting the hardware.

The IBM custom software will take advantage of unique Surface features, Microsoft said. The applications will revolve around analytics, reporting, employee productivity, management and forecasting.

Microsoft also struck a similar partnership with Booz-Allen Hamilton to work on Surface tablets for government, public sector and health-care organizations, with a focus on security and manageability of devices. U.S. government organizations have specific requirements in computers purchased, particularly in the area of security.

Further details about the deals weren’t shared.

 

 

Is Samsungs Galaxy S7 Active Really Waterproof?

July 13, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

If you look at adverts for Samsung’s new Galaxy you would be forgiven for thinking that the smartphone is waterproof. Unfortunately according to US consumer reports, it isn’t.

The Samsung advert shown in Italy ends with the dramatic placing of a Galaxy into a glass of water. Which looks impressive.

Consumer Reports performs an immersion test when a manufacturer claims that its product is water-resistant and the Galaxy S7 Active failed.

While the phone performed extremely well in other tests. Consumer Reports is refusing to recommend it because the water resistant claim is incorrect.

Samsung says its phone follows an engineering standard called IP68 that covers both dust- and water-resistance, and that the phone is designed to survive immersion in five feet of water for 30 minutes.

Consumer Reports placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurised to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When it removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen was borked.

A second Galaxy S7 Active also failed the same test and neither phone worked properly again.

Samsung says it has received “very few complaints” about this problem, and that in all cases, the phones were covered under warranty. A spokes Samsung sang:

“The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be.”

The company says it is investigating the matter.

Courtesy-Fud

 

End-to-End Encryption Comes To Facebook Messenger

July 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc announced that it began testing end-to-end encryption on its popular Messenger application to prevent snooping on digital conversations.

The limited testing on Messenger, which has more than 900 million users, comes three months after Facebook rolled out end-to-end encryption to its more popular WhatsApp, a messaging application with over 1 billion users that it acquired in October 2014.

The move comes amid widespread global debate over the extent to which technology companies should help law enforcement snoop on digital communications.

End-to-end encryption is also offered on Apple Inc’s iMessage platform as well as apps including LINE, Signal, Viber, Telegram and Wickr.

Facebook Messenger uses the same encryption technology as WhatsApp, which uses a protocol known as Signal that was developed by privately held Open Whisper Systems.

“It seems well designed,” said Matthew Green, a Johns Hopkins University cryptologist who helped review an early version of the protocol for Facebook.

While WhatsApp messages are encrypted by default, Facebook Messenger users must turn on the feature to get the extra additional security protection, which scrambles communications so they can only be read on devices at either end of a conversation.

Facebook said that it was requiring users to opt in to encryption because the extra security is not compatible with some widely used Messenger features.

“Many people want Messenger to work when you switch between devices, such as a tablet, desktop computer or phone,” the company said in an announcement on its website. “Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone.”

Facebook also said that Messenger users cannot send videos or make payments in encrypted conversations.

 

 

Walmart Announces Mobile Payment Service Rollout Complete

July 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Walmart Stores Inc announced that it has completed the rollout of its Walmart Pay mobile payment service across the United States and that 88 percent of transactions on the payment app are from repeat users.

Overall transactions on the app, which the world’s largest retailer launched in December, jumped 45 percent in the last week, Daniel Eckert, senior vice-president of services at Walmart US, said on a conference call with the media.

Walmart declined to disclose the increase in transactions since the launch, or the number of the mobile app’s users in its stores.

U.S. retailers have launched many mobile payment apps in the last two years, but customers and merchants have been slow to adopt them.

U.S. mobile payments accounted for an estimated $67 billion of purchases in 2015, and are expected to grow this year to $83 billion, or 24 percent of all purchases made via smartphones, according to the latest Forrester Research data.

Eckert said Walmart Pay users have not been spending more as a result of using the app. The company is monitoring shopping patterns to see if purchases would increase.

The retailer will start advertising the app to push customer usage, he said.

Walmart Pay is available on Apple and Android devices and allows payments with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift cards.

Customers at a checkout counter must choose the payment option within the app and use their smartphone camera to scan the code displayed at the register. An e-receipt would be sent to the app. Apple Inc’s Apple Pay and Alphabet Inc’s Android Pay require retailers to install compatible new equipment, which has hindered wider acceptance.

Walmart does not accept external mobile wallets like Apple Pay in its stores. Discussions about accepting third party wallets are ongoing, but Walmart has no immediate plans to do so, Eckert said.

 

 

Microsoft’s Updates Sway, Adds Paid Features

June 30, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Is Intel Going To Dump McAfee

June 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy-Fud

 

Can Licensing Save Blackberry?

June 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy-Fud

 

Apple Pulls The Plug On Thunderbolt Display

June 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Apple Begins Testing Of Safari 10 Browser

June 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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