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Xiaomi Becomes World’s Third-Largest Smartphone Vendor

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc has nudged it’s way into being the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor just three years after first hitting the market, trailing only Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc, according to a new industry study.

Strategy Analytics said Xiaomi accounted for 6 percent of all 320 million smartphones shipped during July-September. Samsung made up 25 percent, down from 35 percent a year earlier due to rising competition from several directions.

Apple’s share also fell slightly to 12 percent.

“Xiaomi was the star performer,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

“Samsung continues to face tough competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Xiaomi and Huawei in the middle-tiers, and from Lenovo and others at the entry-level.”

Xiaomi has been the top seller in its home market of China and recently entered India, where it sells phones exclusively through e-commerce site Flipkart.

Vice President Hugo Barra told Reuters in Bangalore last month that the company aimed to sell 100,000 phones a week in India in October when the country celebrates Diwali.

 

 

Microsoft Debuts $199 Fitness Device

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp introduced a device called “MicrosoftBand” that will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, marking the world’s largest software company’s foray into the wearable technology market.

The wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality, Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft said the device will be available in the United States in limited quantities from Thursday for $199.

Apple Inc unveiled a smart watch on Sept. 9 that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications and will go on sale in early 2015, while Samsung Electronics Co unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013. The Apple Watch will be priced at $349.

Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.

The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.

 

 

IBM, Twitter Teaming Up On Data Analytics

October 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) on Wednesday announced a collaboration with Twitter to aid in business decisions using data collected from tweets worldwide.

IBM will help businesses predict trends in the marketplace and consumer sentiment about products and brands and will train 10,000 employees to consult businesses on the best use of Twitter data.

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty has been trying to shift the 100-year-old company’s focus away from commoditized hardware to higher-value cloud and data analytics products.

In July, IBM announced a partnership with Apple Inc to offer iPads and iPhones loaded with applications geared toward enterprise clients.

“Here we are seeing an alignment of old tech and new tech companies. It is the second such deal that IBM has announced in the last couple months. They realize they don’t have all the answers and a lot of other companies have asset offerings that can be matched well,” said Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York.

In April, Twitter acquired social data provider Gnip to burrow into the 500 million tweets sent daily on its network.

Enterprise clients will now be able to filter the data based on geography, public biographical information and the emotion expressed in the tweet.

The company previously allowed third-party companies such as Gnip, Datasift and Dataminr to buy access to tweets and re-sell that data to corporate clients.

 

Microsoft’s Surface Finally Turns A Profit

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years and nearly $2 billion in losses, Microsoft’s Surface finally became profitable in the September quarter.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Microsoft recorded $908 million in revenue for the Surface tablet line, an increase of 127% over the same quarter in 2013. The nearly one billion in revenue was a one-quarter record for the Surface, and beat the combined revenue of the previous two quarters.

Using information in Microsoft’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as data from earlier quarters, Computerworld calculated the quarter’s cost of that revenue at $786 million, leaving a gross margin of $122 million. Cost of revenue is the cost to make and sell a product, but excludes expenses such as advertising and R&D.

Microsoft said that the Surface line posted a positive gross margin — implying that outside estimates of prior losses were correct — but did not disclose a dollar figure.

According to Computerworld‘s estimate, the margin was small, about 13.4%. That’s more than the average for a Windows personal computer, but less than half or a third of the margins on tablets like Apple’s iPad.

It was even smaller by the figuring of Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, who has also used Microsoft’s SEC filings to estimate the Surface’s cost of revenue. He pegged the September quarter’s cost of revenue at $825 million, the gross margin at $83 million, and the margin rate at just 9.1%.

“That’s a gross margin … which is not earth-shattering and in fact about half the gross margin of the phone business at Microsoft. But it’s progress,” Dawson wrote on his blog, where he published his analysis of Surface’s financial performance.

Since its October 2012 introduction, Surface has been a money pit for Microsoft, in the hole to the tune of $1.73 billion through its first seven quarters. With the September quarter in the black, those overall losses have been reduced to about $1.6 billion.

Over the last four quarters, Surface also remained in the red, with losses of $325 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Put another way, for each dollar Microsoft earned on Surface sales, it lost about 12 cents.

 

 

CVS and Rite Aid Stores Block Apple Pay

October 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Drug retailers CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp have disabled Apple Inc’s  new electronic payments service Apple Pay from their stores over the weekend,according to the New York Times.

Apple Pay, which debuted in September, is a mobile payment app that allows consumers to buy things by simply holding their iPhone6 and 6 Plus devices up to readers installed by store merchants.

A Rite Aid spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company does not currently accept Apple Pay. The company is “still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.”

Rite Aid and CVS are not part of the group of retailers that had teamed up with Apple on its payment system. However, Apple Pay technology was working in Rite Aid and CVS stores over the week, the newspaper said.

The reason for the disabling was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.

According to analysts, disabling the acceptance of Apple Pay is a way to support a rival system that is being developed by Merchants Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of merchants that includes Rite Aid and CVS, the NYT reported.

MCX is developing CurrentC, an app that scans the bar code of the product and initiates the payment transfer by connecting to the customer’s debit card, according to MCX’s website. CurrentC will not be available until 2015.

Apple, Rite Aid and CVS could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

Pandora’s Listeners Decline

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Pandora Media Inc, owners of the leading Internet radio service, reported a lower-than-expected increase in listeners in the third quarter, sending the company’s shares down 6 percent in extended trading on Thursday.

Pandora said it had 76.5 million active listeners as of Sept. 30, an increase of 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected 76.7 million, according to market research firm StreetAccount.

Total listener hours rose to 4.99 billion from 3.99 billion, but again fell short of the average estimate of 5.02 billion.

Pandora’s profit and revenue both beat market expectations, however, as more people listened to streamed music on their mobile phones.

Mobile revenue increased 52 percent to $188 million, while local advertising revenue rose 118 percent to $41.8 million.

Despite its huge user base, Pandora faces stiff competition from Spotify, Apple Inc’s Beats online streaming service, Google Inc, and Amazon.com Inc in the fast-growing music streaming business.

 

 

Mobile Phone Growth In U.S. Continues To Slow Down

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The overall mobile phone market in the U.S. will fall off this year by 1% even as many emerging countries around the world see robust growth.

After several years of accelerated growth, the U.S. market is feeling the effects of market saturation and smartphone ownership that’s lasting longer than once expected, Ramon Llamas, an analyst IDC, said in an updated forecast.

IDC’s five-year forecast issued for October significantly undercuts its April forecast, dropping expectations for U.S. smartphone and feature phone shipments by manufacturers to retailers. IDC now expects 1.7 million fewer phones shipped in 2104 than it had expected in April; it predicts 174 million phones will ship this year, with that figure declining gradually to 169 million in 2018.

Smartphone shipments alone will grow just slightly through 2018 in the U.S., but about 5% less than earlier expected, rising from 150 million in 2014 to 160.5 million in 2018. Feature phones shipments have dropped off faster than earlier expected.

Llamas said the signs of decline started in late 2011, prompting carriers in the past year to try to get customers to replace phones more often with easy trade-in plans and relaxed contracts.

It’s too soon to say what effect the early trade-in plans will have on the market, Llamas said. The life of an average smartphone still lasts about two years, but that could be changing.

Paying on installment plans “could really change the market,” Llamas said in an interview. “But if people pay off their devices and then realize they don’t have to pay the carrier as much [at the end of the payoff period] and only pay for wireless service, they might just hold onto their phones. I think people will hold onto their phones as long as they can after they are paid off. If this plays out and they hold on and don’t update, we’ll see flattening of sales volumes year after year, or even declines, all in the name of saving money.”

Realizing what’s happening in the U.S. and among other major economies, both Apple and Samsung have concentrated heavily on selling their new smartphones in China and other areas where smartphone sales are still strong.

 

 

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Goes WiGi

October 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The WiGig standard has been around since 2009, but we haven’t really seen it hitting that many retail devices. Back at IDF 2014, Intel demonstrated WiGig 802.11ad video, peripherals, 4K video transfer and it promised that Skylake based laptops will come out of the box with the technology.

WiGig will let you transfer up to 7Gbpps of audio, video or data via 2.4, 5 or 6GHz bands and is as fast as eight-antenna 802.11ac and nearly 50 times faster than highest 802.11n rate. It is backward compatible with WiFi standards, but due to its high frequency it is limited to short distances, usually up to 10 meters, cannot really penetrate walls but it can propagate by reflecting off of walls, ceilings or objects using beam forming.

Now Qualcomm showcased this technology for the first time and promised it inside Snapdragon 810 based devices. Qualcomm demonstrated peer-to-peer connection and transfer of 4K video between two 20nm Snapdragon 810 based tablets. One of the tablets was the sync side and it was connected directly to a 4K TV and it was clear that you could play a content from one tablet and sync it to the second one.

WiGig’s 7Gbps translates to 875MB per second in the best case scenario. The Qualcomm demo shows a Plutonium MSM8994 based tablet hitting up to 187MB a second (1.5 Gbit per second) available for data transfer, with 4K multi-device streaming on the side. WiGig can possibly get to external storage, enabling faster NAS systems, future peripherals such as keyboard and mouse and on a longer run it can completely eliminate the necessity for docking stations. It will take some time but this is the grand idea.

It remains to be seen when we will be able to buy first Snapdragon 810 device with 802.11ad WiGig abilities. Qualcomm mentioned 2015 a number of times, but there’s nothing more specific than that. A potential problem for this standard might be the speed of flash storage that is used in tablets and phones today. According to Androbench, the HTC One M8 can sequentially read 92.29 MB/s, sequentially write only 17 MB/s, while Nvidia’s Shield tablet can sequentially read 67.75 MB/s, and write only 14.09 MB/s.

The performance gets even less impressive with smaller files, but with numbers we are getting from latest 2014 devices, the flash has to increase speed up to 10 times in order to be ready to write files at 150MB. For theoretical maximum of ridiculously fast 875 MB/s we need about 50 times faster memory that the 14-17MB/s write speed available in the current generation of high end mobile devices.

Courtesy-Fud

Twitter To Allow Users To Stream Music

October 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc  will allow users to play podcasts, music and other audio clips direct from their timelines, or message feeds, by using a  new feature designed in partnership with Berlin-based audio-streaming service SoundCloud.

The online messaging service introduced what it dubbed “Audio Card,” through which users can listen to a variety of content whilst browsing their timelines.

For starters, Twitter has promised audio from SoundCloud’s partners, which include such diverse sources as NASA, the Washington Post, CNN, David Guetta, Coldplay and Warner Music.

But it’s trying to snag more content partners in future, Twitter said in a recent blog posting.

Twitter didn’t say how Audio Card might evolve, except to stress that it offers musicians a chance to post exclusive clips.

“Many more musical artists and creators will be able to share exclusive, in-the-moment audio to millions of listeners on Twitter,” the company added.

Twitter’s new feature comes after rivals from Apple Inc to Google Inc have jumped into the business of music-streaming, considered the fastest-growing segment of a music market dominated by iTunes.

Twitter had reportedly been in discussions to acquire audio-sharing website SoundCloud, which has been called the Youtube of music, as far back as June.

 

Tablet Sales Growth Dropped Drastically

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The news about tablet sales isn’t good.

Gartner and IDC both recently dramatically lowered their tablet shipment and sales estimates for 2014 and coming years, citing primarily the longer-than-expected time customers keep their existing tablets. (That phenomenon is called the “refresh rate.”)

Gartner said it had originally expected 13% tablet sales growth for the year globally; it has now lowered that growth rate to 11%. IDC’s forecast change was even more dire: In June, it predicted shipment growth this year would be 12.1%, but in September it cut that number to 6.5%.

In the U.S., things are worse, because more than half of households have a tablet and may hold onto it for more than three years, well beyond analysts’ earlier expectations.

IDC said in its latest update that tablet growth in the U.S. this year will be just 1.5%, and will slow to 0.4% in 2015. After that, it expects negative growth through 2018. Adding in 2-in-1 devices, such as a Surface Pro with a keyboard, the situation in the U.S. improves, although overall growth for both tablets and 2-in-1′s will still only reach 3.8% in 2014, and just 0.4% by 2018, IDC said.

“Tablet penetration is high in the U.S. — over half of all households have at least one — which leads to slow growth…,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview. “A smartphone is a must-have item, but a tablet is not. You can do the same things on a laptop as you do with a tablet, and these are all inter-related.”

Tablets are a “nice-to-have and not a must-have, because phones and PCs are enough to get by,” added Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.

In a recent Kantar survey of 20,000 potential tablet buyers, only 13% said they definitely or probably would buy a tablet in the next year, while 54% said they would not, Milanesi said. Of those planning not to buy a tablet, 72% said they were happy with their current PC.

At IDC, analyst Tom Mainelli reported that the first half of 2014 saw tablet growth slow to 5.8% (from a growth rate of 88% in the first half of 2013). Mainelli said the meteoric pace of past years has slowed dramatically due to long device refresh cycles and pressure from sales of large phones, including the new iPhone 6 Plus. That phone has a 5.5-in. display, which is close to some smaller tablets with 7-in. displays.

 

 

 

Will Smartwatches Hit The 100 Million Sales Mark By 2019?

October 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

With so much hype surrounding smartwatches and wearables in general, one could hardly be blamed for thinking the industry is about tap a new goldmine, but the numbers are not encouraging.

Juniper Research now estimates smartwatch shipments will hit 100 million by 2019. The firm expects several high-profile products to launch over the next year or so, helping boost mainstream awareness.

However, the figures are anything but encouraging.

The report, titled ‘Smart Watches: Market Dynamics, Vendor Strategies & Scenario Forecasts 2014-2019′, expects growth will decelerate from 2016 onwards. The first batch will ride the hype, but moving forward it won’t do much for mainstream adoption.

However, the forecast also examines the possibility of sustaining 2014-2015 growth in the long term.

If consumers discover a ‘key use case’ or cases for smartwatches, backed by more product releases on the back of higher demand, higher growth could be sustained. In plain English, if people actually find a use for smartwatches, they will see more growth.

Unfortunately the case is hard to make at this point. Smartwatches face a number of hardware limitations and software support is still limited, which means they are not very useful at the moment. Juniper expects more vendors to integrate GPS, NFC and other technologies, but the downside is that smartwatches are not expected to become very cheap. The firm estimates premium branding and high functionality to keep prices at $200+ until the end of the decade.

Europeans not too keen

One possible application that could generate more demand comes in the form of mobile payments. Apple Pay is coming to the Apple Watch, but the service will be limited to the US for quite a while and Apple won’t have an easy time launching it in other markets, where it enjoys a much lower market share.

The problem with mobile digital wallets is that they have not taken off yet. What’s more, new research indicates that Europeans are not sold on the idea of smartwatch wallets.

The survey, carried out by German market research firm GfK, found that just 20 percent of Germans and 27 percent of Britons are interested in contactless payments built into a watch. However, Chinese and American consumers are more open to the idea, with 40 and 54 percent saying they are interested.

Most consumers said they are interested in health applications and many said they would store identification data on their smartwatches.

Courtesy-Fud

Twitter To Allow Money Transfer Via Tweets

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

One of France’s largest banks is partnering with social network Twitter Inc. to allow its customers to transfer money via tweets.

The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.

Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple  and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.

The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.

“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money,  BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.

Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.

BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.

Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”,  to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.

The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.

Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.

 

 

Beats And Bose Cancels Lawsuit, Settles Headphone Dispute

October 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A high-profile patent fight over noise cancelling headphones between Bose Corp and Beats Electronics ended on Friday with both sides settling the case out of court.

The terms of the settlement were not being disclosed, a spokeswoman for Bose said in an email, adding only that the dispute had been “resolved.”

Bose, which makes high-end sound systems and headphones, filed the case last July in federal court in Delaware, alleging Beats had willfully infringed upon five of its patents in its Studio and Studio Wireless line of headphones.

Privately held Bose said it had lost profits and sales as a result and was seeking unspecified damages from Beats, which Apple Inc acquired this year for $3 billion.

A document filed with the court on Friday said both sides would dismiss the case and bear their own costs and legal fees.

The two companies also asked the International Trade Commission to suspend its investigation into the matter. Bose had asked the commission to block the import of Beats’ noise-cancellation products from China, where they are manufactured.

Beats headphones have become popular with music fans since the company was founded by rap mogul Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine in 2006. Besides headphones, Beats has also entered online music streaming, competing with the likes of Pandora and Spotify.

A representative from Beats was not immediately available for comment.

 

Did Apple Sink GT Advanced?

October 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It is starting to look like the fruity cargo cult, Apple did its level best to sink its partner GT Advanced, the maker of its Sapphire Glass.

GT Advanced relied on Apple and it appears that made it vulnerable. Apple had withheld the last $139 million payment to the company and no one is sure why. This meant that GT Advanced had spent $248 million in cash in one quarter and had no money coming in.

That may have led to the company’s filing, since its cash, at $85 million, was below a $125 million trigger point that would allow Apple to demand repayment of about $440 million in loans it had advanced. Apple had agreed to lend GT a total of $578 million to help get a large sapphire factory in Arizona up and running. The tech giant reportedly withheld the last $139 million payment it was due to make.

While it might be normal in the cut and thrust business world, does look like Apple might turn out to be the bad guy in this story. We would not be surprised if it offers the bankruptcy accountants a deal to buy the company at a knock down price. After all most of the company debts seem to be owned by Jobs’ Mob.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Adobe Spying On e-Readers?

October 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Adobe has been accused of snooping on e-document readers and using spyware to feedback on user libraries.

The accusation comes from the Digital Reader website and Nate Hoffelder, its editor. Hoffelder said that he was tipped to the issue by a ‘hacker’ associate and has tested and confirmed its authenticity.

At the nut of the issue is Digital Editions 4, which has more features than its users expected.

“My source told me, and I can confirm, that Adobe is tracking users in the app and uploading the data to their servers,” he said.

“Adobe is gathering data on the e-books that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher and other metadata for the book, is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text. I am not joking.”

Hoffelder said that the data is sent from hardware to server in plain text, and that it takes other information with it, including metadata from e-books stored on the user’s hard drive. He added that he is shocked, and has put the issue to Adobe but failed to get a response.

We have followed suit and asked Adobe for comment or explanation as to what the system is and why it is happening.

Hoffelder has uploaded documents with information from tracking software Wireshark that shows material leaving his computer and going to an Adobe IP address.

“This is a privacy and security breach so big that I am still trying to wrap my head around the technical aspects, much less the legal aspects,” he said.

“I would highly recommend that users avoid running Adobe’s apps for the near future – ever again, for that matter. Luckily for us there are alternatives.”

Courtesy-TheInq