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Are Amazon Tablets Taking Over?

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

While research groups like IDC and Gartner have shown an overall 15.6 decrease in worldwide tablet shipments in 2016, the market has not gone entirely belly-up, as Amazon continues to pull ahead with a phenomenal 99.4 percent increase in annual tablet growth during the same period.

According to a report by the folks at TrendForce, Amazon managed to ship 11 million Fire-series tablets over the course of 2016 even as global tablet shipments fell by 6.6 percent from the previous year. While the sales numbers were impressive, the company still fell behind Apple at 27 percent of the market and Samsung at 17.2 percent, yet managed to beat expectations as a result of strong year-end holiday sales.

Apple also pulled ahead with strong tablet sales last year and retained its top spot, selling 42 million devices to Samsung’s 27 million. A few weeks ago, we wrote that IDC may have regretted telling the media to rely on expectations that the fruit-themed device company would allegedly oversee the decline of traditional PC sales by 2015. While traditional PC sales dropped 5.7 percent to 260.2 million in 2016, they still remain an impressive part of the overall device market and have not fallen as quickly as tablets have over the past year.

TrendForce expects tablet sales to continue declining from 157.4 million units in 2016 to around 147.8 million units 2017. While Amazon nearly doubled its annual shipments and Apple enjoyed strong iPad sales over the holiday season, other brands such as Microsoft are expected to fall into 7th place as the company experiences panel shortages for its Surface Pro series.

For a limited time, Amazon will occasionally offer its 7-inch 8GB Fire Essentials bundle and its 16GB Fire Essentials Bundle at discounted prices. For instance, the former had been available for $33.33 in November and $49.99 until earlier this month, along with free Prime shipping. The company is expected to offer similar deals throughout the year in an effort to strengthen its sales base from loyal Prime customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Blackberry Taking Nokia To Court?

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A patent war is being fought between two of the industry smartphone leaders of yesteryear – Nokia and Blackberry.

Blackberry filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nokia Oyj, demanding royalties on the Finnish company’s mobile network products that use an industry wide technology standard.

Blackberry moaned that Nokia’s Flexi Multiradio base stations, radio network controllers and Liquid Radio software are using technology covered by as many as 11 patents owned by BlackBerry.

It added that Nokia was encouraging the use” of the standard- compliant products without a license from Blackberry.

Blackberry did not say how much it wanted Nokia to cough up, but it would appear to be part of Chief Executive Officer John Chen is working to find new ways to pull revenue out of Blackberry’s technology.

He’s used acquisitions to add a suite of software products and negotiated licensing agreements to take advantage of the company’s thick book of wireless technology patents.

Nokia is aware of the inventions because the company has cited some of the patents in some of its own patent applications, BlackBerry said.

Some of the patents were owned by Nortel and Nokia had at one point tried to buy them as part of a failed bid for Nortel’s business in 2009, according to Blackberry.

BlackBerry was part of a group called Rockstar Consortium that bought Nortel’s patents out of bankruptcy for $4.5 billion in 2011. The patents were split up between the members of the group, which included Apple and Microsoft.

Since Blackberry contends that patents cover essential elements of a mobile telecommunications standard known as 3GPP, it has pledged to license them on fair and reasonable terms.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Finally Overtakes Samsung In Smartphones Sales

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has outpaced Samsung Electronics in smartphone sales for the first time in two years, but that victory might just be short-lived.

Samsung sold 76.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, giving it a market share of 17.8 percent, but it was just beaten by Apple, which sold 77 million iPhones for a 17.9 percent share, according to figures from market research firm Gartner.

The fourth quarter is usually a strong one for Apple, boosted by holiday sales of the new generation of iPhones it releases each September, said Anshul Gupta, a research director at Gartner.

For Samsung, though, 2016 ended particularly badly, dominated by the fiasco around the recall of its incendiary Galaxy Note7.

Super-phones like the Note7 could have accounted for 10 to 15 percent of Samsung’s smartphone sales in the period before its recall, said Gupta, but Samsung lost more than that: There was also the damage to its brand.

It could bounce back sooner rather than later, though, as it has a new flagship phone coming out at the end of March.

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to wait until September before unveiling new iPhones. This year will mark the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, and the next model is widely expected to be something special, so Apple fans may delay replacing phones until then, said Gupta. That would leave the way clear for Samsung to move back into the lead from this quarter.

That pattern showed up last year too: Although it dominated the fourth quarter, Apple was a distant second over the full year, with market share of just 14.4 percent over the year, far behind Samsung’s 20.5 percent, and the situation was similar the previous year.

 

 

T-Mobile Riding High, Adds Customers And Beats Revenue Forecast

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc, the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier, has reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit as its promotional offers aided in adding new customers.

T-Mobile had a number of promotional offers in the fourth quarter, including a free iPhone 7 offer with eligible trade-in around Black Friday.

Riding on the success of these offers, the company gained market share from rivals Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Sprint Corp in an oversaturated U.S. wireless market.

T-Mobile said in January that it added 933,000 postpaid phone subscribers, or those who pay monthly bills, on a net basis, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

Chatter around a deal between T-Mobile and Sprint Corp resurfaced in December after Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Group Corp is a majority shareholder in Sprint, pledged a $50 billion investment in the United States.

Asked last week about a renewed merger bid with T-Mobile, Son said he was keeping his options open about Sprint.

T-Mobile’s total revenue jumped 23.4 percent to $10.18 billion.

The company’s net income rose to $390 million, or 45 cents per share, for the quarter from $297 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 30 cents per share and revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

 

Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has joined the consortium responsible for the Qi wireless charging system, heating up rumors that owners of future  iPhones could live tangle-free.

Last week, a financial analyst claimed Apple will release three new iPhones with wireless charging capabilities this year, reviving an on-again, off-again rumor about the next-generation iPhone’s capabilities.

The appearance of Apple’s name on the membership list of the Wireless Power Consortium, Qi’s creator, over the last week adds credence to that rumor. Its name was not on the list cached by Google’s search engine last Tuesday.

“After several years of increasing rumor, Apple’s membership with the Wireless Power Consortium points strongly to the expectation that the next iPhone will include wireless charging technology,” said Vicky Yussuff, an analyst at market watcher IHS Technology.

Don’t expect too much, though: That’s pretty much what IHS analysts said about the last iPhone, too.

In fact, Apple’s membership of the WPC may have nothing to do with phones. The magnetic charging adapter supplied with the Apple Watch will charge Qi devices (although the Watch itself is programmed not to work with just any Qi charger, only those supplied or approved by Apple) so membership may just be a delayed recognition of that usage.

Nine in 10 consumers want wireless charging on their next phone, according to Yussuff. The technology is now so widely adopted that it’s no longer something Apple can ignore, she added.

IHS expects around 350 million wireless-chargeable devices to ship this year, in a market largely driven by Samsung Electronics, which has included the capability in its top-of-the-range phones since the launch of the Galaxy S6 in 2015. Samsung also sells wireless charging covers for the older S4 and S5.

 

Is Facebook’s Oculus Losing Steam?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the US.

Apparently the move is because of poor “store performance” which is spin for the fact that few people are even trying the technology out.

Business Insider claims it is common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration.

Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert insisted that the closings were due to “seasonal changes”.

“You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada. We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo,” she enthused.

Best Buy said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers. But it apparently interests in the headsets dried up after Christmas.

Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple’s iCloud Retained Deleted Browser History

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s iCloud appears to have been retaining users’ deleted internet browsing histories, including records over a year old.

Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft noticed it was able to pull supposedly deleted Safari browser histories from iCloud accounts, such as the date and time the site was visited and when the record was deleted.

“In fact, we were able to access records dated more than one year back,” wrote Elcomsoft’s CEO Vladimir Katalov in a blog post.

Users can set iCloud to store their browsing history so that it’s available from all connected devices. The researchers found that when a user deletes that history, iCloud doesn’t actually erase it but keeps it in a format invisible to the user.

The company discovered the issue with its Phone Breaker product, a forensic tool designed to streamline the extracting files from an iCloud account.

Keeping a copy of a user’s browser history can certainly be “invaluable for surveillance and investigations,” Katalov said. But it’s unclear if Apple knew that its iCloud service was storing the deleted records.

On Thursday, Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but since Elcomsoft’s blog post went live, Apple appears to be “purging” older browser history records from iCloud, the forensics firm said.

“For what we know, they could be just moving them to other servers, making deleted records inaccessible from the outside,” the blog post said. But now only deleted records as old as only two weeks can be extracted, the company said.

Elcomsoft has previously found that Apple was saving users’ call history to iCloud, but offering no explicit way to turn the synching on or off. At the time, Apple responded that its call synching function was designed for convenience, allowing customers to return phone calls from any device.

For users concerned about their privacy, Elcomsoft said that they can opt-out of syncing their Safari browsing history from iCloud.

Is Wireless Charging Finally Making It To The Next iPhone?

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s next three models of the iPhone — the iPhone 8 and two updated versions of  iPhone 7 — will finally contain a long-awaited feature: wireless charging, according to an industry analyst with a track record of being right about the company’s plans.

The new iPhone models, which are expected to come in 4.7-in, 5.5-in and 5.8-in form factors when released later this year, will also sport a new 3D Touch feature and an OLED display, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, a financial analyst for KGI Securities.

3D Touch allows users to press harder on the screen to launch actions, such as replying to messages or animating live photos, instead of only selecting applications.

Kuo also expects the iPhone 8 — if that’s what Apple decides to call the new model (see artist rendering above) — to come in an all-glass case, with a flexible, “thinner form factor.”

Kuo, who reports on the Asia-Pacific region, is not just any analyst. The Apple-focused news website and community Cult of Mac, once called him “the most reliable voice on all things Apple…because his ability to accurately prophesy Apple’s future product plans is unparalleled.”

First reported by MacRumors, Kuo’s research note indicated that wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, which will require the iPhone 8  with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with “additional graphite sheet lamination” to keep it from overheating.

“While we don’t expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone,” Kuo wrote in his research note.

Previous MacRumors reports indicate the iPhone 8’s additional features could bump the cost of making the smartphone from 30% to 50% higher — pushing its sale to more than $1,000.

This is not the first time industry analysts have speculated that Apple is about to embrace wireless charging for the iPhone. Last year, market research firm IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7.

 

iPhone 7 Plus Features Pays Off For Apple

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Features exclusive to the iPhone 7 Plus aided sales of the larger smartphone, but they were not the only reasons why a higher percentage of customers went big last year, analysts said.

“The nature of the market is also shifting,” said Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies, in a recent interview. As consumers encounter large-screen smartphones with more frequency — especially ones owned by friends — there’s a bandwagon effect, he explained.

Although the shift to bigger screens has been strongest in China and other Asian markets, the iPhone 7 Plus accounted for a larger proportion of new iPhones sold in the U.S. as well, said Bajarin, citing his firm’s research.

Apple does not separate iPhone sales by market, or even say exactly what percentage of total sales was of the 7 Plus, but CEO Tim Cook did claim that the number was the highest yet for its 5.5-in. model. “We saw especially strong demand for iPhone 7 Plus, which was a higher portion of the new product mix than we’ve ever seen with Plus models in the past,” Cook said during the December quarter’s earning call on Jan. 31.

Even before Apple disclosed iPhone sales — for the December quarter, the Cupertino, Calif. company booked 78.3 million — analysts expected that the average selling price, or ASP, would be up over the same period the year before, in part because of the widespread belief that the iPhone 7 Plus had done better than its 2015 and 2014 forerunners.

That was, in fact, the case: The December quarter’s iPhone ASP was $694.57, a record.

Some credited the iPhone 7 Plus’s performance to the features Apple offered only in the large-screen model, notably Portrait Mode. Bajarin agreed that Plus-only features could be selling points. But they were no guarantee. Those specific to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus, for example, weren’t enough to make those models as successful as the 7 Plus.

More telling than differences between iPhone models, he said, was the consumer perception of the total package. “The evidence we see from China is that when something [is seen to be] the pinnacle at that moment, that’s when China moves toward that product,” Bajarin said. “So there is some value in keeping interesting and expensive technology as a differentiator.”

Among the features that the supply chain rumor mill has posited for this year’s iPhone, several might appear only in the most expensive model, such as a curved OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display and wireless charging.

Not every analyst concurred with the concept of burnishing the Plus model with extra features if that came at the expense of the smaller-sized models.

“It’s more important that Apple makes [each new generation of the] iPhone durable and powerful,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “That’s recognizing the reality of the market, and justifying what is an increasing price delta.”

BlackBerry Announces New Line Of Business

February 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry unveiled a new line of business to provide developers with a secure, cloud-based, mobile communications platform for texting, voice, video and file sharing.

Developers can insert these capabilities into their existing custom apps and services using the new BBM Enterprise SDK (software developer kit), BlackBerry said. The SDK will be sold as a per-user license on a subscription basis to developers, including those employed at enterprises, and to independent software vendors (ISVs).

BlackBerry didn’t say what the licenses would cost, but did say the cost would be affordable, especially compared to communications products from competitors that usually charge on a usage basis for texts, voice and video calls. The SDK will be available worlwide later in February for apps running on iOS and Android.

All communications in the new platform will be highly secure and encrypted with keys kept under the management of the application developers, not BlackBerry, said Frank Cotter, vice president of enterprise products, in a conference call.

These communications will be transmitted via the Internet Protocol and not the SMS channel typically used by competitors. The communications also will be compliant with the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 that the U.S. government uses for approving cryptographic modules in devices, Cotter said.

Using the new BlackBerry platform will allow physicians who text patient information to stay within the requirements of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Cotter said. “Other vendors sidestep HIPAA and say they are just a pipe and that HIPAA doesn’t apply,” he said.

In one example, Cotter said an emergency room physician could use the communications platform to reach out to another doctor via a text, then quickly escalate that text to a voice or video call and transmit a picture of a patient’s injuries while continuing the call. “We bolt [our software] into existing workflows and apps,” he said.

In another example, Cotter said a dashboard tablet used by a police officer during a high-speed chase could quickly be turned to a secure channel with a dispatcher showing video from the scene and the police cruiser’s location.

BlackBerry already works with developers in a partnership program that has created more than 4,000 third-party enterprise apps, said Marty Beard, chief operating officer of BlackBerry. The new SDK promises to build on those apps, he said.

Did Apple Really Have A Banner Quarter?

February 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple may have spun its results last week so that the Tame Apple Press thought that it had done much better than was expected.

When Apple published its results, we were surprised as we expected the company to be in a somewhat poorer state due to slumping iPhone 7 and Tablet sales.

Imagine our surprise when Apple announced that it made record profits. After all we knew that Apple had actually contracted its supply of its iPhone’s twice and tablets were a mess – how was it possible to be making even more money? The Tame Apple Press reported that everything was alright and Jobs Mob was back seemingly without coming up with a new product.

We were not the only people who smelt a rat. Jason Snell and the Under pass also thought there was something wrong and delved into the figures. Before the lawyers complain that we are calling Apple liars there is no proof that lied, it just failed to point out that the Tame Apple Press was wrong.

Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Occasionally, however, they have a 14-week quarter. Apple’s Q1 2017 was a 14-week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. This means that Jobs Mob could add in the results of an extra week’s profit.

Snell said that even a rubbish week would add enough to counting stats to push it well above the year-over-year quarter, which was 13 weeks long. In fact, if you knock off a week from the results Apple’s sales and profits fell exactly like we expected.

He said it was possible to make the numbers tell the story you want to tell, with charts to match, and slice it nine different ways.

Part of the issue which the Tame Apple Press failed to spot was that Jobs’ Mob finances were based on its financial statements—and that means the quarters as Apple defines it. In this case Apple, has defined an extra week of sales that it won’t get again for another few years.

To make matters worse it was a windfall week that next year’s year-over-year holiday-quarter comparison will not be able to match.

But that was not the only thing Apple did. A huge settlement benefit hit the first quarter of FY16, which makes Services look even better (but doesn’t change the overall net) so everything is artificially inflated.

So where are the analysts pointing out that Apple might not be the investment that people claim? When this happened in 2013, the Tame Apple Press did exactly the same thing and Philip Elmer-DeWitt wrote a brilliant headline “Apple analysts: Stupid or lazy?” This time they did the same thing and few people have batted an eye lid.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Tablets Still On The Demise?

February 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

IDC has added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that they really cocked up when they believed Apple’s propaganda that tablets were “game changers”.

After telling everyone that tablets were to blame for declining PC sales, IDC famously claimed that tablets would overtake traditional PC sales by 2015. Now, it is really regretting believing the Tame Apple Press and supping on Steve Jobs’ Coolaid.

Today they have issued a report saying that there had been a 15.6 percent decline in tablet sales for 2016.

Shipments of tablets – defined to cover both dedicated tablet devices and convertibles like the Surface family of half-tablet half-laptop portables – flopped from 207.2 million in 2015 to 174.8 million in 2016. Traditional PC sales might have been miserable but they still sold 275.8 million in 2015 and 260.2 million in 2016.

It was the high-end tablets that suffered the most. Apple which started the whole thing off by stealing a Microsoft design which was not going anywhere and claiming it invented it saw its shipments drop 14.2 percent. Samsung saw a 20.5 percent decline over the same period. However cheap and cheerful tablets did rather well. Huawei’s shipments jumped nearly 50 percent, though it still holds a minority 5.6 percent share of the overall market, while Amazon’s Fire family of tablets shipped nearly double in 2016 compared with 2015 at a 98.8 percent growth rate.

Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers division said that the tablet market continues to grow stale and not even talk of the detachable segment doing well is helping.

Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions.

“We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”

Still no apology for helping to lead the market astray by claiming that an Apple marketing fad change everything in the long term.

Courtesy-Fud

Fitbit Struggles Continues, Announces Layoffs

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fitbit has revealed that it will institute cost measures and layoff of 6% of its global workforce after experiencing softer-than-expected holiday demand for fitness trackers.

The company and analysts said despite the negative news, there is still a future market for wearable devices as well as for smartwatches made by Apple, Samsung and, soon, Fitbit itself.

In its preliminary financial results for the fourth quarter of 2016, Fitbit said it sold 6.5 million devices, with revenues expected to reach up to $580 million, down from previous guidance of $750 million.

“We are confident this performance is not reflective of the value of our brand, market-leading platform and the company’s long-term potential,” said co-founder and CEO James Park, in a statement.

“We believe the evolving wearables market continues to present growth opportunities for us that we will capitalize on by investing in our core product offerings, while expanding in the smartwatch category to diversify revenue and capture share of the over-$10 billion global smartwatch market,” he added.

Park said consumers want a “stylish, well-designed” smartwatch that has “general purpose functionality with a focus on health and fitness.” Fitbit recently acquired Pebble, Vector Watch and Coin (with its mobile payments technology) to “position the company for long-term success.”

Park and co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Eric Friedman said they will reduce their 2017 salaries to $1. The layoffs will affect about 110 workers, while expenses will be reduced by about $200 million to about $850 million in 2017. The reorganization will affect sales and marketing groups and create “optimization” of the company’s research and development efforts.

Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, said he didn’t think Fitbit’s fourth-quarter results signaled a long-term decline for wearables and smartwatches.

“I don’t think the entire category is in trouble just yet,” he said in an email. “Fitbit is indicative of the larger trend that growth will be slower. This is more of a pause than a continued decline.”

Fitness devices in general have been a “commodity, and a lot of initial excitement has subsided,” Ubrani said. Apple Watches and Android Wear devices have been successful in finding specific niches for sports and fashion, “but none have had mass appeal.”

Facebook Sets Sights On Television Set-top Boxes

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc is developing an app for television set-top boxes, including Apple Inc’s Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The world’s biggest online social network is also in discussions with media companies to license long-form, TV-quality programming, the Journal reported on Tuesday.

Facebook declined to comment.

An app for set-top boxes would bring Facebook closer to live video and video advertisements.

Getting advertisers to buy more video ads is key to Facebook’s continued revenue growth as such ads fetch higher rates from advertisers than text or photo-based ads.

Live video is also becoming a highly competitive feature on social platforms, with companies competing to stream major sports events and exclusive video components from high-profile events such as the Oscar and Grammy awards shows.

In April, Facebook expanded its live video product, Facebook Live – a potential threat to broadcast television, giving it prominent placement on its app and rolling out features to make it easier for users to search and comment in real time.

Is Microsoft Taking Windows To The Cloud?

February 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Software king of the world Microsoft is planning a cut down version of Windows 10 which will operate in the cloud.

Dubbed the Composable Shell (CSHELL) the software is a single, unified, ‘adaptive shell’ for Windows 10 and it is part of Vole’s cunning plan to create a universal Windows 10 version.

This will mean we will see a standardised framework to scale and adapt the OS to any type of device, display size or user experience, including smartphones, PCs, tablets, consoles, large touchscreens, and more.

Stage one apparently means a Cloud Shell which is a cut-down version of Windows designed for the modern computing world.

Cloud Shell should be out there in 2017 and it will be connected to the Windows Store and Universal Windows Platform app framework.

This would fit with Vole’s plans to bring the full version of Windows 10 to mobile devices with ARM-based processors, which it announced in December.

A ‘lightweight’ version of Windows could hint at a ‘thin client’-style approach which has been touted as a viable business tool for the last 20 years but has never really taken off.

Courtesy-Fud

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