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Several Countries Now Have More Wireless Devices Than People

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Wireless broadband subscriptions now outnumber people in seven countries as consumers continue to add smartphone and tablet devices to their personal electronics arsenal, according to a new report.

Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea and the U.S. had wireless broadband penetration of more than 100 percent as of December 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. That means there was more than one wireless broadband subscription per person, usually because consumers have more than one mobile device that can go online. The U.S. just barely crossed the bar, while Finland led the group with more than 123 percent penetration.

Across all 37 OECD countries, wireless broadband penetration rose to 72.4 percent as total subscriptions grew 14.6 percent. The group spans North America, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Israel, Mexico and Chile. It’s sometimes treated as a barometer of the developed world.

Wired broadband subscriptions also grew in 2013, reaching an average of 27 percent penetration. That means there was just over one wired subscription per four people: Wired broadband services, such as cable and DSL (digital subscriber line), typically are shared. Switzerland led in that category with 44.9 percent penetration, followed by the Netherlands and Denmark. The U.S. had just under 30 wired subscriptions per 100 people, while Turkey came in last with just over 11.

DSL still makes up a majority of wired broadband subscriptions, at 51.5 percent, followed by cable with 31.2 percent. Fiber-optic grew to a 16.7 percent share, gradually replacing DSL services. Fiber more than doubled its share of the market in the U.K. and also gained strongly in Spain, Turkey and France. While those countries still have relatively low fiber penetration, Japan and Korea continued to lead the OECD for that technology. Nearly 70 percent of all wired broadband in Japan goes over fiber, and almost 65 percent in Korea.

The OECD has compiled some of its broadband statistics on a portal page. For all the technologies it tracks, the group uses a generous definition of broadband as a service capable of at least 256K bits per second downstream.

 

 

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.

 

Google Ends Real-name Requirement For Google+

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google+ may attract some new — and certainly anonymous — users after Google announced it was abolishing its real-names policy for the profiles in the service.

Since its introduction, Google’s social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.

“You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile,” the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.

While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don’t want to use their real name.

Google’s policy of trying to tie YouTube users’ accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.

For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.

“We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while,” the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to “unnecessarily difficult experiences” for some users, Google said, adding, “for this we apologize.”

In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.

“Translation: It’s safe to come out and play again comment trolls,” one person wrote.

To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push “better quality” comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.

 

Apple Touch ID Patent Falters

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s application to trademark the name ‘Touch ID’ for its fingerprint scanning technology has been rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently the name already belongs to an outfit called Kronos, a US-based company that makes workforce management software.

The USPTO pointed out that granting Apple the patent for Touch ID may create confusion among potential users. Kronos’s Touch ID technology is also related to fingerprint recognition and has been doing rather well. It has had the trademark since 2001, while Apple’s application was submitted in January this year only.

The iPhone maker has six months to respond to the letter and provide an alternative. If Apple fails to do so, its application will be considered abandoned by the US patent office and the company will have to rename the feature. The Tame Apple Press gets all moist about the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which was billed as the “killer ap” on the iPhone 5S.  It is going on the iPad range in October.

The fact Apple could not be bothered to check the name was trademarked before it stuck it in the iPhone5S is probably going to cause it some problems. After all it had a few difficulties with the iPad name.

Courtesy-Fud

Lionsgate Joins Alibaba In TV Streaming Joint Venture

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, the studio behind the ‘Hunger Games’ films, plans on offering a subscription streaming service in China, the firms said in a statement on Tuesday.

The service, to be known as Lionsgate Entertainment World, will be exclusive to Alibaba’s Internet television set-top boxes and is expected to launch in August.

It will give users access to Lions Gate content, including several titles from the ‘Twilight Saga’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ series, as well as television series ‘Mad Men’.

Alibaba and its affiliates have aggressively pushed into the entertainment industry since the beginning of the year, with more than $3 billion invested since March. The Hangzhou-based firm is looking to move beyond traditional e-commerce, offering more digital products like films, games and television.

“This cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime,” Patrick Liu, Alibaba’s president of digital entertainment, said in Tuesday’s statement.

Alibaba is preparing for its U.S. listing later this year, potentially the biggest ever tech offering, even as it maintains a steady stream of investments that has seen the firm and its affiliates invest more than $7.5 billion since the beginning of the year.

In March, Alibaba bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a film and television content producer, for $804 million.

It followed this up in April by buying an 18.5 percent stake in Chinese online video streaming site Youku Tudou Inc in partnership with affiliated private equity company Yunfeng Capital. Among Yunfeng Capital’s founders is Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba.

Also in April, Ma and other partners paid $1.05 billion for a 20 percent stake in Wasu Media Holding Co, mostly funded with a loan from Alibaba. At the same time, Alibaba and Wasu Digital TV Media Group signed a cooperation agreement for online content and Internet TV.

Lionsgate Entertainment World will also offer premium content and subscriber benefits such as invitations to screenings, Tuesday’s statement said.

 

Video Streaming Company RayV Acquired By Yahoo

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has purchased online video streaming company RayV with the aim of distributing content to more consumers, mostly through mobile devices.

RayV, founded in 2005, is focused on efficiently distributing HD-quality video to a global audience, with a focus on mobile.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Yahoo is focused on growing video users and monthly streams, and while we’re only getting started, we’re very focused on this in 2014,” Yahoo said in its announcement of the deal.

RayV’s service will improve Yahoo’s underlying technology infrastructure, and most of RayV’s employees will join Yahoo’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel.

A deal between Yahoo and RayV was in the works for at least a couple months, according to The Wall Street Journal. The acquisition comes as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is focused on giving people more of a reason to visit Yahoo’s site, partly through original online shows.

Yahoo’s Screen portal includes a range of videos including original news, as well as content from partners like Comedy Central, BuzzFeed and Saturday Night Live.

Yahoo recently announced that it would be airing the television show “Community” on Screen, after it was canceled by NBC earlier this year.

 

Can Mobile Devices Push Gaming To New Heights

July 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By 2017, mobile and online games could push worldwide gaming software revenues to $100 billion. That’s according to Digi-Capital’s latest Global Games Investment Review report, which said the mobile/online game market could make up a whopping 60 percent ($60 billion) of that total thanks to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24 percent since 2011.

The firm found mobile was the main driver of record mergers and acquisitions activity in the last year, accounting for $4.6 billion of a record $12.5 billion in games M&A. The free-to-play MMO market was the next biggest driver with $4 billion in M&A business, followed by tech interests with $2.8 billion.

That total covers the last year, but most of it has come in 2014, with gaming M&A accounting for a record $6.6 billion in the first six months of the year alone. Even if 2014 didn’t see another penny added to that total, it would be a new full-year record as well, having already eclipsed the $5.6 billion in mergers and acquisitions recorded for the entirety of 2013.

Digi-Capital offered a number of reasons for the increase of M&A activity beyond the simple attraction of massive growth in the field. The firm also said some acquirers were interested in “stopping mobile insurgents from eating their lunch,” indicating the Zynga pick-up of Natural Motion would fall under that category. It also said companies established in one region are looking to buy strength in a different part of the world (as with Softbank’s majority stake acquisition of Supercell), and lukewarm or delayed IPOs for a handful of companies in the market have made recent valuations seem like good bargains.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Get Ready For More Ads On Twitter

July 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Get ready to see  see more ads on your Twitter feed that link to mobile apps in the Apple and Google stores.

After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.

Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.

The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.

Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.

Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.

Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.

Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.

 

 

Sony Believes TV Business Will Swing To Profitability This year

July 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp believes its TV division will swing into the black this financial year after a decade in the red, even if it falls short of its volume sales target, the head of the newly independent division said on Monday.

Masashi Imamura told a media round table that the TV business, which will become a separate subsidiary of Sony Corp on July 1, had reduced fixed costs during the last financial year, and profitability was now in sight.

He said Sony this year would be able to absorb the impact of any fluctuations in emerging market currencies, a factor he blamed for the unit’s failure to make a profit last year.

Sony has forecast an 18.5 percent rise in TV sales to 16 million units this year from 13.5 million units a year ago, an increase that analysts said was well above the industry’s average growth forecasts.

Imamura said the sales target was achievable, but added that the TV business would still turn a profit even if sales fell short of this goal.

Sony’s TV division will be split off from the parent company on Tuesday, a move aimed at boosting transparency and accountability in a bid to achieve and maintain profitability.

Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said at a corporate strategy meeting last month that the company had not ruled out an equity tie-up for the TV business, which is to be known as Sony Visual Products Inc, although nothing had been decided on the matter.

Sony’s TV business has seen relatively rapid turnover at the top over the past decade with six different chiefs, although Imamura has had the longest tenure, serving since August 2011.

Sony’s shares are down 8 percent so far this year, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average’s 7 percent drop.

 

YouTube To Debut Weekly Radio Show On Sirius

June 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is making a foray into radio with a weekly show on satellite radio service Sirius XM that will feature the online video website’s most popular and emerging artists, the companies said on Thursday.

The show called The YouTube 15 will be hosted by Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s most popular stars whose videos on how to talk to your dog and other snippets from her life drew more than 13 million subscribers to her channel.

YouTube’s radio show will debut July 11 on the SiriusXM Hits 1 channel, which plays pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop.

It is the first time YouTube, owned by Google Inc, has partnered with another platform on a show about music.

The show is aimed at exposing listeners to a curated selection from the vast library of YouTube music videos, said Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer for SiriusXM.

The selection of songs will reflect “what’s trending and very popular” to familiarize listeners with top hits on YouTube, he said. “Equally importantly, you are going to hear new and emerging music that many people for sure will not have heard.”

 

 

2GB RAM Upgrade Coming For New Google Glass Explorers

June 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google will soon roll out an upgraded version of Google Glass with 2GB of RAM, angering early participants of its Glass Explorer Program stuck with the older model.

Google Glass currently comes with 1GB of RAM, but to improve performance Google will begin shipping a new version with 2GB of RAM, it said in a post to Google Plus.

The announcement angered some existing Glass owners. Some demanded a free upgrade to the 2GB version in comments on the posting. Others said they would be willing to pay a small fee for an upgrade, while one acknowledged that if further hardware updates were planned, it wouldn’t make sense for Google to upgrade all users each time. “Getting a final consumer version would be swell though,” he added.

Google does not plan to upgrade existing users’ devices, it said.

“Throughout our open beta program, you can expect to see us make changes here and there. We won’t be swapping devices, but you’ll continue to see improvements with our software updates,” a Google representative said in a comment on the posting.

The company does replace broken or defective Google Glass devices, however, prompting Google Plus user Jake Weisz to identify a loophole in the no-upgrades policy. “If defective Glass units get free upgrades to 2GB, you will see a lot of ‘defective’ models this month,” he wrote.

In May, Google broadened its Explorer Program, making Glass available in the U.S. to anyone over 18 years old for $1,500. Before that, users who wanted to buy Glass required an invitation from Google. On Monday it extended the offer to U.K. residents over 18, who can purchase Glass for $1,700.

Google is upgrading the Glass software as well as the hardware. It is adding an easier way to frame shots for photos, with the addition of L-shaped corners bracketing the image in the viewfinder screen, and adding two new Google Now cards, one to remind users where they parked their car and another to let them know when packages are arriving.

The company also announced 12 new Glassware apps from partners, including Shazam, a music recognition app that can be triggered with the words “OK Glass, recognize this song,” and 94Fifty Basketball, a training aid that works with a sensor-equipped basketball to offer feedback after each shot.

 

Yahoo Releases Personalization App For Android Phones

June 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Yahoo has launched an Android personalization app that could give the company a bigger presence in mobile contextual search.

Yahoo Aviate is the product of the company’s acquisition of Aviate earlier this year, through which it obtained an app for personalizing the home screen on Android phones based on what users are doing.

Aviate’s app had been in closed beta. The app is available globally for Android phones in English, with some new features.

The app’s developers have been focused on organizing people’s apps based on any number of signals. Walk by a gym and fitness apps might pop up. Driving in your car might bring music apps like Spotify to the fore.

Yahoo’s version of the app has features to make it more useful, including alerts for weather changes, and a way to connect to conference calls with a single tap.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has spoken out on the company’s efforts to offer more in the way of “contextual search,” with Aviate comprising a key element in that pursuit.

But Aviate exists in a crowded field of apps offering personal assistant-like functions, such as EverythingMe and EasilyDo. Plus, trying to predict what people really want is hard, and could be annoying if not done right.

Apps like Aviate also compete to a degree with Google Now, Google’s mobile tool for iOS and Android that provides different information likes sports scores and news headlines based on data signals specific to the person.

 

 

Microsoft Set To Double OneDrive Free Space

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced on Monday that it would double OneDrive’s free storage space for consumers to 15GB from its previous allowance of 7GB.

The expansion of the free tier, and other changes to OneDrive, will go into effect in July.

Microsoft’s moves come as all the major players are scrambling to offer customers more for less. Earlier this month, Apple said it would cut prices by up to 70% for paid iCloud plans. And last week Amazon said that users of its Fire phone would have an unlimited amount of storage for photos taken with the device’s camera.

Along with the doubling of the free allotment, Microsoft also said that it would hand subscribers of Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal — the two consumer-grade rent-not-own plans — 1TB (terabyte) per user, up from a comparatively paltry amount of just 27GB. Students who have subscribed to Office 365 University, an $80 four-year program, also will receive 1TB free of charge.

The bump to 1TB per user on the consumer side matched the move Microsoft made in April on Office 365 commercial accounts.

Microsoft will also slash prices for additional storage for those consumers and students who need more than the standard 15GB or 1TB. An extra 100GB will cost $1.99 per month — or $23.88 per year — 52% less than the current $50 annually; the price of 200GB will also drop by 52%, from $100 per year to $3.99 per month ($47.88).

The cuts appear deeper when compared to the monthly payment plan Microsoft offers as an option: Then, the new prices will be 65% to 73% less than the current ones.

On a per-megabyte-per-year basis, the new OneDrive paid-plan prices of about 24 cents will be competitive with Google Drive’s 100GB bump-up (also 24 cents) and Apple’s 200GB offer (24 cents), but will remain twice that of Google’s 1TB deal (12 cents).

Apple has said it will offer a 1TB iCloud plan, but has not revealed what it will charge for that amount.

 

Insurers Hope Home Automation Will Reduce Claims

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

If home automation can reduce insurance claims due to fire, water damage and theft, insurers may become advocates for Internet of Things technologies.

That could change the business model for the Internet of Things as it applies to home automation. Insurance companies may one day subsidize the cost of installing the technologies, or possibly cover the entire bill.

Just recently American Family Insurance and Microsoft announced their intentions to work together on home automation technologies.

The companies announced the creation of a Microsoft Ventures Accelerator that’s focused on home automation. American Family Insurance, the eighth largest homeowners’ insurer in the U.S., will be offering equity investments to startups accepted into the program.

American Family’s interest in funding technology development grows out of its experience from an earlier technology venture, the Teen Safe Driver Program. Launched a few years ago, the program includes installation of an accelerometer and event recorder near a vehicle’s rearview mirror.

The recorder is always on and records the interior of the vehicle and what’s outside. When there is an erratic movement, such as a hard brake or rapid acceleration, the recorder saves the previous 10 seconds and the next 10 seconds of the video clip. The clip is transmitted to Teen Safe program professionals, who evaluate it and make it available to parents via a Website.

The accident risk of 16- and 17-year-olds is about nine times that of parents, said Dan Reed, managing director at American Family Ventures. The information from the video is used by parents to help coach their teen driver.

The economics of the program were compelling, said Reed. It cost the insurance company several hundred dollars to outfit a vehicle with an event recorder, and it paid the cost of doing so. But for teens in the program, it has reduced the risk of a crash by 70%.

“That opened our eyes to proactive protection,” said Reed.

As a result of their experience with Teen Safe, American Family began searching for other opportunities to use technology to reduce risk. The search has led to home automation, said Reed.

The major cause of insurance claims by homeowners is weather, and Reed says little can be done about that. The next big problem is fire, and advance sensors could draw correlations with electrical usage in a way that may predict an appliance fire, or even provide an alert of a burner left on.