The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.
The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.
The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.
“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.
“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.
But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.
The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.
Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.
I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)
Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.
Google Inc is growing its artificial intelligence area, hiring more than half a dozen leading academics and experts in the field and announcing a partnership with Oxford University to “accelerate” its efforts.
Google will make a “substantial contribution” to establish a research partnership with Oxford’s computer science and engineering departments, the company said on Thursday regarding its work to develop the intelligence of machines and software, often to emulate human-like intelligence.
Google did not provide any financial details about the partnership, saying only in a post on its blog that it will include a program of student internships and a series of joint lectures and workshops “to share knowledge and expertise.”
Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, is building up its artificial intelligence capabilities as it strives to maintain its dominance in the Internet search market and to develop new products such as robotics and self-driving cars. In January Google acquired artificial intelligence company Deep Mind for $400 million according to media reports.
The new hires will be joining Google’s Deep Mind team, including three artificial intelligence experts whose work has focused on improving computer visual recognition systems. Among that team is Oxford Professor Andrew Zisserman, a three-time winner of the Marr Prize for computer vision.
The four founders of Dark Blue Labs will also be joining Google where they will be will be leading efforts to help machines “better understand what users are saying to them.”
Google said that three of the professors will hold joint appointments at Oxford, continuing to work part time at the university.
Earlier today Unity Technologies caused quite a stir in the games industry with the announcement that former Electronic Arts chief exec John Riccitiello would be taking over the CEO job for David Helgason. While EA struggled to make shareholders happy, Unity has been seeing tremendous growth, becoming a favorite toolset for large and small publishers and especially indies. In fact, the company serves over 600,000 monthly developers. But what does Unity really have up its sleeve? Is the hiring of a notable leader like Riccitiello a sign that the company is indeed being groomed for a buyout or public offering?
“John Riccitiello’s corporate moves will rightfully inspire speculation about major changes in the companies involved and as Unity is the dominant independent development platform, what happens next could affect most developers and publishers outside of the top ten,” remarked independent analyst Billy Pidgeon. “An acquisition is very possible although Unity CTO Joachim Ante has denied this. Unity needs to be independent and available to all to retain and grow its value, so a sale to a major publisher or developer would sharply decrease the company’s revenue flow. But a buyer outside the industry could allow Unity to remain somewhat independent, although clients might be wary of doing business with Unity’s new owner.”
EEDAR’s Patrick Walker, head of insights and analytics, largely agreed with Pidgeon, commenting, “While the stature of Riccitiello as a hire and his interest in helming the Unity ship suggest that there are big plans in the works for the company, it is unlikely that these plans are focused on the short term, such as preparation for a near-term buyout. A buyout has been rumored for a while, and the Unity executive team, including founder David Helgason and CTO Joachim Ante, has been consistent in their messaging statement focusing on the company mission rather than pursuit of a buyout. More likely, Riccitiello is being brought on board to spur growth for a longer-term play, such as an eventual IPO or larger-scale buyout.”
Regardless of whether a longer-term buyout is in the cards, Riccitiello has the experience to help accelerate Unity’s growth in the next few years, most believe.
“Unity is a well-positioned company with several paths to increase growth. While game publishing is one route to spur growth, there is also an opportunity for the company to leverage the strengths, such as cross-platform flexibility, that have given it such broad penetration in the indie market to increase penetration in other development verticals,” Walker continued. “Riccitiello has an ideal background, having led major companies both inside and outside the games industry and having served on the Unity board for the past year, to drive partnerships that will help grow Unity as a major development platform across the full spectrum of publishers and developers.”
Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter added, “He is certainly capable of leading them, and also well equipped to sell the company. [But] I don’t know the reason for the change.”
Perhaps one major reason for the change is to offload some of the business responsibility from Helgason who may wish to focus more on product development.
“Unity has been growing quickly for several years. The company now has over 300 employees and its technology is being used by hundreds of thousands of developers on practically every platform out there. I suspect that Dave recognized some time ago that the company had to get an experienced business manager at the helm or risk flying off the rails at some point, and that’s exactly what JR is,” observed Lewis Ward, IDC’s gaming research director.
“Some people just aren’t cut out to be CEOs of big businesses – just look at Notch. I suspect that Dave is going to be happier staying focused on the core product strategy and building relationships with studios and indie developers. From JR’s perspective, it’s a great opportunity to ride the beast that has been Unity growth over the past 3+ years. It’s a remarkable story, and I think John is probably going to enjoy the role and stepping back into an important spotlight in the industry.”
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.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking into about two dozen cases of suspected cybersecurity flaws in medical devices and hospital equipment that officials believe could be exploited by hackers, a senior official at the agency told Reuters.
The products under review by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT, include an infusion pump from Hospira Inc and implantable heart devices from Medtronic Inc and St Jude Medical Inc, according to other people familiar with the cases, who asked not to be identified because the probes are confidential.
These people said they do not know of any instances of hackers attacking patients through these devices, so the cyber threat should not be overstated. Still, the agency is concerned that malicious actors may try to gain control of the devices remotely and create problems, such as instructing an infusion pump to overdose a patient with drugs, or forcing a heart implant to deliver a deadly jolt of electricity, the sources said.
The senior DHS official said the agency is working with manufacturers to identify and repair software coding bugs and other vulnerabilities that hackers can potentially use to expose confidential data or attack hospital equipment. He declined to name the companies.
“These are the things that shows like ‘Homeland’ are built from,” said the official, referring to the U.S. television spy drama in which the fictional vice president of the United States is killed by a cyber attack on his pacemaker.
“It isn’t out of the realm of the possible to cause severe injury or death,” said the official, who did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of his work.
Hospira, Medtronic and St Jude Medical declined to comment on the DHS investigations. All three companies said they take cybersecurity seriously and have made changes to improve product safety, but declined to give details.
As detailed in a Google security blog post, a compatible USB Security Key can now be used to log-in to Google accounts with two-step authentication.
The addition of the USB Security Key, Google claims, ensures that the log-in website is an actual Google website and not a fake.
Two-step authentication normally asks the user to enter a secret code sent to their phone in addition to entering their password online.
This process prevents potential attackers using passwords that might have been stolen or guessed in order to impersonate account holders, as presumably they won’t have the user’s phone to enter the code.
The USB Security Key adds another layer of protection to the process. Instead of entering a secret code, the user can simply insert their USB Security Key in their computer and tap when prompted in Google’s Chrome web browser.
Google said: “When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished.”
The USB Security Key implements the open Universal 2nd Factor protocol promoted by the FIDO Alliance, which means it can be used by other web browsers in addition to Chrome and other websites in addition to Google’s.
Google has recently enhanced the level of security it provides, and the extension of two-step authentication to include a physical security key is simply another step.
The update, designated as Build 9860, followed the Oct. 1 release of the preview, which Microsoft has offered businesses and technology enthusiasts to give potential customers a look at the work in progress and collect feedback during development.
The Oct. 1 version of Windows 10 was labeled Build 9841.
“Sometimes [updates] will be more frequent and sometimes there will be longer gaps, but they will always be chock full of changes and improvements, as well as some bugs and things that are not quite done,” wrote Gabe Aul, of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group on a company blog.
Aul said that Build 9860 had been handed to his group only a week ago, and repeated earlier warnings by other Microsoft managers that the preview remains incomplete and unpolished.
Although rapid iterations are nothing new to preview or beta software, Microsoft plans to accelerate the delivery of updates — ones that will include not only security patches and performance fixes, but also new features — once Windows 10 officially ships in mid-2015.
Updates will ship as often as monthly for consumers, while businesses will be able to choose between that and two additional tempos that Gartner has tagged as “near-consumer speed” and “long-term servicing.” The former will roll up the “consumer-speed” updates every four to six months to versions that fast-acting enterprises will test and deploy, while the latter will remain feature- and UI-static for as long as two to three years, receiving only security updates.
Other analysts have contended that Microsoft is pushing frequent updates to Windows 10 Technical Preview as much to test the process — both the back-end Windows Update service and the Windows 10 clients’ ability to absorb the changes and smoothly install the updates — as for the company’s stated reasons of gathering feedback and offering users an early look.
“Changes in Windows Update were put in place to make this possible,” Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said in an interview earlier this month. “The biggest question for Microsoft is how the updating process works with the Technical Preview.”
In the preview, customers have an update frequently choice of only “Fast” or “Slow.”
Build 9860 will be delivered automatically to most PCs running Windows 10 within days, but users can manually initiate the process by going to “PC Settings,” choosing “Update and recovery” and then “Preview builds,” and finally clicking the “Check Now” button.
Aul said that the download would weigh in at between 2GB and 2.7GB, and that the reboot, the reconstruction of the OS’s search index, and the syncing of OneDrive would take “longer than normal” and “some time.”
Microsoft will ship a second consumer-oriented preview in early 2015, but it’s virtually certain that the firm will provide more-or-less-monthly updates to the Technical Preview between now and then.
Data storage products maker EMC is buying much of Cisco’s stake in their joint venture VCE. The VCE joint venture, set up in 2009 as a one-stop shop for data centres, bundles Cisco’s networking equipment and servers with EMC’s storage gear and software from EMC’s VMware subsidiary.
EMC is expected to merge VCE into its business and consolidate its sales into its quarterly results and an announcement will be made later today. EMC on Tuesday said it would make an announcement regarding a “new business development” Wednesday morning. Cisco will retain investment in the business, but at a reduced stake
EMC is also scheduled to report its third quarter results on Wednesday, said it has no plans to give up its 80 percent stake in VMware. Reports of EMC and Cisco encroaching on each other’s turfs had sparked off rumours of the partnership coming to bits. EMC is also rumoured to be closing in on a deal to buy cloud start-up company Maginatics.
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.
November Xbox One update, explaining that it will throw a bucketful of new features into the console.
The firm polishes the console experience on a monthly basis and this month sees it swathe the device in tweaks and social networking positives.
Whether you use the console to browse the internet, talk to people, do social networking, watch television, or even play games, you will see some sort of improvement, according to spokeschap Major Nelson.
“We’re bringing you new and exciting ways to watch TV and interact with the Xbox Live gaming community in this month’s Xbox One system update preview. Today, we will begin rolling out a ton of new features to members of the Xbox One preview programme,” said Nelson in a blog that also introduces an excited video walkthrough.
Cosmetic features include the ability to change the background on your Xbox One, and even use achievements from games in your wallpaper.
Braggish players will be able to add their best clips to their profile page and generally swagger around the place, while people who like to crow on a range of platforms will be able to tweet clips from games.
Users can also share their location in their biography pages, and through the Smartglass app can see when anyone has checked out their profile.
Smartglass users can also check out their friends’ activities on the Xbox One, and can line up downloads of content, for example the free titles provided to Gold level subscribers.
The Xbox One store has been improved and Microsoft said that this would make it “easier to find and download apps for your Xbox One”.
The November update is out will be out, unsurprisingly, next month.
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.
Amazon, which had been in discussions with Simon & Schuster since July over pricing, confirmed the deal first reported by the Business Insider news blog that the two had reached an agreement.
Amazon had been locked in a months-long standoff with publisher Hachette Book Group, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France’s Lagardere, over digital book pricing. That has led to numerous issues for authors.
Industry experts had expected other publishers eventually to be drawn into negotiations as well, as the Internet retailer tries to set new benchmarks for the e-book market.
Negotiations with Simon & Schuster took about three weeks and closed two months before Amazon’s contract expired, according to Business Insider.
Simon & Schuster made its original offer and an agreement was reached after a few changes by Amazon, the source told Business Insider.
Google didn’t elaborate on the price increase after announcing the Nexus 6, but several analysts said Google may be intending to push the Nexus as a premium brand that can compete with the iPhone 6 and other high-end phones.
Google originally developed Android to be inclusive and global, and indeed, it is the world’s largest OS by far. The company developed the Nexus line in 2010 to show Android phone manufacturers, and the public, how a pure Android phone could look and feel without the added features and bloatware installed by phone makers.
Meanwhile, the four national carriers are expected to sell the Nexus 6 with a subsidized price of as low as $200 with a two-year contract, and separate pricing for installment plans. AT&T will be a Nexus provider for the first time, and Verizon Wireless will carry the phone despite a spotty history with the Nexus line.
Such a carrier push to sell Nexus 6 phones with a subsidy seems to indicate that Google is intent on spreading wider adoption of its pure Nexus line that it so far hasn’t achieved. Google has long described Android as an operating system for all, but Google also wants to promote a more refined Android device, which it is trying to do with its Nexus line.
The $649 Nexus 6, which will run Android 5.0 Lollipop with support for 64-bit architecture, is a better phone than the $349 Nexus 5 that runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Nexus 6 also starts with 32 GB storage, double the capacity of its predecessor the Nexus 5. (A 64 GB Nexus 6 will run $699 unlocked on Google Play.)
But all the enhancements in the new Nexus 6, including its 5.96-in. Quad HD display and Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, still don’t fully account for the 86% increase in starting price for the unlocked model, analysts said.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android at Google, noted in a blog post that wireless carriers will offer the Nexus 6 on monthly contracts or installment plans. A number of industry sources predicted the two-year contract price will start at $200, a common industry price for high-end smartphones, including the new iPhone 6.
The four major carriers, Google and Motorola, which is the Nexus 6 manufacturer, all refused to discuss the prices that carriers will charge. They also would not disclose the November release date.
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.
The firm claims that its IBM Internet of Things Foundation service “makes it possible for a developer to quickly and easily extend an internet-connected device such as a sensor or controller into the [IBM Bluemix] cloud”, and then “build an application [for] the device to collect the data and send real-time insights back to the developer’s business”.
IBM promotes its Bluemix cloud services as an open standards cloud platform for building, managing and running all types of applications for the web, mobile, big data and smart devices.
Big Blue says its Internet of Things Foundation service “delivers rapid access to, and provides valuable insights from, IoT device data coming from billions of internet-connected sensors and controllers”.
The firm cited IDC estimates that there are already nine billion IoT devices in the world, and that there will be as many as 28 billion IoT devices by 2020.
IBM foresees that by providing IoT devices connectivity in cloud services, “equipment and asset manufacturers can use IoT to provide remote service and monitoring to residential and commercial customers, oil and gas companies can remotely monitor and provide predictive maintenance to critical equipment, and logistics companies can track and monitor the condition of goods in transit”, as just some of the industrial, consumer services and financial applications of IoT-enabled systems.
“Think of the IoT Foundation as an extremely fast on-ramp to the cloud for the millions of intelligent IoT devices that are now being shipped, and the billions already internet connected,” said IBM Internet of Things VP John R. Thompson.
IBM said it plans to enlist partners for its IoT efforts, which it expects will include ARM, B&B Electronics, Elecsys, Intel, Multi-Tech Systems and Texas Instruments. Along with these partners, it plans to develop a set of certified instructions, or “recipes” for connecting IoT devices, sensors and gateways.
IBM Bluemix cloud services are already available for developers worldwide, and the IBM Internet of Things Foundation will be available from 21 October. You will need an IBM account to participate, of course.