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Google Assistant Comes To Bose Premium Headphones

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Last month Bose accidentally leaked shots in a newsletter of what appeared to be a new version of its top noise-canceling headphone, the QuietComfort 35. The tip-off was an extra button on the headphones that tech sleuths speculated had something to do with a possible voice assistant.

Now Bose has officially announced the not-so-secret QuietComfort 35 II or QC35 II and told us that the new “Action” button on the left ear cup allows you to connect to your Google Assistant without “having to grab your phone, unlock it, and find the app.” And that wasn’t the only Bose news of the day: It also introduced the SoundSport Free, a set of totally wireless Apple AirPods competitors.

Aside from that new button on the QC35 II, nothing has changed, Bose says. The price is still $350 (£330, AU$500). The headphone sounds the same as its predecessor, has the same noise canceling and battery performance (up to 20 hours) and the same controls on the right ear cup — audio volume and the multi-function button for incoming calls and accessing Siri.

Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices and is similar to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Instead of talking to your phone to access Google Assistant, you just press and hold the Action button on the QC35 II and issue commands. The QC35 II’s advanced microphone system “picks up voices with remarkable accuracy, so commands are understood,” Bose says. And the headphone’s noise cancellation “dramatically reduces sound around you,” making the Google Assistant experience more personal and immersive.

Tomer Amarilio, product manager for Google Assistant, posted a blog about the first headphones that are “optimized for the Assistant” where he details some of Google Assistant’s potential uses with the QC35 II. Presumably, other Assistant-optimized headphones are in the works.

The Bose QC35 II is available now in black and silver. Bose notes that the QC35 II’s Action button will access the Google Assistant only in markets where Google Assistant is available. In other markets, the Action button will control noise settings only.

Google Acquiring Pixel Smartphone Making Unit of HTC

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed that it would pay $1.1 billion for the division at Taiwan’s HTC Corp that develops the U.S. firm’s Pixel smartphones – its second major foray into phone hardware after an earlier costly failure.

The all-cash deal will see Google gain 2,000 HTC employees, roughly equivalent to one fifth of the Taiwanese firm’s total workforce. It will also acquire a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and the two firms agreed to look at other areas of collaboration in the future.

While Google is not acquiring any manufacturing assets, the transaction underscores a ramping up of its ambitions for Android smartphones at a time when consumer and media attention is largely focused on rival Apple Inc.

“Google has found it necessary to have its own hardware team to help bring innovations to Android devices, making them competitive versus the iPhone series,” said Mia Huang, an analyst at research firm TrendForce.

The move is part of a broader and still nascent push into hardware that saw Google hire Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola executive, to run its hardware division last year. It also comes ahead of new product launches on Oct. 4 that are expected to include two Pixel phones and a Chromebook.

Pixel smartphones, only launched a year ago, have less than 1 percent market share globally with an estimated 2.8 million shipments, according to research firm IDC.

Google will be aiming not to repeat mistakes made when it purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012. It sold it off to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd for less than $3 billion two years later after Motorola failed to produce appealing products that could compete with iPhones.

This time around, however, the deal price tag is much smaller and the lack of manufacturing facilities also minimizes risk.

Skype, WhatsApp Calls Allowed Again In Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Saudi government has rescinded its ban on calls made through online apps on Thursday but will monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy regulatory requirements were set to become accessible overnight.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

 Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users’ personal information and blocking content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

YouTube Introduces Fan Sponsorship Service

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube Gaming fans will now be able to directly donate money to their favorite eligible creators with sponsorships, the company announced.  A monthly $4.99 payment gives fans perks such as custom emoji and access to exclusive live chats. Fans can also purchase digital goods directly from the channels.

In order to be eligible, creators must be over 18 years old and have a Gaming channel which is monetized and enabled for live streaming. The channel must also have over 1,000 subscribers.

Early tests of YouTube Gaming sponsorships proved successful. According to the company, GameAttack, for example, makes most of its channel revenue through sponsorships and Super Chat (in which live stream participants can pay to pin their comments). And Rocket Beans got 1,500 sponsors on the first day.

YouTube on Tuesday also began testing out sponsorships with non-gaming creators on YouTube’s main app.

With the launch of sponsorships and the growth of other revenue-generating features such as YouTube Red and Super Chat, YouTube is ending paid channels, which offered monthly subscriptions for some channels but didn’t see much success. Less than 1 percent of creators use it today, according to the company.

T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Talks Heat Up

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile and Sprint are a hot topic in the world of wireless.

The nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers are in active discussions for a merger, according to a person familiar with the talks. It could take anywhere between three and five weeks before the deal might be made official, although there’s no guarantee it will go through. CNBC’s David Faber was the first to report on the talks.

A merger would mark the culmination of years of flirting between T-Mobile and Sprint. The combined company would have a shot at shaking up the industry, sizable enough to compete with larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T. But opponents of a deal say the presence of four carriers has resulted in stiffer competition, lower prices and better deals for consumers.

Both companies have made their impact felt on the industry over the last few years. T-Mobile eliminated contracts and phone subsidies and last year led the push to bring unlimited plans back to the industry in a bigger way. Sprint introduced the concept of a phone leasing plan and this year began offering a year of its service for free.

They’ve tried to merge before. Sprint’s parent, Japanese carrier SoftBank, tried to strike a deal with T-Mobile majority shareholder Deutsche Telekom back in 2014, but dropped its attempt when the government signaled that it favored four national competitors. But with a more business-friendly White House in place, the companies are attempting to get together again.

Under the proposed deal, Deutsche Telekom would be the majority shareholder, and T-Mobile CEO John Legere would run the company with his management team. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son would have a minority stake in the combined company.

Wall Street analysts and industry players have long called for the two to combine in an effort to challenge Verizon and AT&T. A combination would mean a heftier customer base and could lead to more retail outlets across the country and greater oomph in bargaining for network equipment at a lower price.

Amazon Is Developing It’s Own ‘Smart Glasses’

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is busy developing its first wearable device – a pair of ‘smart glasses’, the Financial Times reported earlier this week.

The device, designed like a regular pair of spectacles, will allow Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with the plans.

There would be a bone-conduction audio system in the device to allow the wearer to hear Alexa without inserting headphones into his or her ears, according to the report.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment on the report outside regular business hours.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc re-introduced its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, after discontinuing its production last year.

Are Hackers From North Korea Stealing Bitcoins

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

North Korea’s hackers may be stealing bitcoin and other virtual currencies in a bid to evade sanctions and obtain hard currencies to fund the regime.

That’s according to a blog post by security firm FireEye. While state-sponsored North Korean cyber-criminals have been targeting banks and the global financial system for some time in order to fund the isolated state, FireEye believes that hackers are now attempting to steal virtual currencies too.

Since May 2017, FireEye says it has observed North Korean actors target at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges with the suspected intent of stealing funds.

“The spearphishing we have observed in these cases often targets personal email accounts of employees at digital currency exchanges, frequently using tax-themed lures and deploying malware (PEACHPIT and similar variants) linked to North Korean actors suspected to be responsible for intrusions into global banks in 2016,” it said.

FireEye suggested that the attacks were not the only link between North Korea and cryptocurrencies. It said there were also “ties between North Korean operators and a watering hole compromise of a bitcoin news site in 2016, as well as at least one instance of usage of a surreptitious cryptocurrency miner” – which references Kaspersky Lab’s finding of a direct link between the Lazarus group banking heist hackers, whereby hackers installed Monero cryptocurrency mining software, and North Korea.

According to FireEye, spearphishing attempts against one South Korean exchange began early in May, and later that month another exchange in South Korea was compromised. In early June, more suspected North Korean activity targeting ‘unknown victims’  – which FireEye believes are cryptocurrency service providers in South Korea – was reported, and in July a third South Korean exchange was targeted, once again through spearphishing a personal account.

Prior to this activity, four wallets on Yapizon, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange were compromised on 22 April, although FireEye says there is no indication of North Korea involvement with this.

The cyber security firm believes that the 26 April announcement by the US of increased economic sanctions against North Korea may have played a part in driving North Korean interest in cryptocurrency. By focusing on cryptocurrencies, attackers may benefit from lax anti-money laundering controls as the regulatory environment around these currencies is still emerging.

“While at present North Korea is somewhat distinctive in both their willingness to engage in financial crime and their possession of cyber espionage capabilities, the uniqueness of this combination will likely not last long-term as rising cyber powers may see similar potential,” FireEye said.

“Cyber criminals may no longer be the only nefarious actors in this space,” it concluded.

Courtesy-TheInq

Did Qualcomm Inadvertently Help Apple

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has published a blog post that praises itself and its Android partners for inventing all the industry firsts that Apple is claiming to have invented in its iPhone X.

These include wireless charging, dual-camera systems, OLED smartphone screens, edge-to-edge displays, and more features that the upcoming iPhone X has.

The blog is a reminder to Apple about how dependent the fruity cargo-cult is on Qualcomm technology.

Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today — on Android and other platforms, Qualcomm said. One great example is Gigabit LTE. The latest Gigabit LTE-enabled Android smartphones can download content from mobile networks 135 times faster than the first Android phones could nine years ago, it continued. “Meanwhile, we’ve been inventing foundational technologies for Gigabit LTE for well over a decade.”

Apple and Qualcomm are currently embroiled in what’s turning into a vicious, global patent licensing dispute and its modems are at the centre of the dispute.

Apple believes it should be allowed to pay Qualcomm what it likes for the technology it invented and it should be allowed to make huge profits while other companies do all the research.

Qualcomm never mentions Apple by name in the blog – the closest the company ever comes is with this line: “Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today – on Android and other platforms.” 

Courtesy-Fud

Salesforce Launches Fund For Artificial Intelligence Start-ups

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture arm of Salesforce.com Inc is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence, the cloud computing firm told Reuters.

Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Salesforce revenues and income have grown rapidly in recent quarters, and it has boosted spending on research and development in the face of tough competition from rivals such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.

Venture capital investment in AI start-ups is rising quickly. For 2017, global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding to over 250 start-ups, Somorjai said. With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

The company said that it was also expanding the number of AI tasks employed by its ‘Einstein’ technology.

Fake ‘E-coins’ Shut Down By Switzerland

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Switzerland’s financial watchdog has shut down what it said was the provider of a fake cryptocurrency and is investigating around a dozen other possible fraud cases, in the latest clamp-down on the risks involving virtual money.

The move by the FINMA watchdog comes on the heels of Chinese authorities’ ordering Beijing-based cryptocurrency exchanges to stop trading and immediately notify users of their closure.

Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, which are issued and usually controlled by their developers and not backed by a central bank, are hailed by their supporters as a fast and efficient way of managing money.

But regulators and traditional banks are increasingly concerned about the risks of fraud in the burgeoning online cryptocurrency underworld.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon last week said Bitcoin, the original and still the biggest cryptocurrency, “is a fraud” and will eventually “blow up”.

 The QUID PRO QUO Association shut down by FINMA had provided so-called E-Coins for more than a year and had amassed funds of at least 4 million Swiss francs ($4.2 million) from several hundred users, FINMA said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This activity is similar to the deposit-taking business of a bank and is illegal unless the company in question holds the relevant financial market license,” FINMA, Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority, said.

E-Coin was not like “real cryptocurrencies”, FINMA said, because it was not stored on distributed networks using blockchain technology but was instead kept locally on QUID PRO QUO’s servers.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Zurich-based QUID PRO QUO for comment.

Will The iPhone X Hurt Hurt Apple’s Partners

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple suppliers’ shares have taken a hammering after the launch of the iPhone X because European investors are concerned that the phone will not be a success.

While Apple’s shares were not badly affected by the launch, investors are concerned about what it cost its suppliers to stay on the supply list. Apple has been famously leaning on suppliers to reduce their prices to keep its margins wide. That would be ok for the suppliers if the iPhoneX was a success, but Wall Street is not so certain.

The Tame Apple Press claims that shareholders are punishing suppliers for making their phone late. The iPhoneX has been blighted with production problems, however most of these have been due to the yields on the screen and not the other iPhone suppliers.

In fact, it was the chipmakers supplying to Apple were among the worst performers, with AMS down 3.2 percent, while Dialog Semiconductor slipped 1.7 percent and STMicro fell 1.1 percent.

Chipmakers have been the best-performing among Europe’s tech stocks this year, accounting for a large chunk of the sector’s out-performance. AMS shares have gained 165 percent in the year to date.

Courtesy-Fud

Nokia Set To Enjoy Benefits Of Smartphone Patents

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia will additional income from the current quarter after a ruling by an arbitration court on payments from South Korea’s LG Electronics for using its smartphone patents.

The Finnish company said it would also get a one-off payment, although it did not disclose any of the sums involved. The companies had started the arbitration in 2015.

“We believe that this award confirms the quality of Nokia’s patent portfolio. We continue to see potential for additional licensing opportunities,” said Nokia Chief Legal Officer Maria Varsellona in a statement.

 The ruling was made by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Nokia has recently signed deals with larger phone makers Samsung Electronics and Apple, as well as China’s Xiaomi Technology.

Nokia’s patent unit had sales of 616 million euros (541.47 million pounds) in the first half of the year — just 6 percent of the group’s total revenue. However, licensing payments are highly profitable while Nokia’s core business, telecom networks, is suffering an industry-wide slump.

“Nokia has been quicker than expected to clinch deals in the patent side… The next interesting scalp will be Huawei,” said analyst Mikael Rautanen from research firm Inderes, with an “accumulate” rating on the stock.

He said, however, that the revenue of the LG deal will be clearly smaller than that from the Apple agreement, which he estimated to bring around 250 million euros ($298 million)annually.

Nokia sold its once-dominant phone business to Microsoft in 2014 but retained its patent catalog covering technology that reduces the need for hardware components in a phone, conserves battery life and increases radio reception, among other features.

LG has a global market share of around 4 percent in smartphones, according to Strategy Analytics.

Will VW Have All Electric Cars By 2030

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In a move which will see it never have to face another emissions scandal,  Adolf Hitler’s favorite car company has announced it will be all electric by 2030.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group’s lineup as the world’s largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines.

Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars.

All 12 of Volkswagen’s 12 brands are behind the push, which has the aim of catching up with the likes of Tesla and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader.

Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production.

At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry’s history for the procurement of batteries.

By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as three million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.

Courtesy-Fud

Can The IoT Market Grow By 30 Percent YoY

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Internet of Things (IOT) platform market is expected to grow 35 percent annually to $1.16 billion by 2020, according to Verizon’s State of the Market: Internet of Things 2017 report.

The report finds that the biggest growth will be in business-to-business applications which can generate nearly 70 percent of potential value enabled by IoT.

More than 73 percent of executives either researching or currently deploying IoT. Manufacturing, transportation and utilities make up the largest percent of investments, while insurance and consumers represent the fastest areas of spending growth.

Currently there are 8.4 billion connected “things” in use in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and network technology, cost reductions and regulatory pressures driving adoption, business leaders are not only paying attention, they’re getting in the game the report said.

While the opportunity for revenue growth is the biggest factor driving IoT adoption, regulatory compliance remains a driving factor behind enterprise IoT implementation. Standards, security, interoperability and cost make up over 50 percent of executive concerns around IoT. These uncertainties are holding businesses back from full IoT deployment, with many still in proof-of-concept or pilot phase.

Early adopters seem focused on proving out simple use cases to track data and send status alerts, just starting to realize the full value IoT has to offer in driving growth and efficiencies across business, the report said.

The report’s author Mark Bartolomeo, VP of IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon said: “Over the past year, industry innovators in energy, healthcare, construction, government, agtech and beyond have not only piloted, but in many cases, deployed IoT technology to improve business inefficiencies, track and manage assets to drive value to the bottom line. In 2017, advancements in technology and standards, coupled with changing consumer behaviours and cost reductions, have made IoT enterprise-grade, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg in driving economic value across the board.”

Courtesy-Fud

Japanese Robot Sniffs For Smelly Feet

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Having foot odors can be a nuisance. But how do you know if your feet are slightly smelly or Hasmat-level awful?

It’s not likely you’ll want to ask a co-worker, stranger or even loved one for an honest assessment of your feet’s fumes. That’s where the new Japanese robot dog Hana-chan can be of an assistance.

The adorable robot from Next Technology has a built-in odor detection sensor in its nose that can tell whether your feet are fine or pungent.

The mini mutt — 6 inches long (about 15 centimeters) will bark if your toes are merely moderately smelly, but will fall over if your feet are rank.

The robot dog doesn’t just notify you when your feet are too noxious for words, it also sprays air freshener on your toes to help fix the situation temporarily.

A prototype of the feet-sniffing robot pooch can be found on the Next Technology website.

Next Technology plans to sell the Hana-chan robot dog in early 2018, according to Japan Times, retailing for around ¥100,000 (approximately $900, £660 or AU$1,125).

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