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Samsung Still Facing Challenges Recovering Galaxy Note 7 Phones

December 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

galaxy-note-7-recall-150x150Samsung’s recall of Galaxy Note7 smartphones because of exploding batteries remains a challenging task, and some users, for example, in Canada, are still not exchanging their devices for a refund or a different phone.

The South Korean company has decided to cut these phones from the network, adopting similar measures to those taken last month in New Zealand and earlier this month in Australia.

The company said Wednesday that starting Dec. 12, functional limitations on Note7 phones, including curbs on the battery charge, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disablement will be introduced in Canada.

From Dec. 15, customers still using the Note7 will no longer be able to connect to any Canadian mobile network service to make calls, use data or send text messages. Samsung said it had been able to secure nearly 90 percent of the Note7 devices that were brought into the Canadian market.

When Samsung announced in September a recall of the Note7 in tandem with Health Canada, a Canadian federal government department, it was said that about 22,000 of the recalled smartphones were sold in the country.

Samsung announced a global recall of the Note7 in early September after it found a “battery cell issue.” The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Sept. 15 announced a recall in the U.S. of about 1 million Note7 phones as it found that the lithium-ion batteries in the devices could overheat and catch fire. By Oct. 13, the CPSC expanded the recall to include replacement Note7 phones that Samsung had supplied to customers under the first recall as they too were found to have the battery problem.

The company also stopped production of the phones. It has yet to explain in detail what caused the batteries to explode. A recent report suggested that the phone design could compress the battery even during normal operation.

Samsung said on Dec. 1 that it was working with local carriers to disconnect from Dec. 15 Note7 phones that were still being used by customers in Australia. Note7 owners in the country responded well to the recall, but a small number of affected devices are still with them, the company said. Customers in New Zealand were to be disconnected from Nov. 18.

The Note7 recall has been both a public relations and financial debacle for Samsung. The company has reported that the third quarter revenue of its IT and Mobile Communications division was down 15 percent from the same period last year to 22.5 trillion Korean won (US$19.8 billion) while operating profit fell 95 percent to 100 billion won, as a result of the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note7.

Is FitBit King Of Wearables?

December 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

You might not be aware of it, because the Tame Apple Press is going on an offensive, but Apple is losing the wearable’s market to Fitbit.

Today the tech press was full if a bizarre story claiming that Apple was going to clean up this Christmas with its iWatch. This is news to use because we knew that sales in the iWatch were falling. Nevertheless, Tim Cook was being quoted on Reuters as saying this would be the best Christmas ever for Jobs’ Mob’s iWatch.

We wondered how the story even got printed but it turned out it was because another report came out from IDC which revealed that not only were Smartwatch shipments down 51.6 percent in the third quarter of 2016 but Apple’s iWatch sales had fallen by 71 percent.

The IDC report show that the overall wearables market is up 3.1 percent year over year, but the winner is Fitbit and not Apple.

Fitbit saw a year on year growth of 11 percent. It shipped 5.3 million units in Q3 2016, representing a 23 percent share of the market. The company looks set to acquire Pebble and eventually offer a true smartwatch of its own, cementing its position at the top of the pile.

Chinese giant Xiaomi sits in second place with a 16.5 percent market share and 3.8 million units shipped in Q3, while fitness brand Garmin is in third position with a 5.7 percent market share and device shipment volumes of 1.3 million.

Apple is in fourth place and Samsung is the last manufacturer on the list. It may only have a 4.5 percent market share thanks to its 1 million shipped units, but that still represents YoY growth of almost 90 percent.

Courtesy-Fud

Sony Plans To Release Six Smartphone Games Next Year

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

sony-smartphone-games-150x150Japan’s Sony Corp  will release as many as six mobile phone games in the next year, looking to build on its own gaming franchises success off of console rival Nintendo Co’s Pokemon GO.

The upcoming titles will free up some of Sony’s popular gaming franchises, such as Everybody’s Golf, from PlayStation consoles to make them available on Apple Inc’s  iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms.

An aggressive push into the rapidly growing segment is seen as a necessity for Sony as its games unit has emerged as the group’s largest profit contributor following an overhaul of the group’s consumer electronics business.

Sony revealed on Wednesday a total of 10 mobile gaming titles it is working on, including those to be released in the financial year starting in April. The 10 titles include PaRappa the Rapper and Arc The Lad.

They will be available initially in Japan and eventually in other Asian countries, Tomoki Kawaguchi, executive director of Sony’s mobile gaming unit, told reporters.

The announcement comes before Nintendo debuts its game franchise Super Mario Bros on Apple’s iPhone next week.

While disappointing sales of Wii U consoles helped push Nintendo into mobile gaming, Sony has been a decisive winner in console gaming with over 40 million PlayStation 4 sales, almost double the sales of Microsoft Corp’s XBox One.

But Sony is facing the increasing threat from mobile in countries such as Japan, the world’s third largest game market where mobile gaming accounts for more than half of the $12.4 billion market, according to games research firm Newzoo.

Sony has launched some games for smartphones through its music entertainment unit but failed to fully introduce mobile gaming to its PlayStation business.

Analysts doubt Sony’s chances of major success in mobile gaming, citing a lack of powerful characters like Nintendo’s Super Mario and Donkey Kong, which have achieved widespread appeal globally.

‘Stegano’ Malvertising Ads Expose Millions Of Online Users To Hacking

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

malvertising-2-150x150Since October, millions of internet users have been exposed to malicious code embedded in the pixels from tainted banner ads designed to install Trojans and spyware, according to security firm ESET.

The attack campaign, called Stegano, has been spreading from malicious ads in a “number of reputable news websites,” ESET said in a Tuesday blog post. It’s been preying on Internet Explorer users by scanning for vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and then exploiting them.

The attack is designed to infect victims with malware that can steal email password credentials through its keylogging and screenshot grabbing features, among others.

The attack is also hard to detect. To infect their victims, the hackers were essentially poisoning the pixels used in the tainted banner ads, ESET said in a separate post.

The hackers concealed their malicious coding in the parameters controlling the pixels’ transparency on the banner ad. This allowed their attack to go unnoticed by the legitimate advertising networks.

Victims will typically see a banner ad for a product called “Browser Defense” or “Broxu.” But in reality, the ad is also designed to run Javascript that will secretly open a new browser window to a malicious website designed to exploit vulnerabilities in Flash that will help carry out the rest of the attack.

Hackers have used similar so-called malvertising tactics to secretly serve malicious coding over legitimate online advertising networks. It’s an attack method that has proven to be a successful at quickly spreading malware to potentially millions.

The makers behind the Stegano attack were also careful to create safeguards to prevent detection, ESET said. For instance, the banner ads will alternate between serving a malicious version or a clean version, depending on the settings run on the victim’s computer. It will also check for any security products or virtualization software on the machine before proceeding with the attack.

ESET declined to name the news websites that were found unknowingly displaying the malicious ads, but cautioned that the attack was widespread, and could have been hosted through other popular sites as well.

Is Apple Still In The Self-Driving Car Arena?

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claiming that was still interested in making self-driving cars.

Jobs’ Mob got a black eye in its self-driving car plans when it found that car makers were not the push over it expected. Jobs’ Mob arrived on the scene expecting car makers to fall over themselves to make Apple their partner. It made a list of demands about the way it was going to turn out and the car makers just laughed.

As a result, Apple appeared to give up on Project Titan, which was supposed to make the car, and reallocated all its staff to other projects or fired them.

Now this letter to the NHTS has Apple claiming to be “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

The letter is Apple’s official comment on the federal government’s automated vehicle guidelines, released last September, which has already drawn feedback from many companies working on autonomous cars like Google and Ford.

The federal government is continuing to collect feedback from tech companies and car manufacturers on its recently released automated vehicle policy. It would appear that Apple still wants into the program. Although how this will be possible without a product, or staff capable of making such a product is strange.

The letter is signed by Steven Kenner who is the man in charge of what is left of Project Titan.

“Apple agrees that companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses. By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone.”

A cynic would suggest that Apple is hoping that other companies will share data which it can use to create its own product.

Apple also wants the government allow for “regulatory flexibility” to encourage innovation. This means that the government should keep the guidelines voluntary and avoid passing any concrete rules or mandates so Apple can do what it likes.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Watch Sales Off To A Strong Start During Holiday Season

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

apple-watch-2-150x150Sales of the Apple Watch to consumers racked up an impressive record during the first week of holiday shopping, and the current quarter is on track to be the best ever for the product, Apple Inc  Chief Executive Tim Cook told Reuters.

Cook said the gadget’s sell-through – a measure of how many units are sold to consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves – reached a new high.

Cook’s comments followed a report on Monday from technology research firm IDC estimating that the tech giant sold 1.1 million units of the Apple Watch during the third quarter of 2016, down 71 percent from the year-ago quarter. The comments offer a glimpse of the gadget’s performance during the holiday quarter, which is typically Apple’s strongest.

 “Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.

“Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch,” he said.

Cook did not respond to a request for specific sales figures for the gadget.

Apple has disclosed few details about the performance of the Apple Watch, its first new product released under Cook. The company has not broken out sales of the gadget in its earnings, instead lumping it into an “other products” category that includes devices such as the iPod and Apple TV.

Strong sales of the Apple Watch are to be expected during the holiday quarter as the gadget is a more natural gift than some of the company’s other products such as the iPhone or Mac computer, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research. Apple also lowered the price of the gadget this year, potentially helping the holiday sales comparison, O’Donnell noted.

 

Smartphone-based Bank Number26 Expanding

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

number26-bank-150x150Mobile phone only bank Number26 is now offering its services in 17 countries in the euro zone, expanding from a smaller core of European markets it entered a year ago, it said on Tuesday.

The Berlin-based company is backed by Li Ka-shing, one of Asia’s richest men and Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, along with other investors including Berlin’s Earlybird Ventures and Zurich-based Red Alpine.

The company, which received its own banking license from German financial regulator Bafin this year, offers online accounts for cash withdrawals, savings and insurance services that users manage on their mobile phones.

 It currently counts 200,000 customers in 8 countries.

Without the expense of branches or legacy computer infrastructure and by relying on selective outsourcing, mobile-first banks can challenge established banks by promising lower lending rates and higher rates on savings.

Established banks have responded by plowing more money into upgrading their own computer systems, rolling out mobile apps of their own, closing retail bank branches and investing in fintech startups.

N26, which first launched in 2015 in Germany and Austria, then moved into Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Slovakia, is now adding the Benelux countries, the Baltics, Finland, Portugal and Slovenia.

“We have built Europe’s most modern mobile bank,” Number26 Chief Executive and co-founder Valentin Stalf said in a presentation at the TechCrunch Disrupt London conference.

“We are getting closer to building a truly European bank.”

Will The TeraHertz Band Help Increase Wi-Fi Speeds

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

teraResearchers have worked out a way to push Wi-Fi speeds to 34 Gbps using the TeraHertz band.

While greater bandwidth in the 300GHz and above band has been known for a while it is pointless because the range makes it a chocolate teapot.

Some researchers have managed to hit 100 Gbps but when it only works for a few centimetres it is not commercially viable.

Now boffins at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have got the technology to provide a great 34 Gbps speed with a decent range.

Naoto Oshimo, one of the scientists behind this latest test, said that “device performance is almost sufficient for short-distance wireless communication such as KIOSK downloads, which might be its first application”. By that they mean that they have managed 10 metres, almost OK for home use.

Oshimo believes that this technology will scale hugely in terms of the speed as well, and we could eventually be looking at topping the 1Tbps mark.

Courtesy-Fud

BMW To Accelerate Push Into Pay-per-use Personal Transport

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

bmw-150x150BMW will begin road testing autonomous vehicles in Munich next year as it attempts to maintain pace with ride-hailing firms like Uber, which have spent billions on pay-per-use personal transport.

The German carmaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities, BMW executives said on Friday.

“There is a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car,” Klaus Buettner, BMW’s Vice President in charge of Autonomous Driving said.

 Uber’s rapid growth has prompted BMW to consider how autonomous vehicles may help them accelerate their own push into pay-per-use transport.

Software and technology companies like Lyft, Juno and Uber have shaken up the traditional auto industry business model of selling cars by offering customers an alternative to vehicle ownership through smartphone-based ride-hailing services.

Now traditional car companies are expanding their own ride-hailing schemes, while investing in self-driving technology.

“Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” Tony Douglas, Head of Strategy for BMW’s mobility services said. “Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money.”

BMW has already made significant progress expanding into the market for car sharing by introducing pay-by-the-minute services like ReachNow in Seattle, Douglas said.

“We had 14,000 people sign up in 4 days, in a market already served by Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go,” Douglas said.

“Someone else spent the money to educate the market and then we came in with a cool product. We will not be the largest, but we can be the coolest,” Douglas said.

Mozilla’s Search Deal With Yahoo Appears To Be Paying Off

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

mozilla-logo-2-150x150Mozilla has reported that revenue for 2015 was up 28% over the year before, the biggest increase in three years.

Nearly all the $421 million booked by the Mozilla Foundation came from royalty payments, the bulk of which originated, as always, from search deals that set defaults in the Firefox browser.

Mozilla Foundation is the nonprofit organization that oversees Mozilla Corp., the commercial arm which builds and maintains Firefox for personal computers and smartphones.

According to a financial statement, $417 million, or 99% of all revenue, came from royalty payments. The percentage of revenue derived from royalties has never dipped below 91% — Mozilla’s fortunes have always been tightly linked to the Firefox search deals — but 2015’s portion was the highest since 2010.

 Although Mozilla has tried to diversify its revenue sources, notably in early 2014 when it experimented with in-browser advertising, those attempts have not succeeded. Mozilla dropped the in-Firefox ad idea in December 2015, for example.

Nor has it been able to monetize mobile to any extent: Its Android and iOS versions of Firefox — the latter is actually just a wrapper around Apple’s Safari browser — have never been able to collect more than a minuscule portion of the market. Mozilla’s revenues, then, largely rely on the desktop Firefox, which runs on Windows, macOS and Linux.

Search-based revenue was approximately $410 million, representing 98% of all royalty income and 97% of Mozilla’s total revenue. The $410 million was $119 million more than in 2014, representing a 41% increase.

Mozilla was able to squeeze more out of its Firefox search deals because of two decisions it made in late 2014. First, it dumped the global arrangement it had with Google — whereby Google’s search engine was the default for virtually all copies of Firefox — and instead struck country-specific or regional deals with a dozen different search and information providers. Secondly, it negotiated a lucrative deal with Yahoo, which was made the default search provider for U.S. Firefox users.

The second deal was the more important of the two. Yahoo paid Mozilla about $375 million in 2015 — and is contracted to continue payments of that size until 2019 — or approximately $100 million more than Google laid out in 2013, the last full year of its Firefox arrangement. Other search contracts contributed $35 million to Mozilla’s coffers, Computerworldcalculated from the organization’s financial statement and tax return.

Mozilla trumpeted the change in search strategy even as it declined to point out the positive impact to its bottom line. “We decided that one global default search partner was no longer the right choice for our users or the web,” the organization said in a “State of Mozilla” report. “Instead, we adopted a more local and flexible approach by country to control our own destiny and to diversify the user experience and competitive landscape of web search globally.”

Panasonic Explores ZKW Group Acquisition, Push Into Automotive Electronics

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

panasonic-logo-150x150Japan’s Panasonic Corp  is holding discussions to acquire European automotive light maker ZKW Group, accelerating its push into the automotive electronics market, a person familiar with the matter said.

The deal could be worth up to $1 billion and the two companies could reach a basic agreement as early as this month, the Nikkei business daily reported Monday.

An acquisition of ZKW would expand Panasonic’s automotive lineup, which currently centers on batteries and navigation systems, as it shifts its focus to corporate clients to escape price competition from lower-margin consumer electronics manufacturers.

 Panasonic said in a statement the reported deal was not something it had announced, and declined to comment further.

Austria-based ZKW declined to comment. It employed more than 5,900 staff at the end of last year and has plants in Austria, India, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, the United States and Mexico, according to its website.

Privately held ZKW supplies light-emitting diode headlights and lighting modules to U.S. and European automakers such as General Motors Co and BMW. It forecasts sales of about 900 million euros ($949.59 million) in 2016.

“ZKW is among various deals that Panasonic is considering,” said the source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and asked not to be named.

“But no details have been decided and the deal could fall through,” he said.

Panasonic has earmarked 1 trillion yen ($8.80 billion) for strategic investments including mergers and acquisitions for the four years through March 2019. Of that amount, 70 percent has been already completed or allocated for specific deals, the company has said.

The possible acquisition comes at a time when rival electronics makers are also pushing into the automotive industry. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed in November to buy Harman International Industries in an $8 billion deal.

Panasonic is targeting annual sales of 2 trillion yen for its automotive business in the year ending in March 2019, up from 1.3 trillion yen in the last financial year that ended in March.

Seagate And Amazon Backing Into The Clouds

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Hard drive maker Seagate has teamed up with Amazon to create a $99 1TB external hard drive that automatically backs up everything stored on it to the cloud.

Dubbed the Seagate Duet, the drive’s contents are cloned to Amazon Drive. All you need to do is plug in the drive, sign in with your Amazon account and that is it.

You can drag and drop files over, and access them from the web or Amazon’s Drive app on smartphones and tablets. Seagate claims you’ll get a year of unlimited storage just for buying the hard drive, which normally costs $59.99 annually.

Amazon’s listing for the Duet has some fine print. At the moment the offer is for the US and is not valid for current Amazon Drive Unlimited Storage paid subscription customers.

You also have to redeem the promo code within two months of buying the hard drive if you want the years’ worth of unlimited cloud storage.  Returning the Duet, will see your 12 months of unlimited drive storage slashed down to three.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Smartphone Makers Conspiring Against Apple?

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese smartphone vendors are so worried that Apple is strong arming AMOLED suppliers to suck supply that they have formed their own consortium to fight it.

According to Digitimes, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and BBK are worried that Apple may monopolise supplies of smartphone-use AMOLED panels from Samsung Display and other Japan-based makers in the future.

To fight against this, they are to work with the China-based flexible panel maker Royole to form a consortium for joint investment in local flexible AMOLED production in 2017. The cunning plan is better than being stuck without compotants, but might cause a few headaches as they will be effectively creating new production in an area they have little experience.   But if they are lucky they could set their own prices, in the same way that Apple twists the arms of its suppliers using its buying power.

China-based smartphone vendor BBK has established an independent subsidiary which will focus on manufacturing panels and BBK’s goal for the subsidiary is to expand its monthly capacity to at least 60,000 AMOLED panels from 2017-2019. Royole is expanding its AMOLED capacity to 45,000 units in 2017 and 2018.

Courtesy-Fud

PC Shipments Expected To Finally Rise In 2017

December 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While PC shipments are set to decline in 2016, beancounters at IDC think that the drop will be better than expected and there will be an improvement in 2017.

IDC expects PC vendors to ship a total of 258.2 million units this year, a figure which would be 6.4 percent lower than last year. It had been expected that there would be a 7.2 percent fall. Now IDC is saying that growth will still be negative in 2017, but shipments are expected to decrease by just 2.6 percent compared to this year.

Commercial shipments of notebooks will grow this year, while desktops should stay flat in terms of growth. The pressure from mobile devices is said to decrease as the markets mature. The tablet market in particular is not as big of a concern or threat to PCs as it is declining too.

IDC Worldwide Tracker Forecasting and PC research vice president Loren Loverde said that the PC market continues to perform close to expectations.

“Some volatility in emerging regions is being offset by incremental gains in larger mature markets while the interaction with tablets and phones is stabilizing. We continue to see steady progression toward smaller desktops and notebooks as replacement buying helps stabilize overall shipments in the coming years”.

Looking towards 2020, IDC claims that the market will still face a decline in terms of unit shipments, but only a small one at 0.8 percent. In 2020, PC vendors are expected to move 250 million units.

IDC Devices and Displays senior research analyst Neha Mahajan said:

“Despite continued weakness in the consumer segment, the US PC market is showing some signs of stability in the near future with some sources of optimism for the long haul. Backed by early Windows 10 transitions that are expected to boost commercial PC shipments in the next couple of years, and steady growth of PCaaS (PC as a Service) which should help shorten refresh cycles of commercial systems in the long-term, the overall US PC market sentiment certainly seems to be improving”.

Courtesy-Fud

GM To Release Super Cruise Technology Next Year In The Cadillac

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

gm-supercruise-150x150Information obtained from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) communication with GM revealed some of the details about how the “Super Cruise” advanced-driver assistance system (ADAS) will function, including its ability to enable hands-free operation for extended periods.

In March, GM asked the NHTSA if its “Super Cruise” system’s ability to stop a vehicle and automatically activate hazard lights would pass safety regulations.

In a response made public Monday, the NHTSA gave GM the thumbs up for its Super Cruise system to pull the vehicle over and turn on the hazard lights. The NHTSA, however, cautioned that any defect in the technology “could present an unreasonable risk of an accident occurring or of death and injury in an accident.”

“We urge GM to fully consider the likely operation of the system it is contemplating and ensure that it will not present such a risk,” the NHTSA’s letter stated.

GM’s Super Cruise system has facial recognition technology that monitors certain cues to make sure the driver is still attentive, GM spokesman Kevin Kelly told Reuters. If the ADAS system senses the driver is sleeping or not paying attention, it sends visual warnings, including a light bar on the steering wheel, and then audio warnings. If the system determines that the driver is no longer responsive, it will activate a safety protocol to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

GM has been testing its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technology since 2012. It had initially planned to unveil the technology on the Cadillac CT6 in late 2016, but recently changed the date to 2017.

The system will have a new adaptive cruise control with lane following that controls steering, braking and acceleration in certain freeway environments.

GM stated in its letter to the NHTSA that when Super Cruise is in use, the driver must always remain attentive to the road, supervise Super Cruise’s performance, and “be ready to steer and brake at all times.”

“In some situations, Super Cruise will alert the driver to resume steering for example, when the system detects a limit or fault,” the letter stated. “If the driver is unable or unwilling to take control of the wheel (if, for example, the driver is incapacitated or unresponsive), Super Cruise may determine that the safest thing to do is to bring the vehicle slowly to a stop in or near the roadway, and the vehicle’s brakes will hold the vehicle until overridden by the driver.”

 

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