The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has filed a lawsuit against Sprint Corp over unauthorized charges on customers’ cellphone bills, a practice known as cramming, in the agency’s first foray into mobile payments.
Marking the third cramming-related government enforcement action this year, the CFPB alleges that from 2004 through 2013, the wireless carrier allowed third parties to charge consumers tens of millions of dollars for services like ringtones or text-message horoscopes that consumers had not requested, while keeping 40 percent of the gross revenue.
The Federal Communications Commission is weighing a $105 million cramming fine against Sprint.
“Sprint mistreated consumers egregiously by creating a billing system that invited illegal third-party charges and processed them in a highly irresponsible manner,” the CFPB’s director, Richard Cordray, said.
Sprint expressed disappointment in being the target of the CFPB’s lawsuit and disputed the accusations, listing various steps it said it took to monitor third-party charges, such as hiring an outside compliance vendor and vetting billing companies.
“We strongly disagree with (the CFPB’s) characterization of our business practices,” Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge Walsh said in a statement.
“It appears the CFPB has decided to use this issue as the test case on whether it has legal authority to assert jurisdiction over wireless carriers,” she said in an email.
In July, the Federal Trade Commission sued T-Mobile US Inc over similar billing issues, and in October, the FCC and the FTC settled such a case with AT&T Inc.
For the CFPB, which oversees consumer financial products such as mortgages and credit cards, this case marked the first public action coordinated with the FCC.
“If a company is processing payments over a mobile network, that’s something that the bureau has jurisdiction over,” the CFPB’s deputy enforcement director, Jeff Ehrlich, told reporters. “We’ll take action against anyone who violates the consumer financial protection laws.”
FCC spokespeople said the FCC and the CFPB have agreed to continue close cooperation “on this and other cases on behalf of wireless customers nationwide.”
British chip designer ARM could cash in on the mobile industry’s rush to transition to 64-bit operating systems and hardware.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Matt Ramsey argues that ARM is still a ‘Buy’ stock, as it’s trading at $43, while his price target is $54 to $56. Ramsay is upbeat for a number of reasons and the 64-bit craze is one o them.
He pointed out that sales of ARMv8 chips are raping up and are no longer limited to Apple. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 is also based on ARMv8, along with all other upcoming 64-bit SoCs. Ramsey named Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung as the three biggest contributors to ARM’s 64-bit business.
In addition to smartphones, ARMv8 designs are finding their way into enterprise networks and servers, creating even more opportunities. This is good news for ARM, as its royalties for processor designs based on the ARMv8 instruction set are significantly higher than for venerable 32-bit parts.
HGST has bought flash memory specialist Skyera after weeks of speculation.
Skyera, a startup offering cloud server arrays at prices comparable to those offered by traditional spindle drives, was already considered ripe for a takeover.
The company will be absorbed into HGST, the parent of which, Western Digital, was an early funder of Skyera along with Dell, Toshiba and Micron, giving it unprecedented access to NAND technology from the inside.
Western Digital is clearly pleased with what it has bought its HGST subsidiary for Christmas.
“Western Digital has established a leadership position in the fastest growing areas of the storage industry,” said Steve Milligan, president and CEO of Western Digital.
“The Skyera acquisition supports our strategic growth objectives and plans to deliver long-term value to customers, shareholders and employees.”
The INQUIRER spoke to HGST president Mike Cordano in September, when he warned us that HGST was “no longer your father’s hard drive company”. The combination of the Skyera acquisition and the company’s purchase of the Virident optimisation platform has made it a major force in flash memory at the enterprise level.
HGST is still seeking ways to make the most out of traditional spindle drives, through the use of helium, but is increasingly looking like a company in the midst of a transformation into a flash specialist.
Terms of the deal have not been announced, but it is understood to be an all cash affair with a value reflecting the importance of this transformation.
Cordano also explained that HGST wanted to disrupt the mindset of storage purchasing to look at whole-life costs. With Skyera, which is known for very high density, low-cost systems that reduce total costs, this could certainly help HGST achieve its goal.
BlackBerry Ltd rolled out its much anticipated Classic on Wednesday, a smartphone it hopes will help it win back market share and woo those still using older versions of its physical keyboard devices.
The Canadian mobile technology company said the new device, which bears striking similarities to its once wildly popular Bold and Curve handsets, boasts a larger screen, longer battery life, an expanded app library with access to offerings from Amazon.com Inc’s Android App store, and a browser three times faster than the one on its legacy devices.
“The conversation about BlackBerry has changed in the last year,” Chief Executive John Chen said as he launched the Classic at Manhattan’s upscale Cipriani restaurant. “We are here to stay, there is no question about that. Now we have to engineer our growth.”
He said BlackBerry had listened to its fans and brought back the command bar functionality that helped make its legacy phones easy to navigate.
When the company initially introduced its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and devices early in 2012 it put more emphasis on touchscreens, alienating many fans of its physical keyboard.
Those who moved to the new physical keyboard phones that BlackBerry launched later were unhappy that command keys such as the Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, along with the trackpad had been dropped.
With the Classic and the recent launch of its Passport smartphone, Chen is in some ways taking the company back to its roots, re-emphasizing the physical keyboard, rather than trying to compete directly against the touchscreen handsets of dominant rivals like Samsung Electronics and Apple.
“We expect the Classic to be the most popular BlackBerry enterprise device and the easiest transition for current BB7 (legacy device) users,” said Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um.
At the same time, China, which in past years had flooded the market with solar panels, did not see growth as strong as had been expected. The growth was mainly due to healthy U.S. and Japanese markets, according to the report from EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce.
Overall, supply and demand remained stable, according to EnergyTrend.
“At the end of 2014, the overall supply chain maintained a solid utilization rate, while China’s tier-one module manufacturers also continued to break shipment records,” Jason Huang, research manager at EnergyTrend, said in the report.
Ironically, because the price of photovoltaic (PV) modules (the building blocks of solar panels) bottomed out last year, investors worldwide became concerned that profits would also drop. PV prices plummeted after China saturated the market with low-cost solar panel modules. The result: PV capacity rose from 31 gigawatts (GW or a billion watts) in 2012 to a record 39GW last year, even as investments in solar capacity dropped, according to a 2014 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
In 2015, worldwide solar demand is projected to be 51.4GW, with the key markets — China, the United States and Japan — taking up 57% of the overall share.
The rise of emerging markets (the solar installation countries that are not in the top 10) has begun to appear. In 2015, the growth momentum of the emerging markets will become more apparent, and the overall demand will surpass 10GW.
South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc will roll out a new range of high-tech TVs in early 2015, expanding its line-up while it strives to cut costs that make its prized light-emitting diode (OLED) sets too expensive for most consumers.
A spokesman for the world’s No. 2 TV maker after domestic rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Tuesday LG will start selling products using quantum dot technology early next year. He didn’t disclose details including pricing.
The technology incorporates a film of tiny light-emitting crystals into regular liquid crystal displays (LCD), boosting picture quality. LG will have 55-inch and 65-inch ultra-high definition quantum dot TVs on display at the major CES trade show next month in Las Vegas.
Japan’s Sony Corp is so far the only major TV maker selling quantum dot models.
LG was widely expected to launch quantum dot TVs next year, having declared its intention to use the products in a dual-track strategy as the firm and its affiliate LG Display Co Ltd try to push OLED prices down. Analysts say it may take the LG firms several years to meet that goal.
The OLED TV sets remain expensive: a 65-inch ultra-high definition model launched in Korea earlier this year was priced at 12 million won ($10,993). A comparable Sony quantum dot TV costs about $3,799, according to the Japanese firm’s website.
Samsung Electronics has said quantum dot is one of many technologies it is considering. Analysts expect Samsung Electronics to launch quantum dot TVs next year, and believe it could be more aggressive in pushing the products than LG, which remains committed to OLED.
The LG spokesman said Dow Chemical Co is supplying quantum dot material. Dow Chemical confirmed the supplier relationship in an emailed statement.
Dow is building a quantum dot factory in South Korea using technology from partner Nanoco Group Plc, with production starting in the first half of 2015.
Patent wars have become commonplace with smartphone vendors across the world, and now Xiaomi is no exception. The Chinese company announced it had halted its product sales in India, due to a patent dispute with Swedish network equipment vendor Ericsson.
The legal troubles throw a wrench in Xiaomi’s international expansion, and could open the company to even more lawsuits from other patent holders, analysts warn.
In Ericsson’s case, the company said it had spent more than three years complaining to Xiaomi about the alleged patent infringement, which relates to the telecommunications technology used in the company’s phones.
“Ericsson, as a last resort, had to take legal action,” the company said in an email, which claimed that Xiaomi had declined to pay a fair licensing fee for the technology.
In response, Xiaomi said it was working with Ericsson to resolve the matter, without elaborating. But doing so will probably come at some financial cost.
Xiaomi has enjoyed an almost meteoric rise, becoming China’s top smartphone maker this year. However, the company was only founded in 2010, and doesn’t possess an extensive patent portfolio that so many older technology firms like Ericsson wield.
Although Xiaomi declined to comment on its patent activities, analysts expected that the company would eventually run into intellectual property matters at some point in its international expansion.
“It’s possible lawsuits will be filed in other countries, and not just from Ericsson, but other vendors that want to use patents as a weapon against Xiaomi,” said Wang Jingwen, an analyst with research firm Canalys.
Xiaomi, which still sells most of its phones in China, made India a focus of its international efforts. The company still has a small market share in the country, but its phones have been selling like hot cakes there.
It could simply end up paying Ericsson and other companies for access to their patents, but that could mean paying a hefty price.
“If Xiaomi is willing to pay for the licensing fees to Ericsson, the issue can be resolved,” said Xiaohan Tay, an analyst with research firm IDC. “But the higher cost for smartphones may be passed on to consumers, and Xiaomi may not be able to offer phones at such a low cost to consumers anymore.”
Intel is planning to update its rather successful NUC (Next Unit of Computing) series and as you can expect, they will come with Broadwell CPUs inside.
Intel isn’t hiding the external design of the new cases and there is a dominant yellow connector at the front of the new NUC, and this one should be providing charging power even when the device is turned off.
The board comes with either M2 storage or single SATA and there will be two different designs one exclusively for M2 drive and the second taller that will be able to take 2.5 inch SSD or HDD as well.
We will probably learn more details at CES 2015 that is about to start in less than three weeks from now, but the Broadwell in this small form factor will get a speed boost and some future prove technologies such as M2 SSD support.
We are running Core i5 4200 powered NUC with Windows 10 and it really works great powered by 240GB Kingston mS200 mSata SSD and Impact SO DIMM memory. These machines takes less than half an hour to assemble and boot into windows, including Windows 10 and make a perfect choice for the lovers of quiet computing.
The new version will obviously run at least slightly faster than the one we are testing and the marketing is excluding about “the one with the yellow USB connector”.
Like other infotainment systems, Sync allows users to make hands-free telephone calls, control music choices and perform other functions with the use of voice commands. Ford’s Sync head unit also upgraded to the latest Texas Instruments OMAP 5 processor.
As with Ford’s announcement about the new Sync rollout,Ford spokesperson Alan Hall declined to say why the automaker chose QNX over Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive OS for its third-generation product.
Negative press and feedback and criticism from Consumer Reports likely spurred Ford rethink its choices, said Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski.
“Having that automotive expertise and understanding the programs they have in place, how they work from an engineering perspective, the UI and getting applications into the head unit makes QNX very strong,” Koslowski said in an earlier interview with Computerworld.
Ford’s Sync IVI system has never been recommended by Consumer Reports magazine.
By turning to the open-source QNX platform, Ford gets a full community of developers to support and update the software. QNX also supports the ubiquitous HTML5 markup language and other native user interface toolsets.
Before being purchased by Blackberry in 2010, QNX Software Systems was owned by audio and infotainment equipment company Harman International. It’s been used in more than 200 different car models, so it has been well vetted.
Ford’s third generation, QNX-supported Sync uses a more natural language speech-recognition technology from Nuance, according to Hall.
“What we did with the data set was allow it to use a more conversational way that you’d refer to something. So P.F. Chang’s is how you’d refer to the restaurant, but the official name of the restaurant is P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro. In the past, you had to know the official name for the system to be able to find it,” Hall said. “That wasn’t very helpful because no one calls it P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro.”
“While the Internet of Things (IoT) conjures a vision of ‘anytime, any place’ connectivity for all things, the realization is complex given the need to work across interconnected and heterogeneous systems, and the special considerations needed for security, privacy, and safety,” co-wrote Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf, in a blog post announcing the research program.
The ”Internet of Things” is technical shorthand describing what is expected to be a mass wave of portable devices and sensors that will gather information and send it over the Internet for purposes of analysis and monitoring. Over 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet by 2020, Cisco has estimated.
Google plans to issue two sets of awards, both meant to fuel work to be carried out over a year.
One set of grants will be for larger team projects that Google will pay between $500,000 and $800,000 to see completed. Google expects that the work could be undertaken either by an academician leading a team of researchers or by a graduate student “willing to dedicate a substantial portion of their research time to this expedition,” according to Google’s request for proposals document.
A smaller set of grants, ranging from $50,000 to $150,000, will also be given out. For these grants, Google is looking for “new and unorthodox solutions” in user interface and application development, in privacy and security, and in systems and protocols research, according to the blog post.
Facebook Inc has discontinued including results from Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine on its social networking site.
The move, confirmed by a company spokesperson, comes as Facebook has revamped its own search offerings, introducing a tool on Monday that allows users to quickly find past comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.
The decision may reflect the increasing importance that Facebook sees in Web search technology, a market dominated by rival Google Inc.
Searches on Facebook have long been geared toward helping users connect with friends and to find other information that exists within the walls of the 1.35 billion-user social networking service. But for years, Facebook’s search results also included links to standalone websites that were provided by Bing.
“We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”
Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has flagged search as one of the company’s key growth initiatives, noting in July that there were more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day and hinting that the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers to certain questions.
“There is more than a trillion posts, which some of the search engineers on the team like to remind me, is bigger than any Web search corpus out there,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with analysts in July.
Microsoft’s Bing is the No.2 Web search provider in the U.S., with a nearly 20 percent share of the market according to industry research firm comScore.
Facebook and Microsoft have a longstanding relationship dating back to Microsoft’s $240 million investment in Facebook, for a 1.6 percent stake in the company, in October 2007. As part of that deal, Microsoft provided banner ads on Facebook’s website in international markets.
Intel showed off a new platform which it claims makes it easier for companies to create Internet-connected smart products using its chips, security and software.
Intel’s platform is like Lego and based on the chipmaker’s components and software for companies to create smart, connected devices. The only difference is that you can’t enact your own Doctor Who scene from it.
Doug Davis, head of Intel’s Internet of Things business, said at a launch event in San Francisco it will make it a doddle to connect to data centres in order analyse data collected from devices’ sensors.
Intel’s chips should compute capability in end-point devices that scale from its highest performance Xeon processor to the Quark family of products.
Intel’s Internet of Things Group had $530 million in revenue in the September quarter. That accounted for just 4 percent of Intel’s total revenue in the quarter, but it grew 14 percent over the previous year, which was faster than the company’s PC business.
Dell, SAP, Tata Consultancy, Accenture and other companies are working with the new reference model, Davis said.
Instagram, which launched in 2010, edged past 8-year-old Twitter and its reported 284 million monthly active users.
Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, has nothing to worry about. In September, the social network reported that its own active monthly user base had hit 1.35 billion.
“Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” wrote Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in a blog post. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys.”
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Instagram’s impressive growth stems from its popularity with millennials, who have a strong connection with social networking, selfies and images.
“The younger generation, in particular, is a very visually oriented group that loves selfies,” Kerravala said. “Pictures just say more — they’re fast and easy. Instead of saying, ‘What a great view of the Grand Canyon,’ snap a photo and upload it.”
He noted that Twitter users can upload photos and short videos to the micro-blogging site, but the site is mainly used for its 140-character or less messages.
“I think Twitter is more for information dissemination, where Instagram is more about sharing content,” Kerravala said.
Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner told Japanese news service Nikkei on Wednesday that the new system would be released “early next fall.”
Microsoft has not publicly set a firm timetable for the release of Windows 10, but only last week suggested the possibility of an earlier release.
“By next late summer and early fall we’ll be able to bring out this particular OS (operating system). That’s the current plan of record,” Turner told the Credit Suisse Technology Conference last Thursday.
An autumn release would put Windows 10 on track for launch three years after Windows 8, which got a mixed reception as it confused many traditional PC users with a design more suited to tablets.
Microsoft unveiled the name Windows 10 in late September, saying the jump in numbers from 8 to 10 marked a leap as it looks to unify the way people work on tablets, phones and traditional computers.
An early test version of Windows 10 – which blends the traditional look and much-loved start menu with newer features – has been available for download from Microsoft’s website for more than two months.
Windows is still a core part of Microsoft’s business and dominates the desktop computing market with 1.5 billion users. But the growth of smartphones and tablets means Windows now runs on only about 14 percent of computing devices worldwide, according to tech research firm Gartner.
Ericsson has thrown a spanner into Chinese firm Xiaomi’s expansion plans, and has reportedly stopped it from selling handsets in India.
According to reports, this is already happening. We have asked Ericsson to confirm its role and what it wants to say about it. It told us that the reports are true and that it is ready to defend itself.
“It is unfair for Xiaomi to benefit from our substantial R&D investment without paying a reasonable licensee fee for our technology. After more than 3 years of attempts to engage in a licensing conversation in good faith for products compliant with the GSM, EDGE, and UMTS/WCDMA standards, Xiaomi continues to refuse to respond in any way regarding a fair license to Ericsson’s intellectual property on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms,” it said in a statement.
“Ericsson, as a last resort, had to take legal action. To continue investing in research and enabling the development of new ideas, new standards and new platforms to the industry, we must obtain a fair return on our R&D investments. We look forward to working with Xiaomi to reach a mutually fair and reasonable conclusion, just as we do with all of our licensees.”
Xiaomi has responded to Bloomberg but it declined to say too much until it has access too all of the information.
“Our legal team is currently evaluating the situation based on the information we have,” said the spokesperson. “India is a very important market for Xiaomi and we will respond promptly as needed and in full compliance with India laws.”
The banning on the sale of devices was approved by a court in Delhi India, according to reports, and is based on an Ericsson claim on eight patents that it owns.
Xiaomi has bold plans for its own future and sees itself competing against rivals like Samsung and Apple. It has given itself between five and 10 years to do this, and will presumably want to include the Indian market in those plans.