The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.
For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.
The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.
The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.
“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.
The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.
The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.
Target Corp announced an overhaul of its information security processes and the departure of its chief information officer as the retailer tries to re-gain customers and investors after a massive data breach late last year.
CIO Beth Jacob is the first high-level executive to leave the company following the breach, which led to the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records and 70 million other records of customer details.
Jacob, who comes from a sales background and has been CIO since 2008, will be replaced by an external hire, according to sources at Target.
“It’s a decision that should have been made by the CEO on January 1, not through the resignation of an employee that overlooked critical weakness in the operating model,” Belus Capital Advisors CEO Brian Sozzi said.
The breach at Target was the second largest at a U.S. retailer, after the theft of more than 90 million credit cards over about 18 months was uncovered in 2007 at TJX Cos Inc, operator of the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains.
Hacking has become a major concern for retailers in the United States. In the latest reported breach, beauty products retailer and distributor Sally Beauty Holdings Inc said on Wednesday its network had been hacked but no card or customer data appeared to have been stolen.
Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel said the company would elevate the role of chief information security officer as part of its plan to tighten its security.
The company will also look externally to fill that position as well as the new position of chief compliance officer.
Steinhafel said Target would be advised by security consultant Promontory Financial Group as it evaluates its technology, structure, processes and talent.
“I believe this is definitely a measure in restoring faith and really showing that they are taking the breach seriously,” Heather Bearfield, who runs the cybersecurity practice for accounting firm Marcum LLP, told Reuters.
Target, the third-largest U.S. retailer, said last week customer traffic had started to improve this year after falling significantly toward the end of the holiday shopping season when news of the cyber attack spooked shoppers.
The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
Analysts speculate that Facebook may want to use the drones to bring Internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that are not connected.
The social networking company is reportedly paying $60 million for Titan Aerospace, according to TechCrunch, which cited unnamed sources.
Neither Titan Aerospace nor Facebook responded to requests for confirmation.
The aerospace company builds light-weight, high-flying drones that can take off at 20 mph and remain aloft for five years. The company’s Solara 50 drone, for instance, can fly as high as 65,000 feet above Earth.
“Drones are the latest rage with tech companies these days,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Amazon, Google and Facebook, plus a whole lot more seem to be looking for ways they can shoehorn drones into their business plans. And what young geek didn’t dream of having a remote control flying machine that could do anything they wanted it to do?”
But could Facebook use these drones to bring Internet connectivity to remote areas? Sure, but it’s not the only way they could go about it.
Last June, Google’s research arm, Google X, announced that it was working on affordable Internet connectivity through the use of a fleet of high-altitude balloons. The company tested its plan by launching 30 balloons that flew twice as high as commercial airplanes with 50 users trying to connect to the Internet from below.
Amazon.com had another use for drones, and in December announced plans to use the machines to deliver merchandise to customers. Possibly taking a page from Domino’s old promise of delivering pizzas in 30 minutes or less, Amazon said with drones, some customers could get their purchases within half an hour.
“Could drones be the way to provide net connections in Third World countries?” asked Olds. “Yeah, maybe, but wouldn’t a set of non-sexy, long-range cell towers or low-power, cost-optimized microwave repeaters be a better solution? Sure, there are some drawbacks to physical infrastructure on the ground, but they can be worked around.”
He reiterated that drones simply are the cool new tech tool. How could a tech company with very deep pockets resist?
Verizon Communications is engaged in discussions with content providers to deliver web-based TV services to mobile platforms, chief executive Lowell McAdam, said at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Just recently, Dish Network Corp and Walt Disney Co announced a landmark deal that will allow the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver Disney-owned network content online, outside of a traditional TV subscription.
Verizon’s goal “is to work with the content providers,” said
McAdam at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
“I have personally had discussions with the CEOs of the large content companies, and we would love to partner with them to see how we can take FiOS contact mobilely across the country.” he said.
McAdam said the company could also look at providing a service delivered over wireless airwaves and not just broadband.
According to PwC’s annual entertainment and media forecast, North American consumers will spend $6 billion in 2014 on entertainment from services such as Netflix that are offered over the top, meaning they are utilized over a network but not offered by the network operator.
“I think you can actually get a virtuous cycle where broadcast viewing goes up and over-the-top viewing goes up, if you time this properly,” McAdam said.
In January, Verizon acquired Intel Corp’s OnCue service for an undisclosed sum to accelerate its push into next-generation video services, including integrating it with Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based Internet and TV service that has more than 5 million video subscribers, about 5 percent of pay TV households. The company said it was open to providing over-the-top content to any device.
McAdam also stressed that Verizon expects Netflix to pay for faster video delivery as part of a so-called interconnect deal, in an arrangement similar to the one the video provider has made with Comcast Corp.
“I have spoken live and via email with (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings, and I believe that we will get some sort of an arrangement with them as well,” said McAdam.
The change, which will be rolled out gradually according to a Yahoo spokeswoman, will require users to register for a Yahoo ID in order to use any of the Internet portal’s services.
The move marks the latest change to Yahoo by Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, who is striving to spark fresh interest in the company’s Web products and to revive its stagnant revenue.
“Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience,” the company said in a statement, noting that the new process “will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone”.
The first Yahoo service to require the new sign-in process is Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em, a service focused on the NCAA college basketball tournament which begins later this month. News of the change to Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process was first reported by the technology blog Betanews.
Since Mayer took the reins in 2012, the company has rolled out new versions of many of its key products, including Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance. Last year, Yahoo announced a program to recycle inactive Yahoo user IDs, letting new users claim email addresses that have not been used for more than 12 months.
In eliminating the Facebook and Google sign-in features, Mayer, a former Google executive, is effectively reversing a strategy that Yahoo adopted in 2010 and 2011 under then CEO Carol Bartz.
The change to the Tourney Pick’Em sign-in process began on Monday, the Yahoo spokeswoman said, noting that users could still access other services with Google or Facebook IDs.
The sign-in buttons for Facebook and Google will eventually be removed from all Yahoo properties, the Yahoo spokeswoman, though she declined to provide a timeframe.
Fujitsu Labs have worked out a way to improve vibration feedback when typing on a virtual keyboard. The prototype haptic sensory tablet emits ultrasonic vibrations under the surface of the tablet’s display.
The company says that although producing ultrasonic vibrations would generally require a good deal of power, its engineers have come up with a way of shrinking down the tech and allowing a tablet prototype to run its haptic feedback system. Essentially, the vibrations create a layer of high pressure air between a user’s fingertips and the surface of the screen, resulting in reduced friction so the fingers can skate across the screen. This alternates between high and low friction to create the illusion of a textured surface.
It is possible to feel a CD beneath the fingers while spinning and scratching like a DJ, as well as physically feeling and manipulating the deck controls. Research continues to improve the technology, but the company is looking to commercialize the development by next year.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
Cisco has leant its support to the Internet of Things (IoT) with a security competition.
The “Internet of Things Grand Security Challenge” will be offering prizes of up to $300,000 for innovations designed to close security loopholes surrounding internet-connected objects.
Because the IoT is a loose concept rather than a standard or protocol, the criteria for the solutions are quite far reaching, with a Cisco blog post citing that it will evaluate entries based on:
Feasibility, scalability, performance, and ease-of-use
Applicability to address multiple IoT verticals (manufacturing, mass transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, smart grid, etc.)
Technical maturity/viability of proposed approach
Proposers’ expertise and ability to feasibly create a successful outcome
We now live in a world where even the most benign objects are hackable and the numbers of devices involved will only increase, so it therefore will become imperative that the interconnectivity involved does not overstep boundaries of safety or privacy.
Sierra Wireless recently launched Legato, a Linux distro specifically engineered for the IoT, which actually plays up its capacity for gathering Big Data. Meanwhile the IT industry continues to be excited about the IoT with Intel claiming it will be the next major disrupter in tech.
Winners of Cisco’s security challenge will be announced this Autumn at the Internet of Things World Forum, with six prizes of between $50,000-$75,000 up for grabs, as well as the overall winner’s $300,000 bounty.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
Samsung appears to have delivered a huge snuff to Android OS maker Google. Samsung’s new smartwatch Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the sequels to the poorly reviewed original Galaxy Gear are going to ship without Android.
Instead, the new Gears run Tizen, another open source operating system that Samsung, Intel, and others are working on. It is starting to look like Samsung wants to distance itself from its reliance on Google for software and services.
Samsung’s official reason is that Tizen has better battery life and performance. The new Gears can get up to an extra two days of battery life by running Tizen, even though they have the same size battery. The Galaxy Gear barely made it through a day on one charge.
To be fair Android isn’t optimized to run on wearable devices like smart watches, but Samsung didn’t want to wait around for Google to catch up. It was clearly concerned about beating Apple to market. So far Apple has not shown up.
The company’s PalmSecure scanners use near-infrared light to scan points in veins that lie beneath the surface of a user’s palm. There has to be blood flowing through a user’s hand for the sensor to work.
Every person’s palm pattern is unique, and scans of vein points are matched against previously registered scans to authenticate users and unlock whatever device or service they’re linked to.
“We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development,” a Fujitsu spokesman said. “In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones.”
Fujitsu claims the biometric technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.
The company first commercialized the technology in 2004 when palm-sized scanners were embedded in ATMs at Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to help authenticate customer identity and prevent fraud. In-store scanners at Suruga Bank also appeared in 2004.
Fujitsu later shrank the scanners and embedded them in laptops.
It recently showed off a stamp-sized version of the scanner that is the smallest yet. It’s been embedded in tablets for the first time and will be included in about 2,000 tablets provided to Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes the Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank.
“No one has this technology, and it’s significantly more secure than fingerprint,” the Fujitsu spokesman said, adding that some banks have shown interest in palm-vein scanners as a means of verifying identity in natural disasters in which ID or bank cards are lost or destroyed.
The customized 12.5-inch Fujitsu Arrows Q704/H tablets have Intel Core i5 processors and run Windows, acting as virtual desktops. Bank employees meeting customers off-site will be able to securely access their bank’s internal system by using the palm-vein authentication scanners.
Only users whose biometric info has been registered beforehand will be able to operate the tablets.
At CES in January, U.S.-based biometric payments company PulseWallet demonstrated a cardless point-of-sale terminal incorporating Fujitsu’s vein-imaging technology. It said registered users could leave their credit and debit cards at home and make payments simply by having their palms scanned.
Sears Holdings Corp acknowledged it has launched an investigation to determine whether it was the victim of a security breach, following Target Corp’s revelation at the end of last year that it had suffered an unprecedented cyber attack.
“There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach,” Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a statement on Friday.
“We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach,” he added.
He did not say when the operator of Sears department stores and Kmart discount stores had begun the investigation or provide other information about the probe.
Sears Holdings Corp operates nearly 2,500 retail stores in the United States and Canada.
Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the U.S. Secret Service was investigating a possible secret breach at Sears, citing a person familiar with the investigation. The report did not identify that source by name.
The Bloomberg report said that its source did not disclose details about the scope or timing of the suspected breach.
A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service declined comment when Reuters asked if the agency was investigating a possible breach at Sears.
The Secret Service is leading the U.S. government’s investigation into last year’s attack on Target, which the company has said led to the theft of some 40 million payment card numbers as well as another 70 million pieces of personal data.
Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, has been hit with a lawsuit by a customer in what may be the first of many U.S. lawsuits seeking to recover millions of dollars of losses linked to a hacking attack that led to the exchange’s bankruptcy.
In a complaint filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, plaintiff Gregory Greene said Mt. Gox and its chief executive, Mark Karpeles, were negligent and committed fraud for having failed to protect the Tokyo-based exchange from theft.
Greene said bitcoin prices plummeted after Mt. Gox found the security breach, but said he and other investors in the virtual currency could not cut their losses because the exchange had halted trading. Mt. Gox took down its website on Tuesday.
“Mt. Gox intentionally and knowingly failed to provide its users with the level of security protection for which they paid,” said Greene, who estimated his bitcoin stake at $25,000.
The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of Mt. Gox users, restitution, monetary damages and other remedies.
It was not immediately clear which law firm would defend Mt. Gox against the lawsuit. Baker & McKenzie, a Chicago-based firm that represents the exchange in Japan, did not immediately respond on Friday to requests for comment.
At a news conference on Friday at the Tokyo District Court, Karpeles said he was “very sorry” and blamed Mt. Gox’s collapse on a “weakness in our system,” but predicted that the bitcoin market would continue to grow.
Mt. Gox said it may have 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins and 100,000 of its own, equal to about 7 percent of bitcoins worldwide, for a total loss of about $480 million.
The exchange reported having 127,000 creditors, liabilities of 6.5 billion yen ($64 million) and assets of 3.84 billion yen ($38 million).
It is common for alleged frauds that generate significant losses or attention to result in a slew of U.S. lawsuits seeking class action status, even if the alleged wrongful activity occurs outside the country.
“This is a case of serial mismanagement, if not outright fraud, by Karpeles and Mt. Gox,” said Steven Woodrow, a partner at the Edelson law firm in Denver, who filed Greene’s lawsuit. “Users of the exchange are collectively out millions while Mt. Gox holds onto their bitcoins. We intend to get to the bottom of this in an American court.”
The U.S. government has requested a secret surveillance court to allow it to retain telephone metadata for a period beyond the current five-year limit, for use as potential evidence in civil lawsuits regarding the collection of the data.
In June last year, former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed that the agency was collecting bulk phone records of Verizon customers in the U.S.
The government subsequently confirmed that it had a program for the bulk collection of phone metadata, which triggered a number of privacy law suits in various courts challenging the legality of the NSA program under section 215 of the Patriot Act.
When litigation is pending against a party, or is reasonably anticipated, the party has a duty to preserve relevant information that may be evidence in the case, the Department of Justice stated in a filing Tuesday before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that was made public Wednesday.
“A party may be exposed to a range of sanctions not only for violating a preservation order, but also for failing to produce relevant evidence when ordered to do so because it destroyed information that it had a duty to preserve,” it wrote, while pointing out that it hasn’t received a specific preservation order so far in any of the civil lawsuits.
The American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles are among those who have filed lawsuits challenging the phone records program.
The telephony metadata retained beyond five years for the purpose of the civil litigation will be kept in a format that prevents access or use of it by NSA staff for any purpose including queries for gathering foreign intelligence information, according to the filing.
The federal government, meanwhile, is exploring alternatives to the NSA’s holding the phone data. It has asked industry for information on whether commercially available services can provide a viable alternative to the government holding the bulk data.
In a review of NSA surveillance last month, President Obama called for a new approach on telephony metadata that will “establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.”