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IKEA Launches Wireless Charging Furniture Collection

April 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

IKEA has rolled out its Wireless Charging collection of furniture, which has built-in Qi-enabled wireless chargers for compatible mobile phones.

In addition to offering bedside tables, floor- and table lamps, desks and simple charging pads, IKEA is also selling a DIY kit that lets users embed wireless chargers into furniture of their choice.

The furniture, and other items in IKEA’s wireless charging collection, ranges in price from $9.99 to $119.

The Wireless Charging collection will be rolled out globally, with U.S. stores seeing availability beginning in late spring, IKEA said today in a statement.

“With smartphones becoming such a natural part of our lives, we wanted the charging part to become a natural part of our homes,” Holly Harraway, IKEA’s lighting sales leader, said.

The furniture uses the most popular wireless charging specification, Qi, which is supported by brands such as Samsung and Energizer and has gotten an extension to its specification allowing it to charge devices at short distances

Users can check whether their mobile phone is compatible with the Qi standard at the Wireless Power Consortium’s this website.

The WPC with its Qi specification is up against two other industry organizations with their own wireless charging protocols: the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP.

The Qi spec transfers 5 watts of power for enabled mobile devices, such as the Galaxy S4 and S3, Nokia Lumia 1020, LG G2, Motorola Droid Maxx and Mini and the Google Nexus 5 phone and Nexus 7 tablet.

If a smartphone does not have native wireless charging capability, such as an iPhone, users can purchase a VITAHULT charging cover (for Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy only), or other Qi-enabled covers for use with the IKEA wireless charging furniture.

 

 

 

 

 

Huawei Unveils P8 And P8 Max Smartphones

April 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Huawei unveiled its flagship P8 and P8 Max mobile phones, devices that stack up against the latest models from Samsung and Apple in technical specifications if not marketing budget.

The P8, which runs Google’s Android operating system, has a 5.2 inch display screen — slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S6, unveiled last month, and the iPhone 6 — and an eight-core 64-bit processor.

Made from a single piece of metal, the phone is thinner than its rivals, with a width of 6.4 millimeters, Huawei said at a packed global launch event in London.

Like Apple, the Chinese company also launched a super-size version, the P8 Max, which comes with a 6.8 inch screen.

Huawei, a major player in the telecoms network equipment market, ranked fourth in global smartphone sales last year, shipping 68 million units, giving it a 5.5 percent share, according to research group Gartner.

The market is dominated by Samsung and Apple, which Gartner said had combined sales of nearly 500 million units.

Industry analyst Ben Wood said the P8 ticked all the boxes on design and performance, but it had a mountain to climb to position Huawei as a premium brand.

Seeking to differentiate itself from rivals, Huawei showed it could innovate, with features such as “knuckle sense”, which can differentiate between a knuckle and a finger to select and share content.

It also optimized the devices’ cameras to take “selfies”, including an ability to adjust skin tones, a move consumer device marketing president Shao Yang said would particularly increase its appeal to fashion-conscious young women.

“Huawei didn’t do very well in the past in the female market; this is the big potential market for the P-Series,” he said in an interview after the launch.

Huawei, and fellow Chinese companies Lenovo and Xiaomi, are leading the challenge to the two big players, particularly in their home market.

 

 

RadioShack Moving Forward With Plans To Sell Customer Data

April 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

RadioShack plans to keep moving forward with its plan to sell its customer data, despite opposition from a number of states.

The company has asked a bankruptcy court for approval for a second auction of its assets, which includes the consumer data.

The state of Texas, which is leading the action by the states, opposed the sale of personally identifiable information (PII), citing the online and in-store privacy policies of the bankrupt consumer electronics retailer.

The state claimed that it found from a RadioShack deposition that the personal information of 117 million customers could be involved. But it learned later from testimony in court that the number of customer files offered for sale might be reduced to around 67 million.

In the first round of the sale, RadioShack sold about 1,700 stores to hedge fund Standard General, which entered into an agreement to set up 1,435 of these as co-branded stores with wireless operator Sprint. Some other assets were also sold in the auction.

The sale of customer data, including PII, was withdrawn from the previous auction, though RadioShack did not rule out that it could be put up for sale at a later date.

The case could have privacy implications for the tech industry as it could set a precedent, for example, for large Internet companies holding consumer data, if they happen to go bankrupt.

Texas has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware for a case management order to ensure that in any motion for sale of the PII, RadioShack should be required to provide information on the kind of personal data that is up for sale and the number of customers that will be affected.

On Monday, Texas asked the court that its motion be heard ahead of RadioShack’s motion for approval to auction more assets.

The court had ordered in March the appointment of a consumer privacy ombudsman in connection with the potential sale of the consumer data including PII. RadioShack said in a filing Friday that it intends to continue working with the ombudsman and the states with regard to any potential sale of PII, but did not provide details.

 

 

 

 

 

Jawbone, Amex Team Up On NFC Enabled Fitness Band

April 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fitness-band maker Jawbone and charge card company American Express plan to give cardholders the ability to purchase goods using a future fitness band equipped with NFC, according to a report.

Neither company would confirm the new product, said to be announced this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report said AmEx payments won’t be possible with the coming Jawbone UP3, but will appear on a future product.

Apple Watch, which last Friday went on pre-order, will also support NFC payments. Apple recently said it has more than 700,000 U.S. stores supporting its technology. In addition to American Express, Apple Watch supports MasterCard and Visa.

The use of NFC in wrist-wearable devices for use with in-store payments is expected to grow. In January, a Fitbit representative at the International CES trade show said the company plans to remain open to including mobile payment capabilities in its fitness bands.

However, adding NFC could drive up costs for wearable devices while creating a sense of application bloat. One smartwatch maker, Guess Watch, a subsidiary of Timex, has not included NFC in its Guess Connect smartwatch, which is coming in the fall for about $350. “We don’t think [payment capability] is what a fashion-focused consumer wants,” said Rob Pomponio, senior vice president for creative services at Guess Watches in an interview at CES in January.

What will matter to consumers about mobile payments on a smartwatch or fitness band will be whether the device can be widely used in stores. While Apple Watch can presumably work in payment terminals at 700,000 stores, that is just a fraction of the 12 million payment terminals in the U.S.

 

 

RedHat And Canonical Discuss Linux 4.0

April 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Red Hat has been telling everyone  its plans to integrate the latest Linux 4.0 kernel into its products.

In a statement, a spokesman told us, “Red Hat’s upstream community projects will begin working with 4.0 almost immediately; in fact, Fedora 22 Alpha was based on the RC1 version of the 4.0 kernel.

“From a productization perspective, we will keep an eye on these integration efforts for possible inclusion into Red Hat’s enterprise portfolio.

“As with all of our enterprise-grade solutions, we provide stable, secure and hardened features, including the Linux kernel, to our customers – once we are certain that the next iterations of the Linux kernel, be it 4.0 or later, has the features and maturity that our customer base requires, we will begin packaging it into our enterprise portfolio with the intention of supporting it for 10 years, as we do with all of our products.”

Meanwhile, Canonical Head Honcho Mark Shuttleworth has confirmed that Linux Kernel 4.0 should be making its debut in Ubuntu products before the end of the year.

In an earlier note to The INQUIRER, Shuttleworth confirmed that the newly released kernel’s integration was “likely to be in this October release.”

The news follows the release of version 4.0 of the Linux kernel in a flurry of what T S Eliot would describe as “not with a bang but a whimper”.

Writing on the Linux Kernel Mailing List on Sunday afternoon, Linux overlord Linus Torvalds explained that the new version was being released according to schedule, rather than because of any dramatic improvements, and because of a lack of any specific reason not to.

“Linux 4.0 was a pretty small release in linux-next and in final size, although obviously ‘small’ is relative. It’s still over 10,000 non-merge commits. But we’ve definitely had bigger releases (and judging by linux-next v4.1 is going to be one of the bigger ones),” he said.

“Feature-wise, 4.0 doesn’t have all that much special. Much has been made of the new kernel patching infrastructure, but realistically that wasn’t the only reason for the version number change. We’ve had much bigger changes in other versions. So this is very much a ‘solid code progress’ release.”

Come to think of it, it is very unlikely that T S Eliot would ever have written about Linux kernels, but that’s not the point.

Torvalds, meanwhile, explained that he is happier with releasing to a schedule rather than because of any specific feature-related reason, although he does note that there have been four billion code commits, and Linux 3.0 was released after the two billion mark, so there’s a nice symmetry there.

In fact, back in 2011 the version numbering of the Linux kernel was a matter of some debate, and Torvalds’ lacklustre announcement seems to be pre-empting more of the same.

In a subsequent post Torvalds jokes, “the strongest argument for some people advocating 4.0 seems to have been a wish to see 4.1.15 – because ‘that was the version of Linux Skynet used for the T-800 Terminator.’”

Courtesy-TheInq

Altera Shareholders Not Too Happy With Intel’s Merger Offer

April 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Several key Altera shareholders have forced the company back to the negotiating table to discuss the merger with Intel.

Talks with Intel broke down over the price, which Alteria management felt was too low. Cadian
Capital Management and TIG Advisors, have told Alteria to stop mucking about and talk turkey with Chipzilla.

In letters to Altera’s management, shareholders have raised concerns about the company’s ability to create value on its own that matches Intel’s offer, Bloomberg reported.

The company has agreed to resume takeover talks with Intel.

Some other large investors also have also sent letters, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Intel’s offered $50 per share range while Altera’s shares are currently worth $43.86 and valued at $13.2 billion. The stock has surged nearly 27 percent since merger talks was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in March.

Cadian was Altera’s 10th-largest shareholder, with a 2.77 percent stake. TIG owns about 1.5 percent of Altera’s outstanding shares, one of the people told Bloomberg.  It looks like what will  be Intel’s biggest buy out is back on again.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Has A Team Devoted To Making Screens For Apple Devices

April 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co has put together a standalone team of about 200 employees to work exclusively on making screens for rival smartphone maker Apple Inc’s products, Bloomberg reported, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The team at Samsung Display Co, which provides screens for iPads and MacBooks, helps develop products and is only allowed to share information about Apple’s business within the group, Bloomberg said.

The team, formed on April 1, also helps with sales and Apple is now the biggest external customer for Samsung components, Bloomberg said.

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock and a Samsung Display spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Samsung and Apple last year agreed to drop all patent litigation outside the United States, scaling down a protracted legal battle between the smartphone rivals.

The legal battle between the smartphone rivals began in the United States in 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of copying its iPhone designs. Samsung countered that Apple was using pieces of its wireless-transmission technology without permission.

 

 

Sprint Offering In Home Technology Set-up Service

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Dealing with a highly competitive market, U.S. wireless carrier Sprint is offering to deliver and set up phones, tablets and other connected devices for free at homes, offices and other locations chosen by the customer.

The offer is limited to eligible upgrade customers, but starting in September, new customers in selected markets will be able to choose the new Direct 2 You option, when buying online or through call centers.

Launching in the Kansas City metropolitan area on Monday, the program will be expanded across the country using about 5,000 branded cars and employing 5,000 staff by year end. A rollout in Miami and Chicago is scheduled for April 20.

Deliveries, however, will be confined to specific zones in the cities.

The bid by the carrier to bring “in-store experience” to homes and offices includes delivery of the phone and setting up the device by a Sprint-trained expert. The representative will transfer content from the earlier phone, and provide a tutorial and offer tips on the use of the new device.

The operator’s representative will also use the visit to give a quote for the existing phone under the Sprint Buyback offer.

Sprint said it developed the service based on customer research and insights that indicated “the need for a revolutionary service like this one.” Customers will be alerted to the offer to upgrade their phone by text or email.

Sprint’s move comes as the company planned to set up 1,435 co-branded stores at RadioShack stores. The company said its aim is to help consumers get phones in the most convenient way. “If it’s a personalized delivery — we can do that now. If it’s about a great in-store service, we can provide that as well,” according to a company FAQ.

 

 

Letv Plans To Bring Mobile Phones, Streaming TV To US

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese company Letv plans to offer its smartphones and smart TVs to the United States later this year and to launch a video streaming service for Chinese-speaking Americans, according to statements made by the company on Tuesday.

Letv said it set up a U.S. headquarters in Redwood City, California, part of the Silicon Valley tech hub, and has opened an office in Los Angeles.

The company plans to hire hundreds of staff for the two locations in the coming months, JD Howard, vice president and general manager of Letv’s international mobile business, said in an interview. It is looking to partner with U.S. content providers and technology companies, he said.

“Our ambition is to make a serious disruption in the smartphone industry,” Howard said. “We need to take the key advantages we have built in China and translate them to other markets.”

For the new streaming service, Letv aims to create an offering similar to what consumers watch in China, the company said. Letv has an online library of Chinese content that includes more than 100,000 television episodes and 5,000 films.

The service will likely offer a mix of ad-supported, subscription and pay-per-view content as Letv does in China, Howard said.

 

Intel Shows Off Wire-free Laptop

April 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel showed off what it has labeled the “world’s first no-wires” laptop, which has wireless charging and can connect to peripherals without cables.

The prototype laptop frees users from carrying a bulky power adapter, since the laptop recharges after being placed on a wireless charging table or surface.

It also connects wirelessly to external displays through Wi-Di (Wireless Display) technology, which could eliminate HDMI and DisplayPort ports. The wireless display needs to support Wi-Di technology.

“This is going to be the world’s first PC where you’d never need to connect a wire to it,” said Intel’s Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager for Intel’s Client Computing group. He showed the laptop during a speech this week at the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China.

Intel first talked about the concept of a wire-free laptop in June last year. The laptop is only shipping to software developers looking to write applications that take advantage of the wire-free features.

A number of laptop makers are supporting Intel’s vision of wire-free computers. For example, Lenovo wants to bring such features to its business laptops, Skaugen said.

The laptop shown was a hybrid in which the screen could be pulled out of the keyboard dock. Intel is looking to link laptops wirelessly to peripherals like monitors and external storage through the emerging WiGig technology. At data transfer speeds of 7G bps (bits per second), WiGig is much faster than Wi-Fi.

The wire-free prototype is also the first laptop based on Intel’s upcoming sixth-generation processor code-named Skylake, Skaugen said. PCs based on Skylake will start shipping in the second quarter this year, though it isn’t clear when laptops will start getting wireless charging and other features.

 

 

 

Nokia Maybe Looking To Exit The Map Business Next

April 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia is mulling over the idea of selling its maps business known as HERE, a source familiar with the matter said late last week, pushing up shares in the Finnish company as well as its network gear rival Alcatel-Lucent.

After the exit from handsets, analysts have seen little synergies between the map unit and Nokia’s mainstay network gear business. Nokia has hired a financial adviser to explore a sale of the unit, the source added.

Bloomberg first reported news of the sale on Friday.

A Nokia spokeswoman declined to comment.

Shares in Nokia closed 5.57 percent higher while those in France’s Alcatel-Lucent closed 4.82 percent higher. The two companies have reportedly held on and off merger talks in recent years.

Shares in Dutch navigation company TomTom surged more than 11 percent after the news broke.

“We have estimated that HERE’s value is around 3.3-4.8 billion euros, and in a possible deal the price should be more than that,” Inderes Equity Research said on its Twitter account.

Nokia sold its once-dominant phone handset business to Microsoft last year, leaving it with its core network equipment business, HERE as well as its patent division.

HERE last year had net sales of around 969 million euros with an operating profit of 31 million euros. The unit has signed several orders from the car industry recently.

 

 

Apple Seeking Exclusive Streaming Deals With Musicians

April 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has reached out to more than a dozen musicians, including British band Florence and the Machine, hoping to sign exclusive deals for some of their music to be streamed on Beats, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company is in talks with Florence and the Machine to give Apple limited streaming rights to a track from their album set to be released in June, Bloomberg said.

Apple has also approached Taylor Swift and others about partnerships, the report said.

Apple declined to comment.

Beats Music will be re-launched in coming months. There will be a $9.99-a-month subscription for individuals and a family plan for $14.99, according to sources, Bloomberg said.

Music streaming service Tidal, launched last month by rapper Jay Z, is also trying to convince artists to sign exclusive deals for their content, to fend off competition from services such as Spotify and Google Inc’s YouTube.

Apple bought audio equipment and music streaming company Beats for about $3 billion in May 2014, hoping to catch up in fast-growing music streaming industry.

 

 

YouTube Planning Subscription Based, Ad-free Service

April 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is planning a paid service that will allow viewers to watch select videos without ads, Google has confirmed.

YouTube began laying out the terms of the service in a letter seen by IDG News Service. The letter was sent Wednesday to members of YouTube’s Partner program, which lets YouTube video makers earn money from ads and merchandise.

It’s not clear when the new service will launch, nor the price or what it will be called.

“While we can’t comment on ongoing discussions, giving fans more choice to enjoy the content they love and creators more opportunity to earn revenue are always amongst our top priorities,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.

YouTube will pay video creators using the service 55 percent of the total net revenues from subscription fees, according to changes to the terms of the Partner program. That’s the same percentage partners collect from advertising. The changes go into effect on June 15.

A YouTube spokeswoman declined to comment on how revenue would be divided.

It’s unclear what type of content will be offered through the service, though some of it might be premium or exclusive content that can’t be found elsewhere. YouTube might position it as a premium service with its own programming, perhaps akin to Netflix or HBO’s new streaming service.

Its success is likely to depend on the number and diversity of video partners YouTube gets.

YouTube will have plenty of competition. In addition to Netflix, there’s also Vessel, a new paid video service from the former CEO of Hulu.

 

Samsung Expecting Record Sales Of Galaxy S6, Edge Phones

April 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is predicting record shipments for its new Galaxy S6 smartphones and said it will face challenges to meet demand for the curved-edged version due to production constraints, adding to hopes for a turnaround in mobile sales.

The S6 models are widely expected to sell briskly following a string of positive reviews, boosting prospects for an earnings recovery in 2015. This week, the company estimated its January-March operating profit to be its highest in three quarters, which analysts said was partly because Samsung put its own chips in the new phones.

Samsung expects the flat screen S6 to sell more than the higher-margin S6 edge – priced about $120 more in South Korea – but mobile chief J.K. Shin said at a media event on Thursday the firm won’t be able to keep up with demand for the latter model in the near term because the curved screens are harder to manufacture.

“Some carriers are switching existing orders to get more of the S6 edge, and it looks like demand for the model will exceed supply throughout this year,” said HMC Investment analyst Greg Roh. “That means average selling price will fall at a slower rate, which will have a positive impact on Samsung overall.”

Samsung has not disclosed its shipment record for the handset. Analysts regard the Galaxy S3 as its best-selling model overall, though they estimate the Galaxy S4 to have done better in its initial year, when a model is most profitable.

Nomura estimated that Samsung sold 80 million S3s in three years from its 2012 launch, and 43 million S4s from the model’s April 2013 launch to the end of that year. Some analysts say Samsung could ship 50 million or more S6 phones this year.

Samsung’s Shin also said the South Korean electronics maker is preparing a variety of wearable devices, including a new version of its Gear smartwatch, but did not give specifics. Arch-rival Apple Inc is due to roll out its much-anticipated smartwatch on April 24.

 

Bitcoin Foundation Acknowledges Financial Woes

April 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Bitcoin Foundation, formed in 2012 to promote the virtual currency, has denied claims by a board member that it’s bankrupt but has acknowledged significant financial problems — ironically as a result of a big drop in the value of its bitcoin holdings.

On Tuesday its board of directors rejected claims made a day earlier by board member Olivier Janssens that it was “effectively bankrupt,” but said the bitcoin roller coaster has forced it to drastically cut back its operations.

In early 2013, a bitcoin was valued at around $14, but that figure soared to $1,145 by November that same year, according to Coinbase. Three weeks later, it had collapsed to $569 and continued wide swings throughout much of 2014. Today, a bitcoin is worth about $258.

Those swings add up to bad news for the organization.

“The drop in bitcoin price drastically affected the Foundation’s bottom line as the majority of assets were held in bitcoin,” it said.

As a result, the foundation has cut programs to concentrate on one mission: development of the Bitcoin Core Protocol. Staff numbers have also been cut, although the foundation rejected Janssens’ claim that 90 percent had been fired.

“Some team members left voluntarily and agreed to continue helping on a volunteer basis to help the Foundation during this financially austere time,” it said.

The foundation hasn’t revealed how many bitcoins it holds, but a filing with the Internal Revenue Service said the holding was worth $4.5 million at the end of 2013. Based on figures from Coinbase, that was equivalent to just over 6,000 bitcoins. Today, those bitcoin would be worth $1.5 million.

The current state of the foundation’s finances should become clearer in the coming weeks when its latest IRS filing, covering 2014, becomes public.

Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the foundation and a former board member, said the bitcoin price wasn’t the only issue at play.

“The Foundation started a lot of ambitious projects at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014,” he said in an email. “Unfortunately, most of those projects never had a chance to show any results, because they had to be cut back or dropped as funds dried up due to the combination of a falling Bitcoin price and declining membership revenue.”