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Oracle Pushes Deeper Into Cloud Computing With Another Acquisition

May 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Right on the heels of a similar acquisition last week, Oracle has announced it will pay $532 million to buy Opower, a provider of cloud services to the utilities industry.

Once a die-hard cloud holdout, Oracle has been making up for lost time by buying a foothold in specific industries through acquisitions such as this one. Last week’s Textura buy gave it a leg up in engineering and construction.

“It’s a good move on Oracle’s part, and it definitely strengthens Oracle’s cloud story,” said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics.

Opower’s big-data platform helps utilities improve customer service, reduce costs and meet regulatory requirements. It currently stores and analyzes more than 600 billion meter readings from 60 million end customers. Opower claims more than 100 global utilities among its clients, including PG&E, Exelon and National Grid.

Opower will continue to operate independently until the transaction closes, which is expected later this year. The union will create the largest provider of mission-critical cloud services to an industry that’s worth $2.3 trillion, Oracle said.

Oracle’s Utilities business delivers applications and cloud services that automate core operational processes and enable compliance for global electric, gas and water utilities.

“Oracle’s industry organizations maintain unique domain knowledge, specialized expertise and focused product investments,” said Rodger Smith, a senior vice president who leads the Utilities global business unit, in a letter to customers and partners. “This model has proven highly successful across several industries, and we look forward to bringing these same benefits to the customers of Opower.”

 

Amazon To Beef Up Alexa With Investment In TrackR

May 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is investing between $250,000 and $500,000 in Bluetooth technology firm TrackR to expand the reach of its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a source familiar with the matter

Alexa is the cloud-based system that controls the Amazon Echo, a speaker system launched by Amazon in 2014 that has emerged as a surprise hit. “Alexa” is the name the device responds to when users make requests, such as “turn on radio.”

Amazon and TrackR declined to comment on the size of the investment.

Like Apple Inc’s  Siri and Google’s Google Now, Alexa is designed to answer questions or take other actions in response to simple voice queries.

Unlike its rivals, Amazon allows non-Amazon devices to integrate Alexa technology. The investment in TrackR came through Amazon’s $100 million “Alexa Fund,” which invests in and supports technologies that broaden Alexa’s abilities.

Santa Barbara, California-based TrackR uses Bluetooth technology to help track lost items. Users put a small chip on an item, such as a wallet or TV remote, and can order those products to make a sound through their phone so that they can be found.

If a TrackR customer loses an item out of Bluetooth reach, any TrackR user can connect to the device using the company’s network to alert the owner of the lost item.

The Alexa partnership will give the TrackR service a voice response capability and will also integrate in the other direction and enable people to find their lost items via the Echo.

“The ability to bring on more partners and realize that you are building an entire ecosystem – I think that is what was really important for us,” said Chris Herbert, who co-founded TrackR with friend Christian Smith in 2009.

TrackR raised $8.7 million last year in a Series A round led by Foundry Group.

Amazon has made roughly 15 investments so far through the Alexa Fund, including The Orange Chef, which helps connect kitchen prep devices, and Garageio, which makes a connected garage door opener.

 

Samsung Shows Off New FinFet Process

May 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Electronics is introducing a third 14-nano FinFET system semiconductor process that has lower electricity consumption and production cost than previous cost.

According to the Electronic Times, Samsung said that it will soon be completing development of Low-Power Compact (LPC) 14-nano FinFET process. Strategic partners of Samsung’s foundry business are predicting that this process will be used in anger by the end of the year.

All this is moving fast Samsung mass-produced Low Power Early (LPE) Chips, which are 1st generation chips just last year. It has just mass-produced second 2nd generation 14-nano LPP66 (Low Power Plus) chips that have 15 per cent lesser electricity consumption compared to LPE chips.

The Exynos 8 Octa Series and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 443 820 which is under the bonnet of the Galaxy S7 are mass-produced through 14-nano LPP process.
Samsung’s third generation process reduces the number of masks that are used for wafer manufacturing process. It is expected that 14 nano will be around for as long as 28 nano was.

Even when 10-nano and 7-nano processes are developed, there will be many fabless manufacturing companies will still use cost-efficient 14-nano process.

Qualcomm, Samsung and Mediatek recently introduced new 14 and 16-nano AP products that are inexpensive. They will be used for Snapdragon 443 625, Exynos 7870, and Helio P20, and this indicates that a number of chips produced by 14-nano process will increase.

Samsung’s 14-nano LPC process, will start a war with Taiwan’s TSMC in a battle to secure customers. TSMC has three types of 16-nano FinFET processes. It’s first 16-nano FinFET process arrived at the end of 2014.

Courtesy-Fud

 

What Can We Expect From Smartphones In The Future?

May 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

The smartphone market has hit a bit of a lull. Sure, they’ve got bigger and faster (that’s what she said) but it’s been hard to get really excited about new phones recently beyond the fact that, well, they’re new.

The iPhone 7 may – or may not – change this, but it’s more likely to be a new design, a slightly faster processor and maybe a new iOS version.

But what if we look further into the future, say 2020 or 2021, and devices like the iPhone 9 or Galaxy S9? What will hit the market then to get excited about? Mind-control text capabilities? Full 360-degree video filming? Bendable screens? Week-long battery life?

Battery life
Well, let’s start with the battery. Sadly, week-long battery life on a smartphone seems unlikely even by 2020, as Dr Kevin Curran, reader in Computer Science at Ulster University and a senior member of the IEEE, explained to the INQUIRER.

“On average, we only see improvements in capacity of six per cent per annum. So by 2020 we can only really expect a 25 per cent improvement in battery life,” he said.

However, while 25 per cent may sound good, Curran warned that these improvements tend to be offset by the fact the battery has to work harder as devices get more powerful and have higher density pixel displays.

Headlines proclaim major breakthroughs with battery technology, but Curran believes it’s unlikely that battery life will improve significantly, although there is work being done to change this.

“There are promising breakthroughs with regards to lithium-sulphur, supercapacitors, hydrogen fuel cells, solid state batteries and others, but history should tell us to be cautious about any new dramatic claims in having solved the problem of packing energy into a battery,” he said.

OK, so forget battery life. Surely there must be other new and exciting features to look forward to? Well, one technology is thermal imaging.

This was actually unveiled recently on the Cat S60 (pictured below), and Curran believes that other manufacturers will add this to their phones in time.

“This allows for a multitude of use cases, including detecting heat loss around windows and doors, spotting moisture and missing insulation, identifying over-heating electrical appliances and circuitry, and seeing in complete darkness,” he explained.

“This additional sensor allows much better control and depth in the photos you can take,” Curran added.

Meanwhile, analyst house CCS Insight has predicted that wireless charging will be standard by 2020, given that Apple is likely to include this technology in the iPhone 7.  That should save scrabbling around for charging points.

Courtesy-Fud

Qatar National Bank Admits Customer Data Released By Hackers Is Authentic

May 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Qatar National Bank has confirmed that its systems were hacked but said that the information released online was a combination of data picked up from the attack and from other sources such as social media.

The incident will not have a financial impact on the bank’s customers, whose accounts are secure, the bank said — without providing details of how its systems were hacked, the possible identity of the hackers and what information was harvested.

The announcement Sunday by one of the leading financial institutions in the Middle East follows the posting online last week of leaked documents. The attack targeted only a portion of Qatar-based customers, the bank said, claiming the hack attempted to target the bank’s reputation rather than specifically its customers.

“QNB Group’s Risk Team monitored abnormal activity in our system environment; this was immediately communicated to relevant authorities,” the bank said in a statement. “We also took immediate steps and our systems are fully secure and operational.”

The 1.4GB trove of documents leaked online included both financial information such as customer transaction logs, personal identification numbers and credit card data. But on closer scrutiny the data was found to have folders with detailed profiles on specific individuals, including what appeared to be files on members of the Qatari royal family, employees of media outlet Al Jazeera and people listed as working for the British MI6 and some other intelligence agencies, security firm Trend Micro said on Wednesday.

The attackers used an open-source SQL injection tool to extract all of the customer data they needed, wrote Simon Edwards, cyber security expert at Trend Micro. SQL injection is used against against websites that use SQL (structured query language) to query information from a database server.

The log file suggests that the attack could have started about nine months ago in July last year, Edwards said.

QNB said Tuesday that it would not comment on reports in social media of “an alleged data breach,” but sought to assure all concerned that there was no financial impact on the bank or its clients.

 

 

Microsoft Makes Edge, Bing The Only Search Box Options For Cortana

May 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft began blocking competitor’s browsers and search providers from using Windows 10′s Cortana search box, the operating system’s prime search real estate.

“To ensure we can deliver the integrated search experience designed for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box,” said Ryan Gavin, general manager of search marketing, in a post to a Microsoft company blog.

The Cortana search box — at the lower left of the Windows 10 desktop — relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Gavin defended the move by saying that “some software programs circumvent the design of Windows 10 and redirect you to search providers that were not designed to work with Cortana.” When that happens, Gavin said, users get a “compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable.”

While Gavin didn’t name names, Mozilla’s Firefox modified Windows 10 so that when that browser was made the operating system’s default, Firefox’s selected search provider generated results from in-Cortana queries, with the ensuing pages appearing in Firefox, not Edge. Other browsers, such as Google’s Chrome, did not go that far, but third-party extensions available in the Chrome Web Store did.

The changes won’t affect the basic functionality of non-Microsoft browsers, Gavin pledged: Chrome, Firefox, Opera and others will continue to work as before and will still default to their set search providers when queries are made from within those browsers.

But the Cortana search box is now Bing-and-Edge-only territory.

Microsoft has good reason for staking out Cortana as its exclusive turf, and not simply because of the disruption to Cortana’s delivery of personalized results that Gavin mentioned. The Redmond, Wash., company has bet that Windows 10 will generate revenue outside the traditional licensing fees that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) pay.

Not only does Microsoft want to push users toward Edge as much as possible, but it’s expecting new revenue from increased use of Bing, which is tightly integrated with Windows 10. The Cortana-Bing scenarios that Gavin cited — buying concert tickets, clothes and pizzas — presumably produce revenue for Microsoft.

 

 

 

Phishing Apps Continue To Play Google Play

May 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google’s attempts to safeguard the Android app store — Google Play — are far from perfect, with malicious apps routinely slipping through its review process. Such was the case for multiple phishing applications this year that posed as client apps for popular online payment services.

Researchers from security firm PhishLabs claim that they’ve found 11 such applications since the beginning of 2016 hosted on Google Play, most of them created by the same group of attackers.

The apps are simple, yet effective. They load Web pages containing log-in forms that look like the target companies’ websites. These pages are loaded from domain names registered by the attackers, but because they are loaded inside the apps, users don’t see their actual location.

In some cases attackers registered domain names that are similar to those of the impersonated online payment services, PhishLab Security Threat Analyst Joshua Shilko said in a blog post.

More recently, attackers used domain names similar to those of cryptocurrency companies, suggesting that the cryptocurrency industry is also targeted.

PhishLabs did not name the exact payment card companies and online payment services whose users were targeted by these fake apps. However, most of those companies provide links to their official mobile applications on their websites and users should always use those links instead of manually searching for them on the Play store.

“In one case, a targeted company explicitly states on their website that no mobile application exists for their company and that users should be wary of any mobile application using their brand,” Shilko said.

The danger is that if phishers manage to routinely bypass Google’s review process and upload such apps to the Google Play store, their attacks might extend to other industries in the future.

Another problem is that even when these apps are detected by third-parties and reported, it can take several days for Google to remove them from the app store, leaving a sufficiently large window of opportunity for attackers. It’s not clear how attackers promote these fake apps or if they rely only on users finding them themselves, but in general phishing attacks are most effective during the first several hours after they’re launched.

 

 

As TV Stations Offer Up Wireless Spectrum, 5G Will Be Easier

May 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Television stations have agreed to sell off 126MHz of premium wireless spectrum to mobile carriers in an ongoing U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction, potentially bringing higher speeds and more reliable networks to customers.

The 126MHz of spectrum was the highest amount anticipated by the FCC in the so-called incentive auction, agency officials said Friday. In most areas of the country, the agency will be able to auction 10 blocks of 10MHz to mobile carriers and other interested bidders.

This low-band spectrum, in the 600MHz band, is highly coveted by mobile carriers because it can cover long distances and penetrate walls and other obstacles. Mobile carriers have pushed for more spectrum as their customers’ network use keeps growing, and the low-band spectrum will help carriers roll out faster 5G service, supporters say.

FCC officials didn’t release the number of TV stations that agreed to give up their spectrum, but they said the number was significant. Participating TV stations can either move their over-the-air signals to other spectrum or go off the air in exchange for a share of the auction proceeds. The auction could raise $60 billion, according to some estimates.

“Robust broadcaster participation is key to the success” of the auction, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects the voluntary decision by many broadcasters that this auction truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The auction will lead to “vast economic and consumer benefits,” Wheeler added.

Mobile trade group CTIA applauded the amount of spectrum that will be available. The trade group is “is encouraged to see so much interest in the FCC’s incentive auction, which will play a critical role in making spectrum available for 4G LTE and 5G technologies,” CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement.

The reverse-auction phase, in which TV stations will solicit bids for their available spectrum, begins May 31.

 

Intel’s Updated USB Type-C Designed To Replace Headphone Jacks

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel this week unveiled plans to make an upgraded USB Type-C connector that would enable audio input and output, potentially replacing the long-standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack used in today’s electronic devices.

Intel, which revealed its plans during a lecture at its Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, also believes USB Type-C would simplify connections of multi-channel audio equipment to various devices.

Unlike the traditional 3.5mm analogue audio jack, a USB Type-C interface could charge a device in addition to transmitting sound and data. For example, it could transfer health and fitness data from a mobile device.

The USB Type-C connectors are reversible, so orientation isn’t an issue when plugging something into a device. The USB 3.1 Gen1 specification offers up to 5Gbps of data throughput; the Gen2 specification offers up to 10Gbps.

USB Type-C cables and connectors would replace the last analog receptacles on computers and mobile devices. Intel’s strategy was first reported by AnandTech.

In Intel’s presentation, it described USB C-Type connectors as being able to support both analog and digital musical content. But the upgraded connector would “promote” a changeover from analog to digital as users would see “improved digital headset features.”

A USB Type-C connector that supports audio feeds would also enable new form-factors, improve user experience and “provide a future path for USB technologies,” Intel said in the presentation.

 

 

 

Is Nintendo Making A Mistaking With The NX?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo has confirmed that its next-gen console, the Nintendo NX, will launch in March 2017.

Causing many to screw up their Christmas lists, the company told shareholders during its earnings call on Tuesday: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”

Probably also causing some to cancel a trip to Los Angeles, Nintendo said that the NX will not be demonstrated at the upcoming E3 video games conference in June, despite speculation that Sony plans to show off its so-called PlayStation 4.5 console.

Nintendo’s keynote at the games show will focus instead on the next Legend of Zelda game, which will launch simultaneously on the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017. Rumour has it that Smash Bros 4, Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are all set to receive an NX makeover too.

A launch is now less than a year away, but we still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX, which Nintendo confirmed this week is just a codename for the incoming console. However, rumour claims that it will arrive as a hybrid between a home console and a mobile games console to sit alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo president and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated in December last year that the company is “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” and that the device will be something “unique and different”.

News of the Nintendo NX’s launch date no doubt came as the firm looked to play down the fact that its profits fell 61 per cent year over year. Worked, didn’t it?

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Twitter Troubles Continue, Misses Revenue Estimates

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Twitter Inc  disappointed investors once again with first-quarter results that revealed stagnant revenue growth as the microblogging service struggles to grab new users amid efforts to improve its complicated interface with several new features.

Twitter’s user base grew modestly to 310 million monthly active users in the quarter ended March 31 from 305 million in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations. But investors were let down by the revenue miss since outlining a turnaround plan.

“It’s obvious Twitter is having trouble,” said Arvind Bhatia, analyst with CRT Capital. “It’s not growing anywhere close to where people expected a while back.”

On a call with analysts, executives said advertisers, especially in Europe, held back spending ahead of major events, including the Olympics and the European Champions League. They also said users were spending more time watching and sharing video, but that advertisers’ budgets had not yet shifted from legacy advertising products such as promoted tweets.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Twitter’s long-term goal was to have “millions of advertisers like our competitors.” Facebook Inc has more than 3 million advertisers.

Twitter has struggled with stagnant user growth as its complex interface makes it less attractive to new users.

As part of its turnaround plan, the company has emphasized its live offerings, including live commentary and video streaming through its Periscope app, to attract new users. But it faces fierce competition from Facebook Inc  which has recently ramped up its live video product, Facebook Live.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said that talent recruitment was a top priority for the year, especially on the engineering and product teams. Twitter lost several top executives earlier this year and has since added two new board members and a new chief marketing officer.

The company forecast revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the second quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $677.57 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First-quarter revenue rose 36 percent from a year earlier to $594.5 million, but widely missed the average analyst estimate of $607.8 million.

 

 

Mac Finally Gets Skype For Business App

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally making its way to the Mac.

The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.

When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.

Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.

The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.

In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.

This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.

 

Will NASA Go OpenStack At JPL?

April 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has built a new private cloud based on Red Hat’s build of the OpenStack framework to fulfill the growing computing requirements of its space missions, such as the Mars rovers.

The move was announced to coincide with the OpenStack Summit, and means that NASA’s JPL has access to enterprise-scale computing resources that will enable researchers to tap into their own private cloud and maximise the organisation’s server and storage capacity to process flight projects and research data.

The new cloud has been built by JPL’s own engineers, but Red Hat said that its experience from long-term participation in the OpenStack Foundation and key upstream contributions to specific platform projects made it well suited as the partner for this collaboration.

The move is not NASA’s first involvement with OpenStack. In fact, the entire OpenStack project grew out of a collaboration between the space agency and hosting firm Rackspace to develop an open source cloud computing platform to help drive the administration’s next generation of projects.

Red Hat said that by using its Red Hat OpenStack Platform to build their private cloud, the JPL’s engineers managed to save significant time and resources by retooling and consolidating in-house hardware rather than procuring entirely new infrastructure.

“This is a testament to the reliability, availability and scalability offered by a fully open cloud infrastructure built on Red Hat OpenStack Platform. We are proud of the partnership with NASA JPL to meet their needs for an agile infrastructure to meet their projected growth, while helping to reduce the data centre footprint,” said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat’s general manager for OpenStack.

Red Hat recently released the latest version of its platform, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8, as well as the Red Hat Cloud Suite which combines its OpenStack build with the OpenShift Enterprise platform-as-a-service layer for running container-based applications and services.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Kicks Off Two-for-one Lumia Phone Sale

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft announced the launch of a two-for-one deal for its Windows-based smartphones, tossing in a free Lumia 950 when customers buy a $649 unlocked top-tier Lumia 950 XL.

The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.

Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.

More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.

The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.

Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.

The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.

Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”

 

 

 

T-Mobile Revenue Up, Continues Attracting New Customers

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc reported a better-than-expected 10.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue and raised its forecast for customer additions in 2016 as popular discounts aided the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers attract more business.

T-Mobile has been offering cheaper leasing plans and free music and video streaming to lure customers away from larger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

T-Mobile, controlled by Deutsche Telekom, said it added 2.2 million customers on a net basis in the first quarter ended March 31.

That easily topped the average analyst estimate of 1.72 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

The company said it expected to add 3.2 million to 3.6 million postpaid customers on a net basis in 2016, compared with its previous forecast of 2.4 million to 3.4 million.

T-Mobile’s 10.6 percent jump in quarterly revenue to $8.6 billion suggested its strategy to boost revenue was working. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $8.43 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In comparison, market leader Verizon’s operating revenue rose just 0.6 percent to $32.17 billion.

AT&T is scheduled to report results later on Tuesday.

T-Mobile reported net income of $479 million, or 56 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $63 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.