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Is HTC Preparing To Exit The Smartphone Market

January 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

The rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn claiming that HTC is slowly pulling out of the smartphone business.

Deep throats are briefing Digitimes and claim that the Taiwanese company will be limiting the number of phones it will be releasing next year. While this might have something to do with the company’s ongoing smartphone market woes, it could also be a sign of HTC’s substantial loss of resources after Google acquired a significant number of employees from HTC’s mobile division.

HTC didn’t release that many smartphones in 2017. There were as few as six models this year, not counting variants or market specific models, with the U series being most of them.

If it launched two to four models next year, it could be attempting to mirror the launch strategies of smaller companies like OnePlus. However, that is being optimistic because reduced phone numbers are usually a sign that the writing is on the wall for any company’s smartphone empire.

We are not sure that HTC will care much. It has been long rumored to be mulling over selling its mobile business, leaving it free to focus on a more lucrative VR market. Most expected Google to be that buyer, but the two might have worked out a strategy that would lessen regulation requirements and government scrutiny.

There are two HTC phones expected for 2018, one even as early as January. That would be a mid-range variant of the HTC U11+. The timeline for the company’s next flagship –  the HTC U12, is still unknown.

Courtesy-Fud

Daimler Buys Into Uber Rival, Chauffeur Prive

December 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

German automaker Daimler has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Chauffeur Prive, a French rival to the larger Uber car-ride app, in the latest example of traditional companies looking to deal with challenges from technology-driven start-ups.

The deal was announced in a joint statement by both companies. The price of the acquisition, which will be carried out by the German company’s Daimler Mobility Services division, was not disclosed.

Chauffeur Prive was founded in 2011. The company says it has more than 1.5 million customers and access to 18,000 drivers, and the service is relatively popular in Paris.

Traditional automakers from around the world are examining how best to work on new, disruptive technologies – from electric vehicles to autonomous driving – that require hefty investment and have turned companies such as Google and Tesla into rivals.

Daimler has already made forays into the growing industry of car-ride hailing mobile applications.

In June, Dubai-based ride hailing firm Careem said it would step up its expansion into new markets after raising $150 million from investors, which included Daimler and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding.

Earlier this month, Daimler’s French rival Renault bought a stake in a glossy magazine publishing group, which it said formed part of its strategy to see how to keep travelers entertained in an era of driverless cars.

WhatsApp Under Scrutiny In France Over Data Privacy

December 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

France’s data privacy watchdog may levy fines against messaging app WhatsApp if it does not comply with an order to bring its sharing of user data with parent company Facebook into line with French privacy law.

The French data protection authority – CNIL – said on it had told WhatsApp to comply with the order within one month, and pay particular attention to obtaining users’ consent. If WhatsApp does not comply it could sanction the company, it said.

The CNIL said WhatsApp did not have the legal basis to share user data with Facebook and had violated its obligation to cooperate with the French authority.

WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in 2014, said it would begin sharing some user data with the social media group in 2016, drawing warnings from European privacy watchdogs about getting the appropriate consent.

 In October, European Union privacy regulators criticized WhatsApp for not resolving their concerns over the messaging service’s sharing of user data with Facebook a year after they first issued a warning.

The French regulator said WhatsApp had not properly obtained users’ consent to begin sharing their phone numbers with Facebook for “business intelligence” purposes.

“The only way to refuse the data transfer for “business intelligence” purpose is to uninstall the application,” the CNIL said in a statement.

The regulator accepted the transfer of user data for security purposes seemed to be essential to the functioning of the application. But the watchdog also said the same did not apply for “business intelligence” purposes which aim to improve the apps’ performance.

“Privacy is incredibly important to WhatsApp. It’s why we collect very little data, and encrypt every message,” a spokeswoman for WhatsApp said.

“We will continue to work with the CNIL to ensure users understand what information we collect, as well as how it’s used. And we’re committed to resolving the different, and at times conflicting, concerns we’ve heard from European Data Protection Authorities with a common EU approach before the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in May 2018.”

 European data protection authorities can only impose small fines at the moment, but a new EU privacy law entering into force next year will increase fines to up to 4 percent of a company’s global turnover.

The CNIL said it had repeatedly asked WhatsApp to provide a sample of French users’ data transferred to Facebook but the company had explained it could not do so as it is located in the United States and “it considers that it is only subject to the legislation of this country.”

Separately, Germany’s cartel office said on Tuesday it had found Facebook had abused its dominant market position, in a ruling that questioned the company’s model of monetizing the personal data of its users through targeted advertising.

 

Facebook May Have To Deal With Age-of-Consent Rule For Users

December 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

All French minors under the age of 16 will have to gain parental approval to open an account on Facebook or any other social network under draft legislation presented on Wednesday.

The requirement is part of a French bill that seeks to adapt data privacy regulations and improve access to the information internet companies gather, store and in many cases sell to other firms about people’s online activity.

 “Joining Facebook will involve parental authorization for minors aged under 16,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told reporters.

The bill aims to ensure easier access for users to all the data companies collect so they can more easily seek to have certain details amended or deleted.

The minister said signing up to join a social network would involve ticking a box to confirm that approval from parents or rightful guardians had been obtained, and that the box-tick amounted to a declaration governed by law.

It was not clear how enforceable such a process would be.

Separately, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said this week that mobile phones would be banned in schools from the start of the next school year.

 Use of mobile phones is already forbidden in classrooms, so the ban would likely cover their use during breaks and at lunchtime.

Blanquer said on RTL radio on Sunday that his ministry was working out the details, but some schools already had a full ban, proving that it could be done though some exceptions had to be made for teaching or emergency purposes.

Amazon Exploring French Supermarket Deal

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon has made overtures to various French supermarket operators – including Casino – about setting up distribution deals or making an acquisition in the country, newspaper Le Monde reported, citing its own sources.

Le Monde said Amazon had contacted Casino over Casino’s Monoprix division, but Casino had declined to pursue the matter.

“Casino does not intend to sell Monoprix,” Le Monde reported, citing sources within Casino.

Casino declined to comment while officials at Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Le Monde added Amazon had also contacted supermarket companies Intermarche and Systeme U. Officials at Intermarche and Systeme U could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, traders cited market speculation that Amazon could be interested in bidding for French supermarket operator Carrefour. Carrefour said it did not comment on market rumors.

Amazon bought Whole Foods Market this year for $13.7 billion, in a deal that marked a dramatic change in strategy for a company that had offered food delivery through its Fresh service for a decade but had not previously made any major dents in the $700 billion grocery market.

Ford Forms New Team Dedicated To Electric Vehicle Production

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co has put together a team to accelerate global development of electric vehicles, whose mission will be to “think big” and “make quicker decisions,” an executive of the company announced on Monday.

One aim of Ford’s “Team Edison” is to identify and develop electric-vehicle partnerships with other companies, including suppliers, in some markets, according to Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification.

Global demand for electric vehicles has “a significant potential to increase” as governments implement EV mandates and quotas, Marakby said in an interview.

 He said the group will be based in the Detroit area and work with regional Ford vehicle electrification teams in China and Europe.

China, India, France and the United Kingdom all have announced plans to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

Marakby said Team Edison “will look holistically at the electric vehicle market.”

“The idea is to think big, move fast and make quicker decisions” on EV production as demand increases and technology advances, he added.

Ford has not altered its previously announced plan to spend $4.5 billion over five years on electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, Marakby said.

The new team will report to Ted Cannis, who has been named global director of electrification.

HTC Rumored To Be Launching New Bezel-less Handset

September 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

In terms of design, the HTC U11 is definitely different from its rivals. Instead of a more somber look, it has been given a rather bright and shiny finish, but if there was one thing we wish HTC could have done was reduce or eliminate the bezels like we’re seeing offered by the competition.

For fans of HTC who might have been wishing the same thing, you guys might be in luck because according to a report from French website FrAndroid (via GSMArena), HTC could be working on a handset known as the HTC U11 Plus that could be launching this November with a bezel-less display.

The handset in question is said to be codenamed “Ocean Master” which is something we have heard about in the past. It is said to sport a display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, a near bezel-less display with a QHD+ resolution. It is expected to be powered by the Snapdragon 835, come with 6GB of RAM, and will sport the same camera setup as the HTC U11, while also being IP68 certified and will also come with support for wireless charging.

It is a rather interesting rumor given that recently Google has announced that they’ll be acquiring some of HTC’s smartphone team, so take it with a grain of salt but with an announcement pegged for November, we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.

WannaCry Hits LG

August 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

LG has been hit with bad news, the all destroying WannaCry malware, that knocked the NHS with one punch and went on a worldwide tour of mayhem.

So how could LG have been hit by WannaCry after all this time? Well, if you listen to the security community, it was through its own stupidity.

“Reports suggest that the company had not applied all the security updates available from Microsoft. This highlights something that we already knew – many organisations are not good at applying software security updates,” said Dean Ferrando, EMEA Manager at Tripwire.

Applying available patches is one of the easiest ways to keep an organisation safe from new and emerging threats. 

“Applying available patches is one of the easiest ways to keep an organisation safe from new attacks however, the unfortunate truth is that, despite the warnings and advisories to patch and secure the systems, there will always be a system that is missed,” said Dean Ferrando, EMEA Manager at Tripwire.

“Complacency could be another reason why new outbreaks are being discovered – some companies may feel that because they were not impacted in the immediate period of time afterwards, they won’t be infected as the controls they have in place are working without checking. Conficker hit us in 2008 with a similar attack, causing an outbreak globally. Companies patched and secured their systems but months after the outbreak, Conficker was still infecting companies that hadn’t taken the necessary precautions.”

LG has not officially confirmed that it’s been struck by ‘WannaCry’ yet, and we have made efforts to contact it. According to reports, the company has had to close down some of its facilities in South Korea as it handles the infection.

Speaking to the Korean Herald the firm said that it was a ransomware attack, which does suggest a little bit o’ WannaCry.

“The problem was found to be caused by ransomware,” said a spokesperson. “There was no damage such as data encryption or asking for money, as we immediately shut down the service centre network.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Non-Premium Spotify Users Can Now Stream On Google Home

August 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Spotify unveiled a nice suprise for those who use the music-streaming service for free.

Starting now, free users will be able to enjoy and control music through a Google Home device, just as premium subscribers have been able to do since the launch of the home hub, Spotify said Friday.

The news could nudge some free Spotify users toward investing in one of Google’s home hubs if they haven’t already. Especially if they’re trying to decide between Google Home and the rival Amazon Echo, which can still be used only by Spotify Premium subscribers.

Access through Home will be available to free Spotify users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany.

“We are incredibly excited that, from today, millions of Spotify’s free users will be able to enjoy Spotify in their homes through voice-activated speakers for the very first time, thanks to the Assistant on Google Home,” Mikael Ericsson, Spotify’s product director for platform and partner experience, said in a statement.

Using a voice-activated smart home hub with a speaker lets you simply tell the device what you want to hear, freeing you from having to search for tunes on your phone.

With a properly configured Spotify-Home setup, you can get your music going by using commands like “OK, Google, play Spotify,” “OK, Google, play Discover Weekly” and “OK, Google, play my Taylor Swift playlist.”

After that, you just have to hope no one in the room objects to your choice and gives Home different orders (the only downside we’ve discovered to voice-controlled music playback).

Does Google Truly Invade Your Privacy

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

John McAfee has been polled for his opinion on Google. The good news is he has one, it isn’t positive and he is apparently very pleased to give it up.

McAfee is probably at his best when he is passionate about something, and he is obviously passionate about disliking Google. The video, recorded for telly and put on YouTube by John McAfee, shows our man in passionate privacy protection mode.

It’s called “Stop Endangering Our Humanity Or I’m Coming For You,” and is aimed squarely at Google, a firm that he reckons has obsequiously crept its way into our minds, lives and privacy

The good news is, this is just like Invasion USA, the film with Chuck Norris. Though in this case Russia is Google, the USA remains the same and John McAfee is Chuck Norris.

“There is nothing wrong with creating great products, or even building a large company. Success should be rewarded, and never punished. But when success gives way to pure, venal greed we all suffer. Google has become so large, and so powerful, that their greed now threatens to destroy us all,” says the trailer voiceover video description.

“John McAfee has put Google on notice: change your ways or at least one person will be standing in your way. You don’t want to miss this!”

The video, which is something of a tirade, shows McAfee talking about Sentinel a security cure-all that he says could have a switch that turns off Google spiders and its ability to index, and its ability to exist. He does not mince his words.

The video starts with a voiceover clip from mind-bending “I am not a number” show The Prisoner, which sets the tone. Then McAfee compares Google to smoking cigarettes and says that Google has sacrificed privacy on the altar of Mammon and removed his, and your, human dignity.

“I am seriously ticked off about Google’s lack of conscience,” he says. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that the objections of the world are laid squarely at the doorstep of Google.”

McAfee has also posted a photo to Twitter (above) with the message “Are you ready Google.” In it, his tattooed torso is shirtless and he is wearing a scary mask.

We wouldn’t want to be Google.

Courtesy-TheInq

Amazon Announces Return Of ‘Prime Day’ Sales Bonanza

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

If you missed last year’s sales extravaganza, Amazon has good news for you.

The e-commerce titan has officially announced its third annual Prime Day will be July 11. The sales day will include hundreds of thousands of deals worldwide and run for 30 hours, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on July 10. As usual, these deals will be available only to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year in the US and can sign up for £59 in the UK until July 3, for unlimited two-day shipping and other perks.

The sale will also expand to more countries to include Mexico, China and India, where Amazon launched its Prime membership program over the past year. The US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria are also included.

Amazon has found huge success creating the sales holiday in 2015 to mark its 20th anniversary. The company even broke its single-day sales record during Prime Day last year. But, as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, Prime Day serves as another example of the online seller gobbling up more market share as traditional retailers file for bankruptcy or close stores. The company last year accounted for 43 percent of all online sales in the US, according to researcher Slice Intelligence.

Perhaps aware of its increased influence, Amazon mentioned in its announcement Wednesday that 40 percent of its “Lightning Deals” promotions on Prime Day will come from small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Since its first year, Prime Day has also gotten knocked for offering undesirable deals along with low inventories of the most popular items. Responding to that criticism, the company increased its stocks of big-name items last year and decided to embrace the sometimes oddball or unexpected nature of the deals offered. These changed seemed to work, with Adobe Digital Insights reporting that customer sentiments on social media was more positive last year than during the first Prime Day.

The company is also doing more this year to better organize deals and make it easier for customers to track and shop for sales.

Amazon will be continuing its “countdown deals” in the run-up to Prime Day, offering sales starting today. Those include discounts on memberships for Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Nissan-Renault Planning Driverless Ride-hailing Service

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Renault SA alliance plan to launch driverless ride-hailing and ride-sharing services in coming years, as the car makers place their focus beyond making and selling cars to survive an industry being quickly transformed by new services.

Automakers are leveraging expertise in automated driving functions for mass-market cars to develop mobility services, as they compete with tech firms such as Alphabet Inc and Uber Technologies Inc  in the fast-growing “pay-per-ride” market which threatens to hit demand for car ownership.

Ogi Redzic, head of Nissan-Renault’s Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services division, said the alliance would begin self-driving services based on its electric cars “certainly within 10 years,” though not likely before 2020.

“We think that the big opportunity for us is in automation, electric vehicles and ride-sharing and hailing together,” Redzic said in an interview on Thursday.

Nissan and Renault join a small group of automakers aiming to enter the ride-hailing market, which Goldman Sachs last month estimated would grow eightfold by 2030 to be five times the size of the taxi market.

Redzic said the Japanese and French partners were testing self-driving vehicles, and that any service would run on pre-mapped courses with predetermined pick-up and drop-off points.

The two automakers are developing the system with Japanese game software maker DeNA Co Ltd and French public transport operator Transdev SA.

German rival BMW AG is also testing autonomous vehicles for use in ride-hailing services, while Uber has been developing self-driving technology.

U.S. tech firm nuTonomy Inc and ride services company Lyft Inc, which counts General Motors Co as a major shareholder, this month announced they would begin piloting an autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service in Boston.

Redzic said to market a self-driving service, regulations need to change to allow driverless cars on roads. At the moment, most global jurisdictions do not expressly authorise vehicles to operate on regular roads without a driver.

“It doesn’t just depend on us,” he said. “To become fully driverless you need laws to change.”

Honda Factory Hit By WannaCry Ransomware

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Honda Motor Co confirmed that it halted production at a domestic vehicle plant for a day this week after finding the WannaCry ransomware that struck globally last month in its computer network.

The automaker shut production on Monday at its Sayama plant, northwest of Tokyo, which produces models including the Accord sedan, Odyssey Minivan and Step Wagon compact multipurpose vehicle and has a daily output of around 1,000 vehicles.

Honda discovered on Sunday that the virus had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China and other regions, a spokeswoman said, despite efforts to secure its systems in mid-May when the virus caused widespread disruption at plants, hospitals and shops worldwide.

Production at other plants operated by the automaker had not been affected, and regular operations had resumed at the Sayama plant on Tuesday, she said.

The spread of the WannaCry ransomware which locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries has slowed since last month, but security experts have warned that new versions of the worm may strike.

Rival automakers Renault SA  and Nissan Motor Co were also affected by the virus last month, when the automaking alliance companies stopped production at plants in Japan, Britain, France, Romania and India.

YouTube Introduces New Steps To Fight Extremists Videos

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google has committed to introducing more measures to identify and remove terrorist or violent extremist content on its video sharing platform YouTube, the company said in a blog post.

Google said it would take a tougher position on videos containing supremacist or inflammatory religious content by issuing a warning and not monetizing or recommending them for user endorsements, even if they do not clearly violate its policies.

The company will also employ more engineering resources and increase its use of technology to help identify extremist videos, in addition to training new content classifiers to quickly identify and remove such content.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now,” said Google’s general counsel Kent Walker.

Google will expand its collaboration with counter-extremist groups to identify content that may be used to radicalize and recruit extremists, it said.

The company will also reach potential Islamic State recruits through targeted online advertising and redirect them towards anti-terrorist videos in a bid to change their minds about joining.

Germany, France and Britain, countries where civilians have been killed and wounded in bombings and shootings by Islamist militants in recent years, have pressed Facebook and other providers of social media such as Google and Twitter to do more to remove militant content and hate speech.

Facebook on Thursday offered additional insight on its efforts to remove terrorism content, a response to political pressure in Europe to militant groups using the social network for propaganda and recruiting.

Facebook has ramped up use of artificial intelligence such as image matching and language understanding to identify and remove content quickly, the company said in a blog post.

Delphi Automotive To Offer On-Demand Self-driving Shuttle Service

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Delphi Automotive PLC plans on joining forces with Paris-based Transdev Group, a public transport service controlled by the French government, to develop an automated on-demand shuttle service in Europe, according to announcements made by both companies.

It is the latest in a growing web of global alliances aimed at putting self-driving vehicles on the road over the next four years.

In a joint statement, Delphi and Transdev will test driverless vehicles in Normandy and outside Paris, in advance of building a commercial service that could be deployed in other markets.

The Delphi-Transdev partnership will provide “a clear path to commercializing automated mobility on demand,” said Glen De Vos, Delphi’s chief technology officer, in a media briefing.

Delphi is contributing a self-driving system that it has been developing with Israeli mapping and vision expert Mobileye NV, which is being acquired by U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp.

Transdev will provide dispatch, routing and remote control-command services, the companies’ statement said.

Delphi has been building its expertise and capability in self-driving vehicles through partnerships, investments and acquisitions.

Several of its affiliates will participate in the project with Transdev, including Ottomatika (vehicle control software), Control-Tec (real-time data analytics) and Movimento (over-the-air software updates).

In May, German automaker BMW AG announced that Delphi will join a self-driving partnership that includes Intel and Mobileye.

Transdev is a mobility services provider that is controlled by Caisse des Depots, an investment arm of the French government. Veolia Environnement SA, the French waste management company, holds a 30-percent stake.

Transdev operates public and private transport services in 19 countries.

Earlier this year, it formed a research partnership with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co to develop a driverless system for public transport and on-demand use.

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