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Study Projects Self-driving Cars Could Generate Billions In Revenue

March 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Self-driving cars could yield billions of dollars a year in sales from mobile internet services and products, even if occupants spend only a small portion of their free time on the web, according to a new study by McKinsey & Company.

The study, released Thursday, also projects that widespread adoption of self-driving cars could lead to a 90 percent reduction in U.S. vehicle crashes, with a potential savings of nearly $200 billion a year from significantly fewer injuries and deaths.

In addition, the McKinsey study warns of several risks to established companies, including vehicle manufacturers, dealers and even insurance companies.

McKinsey projects that future owners of self-driving cars could save up to 50 minutes a day, some of which is likely to be spent surfing the web.

The consulting firm estimates the additional free time in the car could generate about $5.6 billion a year in digital revenue for each additional minute that vehicle occupants spend on the internet – as much as $140 billion if half their free time in the car, or roughly 25 minutes, is devoted to daily web surfing and shopping.

The revenue may be divided among the vehicle manufacturers, their major hardware and software suppliers and web-based providers of goods, information and services.

In the future, “people will be able to shop for services or products from their mobile devices or from embedded systems in the vehicle,” said Hans-Werner Kaas, senior partner and head of McKinsey’s automotive practice.

McKinsey said that while traditional automakers, especially premium brands such as Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s  Audi, already are beginning to implement advanced driver assistance systems on their cars, they face new challenges in fielding fully autonomous cars from “attackers,” non-traditional companies that do not have legacy vehicle platforms or sales and service networks.

Those outside challengers include such newcomers as Tesla Motors Inc, as well as tech giants such as Apple Inc and Google Inc, both of which are poised to build self-driving cars.

The gradual shift to self-driving cars, which may automakers don’t expect to accelerate until after 2025, could trigger other profound changes in the auto industry.

 

 

Internet.org Aims To Provide Free Services To 100 Countries By Next Year

March 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Internet.org, which is already offering free Internet service in six countries, has a rather aggressive goal to connect to 100 countries in the next year.

“We like big, ambitious goals at Facebook,” said Chris Daniels, head of Internet.org in a discussion with several reporters at Mobile World Congress (MWC).

Facebook and several partners founded Internet.org two years ago; it is already serving 7 million customers in Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Zambia. Many of those who were originally connected for free are now paying some fee for more advanced data services.

Daniels, a vice president at Facebook in charge of Internet.org, said the conversion of free Internet users to paying customers is critical to the carriers who provide the Internet infrastructure that makes the service possible.

He sounded the same refrain that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered on Monday in a keynote presentation at MWC with three onstage carriers, including Airtel Africa, which has offered Internet.org in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Millicom, another partner, saw a 30% increase in data users when free data data was launched in Paraguay.

While the goal of 100 countries in a year is ambitious, Daniels said it is achievable, partly because Internet.org has figured out how to work with carriers to offer online services for free that don’t cannibalize the paid services that are the lifeblood of many carriers.

“It’s ambitious to say 100 countries, but our focus is less on the number and to focus more on spreading Internet.org to added companies,” he said. “We’ve had early partners and have brought more [users] online and more are paying for data and buying voice and SMS.”

Once more countries are on board, Daniels said the free basic service model should continue. “We’d like to see it ongoing. We’d like to see free basic services always available. Operators will leave it on only if it continues to benefit their business.”

 

 

 

Mozilla Announces 64-bit Firefox Preview For Windows OS

March 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla announced its first developer preview of a 64-bit Windows version of Firefox. The launch put the 64-bit edition on track to appear as a polished, ready for the public browser by mid-May.

“Today we’re happy to announce … 64-bit builds for Firefox Developer Edition are now available on Windows, adding to the already supported platforms of OS X and Linux,” wrote Dave Camp, director of developer tools, and Jason Weathersby, a technical evangelist, in a post to a company blog.

Firefox 38′s Developer Edition, formerly called “Aurora,” now comes in both 32- and 64-bit version for Windows. Currently, Mozilla’s schedule, which launches a newly-numbered edition every six weeks, has Firefox 38 progressing through “Beta” and “Central” builds, with the latter — the most polished edition — releasing May 12.

Cook and Weathersby touted the 64-bit Firefox as faster and more secure, the latter due to efficiency improvements in Windows’ anti-exploit ASLR (address space layout randomization) technology in 64-bit.

The biggest advantage of a 64-bit browser on a 64-bit operating system is that it can address more than the 4GB of memory available to a 32-bit application, letting users keep open hundreds of tabs without crashing the browser, or as Cook and Weathersby pointed out, run larger, more sophisticated Web apps, notably games.

Mozilla is the last 32-bit holdout among the top five providers of browsers.

Google shipped a Windows 64-bit Chrome in August 2014 and one for OS X in November, while Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) have had 64-bit editions on OS X and Windows since 2009 and 2006, respectively. Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker known for its same-named desktop flagship, also offers a 64-bit edition on Windows.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Tops Samsung In Global Phone Sales

March 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc sold the most number of smartphones globally in the fourth quarter, beating out Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  for the first time since 2011, according to research firm Gartner.

Apple sold 74.83 million smartphones to end users worldwide, ahead of the 73.03 million phones sold by Samsung, according to Gartner’s report.

The success of big-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus drove Apple’s sales in its first quarter ended Dec. 27. The company reported a profit of $18 billion for the period, the biggest ever reported by a public company, according to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt.

Apple’s smartphones sales jumped about 49 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner. In contrast, Samsung, the market dominator since 2011, recorded a nearly 12 percent fall.

In January, the company posted its fifth consecutive quarter of earnings decline in the mobile division.

“Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Besides losing market share to the costlier iPhones, the Korean company has been battling low-cost Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei .

Samsung unveiled its new range of slim-bodied Galaxy S smartphones just recently, made from aircraft-grade metal.

 

BlackBerry Unveils Leap Smartphone

March 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry debuted a new mid-market smartphone named the BlackBerry Leap that is set to replace the Z3 device launched a year ago, in a move to woo buyers in certain emerging markets where BlackBerry still has a fairly large client base.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said the phone, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, would initially hit stores in U.S and European markets around April and be priced around $275.

The company also said it planned to roll out two more models over the course of the next months, both with a keyboard.

One will be a high-end smartphone with what Blackberry called “a dual curve all touch display” with a keyboard behind a slide. That may refer to the sort of curved screen featured in Samsung’s latest Galaxy smartphone.

“We don’t have a code name for it but I call it The Slide,” BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen told media in Barcelona. “It will come some time this year,” he added without giving a specific date.

BlackBerry, once a must-have device for business executives and government officials because of its pioneering secure email service, has hemorrhaged market share to Apple’s iPhone and rivals running on Google’s Android software.

In a bid to remain relevant, the company has pivoted in the last year to focus much more on its software business and core strengths such as data security. However, the company has stressed it remains committed to its devices business.

 

 

Lenovo Announces 64-Bit Android Tablet For $129

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tablets running 64-bit Android haven’t been on the market forr long but prices are already projected to drop quickly.

Lenovo’s 8-inch Tab 2 A8 will ship in June starting at $129, with a 64-bit version of Android 5.0 and a 64-bit quad-core processor from MediaTek. It was one of three tablets Lenovo announced ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

Sixty-four-bit tablets have a few advantages. They can support more memory and therefore make light work of multimedia-intensive apps such as games, as well as apps that use encryption for security. More 64-bit Android apps are in development, so a 64-bit tablet also provides some future-proofing.

Only a handful of 64-bit Android tablets are on sale today. One of the best known is Google’s Nexus 9, which sells for $399.99 in the Google Play store. Many more are expected as vendors deploy Android 5.0 more broadly and as more 64-bit processors become available. Lenovo’s Tab 2 A8 could prompt other vendors to drive down prices for their own 64-bit Android tablets.

The Tab 2 A8 is 9 millimeters thick, weighs 360 grams and will offer eight hours of battery life, according to Lenovo. The $129 model has Wi-Fi only, while a $179 model will have integrated LTE. It doesn’t look like the LTE model will be offered in the U.S., however.

The tablet has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and 1GB of RAM. It has a maximum of 16GB of storage that can be expanded to 32GB with a Micro-SD card.

With a 720p screen, Lenovo has compromised on the display to keep the price low.

Tablet shipments flattened last year after years of strong growth, and the 64-bit Android tablets could spur people to upgrade from older models.

Apple had an early start in 64-bit tablets with the iPad Air, but the low-priced tablets could shift the market in Android’s favor.

Lenovo also announced the 10-inch Tab 2 A10, which has a 64-bit processor but will initially ship with a 32-bit version of Android, version 4.4. The tablet will start shipping in April and users will be able to upgrade their devices to Android 5.0 in June, Lenovo said.

 

 

 

AT&T To Link Smart Homes With Connected Cars

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc  will link its connected car and smart home technologies to expand its reach in the fast-growing market for Internet-connected devices, a new battleground for the telecom giant and its rivals.

The wireless company’s home security and automation service “Digital Life” and connected car service “Drive” will be integrated so users can control their homes from a dashboard in their vehicles, Glenn Lurie, chief executive of AT&T Mobility told Reuters last week ahead of the company’s announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“Once you’ve told your home when the car is (for instance)within 20 feet of the house to please open the garage door, put the lights on, turn the alarm off, move the thermostat up, you can have those inanimate objects, the home and your car, really taking care of you,” Lurie said.

With the two services linked up, a “Drive” car can control devices in the home, including security cameras, air-conditioners, coffee makers, stereo systems, door locks, alarm sensors on windows and sensors that detect leaks from water pipes.

Most Americans own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning for growth to connected devices.

AT&T said it had about 20 million connected devices from cars to cargo ship container sensors in 2014, up 21 percent from the year earlier. It has not yet revealed its revenue from its “Internet of Things” business.

Technology companies including Apple and Google are making their own plays. Mercedes-Benz has an application that lets drivers control thermostats from Nest, a company acquired by Google.

Analysts expect fast growth from the “Internet of Things”, or web-connected machines and gadgets. Connected car revenue is expected to be $20 billion annually by 2018 from $3 billion in 2013, and smart homes revenue is estimated to touch $71 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research.

AT&T has deals with eight automakers from General Motors to Ford on connected car services. Lurie said it was still signing deals.

On the home front, it has partnered with home appliance makers such as Samsung and LG Electronics.

Customers will pay for the new service through AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan. A user can add $10 to the monthly phone bill to share data across multiple connected devices such as wearables and cars, Lurie said. Or customers can opt for plans provided by their car manufacturer.

 

BlackBerry Announces Plans For Cloud Based Device Management

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd announced on Monday it has to plans to roll out a cloud-based version of its device management platform BES12, a move that will make the service more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses that need to secure devices on their own networks.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry has built a reputation around its device management and security capabilities, catering mainly to the needs of large government agencies and corporations. With data security needs becoming more critical, and a number of new entrants in the field nipping at its heels, BlackBerry said it is now broadening its offerings.

BlackBerry’s new BES12 platform manages and secures not only BlackBerry devices, but also those powered by operating systems such as Google Inc’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft Corp’s Windows platform. It can also manage and secure medical diagnostic equipment, industrial machinery and even cars.

By offering a less costly cloud-based version of the system, BlackBerry hopes to attract a wider range of small- and medium-sized businesses that need these capabilities, but do not have the capacity to install and manage expensive servers of their own.

“We are trying to broaden the enterprise mobility management space,” said BlackBerry Chief Operation Officer Marty Beard on a conference call with media. “And a cloud version really enables us to broaden our footprint.”

The new cloud-based offering, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, will be offered to customers later this month.

India’s Essar Group, a conglomerate with more than 60,000 employees spread across over two dozen countries, has signed up for a trial of the cloud-based version.

Beard said BlackBerry is seeing growing demand from smaller companies for cloud-based device management offerings, but is also getting demand from larger companies that have certain divisions or groups that need cloud-based capabilities.

 

Google Continues Wooing Enterprise Users With Android For Work Launch

February 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google Inc rolled out an initiative  to make smartphones running its Android software more appealing to corporations, a move that could help extend the Internet technology giant reach into workplaces.

Google said on its official blog that its Android for Work program will provide improved security and management features for corporations that want to give their employees Android smartphones. Smartphones supported by the new initiative will be able to keep an employee’s work and personal apps separate, and a special Android for Work app will allow businesses to oversee key tools such as email, calendar and contacts.

Google said it is partnering with more than two dozen companies including Blackberry Ltd, Citrix Systems Inc, Box Inc.

Google’s Android software is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, but many corporations, which have significant security and device management requirements, give their employees smartphones made by Blackberry or Apple Inc.

 

 

Chrome Browser Now Has Early Warning Alert

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has added an early warning alert to Chrome that appears when users try to access a website that the search giant believes will try to trick users into downloading suspicious software.

The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states.

Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.

The company has long focused on those categories, and for obvious, if unstated, reasons. It would prefer that people — much less, shifty software — not alter the Chrome home page, which features the Google search engine, the Mountain View, Calif. firm’s primary revenue generator. Likewise, the last thing Google wants is to have adware, especially the most irritating, turn off everyone to all online advertising.

The new alert is only the latest in a line of warnings and more draconian moves Google has made since mid-2011, when the browser began blocking malware downloads. Google has gradually enhanced Chrome’s alert feature by expanding the download warnings to detect a wider range of malicious or deceitful programs, and using more assertive language in the alerts.

In January 2014, for example, Chrome 32 added threats that posed as legitimate software and tweaked with the browser’s settings to the unwanted list.

The browser’s malware blocking and suspect site warnings come from Google’s Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service; Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox also access parts of the API to warn their users of potentially dangerous websites.

Chrome 40, the browser’s current most-polished version, can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Google’s website.

 

 

Google Acquiring Softcard’s Mobile Wallet Technology

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.

The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.

At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.

Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.

While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.

That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.

Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.

 

 

 

Visa Europe Announces New Mobile Payments Method

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Visa Europe has announced a new, more secure way for consumers to pay retailers usinng their mobile phones,a move that could set the stage for Apple’s  Apple Pay and rival mobile payment services to be introduced into Europe in the coming months.

Visa Europe said on Tuesday it would introduce to member banks by mid-April a “tokenization” service which substitutes random numbers for a user’s credit card details when a merchant transmits transaction data, reducing the risk of online theft.

Similar security from Visa Inc ,the former parent of Visa Europe, and rival card issuers MasterCard and American Express has been key to the success of Apple Pay since it was introduced in the United States last year, according to industry experts.

Apple Pay allows iPhone users to store their credit card details on their phones, then pay at the tap of a button. In its first three months, more than $2 out of every $3 which U.S. consumers spent using speedy new “contactless” systems at the three major credit card networks was done via Apple Pay, the company said last month.

Visa Europe’s move is one of several new services the London-based credit card giant is unveiling as it battles to retain its role as a middleman connecting banks and consumers in a fast-moving payments landscape being shaken up by major technology firms including Apple, Google  and eBay’s PayPal, as well as scores of ambitious start-ups.

These include a way for card customers to send money overseas to other Visa users via their social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Steve Perry, Visa Europe’s chief digital officer, said in an interview his association’s plan for secure credit card data transmission parallels what Visa Inc offers in the United States. But he declined to comment on whether Apple Pay had agreed to use his organization’s version in European markets.

 

Antitrust Case Against Google Over Android Apps Dismissed

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that alleged Google harmed consumers by forcing Android mobile phone makers to use its apps by default. The plaintiffs were given three weeks to amend their complaint.

The two consumers who filed the suit failed to show that Google’s allegedly illegal restrictive contracts on manufacturers of Android devices resulted in higher prices on phones, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a Feb. 20 ruling.

The complainants, who were seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, said that Google required manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics, to set the search giant’s own apps as default options on Android-based phones, restricting access to competing software such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The complaint alleged that this practice limited competition in the search engine market, stifled innovation and resulted in higher prices for phones.

But Freeman ruled that the complainants failed to establish a link between software requirements and phone pricing, also noting that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”

She gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend the antitrust complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

 

 

Android Malware Fake Shuts Down Phones To Steal Data

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Next time you turn switch off your Android mobile phone, you might want to pop the battery out as an extra precaution.

Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.

When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.

“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.

But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.

This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.

 

YouTube Releasing New Kids App

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is rolling out a new app for children next week, called YouTube Kids, which will run on smartphones and tablets and focus on kid-appropriate content.

The free app from Google Inc’s online video service will be available for download as of today, February 23rd, and will feature kid-friendly design, with big icons and minimal scrolling, according to details seen by Reuters.

The app, which will be separate from the mainstream YouTube mobile app, will also feature parental controls such as a timer that can be used to limit a child’s screen time.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the launch, saying the company is planning to announce the new app today at a children’s entertainment industry conference.

A YouTube spokeswoman confirmed the information.

In December, USA Today reported that Google was planning to roll out child-friendly versions of its most popular products in a bid to be “fun and safe for children.”

Internet companies such as Google and Facebook Inc do not offer their services to children under 13.