Google Inc rolled out in India on Monday the first smartphones under its Android One project, pricing them at around 6,399 rupees ($105) to capture the low-cost segment of the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.
The Mountain View-Based company tied up with Indian mobile players Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobiles to launch the affordable phones, which are powered by its operating system and aimed at emerging markets.
After launching in India, Google said it plans to expand Android One to Indonesia, Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014 and in more countries in 2015.
Google outlined the pricing and expansion details in a marketing document seen by Reuters. The company is due to host an official media event later on Monday.
India is seen as a lucrative market for low-cost smartphones because many people are buying the devices for the first time. Just 10 percent of the India’s population currently owns a smartphone, brokerage Nomura said in a recent research note, and that figure is likely to double over the next four years.
Google, however, is not the only company jostling for a share of the Indian market.
There are at least 80 smartphone brands in India and analysts say the Android One phones must offer customers more than just affordability if it wants to compete with similarly priced devices made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Motorola and China’s Xiaomi.
“The initial pricing never sticks but it’ll be tough for them to compete if they don’t come down further,” said Neil Shah, research director for devices and ecosystems at Hong Kong-based technology research agency Counterpoint Research.
In June, Google had announced the launch of the Android One project, which aims to boost demand for low-end Android smartphones by vastly improving their quality.
The acquisition of Movirtu helps BlackBerry ramp up its portfolio of services to cater to the needs of its core base of corporate and government clients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Movirtu’s virtual SIM technology allows an individual to have both a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number.
This allows employees to switch between work and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards.
“Clearly this fits nicely within the strategy we have so far articulated. We are building recurring revenue streams in value-added services and providing more value to enterprises,” the head of BlackBerry’s enterprise unit John Sims said in an interview.
Sims said Movirtu’s technology would allow IT administrators for example to restrict calls and emails to a work number after a particular time, without blocking personal calls or emails to the same device.
BlackBerry, which dominated the smartphone market in its infancy, has been reshaping itself over the course of the last year as its devices have lost ground to Apple’s iPhone and a slew of rival devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.
Under the leadership of its new chief executive John Chen, the company has moved rapidly to stabilize itself by selling certain assets, partnering to make its manufacturing and supply chain more efficient, and raising cash via the sale of its real estate holdings.
Chen, a well-regarded turnaround artist in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.
The company has been making small acquisitions in the last few months, as it looks to build out its offerings for so-called enterprise clients made up primarily by large corporations and government agencies that are in many cases still major users of Blackberry devices.
Intel has released its Edison chip for wearables at its Intel developer conference (IDF) in California today. The tiny computer is a dual-core Quark system on chip (SoC) Pentium-class x86 processor made using the 22nm process.
The Edison device runs Linux and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth modules. The chip can also connect to its own app store, and has 40 I/Os via a 70-pin connector that lets users do many things without going through a custom board. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Intel said that the module, which has the footprint of an SD card, was to encourage developers to build the next generation of wearable and connected devices now that it is shipping.
All IDF attendees went home with a free Edison developer kit and it will be on sale for $50 retail cost. Like the Galileo board it will be open source so developers can develop it.
“I really hope to see an explosion of innovation around this part, it has everything a person needs and an extension capability to build just about anything you can think of,” he said.
Edison has been developed by Intel to be a simple low-power development platform for people to develop software easily, thus to usher in the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices.
As the company tries to revive MSN, the focus this time is also on top content from the Web instead of offering original content. For the relaunch, the company has signed up with over 1,300 publishers worldwide including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yomiuri, CNN and The Guardian.
A “Services Stripe” at the top of the MSN homepage gives users easy access to personal services including Outlook.com email, OneDrive, Office 365 and Skype, as well as popular third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook, according to an online preview launched by Microsoft on Sunday.
The new MSN also provides “actionable information” and content and personal productivity tools such as shopping lists, a savings calculator, a symptom checker, and a 3D body explorer. Readers will have access to content from 11 sections including sports, news, health and fitness, money, travel and video, wrote Frank Holland, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post.
The company said it has rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The new MSN helps people complete their key digital tasks across all of their devices, wrote Brian MacDonald, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for information and content experiences, in a blog post.
“Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are,” MacDonald added. Users worldwide can try out the new MSN preview.
In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement its corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps. “You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences,” MacDonald wrote.
Microsoft claims an audience of more than 437 million people across 50 countries for MSN.
MSN.com ranks number 26 among the top sites in the U.S., behind Microsoft’s own Bing site, Google’s search site, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo’s portal, according to traffic estimates by Alexa.
The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.
Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.
In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.
Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”
StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.
In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.
“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.
“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.
She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.
Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”
Dubbed My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, has glamorous looks as well as 3G cellular connectivity. It doesn’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.
Designed by Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of fashion house Opening Ceremony, MICA is a cuff-style accessory covered with snakeskin as well as semiprecious stones such as obsidian and lapis, which were important stones in Ancient Egyptian tombs.
It will be available in two styles, one with white snakeskin and the other with black snakeskin, each with different stones.
The 1.6-inch sapphire-glass touchscreen can display SMS messages relayed through the bracelet’s Intel XMM6321 3G cellular radio. It can also display calendar alerts.
No world on price yet, but if you have to ask you can’t afford it. It will be sold through some Barneys and Opening Ceremony stores by the December holiday season.
The MICA bracelet also follows Intel’s acquisition of health-tracking wristband maker Basis Science in March.
The chips will be in five to seven detachable tablets and hybrids by year end, and the number of devices could balloon to 20 next year, said Andy Cummins, mobile platform marketing manager at Intel.
Core M chips, announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin on Friday, are the first based on the new Broadwell architecture. The processors will pave the way for a new class of thin, large-screen tablets with long battery life, and also crank up performance to run full PC applications, Intel executives said in interviews.
“It’s about getting PC-type performance in this small design,” Cummins said. “[Core M] is much more optimized for thin, fanless systems.”
Tablets with Core M could be priced as low as US$699, but the initial batch of detachable tablets introduced at IFA are priced much higher. Lenovo’s 11.6-inch ThinkPad Helix 2 starts at $999, Dell’s 13.3-inch Latitude 13 7000 starts at $1,199, and Hewlett-Packard’s 13.3-inch Envy X2 starts at $1,049.99. The products are expected to ship in September or October.
Core M was also shown in paper-thin prototype tablets running Windows and Android at the Computex trade show in June. PC makers have not expressed interest in building Android tablets with Core M, but the OS can be adapted for the chips, Cummins said.
The dual-core chips draw as little as 4.5 watts, making it the lowest-power Core processor ever made by Intel. The clock speeds start at 800MHz when running in tablet mode, and scales up to 2.6GHz when running PC applications.
The power and performance characteristics make Core M relevant primarily for tablets. The chips are not designed for use in full-fledged PCs, Cummins said.
“If you are interested in the highest-performing parts, Core M probably isn’t the exact right choice. But if you are interested in that mix of tablet form factor, detachable/superthin form factor, this is where the Core M comes into play,” Cummins said.
For full-fledged laptops, users could opt for the upcoming fifth-generation Core processor, also based on Broadwell, Cummins said. Those chips are faster and will draw 15 watts of power or more, and be in laptops and desktops early next year.
New features in Core M curbed power consumption, and Intel is claiming performance gains compared to chips based on the older Haswell architecture. Tablets could offer around two more hours of battery life with Core M.
The Iconia Tab 8 W runs Windows on an Intel Atom Z3735G quad-core processor. It offers 8 hours of battery life, weighs 370 grams and is 9.75 millimeters thick. The 8-inch screen has a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels.
For the $149 price tag, Acer includes a one-year subscription to the Personal version of Office 365, which includes access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.
Android fans will prefer the Iconia One 8, running Android 4.4. It has the same Intel processor and screen dimensions as its Windows cousin, but is slightly lighter at 340 grams and only 8.5 millimeters thick.
Buyers can choose between 10 colors, including red, green, blue, purple and pink.
Acer also took the covers off the Iconia 10, an Android-based 10-inch tablet. The device has a quad-core processor from MediaTek. The screen is protected using Gorilla glass and has Full HD resolution. Using Dolby Digital Plus, surround sound is simulated from two-channel stereo audio headphones.
Available in black or white and with a price of $199, the Iconia Tab 10 includes a micro HDMI port and Wireless Display support for showing photos and videos on a bigger TV.
The first of the new tablets to start shipping will be the Iconia 10, available this month in the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
The Iconia Tab 8 W will go on sale in October in EMEA and in November in the Americas.
The tablet, which runs on Google’s Android 4.4 OS, has Intel’s quad-core Atom chip, code-named Bay Trail. The chip is capable of running PC-class applications and rendering high-definition video.
The 8-inch S8 offers 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution, which is also on Google’s 7-inch Nexus 7. The S8 is priced lower than the Nexus 7, which sells for $229.
The Tab S8 is 7.87 millimeters thick, weighs 294 grams, and runs for seven hours on a single battery charge. It has a 1.6-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel back camera. Other features include 16GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. LTE is optional.
The Tab S8 will ship in multiple countries. Most of Lenovo’s tablets worldwide with screen sizes under 10 inches run on Android.
Lenovo also announced its largest gaming laptop. The Y70 Touch has a 17.3-inch touchscreen, and can be configured with Intel’s Core i7 processors and Nvidia’s GTX-860M graphics card. It is 25.9 millimeters thick and is priced starting at $1,299. It will begin shipping next month.
The company also announced Erazer X315 gaming desktop with Advanced Micro Devices processors code-named Kaveri. It can be configured with up to 32GB of DDR3 DRAM and 4TB of hard drive storage or 2TB of hybrid solid-state/hard drive storage. It will ship in November in the U.S. with prices starting at $599.
The products were announced ahead of the IFA trade show in Berlin. Lenovo is holding a press conference at IFA where it is expected to announce more products.
Google Inc has announced that a research team led by physicist John Martinis from the University of California Santa Barbara will join the company to start a project to design and build new quantum information processors based on superconducting electronics.
The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab is a collaboration between Google, NASA Ames Research Center and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) to study the application of quantum optimization related to artificial intelligence.
“With an integrated hardware group, the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimization and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture,” Google’s director of engineering, Hartmut Neven, said on its research blog.
Google, which is working on projects including self-driving cars and robots, has become increasingly focused on artificial intelligence in recent years.
Earlier in January, Google acquired privately held artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies Ltd.
The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.
Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.
“You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,” Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network’s mobile app. “Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone’s camera and microphone to see and hear what you’re doing. These reports aren’t true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.”
The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.
“We’re testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. “We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.”
The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.
Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users’ smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.
Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store.
On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, “Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.”
The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.
According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.
“If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone’s camera and capture that photo,” the company said in its message to users. “We don’t turn on your camera or microphone when you aren’t using the app.”
Invitations to the media and analysts went out a week ago for the long-expected event. Apple was even coyer than usual, declining to provide any hints, as it often does, of the event’s purpose.
“Wish we could say more,” the invitation simply read.
Analysts expect that it will be used to unveil new iPhones, as the same-timed presentations did in 2013 and 2012.
The date, as Computerworld pointed out a month ago, synchronizes with Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C unveiling of last year. Then, Apple touted the new smartphones on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The year before, Apple used Sept. 12, a Wednesday — the usual day of the week, Tuesday, had been an anniversary of the terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C. — for its iPhone 5 debut.
The event will take place at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, which is on the campus of De Anza College in Cupertino. The Flint Center seats 2,400, significantly more than either the theater on Apple’s campus which was used last year for the iPhone 5S and 5C or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where Apple hosted its 2012 iPhone 5 presentation.
o-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the original Mac on January 24, 1984, at the Flint Center. (Jobs’ portion of the shareholders’ meeting where he introduced the Mac begins at the 40:56 mark in this YouTube video.)
The choice of the venue, its size and even the impenetrable tagline made one analyst wonder what Apple has up its sleeves other than the anticipated iPhone 6.
“[The tagline] hints at something unexpected,” said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. “We know there will be an iPhone in two [screen] sizes, we think we know there will be an ‘iWatch,’ or whatever Apple calls its wearable. But there have been a lot of leaks of a larger-sized tablet. I betcha that’s the unexpected.”
Gottheil was referring to a recent upswing in speculation that Apple is working on a larger-screen iPad, perhaps with a display in the 13-in. range.
“Apple can fill as large a hall as they want,” said Gottheil about the larger space for the Sept. 9 event. “I think the gist is that they want a broader audience, and may be making one big major announcement this year rather than separate events for the iPhone and iPad.”
Apple will kick off the Sept. 9 event at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). Apple’s history of live webcasting events is spotty: It always broadcasts the keynotes of its Worldwide Developers Conferences (WWDC), and for the last two years also publicly webcast its annual iPad events. But it has not broadcast iPhone introductions.
Samsung Electronics and LG announced their upcoming smartwatches, the Gear S and G Watch R, last week in advance of the show.
Samsung’s Gear S is a 3G smartwatch that doesn’t need a smartphone to function. It’s powered by an unspecified dual-core 1GHz processor and has a curved 2-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 480 by 360 pixel resolution.
After using Android Wear on the Gear Live, Samsung is back to using the Tizen operating system on its latest model. Getting developers to customize apps for smartwatches will be a challenge for any company, particularly Samsung since Tizen doesn’t have the fan base that Android and iOS have.
To help make up for the lack of apps, Samsung has teamed up with Nike on a running app and Nokia for maps.
The Gear S also has 4GB of integrated storage, 512MB of RAM and a 300mAh lithium-ion battery that lasts two days with typical use, according to Samsung. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the Gear S will start shipping worldwide in October.
Samsung has now announced five smartwatches in 12 months — the first model, the Galaxy Gear, was launched at IFA last year. The company’s aim is clearly to consolidate its leading market position in smartwatches, particularly given relentless rumors about Apple’s possible entry into the wearables market, research company CCS Insight wrote in its IFA preview.
The tactic is similar to what Samsung has done in the past — try out a number of different ideas and see what sticks. Given this approach, it’s somewhat surprising the company hasn’t put out a smartwatch with a round face, which LG and Motorola Mobility are expected to do soon.
Motorola’s round Moto 360 has been a long time coming. It was announced along with Android Wear in March and will finally be introduced this week. Motorola has promised the smartwatch would ship in the summer and since it’s already September the company has to deliver in the next few weeks to fulfill that pledge.
The Moto 360 is also a good looking device and is expected to have a 1.5-inch screen, be water and dust resistant, and have an integrated heart-rate monitor.
It will compete with LG’s Android Wear-based G Watch R, which has a 1.3-inch screen and is powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. It has 4GB of integrated storage, 512MB of RAM and a 410mAh battery. It too has a heart-rate monitor and is water and dust resistant.
Sony is also expected to launch a new smartwatch at IFA. The company is a veteran in the field, so far using its own version of Android. But given Android Wear’s strong momentum, it’s likely that Sony will use the Google platform on the new device, according to CCS Insight.
The smartwatch sector is still in its infancy, with products that have a lot of room for improvement. Wearable sales are still dominated by armbands from vendors such as Fitbit and Jawbone, which have more than a two-thirds market share.
The T4KA7 is a 1/2.4-inch, 20-megapixel backside illuminated sensor with a 1.12 micrometer pixel size, which provides for a smaller sensor size overall.
The sensor allows for a lower module height of under 6 millimeters compared to the current 20-megapixel, 1.2-micrometer sensors, the company said.
“T4KA7 is the first 1.12-micrometer, 20-megapixel sensor on the market with a high frame rate of 22 fps at full resolution,” a Toshiba spokeswoman wrote in an email.
The frame rate is 1.8 times the speed of Toshiba’s previous 20-megapixel sensor, the T4K46.
When zooming digitally, the sensor provides crisper images compared to 13- and 16-megapixel sensors, which are resolutions widely adopted in recent smartphones, she added.
Announced earlier this year, Samsung’s camera-phone hybrid Galaxy K zoomhas a 20.7-megapixel image sensor that is supposed to perform well when taking photos in low-light settings.
Without a specific measurement for comparison, it’s hard to say whether the T4KA7 would do any better in low-light shooting situations than other sensors, the Toshiba spokeswoman said.
“We think we are providing top-class sensors in terms of pixel performance,” she added.
Toshiba is producing samples of its new sensors now, with mass production of up to half a million units per month to begin in November.
Higher-end smartphones already featuring 20-megapixel cameras include the Sony Xperia Z1, the Nokia Lumia 930 and 1520.
Announced last month, the Nokia Lumia 1020 sports a camera designed for photographers — it has a sensor with 41-megapixel resolution.
After four years of double- and triple-digit growth, worldwide tablet shipments this year will grow by just 6.5% over last year, according to IDC. The research firm had previously forecast 12.1% growth.
The tablet market is maturing and long-term trends are becoming clearer, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets.
More money is being spent on cheap laptops, smartphones or wearables, and people are keeping tablets longer than expected, Bouchard said.
“We originally thought the [ownership cycle] was two years. We realized it was closer to three years,” he said.
In addition, users aren’t discarding older tablets and are instead handing them down to their kids.
Meanwhile, laptop prices are also coming down fast, and putting pricing pressure on tablets, especially in Europe, Bouchard said.
In the last month a plethora of sub-$250 tablets running Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing started shipping. Microsoft is helping PC makers build cheap laptops to battle threats from Chromebooks, Android and iOS and is offering the OS royalty free.
Interest is swaying in the direction of smaller-screen tablets, and those looking for larger screens are moving to laptops, Bouchard said.
“As you move up in screen size, you move towards productivity. The keyboard is becoming more important,” Bouchard said.
Tablet shipments will continue to grow in emerging markets, at a 12% rate, driven by small screen, low-cost tablets from Chinese companies. Shipments in mature markets, where buyers are moving to larger-screen devices, remain flat.
Buyers are increasingly considering wearables and smartphones versus tablets, but more data generated by small-screen devices could ultimately help tablet shipments, Bouchard said.
“Long to medium term, it’s a positive thing, it creates a halo effect, it will generate more data, and you’ll need more screen to visualize the data,” Bouchard said.
IDC’s tablet forecast also accounts for 2-in-1 devices, which can be used as laptops or tablets.