“The device business must be profitable, because we don’t want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line,” Chief Executive John Chen told investors at the company’s annual meeting. “We’ve got to get there this year.”
Chen has previously said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.
But at the meeting, attended by around 100 people, he said he sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.
“I don’t personally believe handsets will be the future of any company,” he said.
BlackBerry, once the smartphone market leader before being displaced by Apple Inc and competitors run on Alphabet Inc’s Android platform, has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations.
In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.
But some of those in attendance were skeptical about BlackBerry’s ability to deliver on its strategic pivot.
“The first word that comes to mind is lackluster,” said one shareholder at the meeting who declined to give his name. “Time is running out.”
Chen reiterated that BlackBerry wants to grow its software revenue by 30 percent in this fiscal year, which he estimated would be double overall market growth, and to notch positive free cash flow.
BlackBerry is due to report first quarter results on Thursday.
Chen took up the CEO role in 2013 with a reputation as a turnaround artist. But the company’s stock has only risen modestly since then, with many investors waiting for signs the now-smaller company will be able to carve out new opportunities.
“I appreciate the strategy,” said Ken Tota, an investor in BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. He said he was optimistic a renewed focus on security could help reinvigorate BlackBerry over the next five years.
“It’s a niche, but it’s a worldwide niche,” he said.
The malware, dubbed Godless, has been found lurking on app stores including Google Play, and it targets devices running Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and earlier, which accounts for more than 90 percent of Android devices, Trend Micro said Tuesday in a blog post.
Godless hides inside an app and uses exploits to try to root the OS on your phone. This basically creates admin access to a device, allowing unauthorized apps to be installed.
Godless contains various exploits to ensure it can root a device, and it can even install spyware, Trend Micro said.
A newer variant can also bypass security checks at app stores like Google Play. Once the malware has finished its rooting, it can be tricky to uninstall, the security firm said.
Trend Micro said it found various apps in Google Play that contain the malicious code.
“The malicious apps we’ve seen that have this new remote routine range from utility apps like flashlights and Wi-Fi apps, to copies of popular game,” the company said.
Some apps are clean but have a corresponding malicious version that shares the same developer certificate. The danger there is that users install the clean app but are then upgraded to the malicious version without them knowing.
So far, Trend says it has seen 850,000 affected devices, with almost half in India and more in other southeast Asian countries. Less than 2 percent were in the U.S.
Toyota Motor Corp is focusing developing in the next five years driver assistance systems that integrate artificial intelligence (AI) to improve vehicle safety, the head of its advanced research division said.
Gill Pratt, CEO of recently set up Toyota Research Institute (TRI), the Japanese automaker’s research and development company that focuses on AI, said it aims to improve car safety by enabling vehicles to anticipate and avoid potential accident situations.
Toyota has said the institute will spend $1 billion over the next five years, as competition to develop self-driving cars intensifies.
Earlier this month, home rival Honda Motor Co said it was setting up a new research body which would focus on artificial intelligence, joining other global automakers which are investing in robotics research, including Ford and Volkswagen AG.
“Some of the things that are in car safety, which is a near-term priority, I’m very confident that we will have some advances come out during the next five years,” Pratt told reporters late last week in comments embargoed for Monday.
The concept of allowing vehicles to think, act and take some control from drivers to perform evasive maneuvers forms a key platform of Toyota’s efforts to produce a car which can drive automatically on highways by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While currently driver assistance systems largely use image sensors to avoid obstacles including vehicles and pedestrians within the car’s lane, Pratt said TRI was looking at AI solutions to enable “the car to be evasive beyond the one lane”.
“The intelligence of the car would figure out a plan for evasive action … Essentially (it would) be like a guardian angel, pushing on the accelerators, pushing on the steering wheel, pushing on the brake in parallel with you.”
As Japanese automakers race against technology companies to develop automated vehicles, they are also grappling with a rapidly graying society, which puts future demand for private vehicle ownership at risk.
Pratt said he saw the possibility that Toyota may one day become a maker of robots to help the elderly.
Asked of the potential for Toyota to produce robots for use in the home, he said: “That’s part of what we’re exploring at TRI.”
Pratt declined to comment on a media report earlier this month that Toyota is in talks with Google’s parent company Alphabet to acquire Boston Dynamics and Schafts, both of which are robotics divisions of the technology company.
The U.S. pay-TV industry put forth a plan to allow more than 50 million subscribers to get rid of costly set-top boxes required to view television and video programs to try and convince federal regulators to abandon more far-reaching reforms.
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, proposed in January opening the $20 billion cable and satellite TV set-top box market to new competitors and allow consumers to access multiple content providers from a single app or device.
Under the industry proposal unveiled in meetings with the FCC this week, the pay-TV industry would commit to creating apps to allow consumers to watch programs without needing to lease a box and the FCC could implement regulations enforcing the commitment.
Kim Hart, a spokeswoman for Wheeler, said on Friday that he was pleased the “industry has adopted the primary goal of our proposal, to promote greater competition and choice for consumers, and agree it is achievable.”
Wheeler wants to see additional details to “determine whether their proposal fully meets all of the goals of our proceeding,” Hart said.
Wheeler’s proposal has faced criticism from companies like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, CBS Corp, Walt Disney Co, Viacom and others, along with more than 150 members of Congress. They have raised copyright, content licensing and other issues.
Opponents fear rivals like Alphabet Inc or Apple Inc could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.
Wheeler’s proposal would create a framework for device manufacturers and software developers to allow consumers to access content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon.com, Hulu, YouTube and a pay-TV company on a single device or app.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, praised Wheeler for proposing reforms, but told Reuters “it has become clear the original proposal has real flaws. … We need to find another way forward. So I’m glad that efforts are underway to hash out alternatives.”
The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in February to advance its plan. A final vote could come as early as August.
Wi-Fi calls recently became available to customers usingiPhones and other iOS 9.3 devices on all four major U.S. carriers, which includes AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. That iOS update first became available March 21.
Wi-Fi calling is ideal for places were there is limited or no cell coverage. Many indoor spaces don’t provide good cellular connections, so Wi-Fi calling is a suitable alternative. Travelers abroad can reduce roaming costs by using Wi-Fi calling as well.
“Wi-Fi calling is a feature that customers want, so that’s the most important reason for carriers to do it,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.
T-Mobile advertised Wi-Fi calling as a replacement for inconsistent cellular service as early as 2007 before getting a permit from the Federal Communications Commission to do so.
AT&T explained that its Wi-Fi calling requires a compatible device and a postpaid wireless account set-up for HD Voice as well as the Wi-Fi connection.
Users on AT&T’s Wi-Fi calling system can make and receive calls and texts and keep the same phone number. The bill for a call is based on the number being called. For AT&T customers, making a call on a U.S. number to another U.S. number is free, even if the customer is overseas, according to an AT&T blog and a separate online description.
A new Mozilla fund, named Secure Open Source, will provide security audits of open-source code, following the discovery of critical security bugs like Heartbleed and Shellshock in key pieces of the software.
Mozilla has set up a $500,000 initial fund that will be used for paying professional security firms to audit project code. The foundation will also work with the people maintaining the project to support and implement fixes and manage disclosures, while also paying for the verification of the remediation to ensure that identified bugs have been fixed.
The initial fund will cover audits of some widely-used open source libraries and programs.
The move is a recognition of the growing use of open-source software for critical applications and services by businesses, government and educational institutions. “From Google and Microsoft to the United Nations, open source code is now tightly woven into the fabric of the software that powers the world. Indeed, much of the Internet – including the network infrastructure that supports it – runs using open source technologies,” wrote Chris Riley, Mozilla’s head of public policy.
Mozilla is hoping that the companies and governments that use open source will join it and provide additional funding for the project.
In a trial of the SOS program on three pieces of open-source software, Mozilla said it found and fixed 43 bugs, including a critical vulnerability and two issues in connection with a widely-used image file format. “These initial results confirm our investment hypothesis, and we’re excited to learn more as we open for applications,” Riley wrote.
The SOS fund “fills a critical gap in cybersecurity by creating incentives to find the bugs in open source and letting people fix them,” said James A. Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a statement.
The SOS is part of a larger program, called Mozilla Open Source Support, launched by Mozilla in October last year to support open source and free software development. MOSS has an annual budget of about $3 million.
To qualify for SOS funding, the software must be open source or free software, with the appropriate licenses and approvals, and must be actively maintained. Some of the other factors that will be considered are whether a project is already corporate backed, how commonly is the software used, whether it is network-facing or regularly processes untrusted data, and its importance to the continued functioning of the Internet or the Web.
Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch a standalone music streaming subscription service, placing it squarely in competition with rival offerings from Apple Inc and Spotify, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The service will be offered at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals, and it will offer a competitive catalog of songs, the sources said. Amazon is finalizing licenses with labels for the service, which likely will be launched in late summer or early fall, the sources said.
Amazon, which offers a free streaming music service with a limited catalog to subscribers of its Prime shipping and video service, did not respond to a request for comment about the new, full-fledged music plan.
Although it will be a late entrant to the crowded streaming space, Amazon believes a comprehensive music service is important to its bid to be a one-stop shop for content and goods, the sources said.
The new music offering also is intended to increase the appeal of the Amazon Echo, its home speaker, which searches the Internet and orders products from the retailer with voice commands.
“A music service will further increase the daily interactions between Amazon and its customer base,” said former music executive Jay Samit when told about the company’s plan.
The new Amazon effort will compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify, which boast more than 30 million songs. Apple launched its service last year in one of the highest profile signs that listeners wanted subscription services, rather than paying for individual songs or albums.
The service also will diversify Amazon’s subscription offerings and be another step away from a single, annual subscription. Amazon recently began allowing subscribers to Prime to pay monthly, for instance.
Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google have muscled into music streaming in recent years, aiming to weave themselves more tightly into their customers’ daily routines and drive device sales.
Amazon similarly hopes its new service’s tight integration with the Echo will help it stand out and reinforce the speaker’s appeal, the sources said.
Released broadly last year, the Echo has become a surprise hit that rival Google is now seeking to emulate with a speaker of its own.
The move suggests that Amazon will increasingly offer basic media options through Prime while selling additional subscriptions for consumers who want to go deeper. The company recently launched a standalone video service.
The new music service is unlikely to steal many customers from Spotify, but it could pose a threat to other players, said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock who headed early Apple music efforts, when informed of the move.
Qualcomm has released its Connected Car Reference Platform so that the car industry to build prototypes for the next-generation connected car.
Qualcomm could make piles of dosh if car-makers choose its platforms in the future. While it looks like the whole program and hardware package is not there yet, it gives developers something to play with which should see it under the bonnet of the next generation of car automation.
The next trick will be to get autonomous steering and collision avoidance features into the package. Qualcomm will probably apply its machine learning SDK, announced just a few weeks ago, and the Snapdragon 820 processor.
In a press release Qualcomm said the Connected Car Reference Platform uses a common framework that scales from a basic telematics control unit (TCU) up to a highly integrated wireless gateway, connecting multiple electronic control units (ECUs) within the car and supporting critical functions, such as over-the-air software upgrades and data collection and analytics.
The vehicle’s connectivity hardware and software to be upgraded through its life cycle, providing automakers with a migration path from Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) to hybrid/cellular V2X and from 4G LTE to 5G.
It can also manage concurrent operation of multiple wireless technologies using the same spectrum frequencies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy.
The system supports OEM and third-party applications to providing a secure framework for the development and execution of custom applications.
Qualcomm appears to be working on the problem of over-the-air software updates. Updating software on a mission-critical system such as an autonomous car is a much harder problem than updating a smartphone because it has to be completely secure and work every time without reducing safety. However given that updates have stuffed up the mobile phone business and a car will need lots of them in its much longer working life, it is something which will need to be tackled.
Qualcomm has to solve this problem anyway to accelerate shipments not only to the car market but to the IoT market, where it hopes to sell tens of billions of chips.
Qualcomm says it expects to ship the Connected Car Reference Platform to automakers, tier 1 auto suppliers and developers late this year.
After sliding its slide-rules, flicking its abacus, and counting its toes, the bean counters at Gartner have decided that the smartphone business bubble has burst splattering in the face of those who depend on it.
Big G says the market will shrink from 14.4 per cent growth in 2015 to just 7 per cent in 2016 — with only 1.5 billion smartphone units being shipped globally this year. Compair this with 2010, when Gartner notes the market grew 73 per cent.
However the signs have been obvious for about a year. Mature Western markets saturated, China’s growth engine slowing as demand has topped out and other markets unable to afford the higher margin gear. The smartphone has come to the end of its ability to provide new technology too with companies only able to offer incremental upgrades. Carriers are moving away from subsidizing upgrades which means that them wasting their own profits to prop up the likes of Apple are over.
In emerging markets it says the average lifetime of premium phone is between 2.2 and 2.5 years, while basic mobiles have an average lifetime of three years and up.
Gartner sees the biggest remaining opportunity for smartphone growth in India, noting that sales of feature phones — aka dumbphones — accounted for a majority (61 per cent) of total mobile device sales last year, leaving plenty of scope for upgrades as smartphones continue to become more affordable.
It is estimating 139 million smartphones will be sold in India this year, growing 29.5 per cent year-over-year. It notes the average selling price of mobiles in the country remains below $70, and it expects smartphones priced under $120 to continue to contribute around half of overall smartphones sales there this year. Apple’s hope that it can save its flailing business numbers by selling into India show the complete lack of understanding of how that market is working. It is tending to favor small local smartphone makers like Intex.
China is going to offer Apple no help either Gartner is expecting “little growth” in the region in the next five years. IT says it is “saturated yet highly competitive” market. Smartphones represented 95 per cent of total mobile phones sales last year.
Gartner analyst Annette Zimmerman said that “non-traditional” vendors in China could do well and thinks that by 2018 at least one such phone maker will be among the top five smartphone brands in the country.
“Chinese internet companies are increasingly investing in mobile device hardware development, platforms and distribution as they aim to grow their user bases and increase user loyalty and engagement,” she said.
The Sub-Saharan African region is also couched as an attractive region for smartphone vendors, with smartphone sales only overtaking mobile phones sales there for the first time last year. Nokia brand licensee and newly formed smartphone OEM HMD will want to take note, given it has paid for the right to build feature phones (and smartphones) bearing the previously iconic Nokia brand name.
Apple Inc announced a series of long anticipated enhancements to its App Store, but the new features may not ease concerns of developers and analysts who say that the App Store model – and the very idea of the single-purpose app – has seen its best days.
The revamped App Store will let developers advertise their wares in search results and give developers a bigger cut of revenues on subscription apps, while Apple said it has already dramatically sped up its app-approval process.
The goal is to sustain the virtuous cycle at the heart of the hugely lucrative iPhone business. Software developers make apps for the iPhone because its customers are willing to pay, and those customers, in turn, pay a premium for the device because it has the best apps.
The store is now more strategically important than ever for Apple as sales of the iPhone begin to level off and the company looks to software and services to fill the gap. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a recent conference call that App Store revenues were up 35 percent over last year.
But the store is also a victim of its own success. Eight years after its launch, it is packed with more than 1.9 million apps, according to analytics firm App Annie, making it almost impossible for developers to find an audience – and increasingly difficult for customers to find what they need, as some 14,000 new apps arrive in the store each week.
“The app space has grown out of control,” said Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet and now a vice president at Alphabet Inc’s Google, who was speaking at a San Francisco conference on the future of the web on Wednesday. “We need to move away from having an individual app for every individual thing you want to do.”
The idea is that one day a smart machine might be able to override its own off button. If that’s the case, then humans would need another way to gain the upper hand.
“If an agent is operating in real-time under human supervision, now and then it may be necessary for a human operator to press the big red button to prevent the agent from continuing a harmful sequence of actions — harmful either for the agent or for the environment,” researchers wrote in a paper posted on the Machine Intelligence Research Institute website. “However, if the learning agent… learns in the long run to avoid such interruptions, for example by disabling the red button, it is an undesirable outcome.”
The paper was co-written by Laurent Orseau, a research scientist with Google Deep Mind, and Stuart Armstrong, a researcher with the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
The researchers are looking for ways to keep a machine from learning about human interventions and stopping them from happening.
It’s an interesting, and possibly critical, step for researchers to take given thepopular fears surrounding artificial intelligence.
Google’s kill switch research is more than technology to placate the frightened masses, but may also be well-timed.
“The timing is right for this to be discussed as the architectures for A.I. and autonomous machines are being laid right now,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “It would be like designing a car and only afterwards creating the ABS and braking system. The kill switch needs to be designed into the overall system. Otherwise, it is open to security issues and maybe even the machines trying to circumvent the kill.”
R, designed specifically for statistical computing and other data analysis tasks, has become increasingly popular in recent years as both data volumes and interest in data science have exploded. IBM says that R is among the languages it used to develop its Watson natural language/machine learning platform.
Dinesh Nirmal, IBM vice president of development for next-generation analytics platform and big data solutions, will join the R Consortium board of directors.
“IBM is deeply invested in open-source software for computing applications like data science,” Nirmal said in a statement released by the Consortium. “And as a long-time member of The Linux Foundation, it’s a natural fit for us to extend our commitment to collaborative development by joining the R Consortium.”
Big Blue joins Microsoft and RStudio as Platinum members of the Consortium, a non-profit project under the Linux Foundation’s organizational umbrella. (Donations of at least $100,000 are required for Platinum sponsorship.) Google, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard are also among the technology companies that sponsor R Consortium, which aims to promote use of R, create infrastructure and best practices for the R community and support the annual useR conference.
The Consortium has awarded several grants to projects seen as useful to the R community, such as R-Hub, a planned service for developing and testing R packages, and Simple Features for R for easier geospatial analysis in R.
For all of 2016, global tablet shipments will drop by 9.6% over 2015, market research firm IDC forecast this week, marking the second straight year of decline. In March, IDC had forecast a decline of 6% for this year.
The decline will occur even when newer detachable tablets, often called 2-in-1s, are included with slate tablets, IDC said.
“The impact of the decline of slates is having a bigger impact, faster than we thought. They are not coming back,” said IDC analyst Jean Phillippe Bouchard in an interview.
But Bouchard was quick to add that slates are not disappearing entirely. There will continue to be a robust market for small slate tablets, under 8 inches, that are sold for less than $125 by Amazon and others, primarily for use by children.
“There will also continue to be a slate market for commercial uses in healthcare, education and hospitality, so there are a lot of use cases for slates saying that slates are not going away,” he said. “There will still be a need for slates but not as great as in 2010.” IDC said well over 100 million slate tablets will ship annually through 2020.
As IDC and others have said in the past, slate tablets have saturated the market. “Everyone wanting a slate has one, and there’s very little reason to replace it or upgrade it,” Bouchard added.
IDC pegged the total tablet market of both slates and detachables at 207 million units shipped in 2015, but that figure will decline to about 187 million in 2016. IDC didn’t release its forecast for years beyond 2016, but said the market will continue to decline in 2017 before having a “slight rebound in 2018 and beyond, driven by detachable tablet growth.”
The Japanese automaker has been less vocal about its plans for self-driving cars than larger rivals like Toyota and General Motors, which in recent months have shown off major research and development projects and big-ticket acquisitions.
But under the radar, Honda has been building semi-autonomous functionality, including forward-collision warning, lane- departure warning and lane-keeping assist. These features are already being rolled out in Honda’s Acuras and the Civic model year 2016, which costs about $22,000.
“We under-promise and over-deliver as a promise, as a company. There are a lot of promises talked about by a lot of companies,” said Jim Keller, chief engineer for Honda Research and Development Americas, referring to the pervasive industry hype.
With the current roll-out of semi-autonomous functions, which it says will pave the way for full autonomy on highways by 2020, Honda says it differs from rivals, whose self-driving efforts have centered on their luxury models.
“This is a unique differentiator for Honda … who is committed to the concept of safety for everyone,” said Keller. “Unless we democratize it across our lineup it will be just a niche.”
Honda showed off two prototypes it has used in testing at the GoMentum Station, a 5,000-acre former naval munitions zone that features 20 miles of paved roadway, tunnels and other infrastructure ideal for testing.
On Wednesday, reporters saw the cars accelerate, stop and cede the way for pedestrians, and turn in autonomous mode.
The site in Concord, California, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, hopes to lure other carmakers to test autonomous cars there. Besides Honda, the French maker of driverless shuttles, Easy Mile, also tests there.
The auto industry has been marked by a series of high-profile investments and acquisitions related to autonomous driving in recent months. General Motors in January bought autonomous vehicle technology start-up Cruise Automation for a reported $1 billion, while Toyota has committed to spending $1 billion over five years to develop technologies behind the self-driving car.
The fruity cargo cult Apple appears to have admitted that its iPhone cash-cow is ready for the meat works and is slowing down its production cycle to once every three years.
This means that Jobs’ Mob will only have to come up with something new for it is iPhone once every three years instead of every two years as it does now. It will also clear the field for Apple’s rivals.
The news comes from the Japanese newspaper Nikkei which claims Apple is moving from a tick-tock cycle with a major iPhone refresh every two years to a three-year cycle. In a typical two-year term, fall 2016 was supposed to see a major upgrade. But the changes on the model to be launched this autumn will be minor.
Nikkei says that the change is because smartphone functions having little room left for major enhancements and the market is slowing down. The Tame Apple Press is aghast at the reports but has to admit that the fact that the iPhone 7 is going to be identical to the current iPhone 6 is a pretty good clue that the story is accurate.
The news that Apple is pulling back from improving its iPhones particularly fast is likely to give the outfit’s stock a kick in the nadgers. Share prices have been improving since Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced it was buying the shares. To be fair Buffett’s history with IT stock has been less than stellar. He lost a fortune betting big on Big Blue.
The Nikkei piece also suggests that Apple is not expecting iPhone sales to return to growth until next year.