BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.
Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said ShopBlackBerry.com sold out the Passport in six hours, with Amazon.com selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.
“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.
But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.
Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.
Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.
“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”
He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.
The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.
Kuddle, a Norwegian photo-sharing app created for children, plans to roll out a child safe tablet with Microsoft on Dec 1, and expects to sign funding deals with several venture capital firms within weeks, its chief executive said on Monday.
The Oslo-based company said it was on track to reach its goal of one million users by year-end and plans to soon raise another $5 million of fresh funds on top of the nearly $6 million it has already raised.
“We are working with Microsoft on several child safe devices which will be sold on our online store,” Chief Executive Ole Vidar Hestaas said. “The first device will be an Ipad Mini sized tablet prized under $100 that will be ready ahead of the Kuddle Store launch.”
“This is a child friendly device and it is not possible to download games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) or apps like Snapchat,” Hestaas said.
Kuddle, which bills itself as a rival to Instagram, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and “likes” are anonymous.
Hestaas said the company also is in talks with Samsung and Microsoft’s Nokia phones unit on similar cooperation, and that it was also working on deals with European telecoms operators Telenor and Vodafone for child safe Kuddle SIM cards to be sold separately or linked up to one of its devices.
The app, which has a target of 1 million users by the end of 2014, is now available in 7 languages. The most significant growth has recently come from Brazil and the US.
Hestaas said he expects to conclude funding deals with several major international venture capital funds within weeks.
The firm’s present investors include Norwegian golf ace Suzann Pettersen.
Oracle has released its version of Openstack for Oracle Linux, its distribution of the Openstack cloud framework integrated with Oracle Linux and Oracle VM Server virtualisation, providing customers with increased choice and interoperability for building cloud infrastructure.
Available as a free download from Oracle’s Public Yum Server and the Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN), Oracle’s Openstack build installs on top of Oracle Linux and allows users to run virtual machines using any guest operating system supported by Oracle VM Server, including Microsoft Windows, Oracle Solaris and other versions of Linux.
The platform was previewed as a beta release in May, but with the general availability of Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux 1.0, the firm is now providing production Openstack support to Oracle Linux and Oracle VM customers, Oracle said.
While the beta was based on the Havana release of Openstack, the production release is based on the most up-to-date Icehouse release, along with many improvements such as a simplified install process and bug fixes.
Writing on Oracle’s Linux blog Ronen Kofman, director of Product Management for Oracle Virtualization and Openstack, said the firm’s goal is to help develop Openstack into an enterprise grade solution capable of operating an entire data centre running all types of enterprise workloads.
“We would like Openstack to become a first-class solution and the cloud operating system of choice for customers of any size,” he said.
To this end, Oracle’s Openstack build provides high-availability support for Openstack services through Oracle Clusterware, which is included with Oracle Linux Support subscriptions.
Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux also includes the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance Cinder plugin, which provides customers with an enterprise-grade storage option and integration with MySQL Enterprise Edition.
This release allows customers to build a highly scalable, multi-tenant infrastructure environment and integrate with the rich ecosystem of plugins and extensions available for Openstack, Oracle said.
Support for Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux is available as part of the Oracle Linux and Oracle VM Premier Support at no additional cost.
RedHat has announced the Fedora 21 Alpha release for Fedora developers and any brave users that want to help test it.
Fedora is the leading edge – some might say bleeding edge – distribution of Linux that is sponsored by Red Hat. That’s where Red Hat and other developers do new development work that eventually appears in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and other Red Hat based Linux distributions, including Centos, Scientific Linux and Mageia, among others. Therefore, what Fedora does might also appear elsewhere eventually.
The Fedora project said the release of Fedora 21 Alpha is meant for testing in order to help it identify and resolve bugs, adding, “Fedora prides itself on bringing cutting-edge technologies to users of open source software around the world, and this release continues that tradition.”
Specifically, Fedora 21 will produce three software products, all built on the same Fedora 21 base, and these will each be a subset of the entire release.
Fedora 21 Cloud will include images for use in private cloud environments like Openstack, as well as AMIs for use on Amazon, and a new image streamlined for running Docker containers called Fedora Atomic Host.
Fedora 21 Server will offer data centre users “a common base platform that is meant to run featured application stacks” for use as a web server, file server, database server, or as a base for offering infrastructure as a service, including advanced server management features.
Fedora 21 Workstation will be “a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and PC hardware” for use by developers and other desktop users, and will feature the latest Gnome 3.14 desktop environment.
Those interested in testing the Fedora 21 Alpha release can visit the Fedora project website.
Quick law enforcement access to the contents of smartphones could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases, FBI Director James Comey said in a briefing with some reporters. Comey said he’s concerned that smartphone companies are marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” according to news reports.
An FBI spokesman confirmed the general direction of Comey’s remarks. The FBI has contacted Apple and Google about their encryption plans, Comey told a group of reporters who regularly cover his agency.
Just last week, Google announced it would be turning on data encryption by default in the next version of Android. Apple, with the release of iOS 8 earlier this month, allowed iPhone and iPad users to encrypt most personal data with a password.
Comey’s remarks, prompted by a reporter’s question, came just days after Ronald Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, decried mobile phone encryption in a column in the Washington Post.
Smartphone companies shouldn’t give criminals “one more tool,” he wrote. “Apple’s and Android’s new protections will protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially. They will protect those who desperately need to be stopped from lawful, authorized, and entirely necessary safety and security efforts. And they will make it impossible for police to access crucial information, even with a warrant.”
Representatives of Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments on Comey’s concerns.
BlackBerry Ltd reported a smaller quarterly loss on Friday and is showing encouraging signals about its endangered smartphone business as well as its software and services sales, spurring a more than 4 percent jump in its shares.
The Canadian company, a smartphone pioneer pushed to the margins by Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android software, is now focusing more on software and services than on hardware as it works through a long turnaround.
On the services front, the company reported a huge number of conversions in its second quarter to its heavily promoted new device management platform. But BlackBerry’s hardware unit also offered hopeful news, posting an adjusted profit for the first time in five quarters, helped by lower manufacturing costs and strong demand for its low-end Z3 handsets in emerging markets.
“This is the first time in a long time that we have actually made money on hardware,” Chief Executive John Chen told reporters, while hinting at plans to unveil new phones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2015. “We think we can continue on that track, so hardware is no longer going to be a drag to the margin and the earnings.”
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s revenue in North America rose from the previous quarter, but sales slipped elsewhere. Its total revenue was down more than 40 percent from a year earlier.
“They’re taking all the right steps, which is great. It’s encouraging to see,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “Now we’ve got to see what Chen can do about the revenue decline.”
BlackBerry shares were up 5.2 percent at C$11.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and up 4.6 percent at $10.26 on Nasdaq.
General Motors Co has named an engineer to serve as its first cybersecurity chief as the No. 1 U.S. automaker and its rivals are starting to focus on how to better secure their vehicles against hackers.
The No. 1 U.S. automaker promoted manager Jeff Massimilla to the post as part of an eight-month review of its product design and engineering, said GM Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss.
“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” Reuss said. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”
Vehicles rely on tiny computers to manage everything from engines and brakes to navigation, air conditioning and windshield wipers. Security experts say it is only a matter of time before malicious hackers are able to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.
Security researchers in recent years have uncovered vulnerabilities in those systems that they say make cars susceptible to potentially dangerous attacks.
For example, at last year’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek exposed methods for attacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. In August of this year they published a list of the world’s “most hackable” cars.
A group of well-known hackers and security professionals in August sent an open letter to GM and other automakers asking them to implement basic guidelines to defend cars from cyber attacks.
The non-profit group, known as “I am the Calvary” has suggested that carmakers adopt a five-part cyber-safety program to make their products less susceptible to attacks by hackers.
Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said that the move reflects the increasing importance of cybersecurity to the industry.
Fiberlink, an IBM company, manages millions of mobile devices for businesses worldwide through the MaaS360 platform. The company said today that a study of data from 2013 revealed that, on average, businesses wipe 10% to 20% of their entire device population every year.
Everyone wipes. Fiberlink’s data showed businesses from every vertical and size are clearing data from mobile devices to address security concerns.
Remote mobile data wipe capability has become a controversial, if not de facto, standard among corporate privacy policies and is a key feature offered by mobile device management (MDM) platforms. Even cloud storage service providers are offering the capability today.
Corporate attitudes toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are often poorly formed and can, in general, fall into one of three categories: There’s no official BYOD policy, devices are banned or no one talks about it.
As more companies embrace BYOD and the lines continue to blur between personal and professional use, companies are finding new ways to balance security concerns with employee productivity. One method is to have employees agree to a remote wipe policy, which can sometimes mean personal data on the phone is lost as well.
One method of dealing with the sensitive personal data that employees don’t want deleted is “dual persona” mobile devices, or smartphones and tablets that run two separate mobile operating systems that allow disparate instances.
Dual-persona capability allows businesses to lock down corporate data on one OS, while allowing users to take advantage of whatever apps they want to run on the other “personal” OS.
According to Fiberlink’s study of its own clients, 63% of devices are partially wiped and 37% are fully wiped.
Additionally, 49% of wipes are done automatically and 51% are done by someone at the organization.
The most common reasons for automatic wipes are because devices have been jailbroken or because companies are enforcing enrollment and application compliance policies, Fiberlink’s data showed.
The one-time smartphone industry pioneer recently concluded a three-year long restructuring process and has largely halted the bleed, but it is now up to Chief Executive John Chen to prove that the company’s new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profitability.
“BlackBerry is still fighting for survival. They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.
“Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market.”
BlackBerry debuted the Passport on Wednesday in Toronto, with simultaneous events also held in London and Dubai.
The launch of the Passport, which boasts a big square screen and a unique touch-sensitive tactile keyboard, will kick off a frenzied spell for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry. The company is set to report fiscal second-quarter results on Friday and within a couple of months it is also expected to launch the long-awaited BlackBerry Classic, which bears similarities to its once wildly popular Bold smartphone.
“BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now,” Colello said. “It doesn’t quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again. The big question really is whether any of these devices will kick-start it.”
The company is hoping the Classic and the launch of its new mobile device management system – BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) – will help it claw back ground ceded to rivals in both the hardware and services market.
The BES 12 platform will allow IT managers at large firms and government agencies to not only manage and secure BlackBerry devices, but also all Android, iOS and Windows-based devices on one platform.
Chen, a well-regarded turnaround expert 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 New York based company provides a software development kit (SDK) tool for mobile applications that offers developers a customisable photo editor that can be embedded into apps on iOS, Android, Windows and web applications using HTML5.
Aviary, which claims to have had more than 100 million downloads to date, announced the news on its website, saying that the deal will allow it to extend its technology and tools not only to Aviary app users but also to users of thousands of other creative mobile apps.
“Together we will build and connect the next generation of creative applications,” said Aviary CEO Tobias Peggs in a blog post.
The acquisition came about due to the rather convenient location of Aviary’s headquarters very close to the offices of Behance, which joined Adobe 18 months ago and is now a base for Adobe’s Creative Cloud offering. The two firms got to talking and realised they shared interests.
Peggs knew Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, who now serves as Adobe’s VP of products and community. Talks between the two lead to the deal, as it became obvious that the companies both “shared a strong vision for mobile creativity” and should join forces to “accelerate combined efforts and better serve even more app developers”.
Belsky said the Aviary team will play “a crucial role” helping build and connect the next generation of creative applications.
“This acquisition is both a complement and an accelerant to our vision for mobile creativity. As a company serving the creative world, Adobe has a responsibility to remove friction from the creative process and enable the creative world to create in new and remarkable ways,” he said.
Peggs said that the Aviary and Adobe teams have already begun brainstorming what they can do, hinting that they will continue to support and enhance Aviary’s SDK as part of Adobe’s broader Creative SDK portfolio.
“While ensuring no interruption to Aviary’s developer community, or their apps’ users, we plan to add additional components and services for developers to incorporate – such as the ability to save creations to Creative Cloud in Adobe file formats, access Photoshop technology, and connect creativity across devices using the Creative SDK,” he explained.
The deal is likely to see Adobe develop better mobile graphics editing software products like Photoshop.
Instead of using keys, authorisation algorithms take place at a cloud level doing away with the need for on-premises encryption systems that are prone to denial of service attacks.
Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, Cloudflare has not revealed its existing client list, but it said that Goldman Sachs has been among the companies piloting and trialling service.
The service has been in private beta for the past six months and the company claims that new users can be up and running with the service in a matter of hours, making an entire tier of on-premises hardware redundant at a stroke.
In a statement to Newsfactor, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said, “Keyless SSL is designed to allow companies that had previously needed to use on-premise hardware to now get the infinite scalability and infinite elasticity of a cloud service. The primary competitor to the technology is hardware you install yourself to perform firewall, load balancing, performance optimization, and other functionality. Unfortunately, that on-premise software suffers from limitations when organizations need it to scale.”
The advent of cloud-based keyless SSL could prove useful to a wide range of businesses from financial institutions to government departments.
The issue of SSL security was highlighted earlier this year with the discovery of the Heartbleed vulnerability, which affected an unprecedented proportion of online services causing a stampede to patch them before hackers could capitalise on the discovery.
The upshot of the Heartbleed incident was the creation of the Core Infrastructure Initiative, a consortium from the industry, which actively maintains the SSL standard at a level it had not seen previously.
Meanwhile some organisations have created their own forks of SSL, including the recently relaunched LibreSSL and Google’s in-house boring SSL.
Analysts have started to wonder which of the two heads that Larry Ellison left in charge of Oracle will be calling the shots — Safra Catz or Mark Hurd.
Wall Street thinks that dealmaker and finance guru Safra Catz will be in charge even though she, and not Hurd who would be the real boss. Of course Ellison will remain around for a while, so it is a little moot, neither Catz or Hurd got to the top by crossing Ellison. But Ellison could actually go, particularly if his mysterious exit was because he was sick and this has made some analysts wonder who will be in charge.
Of 12 analysts who replied to an anonymous poll, five said Catz would likely run Oracle, while only one voted for Hurd, 57. Four said both would continue to run the company, one said neither, and one plumped for dark-horse internal candidate Thomas Kurian.
Catz has more status because the 52-year old former Wall Street banker orchestrated Oracle’s multibillion dollar acquisitions and has been Ellison’s de facto deputy for the last few years. Hurd, who only joined Oracle in 2010 after leaving HP under the cloud of a business ethics breach, has a larger public presence but is still seen as a newcomer.
Only one analyst said Hurd was the more likely to lead the company, chiefly because he is the one with experience of being the CEO of a large technology company. In fact some of the Oracle board does not trust him because of the experience that HP had with him.
Google had been mulling HTC as a potential Nexus tablet partner since last year and HTC engineers have been flying to the Googleplex in Mountain View in recent months to work on the project, the report said.
Google’s decision to pick HTC reflects its long-term strategy of building a broad base of partners from device to device to prevent any one manufacturer from gaining a monopoly, the report said.
That may also be one of the reasons why Google chose HTC over bigger rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, maker of the Nexus 10 tablet.
Google and HTC declined to comment on the report.
The change comes courtesy of an update to Facebook’s news feed algorithm announced Thursday, focused on giving users “more timely stories.” It affects posts both from users’ friends and from pages to which they’re connected.
Facebook wants more of its users to engage on the site when they might be watching the same sports game or TV show — something that already happens on Twitter — and then brush their posts under the carpet when the event is over or the topic fizzles out.
Facebook routinely tweaks its news feed algorithm, but this update has the potential to advance the company’s efforts in the area of news delivery. It’s a departure from the site’s roots as a means for solely keeping in touch with family and friends.
The update is built around two changes. First, posts that are related to trending topics will appear higher and faster in the feed, Facebook said. When a friend or a Page to which you’re connected posts about something that’s currently a hot topic of conversation on the site, the post is more likely to appear higher in the feed.
Facebook users can already get a sense of what’s popular on the site by looking at the “trending” topics section in the right-hand column, which Facebook rolled out earlier this year. On Thursday, some of the topics listed included Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, pop singer Gwen Stefani and the video game Final Fantasy XV.
Posts that aren’t as relevant to what’s hot, in other words, will get less priority.
Secondly, Facebook said it would be considering not just the number of likes that posts receive in determining their placement, but when people choose to like, comment and share. If a lot of people are interacting with a post right after it was posted, but the activity drops off a few hours later, “this suggests the post was most interesting at the time it was posted,” Facebook said. As a result, that post would get promoted higher early on and less later.
The glasses can connect to Android smartphones via Bluetooth and project green monochrome text or basic graphics across a field within the lenses.
Sony said it will begin sales of the eyewear to developers by March 31, the end of its fiscal year. They will be sold in Japan, the U.S. and some European countries.
The Developer Preview SDK includes an emulator, tutorials, sample code and design guidelines to make the most of the device’s hardware and sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor.
The glasses, which weigh 77 grams, are more than 85 percent transparent and include a camera that can shoot 3-megapixel images and VGA video.
Sony has emphasized that the glasses project images to a user’s natural line of sight, which differs from the Google Glass display set in a corner.
“Sony’s competitive edge lies in our achievement of a thin lens with high transparency thanks to our unique holographic light guide plate technology, which enables us to provide a bright field of vision,” a Sony spokeswoman wrote in an email.
“Furthermore, the screen size is large, and images and text are displayed from the front for both eyes (not only one eye) to facilitate easier viewing and prevent eye fatigue.”
The price for the glasses as well as availability of a consumer version are still to be decided, she added.
Bulky prototype versions of the glasses were shown at the IFA and CES electronics shows earlier this year.
Potential applications include displaying cooking instructions for chefs, running time for joggers and messages from friends.
Augmented reality-style functions are also possible, such as displaying information when a user looks at a certain bottle of wine, facial recognition or navigation information in an unfamiliar city.