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Microsoft Attempting To Attract More Mobile Users With Freebies

January 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp made its popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications available,free of charge, on Android tablets, further signifying its drive to attract as many mobile customers as possible using its software.

It also released an app for its popular Outlook email program to run on Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, hoping to attract the millions of users familiar with Outlook from their work desktops.

The new releases are the latest gambits in Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella’s attempt to wrest back the initiative in the battle for mobile users, where Microsoft has fallen behind Apple and Google Inc.

Nadella broke with decades of tradition last March by releasing a free, touch-friendly version of Office for Apple’s iPad, before such software was even available for Microsoft’s Windows devices.

By giving away its industry-standard Office apps on Apple’s popular iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, Microsoft is looking to build up a base of users which it can later persuade to sign up for Office 365, the full, Internet-based version of Office starting at $7 a month for personal users.

Microsoft has been offering test versions of the Office apps on Android for almost three months, but Thursday marks the first day they are available as finished products from the online Google Play app store.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the key elements of Microsoft’s top-selling Office suite of applications, have been a hit on Apple’s mobile devices, with 80 million downloads since last March, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to release new, touch-friendly versions of its Office apps for Windows devices later this year when it releases the Windows 10 operating system.

The new Outlook app, based on a popular app made by Acompli, which Microsoft bought in December, will allow iPhone and iPad users much easier ways of linking email to calendars and working with file attachments. Microsoft is also releasing a test version of the Outlook app for Android users.

 

 

AMD’s Summit Ridge Processor Details Leaked

January 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s first 14nm processors are codenamed Summit Ridge and they are reportedly based on an all-new architecture dubbed Zen.

Information on the new architecture and the Summit Ridge design is still very sketchy. According to Sweclockers, the chips will feature up to eight CPU cores, support for DDR4 memory and TDPs of up to 95W.

Summit Ridge will use a new socket, designated FM3. This suggests we are looking at A-series APUs, but there is no word on graphics and the eight-core design points to proper FX-series CPUs – we simply do not know at this point. It is also possible that Summit Ridge is a Vishera FX replacement, but on an FM socket rather than an AM socket.

Of course, AMD Zen should end up in more products than one, namely in APUs and Opteron server parts. The new architecture has been described as a “high-performance” design and will be manufactured using the Samsung-GlobalFoundries 14nm node.

As for the launch date, don’t hold your breath – the new parts are expected to show up in the third quarter of 2016, roughly 18 months from now.

Courtesy-Fud

Adobe Patches Flash Player Again

January 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It’s patch week again for Adobe Flash Player, and this time the update is designed to fix a critical security bug in the much-maligned browser’s multimedia plug-in.

Flash Player has been updated to version 16.0.0.296 to solve the vulnerability previously identified in the APSA15-01 Security Bulletin. The bulletin now contains information about the new version.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 was released with auto-update enabled on 24 January, two days earlier than the expected distribution date.

The standalone release was released on 26 January, as Adobe anticipated in the original bulletin, and users or sysadmins can download the full exe/msi installer straight from the official site.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 is now available for Internet Explorer and the plug-in based browsers on Windows and Mac systems.

A new version (11.2.202.440) is available for Linux operating systems and Oracle Solaris on the same page that provides the Windows/Mac versions.

Adobe is also said to be working with the company’s “distribution partners” to make the update available for those browsers that embed the Flash plug-in, namely Internet Explorer 10 and 11 and Google Chrome.

Flash Player 16.0.0.296 is meant to end the exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability classified as CVE-2015-0311, for which a working exploit was already circulating in the wild.

Successful attacks via drive-by downloads were confirmed against machines running Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below.

The bug “could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system”, Adobe warned in the original security bulletin.

Installing the updated version of the Flash Player plug-in is recommended.

The new Flash Player release contains no new features apart from fixing the CVE-2015-0311 bug.

Courtesy-TheInq

AMD Headed To The Facial Recognition Space

January 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has developed facial recognition technology to enable users to organize and search video clips based on the people featured in them.

AMD executive Richard Gayle demonstrated to Tom’s Guide how AMD Content Manager, uses facial recognition to browse through a group of local videos to find specific faces.

There is an index that displays the people’s faces that have been detected throughout the video clips.

The user can edit the names of the people as well as add keyword tags to help improve future searches for specific people.

For instance, if you are searching for videos that feature one person, you can click on his or her respective face to pull up the corresponding videos.

Additionally, if you want to narrow a search to a specific person combined with a keyword tag, you can drag the face icon and click on the desired keyword.

Once you click on the video you wish to view, a player appears in the right windowpane, along with a timeline displayed at the bottom with a list of all the people who appear in the video.

The timeline is separated into various coloured boxes to mark the exact moment in the video when each person first appears on screen, so you do not have to watch the entire video to see the bit you want.

The application also has facial recognition capabilities that allow users to do some basic editing, such as compiling a single montage video of any individual or individuals.

While this is pretty good technology, it probably does not have any major use yet on its own.

Gayle said it is unlikely that AMD will release Content Manager in its current form but will license it to OEMs that are able to rebrand the application before offering it on their respective systems.

He claimed that only AMD processors have sufficient power to operate the application, because of the processor’s ability to have the CPU, GPU and memory controller work closely together.

Courtesy-Fud

Xiaomi Unveils The Mi Note, Challenger To iPhone 6 Plus

January 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc further challenged Apple Inc on Thursday as the world’s third-biggest smartphone maker and most valuable tech start-up unveiled the flagship Mi Note, its answer to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.

Chief Executive Lei Jun introduced the Mi Note in Beijing with a breakdown of the large-screen phone’s technical features, with multiple comparisons to Apple’s equivalent. At 2299 yuan ($371) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, the Mi Note will retail for almost two-thirds less than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Just three years after Xiaomi sold its first smartphone, a $1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at $45 billion. The privately held company has risen to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker and is challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as well as domestic rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd .

Xiaomi takes efforts to play down comparisons with Cupertino, California-based Apple, though it is commonly called the ‘Apple of China’.

“The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone,” Lei told his audience of thousands gathered in the north of China’s capital.

Lei wore a light-blue shirt, eschewing his previously favoured black top, jeans and sneakers, reminiscent of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans.

“Xiaomi is an innovative start-up company, with a short history,” said Lei. The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. “In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents.”

Lei also laid out Xiaomi’s strategy to connect its smartphones with Xiaomi-branded home appliances, allowing phone users to remotely control washing machines, air purifiers and surveillance cameras.

 

 

 

 

AMD’s Fiji GPU Goes High Bandwidth

January 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

New evidence coming from two LinkedIn profiles of AMD employees suggest that AMD’s upcoming Radeon R9 380X graphics card which is expected to be based on the Fiji GPU will actually use High-Bandwidth Memory.

Spotted by a member of 3D Center forums, the two LinkedIn profiles mention both the R9 380X by name as well as describe it as the world’s firts 300W 2.5D discrete GPU SoC using stacked die High-Bandwidth Memory and silicon interposer. While the source of the leak is quite strange, these are more reliable than just rumors.

The first in line is the profile of Ilana Shternshain, an ASIC Physical Design Engineer, which has been behind the Playstation 4 SoC, Radeon R9 290X and R9 380X, which is described as the “largest in ‘King of the hill’ line of products.”

The second LinkedIn profile is the one from AMD’s System Architect Manager, Linglan Zhang, which was involved in developing “the world’s first 300W 2.5D discrete GPU SOC using stacked die High Bandwidth Memory and silicon interposer.”

Earlier rumors suggest that AMD might launch the new graphics cards early this year as the company is under heavy pressure from Nvidia’s recently released, as well as the upcoming, Maxwell-based graphics cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Will 20nm GPU’s Ever Make It To Market?

January 14, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

We want to make sure that you realize that 20nm GPUs won’t be coming at all. Despite the fact that Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung and Apple are doing 20nm SoCs, there won’t be any 20nm GPUs.

From what we know AMD and Nvidia won’t be releasing 20nm GPUs ever, as the yields are so bad that it would not make any sense to manufacture them. It is not economically viable to replace 28nm production with 20nm.

This means the real next big thing technology will be coming with 16nm / 14nm FinFET from TSMC and GlobalFoundries / Samsung respectively, but we know that AMD is working on Caribbean Islands and Fiji as well, while Nvidia has been working on its new chip too.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot pull a small miracle in 28nm, as Nvidia did that back in September 2014 with Maxwell and proved that you can make a big difference with optimization on the same manufacturing process, in case when the new node is not an option.

Despite the lack of 20nm chips we still think that next gen Nvidia and AMD chips bring some innovations and make you want to upgrade in order to buy it to play the latest games on FreeSync or G-Sync monitors, or in 4K/UHD resolutions.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook, Xiaomi Discuss Potential Partnership

January 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mark Zuckerberg and Xiaomi Inc CEO Lei Jun held talks about a potential investment by Facebook in China’s top smartphone maker ahead of its $1.1 billion fundraising last month, but a deal never materialized, several people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The discussions, at a private dinner when Zuckerberg visited Beijing in October, were never formalized, three of those people said, as the two CEOs weighed the political and commercial implications of Facebook - which has been banned in China since 2009 – buying into the Chinese tech star now valued at $45 billion.

One individual with direct knowledge of Xiaomi’s fundraising said the mooted Facebook investment was “not huge,” but the talks underscore how ties between U.S. and Chinese companies have deepened as China’s tech industry matures.

A Facebook investment in Xiaomi would have raised the international profile of the popular handset maker dubbed “China’s Apple” by its fans and linked it to a U.S. social networking phenomenon with more than 1.3 billion users.

Facebook, for its part, has long harbored ambitions to expand into the world’s most populous country, potentially with partners. One of the individuals said Facebook and Xiaomi began discussing a possible investment in mid-2014.

Xiaomi’s Lei was partly put off by the potential for political fallout at home of selling a stake to Facebook while the U.S. social network is still banned in China, two of the people said, adding Xiaomi also feared a tie-up with Facebook could threaten its relationship with Google Inc, a crucial business partner. Xiaomi’s phones are built on Google’s Android operating system.

Xiaomi ultimately announced last month it raised $1.1 billion from investors including Hong Kong-based tech fund All Stars Investment; DST Global, a private equity firm that has invested in Facebook and Alibaba Group; Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC; Chinese fund Hopu Management; and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital.

The fundraising valued Beijing-based Xiaomi at $45 billion just three years after it sold its first smartphone. The company had revenue of close to $12 billion in 2014.

Zuckerberg has eyed China as a critical piece of his vision to connect the global population. But, like Google and Twitter, the social networking giant has been blocked by China’s internet censors, who cite national security concerns.

 

 

 

LTE-Advanced Leading To Faster 4G Speeds

January 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mobile device owners around the world are getting faster wireless broadband as LTE-Advanced and smartphones that can take advantage of the technology finally start to take off.

A year ago, LTE-Advanced was only available in South Korea, but it’s now available in 31 countries (including Australia, France, Germany, U.K. and the U.S.) and more are on the way, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).

“There is a lot of activity at the moment,” said Alan Hadden, president at GSA.

LTE-Advanced is a collection of different technologies, but the one mobile operators are implementing first is called carrier aggregation. It lets operators treat up to three radio channels in different frequency bands as if they were one and send data to users at higher speeds.

Bandwidths at up to 300Mbps are possible, though not all LTE-Advanced networks and devices can muster that. For example, Apple’s new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150Mbps, and not all operators have the spectrum to offer that.

However, regardless of which version of LTE-Advanced a network or device supports, the technology offers users higher speeds than ever before.

Chances are greater that you’ll get access to LTE-Advanced if you live in a big city. For example, U.S. operator AT&T has so far upgraded its network in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.

The technology has been held back due to a lack of supporting devices, but that will change this year thanks to a greater variety of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.

 

 

Mozilla To Offer Firefox OS For Wearables

January 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Mozilla is working on offering a version of the Firefox OS for wearables, and one of the top priorities is to break down barriers among smartwatches, smart glasses and other body-hugging devices based on Apple’s and Google’s operating systems.

The Firefox OS is already being used in low-cost smartphones, and will be used in 4K TVs released by Panasonic in 2015. Mozilla now wants to expand the OS to a wider range of devices, including wearables and home appliances, said Joe Cheng, manager of product and project management of the mobile devices group at Mozilla, in an interview on the sidelines of the CES conference.

It’s important to push the OS into more Web-connected devices and to provide a consistent user experience, Cheng said.

The goal for the Firefox OS is to provide an underlying operating system for all mobile devices, TVs, appliances and wearables to easily communicate and exchange information with each other, Cheng said.

For users, the Firefox OS would provide an alternative to wearables being developed based on Google’s Android Wear, or Apple’s iOS, which will run on the upcoming Apple Watch. Firefox OS is already being used in low-cost handsets, and a version of the wearable OS could be attractive to low-cost smartwatch makers in countries like China, who sell products for under $100.

Wearables like smartwatches are today considered secondary devices to mobile phones. Smartwatches can track fitness information and also display notifications, social networking updates and news feeds from handsets.

But there’s a problem — wearables with Android Wear can talk only with Android devices, and the upcoming Apple Watch is expected to exchange information only with the iPhone.

Mozilla wants to break that walled garden and make sure wearables with Firefox OS communicate with all devices, regardless of OS. The company is betting that its use of open-source technologies will make that possible.

“We want to break that single-brand barrier,” Cheng said.

Cheng didn’t provide a timeline for when the Firefox OS would reach wearables. The company, however, is talking with partners who may be interested in using the OS.

 

 

 

Facebook Snaps Up Voice Recognition Company

January 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has purchased a company that makes voice recognition technology for wearable devices and Internet- connected appliances, the latest sign of its goal to extend its reach beyond computers and smartphones.

Facebook said it acquired wit.ai on Monday, without providing a price for the deal. The 18-month old company, based in Palo Alto, California, makes software that can understand spoken words as well as written text phrased in “natural language.”

A Facebook representative declined to provide details on how Facebook planned to use the technology or with which group within Facebook the wit.ai team would work.

The deal comes as technology companies are racing to bring Internet connectivity to a new crop of devices, from watches to washing machines. Voice recognition, the technology that helps power services such as Apple Inc’s Siri, is considered a key building block for the new devices to earn mainstream consumer appeal.

Facebook, the world’s largest Internet social network, with 1.3 billion users, is increasingly looking beyond the PCs, tablets and smartphones currently used to access its service. In March, it acquired virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for $2 billion.

The deal for wit.ai is likely to have been significantly smaller. Wit.ai announced in October that it had raised $3 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

 

 

Customers Suing Apple Over Device Storage Space

January 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Two Florida men have filed a lawsuit against Apple for allegedly misrepresenting the amount of storage room available to owners of 16GB iPhones and iPads.

The two, Paul Orshan and Christopher Endara, accused Apple of “unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business acts or practices,” including false advertising, and asked a California federal judge to designate the lawsuit as a class action so that others can participate.

n the complaint filed Dec. 29, Orshan’s and Endara’s lawyers claimed Apple failed to tell buyers that a fifth of the 16GB in low-end iPhones and iPads is occupied by the operating system and pre-installed apps, leaving consumers less than the full amount for their own content, such as apps, photos and other files.

“Reasonable consumers do not expect this marked discrepancy between the advertised level of capacity and the available capacity of the devices, as the operating system and other storage space unavailable to consumers occupies an extraordinary percentage of their devices’ limited storage capacity,” the complaint stated.

By the plaintiffs’ calculations, a 16GB iPhone 6 had 13GB of space available to the user, while the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus and 16GB iPad Air had 12.7GB and 12.6GB, respectively. The portions of the 16GB inaccessible to users ranged from 19% to 21%.

The lawsuit also charged Apple with a Machiavellian strategy that used the disparity between the advertised and actual user-available storage space to push customers into paying for iCloud premium plans. “Using these sharp business tactics, defendant gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, e.g., when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding,” the lawyers wrote.

Apple charges $0.99 per month for an additional 20GB — above the free allotment of 5GB — with other plans ranging from $3.99 monthly (for 200GB) to $19.99 per month (for 1TB).

 

 

 

Huawei Smartphone Sales Growth Eclipse Bigger Rivals

January 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technology Co Ltd’s smartphone sales increased by almost a third to $11.8 billion in 2014, according to an internal memo, detailing the Chinese telecoms firm’s continued ascent in the global handset wars.

The division shipped about 75 million smartphones in 2014, according to the year-end memo to employees sent by Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business. Although that represented a more than 40 percent year-on-year increase, the figure lagged behind Huawei’s previously stated sales target of 80 million units.

Huawei spokeswoman Maggie Qi said the company does not comment on internal memos.

The results, which are due to be publicly announced in the coming weeks, reaffirm Huawei’s place among a small coterie of rising smartphone makers, including Xiaomi Inc and LG Electronics, whose growth rates are eclipsing those of industry leaders.

Pressured by low-cost vendors, top ranked Samsung Electronics Co is likely to see its shipments nearly unchanged this year, while second-ranked Apple Inc may have posted around 20 percent growth after launching the iPhone 6, analysts estimate.

Those growth rates, however, pale in comparison to the expansion of Xiaomi, which sold 26 million handsets during the first half of 2014.

If it reaches its sales target of 60 million for the year, Xiaomi will have more than tripled its 2013 sales of 18.7 million. Private investors believe it will continue to soar: the Beijing-based company announced this week a new round of equity financing at $45 billion valuation, making Xiaomi the most highly valued private technology company in the world.

Meanwhile, close rival LG Electronics Inc may have seen its smartphone shipments rise around 26 percent this year, according to analysts.

Trendforce analyst Alan Chen said in a research note this month that Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo Group Ltd, which recently purchased Motorola from Google in a $2.91 billion deal, will battle to be the top Chinese smartphone vendor in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Samsung Says New Smart TVs Will Run On Tizen OS

January 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has announced that all its new smart television products launched in 2015 will be powered by the Tizen operating system, marking a fresh effort by the company to increase the usage of the software platform.

Smart TVs offer additional software and connectivity functions, such as video streaming and web browsing capabilities. Samsung demonstrated TV sets powered by Tizen at developer conferences last year.

“We are focusing our efforts on Tizen right now,” Kim Hyun-suk, Samsung’s president of visual display business, told Reuters in an interview. “We hope that other TV makers will also use it and help build an ecosystem that will help the platform grow.”

Televisions would be an addition to the modest stable of Tizen products, which consists of a few smartwatches and cameras despite years of development and support by the world’s top maker of smartphones and TVs.

The platform represents the most visible effort on the software front by Samsung, which has sought to free itself from Google Inc’s Android platform.

But Tizen has so far failed to take off, due in part to Samsung’s failure to launch a smartphone powered by the system. Some analysts are skeptical about the platform’s viability despite Samsung’s standing as top smartphone maker, especially as Android and Apple Inc’s iOS tighten their grip in the smartphone sector.

Developers say that until there is a meaningful user base for Tizen they will have little incentive to make innovative software applications for the system, deemed crucial if Samsung is to convince wary consumers to try it out.

While the launch of Tizen-based TVs will increase the platform’s user base, it is unclear if that alone will be enough to pique developers’ interest. Users of smart TVs tend to use fewer apps than they would on smartphones.

Still, the operating system is expected to play a key role in Samsung’s smart-home business. Tizen can also run on devices with low computing power such as refrigerators and washing machines, offering a way for users to monitor and control such devices remotely.

 

 

China’s Smartphone Maker Xiami Reaches $45B Valuation

December 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc, one of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone makers, has raised $1.1 billion in a round of funding that solidifies its status as one of the world’s most valuable private technology firms at a valuation of $45 billion.

Investors include private equity funds All-Stars Investment, DST Global, Hopu Investment Management, and Yunfeng Capital, as well as Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Chief Executive Lei Jun said Monday on Weibo, confirming earlier media reports.

The deal is one of the first high-profile scores for All-Stars, a recently established fund headed by former Morgan Stanley tech analyst Richard Ji. It also strengthens ties between Lei and fellow tech magnate Jack Ma, the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd executive chairman who invests privately through his Yunfeng Capital fund.

Industry sales data from recent quarters show Xiaomi has risen in just three years to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker – behind only Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc - and the latest round of investment enforces its standing as one of the world’s most valuable private companies.

At $45 billion, Xiaomi is now worth nearly three times the market capitalization of Lenovo Group Ltd, the world’s No. 1 PC maker, and more than quadruple the $10 billion valuation it garnered during its last financing round in 2013.

Xiaomi’s skyrocketing valuation reflects investors’ belief that it will grow into a global powerhouse despite signs it is encountering intellectual property challenges outside China. This month sales in India were temporarily halted after Swedish telecommunciations firm Ericsson filed a patent complaint.

Xiaomi brands itself as an Internet company that eschews traditional marketing and sells hardware at low prices as a distribution channel for its real money maker – software and services.