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Will Microsoft Launch A Smartwatch Before Apple?

July 2, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple is so far behind on its iWatch vapourware that even Microsoft is going to beat it to market.

Word on the street is that Redmond is releasing a smartwatch in the autumn. Another deep throat also told Tom’s Hardware claims that will be in October, which is the suspected launch date of the Apple iWatch. Microsoft’s watch looks vaguely interesting. It will have 11 sensors and will apparently not be much like any of the LG or Samsung smart watches which have been released.

The position of the screen is said to be on the inside of the wrist rather than the outside like a normal watch and more like a Nike Fuelband. What is more interesting is that the watch will have open APIs and cross platform capability, which will mean that it can talk to Android phones. This will make it a lot more flexible than Apple’s closed source model and will mean that Apple will depend on its marketing to make the watch popular. Not that it has done it any harm so far.

Apple convinced the world that Microsoft’s keyboardless netbooks were the way forward when there was an Apple logo on them and people were convinced they had been invented by Steve Jobs.

Courtesy-Fud

Sony Believes TV Business Will Swing To Profitability This year

July 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp believes its TV division will swing into the black this financial year after a decade in the red, even if it falls short of its volume sales target, the head of the newly independent division said on Monday.

Masashi Imamura told a media round table that the TV business, which will become a separate subsidiary of Sony Corp on July 1, had reduced fixed costs during the last financial year, and profitability was now in sight.

He said Sony this year would be able to absorb the impact of any fluctuations in emerging market currencies, a factor he blamed for the unit’s failure to make a profit last year.

Sony has forecast an 18.5 percent rise in TV sales to 16 million units this year from 13.5 million units a year ago, an increase that analysts said was well above the industry’s average growth forecasts.

Imamura said the sales target was achievable, but added that the TV business would still turn a profit even if sales fell short of this goal.

Sony’s TV division will be split off from the parent company on Tuesday, a move aimed at boosting transparency and accountability in a bid to achieve and maintain profitability.

Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said at a corporate strategy meeting last month that the company had not ruled out an equity tie-up for the TV business, which is to be known as Sony Visual Products Inc, although nothing had been decided on the matter.

Sony’s TV business has seen relatively rapid turnover at the top over the past decade with six different chiefs, although Imamura has had the longest tenure, serving since August 2011.

Sony’s shares are down 8 percent so far this year, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average’s 7 percent drop.

 

Apple’s iWatch Will Have Multiple Screens, Designs

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc plans to introduce smartwatches with multiple screen sizes and designs this fall,  according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Taiwan’s Quanta will begin mass production of Apple’s first smartwatches from July, in time for an October launch, several sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday also cited sources saying Quanta would manufacture the device.

One of the sources told Reuters on Thursday that Apple expects to ship 50 million units of the so-called iWatch within the first year of the product’s release, although these types of initial estimates can be subject to change.

The smartwatch will come with a slightly rectangular display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally, the source added. The watch-face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape, and feature a touch interface and wireless charging capabilities, according to the source.

Another source told Reuters that LG Display Co Ltd is the exclusive supplier of the screen for the gadget’s initial batch of production.

The iWatch will also contain a sensor that monitors a user’s pulse. Singapore-based imaging and sensor maker Heptagon is on the supplier list for that feature, two sources said on Thursday.

Apple’s smartwatch will follow similar devices by Samsung, Sony Corp, Motorola and LG Electronics Inc – gadgets that tech watchers say have not been appealing or user-friendly enough for mass adoption.

But the market is growing fast. Data firm IDC estimates that worldwide shipments of wearable computing devices, including smartwatches, will triple this year over 2013.

 

Mobile Messaging App Tango To Begin Delivering Media Content

June 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Tango, the popular mobile messaging app, said that it has reached agreements with media companies including AOL and Vevo to distribute content in a new effort to differentiate itself in the hotly contested mobile messaging sector.

Tango said its 200 million users worldwide will be able to browse new “Channels” for entertainment, news, sports and other categories to discover articles, videos and songs. Content providers so far include music streaming service Spotify, AOL properties including the Huffington Post and Dailymotion, the video repository.

For Tango, the media partnerships are critical for its ambitions to become an online media hub – and a differentiating feature from other messaging services such as Whatsapp, the startup acquired by Facebook Inc in a $19 billion deal this year.

Whatsapp, for instance, has focused exclusively on improving its text-based messaging service, while China’s Tencent Holdings service WeChat touts the games it offers.

Tango co-founder Eric Setton said having unique and rich content would provide a unique draw for users. At the same time, Tango’s messaging service provided the ideal platform to distribute content for media companies, he argued.

“People realize that less and less time is spent on Web browsers, and all of the rest of the time is in apps,” Setton said in an interview. “We have a role to play here, in the distribution of content and the discovery of content because content producers need a way to get into bigger and bigger apps.”

Facebook’s Whatsapp acquisition in February – the largest in history for a venture-backed company – cast a spotlight squarely on the promise and potential value of mobile messaging apps.

Tokyo-based Line Corp, one of Asia’s fastest growing messaging services, is considering an initial public offering this year, according to media reports.

Tango has been watched closely in Silicon Valley circles particularly after it received an investment exceeding $200 million from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in March, effectively cementing its ties to the Chinese e-commerce giant.

 

DoCoMo Introduces Wearable SIM Cards

June 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Instead of always storing them in phones, Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo wants people to start wearing their SIM cards.

It has developed a SIM card that can wirelessly connect smartphones and tablets to networks and the Internet simply by waving one’s hand. The card can also transmit a user’s number and other info, separating connectivity from mobile devices themselves.

Unveiled Tuesday, DoCoMo announced a pocket-sized prototype of the technology that it’s calling Portable SIM. Subscriber identities can be instantly transmitted to mobile devices with the prototype. That means users don’t have to physically insert SIM cards into phones as they do now.

Aside from linking to phones or tablets via Bluetooth and NFC, the SIM contains a user’s phone number, usernames and passwords. DoCoMo said it’s the world’s first SIM-based authentication device that can provide wireless network access.

The prototype, currently 8 cm long, 4 cm wide and weighing 20 grams, will be shrunk so it can fit into a bracelet-style wearable computer, DoCoMo said. Earlier this year, the carrier announced a health-monitoring wristband and smart clothing.

In a series of demonstrations at DoCoMo headquarters in Tokyo, a staffer held the prototype Portable SIM near a SIM-less phone. By linking the two through an app, the phone could receive a call to the number registered on the Portable SIM.

The process, which took a few seconds, was then repeated with a different SIM-less phone.

In another demo, the Portable SIM was used to link different phone numbers to the same phone — first a number for personal use, and then one for business. The idea is that the same smartphone could be used with different phone numbers in the SIM depending on the time of day, and each number would also trigger certain apps or other custom settings.

“We were considering what comes next after the smartphone and we zeroed in on what functions were essential to customers,” Akira Shibutani, manager of the Advanced Technology Group at DoCoMo’s Communication Device Development Department, said in a briefing on the device. “We felt that this boiled down to authentication.”

The SIM might also be used to connect to other devices too, including PCs, in-car information systems, public phones or bathroom scales. Travelers, for instance, could leave their smartphone at home but get online by waving their Portable SIM in front of a hotel TV, he said.

 

Cyber Crime Costs Hits $445 Billion A Year

June 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cyber crime costs the global economy about $445 billion every year, with the damage to business from the theft of intellectual property exceeding the $160 billion loss to individuals from hacking, according to a recent study.

The report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said cyber crime was a growth industry that damaged trade, competitiveness and innovation.

A conservative estimate would be $375 billion in losses, while the maximum could be as much as $575 billion, said the study, sponsored by security software company McAfee.

“Cyber crime is a tax on innovation and slows the pace of global innovation by reducing the rate of return to innovators and investors,” Jim Lewis of CSIS said in a statement.

“For developed countries, cyber crime has serious implications for employment.”

The world’s biggest economies bore the brunt of the losses, the research found, with the toll on the United States, China, Japan and Germany reaching $200 billion a year in total.

Losses connected to personal information, such as stolen credit card data, was put at up to $150 billion.

About 40 million people in the United States, roughly 15 percent of the population, has had personal information stolen by hackers, it said, while high-profile breaches affected 54 million people in Turkey, 16 million in Germany and more than 20 million in China.

McAfee, owned by Intel Corp, said improved international collaboration was beginning to show results in reducing cyber crime, for example in the takedown last week of a crime ring that infected hundreds of thousands of computers known by the name of its master software, Gameover Zeus.

 

Apple Plans On 3-5 Million Smartwatches Monthly Beginning In October

June 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is gearing up to sell its first wearable device this October, with plans to produce 3 million to 5 million smartwatches a month in its initial run, the Nikkei reported on Friday, citing an unidentified parts supplier and sources familiar with the matter.

Specifications are still being finalized, but the devices are likely to sport curved OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays and sensors that collect health data from blood glucose and calorie consumption to sleep activity, the Japanese news service cited industry sources as saying.

The industry has long expected Apple to unveil some sort of smartwatch, following the release of Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Gear watches.

Wall Street is hoping to see a new Apple product this year to galvanize the former stock market darling’s share price and end a years-long drought of ground-breaking devices. CEO Tim Cook has promised “new product categories” in 2014.

Apple declined to comment.

 

Personal Robots Going On Sale Next Year, Says SoftBank

June 6, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Japan’s SoftBank Corp said on Thursday it will begin selling human-like robots for personal use by February, expanding into a sector seen key to addressing labor shortages in one of the world’s fastest ageing populations.

The robots, which the mobile phone and Internet conglomerate envisions serving as baby-sitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions, will sell for 198,000 yen ($1,900) and are capable of learning and expressing emotions, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a news conference.

A prototype will be deployed this week, serving customers at SoftBank mobile phone stores in Japan, he added. The sleek, waist-high robot, named Pepper, accompanied Son to the briefing, speaking to reporters in a high-pitched, boyish voice.

“People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions,” Son said.

The robots were developed by French robotics company Aldebaran, in which SoftBank took a stake in 2012, and will be manufactured by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd.

They will use cloud computing to share data that can develop their own emotional capabilities. Son said they would not share an owner’s personal information.

Japan’s population is one of the most rapidly ageing in the world and the government hopes companies can offset a decline in the labour force by utilizing robotics.

Several Japanese technology manufacturers are targeting robotics for growth. Panasonic Corp and robotics research subsidiary ActiveLink Co Ltd this week showcased robotic suits and vests to assist in arduous manual tasks such as carrying heavy loads or picking fruit from trees. Personal or household robots, such as the Asimo robot that Honda Motor Co has been developing for more than a decade, are seen as potential elderly care providers.

 

 

Is Sony’s Next Move To Kill The PSP?

June 6, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Word we are hearing is that Sony is planning to discontinue the PSP (or PlayStation Portable) and will end shipments later this year. If this ends up coming to pass, the handheld console which was a first for Sony, was launched way back in 2003 at E3, but it took some time for Sony’s first portable console to be available worldwide.

The PSP has gone through several revisions including the removal of the Universal Media Disc (UMD) and the release of a revised version known as the PSP Go which was a download only version that was a total failure and quickly killed off in 2011. A very popular revision of the console known as the slim and lite version known as the PSP-2000 sold quite well and it was followed by the PSP-3000 version which was tweaked and available in several special edition versions.

Since PSP games can be played on the PS Vita that came from the PlayStation Store, that also had to factor into the company’s decision as well. Word is that the decision to end the sales of the PSP does not and will not have any effect on the PlayStation Vita which will continue on as Sony’s portable gaming platform. Due to the included streaming gaming support that is included with the PlayStation 4 using the PS Vita, it is unlikely that Sony will be planning to discontinue the PS Vita anytime soon, but a lower cost hardware revision is likely in the cards at some point in the near future, sources tell us.

Total sales of the PSP in all of the console revisions is over 80 million consoles worldwide according to a number of sources.

Courtesy-Fud

Despite Big Losses, Sony Says TV Unit Not Going Away

May 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp make seek an equity partner in its TV unit, which has racked up losses every year for a decade, but the Japanese consumer giant was not entertaining selling or exiting the business, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Sony plans to turn its struggling TV business into a separate entity – Sony Visual Products Inc – within a few months to boost transparency.

The splitting off of its TV unit had fired up speculation about a sale, which CEO Kazuo Hirai sought to dispel.

“We are not thinking about selling our TV operations or shutting them down or anything like that,” he said.

“We’re doing business in the competitive environment of a market. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an equity tie-up, but right now we are not doing business under the assumption that would happen.”

Hirai, speaking on Thursday at a briefing outlining Sony’s annual strategy, acknowledged TV sales could fall below the company’s forecast for an industry-beating 20 percent rise this fiscal year.

He said, however, that Sony had restructured the business so it could withstand external shocks.

“We’re aware of criticism that the TV target of 16 million units this fiscal year is too high,” he said.

“Even if those risks on volume are borne out, we’ve put in place the capacity to minimise the impact on profitability in the TV operations.”

Sony, roundly criticised for its habit of making overly optimistic forecasts that it repeatedly fails to meet, has pledged that a blast of restructuring in its electronics division this year will return the troubled unit to profit.

 

The company said it would be possible to expand operating profit threefold in the 2015/16 business year to 400 billion yen, with its aggressive restructuring expected to yield annual cost savings of 100 billion yen.

Hirai’s newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said the company did not plan to change the focus of its electronics division away from the three core businesses of mobile, imaging and games through the next fiscal year at least.

 

Will nVidia’s Maxwell Support H.265?

May 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

We heard some rather interesting information for anyone who thinks that we need more than Full HD at 1920×1080 video. As you can imagine Nvidia is always thinking how to help the decoding process of the next generation codecs and since 4K video plays an important role in company’s roadmap, it is not a big surprise to learn that the next generation Maxwell supports the H.265 codec.

This comes from a reliable industry source close to the matter and since H.265 can halve the size of the existing files compared to H.264, it is definitely the codec to support in the future. We would not be surprised to see support for Google’s VP9 codec, but we didn’t get this bit of information confirmed. Both VP9 and H.265 support video up to 8K resolution which gives you an idea that these codecs are here to stay. H.265 was developed as the High Efficiency Video Coding HEVC format, for which the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) joined forces.

Maxwell will come with a lot of computation power and the most efficient and faster way to decode and encode H.265 is to have a dedicated, hardware fixed function. As we all know 4K/UHD has four times the pixels of 1080p and with that in mind needs a lot more computational power. This is why Nvidia will integrate H.265 in its next generation GPU. When we say 20nm Maxwell, we can easily call it a second generation Maxwell, a set of tweaked GPU designs that we expect to see shipping before the end of the year.

At this time we don’t know if AMD plans to incorporate H.265 support in their next generation graphics cores, but we would be surprised if it did not. Intel is also known for implementing quite good video ending in its CPUs and we expect to see H.265 and VP9 supported by Intel in hardware at some point. It is highly unlikely that AMD and Intel will drag their feet on H.265 implementation, especially given their ongoing iGPU arms race. New processors need H.265, simple as that.

The future is 4K, it will stream, it will get to games and 4K movies are coming to a home theatre near you. Now it’s just a matter of having the right hardware to play it smoothly, and of course having more 4K content than we have right now.

You can read a nice comparison piece about H.265 and VP9.

Courtesy-Fud

Sprint Still In Pursuit Of Acquiring T-Mobile

May 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp is meeting with banks to devise a funding plan for its bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc, a source familiar with the situation said, as the mobile carrier works to ease regulatory concerns that the deal would hurt competition.

The source said that Sprint, which is owned by Japan’s SoftBank Corp, is looking to fund the bulk of T-Mobile’s estimated $50 billion price tag with corporate bonds and cover the rest with syndicated loans and convertible bonds.

Sprint is currently having discussions with at least five banks, the source told Reuters, including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.

Bloomberg, which first reported that Sprint was in talks with banks on Thursday morning in Asia, said the carrier was also talking to Mizuho Financial Group Ltd and Citibank. Softbank is expected to make a formal offer in June or July, Bloomberg added.

Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton told Reuters the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. T-Mobile and SoftBank both declined to comment on the Bloomberg report.

Sprint is facing a battle ahead with U.S. regulators who oppose consolidation in the wireless market on the basis it would inhibit competition. The company is aware it may have to give up some of its spectrum holdings to win over critics, the source said.

Two of the most vocal opponents to the deal are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. antitrust chief William Baer, who have pointed to T-Mobile’s success since U.S. authorities rejected a 2011 merger between AT&T Inc and T-Mobile on the grounds the market needs at least four major players to be competitive.

The failure of that deal cost AT&T a $6 billion break-up fee, a penalty Sprint feels confident it can avoid, the source said, adding that it is leaning towards having Deutsche Telekom, which currently owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, retain part of that stake.

 

Apple Offers To Fix Defect In Older iPhones

April 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc has said that it will replace faulty on-off buttons on the iPhone 5, a rare glitch that it said on Friday affected “a small percentage” of the previous-generation smartphones.

Apple said on its user-support page that “iPhone 5 models manufactured through March 2013 may be affected by this issue,” in which the button, also known as a sleep/wake mechanism, stops functioning or works only intermittently.

It did not say how many phones were shipped with the faulty mechanism. Owners can type in their iPhone serial numbers on Apple’s website to see if their phones qualify for a fix, then either take their gadgets to a store or mail them in to be repaired.

“Apple will offer the service free of charge to iPhone 5 customers with models that exhibit this issue and have a qualifying serial number,” spokeswoman Teresa Brewer said in a statement on Friday.

Apple rarely initiates large-scale repair programs for its products, and iPhone glitches are rare. The company prides itself on hardware engineering and design, particularly for a flagship phone that yields more than half its revenue.

In a 2010 incident dubbed “Antennagate,” the company famously admitted that its iPhone 4 may experience signal loss when handled a certain way. The company subsequently offered free phone casings to correct the issue.

Apple began selling the iPhone 5S and the cheaper 5C in late 2013. In the first quarter, it moved a better-than-expected 43.7 million phones, helped by the gadget’s increasing popularity in markets like Japan and China.

 

Google Adds ‘Time Machine’ Feature To Maps

April 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is offering users somewhat of a time machine in a new feature on Maps.

The company is adding past images of places noted in Street View for the desktop version of Google Maps. The goal is to give users the ability to see how places have changed over time.

“We’ve gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world,” wrote Vinay Shet, Google’s Street View product manager, in a blog post. “Now with Street View, you can see a landmark’s growth from the ground up, like the Freedom Tower in New York City or the 2014 World Cup Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.”

Google also says the new feature can serve as a digital timeline of recent history, enabling users to follow the reconstruction underway in Japan after the devastating tsunami and earthquake in 2011.

Users also can use the new feature to see what cities would look like in different seasons. Looking to take a bike tour of the French countryside or the green mountains of Vermont? Now users can get a glimpse of them at different times of the year to help them decide when to go.

The feature is gradually being rolled out to users. Users will know if the feature is available if they see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image. They can click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons, Shet said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Maps’ new feature is “cute” but doesn’t offer much benefit to most users.

“It’s just a gimmick,” Kerravala said. “They’re only going back six years so that’s not a huge amount of time. Real estate firms, law firms, etc. may have some use, but otherwise I don’t believe it’s all that sticky of an application.”

 

 

 

Does Samsung Fingerprint Sensor Work?

April 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Security experts from from Germany’s Security Research Labs have broken into Samsung’s fingerprint technology by taking a fingerprint smudge from the smartphone and creating a “wood glue dummy” finger with it. Apparently the S5 falls for the fault every time.

The problem is because the scanner has such a high trust rating within the phone, it will also mean that any thief will have access to the owners PayPal account. Neither of these actions require an additional password to be entered. PayPal has said that while it was taking the findings from Security Research Labs seriously, it was confident that fingerprint authentication offers and easier and more secure way to pay on mobile devices than passwords or credit cards.

The scan unlocks a secure cryptographic key that serves as a password replacement for the phone and this can be deactivated from a lost or stolen device, and you can create a new one. Paypal also uses sophisticated fraud and risk management tools to try to prevent fraud before it happens.

However you would think someone would have learnt by now a similar method was used to break the iPhone 5S’ fingerprint scanner last year. A better method was to cut the iPhone owner’s finger off. It was more messy but a lot more satisfying. There is a video of German researchers figuring out ways of making your phone talk after the break.

 

 

Courtesy-Fud