Qualcomm has unveiled what it claims is the world’s first ‘ultrasonic’ fingerprint scanner, in a bid to improve mobile security and further boost Android’s chances in the enterprise space.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint technology debuted during the chipmaker’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) press conference on Monday.
The firm claimed that the new feature will outperform the fingerprint scanners found on smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Qualcomm also claimed that, as well as “better protecting user data”, the 3D ultrasonic imaging technology is much more accurate than capacitive solutions currently available, and is not hindered by greasy or sweaty fingers.
Sense ID offers a more “innovative and elegant” design for manufacturers, the firm said, owing to its ability to scan fingerprints through any material, be it glass, metal or sapphire.
This means, in theory, that future fingerprint sensors could be included directly into a smartphone’s display.
Derek Aberle, Qualcomm president, said: “This is another industry first for Qualcomm and has the potential to revolutionise mobile security.
“It’s also another step towards the end of the password, and could mean that you’ll never have to type in a password on your smartphone again.”
No specific details or partners have yet been announced, but Qualcomm said that the Sense ID technology will arrive in devices in the second half of 2015, when the firm’s next-generation Snapdragon 820 processor is also tipped to debut.
The firm didn’t reveal many details about this chip, except that it will feature Kryo 64-bit CPU tech and a new machine learning feature dubbed Zeroth.
Qualcomm also revealed more details about LTE-U during Monday’s press conference, confirming plans to extend LTE to unused spectrum using technology integrated in its latest small-cell solutions and RF transceivers for mobile devices.
“We face many challenges as demand for data constantly grows, and we think the best way to fix this is by taking advantage of unused spectrum,” said Aberle.
Finally, the chipmaker released details about a new a partnership with Cyanogen, the open-source outfit responsible for the CyanogenMod operating system.
Qualcomm said that it will provide support for the best features and UI enhancements of CyanogenMod on Snapdragon processors, which will be available for the release of Qualcomm Reference Design in April.
The MWC announcements follow the launch of the ARM Cortex-based Snapdragon 620 and 618 chips last month, which promise to improve connectivity and user experience on high-end smartphones and tablets.
Aberle said that these chips will begin to show up in devices in mid to late 2015.
Ezchip is planning to put 100 ARM-based 64-bit cores into a processor which it thinks will fill a hole in the networking market.
Dubbed the Tile-Mx, the multi-core processors are in development, but won’t be sampling until the second half of 2016.
Company officials said the chips high core count, mesh connectivity and hardware accelerators will fix the demands on data centre and carrier networks brought on by such trends as mobility, big data, social media, the Internet of things (IoT) and the cloud.
Ezchip thinks that it will all work well with software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) and open switches and white boxes.
The Tile-Mx chip family is EZchip’s first go with ARM architecture and means it is moving away from the proprietary designs Tilera used in building out its multi-core portfolio.
Tile-Mx will be based around Cortex-A53 cores and will be targeted at white-box networking vendors, servers that run high-performance networking applications and software vendors.
The new chip family also will include smaller versions of the chip armed with 36 and 64 ARM cores, officials said.
The new chips also will include a mesh core interconnect architecture to provide a lot of bandwidth, low latency and high linear scalability.
The chips will offer 200G-bit throughput and will be able to take advantage of the growing ARM ecosystem of open-source software vendors, officials said.
Today the company is hosting its first-ever mobile developer conference. The daylong event in San Francisco shows the company wants to develop lucrative relationships with developers and put mobile at the center of its turnaround effort.
The event will feature talks by top Yahoo executives, including CEO Marissa Mayer, and deep dives into Yahoo’s technology services for mobile apps. A critical part of those services is Flurry, a mobile analytics and advertising company Yahoo acquired last year. Flurry tracks more than 600,000 apps worldwide, providing information on app performance and users that can aid in ad targeting.
Yahoo needs that data to kickstart its sluggish ad business, especially on mobile devices.
During the show, Yahoo executives will try to sell third-party developers on the value of using Flurry. They will also promote Yahoo Gemini, the company’s platform for mobile advertising, and BrightRoll, a digital video advertising platform the company also acquired last year.
It’s a multi-pronged strategy, and the pieces are still coming together. But by encouraging more outside developers to use Yahoo’s services, Yahoo hopes to gain valuable information about how people use mobile apps.
That information could help Yahoo do its job. “We can help advertisers find the right audience they’re looking for, target the ads they want to target, using strong data from Yahoo, and find users wherever they are, on or off Yahoo,” Mayer said last week during the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco.
And if Yahoo can freshen its appeal to outside software developers and build new partnerships with them, then all the better.
“Yahoo is working on their own apps, but they will be able to extend their reach and their advertising inventory by getting outside developers into the fold,” said Karsten Weide, an industry analyst at IDC who studies consumer apps and platforms.
During the earnings call today CEO Don Mattrick highlighted where he believed the company had made mistakes this year.
“There are a number of things we could have done better this past year. First we had a challenging time implementing our new poker product. And we learned the tough lesson that we needed more adequate testing across consumer segments, geographies and devices,” he said.
“Second, we have big aspirations for our sports brand and view our NFL and Tiger Woods licences as incredible assets. We moved quickly to release NFL showdown to hit the season kick-off but by doing so launched an experience with less features than is typical for a worldwide launch. We believe in the potential of sports and our ambition for the category is bigger than our first product is showing out of the gate.”
“Finally, as a company, we are committed to managing the performance of our products and related cost structure. Local products from Zynga China, including the launch of FarmVillage at the end of Q4, have underperformed and not met our expectations. As a result, we are narrowing our international footprint and have decided to close our operations in China.”
During its third quarter, Zynga had announced a net loss of $57 million, which followed similar losses in the first and second quarters. Now the fourth quarter numbers are out and the company has lost another $45 million, nearly double the $25 million loss from Q4 2013. All in all, Zynga lost nearly $226 million for the year compared with a total loss in 2013 of nearly $37 million. 2014 was a “year of progress” though, if you ask CEO Don Mattrick.
“2014 was a year of progress for Zynga – we came together as one team and applied more discipline and rigor to our business. In the fourth quarter, we increased mobile bookings to 60 percent of our total bookings mix, expanded our mobile audience with monthly mobile consumers up 87 percent year over year, and grew our core franchise bookings by 35 percent year over year,” he said.
“In 2015, we will focus on three priorities: driving mobile growth, launching more products in more evergreen categories and building on our social legacy. We will deliver a 100 percent mobile-first new product slate featuring new games, with a goal of ending 2015 with more than 75 percent of our fourth quarter bookings coming from mobile. I am excited by the boldness of our 2015 product aspirations – this year we expect to launch between 6 to 10 new games in important categories like Match 3 and Action Strategy. We are building a high performing culture which takes time and while we would like to go faster, we are being methodical and purposeful about our decisions. We have a healthy balance sheet with $1.1 billion in cash and marketable securities which gives us staying power and the ability to invest in our future growth.”
Looking at the rest of the numbers, Zynga’s revenues did climb, year-over-year, from $176 million to $192 million in the fourth quarter, while bookings increased from $146 million to $182 million. For the full year, however, both sales and bookings dipped. Sales fell from $873 million to $690 million while bookings dropped from $716 million to $694 million.
As Mattrick alluded to, Zynga is hoping to boost its bottom line in 2015 with several new products. The talented folks at NaturalMotion are pushing Zynga into the action strategy category with Dawn of Titans, which will use NaturalMotion’s proprietary mobile technology and engine “to create unprecedented mobile visuals, animation and depth-of-gameplay that supersedes anything found today on mobile.” In addition, Zynga is preparing the mobile launch of a modern military strategy game, Empires & Allies, which should be out worldwide in the coming months. Beyond the strategy genre, Zynga also announced a new entry in its core FarmVille brand with a Match 3 category title called FarmVille: Harvest Swap. The game is expected to launch worldwide as a cross-platform mobile and web game this year.
Aside from the disappointing fiscal performance, Zynga also shared the bad news that it’s closing the Zynga China studio. All 71 employees in the Beijing-based studio will be laid off; the company noted that this “will result in an annualized cost savings of $7 million dollars.”
It’s been a challenging time for Zynga as the company continues to adapt its business to mobile. The space is more competitive than ever with giants like Supercell, King, EA and others topping the charts on a regular basis. The good news for Zynga is that it still has $1.15 billion in cash and cash equivalents as of the end of 2014, but the bleeding has to stop. Monthly unique users, monthly unique payers and daily active users were all down again in the fourth quarter. Zynga needs a hit, and fast. Hopefully one of the new titles mentioned above will do the trick.
Update: Investors are clearly not enjoying the earnings announcement as Zynga’s stock finished down 5.34 percent today at $2.66. In after hours trading, as of 4:55 PM Eastern, the stock is down 10 percent. By contrast, King, whose sales jumped 20 percent for the year, is enjoying a more than 17 percent boost to its stock in after-hours.
The Video Electronics Standards Association’s Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) 1.4a will boost image quality on screens through faster video transfer rates. The newer standard is for displays inside computers, and it will replace the older 1.4 standard that was released in early 2013. With 8K, displays will show images at a 7680 x 4320 resolution.
Displays based on the new technology will start appearing in computers and mobile devices by 2016, VESA said.
Screens with 8K resolution could find their way into high-end laptops and all-in-one desktops. Apple has used a modified version of the eDP standard in its iMac with 5K Display. Some high-end gaming and business laptops already have 4K displays.
At the moment, 8K resolution is the province of high-end TVs. Japan’s NHK is testing 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo.
Tablets and smartphones don’t have 4K screens yet, and may not get 8K screens. It’s hard to differentiate pixels on small screens, and 8K screens could be expensive for device makers. For now, mobile devices have powerful graphics processors that are able to process 4K video, which can then be shown on external displays.
Displays are the most power-hungry components in laptops and mobile devices. But the new eDP standard could improve battery life by reducing display circuitry and improving processing of pixels.
Notorious malware kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM have been uncovered in a hacker forum as evolved versions, developed with advanced functionality, according to researchers at Trend Micro.
A threat response engineer at Trend Micro, Michael Marcos, said that he uncovered the malware while examining the Arabic language on a bogus “computer enthusiast site”, called dev-point.com forum.
“One of the notable topics in the forum talked about new malware ‘kjw0rm’ and a worm named ‘Sir DoOom’, which both came about after the release of the Njw0rm malware source code in the same forum,” he explained.
The Njw0rm’s source code was leaked in May 2013. The evolved kjw0rm is currently available in two versions, both of which have advanced infiltration and infection mechanisms.
The first Kjw0rm V2.0 appeared initially on the forum in January 2014, while the updated 0.5X version and new Sir DoOoM malware followed in December.
The V2.0 malware is the most basic of the three and reportedly hides itself in bogus files within infected systems.
“The propagation method of this malware targets all folders in the root directory of the removable drive,” read the advisory.
V0.5X follows a developed version of the same tactic, and Sir DoOoM adds an anti-virtual machine capability.
“[V0.5X] obfuscated some portions of the malware code. The malware author utilises an obfuscator tool that converts characters to hex values, adds filler functions, and performs computations that make analysis more difficult and time-consuming,” explained Marcos.
“[Sir DoOoM] also has an anti-virtual machine routine. It first searches for a list of the installed programs in the affected computer.
“If this variant found itself in a computer where a virtual machine program is installed, it will uninstall and terminate itself from the affected system. This prevents analysts testing to determine malware behaviour.”
Trend Micro senior engineer Bharat Mistry told V3 that the variants are dangerous as they add several advanced functions.
“Previous versions were there mainly for password stealing from browsers. As the malware has evolved, after the initial infections it now has the ability to download and execute Visual Basic code [VBS],” he said.
“VBS is a powerful coding language and can be used to interact directly with the operating system on the infected device.
“Also it now has the ability to recognise if it is being used in a security testing environment known as a sandbox by looking for the presence of a virtual machine.
“Finally the replication has also advanced with the use of hidden files on removable storage devices such as USB sticks.”
He added that the new powers could be used to mount a variety of attacks.
“The malware can be used to perform a number of different functions, including download, installation and execution of additional files or tools to potentially gain administrator or privilege credentials,” he said.
“Once this is gained hackers then have the ability to move laterally in the organisation and start looking for crown jewels or simply advertise that a point of presence has been created in a organisation that could then be ‘rented’ out to perform attacks, such as DDoS.”
Kjw0rm and Sir DoOoM’s appearance follows the discovery of several evolved attack tools. These include the defence-dodging Skeleton Key malware and the advanced Cryptowall 3.0 ransomware.
Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich has shrugged off rumors that Apple is about to switch to ARM in future Mac releases.
Of course the Tame Apple Press is declaring that this will mean the end of Intel as we know it. AppleInsider even ran a story claiming that Intel’s mobile was effectively destroyed by Apple’s Ax ARM Application Processors
After all only five or six percent of the world run on Apple Macs so the loss of Apple business would be annoying to Intel but no great problem.
Krzanich says the rumors of Apple switching to ARM are just that anyway and not likely.
“Apple is always going to choose the supplier who can provide the most amount of capability in innovation to build on. They’re a company based on innovation.”
Krzanich, who maintains that Intel needs to continue focusing on delivering parts that are better than its competitors.
But does Intel have anything to worry about? Well not really. Apple Macs are at the expensive end of the market and they need chips to match their price tag – well at least half of their price tag. ARM is still a long way from matching anything remotely like the what Intel shoves under the bonnet of Apple macs.
HP is about to put out two tablets later this year.
The names are expected to be the HP Pro Slate 10 EE G1 and HP Pro Tablet 10 EE G1 and they were found on the world wide wibble by Notebook Italia,.
Both tablets are powered by an Intel quad-core Bay Trail Atom Z3735F processor. Accompanying the processor package is 2GB of RAM, as well as 32GB of internal storage. Both the Pro Slate and Pro Tablet come with 10.1-inch displays, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
The Pro Slate sticks with Android, while the Pro Tablet opts for Windows 8.1. The tablets mean they will each come with a stylus, but it would appear that the stylus is just a stand in for your finger, rather than doing anything useful.
Pro Slate will set you back $400.00 and Pro Tablet cost $499.
HP has yet to officially announce either device.
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.
Apple is apparently having problems getting its partners to make 3-D transistors that go.
Drexel Hamilton’s chip analyst Rick Whittington [no really] made a comment that Intel might be getting ready to bail Apple out while he was having a chat about Micron. In passing, Whittington noted problems had by Taiwan Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics trying to produce 3-D transistors in any useful yield.
He noted that Intel has mastered 3-D transistors, and said that it would be very good for Intel if neither Samsung or TSM can do FinFET this next year; puts them in line to supply Apple’s internal foundry needs.
However he admitted that it was more that TSM/Samsung would operate FinFET under very low yield output and keep capacity tight.
Of course if Jobs’ Mob don’t want that they can always rush into the loving arms of Chipzilla – again. As happened with Saphire glass Apple has shown that it can dump a partner quickly if it does not move fast enough.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will render a decision on whether to establish rules regarding hotels’ ability to block personal Wi-Fi hotspots inside their buildings, a practice that recently earned Marriott International a $600,000 fine.
In August, Marriott, business partner Ryman Hospitality Properties and trade group the American Hotel and Lodging Association asked the FCC to clarify when hotels can block outside Wi-Fi hotspots in order to protect their internal Wi-Fi services.
In that petition, the hotel group asked the agency to “declare that the operator of a Wi-Fi network does not violate [U.S. law] by using FCC-authorized equipment to monitor and mitigate threats to the security and reliability of its network,” even when taking action causes interference to mobile devices.
The comment period for the petition ended Friday, so now it’s up to the FCC to either agree to Marriott’s petition or disregard it.
However, the FCC did act in October, slapping Marriott with the fine after customers complained about the practice. In their complaint, customers alleged that employees of Marriott’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville used signal-blocking features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system to prevent customers from connecting to the Internet through their personal Wi-Fi hotspots. The hotel charged customers and exhibitors $250 to $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi network.
During the comment period, several groups called for the agency to deny the hotel group’s petition.
The FCC made clear in October that blocking outside Wi-Fi hotspots is illegal, Google’s lawyers wrote in a comment. “While Google recognizes the importance of leaving operators flexibility to manage their own networks, this does not include intentionally blocking access to other commission-authorized networks, particularly where the purpose or effect of that interference is to drive traffic to the interfering operator’s own network,” they wrote.
Instead of requiring that users fill in the letters and numbers shown in a distorted image, sites that use Google’s reCAPTCHA service will be able to use just one click, answering a simple question: Are you a robot?
“reCAPTCHA protects the websites you love from spam and abuse,” wrote Vinay Shet, product manager for Google’s reCAPTCHA service, in a blog post. “For years, we’ve prompted users to confirm they aren’t robots by asking them to read distorted text and type it into a box… But, we figured it would be easier to just directly ask our users whether or not they are robots. So, we did! ”
Google on Wednesday began rolling out a new API that rethinks the reCAPTCHA experience.
CAPTCHA “can be hard to read and frustrating for people, particularly on mobile devices,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “People often have to put in the text several times. On the surface, this seems a good way to improve the user experience. It still requires human intervention, just something simpler.”
CAPTCHAs were created to foil computer programs that hackers or spammers use to troll for access to websites or to collect email addresses.
Google said CAPTCHAs are less useful than they have been, although they are still frustrating to everyday users.
“CAPTCHAs have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text,’ wrote Shet. “However, our research recently showed that today’s artificial intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8% accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test.”
The new API, along with Google’s ability to analyze a user’s actions — before, during, and after clicking on the reCAPTCHA box — let’s the new technology figure out if the user is human or not.
“The new API is the next step in this steady evolution,” Shet stated. “Now humans can just check the box and in most cases, they’re through the challenge.”
“Our goal is to deliver fantastic cross-platform apps that support the variety of email services people use today and help them accomplish more,” wrote Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365, in a blog post announcing the purchase.
Over the past year, Microsoft has been extending its Office set of office productivity software and services so they can be accessed on non-Windows devices. The company has released Office apps for the iPad and iPhone, and is working on a version of Office for Android.
Founded in 2013, Acompli offers an iPhone and Android mobile e-mail client that streamlines many of the basic tasks around managing e-mail so they can be completed on the device itself, rather than by using a desktop client. Users have reported that the software works particularly well with Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail servers. Microsoft offers a basic version of Outlook for iPhones, though thus far it has seemingly garnered only a lukewarm response from users.
The free Acompli app offers advanced features such as the ability to view both calendar items and email side by side on the same screen. The calendar lets users email available times for proposed meetings and send a message when they are running late.
Microsoft plans to pair the Acompli development team with the team for its own Outlook e-mail client.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though tech website Re/Code reported that the acquisition was worth more than $200 million.
Films bought on Vudu will be integrated with the Disney Movies Anywhere service starting on Tuesday, Jamie Voris, Disney Studios’ chief technology officer, said at an event where the company highlighted mobile initiatives.
Disney is building the service as studios try to steer movie fans to digital purchases while sales of DVDs decline.
The media company launched Disney Movies Anywhere in February with Apple Inc’s iTunes, and this month partnered with the Google Play online store. Customers can buy more than 400 Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies through those retailers and watch them on a variety of Internet-connected TVs, computers and mobile devices.
The addition of Vudu comes on the same day that Disney releases a sing-along version of animated blockbuster “Frozen” and digital versions of the Marvel hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
TSMC has announced that it will begin volume production of 16nm FinFET products in the second half of 2015, in late Q2 or early Q3.
For consumers, this means products based on TSMC 16nm FinFET silicon should appear in late 2015 and early 2016. The first TSMC 16nm FinFET product was announced a few weeks ago.
TSMC executive CC Wei said sales of 16nm FinFET products should account for 7-9% of the foundry’s total revenue in Q4 2015. The company already has more than 60 clients lined up for the new process and it expects 16nm FinFET to be its fastest growing process ever.
Although TSMC is not talking about the actual clients, we already know the roster looks like the who’s who of tech, with Qualcomm, AMD, Nvidia and Apple on board.
This also means the 20nm node will have a limited shelf life. The first 20nm products are rolling out as we speak, but the transition is slow and if TSMC sticks to its schedule, 20nm will be its top node for roughly a year, giving it much less time on top than earlier 28nm and 40nm nodes.
The road to 10nm
TSMC’s 16nm FinFET, or 16FinFET, is just part of the story. The company hopes to tape out the first 10nm products in 2015, but there is no clear timeframe yet.
Volume production of 10nm products is slated for 2016, most likely late 2016. As transitions speed up, TSMC capex will go up. The company expects to invest more than $10bn in 2015, up from $9.6bn this year.
TSMC expects global smartphone shipments to reach 1.5bn units next year, up 19 percent year-on-year. Needless to say, TSMC silicon will power the majority of them.