Buying installments is catching on in a big way, according to AT&T’s first-quarter financial results Tuesday. About 2.9 million people signed up for the carrier’s Next plan, in which subscribers pay for a phone in monthly installments and can trade it in for a new model after a year. That was more than 40 percent of AT&T’s postpaid customer additions or upgrades for the quarter.
Paying in installments is an alternative to buying phones at a price subsidized by the carrier, the way most U.S. consumers have done it up to now.
AT&T introduced Next in July 2013 amid a flood of new plan options among U.S. carriers that was led by T-Mobile USA. Only 15 percent of AT&T’s new subscribers and upgraders signed up for Next in the fourth quarter last year, so the plan seems to be gaining momentum. However, some of the uptake in the first quarter came from an offer that let customers upgrade their phones early, the carrier said.
U.S. carriers sell most of their phones at subsidized prices to draw customers in and then lock those subscribers into two-year contracts. With installment plans, subscribers still have to pay off their phones if they change carriers before they’ve made all the payments, but the monthly cost of the phone — about US$15 to $50 on Next — is spelled out on each bill. After 20 payments, the handset’s paid for. AT&T says consumers like having a more “transparent” way to pay for their devices.
“Many customers have been choosing to move off the subsidy model,” Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on a conference call Tuesday. AT&T thinks this trend will continue but it’s not ready to drop the subsidy model yet.
“I wouldn’t suggest it would be eliminated as long as there’s a significant number of customers who enjoy and prefer it,” Stephens said.
If you’re wondering where those trade-in phones go, Stephens said AT&T can sell them to customers of its prepaid plans, use them to fulfill insurance plans that cover phone replacement, or sell them on the wholesale market, as it began doing last year. The fact that AT&T uses the GSM family of network technologies, which is used around the world, helps it get good prices for the used phones, Stephens said.
AT&T’s Mobile Share plans also are growing more popular. About 45 percent of its postpaid subscribers are on the plans, which let customers pay for one monthly bucket of data and use it on multiple devices. A lot of shared-plan users are buying big buckets, too: 46 percent of them have plans with 10GB or more per month, the carrier said.
ARM Holdings, whose chip technology runs Apple’s iPhone, said demand for smartphones would increase in the second half after a disappointing end to 2013 resulted in first-quarter profit rising less than in previous years.
Sales of top-end smartphones, a market dominated by Apple and Samsung, were lower than predicted during the Christmas holiday season, leading to worries that the market was becoming saturated.
But ARM’s Chief Financial Officer Tim Score said there were signs that demand was picking up for smartphones from the low-end to the top, where Samsung has just launched its Galaxy S5 flagship and Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone later this year.
The British company posted a 9 percent rise in pretax profit to 97.1 million pounds ($163.36 million), broadly in line with market forecasts, on revenue collected in dollars of $305.2 million, up 16 percent. In comparison, a year ago adjusted pretax profit jumped 44 percent.
Royalty payments, which ARM receives a quarter in arrears on every chip that contains its technology, rose by an underlying 8 percent year on year, about a quarter of the growth it was seeing at the same time last year.
Cambridge-based ARM said royalties were affected by an inventory correction as manufacturers used up components they had stockpiled because of weaker customer demand, particularly in mobile and consumer electronics.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip producer which drives more than half of ARM’s processor royalties, according to Deutsche Bank analysts, said last week it was targeting record revenue in the second quarter.
“There has been an inventory correction in smartphones, that looks to be unwinding,” Score told reporters on Wednesday. “We saw TSMC showing very strong guidance for their second quarter, which will inform our Q3 royalties.”
In the longer term, growth in companies licensing ARM’s technology for uses ranging from networking equipment to microcontrollers in appliances like dishwashers would also drive royalty growth, he said. Processor licensing revenue rose 38 percent in the quarter to $111.6 million.
Vevo, the online music video hub that is a joint venture of two of the world’s biggest music labels, has enjoyed a nearly 50 percent spike in the number of music videos streamed each month from its platform, according to the company’s top executives.
The company, which is controlled by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, hit a monthly average of nearly 6 billion views in December, a 46 percent rise from a year earlier, said Rio Caraeff, the chief executive officer.
About 65 percent of the videos are being watched on mobile phones, according to the company.
“On a global stage, it’s really all about mobile,” Caraeff said in Miami, where he was participating in the Billboard Latin Music Conference. “Mobile and tablet and television are where the majority of the views are happening.”
A growing number of people watch music videos from the platform on smartphones, tablets or web-connected TVs using Apple TV, Roku and XBox devices.
Google Inc is a minority stakeholder in New York-based Vevo, which was founded in 2009. Universal Music is a unit of Vivendi SA, and Sony Entertainment is part of Sony Corp.
The online music video service started out distributing videos to AOL and Google’s YouTube, creating revenue from a portion of the advertising revenue it generated.
Of the approximately 6 billion music videos streamed each month, 5 billion occur outside the United States, Caraeff said. The top countries include the UK and Germany. Vevo offers its own service in more than 13 countries and will soon roll out in Mexico.
The most watched video ever is teen pop star Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with over 1 billion streams, according to the company. Last year, Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” topped Vevo’s list of the most viewed videos.
Caraeff said the company is holding conversations with potential investors as it seeks to expand. He declined to say who the company has spoken with. The Wall Street Journal has reported Vevo held talks with financial services firm Guggenheim Partners.
“We are continuing to speak to investors as we try to find the right partners to grow the business more rapidly than we’ve been able to do so far,” Caraeff said. “We’re still very active in that process.”
Last week, Vevo, which provides some of the most popular content on YouTube, expanded its content partnership with Yahoo in a deal that brings Vevo’s music videos and other programming to Yahoo’s video channel, Yahoo Screen, in the United States and Canada.
The partnership is expected to soon extend to Britain, Germany, Spain, France and Italy as well as the Yahoo Screen mobile app.
While the rest of the world rushed to fix servers containing the Heartbleed security bug, Apple was curiously quiet. It was not that its products did not contain the flaw, its AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Wi-Fi routers all were vulnerable, but no one seemed to want to talk about it.
Yesterday Jobs’ Mob issued an update to their latest AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Wi-Fi routers in order to fix a Heartbleed-related vulnerability which would be triggered by Back to My Mac remote access or if the user sent diagnostics back to Apple.
Of course the Tame Apple press has been saying it is better “sooner than later” but what is alarming is that the patch did not come out much sooner. Sites like Ubergizmo appeared to be playing down the bug and implied that Apple would be largely free from it.
“This particular flaw will not allow those with nefarious intentions to steal your personal data or credentials, it could still open some leeway for them to launch man-in-the-middle attacks which will eventually grant access to login pages on not only the router, but also on your computer as well,” the site claimed.
It is sort of true. It will not bother Apple users if they don’t visit any webpages, but we guess a few of them will sometimes do that. The assumption being that Jobs’ Mob’s OS was somehow invulnerable and it was only those nasty Windows machines is so out of touch it is annoying.
To be fair Ubergizmo does say that that people making use of the latest networking devices from Apple, it would be highly recommended that you patch up your hardware without any further delay, but that is only several pars after saying not to worry.
The price drop comes just under a month after Samsung announced the monitor — the U28D590D — for $699.99. Major retail sites taking orders for the new monitor at $599.99 include Amazon.com, where the product is currently out of stock, and Newegg, which will start shipping the product later this week.
Video with 4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD, displays images at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times that of current 1080p high-definition monitors or TVs. TVs and cameras supporting 4K are available, and monitors for computer users are quickly falling in price as more brands become available.
Earlier this year prices for 4K monitors fell from over $1,000 to under $700 when Dell started shipping its 28-inch Ultra HD P2815Q monitor for $699.99. The product was temporarily pulled from the market before Dell made it available again.
Other sub-$800 monitors announced in January include Lenovo’s ThinkVision Pro2840m 4K monitor, which is due to ship this month for $799, and a $699 monitor from Asus, which is not yet available.
PC companies are eager to push 4K monitors to the masses, with Toshiba and Lenovo announcing 4K laptops this year. The new 4K monitors have a range of ports, but the lower-priced monitors typically suffer on refresh rates. The Samsung UD590 refresh rate through an HDMI 1.4 port is 30Hz, and a desirable 60Hz with a DisplayPort 1.2 port.
Dell’s 28-inch Ultra HD P2815Q monitor was criticized for its 30Hz refresh rate. The refresh rate is an important metric in determining how well monitors are able to reduce flickering while coping with fast-moving images.
The price drop on Samsung’s monitor could drive competitors selling larger monitors over $1,000 to drop prices as well. Asus’ 31.5-inch PQ321Q is priced at $2,899 on Amazon.com, and Sharp’s 31.5-inch PN-K321 is priced at $3,595 in Apple’s online store.
AT&T, which is competing against rivals such as Google Inc as well as cable companies with its fiber-based product, is considering providing broadband Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second and its U-verse television service in cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
Before the company can enter these markets, it must make agreements with local leaders in each city.
The services are currently available in Austin, Texas and some surrounding communities, and will be rolled out in parts of Dallas this summer, the company said.
AT&T also said it may consider expanding its reach to 100 cities eventually.
Earlier this month, AT&T announced it was in discussions with North Carolina Next Generation Network to bring U-verse with high-speed internet to North Carolina.
U-verse launched in 2006 and currently has 10.7 million combined Internet and TV customers.
Hacking for espionage purposes is drastically rising, with groups or national governments from Eastern Europe playing a growing role, according to one of the most comprehensive annual studies of computer intrusions.
Spying intrusions traced back to any country in 2013 were blamed on residents of China and other East Asian nations 49 percent of the time, but Eastern European countries, especially Russian-speaking nations, were the suspected launching site for 21 percent of breaches, Verizon Communications Inc’s said in its annual Data Breach Investigations Report.
Those were by far the most active areas detected in the sampling, which drew more than half of its data from victims in the United States. About 25 percent of spying incidents could not be attributed to attackers from any country, according to the authors of the report.
Though the overall number of spying incidents studied tripled to 511 from total in the 2013 Verizon report, most of that increase is due to the addition of new data sources. Even looking at just the same contributors as before, however, espionage cases grew, said Verizon investigator Bryan Sartin.
Not all electronic spying was blamed on governments. Investigators from Verizon, Intel Corp’s McAfee, Kaspersky Labs and other private companies and public agencies contributing data ascribed 11 percent of espionage attacks to organized criminals and 87 percent to governments.
In some cases, the criminal gangs were probably looking to sell what they found to governments or competitors of the victims.
“We do see a slight merging between the classic organized criminal and the espionage crook,” Sartin said, adding that he expected that trend to continue.
If the rise of detected Eastern European spying comes as a surprise to those mainly familiar with accusations against China, a bigger surprise might be the study’s findings about attacks on retailers.
Though recent breaches at Target Corp and other retailers through their point-of-sale equipment have dominated the headlines and prompted congressional hearings in the past few months, fewer such intrusions have been reported to the Verizon team than in past years, even as the number of report contributors has multiplied.
“The media frenzy makes quite a splash, but from a frequency standpoint, this largely remains a small-and-medium business issue,” the study says.
Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites already sell everything from clothes and furniture to car tires and medicines. But soon they’ll also be offering 3G data and voice call plans as well, according to the Chinese tech giant.
User registration for mobile phone numbers will begin in May.
Alibaba is among the Chinese companies that received a mobile virtual network operators license back in December. This allows them to resell wireless services from the nation’s state-controlled mobile carriers China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom.
It won’t be hard for the Alibaba to find customers. Taobao and Tmall are two of China’s largest online retail sites. In addition, the company is aggressively expanding into mobile services, developing its own operating system for smartphones, along with a mobile chatting app called Laiwang.
As smartphones become the number one way Chinese go online, local tech companies are trying to corner a part of the mobile Internet market. In Alibaba’s case, the company has been on a spending spree, buying a stake in Chinese social networking site, Weibo.com, and moving to acquire the country’s largest online mapping provider.
Offering data and voice services could help Alibaba attract more users to its e-commerce services. As China only has three mobile carriers, there’s plenty of room for MVNOs to grow, according to analysts. But Alibaba won’t be the only e-commerce company offering mobile phone services.
JD.com, another major online retailer in China, has also received a MVNO license. The company plans to offer its telecom services in the second quarter of this year.
JD.com has the second largest business-to-consumer retail site behind Tmall.com, according to research firm Analysys International. The company is set to grow even faster after Chinese Internet giant Tencent bought a 15 percent stake in it.
As part of the deal, JD.com will take over two of Tencent’s online retail businesses. It will also gain access to Tencent’s WeChat app, a mobile messaging app with 300 million users.
The world’s top 1,000 websites have been updated to protect their servers against the “Heartbleed” vulnerability, but up to 2% of the top million remained unprotected as of last week, according to a California security firm.
On Thursday, Menifee, Calif.-based Sucuri Security scanned the top 1 million websites as ranked by Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon that collects Web traffic data.
Of the top 1,000 Alexa sites, all were either immune or had been patched with the newest OpenSSL libraries, confirmed Daniel Cid, Sucuri’s chief technology officer, in a Sunday email.
Heartbleed, the nickname for the flaw in OpenSSL, an open-source cryptographic library that enables SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Security Layer) encryption, was discovered independently by Neel Mehta, a Google security engineer, and researchers from security firm Codenomicon earlier this month.
The bug had been introduced in OpenSSL in late 2011.
Because of OpenSSL’s widespread use by websites — many relied on it to encrypt traffic between their servers and customers — and the very stealthy nature of its exploit, security experts worried that cyber criminals either had, or could, capture usernames, passwords,\ and even encryption keys used by site servers.
The OpenSSL project issued a patch for the bug on April 7, setting off a rush to patch the software on servers and in some client operating systems.
The vast majority of vulnerable servers had been patched as of April 17, Sucuri said in a blog postthat day.
While all of the top 1,000 sites ranked by Alexa were immune to the exploit by then, as Sucuri went down the list and scanned smaller sites, it found an increasing number still vulnerable. Of the top 10,000, 0.53% were vulnerable, as were 1.5% of the top 100,000 and 2% of the top 1 million.
Other scans found similar percentages of websites open to attack: On Friday, San Diego-based Websense said about 1.6% of the top 50,000 sites as ranked by Alexa remained vulnerable.
Since it’s conceivable that some sites’ encryption keys have been compromised, security experts urged website owners to obtain new SSL certificates and keys, and advised users to be wary of browsing to sites that had not done so.
Sucuri’s scan did not examine sites to see whether they had been reissued new certificates, but Cid said that another swing through the Web, perhaps this week, would. “I bet the results will be much much worse on that one,” Cid said.
Square Inc has been having discussions with several rivals for a possible sale as the mobile payments startup hopes to stem widening losses and dwindling cash, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The company spoke to Google Inc earlier this year about a possible sale, the Journal reported, adding that it wasn’t clear whether the talks are continuing.
Square, founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, co-creator of Twitter Inc, will likely fetch billions of dollars in a sale. Square insiders sold shares earlier this year on the secondary market, valuing the company at roughly $5.2 billion, the Journal said.
The company recorded a loss of about $100 million in 2013, the Journal said, adding that the startup has consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it raised from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009.
Square makes credit card readers that slot into smartphones such as Apple Inc’s iPhone.
Square also had informal discussions about a deal with Apple
and eBay Inc’s PayPal in the past, but those conversations never developed into serious talks, the Journal said.
A spokesman for Square told the Journal that the company never had acquisition talks with Google. The report also quoted a PayPal spokesman as saying that the company did not have acquisition talks with Square.
Square, Google, Apple and eBay were not immediately available for comment.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft’s scheduled launch last week was scrubbed because of a helium leak in the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry it aloft.
Optical laser communications, also dubbed lasercom, is one of the emerging technologies that NASA is focused on trying out.
With lasercom, data is transmitted via laser beams; the technology potentially offers much higher data rates than the space agency is able to achieve with current radio frequency transmissions.
“Optical communications have the potential to be a game-changer,” said mission manager Matt Abrahamson, in a statement. “It’s like upgrading from dial-up to DSL. Our ability to generate data has greatly outpaced our ability to downlink it. Imagine trying to download a movie at home over dial-up. It’s essentially the same problem in space, whether we’re talking about low-Earth orbit or deep space.”
Abrahamson noted that many of the latest deep space missions send data back and forth at 200 to 400 kilobits per second. The new laser technology is expected to transmit data at 50 megabits per second.
Since one megabit is equal to 1,024 kilobits, that means the new communications should be up to 256 times faster.
Once the Dragon spacecraft rendezvouses with the space station, the orbiter’s robotic arm will remove it from the ship’s cargo bay and then attach it to the outside of the station. The laser test is expected to last at least three months.
A ground telescope will be used to test the new communication tool.
As the space station moves in its orbit around Earth, the ground telescope will track it and transmit a laser beacon carrying a video uplink in 100-second bursts to the orbiting instrument. The tests will help scientists better calculate the ability to point the laser, along with beam acquisition and tracking — all while the space station is traveling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour.
The new laser communications initiative is a key part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, an arm of the space agency focused on developing technology for future space missions, as well as for life here on Earth.
The Openstack-based service also includes an extension of the Red Hat partnership into the Dell Openshift Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Linux Container products.
Dell and Redhat said their cloud partnership is intended to “address enterprise customer demand for more flexible, elastic and dynamic IT services to support and host non-business critical applications”.
The integration of Openshift with Redhat Linux is a move towards container enhancements from Redhat’s Docker platform, which the companies said will enable a write-once culture, making programs portable across public, private and hybrid cloud environments.
Paul Cormier, president of Products and Technologies at Red Hat said, “Cloud innovation is happening first in open source, and what we’re seeing from global customers is growing demand for open hybrid cloud solutions that meet a wide variety of requirements.”
Sam Greenblatt, VP of Enterprise Solutions Group Technology Strategy at Dell, added, “Dell is a long-time supporter of Openstack and this important extension of our commitment to the community now will include work for Openshift and Docker. We are building on our long history with open source and will apply that expertise to our new cloud solutions and co-engineering work with Red Hat.”
Dell Red Hat Cloud Solutions are available from today, with support for platform architects available from Dell Cloud Services.
Earlier this week, Red Hat announced Atomic Host, a new fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) specifically tailored for containers. Last year, the company broke bad with its Fedora Linux distribution, codenamed Heisenbug.
Oracle issued a comprehensive list of its software that may or may not be impacted by the OpenSSL (secure sockets layer) vulnerability known as Heartbleed, while warning that no fixes are yet available for some likely affected products.
The list includes well over 100 products that appear to be in the clear, either because they never used the version of OpenSSL reported to be vulnerable to Heartbleed, or because they don’t use OpenSSL at all.
However, Oracle is still investigating whether another roughly 20 products, including MySQL Connector/C++, Oracle SOA Suite and Nimbula Director, are vulnerable.
Oracle determined that seven products are vulnerable and is offering fixes. These include Communications Operation Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Server 5.6, Oracle Communications Session Monitor, Oracle Linux 6, Oracle Mobile Security Suite and some Solaris 11.2 implementations.
Another 14 products are likely to be vulnerable, but Oracle doesn’t have fixes for them yet, according to the post. These include BlueKai, Java ME and MySQL Workbench.
Users of Oracle’s growing family of cloud services may also be able to breath easy. “It appears that both externally and internally (private) accessible applications hosted in Oracle Cloud Data Centers are currently not at risk from this vulnerability,” although Oracle continues to investigate, according to the post.
Heartbleed, which was revealed by researchers last week, can allow attackers who exploit it to steal information on systems thought to be protected by OpenSSL encryption. A fix for the vulnerable version of OpenSSL has been released and vendors and IT organizations are scrambling to patch their products and systems.
Observers consider Heartbleed one of the most serious Internet security vulnerabilities in recent times.
Meanwhile, this week Oracle also shipped 104 patches as part of its regular quarterly release.
The patch batch includes security fixes for Oracle database 11g and 12c, Fusion Middleware 11g and 12c, Fusion Applications, WebLogic Server and dozens of other products. Some 37 patches target Java SE alone.
A detailed rundown of the vulnerabilities’ relative severity has been posted to an official Oracle blog.
Lavaboom, based in Germany and founded by Felix MA1/4ller-Irion, is named after Lavabit, the now defunct encrypted email provider believed to have been used by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Lavabit decided to shut down its operations in August in response to a U.S. government request for its SSL private key that would have allowed the government to decrypt all user emails.
Lavaboom designed its system for end-to-end encryption, meaning that only users will be in possession of the secret keys needed to decrypt the messages they receive from others. The service will only act as a carrier for already encrypted emails.
The goal of this implementation is to protect against upstream interception of email traffic as it travels over the Internet and to prevent Lavaboom to produce plain text emails or encryption keys if the government requests them. While this would protect against some passive data collection efforts by intelligence agencies like the NSA, it probably won’t protect against other attack techniques and exploits that such agencies have at their disposal to obtain data from computers and browsers after it was decrypted.
Security researchers have yet to weigh in on the strength of Lavaboom’s implementation. The service said on its website that it considers making parts of the code open source and that it has a small budget for security audits if any researchers are interested.
Those interested in trying out the service can request to be included in its beta testing period, scheduled to start in about two weeks.
Free Lavaboom accounts will come with 250MB of storage space and will use two-way authentication based on the public-private keypair and a password. A premium subscription will cost a!8 (around US$11) per month and will provide users with 1GB of storage space and a three-factor authentication option.
“I think you’ll see wide-area, high-bandwidth [smart]watches this year at some point,” said Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T, in an interview.
The company has a group working in Austin, Texas, on thousands of wearable-device prototypes, and is also looking at certifying third-party devices for use on its network, Lurie said.
“A majority of stuff you’re going to see today that’s truly wearable is going to be in a watch form factor to start,” Lurie said. If smartwatch use takes off — “and we believe it can,” Lurie said — then those devices could become hubs for wearable computing.
Right now smartwatches lack LTE capabilities, so they are largely reliant on smartphones for apps and notifications. With a mobile broadband connection, a smartwatch becomes an “independent device,” Lurie said.
“We’ve been very, very clear in our opinion that a wearable needs to be a stand-alone device,” Lurie said.
AT&T and Filip Technologies in January released the Filip child tracker wristwatch, which also allows a parent to call a child over AT&T’s network. Filip could be improved, but those are the kind of wearable products that AT&T wants to bring to market.
Wearables for home health care are also candidates for LTE connections, Lurie said, but fitness trackers may be too small for LTE connectivity, at least for now.
Lurie couldn’t say when smartglasses would be certified to work on AT&T’s network. Google last year said adding cellular capabilities to its Glass eyewear wasn’t in the plans because of battery use. But AT&T is willing to experiment with devices to see where LTE would fit.
“It’s one thing if I’m buying it to go out for a job, it’s another thing if I’m going to wear it everyday. Those are the things people are debating right now — how that’s all going to come out,” Lurie said. “There’s technology and there’s innovation happening, and those things will get solved.”
Lurie said battery issues are being resolved, but there are no network capacity issues. Wearable devices don’t use too much bandwidth as they relay short bursts of information, unless someone is, for instance, listening to Pandora radio on a smartwatch, Lurie said.
But AT&T is building out network capacity, adding Wi-Fi networks, and virtualizing networks to accommodate more devices.
“We don’t have network issues, we don’t have any capacity issues,” Lurie said. “The key element to adding these devices is a majority of [them] aren’t high-bandwidth devices.”
AT&T wants to make wearables work with its home offerings like the Digital Life home automation and security system. AT&T is also working with car makers for LTE integration, with wearables interacting with vehicles to open doors and start ignitions.