The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.
For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.
The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.
The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.
“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.
The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.
The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.
We already knew that Android was the mobile operating systems most targeted by malware, and that isn’t about to change any time soon.
Security firm F-Secure has reported that malicious activity on Android accounted for 97 per cent of all detected mobile threats for 2013.
The figures were revealed in F-Secure’s latest Threat Report for the second half of 2013, finding that there were 566 more Android malware variants found last year than during the previous year.
“97 percent of the mobile threats in 2013 were directed at the Android platform, which racked up 804 new families and variants,” F-Secure said in its report (pdf). “The other three percent (23) were directed at Symbian. No other platforms had any threats. In contrast, 2012 saw 238 new Android threats.”
F-Secure found that the top 10 countries reporting Android threats saw a little over 140,000 Android malware detections, with 42 percent of the reported detections coming from Saudia Arabia and 33 percent from India. European countries accounted for 15 percent of the total and the US just five percent.
F-Secure said that due to Android itself having relatively few vulnerabilities, the main distribution method is still through shady apps downloaded from third-party app stores.
“For mobile platforms, the continued dominance of the Android operating system makes it almost the exclusive target for mobile threats we’ve seen this period,” F-Secure’s report explained.
“Though the relatively low number of vulnerabilities found in Android makes the operating system itself difficult to attack, this security is largely circumvented by the relative ease with which malware authors can provide their ‘products’ and dupe users into installing it on their own devices, with the necessary permissions to straightforwardly use the device (and the user’s data) for the attacker’s own benefit.”
The Android malware families most commonly reported in that period were Ginmaster, Fakeinst and Smssend, which either harvest data from the device or send premium-rate SMS messages.
The F-Secure report also found that web based attacks, which typically involve techniques that redirect the browser to malicious websites, were the most commonly reported type of attack for the period, making up 26 percent of malware detections, followed by the Conficker worm with 20 percent.
“The three most common exploits detected during the period were all Java-related,” the report said. “Java exploits, however, declined compared to [the first half of] 2013. Mac malware continues a slight but steady increase, with 51 new families and variants detected in 2013.”
Fujitsu Labs have worked out a way to improve vibration feedback when typing on a virtual keyboard. The prototype haptic sensory tablet emits ultrasonic vibrations under the surface of the tablet’s display.
The company says that although producing ultrasonic vibrations would generally require a good deal of power, its engineers have come up with a way of shrinking down the tech and allowing a tablet prototype to run its haptic feedback system. Essentially, the vibrations create a layer of high pressure air between a user’s fingertips and the surface of the screen, resulting in reduced friction so the fingers can skate across the screen. This alternates between high and low friction to create the illusion of a textured surface.
It is possible to feel a CD beneath the fingers while spinning and scratching like a DJ, as well as physically feeling and manipulating the deck controls. Research continues to improve the technology, but the company is looking to commercialize the development by next year.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
Samsung appears to have delivered a huge snuff to Android OS maker Google. Samsung’s new smartwatch Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the sequels to the poorly reviewed original Galaxy Gear are going to ship without Android.
Instead, the new Gears run Tizen, another open source operating system that Samsung, Intel, and others are working on. It is starting to look like Samsung wants to distance itself from its reliance on Google for software and services.
Samsung’s official reason is that Tizen has better battery life and performance. The new Gears can get up to an extra two days of battery life by running Tizen, even though they have the same size battery. The Galaxy Gear barely made it through a day on one charge.
To be fair Android isn’t optimized to run on wearable devices like smart watches, but Samsung didn’t want to wait around for Google to catch up. It was clearly concerned about beating Apple to market. So far Apple has not shown up.
The company’s PalmSecure scanners use near-infrared light to scan points in veins that lie beneath the surface of a user’s palm. There has to be blood flowing through a user’s hand for the sensor to work.
Every person’s palm pattern is unique, and scans of vein points are matched against previously registered scans to authenticate users and unlock whatever device or service they’re linked to.
“We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development,” a Fujitsu spokesman said. “In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones.”
Fujitsu claims the biometric technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.
The company first commercialized the technology in 2004 when palm-sized scanners were embedded in ATMs at Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to help authenticate customer identity and prevent fraud. In-store scanners at Suruga Bank also appeared in 2004.
Fujitsu later shrank the scanners and embedded them in laptops.
It recently showed off a stamp-sized version of the scanner that is the smallest yet. It’s been embedded in tablets for the first time and will be included in about 2,000 tablets provided to Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes the Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank.
“No one has this technology, and it’s significantly more secure than fingerprint,” the Fujitsu spokesman said, adding that some banks have shown interest in palm-vein scanners as a means of verifying identity in natural disasters in which ID or bank cards are lost or destroyed.
The customized 12.5-inch Fujitsu Arrows Q704/H tablets have Intel Core i5 processors and run Windows, acting as virtual desktops. Bank employees meeting customers off-site will be able to securely access their bank’s internal system by using the palm-vein authentication scanners.
Only users whose biometric info has been registered beforehand will be able to operate the tablets.
At CES in January, U.S.-based biometric payments company PulseWallet demonstrated a cardless point-of-sale terminal incorporating Fujitsu’s vein-imaging technology. It said registered users could leave their credit and debit cards at home and make payments simply by having their palms scanned.
Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.
Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.
The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.
Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.
“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.
The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.
The virus can move like a human infection through WiFi access points (APs), with its spread through populated areas likened to that of a common cold.
The Chameleon virus was tested in a controlled environment and is capable of avoiding detection and finding weak points in WiFi encryption.
Alan Marshall, professor of Network Security at the University of Liverpool, said, “When Chameleon attacked an AP it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other WiFi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other WiFi APs that it could connect to and infect.”
This means that even a protected computer can be compromised if it innocently connects to an infected WiFi network AP. Because the virus only exists on the network, rather than the computer itself, open hotspots are particularly vulnerable.
In heavily populated areas with APs in close proximity, the virus could propagate extremely quickly, with the optimum range being among APs in a 10m to 50m radius.
Marshall continued, “It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack WiFi networks, but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely.”
In Hollywood terms, it works like the release of a vial of infectious virus that looks for people who are not wearing gas masks and turns them into zombies. This gives us an idea for a summer blockbuster movie.
Malware spread by conventional means has been a never-ending battle. Nokia this week claimed that nine percent of Android apps it tested for its Nokia X device contained one or more viruses, while institutions including the NHS have been recent victims of computer malware attacks. Now, malware can be airborne and the game could change.
Qualcomm Executive Vice President Murthy Renduchintala has announced the first 20nm chip from Qualcomm. It is not a processor though – it’s the Gobi 9×35 4th generation LTE modem. It is sampling right now and there should be customers who will announce the designs on it shortly.
The SVP has also confirmed that SoC parts will soon to move to 20nm and when asked whether TSMC has capacity and is ready for mature production of 20nm his answer was positive. He actually said to expect a 20nm SoC real soon, but he didn’t get into any details.
The Cat 6 300 Mbps modem in 20nm obviously needs much less power and it will improve battery life on LTE devices. We can see this product as very interesting option for many high-end phones. Modems are easier and less complex to make compared to SoCs and this is why Qualcomm traditionally moves the LTE modem to a new processor node first. The company then follows up with a SoC that is much more complex to manufacture.
With every shrink of the processor node, power goes down significantly and this is what high-end application processors are all about. At 28nm chipmakers are already pushing the envelope with big A15-class parts and the move to 20nm can’t come soon enough.
The handset, which has the code name “Jakarta” but carries the commercial name Z3, is the result of a BlackBerry deal with Foxconn that seeks to shift design and production of low-end phones outside of the company.
It has a 5-inch touchscreen and will come with the company’s 10.2.1 operating system. No other technical details were immediately available.
“It’s going to be a very, very attractive phone for the market,” said John Chen, during a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “Somewhere in April, it will come out in Indonesia. It will be under $200 in retail price.”
BlackBerry’s deal with Foxconn was signed in early December and marked a big shift in the way the company develops its handsets. Under the deal, Foxconn will take over development of low-end devices while BlackBerry will continue to develop high-end phones.
“When I first got into the phone business, they told me it takes 9 to 12 months to get a phone up and going. In less than three months the phone is up and qualified and we are now working on distribution,” he said.
Chen said the phone will also be released in other countries.
The same model will go on sale in other Southeast Asian countries and BlackBerry plans an LTE-version that will be released in the rest of the world.
Chen didn’t specify a release date for the LTE version, except to deadpan, “sometime in the future, before I die.”
The CEO also said a new version of the Q10, called the Q20, will be available later this year. It features the QWERTY keyboard that’s present on the Q10 and adds the menu, back and send buttons and the track pad that was a signature part of older BlackBerry models and is being brought back after customer requests.
Announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the $349 tablet has a 10-inch screen and a snappy Qualcomm 400 Snapdragon processor. The screen displays images at a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, setting it apart from the previous Yoga 10 tablet, which was criticized for its poor performance and low-resolution screen.
But the company has retained some of the key features from the original Yoga 10. The Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ has a cylindrical battery that the company claims gives the device 18 hours of battery life, and a kickstand that allows the tablet to stand upright at 30-degree to 80-degree angles.
Other features in the tablet include an 8-megapixel rear camera, a front camera, micro-USB port, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The tablet has the Android 4.3 OS.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon chip is able to render full high-definition video, which should give the tablet competitive multimedia performance.
The tablet will be packaged with apps from Lenovo to easily share files, sync contacts and protect the device from malware. The software belongs to Lenovo’s newly announced Do-it software apps package.
The Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ will be available in April, the company said.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, is a messaging platform that offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, which Facebook bought last week for $19 billion.
BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM for Nokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement released to the press.
BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, on the other hand has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the number of the service’s active users has grown to more than 80 million.
The little known firm said the proposal for Barnes & Noble as a whole would be for $22 per share, which would value the top U.S. bookstore chain at $1.32 billion. It comes after earlier proposal in November for $20 per share, its second.
G Asset, which not did detail how it would finance a deal, also made an alternative offer to buy Nook for $5 per share, saying spinning off the digital books and device business would create “substantial shareholder value.”
The latest offer for the whole company would value Barnes & Noble at $1.32 billion, while the proposal for Nook would value that unit at about $300 million.
The firm has previously pressed the company to spin off its Nook unit from Barnes & Noble’s bookstore and college units.
Michael Glickstein, G Asset’s Chief Investment Officer, and the only person listed on the firm’s website, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Barnes & Noble shares were up 5.8 percent at $17.75 in afternoon trading after going as high as $19.12 after the news was released, suggesting Wall Street analysts were doubtful a deal would get done.
A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment beyond confirming that the company had received G Asset’s offer.
The original Nook device was launched in 2009 to help Barnes & Noble fend off Amazon.com Inc and allowed the retailer to win as much as 27 percent of the U.S. e-books market.
But the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep pace with deep-pocketed rivals such as Amazon, Apple Inc and Google Inc. It has scaled back its Nook business and focusing more on content and software.
Two years ago, Microsoft Corp invested $300 million in the Nook unit for a 17.6 percent stake, valuing the division at $1.7 billion. In late 2012, Pearson PLC took a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million.
Dell has become the first major PC OEM to join the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) group, joining over 80 existing members Broadcom, Gill Electronics, IDT, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Dell’s membership means it could soon be developing mobile devices that do not require a wired power adapter to charge.
The A4WP aims to standardise wireless power transfer using near-field magnetic resonance technology called “rezence”, which seeks to liberate mobile devices from wired chargers, charging multiple devices simultaneously without the need to dock the devices.
“Power levels and charging speed will meet the expectations of today’s ‘always on, always connected’ user,” the A4WP said. “Users can simply ‘drop and go’ their devices onto a charging surface without the hassle of accurate positioning or alignment.”
Along with the news that Dell will jump on board to unshackle users from the curse of wired chargers, A4WP is also introducing a secondary, higher-powered project focusing on wirelessly charging electronic products from 20 to 50 watts, like ultrabooks, laptops, and mid-powered appliances.
“Dell’s addition to the Alliance signifies the importance of defining a wireless power standard that spans these higher power levels thus expanding the range of electronics beyond smartphones,” the group added.
A4WP said it believes the development of magnetic resonance technology will improve the customer experience when it comes to charging and will bring the capability into more homes and businesses over the next few years.
It also said that its development of wireless charging technology will help benefit both industry and consumers as the specification powers broadly adopted wireless technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, “which simplifies development and manufacturing”.
Facebook Inc’s awe-inspiring $19 billion bid for fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp sent shares of BlackBerry Ltd surging after the closing bell as early as Wednesday, as investors were cheered by the lofty valuation for the messaging platform.
The deal sent shares in BlackBerry up as much as 9 percent in trading after the bell because it put a rough valuation metric around the smartphone maker’s own BlackBerry Messaging service.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM as it is more commonly known, was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of some 450 million, has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system, along with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based smartphone maker finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the service currently has over 80 million active users.
However, investors have attributed little value to the asset within the company. On Tuesday, Raymond James analyst Steven Li, in a note to clients, broke out a sum-of-parts valuation of the company and pegged the value of BBM at merely $240 million, or $3 per user.
Facebook’s valuation of WhatsApp translates into roughly $42 per user, and that could lead investors and analysts to rethink their valuation of the asset within BlackBerry.
BlackBerry has given no indication it is keen to sell the asset. While there has been some speculation that BlackBerry may seek to carve out the unit, or even sell it, the company’s new Chief Executive John Chen has so far said that BBM remains a core asset for the company.