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Microsoft Acquires N-Trig For $30M

May 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft now owns the technology firm that provided the stylus and touch display interface technology for its Surface Pro 3.

Microsoft has confirmed that it has acquired Israel-based N-Trig for $30 million.

Microsoft already had a 6% minority stake in N-Trig, but apparently had been in negotiations to acquire the company for months. In February, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said N-Trig was valued at less than $10 million, while Calcalist — which originally broke the story of Microsoft’s looking to acquire the company — reported that Microsoft would pay at least $200 million.

Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Acer and others are among the who’s who of PC makers that turned to N-Trig for touchscreen and digitizer technology in Windows tablets and PCs. N-Trig developed a controller chip and drivers for the Windows OS that drive its touch and stylus technology.

The stylus is important to Microsoft as it looks to incorporate handwriting recognition as a standard feature in applications like Outlook and Office. Microsoft believes that natural interaction is an important way to make PCs and tablets more useful.

Microsoft next week will start shipping its Surface 3 tablet, which also has the N-Trig stylus and controller.

 

 

Google Integrates More Services Into Android Voice

May 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Several new integrations hit Google’s voice search system for Android devices last week, which allows users to conduct queries orally by first saying, “OK Google.” In addition to Zillow, Shazam, NPR and online radio service TuneIn have been integrated.

The integrations require users to have those other apps on their smartphone or tablet. But instead of having to open the apps individually, users can ask their mobile device directly, which, hopefully, will then take them inside the appropriate app with an answer.

The Zillow integration will work for local searches as well as housing searches in other cities. Users, for instance, can search for homes for sale, for rent, or for open houses. “Show apartments for rent in Boston on Zillow,” you could say.

With TuneIn, users can say, “Open TuneIn in car mode.” That would be helpful for hands-free driving.

Through the Shazam integration, people can ask their smartphone what song is playing around them, by saying, “OK Google, Shazam this song.” (Google voice search already lets people identify songs without Shazam.)

Since Google opened outside support for its OK Google voice search in 2014, developers of many other third party apps have integrated their apps into the system. There’s also tons of useful commands that can be conducted using Google’s own smarts.

Its functionalities extend beyond search. The “OK Google” command is also now a key element in how people interact with smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear operating system.

 

 

Sumsung Finally Updates Tizen

May 5, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung has been updating its operating system which sounds like a sneeze – Tizen.

Samsung users of the Z1 mostly in India and Bangladesh have noticed a new update provided this week marks the beginning of a new chapter for Tizen.
The over-the-air (OTA) update was 16.1MB and normally would not have been a big deal but it seems to bring Samsung’s Tizen-powered smartphone to Z130HDDU0BOD8.

OK the update does not do much, but it does prove that keeping Tizen running fast and smooth is at the forefront of Samsung’s plans.

Samsung bought the update having rolled out the Tizen store globally, with 182 new countries added to the list of Tizen store-accessible locations (Netherlands, UK, US, France, Russia, Australia, Malaysia, Serbia, Croatia, Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, UAE, and others).

Global Z1 users can access the Tizen store and free apps, they cannot access paid apps at the moment.

The expectation is that Samsung prepping its Tizen store for a global rollout, and will start to roll out Tizen-powered devices worldwide in the months to come.

This brave new world might arrive with a Z2 or perhaps some more Tizen based smartphones.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Apple Confirms Tattoo Interference Problems With iWatch

May 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Dark tattoos may interfere with the Apple Watch’s ability to montor and report a person’s heart rate, Apple confirmed on the device’s product support page.

“Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact heart rate sensor performance. The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings,” Apple said.

Some watch functions require direct contact with the skin to work. If the device can’t detect a pulse, it assumes it isn’t being worn, shutting downs apps and requiring people to enter their passcode. Turning off the wrist-detection function solves the issue, but prevents people from using Apple Pay.

Reports emerged this week that people with dark wrist tattoos were experiencing problems with their Apple Watches. One watch owner with a tattoo on his left wrist said the device would lock, preventing him from receiving notifications. He initially thought the device’s sensors were defective.

But when he placed the watch on his hand, which isn’t tattooed, he was able to get text notifications.

Green LED lights and photodiode sensors on the back of the watch measure the amount of blood flowing through a person’s wrist, using a technology called photoplethysmography, according to the support page. Blood absorbs green light, and by flashing the LED lights, the watch can measure blood flow and then calculate a person’s heart rate. When the watch is unable to get a read, it increases LED brightness and sampling rates, Apple said.

Apple reminded users that Bluetooth-equipped external heart rate monitors, like chest straps, can be connected to the watch to obtain vital readings.

Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for further comment.

 

 

Is Samsung The Top Player In The Smartphone Arena?

May 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics is winning the Smartphone war, despite what you might be reading in the mainstream press.

According to the company it expects earnings to rise in the second quarter after posting its highest profit in three quarters in January-March, boosted by strong demand for its new Galaxy S6 flagship smartphones.

To make matters even more cheery for Samsung, researcher Strategy Analytics saying the South Korean giant overtook Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker in the first quarter.

Samsung Vice President Park Jin-young “Galaxy S6 sales have been going as well as expected, while demand for the Galaxy S6 edge have been better than anticipated. “

The firm reported a January-March operating profit of $5.64 billion and promised that earnings for April-June should continue to rise, thanks to the two Galaxy S6 models which are breaking the company’s sales records.

There had been some fears that Galaxy S6 phones might not be selling, but it turned out that this was just a rumor.

Analysts have been agreeing that Samsung is winning because there is nothing else out there that can match it. Daewoo Securities analyst Jonathan Hwang said there was nothing within the current Android camp that could stand as an alternative to Samsung’s high-end smartphones.

Samsung’s chips business remained the top earner thanks in part to surging orders from smartphone makers including Samsung itself. The company said it expected robust chip sales to continue in the April-June period.

Samsung also warned that the typical industry pattern of a stronger second half may not be as pronounced this year due to risks like the weaker euro and emerging market currencies.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Imagination Technologies Opens MIPS CPU Architecture

May 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies has fully opened up its MIPS CPU architecture to universities across the world so that professors, students and researchers can access and study the inner workings of the processor.

Imagination is hoping that the move will lead to “a new wave of innovation” in fields like the Internet of Things, mobile, automotive and others.

MIPS, originally an abbreviation of Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages, is a RISC processor and follows in the footsteps of architectures from Intel and ARM in that it’s one of the most popular in use.

The register transfer language (RTL) of these CPUs has traditionally been kept under wraps, but opening the MIPS architecture to universities will allow students to explore the innards of a current-generation chip used in existing technology.

A free download package of the CPU’s architecture will let students explore the processor’s RTL code to see how it works and identify its capabilities.

RTL code traditionally goes through a process of obfuscation, where it is made deliberately difficult for humans to understand to prevent the code being reverse engineered or tampered with.

The cores or CPUs used in academia are usually locked down as well, and allow only very simple operating systems to run. But the un-encrypted microAptiv CPU cores allow full operating systems, such as Linux, to be run.

“The exciting thing for us is the ability for students to modify and experiment with every aspect of the computer architecture,” said Dr Philip Watts, a lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University College London.

“We have already had two students carrying out projects on the beta MIPSfpga with further students lined up for the coming academic year.”

Access to the CPUs will be provided under Imagination’s MIPSfpgs university programmed, which will see students supplied with a simplified version of the company’s MIPS microAptiv CPU core that has been configured for academic use.

Some of the universities enrolled so far include Harvey Mudd College, Imperial College London, Keio University, Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Microsoft To Allow Android, iOS Apps To Be Ported To Windows Phones

May 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp is will remove obstacles for apps written for rival Google Inc’s  Android and Apple Inc’s iOS systems to work on Windows phones, in a bid to attract users to its unpopular mobile devices, the company’s operating systems chief said.

The move marks a radical shift in strategy for the world’s biggest software company, which still dominates the personal computer market but has failed to get any real traction on tablets and phones, partly because of a lack of apps.

Microsoft has found itself in a circular trap, as many developers will not build apps for Windows phones which have few users, and few people want the phones which have fewer apps than Android or Apple phones.

Getting apps built for Android and iOS onto its phones and tablets could be a shortcut to breaking out of that trap.

“Microsoft is making a major play to win back developers,” said Forrester analyst Michael Facemire. “They’ve opened up the once-impenetrable castle walls.”

Speaking at Microsoft’s developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Executive Vice President Terry Myerson said developers will be able to use the vast majority of their Android code to turn their apps into Windows-compatible versions, which will work on Windows phones running a special subsystem.

The apps will technically be Windows apps and available only through Microsoft’s online app store. The apps would automatically use Microsoft’s services such as Bing maps, rather than Google’s services, as an app would on an Android phone. That is a crucial distinction because Google gets revenue from ads on services rather than from the Android system itself.

Myerson also announced a surprise move to make it easier for iOS developers to make Windows apps, saying that Microsoft’s developer software will be compatible with Objective C, the main programming language used by Apple.

Microsoft, which bought Nokia’s handset business last year, has only 3 percent of the global smartphone market. By contrast, Android phones, led by Samsung, control 81 percent of the market and Apple 15 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

 

 

 

Best Buy Changes Course, Decides To Accept Apple Pay

April 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Best Buy said its customers could start using Apple Pay from Monday to shop using its app through the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, thus appearing to break ranks with a group of leading U.S. merchants who are backing an alternative payment system.

“The acceptance of Apple Pay in the Best Buy app is the latest enhancement for our mobile platform,” the giant retailer said in a statement on Monday. Best Buy stores in the U.S. will start accepting Apple Pay later this year, it added.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced during an earnings conference call Monday that Apple Pay would be supported on the Best Buy app now and in stores later this year.

The move by Best Buy is significant as the retailer is part of Merchant Customer Exchange, a merchant’s association that backs its own mobile payments platform called CurrentC. MCX members Rite Aid and CVS stopped accepting Apple Pay at their stores a week after the launch of the Apple system, in a move that was seen as reflecting the rivalry between the two payment systems.

Best Buy could not be immediately reached for comment on whether it would support both CurrentC and Apple Pay once the MCX payment system is available.

The retailer, however, seemed to suggest in its statement that it will support both options. “Today’s consumers have many different ways to spend their money and we want to give our customers as many options as possible in how they pay for goods and services at Best Buy,” it said.

Apple Pay got another big win on Monday when card issuer Discover Financial Services said its card members in the U.S. would be able to make contactless payments using Apple Pay at participating stores, through the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Discover card members will also be able to make purchases through apps on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

 

 

 

 

 

Judge Rules Microsoft Windows Phones Infringe Patents

April 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp  lost a round in a potentially expensive patent fight when a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled that the software giant used InterDigital Inc’s technology in its mobile phones without permission.

The judge, Theodore Essex, said that Microsoft infringed two wireless cellular patents owned by InterDigital , a patent licensor, and said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States.

The judge’s decision must be reviewed by the full commission before any import ban is enacted.

The ITC has the authority to stop the import of products that it determines infringe a U.S. patent. Companies frequently sue at the ITC to win an import ban and in district court to win damages.

Wilmington, Delaware-based InterDigital first accused Nokia Corp  of infringing its patents in 2007. Microsoft acquired Nokia’s handset division last year. The InterDigital patents relate to moderating a mobile phone’s power to reduce signal interference.

The ITC originally cleared Nokia of infringement, but in 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the nation’s top patent court, overturned that decision and sent it back to the ITC.

Microsoft called Monday’s decision one step in the process.

“We have a successful track record challenging patent assertion entities that misuse industry standards,” the company said in a statement.

InterDigital Executive Vice President Lawrence Shay said the company looks forward to “continued discussion” with Microsoft to license its patents.

 

 

 

Facebook Unveils Free Video Calling For Its Messenger App

April 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Users can now place free video calls with Messenger, as Facebook continues to broaden its app’s reach beyond simple text-based chats.

With the feature, Facebook is also going aftert competing products like Apple’s FaceTime, Microsoft’s Skype and Google Hangouts. Facebookpreviously allowed video calling through its site on the desktop, but not within its Messenger app.

The video calling feature is available in the iOS and Android Messenger apps. iOS users will be able to video chat with Android users, and vice versa. It began rolling out Monday in the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries including Mexico, Nigeria and Uruguay, with availability in more regions slated for the coming months, Facebook said in a blog post.

The feature arrives as Facebook makes Messenger a platform for a variety of digital tasks. Other app developers can now integrate their software into Messenger, and users will soon be able to interact with businesses via the app to check the status of their orders. In March, Facebook began letting Messenger users send each other money through the app.

Messenger already handles more than 10 percent of all Internet-based voice calls, according to Facebook. The company sees video as an important extension of its functionality, especially when a voice call won’t do.

To start a video call, users tap the video camera icon in the upper right corner of the chat window.

With Messenger now available on the desktop, the feature could become a useful communications tool for businesses. It’s designed to work over Wi-Fi and LTE even when the signal strength is low.

With more than 600 million users who log in monthly, Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular apps.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp, meanwhile, supports voice calling, but does not yet offer video calling.

 

Project Fi Will Allow Google To Amass More User Data

April 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

As Google jumps into the Wi-Fi and cellular network services business, some are wondering what’s behind it.

Google, known for its dominant search engine and Android operating system, has been stretching boundaries with newer projects like autonomous cars and robotics. Now it’s competing with the likes of wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T in the data and cellular market.

While the latest Google move may look confusing, Project Fi is feeding Google’s long-term strategy — getting more data about its users that it can turn into ad sales and greater revenue.

“I’m not sure they’re trying to become a big-time wireless player,” said Brian Haven, an analyst with IDC. “But by becoming a wireless service, it allows Google to gain a lot more data from new end points with users. Data is what drives them. Regardless of whether or not they can generate a nice revenue stream, the data will still feed into the other things they do.”

Google just last week announced that it’s working with Sprint and T-Mobile to come out with its own wireless network, dubbed Project Fi.

The company is asking would-be customers to sign up online for an invite to what it calls an Early Access Program for the service; Fi will only be available to Nexus 6 smartphone users at the start.

The company, which makes most of its money on search and related advertising, is known for trying out various ideas and technologies. Not all of them work out, but Google doesn’t seem afraid to try.

“Google’s strategic imperative is always to drive usage of Google services and applications,” said Bill Menezes, an analyst with Gartner. “Their core business is never going to be cellular service provider. Their core mission is to get more people to click on Google ads, to use Google Docs, to watch YouTube videos. This new service plays in perfectly with that.”

Menezes agrees with Haven that Project FI will enable Google to gain insights into consumer behaviors — and amass more user data.

 

 

 

 

Google Glass Gets Makeover By Luxottica

April 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Luxottica, the Italian eyewear designer that owns Ray-Ban and Oakley, is working with Google to create a new version of Glass, according it its CEO.

The disclosure is a further indication that Google Glass, which is still being sold to business, will be revived at some point as a product for consumers.

Luxottica is working with Google on a second version of Glass, and the online giant is also rethinking how a future model might look, Massimo Vian, one of Luxottica’s two CEOs, told shareholders in Milan.

“In Google, there are some second thoughts on how to interpret version 3 [of the eyewear]. What you saw was version 1. We’re now working on version 2, which is in preparation,” Vian said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He didn’t give details about the product or say when it might be introduced.

Launched in 2013, Glass became popular among technology enthusiasts, but its $1,500 price tag held back wider adoption. Many also felt awkward about wearing a computer on their face in public, and the device’s ability to record video surreptitiously sparked privacy questions.

Google, though, believes the headset has potential for consumers but that it needs to be reworked. In the meantime, it’s still selling the device to businesses, which have found uses for it in the workplace.

In 2014, Google enlisted Luxottica to help make Glass more stylish.

Vian traveled to California recently to meet with the new Glass team, the Journal said. The group working on Glass was revamped after Google ended consumer sales of the device in January. The personnel changes included giving Tony Fadell, head of Google’s Nest connected home division, oversight of Glass’ development. His role would be to get Glass “ready for users,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said in March.

Luxottica, which is one of the world’s largest eyewear manufacturers, is also working with Intel on a device that will come out next February or March, the Journal said.

 

 

Alibaba, China Telecom Partner Up To Sell Mobile Phones

April 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and state-owned ChinaTelecom Corp Ltd have developed a partnership to offer low-cost smartphones aimed at boosting mobile commerce in smaller cities and rural areas.

The phones, dubbed “Tianyi Taobao Shopping Handsets”, will come installed with either an app for easy access to Alibaba’s flagship Taobao online shopping platform or its home-grown YunOS mobile operating system, it said in a statement late on Friday. Buyers will be eligible for four months of free 2G data service.

The partnership is a bid to deepen Alibaba’s e-commerce base in less developed parts of the country and promote its mobile operating system in a shrinking, cut-throat handset market.

Six models produced by Coolpad, Hisense and TCL would come with the Mobile Taobao app pre-installed. Mobile Taobao is China’s most popular mobile shopping app with more than 200 million monthly active users, it said.

Another eight models, made by lesser-known brands including Uniscope, Ctyon and Kingsun, will run YunOS, providing buyers with an Alibaba account for shopping and cloud-based storage, and other preloaded services, it said.

Some 557 million people in China access the internet via mobile devices, according to government data. But shipments in China were 389 million phones in 2014, down from 423 million the previous year, according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Still, mobile shopping is on the rise.

In January, Alibaba said the number of mobile monthly active users nearly doubled in the third quarter from the same period the previous year to 265 million. The proportion of gross merchandise volume derived from mobile also grew.

Alibaba says it has an 86 percent share of China mobile commerce market.

In February, Alibaba announced that it was taking a $590 million stake in Meizu, a relatively obscure domestic smartphone maker as it tests ways to expand its mobile operating system.

 

Dell Working On 120Gbs Deep Packet Inspection Firewall

April 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Dell’s security division has announced that it is working on a next-generation Firewall (NGFW) that it claims is the first to deliver deep packet inspection (DPI) speeds of up to 120Gbps.

The company will demonstrate these speeds at the RSA conference in San Francisco this week, and said that the NGFW cluster enables an “easy migration path” for the future growth of enterprise networks.

Dubbed a “firewall sandwich” of high DPI performance, better security efficiency and N+1 resiliency, the NGFW architecture is also said to lower the cost of demanding data centre operations.

“SSL decryption and inspection are critical NGFW capabilities required to effectively uncover malware deeply hidden inside encrypted web sessions and provide deeper perimeter network security,” said Dell.

“In this network design, the Dell SuperMassive NGFW with onboard SSL decryption can be incrementally deployed and horizontally scaled infinitely to address SSL performance loss and increase SSL decryption and inspection performance.”

The company will show off the technology at RSA in collaboration with Array Networks and Spirent Communication to give a demo of a highly-resilient, scalable, ‘Open Firewall Sandwich’ layer 3 architecture.

Dell will be joined by Ixia in demonstrating a network-based model for scaling the NGFW with DPI speeds of above 100Gbps.

Dell also unveiled several updates to the SecureWorks offering, which it claims will help firms increase network security and grow their business.

Updates include improved services in Dell Secure Mobile Access (SMA) solutions to increase mobile productivity for remote workers while protecting critical data from cyber threats.

The new SMA 11.2 release adds secure access to more resources using a standard HTML 5 browser, which Dell said allows easier access for most smartphone, tablet and laptop users while reducing reliance on Java and ActiveX components.

The new release adds HTML 5 browser access to Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp ICA support.

Dell said that new SMA 6200 and 7200 appliances also offer increased scalability. The SMA 6200 entry-level platform supports up to 2,000 concurrent users, while the SMA 7200 mid-range platform supports up to 10,000 concurrent users.

The SMA updates arrive six months after Dell revealed the SuperMassive 9800 firewall, which it claimed would protect against high-profile bugs such as Shellshock and Heartbleed.

Touted at the time as the most powerful in the SuperMassive 9000 line-up, the 9800 offered Dell’s Reassembly-Free DPI single-pass threat prevention engine, and advanced DPI with speeds up to 20Gbps. That’s a whopping 100Gbps less than the speed it is about to go for at RSA.

Courtesy-TheInq

Some Apple Watches To Arrive Ahead Of Schedule

April 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Some Apple Watch buyers who were told that they would have to wait until June to receive their new gadgets will get them sooner, according to a statement made by Apple.

When online pre-orders for Apple’s first smartwatch started on April 10, many customers were surprised to see delivery times as far out as June instead of on April 24, when the devices officially go on sale.

On Wednesday, Apple notified some buyers that they would not have to wait so long after all.

“Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received,” Apple said in a statement.

An Apple spokesman declined to say how soon the company would ship the watches or how many customers would be affected.

The Cupertino, California company previously predicted that demand would exceed supply at product launch. It has not said how many watches its customers have pre-ordered.

In a note to clients on Wednesday, FDR analyst Daniel Ives estimated Apple would take over 2 million pre-orders for the watch and ship 20 million of them in 2015.

“The longer-term consumer adoption curve for the Apple Watch remains a major ‘hot button’ question among tech investors as broad customer feedback is yet to be seen,” Ives wrote.