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BlackBerry Unveils Leap Smartphone

March 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry debuted a new mid-market smartphone named the BlackBerry Leap that is set to replace the Z3 device launched a year ago, in a move to woo buyers in certain emerging markets where BlackBerry still has a fairly large client base.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said the phone, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, would initially hit stores in U.S and European markets around April and be priced around $275.

The company also said it planned to roll out two more models over the course of the next months, both with a keyboard.

One will be a high-end smartphone with what Blackberry called “a dual curve all touch display” with a keyboard behind a slide. That may refer to the sort of curved screen featured in Samsung’s latest Galaxy smartphone.

“We don’t have a code name for it but I call it The Slide,” BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen told media in Barcelona. “It will come some time this year,” he added without giving a specific date.

BlackBerry, once a must-have device for business executives and government officials because of its pioneering secure email service, has hemorrhaged market share to Apple’s iPhone and rivals running on Google’s Android software.

In a bid to remain relevant, the company has pivoted in the last year to focus much more on its software business and core strengths such as data security. However, the company has stressed it remains committed to its devices business.

 

 

New PowerVR GPU Goes After IoT Devices

March 4, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Imagination has revealed a new four-core PowerVR GPU designed to bring high-quality graphics to smaller, cheaper devices such as budget smartphones, wearables and “space-constrained” Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The PowerVR G6020 GPU is aimed at developers looking to create devices requiring low-power displays, including smartwatches, appliances, connected radios and dashboard screens in vehicles.

“This is a tiny GPU for 720p displays on small entry-level phones and tablets,” a Imagination representative told The INQUIRER at the firm’s booth at Mobile World Congress (MWC).

“The GPU is a stripped-down version of our highest-end GPU, leaving an architecture which is optimised for costs and making it as simple as possible for devices running Android Wear, for example, or [other] IoT devices.”

It can also power mobile hotspots, routers and M2M devices, the firm said.

The PowerVR G6020 GPU has been designed for graphics efficiency in ultra-compact silicon areas, and claims to provide better device performance and compatibility “without unnecessary overhead”.

The unit has four arithmetic logic unit cores, a silicon footprint of 2.2mm2, and a 28nm process technology at 400MHz, and features an optimised universal shading cluster engine designed for better user interface experiences.

Imagination claims that the GPU’s OpenGL ES 3.0 capability gives it a smooth user experience for high-definition displays at 720p.

“PowerVR is the ideal GPU for mobile and embedded because its programmable shader- and tile-based deferred rendering architecture leads to high-performance efficiency and the lowest power consumption per frame,” the firm said.

“In addition, PowerVR maximises bandwidth efficiency with Imagination’s advanced PVRTC2 texture compression technology that ensures minimum memory footprint and superior image quality.”

Also part of the announcement were the PowerVR E5800, E5505 and E5300 video encoders based on an architecture that scales efficiently from the ultra-low power requirements of devices such as wearables.

“The PowerVR 5 series offers the same quality of streaming video at half the bitrate, which is important for video conferencing over mobile networks such as 3G or 4G connections where bandwidth is limited,” the Imagination rep told us.

These PowerVR Series5 encoders support multiple standards in a single solution which leads to area savings and simplifies system integration. For example, it’s no longer necessary to add several cores to handle multiple formats on the same chip or maintain multiple drivers.

Imagination encoded two streams using the same encoder at the same bitrate to show the boost in quality that H.265 video offers (see above).

This also features “region of interest encoding”. This technology shows how companies can build better video conferencing apps by combining PowerVR GPUs and video processors to enhance the focal point of a video stream so that it doesn’t need to work hard at improving the quality of the whole video – just the part which is important.

Courtesy-TheInq

Lenovo Announces 64-Bit Android Tablet For $129

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tablets running 64-bit Android haven’t been on the market forr long but prices are already projected to drop quickly.

Lenovo’s 8-inch Tab 2 A8 will ship in June starting at $129, with a 64-bit version of Android 5.0 and a 64-bit quad-core processor from MediaTek. It was one of three tablets Lenovo announced ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

Sixty-four-bit tablets have a few advantages. They can support more memory and therefore make light work of multimedia-intensive apps such as games, as well as apps that use encryption for security. More 64-bit Android apps are in development, so a 64-bit tablet also provides some future-proofing.

Only a handful of 64-bit Android tablets are on sale today. One of the best known is Google’s Nexus 9, which sells for $399.99 in the Google Play store. Many more are expected as vendors deploy Android 5.0 more broadly and as more 64-bit processors become available. Lenovo’s Tab 2 A8 could prompt other vendors to drive down prices for their own 64-bit Android tablets.

The Tab 2 A8 is 9 millimeters thick, weighs 360 grams and will offer eight hours of battery life, according to Lenovo. The $129 model has Wi-Fi only, while a $179 model will have integrated LTE. It doesn’t look like the LTE model will be offered in the U.S., however.

The tablet has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and 1GB of RAM. It has a maximum of 16GB of storage that can be expanded to 32GB with a Micro-SD card.

With a 720p screen, Lenovo has compromised on the display to keep the price low.

Tablet shipments flattened last year after years of strong growth, and the 64-bit Android tablets could spur people to upgrade from older models.

Apple had an early start in 64-bit tablets with the iPad Air, but the low-priced tablets could shift the market in Android’s favor.

Lenovo also announced the 10-inch Tab 2 A10, which has a 64-bit processor but will initially ship with a 32-bit version of Android, version 4.4. The tablet will start shipping in April and users will be able to upgrade their devices to Android 5.0 in June, Lenovo said.

 

 

 

AT&T To Link Smart Homes With Connected Cars

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc  will link its connected car and smart home technologies to expand its reach in the fast-growing market for Internet-connected devices, a new battleground for the telecom giant and its rivals.

The wireless company’s home security and automation service “Digital Life” and connected car service “Drive” will be integrated so users can control their homes from a dashboard in their vehicles, Glenn Lurie, chief executive of AT&T Mobility told Reuters last week ahead of the company’s announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“Once you’ve told your home when the car is (for instance)within 20 feet of the house to please open the garage door, put the lights on, turn the alarm off, move the thermostat up, you can have those inanimate objects, the home and your car, really taking care of you,” Lurie said.

With the two services linked up, a “Drive” car can control devices in the home, including security cameras, air-conditioners, coffee makers, stereo systems, door locks, alarm sensors on windows and sensors that detect leaks from water pipes.

Most Americans own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning for growth to connected devices.

AT&T said it had about 20 million connected devices from cars to cargo ship container sensors in 2014, up 21 percent from the year earlier. It has not yet revealed its revenue from its “Internet of Things” business.

Technology companies including Apple and Google are making their own plays. Mercedes-Benz has an application that lets drivers control thermostats from Nest, a company acquired by Google.

Analysts expect fast growth from the “Internet of Things”, or web-connected machines and gadgets. Connected car revenue is expected to be $20 billion annually by 2018 from $3 billion in 2013, and smart homes revenue is estimated to touch $71 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research.

AT&T has deals with eight automakers from General Motors to Ford on connected car services. Lurie said it was still signing deals.

On the home front, it has partnered with home appliance makers such as Samsung and LG Electronics.

Customers will pay for the new service through AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan. A user can add $10 to the monthly phone bill to share data across multiple connected devices such as wearables and cars, Lurie said. Or customers can opt for plans provided by their car manufacturer.

 

Qualcomm Goes Ultrasonic

March 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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.

Courtesy-TheInq

BlackBerry Announces Plans For Cloud Based Device Management

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd announced on Monday it has to plans to roll out a cloud-based version of its device management platform BES12, a move that will make the service more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses that need to secure devices on their own networks.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry has built a reputation around its device management and security capabilities, catering mainly to the needs of large government agencies and corporations. With data security needs becoming more critical, and a number of new entrants in the field nipping at its heels, BlackBerry said it is now broadening its offerings.

BlackBerry’s new BES12 platform manages and secures not only BlackBerry devices, but also those powered by operating systems such as Google Inc’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft Corp’s Windows platform. It can also manage and secure medical diagnostic equipment, industrial machinery and even cars.

By offering a less costly cloud-based version of the system, BlackBerry hopes to attract a wider range of small- and medium-sized businesses that need these capabilities, but do not have the capacity to install and manage expensive servers of their own.

“We are trying to broaden the enterprise mobility management space,” said BlackBerry Chief Operation Officer Marty Beard on a conference call with media. “And a cloud version really enables us to broaden our footprint.”

The new cloud-based offering, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, will be offered to customers later this month.

India’s Essar Group, a conglomerate with more than 60,000 employees spread across over two dozen countries, has signed up for a trial of the cloud-based version.

Beard said BlackBerry is seeing growing demand from smaller companies for cloud-based device management offerings, but is also getting demand from larger companies that have certain divisions or groups that need cloud-based capabilities.

 

Apple Watch To Replace Car Keys, Says Cook

March 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Watch will take the place of car keys and its battery will last the whole day, so says Apple Inc’s Chief Executive Tim Cook in an interview with the Telegraph.

The watch is designed to replace car keys and the clumsy, large fobs that are now used in many vehicles, Cook told the newspaper.

Its battery will last the whole day, and will not take as long to charge as an iPhone, the report quoted Cook as saying.

Apple Watch will also work as a credit card through Apple Pay, Cook told the paper, but did not mention how user verification will work with the watch.

The rollout of the watch might pose a challenge for Apple’s stores, which may involve “tweaking the experience in the store,” the Telegraph said, citing Cook’s conversation with the staff at Apple’s Covent Garden store in London.

Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the iPhone maker is looking at making a self-driving electric car, and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers.

In the interview, Cook said that the Apple Watch will operate a special rewards system, track the user’s activity and “be correct to 50 milliseconds”.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

The company has scheduled a special event on March 9, where it is expected to showcase Apple Watch, which will be launched in April.

 

 

Lenovo To Offer Free McAfee Over Superfish Security Concerns

March 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

China’s Lenovo Group Ltd announced that it will offer free subscriptions to Intel Corp’s security software to customers who purchased laptops that were shipped with a program known as “Superfish,” which made PCs vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Lenovo, the world’s biggest personal computer maker, last week advised customers to uninstall the Superfish program.

Security experts and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommended the program be removed because it made users vulnerable to what are known as SSL spoofing techniques that can enable remote attackers to read encrypted web traffic, steal credentials and perform other attacks.

Lenovo announced the offer to provide six-month subscriptions to Intel’s McAfee LiveSafe on Friday as it also disclosed plans to “significantly” reduce the amount of software that it ships with new computers.

Pre-loaded programs will include Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, security products, Lenovo applications and programs “required” to make unique hardware such as 3D cameras work well, Lenovo said.

“This should eliminate what our industry calls ‘adware’ and ‘bloatware,’” the Lenovo statement said.

Adi Pinhas, chief executive of Palo Alto, California-based Superfish, said in a statement last week that his company’s software helps users achieve more relevant search results based on images of products viewed.

He said the vulnerability was “inadvertently” introduced by Israel-based Komodia, which built the application that Lenovo advised customers to uninstall.

Komodia declined comment.

 

 

Google Continues Wooing Enterprise Users With Android For Work Launch

February 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google Inc rolled out an initiative  to make smartphones running its Android software more appealing to corporations, a move that could help extend the Internet technology giant reach into workplaces.

Google said on its official blog that its Android for Work program will provide improved security and management features for corporations that want to give their employees Android smartphones. Smartphones supported by the new initiative will be able to keep an employee’s work and personal apps separate, and a special Android for Work app will allow businesses to oversee key tools such as email, calendar and contacts.

Google said it is partnering with more than two dozen companies including Blackberry Ltd, Citrix Systems Inc, Box Inc.

Google’s Android software is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, but many corporations, which have significant security and device management requirements, give their employees smartphones made by Blackberry or Apple Inc.

 

 

IBM, ARM Team Up To Offer IoT Starter Kit

February 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

ARM and IBM want Internet of Things (IoT) enthusiasts to make their own connected devices in a matter of minutes with a new development kit that they have unveiled.

The ARM mbed IoT Starter Kit — Ethernet Edition will allow users to make cloud-ready Internet of Things products that could receive or transmit data for analysis or alerts. The development kit will come with ARM’s mbed OS and connect into IBM’s BlueMix cloud, which will help in the development of applications and services.

The kit is for those with little to no experience in embedded or Web development. Prototype designs will guide enthusiasts through the process of making a device and connecting to IBM’s BlueMix cloud service.

The starter kit will get data from “the on board sensors into the IBM cloud within minutes of opening the box,” said the product page on ARM’s website.

ARM and IBM hope to cash in on the mass adoption of IOT, which has led to a mesh of interconnected devices used in smart homes, smart city implementations and enterprises. The devices, which could range from weather sensors to health devices, already number 1.2 billion, and could touch 5.4 billion by 2020, according to a recent study by Verizon.

The IOT market is currently fragmented with a wide variety of hardware, operating systems and communication standards in use. Through the developer kit, ARM and IBM want to bring a level of consistency in hardware and software across IOT devices. Beyond making it easier for devices to talk one another, the developer kit could make it easier to push or pull data out of a larger number of cloud services.

ARM didn’t provide details on the pricing or availability of the starter kit. The first devices resulting from the development kit are expected to be released later this year.

 

 

Chrome Browser Now Has Early Warning Alert

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has added an early warning alert to Chrome that appears when users try to access a website that the search giant believes will try to trick users into downloading suspicious software.

The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states.

Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.

The company has long focused on those categories, and for obvious, if unstated, reasons. It would prefer that people — much less, shifty software — not alter the Chrome home page, which features the Google search engine, the Mountain View, Calif. firm’s primary revenue generator. Likewise, the last thing Google wants is to have adware, especially the most irritating, turn off everyone to all online advertising.

The new alert is only the latest in a line of warnings and more draconian moves Google has made since mid-2011, when the browser began blocking malware downloads. Google has gradually enhanced Chrome’s alert feature by expanding the download warnings to detect a wider range of malicious or deceitful programs, and using more assertive language in the alerts.

In January 2014, for example, Chrome 32 added threats that posed as legitimate software and tweaked with the browser’s settings to the unwanted list.

The browser’s malware blocking and suspect site warnings come from Google’s Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service; Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox also access parts of the API to warn their users of potentially dangerous websites.

Chrome 40, the browser’s current most-polished version, can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Google’s website.

 

 

Google Acquiring Softcard’s Mobile Wallet Technology

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.

The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.

At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.

Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.

While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.

That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.

Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.

 

 

 

Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Lenovo admitted to pre-loading the Superfish adware on some consumer PCs, and now outraged customers are dragging the computer maker to court on the matter.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed late last week against Lenovo and Superfish, charging both companies with “fraudulent” business practices and of making Lenovo PCs vulnerable to malware and malicious attacks by pre-loading the adware.

Plaintiff Jessica Bennett said her laptop was damaged as a result of Superfish, which was called “spyware” in court documents. She also accused Lenovo and Superfish of invading her privacy and making money by studying her Internet browsing habits.

The lawsuit was filed after Lenovo admitted to pre-loading Superfish on some consumer PCs. The laptops affected by Superfish include non-ThinkPad models such as G Series, U Series, Y Series, Z Series, S Series, Flex, Miix, Yoga and E Series.

Lenovo has since issued fixes to remove Superfish applications and certificates from PCs. Microsoft’s Windows Defender and McAfee’s security application also remove Superfish since Friday.

Lenovo earlier admitted it “messed up” by preloading Superfish on computers. The software plugs product recommendations into search results, but can hijack connections and open major security holes, thus leaving computers vulnerable to malicious attacks.

The first complaints of Superfish on Lenovo’s laptops emerged in September last year, but it became a real security issue when a hacker Marc Rogers pointed it out in a blog post.

Bennett, a blogger, purchased a Yoga 2 laptop to conduct business and communicate with clients. She noticed “spam advertisements involving scantily clad women” appearing on her client’s website when writing a blog post for the customer. After seeing pop-ups on other websites, she assumed her computer had spyware or had been hacked, but then scoured the forums to notice similar behavior on other Lenovo laptops. She then rooted out the problem to be Superfish, which could intercept secure communication and leave computers vulnerable.

Superfish also used memory resources and took up Internet bandwidth, according to the court document.

Damages from Lenovo and Superfish are being sought as part of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

 

 

 

Antitrust Case Against Google Over Android Apps Dismissed

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that alleged Google harmed consumers by forcing Android mobile phone makers to use its apps by default. The plaintiffs were given three weeks to amend their complaint.

The two consumers who filed the suit failed to show that Google’s allegedly illegal restrictive contracts on manufacturers of Android devices resulted in higher prices on phones, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a Feb. 20 ruling.

The complainants, who were seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, said that Google required manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics, to set the search giant’s own apps as default options on Android-based phones, restricting access to competing software such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The complaint alleged that this practice limited competition in the search engine market, stifled innovation and resulted in higher prices for phones.

But Freeman ruled that the complainants failed to establish a link between software requirements and phone pricing, also noting that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”

She gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend the antitrust complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

 

 

Android Malware Fake Shuts Down Phones To Steal Data

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Next time you turn switch off your Android mobile phone, you might want to pop the battery out as an extra precaution.

Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.

When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.

“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.

But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.

This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.