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Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Western Digital Updates The Red Line

July 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced an upgrade of its WD Red range, providing a single brand structure across consumer and enterprise.

The WD Red range is aimed primarily at network attached storage (NAS) applications, and is joined by a new WD Red Pro line. Both sub-ranges are controlled by upgraded firmware called NASware 3.0.

At a briefing last week, Western Digital’s UK country manager Jermaine Campbell explained that the new firmware will be able to instruct the drive to work in different ways according to the function it is performing at the time, therefore adapting its performance to best use system and energy resources.

In addition, it increases the number of bays supported from five to eight without performance impact, with the Pro range able to support up to 16 bays and rack mounted configurations.

3D Active Balance combines firmware instruction with a new flexible drive head to provide vibration protection and judder compensation for improved reliability.

The consumer range introduces 5TB and 6TB capacities to the range, joining the existing 1TB, 2TB and 4TB models. The Pro range is available in 2TB and 4TB versions. The five platter 6TB version is, WD claims, a first to market for a NAS specific drive.

Campbell explained that “the market wants high capacity” and confirmed that WD still believes that “platter based drives offer the best combination of performance and price”.

Pricing for the drives ranges from $399 for the 5TB and $440 for the 6TB, backed by a three-year warranty. The Pro range starts at $224 for 2TB up to $299 for 4TB with a five-year warranty.

WD Red drives can also be found in the company’s Mycloud range of consumer NAS devices with personal cloud functionality.

Courtesy-TheInq

Lenovo Says It’s Still In The 8-in. Windows Tablet Game

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.

“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.

“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.

On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.

Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.

The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.

 

 

Sony’s FeliCa Smartcard Chip Is Gearing Up For Wearables

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re waiting for that multi-functional smartwatch of your dreams, Sony is working to add contactless payments to wearables with a new chip.

The electronics giant’s FeliCa Networks subsidiary is modifying its FeliCa contactless card technology, widely used in Japan for public transit and e-money payments, for wearables.

The company is designing a low-power chip that could be used in wearables such as smartwatches and smart bands, giving them contactless e-money or transit functions or access to restricted areas.

That would allow users to board a train or bus simply by waving a smartwatch near a chip reader, eliminating the need for a separate smart card.

“The wearables field is just beginning so we’re considering what users will want with this functionality as well as what degree of compactness and power savings it will have,” a spokeswoman for FeliCa Networks said.

The company is also developing FeliCa smartcards with small LCD screens and a touch interface that can display information when users swipe their fingers across the cards.

This “interactive FeliCa card,” still in the prototype stage, can show the remaining balance of money stored in the card, for instance, or payment history.

While about 45 million Android smartphones in Japan have had the FeliCa chip since 2012, iPhones do not support it. The LCD smart card could link with iPhones via Bluetooth so users could check their balances on their phones.

FeliCa Networks hopes to introduce the LCD smartcards in the year to April 2016.

One in two people in Japan has a mobile phone with NFC FeliCa phone functions, according to FeliCa Networks.

The company has shipped more than 236 million of its Mobile FeliCa chips as of December 2013, while Suica, a FeliCa-based smartcard for railways in the Tokyo area, can be used in 230,000 stores.

 

 

Imagination Technologies Shrinking Again

July 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Mobile GPU designer Imagination Technologies has announced the world’s smallest mobile GPU.

The PowerVR GX5300 takes up just 0.55mm2 on a 28nm die, which means it’s as small as a grain of salt. It operates at 250MHz and the company says it can handle everyday tasks with ease.

The GPU features full OpenGL ES 2.0 compatibility PVRTC texture compression technology and of course the emphasis is on ultra-low power consumption. The company is not saying anything about the actual consumption, but the tiny die size sounds very encouraging.

Imagination Technologies says the GX5300 sets the standard for efficient mobile GPUs, making it an ideal choice for entry level smartphones, but more importantly for wearables and IoT gadgets.

Tony King-Smith, EVP marketing, Imagination, said the new GPU demonstrates the company’s leadership in the entry-level market.

“We see many compelling opportunities such as low-cost smartphones and tablets, wearables and IoT devices,” said King-Smith.

He added that Imagination IP will end up in many wearables.

Courtesy-Fud

Nearly 1M Fake Apps Are Targeting Your Mobile Devices

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Fake apps purposely masked to look like official ones but actually designed to steal user data are increasingly targeting Android phone users, according to a study by Trend Micro.

The company looked at the top 50 free apps in Google’s Play Store and then searched Google’s app store and others to see if fake versions existed. It found fake versions existed for 77 percent of the apps. The fake apps are often made to look like the real ones and have the same functions, but carry a dangerous extra payload.

“We’ve been tracking the activity of malicious or high-risk apps for nearly five years,” said JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro. “The potential for people to slip things past the gate and appear legitimate is much easier.”

Tokyo-based Trend Micro, which makes antivirus and antimalware software that guard against such risks, said it cataloged 890,482 fake apps in a survey conducted in April this year. More than half were judged to be malicious of which 59,185 were aggressive adware and 394,263 were malware.

The most common type of fake app purports to be antivirus software — targeting users who think they are protecting themselves from such problems. In some cases, the apps ask users to approve administrator privileges, which allow the app wider access to the phone’s software and data and make it more difficult to remove.

While many of the fake apps exist on forums or third-party app stores where security is either weaker than Google’s Play Store or nonexistent, fake apps can also invade the official Google store.

“A more recent example of a rogue antivirus app known as “Virus Shield” received a 4.7-star rating after being downloaded more than 10,000 times, mostly with the aid of bots,” Trend Micro said in its report.

Cheekily, scammers charged $3.99 for the fake app, which promised to prevent harmful apps from being installed. It was removed by Google after a few days, but not before it fooled thousands of users and even became a “top new paid app” in the Play Store. Trend said it was “perplexing” how the app achieved “top” status.

Attackers sometimes play on hype for apps.

When the “Flappy Bird” game was taken off the Play Store, fake versions appeared, some of which sent premium text messages. And before BlackBerry released its BBM messenger app for Android, a number of fake versions appeared that were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Trend Micro’s report was published on the same day Google said it had formed a security team to go after so-called “zero-day” exploits in software that allow attackers to target users before software companies issue patches.

Sherry said he thought Google’s announcement was “ironic” considering the large number of problems Trend Micro found in Google’s own backyard.

 

IBM To Partner With Apple To Sell iPads, iPhones For Business Users

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

International Business Machines Corp will join forces exclusively with Apple Inc to offer iPhones and iPads loaded with applications geared at enterprise clients this fall, the company announced.

The announcement, just days before IBM releases its second quarter earnings, comes as the company attempts to shift its focus to software and services as its hardware unit continues to slump, and follows a string of mobile software acquisitions. The company hopes software sales will contribute half of its total profit by 2015.

The company will release more than 100 apps targeting industry specific issues in retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation and telecommunications IBM said on Tuesday.

“We wanted to focus on creating an absolutely irresistible workflow and processes and a design of apps that can be used by every user in the organization,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global business services told Reuters from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“We wanted to remove some of the existing barriers of mobile in enterprise,” she said adding that chief information officers worry about security, utilizing cloud and installing apps in mobile devices.

The partnership, which was six months in the making, will offer services geared at security, mobile device management and big data and analytics. The company also plans to develop cloud services optimized for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The devices will operate through wireless carriers chosen by the client, she said.

BlackBerry Ltd shares were down 3 percent following the announcement. The Canadian smartphone maker has increasingly targeted its secure software at businesses as part of an effort to turn the company around after losing ground to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co.

Apple and Samsung have steadily expanded their share of the mobile enterprise market in recent years, mostly at Blackberry’s expense, while Microsoft Windows phones have made little headway.

Increasingly, Apple’s expansion has been driven by employees bringing in their own devices and requesting corporate support, the so-called bring-your-own-IT trend.

Hooking up with IBM may help address lingering concerns about smartphone software security and data privacy, in the form of a veteran partner that’s led in enterprise IT for decades.

“This deal is a very targeted attempt by Apple with the help from IBM to focus on the enterprise, corporate market which has really been the main business of Blackberry,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

 

 

Will Google’s Project Zero Succeed?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has announced “Project Zero”, a dramatically-named initiative that looks to mitigate the risk of internet users getting hit by targeted cyber attacks.

Started by a group of Google security researchers with the mission of ridding the world of security dangers such as zero-day attacks, Project Zero will hire “the best practically-minded security researchers”, Google said, promising to contribute all of their time “toward improving security across the internet”.

The group was put together after certain Googlers started spending “some of their time on research that makes the internet safer, leading to the discovery of bugs like Heartbleed,” said Google researcher Chris Evans in a blog post.

“We’re not placing any particular bounds on this project and will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people, paying careful attention to the techniques, targets and motivations of attackers,” Evans explained. “We’ll use standard approaches such as locating and reporting large numbers of vulnerabilities.”

Evans said that Project Zero will also conduct new research into mitigations, exploitation, program analysis, and anything else that the researchers decide is a worthwhile investment.

The Googlers at Project Zero will commit to doing their work transparently, with every bug discovered being filed in an external database. They will also report bugs only to the software’s vendor and no third parties.

“Once the bug report becomes public, typically once a patch is available, you’ll be able to monitor vendor time-to-fix performance, see any discussion about exploitability, and view historical exploits and crash traces,” Evans said. “We also commit to sending bug reports to vendors in as close to real-time as possible, and to working with them to get fixes to users in a reasonable time.”

Not to long before the announcement of Project Zero on Tuesday, Google came under fire from European Union courts, which have forced the firm to forget certain people’s irrelevant or outdated online histories. Within days of the court order going into effect, EU citizens were begging Google to have their pasts expunged, at the rate of 10,000 requests per day.

However, it has since emerged that the buried webpages haven’t been technically disabled, nor have they been erased, security Firm Sophos reports.

“Regardless of what the directive is being called, courts technically didn’t grant Europeans the right to be forgotten. Rather, it gave them the right to be relatively obscured, by having eligible pages flagged so they don’t show up in search results,” said Sophos in a blog post.

“The data is still out there. And now, a newly launched site is archiving the forcibly de-indexed pages, in the name of opening up to the internet as a whole the discussion regarding what should or should not be ‘forgotten’.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Apple Having Issues With Sharp?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

There is a spat brewing between Apple and its long term supplier Sharp. Sharp has been making Apple displays for ages and has an entire plant dedicated to this purpose. The manufacturing gear now belongs to Apple and Sharp wants to buy the equipment back for $293 million.

Apparently, Sharp wants to diversify its production and shift away from supplying only to Apple. Jobs’ Mob is amenable to the idea of selling the facilities but only if Sharp never sells anything to Samsung. Samsung mostly utilizes OLED screens in most of its products, so there is little for Apple to worry about. However some devices still use LCD screens and might have Sharp gear under the bonnet.

An agreement has not yet been reached and it seems unlikely as the manufacturer is not keen on accepting the blatant anti-competitive behaviour or as Apple would say “shrewed negotiation ability.”

Sharp does not want to piss off Apple. It is busy producing iPhone 6 screens for Apple and the Kameyama Plant No. 1 which is the one that Sharp wants to buy back, flat out.

Courtesy-Fud

Dell Unable To Keep Up With Demand For Chromebook, Halts Online Sales

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell’s only Chromebook is at least temporarily unavailable for online purchase through the company’s website, only seven months after the became available online.

Facing rising commercial demand for the devices, Dell has not been able to keep up with orders.

The Chromebook 11, which shipped in December, is listed as unavailable on Dell’s Chromebook website, and the company is asking potential buyers to call in orders.

“Due to strong demand, the Dell Chromebook 11 is currently not available for order on Dell.com. It continues to be available for our education customers and can be ordered through their sales representative,” said Ellen Murphy, a Dell spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

The laptop will eventually come online again, though the company did not provide a specific date.

With Dell keeping Chromebook purchases open mainly to commercial customers, individual buyers may have to turn to competitive products from Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, which are available online starting at under $200.

The Chromebook is a lightweight, low-cost computer for those who do most of their computing online. It has Google’s Chrome OS, and most applications needs wireless connectivity. However, more offline applications are becoming available.

Dell’s decision comes as Chromebook shipments rise and competitors launch new models. Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. commercial laptop shipments to date in 2014, jumping more than 250 percent compared to the same period last year. Chromebooks accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of overall consumer laptop sales in the period, and that number will continue to rise, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

More than 20 Chromebook models are expected to be available by the end of the year. Acer last week shipped two C720 Chromebook models with Intel’s Core i3 chips. Dell spokeswoman Murphy said the company is committed to Chromebooks and will launch a new model with the Core i3 processor later this year.

Dell could be choosing commercial customers over individual shipments with Chromebook demand rising during the back-to-school season, Baker said.

“In a period when the product grows, you have to make some decisions,” Baker said.

 

 

Microsoft Rumored To Be Cutting Jobs Soon

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp is said to be planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the software giant moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The reductions, expected to be announced as soon as this week, could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering, Bloomberg reported.

Since absorbing the handset business of Nokia this spring, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall Street is expecting Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, which would represent Microsoft’s first major layoffs since 2009.

The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, the report said.

Some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other job cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization, Bloomberg reported.

Last week, Nadella circulated a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but deferred any comment on widely expected job cuts at the software company.

Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month, when Microsoft reports quarterly results on July 22.

 

Chinese Using Scanners To Spy

July 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Security experts claim that a Chinese manufacturer has been installing malware in its hand-held scanners that steals supply chain data.

TrapX says infected scanners made by an unnamed Chinese manufacturer located in Shandong province have been sold to eight unnamed firms including a large robotics company. The manufacturer denied knowledge that its scanners and website-hosted software were infected.

Sixteen of the 48 scanners deployed at one firm were infected, TrapX found. They all successfully sought out and compromised host names containing the word finance and siphoning off the logistical and financial data. The report Anatomy of the Attack: Zombie Zero said:

“Exfiltration of all financial data and ERP data was achieved, providing the attacker complete situational awareness and visibility into the logistic/shipping company’s worldwide operations,”.

TrapX suspected the attacks dubbed Zombie Zero were backed by the Chinese government and were a bid to gain intelligence on either logistics firms or their customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Mobile Devices Push Gaming To New Heights

July 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By 2017, mobile and online games could push worldwide gaming software revenues to $100 billion. That’s according to Digi-Capital’s latest Global Games Investment Review report, which said the mobile/online game market could make up a whopping 60 percent ($60 billion) of that total thanks to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24 percent since 2011.

The firm found mobile was the main driver of record mergers and acquisitions activity in the last year, accounting for $4.6 billion of a record $12.5 billion in games M&A. The free-to-play MMO market was the next biggest driver with $4 billion in M&A business, followed by tech interests with $2.8 billion.

That total covers the last year, but most of it has come in 2014, with gaming M&A accounting for a record $6.6 billion in the first six months of the year alone. Even if 2014 didn’t see another penny added to that total, it would be a new full-year record as well, having already eclipsed the $5.6 billion in mergers and acquisitions recorded for the entirety of 2013.

Digi-Capital offered a number of reasons for the increase of M&A activity beyond the simple attraction of massive growth in the field. The firm also said some acquirers were interested in “stopping mobile insurgents from eating their lunch,” indicating the Zynga pick-up of Natural Motion would fall under that category. It also said companies established in one region are looking to buy strength in a different part of the world (as with Softbank’s majority stake acquisition of Supercell), and lukewarm or delayed IPOs for a handful of companies in the market have made recent valuations seem like good bargains.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Facebook Takes On Lecpetex Spam Botnet

July 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook said police in Greece made two arrests last week in connection with a little-known spamming botnet called “Lecpetex,” which used hacked computers look for the Litecoin virtual currency.

As many as 50,000 Facebook accounts were affected, and as many as 250,000 computers worldwide, primarily in Greece, Poland, Norway, India, Portugal and the U.S., according to a blog post on Tuesday from Facebook’s Threat Infrastructure team.

The social networking site described the difficulties in shutting down the botnet, whose creators taunted Facebook through messages left on servers that were part of its network.

Those behind Lecpetex launched at least 20 spam campaigns between December 2013 and last month, affecting Facebook and other online services. Some of the victims received private messages containing a “.zip” attachment containing a Java JAR file or Visual Basic script.

Those files, if executed, would then retrieve other malware modules stored on remote sites. The modules were either DarkComet, a widely used remote access tool that can harvest login credentials, or variants of software that mines the virtual currency Litecoin, the team wrote.

By frequently refreshing and changing the malicious attachments, Lecpetex defeated Facebook’s filters designed to stop such malware from being distributed. The malware would also automatically update itself to evade antivirus products.

“The operators put significant effort into evading our attachment scanning services by creating many variations of the malformed zip files that would open properly in Windows, but would cause various scanning techniques to fail,” the team wrote.

Facebook said it reached out to other infrastructure providers and law enforcement when it realized security software wasn’t alone going to foil Lecpetex.

“Ultimately, remediating a threat like Lecpetex requires a combination of technical analysis capabilities, industry collaboration, agility in deploying new countermeasures and law enforcement cooperation,” it wrote.

The creators of Lecpetex eventually caught on to Facebook’s efforts. In May, they started leaving notes on command-and-control servers they knew Facebook was investigating, playfully saying they weren’t involved in fraud.

“These changes suggested to us that the authors were feeling the impact of our efforts,” Facebook wrote.

 

Standalone Wearables Coming This Year, Says AT&T

July 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The most successful wearable devices will be ones that can operate without a phone, and AT&T will have at least one of them by the end of this year, the man who manages the carrier’s partnerships said.

“It needs to be an independent device. It needs to do something different for the end user, for people to buy it en masse,” said Glenn Lurie, AT&T’s president of emerging enterprises and partnerships.

A likely place to start could be wearables for wellness, such as a device that knows when your workout’s begun, holds your music, and lets you post information about your performance to social networks, he said. “I think you’ll see devices like that this year,” Lurie said.

The hottest devices will be able to work both on their own and with a phone, Lurie said. They’ll also have to be simple to use, a bar that no wearable has crossed yet, he said.

Once wearables start talking to LTE on their own, the sky’s the limit of what consumers will take with them, Lurie said. “Just like tablets, it’s going to all of a sudden explode.”

Cars will be another hot category of connected devices, with natural-language commands letting drivers do many things, he said.

“We believe technology in a car can make the car not only a safer place, but a place where you can do everything you can do today with your smartphone in your hand,” Lurie said. But there are hurdles left to be crossed: Cars will need to be able to talk to both Android and iOS phones without those phones coming out of the driver’s pocket. And as cars age through several generations of mobile technology, their software will have to be upgradable over the air. “The car is going to become a smartphone with four wheels.”

Lurie has overseen AT&T’s new businesses and partnerships for years, going back to the carrier’s blockbuster deal to carry the Apple iPhone exclusively for five years. Speaking before the audience at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, he wasn’t giving away any secrets about what manufacturers are showing off to AT&T.

“The things I’m seeing are pretty darn exciting,” Lurie said.