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Smartwatch Sales In 2016 Experienced Signficant Decline

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The global smartwatch market experienced a decline by 32% in the second quarter of 2016, with Apple Watch shipments down by 55% when compared to a year earlier, according to research firm IDC.

The decline — the first since the market started in 2013 — is expected to reverse next year after Apple and Google launch important operating system updates this fall, IDC said. Also, more watches will launch with cellular connections to LTE wireless without the need to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone.

Apple was the only smartwatch maker in the top five to see a decline in the second quarter, although the Apple Watch remained the top smartwatch by far, with 1.6 million devices shipped and 47% of the market, IDC said.

Samsung smartwatches placed second, with 600,000 shipped and 16% of the market. Lenovo, LG Electronics and Garmin rounded out the next three positions, each with less than 300,000 smartwatches shipped.

In all, 3.5 million smartwatches shipped in the second quarter, down from 5.1 million in the second quarter of 2015, for a 32% decline.

For all of 2016, smartwatch shipments are forecast to reach 19.2 million, just slightly below the 19.3 million units in 2015. The big rebound will come in 2017, when shipments reach 28 million, IDC said.

“There’s definitely optimism down the road, but not so much in 2016,” said IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani, in an interview. IDC’s smartwatch category doesn’t include most fitness bands, which don’t run third-party applications, as smartwatches do.

The second-quarter decline for the Apple Watch came even as the device’sstarting price was dropped to $299, down from $349. Apple is expected to launch its next-generation Apple Watch and WatchOS 3 as early as September. The new device is expected to support LTE independent of a Bluetooth connection to an iPhone.

In the next two years, more traditional watch makers will enter the smartwatch market. So far, Casio, Fossil and Tag Heuer have launched their own smartwatch models. As more traditional watch brands start selling the devices, the market will grow, IDC said.

New applications and games will also help smartwatch growth, Ubrani said. Some users might want to play Pokemon Go on a smartwatch, Ubrani said. However, a Pokemon Go Plus wearable has already been announced that can be worn on the wrist with a polyester wristband to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone running the game. It will sell for $35.

 

 

 

 

Adobe’s Flash Days Are Numbered In Firefox Browser

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced that  it will follow other browser markers by limiting the use of Flash in Firefox next month.

The open-source developer added that in 2017 it will dramatically expand the anti-Flash restrictions: Firefox will require users to explicitly approve the use of Flash for any reason by any website.

As have its rivals, Mozilla cast the limitations (this year) and elimination (next year) as victories for Firefox users, citing improved security, longer battery life on laptops and faster web page rendering.

Starting in August, Firefox will block certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience, while continuing to support legacy Flash content,” wrote Benjamin Smedberg, the manager of Firefox quality engineering, in a post to a company blog.

Firefox 48 is slated to ship on Aug. 2.

The initial blocking Smedberg mentioned will be based on a list Mozilla will generate by crawling the home pages of the top 10,000 websites as ranked by Alexa. Flash content that those sites use to “fingerprint” users, or as “super cookies” — two techniques to track visitors for advertising purposes — will land on the list, and thus not be run by Flash.

Through 2016, Mozilla will expand the list in Firefox by blocking other Flash content, including that used by advertisers to measure “viewability;” whether the ad has been seen, not erased, for example, by an ad blocker.

In 2017 — Smedberg did not say when, exactly — Firefox will require users to click on Flash content to activate the plug-in, and thus show that content. The click-to-activate demand will be enforced for all Flash content on all pages of all sites.

Firefox is late to the dump-Flash party.

Other browser developers — Apple, Google and Microsoft — have been more active in limiting Flash. Safari has frozen some Flash content since 2013, while Chrome did the same in September 2015. Edge will follow suit with the release of the Aug. 2 upgrade, Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

 

 

Microsoft’s Office 365 Subscription Slows Signficantly

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft said that consumer subscriptions to Office 365 topped 23 million, signaling that the segment’s once quite large year-over-year growth had slowed significantly.

The Redmond, Wash. company regularly talks up the latest subscription numbers for the consumer-grade Office 365 plans — the $100 a year Home and the $70 Personal — and did so again this week during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

“We also see momentum amongst consumers, with now more than 23 million Office 365 subscribers,” CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

But analysis of Microsoft’s consumer Office 365 numbers showed that the rate of growth — or as Nadella put it, “momentum” — has slowed.

For the June quarter, the 23.1 million cited by Microsoft in its filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) represented a 52% increase over the same period the year prior. Although most companies would give their eye teeth — or maybe a few executives — to boast of a rate of increase that size, it was the smallest since Microsoft began providing subscription data in early 2013.

A year before, the June 2015 quarter sported a consumer Office 365 subscription growth rate of 171% over the same three-month span in 2014.

The subscription increase also was small in absolute terms: Microsoft added approximately 900,000 to the rolls during the June quarter, down from 2.8 million the year before and also less than the 1.6 million accumulated in 2016′s March quarter.

The 900,000 additional subscribers added in the June quarter were the smallest number in more than two years.

While Microsoft did not directly address the slowing of growth in the consumer Office 365 market, it did attribute a similar trend among corporate subscriptions to the difficulty of maintaining huge year-over-year percentage gains as the raw numbers of subscriptions increased.

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Firms Form OTrP To Support IoT Security

July 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A bunch of tech firms including ARM and Symantec have joined forces to create a security protocol designed to protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The group, which also includes Intercede and Solacia, has created The Open Trust Protocol (OTrP) that is now available for download for prototyping and testing from the IETF website.

The OTrP is designed to bring system-level root trust to devices, using secure architecture and trusted code management, akin to how apps on smartphones and tablets that contain sensitive information are kept separate from the main OS.

This will allow IoT manufacturers to incorporate the technology into devices, ensuring that they are protected without having to give full access to a device OS.

Marc Canel, vice president of security systems at ARM, explained that the OTrP will put security and trust at the core of the IoT.

“In an internet-connected world it is imperative to establish trust between all devices and service providers,” he said.

“Operators need to trust devices their systems interact with and OTrP achieves this in a simple way. It brings e-commerce trust architectures together with a high-level protocol that can be easily integrated with any existing platform.”

Brian Witten, senior director of IoT security at Symantec, echoed this sentiment. “The IoT and smart mobile technologies are moving into a range of diverse applications and it is important to create an open protocol to ease and accelerate adoption of hardware-backed security that is designed to protect onboard encryption keys,” he said.

The next stage is for the OTrP to be further developed by a standards-defining organisation after feedback from the wider technology community, so that it can become a fully interoperable standard suitable for mass adoption.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Does M$ Have A Strategy For Windows?

July 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

As we reported earlier today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proclaimed the virtues of its cloud computing platform.

But he didn’t say very much about Windows at all.

And, according to Seeking Alpha financial analyst Mark Hibben in a note to his clients, it’s almost as if Nadella has given up the ghost on the now long in the tooth operating system.

He didn’t say much about smartphones either but admitted that Windows 10 won’t hit the one billion user mark.

But there are another billion and a bit people out there who are using previous versions of Windows and Hibben thinks that that’s Microsoft should really take advantage of that opportunity.

Hibben thinks that while Nadella is practically creaming himself about the cloud the same sort of urges don’t seem to apply to Windows.

Windows phone revenues have fallen 71 percent compared to the same period last year and Microsoft seems to lack a strategy for smartphones in the future.

So has Microsoft given up on Windows? That, surely, can’t be the case.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Researchers Create Atomic Scale Drive

July 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers have worked out how to create an atomic scale rewritable data-storage device capable of packing 500 terabits onto a single square inch.

That is enough to store most readers porn collections in just a couple of feet of data rather than the rooms it takes up now. Apparently you can stuff the entire contents of the US Library of Congress in a 0.1-mm wide cube — we guess that does not include the toilets and the cafe..

The atomic hard drive was developed by Delft University’s Sander Otte and his chums. It features a storage density that’s 500 times larger than state-of-the-art hard disk drives.

According to the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology, which we get for the impossible spot the proton competition, the technology is not exactly commercial yet.

Otte and the team placed chlorine atoms on a copper surface, resulting in a perfect square grid. A hole appears on this grid whenever an atom is missing. Using a sharp needle of a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to probe the atoms one by one, and even drag individual atoms towards a hole.

When a chlorine atom is in the top position, and there’s a hole beneath it, it’s a 1. Reversed, the bit is a 0. and it becomes a hard drive.

Each chlorine atom is surrounded by other chlorine atoms, which helps keep them in place, except near the holes. This method makes it much more stable than methods that use loose atoms. Using this technique, the researchers were able to perform write, read-out, and re-write operations in a one-kilobyte device comprising 8,000 atomic bits. It is by far the largest atomic structure ever constructed by humans.

During the experiment, the researchers preserved the positions of more than 8,000 chlorine “vacancies,” or missing atoms, for more than 40 hours at 77 kelvin. After developing a binary alphabet based on the positions of the holes, the researchers stored various texts, including physicist Richard Feynman’s seminal lecture, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This data was stored atom by atom, bit by bit, on the surface of the copper sheet. The ensuing write/re-write speed was relatively slow—on the scale of minutes—but the demonstration showed that it’s possible to reliably write, store, and read data at the atomic scale.

The system cannot function in an everyday environment. In its current form, the atomic hard drive can only operate in clean vacuum conditions and at liquid nitrogen temperatures, which is -346°F (-321°C). Most readers porn collections are far too hot for it to handle.

Courtesy-Fud

 

ZTE Debuts Zmax Pro Smartphone For $99

July 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

ZTE’s $99 ZMax Pro includes some of the latest smartphone technologies, which is a pleasant surprise for a low-priced handset.

The smartphone has a 6-in. screen and is available only through MetroPCS in the U.S. It weighs about 175 grams and is 8.9 millimeters thick.

It has some top-line features found in the latest smartphones, like a USB Type-C port. It also runs on the latest Android OS 6.0 code-named Marshmallow.

The Gorilla Glass 3 screen shows images at a full HD resolution. The handset has 32GB of internal storage and a micro-SD card for expandable storage. That’s a lot of storage for a handset under $100.

The handset is comparable to the new fourth-generation Moto G handset, which is now available unlocked on Amazon.com for $199.99 for a 16GB model. The Zmax Pro has a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, along with an eight-core Snapdragon 617 processor, all of which are also packaged in the Moto G.

The ZTE phone also has a 3,400 milli-amp-hour battery, which provides about 25 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time. It also features a fingerprint reader, which isn’t commonly found in low-cost handsets.

However, the smartphone lacks some other features. It includes 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, not the latest 802.11ac, which offers a wider range and faster speeds.

The smartphone succeeds last year’s ZMax 2, which sold for $149. The handset may be available unlocked and through other carriers in the future, but the company wasn’t ready to share details.

 

 

Is Google Really Working On Augmented Reality Devices?

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn claiming that Google has abandoned its VR projects and is secretly working on a an augmented reality-style headset.

Engadget reported that the Californian technology giant is building the head-mounted computer that will work independently of smartphones and desktop PCs.

It claims that this secret project, which is quietly in development, is a replacement for an Oculus Rift style project that has been axed.

Actually the project sounds more like a hybrid VR-AR setup: “While it does have a screen, it will offer features more in line with augmented reality systems than existing VR headsets.”

Google is not saying anything and it does have a habit of working on things and then giving up on them. But the rumours are indicative of just how important AR and VR is becoming for the industry’s major players:

It is widely viewed as the next major platform, with similar possibilities to the early days of mobile. Facebook has the Oculus Rift, Microsoft has its AR Hololens headset, and there are rumours about Apple’s intentions to get into virtual reality after everyone else has done the legwork and then it will arrive and claim it has invented it.

Google was into mobile-powered VR game early with its DIY Cardboard headset, and earlier this year it announced Daydream — a virtual reality platform that, like Cardboard (but much more sophisticated), uses a smartphone as its hardware base.

Engadget claims that employees working on the secretive alternative headset have been told that Daydream is “not the company’s long-term plan for virtual and augmented reality.”

Courtesy-Fud

 

Skype Launches New Chromebook And Linux Versions

July 15, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Linux and Chromebook owners now can now install new versions of Skype.

Microsoft launched an alpha version of a new client for Linux on Wednesday, in a push to get users of the open-source operating system to make video calls and send messages with Skype.

There was a Linux client available for the service previously, but this launch is a move by the company to get users of the operating system on the latest version of Skype. Users will get a new interface, emoticons and a file-sharing interface.

Chrome users will be able to use web.skype.com to make calls from Google’s web browser and desktop operating system starting Wednesday, too. Like the Linux client, the new Chrome client is still in alpha, so there are likely to be bugs, along with missing features.

These launches are important as Skype faces increased competition in the messaging and digital calling space. Apps like Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts have all either built or are building voice and video calling functionality into their services.

The new Linux app allows users to connect with other people using the latest versions of Skype across many other platforms. But it’s based on new calling architecture that makes it incompatible with the previous version of Skype for Linux and some older versions of Skype on other platforms.

 

Is Linux Having A Bad Week?

July 15, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Open Source’s Mr Sweary, Linus Torvalds has dubbed his fellow Linux kernel creators and “brain-damaged” because of their C++ style punctuation.

On one of the kernel news groups, Torvalds threw his toys out of the pram over “brain-damaged stupid networking comment syntax style.”

This is the sort of thing that miffs him.

/* This is a multi-line format.
It does not look bad to us, but Linus hates it becasue it is not balanced */

“If the networking people cannot handle the pure awesomeness that is a balanced and symmetric traditional multi-line C style comments, then instead of the disgusting unbalanced crap that you guys use now, please just go all the way to the C++ mode.”

That is fighting talk in the Linux community where people have been killed for less.

Torvalds writes that he wants comment styles have a certain visual symmetry and balance.” It would probably be fine, but for the fact that following an internet law which states that if any comments on grammar or spelling, their post will have at least one such mistake in it, Torvalds misspelt symmetry.

He said that “networking code picked *none* of the above sane formats… but picked these two models that are just half-arsed shit-for-brains.”

“I’m not even going to start talking about the people who prefer to ‘box in’ their comments, and line up both ends and have fancy boxes of stars around the whole thing,” he adds. “I’m sure that looks really nice if you are out of your mind on LSD, and have nothing better to do than to worry about the right alignment of the asterisks.”

Torvalds snarled that if people thought this comment punctuation was ok then it was time to “start moving the whole kernel over to the C++ style.”

For now, he writes “I really don’t understand why the networking people think that their particularly ugly styles are fine. They are the most visually unbalanced version of _all_ the common comment styles, and have no actual advantages.”

Courtesy-Fud

 

Nintendo Questioned Over Pokemon GO Data Collection, Privacy

July 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A Democratic U.S. senator requested the software developer behind Nintendo Co Ltd’s Pokemon GO to clarify the mobile game’s data privacy protections, amid concerns the augmented reality hit was unnecessarily collecting vast swaths of sensitive user data.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota sent a letter to Niantic Chief Executive John Hanke asking what user data Pokemon GO collects, how the data is used and with what third party service providers that data may be shared.

The game, which marries Pokemon, the classic 20-year-old cartoon franchise, with augmented reality, allows players to walk around real-life neighborhoods while seeking virtual Pokemon game characters on their smartphone screens – a scavenger hunt that has earned enthusiastic early reviews.

Franken also asked Niantic to describe how it ensures parents give “meaningful consent” to a child’s use of the game and subsequent collection of his or her personal information.

“I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent,” Franken wrote.

“As the augmented reality market evolves, I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players,” he added.

Franken additionally asked Niantic to provide an update on a vulnerability detected on Monday by security researchers who found Pokemon GO players signing into the game via a Google account on an Apple iOS device unwittingly gave “full access permission” to the person’s Google account.

Pokemon GO on Tuesday released an updated version on iOS to reduce the number of data permissions it sought from Google account users.

Niantic did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Franken’s inquiry.

The company, spun off by Google last year, created the game in tandem with Pokemon Co, a third of which is owned by Nintendo.

 

Microsoft Teams Up With IBM To Push Enterprise Surface Tablet

July 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft said its Surface devices pulls in about $1 billion in revenue every quarter, and the company hopes to raise that number by putting the devices on more corporate desktops.

The company is teaming up with IBM, one of the world’s largest software makers, to write applications specifically for Surface devices. The goal is to tailor Surface devices to meet the needs of financial, consumer goods and retail organizations.

The deal is significant for Microsoft, which wants to make Surface devices more attractive to enterprises. Market research firm IDC expects enterprise PC upgrades to pick up in the second half of this year, and Surface devices with tailored software could appeal to companies.

Surface tablets are already used by organizations like the National Football League and Emirates airline. It is one of the better Windows PCs available, but it has had more success with consumers and professional buyers than enterprises.

For IBM, the deal is much like the one it struck with Apple in 2014 to develop apps for iPhones and iPads. IBM will acquire more enterprise software customers, and it won’t have to worry about supporting the hardware.

The IBM custom software will take advantage of unique Surface features, Microsoft said. The applications will revolve around analytics, reporting, employee productivity, management and forecasting.

Microsoft also struck a similar partnership with Booz-Allen Hamilton to work on Surface tablets for government, public sector and health-care organizations, with a focus on security and manageability of devices. U.S. government organizations have specific requirements in computers purchased, particularly in the area of security.

Further details about the deals weren’t shared.

 

 

Nissan Launches New Semi-autonomous Driving Features

July 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Nissan Motor Co Ltd had unveiled a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions, stressing they were intended to assist and not replace drivers, just two weeks after similar technology in another maker’s car was involved in a fatal crash.

Japan’s second-ranked carmaker by vehicle sales said its ProPilot can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion. It said the feature will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month.

As global automakers race to develop self-driving cars, the safety of current automated systems was called into question by U.S. investigators saying a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of his Tesla Motors Inc Model S was engaged.

While Nissan declined to comment directly on that incident, Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto said it was important drivers did not overestimate the purpose and capabilities of automated driving functions.

“These functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities” which let drivers take their eyes off the road, he said. “These are two very different things.”

Pushing a button on the steering wheel activates ProPilot, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake.

Like Tesla’s similar technology, ProPilot requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. A warning sign flashes if the wheel is released for more than around four seconds, and an alarm sounds after 10 seconds.

General Manager Tetsuya Iijima at Nissan’s Advanced Technology Development department said it was up to automakers to educate drivers about the capability of automated driving functions to prevent misuse that could lead to accidents.

“Naturally, there are limitations to the system, and our job is to communicate what those limitations are,” he told reporters.

With ProPilot, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance.

Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3 million yen ($28,758), making it one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars.

The automaker also plans to add ProPilot to Qashqai sport utility vehicle crossover models in coming months, and introduce the feature in the United States and China.

 

GE, Microsoft Team Up On Cloud Services

July 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

GE and Microsoft have joined forces to bring the industrial giant’s Predix platform-as-a-service offering to the Azure cloud, the two companies announced Monday.

It’s a move that helps add to the portfolio of Internet of Things services available through Microsoft’s cloud platform, at a time when the company is pushing its service for IoT applications. The announcement came during Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, where GE CEO Jeff Immelt talked with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on stage.

Predix is a platform-as-a-service offering that’s designed for building applications that have industrial uses. Predix services that developers can tap into include asset management and anomaly detection offerings, among others.

The cloud deal is one part of a larger partnership between the two companies. Looking forward, Microsoft and GE plan to better integrate Predix into a variety of products including Azure’s IoT Suite and Cortana Analytics Suite. Predix’s integrations are also slated to expand to encompass productivity tools like Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Power BI.

The announcement joins a number of other Microsoft partnerships in the cloud software space. The company is also working with a wide variety of other service providers including SAP and Red Hat.

In addition to announcing the partnership, Immelt offered some words of wisdom for businesses currently undergoing a digital transformation like the one GE faced, especially in the industrial sector. In his view, companies need to be more aggressive about digitizing their businesses or face getting left behind as the world transforms.

“My belief [is that] we’re in a line of demarcation for industrial companies,” Immelt said. “There’s a past, and there’s going to be a future. And the future is really going to be derived on who digitizes the fastest.”

 

 

 

Is Samsungs Galaxy S7 Active Really Waterproof?

July 13, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

If you look at adverts for Samsung’s new Galaxy you would be forgiven for thinking that the smartphone is waterproof. Unfortunately according to US consumer reports, it isn’t.

The Samsung advert shown in Italy ends with the dramatic placing of a Galaxy into a glass of water. Which looks impressive.

Consumer Reports performs an immersion test when a manufacturer claims that its product is water-resistant and the Galaxy S7 Active failed.

While the phone performed extremely well in other tests. Consumer Reports is refusing to recommend it because the water resistant claim is incorrect.

Samsung says its phone follows an engineering standard called IP68 that covers both dust- and water-resistance, and that the phone is designed to survive immersion in five feet of water for 30 minutes.

Consumer Reports placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurised to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When it removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen was borked.

A second Galaxy S7 Active also failed the same test and neither phone worked properly again.

Samsung says it has received “very few complaints” about this problem, and that in all cases, the phones were covered under warranty. A spokes Samsung sang:

“The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be.”

The company says it is investigating the matter.

Courtesy-Fud