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Manufacturer Coolpad Has Built Backdoor Into Android Devices

December 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad has created an extensive “backdoor” into its Android devices that can track users, serve them unwanted advertisements and install unauthorized apps, a U.S. security firm alleged today.

In a research paper released today, Palo Alto Networks detailed its investigation of the backdoor, which it dubbed “CoolReaper.”

“Coolpad has built a backdoor that goes beyond the usual data collection,” said Ryan Olson, director of intelligence at Palo Alto’s Unit 42. “This is way beyond what one malicious insider could have done.”

Coolpad, which sells smartphones under several brand names — including Halo, also called Danzen — is one of China’s largest ODMs (original device manufacturers). According to IDC, it ranked fifth in China in the third quarter, with 8.4% of the market, and has expanded sales outside of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan to Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Western Europe.

Tipped off by a string of complaints from Coolpad smartphone users in China and Taiwan — who griped about seeing advertisements pop up and apps suddenly appear — Palo Alto dug into the ROM updates that Coolpad offered on its support site and found widespread evidence of CoolReaper.

Of the 77 ROMs that Palo Alto examined, 64 contained CoolReaper, including 41 hosted by Coolpad and signed with its own digital certificate.

Other evidence that Coolpad was the creator of the backdoor, said Olson, included the malware’s command-and-control servers — which were registered to domains belonging to the Chinese company and used, in fact, for its public cloud — and an administrative console that other researchers had found last month because of a vulnerability in Coolpad’s backend control system. The console confirmed CoolReaper’s functionality.

 

 

BlackBerry Launches ‘Classic’ Smartphone

December 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd rolled out its much anticipated Classic on Wednesday, a smartphone it hopes will help it win back market share and woo those still using older versions of its physical keyboard devices.

The Canadian mobile technology company said the new device, which bears striking similarities to its once wildly popular Bold and Curve handsets, boasts a larger screen, longer battery life, an expanded app library with access to offerings from Amazon.com Inc’s Android App store, and a browser three times faster than the one on its legacy devices.

“The conversation about BlackBerry has changed in the last year,” Chief Executive John Chen said as he launched the Classic at Manhattan’s upscale Cipriani restaurant. “We are here to stay, there is no question about that. Now we have to engineer our growth.”

He said BlackBerry had listened to its fans and brought back the command bar functionality that helped make its legacy phones easy to navigate.

When the company initially introduced its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and devices early in 2012 it put more emphasis on touchscreens, alienating many fans of its physical keyboard.

Those who moved to the new physical keyboard phones that BlackBerry launched later were unhappy that command keys such as the Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, along with the trackpad had been dropped.

With the Classic and the recent launch of its Passport smartphone, Chen is in some ways taking the company back to its roots, re-emphasizing the physical keyboard, rather than trying to compete directly against the touchscreen handsets of dominant rivals like Samsung Electronics and Apple.

“We expect the Classic to be the most popular BlackBerry enterprise device and the easiest transition for current BB7 (legacy device) users,” said Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um.

 

 

Patent Disputes Putting Xiaomi Smartphone Growth Plans In Jeopardy

December 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Patent wars have become commonplace with smartphone vendors across the world, and now Xiaomi is no exception. The Chinese company announced it had halted its product sales in India, due to a patent dispute with Swedish network equipment vendor Ericsson.

The legal troubles throw a wrench in Xiaomi’s international expansion, and could open the company to even more lawsuits from other patent holders, analysts warn.

In Ericsson’s case, the company said it had spent more than three years complaining to Xiaomi about the alleged patent infringement, which relates to the telecommunications technology used in the company’s phones.

“Ericsson, as a last resort, had to take legal action,” the company said in an email, which claimed that Xiaomi had declined to pay a fair licensing fee for the technology.

In response, Xiaomi said it was working with Ericsson to resolve the matter, without elaborating. But doing so will probably come at some financial cost.

Xiaomi has enjoyed an almost meteoric rise, becoming China’s top smartphone maker this year. However, the company was only founded in 2010, and doesn’t possess an extensive patent portfolio that so many older technology firms like Ericsson wield.

Although Xiaomi declined to comment on its patent activities, analysts expected that the company would eventually run into intellectual property matters at some point in its international expansion.

“It’s possible lawsuits will be filed in other countries, and not just from Ericsson, but other vendors that want to use patents as a weapon against Xiaomi,” said Wang Jingwen, an analyst with research firm Canalys.

Xiaomi, which still sells most of its phones in China, made India a focus of its international efforts. The company still has a small market share in the country, but its phones have been selling like hot cakes there.

It could simply end up paying Ericsson and other companies for access to their patents, but that could mean paying a hefty price.

“If Xiaomi is willing to pay for the licensing fees to Ericsson, the issue can be resolved,” said Xiaohan Tay, an analyst with research firm IDC. “But the higher cost for smartphones may be passed on to consumers, and Xiaomi may not be able to offer phones at such a low cost to consumers anymore.”

 

 

Ford Selects BlackBerry’s QNX For In-Vehicle Infotainment

December 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Ford has announced that it has moved from Microsoft for Blackberry’s QNX OS for its in-vehicle infotainment system known as Sync.

Like other infotainment systems, Sync allows users to make hands-free telephone calls, control music choices and perform other functions with the use of voice commands. Ford’s Sync head unit also upgraded to the latest Texas Instruments OMAP 5 processor.

As with Ford’s announcement about the new Sync rollout,Ford spokesperson Alan Hall declined to say why the automaker chose QNX over Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive OS for its third-generation product.

Negative press and feedback and criticism from Consumer Reports likely spurred Ford rethink its choices, said Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski.

“Having that automotive expertise and understanding the programs they have in place, how they work from an engineering perspective, the UI and getting applications into the head unit makes QNX very strong,” Koslowski said in an earlier interview with Computerworld.

Ford’s Sync IVI system has never been recommended by Consumer Reports magazine.

By turning to the open-source QNX platform, Ford gets a full community of developers to support and update the software. QNX also supports the ubiquitous HTML5 markup language and other native user interface toolsets.

Before being purchased by Blackberry in 2010, QNX Software Systems was owned by audio and infotainment equipment company Harman International. It’s been used in more than 200 different car models, so it has been well vetted.

Ford’s third generation, QNX-supported Sync uses a more natural language speech-recognition technology from Nuance, according to Hall.

“What we did with the data set was allow it to use a more conversational way that you’d refer to something. So P.F. Chang’s is how you’d refer to the restaurant, but the official name of the restaurant is P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro. In the past, you had to know the official name for the system to be able to find it,” Hall said. “That wasn’t very helpful because no one calls it P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro.”

 

 

 

Samsung Finally Starts 14nm FinFET

December 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A company insider has spilled the beans in Korea, claiming that Samsung has started Apple A9 production in 14nm FinFET.

The A9 is the next generation SoC for Apple iPhone and iPad products and it is manufactured on the Samsung – GlobalFoundries 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. In the other news, Samsung’s Ki-nam, president of the company’s semiconductor business and head of System LSI business has confirmed that the company started production of 14-nanometre FinFET chips.

The report mentions Austin as a possible site for Apple products but we wonder if the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 in New York State could become one of the partners for the 14nm FinFET manufacturing. Samsung didn’t officially reveal the client for the 14nm FinFET, but Apple is the most obvious candidate, while we expect to see 14 / 16nm FinFET graphics chips from AMD and Nvidia but most likely in the latter half of 2015 at best.

Qualcomm is likely to announce new LTE modem based on 14nm FinFET and the flagship SoC Snapdragon 810 is a 20nm chip. Qualcomm is manufacturing its 810 chips as we speak to meet demand for flagship Android phones coming in Q1 2015. Flagship Samsung, HTC and LG phones among others are likely to use Snapdragon 810 as a replacement for this year’s Snapdragon 801, a high end chip that ended up in millions of high-end phones.

Samsung / GlobalFoundries14nm FinFET process is 15 percent smaller, 20 percent faster, and 35 percent more power efficient compared to 20nm processors. This definitely sounds exiting and will bring more performance into phones, tablets, GPUs and will significantly decrease power consumption. The move from 28nm is long overdue.

We believe that Qualcomm’s LTE modem might be the first chip to officially come with this manufacturing process and Apple will probably take most of the 14nm production for an update in its tablets and phones scheduled for 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Expects To Release Windows 10 Next Autumn

December 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft Corp expects to have begin offering its Windows 10 operating system to the publict by autumn 2015, slightly later than previous comments had suggested.

Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner told Japanese news service Nikkei on Wednesday that the new system would be released “early next fall.”

Microsoft has not publicly set a firm timetable for the release of Windows 10, but only last week suggested the possibility of an earlier release.

“By next late summer and early fall we’ll be able to bring out this particular OS (operating system). That’s the current plan of record,” Turner told the Credit Suisse Technology Conference last Thursday.

An autumn release would put Windows 10 on track for launch three years after Windows 8, which got a mixed reception as it confused many traditional PC users with a design more suited to tablets.

Microsoft unveiled the name Windows 10 in late September, saying the jump in numbers from 8 to 10 marked a leap as it looks to unify the way people work on tablets, phones and traditional computers.

An early test version of Windows 10 – which blends the traditional look and much-loved start menu with newer features – has been available for download from Microsoft’s website for more than two months.

Windows is still a core part of Microsoft’s business and dominates the desktop computing market with 1.5 billion users. But the growth of smartphones and tablets means Windows now runs on only about 14 percent of computing devices worldwide, according to tech research firm Gartner.

 

 

Intel Unveils Internet of Things Platform

December 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel Corp on Tuesday showed off a new platform to make it easier for device makers to create Internet-connected smart products using its chips, security and software.

Intel’s platform is like a set of building blocks based on the chipmaker’s components and software for companies to create smart, connected devices, Doug Davis, head of Intel’s Internet of Things business, said at a launch event in San Francisco.

It also aims to make it easier to connect to data centers in order analyze data collected from devices’ sensors.

“We’re creating compute capability in end-point devices that scale from our highest performance Xeon processor to the Quark family of products,” Davis said, referring to Intel’s chips.

After moving slowly in recent years to adapt its personal computer chips for smartphones and tablets, Intel is determined to make sure it is on the leading edge of future computing trends, industry experts and company executives have said.

Adding processors, sensors and web connectivity to devices from soccer balls to industrial machinery, an emerging trend dubbed the Internet of Things, has become a new battleground for Intel, rival Qualcomm and other technology companies.

The install base of wireless gadgets will more than double by the end of the decade, with most of the growth coming from smart devices other than PCs and smartphones, according to market research firm ABI Research.

Intel’s Internet of Things Group had $530 million in revenue in the September quarter. That accounted for just 4 percent of Intel’s total revenue in the quarter, but it grew 14 percent over the previous year, which was faster than the company’s PC business.

Dell, SAP, Tata Consultancy, Accenture and other companies are working with the new reference model, Davis said.

 

 

Federal Judge Says U.S. Lawmakers Should Give NSA ‘Carte Blanche’

December 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. National Security Agency should have an unlimited ability to collect digital information in the name of protecting the country against terrorism and other threats, an influential federal judge stated during a debate on privacy.

“I think privacy is actually overvalued,” Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, said during a conference about privacy and cybercrime in Washington on Thursday.

“Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct,” Posner added. “Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.”

Congress should limit the NSA’s use of the data it collects — for example, not giving information about minor crimes to law enforcement agencies — but it shouldn’t limit what information the NSA sweeps up and searches, Posner said. “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine,” he said.

In the name of national security, U.S. lawmakers should give the NSA “carte blanche,” Posner added. “Privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security,” he said. “The world is in an extremely turbulent state — very dangerous.”

Posner criticized mobile OS companies for enabling end-to-end encryption in their newest software. “I’m shocked at the thought that a company would be permitted to manufacture an electronic product that the government would not be able to search,” he said.

 

 

Will Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 See A Delay?

December 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Last Friday we ran a report on technical issues plaguing Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 processor, the company’s first consumer SoC based on the 20nm process.

Reports coming out of Korea alleged the chip was experiencing thermal issues, along with memory and GPU bugs. We reached out to Qualcomm and the company reassured us that everything is on track.

Jon Carvill, Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Public Relations, told Fudzilla that the company won’t comment on any of the rumours or speculation referenced in our report (based on Business Korea’s reporting).

“I can tell you that everything with Snapdragon 810 remains on track and we expect commercial devices to be available in 1H 2015,” said Carvill.

This means next generation Android flagships are unlikely to be delayed due to any potential issues associated with Qualcomm silicon. Of course, they could face other issues and delays always remain a possibility, but that has nothing to do with Qualcomm or its first 20nm 64-bit part.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Will We See Major Changes In Bluetooth 4.2?

December 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

New versions of wireless technology standards aren’t often a big deal, there are far too few car chases and full frontal nudity, but the latest Bluetooth 4.2 is apparently going to change that. The new spec allows Bluetooth devices to connect to the Internet through newer home routers supporting IPv6. This should drastically simplify home automation, as it would avoid the need for dedicated Bluetooth hubs or devices with built-in Wi-Fi.

This will bring about some significant changes. Home automation plans are stuffed up by the fact that each service sells its own proprietary hub for connecting smart light bulbs, switches and sensors. This adds to the cost and complexity of home automation, because users may need multiple hubs to connect all the devices they want.

Bluetooth 4.2 should cut down on the overhead, so that even if two groups of products don’t talk to one another, you won’t need separate hardware. Bluetooth 4.2 includes new protections against Beacons, which can locate and send notifications to nearby Bluetooth devices.

Some retailers have been using Beacons to track and alert their shoppers, but with Bluetooth 4.2, users will have to opt in to the specific alerts they want to see. This works by having users download an app that effectively whitelists the store in question. Bluetooth 4.2 also uses new encryption and hash algorithms to protect wireless communications.

The systems data transfer should be up to 2.5 times faster, and connections over Bluetooth Smart and should be even more power efficient than before. Some of the new features (including Internet connectivity) won’t be around until later this month or early next year. In any case, we probably won’t start seeing phones, tablets and smart devices with Bluetooth 4.2 on board until later next year.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung To Jump In The GPU Arena Next Year

December 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung is having another crack at building a GPU.

This is not company’s first attempt to make a GPU and this time it is meant to be used with its SoC and not in graphics cards. Samsung has announced last year that it wants to make its System on Chips based on in-house 64-bit architecture but we still have to wait and see one eventuate.

Samsung is trying to make a GPU for years and enter this already crowded GPU IP market. Qualcomm uses Adreno, Nvidia uses Geforce and wants to license it to others. Apple uses PowerVR while Mediatek uses ARM owed Mali graphics for newer processors while using PowerVR for some older parts. Intel is using PowerVR G6430 for its mobile processors such as Atom Z3580 Moorefield while AMD has its own graphics that it can use for future SoCs and APUs. Intel owns Intel HD graphics that dominates the integrated CPU market especially for notebooks.

Samsung currently uses Mali graphics but this might change. If its team is successful, it might come with its own graphics and jack them under the bonnet of its own Exynos processor by the next summer.

All the sudden Nvidia’s lawsuit against Samsung makes more sense.

Samsung is trying to get into Nvidia space and the company doesn’t like it. Even if Samsung manages to make a successful GPU, the competition is hard. Even with years of trying Samsung is mostly using Exynos for its own tablets and some phones. Most Samsung high end phones use Qualcomm Snapdragons as these tend to have better LTE modems and are widely available.

According to the Korean ZDnet the company might talk about the GPU as early as February at the Solid Circuits Society (ISSCC) conference with the official announcement scheduled for summer 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is The Semiconductor Industry Really Growing?

December 5, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization released its autumn 2014 industry forecast on Tuesday, predicting that the semiconductor market will continue to grow next year.

The WSTS reported that the global semiconductor market will see nine percent growth year over year in 2014 to $333bn, driven mainly by double digit growth in memory shipments and supported by growth in all other product categories.

The trade group said that the highest rates of growth this year are in memory products (17.3 percent), discrete products (12.3 percent) and analogue devices (10.3 percent).

Semiconductor shipments grew in all geographical regions this year, according to the WSTS, driven largely by strong demand in the smartphone and automotive markets.

Assuming that the global economic recovery will continue into 2015 and beyond and the strong semiconductor markets will continue to mature, the WSTS forecasts continuing steady, although moderating, market growth in all product categories and regions next year.

The WSTS forecasts that the worldwide semiconductor market will increase 3.4 percent in 2015 to $345bn, and 3.1 percent in 2016 to $355bn.

The automotive and communications product categories will show stronger growth than the global market as a whole, while consumer and computer product shipments will remain almost flat in the forecast period.

Asia-Pacific, which already accounts for nearly 60 percent of the global market, will continue to show the fastest growth in 2016, reaching a value of $209bn, according to the predictions.

In June, Gartner predicted that the global semiconductor market would increase to $336bn in 2014, which it reckoned would be 6.7 percent growth for the year.

The WSTS produces semiconductor industry forecasts in May and November each year.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Will Dell Launch A Super Sleek Tablet At CES?

December 5, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Dell got back to us about the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet following our recent article, in which we pointed up that it has yet to ship. The company said the tablet will officially launch at CES 2015.

This is the tablet that Michael Dell held in his hand at IDF 2014 in September and later Jim Parsons promoted the sleek device in a commercial that aired less than two weeks ago.

Dell said-

“The Venue 8 7000 – the world’s thinnest at 6mm, with the world’s best display (2560 x 1600 OLED) and the first RealSense depth camera integrated into such a small form factor – is going to be officially announced with pricing and availability at CES.”

It cannot be clearer than that, but we would be a tad happier to know what sort of SoC Intel uses in this tablet is and it would be great to know the price. There is still a chance that this will be the thinnest tablet by the time it actually launches, although we don’t think that Dell will be the only brand launching new products at CES.

The competition never sleeps and after a lot of digging around the most serious candidate for the SoC inside the ultrathin tablet is the Intel Atom Z3580, a 22nm processor previously codenamed Moorefield. This SoC is a quad-core clocked at up to 2.33GHz and based on the Silvermont architecture. The prototype that Dell showed back at IDF 2014 and Dell World was running Android 4.4 and Morefield Atom Z35xx has been confirmed as the SoC of choice.

Moorefield is ready for 64-bit Android 5.0 and this might be the reason behind the slight delay. Let’s face it, Lollipop is the biggest Android refresh in years and it’s a big selling point.

There is no doubt that Airmont, the 14nm follow up architecture for mobile Atom has been delayed. In September 2013, Intel’s Hermann Eul, VP GM mobile communication group announced that Airmont 14nm Atom is coming in 2014. Well it didn’t show up and it won’t as 2014 is coming to an end.

The 14nm Airmont based Cherry Trail product has been pushed to 2015, so if all goes well Dell might be launching an updated Venue tablet later in 2015, powered with a new and improved Atom processor.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Acquires Startup Accompli

December 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Putting a plan in motion for advanced Office mail functionality on non-Windows platforms, Microsoft has acquired Acompli, a startup that provides software for organizing email on mobile devices.

“Our goal is to deliver fantastic cross-platform apps that support the variety of email services people use today and help them accomplish more,” wrote Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365, in a blog post announcing the purchase.

Over the past year, Microsoft has been extending its Office set of office productivity software and services so they can be accessed on non-Windows devices. The company has released Office apps for the iPad and iPhone, and is working on a version of Office for Android.

Founded in 2013, Acompli offers an iPhone and Android mobile e-mail client that streamlines many of the basic tasks around managing e-mail so they can be completed on the device itself, rather than by using a desktop client. Users have reported that the software works particularly well with Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail servers. Microsoft offers a basic version of Outlook for iPhones, though thus far it has seemingly garnered only a lukewarm response from users.

The free Acompli app offers advanced features such as the ability to view both calendar items and email side by side on the same screen. The calendar lets users email available times for proposed meetings and send a message when they are running late.

Microsoft plans to pair the Acompli development team with the team for its own Outlook e-mail client.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though tech website Re/Code reported that the acquisition was worth more than $200 million.

 

 

Samsung Sheds Fiber Optics Unit

December 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed to sell its fiber optics operations to U.S. specialty glass maker Corning Inc, shutting the door on another non-core business to focus on shoring up underperforming key areas like smartphones.

Terms of the sale, including plants in China and South Korea, weren’t disclosed. Announced by both parties on Tuesday, the South Korean firm’s second exit from a business line this quarter comes as it braces for its lowest annual profit in three years, squeezed by stiff competition.

The world’s top maker of smartphones has been caught between Chinese rivals like Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd  at the low end and Apple Inc’s iPhones at the top. Samsung Electronics’ share of the global smartphone industry has shrunk year-on-year for the last three quarters.

“We have decided to sell our fibre optics business, in order to focus on our core business areas,” a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. The company declined to comment on how much revenue the division generates.

The firm also said in October it will halt its light emitting diode lighting business outside of its home country, which was also considered a non-core business.