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Samsung Unveils First Of Its Kind Smartwatch, Mobile Phone Not Required

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday debuted what it said was the first smartwatch capable of making and receiving calls without a mobile phone nearby, in the South Korean firm’s latest effort to find a new growth driver.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker has been pushing hard to develop the wearable devices market as it looks to counter slowing earnings in its mobile division, which led to weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

Samsung is hardly alone in pushing wearables, which have yet to catch on with consumers. Rival Apple Inc is expected to launch its own device this year and LG Electronics Inc on Thursday announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and leather strap.

Samsung’s new smartwatch, called the Gear S, differs from its predecessors with a bigger 2-inch (5 cm) curved display and offers features like WiFi connectivity, pedestrian navigation and a built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung’s nascent Tizen operating system.

Samsung said the Gear S will start selling from October. It did not give details on pricing or where it will be available.

LG said its G Watch R will launch in key markets in the fourth quarter, without indicating a price.

 

 

Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Apple Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries Free Of Charge

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

 

 

 

Amazon Acquires Live-Streaming Game Network Twitch For Nearly $1B

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has acquired live-streaming gamingnetwork Twitch Interactive for about $970 million in cash, reflecting Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’ vision to transform Amazon into an Internet destination beyond its roots in retail operations.

The deal, jointly announced by the two companies, is the largest deal in Amazon’s 20-year history and will help the U.S. e-commerce company vie with Apple Inc and Google Inc in the fast-growing world of online gaming, which accounts for more than 75 percent of all mobile app sales.

The acquisition involves some retention agreements that push the deal over $1 billion, a source close to the deal told Reuters.

“Twitch will further push Amazon into the gaming community while also helping it with video and advertising,” Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said in a note.

Twitch’s format, which lets viewers message players and each other during live play, is garnering interest as one of the fastest-growing segments of digital video streaming, which in turn is attracting more and more advertising dollars.

The deal, expected to close in the second half of the year, is an unusual step for Amazon, which tends to build from within or make smaller acquisitions. Tech rival Google was earlier in talks to buy Twitch, which launched slightly more than three years ago, one person briefed on the deal said.

Neither Amazon nor Twitch would discuss how the deal came together or comment on Google’s interest.

In an interview, Twitch Chief Executive Officer Emmett Shear said the startup contacted Amazon because its deep pockets and ad sales expertise would allow the startup to pursue its strategic objectives more quickly.

“The reason why we reached out to Amazon, the reason I thought working for Amazon, having Twitch being a part of Amazon, would be a great idea for us (because) they would give us the resources to pursue these things that we honestly already want to pursue and they’d let us do it faster,” Shear said.

 

Opera Mini Browser To Become Standard On Windows Phones

August 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Norwegian software maker Opera inked a deal to take over the browser building unit of Microsoft’s Nokia cellular phone unit and reported second-quarter earnings above expectations on Thursday, sending it shares sharply higher.

“We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft. We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia,” Opera Chief Executive Lars Boilsesen said. “This means that Opera Mini will become the default browser for Microsoft’s feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product lines.”

The deal will be profitable from the start, he added.

“All the current user base will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini and all the new phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as a default browser. This is a great deal for us. We have dreamed of this for more than 10 years.”

In a separate statement, Opera said the licensing agreement applies to mobile phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms.

“As part of the agreement, people who use the current browser for these phones, Xpress, will be encouraged to upgrade to the latest Opera Mini browser. Factory-new devices will have Opera Mini pre-installed.”

 

 

Snapchat Looking For Expansion Opportunities

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat Inc, creator of a mobile app that allows users to send messages that disappear within seconds, may be looking to expand its service to videos, news articles and advertisements, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The California-based company is currently in talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery, the Journal reported, citing sources.

Snapchat Discovery, rumored to debut in November, will show content and ads to Snapchat users, the Journal quoted the sources as saying.

At least a dozen media companies have shown interest in providing content for Snapchat Discovery, the Journal said.

Snapchat Discovery will allow users to read publications and watch video clips by holding down a finger on the screen, as they do with photos and other messages on the app, the report said.

Snapchat, popular among teenage users, was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

 

 

 

 

Cox Communications Shoots Down Rumors Of T-Mobile Merger

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Cox Communications Inc. is not interested in merging with wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc or rival cable providers, according to Cox President Pat Esser, dispelling rumors recently swirling about the private company.

“We’re not in any discussions to buy T-Mobile,” Esser told Reuters. “I don’t see a movement inside of our company that we feel like we have to pony up or match up with a wireless company.”

Asked whether Cox, the third-largest U.S. cable and broadband company, was considering a merger with one of its smaller cable rivals, such as Charter Communications Inc or perennial takeover target Cablevision Systems Corp, Esser said family-owned Cox was not looking to become a publicly traded company.

“I would never say we’ll never be public in the future. But right now where the family’s at, where [parent company] Cox Enterprises is at, they like being private,” Esser said. “We have a very, very healthy balance sheet, we have a lot of capacity and we can do most of that inside of our current balance sheet and still remain private.”

Continuing a year marked by a whirlwind of dealmaking among telecom companies, sources told Reuters earlier this month that Iliad, a French telecom firm, was in talks with U.S. satellite and cable operators Cox, Charter and Dish Networks Corp regarding a potential joint bid for U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile.

Esser said that instead, he saw the future of Cox Communications in wi-fi offerings and connectivity services, such as home security.

“Wireless use of broadband is growing but it’s not through traditional cellular services, it’s wi-fi. Wi-fi is exploding,” Esser said. “Wi-fi is the future … Connected homes are the future.”

 

 

Are Evernote Extensions Spamming Chrome?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Malwarebytes has warned of a fake Evernote extension for Chrome that spams users with unwanted advertisements by injecting Javascript into every webpage they visit.

The vulnerability means that on the surface, it looks like the popups and advertisements are coming from the websites users are visiting, when they are actually coming from the fake Evernote web extension.

Researchers at the company discovered the vulnerability in a “multi-plug .PUP” file, which installs the fake Evernote browser extension.

A PUP file is one that has the .pup file extension and is most commonly associated with the Puppy Linux operating system. PUP files run when an installer program is opened on the user’s computer and they are similar to the installer.exe files that are used with Windows applications.

“A quick look shows the PUP is digitally signed by ‘Open Source Developer, Sergei Ivanovich Drozdov’, although the certificate has since been revoked by the Issuer. This serves as another reminder that you can’t always trust a program just because it’s digitally signed,” said Malwarebytes malware intelligence analyst Joshua Cannell.

“When you execute the PUP, it silently installs a web extension for the Google Chrome, Torch, and Comodo Dragon browsers. The extension takes the form of three obfuscated JavaScript files and one HTML file. These files [are] installed in Chrome’s extension directory on a Windows 7 PC.”

For Google Chrome, the installation of the web extension is achieved by updating the “Preferences” file, which is a Javascript Object Notation (JSON) formatted file used to configure Chrome user preferences. The extension that’s installed is called “Evernote Web”, just like the real extension from evernote.com, but when taking a look at the Chrome extensions page, Malwarebytes found the extension installed there with the ID “lbfehkoinhhcknnbdgnnmjhiladcgbol”, just like the real Evernote Web extension.

“Clicking ‘Visit website’ directs the user to the Chrome webstore page for the actual Evernote Web extension,” Cannell added. “Chrome believes the real extension is installed, as verified by the Launch App button. When clicking this button with the fake extension installed, nothing happens, whereas normally the user is met with an Evernote login screen.”

Cannell explained that this is because the extension uses a content script to run in the context of the webpages a user browses.

“The content script is guaranteed to be loaded into every web page using the extension manifest (manifest.json). When visiting webpages, you’ll get a series of annoying advertisements, all leading to potentially more unwanted programs and offers,” he added.

To remove the extension, Chrome users need to visit the extensions tab in the browser and click the picture of a garbage can.

Evernote hit the headlines for its security concerns last year when it emerged that its network had been compromised by hackers.

The online note-taking service issued a password reset for all users after the discovery. It said that it “discovered and blocked” suspicious activity on its network, but claimed that no user data was compromised during the intrusion.

“In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost,” Evernote said.

 

Courtesy-TheInq

Sprint Slashes Rates, Introduces New Pricing Plans

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp unveiled a new pricing plan that gives customers 20 gigabytes of data and up to 10 lines for $100, doubling its data offerings, the latest in a series of cuts and promotions that is re-shaping the wireless industry.

Sprint’s chairman, business tycoon Masayoshi Son, is betting new prices will revive a carrier hampered by an expensive network overhaul and rising competition.

“The message is simple: We are back in the game. We are going to offer most competitive value for American consumers,” Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s newly appointed chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

The company will release new plans for individuals later this week.

The announcement marks the first move for the new CEO, who last week said cutting prices would be his top priority.

The move comes after Verizon slashed prices for its unlimited talk and text plan and T-Mobile expanded its family plan to 6 lines and could signal more price cuts ahead for the industry as a whole.

Sprint is going it alone after scuttling a months-long effort to pursue a merger with No. 4 U.S. cellular provider T-Mobile US Inc.

Last year, an aggressive campaign by T-Mobile to address subscriber frustrations and lower prices sparked a domino effect that caused the U.S. top four carriers to restructure pricing plans and cut rates to lure customers in a nearly saturated market.

But analysts worry the industry’s latest discount spree could increase pressure on already tight margins and rattle dividends.

While top carriers and Verizon  have largely been able to mitigate the impact of T-Mobile’s discounts on their subscriber base, they would likely have to respond to price cuts at Sprint with steep discounts of their own to keep subscribers from migrating, analysts said.

“We will see a trickle down in pricing concessions across the industry. This is the start of a price war many anticipated would be coming,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at S&P Capital IQ.

New pricing plans that charge customers separately for the cost of their devices have somewhat offset price cuts this year, Zino said, but if the discounts continue, they could pose a long-term threat to the dividends.

 

 

Apple Changes Policy, Begins Storage Of User Personal Data In China

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has started the processing of keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China, marking the first time the tech giant is storing user data on Chinese soil.

The storage of user data in China represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centers in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Apple said the move was part of an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service, which lets users store pictures, e-mail and other data. Positioning data centers as close to customers as possible means faster service.

The data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Corp Ltd, the country’s third-largest wireless carrier, Apple said in a statement.

“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously,” it said. “We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland china. All data stored with our providers is encrypted. China Telecom does not have access to the content.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the encryption keys for Apple’s data on China Telecom servers would be stored offshore and not made available to China Telecom.

Apple has said it has devised encryption systems for services such as iMessage that even Apple itself cannot unlock. But some experts expressed scepticism that Apple would be able to withhold user data in the event of a government request.

“If they’re making out that the data is protected and secure that’s a little disingenuous because if they want to operate a business here, that’d have to comply with demands from the authorities,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a research firm focused on Chinese media, internet and consumers.

“On the other hand if they don’t store Chinese user data on a Chinese server they’re basically risking a crackdown from the authorities.”

Goldkorn added that data stored in the United States is subject to similar U.S. regulations where the government can use court orders to demand private data.

A spokesman for China Telecom declined to comment.

 

Applied Materials Profits Up

August 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Chip-equipment maker Applied Materials has surprised most of the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street with a better-than-expected third-quarter profit. It appears that contract manufacturers are spending more on technology used to make smartphone and memory chips.

The company also forecast current-quarter adjusted profit largely above analysts’ average estimate. Chief Executive Gary Dickerson said that demand for DRAM chips is expected to grow in the current quarter.

Applied Materials, which also provides equipment to make flat panel displays and solar cells, forecast an adjusted profit of 25-29 cents per share for the fourth quarter. Wall Street was expecting a profit of 26 cents per share.

Applied Materials expects revenue growth of about 10 to 17 percent, implying revenue of $2.19 billion to $2.33 billion for the quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $2.28 billion. Applied Materials’ net income rose to $301 millionin the third quarter ended July 27, from $168 milliona year earlier. Revenue rose 14.7 percent to $2.27 billion.

Revenue in the company’s silicon systems business, which brings in about two-thirds of total sales, rose 16 percent to $1.48 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

FCC Extends Deadline For ‘Net Neutrality’ Comments

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. Federal Communications Commission has said it would accept public comments on its proposed new “net neutrality” rules through Sept. 15, giving the American public extra time to voice their opinions and concerns on how they think Internet traffic should be regulated.

The FCC has received more than 1 million comments already on new rules for how Internet services providers should be allowed to manage web traffic on their networks.

The FCC had set a deadline of July 15 for the initial comments and then September 10 for replies to those initial comments. However, the surge in submissions overwhelmed the FCC’s website and the agency had delayed the first deadline by three business days.

“To ensure that members of the public have as much time as was initially anticipated to reply to initial comments in these proceedings, the Bureau today is extending the reply comment deadline by three business days,” the FCC said on Friday, delaying the final deadline for comments to September 15.

 

 

 

Lenovo Selling More Mobile Phones Than PCs

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo’s growing presence in PCs and smartphones boosted the company’s net profit by 23% in the second quarter.

The company reported Thursday that its net profit reached $214 million, while quarterly revenue increased 18 percent year-over-year to $10.4 billion.

Although better known as a PC maker, Lenovo has been making major gains selling mobile handsets in its home market of China. It is now the country’s largest smartphone vendor with a 12.5% share of the market, according to research firm IDC.

The second quarter was the first time Lenovo smartphones outsold its PCs, with 15.8 million units, the company reported on Thursday.

Lenovo’s handsets still aren’t making as much money as PCs. Almost half its revenue came from selling laptops, while its mobile devices division, which includes tablets, accounted for only 15% of its total revenue in the quarter.

The company’s PC business has in the past been helped by its huge presence in its home market of China. But in the second quarter, Lenovo reported that it was also making gains in PC sales to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

In those markets, the company’s revenue reached $2.8 billion, up from $1.9 billion a year ago.

Lenovo, which currently ranks as the number one PC vendor in the world, is trying to expand in servers and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the company announced it would acquire Google’s Motorola Mobility, and IBM’s x86 server business.

Lenovo is still working with regulators to get approval for those deals.

 

Intel Explores Wearable Devices For Disease Research

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Intel Corp plans to utilize wearable gadgets such as smart watches to monitor patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and collect data that can be shared with researchers.

The chip maker said it is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, established by the actor and Parkinson’s sufferer in 2000, to conduct a multi-phase research study of the neurodegenerative brain disease. An estimated five million people globally have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the second-most-common neurudegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

The initial goal is to determine the feasibility of using wearable devices to monitor patients remotely and store that data in an open system that can be accessed by scientists.

In the next phase of the study, which will likely kick off in the fall, the foundation will set aside funds to explore how patients are responding to medication. Participants will be monitored via an array of wearable devices.

“As more of these devices hit the market, we can collect objective measurements and determine the efficacy of new therapeutics,” Sohini Chowdhury, a senior vice president for research partnerships at the foundation, told Reuters.

Clinical trials have been far too “subjective” in the past, she said. For instance, a patient might inform her doctor that she felt a tremor for several minutes, when it actually lasted a matter of seconds. In the future, Chowdhury hopes patients and their doctors will have more precise measurements via wearable devices about the “frequency and severity” of symptoms.

Chowdhury said the foundation will continue to raise funding to cover the costs of providing wearable devices to patients.

By using such devices, the foundation and other research groups can tap into a broader pool of patients for clinical trials, Chowdhury said. Today, many people with Parkinson’s disease are unable to participate in clinical trials because they do not live near a research facility.

But wearable devices offer a convenient way to track patients from their work or homes, allowing people in the most rural parts of the country to participate.

As it expands beyond the PC arena, Intel hopes to capture a share of the growing market for big data analytics and wearable devices in the health sector. Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel’s Big Data Solutions group, said the data center and “Internet of Things” business units are exploring the sector.

“We’re exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time,” he said. “We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease.”

 

 

Is Motorola Making A Comeback?

August 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Motorola Mobility has made a surprising comeback thanks to its popular Moto G and Moto E smartphones, but increased competition and its looming acquisition by Lenovo make the future far from certain.

What a difference a year makes. Motorola sold 8.6 million smartphones in the second quarter, up from 6.5 million in the first three months of the year, and more than double what it sold in the same quarter a year earlier, according to ABI Research.

The figures pale in comparison with those of Apple and Samsung, which sold 35.2 million and 75 million phones last quarter, respectively. But Motorola is in a position few thought it would reach just a year ago.

“The resurgence has slightly surprised me, to be honest. I didn’t expect to see Motorola come back in a meaningful way, but it actually has,” said Nick Spencer, senior practice director at ABI Research.

Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight, agreed.

“If you’d asked me about Motorola a year ago, I would have said it was on a distinct trajectory towards oblivion,” he said.

Motorola’s turnaround can be attributed only in part to Google, which announced it would buy the handset maker three years ago this week. The deal gave Motorola a new lease on life, but Google operated Motorola largely at arm’s length, and it now plans to sell the division to Lenovo.

It took more than two years after the Google deal for Motorola to release a phone that resonated with consumers. Its first device was the high-end Moto X, but not using the latest components and relying on software features to attract buyers turned out to be a miscalculation.

But thanks to the Moto G, the LTE version of that phone and the Moto E, Motorola’s sales have turned a corner. The company apparently hit on a winning formula, offering phones at lower prices but with features good enough to please many consumers.

“As the market for flagship smartphones has softened and a lot of people are looking at buying devices without a contract, Motorola’s Moto E and G seem to have really captured the moment,” Wood said.