The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.
The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.
The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.
“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.
“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.
But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.
The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.
Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.
I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)
Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.
Market research firm Gartner surveyed 4,300 U.S. consumers in June who work at large companies (with more than 1,000 employees) and found 40% used personally owned smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops as a primary or supplemental business device.
That 40% might not be unusual, but more surprisingly, Gartner found that 45% of workers not required to use a personal device for work were doing so without their employer’s knowledge.
“Almost half [are using their device] without their employer’s awareness,” said Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia in an interview.
“Are those without employer’s awareness violating a rule? That would depend on the employer,” Sabia added. “The point is that some CIOs are underestimating [the number of] employees using their devices and should be prepared for this.”
The Gartner survey found the most popular personally owned device used for work was a desktop computer, at 42%, closely followed by a smartphone, at 40%, a laptop, at 36%, and a tablet, at 26%.
“The lines between work and play are becoming more and more blurred as employees choose to use their own device for work purposes whether sanctioned by an employer or not,” Sabia said. “Devices once bought for personal use are increasingly used for work.”
After several years of accelerated growth, the U.S. market is feeling the effects of market saturation and smartphone ownership that’s lasting longer than once expected, Ramon Llamas, an analyst IDC, said in an updated forecast.
IDC’s five-year forecast issued for October significantly undercuts its April forecast, dropping expectations for U.S. smartphone and feature phone shipments by manufacturers to retailers. IDC now expects 1.7 million fewer phones shipped in 2104 than it had expected in April; it predicts 174 million phones will ship this year, with that figure declining gradually to 169 million in 2018.
Smartphone shipments alone will grow just slightly through 2018 in the U.S., but about 5% less than earlier expected, rising from 150 million in 2014 to 160.5 million in 2018. Feature phones shipments have dropped off faster than earlier expected.
Llamas said the signs of decline started in late 2011, prompting carriers in the past year to try to get customers to replace phones more often with easy trade-in plans and relaxed contracts.
It’s too soon to say what effect the early trade-in plans will have on the market, Llamas said. The life of an average smartphone still lasts about two years, but that could be changing.
Paying on installment plans “could really change the market,” Llamas said in an interview. “But if people pay off their devices and then realize they don’t have to pay the carrier as much [at the end of the payoff period] and only pay for wireless service, they might just hold onto their phones. I think people will hold onto their phones as long as they can after they are paid off. If this plays out and they hold on and don’t update, we’ll see flattening of sales volumes year after year, or even declines, all in the name of saving money.”
Realizing what’s happening in the U.S. and among other major economies, both Apple and Samsung have concentrated heavily on selling their new smartphones in China and other areas where smartphone sales are still strong.
The company is expected to make more job cuts this month, including from other locations in the U.S., further lowering the ranks of its 33,000-person work force. Since January, the company has cut its ranks by about 5,000, from 38,000.
The latest headquarters cuts were in IT and portfolio management and Sprint’s network, technology and product areas, according to a statement by spokesperson Roni Singleton. Some employees will work their last day on Nov. 7 and others will finish Nov. 14.
“Sprint is focused on competing aggressively in the marketplace,” Singleton said. “We want our customers to pay less for a better value on a new networks. As part of this plan, we have to more closely align our cost structure with that of our competitors.”
CEO Marcelo Claure signaled there would be job cuts in August shortly after taking on his new role. Claure also inaugurated a round of pricing reductions.
Even so, analysts expect the company to lose more subscribers and fall into fourth place among the nation’s top carriers, behind T-Mobile.
An earnings call is expected in late October, although the date hasn’t been scheduled, Singleton said.
Sprint’s more than 5,000 job cuts in 2014 put it behind Cisco, with 6,000 job cuts (8%) announced for the year and Microsoft, with 18,000 job cuts (14%) planned for the year.
Amazon, which had been in discussions with Simon & Schuster since July over pricing, confirmed the deal first reported by the Business Insider news blog that the two had reached an agreement.
Amazon had been locked in a months-long standoff with publisher Hachette Book Group, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France’s Lagardere, over digital book pricing. That has led to numerous issues for authors.
Industry experts had expected other publishers eventually to be drawn into negotiations as well, as the Internet retailer tries to set new benchmarks for the e-book market.
Negotiations with Simon & Schuster took about three weeks and closed two months before Amazon’s contract expired, according to Business Insider.
Simon & Schuster made its original offer and an agreement was reached after a few changes by Amazon, the source told Business Insider.
Google didn’t elaborate on the price increase after announcing the Nexus 6, but several analysts said Google may be intending to push the Nexus as a premium brand that can compete with the iPhone 6 and other high-end phones.
Google originally developed Android to be inclusive and global, and indeed, it is the world’s largest OS by far. The company developed the Nexus line in 2010 to show Android phone manufacturers, and the public, how a pure Android phone could look and feel without the added features and bloatware installed by phone makers.
Meanwhile, the four national carriers are expected to sell the Nexus 6 with a subsidized price of as low as $200 with a two-year contract, and separate pricing for installment plans. AT&T will be a Nexus provider for the first time, and Verizon Wireless will carry the phone despite a spotty history with the Nexus line.
Such a carrier push to sell Nexus 6 phones with a subsidy seems to indicate that Google is intent on spreading wider adoption of its pure Nexus line that it so far hasn’t achieved. Google has long described Android as an operating system for all, but Google also wants to promote a more refined Android device, which it is trying to do with its Nexus line.
The $649 Nexus 6, which will run Android 5.0 Lollipop with support for 64-bit architecture, is a better phone than the $349 Nexus 5 that runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Nexus 6 also starts with 32 GB storage, double the capacity of its predecessor the Nexus 5. (A 64 GB Nexus 6 will run $699 unlocked on Google Play.)
But all the enhancements in the new Nexus 6, including its 5.96-in. Quad HD display and Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, still don’t fully account for the 86% increase in starting price for the unlocked model, analysts said.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android at Google, noted in a blog post that wireless carriers will offer the Nexus 6 on monthly contracts or installment plans. A number of industry sources predicted the two-year contract price will start at $200, a common industry price for high-end smartphones, including the new iPhone 6.
The four major carriers, Google and Motorola, which is the Nexus 6 manufacturer, all refused to discuss the prices that carriers will charge. They also would not disclose the November release date.
Gartner and IDC both recently dramatically lowered their tablet shipment and sales estimates for 2014 and coming years, citing primarily the longer-than-expected time customers keep their existing tablets. (That phenomenon is called the “refresh rate.”)
Gartner said it had originally expected 13% tablet sales growth for the year globally; it has now lowered that growth rate to 11%. IDC’s forecast change was even more dire: In June, it predicted shipment growth this year would be 12.1%, but in September it cut that number to 6.5%.
In the U.S., things are worse, because more than half of households have a tablet and may hold onto it for more than three years, well beyond analysts’ earlier expectations.
IDC said in its latest update that tablet growth in the U.S. this year will be just 1.5%, and will slow to 0.4% in 2015. After that, it expects negative growth through 2018. Adding in 2-in-1 devices, such as a Surface Pro with a keyboard, the situation in the U.S. improves, although overall growth for both tablets and 2-in-1′s will still only reach 3.8% in 2014, and just 0.4% by 2018, IDC said.
“Tablet penetration is high in the U.S. — over half of all households have at least one — which leads to slow growth…,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview. “A smartphone is a must-have item, but a tablet is not. You can do the same things on a laptop as you do with a tablet, and these are all inter-related.”
Tablets are a “nice-to-have and not a must-have, because phones and PCs are enough to get by,” added Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.
In a recent Kantar survey of 20,000 potential tablet buyers, only 13% said they definitely or probably would buy a tablet in the next year, while 54% said they would not, Milanesi said. Of those planning not to buy a tablet, 72% said they were happy with their current PC.
At IDC, analyst Tom Mainelli reported that the first half of 2014 saw tablet growth slow to 5.8% (from a growth rate of 88% in the first half of 2013). Mainelli said the meteoric pace of past years has slowed dramatically due to long device refresh cycles and pressure from sales of large phones, including the new iPhone 6 Plus. That phone has a 5.5-in. display, which is close to some smaller tablets with 7-in. displays.
The smartphone is a variant of the Xperia Z3, which was announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin last month. The smartphone will be sold for US$199 through Verizon with a two-year mobile contract, the companies said.
The Z3V smartphone has a 5.2-inch screen and looks and feels just like the Z3, but there are subtle differences. The Z3V has wireless charging and offers a longer battery life of two hours. The Z3 has one-and-a-half hours of battery life.
The Z3V also lets users play PlayStation 4 games remotely on their phones with the Remote Play feature.
The Z3V has the same 20.7-megapixel rear camera as the Z3, but advanced software to shoot and edit pictures.
Other features include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution screen and a 2.2-megapixel front camera. It runs on the Android 4.4 OS, code-named KitKat. The smartphone is also waterproof.
The Xperia Z3V is the effective successor to the Z2, which shipped just six months ago, and has received good reviews. But PC Advisor says that the hardware in the Z3 is similar to that of its predecessor, so there’s no major reason to upgrade.
Sony’s U.S. mobile business has struggled. But the company is committed to that market, said Kunimasa Suzuki, president and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications, at the event. The Z3V is central to the company’s plans for the market, which also include bringing all of gaming, movie, music and device assets together.
The Z3V was one of many product availability announcements made at the press conference. Verizon will sell Sony’s Smartwatch 3 starting later this month, though no price was announced.
The Smartwatch 3 was also announced at IFA. It will run on Google’s Android Wear OS and offer two days of battery life, said Jeff Dietel, vice president of marketing at Verizon Wireless.
The country’s third-largest carrier has confirmed that it will end its WiMax service on Nov. 6, 2015. It had disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year that WiMax would shut down by the end of 2015.
Sprint deployed what was then a newly emerging technology in 2008, attempting to jump past its competitors with a mobile data network that would be faster than its own 3G CDMA system and those operated by the other big national carriers. WiMax launched first in Baltimore in September 2008 with advertised download speeds ranging from 2Mbps (bits per second) to 4Mbps.
The network ultimately was built and operated by Clearwire, another early WiMax adherent that owned spectrum licenses in the same band as Sprint, around 2.5GHz. Sprint bought its WiMax capacity wholesale from Clearwire before selling it to its 4G subscribers. The two carriers had a tumultuous relationship until Sprint acquired Clearwire as part of its takeover by Softbank in 2013.
WiMax predated LTE and may have helped to spur on the development of that standard, which became the 4G system for carriers that had embraced the GSM family of technologies. But as early as 2010, both Sprint and Clearwire were signaling that they would give in to LTE’s broader global backing and follow what was already expected to be the more high-volume technology.
The November date was first reported by AndroidCentral, based on a leaked newsletter that discussed a letter to be sent a year in advance to all corporate WiMax customers. The newsletter also said other WiMax customers would be informed six months in advance and that there would be comparable devices at low or no cost to replace WiMax equipment. Sprint had laid out the possibility of free LTE replacement phones in its terms of service last year.
The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.
Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.
The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.
“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money, BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.
Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.
BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.
Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”, to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.
The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.
Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who is visiting India to participate in an event to boost Internet usage, refused to say much more, but it does indicate that the company has not worked out a cunning plan yet.
Facebook’s final WhatsApp acquisition price tag has risen an additional $3 billion to roughly $22 billion because of the increased value of Facebook’s stock in recent months. This means that Zuckerberg is under pressure to make a bob or two from the deal.
WhatsApp works across different types of phones, across borders, and without advertising. The app only charges a 99 cent annual subscription fee, which is waived for the first year.
Google’s request seeks to overturn an appeals court ruling that found Oracle could copyright APIs of its Java programming language, which Google used to design its Android smartphone operating system.
Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android. Oracle wants $1 billion on its copyright claims. Oracle claimed Google’s Android trampled on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. A San Francisco federal judge had decided that Oracle could not claim copyright protection on parts of Java, but earlier this year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington disagreed.
In its filing this week, Google said the company would never been able to innovate had the Federal Circuit’s reasoning been in place when the company was formed.
“Early computer companies could have blocked vast amounts of technological development by claiming 95-year copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming,” Google wrote.
A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed speech-to-text software for Google’s wearable technology. Using Glass and an Android-based smartphone, the app converts speech to text and displays it on the Glass heads-up display.
“This system allows wearers like me to focus on the speaker’s lips and facial gestures,” said Jim Foley, a professor at Georgia Tech, in a statement. “If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However, if I miss a word, I can glance at the transcription, get the word or two I need and get back into the conversation.”
According to Georgia Tech, the system works by having a hard-of-hearing person wear Glass while the person he’s trying to converse with speaks directly into the smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.
“Glass has its own microphone, but it’s designed for the wearer,” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and a technical lead for Glass. “The mobile phone puts a microphone directly next to the speaker’s mouth, reducing background noise and helping to eliminate errors.”
The app, called Captioning on Glass, is free and is available at MyGlass.
Google has been focused on expanding its app ecosystem for Glass, adding apps for Facebook, Twitter and CNN.
Google is still working to move Glass from prototype to an official product.
Google offered the eyewear for general sale in May, although Glass still is in beta testing. The company is looking for early adopters, also known as Explorers, while engineers continue to work on the hardware and software, and third parties add to the selection of apps.
Earlier this year, Google executives said they expected Glass to be released later in 2014. However, during the company’s annual developer conference, they stopped estimating release dates and said Glass will be released when it’s ready.
Around 45 percent of Android mobile devices have a browser that is vulnerable to two serious security issues, but some countries have a considerably larger percentage of affected users than others, according to data from mobile security firm Lookout.
The two security issues were uncovered over the past month by a security researcher named Rafay Baloch and were described as a privacy disaster by other researchers. They allow an attacker to bypass a core security boundary, called the same-origin policy (SOP), that exists in all browsers.
The SOP prevents scripts from one domain from interacting with data from a different domain. For example, scripts running on a page hosted on domain A should not be able to interact with content loaded on the same page from domain B.
Without that restriction, attackers could create pages that load Facebook, Gmail or some other sensitive sites in an invisible iframe and then trick users into visiting those pages in order to hijack their sessions and read their emails or send Facebook messages, for example.
The SOP bypass vulnerabilities found by Baloch affect Android versions older than 4.4, which according to data from Google are installed on 75 percent of all Android devices that actively visit the Google Play Store. Android 4.4 is not vulnerable because it uses Google Chrome as the default browser instead of the older Android Open Source Project (AOSP) browser.
Google has released patches for the two vulnerabilities through AOSP, which serves as the base for the customized Android firmware installed on devices by manufacturers. The task now falls on device vendors to import those patches and release firmware updates to end users.
However, history has shown that the availability of Android firmware updates varies greatly among manufacturers, different devices from the same manufacturer and even among countries, as local carriers also play a role in the distribution of over-the-air updates.
Kaspersky has revealed that it is working with Interpol in attempting to foil a gang of cash machine (ATM) hackers who have found a way to make it spit out its contents without even using a card.
The hack is incredibly carefully thought out. Hackers gain access to cash machines, through mole employees or perhaps cleaners, and add the malicious code, named Tyupkin by Kaspersky. The cash machine continues to function as normal.
The malware is triggered only at set times – Sunday and Monday nights – thus avoiding being accidentally triggered by a member of the public.
At that time, the mule is sent to the machine and types in a series of digits unique to that raid based on an algorithm known to the gang.
He then makes a second call to the gang who generate the second half of the code from their end, thus ensuring that the mule isn’t tempted to swan off with the dough.
At that point, it’s Winsday. The machine will display how much is in each cash compartment and willingly spits it out to the waiting mule who goes back to distribute the swag.
“Offenders are constantly identifying new ways to evolve their methodologies to commit crimes, and it is essential that we keep law enforcement in our member countries involved and informed about current trends and modus operandi,” said Sanjay Virmani, director of the Interpol Digital Crime Centre.
“We strongly advise banks to review the physical security of their ATMs and network infrastructure and consider investing in quality security solutions,” added Vicente Diaz, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team, who, coincidentally, knows a company that can offer those solutions. Fancy.
Among the recommendations Kaspersky offers is a reminder to switch away from default passwords for systems including the system BIOS for each cash machine.
In June of this year, two Canadian teenagers showed how they had broken into an in-store ATM simply by downloading the instructions from the internet and using unchanged default passwords.
Malware for ATMs first came to the fore in 2008 when two Louisiana criminals reconfigured a cash machine to make it believe that it had smaller denomination bills than it really did.