With the Wear platform, Qualcomm wants to drive the development of sleek wearables like smartwatches, smartbands and smartglasses that offer long battery life. With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE, Qualcomm is enabling more ways for wearables to connect and transfer data over the Internet, other than using the smartphone as an interface.
At the core of the new wearable platform, available now, is the Wear 2100 chip to which an LTE module can be attached. It is the first in a new family of chips the company will release for wearables.
LG Electronics said it would launch smartwatches and other wearables with the Wear 2100 chip by year end. LG last year announced the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, but scrapped the product due to hardware issues. That product could be launched with the Wear 2100 this year.
There are already wearables with cellular connectivity, but most have 2G/3G connectivity. LTE modems tend to be power hungry, and using the 2G/3G network is a more power-efficient way to transfer data using a cellular connection.
But Qualcomm over time has reduced the size of its LTE modems while making them more power efficient. The chip maker is now confident it can pack an LTE modem into a wearable like a smartwatch without hurting battery life.
Around 65 smartwatches with Android Wear already use Qualcomm chips. The Qualcomm Wear platform will also include software tools and reference designs for customers to develop devices.
The Wear 2100 chip is a smaller version of the Snapdragon 400 chip, which is currently used in smartphones. It is also more power-efficient, which could allow for longer battery life.
The chip has a sensor hub and algorithms so it can process data on the device before it is sent to the cloud. The on-board intelligence could help limit the amount of data sent over a cellular network, which could preserve battery life in a wearable.
Qualcomm is following the path of Intel and MIPS, which are offering developer boards for wearables. Intel’s Edison and Curie modules have been used in smartwatches, fabrics, helmets and other wearables, while MIPS offers the small Creator boards for enthusiasts to make wearables at homes.
The Mozilla Foundation has confirmed details of its shift in strategy for Firefox OS which will see it abandon future phone development in favour of using the software as (yet another) IoT platform.
In an announcement to the developer community by John Bernard, director of collaboration for Connected Devices at Mozilla, and George Roter, head of core contributors, it was confirmed that Firefox OS for smartphones will be canned at version 2.6.
“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” they said in a statement.
Meh. Could have told you that one two years ago.
In addition, the Firefox OS Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, desktop and tablet apps. Apps for Firefox OS itself will remain accepted until sometime in 2017.
At the moment, the new emphasis on connected devices is in the internal testing phase with three products ‘past the first gate’ and more in the pipeline. It is expected that this process will be opened to outsiders before the end of the second quarter.
The foxfooding (think dogfooding, or insider programme) will continue, turning its focus to connected products, and by the end of March, Mozilla intends to identify how the existing Sony Z3 Compact devices used for testing so far will figure going forwards.
The statement continued “Obviously, these decisions are substantial. The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the web to IoT. And let’s remember why we’re doing this: we’re entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security.”
This seems to suggest that Mozilla wants to help the fragmentation issue by fragmenting it further. This is the ongoing problem with connected devices – everyone wants to be the one to end the fragmentation with their solution.
One of the solutions through the internal tests early doors is the Firefox Smart TV platform, an already fragmented market that should still be licking its wounds from the Matchstick debacle.
Roter adds, “Our push into the Connected Devices space will absolutely necessitate strong community support for our initiatives to be successful – and that means hacking on and testing new product innovations coming through the pipeline.”
BlackBerry Ltd plans to cut 200 jobs at its hometown headquarters in Ontario and in Florida in order to trim costs, as the smartphone maker moves to turn around its fortunes and put more emphasis on its enterprise software business.
“As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce,” the company said in an emailed statement.
The company declined to comment on what percentage of its workforce is affected by the cuts. According to a filing, the company had 6,225 employees as of Feb. 28, 2015.
The layoffs will affect 75 manufacturing jobs in Sunrise, Florida, a state government website showed.
The company also confirmed that Gary Klassen is one of the people who has departed in the latest round of cuts. Klassen was one of its longest-tenured employees and the inventor of its BBM messaging service.
One source familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said many of the Canadian cuts were people working on its BB10 handset software at its Waterloo, Ontario, headquarters.
A spokeswoman for BlackBerry declined to comment on which divisions will be affected by the cuts, but said the company stood by its commitment to release further updates on its BB10 software.
Last September, the company laid off roughly 200 staff, who had worked on the hardware and design of the BB10 devices. The company began releasing the BB10-based devices in January 2013, but despite positive reviews the smartphones failed to win back market share from Apple Inc’s iPhone, and the slew of Android-based devices that dominate the global market.
In a final attempt to revive its handset business BlackBerry released its first Android-based device in November. It has stated it plans to release at least one more Android-based phone this year.
BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen has said he will make a decision on whether the company’s handset business is viable in the financial year beginning in late February.
Firefox OS for smartphones will be retired once Mozilla wraps up version 2.6, George Roter, who leads Mozilla’s Participation Lab, said in a long message posted to the company’s website.
Firefox OS 2.6 is currently slated for a May 30 release.
Nearly two months ago, Mozilla confirmed that it wascalling it quits on Firefox OS in its current incarnation, ending more than four years of work building a browser-based, smartphone operating system.
Instead, Mozilla said that it would use the resources freed up by the shuttering of Firefox OS on smartphones to pivot toward an operating system for connected devices, the category dubbed “Internet of things,” or IoT.
“The main reason [these decisions] are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the Web to IoT,” said Roter.
Roter was more direct in explaining the reasoning for turning off Firefox OS’s spigot than were Mozilla executives in December.
“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” Roter acknowledged. “We have decided that in order to succeed in the new area of connected devices we must focus our energy completely on prototyping the future and exploring how we can make the biggest impact in IoT.”
Ari Jaaksi, the executive who runs Mozilla’s Connected Devices group, was just as candid. “We could not create a compelling and differentiating end-user value proposition and we failed to build the full ecosystem,” he wrote on a company blog, referring to Firefox OS for smartphones.
Along with the demise of Firefox OS, on March 29 Mozilla will stop accepting submissions to its app store for Web apps that run in Firefox on Android as well as the desktop- and tablet-centric versions of the browser. Apps for those platforms now in the store will be removed on that same day; in other words, Mozilla will kill the small app ecosystem it had struggled to create.
After March 29, only apps for Firefox OS on smartphones will be available on the store. Mozilla is also dead-ending the store’s payment support, meaning that developers will have to scramble to find another payment provider or make their paid apps free.
The study predicts that the continued expansion of Internet-connected devices — such as smart TVs and vehicles, IP video cameras and more — will offer fresh opportunities for tracking targets.
“Law enforcement or intelligence agencies may start to seek orders compelling Samsung, Google, Mattel, Nest or vendors of other networked devices to push an update or flip a digital switch to intercept the ambient communications of a target,” it said. “These are real products now.”
The study comes from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet Society and was signed by well-known figures, including security expert Bruce Schneier, Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School and Matthew G. Olsen, former director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.
All are members of the Berkman Center’s Berklett Cybersecurity Project, which studies surveillance and cybersecurity issues.
The technology industry has come under increasing pressure from some government officials in the U.S. and U.K., who contend that bolstering data security, primarily through encryption, will diminish their capabilities to fight terrorism and crime, and will result in those sources “going dark.”
While law enforcement can gain access to data held by service providers through warrants, some systems have been designed in a way that the service providers can’t provide any information at all.
These so-called end-to-end encryption systems leave users in sole possession of the decryption keys. Without a password, law enforcement would have to use other means to try to decrypt data.
The study, titled ”Don’t Panic: Making progress on the encryption debate,” does acknowledge encryption will poses challenges in some instances but by no means will dictate the landscape of future technology products.
“To be sure, encryption and provider-opaque services make surveillance more difficult in certain cases, but the landscape is far more variegated than the metaphor suggests,” it said. “There are and will always be pockets of dimness and some dark spots — communications channels resistant to surveillance — but this does not mean we are completely ‘going dark’.”
The application, called Smart Notice, is a kind of multifunctional widget, managing contacts, notifications, and weather and traffic alerts.
Once the code was on the phone, any information stored on its SD card, such as private images and chat logs, could be stolen.
“The root cause for the security problem is the fact that Smart Notice does not validate the data presented to the users,” BugSec and Cynet wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
The researchers found a variety of ways to trigger their malicious code and carry out actions, such as opening a phishing site that tries to steal a person’s Gmail credentials or prompt a person to download a remote access trojan.
“With a little tweak, we were able to load external scripts from a remote host and ‘refresh’ our code every few seconds, giving us the ability to have active command and control over the LG phone and send new payloads,” the companies wrote.
It was also possible to conduct a denial-of-service attack that could only be stopped by doing a hard reset of the phone, they wrote.
This month, market research firm IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7 expected to arrive in September; that move seems more likely given that Apple introduced an inductive, proprietary charging solution in 2015 on the Apple Watch.
Adding fuel to the wireless charging fire, Bloomberg has reported that Apple is working with partners in the U.S. and Asia to develop new wireless charging technology that could be deployed on its mobile devices in 2017.
“We still expect [wireless charging with the iPhone 7], but this latest rumor suggests a longer term look at much greater spatial freedom — claiming to take away the charging pad altogether,” David Green, a research manager at IHS Technology, said.
Two years ago, the Windows Phone 8-based Lumia 920 smartphone introduced wireless charging. Then Samsung launched dual-mode wireless charging on its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones. Now, the focus is on Apple to see whether it will also add wireless charging to the iPhone, Green said.
Wireless charging is proving to be very popular with those who have used it, and the market tripled in size last year compared to 2014, with more than 160 million wireless charging receivers shipped across all markets.
The three major wireless charging industry groups have adopted a form of resonant wireless charging, which allows a more “loosely coupled” approach where handsets can be several centimeters away from a charger or placed at any angle on a charging pad.
For example, AirFuel Alliance’s Rezence-specification, which allows charging from across several centimeters, includes the ability to use a charging bowl or charging through a desktop.
There’s also uncoupled charging technology, where powering up devices through Wi-Fi, for example, sends low levels of power (typically less than 1 watt) across a room.
Ossia, Energous and uBeam all demonstrated uncoupled charging technology at CES earlier this month.
Altair, based in Israel, is a developer of modem chip technology and software relating to the LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G cellular standard for mobile phones and data terminals. Sony aims to combine Altair’s work with its sensing technologies such as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and image sensors to develop new cellular-connected, sensing devices.
Sony expects LTE, which is already used in data communication for mobile phones, to play a key role in IoT as more small devices or “things” are expected to be equipped with cellular chipsets and access network services that take advantage of cloud computing.
LTE is increasingly seen as a cellular technology that could be relevant for IoT, and carriers are preparing to offer it. Verizon announced last year the U.S. availability of chipsets for IoT devices that can connect to its LTE network at speeds up to 10Mbps.
Sony said in October it was acquiring Softkinetic Systems, a developer in Brussels of range image sensor technology that uses the time-of-flight (ToF) range method for arriving at the distance of an object. Sony said it would use the technology not only in the field of imaging but for broader sensing-related applications as well.
Altair claims on its website that its chipset already powers millions of LTE-connected devices worldwide. The company’s LTE chipsets provide varying speeds, standby current of microamps to milliamps, and package sizes ranging from small footprint modules to miniature, low-profile SiPs (system in package), the company said.
Sony expects to close the deal early next month. The consumer electronics company has been increasingly focusing on its components business, including a deal announced in December to acquire Toshiba’s CMOS image sensors and memory controller fabrication facility in Oita Prefecture in Japan.
An analyst has cut his estimate of projected sales of the rumored new 4-inch iPhone, reportedly called the “iPhone 5se,” in half, from 18-20 million down to 10-12 million units.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the new 4-inch iPhone, as little new to offer, despite getting a lot of media attention.
“We don’t regard the product as innovative, either in terms of form factor … or hardware specs.”
Kuo said that Apple will ship 43 million units, a decline of 44 per cent quarter-over-quarter and 29 per cent year-over-year.
The smaller iPhone will likely include an all-metal design but is otherwise as silly a move as the 5c, which had a plastic body but tanked.
“We see MacBook as a stronger candidate for becoming a theme given solid growth in the business segment, as well as a potential upgrade to hit the market in 1H16,” Kuo said.
In other words Apple is starting to regress to the days when all it had was its PCs and was so desperate for money it had to borrow off Microsoft.
The electronics conglomerate has started accepting bids, with early interest shown by the Development Bank of Japan Inc, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The state-owned bank has already invested in Seiko Holdings Corp’s semiconductor operations.
The sale would exclude Toshiba’s mainstay NAND flash memory operations, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter and one person familiar with the discussions.
On the block are businesses that handle system LSI and discrete chips, which are widely used in cars, home appliances and industrial machinery. The loss-making operations posted sales of 330 billion yen ($2.78 billion) in the year ended March 2015.
A Toshiba spokesman told Reuters the company hasn’t made a decision yet on the sale of its chip operations, while a spokeswoman at the Development Bank of Japan declined to comment.
Following the accounting scandal, Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear and other energy operations, as well as its storage business, which centers on NAND flash memory chips used in smart phones.
The Tokyo-based company, which is selling off non-core chip operations, plans to invest heavily in its flash memory production capacity in Japan to better compete with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
The Windows 10 Mobile OS — popularly known as Windows Phone — can now run on x86 chips, according to a Microsoft Web page. It’s the first version of Windows Phone to be compatible with x86.
The information on the website was confirmed by a Microsoft spokeswoman as accurate. Until now, Windows smartphones have only run on ARM-based chips from Qualcomm.
Intel and Microsoft last year joined forces in an effort to get device makers to bring Windows 10 to low-cost smartphones and phablets that would run on the chip-maker’s Atom X3 chips.
Devices with Windows 10 Mobile can have screen sizes up to 7 inches and a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels.
Intel had said Atom X3 smartphones would be priced as low as $75. But the current version of the chip is only 3G capable, which may have caused mobile phone makers to hesitate — so far, no handset manufacturer has come out with a Windows phone running on the Atom X3.
Faster Atom X3 chips with integrated LTE capabilities will be in handsets this year, however.
Microsoft and Intel for years have wanted to build an alliance in smartphones along the lines of the partnership that made both companies successful in PCs. But Intel was underwhelmed by the adoption of Windows Phone, which was in just 31.3 million, or 2.2 percent, of the smartphones that shipped worldwide in 2015, according to IDC.
Microsoft and Intel declined to provide further comment on Windows 10 Mobile on x86 smartphones, or when handsets would come to the market.
A big focus of the AT&T discounts is special deals on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and Gear S2 smartwatches. Analysts interpreted that focus on Samsung devices as a way to clear out inventory prior to expected upgrade announcements coming in late February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
AT&T is also facing pressure to add more subscribers, as analysts — including Evercore ISI this week– have predicted AT&T’s fourth-quarter postpaid subscriber loss will be more than 300,000. That comes amid reports that T-Mobile added 4.5 million net subscribers for the fourth quarter and Verizon Wireless added 525,000.
All the major carriers, including AT&T, hit the December holidays with special device deals, but AT&T apparently didn’t feel enough impact on its inventory from those offers, analysts said.
AT&T and Samsung are motivated to get rid of all the old inventory before new models arrive, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “Retailers won’t run such an aggressive promotion unless they have a lot of stock.”
An AT&T spokeswoman provided a different explanation: “Due to popular demand, AT&T is bringing back some of its holiday promos.”
Those promos — available to both consumers and business customers at AT&T retail stores — include a free Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch for a limited time to any customer buying a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, or a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 for buying a Galaxy smartphone on an AT&T Next wireless plan. AT&T is also offering an iPad mini 2 for $99 when a customer buys a new iPhone on the Next plan.
For business customers, the 2-for-1 smartphone deal is new. It allows business customers to buy a new smartphone and then get another smartphone, valued at up to $650, for free.
Twitter Inc stated that it had reversed a glitchy software update and resolved outages widely reported across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America that affected users of the social network on computers and phones.
In a status update message Twitter said an “intermittent issue affecting some users” was related to “an internal code change.”
“We reverted the change, which fixed the issue,” Twitter said in a statement. There was no immediate way to determine whether full service had been restored for all users.
Wall Street has long worried about Twitter’s stagnant growth in users and advertising revenue, and analysts said the outage added to the concern.
“The current market malaise and the recent site outages are compounding the negatives and having a very negative reaction on the shares,” said Victor Anthony, Axiom Capital Management analyst.
Some users who tweeted with the hashtag #twitterdown reported they had not experienced problems or that their service had been restored. Others said they were still having problems after Twitter’s announcement.
Many pointed out that Twitter could not have been down for everyone since #twitterdown was among the top trending hashtags on the site.
Both Twitter’s Internet and mobile services began experiencing outages concentrated in northern Europe around 0820 GMT.
Users from Scandinavia to Saudi Arabia to South Africa reported outages. India and Russia also suffered performance issues, according to a Twitter technical site.
Intermittent breakdowns later spread to the United States and Canada in the early part of their working day.
Sporadic disruptions continued at 1420 GMT, six hours after they first began to spread. At approximately 1745 GMT Twitter reported that some users were still having trouble accessing the service.
Fifteen minutes later the company announced the service problems had been resolved. A company spokeswoman had no further comment.
Pakistan announced that it has removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to demand removal of material it considers offensive.
Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims”, was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.
Under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can ask for access to offending material to be blocked, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement.
“On the recommendation of PTA, the government of Pakistan has allowed access to the recently launched country version of YouTube for internet users in Pakistan,” the ministry said.
The government could ask Google to block access to offending material for users within Pakistan and the ministry said Google and YouTube would “accordingly restrict access” for Pakistani users.
Google, however, said that it would not automatically remove material without conducting a review, and that the vetting process was the same as in other jurisdictions with local YouTube versions. Government requests to remove content would be publicly reported, it added.
“We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them,” it said in a statement.
“Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review.”
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam. The crime of blasphemy can carry the death penalty, although a death sentence has never been carried out.
The European Union wants guarantees of effective limits on U.S. authorities’ power to request people’s personal information from companies to conclude a new EU-U.S. data transfer pact, a top EU official has said, as a deadline from EU privacy regulators looms.
Securing sufficient assurances U.S. spies will not access Europeans’ personal data indiscriminately once it is transferred across the Atlantic has been a big sticking point in two years of talks between Brussels and Washington on a new framework for protecting data shifted to the United States.
“We need guarantees that there is effective judicial control of public authorities’ access to data for national security, law enforcement and public interest purposes,” EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said at a conference in Brussels.
The talks took on added urgency in October when the EU’s top court struck down the 15-year-old Safe Harbour framework, used by more than 4,000 firms to transfer Europeans’ data across the Atlantic easily, because the material was vulnerable to being accessed by U.S. authorities on national security grounds.
Adding to the pressure, EU data protection authorities gave the two sides until the end of January to come up with a new framework for protecting data transferred to the United States, failing which they could start taking enforcement action against companies.
Jourova said talks would continue on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Andrus Ansip, the EU Commissioner responsible for digital affairs, is due to meet U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Thursday.
The Commission is also seeking more transparency on limits to U.S. security services collecting personal data, Jourova said.
U.S. negotiators have so far resisted a mandatory system for companies to report numbers of U.S. government access requests, people familiar with the talks have said.
However, one alternative would be for the United States to keep the EU informed on how often U.S. authorities access personal data on national security grounds as part of an annual review process of the new framework, two of the people said.
Under EU data protection law, companies cannot transfer EU citizens’ personal data to countries outside the 28-nation bloc deemed to have insufficient privacy safeguards, of which the United States is one.