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China’s Rush To The Internet Is Slowing

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s once furious pace to get on the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.

There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.

Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.

Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.

The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.

In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.

Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.

 

Dell Is Now Accepting Bitcoin Payments

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Want to purchase a laptop with bitcoins? Dell is now accepting the digital currency as a form of payment.

Consumer and business shoppers can pay for products directly via bitcoins or through Coinbase, a third-party payment processing company, Dell said.

Buyers can pay for products through Bitcoin wallets or by scanning a QR code with a smartphone.

The volatile Bitcoin has had its share of controversies and exchange shutdowns as the currency matures. Companies like Overstock.com, Newegg, Expedia and some Amazon storefronts accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. But major retailers like Walmart and eBay have not warmed up to the idea. The value of one bitcoin was around $630 as of Friday, according to multiple cryptocurrency website.

There are some advantages to paying via Bitcoin. The form of currency is accepted around the world, and for Dell, the payment-processing cost is less than with credit cards.

But the form of payment has its quirks.

“Due to the nature of the Bitcoin network, once you initiate a Bitcoin transaction you cannot change or cancel it,” Dell said on a terms and conditions page.

Customers could seek refunds in the case of canceled transactions or product returns.

“For a qualifying return of product paid for in Bitcoin, any refund due will be remitted to the purchaser via check in U.S. Dollars for the full amount of the purchase price paid at the time of the original transaction, less any applicable restocking fees,” Dell said.

 

Google’s Growth Will Be In A Shift To Mobile

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc  is the more properly positioned than any company to benefit from the shift to mobile, increased local advertising and wearables, analysts said after the search giant posted its 18th straight quarter of 20 percent-plus revenue growth.

At least eight brokerages raised their price targets on the stock on Friday by as much as $75, to a high of $745.

The company, which is also set to benefit from the so-called “internet of things”, said that second-quarter revenue rose 22 percent to $15.96 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $15.61 billion.

Growth was driven by the company’s core search business, YouTube and product-listing ads, which combined to drive three times as much mobile traffic for merchants compared with last year, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Brokerage Jefferies maintained its “buy” rating and $700 price target on the stock.

Of the 46 analysts covering Google, 36 have a “buy” or a higher rating on the stock and 10 have a “hold”. There are no “sell” ratings, according to StarMine data.

Google earns most of its revenue from advertising.

The number of “paid clicks” by consumers on ads serviced by Google increased 25 percent year-on-year in the quarter.

However, the average price of the ads declined 6 percent as ad rates on mobile phones are typically cheaper than traditional online ads because of their smaller screens.

“Google is successfully transitioning its business from PC to mobile, and is arguably in a more favorable position in mobile than it was in PC, which should eventually be reflected in a higher multiple,” Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a client note.

Google also owns Android, the world’s most-used mobile software, and YouTube, the most popular video-streaming service.

Other online companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc  are also revamping their advertising businesses to take advantage of the shift to mobile devices.

But Google has established unusually deep competitive “moats” around its business through scale, aggressive product innovation and substantial investment, RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a research note.

Google’s capital investment budget has topped $17 billion over the past five years, and the company has spent about $13 billion on research, according to analysts.

The company is also spending big to push into new markets with innovations such as wearable computers, ultra high-speed internet access and home automation – the “internet of things.”

 

 

Nearly 1M Fake Apps Are Targeting Your Mobile Devices

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Fake apps purposely masked to look like official ones but actually designed to steal user data are increasingly targeting Android phone users, according to a study by Trend Micro.

The company looked at the top 50 free apps in Google’s Play Store and then searched Google’s app store and others to see if fake versions existed. It found fake versions existed for 77 percent of the apps. The fake apps are often made to look like the real ones and have the same functions, but carry a dangerous extra payload.

“We’ve been tracking the activity of malicious or high-risk apps for nearly five years,” said JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro. “The potential for people to slip things past the gate and appear legitimate is much easier.”

Tokyo-based Trend Micro, which makes antivirus and antimalware software that guard against such risks, said it cataloged 890,482 fake apps in a survey conducted in April this year. More than half were judged to be malicious of which 59,185 were aggressive adware and 394,263 were malware.

The most common type of fake app purports to be antivirus software — targeting users who think they are protecting themselves from such problems. In some cases, the apps ask users to approve administrator privileges, which allow the app wider access to the phone’s software and data and make it more difficult to remove.

While many of the fake apps exist on forums or third-party app stores where security is either weaker than Google’s Play Store or nonexistent, fake apps can also invade the official Google store.

“A more recent example of a rogue antivirus app known as “Virus Shield” received a 4.7-star rating after being downloaded more than 10,000 times, mostly with the aid of bots,” Trend Micro said in its report.

Cheekily, scammers charged $3.99 for the fake app, which promised to prevent harmful apps from being installed. It was removed by Google after a few days, but not before it fooled thousands of users and even became a “top new paid app” in the Play Store. Trend said it was “perplexing” how the app achieved “top” status.

Attackers sometimes play on hype for apps.

When the “Flappy Bird” game was taken off the Play Store, fake versions appeared, some of which sent premium text messages. And before BlackBerry released its BBM messenger app for Android, a number of fake versions appeared that were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Trend Micro’s report was published on the same day Google said it had formed a security team to go after so-called “zero-day” exploits in software that allow attackers to target users before software companies issue patches.

Sherry said he thought Google’s announcement was “ironic” considering the large number of problems Trend Micro found in Google’s own backyard.

 

Will Google’s Project Zero Succeed?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has announced “Project Zero”, a dramatically-named initiative that looks to mitigate the risk of internet users getting hit by targeted cyber attacks.

Started by a group of Google security researchers with the mission of ridding the world of security dangers such as zero-day attacks, Project Zero will hire “the best practically-minded security researchers”, Google said, promising to contribute all of their time “toward improving security across the internet”.

The group was put together after certain Googlers started spending “some of their time on research that makes the internet safer, leading to the discovery of bugs like Heartbleed,” said Google researcher Chris Evans in a blog post.

“We’re not placing any particular bounds on this project and will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people, paying careful attention to the techniques, targets and motivations of attackers,” Evans explained. “We’ll use standard approaches such as locating and reporting large numbers of vulnerabilities.”

Evans said that Project Zero will also conduct new research into mitigations, exploitation, program analysis, and anything else that the researchers decide is a worthwhile investment.

The Googlers at Project Zero will commit to doing their work transparently, with every bug discovered being filed in an external database. They will also report bugs only to the software’s vendor and no third parties.

“Once the bug report becomes public, typically once a patch is available, you’ll be able to monitor vendor time-to-fix performance, see any discussion about exploitability, and view historical exploits and crash traces,” Evans said. “We also commit to sending bug reports to vendors in as close to real-time as possible, and to working with them to get fixes to users in a reasonable time.”

Not to long before the announcement of Project Zero on Tuesday, Google came under fire from European Union courts, which have forced the firm to forget certain people’s irrelevant or outdated online histories. Within days of the court order going into effect, EU citizens were begging Google to have their pasts expunged, at the rate of 10,000 requests per day.

However, it has since emerged that the buried webpages haven’t been technically disabled, nor have they been erased, security Firm Sophos reports.

“Regardless of what the directive is being called, courts technically didn’t grant Europeans the right to be forgotten. Rather, it gave them the right to be relatively obscured, by having eligible pages flagged so they don’t show up in search results,” said Sophos in a blog post.

“The data is still out there. And now, a newly launched site is archiving the forcibly de-indexed pages, in the name of opening up to the internet as a whole the discussion regarding what should or should not be ‘forgotten’.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Apple Having Issues With Sharp?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

There is a spat brewing between Apple and its long term supplier Sharp. Sharp has been making Apple displays for ages and has an entire plant dedicated to this purpose. The manufacturing gear now belongs to Apple and Sharp wants to buy the equipment back for $293 million.

Apparently, Sharp wants to diversify its production and shift away from supplying only to Apple. Jobs’ Mob is amenable to the idea of selling the facilities but only if Sharp never sells anything to Samsung. Samsung mostly utilizes OLED screens in most of its products, so there is little for Apple to worry about. However some devices still use LCD screens and might have Sharp gear under the bonnet.

An agreement has not yet been reached and it seems unlikely as the manufacturer is not keen on accepting the blatant anti-competitive behaviour or as Apple would say “shrewed negotiation ability.”

Sharp does not want to piss off Apple. It is busy producing iPhone 6 screens for Apple and the Kameyama Plant No. 1 which is the one that Sharp wants to buy back, flat out.

Courtesy-Fud

FCC To Spend $2B To Improve School’s Wi-Fi Networks

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has committed to spend $2 billion over the next two years on upgrading Wi-Fi networks at schools and libraries, despite questions from Republican commissioners about the source of those funds.

The FCC, in a 3-2 party-line vote last Friday, approved a plan to revamp the 17-year-old E-Rate program, which pays for telecom services for schools and libraries, by phasing out funding for voice service, Web hosting and paging services, and redirecting money to Wi-Fi. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had proposed a $5 billion budget for Wi-Fi, but Republican commissioners and some lawmakers had questioned where the money would come from.

Still, the E-Rate revamp approved Friday contemplates a $1 billion-a-year target for Wi-Fi projects “year after year,” Wheeler said. The commitment of $1 billion for Wi-Fi in 2015 means that “10 million students are going to experience new and better opportunities,” he added.

In past years, the money available for E-Rate Wi-Fi projects varied from year to year, with no money available in the past year, FCC officials have said. The new approach would give schools and libraries a better idea of what money will be available, they said.

But the budget doesn’t make sense, with only about $600 million in reserves in the E-Rate program, said Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai. “The numbers for the Wi-Fi didn’t add up,” he said. “Where will that money come from?”

The phaseout of obsolete telecom services in the E-Rate program will pay for the Wi-Fi program, said Jon Wilkins, the FCC’s acting managing director. The cost savings from phasing out voice and other old services will amount to $350 million in 2015 and will rise to $950 million in the fifth year of the program, he said.

Pai and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also criticized the E-Rate revamp as missing an opportunity to streamline the $2.4-billion-a-year program and take away some of the complexity for schools and libraries applying for funds. The program’s 17-page application scares off small schools and libraries that can’t afford to hire outside consultants to fill out paperwork, Pai said.

The FCC promised schools, teachers and students “E-Rate modernization,” Pai said. “They need real reform. What does the FCC give them today? The status quo.”

O’Rielly called on the FCC to develop a long-term plan for the E-Rate budget, paid for with fees on consumer telephone bills. He predicted the plan would lead to higher phone taxes.

 

Is Super-AMOLED Technology Taking Off?

July 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung is finding that only it is interested in its Super AMOLED display technology. Although the technology has been improving with every new flagship since the original Galaxy S, the outfit is finding that no one is really interested.

Samsung Display CEO Park Dong-geun told CNET, Samsung has nowhere else to sell our products besides Samsung Electronics’ mobile division. In the case of China’s smartphone market, we are only just beginning to expand there. Other major manufacturers have expressed an interest in AMOLED displays, including Motorola and Nokia. But they have instead focused on their own tech or licensed standard AMOLED displays from other firms.

Most of them have been content with using LCD displays. Park has been unable to offer a reason why other OEMs continue to avoid its Super AMOLED technology. It is possible that they are unwilling to license a technology from Samsung, the largest player in the smartphone world.

In case of players like HTC, another reason could be the fact that Super AMOLED displays have always had problems such as not-so-natural colors and bluish or greenish whites. However these problems are have been going away since last year and the technology is getting better.

Courtesy-Fud

Verizon Wins Top Honors For Mobile Network Performance In U.S. Cities

July 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

RootMetrics awarded Verizon Wireless its seal of approval in its latest biannual ranking of wireless network performance in cities across the U.S.

Verizon ranked first or was tied for first in 115 of 125 cities for overall network performance during the first half of 2014, leading all three other national carriers — AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Sprint didn’t finish first in any of the cities, while Verizon tied with either AT&T or T-Mobile, or both, in 56. That meant that AT&T was the only first place finisher in 59 cities, including major cities such as Cincinnati, Colorado Springs, Colo., Daytona Beach, Fla., Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Seattle.

RootMetrics found that Verizon finished first in 23 of 50 airport network evaluations for the first half of the year and tied for first in seven out of 50 airports. Verizon won or tied at four major airports: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver.

Verizon has its 4G LTE network in 500 U.S. cities, providing access to 97% of the U.S. population. RootMetrics used devices capable of connecting to Verizon’s XLTE network, now operating in 300 cities.

XLTE uses AWS spectrum.

RootMetrics is an independent research company that uses testers driving in cars and in stationary locations, both indoors and outdoors, to conduct thousands of tests in each city to evaluate reliability and speed of connections and call, data and text performance. The company uses unmodified smartphones purchased off-the-shelf from operator stores.

 

eBay’s Braintree Wants To Boost Mobile Shopping

July 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Braintree, the payments gateway owned by eBay Inc, is working on removing a hurdle for e-commerce companies by making it easier for customers to directly pay for products on their smart phones.

The company rolled out a set of tools for software developers on Wednesday that allows businesses to deduct payments directly from a customer’s PayPal account.

The developer kit is the first big push from Braintree since it was bought by eBay for $800 million last year to help PayPal, eBay’s payments division, expand its presence on mobile devices.

Eliminating the need for mobile shoppers to type in their credit card details on their phones should help boost sales, Braintree Chief Executive Bill Ready said in an interview.

This is especially critical as consumers spend more time on their smartphones, a trend that is forcing developers to design a “fundamentally different computing experience” for the smaller screen, Ready added.

Braintree processes payments for businesses including car service Uber and online home-rental marketplace Airbnb.

 

 

Standalone Wearables Coming This Year, Says AT&T

July 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The most successful wearable devices will be ones that can operate without a phone, and AT&T will have at least one of them by the end of this year, the man who manages the carrier’s partnerships said.

“It needs to be an independent device. It needs to do something different for the end user, for people to buy it en masse,” said Glenn Lurie, AT&T’s president of emerging enterprises and partnerships.

A likely place to start could be wearables for wellness, such as a device that knows when your workout’s begun, holds your music, and lets you post information about your performance to social networks, he said. “I think you’ll see devices like that this year,” Lurie said.

The hottest devices will be able to work both on their own and with a phone, Lurie said. They’ll also have to be simple to use, a bar that no wearable has crossed yet, he said.

Once wearables start talking to LTE on their own, the sky’s the limit of what consumers will take with them, Lurie said. “Just like tablets, it’s going to all of a sudden explode.”

Cars will be another hot category of connected devices, with natural-language commands letting drivers do many things, he said.

“We believe technology in a car can make the car not only a safer place, but a place where you can do everything you can do today with your smartphone in your hand,” Lurie said. But there are hurdles left to be crossed: Cars will need to be able to talk to both Android and iOS phones without those phones coming out of the driver’s pocket. And as cars age through several generations of mobile technology, their software will have to be upgradable over the air. “The car is going to become a smartphone with four wheels.”

Lurie has overseen AT&T’s new businesses and partnerships for years, going back to the carrier’s blockbuster deal to carry the Apple iPhone exclusively for five years. Speaking before the audience at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, he wasn’t giving away any secrets about what manufacturers are showing off to AT&T.

“The things I’m seeing are pretty darn exciting,” Lurie said.

 

Verizon Says U.S. Government Made 150,000 Requests For Customer Data

July 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. government made approximately 150,000 requests for customer information from Verizon Communications in the first half of 2014, most of them subpoenas, the country’s largest wireless carrier has reported.

The report is the second summary of government requests Verizon has publicly issued since shareholders pressured the company to divulge information it shared with the government in December.

The government issued 72,342 subpoenas, half of which request subscriber information on a given phone number or IP address, while others ask for transactional information, like the phone numbers a customer has called, according to Verizon.

Verizon also received over 37,000 court orders, including 714 wiretaps, which give access to the content of communications and over 3,000 pen registers and trap and trace orders, which give the government real-time access to outgoing and incoming phone numbers, respectively.

“We repeat our call for governments around the world to make public the number of demands they make for customer data from telecom and Internet companies,” Randal Milch, Verizon’s general counsel, wrote in a company blog.

The report included limited information on international requests. France led all foreign countries listed in the report in customer information point requests, which include phone numbers or IP addresses used to identify a customer, with 762 requests.

 

Qualcomm Believes Mobile Devices Will Drive 4K Adoption

July 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

QUALCOMM has stated that mobile devices will be the driving force behind the dominance of 4K content creation and consumption due to the general mass adoption of smartphones and the affordability of devices that support the resolution.

Speaking at a Qualcomm and EE event in Westminster today, president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Europe Enrico Salvatori showed a slide entitled “Mobile is the driving force behind the rise of 4K: the biggest generator of 4K content could be in your pocket already”.

“4K in particular on the TV side is already happening [but] what is the link between from 4K and mobile?” Salvitori asked. “The link is with the user experience we can provide with the display resolution in this space,” he said.

“Why we think we should start to invest in 4K [and] make [it] available in the smartphone and tablet is that, at the end of the day, the device will provide the content, so the mass adoption of the smartphone is driving it in terms of making it available.

“The smartphone is a consumer device that is affordable, so the 4k content will be available in a huge number of users.”

Salvatori said that smartphones, which are increasingly supporting 4K recording and playback, are expected to reach 3.7 billion in 2017, and this, alongside the affordability of mobile in comparison to other 4K content playback devices, such as 4K TVs, is why Qualcomm thinks high resolution content will be pushed by mobile.

The ability of 4K content generation of mobile phones is another major driving force for 4K prevalence, Salvatori said. He mentioned the high resolution cameras being fitted as standard in smartphones, for example.

The relatively short three-year replacement cycle of smartphones and tablets will also be responsible for the dominance of 4K content, Qualcomm said, compared with the five-year replacement cycle of PCs and eight to 10 years of TVs.

“We can upgrade the consumer electronic device or the smartphone to the 4K with a short cycle so this means that the smart device will be the entry door for the 4K content into the market and then of course through the device we can provide the content,” Salvitori added.

With this in mind, Qualcomm has ensured that its most recent flagship mobile processor, the Snapdragon 805, supports 4K content, combined with a wireless modem that is capable of supporting the delivery of high quality data over 4G connections.

At its event today, Qualcomm also said 4K technology will go mainstream this year, with 78 percent of UK retails expecting a growth in 4K devices being promoted for Christmas, with 60 percent of those retailers considering that video created on mobile device “to be a critical” contributor in driving 4K content adoption.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Firefox Losing Share Of Browser Market

July 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has spiraled downward in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Apple’s Safari fared almost as poorly since April, also losing significant user share, with a continued decline on mobile and a sudden slide on the desktop to blame.

During June, 17.3% of those who went online surfed the Web using a mobile browser, according to Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications. Mobile browsing’s climb of nearly 6 percentage points in the last 12 months represented a growth rate of 52%.

As in April, when Computerworld last analyzed desktop + mobile browser user share, June’s numbers put the hurt on Mozilla most of all: Firefox’s total user share — the combination of desktop and mobile — was 12.9% for June, its lowest level since Computerworld began tracking the metric five years ago, and 1.2 percentage points lower than just two months before.

Mozilla’s problem remains an inability to attract a mobile audience. Although the company has long offered Firefox on Android and its Firefox OS has begun to appear on a limited number of smartphones, its mobile share was just seven-tenths of one percent, about three times smaller than the second-from-the-bottom mobile browser, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Firefox hasn’t helped itself of late, either. For the eighth straight month, the desktop version lost user share in June, falling by 1.3 percentage points to end with 15.4%. In the last year, Firefox’s desktop user share as measured by Net Applications has dropped 3.6 percentage points, representing a 19% decline.

The timing is terrible, as Mozilla’s current contract with Google ends in November. That deal, which assigned Google’s search engine as the default for most Firefox customers, has generated the bulk of Mozilla’s revenue. In 2012, for example, the last year for which financial data was available, Google paid Mozilla an estimated $272 million, or 88% of all Mozilla income.

Going into this year’s contract renewal talks, Mozilla will be bargaining from a much weaker position, down 43% in total user share since June 2011.

Apple remained behind Mozilla in desktop + mobile browser user share, with a cumulative 12.3%, down from 13.1% two months earlier. Nearly two-third of its total was credited to Safari on iOS.

 

 

AT&T Announces It Will Carry LG Smartwatch

July 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc announced that it will be the first U.S. wireless carrier to sell LG Electronics’ smartwatch, a wrist watch that connects to Android phones and answers voice commands, and goes on sale on July 11.

The announcement comes as demand for wearable devices surges. Juniper Research estimates the value of the wearable device market this year at $1.5 billion, up from $800 million in 2013.

The LG “G Watch,” which was made in partnership with Google Inc, will sell for $229 and available for pre-orders starting July 8.

It has a 1.65 inch display screen that delivers notifications customers receive on their Android phones and can connect to calendars and applications.

“Because the LG G Watch works with so many of our Android smartphones, it should be a wearable device that appeals to a wide array of consumers,” Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices at AT&T, said in a statement.

“Its ability to anticipate your schedule and traveling needs will help you plan your schedule more efficiently while on-the-go.”

The announcement also comes as rumors swirl about the specifications on Apple Inc’s smartwatch, which has yet to be announced, but is expected as early as October.