Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: TheGuruReview.net ::

Oracle Identifies Its Products Affected By Heartbleed, But No Estimates On Fixes

April 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Oracle issued a comprehensive list of its software that may or may not be impacted by the OpenSSL (secure sockets layer) vulnerability known as Heartbleed, while warning that no fixes are yet available for some likely affected products.

The list includes well over 100 products that appear to be in the clear, either because they never used the version of OpenSSL reported to be vulnerable to Heartbleed, or because they don’t use OpenSSL at all.

However, Oracle is still investigating whether another roughly 20 products, including MySQL Connector/C++, Oracle SOA Suite and Nimbula Director, are vulnerable.

Oracle determined that seven products are vulnerable and is offering fixes. These include Communications Operation Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Monitor, MySQL Enterprise Server 5.6, Oracle Communications Session Monitor, Oracle Linux 6, Oracle Mobile Security Suite and some Solaris 11.2 implementations.

Another 14 products are likely to be vulnerable, but Oracle doesn’t have fixes for them yet, according to the post. These include BlueKai, Java ME and MySQL Workbench.

Users of Oracle’s growing family of cloud services may also be able to breath easy. “It appears that both externally and internally (private) accessible applications hosted in Oracle Cloud Data Centers are currently not at risk from this vulnerability,” although Oracle continues to investigate, according to the post.

Heartbleed, which was revealed by researchers last week, can allow attackers who exploit it to steal information on systems thought to be protected by OpenSSL encryption. A fix for the vulnerable version of OpenSSL has been released and vendors and IT organizations are scrambling to patch their products and systems.

Observers consider Heartbleed one of the most serious Internet security vulnerabilities in recent times.

Meanwhile, this week Oracle also shipped 104 patches as part of its regular quarterly release.

The patch batch includes security fixes for Oracle database 11g and 12c, Fusion Middleware 11g and 12c, Fusion Applications, WebLogic Server and dozens of other products. Some 37 patches target Java SE alone.

A detailed rundown of the vulnerabilities’ relative severity has been posted to an official Oracle blog.

 

Google Reveals Email Scanning Practices In Revised Terms Of Service

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc updated its terms of service earlier this week, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads.

The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users’ emails, both when messages are stored on Google’s servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation.

Last month, a U.S. judge decided not to combine several lawsuits that accused Google of violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users into a single class action.

Users of Google’s Gmail email service have accused the company of violating federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws by scanning their messages so it could compile secret profiles and target advertising. Google has argued that users implicitly consented to its activity, recognizing it as part of the email delivery process.

Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in a statement that the changes “will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.”

Google’s updated terms of service added a paragraph stating that “our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

 

Microsoft Toughens Its Stand Regarding Adware

April 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has hardened its stance regarding classifying programs as adware and gave developers three months to conform with the new principles or risk having their programs blocked by the company’s security products.

The most important change in Microsoft’s policy is that adware programs will be blocked by default starting July 1. In the past such programs were allowed to run until users chose one of the recommended actions offered by the company’s security software.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s crackdown on adware comes as it introduces tools to make it easier for developers to incorporate advertising into Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone apps.

The company has re-evaluated its criteria for classifying applications as adware based on the principle that users should be able to choose and control what happens on their computers, according to Michael Johnson, a member of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center.

First of all, only programs that display ads promoting goods and services inside other programs — for example, browsers — will be evaluated as possible unwanted adware applications, Johnson said in a blog post. “If the program shows advertisements within its own borders it will not be assessed any further.”

In order to avoid being flagged as adware and blocked, programs whose revenue model includes advertising must only display ads or groups of ads that have an obvious close button. The ads must also clearly indicate the name of the program that generated them.

Recommended methods for closing the ad include an “X” or the word “close” in a corner; the program name can be specified through phrases like “Ads by …”, “… ads”, “Powered by …”, “This ad served by …”, or “This ad is from …”.

“Using abbreviations or company logos alone are not considered clear enough,” Johnson said. “Also, only using ‘Ads not by this site’ does not meet our criteria, because the user does not know which program created the ad.”

In addition to following these ad display guidelines, programs need to provide a standard uninstall method in the Windows control panel or the browser add-on management interface, if the program operates as a browser extension or toolbar. The corresponding uninstall entries must contain the same program names as displayed in the generated ads.

“We are very excited by all of these changes,” Johnson said. “We believe that it will make it easy for software developers to utilize advertising while at the same time empowering users to control their experience.”

Adware programs typically affect the Web browsing experience and have been a nuisance for years, primarily because their developers make it intentionally hard to completely remove all of their components or undo the changes made by these applications.

 

HTC First Quarter Losses Steeper Than Anticipated

April 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Taiwan based mobile phone maker HTC Corp posted a first-quarter loss that was bigger than analyst estimates, after ineffective marketing resulted in weak sales of its former flagship model.

The HTC One spent its year at the top of the product line receiving rave reviews but was undermined by advertising widely criticized as confusing, sending the company’s market share into freefall.

HTC was once a firm third to Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, selling 10 percent of smartphones globally two years ago, but it ended 2013 with a market share of just 2 percent, showed data from researcher Strategy Analytics.

The company started 2014 by booking a net loss of T$1.88 billion ($62.06 million) for January-March. That compared with a mean loss of T$1.59 billion estimated by 18 analysts polled by Reuters, and profit of T$85 million logged a year earlier.

Revenue fell 22.6 percent to T$33.12 billion, the company said in a statement on Monday.

HTC, however, broke 28 months of on-year revenue declines with a rise of 2.16 percent in March, and said it expected to return to profit in the second quarter thanks in part to the late-March release of its upgraded flagship, the HTC One M8.

Shares of HTC have fallen 38 percent over the past year, compared with a 12 percent rise in the Taiwan Stock Exchange Weighted Index. Ahead of the release, they closed up 3.6 percent versus the benchmark’s 0.1 percent loss.

The former contract manufacturer released a series of mid-range smartphones in recent weeks, predicting cheaper phones in emerging markets will help it return to profit this year.

It has also launched a partnership with search engine giant Google Inc to manufacture smart watches.

But it is the new flagship HTC One M8 that the company hopes will help it reestablish itself as a challenger to market leaders Apple and Samsung.

“The M8 is good, but it’s not as revolutionary as the previous flagship,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Dennis Chan. “Everyone is watching the second quarter to see how it sells.”

Tech website CNET.com awarded the phone four and a half stars out of five, calling it “a stunning sequel” to last year’s HTC One – a phone whose equally strong reviews were not matched by marketing and so did not translate into strong sales.

The new flagship could be in for a similarly rough sales ride as smartphone growth globally is likely to slow this year to 19 percent from 39 percent in 2013, and taper off over the next few years, showed data from researcher IDC.

As smartphones mature and technological upgrades become more incremental, analysts say even more importance will be placed on marketing and brand image – an area Chairwoman Cher Wang admitted HTC “didn’t do well” last year.

To distinguish itself to trend-conscious consumers, HTC must learn from Apple, whose innovative brand image and marketing strategy has won plaudits, said Taipei-based brand consultant Mark Stocker.

“Mimic them, but figure out what your brand stands for,” said Stocker. “If Apple is Mercedes Benz, try to make yourself BMW.”

 

Dell Unveils 11.6-inch Rugged Laptop That Doubles As A Tablet

April 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell unveiled a new 11.6-in. screen rugged laptop that has literally has a twist — the screen can rotate 180 degrees to turn the device into a tablet.

At first, the Latitude 12 looks like a laptop. But within the display panel, the screen rotates 180 degrees and the laptop turns into a tablet once placed on the keyboard.

The new Latitude 12 laptop is part of a new Rugged Extreme line of laptops, which also includes the Rugged Extreme 14. The new laptops are robust and can withstand six-foot drops and remain protected from extreme weather conditions.

The laptops have hard covers that add a layer of protection, but also make the products heavy. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme weighs 2.72 kilograms with a four-cell battery, while the 14-in. counterpart weighs 3.54 kilograms with a six-cell battery and no optical drive.

The laptops can also withstand solar radiation, “explosive atmosphere” and weather ranging from -20 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees to 63 degrees Celsius), according to specifications provided by Dell. The products are targeted at field workers like emergency responders and the military, and will compete against Toughbook rugged laptops from Panasonic.

The Latitude 12 rugged laptop has a starting price of $3,649, while the Latitude 14 begins at $3,499. The laptops will ship next month.

The hybrid design in Latitude 12 has been borrowed from the company’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Touch, which has a 12.5-inch screen that can similarly flip to turn the laptop into a tablet. The resistive touch screens on both laptops can show images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.

The laptops will have storage options of up to 512GB solid-state drives. Users can configure the laptop with Intel’s latest fourth-generation Core processorscode-named Haswell. The laptops will come with either Windows 8.1 or 7, or Ubuntu Linux operating systems.

Other features include support for up to 16GB of DRAM, Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet through a connector. The laptop also has USB 3.0, USB 2.0, VGA and HDMI ports. Mobile broadband and docking are available as options.

 

 

AMD And Globalfounderies Make Up

April 4, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has amended its wafer supply agreement with Globalfoundries. The companies agreed on purchase commitments for 2014 and established fixed pricing which will apply to AMD products churned out by the foundry.

“Under this amendment AMD expects to pay Globalfoundries approximately $1.2 billion in 2014. These purchases contemplate AMD’s current PC market expectations and the manufacturing of certain Graphics Processor Units (GPUs) and semi-custom game console products at Globalfoundries in 2014,” the companies said.

AMD says the new deal will not impact its 2014 financial goals, including its gross margin.

AMD CEO Rory Read said the amended agreement demonstrated the continued commitment from both companies to strengthen their business relationship and long-term strategic partnership.

“This latest step in AMD’s continued transformation plays a critical role in our goals for 2014,” he said.

The agreement does not change much, it merely reiterates AMD’s commitment to using GloFo’s services. However, it does bring up GPUs and semi-custom console parts, which could be bad news for TSMC in the long run. Still, this was not unexpected – in fact many industry watchers expected GloFo to get a slice of AMD’s GPU business years ago.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel To Offer Exclusive Content For Devices Built Around Its Chips

April 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

After trailing ARM in the mobile processor market, Intel plans to change strategies by creating exclusive content for devices built around its chips.

More details about the exclusives will be shared during the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China. But Intel’s software chief Doug Fisher said the U.S. chipmaker wants to work “hand in hand” with vendors to develop unique content within a game or product.

The partnerships could even result in building entire software products exclusive to Intel chips, he added.

The company is trying to distinguish itself, as ARM chips remain the most commonly used processors in smartphones and tablets. Over the last four years, Intel has responded by building more power-efficient mobile processors, and optimizing Google’s Android OS for its chips.

“That’s not sufficient, we want to differentiate,” Fisher said in an interview on Wednesday. One area in which the company said it can excel is graphics, creating more detailed backgrounds in games. Another is in better multi-tasking for Android devices.

Intel is poised to make a breakthrough in the mobile processor market, Fisher said. The company has the goal of shipping 40 million Intel-powered tablet devices in 2014, four times more than the previous year.

To help bring more Intel-powered devices to the market, the U.S. chipmaker is tapping China’s tech hub of Shenzhen, a major center for electronics manufacturing. On Wednesday, Intel announced it would establish a center in Shenzhen devoted to helping vendors create mobile devices with the company’s chips.

Intel will also fund Chinese product development on tablets, smartphones and wearables with $100 million from its venture capital arm.

One area where Intel is noticing some innovation is vendors bringing Android to larger devices, including PCs. But Fisher said it’s still too early to say whether Android PCs have a future, given that Google is also pushing notebooks running its Chrome OS.

“We don’t care as long as it runs on Intel,” he added.

 

Federal Judge Blocks Typo Keyboard Sales As Fight Continues With BlackBerry

April 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A California judge has granted BlackBerry’s wish to temporarily stop sales of an iPhone keyboard made by start-up Typo Products while the two firms spar over copyright infringement allegations.

BlackBerry had petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late January to block sales of the Typo keyboard because it was an “obvious knock-off” of the keyboards on its phones.

In a ruling issued late Friday, Judge William Orrick said “BlackBerry has established a likelihood of proving that Typo infringes the patents at issue and Typo has not presented a substantial question of the validity of those patents.”

The court’s decision will be a blow to Typo, which had asserted that its keyboards were sufficiently different.

The Typo keyboard was first unveiled in January and is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S like a protective case. It costs $99 and has received attention in part because Typo is backed by U.S. TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest.

BlackBerry quickly moved to sue Typo claiming its keyboard was a copy of those found on BlackBerry handsets.

The company currently sells several phones with a physical keyboard and plans to launch at least one more later this year.

Earlier Friday, CEO John Chen said BlackBerry would launch a new model called the Q20 “Classic” later this year that includes the trackpad and ‘Menu,’ ‘Back,’ ‘Send’ and ‘End’ buttons along the top of the keyboard that helped make the company famous.

As a next step in the California case, BlackBerry will have to post a bond with the court that would cover Typo’s losses should it eventually be decided that Typo’s keyboard does not infringe on BlackBerry’s patents.

Typo has a week to come up with a detailed accounting of how much money it could lose as a result of the injunction.

Typo could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is 14-00023, BlackBerry vs Typo Products, at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

 

Huawei Has Ambitious Goal Of Doubling Last Year’s Revenue

April 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has targeted 2018 revenue almost double the record made last year when the company amassed an impressive 34 percent profit growth and became the world’s third-biggest smartphone manufacturer.

Huawei has been flooding emerging markets with low-priced smartphones and tapping advanced economies with high-end offerings to make up for slowing growth in its primary business of building mobile telephone networks.

Smartphones last year contributed the most to revenue growth in yuan terms and are likely to feature prominently in reaching a revenue target which translates as roughly 10 percent annual growth.

To reach that target, the company will have to improve on 2013 when revenue hit a record yet grew at a pace slower than Huawei’s 10 percent goal primarily because overseas companies spent less on networks.

Huawei also missed its smartphone sales target as local peers Lenovo Group and ZTE Corp pursued similar strategies to close the gap with leaders Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co.

“In 2014, we are aiming our sales efforts at improving our branding image,” Eric Xu, Huawei’s rotating and current chief executive, said on Monday.

“At the same time, we are going to build our (smartphone) product portfolio in the mid-range and high level,” Xu said after the unlisted company released audited earnings results.

In 2013, revenue hit a record 239 billion yuan ($38.47 billion), helping operating profit land within Huawei’s guidance range, and pushing net profit up 34.4 percent to 21 billion yuan – its quickest profit growth in four years.

Revenue grew 18 percent in Huawei’s consumer division, which includes smartphone manufacturing, and the company expects a similar rate of growth this year.

In the enterprise division, which builds private networks for companies and organizations, revenue grew 32 percent thanks to companies investing heavily in cloud and mobile computing.

Revenue in the carrier network business – which accounts for about 70 percent of overall income – grew just 4 percent. Huawei aims to double that to 8 percent this year as carriers increase investment in 4G, particularly in China.

Overall, Huawei targets revenue of $70 billion by 2018, or annual growth of about 10 percent, executives said at the press conference.

Growth was 8.6 percent last year rather than the targeted 10 percent, and smartphone shipments reached 52 million handsets instead of the 60 million handset goal.

Huawei smartphone sales last year barely made a dent in the U.S., the second-biggest market, where lawmakers have flagged Chinese telecommunications equipment as potential security risks.

 

Intel Deepens Relationship With Altera

March 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Technology gossip columns are full of news that Intel and Altera have expanded their relationship. Apparently, Altera has been Intel’s shoulder to cry on as the chip giant seeks to move beyond the declining PC market and the breakup of the Wintel alliance. Intel took the break up very hard and there was talk that Alteria might be just a rebound thing.

Last year Intel announced that it would manufacture Altera’s ARM-based quad-core Stratix 10 processors, as part of its efforts to grow its foundry business to make silicon products for third parties. Now the two vendors are expanding the relationship to include multi-die devices integrating Altera’s field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) with a range of other components, from memory to ASICs to processors.

Multi-die devices can drive down production costs and improve performance and energy efficiency of chips for everything from high-performance servers to communications systems. The multi-die devices will take advantage of the Stratix 10 programmable chips that Intel is manufacturing for Altera with its 14-nanometer Tri-Gate process. Intel’s three-dimensional transistor architecture combined with Altera’s FPGA redundancy technology leads to Altera being able to create a highly dense and energy efficient programmable chip die that can offer better integration of components.

At the same time, Intel officials are looking for ways to make more cash from its manufacturing capabilities, including growing its foundry business by making chips for other vendors. CEO Brian Krzanich and other Intel executives have said they will manufacture third-party chips even if they are based on competing infrastructure, which is the case with Altera and its ARM-based chips.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Virtru Adds Office 365 To Its Email Encryption Service

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtru has added Microsoft’s Office 365 and Outlook Desktop services to its growing list of compatible email platforms available on its encryption product.

The company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and launched in January, is targeting people using major email providers who want stronger privacy controls for more secure communication.

The service is designed to be easy to use for end users who may not have the technical gumption to set up PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a standard for signing and encrypting content.

Virtru is compatible with most major webmail providers, including Google’s Gmail, Yahoo’s Mail and Microsoft’s Outlook webmail, which replaced Hotmail.

Emails sent using Virtru through those services would look like gibberish, providing a greater degree of privacy. Law enforcement or other entities would not be able to read the content unless they could obtain the key.

Virtru uses a browser extension to encrypt email on a person’s computer or mobile device. The content is decrypted after recipients receive a key, which is distributed by Virtru’s centralized key management server.

Although Virtru handles key management, the company is working on a product that would allow that task to be managed on-site for users, as some administrators would be uncomfortable with another entity managing their keys.

Virtru has said it put aside funds to contest government orders such as a National Security Letter or law enforcement request that are not based on a standard of probable cause.

 

AMD Focuses On China With Desktop Chip Business Move

March 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Advanced Micro Devices has relocated its desktop chip business operations from the U.S. to the growing market of China, adding to its research lab and testing plant there.

The desktop market in China is growing at a fast pace and its shipments of desktops and laptops are equal in ratio, said Michael Silverman, an AMD spokesman, in an email. “The desktop market in China remains strong,” Silverman said.

The move of AMD’s desktop operations was first reported by technology news publication Digitimes, but the chip maker confirmed the news.

The company is also developing tailored products for users in China, Silverman said.

AMD’s move of desktop operations to China brings them closer to key customers such as Lenovo, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“Not that they don’t have their sales in the U.S.,” but a significant number of those PCs are made in China and then shipped internationally, McCarron said.

AMD is the world’s second-largest x86 processor maker behind Intel. Many PC makers like HP and Dell get products made in China.

Being in China also solves some desktop supply chain issues because it moves AMD closer to motherboard suppliers like Asustek and MSI, which are based in Taiwan, but get parts made in China. Chips will be shipped to customers faster and at a lower cost, which would reduce the time it takes for PCs to come to market, McCarron said.

AMD already has a plant in Suzhou, which Silverman said “represents half of our global back-end testing capacity.” AMD’s largest research and development center outside the U.S. is in Shanghai.

Some recent products released by the company have been targeted at developing countries. AMD recently starting shipping Sempron and Athlon desktop chips for the Asia-Pacific and Latin America markets, and those chips go into systems priced between $60 and $399. AMD is targeting the chips at users that typically build systems at home and shop for processors, memory and storage. The chips — built on the Jaguar microarchitecture — go into AMD’s new AM1 socket, which will be on motherboards and is designed for users to easily upgrade processors.

China is also big in gaming PCs, and remains a key market for AMD’s desktop chips, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. “White box integrators play a big role in China,” he said.

 

HP To Unveil Plans To Enter 3D Printing Market

March 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard Co will unveil plans to enter the commercial 3D-printing arena in June, saying it has resolved a number of technical issues that have hindered broader adoption of the high-tech manufacturing process.

Chief Executive Meg Whitman told shareholders the company will make a “big technology announcement” that month around how it will approach a market that has excited the imagination of investors and consumers.

Critics have accused the sci-fi-like technology of being over-hyped and still too immature for widespread consumer adoption.

Industry observers have long expected HP, the largest of several printer-making companies from Canon to Xerox, to eventually get into the business. Whitman said HP’s inhouse researchers have resolved limitations involved with the quality of substrates used in the process, which affects the durability of finished products.

“We actually think we’ve solved these problems,” Whitman told an annual shareholders meeting. “The bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space,” manufacturing parts and prototypes in ways that were not possible before.

“We’re on the case,” she said without elaborating.

HP executives have estimated that worldwide sales of 3D printers and related software and services will grow to almost $11 billion by 2021 from a mere $2.2 billion in 2012.

The nascent 3D-printing market is now dominated by a number of smaller players like MakerBot, a unit of Stratasys that is concentrating on selling more affordable devices to consumers.

Contract manufacturers like Flextronics however already use the technology to help craft prototype parts or devices for corporate clients.

“HP is currently exploring the many possibilities of 3D printing and the company will play an important role in its development,” CTO and HP Labs director Martin Fink said in a February blogpost on HP’s website.

“The fact is that 3D printing is really still an immature technology, but it has a magical aura. The sci-fi movie idea that you can magically create things on command makes the idea of 3D printing really compelling for people.”

 

Is Intel Having Issues With 450mm Wafers?

March 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel says that it is still on track to move its manufacturing to the larger, 450 millimeter wafers that are being developed at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. However it confirms that it is having some problems with the technology.

ASML, one of the major equipment suppliers to chip factories, recently decided to stop trying to develop a new generation of machines that could handle 450mm wafers which lead many to wonder what Intel thought of the matter. After all, it had invested billions of dollars in ASML and committed $700 million in ASML’s 450mm development program.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company’s position for 450mm has not changed in that we expect deployment sometime in the later part of this decade and requires the industry to be aligned.

“We adjusted our 450mm funding to ASML consistent with their plans however this is not a change in our (2014) capital forecast as it anticipated that change. We continue to work with our industry partners to align on timing.”

Courtesy-Fud

WebEx Is Coming To Chromebooks

March 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google and Cisco have joined forced in the enterprise collaboration market, bundling WebEx with Chromebooks and integrating the Cisco Web conferencing and online meeting product with Google Apps.

Both companies announced that two of their high-ranking executives demonstrated a “proof of concept” of WebEx running on a Chromebook, something that hasn’t been possible to date.

Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Chrome for Business, and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, also demonstrated interoperability between Google Apps and WebEx, such as the ability to join a WebEx meeting from a Google Calendar item, the companies said.

The partnership is intriguing in several respects. For starters, Google has a product called Hangouts that competes with WebEx in areas like video conferencing, IM, audio chats and Web meetings.

However, Hangouts isn’t considered yet a truly business-grade tool, and it’s not an official, supported component of Google Apps, which some critics consider is weak in unified communications.

In a press conference that was webcast after their presentation, Sheth and Trollope concurred that it’s inevitable that companies of the size and scope of Cisco and Google have overlapping and competing products, saying that shouldn’t cancel their opportunities to partner in ways they consider mutually beneficial and complementary.

“That’s been par for the course at Cisco for a long time,” Trollope said, alluding to “co-opetition” situations.

Sheth said Google’s focus is on what its users want and need, and overall on how to make “the Web ecosystem” better.

WebEx can’t run on Chromebooks today because WebEx, although it’s hosted on the cloud, requires that users download browser plug-in extensions so that some code can run locally on Windows or Mac OS computers.

Chromebooks run Chrome OS, so Cisco will rework a chunk of the WebEx functionality for HTML 5 so that it can run without the need for plug-ins. Google will also have to build some extensions on the Chromebook side.

The alliance can also be seen as a tag teaming between Cisco and Google to better compete against Microsoft and its Office 365 cloud collaboration and email suite.

Microsoft has been devoting a lot of effort to improving its Lync unified communications server, which runs on premises and also is part of Office 365. Lync is also being integrated with Skype in order to extend its reach into Skype’s vast user base in the consumer market.

Lync competes against Cisco’s WebEx and its overall enterprise video conferencing line of products, especially at the desktop and small meeting room levels.

In a move seen partly as a response to the Lync threat, Cisco last week unveiled an array of new and improved video conferencing products intended to be easy to deploy in small and medium-size conference rooms and less expensive than its high-end telepresence Tandberg line.

Meanwhile, Office 365 competes directly against Google Apps, especially in the areas of cloud-hosted email and collaboration for businesses.