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Apple’s Mac Slump Continues, Sales Tumble 12%

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple revealed that it sold 4 million Macs in the March quarter, a 12% decline from the same period the year before, and a larger contraction than for the personal computer business as a whole.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.

Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.

Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.

“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.

Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.

But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.

Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.

 

 

 

Microsoft Kicks Off Two-for-one Lumia Phone Sale

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft announced the launch of a two-for-one deal for its Windows-based smartphones, tossing in a free Lumia 950 when customers buy a $649 unlocked top-tier Lumia 950 XL.

The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.

Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.

More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.

The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.

Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.

The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.

Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”

 

 

 

New Point-of-Sale Malware Steals Credit Card Data, Sends Over DNS

April 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Security researchers have uncovered a new memory-scraping malware program that steals payment card data from point-of-sale (PoS) terminals and forwards to attackers using the Domain Name System (DNS).

Dubbed Multigrain, the threat is part of a family of malware programs known as NewPosThings, with which it shares some code. However, this variant was designed to target specific environments.

That’s because unlike other PoS malware programs that look for card data in the memory of many processes, Multigrain targets a single process called multi.exe that’s associated with a popular back-end card authorization and PoS server. If this process is not running on the compromised machine, the infection routine exists and the malware deletes itself.

“This shows that while developing or building their malware, the attackers had a very specific knowledge of the target environment and knew this process would be running,” security researchers from FireEye said in a blog post.

FireEye did not name the PoS software that Multigrain targeted. However, threats like this show the need for companies to monitor the DNS traffic that originates from their own networks for suspicious behavior.

Multigrain was designed with stealth in mind. It is digitally signed, it installs itself as a service called Windows Module Extension and more importantly, it sends data back to attackers via DNS queries.

Stolen payment card data is first encrypted with a 1024-bit RSA key and then it’s passed through a Base32 encoding process. The resulting encoded data is used in a DNS query for log.[encoded_data].evildomain.com, where “evildomain” is a domain name controlled by the attackers. This query will appear in the authoritative DNS server for the domain, which is also controlled by the attackers.

This technique, while not specific to Multigrain, allows attackers to pass data out of restricted environments where other Internet communication protocols are blocked.

 

 

 

Hitachi Introduces Robot To Help You Shop

April 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

SoftBank’s Pepper robot may still be the most popular bot, but a new humanoid device from Hitachi aims to be the in-store sales rep of the future.

Called EMIEW3, the roughly 3-foot-tall unit can determine when customers need help and then approach them autonomously, Hitachi said on Friday. Using what it calls “remote brain” technology, the company developed the robot with customer service in mind for use in stores and other public venues.

EMIEW3 is actually the latest iteration in a series following Hitachi’s introduction of the original EMIEW back in 2005. EMIEW2, announced in 2007, featured capabilities such as the ability to move at a brisk human walking pace and to distinguish the human voice from background noise.

EMIEW2 could also use indoor network cameras as “eyes” to locate objects. Artificial intelligence capabilities made it possible for the device to converse much the way a human would, while a predictive function helped it avoid collisions.

Now, EMIEW3 adds several more important features, including the ability to use network cameras and human movement to identify when someone needs assistance and then approach them to offer help. It can also right itself if knocked over.

The “remote brain” system behind it all consists of a robotics IT platform connected to cloud-based processing technology and a remote operation system to monitor and control multiple robots at various locations. Processing is done centrally, so if one robot fails, restoration instructions can be sent from a remote location to resume services quickly.

Weighing about 33 pounds, EMIEW3 can move as fast as 3.7 miles per hour, which is about three times as fast as Pepper’s maximum speed. It will reportedly go on sale in 2018.

 

FCC To Take Steps To Restore Broadband Competition For Businesses

April 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will take steps to restore competition in the market for broadband services used by businesses, potentially slashing billions of costs.

For years, groups have called on the FCC to cap the rates charged by Verizon and AT&T, the two carriers that dominate the market.

At a meeting on April 28, the FCC will consider an order that looks at the charges for dedicated connections paid by offices, retailers, banks, schools, hospitals and other types of customer, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

For more than a decade, critics of Verizon and AT&T have pushed the FCC to address these so-called “middle-mile” data connections, which link ATMs, credit-card scanners, mobile towers and many office broadband networks.

“If we want to maximize the benefits of business data services for U.S. consumers and businesses, we need a fresh start,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post Friday.

Less than 5 percent of business broadband locations nationwide have more than two carriers offering services, according to FCC figures.

Wheeler will propose new regulations for business broadband, often called special access services, to encourage competition.

“Government must ensure that non-competitive markets don’t harm consumers and businesses or stifle innovation,” he said. “I propose to identify those markets that are competitive, and those that are not, and to adopt a tailored regulatory framework to mirror those distinctions.”

 

 

LG Announces G5 Smartphone To Be Available In April

March 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

LG officially announced that its new LG G5 is coming to the U.S. in early April at major carriers and retailers.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones are already available for sale.

All three new phones run Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).

Whether the new phones will sell in record numbers is questionable, since U.S. smartphone sales were actually down by 6% in the last quarter of 2015 — the holiday period when they usually peak.

The downturn came about because even new flagship phones haven’t excited buyers in the U.S. as much as in the past, since new features can seem incremental and average users are keeping phones longer. Analysts see upgrade fatigue on the part of average buyers, at least in the U.S. and parts of Europe, where the smartphone market is thought to be saturated.

But the LG G5 might perk up some buyers, at least the early-adopter crowd willing to spend money on new technology.

The phone features a removable 2800 mAh battery, an advance not seen on rival devices. The battery slides out from the bottom of the phone, leaving a slot that can be used to insert various modules for enhanced DSLR camera controls, better sound quality, a virtual reality viewer and more. The modules are called LG Friends and will sell separately in April.

That kind of modular innovation helped the LG G5 win the Best New Smartphone award at the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month.

As an inducement to buy, LG said it will offer a free extra G5 battery and battery-charging cradle for a limited time.

LG, however, didn’t announce pricing for the phones or the modules, and wouldn’t comment on a rumored off-contract price of $650 for the device. That price would put it in competition with other high-end smartphones. AT&T, Best Buy, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon were named as carriers and retailers offering the device in early April; none have separately announced prices.

 

 

Amazon Plans On Opening Up To 400 Bookstores

February 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will open up to 400 physical bookstores, according to a major U.S. mall operator with knowledge of the proposal.

Amazon recently experimented with brick-and-mortar stores with the opening of a bookstore in its home city of Seattle in November. An expansion of bookstores, which the company has not confirmed, would be a surprise reversal from the online retailer credited with driving physical booksellers out of business.

“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores,” Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties Inc, said on Tuesday, responding to an analyst’s question after it reported earnings.

On the call, Mathrani compared Amazon’s plans to similar moves by eyeware company Warby Parker or men’s clothing retailer Bonobos, both of which opened physical stores after finding success online.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation.”

Before branching out to offer everything from fresh groceries to original TV programming, Amazon got its start as a bookseller 20 years ago. It has since revolutionized the publishing industry by introducing its popular e-reader, the Kindle.

Amazon’s bookstore in Seattle carries books selected based on customer ratings and popularity on Amazon.com. The storefront also provides a space for visitors to test-drive Amazon’s Kindle, Fire TV and other devices.

Any move by Amazon to expand stores would further antagonize long-time rivals like Barnes & Noble Inc, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, which operated 640 bookstores across the United States as of January. Shares of Barnes & Noble fell more than 5 percent on Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Mathrani’s comments on Tuesday.

Kevin Berry, vice president of investor relations at General Growth Properties, declined to comment beyond what was said during the conference call.

 

Is Samsung Going To Starting A Rental Phone Service?

February 2, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung  is rolling out a rental phone service which will replace a phone that is been used for a year with the latest model.

The system is similar to the rental model which was introduced by Apple in September of last year. Samsung will bring the service out in March in South Korea but it is also in talks with  Bright Star, which is a business that specializes in distribution of mobile in the US so it is pretty likely to be tried over the pond too.  We have not heard about it talking to any EU distributor but it is also fairly likely.

Under the deal you replace your old phone with a new phone every year if you make a two year contract and pa a year worth of instalments. The company then makes a bit of dosh flogging the used phones.

The first phone to be rented will be the Galaxy S7 that happens to be being released in March. It will also have a higher resale value as a used model.

Officially Samsung is saying nothing as the Galaxy S7 is not even in the shops yet.

Mobile telecommunication businesses such as SK Telecom, LG Uplus and others are also preparing to release similar services. This is not the first time they have had a crack at programs likes this there were operations like Zero Club, Free Club and others in the past which operated in a similar way. It should make the introduction of the rental phone service using Apple’s model a doddle.

If it takes off it could be a change in distribution model for phones. As mobile markets are saturated and as subsidies for mobiles disappear, rental phones are seen as an alternatives that will create new demand.  Much of the success however depends on the resale value of the older phones.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Samsung Profits Hit By Weak Demand For Smartphones

January 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Weak demand for smartphones and display panels weighed down Samsung’s profits last quarter, and the company doesn’t expect much improvement this year.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was 53.3 trillion won (US$45.5 billion), up just 1 percent from a year earlier, Samsung announced Thursday in Seoul. Net profit plummeted 40 percent to 3.2 trillion won.

A day earlier, Samsung’s biggest rival, Apple, said it too was seeing weaker than expected demand for handsets. The Cupertino company reported iPhone sales that were almost flat and forecast its first quarterly revenue drop since 2003.

Samsung isn’t expecting much better. It sees a difficult environment in 2016 characterized by slowing IT demand.

“It would be a challenge to maintain 2016 operating profit levels,” said Kim Sang Hyo, Samsung’s vice president of investor relations, in a conference call with analysts.

A weak macro economy around the world will hurt business in the first half, but things should get better in the second half, the company said.

Sales in Samsung’s key mobile division fell 10 percent in the quarter to 24 trillion won. That was the result of an earlier pile up of unsold phones at retailers, and the fact that Samsung sold fewer high-end phones and more that were lower priced.

Samsung doesn’t divulge the number of smartphones it sells, preferring to announce total sales of all phone types. That figure was 97 million last quarter, with smartphones accounting for around 85 percent.

For 2016, it expects the mobile business will see single-digit growth due to tepid demand for new smartphones and tablet PCs.

Samsung’s semiconductor and display panel operations — it’s second-biggest business area — was the only good performer last quarter. Sales rose 11 percent year-on-year to 19.7 trillion won thanks to healthy demand for flash memory chips and continued demand for mobile and server DRAM.

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon’s E-mail ‘Share’ Runs Afoul Of German Law

January 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A German court has ruled as unlawful a feature that encourages Amazon customers to share links to products of the online shop with their contacts, confirming the ruling of a lower court.

The Amazon “share” feature invites customers to share a product via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or Pintrest.

The court said on Monday that sharing by e-mail without approval of the recipient was illegal. It is “unsolicited advertising and unreasonable harassment,” the regional court in Hamm said, confirming the ruling of a lower court in Arnsberg.

The case was brought against one of Amazon’s resellers by a competitor.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling comes after Germany’s highest court ruled earlier this month that a similar feature that encourages Facebook users to market the social media network to their contacts as unlawful.

At the time, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV), which brought the Facebook case to court, had said the ruling would have implications for other services in Germany which use similar forms of advertising.

 

There Are Now Nearly 300,000 Drones According To FAA Database

January 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Almost 300,000 recreational drone owners have registered their unmanned aircraft in a new federal database created to help address a surge of rogue drone flights near airports and public venues, U.S. regulators said on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration said 295,306 owners registered in the 30-day period after the registry was launched on Dec. 21 and obtained an FAA identification number that must be displayed on their aircraft.

It was not clear how many drones had been registered. The registration applies to drones that weigh between 0.55 pound (250 grams) and 55 pounds (25 kgs).

Experts have said 700,000 to 1 million unmanned aircraft were expected to be given as gifts in the United States last Christmas alone. People who operated their small unmanned aircraft before Dec. 21 must register by Feb. 19.

Owners who registered during the first month had the $5 fee reimbursed.

“The registration numbers we’re seeing so far are very encouraging,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

Federal officials see online registration as a way to address the safety concerns that have arisen as a result of unauthorized drone flights near airports and crowded public venues across the country.

The current system is available only to owners who intend to use drones exclusively for recreational or hobby purposes. The FAA is also working to make the system available for non-model aircraft users including commercial operators by March 21.

Officials say the agency is also working with the private sector to streamline registration including through the use of new smart phone apps that could allow a manufacturer or retailer to register a drone automatically by scanning an identification code on the aircraft.

 

AT&T Facing Pressure, Offers Aggressive Smartphone Discounts

January 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T has announced aggressive discounts on new smartphones and devices, including a 2-for-1 smartphone offer for business customers.

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.

 

 

Mobile Shopping Scores Big During Holiday Season

January 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Shopping from mobile devices increased by a whopping 59 percent during the U.S. holiday shopping season, data from analytics firm Comscore Inc showed, as consumers were lured by attractive deals and shipping options.

Shoppers spent a total of $12.7 billion through smartphones and tablets beating Comscore’s forecast of $11.7 billion, the company said.

“If there is an underlying takeaway from this holiday season, I think it will be remembered as the one where ‘mobile ate brick-and-mortar,” said Gian Fulgoni ComScore chairman emeritus.

U.S. shoppers are increasingly shifting their holiday shopping online, particularly on mobile devices, as they seek to avoid crowds at brick-and-mortar stores and take advantage of online-only offers.

Mobile commerce is estimated to have accounted for 18 percent of total digital commerce during the shopping season, an increase from 13 percent in 2014.

Consumers spent a total of $56.4 billion through desktop, lower than the $58.3 billion Comscore had expected.

“Fairly early on it became clear that desktop e-commerce would likely underperform our expectations while mobile commerce was poised to over perform,” Fulgoni said.

 

Target Developing Mobile Wallet Service

December 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Target Corp is in the beginning stages of creating its own mobile wallet, three people familiar with the matter said, joining Wal-Mart Stores Inc in posing a threat to recent entrants like Apple Pay.

The fourth-largest U.S. retailer has not committed to launch the product, which would allow customers to pay for goods using an app on their mobile phones. The mobile wallet could launch as early as next year, but it is too early to predict, said two of the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Target’s team has made some decisions, including to partner with credit card companies, and they are in favor of processing transactions using scanning technology to communicate with payment terminals, the two sources said.

However, Target has not tested the wallet in its stores so far, said the third source, who was not authorized to disclose the details.

Target’s entry would create a powerful new competitor in a small, crowded market, challenging Apple Inc’s Apple Pay, Alphabet Inc’s Android Pay and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Samsung Pay.

Target’s move also would raise new questions about the viability of a plan by a number of retailers, including Target and Wal-Mart, to create a joint mobile wallet, called CurrentC.

Target spokesman Eddie Baeb said on Friday the retailer is testing CurrentC, which is being developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), in a few stores but it is also exploring additional mobile wallet solutions. He declined to comment on whether Target was developing its own mobile payment service.

“Target is a participant of the MCX and we are testing its CurrentC mobile wallet with guests as part of a pilot in Columbus, Ohio,” Baeb said.

Mobile wallets have struggled to find favor with merchants and customers, with many shoppers not finding the new systems worth the trouble to activate for every purchase.

Still, wallet companies are cramming into the space in the expectation that consumers eventually will choose to pay with phones and that winning vendors will forge deep, profitable links with customers.

CurrentC’s aim was to become competitive with credit cards while reducing the fees retailers pay to card companies.

Last week, Wal-Mart became the first member of the group to announce its own mobile payment service, Wal-Mart Pay.

 

Walmart Joins World Of Mobile Payments

December 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Wal-Mart Stores Inc announced that it will launch ‘Walmart Pay,’ to become the first U.S. retailer to offer its own payment feature to expand consumer payment options and increase the speed of checkouts.

Walmart Pay will be introduced in select U.S. stores on Thursday and in additional stores after the holiday season, Wal-Mart executives said on a video call with reporters on Wednesday.

The free service, integrated into the retailer’s app, will be available nationwide by the first half of 2016, the executives said.

Walmart Pay will be available on devices using Apple’s  iOS or Alphabet Inc’s Android operating system and allows payments with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift cards, the company said.

It will also allow for the integration of other payment options such as mobile wallets in the future.

The feature requires customers to choose Walmart Pay within the retailer’s mobile app at a checkout counter, activate their phone camera and scan the code displayed at the register after which an e-receipt will be sent to the app.

The company is in talks with mobile wallet developers, Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart U.S., said on the call, but did not specify who the companies were.

Wal-Mart has been working with a consortium of retailers to develop a mobile wallet, called CurrentC, which was beta-launched in August, in a bid to rival Apple Inc’s  Apple Pay.

Wal-Mart said Walmart Pay was developed independently, but it continues to remain associated with CurrentC as a possible mobile wallet addition to Walmart Pay.