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Asus To Offer The Zenfone 2 For $199

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Asus isn’t exactly known for smartphones in the U.S., but the company is trying to make a strong statement with the Zenfone 2, which packs more storage than similarly priced competitors.

The Zenfone 2, which has a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, starts at $199. It will began shipping on Tuesday with Google’s Android 5.0 mobile operating system.

A model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage goes for $299, while the $199 model has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The smartphone is shipping as an unlocked device, meaning it will work with multiple carriers.

It has an Intel 64-bit Atom Z3580 processor code-named Moorefield and a PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, which is capable of handling 1080p video rendering.

The Zenfone 2 has a 5-megapixel front camera and a 13-megapixel rear camera, as well as two SIM slots.

Asus wants to make a mark in the U.S, and with this smartphone it hopes to find an audience, said Jonney Shih, chairman of Asus, during a press event in New York.

The ZenFone 2 is already shipping in 15 countries worldwide. For the U.S. market, Asus has tweaked the smartphone with some new features including a better LTE modem.

Other features include 802.11ac wireless and LTE-Advanced capabilities. The device supports carrier aggregation, and LTE data transfers can touch up to 250M bps (bits per second).

This is also a big product release for Intel. The Zenfone is the second smartphone in the U.S. that uses one of its chips. It’s also Intel’s first smartphone in the U.S. with the XMM 7260 LTE modem. An Intel chip is already being used on Asus’s Padfone X Mini, which is primarily a 4.5-inch smartphone that turns into a 7-inch tablet with an accessory.

 

 

 

Apple Bolsters Mapping Technology With Coherent Acquisition

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple, which has been focusing efforts on beefing up its mapping technology since ditching Google Maps in 2012, has acquired Coherent Navigation, a startup offering a high-accuracy GPS navigation service.

Coherent’s navigation system is used in the Iridium satellite network, according to the LinkedIn profile of Paul Lego, who was CEO of the company before going to work for Apple. Coherent, which was founded in 2008 and is based in the San Francisco area, counts the U.S. government as a customer and had been aiming its technology at the mining, construction, energy and agriculture industries. Coherent had fewer than 10 employees, according to its LinkedIn page, which states that the company “has ceased operations.”

Coherent joins a string of businesses Apple has purchased in recent years to beef up its mapping service. Until 2012, Apple’s mapping technology was based on Google Maps. Other mapping and location companies Apple has acquired include PlaceBase, Locationary and BroadMap.

In a statement released to the media, Apple said it occasionally purchases small companies and doesn’t discuss its acquisition plans. The timing, price and terms of the deal, which was first reportedby MacRumors, weren’t disclosed.

However, several former Coherent executives became Apple employees in recent months. Coherent CEO Paul Lego began working at Apple in January while co-founders William Bencze and Brent Ledvina joined the company in April, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Lego is on the Maps Team and Bencze and Ledvina work on location technologies.

 

 

Will Tablets Stage A Comeback?

May 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Analyst at IDC have consulted their tarot cards and are predicting that tablets will survive in the business area.

The overall tablet market in Western Europe remained challenged in the first quarter of 2015, declining 10.5 percent on year with shipments totaling 8.5 million units. The contraction, was the result of consumers realising that tablets were a fad and had no actually use at all.

But IDC sees a feature for the technology in the commercial space with volumes increasing 51.3per cent  from the same period in 2014. This is particularly in the area of 2-in-1s which are essentially a re-incarnation of netbooks with a touch screen.

In terms of product category, the share of 2-in-1s, albeit growing, remains in single-digit territory at 5.9 per cent. Nevertheless, the popularity of these devices continued to increase among consumers as well as enterprises, driving shipments up 44.4 per cent.

Chrystelle Labesque, research manager, IDC EMEA Personal Computing said that the fact there were no major product launches, the beginning of 2015 failed to stimulate stronger consumer demand.

“Growth opportunity, however, clearly continues to come from enterprises and professional segments. Vendors have significantly expanded their product portfolio with devices optimized for business usage. Demand for 2-in-1 devices is gathering momentum driven by improved hardware offers as well as adjusted price points that are attracting private users as well as professionals,” she said,

Marta Fiorentini, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing claimed that tablet usage for professional purposes was a reality.
“Deployment is no longer limited to a few early adopting countries or businesses. Adoption is far from being mainstream but we now see companies of all sizes choosing tablets and 2-in-1s to support their normal business activities.

The UK, France, Germany, and Northern Europe countries remain at the forefront of this trend as tablet adoption has become part of mobility and digital strategies in the private as much as public sector.

Windows 10 is likely to resolve most of the infrastructure legacy and integration problems that have so far hindered tablet and 2-in-1 adoption in some existing enterprises. The growth of the commercial segment is therefore expected to continue in the coming quarters, supporting overall market volumes in 2015 and beyond.”

Android devices account for the majority of the market thanks to the large number of vendors offering tablets running on this OS. The largest vendor, Samsung, under-performed the market in the consumer segment in the first quarter of 2015, but showed strong commercial results.

The rest of the market is represented by Windows devices, which posted strong double-digit growth for the third quarter in a row.

Courtesy-Fud

AT&T To Offer Exclusive Content For Connected Cars

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is preparing to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.

“It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle,” Penrose said.

AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.

AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like “special” shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.

Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.

GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.

The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals.

AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.

AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.

 

 

Is Apple Being Dumped?

May 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The dumping of Apple shares by top hedge funds is continuing to gather speed and now even the Tame Apple Press  is noticing.

Reuters took time out from its busy schedule of promoting Apple producst to report the surprise news that Top US hedge fund management firms, including Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors and Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management, continued to reduce or slash stakes altogether in Apple during the first quarter.

We say surprise news, but we had noticed it when it actually happened.

Coatue cut its holding of Apple by selling 1.2 million shares during the first three months of this year, but it remains the fund’s single biggest U.S. stock investment, with 7.7 million shares. Omega Advisors sold all of its 383,790 shares in Apple during the first quarter, while Rothschild Asset Management cut its stake by 107,953 to 938,693 shares, filings showed on Friday.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital also cut its exposure in Apple during the first quarter, slashing its stake by 1.2 million shares to 7.4 million shares.

Reuters cannot understand why the hedge funds are dumping their shares. Apple shares rose 12.7 percent in the first quarter and have continued to increase, it moaned.

But the reality is that if hedge funds listened to what fanboys wanted they would not be making the huge amounts of dosh they do. Objectively Apple’s markets have peaked, sales of Tablets have slumped, its iPhone market is stable but has no real momentum and above all it has yet to come up with a new idea.

Courtesy-Fud

China’s Alibaba Sued Over Selling Fake Luxury Goods

May 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A bevy of luxury goods brands filed suit against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, contending the Chinese online shopping giant had knowingly made it possible for counterfeiters to sell their products throughout the world.

The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court by Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by Paris-based Kering SA seeking damages and an injunction for alleged violations of trademark and racketeering laws.

The lawsuit alleged that Alibaba had conspired to manufacture, offer for sale and traffic in counterfeit products bearing their trademarks without their permission.

A spokesman for Alibaba declined to comment.

Concerns over fake products on Alibaba’s platforms, including online marketplace Taobao, have dogged it for years, although the U.S. Trade Representative removed Taobao from its list of “notorious markets” in 2012 in light of progress made.

Friday’s lawsuit marked the second time in less than a year that the Kering brands had sued Alibaba over the alleged sale of counterfeit products.

An earlier lawsuit was filed in July only to be withdrawn the same month with the ability to refile it while the Kering units worked toward a resolution with Alibaba, according to court records.

The lawsuit alleged that Alibaba and its related entities “provide the marketplace advertising and other essential services necessary for counterfeiters to sell their counterfeit products to customers in the United States.”

The lawsuit cited, for example, an alleged fake Gucci bag offered for $2 to $5 each by a Chinese merchant to buyers seeking at least 2,000 units. The authentic Gucci bag retails for $795, the complaint said.

Alibaba has allowed for counterfeit sales to continue even when it had been expressly informed that merchants were selling fake products, the lawsuit said.

 

 

Fujitsu To Debut Wearable Tags For IoT

May 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fujitsu has designed stamp-sized wearable sensor tags that can tell whether users have changed their location or posture, fallen down or are experiencing body temperature changes.

The tags transmit data via Bluetooth Low Energy and can be worn as wristbands or location badges on lapels or breast pockets. They could be used by people including hospital patients and infrastructure workers to relay data to supervisors.

The tags can also be attached to objects such as shopping carts or walkers for the elderly. They’re part of a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform from Fujitsu called Ubiquitousware that’s aimed at making IoT applications easier for businesses.

At a Fujitsu technology expo in Tokyo this week the company is showing off the prototype tags. They contain various sensors commonly found in smartphones such as accelerometers, barometers, gyroscopes and microphones. They can also house heart rate sensors and GPS modules.

The sensors are being housed in stand-alone tags to better promote IoT apps, according to Fujitsu.

Algorithms that are part of the platform analyze the sensor data and can automatically send alerts to supervisors when a patient has fallen down, for instance, or if a worker is experiencing a heavy physical load and heat while working on a tower for high-voltage cables.

“These sensors stand out for the many business apps such as medicine or security that are easily incorporated through our cloud solutions,” said Tatsuhiro Ohira, a general manager in Fujitsu’s Ubiquitous Business Strategy Unit.

As an extension of a company’s awareness of its staff, the tags could raise privacy concerns. Fujitsu said the wristbands could also be used to estimate whether the wearer is taking breaks, or to help manage workers’ health.

The sensors are to be rolled out beginning in December but the cost has not been determined yet, Ohira said.

 

 

Is Intel Headed Back Into The Supercomputing Space?

May 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The dark satanic rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn that suggests that Intel bigwigs want to get back into supercomputing.

Intel had some history in the 1980s running a high performance computing division and it produced top-tier national lab systems in its day. Now with Aurora supercomputer deal promising a Golden Dawn, the pundits are suggesting that it is a region that Intel could do well in, particularly if it is tied to a good integrator like Cray.

Intel has been quietly building the bits to set up such an operation. It bought file system assets from Whamcloud for Luster development, QLogic and Cray interconnect investments and several compiler and software companies that cater to HPC.

It could be a revival of a Cluster Ready program but it could also be a slow build to a supercomputing business refresh.

What has enabled all this was Linux, which was not really around when Intel tried and failed last time. This means that OEMs can build reasonably good, affordable machines and unhinge the proprietary architecture of supercomputing. With Intel’s Knights Landing technology, it makes such packages seem more possible,

Another key reason why Intel might make a push into this area is because it has the money where as smaller outfits like Cray don’t It takes a lot of dosh to set up a supercomputer and you need the cash up front. A partnership with Cray, as we have seen with the Aurora project, backed with Intel cash makes a powerful combo.

Courtesy-Fud

Walmart To Offer $50/Year Unlimited Shipping Service

May 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is making plans to test a new unlimited online shipping service this summer for $50 per year, a move that may take a bit out of Amazon’s annual $99 Prime shipping service.

Wal-Mart’s service, which will be by invitation only for now, will offer selected products on the company’s website to customers within three days or less, company spokesman Ravi Jariwala told Reuters. Wal-Mart offers more than 7 million products on its website.

“Depending on customer feedback we will see how the program evolves,” Jariwala said.

The move underscores Wal-Mart’s efforts to scale its online business rapidly and gain a share of a market dominated by Amazon.

Amazon’s launched its $99-a-year shipping service called n Prime, a decade ago with the guarantee of standard, reliable two-day shipping on online orders.

Since then Prime has become the cornerstone of Amazon’s growth and the e-commerce company said U.S. Prime memberships grew 50 percent last year.

 

 

Facebook To Launch ‘Instant Articles’ Newsfeeds

May 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is partnerning up with nine news publishers to introduce “Instant Articles” that will allow them to publish articles directly to the social network’s mobile news feeds.

Instant Articles will let stories load more than 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles and will include content from publishers such as the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, Facebook said in a blog post on its website.

“Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models,” said Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

The news publishers can either sell and embed advertisements in the articles and keep all of the revenue, or allow Facebook to sell ads.

The Internet social networking company will also let the news companies track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.

The other launch partners for Instant Articles are NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild, Facebook said.

 

 

Hallmark Launches First eCard App

May 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Hallmark, one of the world’s oldest and best-known greeting card companies, launched its first Hallmark eCard app for the iPhone and iPad last week.

The new app, which will eventually make it to Android devices, isn’t just about ecards. It’s part of a broader mission within the Hallmark eCard division to help users connect more deeply through mobile devices and social networks than they do today, said Dan Kessler, general manager of Hallmark eCards.

“We’re talking about depth versus breadth” of social communications, Kessler said an interview. “If you post ‘Happy Birthday’ on somebody’s Facebook wall, at the end of the day you’re really just a number, a little red number at the top of somebody’s Facebook page. What we’re trying to provide artistically and technologically is a way to communicate more deeply.”

Facebook, WhatsApp and other social networks often provide social interactions without much meaning, he said.

“We’re entering a golden age for the greetings business,” Kessler said. “There’s an ongoing backlash against soulless communicating, and people are going back to a time of where it matters to say ‘Happy Birthday.’ I could just write it on somebody’s wall or [instead] send a card or an ecard.”

Kessler’s description of a ‘golden age’ might be an exaggeration. Still, there’s little question that mobile devices are opening a big door for ecards, said Natasha Rankin, executive director of the Greeting Card Association in Washington, which has 150 members, including Hallmark and American Greetings as its largest members.

“As with every company, Hallmark is recognizing wisely that to stay relevant, expanding into mobile is essential,” Rankin said in an interview. “There’s definitely an expansion toward leveraging technology.”

Ecards are still relatively small compared to paper cards, with about $274 million in revenues for U.S. ecard companies, according to the analyst firm IBISWorld.

 

 

 

Microsoft No Longer Interested In Salesforce Acquisition

May 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Rumors of a potential Salesforce acquisition have been swirling well over a week now, including the recent one that Microsoft was a likely bidder. According to a new report, however, it now looks like that’s not the case.

Microsoft considers Salesforce’s almost $50 billion market valuation too high and has no plans to make a bid for the cloud-software company in the near term, Reuters reported late on Thursday, citing unnamed sources. It may, however, reconsider the possibility in the future, the sources reportedly said.

Earlier this week, SAP — also widely considered a contender – said it had “zero interest” in making such an acquisition.

A Bloomberg report last Wednesday was what originally set off the wave of speculation about the possibility of a Salesforce acquisition, which could be the largest ever in the software industry. Sparking that report was news that Salesforce had been approached by a potential acquirer and hired a team of financial advisers to help it field such offers.

Both Microsoft and Salesforce declined to comment.

“Nobody is buying Salesforce,” said Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group.

Rather, the company has engaged bankers to help it figure out a strategy to buy a small part of UK-based enterprise-software maker Sage Group, Pombriant believes. Based on an invitation he received for a “fireside chat” next Wednesday, in fact, he expects the two companies’ CEOs — Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Stephen Kelly of Sage — to explain the details soon, he said.

 

 

Fitbit Sales Doubled, Files For IPO

May 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Fitbit, the maker of wearable activity trackers, has filed to go public and has reported some strong sales numbers in its presenation.

The company seeks to raise as much as US$100 million, according to a regulatory filing, though the amount is subject to change. Fitbit plans to list its stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “FIT.”

The filing reveals what seems to be a healthy business. The company sold roughly 10.9 million devices in 2014,more than double what it sold in 2013 and more than eight times as many as it sold in 2012.

Fitbit also more than doubled its revenue between 2013 and 2014, to more than $745 million. Sales in 2012 were about $76 million.

The company posted net income of nearly $132 million in 2014, up from a loss of roughly $52 million the year before.

Meanwhile, the company’s paid active users grew from 2.6 million in 2013 to 6.7 million in 2014.

Fitbit, founded in 2007, makes a number of activity-measuring bracelets and trackers that can be synced with an online dashboard and mobile apps. The company also provides premium services like virtual coaching and customized fitness plans.

 

 

Google Says Most Searches Now Come From Mobile

May 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google now gets more search queries from mobile devices than it does from PCs.

The company noted this milestone in mobile computing in a blog post.

“Billions of times per day, consumers turn to Google for I want-to-know, I want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments,” wrote Jerry Dischler, Google’s vice president of product management. “And at these times, consumers are increasingly picking up their smartphones for answers. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan.”

That, he added, presents what he calls a “tremendous opportunity” for businesses to reach people through this new touchpoint.

The news about mobile search overshadowing desktop searches means we’ve officially entered a “mobile-first” world, according to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research.

“Instead of using our PCs at home and augmenting them with mobile, we are mobile first, so no matter where we are or what we are doing we can find the information we need right then and there,” he added. “The phrases “I’ll take care of that when I get back to the office,” or “I’ll take care of that when I get home,” have been eradicated from our vocabulary.”

This week’s announcement puts Google’s recent mobile search changes into context.

Early last month, Google announced it was changing the algorithm it uses for mobile searches to give websites designed to be mobile friendly better positioning in search results.

Websites that aren’t designed to run well and look good on mobile devices simply won’t get good placement in search results — neither on mobile devices nor on desktops.

“The fact that Google is prioritizing mobile sites means Google’s ads need to be oriented around mobile,” said Kerravala. “I think it is changing what Google does with ads, meaning ads are going to need to become more localized.

 

 

 

Sprint Barely Beats T-Mobile In Carrier Race

May 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint barely retained its spot as the nation’s third-largest carrier in the first quarter of 2015, with T-Mobile continuing in fourth place.

Sprint announced it had 57.1 million total connections to its network, compared to 56.8 million for T-Mobile, as reported last week.

T-Mobile had been expected to edge ahead of Sprint, given T-Mobile’s aggressive growth in the past year.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in a conference call that T-Mobile CEO John Legere had spoken “prematurely” in statements he made last week about T-Mobile’s improvement compared to Sprint.

Claure called out Sprint’s addition of 1.2 million net customer in the quarter, up from 967,000 in the prior quarter, and net losses of 383,000 in the same quarter in 2014. He said those additions were the highest in nearly three years, while churn (losses) among postpaid customers dropped to 1.84% and network performance improved, “all of which will position the company for profitable growth.”

Claure noted “incredible network improvements” with LTE additions in dozens of cities. The gap between Sprint and other carriers in network performance is closing and “customers are very satisfied when they use our network,” he said.

The battle for the third and fourth-largest carrier positions indicates the competitive nature of the wireless business, although it matters little to individual wireless customers, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.

“It’s symobolic. It’s not important to customers. Nobody picks a carrier for being No. 3,” Entner said. “But it is bragging rights for the carriers and shows the changing fortunes and dynamic nature of the wireless industry.”

AT&T and Verizon are the nation’s biggest carriers and both are much larger than either Sprint and T-Mobile in total customers and wireless connections from machine-to-machine devices. AT&T and Verizon report their total wireless connections and customer differently, but Entner said Verizon now has about 108 million retail customers compared to about 86 million for AT&T.