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Amazon Expands Grocery Delivery Service

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is add more territory to its online grocery delivery program to Brooklyn’s well-heeled Park Slope neighborhood, giving the No. 1 U.S. online retailer a foothold in one of the wealthiest and densest markets in the United States.

The AmazonFresh program, which offers same-day or next-day delivery on more than 500,000 items including fresh and frozen groceries, will soon expand to other areas in Brooklyn.

The move is part of Amazon’s slow build-out of its “Fresh” program, targeting one of the largest retail sectors yet to be upended by online commerce. Amazon declined to say if it will expand to Manhattan or other parts of the New York metro area.

“Currently, we are offering AmazonFresh in Brooklyn and will continue being thoughtful and methodical in our expansion,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Groceries have proven to be one of the toughest sectors for technology companies to manage, and Amazon faces competition from established companies like FreshDirect as well as fast-growing startups like Instacart.

But a successful foray in Park Slope could help Amazon cement customer loyalty and boost sales, especially among wealthy and middle-class families, analysts have said.

The top 10 to 20 percent of wealthiest Americans spend between 3 and 4 times more on food than the average American family, according to Bill Bishop, chief architect at Brick Meets Click, a consulting firm focused on retail technology.

“They are the sweetest of shoppers so anybody who attracts that business is taking the cream of the market,” Bishop said.

Amazon could also use its Fresh program to experiment with its own delivery service, analysts have said.

 

 

 

FCC To Explore Next-Generation Wireless Networks

October 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, on Friday, stated that U.S. regulators will look “to infinity and beyond” to harness new technology that can help build a new generation of mobile wireless connections.

The FCC on Friday voted unanimously to open a so-called “notice of inquiry” into what it and the industry can do to turn a new swath of very high-frequency airwaves, previously deemed unusable for mobile networks, into mobile-friendly frequencies.

The FCC’s examination would serve as a regulatory backdrop for research into the next generation of wireless technology, sometimes referred to as 5G and which may allow wireless connections to carry a thousand times more traffic.

“Today we’re stepping in front of the power curve,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Friday at the meeting.

In question are frequencies above 24 gigahertz (GHz), sometimes called millimeter waves, that have previously been deemed technically unweildy for mobile connections, though have the potential to carry large amounts of data and give the promise of lightning-fast speeds.

Millimeter waves work best over short distances and have required a direct line-of-sight connection to a receiver. They are now largely used for point-to-point microwave connections.

The FCC said it will study what technologies could help get around the technological and practical obstacles and what kind of regulatory regime could help a variety of technologies to flourish on those airwaves, including the potential for services other than mobile.

The U.S. wireless industry continues to work on deploying the 4G connections, though some equipment manufacturers, such as Samsung are already testing data transmission on the higher frequencies.

 

 

Tablet Sales Growth Dropped Drastically

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The news about tablet sales isn’t good.

Gartner and IDC both recently dramatically lowered their tablet shipment and sales estimates for 2014 and coming years, citing primarily the longer-than-expected time customers keep their existing tablets. (That phenomenon is called the “refresh rate.”)

Gartner said it had originally expected 13% tablet sales growth for the year globally; it has now lowered that growth rate to 11%. IDC’s forecast change was even more dire: In June, it predicted shipment growth this year would be 12.1%, but in September it cut that number to 6.5%.

In the U.S., things are worse, because more than half of households have a tablet and may hold onto it for more than three years, well beyond analysts’ earlier expectations.

IDC said in its latest update that tablet growth in the U.S. this year will be just 1.5%, and will slow to 0.4% in 2015. After that, it expects negative growth through 2018. Adding in 2-in-1 devices, such as a Surface Pro with a keyboard, the situation in the U.S. improves, although overall growth for both tablets and 2-in-1′s will still only reach 3.8% in 2014, and just 0.4% by 2018, IDC said.

“Tablet penetration is high in the U.S. — over half of all households have at least one — which leads to slow growth…,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview. “A smartphone is a must-have item, but a tablet is not. You can do the same things on a laptop as you do with a tablet, and these are all inter-related.”

Tablets are a “nice-to-have and not a must-have, because phones and PCs are enough to get by,” added Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.

In a recent Kantar survey of 20,000 potential tablet buyers, only 13% said they definitely or probably would buy a tablet in the next year, while 54% said they would not, Milanesi said. Of those planning not to buy a tablet, 72% said they were happy with their current PC.

At IDC, analyst Tom Mainelli reported that the first half of 2014 saw tablet growth slow to 5.8% (from a growth rate of 88% in the first half of 2013). Mainelli said the meteoric pace of past years has slowed dramatically due to long device refresh cycles and pressure from sales of large phones, including the new iPhone 6 Plus. That phone has a 5.5-in. display, which is close to some smaller tablets with 7-in. displays.

 

 

 

Facebook Doubling Reward For It’s Ad Based Bugs

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is doubling the bounty it will pay for security vulnerabilities related to code that runs its advertising system, the company announced.

A comprehensive security audit of its ads code was recently completed, but Facebook “would like to encourage additional scrutiny from whitehats to see what we may have missed,” wrote Collin Greene, a security engineer, in a blog post. “Whitehats” refers to ethical security researchers, as opposed to “blackhats” who take advantage of vulnerabilities.

According to bug bounty program guidelines, Facebook pays a minimum of $500 for a valid bug report. Until the end of the year, that has been increased to $1,000.

Greene wrote that the majority of reports it receives concern more common parts of Facebook’s code, but the company would like to encourage interest in ads “to better protect businesses.”

Facebook’s ad tools include the Ads Manager, the ads API (application programming interface) and Analytics, which is also called Insights, Greene wrote. The company also wants close scrutiny of its back-end billing code.

“There is a lot of backend code to correctly target, deliver, bill and measure ads,” Greene wrote. “This code isn’t directly reachable via the website, but of the small number of issues that have been found in these areas, they are relatively high impact.”

Greene wrote that Facebook typically sees bugs such as incorrect permission checks, insufficient rate-limiting, edge-case CSRF (cross-site request forgery) issues and problems with Flash in its ads code.

 

Google Adds More Cities To Shopping Delivery Service

October 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc announed that it would be expanding its same-day shopping delivery service to three additional U.S. cities and start charging customers for the service, which competes with Amazon.com Inc.

The Google Express service, which was earlier only available in certain parts of California and New York City, will be expanded to Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., Google said in a blog.

Membership for the service, which was earlier called Google Shopping Express, will cost $95 a year, or $10 a month.

Online retailer Amazon’s same-day delivery service, called Prime, charges customers $99 per year, after a free one-year trial.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, at a public speech made in Berlin on Monday, called Amazon its “biggest search competitor”, the Financial Times and other media reported.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” the FT quoted Schmidt as saying.

Schmidt said internet users are likely to go directly to the retailer if they are shopping.

 

 

Will Smartphones Eventually Destroy The Tablet Market?

October 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Gartner is warning that tablet sales could fall to the power of the cheaper and bigger smartphones. Gartner’s Q3 and annual figures for device sales worldwide — covering smartphones and tablets as well as PCs of all sizes — shows that tablet sales in 2014 will only see 11 per cent growth over last year, compared to growth of 55 percent the year before.

This works out to a projected 229 million tablets selling in 2014, or 9.5% of overall worldwide device sales, which will total 2.4 billion devices for the year, and 2.5 billion in 2015. In short the novelty is wearing off and tablets are getting a good kicking from Android smartphones. Devices built on Google’s mobile operating system will see sales of 1.2 billion devices this year, working out to more than half of all devices sold.

Ultramobiles, the not-quite-PC and not-quite-tablet and not-quite-phone category, will remain niche but continue growing: there will be 37.6 million of these sold this year, and as befits a fast-growing but still-small category, ultramobiles will grow the fastest, doubling in sales in 2015 while the other categories continue to see only modest rises. Ultramobiles are also suffering from the same issue as tablets. People are simply not replacing them as much.

“In the tablets segment, the downward trend is coming from the slowdown of basic ultramobiles,” Gartner concludes.

The life cycle of tablets and ultramobiles is around three years and buyers this year won’t replace devices until 2018. Gartner says it projects 83 million less new tablet purchasers in 2014-2015 and 155 million less tablet replacements through 2018.

Roberta Cozza, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the report said there are too many solid devices out there and users don’t have a reason to upgrade to the new units. Cozza also confirmed Samsung is heads and shoulders above all other OEMs.

If you look at PCs, ultramobiles and phones, Samsung is still number one, with around a 20 per cent share this quarter. Samsung’s fortunes are driven by Android and its share in the PC category is “tiny.”

With Apple in second place at around 10 percent, Nokia in third just behind it and Lenovo in fourth in the overall category.

Courtesy-Fud

HP, EMC Call Off Merger Talks

October 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard Co has ended all merger discussions with EMC Corp, deciding to walk away from the deal after months of fruitless negotiations, people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The official cessation of discussions to merge two of the tech industry’s largest enterprise-oriented firms may come as a disappointment to activist investors Elliott Management, which has pushed hard for storage products maker EMC to pursue merger or spinoff opportunities.

Pressure is building on EMC as rival technology companies, such as eBay Inc and Symantec, begin spinning off operations in an attempt to unlock shareholder value, become more agile, and capitalize on faster-growing businesses.

It is unclear when talks ended following months-long discussions, the people said on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Executives from the two companies were still trying to hammer out a deal as recently as last week, but talks bogged down on price and are now dead, the people said.

HP has temporarily suspended its stock buyback program ahead of its Nov. 25 earnings because the company said it is in possession of material non-public information. When pressed by stock analysts, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak noted on a conference call that the non-public information pertains to a possible acquisition.

HP and EMC declined to comment on Tuesday.

It is also unclear what specifically was discussed. A straight-up merger of the two companies would have created one of the industry’s largest providers of data storage, and created a computing giant with deep penetration in the business of providing computing hardware and services to corporations.

 

 

Sprint Confirms Shut Down Of WiMax Network In November

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint’s WiMax network, rolled out in 2008 as the first commercial 4G system in the U.S., will finally cease operations in November 2015.

The country’s third-largest carrier has confirmed that it will end its WiMax service on Nov. 6, 2015. It had disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year that WiMax would shut down by the end of 2015.

Sprint deployed what was then a newly emerging technology in 2008, attempting to jump past its competitors with a mobile data network that would be faster than its own 3G CDMA system and those operated by the other big national carriers. WiMax launched first in Baltimore in September 2008 with advertised download speeds ranging from 2Mbps (bits per second) to 4Mbps.

The network ultimately was built and operated by Clearwire, another early WiMax adherent that owned spectrum licenses in the same band as Sprint, around 2.5GHz. Sprint bought its WiMax capacity wholesale from Clearwire before selling it to its 4G subscribers. The two carriers had a tumultuous relationship until Sprint acquired Clearwire as part of its takeover by Softbank in 2013.

WiMax predated LTE and may have helped to spur on the development of that standard, which became the 4G system for carriers that had embraced the GSM family of technologies. But as early as 2010, both Sprint and Clearwire were signaling that they would give in to LTE’s broader global backing and follow what was already expected to be the more high-volume technology.

The November date was first reported by AndroidCentral, based on a leaked newsletter that discussed a letter to be sent a year in advance to all corporate WiMax customers. The newsletter also said other WiMax customers would be informed six months in advance and that there would be comparable devices at low or no cost to replace WiMax equipment. Sprint had laid out the possibility of free LTE replacement phones in its terms of service last year.

 

Twitter To Allow Money Transfer Via Tweets

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

One of France’s largest banks is partnering with social network Twitter Inc. to allow its customers to transfer money via tweets.

The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.

Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple  and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.

The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.

“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money,  BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.

Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.

BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.

Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”,  to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.

The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.

Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.

 

 

Amazon Mulling Retail Store In New York

October 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world, is exploring the possibility of opening its first brick-and-mortar store — in New York City — just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The company, which is reportedly opening the store on Manhattan’s busy 34th Street, is looking to experiment with a retail store that would focus on same-day delivery in the city, as well as give customers a place for product returns, exchanges and even online order pickups, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) .

The store also would give shoppers a place to check out – and hold in their hands — Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone.

Kelly Cheeseman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Computerworld, “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.”

“This is kind of interesting because it’s so counter-intuitive,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “People buy in different ways and often, with holiday buying, folks shift sharply to stores as their procrastination catches up with them at the end of the season. Amazon loses business when this happens and by setting up stores in very high-traffic areas, they can go after at least some of this business.”

The brick-and-mortar store also will be an in-your-face reminder for people to think about shopping at Amazon as they move through Manhattan. They might not be able to stop in the store but it might nudge them to look online – especially at Amazon.com — for that sweater, book or stand mixer they want to buy.

“I think it’s more about bringing publicity to Amazon during the holiday season rather than a new move to bricks and mortar,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “First, it’s in New York City — in the heart of midtown Manhattan — and it will be open during the Christmas shopping season. I would also imagine that this will garner Amazon a lot of attention during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.”

 

 

Tesla Unveils New Vehicle With ‘Auto-pilot’ Features

October 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Motors Inc made its first move toward automated driving, unveiling features that will allow its electric sedan to park itself and sense dangerous situations.

The company also said it will roll out an all-wheel drive option of the Model S sedan that can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds yet doesn’t compromise the vehicle’s efficiency.

The car is like having a “personal roller coaster,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk joked after making the announcement at the packed event in Hawthorne, California.

Tesla’s announcement had been eagerly anticipated since Musk last week tweeted that it was “about time to unveil the D and something else.”

Onstage Musk said “D” stands for “dual motor,” meaning Tesla’s all-wheel drive vehicle will have a motor at either end of the chassis to increase control.

In addition, Musk said that the Model S cars that are rolling off the line today already have the hardware for what he called “autopilot.” The features include a long-range radar, image recognition so the vehicle can “see” things like stop signs and pedestrians, and a 360-degree ultrasonic sonar.

The car can park itself in a garage, turn on the air conditioning in advance of a trip and recognize obstacles on the road. He cautioned, however, that “autopilot” was not fully autonomous driving and would not allow a driver to fall asleep at the wheel.

The new features will give Tesla momentum while consumers wait for the launch of its third vehicle, the crossover SUV Model X, next year, said one industry analyst.

“Until the Model X arrives, a vehicle that will substantially amplify Tesla’s appeal and volume potential, these upgrades should keep the Model S at the forefront of advanced personal transportation,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

 

 

Beats And Bose Cancels Lawsuit, Settles Headphone Dispute

October 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A high-profile patent fight over noise cancelling headphones between Bose Corp and Beats Electronics ended on Friday with both sides settling the case out of court.

The terms of the settlement were not being disclosed, a spokeswoman for Bose said in an email, adding only that the dispute had been “resolved.”

Bose, which makes high-end sound systems and headphones, filed the case last July in federal court in Delaware, alleging Beats had willfully infringed upon five of its patents in its Studio and Studio Wireless line of headphones.

Privately held Bose said it had lost profits and sales as a result and was seeking unspecified damages from Beats, which Apple Inc acquired this year for $3 billion.

A document filed with the court on Friday said both sides would dismiss the case and bear their own costs and legal fees.

The two companies also asked the International Trade Commission to suspend its investigation into the matter. Bose had asked the commission to block the import of Beats’ noise-cancellation products from China, where they are manufactured.

Beats headphones have become popular with music fans since the company was founded by rap mogul Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine in 2006. Besides headphones, Beats has also entered online music streaming, competing with the likes of Pandora and Spotify.

A representative from Beats was not immediately available for comment.

 

There’s a Glass App For The Hearing Impaired

October 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Georgia Tech scientists have developed an app that creates captions on Google Glass for users who suffer from hearing loss.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed speech-to-text software for Google’s wearable technology. Using Glass and an Android-based smartphone, the app converts speech to text and displays it on the Glass heads-up display.

“This system allows wearers like me to focus on the speaker’s lips and facial gestures,” said Jim Foley, a professor at Georgia Tech, in a statement. “If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However, if I miss a word, I can glance at the transcription, get the word or two I need and get back into the conversation.”

According to Georgia Tech, the system works by having a hard-of-hearing person wear Glass while the person he’s trying to converse with speaks directly into the smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.

“Glass has its own microphone, but it’s designed for the wearer,” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and a technical lead for Glass. “The mobile phone puts a microphone directly next to the speaker’s mouth, reducing background noise and helping to eliminate errors.”

The app, called Captioning on Glass, is free and is available at MyGlass.

Google has been focused on expanding its app ecosystem for Glass, adding apps for Facebook, Twitter and CNN.

Google is still working to move Glass from prototype to an official product.

Google offered the eyewear for general sale in May, although Glass still is in beta testing. The company is looking for early adopters, also known as Explorers, while engineers continue to work on the hardware and software, and third parties add to the selection of apps.

Earlier this year, Google executives said they expected Glass to be released later in 2014. However, during the company’s annual developer conference, they stopped estimating release dates and said Glass will be released when it’s ready.

 

 

 

Symantec Exploring Possibility Of Splitting Business Up

October 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Security software maker Symantec Corp is in advanced negotiations to split its business into two entities – one that sells security programs and another that does data storage, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

An announcement may be a few weeks away, according to Bloomberg.

Symantec declined to comment on the report.

Reuters reported in April that Symantec, the biggest U.S. security software maker, was in the process of hiring banks to help advise on strategy and defend against possible activist investors.

Private equity firms were also looking at the possibility of breaking up Symantec into smaller pieces, some of which may also be attractive to industry peers, sources told Reuters at that time.

A breakup may position Symantec’s separated businesses as acquisition targets, given that large companies including EMC Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co are interested in the stand-alone security business or in an independent storage business, Bloomberg reported.

Earlier this year, the company, known for its Norton antivirus software, abruptly fired its CEO as it struggles to revive growth amid eroding PC sales.

Symantec, which also offers data storage products, has seen revenue growth turn negative in recent quarters, unlike the rest of the security software market, which is growing at least 10 percent to 15 percent annually.

The slowdown is partly due to eroding PC sales, affecting demand for its software, which often comes bundled with new computers. It has failed to gain a strong footing in the market for mobile security.

If it goes ahead with the breakup, Symantec would join technology companies that are spinning off operations in an attempt to become more agile and capitalize on faster-growing businesses.

 

Toshiba Introduces Smart Glasses To Battle Google’s

October 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Toshiba is entering the smart glasses market. The company is introducing a prototype pair of glasses at the Ceatec trade show in Japan this week, and while they might not edge Google Glass out of the market, they should be a bit cheaper.

Called Toshiba Glass, they have a tiny, lightweight projector clipped onto one of the arms near the lens. That projector displays an image that reflects off the inside of the lens to provide an augmented reality-type display.

It’s a similar principle to Google Glass, which also uses a built-in projector. But unlike Google Glass, Toshiba’s glasses don’t have a prism over the lens to reflect the image into the eye.

Instead, with Toshiba’s product, the glasses lens itself comprises a series of narrow, vertical prisms. They’re pretty much invisible when you look straight through the lens, but an image projected from an angle reflects back into the eye.

Toshiba says the glasses weigh 42 grams — about the same as Google Glass, according to this report (Google doesn’t give the weight in its specs). But they’re far less impressive than Google’s product for a few reasons.

One is that Toshiba Glass isn’t wireless — it connects to a smartphone in your pocket in order to work. That’s partly because the battery for the projector would make the glasses too heavy, according to Toshiba — although Google somehow managed it.

The other they’re less impressive is that Toshiba Glass isn’t a full-blown computer. It’s really just a display system that connects to your smartphone.

Still, it might be a lot cheaper than Google Glass, which retails for $1,500.

Toshiba hopes to ship the product next year in Japan and North America, according to a representative at the Ceatec trade show near Tokyo, where Toshiba is showing its glasses for the first time.

It will offer three styles of frame — standard, sporty, and industrial, the last being protective googles like you might wear in a lab.