The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.
For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.
The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.
The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.
“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.
The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.
The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.
The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
Verizon Communications is engaged in discussions with content providers to deliver web-based TV services to mobile platforms, chief executive Lowell McAdam, said at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Just recently, Dish Network Corp and Walt Disney Co announced a landmark deal that will allow the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver Disney-owned network content online, outside of a traditional TV subscription.
Verizon’s goal “is to work with the content providers,” said
McAdam at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
“I have personally had discussions with the CEOs of the large content companies, and we would love to partner with them to see how we can take FiOS contact mobilely across the country.” he said.
McAdam said the company could also look at providing a service delivered over wireless airwaves and not just broadband.
According to PwC’s annual entertainment and media forecast, North American consumers will spend $6 billion in 2014 on entertainment from services such as Netflix that are offered over the top, meaning they are utilized over a network but not offered by the network operator.
“I think you can actually get a virtuous cycle where broadcast viewing goes up and over-the-top viewing goes up, if you time this properly,” McAdam said.
In January, Verizon acquired Intel Corp’s OnCue service for an undisclosed sum to accelerate its push into next-generation video services, including integrating it with Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based Internet and TV service that has more than 5 million video subscribers, about 5 percent of pay TV households. The company said it was open to providing over-the-top content to any device.
McAdam also stressed that Verizon expects Netflix to pay for faster video delivery as part of a so-called interconnect deal, in an arrangement similar to the one the video provider has made with Comcast Corp.
“I have spoken live and via email with (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings, and I believe that we will get some sort of an arrangement with them as well,” said McAdam.
We already knew that Android was the mobile operating systems most targeted by malware, and that isn’t about to change any time soon.
Security firm F-Secure has reported that malicious activity on Android accounted for 97 per cent of all detected mobile threats for 2013.
The figures were revealed in F-Secure’s latest Threat Report for the second half of 2013, finding that there were 566 more Android malware variants found last year than during the previous year.
“97 percent of the mobile threats in 2013 were directed at the Android platform, which racked up 804 new families and variants,” F-Secure said in its report (pdf). “The other three percent (23) were directed at Symbian. No other platforms had any threats. In contrast, 2012 saw 238 new Android threats.”
F-Secure found that the top 10 countries reporting Android threats saw a little over 140,000 Android malware detections, with 42 percent of the reported detections coming from Saudia Arabia and 33 percent from India. European countries accounted for 15 percent of the total and the US just five percent.
F-Secure said that due to Android itself having relatively few vulnerabilities, the main distribution method is still through shady apps downloaded from third-party app stores.
“For mobile platforms, the continued dominance of the Android operating system makes it almost the exclusive target for mobile threats we’ve seen this period,” F-Secure’s report explained.
“Though the relatively low number of vulnerabilities found in Android makes the operating system itself difficult to attack, this security is largely circumvented by the relative ease with which malware authors can provide their ‘products’ and dupe users into installing it on their own devices, with the necessary permissions to straightforwardly use the device (and the user’s data) for the attacker’s own benefit.”
The Android malware families most commonly reported in that period were Ginmaster, Fakeinst and Smssend, which either harvest data from the device or send premium-rate SMS messages.
The F-Secure report also found that web based attacks, which typically involve techniques that redirect the browser to malicious websites, were the most commonly reported type of attack for the period, making up 26 percent of malware detections, followed by the Conficker worm with 20 percent.
“The three most common exploits detected during the period were all Java-related,” the report said. “Java exploits, however, declined compared to [the first half of] 2013. Mac malware continues a slight but steady increase, with 51 new families and variants detected in 2013.”
Fujitsu Labs have worked out a way to improve vibration feedback when typing on a virtual keyboard. The prototype haptic sensory tablet emits ultrasonic vibrations under the surface of the tablet’s display.
The company says that although producing ultrasonic vibrations would generally require a good deal of power, its engineers have come up with a way of shrinking down the tech and allowing a tablet prototype to run its haptic feedback system. Essentially, the vibrations create a layer of high pressure air between a user’s fingertips and the surface of the screen, resulting in reduced friction so the fingers can skate across the screen. This alternates between high and low friction to create the illusion of a textured surface.
It is possible to feel a CD beneath the fingers while spinning and scratching like a DJ, as well as physically feeling and manipulating the deck controls. Research continues to improve the technology, but the company is looking to commercialize the development by next year.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
Sprint Corp and the federal government both agreed to fight in court over how much money law enforcement agencies owe the wireless provider for help the company was required to give investigators who wanted to tap phone calls.
The Obama administration filed a suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Monday, alleging that Sprint overcharged the government $21 million for expenses it incurred while complying with court-ordered wiretaps and other surveillance help.
Sprint said it plans to defend the matter “vigorously.”
Telecommunications companies, including Sprint, are routinely asked to assist with investigations by helping facilitate phone surveillance such as wiretaps or so-called “pen registers,” which record data about phone calls, though not their content.
The companies are required to maintain equipment and facilities to be ready to assist. They are allowed to request reimbursements for related “reasonable expenses.”
In the case, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag alleged that Sprint “knowingly submitted false claims” to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies from January 1, 2007 to July 31, 2010, inflating costs by about 58 percent.
The lawsuit said Sprint violated the anti-fraud law known as the False Claims Act and went against the federal regulations that prohibit carriers from using the reimbursements for wiretap cooperation to pay for updates to their equipment, facilities and services.
“Because Sprint’s invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs,” the Justice Department said in the lawsuit.
Sprint, however, said its invoices to the federal agencies fully complied with the law that requires the government to reimburse reasonable costs incurred in assisting law enforcement agencies with electronic surveillance.
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.
The False Claims Act is the U.S. government’s main tool for recovering money when it think it has been defrauded, usually by a contractor such as an arms maker or hospital chain.
The site, which enables strangers to meet for shared-interest activities ranging from parents’ groups to software development, was back online but still being attacked , Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters.
Meetup has refused to pay the small ransom as it believes doing so would make the perpetrators of the attacks demand more money.
“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Heiferman said, adding he was not yet sure how long it would take to keep the site reliably online.
A Meetup blog had earlier said the company was a victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign, a type of attack that knocks websites offline by overwhelming them with incoming traffic. It said that no personal data, including credit card information, had been accessed.
Heiferman said he was open to the possibility of some financial relief for members who pay between $12 and $17 a month to organize Meetup groups in their geographic and thematic areas of interest. He said his first priority was to resume the service of creating communities wholly via an Internet connection.
“we’re going to come out of this much stronger. And I don’t mean that as just a trite euphemism, I mean it literally. Like, we are going to be much more secure,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack since late last week when the assumed criminal group first offered to withhold it if Meetup paid $300.
The attack was the first in the site’s 12-year history, and Heiferman defended the move not to pay the paltry ransom.
“We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals,” he said in the post. “Payment could make us (and all well-meaning organizations like us) a target for further extortion demands as word spread in the criminal world.”
Meetup has almost 17 million members and, when online, was signing up between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day.
The site represents a soft target for online criminals, who often attempt to extort companies in return for calling off DDoS attacks, said Kevin Johnson, chief executive of cybersecurity consultancy Secure Ideas.
“It’s very common for this sort of attack to start off with a small demand,” Johnson said. “It’s not like Meetup can write a check for a million dollars.”
Heiferman’s blog post said the site should be able to protect itself over time, even though it has struggled to stay online since the attacks began on Thursday morning. He said Meetup spent millions of dollars a year to secure its systems.
The Meetup site and related mobile apps have been intermittently unavailable since Thursday.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
Samsung appears to have delivered a huge snuff to Android OS maker Google. Samsung’s new smartwatch Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the sequels to the poorly reviewed original Galaxy Gear are going to ship without Android.
Instead, the new Gears run Tizen, another open source operating system that Samsung, Intel, and others are working on. It is starting to look like Samsung wants to distance itself from its reliance on Google for software and services.
Samsung’s official reason is that Tizen has better battery life and performance. The new Gears can get up to an extra two days of battery life by running Tizen, even though they have the same size battery. The Galaxy Gear barely made it through a day on one charge.
To be fair Android isn’t optimized to run on wearable devices like smart watches, but Samsung didn’t want to wait around for Google to catch up. It was clearly concerned about beating Apple to market. So far Apple has not shown up.
The company’s PalmSecure scanners use near-infrared light to scan points in veins that lie beneath the surface of a user’s palm. There has to be blood flowing through a user’s hand for the sensor to work.
Every person’s palm pattern is unique, and scans of vein points are matched against previously registered scans to authenticate users and unlock whatever device or service they’re linked to.
“We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development,” a Fujitsu spokesman said. “In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones.”
Fujitsu claims the biometric technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.
The company first commercialized the technology in 2004 when palm-sized scanners were embedded in ATMs at Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to help authenticate customer identity and prevent fraud. In-store scanners at Suruga Bank also appeared in 2004.
Fujitsu later shrank the scanners and embedded them in laptops.
It recently showed off a stamp-sized version of the scanner that is the smallest yet. It’s been embedded in tablets for the first time and will be included in about 2,000 tablets provided to Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes the Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank.
“No one has this technology, and it’s significantly more secure than fingerprint,” the Fujitsu spokesman said, adding that some banks have shown interest in palm-vein scanners as a means of verifying identity in natural disasters in which ID or bank cards are lost or destroyed.
The customized 12.5-inch Fujitsu Arrows Q704/H tablets have Intel Core i5 processors and run Windows, acting as virtual desktops. Bank employees meeting customers off-site will be able to securely access their bank’s internal system by using the palm-vein authentication scanners.
Only users whose biometric info has been registered beforehand will be able to operate the tablets.
At CES in January, U.S.-based biometric payments company PulseWallet demonstrated a cardless point-of-sale terminal incorporating Fujitsu’s vein-imaging technology. It said registered users could leave their credit and debit cards at home and make payments simply by having their palms scanned.
The company has produced the Kinetis KLO3 MCU, a 32-bit ARM system that is 15% smaller than its previous iteration but with a 10% power improvement.
Internet of Things is a buzzword for the trend toward network-connected sensors incorporated into devices that in the past were standalone appliances. These devices use sensors to capture things like temperatures in thermostats, pressure, accelerometers, gyroscopes and other types of MEMS sensors. A microcontroller unit gives intelligence and limited computational capability to these devices, but is not a general purpose processor. One of the roles of the microcontroller is to connect the data with more sophisticated computational power.
The Kinetis KLO3 runs a lightweight embedded operating system to connect the data to other devices, such as an app that uses a more general purpose processor.
Kathleen Jachimiak, product launch manager at Freescale, said the new microcontroller will “enable further miniaturization” in connected devices. This MCU is capable of having up to 32 KB of flash memory and 2 KB of RAM.
Consumers want devices that are light, small and smart. They also want to be able to store their information and send it to an application that’s either on a phone or a PC, Jachimiak said.
This microcontroller, at 1.6 x 2.0 mm, is smaller than the dimple on a golf ball, and uses a relatively new process in its manufacturing, called wafer level chip scale packaging. The process involves building the integrated package while the die is still part of a wafer. It’s a more efficient process and produces the smallest possible package, for a given die size.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty took to the Mobile World Congress stage and announced a global competition to spur developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by its Watson supercomputer platform.
Watson is the heart of the company’s cognitive computing technology. IBM is pulling out all the stops to make Watson a success. Last month, the company set up a new division, the Watson Business Group, to create and run cloud-based cognitive applications and services for enterprise users.
“By 2016, a quarter of the apps in the world will be in the cloud,” Rometty said. These apps are generating massive amounts of data, she said.
“You can’t program enough to make sense of all the data in the world,” Rometty said, adding that the vast amount of data generated every day is leading to a new era of computing.
“The new era is cognitive, of teach and learn,” Rometty said.
“I want to make an offer to you,” Rometty said. “We’re gonna offer the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge.”
The competition is taking place under the newly formed IBM Watson Group. It aims to encourage development of cognitive computing apps.
Watson cognitive computing comprises services, software and apps that analyze and improve by learning. The idea is to answer complex questions derived from massive amounts of disparate data, Rometty said.
IBM is setting up the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge specifically to seed efforts to develop cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices, Rometty said.
Over the next three months, the global challenge will invite mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes.
IBM will invite three winners to join the Watson Ecosystem Program, in which the company is assembling content providers and independent software vendors to collaborate on the development and release of “Powered by IBM Watson” applications.
“We’ve already got thousands of applicants,” to be part of the ecosystem, Rometty said.
The winners of the challenge will work with IBM’s recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience, to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a commercial app, IBM detailed in a statement accompanying Rometty’s talk.
IBM is serious about encouraging the development of applications that run in the cloud. For IBM, more applications mean more data generated, and more of a need for the analytics software and services that it sells.
“We have a big-data analysis business of $16 billion,” Rometty said.
On Monday, IBM announced it will spend $1 billion on its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy, separate from the money it is investing in Watson, to encourage software makers to build cloud apps.
As part of that announcement, made at its Pulse event in Las Vegas, IBM will become a major contributor to the Cloud Foundry, an open source PaaS that is run under the aegis of Pivotal, a spinout from VMware and EMC.
IBM first developed Watson as a research project to compete against humans on the game show “Jeopardy.” Watson can come up with answers to questions using a range of sources in various formats. It was able to hone its answers by learning how to formulate the best responses in an iterative, trial and error process.
Because this approach to problem solving emulates how humans think, it is known as cognitive computing.
After Watson beat human contestants in “Jeopardy” in 2011, IBM has worked to commercialize Watson technologies.
Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.
Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.
The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.
Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.
“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.
The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.
The virus can move like a human infection through WiFi access points (APs), with its spread through populated areas likened to that of a common cold.
The Chameleon virus was tested in a controlled environment and is capable of avoiding detection and finding weak points in WiFi encryption.
Alan Marshall, professor of Network Security at the University of Liverpool, said, “When Chameleon attacked an AP it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other WiFi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other WiFi APs that it could connect to and infect.”
This means that even a protected computer can be compromised if it innocently connects to an infected WiFi network AP. Because the virus only exists on the network, rather than the computer itself, open hotspots are particularly vulnerable.
In heavily populated areas with APs in close proximity, the virus could propagate extremely quickly, with the optimum range being among APs in a 10m to 50m radius.
Marshall continued, “It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack WiFi networks, but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely.”
In Hollywood terms, it works like the release of a vial of infectious virus that looks for people who are not wearing gas masks and turns them into zombies. This gives us an idea for a summer blockbuster movie.
Malware spread by conventional means has been a never-ending battle. Nokia this week claimed that nine percent of Android apps it tested for its Nokia X device contained one or more viruses, while institutions including the NHS have been recent victims of computer malware attacks. Now, malware can be airborne and the game could change.