The veteran tech pioneer, which long ago lost the mantle of the world’s most inventive company, is making a bold play to regain that title in the face of stiff competition from Google Inc and Apple Inc.
Virtual or enhanced reality is the next frontier in computing interaction, with Facebook Inc focusing on its Oculus virtual reality headset and Google working on its Glass project.
Microsoft said its wire-free Microsoft HoloLens device will be available around the same time as Windows 10 this autumn. Industry analysts were broadly excited at the prospect, but skeptical that it could produce a working model at a mass-market price that soon.
“That was kind of a ‘Oh wow!’ moment,” said Mike Silver, an analyst at Gartner who tried out the prototype on Wednesday. “You would expect to see a relatively high-priced model this year or next year, then maybe it’ll take another couple of years to bring it down to a more affordable level.”
Microsoft does not have a stellar record of bringing ground-breaking technology to life. Its Kinect motion-sensing game device caused an initial stir but never gripped the popular imagination.
The company showed off a crude test version of the visor – essentially jerry-rigged wires and cameras pulled over the head – to reporters and industry analysts at a gathering at its headquarters near Seattle.
It did not allow any photographs or video of the experience, but put some images on its website.
Such an outcome would be a blow for Qualcomm’s prospects for 2015, with the company already having guided for weaker-than-usual annual revenue growth in a five-year outlook issued in November. Samsung, the world’s No.1 smartphone maker, has been one of the U.S. company’s top customers.
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 chip overheated during Samsung’s testing, Bloomberg reported. The South Korean company will use its own processors instead, Bloomberg said.
A Qualcomm spokesman declined to comment on the report. A Samsung spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumours.
Analysts have said the Snapdragon 810 chip has been dealing with a variety of performance issues that may not be corrected in time for the launch of Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone.
The South Korean firm is widely expected to unveil the device on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show in early March. Samsung will need to ensure that the phone does not disappoint in order to keep its global market share from slipping further, analysts said.
Samsung has already used its own Exynos processors in flagship devices such as the Galaxy S5 to some extent, though analysts said Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips were more widely used. Greater adoption of Exynos chips in Samsung smartphones would help boost sales for the struggling foundry business.
“Samsung will likely show off the new Galaxy S phone in about a month and a half, so one would have to assume that the chips have been tested a fair amount in order for them to be used,” said HMC Investment analyst Greg Roh.
In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft, respondents said that technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy.
A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.
Internet users in India, Indonesia and Russia were the least concerned, according to the survey. In general, those in developing countries were less bothered.
Surveys like this one should always be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. But there is little doubt that people are wary of how their personal data is used by companies and governments, according to John Phelan, communications officer at European consumer organization BEUC.
That people shouldn’t take privacy for granted has been highlighted on several occasions in just the last week.
Shortly after the horrific Paris shootings, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for saying that authorities should have the means to read all encrypted traffic.
Also, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless found itself in hot water over the way one of its advertising partners used the Unique Identifier Headers Verizon embeds in its customers’ Internet traffic to recreate tracking cookies that had been deleted by users. Online advertising company Turn defended its practises, but still said on Friday it would stop using the method by next month.
Worries about privacy aren’t likely to subside anytime soon, with more devices becoming connected as part of the expected Internet of Things boom.
The “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology is Changing our Lives” survey queried 12,002 Internet users in the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Japan and France.
Microsoft Researchers have worked out a way that means you will never have to plug in your phone again.
Yunxin Liu, Zhen Qin and Chunshui Zhao from Microsoft Research’s Beijing campus have developed a new system they call AutoCharge.
The researchers’ paper said that “wireless power methods have several disadvantages, preventing them from being used in our targeted usage scenarios”
Electromagnetic radiation of wireless power is much higher than wireless communications (Wi-Fi or 3G). Thus, safety to human bodies is a big issue in wireless power. As a result, wireless power is usually used only in extreme scenarios such as in outer space, for military purposes, or in very short ranges.
Radio frequencies used in wireless power are much lower than the frequencies of light, it is hard to emit the radio waves within a straight beam. This causes energy waste if the receiver is not large enough and makes it hard to ensure safety.
The current crop of wireless charging solutions for smartphones typically require special phone cases and ‘charging pads’, and work using electromagnetic induction. Power is transmitted only over a few centimetres.
However the researchers came up with a way of using solar power techniques to charge smartphones.
Indoor surrounding light is usually much than the sunlight and thus cannot be used to charge a smartphone but instead of relying on the sun, the team built a prototype charger that can be mounted on a ceiling and automatically locate a smartphone lying on a table, then charge it using a directed beam of light.
The light charger has two modes. In the ‘detection’ mode, it uses a camera and image recognition software to detect objects with the size and shape of a smartphone lying on a table. The charger will rotate until it detects an object that looks like a smartphone.
The device then enters charging mode and turns on its light. The prototype used an UltraFire CREE XM-L T6 Focusing LED Flashlight.
Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich has shrugged off rumors that Apple is about to switch to ARM in future Mac releases.
Of course the Tame Apple Press is declaring that this will mean the end of Intel as we know it. AppleInsider even ran a story claiming that Intel’s mobile was effectively destroyed by Apple’s Ax ARM Application Processors
After all only five or six percent of the world run on Apple Macs so the loss of Apple business would be annoying to Intel but no great problem.
Krzanich says the rumors of Apple switching to ARM are just that anyway and not likely.
“Apple is always going to choose the supplier who can provide the most amount of capability in innovation to build on. They’re a company based on innovation.”
Krzanich, who maintains that Intel needs to continue focusing on delivering parts that are better than its competitors.
But does Intel have anything to worry about? Well not really. Apple Macs are at the expensive end of the market and they need chips to match their price tag – well at least half of their price tag. ARM is still a long way from matching anything remotely like the what Intel shoves under the bonnet of Apple macs.
Twitter Inc announced plans to acquire Indian mobile phone marketing start-up ZipDial, reportedly for $30 million to $40 million, as the U.S. microblogging service looks to expand in the world’s second-biggest mobile market.
Bengaluru-based ZipDial gives clients phone numbers for use in marketing campaigns. Consumers call the numbers and hang up before connecting and incurring charges, and then receive promotion-related text messages.
The start-up’s clients include International Business Machines Corp, Yum! Brands Inc’s KFC and Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette.
The service capitalizes on a local tradition of communicating through so-called missed calls. A person may give a friend a missed call to signal arrival at an agreed destination, for instance, without having to pay the cost of a phone call.
Such “unique behavior” was behind ZipDial, the start-up said in a statement announcing the Twitter deal.
Twitter did not disclose terms of the purchase. Techcrunch, citing unidentified sources, reported the deal at $30 million to $40 million.
“This acquisition significantly increases our investment in India, one of the countries where we’re seeing great growth,” Twitter said in a statement.
The acquisition is the latest in India by global tech giants who have snapped up companies in a fledgling startup scene, concentrated in the tech hub of Bengaluru in southern India.
Last year, Facebook Inc bought Little Eye Labs, a start-up that builds performance analysis and monitoring tools for mobile apps. Yahoo! Inc bought Bookpad, whose service allows developers to add document viewing and editing to their own applications.
CCS Insight has said that, while Microsoft’s share of the tablet market is expected to grow, Windows 10 will have “little impact” before the end of 2016.
CCS has cast its eye over tablet sales, and said that while the market saw minimal growth in 2014, sales are likely to increase by 28 percent in 2015.
The growth will largely be driven by Android, thanks to affordably priced tablets running Google’s software, while Apple is expected to continue to woo those in the market for a high-end device.
Apple will also grow its position in the business tablet market, CCS expects, thanks to its partnership with IBM.
However, CCS stressed that Microsoft should not be overlooked. Sales of Windows-based tablets won’t see huge growth this year, but will gain a bigger share of the market.
Marina Koytcheva, CCS director of forecasting, said: “We expect Android to continue dominating the low-end and mid-range market, with Apple taking the lion’s share of the high-end.
“But Windows is gaining a bigger slice of the pie, albeit from a very low level, and should not be overlooked.”
Koytcheva added that Microsoft’s decision to scrap its licence fee for Windows devices under 9in is a major factor.
“It has given Windows fresh impetus, as it has spurred manufacturers to produce a better range of devices at a variety of prices, as low as $99 for HP’s Stream 7, for example,” she said.
Windows 10 is expected to make its debut on 21 January, but isn’t likely to have much of an impact, according to CCS.
“Microsoft still runs the risk of failing to convert the wide availability of cheaper Windows tablets into strong growth in unit sales before 2017,” Koytcheva said.
“Windows 10 will take time to make its mark, and developers will need a few months to perfect applications for the new platform. We expect Windows 10 to have little impact on tablet sales before late 2016.”
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , the world’s biggest e-commerce company, is piloting a mobile messaging app geared toward merging social networking with business, an Alibaba spokeswoman said, as the company expands its enterprise services.
The app, called DingTalk, was quietly made available in December and is still in beta testing, according to its website.
Capable of carrying conference calls and group messaging, DingTalk targets small- and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are already Alibaba’s customers. The company has 8.5 million active sellers on its various e-commerce platforms, according to Alibaba’s initial public offering prospectus.
It is not Alibaba’s first stab at a mobile messaging app and others have become hot property in the tech sector. The company’s arch-rival, Tencent Holdings Ltd, operates WeChat, known as Weixin in China, which has 468 million monthly active users and was estimated to be worth as much as $64 billion by brokerage CLSA.
Underscoring the appeal of such apps, Facebook Inc in October completed its $22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.
But Alibaba’s previous attempt at a mobile messaging app, Laiwang, is seen by many analysts and industry observers as a dud, with the Chinese market dominated by Tencent’s WeChat.
By going for smaller companies, DingTalk is chasing a target audience that already includes many Alibaba clients. This fits with its broader enterprise strategy, including the Alibaba Cloud Computing business, which also serves Alibaba’s merchants as well as other companies.
“DingTalk is a versatile mobile communications app that fills a gap in the market for corporate mobile messaging,” the Alibaba spokeswoman said.
HP is about to put out two tablets later this year.
The names are expected to be the HP Pro Slate 10 EE G1 and HP Pro Tablet 10 EE G1 and they were found on the world wide wibble by Notebook Italia,.
Both tablets are powered by an Intel quad-core Bay Trail Atom Z3735F processor. Accompanying the processor package is 2GB of RAM, as well as 32GB of internal storage. Both the Pro Slate and Pro Tablet come with 10.1-inch displays, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
The Pro Slate sticks with Android, while the Pro Tablet opts for Windows 8.1. The tablets mean they will each come with a stylus, but it would appear that the stylus is just a stand in for your finger, rather than doing anything useful.
Pro Slate will set you back $400.00 and Pro Tablet cost $499.
HP has yet to officially announce either device.
China’s Xiaomi Inc further challenged Apple Inc on Thursday as the world’s third-biggest smartphone maker and most valuable tech start-up unveiled the flagship Mi Note, its answer to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.
Chief Executive Lei Jun introduced the Mi Note in Beijing with a breakdown of the large-screen phone’s technical features, with multiple comparisons to Apple’s equivalent. At 2299 yuan ($371) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, the Mi Note will retail for almost two-thirds less than the iPhone 6 Plus.
Just three years after Xiaomi sold its first smartphone, a $1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at $45 billion. The privately held company has risen to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker and is challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as well as domestic rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd .
Xiaomi takes efforts to play down comparisons with Cupertino, California-based Apple, though it is commonly called the ‘Apple of China’.
“The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone,” Lei told his audience of thousands gathered in the north of China’s capital.
Lei wore a light-blue shirt, eschewing his previously favoured black top, jeans and sneakers, reminiscent of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans.
“Xiaomi is an innovative start-up company, with a short history,” said Lei. The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. “In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents.”
Lei also laid out Xiaomi’s strategy to connect its smartphones with Xiaomi-branded home appliances, allowing phone users to remotely control washing machines, air purifiers and surveillance cameras.
Dailymotion Games will put the firm into a market that so far includes Twitch, a streamer that has cemented its place as a gaming add-on and a coveted option on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.
The Dailymotion information does not dwell on Twitch, which has been a feature of many a gushing press release from console makers such as Sony, but it does say that the live streaming gaming platform has some decent credentials.
For example, the promotional information says that the platform is backed with “industry leading video and live streaming technology”.
The firm also reminds us that it has some history here, and has been e-gaming for some time.
“Since 2011, with the first Dailymotion Cup on Starcraft, Dailymotion has accompanied e-sport growth on the internet,” said Martin Rogard, Dailymotion’s chief operating officer.
“Dailymotion Games is entirely dedicated to e-sports fans and streamers who come together every evening to form an amazingly talented and gregarious community.
“Over the coming months, we will significantly increase our investment in the e-sports domain to ensure worldwide recognition of all our talented content producers.”
Dailymotion said that live streamers will be able to monetise their content, which Microsoft recently confirmed is fine for its users, and that streamers could run their own “controlled video advertisement” and any number of social tools including search and real-time communications. Android and iOS apps are available.
The service is currently in beta. Dailymotion said that it serves some 180 million game videos a month.
Employees are eager to integrate wearable devices into their daily routines but aren’t convinced the technology will make their jobs easier. They also want employers to cover the costs, according to a survey from IT staffing firm Modis.
“The utility of them in the workplace is probably what’s causing the hesitation to want to dip into their own pocket and actually pay for them,” said Bobby Knight, senior vice president of strategic sales and delivery at Modis, which conducted the survey to gauge worker sentiment around using technology, especially wearables, in the office.
The survey found that professionals are keen on using wearables at work. Ninety percent of the 603 professionals polled responded that they’re interested in receiving a wearable device from their employer to complete work tasks and 60 percent said they would be extremely interested in using such a device at work. But only 37 percent believed that wearables could make their jobs easier.
“I think the utility of it probably has to mature a little bit in the workplace for companies and employees to widely adopt it,” Knight said.
The survey noted that some employees don’t see useful workplace applications for wearables, with 19 percent calling the technology irrelevant to their jobs and 12 percent labeling the devices as a distraction.
Some businesses would be receptive to purchasing wearables for their employees, said Knight. Wearables are encountering the same enterprise use questions tablets faced when they debuted. Now, mobile technology is purchased by businesses to help workers instantly access data. Wearables could follow a similar path once their role is better defined, he added.
“Creative employees will figure out how to leverage that for their benefit,” Knight said.
Workers picked smartwatches as the wearable they’re most interested in using, with 63 percent of respondents naming those devices as their top choice. This technology also has the most practical applications, Knight said. With a smartwatch, workers can leave their smartphones at their desk, attend a meeting and still have access to emails, calls and text messages.
A year ago, LTE-Advanced was only available in South Korea, but it’s now available in 31 countries (including Australia, France, Germany, U.K. and the U.S.) and more are on the way, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).
“There is a lot of activity at the moment,” said Alan Hadden, president at GSA.
LTE-Advanced is a collection of different technologies, but the one mobile operators are implementing first is called carrier aggregation. It lets operators treat up to three radio channels in different frequency bands as if they were one and send data to users at higher speeds.
Bandwidths at up to 300Mbps are possible, though not all LTE-Advanced networks and devices can muster that. For example, Apple’s new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150Mbps, and not all operators have the spectrum to offer that.
However, regardless of which version of LTE-Advanced a network or device supports, the technology offers users higher speeds than ever before.
Chances are greater that you’ll get access to LTE-Advanced if you live in a big city. For example, U.S. operator AT&T has so far upgraded its network in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.
The technology has been held back due to a lack of supporting devices, but that will change this year thanks to a greater variety of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.
Mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has amassed more than 700 million monthly active users and appears to be on track to reach 1 billion in about a year, a target Facebook set when it acquired the company in 2014.
The announcement comes about 11 months after Facebook acquired the app for $16 billion, a move that reflected the importance that Facebook places on mobile users.
The latest WhatsApp milestone is significant because it also highlights the recent rise of messaging apps as a more popular and economical option than SMS text messaging, which has suffered declines of nearly 5% in countries such as the U.K. In France operators saw SMS traffic on Jan. 1 decline by 10% to 20% compared to last year, while the use of MMS, messaging apps and other data traffic rose, according to local media.
“We’re thrilled to share that WhatsApp has more than 700 million monthly active users,” CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a post on Facebook. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages.”
Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp received European regulatory approval in October following a U.S. nod in April. At its close, the deal was worth about $21.8 billion due to Facebook stock gains.
When the acquisition was announced in February 2014, WhatsApp had over 450 million monthly users, 70% of whom accessed the app on a daily basis.
WhatsApp has been steadily growing by about 25 million users per month. Itannounced April 22 that it had passed the half-billion mark, with new users in countries including Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. In December 2013 it had 400 million users.
WhatsApp’s growth pace suggests it will reach 1 billion about a year from now, in December or January. When the acquisition was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed hopes that WhatsApp would hit that threshold.
The brief onstage demo for reporters and analysts indicated a new direction into wearable technologies for BlackBerry. At the same time, it showed that BlackBerry, long a stronghold of business users, expects business people to begin buying smartwatches for quick wrist-based alerts and longer communications that don’t require digging into a pocket or purse for a smartphone.
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) for Android Wear smartwatches like the Moto 360 or the Samsung Galaxy Gear S should be available in about two months, said Jeff Gadway, director of enterprise products for BlackBerry.
He demonstrated how a BBM user could take a brief text and voice interaction with another worker from the Galaxy Gear S smartwatch. The smartwatch was connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone kept in his pocket.
With enterprise-class BBM Protected, its end-to-end encrypted messaging service, BlackBerry also able provides the higher level of encryption that businesses need to keep communications secure, he added.
BlackBerry says it has 90 million active users on BBM, and the service is growing.
“The smartwatch is great for me if I’m in a meeting and get a notice on my wrist, then I can swipe right and hit a pre-set to send back a response, ‘Why don’t we connect once we’re done?’ ” Gadway said. Google Now can also be used to enable voice connections.
Gadway said that companies, such as in warehouse operations, might choose to buy line workers $200 smartwatches to monitor workflows, which would be much less than the cost of most smartphones and laptops. Workers could receive alerts on the smartwatch to start or change a task or learn when a problem occurred.
“It’s early for smartwatches, but BlackBerry decided its definitely worth exploring,” he said. “This is our move beyond smartphones to wearables.”