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Mozilla Announces End Date For Firefox Mobile OS

February 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mozilla has announced when it plans to shut down the Firefox mobile operating system.

Firefox OS for smartphones will be retired once Mozilla wraps up version 2.6, George Roter, who leads Mozilla’s Participation Lab, said in a long message posted to the company’s website.

Firefox OS 2.6 is currently slated for a May 30 release.

Nearly two months ago, Mozilla confirmed that it wascalling it quits on Firefox OS in its current incarnation, ending more than four years of work building a browser-based, smartphone operating system.

Instead, Mozilla said that it would use the resources freed up by the shuttering of Firefox OS on smartphones to pivot toward an operating system for connected devices, the category dubbed “Internet of things,” or IoT.

“The main reason [these decisions] are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the Web to IoT,” said Roter.

Roter was more direct in explaining the reasoning for turning off Firefox OS’s spigot than were Mozilla executives in December.

“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” Roter acknowledged. “We have decided that in order to succeed in the new area of connected devices we must focus our energy completely on prototyping the future and exploring how we can make the biggest impact in IoT.”

Ari Jaaksi, the executive who runs Mozilla’s Connected Devices group, was just as candid. “We could not create a compelling and differentiating end-user value proposition and we failed to build the full ecosystem,” he wrote on a company blog, referring to Firefox OS for smartphones.

Along with the demise of Firefox OS, on March 29 Mozilla will stop accepting submissions to its app store for Web apps that run in Firefox on Android as well as the desktop- and tablet-centric versions of the browser. Apps for those platforms now in the store will be removed on that same day; in other words, Mozilla will kill the small app ecosystem it had struggled to create.

After March 29, only apps for Firefox OS on smartphones will be available on the store. Mozilla is also dead-ending the store’s payment support, meaning that developers will have to scramble to find another payment provider or make their paid apps free.

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter Shuts Down 125,000 Terrorism-related Accounts

February 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has suspended more than 125,000 terrorism-related accounts since the middle of 2015, most of them linked to the Islamic State group, the company said in a blog post on Friday.

Twitter has said it only takes down accounts when they are reported by other users, but said that it has increased the size of teams monitoring and responding to reports and has decreased its response time “significantly.”

Twitter’s announcement comes as many tech companies – led by Facebook – have taken stronger steps to police controversial content online in the face of threats from legislators to force the companies to report “terrorist activity” on their sites to law enforcement.

Silicon Valley has been wary of engaging with government officials, concerned about endless demands for similar action from countries around the world as well as fears about being perceived by consumers as tools of government.

The announcement was also notable because Twitter has said little about its efforts to combat Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and similar groups even though it has been criticized for not doing enough.

Islamic State, which controls last swathes of Iraq and Syria, has heavily relied on the 300 million-person site, as well as others, to recruit fighters and propagate violent messages.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s program on extremism, said Friday’s report showcased an “impressive number” of takedowns, but said that Twitter still appears to police extremist content in a mostly “episodic” way.

Many extremists have migrated toward smaller, less monitored platforms in recent months in response to major Silicon Valley firms stepping up their content policing, Hughes added.

In January, a delegation of top national security officials met tech industry leaders from Twitter, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Google parent Alphabet Inc, but most companies, including Twitter, did not send their chief executive officers.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Twitter’s announcement a “very positive development,” but said more was needed.

“Addressing the use of social media by terrorists will require a sustained and cooperative effort between the technology sector, the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement,” he said.

Still, Twitter said in a blog post that it has cooperated with law enforcement when appropriate.

 

Google Fiber To Be Free For Some

February 5, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Fiber has announced free gigabit Internet service to residents of selected public housing projects connected to its fiber optic service in U.S. cities.

The program debuted at West Bluff, an affordable housing community in Kansas City, Mo., where 100 homes have been connected to Google Fiber. Across the Kansas City area, Google is now working with affordable housing providers to connect as many as nine properties that could reach more than 1,300 local families.

Google described the program as an extension of its work with ConnectHome, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Obama administration.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a conference call that under the ConnectHome program, up to 200,000 children in affordable housing in 28 different U.S. cities are expected to be connected to fast Internet. Google Fiber is expected to be a part of those connections in Atlanta, Durham, N.C., Nashville and San Antonio, he said.

There will be no cost to local housing authorities, their residents or HUD. Google will absorb the costs of the free service and there will be no fees or contract.

The Kansas City area was the first Google Fiber location in the nation, starting in 2012. Today, the service is available in two other cities — Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah — with work under way in six others. Normally, residents in Kansas City pay $70 a month for Google Fiber fast Internet service.

In addition to free Internet, eligible residents will work with ConnectHome partners like Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange to be able to purchase discounted computers and learn new computer skills, Google said.

In Austin, Google plans to complement free Internet service for some families with investments in computers labs and digital literacy classes. Plans for other cities were not announced.

 

 

Regardless Of The Rhetoric Windows Tablets Doing Ok

February 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

For years Microsoft held a torch for the tablet even while everyone else mocked them. When Apple turned the concept into a gimmick and everyone bought one, Microsoft was mocked for not really understanding the tablet.

Now it seems that Redmond is the only one making tablets that people want again, as the market slowly shrinks to the point before Jobs claimed “his” invention was a “game changer.”

Strategy Analytics said that final quarter of 2015 witnessing the worst year-on-year decline for a product that it has seen.

The company’s ‘Preliminary Global Tablet Shipments and Market Share by Operating System: Q4 2015′ report estimates that tablet shipment numbers fell to 69.9 million units in Q4, which is a record drop of 11 per cent. Over the full year of 2015, shipments reached 224 million units which represented a drop of 8 per cent.

TrendForce estimated a bigger drop over the course of the full year with a 12.2 per cent decline compared to 2014′s shipment numbers.

However Strategy Analytics said that the only one to do well was Microsoft. Windows tablets witnessed growth of 59 per cent in Q4 compared to the previous year.

Part of this is because 2-in-1 PCs are doing well and expected to do better. Strategy Analytics observed a huge 379 per cent  leap in year-on-year growth in Q4 2015.

Eric Smith, Senior Analyst, Tablet & Touchscreen Strategies service at Strategy Analytics, said: “2-in-1 Detachable Tablets have reached an inflection point in 2015 as computing needs continue to trend more and more mobile and Tablets with Windows 10 can compete against iOS in the premium and high price bands and equally well against Android in the mid and lower price bands.

“The Q4 2015 launch of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book was met with many ‘Surface clones’ by Microsoft’s OEM partners at lower price points. This variety of devices will bolster momentum of Windows Tablets going forward.”

Apple is still the top tablet vendor with a share of 23.1 per cent in Q4 of last year. But it fell heavily from 27.3 per cent the previous year. Cupertino’s shipment numbers dropped from 21.4 million units to 16.1 million units this year.

Samsung was in second place with a 12.9 per cent market share, down from 13.9 per cent the previous year. Lenovo saw slight growth in third place with an increase from 4.7 per cent to a 5.7 per cent share in Q4 2015, with Amazon slipping to fourth place, dropping from 4.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Amazon Plans On Opening Up To 400 Bookstores

February 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Evernote Officially Exits E-commerce

February 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A little more than two years after Evernote announced that it would offer a suite of branded products through its own online retail store, the productivity company is walking away from the business of selling products like socks, messenger bags and wallets.

As foreshadowed by a series of sales and app changes last year, the current incarnation of the Evernote Market — a hub for people to buy branded swag and connected tools for the popular note-taking software — will no longer exist as of today.

In its place will be a page that directs people to a handful of products made by partner companies that are tightly integrated with Evernote’s service and were previously sold through the Market. Users will still be able to buy the ScanSnap Evernote Edition scanner, Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus and Evernote-branded Moleskine notebooks that are designed to work with the notetaking software.

The companies that make those items will be in charge of selling them and handling distribution, allowing Evernote to get out of the business of holding inventory and fulfilling orders. That means all of the Market’s non-integrated items, like business card holders and the company’s infamous socks, will be unavailable after after tonight.

In some ways, the Market experiment was a fairly successful one. 40% of people who purchased goods from the Market were subscribers to Evernote’s free tier, meaning that the company was able to monetize people who weren’t paying for the premium version of its service. In the first year of its existence, Market made a little more than $12 million, though it’s not clear how it continued to fare after that.

It’s a move that illustrates Evernote’s current strategy of winnowing down the products and services it’s providing to just focus on a core set of experiences that can make the startup money.

 

 

Is Samsung Going To Starting A Rental Phone Service?

February 2, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy-Fud

 

FCC Approves Use Of BYOCB

February 1, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

In a sweeping change of course directed at a tightly controlled television industry, cable and satellite operators in the United States will now be obligated to let their customers freely choose which set-top boxes they can use, according to a proposal announced by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.

The move is expected to have wide-ranging implications for large technology companies looking to get their brand names into every consumer’s living room. For example, under the new rules, Google, Amazon and Apple would now be allowed to create entertainment room devices that blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has until now resisted. Next-generation media players, including the Chromecast, Fire TV and Apple TV, would now be granted permission to line the backs of their devices with coaxial inputs and internal “smart access card” equivalents integrated right into device firmware with a simple subscription activation process.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut investigated the cable set-top box market last summer and found that the cable industry generates roughly $19.1 billion in annual revenue from cable box rentals alone.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent since 1995, while the cost of PCs, televisions and smartphones has dropped by 90 percent. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admits that these economies of scale don’t need to remain so unbalanced any longer.

The FCC says its focus will be primarily on improving day-to-day television experience. In the past, the burdensome requirements of long-term contracts tethered to clunky, unsightly cable and satellite boxes has been a major source of customer complaints.

Wheeler has also said that access to specific video content shouldn’t be frustrating to the average consumer in an age where we are constantly surrounded by a breadth of information to sift through. “Improved search functions [can] lead consumers to a variety of video content that is buried behind guides or available on video services you can’t access with your set-top box today,” Wheeler says.

The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on Thursday, February 18th. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s full statement on the commission’s new proposal can be found here.

Courtesy-Fud

iOS Developers Warned About Taking Shortcuts

February 1, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Slapdash developers have been advised not to use the open source JSPatch method of updating their wares because it is as vulnerable as a soft boiled egg, for various reasons.

It’s FireEye that is giving JSPatch the stink eye and providing the warning that it has rendered over 1,000 applications open to copy and paste theft of photos and other information. And it doesn’t end there.

FireEye’s report said that Remote Hot Patching may sound like a good idea at the time, but it really isn’t. It is so widely used that is has opened up a 1,220-wide iOS application hole in Apple users’ security. A better option, according to the security firm, is to stick with the Apple method, which should provide adequate and timely protection.

“Within the realm of Apple-provided technologies, the way to remediate this situation is to rebuild the application with updated code to fix the bug and submit the newly built app to the App Store for approval,” said FireEye.

“While the review process for updated apps often takes less time than the initial submission review, the process can still be time-consuming and unpredictable, and can cause loss of business if app fixes are not delivered in a timely and controlled manner.

“However, if the original app is embedded with the JSPatch engine, its behaviour can be changed according to the JavaScript code loaded at runtime. This JavaScript file is remotely controlled by the app developer. It is delivered to the app through network communication.”

Let’s not all make this JSPatch’s problem, because presumably it’s developers who are lacking.

FireEye spoke up for the open source security gear while looking down its nose at hackers. “JSPatch is a boon to iOS developers. In the right hands, it can be used to quickly and effectively deploy patches and code updates. But in a non-utopian world like ours, we need to assume that bad actors will leverage this technology for unintended purposes,” the firm said.

“Specifically, if an attacker is able to tamper with the content of a JavaScript file that is eventually loaded by the app, a range of attacks can be successfully performed against an App Store application.

Courteys-TheInq

 

Facebook Exploring A Dedicated Video Service

January 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is contemplating the development of a dedicated service or page where users will be able watch videos and not be bothered by other content.

The social network continues to see surging interest in video. During one day last quarter, its users watched a combined 100 million hours of video. Roughly 500 million users watch at least some video each day.

That’s a lot of video and a lot of viewers, and Facebook wants to capitalize on it.

“We are exploring a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday during a conference call to discuss Facebook’s quarterly financial results.

But he was tight-lipped on how the video might actually be presented.

Asked if a stand-alone video app is in the cards, he mentioned the success of Messenger and a Facebook app for managing Pages. “I do think there are additional opportunities for this and we’ll continue looking at them,” he said.

Facebook wants to encourage more video viewing because it keeps users on the site longer, helping it to sell more ads.

“Marketers also really love video and it’s a compelling way to reach consumers,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said during the call.

Zuckerberg has been watching the growth of video for osme time. At a town hall meeting in November 2014, he predicted, ”In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video.”

And it’s likely that most of that video will be consumed over mobile networks.

Among Facebook’s heaviest users — the billion people who access it on a daily basis — 90 percent use a mobile device, either solely or in addition to their PC.

It’s financial results for the fourth quarter were strong. Revenue was $5.8 billion, up 52 percent from the same period in 2014, while net profit more than doubled to $1.6 billion.

 

 

 

Samsung Profits Hit By Weak Demand For Smartphones

January 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Movidius Chip To Bring Deep Learning To Android Phones

January 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Android mobile devices could get a whole lot smarter soon, thanks to a new partnership between Google and chip maker Movidius that promises to bring machine intelligence directly into smarphones.

Movidius specializes in machine vision, and it has already worked with Google on the Project Tango computer-vision platform. Now, through the new collaboration, Google will use Movidius’ flagship MA2450 chip to bring deep learning to Android handsets.

Deep learning is a branch of machine learning often applied to image recognition that uses algorithms to learn in multiple levels corresponding to different levels of abstraction. It typically relies on complex neural networks.

Movidius’ MA2450 chip is built for extreme power efficiency, making it eminently well-suited for running neural-network computations locally on smartphones. By deploying its advanced neural computation engine on those chips, Google could give devices the ability to recognize images such as faces and street signs in real time, without relying on an Internet connection and algorithms in the cloud.

Such capabilities could be particularly valuable for vision-impaired users, for example.

“Our collaboration with Movidius is enabling new categories of products to be built that people haven’t seen before,” said Blaise Agϋera y Arcas, head of Google’s machine intelligence group.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, nor were details about any specific product plans.

“Google is rapidly expanding their smartphone business into new areas — this is just one of them,” said wireless and telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.

The potential is exciting, but “Google typically throws ideas against the wall all the time,” Kagan added. “They wait to see what sticks and then build on that.

Everything Google does is not successful.”

 

 

 

Verizon, Samsung Partner Up On Indoor Wireless Technology

January 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon and Samsung jointly announced 4G small-cell LTE technology to improve in-building wireless coverage for business customers.

Verizon’s 4G LTE Network Extender for Enterprise relies on Samsung’s small-cell technology to provide voice over LTE and data service.

These small-cell units would be installed in weak coverage areas to help workers keep their wireless connections via smartphone and tablets.

The companies said in a joint statement that the technology is ideal for mid-sized offices and other company spaces of 10,000 to 100,000 square feet. While they described the technology as affordable, no price was announced.

A single small cell will support 42 concurrent users in an area of about 31,500 square feet. 4G LTE speeds are typically 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps on downloads, but the throughput for the Network Extender was not announced.

 

 

Sony Pivots Towards IoT With Altair Acquisition

January 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony has signed a deal to purchase chip company Altair Semiconductor for $212 million in a bid to strengthen its offering for the Internet of Things market.

Altair, based in Israel, is a developer of modem chip technology and software relating to the LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G cellular standard for mobile phones and data terminals. Sony aims to combine Altair’s work with its sensing technologies such as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and image sensors to develop new cellular-connected, sensing devices.

Sony expects LTE, which is already used in data communication for mobile phones, to play a key role in IoT as more small devices or “things” are expected to be equipped with cellular chipsets and access network services that take advantage of cloud computing.

LTE is increasingly seen as a cellular technology that could be relevant for IoT, and carriers are preparing to offer it. Verizon announced last year the U.S. availability of chipsets for IoT devices that can connect to its LTE network at speeds up to 10Mbps.

Sony said in October it was acquiring Softkinetic Systems, a developer in Brussels of range image sensor technology that uses the time-of-flight (ToF) range method for arriving at the distance of an object. Sony said it would use the technology not only in the field of imaging but for broader sensing-related applications as well.

Altair claims on its website that its chipset already powers millions of LTE-connected devices worldwide. The company’s LTE chipsets provide varying speeds, standby current of microamps to milliamps, and package sizes ranging from small footprint modules to miniature, low-profile SiPs (system in package), the company said.

Sony expects to close the deal early next month. The consumer electronics company has been increasingly focusing on its components business, including a deal announced in December to acquire Toshiba’s CMOS image sensors and memory controller fabrication facility in Oita Prefecture in Japan.

 

 

Is Apple’s Alleged 4″ iPhone Headed For Disaster

January 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

An analyst has cut his estimate of projected sales of the rumored new 4-inch iPhone, reportedly called the “iPhone 5se,” in half, from 18-20 million down to 10-12 million units.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo  said that the new 4-inch iPhone, as little new to offer, despite getting a lot of media attention.

“We don’t regard the product as innovative, either in terms of form factor … or hardware specs.”

Kuo said that Apple will ship 43 million units, a decline of 44 per cent quarter-over-quarter and 29 per cent year-over-year.

The smaller iPhone will likely include an all-metal design but is otherwise as silly a move as the 5c, which had a plastic body but tanked.

“We see MacBook as a stronger candidate for becoming a theme given solid growth in the business segment, as well as a potential upgrade to hit the market in 1H16,” Kuo said.

In other words Apple is starting to regress to the days when all it had was its PCs and was so desperate for money it had to borrow off Microsoft.

Courtesy-Fud