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Sprint Teams Up With Google To Sell Business Apps

July 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sprint announced a partnership with Google to offer the Google Apps for Business cloud service, noting that customers of the service won’t have to use Sprint’s wireless network or Android devices.

The partnership helps move Sprint well beyond it’s role as a basic wireless carrier for businesses to one that will bolster basic Google cloud service and access to Google apps with Sprint’s own hands-on professional consulting, much of it free.

The announcement comes amid widespread reports that Sprint is in discussions to buy T-Mobile and just weeks after a six-month study of wireless carrier network performance found Sprint didn’t finish first among national carriers in any of 125 U.S. cities.

Sprint’s resale of Google Apps for Business kicks off officially on Aug. 18. Sprint will charge businesses the same rate that Google does — with pricing starting at $5 per month per worker for access to a variety of apps such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs, or $10 a month per user per month for Google Apps access with unlimited cloud storage, and other services.

In addition, Sprint will offer its new Google Apps for Business customers a number of free services, including consulting on mobile deployment strategy, project management and cloud help-desk support (with all cloud servers under the ownership of Google). Sprint will charge for certain professional services, such as creating single sign-on capability or domain services. Pricing for those services, in addition to the standard Google Apps for Business costs, will be announced closer to launch.

Sprint’s John Tudhope, director of marketing for enterprise services, said Sprint’s Google Apps for Business customers won’t need to be Sprint wireless customers to get the new service.

 

 

 

Device Financing Plan Weighs On AT&T’s Revenue

July 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T Inc’s quarterly revenue rose a weaker than expected 1.6 percent as cheaper service plans offered to customers who forgo subsidized cellular phones made a dent in profit margins.

Faced with mounting pressure from competitors, AT&T has unbundled service and device charges, and cut its family data plan and shared value plan prices as it tries to attract customers in a nearly saturated market.

“What we saw happen throughout the second quarter were very aggressive promotions by our competitors but all the while our churn decreased,” Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T mobility, told Reuters.

“We are confident that what we saw in Q2 was part of the transition we had to make to go from service to equipment revenue in NEXT,” he said, referring to a pricing plan that allows customers to pay directly for their devices in exchange for lower service pricing.

The plan has resulted in a lower average revenue per user, but higher equipment revenue, as customers take on the majority of the burden of paying for their devices.

Wireless service revenue decreased 1.4 percent in the second quarter, while equipment revenue grew 44.8 percent.

AT&T expects two-thirds of its customers to be on the plan by the end of the year.

“AT&T has quite aggressively moved its existing base of customers in contract to the new plan. It is a fairly predictable shift and over time it should be a positive one for AT&T, but it has an unpleasant short-term impact on results, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.”

Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on a conference call with analysts that Brazil’s antitrust regulator has approved the company’s $48.5 billion bid for DirecTV, which has a significant foothold in Latin America. The deal has been reviewed by state regulators but is under review by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

The company maintained its free cash flow guidance of around $11 billion for 2014, exceeding the $9.6 billion it needs to meet its dividend target, which some investors have worried could be unsustainable.

The No. 2 U.S. mobile provider said on Wednesday that excluding items it earned 62 cents per share, one penny less than Wall Street expectations, according to Thomson Reuters .

 

AMD Moving Quickly On Stacked DRAM APUs

July 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD is fast tracking stacked DRAM deployment and a new presentation leaked by the company  points to APUs with stacked DRAM, or high bandwidth memory (HBM).

AMD is calling the project “Fastforward” and it is all about boosting memory bandwidth on upcoming APUs. However, AMD is not talking about specific products yet and it is unclear whether HBM will be implemented on its upcoming Carizzo APU. This seems highly unlikely at this point for a number of reasons and if we were to speculate we would say HBM is coming to the next-next generation of AMD APUs.

Stacked DRAM APUs to deliver up to 128GBps bandwidth

Using two DRAM stacks AMD could boost bandwidth at an unprecedented rate. Two stacks would result in a 1024-bit interface and up to 128GBps bandwidth. GDDR5 maxes out at 32 bits and 28GBps. With one stack in play the results are somewhat lower, 512-bit bus and 64GBps bandwidth.

AMD says it is looking at 1.2V+ DRAM with 2Gb per stack and 4 DRAM modules per stack. However, the presentation states that AMD is currently conducting evaluations of “various architectures and interface options,” so it could be a while before we see what exactly it has in mind.

AMD’s Fastforward objectives

Stacked DRAM is just part of the story, as AMD’s Fastforward initiative is a bit broader. The company says its principle Fastforward objective is to investigate processor and memory technologies for exascale systems based on high volume architectures and open standards.

The end result should “provide significant benefits” to high volume markets and the chipmaker says it is “based on extending high volume APU architecture.”

The list of key technologies which are part of the fastforward project is quite long. HSA, stacked DRAM, new APIs, non-volatile memory and processing-in-memory are just some of them.

Courtesy-Fud

NASA Upgrades The Robonaut In Space

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The 300-pound humanoid robot working on the International Space Station is getting several upgrades, including new processors and software, in preparation of having a pair of legs attached to it.

Robonaut 2, also known as R2, is the legless but humanoid robot that has been working on the space station since 2011.

“Commander Steve Swanson focused his attention primarily on mobility upgrades for the station’s robotic crew member, Robonaut 2,” NASA reported on its website. “Since arriving aboard the station in May 2011 during the STS-134 space shuttle mission, Robonaut has been put through a series of increasingly complex tasks to test the feasibility of a humanoid robot taking over routine and mundane chores or even assisting a spacewalker outside the station.”

In March, SpaceX, a commercial space flight company that runs cargo missions to the space station, brought up a pair of robotic legs for Robonaut.

Once the legs are attached to R2′s torso, the robot will have a fully extended leg span of nine feet. That will give it “great flexibility” to move around the inside and outside of the space station, according to NASA.

The robot has 38 PowerPC processors, including 36 embedded chips, which control the robot’s joints. Each leg has seven joints and a device on its foot, dubbed an end effector, a tool that enables the robot to use handrails and sockets.

Since Robonaut was unpacked and set up on the station in 2011, astronauts have run experiments to see how the robot functions in space. NASA scientists also have been working with astronauts onboard the station to get them to use the robot and put them at ease with it.

So far, the robot, which can communicate using sign language, has been able to correctly press buttons, flip switches and turn knobs. It also has worked with tools, using an air flow meter and an RFID inventory scanner, according to NASA.

In preparation for attaching Robonaut’s legs, the astronauts installed new processors and replaced fans, a power distribution board and other components inside the robot’s torso.

Last weekend, NASA’s robotics team on the ground remotely deployed software for the robot’s new processors. NASA has not specified what type of processors or what software has been added.

NASA originally planned to install and test the robot’s legs in June, that didn’t happen and a new installation timeframe has not been announced.

 

 

 

Several Countries Now Have More Wireless Devices Than People

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Wireless broadband subscriptions now outnumber people in seven countries as consumers continue to add smartphone and tablet devices to their personal electronics arsenal, according to a new report.

Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea and the U.S. had wireless broadband penetration of more than 100 percent as of December 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. That means there was more than one wireless broadband subscription per person, usually because consumers have more than one mobile device that can go online. The U.S. just barely crossed the bar, while Finland led the group with more than 123 percent penetration.

Across all 37 OECD countries, wireless broadband penetration rose to 72.4 percent as total subscriptions grew 14.6 percent. The group spans North America, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Israel, Mexico and Chile. It’s sometimes treated as a barometer of the developed world.

Wired broadband subscriptions also grew in 2013, reaching an average of 27 percent penetration. That means there was just over one wired subscription per four people: Wired broadband services, such as cable and DSL (digital subscriber line), typically are shared. Switzerland led in that category with 44.9 percent penetration, followed by the Netherlands and Denmark. The U.S. had just under 30 wired subscriptions per 100 people, while Turkey came in last with just over 11.

DSL still makes up a majority of wired broadband subscriptions, at 51.5 percent, followed by cable with 31.2 percent. Fiber-optic grew to a 16.7 percent share, gradually replacing DSL services. Fiber more than doubled its share of the market in the U.K. and also gained strongly in Spain, Turkey and France. While those countries still have relatively low fiber penetration, Japan and Korea continued to lead the OECD for that technology. Nearly 70 percent of all wired broadband in Japan goes over fiber, and almost 65 percent in Korea.

The OECD has compiled some of its broadband statistics on a portal page. For all the technologies it tracks, the group uses a generous definition of broadband as a service capable of at least 256K bits per second downstream.

 

 

Sony Wants To Capitalize On The ‘Selfie’ Boom

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp said that it has plans to invest 35 billion yen ($345 million) to increase production of image sensors for smartphones and tablets, as the company courts handset makers to get more orders for front-facing camera sensors, used to take selfies.

The Japanese firm said it will increase production of stacked CMOS sensors at two factories on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, while completing work on a factory in northwestern Japan it bought from Renesas Electronics Corp for a total investment of 35 billion yen.

Sony, which currently supplies image sensors for the main camera in Apple Inc’s iPhone said the investment will allow it to raise production by 13 percent to 68,000 wafers a month by August 2015, a step closer to its mid-term goal of 75,000.

Imaging sensors are an area of strength for Sony, which leads the market ahead of Omnivision Technologies Inc, whose sensors are mostly used in front-facing smartphone modules that typically have lower specifications than the main rear camera.

Sony told Reuters in March that it was looking to supply more sensors for front-facing cameras as smartphone makers were looking to improve their quality in response to consumers taking more ‘selfies’, or self-portraits, as well as video calls.

Of the total investment, 9 billion yen will be spent this year, which will come out of the 65 billion yen capex budget for semiconductors announced in May. The remaining 26 billion yen will be spent in the first half of the fiscal year starting next March.

 

Will The Console Gaming Market Shrink?

July 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

The new generation of consoles and booming category of free-to-play PC games won’t be enough to keep the market growing indefinitely. According to a Juniper Research report, the market will soon turn south, falling from $46.5 billion worldwide this year to $41 billion in 2019.

Despite that 12 percent drop, the PC and console segment will still account for more than half of all gaming revenues through 2019. Additionally, Juniper said software sales on PC and console “will remain relatively healthy,” with PC revenues topping those of its console counterparts.

The PC & Console Games: Trends, Opportunities, and Vendor Strategies 2014-2019 report also predicts the console cycle to continue as in generations past. That means the new systems will spark sales in the short-term, with growth slowing and then turning negative as the new platforms age. Juniper also expects another generation of consoles likely arriving around 2019, with the new platforms having a similar lifespan to the their predecessors.

Dedicated gaming handhelds will continue to play a part in the industry, with Juniper penciling them in for about $2.2 billion in revenues in 2019. (Handhelds were not included in the console/PC figures above.) And while cloud gaming is going to receive a boost this year with the launch of PlayStation Now, it won’t upend the status quo just yet. Juniper expects the cloud gaming market to rise from $281 million this year to $1 billion by 2019.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Intel Develops Self-encrypting SSD

July 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has announced the Drive Pro 2500 series of solid state disk (SSD) drives that are “self encrypting”, which the firm says makes them more secure against data breaches.

Aimed at businesses, the Intel SSD Pro 2500 series will come in a 2.4in 7mm form factor with 120GB, 180GB, 240GB, 360GB and 480GB capacities, M.2 80mm size with 180GB, 240GB and 360GB capacities, and M.2 60mm size with 180GB or 240GB capacities.

Intel promises that each form factor type will provide random input/output operations per second (IOPS) of up to 48K/80K and sequential read/write data transfer speeds of up to 540/490MBps.

“[The] Solid State Drive Pro 2500 series [has] over [six times] higher performance with new advanced low power modes yielding an optimized user experience and longer battery life,” Intel said in a press briefing.

In terms of power, the drives will have an active wattage of 195mW, idle 55mW and devsleep of 5mW. The drives will also ship with Intel vPro-capable remote manageability features.

Intel said that the reason behind the launch of the self encrypting SSDs is due to rise of data breaches affecting businesses having “significant financial consequences”.

Intel said the average cost of data breach incident is in the region of $3.4m (£2m), with malicious attacks being the main cause. The firm also said that lost laptops are a concern and the average cost of a lost unencrypted device is $50,000 (£30,000) including intellectual property loss, data breaches, lost productivity, replacement and legal costs, so the need for businesses to encrypt data is more pressing than ever.

Data breaches are also becoming a bigger concern on a personal level, too, as it has emerged that cyber crooks are increasingly turning to “sextortion” attacks in which they blackmail victims with the threat of exposing explicit photographs or messages.

Security experts warned that cyber criminals might try to befriend victims and trick them into sharing pictures, or may use malware to target victims’ webcams and take pictures themselves in order to acquire blackmail material.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Astronomers Find Alien Planet With The Longest Year

July 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A newfound alien planet is one for the record books.

The alien planet Kepler-421b — which crosses the face of, or transits, its host star from Earth’s perspective — takes 704 Earth days to complete one orbit, and thus has the longest year known for any transiting alien world, researchers said. (For comparison, Earth orbits the sun once every 365 days, and Mars completes a lap every 780 days.)

“Finding Kepler-421b was a stroke of luck,” study lead author David Kipping, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement. “The farther a planet is from its star, the less likely it is to transit the star from Earth’s point of view. It has to line up just right.” [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]

To be clear, Kepler-421b does not have the longest year of any known alien planet. Many nontransiting worlds have much more far-flung orbits, including the gas giant GU Piscium b, which takes about 160,000 years to complete a lap around its host star.

Kepler-421b, which is about the size of Uranus, is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Lyra. It was spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which launched in March 2009 to hunt for transiting exoplanets by noting the tiny brightness dips caused when they cross in front of their stars.

Kepler has found nearly 1,000 alien worlds to date and has flagged more than 3,000 other “candidates” that still need to be confirmed by follow-up observations or study. Mission team members expect that at least 90 percent of these candidates will eventually turn out to be bona fide planets.

The spacecraft suffered a glitch in May 2013 that ended its original mission, but NASA recently signed off on a new mission, called K2, that will keep Kepler hunting for exoplanets, in addition to other cosmic bodies and phenomena.

Most of Kepler’s finds thus far are worlds that orbit relatively close to their parent stars, since such planets transit relatively frequently. The instrument has generally required three transits to conclusively identify an exoplanet, but Kepler-421b was detected after it crossed its host star’s face just twice, researchers said.

Kepler-421b circles its parent star, which is cooler and dimmer than Earth’s sun, at an average distance of 100 million miles (160 million kilometers), researchers said. This places the exoplanet beyond its solar system’s “snow line” — the boundary between rocky and gaseous planets. (Beyond the snow line, ice grains glom together to form gas giants, such as Jupiter and Saturn.)

Gaseous planets often don’t remain beyond the snow line, however. Astronomers have discovered many “hot Jupiters” — giant worlds that have migrated inward significantly over time and now complete an orbit in just a few days (or, in some cases, a matter of hours).

In fact, Kepler-421b’s lack of movement makes it remarkable, Kipping said.

“This is the first example of a potentially nonmigrating gas giant in a transiting system that we’ve found,” he said.

Courtesy-Space

 

Yahoo To Purchase Flurry To Beef Up Mobile Ad Revenue

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc will acquire mobile analytics startup Flurry to beef up a fast-growing mobile advertising business that still lags Google Inc’s  and Facebook Inc’s in scale.

Six-year-old Flurry uses analytics to help target ads at consumers by monitoring activity on more than half a million apps on some 1.4 billion mobile devices around the world, Yahoo said in a statement.

The startup provides information to help marketers and brands more easily reach their desired audiences, Yahoo said.

Yahoo did not cite a price tag, but a source familiar with the matter said the Internet company is paying several hundred million dollars. Tech blog re/code earlier reported that rough amount.

Flurry will operate much as before after the acquisition closes, and its team will remain in their current locations, Yahoo added.

Yahoo is trying to revitalize a stagnant online advertising business as Chief Executive Marissa Mayer marks her second anniversary at the Internet company.

The former Google executive has revamped many of Yahoo’s Web products but its ad sales are still weak while rivals such as Google and Facebook continue to post strong, double-digit revenue growth.

Like its rivals, it has been investing in its mobile advertising platform, as users increasingly access the Internet from smartphones and tablets. Its mobile advertising revenue more than doubled in the second quarter.

But mobile advertising typically commands lower rates than online. Revenue in Yahoo’s display advertising business decreased 8 percent to $436 million in the second quarter.

 

Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Western Digital Updates The Red Line

July 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced an upgrade of its WD Red range, providing a single brand structure across consumer and enterprise.

The WD Red range is aimed primarily at network attached storage (NAS) applications, and is joined by a new WD Red Pro line. Both sub-ranges are controlled by upgraded firmware called NASware 3.0.

At a briefing last week, Western Digital’s UK country manager Jermaine Campbell explained that the new firmware will be able to instruct the drive to work in different ways according to the function it is performing at the time, therefore adapting its performance to best use system and energy resources.

In addition, it increases the number of bays supported from five to eight without performance impact, with the Pro range able to support up to 16 bays and rack mounted configurations.

3D Active Balance combines firmware instruction with a new flexible drive head to provide vibration protection and judder compensation for improved reliability.

The consumer range introduces 5TB and 6TB capacities to the range, joining the existing 1TB, 2TB and 4TB models. The Pro range is available in 2TB and 4TB versions. The five platter 6TB version is, WD claims, a first to market for a NAS specific drive.

Campbell explained that “the market wants high capacity” and confirmed that WD still believes that “platter based drives offer the best combination of performance and price”.

Pricing for the drives ranges from $399 for the 5TB and $440 for the 6TB, backed by a three-year warranty. The Pro range starts at $224 for 2TB up to $299 for 4TB with a five-year warranty.

WD Red drives can also be found in the company’s Mycloud range of consumer NAS devices with personal cloud functionality.

Courtesy-TheInq

Vintage NASA Probe Still Kicking

July 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

After refusing to fire its engines last week for a course correction, a vintage NASA spacecraft did produce a bit of thrust Wednesday (July 16), proving it still has at least some fuel left after 36 years in space.

The International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3), which launched in 1978, is close to Earth right now, but on a trajectory that will send it further out into the solar system. A private group, called the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, is sending commands to the aged NASA probe with the goal of moving it to a stable location nearby our planet to do citizen science.

To that end, the group spent three hours Wednesday working to command the spacecraft to fire its thrusters in an engine-cleaning move. “Something changed the trajectory of ISEE-3, albeit slightly,” wrote ISEE-3 Reboot Project co-leader Keith Cowing in a blog post on the project’s website.

“Also, the temperatures in the fuel tanks only rose a little bit, which is what you’d expect of they were still full of fuel. This is good news since we were concerned for a while that there might have been a loss of fuel and/or pressurant.”

Working with approval from NASA, the group has spent several weeks communicating with the spacecraft and performing maneuvers. The big course correction was supposed to happen July 10, but sputtered to a stopfor reasons that are still being investigated.

Controllers initially thought the spacecraft was out of fuel, but rescinded that after consulting with their followers (who they affectionately call the “Borg”, after the Star Trek alien species who assimilated others into a collective.)

The hive mind determined that the hydrazine in the fuel tanks could have broken down over the decades into “decomposition products” that were blocking the line. Also, controllers discovered some of the correct procedures were inadvertently not followed, because documentation on the 1970s-era NASA spacecraft (which was roused from hibernation earlier this year) was incomplete.

The solution: Heat the tanks, open some valves to move the gas inside, and then fire the engine for several hundred pulses. This produced some changes. Using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the controllers discovered “several instances of thrust”, Cowing said.

“We’re analyzing the data and trying to sleuth out how we got the momentary thrust and then apply that to our next interaction with the spacecraft,” he added.

The group did not disclose when they next plan to talk to the spacecraft. Cowing also said the fuel demands on the spacecraft will become more difficult as the month goes on, making it more difficult to move it. But even if moving it becomes impossible, the group will use ISEE-3 for interplanetary science instead.

NASA and the European Space Agency launched the ISEE-3 spacecraft in 1978 on a mission aimed at exploring the interaction between the sun’s solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field. The spacecraft was later reassigned to study the interaction between the solar wind and the atmospheres of comets. Renamed the International Cometary Explorer, the probe skimmed the tail of the Comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1985 and made some observations of Halley’s Comet in 1986.

The ISEE-3 Reboot Project raised nearly $160,000 on the crowdfunding website RocketHub to support its work.

Courtesy-Space

Twitter Pressed To Release Diversity Data

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Twitter to release its employee diversity information, which its Silicon Valley peers such as Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook have already done.

The Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Jackson, has also asked Twitter to signal its commitment to inclusion by hosting a public community forum to address the company’s plan to recruit and retain more African American talent.

The coalition and black empowerment group, ColorOfChange.org, plans to launch a Twitter-based campaign to challenge the company, the coalition said in a statement late last week.

On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, ColorofChange will lead a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists will push out the petition campaign over Twitter and other social media.

Tech companies have been under pressure to release employee diversity data since Jackson took up the campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies, starting with a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders.

“….Twitter has remained silent, resisting and refusing to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity/inclusion data,” according to the joint petition by the coalition and ColorOfChange.org.

The diversity reports are typically filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and companies are not required to make the information public.

Twitter has not commented on the matter.

 

 

China’s Rush To The Internet Is Slowing

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s once furious pace to get on the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.

There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.

Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.

Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.

The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.

In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.

Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.