Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Microsoft Launches Pix, iPhone Camera App

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

There’s a new iPhone camera application available that claims to take better pictures than the one Apple ships with its phones, and it’s built by Microsoft.

The company’s research arm on Wednesday launched Pix, which enhances the photos that users take in a variety of ways. The app is  designed to make photos look better and even improves on Apple’s Live Photos ability to capture scenes that have moving elements in them.

It’s part of Microsoft’s continued push to build applications for platforms beyond those that it directly controls, especially iOS and Android. The free app was built by members of Microsoft Research and released for free on the iOS App Store.

Pix is particularly well-suited to take photos of people and is built to make adjustments to a photo on the fly as the scene changes. That way, the exposure of an image should always be tuned to the right conditions. It recognizes faces and uses Microsoft’s Hyperlapse technology to stabilize video made with the app, too.

When users press the shutter button, the app will take a burst of photos and then pick out the best ones for final use. That burst is also used to power Pix’s Live Image feature, which creates a short moving picture when there’s motion in a burst.

That’s an improvement on Apple’s Live Photos feature, which captures video before and after every photo is taken. Microsoft touts its feature as a way to get the best parts of Apple’s moving picture functionality without requiring as much storage space and stabilizing the result.


SMS Messaging For Two-factor Authentication Could Be Short-lived

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

SMS messaging for two-factor authentication days may be numbered. A federal agency is discouraging its use.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is recommending changes be made. The latest draft of its Digital Authentication Guideline, updated on Monday, warns that SMS messages can be intercepted or redirected, making them vulnerable to hacking.

Many companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, as well as banks, already use the phone-based text messaging to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

It works like this: To access the accounts, the user not only needs the password, but also a secret code sent by the company by text message. Ideally, these one-time passcodes are sent to a designated phone number to ensure no one else will read them.

But even so, hackers have still found ways to trick the system. In the past, they’ve used malware to infect smartphones, and secretly redirect the SMS messages to another device.

It’s unclear how the tech industry might react to the federal agency’s proposal. But cybersecurity vendors are already coming up with ways to better secure user accounts and devices through fingerprint recognition, hardware tokens and other methods.

Western Digital Goes 64 Layer 3D NAND

July 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced its latest range of 3D NAND chips, known as BiCS3, offering 64 vertical storage layers on a single three-bits-per-cell chip, making it the smallest in the industry.

Pilot production at the company’s Yokkaichi facility in Japan, which it shares with Toshiba, has already begun with what the company described as “meaningful commercial volumes” in the first half of 2017, although some limited consumer products are promised for the tail end of this year.

“The launch of the next generation 3D NAND technology based on our industry-leading 64-layer architecture reinforces our leadership in NAND flash technology,” said Dr Siva Sivaram, executive vice president for memory technology at Western Digital.

“BiCS3 will feature the use of three-bits-per-cell technology along with advances in high aspect ratio semiconductor processing to deliver higher capacity, superior performance and reliability at an attractive cost.

“Together with BiCS2, our 3D NAND portfolio has broadened significantly, enhancing our ability to address a full spectrum of customer applications in retail, mobile and data centre.”

BiCS3 has been developed alongside partner-firm Toshiba, from which we should expect a similar announcement any day now as the firms tend to take it in turns being first to the wires when new shared tech breaks.

It’s also worth noting that this is a significant flash announcement made under the WD umbrella, the first since it took control of SanDisk following a bidding war in which SanDisk put itself up for sale.

It’s not clear at the moment what the future holds for the SanDisk name, but ultimately this would have been a SanDisk announcement, so we’re very curious to see what the roadmap looks like.

BiCS3 will be available initially in a 256GB capacity rolling out to up to half a terabit on a single chip. BiCS3 for the retail market will arrive towards the end of 2016 with OEM sampling this quarter.

BiCS3 will run alongside the current BiCS2 range of 3D NAND products, which will remain available for the foreseeable future.



Can Planets Truly Orbit Many Stars?

July 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A strange alien world with three suns in its sky has just been discovered, but it didn’t break any records.

There are a handful of other known exoplanets with three host stars, and quite a few out there with two suns. (This latter group is sometimes nicknamed “Tatooine” planets, after Luke Skywalker’s home world in the “Star Wars” films.)

Where does all this multistar madness end? Is it possible for alien planets to have four, five, six or even more suns?

“It all depends on the hierarchy,” said Kaitlin Kratter, a computational astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, who was part of the team that discovered the new three-sun planet, called HD 131399Ab.

Such worlds can get tugged hither and yon by a host of different gravitational interactions.

“It becomes more complicated to keep everything together,” said Thomas Beatty, a postdoctoral astronomy researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “Having these orbits work is like trying to balance something on a pole. You’re having to keep it together. It’s a balance between the gravity from the star and whatever is orbiting and trying to shoot off, and having a third star in the system that is tugging in that balance and pushing on the pole.”

What allows HD 131399Ab to weather such chaos, Kratter said, is its location. The planet orbits about 80 astronomical units (AU) from its “main” parent star, and 300 AU from the other two stars in the system, which are composed of a binary pair. (One AU is the average distance from Earth to the sun — about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)

Other known three-sun planets also lie far away from the binary stars in the system. For example, a world called KELT-4Ab is so close to its primary star that one orbit takes just three Earth days. But the planet is 330 AU from the binary stars — about eight times the average distance between Pluto and the sun in our own solar system.

“These discoveries are not really that surprising. As long as the remaining stars in the system are far enough [away] not to disturb gravitationally the orbit of a planet in a significant way (or disturb a protoplanetary disk earlier in the evolution), such planets will form and survive,” said Maciej Konacki, a Polish astronomer who in 2005 reported a possible three-star planet called HD 188753 Ab. (This world didn’t show up in afollow-up study by another team in 2007, leading some astronomers to conclude it probably doesn’t exist.)

“HD 131399 is close to the limit where the influence of the stellar companions would be sufficient to destabilize the orbit of the planet,” Konacki added in an email to “A planet like this might subsequently be ejected from the system and end up as a free-floating planet. These triple (or multiple) star systems might be one of the natural sources of free-floating planets.”

One key question to consider is how multisun planets get wedged into their orbits in the first place, researchers say.

The answers are seldom straightforward, as the case of HD 131399Ab shows. The planet is huge, at least four times the size of Jupiter. It’s unclear if there would be enough gas to form such a giant world out at 80 AU from the main star in the system. radiation from have blown much of this material into space, making the accretion process even more difficult, researchers have said.

Another possibility is that the planet formed independently in the large molecular cloud that birthed the three stars, rather than from the disk of leftover material surrounding the main star.

“In this case, we would think of the system more like a quadruple-star system, where one of the objects just happens to have very little mass,” Kratter said. “Making an object so small would be very rare, however.”

The final theory is that the planet formed very close to its parent star, along with a companion planet or two. Over time, the planets’ orbits would have tugged at each other, and eventually such interactions booted HD 131399Ab out to its current location.

As for the other planet or planets in this last scenario — if they were close enough to the parent star, they could still be hiding there in its glare, Kratter said. And the orbits in this system may still be evolving, given that it is so young (about 16 million years old; our own solar system, for comparison, is about 4.6 billion years old). [Tatooine-Like System Found: Two Planets, Two Stars (Video)]

Planets may also be pushed around by gravitational tugs from the stars in their system, said Beatty, the second author of the paper announcing KELT-4Ab. Most systems with close-orbiting “hot Jupiter” planets have two or three stars in them, he noted; hot Jupiters may therefore form farther out in the system, and then get dragged inward by these stars’ gravity.

Depending on where a star is located in the Milky Way, it may be able to hang onto multiple other stars gravitationally over quite large distances. As stars grow farther apart, they are subject to gravitational interference from other stars, from mysterious dark matter, and even from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Theoretically, the limit beyond which stars come unbound from each other appears to be somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 AU, Kratter said.

This means that a single-star system could stretch across thousands of AU, perhaps peppered with multiple binary stars and associated planets. Kratter said. As an example, she cited PH1, a planet with two suns that lives in a four-star system.

“Think about Jupiter in our own solar system,” she said, explaining that Jupiter has dozens of moons tightly orbiting the planet. These moons don’t interfere with the orbit of Earth’s moon, for example, because they are so far away from us. Also, the sun’s gravity does not fling the moons away from Jupiter, because there is enough distance between the sun and Jupiter.

The same could also be true of planets and stars, Kratter said. As long as there is enough separation between the stars, she said, it’s hard to put an upper limit on how many stars could exist in one system.

Konacki agreed with this assessment.

“We know about planets in open clusters, so technically there is no limit to how numerous star systems could host a planet,” he said. “I see no reason why (for example) quintuple stellar systems could not host a planet, as long as the planet’s gravitational stability is secured.”



Twitter Still Struggling To Add New User, Grow Revenue

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest revenue growth since its IPO in 2013 and set a rather grim forecast, fanning concerns that faster growing social media services will make it a niche product.

The microblogging service operator’s shares fell 11 percent in extended trading to $16.40. While Twitter struggles to find a way to boost user growth and win over advertisers, social media services such as Instagram and Snapchat are expanding their footprints.

Co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company as chief executive a year ago, but his plan for reviving Twitter is at best seen as unfinished.

The company’s second quarter revenue missed Wall Street estimates and the revenue forecast for the current quarter of $590 million to $610 million was well below the average analyst estimate of $678.18 million.

Twitter’s user base increased about 1 percent to 313 million average monthly active users in the second quarter from 310 million in the first quarter.

“Clearly, the turnaround is still a work in progress and the question of whether being a platform for a mass audience versus a niche audience needs to be answered,” said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Earlier this year, Twitter laid out a long-term strategy to turn around its business, focusing on five areas: its core service, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety and developers.

In live video, the company has signed deals with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association to revive user growth and attract more advertising dollars. Executives also said Twitter was investing more in user safety as the company continues to grapple with high-profile instances of abuse and harassment.

Struggling with flat user growth and lower spending by advertisers, Twitter has doubled down on attracting more people and encouraging existing advertisers to spend more as it tries to shape its stagnating business.

“We are a year into Dorsey coming back and there is really no end in sight of when it is going to start picking up to where investors are going to be happy,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Twitter is also working to better define its role in the social media landscape. This week it rolled out a video ad that showed it as the place to go for live news, updates and discussion about current events, which executives also emphasized on a call with analysts.


Intel Developing Remote EyeSight Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

All signs indicated that Intel is developing a pair of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, and we may see them at the company’s developer show next month.

The Intel Remote EyeSight, a set of head-worn AR smart glasses, is built around the idea of remote collaboration. The company will offer details at a technical session during next month’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Further information about the AR smart glasses wasn’t immediately available, but they seem like a cross between Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Glass.

The technical session page describes the AR smart glasses as a product that uses Intel’s Collaboration Suite for WebRTC video capabilities to “transform Intel’s enterprise collaboration experiences with secure, cost-effective, hands-free and augmented reality technologies.”

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on Remote EyeSight, but said AR and virtual reality (VR) will be a big focus at IDF.

The smart glasses give a fascinating clue into Intel’s AR strategy. Augmented reality blends real and virtual worlds, and can be used to build 3D objects, chat on Skype, or even play 3D games with the real world as a background.

Intel’s Remote EyeSight could enable interactive remote communication on smart glasses, kind of like having Skype on a wearable. That could promote freedom of movement and communication, and blend in real and virtual world scenes into video chats. In the enterprise, it could be used in areas like repair, medicine, and education.

Bulky headsets like Microsoft HoloLens restrict movement, a problem Intel’s smart glasses could alleviate if they are the right size. But like Google Glass, they may not be welcome in areas like bars and restaurants, so they could be limited to use in specific areas.

Intel also has good CPU technology for AR and VR but lacks good graphics technology, which is important for visual computing.

It’s also unclear how Intel will lay out its AR and VR vision at IDF. The company’s PC, server and internet of things groups have different ideas on how AR and VR fit into their operations, and it remains to be seen if they can unite to provide a common vision.




Will Moore’s Law Be Obsolete 2021?

July 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Transistors will stop shrinking in just five years according to the  2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.

After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density.

In fact this is the last ITRS roadmap and the end to a more-than-20-year-old coordinated planning effort that began in the United States and was then expanded to include the rest of the world.

However the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents IBM and Intel said that people are just not interested any more and it will have to do its own work, in collaboration with another industry group, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, to identify research priorities for government. Other ITRS participants will continue on with a new roadmapping effort under a new name, which will be conducted as part of an IEEE initiative called Rebooting Computing.

Analysts say that the difficulty and expense associated with maintaining Moore’s Law research has since resulted in significant consolidation. In 2001 there were 19 companies that were developing and manufacturing logic chips with leading-edge transistors. Now there is just Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries.

They can communicate directly to their equipment and materials suppliers and don’t want to sit down and tell their rivals what they are up to.

Semiconductor companies that no longer make leading-edge chips in house rely on the foundries that make their chips to provide advanced technologies. What’s more, he says, chip buyers and designers are increasingly dictating the requirements for future chip generations.

This final ITRS report is titled ITRS 2.0. The name reflects the idea that improvements in computing are no longer driven from the bottom up, by tinier switches and denser or faster memories. Instead, it takes a more top-down approach, focusing on the applications that now drive chip design, such as data centers, the Internet of Things, and mobile gadgets.

The new IEEE roadmap—the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems—will also take this approach, but it will add computer architecture to the mix, allowing for “a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software,” according to a recent press release.

Transistor miniaturization was still a part of the long-term forecast as recently as 2014, when the lastITRS report was released. That report predicted that the physical gate length of transistors—an indicator of how far current must travel in the device—and other key logic chip dimensions would continue to shrink until at least 2028. But 3D concepts have gained momentum. The memory industry has already turned to 3D architectures to ease miniaturisation pressure and boost the capacity of NAND Flash. Monolithic 3D integration, which would build layers of devices one on top of another, connecting them with a dense forest of wires.

Moore’s Law just predicted how many transistors can fit in a given area of IC. Company still could make transistors smaller well into the 2020s, but it’s more economic to go 3-D.

Before 3-D integration is adopted, the ITRS predicts that leading-edge chip companies will move away from the FinFET transistor structure. According to the roadmap, chipmakers will leave that in favor of a lateral, gate-all-around device that has a horizontal channel like the FinFET but is surrounded by a gate that extends underneath. After that, transistors will become vertical, with their channels taking the form of pillars or nanowires. The traditional silicon channel will also be replaced by channels made with alternate materials, namely silicon germanium, germanium, and compounds drawn from columns III and V of the periodic table.

The doubling of transistor densities hasn’t been linked to improvements in computing performance for ages anyway. In the good old days shrinking transistors meant faster speeds, but by the 90s the extra metal layers that were added to wire up increasing numbers of transistors were adding significant delays and performance was improved by redesigned chip microarchitectures. In 2000 the main issue was heat because  transistor densities were so high that their heat limited clock speeds. Companies began packing multiple cores on chips to keep things moving.




SETI Group Seeking Public Input In The Hunt For E.T.

July 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

In one of Carl Sagan’s last books, he noted that astronomy has brought humanity to a series of “great demotions.” Simply put: When we first observed the night sky, we thought the Earth was in the center of the universe. Over time, as he described in Pale Blue Dot, we tried out other theories as the criteria fit: Maybe the sun is at the center of the universe? Perhaps we’re in an important part of the galaxy?

We now know the Earth is in the suburbs of the Milky Way, and our solar system is only special because we live in it, but this series of demotions shows us one thing: it’s easy to project our image on to the universe. This is especially true when searching for life. Because there is only one case of life as we know it — life on Earth — it’s easiest to look for life like ours. But in reality our kind of life may not be the most common type to look for after all.

A new paper in Astrobiology is asking the astronomy community to help the SETI Institute. (SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”) With more data on exoplanets coming in from the Kepler space telescope, and 50 years of space and SETI observations behind us, the hope is new tools can emerge to improve the search for life.

“A key concept is the one of cohabitation of life and environment … Each planet is a unique planetary experiment, and if we are starting to model these environments, then we can start to figure out what kind of diversity is out there,” author Nathalie Cabrol, the SETI Institute’s senior research scientist and director of the Carl Sagan Center, told Discovery News.

One example she suggests in her paper is looking for an element that is in disequilibrium in a planet’s atmosphere. (In other words, if scientists see a lot of silicon in an atmosphere that physics predicts would have little, perhaps that could show silicon-based life there.) The advantage is the aliens wouldn’t necessarily have to be sending out signals for us to find, she added.

A recent blog post from the SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak highlighted this fact for Earth, pointing out our oxygen signature has broadcast life for more than two billion years.

RELATED: Sending Messages to Aliens: Could It Kill Us?

Indeed, much of astrobiology itself is built on assumptions. Scientists commonly speak of a “habitable zone” for planets, based mostly on where Earth is located in our own solar system. Exoplanet biology is also compared with our own, such as when instruments for Mars are tested here based on their abilities to find Earth microbes.

Radio and optical searches, she added, are still the best tool we know of for searching given our known physics of the universe. But she does point out in the paper that the SETI Institute has been focused on the endpoint of the famous Drake equation — how many communicating civilizations there are — rather than “trying to understand or quantify the processes taking place within each of the factors’s [for life] that lead to the next.”

Even Frank Drake himself, she added, said his equation was not aimed to look for microbes or non-communicating species.

Cabrol said the goal of her paper — which she emphasized is just a single data point, open to discussion and dispute from other astronomers — is not to necessarily say these ideas are wrong. Instead, her hope is that after the SETI Institute organizes a workshop next year to explore these issues, that astronomers may have a better idea about where to point their telescopes.



U.K. Regulators Give Amazon Permission To Explore Drone Deliveries

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc announced that it has entered into a partnership with the British government to hasten the process for allowing small drones to makes deliveries.

The world’s biggest online retailer, which has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, said a cross-government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process.

Amazon unveiled a video last year showcasing how an unmanned drone could deliver packages, narrated by former Top Gear TV host Jeremy Clarkson.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said last month it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the United States.



Mytaxi, Hailo Merge To Take On Rival Uber

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Daimler’s mytaxi said it will merge with British competitor Hailo in an all-share deal, creating Europe’s largest smartphone-based taxi-hailing business.

Unlike U.S.-based ride hailing start-up Uber, which established itself to compete against taxi companies, the new company will operate using taxi firms.

It is the latest push by traditional carmakers to enter the taxi ride hailing services market dominated by Uber and other technology companies.

The companies declined to disclose financial terms.

“It’s a paper deal. Daimler will own 60 percent of the new entity and the stakeholders in Halio will own 40 percent,” said Halio CEO Andrew Pinnington, who will be chief executive of the combined company.

The merged entity, which will operate under the mytaxi brand, will have 70 million passengers and 100,000 registered taxi drivers in over 50 cities across nine countries in Europe, the companies said.

In similar deals this year, Volkswagen took a $300 million stake in Gett and General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft.

Hailo, which operates in Britain, Ireland and Spain, will combine with myTaxi, which is available in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

The combined company will be headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

MyTaxi founder Niclaus Mewes will take a seat on the supervisory board and in addition he will become managing director of Daimler Mobility Services GmbH.


NFC For ATM Transactions Catching On

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Several of the nation’s biggest banks in the U.S. now support the use of a smartphone to withdraw cash from an ATM — many by way of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology — instead of requiring customers to use a bank card.

One of the early adopters, Bank of America, said this week it currently supports cardless technology at 2,800 of its ATMs. That number will reach 8,000 ATMs by year’s end that rely on NFC and other technology. Bank of America, which has about 15,000 ATMs nationwide, created a video to show how a smartphone loaded with the bank’s mobile app can now withdraw cash from some ATMs.

Wells Fargo said it has a “handful” of ATMs that are NFC-ready and working to deliver cash and other transactions and is planning to reach 5,000 by the end of 2016. A total of 12,000 ATMs will be enabled in 2017.

JPMorgan Chase said it also will have many cardless ATMs available this year, but didn’t specify how many or when. Initially at Chase, customers will show up at an ATM and type in a numerical code they acquired wirelessly through use of the Chase smartphone app to get their cash. That numerical code verification process will be an early step in rolling out cardless technology at the bank’s nearly 15,000 ATMs.

In addition to using NFC or a numerical code to authenticate a transaction, some bank ATMs are expected to rely on scanning a QR code displayed on a phone.

The number of ATMs supporting cardless cash remains a small portion of the estimated 500,000 ATMs in the U.S. Crone Consulting, which monitors the mobile payment industry, recently said it expects about 95,000 ATMs in the U.S. to support cardless cash by year’s end.




Intel’s Knights Landing Thwarting nVidia Plans

July 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Bad news for Nvidia as supercomputer maker Cray said that that Intel’s Knights Landing giving Nvidia a run for its money.

Cray’s boss Peter Ungaro whose outfit makes supercomputers based around both Knights Landing and Nvidia gear has hinted that Intel gear is gaining traction.

The second generation Xeon Phi product, codenamed Knights Landing, comes as a stand-alone processor and another one which will be released as a co-processor later on. All this stands in the way of Nvidia’s cunning plans in the market.

Ungaro, the company has a “substantial amount of business” that relies on both Intel’s Knights Landing Xeon Phi part as well as Nvidia Tesla P100. He says he has significant orders for both.
But, he added that orders for systems based on Knights Landing actually exceed the orders for systems that use the Tesla P100. In other words, Knights Landing is already cleaning Tesla’s clock.

Motley Fool thinks that at the moment the market is big enough for both of them Nvidia has reported that its datacentre related sales were up 63 per cent year-over-year. But we can expect Intel to start getting more Chipzillish as it start’s bumping into Nvidia’s sales teams.

It might also start getting interesting when ARM chips start making an impact.



Is The Apple Watch Dragging The Smartwatch Industry Down?

July 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After dragging up the smart watch industry thanks to its legions of fanboys who will buy any old rubbish provided it has an Apply logo, Jobs’ Mob is causing it all to crash again.

For those who came in late, after Apple invented the smartwatch two years later than its rivals, it was supposed to sell millions of them. To be fair it did reasonably well considering its product was out-of-date and pretty much useless. It sold about six million of them to the loyal fanboys base who would buy a dog turd if it had an Apple logo. Smartwatches were a small market and six million was rather a lot.

But this figure was well below the 40 million that some analysts claimed it would sell. The smartwatch got bad reviews and lacked most of the functionality that its rivals had. It was also expensive.

Apple appears to have lost interest in the devices It fails to mention them in polite company and rumours of “innovations” of the tech are few and far between. This has resulted in the smartwatch industry which was propped by Apple’s interest taking a battering.

Vendors shipped a total of 3.5 million smartwatches worldwide last quarter. This Q2 2016 figure is down 32 percent from the 5.1 million units shipped in Q2 2016, marking the first decline on record.

The figures don’t count basic bands sold by companies like Fitbit so Apple is the undisputed leader. The latest quarterly figures come from IDC, which said that Apple’s market share decreased 25 percentage points (from 72 percent to 47 percent) and it shipped less than half the smartwatches (1.6 million). But the company still holds almost half the market, with every other vendor shipping fewer than a million units.

Samsung gained 9 percentage points (from 7 percent to 16 percent), thanks to shipping 200,000 more units compared to the same quarter last year. IDC attributes the gain to solid distribution though American carriers. The Gear S2 lineup is Samsung’s biggest success and doesn’t appear to depend on the company’s smartphones.

Lenovo gained 6 percentage points (from 3 percent to 9 percent), shipping 100,000 more units and jumping into third place. IDC believes this is thanks to the company’s Motorola brand moving quickly into smartwatches and becoming the de facto Android Wear choice for round form factors.

LG gained 4 percentage points (from 4 percent to 8 percent), also shipping 100,000 more units but slipping to fourth place.

Garmin gained 2 percentage points (from 2 percent to 4 percent), despite flat shipments. Its Connect IQ-enabled devices remain niche, as they mainly only target athletes.

Of course the Tame Apple press claims all that will change when Apple releases its refresh of the watch which has all the features that were missing when the Smart Watch launched before. However even if it does happen this time, the technology is still two years too late and fanboys are going to find it hard justifying an upgrade to their parents. They might have to take on another paper rounded to pay for it.

All this indicates that after a period of Apple bloat, some sanity is being restored to the smartwatch industry which is, and will always be, niche.



Huawei Posts 40% Increase In Sales Revenue

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, one of the world’s largest telecoms equipment makers, on Monday posted a 40 percent increase in first-half sales revenue and announced it would “maintain current momentum” this year.

Sales revenue reached 245.5 billion yuan ($36.8 billion) in the first six months of 2016, the company said in a statement. Operating margin fell to 12 percent from 18 percent in the previous half-year, it said.

The Shenzhen-based private company, which competes with Sweden’s Ericsson  for the top spot in the global market for telecoms equipment, did not elaborate in its brief statement.

“We are confident that Huawei will maintain its current momentum, and round out the full year in a positive financial position backed by sound ongoing operations,” Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng said in the statement.

“We achieved steady growth across all three of our business groups, thanks to a well-balanced global presence,” Meng said, referring to the company’s telecom, consumer device and enterprise business segments.

The company earlier this year set a revenue target of $75 billion for 2016.

Last year, Huawei reported a 30 percent rise in first-half revenue.



Microsoft’s Office 365 Subscription Slows Signficantly

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft said that consumer subscriptions to Office 365 topped 23 million, signaling that the segment’s once quite large year-over-year growth had slowed significantly.

The Redmond, Wash. company regularly talks up the latest subscription numbers for the consumer-grade Office 365 plans — the $100 a year Home and the $70 Personal — and did so again this week during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

“We also see momentum amongst consumers, with now more than 23 million Office 365 subscribers,” CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

But analysis of Microsoft’s consumer Office 365 numbers showed that the rate of growth — or as Nadella put it, “momentum” — has slowed.

For the June quarter, the 23.1 million cited by Microsoft in its filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) represented a 52% increase over the same period the year prior. Although most companies would give their eye teeth — or maybe a few executives — to boast of a rate of increase that size, it was the smallest since Microsoft began providing subscription data in early 2013.

A year before, the June 2015 quarter sported a consumer Office 365 subscription growth rate of 171% over the same three-month span in 2014.

The subscription increase also was small in absolute terms: Microsoft added approximately 900,000 to the rolls during the June quarter, down from 2.8 million the year before and also less than the 1.6 million accumulated in 2016′s March quarter.

The 900,000 additional subscribers added in the June quarter were the smallest number in more than two years.

While Microsoft did not directly address the slowing of growth in the consumer Office 365 market, it did attribute a similar trend among corporate subscriptions to the difficulty of maintaining huge year-over-year percentage gains as the raw numbers of subscriptions increased.