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Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Qantas, Virgin To Allow Smartphone Usage Throughout Flights

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Australian airlines Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said passengers may use mobile phones and tablets during their flights, after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices on planes.

The airlines said they would begin allowing passengers to use personal electronic devices for the duration of their flight after Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority followed a similar ruling from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013.

The Australian airlines will hope giving customers almost continuous access to personal devices will increase their appeal as they engage in a price war with each other and other market participants. Currently, passengers are forced to switch off devices until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

The two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week.

“We’re delighted to give Qantas customers the freedom and flexibility to use their personal electronic devices from the moment they board the plane until they disembark,” Qantas Domestic chief executive officer Lyell Strambi said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said the high number of passengers who travel with a smartphone or tablet shows “how valuable gate-to-gate access is to their overall travel experience”.

 

 

Amazon Acquires Live-Streaming Game Network Twitch For Nearly $1B

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has acquired live-streaming gamingnetwork Twitch Interactive for about $970 million in cash, reflecting Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’ vision to transform Amazon into an Internet destination beyond its roots in retail operations.

The deal, jointly announced by the two companies, is the largest deal in Amazon’s 20-year history and will help the U.S. e-commerce company vie with Apple Inc and Google Inc in the fast-growing world of online gaming, which accounts for more than 75 percent of all mobile app sales.

The acquisition involves some retention agreements that push the deal over $1 billion, a source close to the deal told Reuters.

“Twitch will further push Amazon into the gaming community while also helping it with video and advertising,” Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said in a note.

Twitch’s format, which lets viewers message players and each other during live play, is garnering interest as one of the fastest-growing segments of digital video streaming, which in turn is attracting more and more advertising dollars.

The deal, expected to close in the second half of the year, is an unusual step for Amazon, which tends to build from within or make smaller acquisitions. Tech rival Google was earlier in talks to buy Twitch, which launched slightly more than three years ago, one person briefed on the deal said.

Neither Amazon nor Twitch would discuss how the deal came together or comment on Google’s interest.

In an interview, Twitch Chief Executive Officer Emmett Shear said the startup contacted Amazon because its deep pockets and ad sales expertise would allow the startup to pursue its strategic objectives more quickly.

“The reason why we reached out to Amazon, the reason I thought working for Amazon, having Twitch being a part of Amazon, would be a great idea for us (because) they would give us the resources to pursue these things that we honestly already want to pursue and they’d let us do it faster,” Shear said.

 

Intel Moving Closer To ‘Wire-Free’ Computing

August 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel is moving closer towards providing what it calls “wire-free” computing by 2016, a plan the company first talked about publicly in June at the Computex trade show.

The company is developing a smart dock through which laptops can wirelessly connect to monitors and external peripherals, it said in a blog entry.

The dock will remove the need to plug HDMI or DisplayPort display connectors directly into laptops. The wireless dock will provide USB 3.0-like speeds to transfer data to external peripherals.

“When you walk in the office with your laptop, it will automatically link with your wireless-enabled monitor or projector to deliver an HD streaming experience without the hassle of plugging into your HDMI or DisplayPort,” Intel said.

The chip maker is also developing technology so wireless monitors automatically start and link up when laptops are within a specific distance. Intel calls this “proximity-based peripheral syncing” technology.

Intel demonstrated the technology in a video accompanying the blog post. Users could also log on with face recognition, without the need to touch the keyboard.

Intel has said most of its wire-free computing will be based on WiGig, a fast-growing wireless data transfer technology. WiGig is considered faster than the latest Wi-Fi technology. Intel is also considering WiGig to connect wireless keyboards and mice to laptops.

The company also wants to get rid of power adapters and is developing wireless charging technologies for laptops. Intel at Computex showed laptops charging on a table equipped with a charging pad based on A4WP’s Rezence magnetic resonance technology.

Intel will talk about wire-free computing for business PCs at the Intel Developer Forum next month in San Francisco. The company will share details about wireless docking and displays as part of vPro, Intel’s platform for managing PCs remotely.

Intel wants to make laptops easier to use, so they are more like smartphones and tablets, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“If they don’t make investment like this, an old-school laptop starts looking really old,” McCarron said. “The goal of all this stuff is to make things seamless and transparent.”

The wire-free development also underscores the importance of WiGig, with more companies investing in the technology, McCarron said.

 

 

Ready For Tablets Priced At $35 Or Lower?

August 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Generic Android tablets with 7-inch screens and quad-core chips that deliver decent performance could soon make it to market for $35 or less.

Tablets with low-resolution screens are already selling for $45 on Amazon, many of which have single- or dual-core processors from a Chinese chip company called Allwinner.

But the prices could fall under $35 when Allwinner ships its “fully formed” quad-core A33 chip for only $4, said analyst firm Linley Group in a newsletter this week.

The chip’s quad-core processors will deliver better performance than older chips, and be capable of supporting 1280 x 800 displays, the analyst group said. The chip is based on ARM’s Cortex-A7 design and has a Mali-400MP2 GPU, which is capable of rendering high-definition video.

The cheap tablets will likely come from no-name vendors in China, and won’t offer the bells and whistles of Samsung or Apple tablets, but they could increase price pressure on brand names like HP and Acer, which have entry-level tablets priced around $100.

They’ll be most suited to first-time buyers or users who aren’t picky about hardware or software but certainly not power users, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research. That’s because they’ll likely have limited memory, storage and fewer ports than more expensive devices.

“Users eventually will move up in performance,” McGregor said.

The tablets would almost be disposable items, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

And they could be here soon.

Mass production of the chip has already begun and prototype tablets have already been built.

A lot would come from Shenzhen, China, where a bulk of the device development is taking place, said Brookwood.

“This Shenzhen ecosystem, it’s absolutely scary what they are doing,” he said. “They operate on very thin margins. The kind of margins that no U.S. vendor can think about running on.”

The no-name tablets usually don’t come with customer support, and some may not have the Google Play store.

 

YouTube Music Might Prove Lucrative For Google

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A beefed up version of YouTube offering exclusive content might turn out to be lucrative bait for Google to lure some of its users deeper into its digital video and music services.

YouTube appears to be readying a paid premium music service that would cost US$9.99 a month, called YouTube Music Key. Roughly a dozen purported screenshots of the service were recently published online on the blog Android Police, possibly showing how it would work. The images showed exclusive content such as remixes or cover songs, offline access to entire albums or concerts, and personalized playlists.

A YouTube spokesman declined to comment, but rumors of a paid music service from the Google-owned video site have been circulating for some time now. An earlier report in the Financial Times claimed YouTube was blocking or penalizing independent labels that were not signing up for the yet-to-launch paid service. Earlier this month, YouTube head Susan Wojcicki confirmed the company was working on some kind of subscription music service, in aRe/code interview.

So it looks likely that a premium version of YouTube just for music is on the way. The free version of YouTube works well for many right now, but a premium version might let Google monetize some new content and lead users to the company’s other digital media services.

The amount and diversity of content already available free on YouTube is massive, and the advertisements don’t interrupt the listening experience like those on Spotify or Pandora do. Plus, Google already offers Google Play All Access, a paid music service that syncs across devices and lets people listen offline, for $9.99 a month.

“Premium” might be the draw for a paid music service. The special content might include exclusive recordings of professional artists’ cover songs, or unreleased tracks similar to iTunes exclusives.

To do that, Google would probably have to strike new licensing deals with music labels. But if YouTube could convert just a tiny fraction of its billion-plus monthly users into paying customers, that might be a win for Google, argues Mark Mulligan, co-founder of the music and technology research firm Midia Consulting.

YouTube claims viewers watch more than 6 billion hours of video each month on its site — almost an hour for every person on Earth — and that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That catalogue is peerless, Mulligan said, but Google probably wants to do more with it in order to take on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music.

“YouTube has the ability to offer so much more than anyone else, with video the killer component,” he said.

 

FCC Extends Deadline For ‘Net Neutrality’ Comments

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. Federal Communications Commission has said it would accept public comments on its proposed new “net neutrality” rules through Sept. 15, giving the American public extra time to voice their opinions and concerns on how they think Internet traffic should be regulated.

The FCC has received more than 1 million comments already on new rules for how Internet services providers should be allowed to manage web traffic on their networks.

The FCC had set a deadline of July 15 for the initial comments and then September 10 for replies to those initial comments. However, the surge in submissions overwhelmed the FCC’s website and the agency had delayed the first deadline by three business days.

“To ensure that members of the public have as much time as was initially anticipated to reply to initial comments in these proceedings, the Bureau today is extending the reply comment deadline by three business days,” the FCC said on Friday, delaying the final deadline for comments to September 15.

 

 

 

Apple Wants To Jumpstart iPad Sales, New Production Begins

August 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc’s suppliers have begun churning out new iPad tablets in an attempt to revive flagging sales of the tablet, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Apple, which was at the forefront of creating the tablet market in 2010 with its first iPad, has seen growth plummet from 2012, as larger phones became more popular and people delayed replacing their tablets.

Mass production of the iPad with a 9.7-inch (24.6-cm) screen has already started, and it is likely to be unveiled by the end of current quarter or early next quarter, Bloomberg said, citing two people familiar with the matter.

A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and is likely to be available by the end of the year, Bloomberg said.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the report.

International Business Machines Corp said in July it would partner exclusively with Apple to sell iPhones and iPads, which could rejuvenate the tablet’s sales by entering into a largely untapped corporate market.

Apple shipped 13.2 million iPads in the June quarter, 8 percent less than a year earlier. Sales of the devices, which accounted for 15 percent of revenue, fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for the second quarter in a row.

 

Nearly One In Six Doctor Visits Will Be Virtual This Year

August 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

With an aging Baby Boomer population and broadband bandwidth continuing to see huge improvements, telemedicine is exploding as a convenient and less costly alternative to the traditional visit to the doctors’ office.

This year in the U.S. and Canada, 75 million of 600 million appointments with general practitioners will involve electronic visits, or eVisits, according to new research from Deloitte.

The overall cost of in-person primary physician visits worldwide is $175 billion, according to Deloitte. Globally, the number of eVisits will climb to 100 million this year, potentially saving over $5 billion when compared to the cost of in-person doctor visits. The eVisit projection represents growth of 400% from 2012 levels, Deloitte’s study showed.

Last November, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) revamped its patient portal, renaming it MyUPMC, and rolling out AnywhereCare, offering patients throughout Pennsylvania eVisits with doctors 24 hoirs a day, seven days a week either over the phone or through video conferencing.

UPMC, an $11 billion health care provider and insurer, with 21 hospitals, and more than 400 outpatient sites, said its AnywhereCare service has an 80% satisfaction rating. Patients love the convenience and speed of remote care, according to Natasa Sokolovich, executive director of telemedicine at UPMC.

“The new model provides a faster turnaround. Within 30 minutes … they have the ability to get access to a healthcare provider,” Sokolovich said.

Electronic visits or telemedicine is comprised of electronic document exchanges, telephone consultations, email or texting, and videoconferencing between physicians and patients.

The vast majority of eVisits, according to Deloitte, are likely to focus on capturing patient information through electronic forms, questionnaires and photos, rather than through direct interaction with a physician using Skype or some other real-time tool.

“For example, patients with symptoms of certain illnesses such as sinusitis, strep throat, allergies, bladder infection or acne would complete an online form and then receive a diagnosis and, if required, a prescription,” Deloitte stated in a recent report.

While not all in-person primary physician consults can be handled by eVisits, even only 30% to 40% implies a $50 to $60 billion total addressable market, according to Deloitte.

 

 

 

New WorldView 3 Satellite To Provide Improved View Of The World

August 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 satellite, scheduled to launch this week, promises to bring vastly upgraded images.

The satellite will be blasted into space on an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday morning in a launch that has extra significance given a recent U.S. government decision to relax rules regarding the resolution of images that can be sold to companies like Google and Microsoft.

At present, commercial satellite operators are prohibited from selling images with a resolution better than 50 centimeters to customers other than the U.S. government, but with the launch of WorldView 3 that’s changing. From early 2015, the limit will be reduced to 30 centimeters, which is a fraction finer than the 31 centimeters that WorldView 3 can manage.

The change should mean better quality images on services like Google Earth and Bing Maps, and will also help DigitalGlobe’s other customers.

“Our imagery is used by a lot of state and local governments for urban planning,” said Kumar Navulur, director of next generation products at DigitalGlobe. He said the images are used to survey things like back yard swimming pools, but that’s not all.

The satellites capture images in visible and infrared light and these latter ones can be used to monitor the environment.

For example, one of the sensors can see the presence of chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants and trees. By monitoring over time, an early warning of disease can be picked up. Trees tend to lose their chlorophyll as they are stressed and Navulur said the satellite’s sensor will detect that long before it’s obvious through color changes visible to the eye.

WorldView 3 adds new sensors that capture eight additional infrared bands, some of them useful to energy companies in the exploration of oil and gas, and to geological research. The satellite should also allow analysts to map not just the presence of trees but the type of tree — something that’s useful when figuring out the benefits of forests on carbon output.

The sensors also allow the company to monitor the presence of water vapor, aerosols, clouds, ice and snow in the sky — something that can be used to perform accurate color correction so images taken under different conditions have a more consistent look.

DigitalGlobe counts the U.S. government as its most important customer. That includes the U.S. military which, even though it has satellites of its own capable of even greater resolution, turns to DigitalGlobe for images that will be shared with allies or the public.

 

YouTube Acquires Directr Video App

August 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s YouTube division has purchased the Directr movie-making app for smartphones and will offer it free of charge.

Directr is an app that businesses can use to shoot videos for marketing purposes, then upload them to Facebook and YouTube, for instance, or embed them in newsletters.

The app provides help with things like frame selection and building a storyboard, to provide “point-and-shoot moviemaking” on a smartphone.

The app was priced at between US$25 and $400 a month, depending on the features and amount of usage. Directr says the app will now be free, though it’s unclear how long it will exist in its current form.

“For now, everything you love about Directr is staying the same and we’ll continue to focus on helping businesses create great video quickly and easily,”Directr said on its website.

“One immediate bonus: Directr will soon be all free, all the time. Thanks, YouTube!”

The 2-year-old company is joining YouTube’s video ads team.

The app is offered today for Apple’s iOS. Google didn’t immediately say if it will build a version for Android, though it seems likely, assuming the app is to continue.

 

Google Lowers Search Ranking Of Websites That Lack Encryption

August 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Websites that do not encrypt connections with their visitors may get a lower ranking on Google’s search engine, a step the company said it is taking to promote better online security practices.

The move is designed to spur developers to implement TLS (Transport Layer Security), which uses a digital certificate to encrypt traffic, signified by a padlock in most browsers and “https” at the beginning of a URL.

As Google scans Web pages, it takes into account certain attributes, such as whether a Web page has unique content, to determine where it will appear in search rankings. It has added the use of https into those signals, although it will be a “lightweight” one and applies to about 1 percent of search queries now, wrote Zineb Ait Bahaji and Gary Illyes, both Google webmaster trends analysts, in a blog post.

All reputable websites use encryption when a person submits their login credentials, but some websites downgrade the connection to an unencrypted one. That means content is susceptible to a so-called man-in-the-middle attack. Content that is not encrypted could be read.

Rolling out https is fairly straightforward for small websites but can be complex for large organizations that run lots of servers, with challenges such as increased latency, support issues with content delivery networks and scaling issues.

LinkedIn said in June it was still upgrading its entire network to https after Zimperium, a security company, found it was possible in some cases to hijack a person’s account. People using LinkedIn in some regions are flipped to an unencrypted connection after they log in, making it possible for a hacker to collect their authentication credentials.

Facebook’s Instagram was found to have the same problem last month. Instagram’s API (application programming interface) makes unencrypted requests to some parts of its network, which could allow a hacker on the same Wi-Fi network to steal a “session cookie,” a data file that reminds Instagram a person has logged in but which grants access to an account.

 

Is Facebook Preparing For Android Wear?

August 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook updated its Android app this week, adding support for smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear software.

Facebook software engineer Ian Lake announced the news – rather bizarrely on Google+ – saying, “I’ve been a big fan of Android Wear since its announcement so one of the things I’ve done quite a bit of at Facebook is ensure that Android Wear is actively considered when adding new features and we take advantage of what features are provided.”

The updated Facebook for Android 9.0 app allows Android smartwatch wearers to embrace their inner David Hasselhoff, having added support for users to voice reply to messages by barking at their wrists. The Android Wear app will also raise notifications on a smartwatche screen, from which a wearer can use to “like” or “reply” with a single tap.

“Really happy to be shipping Android Wear features and even more excited that some of my coworkers are also getting interested about Android Wear,” Lake added.

The updated version of Facebook Messenger is available to download now from Google Play.

Facebook’s addition of Android Wear support comes just days after rival app Whatsapp did exactly the same thing.

Whatsapp’s app tailored for smartwatches allows users to view stacked notifications, reply to messages using voice and respond with a number of preloaded replies, including “yes”, “lol”, or “see you soon”. This is also available to download now, but is available only at the Whatsapp website.

Courtesy-TheInq

Procotol To Speed Up The Web Nears Completion

August 6, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

When it comes to amping up traffic over the Internet, sometimes too much of a good thing may not be such a good thing at all.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is putting the final touches on HTTP/2, the second version of the Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP). The working group has issued a last call draft, urging interested parties to voice concerns before it becomes a full Internet specification.

Not everyone is completely satisfied with the protocol however.

“There is a lot of good in this proposed standard, but I have some deep reservations about some bad and ugly aspects of the protocol,” wrote Greg Wilkins, lead developer of the open source Jetty server software, noting his concerns in a blog item posted Monday.

Others, however, praise HTTP/2 and say it is long overdue.

“A lot of our users are experimenting with the protocol,” said Owen Garrett, head of products for server software provider NGINX. “The feedback is that generally, they have seen big performance benefits.”

First created by Web originator Tim Berners-Lee and associates, HTTP quite literally powers today’s Web, providing the language for a browser to request a Web page from a server.

Version 2.0 of HTTP, based largely on the SPDY protocol developed by Google, promises to be a better fit for how people use the Web.

“The challenge with HTTP is that it is a fairly simple protocol, and it can be quite laborious to download all the resources required to render a Web page. SPDY addresses this issue,” Garrett said.

While the first generation of Web sites were largely simple and relatively small, static documents, the Web today is used as a platform for delivering applications and bandwidth intensive real-time multimedia content.

HTTP/2 speeds basic HTTP in a number of ways. HTTP/2 allows servers to send all the different elements of a requested Web page at once, eliminating the serial sets of messages that have to be sent back and forth under plain HTTP.

HTTP/2 also allows the server and the browser to compress HTTP, which cuts the amount of data that needs to be communicated between the two.

As a result, HTTP/2 “is really useful for organization with sophisticated Web sites, particularly when its users are distributed globally or using slower networks — mobile users for instance,” Garrett said.

 

HP Increases SlateBook 14 Pricing, Begins Shipments

August 5, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Hewlett-Packard’s SlateBook 14 laptop with Google’s Android OS has started shipping on schedule, but it’s priced at $429, which is $30 more than the company had said it would cost.

The laptop, which has a 14-inch screen and Android 4.3, was announced in June. At the time, HP said it would be priced at $399.

It is available on HP’s website.

The SlateBook 14 was introduced after customers told HP they wanted laptops with Android. The laptop has an interface similar to that on Android tablets and can adjust mobile apps to run on the larger touchscreen. Users will also be able to sync laptop data with mobile devices and vice versa.

The laptop is also for those who rely on the Web for most of their computing, much like Chromebooks. It has a few advantages over Chromebooks, with support for key Android apps such as Skype. Android also boasts better wireless printing support than Chromebooks.

The laptop weighs 1.68 kilograms and offers nine hours of battery life, according to specifications on HP’s website.

It has a quad-core Tegra 4 processor, 2GB of DRAM and 16GB of storage. Connectivity features include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It also has a webcam, USB 3.0 port and a micro-SD slot for expandable storage.

It could be a strong multimedia laptop with a 1920 x 1080 pixel screen and an integrated graphics processor that can handle 4K video. TVs can be connected to the laptop through an HDMI port.