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BlackBerry Acquires Mobile Technology Start-up Movirtu

September 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry has purchased a U.K-based mobile technology start-up whose software allows multiple phone numbers on a single device, the Canadian tech firm said on Thursday.

The acquisition of Movirtu helps BlackBerry ramp up its portfolio of services to cater to the needs of its core base of corporate and government clients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Movirtu’s virtual SIM technology allows an individual to have both a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number.

This allows employees to switch between work and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards.

“Clearly this fits nicely within the strategy we have so far articulated. We are building recurring revenue streams in value-added services and providing more value to enterprises,” the head of BlackBerry’s enterprise unit John Sims said in an interview.

Sims said Movirtu’s technology would allow IT administrators for example to restrict calls and emails to a work number after a particular time, without blocking personal calls or emails to the same device.

BlackBerry, which dominated the smartphone market in its infancy, has been reshaping itself over the course of the last year as its devices have lost ground to Apple’s iPhone and a slew of rival devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.

Under the leadership of its new chief executive John Chen, the company has moved rapidly to stabilize itself by selling certain assets, partnering to make its manufacturing and supply chain more efficient, and raising cash via the sale of its real estate holdings.

Chen, a well-regarded turnaround artist in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.

The company has been making small acquisitions in the last few months, as it looks to build out its offerings for so-called enterprise clients made up primarily by large corporations and government agencies that are in many cases still major users of Blackberry devices.

 

4K Television Sales Finally Picking Up Steam

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Approximately 14 million ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K2K television sets have been shipped worldwide in 2014, penetrating 6-7% of the overall TV market, according to WitsView, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.

Chinese vendors, including Skyworth, Changhong and Hisense, have the highest shipment rates. The six largest Chinese brands, which also include Konka, TCL and Haier, will achieve a 13-15% penetration rate in the UHD TV market this year, the firm projects.

The spec of 4K2K TV means 3,840 X 2,160 pixel resolution compared with HD TV, which has a resolution of 1,920 X 1,080. UHD TV has four times the resolution of HDTV.

“China’s six major 4K2K TV brands price their products very competitively,” Anita Wang, a research manager at WitsView, said in a statement. “Other vendors can’t offer such an attractive price proposition.”

Last month, the retail price difference in China between 65-in 4K2K 3D and HD 3D TVs was 32%, but in other markets it was as high as 63%, Wang said. As a result, Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase 4K2K televisions, Wang added.

One of the biggest issues facing the UHD TV market is a lack of “available” content. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of 4K movies and TV shows ready to be streamed to the public. Since 2004, the movie and television industry has been producing 4K content for the digital market.

“Broadcasters will always use the best equipment they can, because they want to be able to archive and repurpose that content in the future. But that’s a long ways from saying they have 4K content in the production chain,” said Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch.

Buying a 4K UHD TV today requires a leap of faith in two ways: You need to believe broadcasters will begin streaming 4K content soon and feel confident that the content will conform to a standard a new UHD TV can decode and process.

“Neither of those things are clear because there are no standards for 4K video,” Gray said.

LCD computer monitors are also starting to become available in UHD and feature attractive price tags, she said. For example, the 28-in 4K2K monitor retailed at an average of just $630 in August. In the coming months, panel makers will continue to introduce new 4K2K monitors in different sizes.

For example, Samsung is expected to launch a 23.6-in model that will be priced lower than the existing 23.8-in model. That will help to further drive down retail prices and stimulate 4K2K monitor demand.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release the 27-in 5K3K high-resolution iMac by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.

 

 

 

Verizon Has A Deal To Offer Free iPhone 6

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications will give customers who trade in an old iPhone a free iPhone 6 in exchange for a two-year contract, the country’s largest wireless carrier announced hours after Apple Inc introduced the widely anticipated device.

The announcement came as critics speculated that Apple’s newest phone, starting at $199 with a two-year contract, would not be competitive as more carriers eliminate contracts and unbundle service charges from the cost of devices.

Analysts say that by making the cost of devices more transparent, equipment financing plans make expensive handsets like the iPhone less appealing. On the other hand, the plans allow customers to pay for devices in installments, making pricy devices like the iPhone more accessible.

Customers who trade in an iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c or 5s in working condition will receive a $200 gift card to pre-order the 16-gigabyte version of the newer model, Verizon said in a statement. The offer does not apply to Apple’s other new phone, the larger iPhone 6 Plus.

Verizon has been more reluctant than competitors to dive into equipment financing, and its promotion indicates its attachment to the older contract model, which binds subscribers to the carrier for a fixed term, said Jan Dawson, analyst at JackDaw Research.

“There is an inherent risk in the shift to installment billing that it creates more loyalty to the device than to the carrier,” said Dawson.

“Verizon sees the value of the two-year contract in that tying a device to a two-year plan can prevent churn,” said Dawson.

He pointed out that new device releases are major factors for subscribers in deciding whether to switch carriers.

As the market for new smartphone customers shrinks, carriers have been competing aggressively for subscribers, slashing prices and engaging in creative promotions to poach each others’ customers.

On Monday, T-Mobile announced it would beat any other major carriers’ trade-in rates and give customers a $50 credit as well.

 

 

Intel Releases Edison

September 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released its Edison chip for wearables at its Intel developer conference (IDF) in California today. The tiny computer is a dual-core Quark system on chip (SoC) Pentium-class x86 processor made using the 22nm process.

The Edison device runs Linux and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth modules. The chip can also connect to its own app store, and has 40 I/Os via a 70-pin connector that lets users do many things without going through a custom board. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Intel said that the module, which has the footprint of an SD card, was to encourage developers to build the next generation of wearable and connected devices now that it is shipping.

All IDF attendees went home with a free Edison developer kit and it will be on sale for $50 retail cost. Like the Galileo board it will be open source so developers can develop it.

“I really hope to see an explosion of innovation around this part, it has everything a person needs and an extension capability to build just about anything you can think of,” he said.

Edison has been developed by Intel to be a simple low-power development platform for people to develop software easily, thus to usher in the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices.

 

 

Courtesy-Fud

Twitter Wading Into Online Shopping Market With ‘Buy’ Button

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is trying out a new way for its users to purchase digital music and other products through the social networking application, with the goal of making mobile shopping easier, the company said in a blog post.

A “small percentage” of U.S. Twitter users will soon begin to see tweets that will include a “buy” button from some of the company’s partners, group product manager Tarun Jain wrote in the blog post published Monday. The percentage of Twitter users seeing the marketing tweets will grow over time, Jain wrote.

“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile phones convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” Jain wrote.

Twitter’s partners in the e-commerce effort include digital marketing companies Musictoday, Gumroad, Fancy and Stripe, Jain said.

The e-commerce test will include products from several musicians, including Brad Paisley, Eminem, Keith Urban, Megadeth, Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden. Other organizations featured will including Burberry, the Home Depot, the Nature Conservancy and DonorsChoose.

 

 

Microsoft Unveils A Re-designed MSN

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has unveiled its complete makeover of the MSN portal that now combines easy access to personal productivity tools and content from a large number of providers.

As the company tries to revive MSN, the focus this time is also on top content from the Web instead of offering original content. For the relaunch, the company has signed up with over 1,300 publishers worldwide including The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalYomiuri, CNN and The Guardian.

A “Services Stripe” at the top of the MSN homepage gives users easy access to personal services including Outlook.com email, OneDrive, Office 365 and Skype, as well as popular third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook, according to an online preview launched by Microsoft on Sunday.

The new MSN also provides “actionable information” and content and personal productivity tools such as shopping lists, a savings calculator, a symptom checker, and a 3D body explorer. Readers will have access to content from 11 sections including sports, news, health and fitness, money, travel and video, wrote Frank Holland, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post.

The company said it has rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The new MSN helps people complete their key digital tasks across all of their devices, wrote Brian MacDonald, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for information and content experiences, in a blog post.

“Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are,” MacDonald added. Users worldwide can try out the new MSN preview.

In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement its corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps. “You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences,” MacDonald wrote.

Microsoft claims an audience of more than 437 million people across 50 countries for MSN.

MSN.com ranks number 26 among the top sites in the U.S., behind Microsoft’s own Bing site, Google’s search site, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo’s portal, according to traffic estimates by Alexa.

 

 

IBM And Intel Move To Improve Cloud Security

September 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM and Intel have announced that SoftLayer will be the first cloud platform to offer customers bare metal service that provides monitoring and security down to the microchip level. The move will tighten up security on cloud based systems just as Apple’s iCloud appeared to be hacked.

The IBM system works with Intel’s Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) which identifies if traffic is coming from a known location using trusted hardware. Intel TXT verifies components of a computing system from its operating system to its boot firmware and hardware and can then permit or deny a workload from running on that select server system. The increased security is also activated during boot up, meaning that it doesn’t add any performance overhead to applications.

It will also will help organizations improve governance, compliance, audit, application security, privacy, identity and access management and incident response.

Mark Jones, chief technology officer for SoftLayer, said that perceived security flaws were the biggest barrier to cloud adoption.

SoftLayer is the only bare-metal cloud platform offering Intel TXT, leading the industry in enabling customers to build hybrid and cloud environments that can be trusted from end-to-end,” he added.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Amazon Slashes Fire Phone Price To Less Than $1

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon drastically reduced the price of its three-month-old Fire Phone to 99 cents, an obvious attempt to boost slow sales.

The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.

Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.

In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.

Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”

StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.

In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.

“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.

“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.

She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.

Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”

 

 

NTT Experimenting With 400Gbps Optical Technology For Internet Backbone

September 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

NTT has successfully tested technology for optical Internet backbone connections capable of transmitting 400Gbps on a single wavelength.

Working with Fujitsu and NEC, the Japanese telecommunications giant verified the digital coherent optical transmission technology for distances of several thousand kilometers to 10,000 km. With it, a single wavelength of light can carry 400 Gbps, four times the capacity of previous systems. Each fiber can carry multiple wavelengths, and many fibers can be bundled into one cable.

The approach could more than double existing capacity to meet ever-increasing bandwidth demand, especially by heavy data users.

The technology could be used in the next generation of backbone links, which aggregate calls and data streams and send them over the high-capacity links that go across oceans and continents. The fiber in the network would stay the same, and only the equipment at either end would need to change.

While the current capacity on such links is up to 8Tbps (terabits per second) per fiber, the new technology would make a capacity of 24Tbps per fiber possible, according to NTT.

“As an example of the data size, 24 Tbps corresponds to sending information contained in 600 DVDs (4.7 GB per DVD) within a second,” an NTT spokesman wrote in an email. “The verification was done using algorithms which are ready to be implemented in CMOS circuits to show that these technologies are practically feasible.”

To compensate for distortions along the optical fiber, researchers from the consortium developed digital backward propagation signal processing with an optimized algorithm. The result of this and other research is that the amount of equipment required for transmissions over long distances can be reduced, meaning the network could consume less electricity.

“We are extremely excited to show this groundbreaking performance surpassing 100 Gbps coherent optical transmission systems,” Masahito Tomizawa, executive manager of consortium leader NTT Network Innovation Labs, wrote in an email. “This new technology maintains the stability and reliability of our current 100 Gbps solutions while at the same time dramatically improving performance.”

The consortium said it is taking steps toward commercialization of the technology on a global scale but would not say when that might happen.

 

 

GM Will Debut Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology In 2016

September 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

General Motors Co will debut in two years its first automobile that can communicate with other vehicles to help avoid accidents and ease traffic congestion, according to Chief Executive Mary Barra.

In the same time frame, GM also will introduce more advanced technology allowing hands-free driving in some cases, she said.

“I’m convinced customers will embrace (vehicle-to-vehicle) and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved,” she said in a text of a speech delivered at a conference here.

Auto companies, academics and government agencies globally are working to develop cameras, sensors, radar and other technologies that allow vehicles and surrounding infrastructure like stoplights to alert each other about nearby driving conditions.

The industry is rolling out such features as adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking and semi-automated, hands-free driving like GM’s ‘Super Cruise’ feature to make roads safer.

However, GM and other automakers have emphasized that even with hands-free driving, drivers will be responsible and need to maintain attention on the road. Meanwhile, Internet search company Google Inc is working to develop fully autonomous vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made developing connected car technologies a high priority, a view shared in Japan and Europe. And when cars can also talk to surrounding infrastructure, the gains will be exponential, Barra said.

However, she said commercializing a fully automated vehicle may take until the next decade.

Congestion causes urban Americans to travel 5.5 billion more hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel each year, she said, citing outside data.

In 2016, GM will sell a 2017 model Cadillac CTS sedan standardly equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology. However, the car can only communicate with similarly equipped vehicles and it will take time for the industry to introduce the technology broadly, GM officials said before Barra’s speech.

They added that U.S. regulators still need to finalize requirements for these technologies and cyber security protections need to be developed.

Also in 2016, GM will roll out Super Cruise as an option allowing hands-free highway driving at both highway and stop-and-go speeds, as well as lane following, speed control and braking in a new, unidentified 2017 Cadillac model in a segment where the company does not currently compete.

 

 

LivePerson Chat Maker Predicts ‘Digital Tsunami’

September 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Chat software provider LivePerson is anticipating major growth after the launch of its new platform that allows businesses to engage online customers more effectively.

With transactions increasingly taking place on computers and mobile devices, retailers and banks are pouring resources into finding ways to make that experience as simple and easy as possible.

“It’s a digital tsunami,” said Eran Vanounou, chief executive of LivePerson Israel. “The big brands understand this big time. They understand they have to create a meaningful connection with consumers, not just a transaction.”

LivePerson, whose 8,000 plus clients include Bank of America and Home Depot, is headquartered in New York, though most operations are handled in Israel.

Its product, among other things, allows businesses to chat with customers and put together online campaigns. It also helps businesses “learn the behavior of online surfers”, Vanounou said, allowing them to better cater to their needs.

The company just finished four years of consecutive quarterly growth, he said. It posted second quarter revenue of $51.1 million, up from $43.2 million a year earlier. It also increased its 2014 outlook to $204-$207 million, from a previous $199-$204 million.

It had a $1.2 million quarterly net loss, compared to $1.8 million in 2013, which Vanounou said stemmed from a $50 million investment in an upgraded, browser-based platform the company is now launching.

“What you saw over the past year and a half, when our stock was up, down and again up now, although the company grew, it took and invested the money in building this platform. A huge investment,” he said.

 

 

Wireless Charging For PCs, Tablets Expected Next Year

September 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Wireless charging will reach PCs in 2015, and laptops will be able to recharge when placed on tables, pads or surfaces supporting power delivery, according to an Intel executive.

In other words, laptop users won’t have to carry power bricks, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group. Skaugen spoke during a webcast keynote Friday at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

In a few years, wireless charging will be common in PCs, much like wireless communications are today, Skaugen said, adding that users will be able to charge mobile devices and PCs at the same time.

“This is a big, big deal. In the next several years you will see hundreds of thousands of charge stations,” Skaugen said. “Intel’s desire is that wireless charging evolve from wearable to the phone to the tablet to the PC.”

Intel is developing circuitry required for wireless charging in laptops. PC makers like Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Panasonic are backing the idea, and more are expected to offer wireless charging in PCs, Skaugen said.

Intel is backing wireless technology from a standards organization called A4WP (Alliance for Wireless Power), whose magnetic resonance technology turns surfaces like tables into wireless charging stations. Intel is developing circuitry for 20 watt to 50 watt wireless charging, which won’t be enough to recharge power hungry large-screen and gaming laptops but will suffice for general-use computers.

A4WP has more than 100 members, with some prominent names among them, including Qualcomm and Samsung.

Wireless charging is part of Intel’s larger plan to free PCs of wire clutter. Intel is working on technologies to eliminate cables for keyboards, mice, monitors and external hard drives.

For example, Intel next year will ship a docking station based on WiGig wireless technology, which will be able to stream 4K images wirelessly to high-definition displays. WiGig is 10 times faster in wireless data transfers than 802.11n, and three times faster than the latest 802.11ac, according to Skaugen.

The WiGig dock could eliminate the need to plug HDMI or DisplayPort cables into laptops. The dock will provide USB 3.0-like data transfer speeds to external storage devices.

 

 

Will Intel’s Smart Braclet Takeoff?

September 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Intel has been showing off a new intelligent fashion bracelet at New York Fashion Week.

Dubbed My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, has glamorous looks as well as 3G cellular connectivity.  It doesn’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.

Designed by Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of fashion house Opening Ceremony, MICA is a cuff-style accessory covered with snakeskin as well as semiprecious stones such as obsidian and lapis, which were important stones in Ancient Egyptian tombs.

It will be available in two styles, one with white snakeskin and the other with black snakeskin, each with different stones.

The 1.6-inch sapphire-glass touchscreen can display SMS messages relayed through the bracelet’s Intel XMM6321 3G cellular radio. It can also display calendar alerts.

No world on price yet, but if you have to ask you can’t afford it. It will be sold through some Barneys and Opening Ceremony stores by the December holiday season.

The MICA bracelet also follows Intel’s acquisition of health-tracking wristband maker Basis Science in March.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel’s Core M Chip Headed To 20 Windows Tablets And Hybrids

September 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel’s new Core M chips — which bring PC-like performance to slim design tablets — will initially be in many Windows 8.1 tablets, but no Android devices are yet on the radar.

The chips will be in five to seven detachable tablets and hybrids by year end, and the number of devices could balloon to 20 next year, said Andy Cummins, mobile platform marketing manager at Intel.

Core M chips, announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin on Friday, are the first based on the new Broadwell architecture. The processors will pave the way for a new class of thin, large-screen tablets with long battery life, and also crank up performance to run full PC applications, Intel executives said in interviews.

“It’s about getting PC-type performance in this small design,” Cummins said. “[Core M] is much more optimized for thin, fanless systems.”

Tablets with Core M could be priced as low as US$699, but the initial batch of detachable tablets introduced at IFA are priced much higher. Lenovo’s 11.6-inch ThinkPad Helix 2 starts at $999, Dell’s 13.3-inch Latitude 13 7000 starts at $1,199, and Hewlett-Packard’s 13.3-inch Envy X2 starts at $1,049.99. The products are expected to ship in September or October.

Core M was also shown in paper-thin prototype tablets running Windows and Android at the Computex trade show in June. PC makers have not expressed interest in building Android tablets with Core M, but the OS can be adapted for the chips, Cummins said.

The dual-core chips draw as little as 4.5 watts, making it the lowest-power Core processor ever made by Intel. The clock speeds start at 800MHz when running in tablet mode, and scales up to 2.6GHz when running PC applications.

The power and performance characteristics make Core M relevant primarily for tablets. The chips are not designed for use in full-fledged PCs, Cummins said.

“If you are interested in the highest-performing parts, Core M probably isn’t the exact right choice. But if you are interested in that mix of tablet form factor, detachable/superthin form factor, this is where the Core M comes into play,” Cummins said.

For full-fledged laptops, users could opt for the upcoming fifth-generation Core processor, also based on Broadwell, Cummins said. Those chips are faster and will draw 15 watts of power or more, and be in laptops and desktops early next year.

New features in Core M curbed power consumption, and Intel is claiming performance gains compared to chips based on the older Haswell architecture. Tablets could offer around two more hours of battery life with Core M.

 

 

Facebook Wants The Whole World On The Internet

September 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is prepared to invest billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview on Friday.

“What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world,” Zuckerberg said at an event in Mexico City hosted by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

“Even if it means that Facebook has to spend billions of dollars over the next decade making this happen, I believe that over the long term its gonna be a good thing for us and for the world.”

Around 3 billion people will have access to the Internet by the end of 2014, according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics. Almost half that, 1.3 billion people, use Facebook.

Facebook, the world’s largest social networking company, launched its Internet.org project last year to connect billions of people without Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia by working with phone operators.

“I believe that … when everyone is on the Internet all of our businesses and economies will be better,” Zuckerberg said.