Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday debuted what it said was the first smartwatch capable of making and receiving calls without a mobile phone nearby, in the South Korean firm’s latest effort to find a new growth driver.
The world’s biggest smartphone maker has been pushing hard to develop the wearable devices market as it looks to counter slowing earnings in its mobile division, which led to weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.
Samsung is hardly alone in pushing wearables, which have yet to catch on with consumers. Rival Apple Inc is expected to launch its own device this year and LG Electronics Inc on Thursday announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and leather strap.
Samsung’s new smartwatch, called the Gear S, differs from its predecessors with a bigger 2-inch (5 cm) curved display and offers features like WiFi connectivity, pedestrian navigation and a built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung’s nascent Tizen operating system.
Samsung said the Gear S will start selling from October. It did not give details on pricing or where it will be available.
LG said its G Watch R will launch in key markets in the fourth quarter, without indicating a price.
Bitcoin is gaing greater acceptance at U.S. online merchants including Overstock.com and Expedia, as customers use a digital currency that just a few years ago was virtually unknown but is now showing some staying power.
Though sales paid for in bitcoin so far at vendors interviewed for this article have been a fraction of one percent, they expect that as acceptance grows, the online currency will one day be as ubiquitous as the internet.
“Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere; it’s here to stay,” said Michael Gulmann, vice president of global products at Expedia Inc. in Seattle, the largest online travel agent. “We want to be there from the beginning.” Expedia started accepting bitcoin payments for hotel bookings on July 11.
Until recently a niche alternative currency touted by a fervent group of followers, bitcoin has evolved into a software-based payment online system. Bitcoins are stored in a wallet with a unique identification number and companies like Coinbase and Blockchain can hold the currency for the user.
When buying an item from a merchant’s website, a customer simply clicks on the bitcoin option and a pop-in window appears where he can type in his wallet ID number.
Still, broad-based adoption of bitcoin is at least five years away because most consumers still prefer to use credit cards, analysts said.
“Bitcoin is a new way of making payments, but it’s not solving a problem that’s broken,” said George Peabody, payments consultant at Glenbrook Partners in Menlo Park, California. “Retail payments aren’t broken.”
There are also worries about bitcoin’s volatility: its price in U.S. dollars changes every day.
That risk is borne by the consumer and the bitcoin payment processor, such as Coinbase or Bitpay, not the retailer. The vendor doesn’t hold the bitcoin and is paid in U.S. dollars. As soon as a customer pays in bitcoin, the digital currency goes to the payment processor and the processor immediately pays the merchant, for a fee of less than 1 percent.
“We don’t have to deal with the actual holding of the bitcoin: it’s the payment processor that takes the currency risk for us,” said Bernie Han, chief operating officer at Dish Network Corp, in Englewood, Colorado. “That’s what makes it appealing for us and I guess for other merchants as well.”
VMware has released its Workplace Suite — a combined platform to deploy and manage applications and desktops from the cloud to laptops, smartphones, tablets, or whatever. The suite comes as part of a partnership with Google and NVIDIA, VMware has been showing the world the ability for VMware Workplace Suite to stream even graphics-intensive Windows applications to Google Chromebooks.
VMware is billing this as an initiative to bring data and applications closer to the places users actually want to access them. VMware CTO Ben Fathi said that the new VMware Workplace Suite takes advantage of three existing VMware products: Tools for application, device, and content management as well as secure cloud file storage that comes from the January acquisition of enterprise mobile management company AirWatch. It also has bits of VMware Horizon for desktop-as-a-service; and the acquisition CloudVolumes for app delivery.
VMware claims it can deliver a consistent experience across platforms with a single sign-on for end-users across as many apps as IT wants to administrate. VMware is pushing the hybrid cloud model hard, and is talking about deployment across a company’s internal data centre and the vCloud Air platform.
The net benefit of a hybrid deployment would be to keep your VMware Workplace Suite closer to any on-premises data silos like SharePoint or SAP while still getting cloud scalability. The target of the software would be the health industry, where a doctor may have to move between offices and hospitals without access to their same application.
Google and Nvidia takes advantage of a Chromebook’s internal Nvidia GPU and the grid graphics cloud. VMware also showed off something called Project Meteor, which the company claims is an industry first, “next generation” solution for delivering a full virtual desktop-as-a-service to any HTML5 browser. This will mean you can have the same desktop across multiple devices.
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.
Seagate has become the first disk drive maker to ship an 8TB hard drive.
The 3.5in SATA3 hard drive is designed for data centers and servers with an eye to cloud content and backup disaster recovery storage. It comes with multi-disc RV tolerance to bolster performance.
“As our world becomes more mobile, the number of devices we use to create and consume data is driving an explosive growth in unstructured data. This places increased pressure on cloud builders to look for innovative ways to build cost-effective, high capacity storage for both private and cloud-based data centres,” said Seagate VP of marketing Scott Horn, citing the new drive as what the world has been waiting for.
The higher capacity, the company believes, will lead to lower maintenance bills and will reduce the watt per gigabyte ratio, while also offering a low cost price per gigabyte. It can also be used to maximise the amount of storage achievable in the minimum floor space, an important consideration in increasingly crowded server rooms.
This year has seen some major breakthroughs in hard drive capacity, with the announcement of the 10,000RPM HGST C10K1800 and the Optimus Max, the first 4TB SSD drive from Sandisk, as parity between the capacities and pricing of the two storage types begins to converge.
Earlier this year, QNAP adapted its hardware to accept the 6TB HGST Ultrastar He6, a drive filled with helium in order to enable increasing its capacity and performance.
Full specifications and pricing on Seagate’s 8TB hard drive are yet to be announced, but it will be shipping to selected customers immediately, with wider availability next quarter.
Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.
The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”
According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.
Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.
Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.
This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.
In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.
Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.
Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.
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.
National Security Agency (NSA) has its own homegrown search engine that it offers to similarly minded US intelligence outfits.
Website the Intercept was first to report this and attributes its news to information provided by whistleblowers. It said that the search engine is shared with a number of other US organisations and institutions.
The search tool is called ICREACH, according to the report, and has been available and in use for some years.
Documents gathered by the Intercept show the system in use in 2007, and calls the information that it offers “wholesale sharing”. The news website reports that the system is capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, and makes sense of email, phone call, fax, internet and text message metadata. It can also share location information culled from mobile phones.
“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the US Intelligence Community,” (IC) the report notes.
“This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”
We asked the NSA to comment on this, and it said that intelligence sharing is an important security feature and has been for some time.
“The appropriate and prudent sharing of information is a pillar of the post-9/11 Intelligence Community (IC),” the NSA said. According to the spy agency, the US Congress and two US administrations have requested that data and information not get “stove-piped” within separate US intelligence agencies.
“By allowing other IC organisations to query legally collected foreign-intelligence repositories of appropriately minimised data, analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC agencies. The highest priority of the Intelligence Community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyse and understand information related to potential threats to our national security,” the NSA said.
It’s unknown whether Microsoft discounted the Surface 2 to clear inventory before it discontinues the tablet, in preparation for a successor, or simply to move a slow-selling product.
A clue may be in the length of the limited-time sale: Microsoft said that the reduced prices were good from Aug. 24 to Sept. 27, or “while supplies last,” and set the maximum number of devices per customer at a generous five.
Intriguingly, Microsoft is to host a press event on Sept. 30 to unveil the next edition of Windows, code named “Threshold” but perhaps officially to be called “Windows 9.” Rumors have circulated that Windows RT will also be revamped to drop the desktop mode and/or to add support for the pen bundled with the Surface Pro 3.
If those claims are accurate, the Sept. 30 event would be a perfect time to tout a revamped Windows RT and unveil replacements for the Surface 2.
Microsoft cut prices by $100 for each of the three Surface 2 models it sells: two Wi-Fi only tablets with 32GB or 64GB of storage, and a 64GB device that can connect to a cellular data network at LTE speeds.
The lowest-priced 32GB Surface 2 is now priced at $349, a 22% discount, while the 64GB tablet now costs $449, an 18% reduction. The sole LTE model, now $579, received a 15% price cut.
Microsoft’s Surface 2 is powered by Windows RT 8.1, the touch-centric, tile-interface that runs only “Modern,” nee “Metro,” apps. Windows RT cannot handle legacy Windows applications.
The Surface 2 was the follow-up to the disastrous Surface RT, the tablet which sold in such small volume — and which Microsoft built in such large numbers — that the company was forced to take a $900 million write-off in mid-2013.
Although the Surface Pro 2, which went on sale alongside the Surface 2 in October 2013, was updated to the Surface Pro 3 in May of this year, the Surface 2 has not been refreshed since its launch.
At its new price, the 32GB Surface 2, which boasts a 10.6-in. display, costs less than Apple’s entry-level 16GB iPad Mini with a 7.9-in. Retina-quality screen. That iPad Mini lists at $399.
Microsoft is selling the re-priced Surface 2 on its online store.
The operating system, which Xinhua did not name, will be initially offered on desktop PCs, with the plan to later extend it to smartphones. The news service cited a report in the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, a trade paper run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the agency responsible for, among other things, the regulation and development of China’s software industry.
“We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores,” Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the trade paper, according to a translation by Reuters on Sunday.
Ni leads an official operating system development alliance established in March by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, Ni cited the end of Windows XP support and the ban on Windows 8 on government computers as giving domestic OS developers an opening.
Earlier this year, China officials banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, a move triggered by the end of Windows XP’s support in April. Before that, authorities had blasted Microsoft for halting security updates to the 13-year-old OS.
Historically, China has been a stronghold of Windows XP, in large part because of massive piracy of Microsoft’s software.
China has long been at odds with foreign technology firms, particularly Microsoft and Google — but also at times with Apple — over their impact and influence in the country. But that animus increased significantly last month when government antitrust regulators raided several Microsoft offices, seizing computers and documents in a first step of an investigation. The probe had been prompted by complaints lodged since July 2013 about how Windows and Microsoft Office are bundled, about Windows-Office compatibility and about other unnamed concerns.
The People’s Post and Telecommunications News‘ story (Chinese language version) cited by Xinhua ran on Thursday, and provided more detail about the domestic OS plans.
Ni spelled out a timeline that could replace foreign operating systems on the desktop in one to two years, then in three to five years expand to mobile devices. Private industry, Ni added, may co-fund development of the home-grown OS.
“Creating an environment that allows us to compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft, that is our key to success,” Ni said.
China has worked on a its own OS before: In 2000, Red Flag Linux, which was funded in part by the government’s Ministry of Information, was released. Later that year, Red Flag was mandated as the replacement for Windows 2000 on all government PCs. Tensions at the time between China’s government and Microsoft were at the root of that order.
While the in-house platform is initially planned to replace ads supplied by Google Inc on Amazon’s own website, the new system could challenge Google and Microsoft Corp’s advertising business in the future, the newspaper cited the people as saying.
Amazon’s system would resemble Google’s AdWords, and is planned to make it easier for marketers to reach the company’s users, the newspaper reported the people as saying.
The retailer is also building a tool that would help advertising agencies buy in bulk for thousands of advertisers, the Journal said, citing the people.
Amazon is known as a sleeping giant in the ad industry because it has rich consumer data but has been tentative about using it for a lot of advertising.
The company already has an advertising service it employs chiefly on its own website.
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Linux Foundation has announced an online certification programme for entry-level system admininstration and advanced Linux software engineering professionals to help expand the global pool of Linux sysadmin and developer talent.
The foundation indicated that it established the certification programme because there’s increasing demand for staff in the IT industry, saying, “Demand for experienced Linux professionals continues to grow, with this year’s Linux Jobs Report showing that managers are prioritizing Linux hires and paying more for this talent.
“Because Linux runs today’s global technology infrastructure, companies around the world are looking for more Linux professionals, yet most hiring managers say that finding Linux talent is difficult.”
Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin said, “Our mission is to address the demand for Linux that the industry is currently experiencing. We are making our training [programme] and Linux certification more accessible to users worldwide, since talent isn’t confined to one geography or one distribution.
“Our new Certification [Programme] will enable employers to easily identify Linux talent when hiring and uncover the best of the best. We think Linux professionals worldwide will want to proudly showcase their skills through these certifications and that these certificates will become a hallmark of quality throughout our industry.”
In an innovative departure from other Linux certification testing offered by a number of Linux distribution vendors and training firms, the foundation said, “The new Certification [Programme] exams and designations for Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) will demonstrate that users are technically competent through a groundbreaking, performance-based exam that is available online, from anywhere and at any time.”
The exams are customised somewhat to accommodate technical differences that exist between three major Linux distributions that are characteristic of those usually encountered by Linux professionals working in the IT industry. Exam takers can choose between CentOS, openSUSE or Ubuntu, a derivative of Debian.
“The Linux Foundation’s certification [programme] will open new doors for Linux professionals who need a way to demonstrate their know-how and put them ahead of the rest,” said Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth.
Those who want to look into acquiring the LFCS and LFCE certifications can visit the The Linux Foundation website where it offers the exams, as well as training to prepare for them. The exams are priced at $300, but apparently they are on special introductory offer for $50.
The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development. It is supported by a diverse roster of almost all of the largest IT companies in the world except Microsoft.
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.
Credit and debit card information belonging to customers made purchases at 51 UPS Store Inc. locations in 24 states this year may have been illegally accessed as the result of an intrusion into the company’s networks.
In a statement on Wednesday, UPS said it was recently notified by law enforcement officials about a “broad-based malware intrusion” of its systems.
A subsequent investigation by an IT security firm showed that attackers had installed previously unknown malware on systems in more than four-dozen stores to gain access to cardholder data. The affected stores represent about 1% of the 4,470 UPS Store locations around the country.
The intrusion may have exposed data on transactions conducted at the stores between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11, 2014. “For most locations, the period of exposure to this malware began after March 26, 2014,” UPS said in a statement.
In addition to payment card information, the hackers also appear to have gained access to customer names, as well as postal and email addresses.
Each of the affected locations is individually owned and runs private networks that are not connected to other stores, UPS added. The company provided alist of affected locations.
The breach is the third significant one to be disclosed in the past week. Last Thursday, grocery store chain Supervalu announced it had suffered a malicious intrusion that exposed account data belonging to customers who had shopped at about 180 of the company’s stores in about a dozen states. The breach also affected customers from several other major grocery store chains for which Supervalu provides IT services.
Norwegian software maker Opera inked a deal to take over the browser building unit of Microsoft’s Nokia cellular phone unit and reported second-quarter earnings above expectations on Thursday, sending it shares sharply higher.
“We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft. We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia,” Opera Chief Executive Lars Boilsesen said. “This means that Opera Mini will become the default browser for Microsoft’s feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product lines.”
The deal will be profitable from the start, he added.
“All the current user base will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini and all the new phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as a default browser. This is a great deal for us. We have dreamed of this for more than 10 years.”
In a separate statement, Opera said the licensing agreement applies to mobile phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms.
“As part of the agreement, people who use the current browser for these phones, Xpress, will be encouraged to upgrade to the latest Opera Mini browser. Factory-new devices will have Opera Mini pre-installed.”