Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Is Toshiba Going To Split?

December 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled Japanese outfit Toshiba is considering splitting off part of its chip business in a bid to help it raise the cash it lost on its accounting scandal.

Toshiba needs a restructuring after revealing a number of unprofitable businesses which were hidden by some creative accounting. It agreed in October to sell its image sensor business to Sony. However it has been placed on a Tokyo Stock Exchange watch list and the outfit faces difficulty raising funds through the sale of shares or bonds.

Chief executive Masashi Muromachi told a news conference he was considering flogging every asset possible. NAND flash memory chips was a core business and would not be sold, which effectively leaves system LSI and discrete chips as options to split off.

The semiconductor business requires continuous investment to maintain its competitiveness against rivals such as Samsung Electronics and the thought is that when the bank manager is not returning your calls it is best to cut back on it. Some of Toshiba’s chips end up under the bonnet of the smartphones designed by the fruity cargo cult Apple.

Tosh already announced that it was flogging of its Malaysian chip assembly unit to US-based Amkor Technology as part of its strategy to consolidate chip operations. At the time it hinted of a big restructuring, but not an actual sell off its chipmaking empire.



BlackBerry Leaving Pakistan Over Government Surveillance Demands

December 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry has decided to exit Pakistan after Dec. 30, rather than let the local government intercept communications on its enterprise services.

The Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES email and BES BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) message, BlackBerry’s Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard wrote in a blog post on Monday.

BlackBerry has been under pressure in many countries including neighboring India to provide access to data on its enterprise services to law enforcement.

“We do not support ‘back doors’ granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world,” Beard wrote.

BlackBerry’s move is a response to a reported July notification by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to the country’s mobile phone operators that BlackBerry’s BES servers would not be allowed to operate in the country from December “for security reasons.”

The company had earlier on Monday said it would quit Pakistan on Nov. 30, but later said it was postponing by a month because of a delay by Pakistan of its shutdown order to Dec. 30. There are also indications that the two sides may arrive at a compromise. PTA spokesman Khurram Ali Mehran said the agency is still in contact with BlackBerry “to find out a solution.”

“Although the Pakistani government’s directive was aimed only at our BES servers, we have decided to exit the market altogether, because Pakistan’s demand for open access to monitor a significant swath of our customers’ communications within its borders left us no choice but to exit the country entirely,” Beard wrote.

Civil rights group Bytes for All, Pakistan posted on its site in July a leaked document of minutes of a PTA meeting, which advised operators Pakistan Mobile Company (Mobilink), Pakistan Telecom Mobile (Ufone) and Telenor Pakistan to ensure that all BES connections are closed on or before Nov. 30, 2015. The document cited “serious security concerns.”





Dyreza Trojan Appears To Be Targeting Windows 10

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A infectious banking trojan has been updated so that it supports financial mayhem on the freshly baked Windows 10 operating system and supporting Microsoft Edge browser.

Microsoft reckons that Windows 10 is installed on over 100 million machines, and this suggests prime picking for people who deploy banking trojans, not to mention the fact that most people will still be getting used to the software and its services and features.

The newest edition to the Windows 10 spectrum is a variant of the Zeus banking malware known as Dyreza. It is related to Dyre, a threat that we reported on earlier this year.

The warning at the time was that as many as one in 20 online banking users could be exposed to the threat, and things look as bad this time around. Heimdal Security said in a blog post that the malware has been strengthened in scale and capability.

“The info-stealer malware now includes support for Windows 10. This new variant can also hook to Microsoft Edge to collect data and then send it to malicious servers,” said the post.

“Moreover, the new Dyreza variant kills a series of processes linked to endpoint security software in order to make its infiltration in the system faster and more effective.”

The threat already has a footprint, and the people behind it have increased it. Heimdal said that, once Dyreza is done with your bank account, it will move you into position on a botnet. The firm estimates that this botnet is currently 80,000-strong.

“By adding support for Windows 10, the Dyreza malware creators have cleared their way to growing the number of infected PCs in their botnet. This financial trojan doesn’t only drain the infected computers of valuable data, it binds them into botnets,” said Heimdal.



Will Microsoft Debut A Lumia Business Phone Next Year?

November 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft surprised the world when its new phone range failed to contain anything to interest business users – now it seems it is prepared to remedy that.

Microsoft promised that its Lumia range would cover the low end, business and enthusiast segments but while the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 650 should cover the low-end segment as well nothing has turned up for business users.

This was odd, given that business users want phones that play nice with their networks, something that Redmond should do much better than Google or Apple.

Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood told the UBS Global Technology Conference that business versions of the Lumia were coming. She said:

“We launched a Lumia 950 and a 950 XL. They’re premium products, at the premium end of the market, made for Windows fans. And we’ll have a business phone, as well.”

There were no details, but we have been hearing rumours of a Surface phone being sighted on benchmarks. It was thought that his would be a Microsoft flagship, but with the launch of the Lumia 950/950 XL, it is possible that this Surface phone could be aimed at the business user. The word Surface matches nicely with Microsoft’s Surface Pro branding.




Mobile OS Sailfish Continues To Struggle, Layoffs Loom

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

With Android and iOS controlling most of the mobile operating system market, it’s tough going for alternatives like Sailfish, now in survival mode as its maker, Jolla, moves to lay off a large part of its workers.

The first smartphone with the Linux-based OS shipped at the end of 2013. Adoption of Sailfish has been weak, however, and Jolla is selling only one smartphone model, via the company’s website, for about $303. It’s a Jolla-branded phone, made by a third-party contract manufacturer. A tablet is also available for preorder.

Jolla is restructuring debt in its home country, Finland, after a round of funding fell through. The company announced Friday that it will lay off “a big part” of its staff, without giving many details of future plans. The company did say it would be tailoring the OS to fit the needs of different clients, and that it has several “major and smaller potential clients.” It also said Sailfish is stable and ready for licensing.

For analysts, Jolla’s collapse wasn’t a surprise. In a copycat market, Sailfish offers cool customization features, for example. But it doesn’t have the backing of device makers or carriers, which is crucial for survival.

The China market was a big focus for Jolla, but Xiaomi took the country by storm with end-to-end offerings including OS, user interface and hardware, along with the creation of a developer ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Many alternative mobile OSes like Ubuntu, Firefox, WebOS, Blackberry and others are in the same boat as Sailfish, trying to find a niche in a market ruled by Apple and Google. The biggest competitor to Android and iOS is Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which had just a 1.7 percent market share in mobile handsets, with 5.87 million units shipping during the third quarter this year, according to Gartner.

A Gartner analyst said Windows Phone could find adopters in the enterprise market. But Jolla doesn’t have the resources of Microsoft, of course, and this raises questions about the future of Sailfish.





IBM Introduces New Technology For Data Protection

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

At the beginning of the year IBM announced Identity Mixer, a new technology for protecting users’ personal data during authentication. On Friday, it announced that the technology is now available to developers on its Bluemix cloud platform.

It’s common for apps to require that users prove their identity and other credentials, but all too often that authentication process exposes a raft of unnecessary and potentially sensitive personal information along the way.

To access an online streaming-movie service’s app, for example, users might have to prove that they have a paid subscription and are over 18 years old. Traditionally, that would mean revealing their full date of birth along with assorted other personal details that aren’t necessary for the proof, such as first and last name, address, etc.

When a breach happens, there’s all that much more potentially sensitive information exposed.

Identity Mixer is designed to protect users’ privacy by focusing just on the essentials of the proof. Thanks to a set of algorithms based on cryptography work done at IBM Research, the tool allows developers to build apps that can authenticate users’ identities using what’s known as a “zero-knowledge proof” that collects no personal data.

Specifically, Identity Mixer authenticates users by asking them to provide a public key. Each user has a single secret key, and it corresponds with multiple public keys, or identities. Each transaction a user makes receives a different public key and leaves no privacy “breadcrumbs.”

So, in the streaming service example, users would have both identity and subscription credentials stored in a personal Credential Wallet. To access a movie, they could use that electronic wallet to prove that they’re entitled to watch the selected content without having to expose any other details.

The result, according to IBM, is that users’ privacy is better preserved, and the service provider is spared the need to protect and secure all that extraneous data.




Apple Acknowledges Issue With iPad Pro

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Some iPad Pro owners have reported strange behavior in their new 12.9-inch tablets. Normally when you charge a device, unless the battery has completely died, the screen remains responsive. But some iPad Pros are completely freezing, then dying, after a recharge. The problem appears to be widespread — Apple’s support communities are filled with complaints about the issue.

Apple knows about the problem, but hasn’t said why it’s happening. There doesn’t seem to be a real fix for it, either — at least not yet. The company published a support document on Thursday advising Pro users to force restart their tablets to bring them back to life, but that’s not really a long-term solution, because the issue is ongoing.

“When I connect my iPad Pro to the charger for more than an hour, it goes dead,” one iPad Pro owner reported in the Apple support forum. “It takes multiple hard resets to bring it back to life.”

MacRumors first reported the iPad Pro issue last Monday, just days after the supersized tablets began shipping, and even experienced the problem with one of its own tablets. Apple employees are reportedly advising a range of solutions, from using iTunes to restore settings to performing a hard restart, as Apple is now officially recommending.

We’ll update this story when Apple pushes out a fix for the problem.


Samsung Debuts 10nm FinFET S-RAM

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung appears to have stolen a march on Intel and TSMC by coming up with a 10-nano FinFET processed S-RAM

According to Electronic Times Intel and TSMC’s products are still being processed at 14-nano and 16-nano so Samsung’s 10-nano S-RAM, will open the way for a generation of Giga-Smartphones. S-RAM is faster than D-RAM and is used for CPU’s cache memory.

It means that Samsung’s 10-nano technology will be mass-produced on full-scale in early 2017. The theory is that 10-nano AP will combine Gigabyte modem chips into one faster chip.

Samsung is showing its plans to the ISSCC. They will have a 128 Megabyte (MB) capacity and a cell area of 0.040 µm2. This compares to the 14-nano S-RAM (0.064 µm2) that Samsung Electronics introduced in the past, its cell area is reduced by 37.5 per cent.

In an ISSCC scientific paper, Samsung said that it built a large-scale fast cache memory in the smallest area. An AP for a smartphone with S-RAM, can minimize Die’s area and improve its performance.

All this means that Samsung Electronics has surpassed Taiwan’s TSMC and developed the next-generation system semiconductor.

Intel postponed its schedule for developing next-generation 10-nano system semiconductor from 2016 to 2017 due to increase of production costs. Samsung Electronics is targeting end of next for commercialising 10-nano processing.

Samsung Electronics has also developed 14-nano flat-surface NAND-Flash, and this is also first ever in industries. Toshiba, Micron and others have announced that after they finish developing 15 to 16-nanos, they are giving up on flat-surface NAND-Flash.

It had been thought that 14-nano NAND-Flash, which reduces area of Floating Gate by about 12.5% compared to 16-nano, will greatly contribute to Samsung Electronics in reducing production cost of NAND by reducing Silicon Die’s area.



Facebook Testing Work Chat App For Businesses

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was developing a work-focused version of its social networking tools to try and convert its consumer success into a new stream of revenue from businesses.

On Friday, the company continued that push by quietly launching its new Work Chat app for Android, which lets users message workmates using an interface that’s almost identical to Facebook Messenger. Users can send messages to individuals or groups of co-workers, and include cute stickers to punctuate their point.

Work Chat also lets users place voice calls to colleagues in their network. As with Messenger, those calls use Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection rather than the telephone network, but it should connect coworkers without requiring them to use a shared telephone directory or make international calls.

The app is available for download on the Google Play Store, but people can only log into it if they have a Facebook at Work account. The only way to have one of those is to work for a company that Facebook has allowed into the private testing of its new enterprise-focused tools. According to an article from TechCrunch, 300 companies are testing the enterprise social network, and the company plans to launch it officially by the beginning of next year.

Facebook at Work will be a major entry by the social networking company into the crowded space of business collaboration. It’s going head-to-head with established players like Microsoft’s Yammer and upstarts like Slack.



Qualcomm May Be Facing Anti-Trust Issues Abroad

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm can’t really get a lucky break anywhere. The chipmaker has just confirmed that it is facing an anti-trust probe in South Korea.

The company said it had recently received the Korea Fair Trade Commission’s staff-generated case examiner’s report (ER), which starts a process that allows Qualcomm to defend itself.

It seems that the allegation is that the company’s practice of licensing patents only at the device level and requiring that its chip customers be licensed to its intellectual property violate South Korean competition law.

“The ER alleges, among other things, that we do not properly negotiate aspects of our licenses,” Qualcomm said in a statement.

The investigation by the South Korean authorities was first reported in February, but no one confirmed it.

Qualcomm has faced investigations about its business and licensing practices in the U.S. and in the European Commission. It said in February it had settled with China’s National Development and Reform Commission in connection with the agency’s investigation of Qualcomm under the country’s anti-monopoly law.

In China Qualcomm had to pay a fine of $975 million and not condition the sale of baseband chips on the chip customer signing a license agreement with terms that the NDRC found to be unreasonable.

Qualcomm would also offer licenses to its current 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents separately from licenses to its other patents, and present a patent list during negotiations. Under the deal, the company also agreed to calculate royalty fees on 65 percent of the net selling price of the device.

The company on Tuesday defended device-level licensing as an industry norm worldwide and said its patent licensing practices were “lawful and pro-competitive
Samsung, LG and Pantech are key Qualcomm customers in South Korea.

The KFTC in 2009 ordered Qualcomm to pay $208 million for allegedly charging discriminatory royalties and offering conditional rebates in connection with its CDMA technology.



Sprint Introduces New ‘Half Off’ Rate Plan

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint has introduced a new simplified wireless plan offering 50% off competitors’ rates — part of an effort to lure consumers to try its faster LTE Plus network, which promises speeds of 128Mbps or more.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the costs of the new program will be more than offset by revenues from new customers. “There’s absolutely no way anybody can beat this offer,” he said during a briefing with reporters.

Sprint, the nation’s fourth largest carrier with about 59 million customers, has said it must cut up to $2 billion or more in operating expenses for the next fiscal year starting in April and will eliminate thousands of jobs to do so.

Even against that dreary backdrop, Claure said the new rate plan will bring in more customers. He didn’t indicate how many more are expected.

“There’s been a lot of skepticism on our network and the only way to convince them is to have them try,” he said. “Rest assured, we’ve done sufficient analysis and this is very accretive to Sprint” profits.

Sprint’s newest deal allows customers to take 50% off the price of most Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile rate plans. The only rate plan excluded is T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan, which costs $90 a month. Sprint will still offer a $70-a-month unlimited data plan.

Businesses are not included in the deal, a spokeswoman said.

The offer goes into effect for activations beginning this Friday, Nov. 20 until Jan. 7, 2016; the 50% off deal remains in effect until Jan. 8, 2018. Claure said that with a free tablet and a free year of service, along with the half-off pricing, “that’s the bet we’re making” to get new customers.





Survey Says Amazon Is Top Destination For Online Holiday Shopping

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A majority of U.S. consumers plan to go to for most of their online holiday shopping, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, even after traditional retailers have collectively spent billions of dollars to try to capture Web demand.

The survey of 3,426 adults conducted from November 12 to 18 found that 51 percent plan to do most of their online shopping at Amazon this holiday season, compared to 16 percent at Walmart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy’s.

A little more than a quarter of respondents said they would use another retailer not listed in the poll.

The poll underscored the hurdles that traditional retailers faced in expanding online. Their own sales data this week showed that such efforts were falling short.

Target Corp said on Wednesday its digital sales grew 20 percent in the latest quarter, missing its expectations for a 30 percent gain. The discount retailer cited weakness in electronics demand.

A day earlier, Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported quarterly online sales growth of 10 percent, slower than its target growth in the mid-to-high-teens this fiscal year. Wal-Mart pointed to sluggish market conditions in China, Britain and Brazil, and said it fared better in the United States.

In contrast, Inc had posted a 28 percent jump in North American sales in its quarterly report last month.

“The Big Kahuna that continues to grab market share is Amazon,” said Craig Johnson, head of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. “Both Wal-Mart and to some extent Target have simply not kept pace enough.”

Johnson added that sluggish spending overall contributed to the weaker-than-expected online sales at Target and Wal-Mart, which also faced increased competition from other online retailers, such as Wayfair Inc.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 8 percent of adults said they plan to shop only online this year, compared to 6 percent a year earlier. The proportion of respondents who said they would shop mostly online remained steady at 17 percent.

All major retailers are investing in e-commerce.

Miles Can Be Used For In-flight Wifi Says United

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

United Airlines will begin allowing travelers to redeem frequent-flier miles for Wifi on flights, company officials said.

United, the second-largest U.S. airline by capacity, began testing a web portal on Thursday that lets customers use award miles to access the Internet on their laptops, tablets and smartphones, making it the first U.S. carrier with the feature, a spokesman said.

It hopes to roll out the portal to most U.S. domestic flights by early 2016 and to finish installations on international flights by mid-summer. Regional jets that United contracts for its United Express brand will get the portal later.

The move reflects an ongoing push in the airline industry to treat frequent-flier miles like a currency. Travelers already can redeem miles on U.S. carriers for hotel rooms, theater tickets, goods such as cameras and even identity theft monitoring.

This also marks United’s latest move to win over customers since Oscar Munoz took over as chief executive of parent United Continental Holdings Inc in September.

Munoz has solicited feedback from travelers on how to improve the airline, ranked the lowest in customer satisfaction of the largest North American carriers, according to J.D. Power’s 2015 ranking.

The team overseeing the sale of extra services such as Wifi is now focused on improving travelers’ experience more than maximizing revenue, United’s Vice President of eCommerce and Merchandising Scott Wilson said in an interview.

“There is a bias towards promoting that type of thinking. It’s always existed, but maybe where it was more balanced, it’s shifted a little bit,” he said.




Samsung Sells LCD Business

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung has sold a large LCD display operation in order to concentrate full time on OLED-based products.

A report in Business Korea says that the facility in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, has shut down its L5 line, the fifth generation of LCD displays, and begun selling the equipment to other manufacturers.

The age of the equipment meant it was only suitable for notebook and small monitor displays. With OLED now rolling out in phones such as the recent Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and big-screen TVs, it seems that the company has decided to make a break with the past.

The Korean manufacturer sold off its fourth generation production line to a Chinese company last year. A spokesman for Samsung Display confirmed: “The company shut down the L5 line last month and is seeking companies that are willing to acquire idle equipment.”

Although the equipment and the products it produces may seem outdated, there is still a huge market for this stuff in lower end electronics. Some analysts believe that there are tens of billions of Korean Won in any sale. Ten billion Won is about £5.6m, which doesn’t sound nearly as much but is still better than poke in the eye.

The Cheonan factory is likely to be converted to make OLED products, with talk of deals for AMOLED phone displays for Huawei and even an acceleration of its on-again-off-again Ernie and Bert relationship with Apple said to be at the heart of the decision to ramp up production.

Samsung still operates three LCD production lines, but analysts question if this is the beginning of a move to OLED production only, and if so, what effect that will have on the company as demand for cheaper LCD screens continues to grow, with production ramping up in China.

Samsung has lost market share in the end user market with recent Galaxy products failing to sell as well as their predecessors. As such these component deals are the lifeblood of the business, with a contract to produce high-end screens for Apple alone worth billions.



Google+ Re-designed and Re-focused

November 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google  hasn’t given up on running a social network. The company gave Google+ a redesign focused on people getting together around shared interests.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was designed as a competitor to Facebook, focused on connecting people with their friends through a series of “circles.” That proved unsuccessful, but people started using the service to discuss things that they’re passionate about, like books and astronomy. Google has built its new design around promoting both its Community groups and its Collections of user-curated posts about specific interests.

Users can opt into the new design (which appears to be rolling out gradually) by signing into the service on the Web and responding when they get a prompt that offers it. Luke Wroblewski, a product director at Google, said in a post to the social network that Google+ apps for iOS and Android will be out in the near future.

The redesign doesn’t have all the features of the old Google+, so people who rely on things like Events will have to stay on the old design (which they can flip back to with the press of a button). It’s not clear whether Google will bring all of the social network’s functionality forward into the new design, but Wroblewski said the company isn’t done developing the product.

All of this comes as Google has been demoting the social network from its previous place at the center of the company’s products. Earlier this year, it brought cloud-based photo editing and storage capabilities that previously were tied to Google+ into Google Photos, a standalone service. Hangouts, the chat system that used to be tied to Google+, now has its own website.