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WebEx Is Coming To Chromebooks

March 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google and Cisco have joined forced in the enterprise collaboration market, bundling WebEx with Chromebooks and integrating the Cisco Web conferencing and online meeting product with Google Apps.

Both companies announced that two of their high-ranking executives demonstrated a “proof of concept” of WebEx running on a Chromebook, something that hasn’t been possible to date.

Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Chrome for Business, and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, also demonstrated interoperability between Google Apps and WebEx, such as the ability to join a WebEx meeting from a Google Calendar item, the companies said.

The partnership is intriguing in several respects. For starters, Google has a product called Hangouts that competes with WebEx in areas like video conferencing, IM, audio chats and Web meetings.

However, Hangouts isn’t considered yet a truly business-grade tool, and it’s not an official, supported component of Google Apps, which some critics consider is weak in unified communications.

In a press conference that was webcast after their presentation, Sheth and Trollope concurred that it’s inevitable that companies of the size and scope of Cisco and Google have overlapping and competing products, saying that shouldn’t cancel their opportunities to partner in ways they consider mutually beneficial and complementary.

“That’s been par for the course at Cisco for a long time,” Trollope said, alluding to “co-opetition” situations.

Sheth said Google’s focus is on what its users want and need, and overall on how to make “the Web ecosystem” better.

WebEx can’t run on Chromebooks today because WebEx, although it’s hosted on the cloud, requires that users download browser plug-in extensions so that some code can run locally on Windows or Mac OS computers.

Chromebooks run Chrome OS, so Cisco will rework a chunk of the WebEx functionality for HTML 5 so that it can run without the need for plug-ins. Google will also have to build some extensions on the Chromebook side.

The alliance can also be seen as a tag teaming between Cisco and Google to better compete against Microsoft and its Office 365 cloud collaboration and email suite.

Microsoft has been devoting a lot of effort to improving its Lync unified communications server, which runs on premises and also is part of Office 365. Lync is also being integrated with Skype in order to extend its reach into Skype’s vast user base in the consumer market.

Lync competes against Cisco’s WebEx and its overall enterprise video conferencing line of products, especially at the desktop and small meeting room levels.

In a move seen partly as a response to the Lync threat, Cisco last week unveiled an array of new and improved video conferencing products intended to be easy to deploy in small and medium-size conference rooms and less expensive than its high-end telepresence Tandberg line.

Meanwhile, Office 365 competes directly against Google Apps, especially in the areas of cloud-hosted email and collaboration for businesses.


Microsoft’s Office For iPad Said To Announced Soon

March 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Satya Nadella may announce an iPad version of the company’s Office software suite on March 27, a source familiar with the event has stated, and use his first big press appearance to launch the company’s most profitable product in a version compatible with Apple Inc’s popular tablet.

Nadella, who replaced longtime CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year, will address the media and industry executives in San Francisco on March 27.

Investors for years have urged Microsoft to adapt Office for mobile devices from Apple and Google Inc, rather than shackling it to Windows as PC sales decline. But the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has been reluctant to undermine its other lucrative franchise, its PC operating software.

Microsoft gives up some $2.5 billion a year in revenue by keeping Office off the iPad, which has now sold almost 200 million units, analysts estimate.

Tech blog Re/code first reported news of Nadella’s event. Microsoft said in an invitation to reporters that Nadella will discuss “news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile” but declined to comment on the specifics of the CEO’s appearance.

Microsoft has had iPad and iPhone versions of Office primed for several months now, sources told Reuters, but the company has dallied on their release due to internal divisions, among other things.

Although Nadella is expected to discuss his thinking in depth next week, the company has already signaled that it will adopt a more liberal attitude toward putting its software on different platforms.

Microsoft said earlier on Monday that it would make OneNote, its note-taking software, available on Mac, a move interpreted by observers as a shot against Evernote, the popular note-taking application that has both Mac and Android compatibility.

Aside from Evernote, Microsoft also faces budding challenges from startups that have released mobile-friendly alternatives to Word, Excel and Powerpoint.


Mozilla Updates Patches Firefox Security Holes

March 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Mozilla has fixed several security flaws in Firefox that were uncovered by researchers attending the annual Pwn2own hacking contest.

Firefox was exploited four times with zero-day attacks during the hacking event, making it one of the least secure web browsers out of the four most popular: Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Apple’s Safari.

“We implemented all of the fixes over the weekend and will release them on Tuesday with Firefox 28,” Mozilla’s Senior Engineering Manager of Security and Privacy, Sid Stamm, told The INQUIRER. “By Friday, we expect everyone will be offered the updates, though users can get them manually at any time after the release by checking for Firefox updates.”

Because the exploits were not publicly known, Stamm said the security risk to unpatched users was “low”, so Mozilla decided not to disrupt users with additional upgrade cycles this week.

The other three major web browsers – Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Apple’s Safari – were also exploited as part of the competition, along with the software application Adobe Flash, Firefox saw three takedowns on the first day and another on the second, making it the most exploited web browser of the bunch.

The two-day Pwn2own event wrapped up last Thursday at the Cansecwest conference at the Sheraton Wall Hotel in Vancouver, BC, challenging security researchers, software engineers and hackers to demonstrate flaws in popular consumer and enterprise software systems.

The event sponsor HP’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) awarded $850,000 in total prize money, leaving $385,000 of potential prize money unclaimed.

“The luck of the draw brought three of four browsers to the table on the first day, and put [security firm] Vupen at the table for four attempts,” HP said in a blog post recapping the event.

“All six of Wednesday’s attempts were successful. Vupen collected $300,000 for vulnerabilities in Adobe Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Adobe Flash, and researchers Mariusz Mlynski and Jüri Aedla each collected $50,000 apiece for vulnerabilities in Firefox.”

The second and final day of Pwn2own 2014 saw successful attempts by seven entrants against five products, with $450,000 paid to researchers.

Vupen withdrew an entry against Apple Safari before competition began, while Keen Team compromised the web browser with a heap overflow and sandbox bypass combination for $65,000.

Chinese hacking group Keen Team’s Liang Chen appeared with Zeguang Zhao of team509 later in the day to present another heap overflow and sandbox bypass attempt against Adobe Flash, worth $75,000.

Two entrants, Vupen and an anonymous researcher represented by proxy, both presented Google Chrome vulnerabilities. Vupen was awarded $100,000 for a use after free vulnerability that HP analysts have determined affects not only Blink-based browsers but also those built on Webkit.

Meanwhile, the anonymous researcher’s attempt was found to partially overlap with a vulnerability demonstrated earlier in the week at Google’s Pwnium event, so the remainder of that entry was awarded $60,000. American Hacker George Hotz collected $50,000 against Firefox.

HP’s ZDI uses the findings from the competition to improve the company’s products and research, while offering the information to the affected vendors so they can improve the security of their products for end-users.



Microsoft Offering $50 Enticement For Users To Abandon XP

March 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has created somewhat of an incentive in  its attempt to convince last-minute laggards to abandon Windows XP by offering $50 to people who purchase a new Windows 8.1 device.

On its online Microsoft Store, the Redmond, Wash. company is giving a $50 gift card to customers who buy one of 16 Windows 8.1 notebooks, desktops, tablets or 2-in-1 hybrids. The card is good for future purchases at the e-store.

Microsoft kicked off the deal on March 4; it ends April 30.

The move was the latest in a series to convince customers to ditch the 13-year-old XP, which was sold on new PCs as recently as October 2010. Microsoft will issue the final public patches for XP security vulnerabilities on April 8.

The 16 devices that come with the $50 incentive include four notebooks, four all-in-one desktops, four tablets and four hybrids, all which run Windows 8.1. Prices range from a low of $229 (for a Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet) to $1,299 (for an HP Envy Recline 27-in. all-in-one). Prices of the four notebooks run from $279 (Asus VivoBook) to $699 (Dell Inspiron). All are touch-enabled.

Customers who buy one of the 16 devices will also receive 90 days of free telephone and live-chat support, and can download Laplink Express, thefree file- and settings-transfer tool Microsoft announced last week that is available to anyone, not just those who purchased a new system.

Although Microsoft has beaten the dump-XP drum for almost three years, in the last few months it has gotten more specific, telling customers that they should upgrade their existing PCs to Windows 8.1 or buy a new computer running that operating system. Both those solutions have been met withincredulity and derision by users stuck on XP, who have suggested Microsoft try other strategies to reduce the old OS’s footprint, including reviving Windows 7 at retail — most XP PC owners are suspicious of Windows 8.1′s sweeping changes — and offering deep discounts on new devices.

But the company’s use of the $50 gift card shows that, even at this late date, Microsoft is not interested in a radical solution to XP’s refusal to die. According to metrics firm Net Applications, XP currently powers 29.5% of all the world’s personal computers, and 32.2% of those running Windows.



Most ATMs To Be Left Vulnerable When Microsoft Ends XP Support

March 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly 95% of the world’s ATMs may be left wide open to hackers next month when Microsoft ends tech support for the Windows XP operating system, the PCI Security Standards Council is warning.

In a long trailed move, from 8 April Microsoft will discontinue offering security updates and patches for XP, leaving machines running the 12-year-old operating system more vulnerable to attack.

ATMs running XP Embedded are not affected because Microsoft is not cutting off its support until 2016.

The process of upgrading to an alternative such as Windows 7 is both complicated and expensive for ATM operators – with many older machines needing to be altered one by one. Most are not expected to have made the switch within the next month.

JPMorgan has bought a custom one-year tech support agreement from Microsoft and will not begin migrating its 19000 machines to Windows 7 until July, the bank has told Bloomberg. Wells Fargo and Citi say that they are working on upgrading their networks.

It’s not just ATMs that are at risk – Microsoft recently warned that the Indian banking industry’s reliance on XP could put more than 34,000 branches at risk.

In a notice on its site, the PCI SSC is urging firms to take the plunge: “Don’t make yourself an easy target, talk to your technology provider today and make sure your PC and systems are not putting your customers’ confidential payment card data and your business at risk.”


Microsoft To Offer New Office For Mac Later This Year

March 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft  said that it would roll out a new version of Office for Mac before the end of the year, but won’t discuss details until the second half of 2014.

In an interview with Computerwoche — literally, “Computerweek” — a Microsoft Germany official said that Office for Mac had been delayed because the development team, dubbed the Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU), had been folded into the larger Microsoft Business Unit (MBU), the division responsible for Office on Windows, in the first quarter of 2011.

Thorsten Hübschen, business group lead for Microsoft Office in Germany, spoke to Computerwoche — like Computerworld owned by IDG — at CeBit 2014, the massive computer trade show running this week in Hanover, Germany.

Hübschen said Microsoft would reveal more information about Office for Mac in the second half of this year.

The next Office for Mac is already late by past Microsoft practice. The average timespan between Office for Mac editions — going back as far as Office v. X — has been 1,088 days. But as of today, it has been 1,232 days since the launch of Office for Mac 2011.

Historically, Microsoft has hewn to a three-year development cycle for both Office on the Mac and the far-more-popular Office suite for Windows, with a new version of the former following the newest of the latter by several months at a minimum.

Office for Mac 2011, for instance, followed Office 2010 on Windows by 134 days, or just over four months. Office for Mac 2008, however, came 351 days, or nearly a year, after the debut of its Windows sibling, Office 2007. But even the longer lag time of the latter has been exceeded: Office 2013 for Windows launched Jan. 29, 2013, 406 days ago.

It’s likely that the next Office for Apple’s OS X will be titled “Office for Mac 2015,” as Microsoft typically slaps the next year’s date on an Office edition that launches in the second half of a calendar year.

If Microsoft waits until later this year to ship Office for Mac 2015, it will be cutting it close: The Redmond, Wash., company supports Mac editions of Office for just five years, half the support lifecycle of the Windows’ suite, and Office for Mac 2011′s retirement date is set for Jan. 12, 2016. Customers may have little more than a year to migrate to the newest edition before Microsoft stops patching Office for Mac 2011.

Microsoft also shuttered the Mac Office-specific blog it maintained for years at the site where it touts and sells the productivity suite. “As of today, no new posts will appear,” the blog stated Monday. Future posts will be published on the more inclusive Office Blogs website, where Office on Windows and Office 365 dominate.

The MacBU blog shutdown was part of a January refresh of all Microsoft’s blogs that focused on Office topics, a company spokeswoman said.

Microsoft neither confirmed nor denied Hübschen’s comments on Office for Mac release timing. “The team is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed reply to questions.


Dell Reveals Malware Threats

March 13, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Dell has found 78 billion instances where remotely accessed malware opened the door to a risk that can cause significant damage. The Dell SonicWALL Threat Research Team has released its annual threat report for 2013. The report is based on data collected by the Dell SonicWALL Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network, from over 1 million sensors that monitor traffic for emerging threats.

Compared to their 2012 data, Microsoft attracted a significantly larger proportion of attacks in 2013. In 2012, they attracted fewer than 12 per cent of the total attacks reported. In 2013, this rose to almost 22 per cent of the total attacks reported. In contracts, Apple’s share dropped from almost 15 per cent to just over 3 per cent. Dell reported 14 zero-day vulnerabilities in 2013. Browser-based attacks lead the list with Java being the most targeted application, followed closely by Internet Explorer, and Adobe Flash Player.

SCADA systems were not immune from attack with systems from Siemens responsible from just over a third of all the reported vulnerabilities. The next most vulnerable systems came from Cisco with just 12 per centof the reported vulnerabilities. Over a quarter of these vulnerabilities left system operators vulnerable to DDoS attacks improper input validation, buffer overflow and privilege escalation the next most popular categories of CADA vulnerability.

The most popular types of targeted attacks in 2013 were targeted spam against corporate employees leveraging services like fax, voicemail, printers and scanners; sophisticated ransomware like CryptoLocker; SSL-based malware download and communication and; and web-based exploit kits with zero-day exploit payloads resulting in drive-by malware download and install on the targeted machine.


Can Tizen Challenge iOS?

March 12, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung’s push towards the Tizen operating system should be putting the fear of Jobs into Apple. So far Samsung has been pushing Tizen for its Gear line of smart watches in a move that would probably annoy Google more than anyone.

But if Samung starts to look at Tizen into its flagship Galaxy and Note models then the market share of Android would disappear. More than a quarter of the US market share would go from Android, leaving Google looking after HTC, LG and Lenovo. But the move would be more dangerous to Apple. Jobs Mob has not got an OS which can run on wearable computers. Tizen can do both wearables and tablets and smartphones. Tizen also uses less battery too.

Samsung can force Tizen to be quickly updated. It no longer has to wait for Google it is also being developed with wireless carriers such as Orange, Sprint and Vodafone who will want to support the OS. Apple is incredibly slow when it comes to innovation, and with Tizen Samsung has a tool to help it bring out new products much faster. Samsung also has the marketing pull to bring in new developers into its App stores fast.

All up Jobs Mob has a lot to fear from Tizen.



Mozilla Abandons Work on Single Sign-on Project “Persona”

March 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla last week announced it was halting in-house development of the single sign-on “Persona,” a failed alternative to website passwords, and will offer it up to volunteers who wish to develop it further.

The open-source company will continue to support Persona with security updates and will also continue to host the log-on service, but new features won’t be coming.

“For a variety of reasons, Persona has received less adoption than we were hoping for by this point,” Mozilla said in a Friday blog. “Reducing the scope of Persona and stabilizing its core APIs over the last quarter has shown us that adding more features was not the way forward.”

Instead, Mozilla will turn over Persona to volunteer developers.

Persona, which harks back to 2011 — when it was called “Browser ID” — was designed to be used by website and Web application developers as an alternative to their own log-on solutions or those they borrowed from larger companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. With a single email address and password, the former verified by Mozilla, the open-source Persona was touted as secure, cross-platform, and easy to implement by developers.

The idea was that users would able to use that one email address and password to access multiple websites and apps.

Mozilla has already re-assigned the paid engineers who worked on Persona to other projects, including Firefox Sync and Firefox Accounts, the infrastructure used to access that service and others. Sync and Accounts are crucial services to Mozilla’s success with Firefox OS, its low-end mobile device operating system, and important to Firefox on the desktop, and on Android and Windows 8.1 devices.

A Firefox account will be similar to the authentication services created by Apple, Google and Microsoft for their customers, who can use an email address and password to access each company’s services, such as iCloud, Gmail and Windows 8.1.

Persona wasn’t the only casualty of Firefox OS: Mozilla cited its development costs as one of the reasons why the nonprofit company was searching for new revenue sources that included plans to add advertising to the Firefox browser.

Nor was Persona the first Mozilla project to get the hook.

Six years ago, Mozilla cut loose its Thunderbird email client, spinning off the program and its team to a separate firm, Mozilla Messaging. That didn’t work out, and in 2011 Thunderbird rejoined Mozilla proper. Then in July 2012, Mozilla announced it had stopped all paid development of the emailer and that the “community” — read volunteers — were now responsible for new features.

“Much of Mozilla’s leadership — including that of the Thunderbird team - has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts,” said Mitchell Baker, the chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation.

Since then, Mozilla has continued to ship security fixes for Thunderbird but has not introduced new features or major enhancements.


Vodafone Unveils Smartphone App To Encrypt Calls

March 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Vodafone Germany will attempt to make the process of encrypting mobile phone calls easier with its upcoming Secure Call app, which it plans to launch for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices.

It developed the app in partnership with Secusmart, and presented it at the Cebit trade show where all kinds of encrypted communications will be a hot topic, driven by the continued revelations from former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden about National Security Agency snooping.

Secusmart’s profile has been raised considerably since German Chancellor Angela Merkel started using the company’s SecuSuite for BlackBerry 10 to protect her communications.

The new Secure Call app offers businesses and individuals the same level of voice communication encryption that Merkel has, but on a platform-independent basis, according to Vodafone. The app will first become available for Android-based smartphones, and later for iOS and Windows Phone, according to Alexander Leinhos , head of external communications at Vodafone Germany.

It will be launched toward the end of the year, and cost about €10 (US$14) per month, per user.

For now, there are no plans to make Secure Call available outside of Germany, but the app would be attractive to users in other countries as well and exporting it wouldn’t be too difficult, Leinhos said.

At Cebit, Vodafone also launched an expanded version of its Secure SIM service.

Secure SIM Data lets enterprises and authorities sign and encrypt e-mails, documents and VPN connections. It also encrypts storage devices such as USB sticks and external hard disks, and can be used on Windows 8-based ThinkPad notebooks and tablets from Lenovo, Vodafone said.

Users don’t need a separate smartcard or token because the private key and certificates are securely stored on the SIM card, according to Vodafone, which developed the service with Giesecke & Devrient. For example, to encrypt a Word document, the user enters a pin code.

Secure SIM data adds to the existing Secure SIM Login product for two-factor authentication to access corporate networks and hosted services


Facebook’s Messenger Added To Windows Phone

March 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Facebook has made its Messenger app available for Windows Phone 8, an addition Microsoft welcomes as it seeks to increase the number of applications available for its smartphone OS.

The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.

For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.

The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.

The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.

“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.

The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.

The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.



Fujitsu Improving Haptic Feedback Tablets

March 6, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

Fujitsu Labs have worked out a way to improve vibration feedback when typing on a virtual keyboard. The prototype haptic sensory tablet emits ultrasonic vibrations under the surface of the tablet’s display.

The company says that although producing ultrasonic vibrations would generally require a good deal of power, its engineers have come up with a way of shrinking down the tech and allowing a tablet prototype to run its haptic feedback system. Essentially, the vibrations create a layer of high pressure air between a user’s fingertips and the surface of the screen, resulting in reduced friction so the fingers can skate across the screen. This alternates between high and low friction to create the illusion of a textured surface.

It is possible to feel a CD beneath the fingers while spinning and scratching like a DJ, as well as physically feeling and manipulating the deck controls. Research continues to improve the technology, but the company is looking to commercialize the development by next year.


Is AMD Going After Intel’s Bay Trail?

March 5, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has announced its first “system in a socket” single accelerated processor unit (APU) that aims to reduce the cost of entry-level PCs.

Based on the firm’s Kabini system on chip (SoC), the APU is named the “AM1 Platform”, combining most system functions into one chip, with the motherboard and APU together costing around $60.

Due to be released on 9 April, the AM1 Platform is aimed at markets where entry-level PCs are competing against other low-cost devices.

“We’re seeing that the market for these lower-cost PCs is increasing,” said AMD desktop product marketing manager Adam Kozak. “We’re also seeing other devices out there trying to fill that gap, but there’s really a big difference between what these devices can do versus what a Windows PC can do.”

The AM1 Platform combines an Athlon or Sempron processor with a motherboard based on the FS1b upgradable socket design. These motherboards have no chipset, as all functions are integrated into the APU, and only require additional memory modules to make a working system.

The AM1 SoC has up to four Jaguar CPU cores and an AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU, an on-chip memory controller supporting up to 16GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, plus all the typical system input and output functions, including SATA ports for storage, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, as well as VGA and HDMI graphics outputs.

AMD’s Jaguar core is best known for powering both Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 (PS4) games consoles. The AM1 Platform supports Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in 32-bit or 64-bit architectures.

AMD said that it is going after Intel’s Bay Trail with the AM1 Platform, and expects to see it in small form factor desktop PCs such as netbooks and media-streaming boxes.

“We see it being used for basic computing, some light productivity and basic gaming, and really going after the Windows 8.1 environment with its four cores, which we’ll be able to offer for less,” Kozak added.

AMD benchmarked the AM1 Platform against an Intel Pentium J2850 with PC Mark 8 v2 and claimed it produced double the performance of the Intel processor. See the table below.

The FS1b upgradable socket means that users will be able to upgrade the system at a later date, while in Bay Trail and other low-cost platforms the processor is mounted directly to the motherboard.

The AM1 Platform will ship to system vendors in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and Latin America first, then to North America and the Pacific region later this year.

AMD lifted the lid on its Kabini APU for tablets and mainstream laptops last May. AMD’s A series branded Kabini chips are quad-core processors, with the 15W A4-5000 and 25W A6-5200 clocked at 1.5GHz and 2GHz, respectively.



Fujitsu Exploring Adding Palm Scanners To Mobile Phones

March 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Fujitsu may bring its palm scanners to smartphones as a method of verifying a user’s identity.

The company’s PalmSecure scanners use near-infrared light to scan points in veins that lie beneath the surface of a user’s palm. There has to be blood flowing through a user’s hand for the sensor to work.

Every person’s palm pattern is unique, and scans of vein points are matched against previously registered scans to authenticate users and unlock whatever device or service they’re linked to.

“We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development,” a Fujitsu spokesman said. “In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones.”

Fujitsu claims the biometric technology has a false acceptance rate of only 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.

The company first commercialized the technology in 2004 when palm-sized scanners were embedded in ATMs at Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to help authenticate customer identity and prevent fraud. In-store scanners at Suruga Bank also appeared in 2004.

Fujitsu later shrank the scanners and embedded them in laptops.

It recently showed off a stamp-sized version of the scanner that is the smallest yet. It’s been embedded in tablets for the first time and will be included in about 2,000 tablets provided to Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes the Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank.

“No one has this technology, and it’s significantly more secure than fingerprint,” the Fujitsu spokesman said, adding that some banks have shown interest in palm-vein scanners as a means of verifying identity in natural disasters in which ID or bank cards are lost or destroyed.

The customized 12.5-inch Fujitsu Arrows Q704/H tablets have Intel Core i5 processors and run Windows, acting as virtual desktops. Bank employees meeting customers off-site will be able to securely access their bank’s internal system by using the palm-vein authentication scanners.

Only users whose biometric info has been registered beforehand will be able to operate the tablets.

At CES in January, U.S.-based biometric payments company PulseWallet demonstrated a cardless point-of-sale terminal incorporating Fujitsu’s vein-imaging technology. It said registered users could leave their credit and debit cards at home and make payments simply by having their palms scanned.


Smartphone Growth To Experience Sharp Decline This Year

February 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.

Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.

The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.

Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.

Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.

“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.

The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.