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Opera Mini Browser To Become Standard On Windows Phones

August 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

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.”

 

 

YouTube Music Might Prove Lucrative For Google

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Snapchat Looking For Expansion Opportunities

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat Inc, creator of a mobile app that allows users to send messages that disappear within seconds, may be looking to expand its service to videos, news articles and advertisements, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The California-based company is currently in talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery, the Journal reported, citing sources.

Snapchat Discovery, rumored to debut in November, will show content and ads to Snapchat users, the Journal quoted the sources as saying.

At least a dozen media companies have shown interest in providing content for Snapchat Discovery, the Journal said.

Snapchat Discovery will allow users to read publications and watch video clips by holding down a finger on the screen, as they do with photos and other messages on the app, the report said.

Snapchat, popular among teenage users, was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

 

 

 

 

Are Physical Games On The Way Out?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Numbers added up by research firm DFC Intelligence, show that few physical games are being bought and that digital sales are where all the money is.

According to DFC, 92 per cent of PC game sales in 2013 were digital and it thinks this trend will continue and rise in 2014.

Gamers are starting to favour digital downloads over physical copies of the game, which is not really surprising given that who actually wants to own boxes and DVDs and manuals when all you really need is the game.

DFC Intelligence goes on to add that PC games outsold console games in terms of revenue so it means that channel is not the way gamers are playing. But then again the specs of consoles are well below PCs.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Are Evernote Extensions Spamming Chrome?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Malwarebytes has warned of a fake Evernote extension for Chrome that spams users with unwanted advertisements by injecting Javascript into every webpage they visit.

The vulnerability means that on the surface, it looks like the popups and advertisements are coming from the websites users are visiting, when they are actually coming from the fake Evernote web extension.

Researchers at the company discovered the vulnerability in a “multi-plug .PUP” file, which installs the fake Evernote browser extension.

A PUP file is one that has the .pup file extension and is most commonly associated with the Puppy Linux operating system. PUP files run when an installer program is opened on the user’s computer and they are similar to the installer.exe files that are used with Windows applications.

“A quick look shows the PUP is digitally signed by ‘Open Source Developer, Sergei Ivanovich Drozdov’, although the certificate has since been revoked by the Issuer. This serves as another reminder that you can’t always trust a program just because it’s digitally signed,” said Malwarebytes malware intelligence analyst Joshua Cannell.

“When you execute the PUP, it silently installs a web extension for the Google Chrome, Torch, and Comodo Dragon browsers. The extension takes the form of three obfuscated JavaScript files and one HTML file. These files [are] installed in Chrome’s extension directory on a Windows 7 PC.”

For Google Chrome, the installation of the web extension is achieved by updating the “Preferences” file, which is a Javascript Object Notation (JSON) formatted file used to configure Chrome user preferences. The extension that’s installed is called “Evernote Web”, just like the real extension from evernote.com, but when taking a look at the Chrome extensions page, Malwarebytes found the extension installed there with the ID “lbfehkoinhhcknnbdgnnmjhiladcgbol”, just like the real Evernote Web extension.

“Clicking ‘Visit website’ directs the user to the Chrome webstore page for the actual Evernote Web extension,” Cannell added. “Chrome believes the real extension is installed, as verified by the Launch App button. When clicking this button with the fake extension installed, nothing happens, whereas normally the user is met with an Evernote login screen.”

Cannell explained that this is because the extension uses a content script to run in the context of the webpages a user browses.

“The content script is guaranteed to be loaded into every web page using the extension manifest (manifest.json). When visiting webpages, you’ll get a series of annoying advertisements, all leading to potentially more unwanted programs and offers,” he added.

To remove the extension, Chrome users need to visit the extensions tab in the browser and click the picture of a garbage can.

Evernote hit the headlines for its security concerns last year when it emerged that its network had been compromised by hackers.

The online note-taking service issued a password reset for all users after the discovery. It said that it “discovered and blocked” suspicious activity on its network, but claimed that no user data was compromised during the intrusion.

“In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost,” Evernote said.

 

Courtesy-TheInq

Vehicle-To-Vehicle Networks May Save Lives, Says U.S. Government

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. government wants make vehicles talk to each other over wireless networks, saying that could save more than 1,000 lives every year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking input about a possible federal standard for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, which would allow cars to automatically exchange information, such as whether they’re close to each other. The agency will accept comments from the public and industry for 60 days from when the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is published in the Federal Register.

V2V would let cars do some of the work of driving or even accomplish things humans can’t, such as virtually “seeing” into blind intersections before entering them. It may be one step on the path to self-driving cars.

On Monday, the NHTSA published a research report on V2V and issued an ANPRM in hopes of collecting a lot of feedback before issuing a full NPRM in 2016. In the report, it estimated the safety benefits of just two possible applications of V2V, called Left Turn Assist and Intersection Movement Assist. Together, they could prevent as many as 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives per year, the agency said.

Neither system would necessarily take control of a car. Left Turn Assist would warn drivers not to turn left into the path of an oncoming car, and Intersection Movement Assist would warn them not to enter an intersection when there’s a high probability of crashing into other vehicles there. The two technologies could help drivers avoid more than half of those types of crashes, the agency said. Other V2V systems could include blind spot, do not pass, and forward collision warnings, as well as stop light and stop sign warnings.

“V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release.

In addition to improving safety, V2V might smooth the flow of traffic and improve cars’ fuel economy, the NHTSA said.

V2V would run over wireless networks using the IEEE 802.11p specification, a variant of the standard used for Wi-Fi, on a band of spectrum between 5.85GHz and 5.925GHz. That’s crucial to making the technology work between vehicles from different manufacturers, NHTSA said. V2V doesn’t identify individual vehicles, nor does it collect or share personal information about drivers, and it would have layers of security and privacy technology to protect users, the agency said.

 

 

Sprint Slashes Rates, Introduces New Pricing Plans

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp unveiled a new pricing plan that gives customers 20 gigabytes of data and up to 10 lines for $100, doubling its data offerings, the latest in a series of cuts and promotions that is re-shaping the wireless industry.

Sprint’s chairman, business tycoon Masayoshi Son, is betting new prices will revive a carrier hampered by an expensive network overhaul and rising competition.

“The message is simple: We are back in the game. We are going to offer most competitive value for American consumers,” Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s newly appointed chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

The company will release new plans for individuals later this week.

The announcement marks the first move for the new CEO, who last week said cutting prices would be his top priority.

The move comes after Verizon slashed prices for its unlimited talk and text plan and T-Mobile expanded its family plan to 6 lines and could signal more price cuts ahead for the industry as a whole.

Sprint is going it alone after scuttling a months-long effort to pursue a merger with No. 4 U.S. cellular provider T-Mobile US Inc.

Last year, an aggressive campaign by T-Mobile to address subscriber frustrations and lower prices sparked a domino effect that caused the U.S. top four carriers to restructure pricing plans and cut rates to lure customers in a nearly saturated market.

But analysts worry the industry’s latest discount spree could increase pressure on already tight margins and rattle dividends.

While top carriers and Verizon  have largely been able to mitigate the impact of T-Mobile’s discounts on their subscriber base, they would likely have to respond to price cuts at Sprint with steep discounts of their own to keep subscribers from migrating, analysts said.

“We will see a trickle down in pricing concessions across the industry. This is the start of a price war many anticipated would be coming,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at S&P Capital IQ.

New pricing plans that charge customers separately for the cost of their devices have somewhat offset price cuts this year, Zino said, but if the discounts continue, they could pose a long-term threat to the dividends.

 

 

Is EA Finally Listening To Gamers?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA’s press conferences, despite his position as the company’s CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game’s goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.

And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA’s customers. That hasn’t always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA’s renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.

Q: The last time we spoke you were still with EA Sports, and you’ve had a promotion since then – quite a big one, in fact. You’re coming up on a year as CEO now. Have we started to see evidence of the mark you wanted to make on the company?

AW: I think…no, I know that I didn’t approach this role thinking about making a mark or leaving a legacy. It wasn’t personal in nature. I took on the role because of how I feel about the company. This company has been very good to me and my family over the years, I loved the people I worked with inside the company and I loved the games we made together.

“Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months”

As I worked in the company in a variety of different roles, it became apparent to me that in some areas we’d lost our way a little bit. When I came in [as CEO] I really wanted to bring to the forefront the things that I thought made the company great, things that had delivered for us over the years. That really meant building this foundation of ‘player first’. I get that there are things we have to think about: we’re a big company, we’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have 8,000 people working for us. But all of that is for nothing unless you deliver for your number one constituency: the players. Without that, it’s for nothing.

Q: So the idea that the CEO is stuck trying to serve two masters, the shareholder and the customer, that isn’t how you see it, then?

AW: Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. Financial return is what happens when you achieve the right objectives. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months. We are engaging with our player-base more regularly, through more platforms to ensure that we’re doing what they want, and to make sure that we’re listening to them when we’re doing something that they don’t want. It’s as much about eliminating what doesn’t inspire or entertain as it is about the stuff that does.

Q: Is that how we should think about the problems that Battlefield 4 faced? You’ve publicly addressed the complaints already, but was that just a consequence of trying to deliver on an ambitious objective?

AW: If I promised you that nothing would ever go wrong [on future projects], that would be very disingenuous of me. The reality is that we come to work every day and challenge ourselves and our teams to do creative and innovative things. What I can say, however, is that living up to that commitment to engagement and action I mentioned before means that we will make tough decisions in service of the player.

Titanfall for Xbox 360 was coming in hot, it needed a few more weeks, and we moved it out of the fiscal year to get a great game. I don’t think we would have done that before. Need for Speed is a franchise we’ve released every year for 17 years – it’s as sure a thing as FIFA. But the team said that they couldn’t do what we challenged them to do in a year. It wasn’t possible, so for the first time in 17 years we decided not to launch a Need For Speed.

More recently, Battlefield: Hardline, moving out of the holiday quarter would traditionally be seen as catastrophic in this industry.

Q: Particularly that franchise. Battlefield 3 and 4 were both holiday releases.

AW: Yes, but it was the feedback. We brought gamers in earlier, we let them play the beta earlier. And the beta was very stable, so we’d solved a bunch of the problems that existed in Battlefield 4. But what people said to us was, ‘This is pretty cool, but we think you should go deeper. We want more out of this.’ So we’ve given the team more time. That’s a tough decision to make, and it has a financial impact in the near-term, but long-term, for the player and the franchise, that’s the right decision.

Q: Do you see EA Access in the same way? You’re the first publisher to pull the trigger on something like this on console. I remember a talk you gave at the Develop conference a few years back, where you held up services like Netflix as a model for the games industry to emulate. Was this idea in your mind all the way back then?

AW: It’s not completely the same, but yes. But, again, I wouldn’t take credit for that programme in its entirety. I’ve been involved in that programme, but we’ve got a great team that’s been looking at challenging the standard by which certain people access products. It’s early days – we launched it yesterday – but for what it’s worth all the positive intent is there. It will evolve, but what we’ve come to understand – and what I believed back then – is that this concept of, ‘I want to give you an amount of money each month that makes sense, and for that I want a bunch of cool stuff’, we want to live up to that.

Does that mean people will stop paying $60 for games? No, but there’s a big part of the population for whom that [EA Access] is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games.

“There’s a big part of the population for whom EA Access is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games”

Q: And potentially it’s a way for people who wouldn’t ordinarily play, say, Madden to get acquainted with the franchise. For a lot of people, FIFA and Battlefield would be enough to justify for the annual fee, and anything else is a bonus.

AW: Yes, but there will be many different types of players. For some people that will be how they want to play all content, for others it will form some part of it. There’ll be others who might use it just to trial games. Again, the price point is low enough that it’s pretty cool as a trial mechanism. We want to build a service that players can use in a way that makes sense to them.

Q: It gives the catalogue longevity, too, which is something that the games industry hasn’t been particularly good at.

AW: EA makes great games. Stuff that we made ten years ago is still good, and so in ten years time the games we’re making now will still be good.

Q: It’s early days, as you point out, but even in the near term are you planning to grow the selection on EA Access, to be additive?

AW: Absolutely. We wanted to launch it at a point where we could put things into the catalogue, into The Vault, and it would have value. We thought that four [games] was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point. Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does. When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black – there is now.

Q: I have been surprised at my preference for buying games digitally in the generation so far. I thought it would take a bit more time.

AW: Convenience is a wonderful thing.

Q: Is that sort of behaviour behind the decision to get EA Access out there now, this year? Is that transition happening faster than you expected?

AW: No. Listen, we – and certainly myself – have matured in the understanding over the years about how people consume content, irrespective of the industry. One of the stats that I hear frequently is that 40 per cent of music is still bought on CD. Now, I haven’t bought a CD in 14 years. I’ve bought vinyl, by the way, a bunch in the last 14 years, so I consume media in different ways through different business models based on what I’m looking for. The way my view has evolved, I’m a bit like you: I haven’t bought a disc for my PS4 or my Xbox One; I click a button and it turns up, and that’s good for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants it the same way. I’ve moved from a belief that there will be one access model to rule them all, to the belief that our objective as a company is to provide access to our entertainment in ways that make sense to the growing population of players.

 

Q: Services like EA Access to make sense in the context of this generation, which seems to largely about choice, whether that’s variety of games, how you want to buy, how you want communicate with other players. The experience is very open now.

AW: One of the things that we’re learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don’t need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf. Now, we’re getting better at listening. We haven’t always been great listeners, but we’re getting better, and what that’s telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what’s right for them at a given moment in time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all any longer. We’ve got to build a core platform, game engines and games that facilitate that.

Q: Are you concerned that Access will alter your customer’s perception of value? FIFA 14 is still a game that can be played all year whether the new one is out or not. That $60 has got to feel like a better decision than before, surely.

“We thought that four games was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point”

AW: It doesn’t matter whether you spend a $1, $10 or $100,000, as long as you’re getting value from what you’ve spent then you’ll feel good about that. EA Access feels like tremendous value, and whether you continue to feel good about paying whatever it is for a frontline product comes down to our ability to to deliver value.

The commitment that we’re making to those frontline products is that they will be bigger, more engaging, service oriented, with new and dynamic content every time you log in. People are now playing FIFA and Battlefield all year round. When I started a game would get played for four weeks, and then it was on to the next one. The value that we deliver today, we have games that can be the only thing you play for an entire year.

Q: Certain products have started to feel out of time to me. I won’t mention the name, but I bought a game digitally that cost the same amount as, for example, FIFA, and it took me six or seven hours to finish and that was it. I felt cheated in a way that I wouldn’t have with the exact same game at this point in the last generation.

AW: That understanding of value is really, really important, and I’m trying to push that into the organisation – irrespective of business model. Back in the day it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10. I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realise that time is the most important resource. Part of your issue with that other game is that it took six hours, and you didn’t feel the value returned. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time.

Q: You’ve mentioned the value of EA Access several times, and obviously Sony came out and disagreed on that point. For now, at least, Access won’t be available to PlayStation customers. Was that disappointing, particularly with the reason Sony gave?

AW: What I can say is that we launched it yesterday. We believed when we launched it that it was great value, and gamers, for the most part, have fed back that it’s great value. We’re going to continue to put things into that service that make it even better value. It will evolve and go through lots of permutations over time as we listen and learn from players who engage with it. My hope is that we can deliver that kind of service to many millions of players for years to come.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple Changes Policy, Begins Storage Of User Personal Data In China

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has started the processing of keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China, marking the first time the tech giant is storing user data on Chinese soil.

The storage of user data in China represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centers in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Apple said the move was part of an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service, which lets users store pictures, e-mail and other data. Positioning data centers as close to customers as possible means faster service.

The data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Corp Ltd, the country’s third-largest wireless carrier, Apple said in a statement.

“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously,” it said. “We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland china. All data stored with our providers is encrypted. China Telecom does not have access to the content.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the encryption keys for Apple’s data on China Telecom servers would be stored offshore and not made available to China Telecom.

Apple has said it has devised encryption systems for services such as iMessage that even Apple itself cannot unlock. But some experts expressed scepticism that Apple would be able to withhold user data in the event of a government request.

“If they’re making out that the data is protected and secure that’s a little disingenuous because if they want to operate a business here, that’d have to comply with demands from the authorities,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a research firm focused on Chinese media, internet and consumers.

“On the other hand if they don’t store Chinese user data on a Chinese server they’re basically risking a crackdown from the authorities.”

Goldkorn added that data stored in the United States is subject to similar U.S. regulations where the government can use court orders to demand private data.

A spokesman for China Telecom declined to comment.

 

Applied Materials Profits Up

August 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Chip-equipment maker Applied Materials has surprised most of the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street with a better-than-expected third-quarter profit. It appears that contract manufacturers are spending more on technology used to make smartphone and memory chips.

The company also forecast current-quarter adjusted profit largely above analysts’ average estimate. Chief Executive Gary Dickerson said that demand for DRAM chips is expected to grow in the current quarter.

Applied Materials, which also provides equipment to make flat panel displays and solar cells, forecast an adjusted profit of 25-29 cents per share for the fourth quarter. Wall Street was expecting a profit of 26 cents per share.

Applied Materials expects revenue growth of about 10 to 17 percent, implying revenue of $2.19 billion to $2.33 billion for the quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $2.28 billion. Applied Materials’ net income rose to $301 millionin the third quarter ended July 27, from $168 milliona year earlier. Revenue rose 14.7 percent to $2.27 billion.

Revenue in the company’s silicon systems business, which brings in about two-thirds of total sales, rose 16 percent to $1.48 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

SMS Audio Introduces Biometric Headphones

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Want to monitor your heart rate while running and listening to music?

SMS Audio’s BioSport In-Ear Headphones, announced at an event will tell you. The headphones are good for people who work out as well as those who just want to check their heart rate, said Brian Nohe, president of SMS Audio, which was founded by rapper 50 Cent, who is the majority owner.

50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, wanted headphones with top-quality audio, fit, form and functionality, Nohe said. The rapper, along with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who is the minority owner of SMS, were scheduled to appear at the event.

The headphones have sensors to measure the heart rate of users, drawing power from a smartphone through an audio jack. No batteries are required. SMS Audio is using technology from Intel in the headphones.

“Open the box, plug it into your smartphone device and it works,” Nohe said.

The earphones will ship worldwide in the fourth quarter this year. The price will be announced later.

The headphones will work with RunKeeper, a popular Android and iOS fitness application that assembles and tracks fitness data.

“The general marketplace is ripe for having more products in this area,” Nohe said. “We understood what was happening with wearable technology and what was going on with biometrics.”

The engineering challenge for Intel was how to draw power and transfer data through an audio jack. Intel also had to figure out the frequencies at which to handle data transfers. The goal was to deliver accurate heart-rate readings.

“It’s a seemingly easy thing to explain, but hard to implement,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.

Intel didn’t want to use Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to transfer data, Bell said. Those technologies would require batteries and not fit well within the small size of headphones.

“The best technology is invisible. It’s as much form as it is function,” Bell said. “That’s the road we’re going down.”

Beyond tracking heart rate, headphones could also be enabled to capture more health information, the executives said. Other opportunities are being explored by SMS Audio and Intel.

“You don’t start a strategic alliance and become a one-trick pony,” Nohe said.

The headphone space has gotten attention lately because of Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats Audio, founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.

 

Sprint Is Planning Price Cuts And Layoffs

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint’s new CEO Marcelo Claure addressed employees for the first time and promised price reductions are coming very soon, according to a report.

Sprint didn’t deny the report of Marcelo’s comments. A spokesman also confirmed Friday that Sprint is “focusing on providing the best value in the market.”

According to the account of Claure’s comments, he told workers, “We’re going to change our plans to make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor.” The report, which first appeared in LightReading.com, also said that “very disruptive” rate plans are coming this week.

Sprint didn’t dispute Light Reading’s report, but a spokesman said Sprint is not commenting on “any potential pricing plans before they are announced.”

The spokesman, Doug Duvall, said Marcelo held his first all-employee town hall meeting before a standing-room-only crowd. He added: “He shared his passion for his family, work and soccer team and his commitment to leading Sprint. He discussed Sprint’s challenges and pledged to get Sprint ‘back in the game’ by focusing on providing the best value in the market, completing our network build and optimizing Sprint’s cost structure.”

By confirming Sprint wants to offer the “best value in the market,” it’s pretty clear that Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier, will soon wage a price war with the T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier that has quickly been gaining on Sprint.

Analysts recently said Sprint’s recent “Framily plan” isn’t competitive in the market, which former CEO Dan Hesse acknowledged in late July before his departure on Monday.

The Sprint Framily plans costs $160 a month for 4GB of data, but comes with overage charges and won’t allow tethering. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has a family plan offered through September that costs $100 a month for four lines and 10GB of data, although each line is limited to 2.5GB.

Hesse had earlier described subscriber plans Sprint was testing that have tiers of data and unlimited data.

According to Light Reading, Claure also told employees that price cuts are needed because Sprint’s network isn’t at the level of performance and reach that it should be. “When you have a great network, you don’t have to compete on price,” he reportedly said. “When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price.”

 

 

FCC Extends Deadline For ‘Net Neutrality’ Comments

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Lenovo Selling More Mobile Phones Than PCs

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo’s growing presence in PCs and smartphones boosted the company’s net profit by 23% in the second quarter.

The company reported Thursday that its net profit reached $214 million, while quarterly revenue increased 18 percent year-over-year to $10.4 billion.

Although better known as a PC maker, Lenovo has been making major gains selling mobile handsets in its home market of China. It is now the country’s largest smartphone vendor with a 12.5% share of the market, according to research firm IDC.

The second quarter was the first time Lenovo smartphones outsold its PCs, with 15.8 million units, the company reported on Thursday.

Lenovo’s handsets still aren’t making as much money as PCs. Almost half its revenue came from selling laptops, while its mobile devices division, which includes tablets, accounted for only 15% of its total revenue in the quarter.

The company’s PC business has in the past been helped by its huge presence in its home market of China. But in the second quarter, Lenovo reported that it was also making gains in PC sales to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

In those markets, the company’s revenue reached $2.8 billion, up from $1.9 billion a year ago.

Lenovo, which currently ranks as the number one PC vendor in the world, is trying to expand in servers and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the company announced it would acquire Google’s Motorola Mobility, and IBM’s x86 server business.

Lenovo is still working with regulators to get approval for those deals.

 

Intel Explores Wearable Devices For Disease Research

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Intel Corp plans to utilize wearable gadgets such as smart watches to monitor patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and collect data that can be shared with researchers.

The chip maker said it is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, established by the actor and Parkinson’s sufferer in 2000, to conduct a multi-phase research study of the neurodegenerative brain disease. An estimated five million people globally have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the second-most-common neurudegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

The initial goal is to determine the feasibility of using wearable devices to monitor patients remotely and store that data in an open system that can be accessed by scientists.

In the next phase of the study, which will likely kick off in the fall, the foundation will set aside funds to explore how patients are responding to medication. Participants will be monitored via an array of wearable devices.

“As more of these devices hit the market, we can collect objective measurements and determine the efficacy of new therapeutics,” Sohini Chowdhury, a senior vice president for research partnerships at the foundation, told Reuters.

Clinical trials have been far too “subjective” in the past, she said. For instance, a patient might inform her doctor that she felt a tremor for several minutes, when it actually lasted a matter of seconds. In the future, Chowdhury hopes patients and their doctors will have more precise measurements via wearable devices about the “frequency and severity” of symptoms.

Chowdhury said the foundation will continue to raise funding to cover the costs of providing wearable devices to patients.

By using such devices, the foundation and other research groups can tap into a broader pool of patients for clinical trials, Chowdhury said. Today, many people with Parkinson’s disease are unable to participate in clinical trials because they do not live near a research facility.

But wearable devices offer a convenient way to track patients from their work or homes, allowing people in the most rural parts of the country to participate.

As it expands beyond the PC arena, Intel hopes to capture a share of the growing market for big data analytics and wearable devices in the health sector. Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel’s Big Data Solutions group, said the data center and “Internet of Things” business units are exploring the sector.

“We’re exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time,” he said. “We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease.”