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.
The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
Verizon Communications is engaged in discussions with content providers to deliver web-based TV services to mobile platforms, chief executive Lowell McAdam, said at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Just recently, Dish Network Corp and Walt Disney Co announced a landmark deal that will allow the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver Disney-owned network content online, outside of a traditional TV subscription.
Verizon’s goal “is to work with the content providers,” said
McAdam at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
“I have personally had discussions with the CEOs of the large content companies, and we would love to partner with them to see how we can take FiOS contact mobilely across the country.” he said.
McAdam said the company could also look at providing a service delivered over wireless airwaves and not just broadband.
According to PwC’s annual entertainment and media forecast, North American consumers will spend $6 billion in 2014 on entertainment from services such as Netflix that are offered over the top, meaning they are utilized over a network but not offered by the network operator.
“I think you can actually get a virtuous cycle where broadcast viewing goes up and over-the-top viewing goes up, if you time this properly,” McAdam said.
In January, Verizon acquired Intel Corp’s OnCue service for an undisclosed sum to accelerate its push into next-generation video services, including integrating it with Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based Internet and TV service that has more than 5 million video subscribers, about 5 percent of pay TV households. The company said it was open to providing over-the-top content to any device.
McAdam also stressed that Verizon expects Netflix to pay for faster video delivery as part of a so-called interconnect deal, in an arrangement similar to the one the video provider has made with Comcast Corp.
“I have spoken live and via email with (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings, and I believe that we will get some sort of an arrangement with them as well,” said McAdam.
We already knew that Android was the mobile operating systems most targeted by malware, and that isn’t about to change any time soon.
Security firm F-Secure has reported that malicious activity on Android accounted for 97 per cent of all detected mobile threats for 2013.
The figures were revealed in F-Secure’s latest Threat Report for the second half of 2013, finding that there were 566 more Android malware variants found last year than during the previous year.
“97 percent of the mobile threats in 2013 were directed at the Android platform, which racked up 804 new families and variants,” F-Secure said in its report (pdf). “The other three percent (23) were directed at Symbian. No other platforms had any threats. In contrast, 2012 saw 238 new Android threats.”
F-Secure found that the top 10 countries reporting Android threats saw a little over 140,000 Android malware detections, with 42 percent of the reported detections coming from Saudia Arabia and 33 percent from India. European countries accounted for 15 percent of the total and the US just five percent.
F-Secure said that due to Android itself having relatively few vulnerabilities, the main distribution method is still through shady apps downloaded from third-party app stores.
“For mobile platforms, the continued dominance of the Android operating system makes it almost the exclusive target for mobile threats we’ve seen this period,” F-Secure’s report explained.
“Though the relatively low number of vulnerabilities found in Android makes the operating system itself difficult to attack, this security is largely circumvented by the relative ease with which malware authors can provide their ‘products’ and dupe users into installing it on their own devices, with the necessary permissions to straightforwardly use the device (and the user’s data) for the attacker’s own benefit.”
The Android malware families most commonly reported in that period were Ginmaster, Fakeinst and Smssend, which either harvest data from the device or send premium-rate SMS messages.
The F-Secure report also found that web based attacks, which typically involve techniques that redirect the browser to malicious websites, were the most commonly reported type of attack for the period, making up 26 percent of malware detections, followed by the Conficker worm with 20 percent.
“The three most common exploits detected during the period were all Java-related,” the report said. “Java exploits, however, declined compared to [the first half of] 2013. Mac malware continues a slight but steady increase, with 51 new families and variants detected in 2013.”
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.
Sprint Corp and the federal government both agreed to fight in court over how much money law enforcement agencies owe the wireless provider for help the company was required to give investigators who wanted to tap phone calls.
The Obama administration filed a suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Monday, alleging that Sprint overcharged the government $21 million for expenses it incurred while complying with court-ordered wiretaps and other surveillance help.
Sprint said it plans to defend the matter “vigorously.”
Telecommunications companies, including Sprint, are routinely asked to assist with investigations by helping facilitate phone surveillance such as wiretaps or so-called “pen registers,” which record data about phone calls, though not their content.
The companies are required to maintain equipment and facilities to be ready to assist. They are allowed to request reimbursements for related “reasonable expenses.”
In the case, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag alleged that Sprint “knowingly submitted false claims” to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies from January 1, 2007 to July 31, 2010, inflating costs by about 58 percent.
The lawsuit said Sprint violated the anti-fraud law known as the False Claims Act and went against the federal regulations that prohibit carriers from using the reimbursements for wiretap cooperation to pay for updates to their equipment, facilities and services.
“Because Sprint’s invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs,” the Justice Department said in the lawsuit.
Sprint, however, said its invoices to the federal agencies fully complied with the law that requires the government to reimburse reasonable costs incurred in assisting law enforcement agencies with electronic surveillance.
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.
The False Claims Act is the U.S. government’s main tool for recovering money when it think it has been defrauded, usually by a contractor such as an arms maker or hospital chain.
The site, which enables strangers to meet for shared-interest activities ranging from parents’ groups to software development, was back online but still being attacked , Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters.
Meetup has refused to pay the small ransom as it believes doing so would make the perpetrators of the attacks demand more money.
“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Heiferman said, adding he was not yet sure how long it would take to keep the site reliably online.
A Meetup blog had earlier said the company was a victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign, a type of attack that knocks websites offline by overwhelming them with incoming traffic. It said that no personal data, including credit card information, had been accessed.
Heiferman said he was open to the possibility of some financial relief for members who pay between $12 and $17 a month to organize Meetup groups in their geographic and thematic areas of interest. He said his first priority was to resume the service of creating communities wholly via an Internet connection.
“we’re going to come out of this much stronger. And I don’t mean that as just a trite euphemism, I mean it literally. Like, we are going to be much more secure,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack since late last week when the assumed criminal group first offered to withhold it if Meetup paid $300.
The attack was the first in the site’s 12-year history, and Heiferman defended the move not to pay the paltry ransom.
“We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals,” he said in the post. “Payment could make us (and all well-meaning organizations like us) a target for further extortion demands as word spread in the criminal world.”
Meetup has almost 17 million members and, when online, was signing up between 15,000 and 20,000 people every day.
The site represents a soft target for online criminals, who often attempt to extort companies in return for calling off DDoS attacks, said Kevin Johnson, chief executive of cybersecurity consultancy Secure Ideas.
“It’s very common for this sort of attack to start off with a small demand,” Johnson said. “It’s not like Meetup can write a check for a million dollars.”
Heiferman’s blog post said the site should be able to protect itself over time, even though it has struggled to stay online since the attacks began on Thursday morning. He said Meetup spent millions of dollars a year to secure its systems.
The Meetup site and related mobile apps have been intermittently unavailable since Thursday.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
Samsung appears to have delivered a huge snuff to Android OS maker Google. Samsung’s new smartwatch Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the sequels to the poorly reviewed original Galaxy Gear are going to ship without Android.
Instead, the new Gears run Tizen, another open source operating system that Samsung, Intel, and others are working on. It is starting to look like Samsung wants to distance itself from its reliance on Google for software and services.
Samsung’s official reason is that Tizen has better battery life and performance. The new Gears can get up to an extra two days of battery life by running Tizen, even though they have the same size battery. The Galaxy Gear barely made it through a day on one charge.
To be fair Android isn’t optimized to run on wearable devices like smart watches, but Samsung didn’t want to wait around for Google to catch up. It was clearly concerned about beating Apple to market. So far Apple has not shown up.
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.
It is, for the moment, just a conspiracy theory, and it goes something like this: Microsoft wants to get out of the games console business. It’s planning to package up the Xbox part of the Devices & Studios division and separate it off from the rest of the company, so it can be sold as a going concern. Who’s buying? Amazon, which views acquiring Xbox as a step towards dominance of the living room. If there’s anything to this theory at all, the coming year or two could see the end of Microsoft Xbox and a warm welcome for Amazon Xbox.
Let’s lay all the cards on the table. The evidence is sketchy and circumstantial. We know that Microsoft is looking at some pretty major strategic changes in the wake of the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella’s focus throughout his career has been on the business end of Microsoft – servers, cloud services and enterprise tools – which remains in robust health compared to the troubled state of the firm’s consumer divisions. Choosing him as CEO could suggest that the company is aiming for a future focused on enterprise tools and platforms, not consumer products.
Then there’s the man who wasn’t chosen as CEO, Stephen Elop. Elop used to work at Microsoft, then became CEO of Nokia. Now that Nokia is selling its mobile phone division to Microsoft, Elop is back where he started. Moreover, he saw himself as a strong candidate for the CEO job when Steve Ballmer resigned. With Nadella in the CEO’s chair, Elop’s consolation prize is that he’s taking over as head of Devices & Studios. That’s a logical choice, since Devices & Studios will include Nokia under its umbrella, at least to some extent, so Elop will continue running his old Nokia team alongside the Xbox and Surface teams at Microsoft.
Given that, it would perhaps be more surprising if Elop wasn’t put in charge of Devices & Studios. His presence ought to ease the transition as Nokia is absorbed into Microsoft, a major acquisition that’s likely to cause some indigestion along the way. However, during the CEO selection process, while Elop was still in the running, Bloomberg reported that he had some very interesting plans for the company if he was running it. The reported plans included, notably, a willingness to sell off business units Elop viewed as distractions from Microsoft’s main goals – business units including the Bing search engine and the Xbox. As logical as his new job at Devices & Studios may seem, you can’t blame people for raising an eyebrow when a man who supposedly wanted to sell off the Xbox division is put in charge of the Xbox division.
It takes two to tango, so how about the Amazon side of the deal? Well, whispers of Amazon’s keen interest in the games market have flown around for months now, including rumours that the company has discreetly hired a number of veterans from the games industry while keeping their involvement quiet – for now. Last month, Amazon bought games studio Double Helix, fresh from working closely with Microsoft to prepare Killer Instinct as a launch title for Xbox One. Something is afoot. Occam’s Razor suggests a “Kindle” console, an Ouya-style box under the TV linked to Amazon’s digital content platform, but given the plethora of Android consoles currently underwhelming the market and failing to gain a foothold, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Amazon would want to make a much bolder move into the console space. Plus, Amazon certainly isn’t scared of making big acquisitions when it wants to open up a new market opportunity for itself – it’s hard to conceive of a cash value for Xbox, not least given how obfuscated the financials of the console business are, but I don’t doubt that Amazon could afford it if it really wanted to.
That’s it – that’s the conspiracy theory. I don’t deny for a second that the evidence, if you can call it that, is pretty thin. Microsoft is probably going to refocus on enterprise; a guy who wanted to sell Xbox is the new boss of that division, but he’s also the most logical choice for the job. Amazon is setting itself up for a big move into the games space and may (or may not) have hired some senior games people on the down-low. That’s the sum total of the evidence, and we should all bear that in mind. Even this article exists not to promote this theory, which I view as interesting but unsupported by the available information, but rather to evaluate, hypothetically, whether there is any real possibility of an Xbox spin-off and sale. In short, there’s no real evidence that Microsoft is going to do this thing, but it’s an interesting academic exercise to evaluate whether they could do it if they wanted, and whether a motivation to do so might exist.
So how hard, in theory, would it be to spin off and sell Xbox? The answer to that depends on what exactly Microsoft is proposing to sell. Xbox, as mentioned earlier, is part of the Devices & Studios division, which also houses Surface and will shortly be joined by Nokia. Some other odd things are rolled into this division, apparently. It was claimed last year that the patents which force Android device makers to cough up a fee to Microsoft for every handset they sell are held, for financial purposes, in Devices & Studios, thus accounting for a big chunk of the division’s revenue.
If Microsoft’s new management had come to view Xbox as a distraction that doesn’t fit with their new enterprise focus, one might reasonably ask if they’ll take the same view of Surface. That product which hasn’t performed well and has reportedly soured relationships between Microsoft and other hardware vendors, who aren’t terribly happy with the company from whom they license the Windows operating system suddenly being in direct competition with them. The company wouldn’t be happy about losing the patents related to Android, not least since Windows and Windows Phone presumably use the technology described by those patents as well, so that probably wouldn’t be included in any sale, but aside from that it’s plausible that Microsoft could sell the entire Devices & Studios operation, thus putting itself out of the hardware business entirely.
Alternatively, Microsoft could decide to hold on to Surface and simply divest itself of Xbox and the various Microsoft Game Studios operations. Surface would then be joined by Nokia in the much-reduced Devices division (no more studios!), which would be entirely focused on tablets and smartphones without the “distraction” of games. Such a disentanglement wouldn’t be terribly difficult, either. Xbox is actually fairly well divorced from the rest of Microsoft’s operations. Its operating system shares a visual language with the “Metro” interface of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, while various game-related elements of Microsoft’s other operating systems have also been given the “Xbox” and “Live” monikers. Bing, of course, runs on the Xbox dashboard. By and large, though, the technology and services which drive Xbox are divorced from the rest of Microsoft – although it’s worth noting that the much-vaunted Cloud functionality of Xbox One relies in part on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud services platform. Any buyout of Xbox would include various contracts ensuring that any Microsoft technologies or services upon which the console relies would continue to be provided to the new owner, so this would not be a major stumbling block.
A bigger question might be, would Microsoft even want to do this? That really depends how seriously you take the idea of “distraction”. Xbox One has had its thunder stolen by PS4, but is still selling well – and Xbox 360 was a major success. In fact, it’s the only success Microsoft has ever had in the consumer hardware space. Xbox proved Microsoft’s ability to create a great consumer brand and sell hardware to people. It’s a real bright spot in a few tough years for the company – especially compared to everything else it has attempted in the consumer space, from Zune and Surface to its latest operating system, Windows 8.
Why would you get rid of that? Well, you probably wouldn’t – but let’s brainstorm a motive. You could argue that Xbox is a bright spot that doesn’t have any real relevance to the rest of the company. Microsoft in the early 2000s wanted to reinvent itself as a consumer-facing company, but with Xbox being the only success in a small sea of failures, Satya Nadella is likely to try to bring the firm back to focusing on the enterprise market. As the oil tanker slowly turns around to head into more corporate seas, Xbox will be more and more at odds with the culture and mission of the rest of the company. It will arguably be a distraction both internally, where it won’t fit with Microsoft’s culture, and externally, where it will detract from a brand message that promotes Microsoft as a serious, corporate, business-focused partner for enterprise (as distinct from the more consumer-led branding of rivals Apple and Google). Selling off Xbox would generate cash (not that Microsoft needs it), streamline the company and start the new CEO’s tenure with a dramatic gesture that sets out his vision more clearly than any speech or press release.
In short, Microsoft could do this and, if we assume that upper management take the notion of “distraction” seriously and are genuinely willing to abandon the firm’s ambitions in the consumer devices space, there’s a motive for doing it. How about Amazon’s side of the table? This deal would cost billions; would Amazon stand to gain enough to justify that kind of outlay? After all, aren’t consoles a dying space? Plenty of pundits seem to expect that PS4 and XB1 will be the last generation of consoles. Would a company as smart as Amazon get sucked into a market that’s about to collapse?
Amazon, like Microsoft a decade ago, has major ambitions in the consumer devices space. The company built itself on the back of selling physical goods but has neatly sidestepped the so-called “innovator’s dilemma” by being more than willing to disrupt its own business. The world’s biggest seller of physical books became the world’s biggest promoter of ebook readers. Music downloads, streaming video, cloud services; Amazon has taken an active and enthusiastic interest in every field that might disrupt its existing businesses, seeking not to shut down threats but to be the biggest player in whatever comes next. It supplemented the Kindle e-reader with Kindle tablet devices whose market performance is largely unknown, but is thought by analysts to be one of the only genuine competitors to the iPad’s sales dominance. Anyone who owns a Kindle device knows that they are designed from the ground up to be a great interface to accessing and buying content from Amazon’s ecosystem. That’s Amazon’s play; own the media ecosystem, building the devices themselves if that’s what it takes.
That ambition is a pretty solid fit for the console business. Moreover, it can’t have escaped Amazon’s notice that Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live together make up a big area of digital content provision in which it has no involvement right now. Amazon will also be paying careful attention to the interest around set-top boxes (like AppleTV and Google’s TV efforts) and Smart TVs. Here there’s huge potential for consumers to be accessing media ecosystems directly from their TVs and connected devices – again, a game in which Amazon has no skin. For Amazon, the ideal would be that when you want to watch or play something on your TV, you do so through Kindle interface that links right into Amazon’s digital library, just like the Kindle tablets work. Of course, an Android microconsole would achieve that goal, but it wouldn’t be of much interest to gamers – at best, it would capture a fringe of the market who engage with Kindle tablets.
Is appealing to gamers important? This comes back to the question of whether consoles are really dying – and honestly, who knows better about that question than Amazon? Amazon is the largest retailer in many countries. Not only does it see how many consoles and console games are sold, it also sees loads of connected information which is hidden from even game publishers. It knows how high-spending gamers are in other areas – whether they’re likely to buy a lot of gadgets, a lot of books, a lot of movies or albums. It knows how much they engage with the brands they love, whether they cross-promote to friends resulting in more sales, whether they leave reviews and promote products on social media. Amazon can make an estimation of the actual value of the core gamer market more accurately than any other company.
What is that estimate looking like? I don’t know, of course, but Amazon’s actions in the coming months are going to tell us a lot about it. Regardless of whether the Xbox conspiracy theory pans out, Amazon is going to make some kind of game-related move relatively soon. It will be interesting to see how much importance and focus the company places on the games space at that time.
Until we see more evidence, though, it’s impossible to construct a fully credible argument which places the future of Xbox anywhere but Microsoft. There’s simply not enough information out there to support that kind of conclusion. That said, there is a possible motive to sell on the part of Microsoft, and a possible motive to buy for Amazon. If I had to pin my colours to a mast on this, I’d say Microsoft is probably discussing a sale with interested parties, including Amazon, but hasn’t made a final decision on whether to start sale proceedings as yet. I also wouldn’t read too much into that, given that it’s the responsibility of management to consider such possibilities as part of their duty to the shareholders. Then again, under Microsoft’s new management, perhaps such things are being considered rather more seriously than before.
The company has produced the Kinetis KLO3 MCU, a 32-bit ARM system that is 15% smaller than its previous iteration but with a 10% power improvement.
Internet of Things is a buzzword for the trend toward network-connected sensors incorporated into devices that in the past were standalone appliances. These devices use sensors to capture things like temperatures in thermostats, pressure, accelerometers, gyroscopes and other types of MEMS sensors. A microcontroller unit gives intelligence and limited computational capability to these devices, but is not a general purpose processor. One of the roles of the microcontroller is to connect the data with more sophisticated computational power.
The Kinetis KLO3 runs a lightweight embedded operating system to connect the data to other devices, such as an app that uses a more general purpose processor.
Kathleen Jachimiak, product launch manager at Freescale, said the new microcontroller will “enable further miniaturization” in connected devices. This MCU is capable of having up to 32 KB of flash memory and 2 KB of RAM.
Consumers want devices that are light, small and smart. They also want to be able to store their information and send it to an application that’s either on a phone or a PC, Jachimiak said.
This microcontroller, at 1.6 x 2.0 mm, is smaller than the dimple on a golf ball, and uses a relatively new process in its manufacturing, called wafer level chip scale packaging. The process involves building the integrated package while the die is still part of a wafer. It’s a more efficient process and produces the smallest possible package, for a given die size.
The move to LTE has killed Intel’s pretense of interest in the baseband market. According to the Motley Fool, ever since the handset market began its shift to LTE, Intel has handed its part of the industry to Qualcomm and Mediatek.
Intel was once the Number two player in baseband, albeit with roughly 12 per cent share against Qualcomm’s commanding 60 per cent share. However, Intel’s smartphone apps processors were greeted by a yawn by the industry and as its LTE rollout was delayed. As a result, its baseband share has plummeted over the last few years from a reasonable about to sod all.
Intel must be gutted. The global cellular baseband market in 2012 was worth $17.8 billion, according to Strategy Analytics.
MediaTek and Qualcomm’s have knocked Intel down to a dismal 8 per cent of the market. This poor performance was driven largely by a declining 3G market, of LTE multi-mode, coupled with a hostile pricing environment within 3G. Intel hopes that as 2014 rolls along, its LTE products will begin undoing the damage to its revenue caused by the 3G decline. If this is the case we will not see an improvement for Intel until 2015.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty took to the Mobile World Congress stage and announced a global competition to spur developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by its Watson supercomputer platform.
Watson is the heart of the company’s cognitive computing technology. IBM is pulling out all the stops to make Watson a success. Last month, the company set up a new division, the Watson Business Group, to create and run cloud-based cognitive applications and services for enterprise users.
“By 2016, a quarter of the apps in the world will be in the cloud,” Rometty said. These apps are generating massive amounts of data, she said.
“You can’t program enough to make sense of all the data in the world,” Rometty said, adding that the vast amount of data generated every day is leading to a new era of computing.
“The new era is cognitive, of teach and learn,” Rometty said.
“I want to make an offer to you,” Rometty said. “We’re gonna offer the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge.”
The competition is taking place under the newly formed IBM Watson Group. It aims to encourage development of cognitive computing apps.
Watson cognitive computing comprises services, software and apps that analyze and improve by learning. The idea is to answer complex questions derived from massive amounts of disparate data, Rometty said.
IBM is setting up the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge specifically to seed efforts to develop cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices, Rometty said.
Over the next three months, the global challenge will invite mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes.
IBM will invite three winners to join the Watson Ecosystem Program, in which the company is assembling content providers and independent software vendors to collaborate on the development and release of “Powered by IBM Watson” applications.
“We’ve already got thousands of applicants,” to be part of the ecosystem, Rometty said.
The winners of the challenge will work with IBM’s recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience, to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a commercial app, IBM detailed in a statement accompanying Rometty’s talk.
IBM is serious about encouraging the development of applications that run in the cloud. For IBM, more applications mean more data generated, and more of a need for the analytics software and services that it sells.
“We have a big-data analysis business of $16 billion,” Rometty said.
On Monday, IBM announced it will spend $1 billion on its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy, separate from the money it is investing in Watson, to encourage software makers to build cloud apps.
As part of that announcement, made at its Pulse event in Las Vegas, IBM will become a major contributor to the Cloud Foundry, an open source PaaS that is run under the aegis of Pivotal, a spinout from VMware and EMC.
IBM first developed Watson as a research project to compete against humans on the game show “Jeopardy.” Watson can come up with answers to questions using a range of sources in various formats. It was able to hone its answers by learning how to formulate the best responses in an iterative, trial and error process.
Because this approach to problem solving emulates how humans think, it is known as cognitive computing.
After Watson beat human contestants in “Jeopardy” in 2011, IBM has worked to commercialize Watson technologies.
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.