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Samsung Boots Two-Thirds Of It’s R&D Staff

November 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Electronics is about to decrease personnel at its Samsung Seoul R&D Campus by as many as two-thirds in order to restructure its business model and operations

A new report from ChosunBiz said that Samsung originally aimed to house around 10,000 personnel on the site. However the majority of the decreases will be applied to Samsung’s Digital Media & Communication (DMC) and Media Solutions Centre (MSC).

The campus will instead house about 3,500 staff who have master and PhD degrees and specialise in software, design and digital media development.

The move is odd as it is coming at a time when Samsung is really desperate for killer innovation to steal the march on the competition. However reading between the lines it looks like it is reducing work in its content creation side.

We are surprised that it is doing anything with its Media Solutions centre. Originally, it was established to operate as a Korean version of the App Store. But the company announced on December 10 last year that it was dissolves the organisation.

At the time it was admitted that the content business has not been as successful as the hardware business. Moreover, the worsening performance of the smartphone business arising from the increasingly saturated market forced the company to speed up the break-up process.



Mobile OS Sailfish Continues To Struggle, Layoffs Loom

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Apple Acknowledges Issue With iPad Pro

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

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

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

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

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

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


Facebook Testing Work Chat App For Businesses

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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



Qualcomm May Be Facing Anti-Trust Issues Abroad

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sprint Introduces New ‘Half Off’ Rate Plan

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Miles Can Be Used For In-flight Wifi Says United

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Is The Steam OS Really Good?

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Benchmarks for Valve’s Steam machines are out and it does not look like the Linux powered OS is stacking up well against Windows.

According to Ars Technica the SteamOS gaming comes with a significant performance hit on a number of benchmarks.

The OS was put through Geekbench 3 which has a Linux version. The magazine used some mid-to-late-2014 releases that had SteamOS ports suitable for tests including Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Metro: Last Light Redux.

Both were intensive 3D games with built-in benchmarking tools and a variety of quality sliders to play with (including six handy presets in Shadow of Mordor’s case).

On SteamOS both games had a sizable frame rate hit. We are talking about 21- to 58-percent fewer frames per second, depending on the graphical settings. On our hardware running Shadow of Mordor at Ultra settings and HD resolution, the OS change alone was the difference between a playable 34.5 fps average on Windows and a 14.6 fps mess on SteamOS.

You would think that Valve’s own games wouldn’t have this problem, but Portal, Team Fortress 2, and DOTA 2 all took massive frame rate dips on SteamOS compared to their Windows counterparts.

Left 4 Dead 2 showed comparable performance between the two operating systems but nothing like what Steam thought it would have a couple of years ago.



Citrix To Spin Off GoTo Business Into Separate Unit

November 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Citrix Systems announced plans to spin off its GoTo collaboration products business into a new company, to focus on its core business in the secure delivery of apps and data.

The mobile workspaces company expects to completely separate the GoTo business, consisting of products like GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, GoToWebinar, OpenVoice, Grasshopper and GoToMyPC, into a separate, publicly traded company by the second half of next year.

For the trailing 12 months ended Sept. 30, unaudited revenue from the GoTo products and services was about $600 million.

The initial results of Citrix’s operations review, which were announced Tuesday, also involves a “realignment of resources” that is expected to eliminate about 1,000 full-time and contract roles, over and above the effect of spinning off the GoTo business. Most of the layoffs and refocusing of resources are expected in November and in January 2016.

The review follows an agreement in July with investment firm Elliott Management whose affiliated funds own about 7.5 percent of the company’s common stock. Elliott is said to have asked the company to trim down its business, according to reports. The company’s CEO and president, Mark Templeton, retired last month as part of a plan announced in July.

The company plans to now increase emphasis and focus its resources on core enterprise products for secure application and data delivery, including its XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and NetScaler.

The separation of GoTo will create a pure-play SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company that will have a targeted focus with the flexibility to invest in its portfolio of products, said Bob Calderoni, interim CEO and president and executive chairman of Citrix. The GoTo family of products is best suited to grow and operate as a standalone business, he said in a statement.



Tim Cook Says No To iOS Powered Laptops

November 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple CEO Tim Cook has again shot down the idea of following in the footsteps of rival Microsoft to develop a notebook that runs his company’s mobile operating system, iOS.

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” Cook told The Irish Independent, Ireland’s largest daily newspaper, in aninterview published Sunday. “Putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

But take Cook’s comments with a grain — or more — of salt. “These are tactical communications, nothing about what they might do, or what they potentially will do,” noted Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in a Monday interview.

Cook, who has been on a swing through Europe to meet with Irish officials about an expansion of Apple’s facility in the country, and in the U.K. to trumpet the iPad Pro, which went on sale last week, again took time to take a swipe at the competition.

“What that would wind up doing,” Cook said, referring to a notebook-slash-tablet analogous to Microsoft’s new Surface Book, “is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants.”

In earlier interviews while in Europe, Cook had previously bashed the Surface Book, a 2-in-1 with an integrated keyboard and detachable screen that reverts to a tablet when held separately. “It’s trying to be a tablet and a notebook and it really succeeds at being neither. It’s sort of deluded,” Cook said of the Surface Book.

Cook’s stance is not new: The CEO has repeatedly said Apple had no interest in 2-in-1 devices, at one point calling tablets with keyboards akin to a Frankenstein mashup of toaster and refrigerator. That, of course, was long before Apple decided to join the market with the 12.9-in. iPad Pro and its optional Smart Keyboard.



Russia’s Search Giant Yandex Wants EU To Investigate Google’s Android

November 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Russia’s dominant search site Yandex said it has asked the European Commission to investigate Google’s practices in relation to its Android mobile operating system in the European Union.

The new complaint could strengthen the case against Google, possibly giving enough ammunition to EU antitrust regulators to eventually charge the company with anti-competitive business practices, on top of accusations related to its Google Shopping service.

The formal request was filed in April 2015 and largely mirrors the Russian company’s claims against the U.S. company in a Russian anti-monopoly case that Yandex won.

Russia’s competition watchdog ruled in September that Google had broken the law by requiring pre-installation of its search application on mobile devices running on its Android operating system.

“We think that the Russian finding of abuse of dominance is instructive, and is a conclusion that can readily be adopted in other jurisdictions, including the EU,” Yandex said.

Yandex is one of the few companies to publicly complain about Android.

It joins U.S. tech firm Disconnect, Portuguese app store Aptoide, and lobbying group FairSearch whose members include Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor and French price comparison site Twenga.

Yandex, which rivals Google in Turkey as well as Russia and several other former Soviet republics, said its business development in Europe would depend, among other factors, on the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation.

“We hope the European Commission … offers their help in restoring fair competition and ensuring equal opportunity to pre-install mobile applications on Android-based devices not only for Google, but also for other developers,” it said.

Yandex is ahead of Google in Russia with a search market share of around 60 percent, but it has been slow expanding abroad – a position it flagged when selling shares in a $1.3 billion initial public offering on Nasdaq in 2011.



Apple Pulling The Plug On Beats Music

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple is dropping the ax on Beats Music on Nov. 30, shortly after launching the beta of an Android app for its Apple Music streaming service.

The company is now encouraging both Android and iOS users of Beats Music to transition to the Apple Music streaming service, which was launched by the company in June.

After the launch of the Apple Music app for Android phones, it has become easier for Apple to do the inevitable – shut down Beats Music, transition Android users and focus on Apple Music.

“All the pros that curated music for you are still crafting more amazing experiences,” wrote executive Dale Bagwell on a Beats support page. “Plus, on Apple Music, you’ll get even better recommendations based on music you already listen to and love, 24/7 global radio with Beats 1, exciting material from your favorite artist, and more.”

Beats Music subscriptions will be cancelled on Nov. 30, but users have the option to move their picks and preferences over to Apple Music, he added.

The company also provided detailed instructions for users moving from Beat Music to Apple Music on the support page. Apple had said earlier it was no longer accepting new subscriptions for Beats Music and recommended to users to move their current Beats subscriptions over to Apple Music.

Apple unveiled in June the subscription music service, which is priced at US$10 a month with a family service also available for up to six family members for $15 per month. The subscription rates vary in some countries.

The service offers a three-month free trial. Unlike some of its rivals, Apple Music doesn’t offer free music supported by advertisements.



Facebook Tests Disappearing Messages Feature

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has confirmed that it is conducting a small test of a Snapchat-like feature, enabling users to send messages that will automatically disappear.

“We’re excited to announce the latest in an engaging line of optional product features geared towards making Messenger the best way to communicate with the people that matter most,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “Starting today, we’re conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they’re sent. Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger.”

This should sound familiar to Snapchat users who are accustomed to their messages disappearing shortly after they’re sent.

Users can turn the Facebook feature on by tapping an hourglass icon in the upper right corner of the Messenger screen. Tap the hourglass again to turn it off.

Facebook is testing disappearing messages for iOS and Android users in France only. While the feature may be available in more countries over time, Facebook didn’t have any current plans to share.

This may be a good defensive move for the social network.

Facebook has been struggling to retain, or even attract, younger users who are being lured away by apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

To deal with this problem, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for a reported $3 billion in late 2013. The offer was turned down, though.

Then in early 2014, Facebook tried to go after Snapchat’s users by unveiling a new mobile app called Slingshot. The app was designed to enable users to instantly share photos and videos with multiple friends.

Now that Facebook is taking a different tack, the question is whether it can steal away Snapchat’s user base.






Imagination Gives MIPS Warrior A Boost

November 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies has introduced three new additions to the MIPS Warrior CPU family, updating its embedded 32-bit M-class CPUS with the new M6200 and M6250, as well as the higher performing P-class CPU with the 64-bit P6600.

The MIPS P6600 is touted as “the next evolution” of the P-class family and is intended to “pave the way” to future generations of higher performance 64-bit processors.

The MIPS P6600 builds on the 32-bit P5600 CPU, which was the company’s first CPU core based on the MIPS Series 5 architecture and announced about two years ago. The MIPS Series 5 was designed to accelerate compute-intensive applications and thereby appeal to the embedded and mobile markets.

The P6600 CPU boasts a higher performing 64-bit architecture while other improvements over its predecessor include a deep 16-stage pipeline with multi-issue and Out-of-Order execution to deliver better computational throughput for complex software workloads.

“The P6600 CPU is the most balanced mainstream high-performance CPU choice, enabling powerful multicore 64-bit system of chips with optimal area efficiency for applications in segments including mobile, home entertainment, networking, automotive, HPC or servers, and more,” said the chip firm, adding that customers have already licensed the P6600 for applications including high-performance computing and advanced image and vision systems.


Like the P5600, MIPS P6600 is an OmniShield-ready design that supports full hardware virtualisation and security features. It is said to be able to handle up to 15 guest operating systems running simultaneously in fully isolated and trusted environments, too.

“This unprecedented level of scalability for virtualisation and security gives the MIPS Warrior family another unique advantage in the battle for supremacy in the processor space,” added the firm.

The P6600 packs a faster SIMD engine for accelerating multimedia processing as well as branch prediction and a load/store instruction bonding mechanism: two technologies that Imagination said will provide a boost in real-world workloads while keeping silicon area and power consumption in check.

As for the MIPS M6200 and M6250 chips, these are the latest additions to Imagination’s less powerful M-class family processors for MCUs/MPUs, further broadening the M-class roadmap for high-performance deeply embedded designs in segments requiring higher performance and larger address space.

Imagination said this could include things like wired/wireless modems, GPU supervisor processors, flash and SSD controllers, industrial and motor control, and advanced audio voice processing.



Huawei Unveils Fast-charging Battery For Smartphones

November 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei has designed and developed a prototype smartphone battery that can be recharged to half its capacity in just five minutes.

The battery is based on the same lithium ion chemistry used in cellphone batteries today but gets its advantage from atoms of graphite bonded to the anode, Huawei said on Friday at an industry conference in Japan.

That change means faster charging but not at the expense of usage life or a sacrifice in the amount of energy that can be stored in each battery, it said.

It was developed by Huawei research and development subsidiary Watt Lab and the company showed off two prototypes in videos posted online.

One of the two batteries has a capacity of 3,000mAh (milliampere hours) — about equivalent to the batteries in modern smartphones — and can be charged to 48 percent of capacity in five minutes. The second has a much smaller capacity of 600mAh but reaches 68 percent of capacity in just two minutes.

The batteries have undergone repeated testing and the fast charging isn’t a one-time deal, the company said.

Huawei didn’t say when the fast charging might make its way into commercial products.

The announcement is one of a number this year that all point toward faster charging or longer battery life. Advances in battery technology have lagged other areas of technology and battery life remains a limiting factor for gadgets such as phones and larger products like electric vehicles.