Friday, May 26, 2017

Here Comes Huawei (again!)

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei plans a global expansion into computers, it said on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to established PC players in a market that has suffered two years of falling sales volumes and pressure on margins.

At a news conference in Berlin, the Shenzhen-based company introduced its first line-up of three personal computer models, including a 15.6-inch screen notebook, a 2-in-1 tablet and notebook hybrid and an ultra slim, metallic 13-inch notebook.

Initially, Huawei plans to target the premium-priced consumer market, competing with Lenovo, HP and Dell [DI.UL], which together sell more than 50 percent of all PCs. To a lesser extent, it will also go up against Apple's high-end, but shrinking, Mac computer business.

Huawei's Matebook X is a fanless notebook with splash-proof screen and combined fingerprint sign-on and power button, priced between 1,399 and 1,699 euros ($1,570-$1,900). Its Matebook E 2-in-1 hybrid will run from 999 to 1,299 euros while the Matebook D with 15.6-inch display is priced at 799 to 999 euros, it said.

Overall, PC market sales volumes dropped 8.3 percent in 2015 and a further 3.7 percent in 2016, according to research firm Gartner, which has predicted a flat outcome this year and increasing market consolidation through 2020.

"From Huawei's perspective, we see opportunities in the PC market's decline," Cheng Lei, senior marketing manager for the PC business, said in a phone interview of the cost-savings and design and manufacturing benefits it gets from its smartphone business.

Huawei, the world's top maker of wireless and fixed-line telecoms equipment, emerged two years ago as the world's No. 3 smartphone maker after Samsung and Apple, displacing Lenovo, which remains focused on its computer business.

Huawei's new PCs all run seventh generation Intel microprocessors, Microsoft Windows 10 software and in-house developed software to automate data transfers between Huawei smartphones and its new computer models, Lei said.

Huawei said it aimed to offer the new PCs in 12 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East in early June.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Amazon Echo Camera

Amazon’s odd foray into the world of selfie cameras via the Echo Look is now complete with the launch of a companion application for iOS and Android devices that works with the new connected camera. The app allows Echo Look owners to view live previews from the Look’s camera, take a picture, survey their outfits, mark favorites, compare styles and more.

The company had already detailed how the Echo Look app would work, but the app only rolled out to the various app stores over the weekend – a little under a month after Amazon’s announcement of the Echo Look device itself.

The app is designed to work alongside the Look – Amazon’s funky $200 camera that takes full-length photos and short videos of users via a depth-sensing camera, complemented by built-in LED lighting and computer vision-based background blur. The Look also doubles as a standard Alexa device that can read the news and play audiobooks, give weather forecasts, play music, launch apps, set timers, and more.

The new app also includes support for Style Check, a new service from Amazon that uses a combination of machine learning and advice from human fashion specialists to help you figure out what to wear. The company had actually launched this feature ahead of the Echo Look, via an “Outfit Compare” option on and in its main mobile app.

The Echo Look app includes that feature along with other tools to view and favorite your outfits – allowing you to create a personal lookbook you can access at any time. By encouraging users to save their photos in the app instead of discarding them, Amazon then gains access to real-world data about what’s in consumers’ closets, and what they like to wear.

This will help to better inform the company’s fashion ambitions, which have so far included its own private label brands, some of which are exclusive to Prime, and even an interesting patent for on-demand clothes hinting at future fast-fashion plans.

Not only would the Look know about upcoming trends and popular styles, it could potentially grow to one day include other features – like the ability to take measurements and figure out user’s sizes, or make recommendations about how to accessorize outfits via purchases from Amazon’s site.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Huawei Narrows the Gap

China's Huawei has narrowed the gap with its two biggest competitors Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics in global smartphone sales, first-quarter data from research firm Gartner showed on Tuesday.

The Chinese network-to-consumer-electronics builder increased its market share to 9 percent during the first quarter from 8.3 percent in the year-earlier period.

"Huawei has now steadily held the third spot in the worldwide ranking of smartphone vendors," Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"However, pressure is mounting as its counterparts in China are catching up."

Chinese vendors Oppo and Vivo grew their shares of the market to 8.1 and 6.8 percent respectively, helped by aggressive marketing and sales promotions, posing a threat to both Huawei and Apple in China, where Oppo is the No. 1 smartphone seller.

Samsung Electronics kept its top spot but saw its market share shrink to 20.7 percent from 23.3 percent as it continued to feel the impact of its costly Galaxy Note 7 recall last year after several devices spontaneously caught fire.

"Although Samsung announced that pre-orders for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are up 30 percent year on year, the absence of an alternative to Note 7 and the fierce competition in the basic smartphone segment are leading Samsung to continuously lose market share," Gartner's Gupta said.

Apple's market share dropped to 13.7 percent from 14.8 percent. The first quarter of the year is Apple's weakest when sales dip after the holiday-heavy fourth quarter. Customers are also holding back on buying iPhones in anticipation of new models that will be launched later in the year.

Overall, 380 million smartphones were sold during the first quarter, 9.1 percent more than in the year-earlier period.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smart Devices

Smart home and digital consumer electronics developers are hard at work developing a new generation of smart devices, appliances, and equipment that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to take the concept of personalization and digitally automated work and lifestyles to new heights, ReportLinker highlights in a new smart home owner survey.

Automated, voice and remote-controlled energy management technology adjusts lighting and temperature based on end user preferences, as well as on what is sensed in the surrounding environment. Smart sprinklers can switch on automatically, dispersing the minimum amount of water required to keep lawns lush and green, while smart refrigerators take stock of what’s inside and notify you of what’s lacking or in short supply, even if you’re outside the home. They can even place online orders to restock and deliver the items as needed. Then, of course, there’s smart home entertainment, a huge, fast growing market segment that just about anybody who’s anybody in the business is keen to dominate.

Home, business, and organizational security is another main focal point for the development of new AI/voice-enabled devices and digital assistant software, ReportLinker highlights singling out French hardware manufacturer Netatmo recently joining with Velux to develop connected windows that will open and shut depending on the weather. Other, similarly endowed smart home tech will enable parents to watch and monitor their babies remotely, not to mention their pets as well.

According to ReportLinker’s market research, nearly half of Americans consider themselves to be tech-savvy, or adept. That rises to 58 percent among young adult Millennials. Furthermore, smart home tech users tend to own more than one associated device – 3.4 on average.

Half of online respondents surveyed said they have one or two smart home automation devices installed at home. One-third said they had five or more. Among those cited were smart home appliances (20%), smart thermostats (16%), smart security systems (12%) and smart lighting solutions (10%).

Monday, May 22, 2017

No Booze Beer

The new beer, known as Heineken 0.0, was unveiled at the Spanish Formula One over the weekend and the brewer is hoping it will make it a major player in a segment of the market growing at five per cent per annum.

And no-booze beer comes with far less tax, which Heineken hopes will allow it to play in the soft-drink market space and offer a beverage that it believes is far healthier to many sugary juices and fizzy drinks on the market. A 0.0 reportedly has half the calories of a can of Coke or full-strength beer.

Heineken will target Europe, Russia and the middle-east with 0.0 and, (some might say thankfully), there doesn’t appear to be any news of the booze-free beverage coming to Australia anytime soon.

News of Heineken’s move comes as the planet’s biggest brewer AB InBev, makers of the likes of Stella Artois, Corona and Budweiser, announced plans that a quarter of its beers would be low or alcohol free by 2025. Low alcohol tends to mean any beer under 3.5 per cent.

According to Heineken brewmaster’s Willem van Waesberghe the reason most no-alcohol beers has failed in the past is they’ve tasted awful.

However, for 0.0 the brewer has created two separate brews with different qualities, then removes the alcohol and blends them together.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Win 10 S Limitations

If Windows 10 S will only allow apps that can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, it can run the new downloadable Linux apps, right? Wrong!
Here's why: Microsoft is actively blocking "command-line" apps that run outside the safe environment of Windows 10 S, Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
Microsoft said it created Windows 10 S as a way for students and even mainstream users to add a bit more security to their Windows 10 experience. Windows 10 S only runs apps that have been vetted by Microsoft and appear in the Store. Though Microsoft didn't explicitly say so at the time, those apps don't run at a low level on a user's PC, like debuggers or those applications that explicitly write to hardware or modify the system registry.
Linux does, however.  And in Turner's words, those apps won't run on an operating system "that has been deliberately constrained to prevent just these types of apps and tasks from running!" Though they install just like a traditional Windows 10 UWP app, they behave like command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox and the secure runtime infrastructure, Turner wrote.
And it's not just Linux. Examples of other low-level apps that won't run under Windows 10 S include the Windows Console, Cmd/PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances.
Fortunately, there is a solution: Windows 10 S contains a built-in upgrade path to Windows 10 Pro, and here's how to do it. If you've preordered the new Surface Laptop, the device will ship with Windows 10 S, but you'll be able to upgrade for free for a limited time.
Why this matters: Many Windows users look askance Windows 10 S and its built-in constraints, and this restriction on certain Windows Stores apps may deepen their skepticism. As anyone who's done tech support for a family member knows, keeping some people away from the registry or other low-level functions is sometimes a good idea. The question becomes a bit thornier, though, if Windows 10 S does in fact take off in the classroom. It could be hard to encourage kids to code, and then hack, without giving them access to low-level functions.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Uber Wins (Sort Of)

A judge in Alphabet’s case against Uber has determined that the ride-hail company can continue operating its autonomous efforts as is so long as Anthony Levandowski, the executive at the center of the suit, is barred from any and all work related to the radar in question.

This simply formalizes Levandowski’s decision to voluntarily recuse himself from all work on lidar — the specific type of radar Alphabet claims he stole the designs for — ahead of the injunction hearing. However, Uber will now face legal ramifications if Levandowski violates this court order.

The court will appoint a “special master” to review and monitor communications and operations to ensure Levandowski is truly removed from all lidar work.

The court order reads:
The bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo’s intellectual property; that at least some information from those files, if not the files themselves, has seeped into Uber’s own LiDAR development efforts.

As part of its bid for an injunction, Alphabet asked that the court order Uber to stop using any and all technology that included allegedly stolen trade secrets in developing its driverless cars. Uber made clear that none of its semi-autonomous cars on the road today use its in-house radars, so regardless of what the judge’s decision ended up being, it’s not likely the company would have had to stop operating the cars on the road.

The judge also said that Alphabet “overreached” when it asked for protection of 121 of what it believed qualified as trade secrets.

“General approaches dictated by well-known principles of physics, however, are not ‘secret,’ since they consist essentially of general engineering principles that are simply part of the intellectual equipment of technical employees,” Judge William Alsup wrote.

As part of this partial injunction, Uber must account for any and all conversations — written or oral — that Levandowski had with any company employee discussing or related to the radar Alphabet claims he stole.

Importantly, Alphabet’s legal counsel and an expert will also be able to inspect any and all of Uber’s current work with this specific type of lidar radar, regardless of whether that results in a prototype. This is part of what is called “expedited discovery,” which the judge granted Alphabet so that the company could ask for additional preliminary relief or other additions to the injunction.

Alphabet has also been granted depositions of seven more Uber employees.

Alphabet is suing Uber for stealing proprietary information, claiming Levandowski downloaded 14,000 files before leaving Alphabet to start a new autonomous company that the ride-hail company eventually acquired.