Saturday, December 20, 2014

MSFT Changes It's Mind, Again!

Microsoft said Friday that while two older midrange Lumia phones will receive its Denim update in just a few days, Lumia Icon owners will have to wait until 2015 to receive it, breaking an earlier Microsoft promise.

Microsoft said Friday that the Lumia 822 and Lumia 928 would receive the Denim OS upgrade in the next few days. The phones are old: The Lumia 928 is a midrange phone from June 2013, and the 822 also dates back to mid-2013. But the newer, better Icon will have to wait until “early 2015” to receive it.

In September, Microsoft promised that Denim—Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, plus some camera-specific updates—would roll out during the fourth quarter. Microsoft said Thursday that it had begun rolling out Denim, which will bring improvements like a Store Live Tile and a consumer VPN function, as part of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. Specific phones—the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520 and Lumia 830—will also eventually receive the Lumia Camera update, with faster shooting times and the ability to record 4K video.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Android for Cars

Google is laying the groundwork for a version of Android that would be built directly into cars, sources said, allowing drivers to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet without even plugging in their smartphones.

The move is a major step up from Google's current Android Auto software, which comes with the latest version of its smartphone operating system and requires a phone to be plugged into a compatible car with a built-in screen to access streaming music, maps and other apps. The first such vehicles will debut in 2015.

Google, however, has never provided details or a timeframe for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. The company now plans to do so when it rolls out the next version of its operating system, dubbed Android M, expected in a year or so, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

"It provides a much stronger foothold for Google to really be part of the vehicle rather than being an add-on," said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and Automotive Practice Leader of industry research firm Gartner, who noted that he was unaware of Google's latest plans in this area.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do You Still Drive an Edsel?

Blackberry is going back to its roots with a keyboard-equipped phone that looks like the original “crackberrys” that made the Canadian smartphone maker a household name.

The Classic smartphone, which features a qwerty keyboard, trackpad and call and hang-up buttons nestled below a touch screen, was debuted today by Chief Executive Officer John Chen at an event in New York. It restores features largely abandoned on BlackBerry devices last year with the introduction of a new operating system.

“When I went to visit customers -- and these are the CEOs of top banks in this town -- a lot of them pulled out their BlackBerrys,” Chen said at the event. Chen said one financial executive told him: “Don’t mess around with this thing.”

The Classic brings the company full circle after Thorsten Heins, the previous CEO, shifted from keyboards to phones exclusively with touch screens, alienating die-hard business users. BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market fell to less than 1 percent as users flocked to iPhones and products running Google Inc.’s Android software.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Samsung Phone Sales Falling

If anything is certain, the future is bright for smartphone sales. Each month, market researchers release new studies showing that smartphone shipments continue to soar and device makers are generating more cash on those products than any other type of mobile phone.

A recent study from research firm eMarketer even showed that in a few short years smartphones will outpace feature phones in total shipments. What's more, they won't look back:

Feature phone shipments are expected to decline considerably in the coming years. But while all of that seems to be positive for the industry and phone makers, not every company is getting the kind of benefit they might hope to see. In fact, a recent study by research firm Gartner on the smartphone and feature phone markets during the third quarter shows that Samsung is in rough shape, with its smartphone shipments falling year-over-year. That stands in stark contrast to just about every other device maker, whose device shipments rose during the period. Gartner's findings provide an insightful look at where the smartphone market stands today, what companies performed best during the third quarter and how the market will evolve over the next few years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Smartphone Traffic

Chitika Insights has a produced a report that shows the traffic share of different smartphone makers across both apps and the mobile web in North America. The iPhone is the leader in both categories, though somewhat surprisingly, its share of traffic is greater on the mobile web than in the world of apps.

Chitika drew upon two sets of data for the report: half a billion mobile exchange impressions through the company’s Cidewalk platform (for app traffic) and millions of ad impressions from the Chitika Ad Network (for mobile web traffic) from earlier this month.

Collectively, Android devices generate roughly 54 percent of app-based internet traffic in North America. However they only generate 47.5 percent on the mobile web, compared with the iPhone’s 52.5 percent. The gap between the iPhone and Samsung devices is roughly 20 points in each case.

One might expect Android devices, with Google search so prominently featured, to collectively drive a higher percentage of mobile web traffic. Correspondingly one would expect the iPhone’s traffic to be more concentrated in apps.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Win7 Update Problem

Windows 7 users may have automatically updated themselves into a pickle with a recent patch from Microsoft.

Microsoft has confirmed that the KB3004394 update it issued on December 10 can cause various problems. What's worse is that it may also prevent users from installing newer updates. The problems are reportedly limited to Windows 7 machines, and don't affect users running Windows 8 or newer.

Although Microsoft didn't specify all the problems users have been experiencing, AMD's Robert Hallock said the update can prevent the system from installing new graphics drivers—which is particularly troublesome as AMD's feature-stuffed new Catalyst Omega drivers launched the same day the borked Windows update rolled out. According to Infoworld, users on Microsoft's support forums have pointed out a litany of other issues, including failure to launch Windows Defender, problems with running VirtualBox and strange errors from User Account Control.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sony Hack Attack

By now most people are pretty sick of hearing about how the internal networks at Sony's movie studio were flayed, gutted and served up to strangers on the Internet. The coverage gets repetitive after a while, despite how riveting it can be to read gossipy little tidbits, like the ludicrously subjective "greenlight studies" explaining which films get made and why, scripts, financial projections and actual copies of unreleased films, outside-vendor contracts, personal contact information of stars, along with some of their social security numbers and hotel-check-in-aliases of major stars, pissy emails between angry studio execs. Hand it to Sony; it can lose more colorfully than most companies can win.
Still, Sony got hacked so thoroughly that the temptation is to think it just got unlucky. Maybe it pissed off a murderous dictator with a coterie of surprisingly skillful cyber-saboteurs. Maybe it was too pinchpenny and abusive toward employees who decided to strike back – but on far too grand a scale for just a bunch of disgruntled office workers to pull off.

Regardless of who was involved, or what actually happened, Sony has set another in a string of similar accomplishments, by being the victim of an attack no one thought could happen at a large, technologically sophisticated company – a data breach so thorough and which went so deep inside the organization that people glommed on to the idea that the government of a nuclear-armed state struggling with poverty, political isolation and the entrenched, systemic insanity of its leadership could get so mad about a Seth Rogen movie that it would unleash the hounds on Sony's IT infrastructure before the movie was even released.

Granted, that's the only time it's possible to save yourself the pain of a Seth Rogen movie, but it still seems like an overreaction from a national government, even considering how often and by how much Iran and other national governments have been upping the ante on the game of international cyberwar ever since the revelation of Stuxnet showed it was possible to physically attack a country, militarily, without actually going there.