Sony‘s PlayStation Network suffered connection problems for a fourth straight day since hackers attacked the video game network, and the company said on Sunday that service was gradually being restored.
The hacker activist group known as Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for disrupting both the PlayStation Network and Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Xbox Live on Christmas Day. Service was restored to Xbox Live on Friday.
"We are currently experiencing widespread network issues that are being addressed," Sony said in a statement on PlayStation's maintenance website.
Hours earlier, Catherine Jensen, vice president of consumer experience at Sony Computer Entertainment America, said on the PlayStation blog that the network was "back online."
Some gamers said on Twitter that they were able to access the PlayStation Network on Sunday, but others took to the microblogging site to complain about the continuing outage. It was not clear how many of the 56 million video gamers who use PlayStation still suffered problems.
Microsoft online game network Xbox Live was back up on Friday after an after an apparent hack while Sony's Playstation Network remains down.
The two services were offline much of Christmas Day in an apparent denial of service attack, USA Today reported.
Sony's PlayStation Twitter account said the company was looking into the outages Christmas morning, but the network still appeared down as of Friday morning.
Reuters reports that a Microsoft website that keeps track of the status of Xbox services listed Xbox Live's "core services" as up and running on Friday but several third-party apps on the platform were experiencing limited services.
A group called Lizard Squad is taking credit for the takedown, the paper reported. The group had previously claimed credit for the attacks on the PlayStation Network and online games World of Warcraft and League of Legends back in August.
The PlayStation network problem is the most recent holiday headache for Sony, which was the target of a massive hacking attack in recent weeks in apparent retribution for its release of the comedy "The Interview." The company briefly canceled the Christmas Day release of the film, the plot of which centers around the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but has since made it available in limited theatrical release and home video streaming after criticism.
The Editors and staff at the Monthly Computer Chronicle would like to wish all of our regular readers a very Merry Christmas. Our offices will be closed all week and most of us will be on the road spending time with loved ones. If BIG news breaks we'll try to cover it if possible but we're all hoping for a quiet news week!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Microsoft today took the unusual step of telling users running Windows 10's Technical Preview to uninstall Office before applying one of December's security updates.
"We just made a tough call after working through the night that I thought I should share with you," wrote Gabe Aul, the engineering general manager for Microsoft's operating system group, in a four-part Twitter understatement Tuesday.
"We have a security update going out today, and the installer fails on 9879 if Office is installed," Aul continued. "Rather than rolling a new fix (losing several days in the process) we're going to publish it as is. The workaround is painful: uninstall Office, install the hotfix, reinstall Office. Sorry. We're working hard to fix."
Microsoft released Skype 7 for Windows on Friday, complete with a more touch-friendly interface, and a new compact mode to help cut down on the screen space the app consumes.
The new preview version of Skype 7 for Windows debuted in October, alongside a new version for the Mac. In that version, Skype chats dominated the available white space, with large emoticons taking up much of the screen. Microsoft said in its new, final release that it had included a new compact view in response to user feedback.
You can find this update under both “View” as well as Tools>Options>IM Settings, Microsoft says. Skype hasn’t pushed the update to my PC yet, so I can’t tell you whether the screenshot Microsoft provided above represents the compact view or not.
The other change Microsoft made to the final version of Skype 7 is that it’s now touch-enabled—a welcome change. My large monitor is not touch-enabled, but my second display is. Now, if I have a webpage on my big screen, Skype's touch features will let me slide a window around on my second screen without a mouse.
Sony's computer system was attacked in late November and gigabytes of data, including unreleased movies, were stolen and leaked online. Embarrassing hacks have hit other companies in recent years, but threatening employees is highly unusual and will put extra pressure on law enforcement to find those responsible.
The message purports to be from the Guardians of Peace, the group that has claimed responsibility for the Sony hack. It's written in patchy English and opens with further threats against Sony.
"Removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organization. And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan," the message reads in part, according to Variety, which says it obtained a copy.
It then turns to Sony employees.
"Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. ... Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below if you dont want to suffer damage. If you dont, not only you but your family will be in danger," the message reads.
Samsung Electronics Co. urged a U.S. appeals court to toss a $930 million verdict won by Apple Inc., saying the South Korean company didn’t copy the iPhone’s design and unique look and arguing that the damage award was too high.
“They awarded Samsung’s total profit for all of these phones -- this is absurd,” Kathleen Sullivan, representing Samsung, told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington today. “It’s like awarding the profit of an entire car because of infringement of the design of the cupholder.”
Apple and Samsung have dropped most of their legal battles -- this and a second trial that’s also before the appeals court are all that remain of a fight across four continents. This verdict is the largest awarded in any of the so-called smartphone wars, and an appeals court decision determining the proper damages could help foster an eventual settlement.
Interesting nuggets of information tend to come out of Apple trials, and this week’s iTunes class-action courtroom drama is no exception. The plaintiffs claim Apple would delete songs downloaded from rival music services when iPod owners synced their devices to iTunes over a two-year period from 2007 to 2009.
Apple didn’t deny the claim raised by attorney Patrick Coughlin in U.S. District Court Wednesday. Security director Augustin Ferrugia said Apple would remove songs to prevent users from syncing malicious files to their computers, according to aWall Street Journal report from the courtroom.
But the problem, Coughlin argued, is that Apple didn’t tell users which songs were potentially harmful. Instead, the company would push an error message telling the user to restore factory settings on the iPod and remove the offending files in the process.
“We don’t need to give users too much information,” Farrugia offered by way of explanation.
Why this matters: The Apple-knows-best policy may come back to bite the company, even if its actions were in the interest of protecting iTunes from hackers. Plaintiffs are seeking $350 million in damages over claims that Apple violated California antitrust law by preventing iTunes music from being played on non-Apple devices and vice versa. If Apple did remove rival services’ songs from iTunes libraries without disclosing what it was doing, as Ferrugia indicated, the company might have to pay up.
The class-action suit has been in the making for more than a decade—Apple actually removed DRM from iTunes five years ago, so class-action status only covers iPod purchases from September 2006 to March 2009.
Apple has been seeing its smartphone market share erode over the last several years as its simple-and-small line up of iPhones competed against model after model of low-priced, big-screened, fancy-featured Android-based handsets. But it looks like its latest iPhone 6 models — with their larger faces, 4G compatibility and Apple Pay support — may be helping it turn the tide a bit.
The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, the WPP-owned market research firm, found that in the last three months up to October 31, Apple’s share of smartphone sales grew in nearly every market, against lower or even declining sales of Android handsets — which, to be perfectly clear, are still leading the market overall by some margin.
Within Android, it’s a mixed bag of who is in the lead, depending on which country you are looking at. In China, Xiaomi is the market leader overall (more on this below), but in most markets Samsung remains on top, with other players “getting share from each other more than share from Samsung,” Kantar’s chief researcher and U.S. head Carolina Milanesi tells me. The exception is the U.S., where LG is starting to woo some consumers away from its Korean rival.
Breaking out regional performance, in Europe’s “big five” markets of Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, Android accounted for nearly 70% of all sales, although that was a decline of some 2.6 percentage points over a year ago. Apple, meanwhile, was up by nearly 6 percentage points to 20.7% of all sales. In Great Britain specifically, Apple is now at 40% of all smartphone sales, its highest ever level, after rising 10.4 percentage points over last year.
The education market has long been Apple's to dominate, from the early days of its first computers to today's iPads. Challengers have tried to encroach over the years, but the company may have met its match in Google's Chromebook platform.
According to a report from market research firm IDC and cited in the Financial Times (paywall site), more Chromebooks were shipped to schools in the third quarter than Apple iPads. While the difference in sales was pretty slim (715,000 Chromebooks to 702,000 iPads), it was still a breakthrough performance considering how trendy it's been for school districts to hand out Apple's tablets to students as part of a technological "revolution" in education.
But it's not too hard to figure out why this happened. IDC speculates that the low cost of the Chromebook laptops — often $200 — is half the price of a new full-sized iPad. It also obviously comes with a built-in keyboard, which can make it more productive out of the box for students to use for typing documents, though IDC points out that the iPad's touchscreen has advantages of its own (especially for younger students).
The Nabu is a slim wristband with a black-and-white OLED display that sits on the underside of the wrist. It connects over Bluetooth to iPhones (iPhone 5 or higher) and Android phones (version 4.3 or higher), and will vibrate when users receive notifications. It's meant to be more discreet than a smartwatch, as the screen only turns on when users twist their wrists upward to see the incoming notification. (An earlier prototype also had notification icons on the topside of the wrist, but there's no sign of them on the finished product.)
The Nabu also has an accelerometer for measuring steps taken, active minutes, calories burned, and time slept, and it can integrate with Apple's Health app on iOS devices. The hardware is splash-resistant, but not fully waterproof, and lasts for up to seven days on a charge.
But the Nabu's most intriguing feature is its ability to communicate with other Nabu wristbands. Users can exchange contact information by tapping their bands together, and a proprietary wireless system allows two bands to connect from further distances. For example, Nabu users might get an alert when another user of Steam's PC gaming service is nearby. Of course, this feature is entirely dependent on developer support, so it's best not to get too excited until Razer releases a list of actual apps that will be available.
About 51.2 million American adults, or 45 percent of all shoppers, bought or planned to buy consumer tech products during the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, said the CEA, the trade group for the consumer electronics industry. That happened even as overall shopping traffic was down compared to last year, the CEA said.
“Consumers’ appetite for purchasing technology products during the start of the holiday shopping season hit new highs this Thanksgiving weekend,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the CEA, in a statement. “We saw more shoppers putting tech in their baskets this holiday weekend — 45 percent — than in any of the last three years. Only clothing, at 69 percent, was more popular among consumers; and toys were again third, at 43 percent. This shows tech is poised to enjoy strong sales throughout the entire 2014 holiday season.”
Altogether, 113.2 million U.S. adults (46 percent of the population) shopped or plan to shop over the holiday weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, down 18 million shoppers from 2013.
The CEA estimates Americans will spend $39.9 billion over the entire 2014 Thanksgiving shopping weekend. While the overall number of shoppers declined in 2014, consumers who shopped spent more. Those consumers spent an average of $371, a 4.8 percentage point increase over 2013.
I have predicted the demise of Apple for many years. However, since their market value is now an unbelievable 700 Billion USD I must admit that I may, and I mean may, have been wrong.
Many, many years ago it was said the no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. We may now be seeing another example of that phenomenon. Apple is selling a gazillion iPhones despite the fact that there are dozens of far better phones using Android available for consumers at MUCH lower prices.
Jonathan Gruber of MIT may well be exactly right, voters in America are stupid. After all, we did elect Czar Obama twice. God help us.
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As Apple rides a cresting wave in the stock market with its market cap now dancing around $700 billion, a dark cloud moves in from IDC. The analysts report today that full-year iPad shipments will decline for the first time in its history, amid a sluggish market overall for tablets.
Apple — which ironically now offers more models of its iPad tablet than ever before — will ship 64.9 million iPad tablets in 2014, a decline of 12.7% on the total number of shipments a year ago. The bigger tablet market will see shipments of 235.7 million units, growth of 7.2% over 2013.
This is a big drop in growth. As a point of comparison, tablet shipments between 2012 and 2013 grew 52.5%.
Google’s Android operating system, following in the footsteps of its prevalence in the smartphone market, will continue to remain the most popular operating system for tablets. This year, it captured nearly 68% of the market, working out to almost 160 million devices shipped.
But this is not the whole story for OEMs. While Android will continue to keep its place as the leading operating system, Apple, with 27.5% market share, remains the single-biggest brand in the tablet market. IDC tells me that in Q3 specifically, Apple’s iPad had a 22.1% share.
So why the reason for the decline in tablet shipments? IDC appears to echo the observations of analysts like Gartner, who have been pointing out that tablets are following a sales cycle more akin to PCs than smartphones (fitting since it’s PCs that tablets are believed to be replacing).
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