Friday, April 29, 2016

Powermat Problems

When he started Powermat Technologies Inc. in 2006, Ran Poliakine envisioned a cordless future where millions of consumers would watch television, charge their phones and power up their kids’ toys without plugging into a wall socket.

A decade on, Poliakine’s vision is a long way off. While Powermat’s charging technology is increasingly being used in phones, cars and Starbucks cafes, widespread adoption remains elusive. It doesn’t help that the Israeli company is being roiled by management infighting, dividing the board and prompting Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins to offer his resignation.

The last thing Powermat needs right now is a distraction. Competition is intensifying with a rival technology called Qi, and Apple is said to be cooking up its own version. Consumers, having waited years to be freed from pesky charging cords, increasingly say they want someone -- anyone -- to provide a simple way they can wirelessly charge their phones, tablets and laptops.

Jim McGregor, the principal analyst at TIRIAS Research, says wireless charging won’t become mainstream until a widely available service lets people power-up on the go. “If you have to go around to multiple places, you don’t want to carry a charging mat with you,” he said. “You want to charge where you are.”

McGregor says it’s striking that wireless charging hasn’t taken off despite the concept’s appeal. Powermat’s struggle to become ubiquitous is emblematic.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Samsung Smartphone Sales

Samsung saw a slight dip in smartphone shipments last quarter but was still top dog thanks to demand for its Galaxy S7 lineup.

For the first quarter of 2016, Samsung shipped 81.9 million phones, down slightly from 82.4 million in the same quarter last year, research firm IDC said on Wednesday. The decline would've been larger if not for the success of Samsung's new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The new Galaxy phones "sold vigorously" during March, according to IDC, helped by promotions from wireless carriers.

Apple saw a larger drop in smartphone sales, to 51.2 million last quarter from 61.2 million in the same period in 2015. The iPhone maker was hit by its first year-over-year descent in smartphone shipments as the lack of new features on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus may have dissuaded many iPhone owners from upgrading.

Smartphone ownership has reached a saturation point in key markets across the world. With only small improvements in each new generation of phones, the major players are finding it more difficult to tempt smartphone owners to jump to new models.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Apple Is In Decline

From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple created more than a decade’s worth of new gadgets to fuel its historic growth.

But the technology company’s dazzling 13-year run of quarterly revenue growth ended on Tuesday — a casualty of Apple’s already immense size, weakness in key global markets like China and the lack of another hot product to pry open the wallets of customers.

Apple, the Silicon Valley giant that has spent much of the last five years as the world’s most valuable company, said on Tuesday that revenue for its second fiscal quarter, which ended in March, declined 13 percent to $50.6 billion as sales of its flagship product, the iPhone, fell, with little else to take its place.

Nearly half of the smartphones sold in the United States are iPhones, and Apple may be reaching the saturation point among potential customers in other developed countries. Rival smartphone makers using Google’s Android operating system continue to challenge the company with powerful, less expensive devices.

Over all, Apple sold 16 percent fewer iPhones in the quarter compared with the same quarter last year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

OneDrive Notice

Microsoft has given users of its OneDrive cloud storage service a 90-day notice that their free allowance will be scaled back from 15GB to 5GB in late July, according to emails and reports from customers.

The 67% reduction in free storage space will take effect July 27. On the same day, Microsoft will also eliminate the 15GB free "Camera Roll" bonus it once gave to anyone who asked. The result: Users who formerly had 30GB of free storage will have just 5GB.

Those reductions were announced in early November, when Microsoft said it was retreating from its prior promise of unlimited storage for the consumer-grade Office 365 subscriptions, the $70 Personal and the $100 Home plans. Office 365 subscribers will instead have 1TB of storage space for each user. (Office 365 Home allows up to five users; Personal only one.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Apple Watch Apps

Apple Inc. sold twice as many Watches as iPhones in each device's debut year. Yet the smartwatch is dogged by a perception that seems premature given the history of Apple's most popular devices: disappointment.

As the Watch marks its first anniversary on Sunday—two days before Apple's quarterly earnings announcement—the product's fate is critical to the company. It is Apple's first all-new product since the iPad and a test of its ability to innovate under Chief Executive Tim Cook, when sales of iPhones are slowing.

​So far, the numbers appear solid. Apple doesn't disclose sales, but analysts estimate about 12 million Watches were sold in year one. At an estimated average price of $500, that is a $6 billion business—three times the annual revenue of activity tracker Fitbit Inc.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Offline Streaming

Amazon has it already, so Netflix should too.
Offline streaming might be a future option for Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday in an earnings interview that he's okay with leaving the door open to the possibility of letting users download movies and TV shows.
"We should keep an open mind on this," Hastings said during the earnings interview (at the 22:30 mark). "We've been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming. But as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it's something we should keep an open mind about."
Although Hastings isn't promising anything, this comment is still noteworthy since the company is considering changing a longstanding policy. Last year, the company said that offline streaming was "not gonna happen" because it was too complex.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Intel Cuts 12k Jobs

Intel Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich is eliminating 12,000 jobs -- the chipmaker’s deepest cutbacks in a decade -- taking his most radical step yet to move Intel into new businesses and ease its dependence on the shrinking personal-computer market.

The world’s biggest semiconductor company said it’s shifting focus to higher-growth areas, such as chips for data center machines and Internet-connected devices, which so far aren’t contributing enough to make up for the decline in PCs. Intel posted disappointing first-quarter revenue and gave a second-quarter sales forecast that fell short of analysts’ estimates.

As PC shipments head for their fifth straight annual decline, Intel is finding it harder to offset that slump by leaning on booming demand for server chips and gains against weaker rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. After bringing in new executives and shaking up his management team,
Krzanich’s 11 percent workforce reduction underscores his effort to decouple Intel’s future from the PC market and accelerate a push into new markets, such as chips for automotive, industrial and retail applications.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New High-End Chromebooks

The Chromebook Pixel may soon be challenged by some high-end competition. Swirling rumors and Chrome OS code commits suggest that HP's creating a powerful new Chromebook, code-named Chell, which may even pack virtual reality capabilities.

The bulk of the speculation about the upcoming Chromebook comes from Chrome Story, a Chrome OS-focused site. Diving into code commits, which name Chell’s manufacturer, and other development information in recent months, Chrome Story has pieced together an idea of what the new Chromebook is going to look like.

It appears likely that the HP-made laptop will have a touchscreen, 16GB of RAM, two USB-C ports, a standard USB Type-A port, Bluetooth, and an expandable storage slot for SD cards. The PC will be powered by an Intel “Skylake” Core chip and also offer a backlit keyboard.

Based on the high-quality specs, Chrome Story believes HP's new Chromebook may actually be a Pixel successor. If it’s not, and HP is working on its own high-end Chromebook, it certainly doesn’t seem all that different from the current Pixel.  The latest flagship Chromebook also has a touchscreen, Core i5 or i7 processor, two USB-C ports, an SD card reader, backlit keyboard, and an option for 16GB of RAM.

The big difference between Chell and the 2015 Pixel would be the addition of virtual reality support—but most PCs that can meet the demands of virtual reality have a discrete graphics card. So far there haven’t been any hints that Chell would have that kind of hardware. If that’s the case then the device would rely on Intel’s integrated graphics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

JBoss Ransomware

More than 2,000 machines at schools and other organizations have been infected with a backdoor in unpatched versions of JBoss that could be used at any moment to install ransomware such as Samsam.

That's according to Cisco's Talos threat-intelligence organization, which on Friday announced that roughly 3.2 million machines worldwide are at risk.

Many of those already infected run Follett's Destiny library-management software, which is used by K-12 schools worldwide.

"Follett identified the issue and immediately took actions to address and close the vulnerability," the company told Cisco.

Follett provides patches for systems running version 9.0 to 13.5 of its software and says it will help remove any backdoors. Its technical support staff will reach out to customers found to have suspicious files on their systems.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cult Pokemon

Cult Pokémon … I mean, Camp Pokémon … is now out on a new platform.

The Pokémon Company International announced today that the free app — designed to introduce young children to the franchise — is out now for Android. It originally came out for iOS devices back in 2014. At its height on October 22, 2014, Camp Pokémon for iOS was the No. 33 app on the iTunes store, according to App Annie. The Pokémon brand earns $1.5 billion annually, so any app that introduces a new audience to the franchise can help Pokémon retain its ridiculous popularity.

And Camp Pokémon really is a marketing tool before anything else. Activities inside the app include visiting the Pokémon Theater, where players can watch “exciting promo videos” (aka ads).

Pokémon hasn’t been shy about extending itself to the $34.8 billion mobile industry. Other Pokémon mobile apps include Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon TCG (trading card game) Online. Developer Niantic is also working on a location-based game, Pokémon Go, that will have players traveling to real locations to capture their own pocket monsters.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chrome Ends Support for Older Versions of OSs

Google said the end was nigh, and now the time has finally come to say goodbye to Chrome support for a number of legacy operating systems, including Windows XP. Version 50 of Google’s browser recently rolled out sans support for Windows XP, Vista, and all versions of Mac OS X under version 10.9, Mavericks.

Google first announced that it would be dropping support for XP and Vista in November. If you’ve already got Chrome running on any of the legacy systems, you’ll still be able to use it. What you won’t get any longer are new feature or security updates.

The story behind the story: The most notable support loss with Chrome 50 is Windows XP. Google continued support for the aging OS because of its large user base for two long years after Microsoft tossed it to the web’s wolves. The company also saw XP support as an opportunity to convince IT organizations to move away from Internet Explorer to Chrome. “If you’re an IT can use Legacy Browser Support to set Chrome as the primary browser and limit the usage of the unsupported, legacy browser to only specific web apps,” Google said in a blog post in late 2013.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Minecraft News

Minecraft Realms is a big deal announcement for the game and company. Mojang and Microsoft are set to offer a subscription-based server hosting service for Minecraft players, and it will allow Windows 10, Windows Phone, iPhone and Android users to play together, too.

Minecraft Realms will support the Windows 10 edition as well as Minecraft: Pocket Edition. Users will pay $8 a month for their own server (whether they turn it private or public), and that will be hosted by Microsoft and Mojang. One source said that users will pay $8 a month; however, Microsoft has reached out and clarified that no price point has been announced yet. Those details will come “as we get closer to official release.”

The servers will be updated, and they will allow for cross-play between Minecraft: Pocket Edition and Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta users. The servers will be called Minecraft Realms.

This whole thing is in alpha right now, and it’s only available to Android users. The alpha is free. You can sign up for the alpha here, but you will need an Xbox gamertag. It does not need to be tied to a Gold account, though.

Microsoft issued a large Question & Answer guide with this release. We put it in the press release button below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Logitech Acquires Jaybird

While Logitech might have initially been known for their keyboard and mice accessories for computers, the company has expanded their offerings over the years to include all kinds of products, such as headphones and speakers. In fact back in 2008 the company acquired headphone maker Ultimate Ears.

However it seems that the company’s interest in audio does not end there. According to a recent announcement by Logitech, the company has announced their plans to acquire Jaybird, who for those unfamiliar is a company that makes audio products such as headphones. Just earlier this year at CES 2016, the company unveiled several audio products.

Now you might be wondering, if Logitech already has UE, why would they need another audio company? You might think that maybe Logitech is just buying out the competition, which is a possibility, but it seems that Jaybird’s specialty in creating audio products designed for active use is what caught Logitech’s attention.

According to Logitech’s announcement, “Jaybird hit on a great idea of making products for people actively engaged in sports and who wanted music to power their passion for their sport. With the right product (and Jaybird makes them), you can now pursue your sport with your music. It’s a potent combination.” While it has yet to be closed (pending regulatory approvals and all that), the deal is said to be worth $50 million.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The End of Windows Phone?

Windows Phone has all but died on the vine, and with less than 2 percent market share, it is unlikely to gain any new ground given the pummeling it is receiving from the twin mobile titans of iOS and Android.

But one of those foes actually offers Microsoft a possible lifeline, and a way to make a bigger impact in the mobile space. It's time for Microsoft to dump Windows Phone and start making Android smartphones.

Calm down folks, this isn't as crazy as it sounds. In fact, Microsoft's been quietly putting a lot of the groundwork for such a switch in place.

First off, Microsoft has been working hard to bring a whole array of its tools and services to the platform. Office, OneDrive, Skype, along with all its cornerstone services, are already available to Android users (and, for that matter, iOS users too). And Microsoft is adding to this list all the time, such as with its acquisition of SwiftKey (which, ironically, was an app that was never made available for Windows Phone).

Monday, April 11, 2016

Disappointing Tablet Sales

This past week included two milestones for the tablet market: It was the first full week of sales for Apple’s newest iPad Pro, and it was also the sixth anniversary of the first iPad’s debut in 2010.

In that time, Apple has cumulatively sold more than 300 million iPads. And while that’s an impressive number, the tablet market that Apple more or less created hasn’t met its expectations.

Early predictions for tablet sales assumed nothing less than a revolution in mobile computing. In 2011, as iPad sales accelerated and a broader market began to take shape, analysts at the research firm Gartner projected that annual tablet shipments would pass 300 million units by 2015, including almost 150 million iPads.

Reality has fallen well short of those forecasts. In February, research firm IDC estimated 2015’s tablet shipment total at 207 million units. (Apple sold 50 million iPads in 2015.)

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Malware

There's a new malware attack in town, and it's designed to hit a little too close to home.
A new phishing campaign is sending thousands of ominous-looking emails that contain the recipient's home address.
The well-worded email appears to come from a legitimate email address and domain name, and raises very few irregularities. The email comes with an demand for money for an arbitrary service, along with a link that purports to be an "overdue invoice."

Click that link and open the file (which looks like a Word document), and you'll become the latest victim of ransomware -- that is, malware that encrypts your files and locks you out of your computer until you pay a ransom.

The longer you wait, the larger the ransom you have to pay.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

3 Million Amazon Echos

Amazon sold 3 million of its Echo wireless speaker and personal digital assistant in the U.S. since its launch in late 2014, and more than half of owners use it for more than just a voice-controlled music streamer, research company Consumer Intelligence Research Partners said.

Awareness of the $170 Echo among U.S. consumers who made a purchase through Amazon in 2015 more than doubled during the year, the company added.

CIRP based its conclusions on surveys of 2,000 U.S. consumers who made a purchase at between January through December 2015.

The company estimates that Echo awareness among Amazon purchasers rose from 20 percent in March 2015 to 30 percent in June, 40 percent in September, and 47 percent in December.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Internet Connected TVs

Sixty percent of people ages 12 and older live in a household with an Internet-connected TV, up from 58 percent in a year-ago survey and 51 percent in a 2014 survey.

That’s according to the Infinite Dial survey conducted in January and February by Edison Research and Triton Digital, a provider of online advertising technology.

The Internet-connected TVs include smart TVs and other TVs connected to the Internet via Internet-connected game consoles or such set-top boxes as Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

Also among the respondents, 51 percent live in a household with one or more of the following unlimited video-subscription services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New HP Laptop

Dion Weisler, the chief executive of HP Inc., recently held out a bulky laptop that was the pride of 2012. “This is the laptop we had when I came here,” he said.

He opened it to reveal another HP laptop within its hollowed-out insides. Then he opened that machine to produce another smaller and lighter laptop. Like the last in a set of nested Russian dolls, a final and even more slender laptop emerged from inside the third machine.

“Pretty spectacular, right?” said Mr. Weisler, a toothy and optimistic Australian.

It was an impressive visual trick — and one with a point. On Tuesday, Mr. Weisler will publicly introduce a personal computer similar to the slimmest one he brought out of the nested machines, with a 13.3-inch screen but even thinner. At less than 11 millimeters thick (less than half an inch), he said, it beats the best effort by Apple and shows that HP’s PCs are still hip and innovative. In fact, HP has made a small number of the new slim laptops in gold and diamonds, to be sold for $25,000 each for charity, with the unveiling planned for a New York Times Luxury Conference in Paris.

Monday, April 4, 2016

LG Fast Wireless Charging

Imagine being able to set your smartphone down on a wireless charging pad and have it back up to 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

That type of capability may be possible thanks to an innovation announced by LG Innotek. The LG subsidiary says it’s developed a 15-watt wireless charging module, which is three times faster than the current five-watt wireless solutions.

LG Innotek says the development product follows the standards set forth by the World Wireless Power Consortium and AirFuel Alliance, which ensure that it will be compatible with all supported smartphones.

Wireless charging always loses some efficiency compared to a wired charge so it’s unlikely that this will catch up fully to the plug-in model, but much faster charging would definitely be an excellent feature.

Why this matters: This sounds like just the match we need for our smartphone addictions. Once you’ve ever used wireless charging, it’s hard to imagine going back to anything else. This new research probably won’t make its way into any phones this year, but perhaps LG and other devices will get a whole lot faster when they perform wireless charging in the near future.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Windows Phones Future

Microsoft kicked off its Build developer conference in San Francisco with a focus on Windows 10, bots, and developer tools, but there was something missing: Windows Phone. A single demo of Skype running on a Windows Phone was the only time a phone running Windows 10 Mobile appeared for longer than a few seconds, and it felt like Microsoft was more focused on Windows 10 for Xbox and HoloLens. I got the chance to speak to Windows chief Terry Myerson briefly after today's keynote, and it's clear Microsoft's focus isn't on phones this year.

"We're fully committed to that 4-inch screen, there will be a time for it to be our focus, but right now it's part of the family but it's not the core of where I hope to generate developer interest over the next year," explains Myerson. "There's no lack of recognition to realize how important that form factor is, but for Microsoft with Windows and for our platform it's the wrong place for us to lead."