Qualcomm asks for Chinese court help

qualcomQualcomm wants a Chinese court to get a local smartphone maker, Meizu, to agree to licensing terms for patents that the company broadly agreed to with the Chinese government last year.

The chip company s has asked the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for a ruling that the terms of a patent licence it offered Meizu comply with China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, and the US company’s “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing obligations.”

Qualcomm alleges that Meizu in Zhuhai is refusing to sign the patent agreement although over 100 players, including top Chinese phone makers, have accepted the terms under a new rectification plan agreed with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last year.

Meizu has more than 1,000 employees and sells its smartphones through 600 retail stores. It claims a global presence in Hong Kong, Russia, Israel and Ukraine, according to its website.

Last year, Qualcomm paid a $975 million fine to Chinese authorities for alleged monopolistic business practices relating to its patent licensing business. It also agreed to modify its business practices.

The outfit has been doing its best building its bridges in China, including by setting up a server chipset design and sales unit with the Guizhou provincial government.

The company has also announced other collaborations in the country that would help it gain access to the local market, including for the local production of its Snapdragon mobile processors by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.

Qualcomm charged Meizu with “unfairly expanding its business through the use of Qualcomm’s innovations without compensating Qualcomm for the use of Qualcomm’s valuable technologies.” It added that Meizu’s move to use the technologies without a license was also unfair to other licensees.

 

Xerox gets a new head

copycatXerox has appointed Jeff Jacobson, the president of its technology unit as its new CEO after the company splits its business process outsourcing unit into a separate, publicly listed entity.

Jacobson, 56, joined Xerox in 2012 and he was appointed the president of the technology business, which includes the company’s hardware and software offerings, in July 2014.

Xerox will house the company’s legacy printer business. Its business process outsourcing operations will be held under “Conduent”, which will be led by Ashok Vemuri.

Xerox, which announced the split in January, said its current CEO Ursula Burns would become the chairman of the printer company after the separation is completed at the end of 2016.

Apple gets Thor about Thunderbolt display and smites it

Thor.TDW.battle.cropApple is giving up on its Thunderbolt Display which it first introduced in the summer of 2011.

A spokesApple said that the the display will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorised Resellers while supplies last, but it will not make any more of them.

The move has pundets puzzled and the Tame Apple Press thinks it means a new 4K or 5K display is on the horizon.

Stock shortages ahead of WWDC sparked rumors that Apple might be planning to introduce a new display at the event. Nothing happened and and Apple instead focused on dull software for iOS devices, Macs, Apple TVs, and Apple Watch devices.

But rumors that Apple was working on a 5K display have been around for a while. If they are true then it would have  resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 peripherals.

It might have an AMD graphics chip inside so that anyone with the right connection could get a better looking screen.  Another suggestion is that it might have a DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport setup to stitch two halves of a display together to make one display.

However this is normal PR spinning after Apple kills off one product. The assumption is that it must have “something new” when it might just not be doing much at all.

 

HTML 5 is just as rubbish as Flash

flash_superhero_running-t2Rather than saving the world from the security nightmare which is Flash, HTML 5 might be drawing us into a bigger load of hurt, according to the latest security report.

Since Steve Jobs blamed Flash for breaking his perfect operating system, the world has been a little hard on Flash. It has been gradually downgrading it and replacing it with HTML 5.

However according to GeoEdge, an ad scanning vendor, Flash has been wrongly accused as the root cause of today’s malvertising campaigns, and switching to HTML5 ads won’t safeguard users from attacks.

The problems are in the platforms and advertising standards themselves and not Flash.

For many years, Adobe has been slow to patch vulnerablities but things changed recently after browser vendors threatened to have the plugin disabled for most of their users. But this has come too late.

But according to GeoEdge Malvertisers don’t care if ad is Flash or HTML5 they rely on standards used to build the advertising network’s infrastructure, regardless if they deliver static or video ads.

Video ads, the primary root of malvertising use the VAST and VPAID advertising standards. If the ad is Flash or HTML5, there are critical points in this ad delivery path where ad creators can alter the ad via JavaScript injections.

These same critical points are also there so advertisers or ad networks can feed JavaScript code that fingerprints and tracks users.

 

Blackberry debates killing off handsets

dodoIt looks like Blackberry has placed its handsets production onto death row and, failing a last minute appeal, could be headed for silicon heaven soon.

Chief Executive John Chen said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.

He sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.

“I don’t personally believe handsets will be the future of any company,” he said.

However Chen said he had not given up on handsets yet and had made it his top priority to make its devices business profitable.

“The device business must be profitable, because we don’t want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line. We’ve got to get there this year,” he said.

A few years ago, BlackBerry was once the smartphone market leader. The company was practically destroyed by a weird two headed CEO structure which watched as it was replaced by Apple and Google’s Android.

It has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations, with some success.  Less successful has been its handsets.

In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.

Chen said that BlackBerry wants to grow its software revenue by 30 percent in this fiscal year, which he estimated would be double overall market growth, and to notch positive free cash flow.

Opera mocks Microsoft’s Edge claims

opera460Earlier this week Microsoft claimed that its Edge browser was much kinder to battery life than Chrome, Opera and Firefox.  Now Opera has called Microsoft out on its claims.

The browser-maker Opera has mocked Microsoft’s much-publicised claim that its Windows 10-exclusive Edge browser provides significantly less battery drain than competitors Chrome and Opera – and its own tests put Edge firmly in second place for battery efficiency.

Writing in his bog, Opera lead singer Błażej Kaźmierczak revealed the result of the company’s own tests, which put Google Chrome in third place at two hours and fifty-four minutes, Edge in second at three hours twelve minutes, and Opera ahead of that by obtaining three hours and fifty-five minutes of battery life under identical tests.

To be fair though this is not purely a test of browser efficiency – in March Opera instituted a native adblocking feature, which it claimed works 45 per cent faster than analogous plugins on either Chrome or Firefox. The feature does not merely hide downloaded and rendered ad elements, but prevents them engaging with the user at URL source – a significant advantage in terms of page rendering.

Although AdBlock Plus is available for Edge, Vole has no public plans to mirror the adblocking feature.

Opera claimed it has not paid much attention to Edge due to its exclusivity to the Windows 10 platform. However, Edge is currently estimated to have less than five per cent share in the browser market (versus 50 per cent across versions of Chrome), this still puts it ahead of Opera, which carries little more than a single percentage of share.

Opera accuses Microsoft of a lack of transparency in its testing methods. It notes that Opera’s own repudiating test, which puts its developer version 22 per cent ahead of Edge, runs a more standard gamut, using a variety of types of browsing situations, including video and news, along with an algorithm to effect authentic scrolling behaviour. The scrolling is something that Firefox is pants at.

Opera optimises its performance, by reducing activity in background tabs, optimise JavaScript timers to limit CPU access, pauses dormant plugins, and reduces video frame rates to 30fps and forces hardware acceleration of video playback where feasible.

Microsoft’s claims for Edge were carefully specific to Windows 10.

 

Microsoft gets into the payments racket

Microsoft campusSoftware king of the world Microsoft is getting into the mobile payments racket just as soon as it gets out a few phones with its mobile OS on board.

Microsoft has introduced an NFC payment feature for users of Windows 10 Mobile devices in the US through its Microsoft Wallet app. Vole claims the move comes “in response to feedback” from its customers and with support from both MasterCard and Visa.

It is up and running on Microsoft Insiders, a group of early adopter customers who volunteer to preview new features, and general availability of NFC payments is promised for later this summer.

Vole has got the Bank of America, BECU, Chase, First Tech, Fifth Third Bank, People’s United Bank, US Bank and Virginia Credit Union . The launch date for each bank will be “posted when available,” according to Microsoft.

“Microsoft Wallet is a cloud-based payment technology that will make mobile payments simple and more secure for Windows 10 Mobile devices, starting in the US with our Lumia 950, 950 XL and 650,” the company says. “With Microsoft Wallet, you simply tap your phone on a contactless payment terminal and your default credit or debit card is charged.

“Store as many credit and debit cards as you want in your Microsoft Wallet so it’s easy to make purchases with the card of your choice. Switching takes just a tap of your finger. When you tap to pay, Microsoft Wallet sends a single-use transaction number and an encrypted security code that won’t work for any other purchase, person or device. This, plus the device PIN you use to unlock your phone, makes paying with Microsoft Wallet more secure than using the actual card alone.”

 

Apple’s open OS is a security nightmare

Safe-with-Open-Door_Silver-Trading-Company_iStock_000016460757_ExtraSmallSome security experts who inspected Apple’s new version of iOS were surprised; it appears that the security geniuses at Jobs’ Mob had forgotten to encrypt the operating system.

Suddenly crucial pieces of the code destined to power millions of iPhones and iPads were laid bare for all to see making it a doddle to find security weaknesses in Apple’s flagship software.

The Tame Apple Press insists that is all deliberate and the secretive company may have adopted a bold new strategy intended to encourage more people to report bugs in its software.  However, the smart money is on the fact that this is a cock-up.

Apple has so far said it would strengthen security and privacy features and yet here it is showing an unencrypted version of the Kernel which controls how programs can use a device’s hardware and enforces security.

The Tame Apple press insists that does not mean that the security of iOS 10 is compromised. Butit makes finding flaws easier and reduces the complexity of reverse engineering considerably.

However on the plus side opening the iOS for anyone to examine could weaken the trade in holes  market by making it harder for certain groups to hoard knowledge of vulnerabilities and make the iOS more stable.

However for that to happen it would require such a psychological change in Apple that it is nearly impossible to consider. For a start, Apple would have to admit that there is a flaw and fix it straight away. Apple’s current policy when notified if there is a flaw is to ignore it until enough people complain and then issue a patch a few months later.

Apple does not offer “bug bounty” cash payments to people that disclose flaws they have found in its products, for example. So if you reverse engineer or find a hole in the iOS you would never take it to Apple, you would flog it to the government, or one of those dodgy security outfits which help them.

 

Apple fanboys are revolting

applefanshitFruity cargo cult Apple might find that it has a fight on its hands as it tries to kill off the headphone jack on its iPhones.

Apple wants to hit the road, jack so that it can make its phones thinner. It will also have the advantage that people who have invested a fortune in headphones to plug into their iPhones will have to buy new ones from Apple.

But it seems there might be a backlash as few in the Tame Apple Press seem to like the move. Apple fanzine the Verge even called the move  “user-hostile and stupid.”

One good reason is that the headphones have to be digital and that makes it dead easy to install DRM. For years the music industry has fumed that analogue jacks made it impossible to enforce DRM. Now Apple is making their dreams come true.

By restricting audio output to a purely digital connection means that music publishers and streaming companies can start to insist on digital copyright enforcement mechanisms.

Another issue is that wireless headphones and speakers are pants in terms of sound quality. They sometimes crackle and fail and if you are in a room with other wireless devices it is not going to be much fun at all.
Bluetooth headphones will mean that there is another battery which will need to be charged.

Sure, you can get yourself a dongle, which converts the digital signal to analogue, but you have to carry the sod about with you.

All this is an inconvenience to the user, breaking something that works well, all for the sake of a millimetre thinner iPhone.

The worry is that manufactures will start copying Apple on Android phones. No-one has asked for wireless headlines, or thinner phones (face it they are about as thin as you can get). Had Apple called for a referendum chances are there would have been few that would have supported Jackexit [surely Jackoff.ed]. Who really wants fewer ports or more dongles?

What users really want is better battery life and wireless headphones are going to put pressure on that.

Microsoft Azure doing rather well on Linux

microsoft-open-sourceSoftware king of the world Microsoft has made a killing by enabling its Azure virtual machines to run Linux.

When Vole started the service 25 percent of its Virtual Machines were running Linux and now it is nearly one in three.

During his keynote at DockerCon 2016 in Seattle, Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich said that Microsoft was adding more container support to its cloud and server products.

Russinovich showed off Windows Server support coming soon to the company’s Azure Container Service (ACS) while everyone yawned.

Microsoft made Azure Container Service generally available in April 2016, but for Linux containers only. Last year, company execs said Microsoft also would bring Windows Server support to ACS.

ACS allows developers to orchestrate applications using Apache Mesos or Docker Swarm. Users can migrate container workloads to and from Azure without code changes.

Russinovich showed a preview of SQL Server on Linux running on a Docker container. SQL Server for Linux is currently in private preview and is due to be available by mid-2017.

Russinovich announced that Docker Datacenter is available in the Azure Marketplace. In addition, Docker Datacenter can manage a hybrid container-based application running across Azure — and for the first time — Azure Stack on premises.

The way that Microsoft is integrating Linux into its cloudy world is amazing, given that it is not that long ago that its CEO called Linux a cancer and was doing its best to kill it off.