Category: Mobile apps

Microsoft sells 1,500 patents to Xiaomi

Microsoft campusSoftware king of the world Microsoft is flogging off 1,500 of its patents to Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi in what the two companies say is the start of a long-term partnership.

The deal includes a patent cross-licensing arrangement and a commitment by Xiaomi to install copies of Microsoft software, including Office and Skype, on its phones and tablets.

Wang Xiang, senior vice president at Xiaomi said that this is a big collaboration agreement between the two. It means that Xiaomi can be a major player outside China where it is hampered by weak patent protection and a fear of a prolonged patent battle.

Wang said the acquisition of Microsoft patents, which included voice communications, multimedia and cloud computing, on top of some 3,700 patents the Chinese company filed last year, were “an important step forwards to support our expansion internationally.”

Xiaomi launched its first US device earlier this month, a TV set-top box it developed in cooperation with Google, which owns the Android operating system it and most Xiaomi devices run on. Xiaomi has also launched a tablet which runs a version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Jonathan Tinter, corporate vice president at Microsoft, said the company was keen to tap into Xiaomi’s young, affluent and educated users by having its products pre-installed on their devices. He declined to go into detail about the patent deals, but said the overall deal was something “we do only with a few strategic partners.”

Florian Mueller, a patents expert who consulted for Microsoft in the past, said it was rare for Microsoft to actually sell its patents, adding “it’s possible Microsoft found it easier to impose its Android patent tax on Xiaomi as part of a broader deal that also involved a transfer of patents.”

Microsoft dumps wi-fi sense

wifisense-100594691-primary.idge_Software king of the world Microsoft has decided that no one is really interested in its Wi-Fi Sense service.

You know that a service is not doing well when reporters have to look up what it is supposed to do, before writing a story saying it had been canned.

Wi-Fi Sense is a service mostly used on Windows phones (strike one). Once users enable the service, it allows them to seamlessly share internet Wi-Fi hotspots and passwords with their friends and contacts (strike two). Wi-Fi Sense has never really been promoted by Microsoft, despite its huge potential, and many users likely disable it or ignore it due to a lack of information on it (strike three).

Microsoft’s Gabe Aul said is a statement said that the cost of updating the code to keep the feature working combined with low usage and low demand made it not worth further investment.

The announcement was made in the release notes for Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 14342 which removed the service from the operating system completely. Those users running devices with it still installed will still be able to use it though but in a limited capacity.

“Wi-Fi Sense, if enabled, will continue to get you connected to open Wi-Fi hotspots that it knows about through crowdsourcing,” says Aul.

 

Apple loses iPhone exclusivity in China

apple-dalek-2Fruity cargo cult, Apple must share the name “iPhone” trademark with a Beijing-based leather products maker Xintong Tiandi Technology (XTT).

The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court rejected an Apple appeal of an earlier ruling, according to Quartz. Xintong Tiandi is already selling a number of “IPHONE” products, including purses, passport cases, and most notably phone cases.

XTT registered its trademark in China in 2007, the same year as the Apple iPhone launched in the United States. But Apple did not register the name in China until five years later. At the time Apple had not seen China as the great white hope for its bottom line.

In 2013 the government ruled that because Apple couldn’t prove the name “IPHONE” was well-known prior to Xintong Tiandi’s registration, the public wouldn’t link its use in a way that would harm Apple interests. In rejecting Apple’s appeal, the High People’s Court further pointed out that Jobs’ Mob didn’t sell the iPhone in mainland China until 2009.

Apple has not been doing well in China. In 2012, for instance, it was ordered to pay $60 million in a trademark dispute over the term “iPad.” In April, two of Apple’s online storefronts — iTunes Movies and the iBooks Store — were shut down by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Chinese are starting to ignore the fruity cargo cult and are starting to buy other cheaper phones instead.

Apple does not want to know how the FBI hacked its iPhone

3 monkeys 3Fruity cargo cult Apple is not going to try and force the FBI to tell it how it hacked the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist and what security hole it used.

Attorneys for Apple speaking on background during a media briefing call on Friday said that it believed the method used to unlock the iPhone 5c would be short lived.

FBI director James Comey admitted that the hack used to unlock the encrypted phone works on a “narrow slice” of devices.

Of course Apple’s attorneys were guessing. They don’t know what the flaw was, but argued that the normal product development would see that a fix for the flaw would be implemented down the line. A little bit of an odd argument.  Apple is basically saying that it will fix a flaw it did not notice sometime in the future when it does not matter.

Apple is usually slow in fixing flaws in its software, it is hard to see it fixing this one, if it finds it, for any reason other than rubbing the FBI’s face in it. Apple was extremely embarrassed when it told the world that its iOS system was so secure it would require it to write a backdoored version of the OS to allow the FBI access. Then an Israeli firm used one of the many security loopholes it has at its disposal to let the FBI in.

Apple sued over the only innovation in the iPhone 6S

Old Apple logo - Wikimedia CommonsWhen the iPhone 6S and iWatch came out they was greeted by a loud sounding yawn even though Apple insisted that its haptic technology was worth buying because it was “super, cool and innovative”.

However not only did the iPhone 6S fail to interest so many people as Apple’s earlier models, it would appear that the haptic technology was not that innovative and Apple was not thinking different at all.

Immersion has accused Apple and carrier AT&T of infringement of three of its patents in the latest iPhone models and Apple watches.

Immersion has 2,100 issued or pending patents worldwide covering various aspects and commercial applications of haptic or touch feedback technology, has asked the US International Trade Commission to ban the import of the specified iPhone and

Company CEO Victor Viegas named in the actions the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch,

Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition are using its tech, the claim runs.

“While we are pleased to see others in the industry recognize the value of haptics and adopt it in their products, it is important for us to protect our business against infringement of our intellectual property in order to preserve the ecosystem we have built and the investments that we have made in continuing to advance haptic experiences. We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed,” he said.

The Apple Watch has haptic features promoted under the names Force Touch and Taptic Engine, according to the complaint.

The patents involved include No. 8,619,051, which refers to a haptic feedback system with stored effects, and U.S. Patent No. 8,773,356, which refers to a method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations. The complaint also charges the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus with infringing its U.S. Patent No. 8,659,571, which refers to an “Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices.”

Chrome upgrade claims data saving

51ydDxVB1NL._SL1001_Google claims its latest Chrome upgrade will help users save up to 70 percent of the data used on their smartphones and it is based on a trick learned from the days of 56k modems.

The new release removes images when loading pages over a slow connection, only requiring the user to tap the placeholder if they wish to see the image.

Chrome product manager Tal Oppenheimer explained in a blog post that people have the option to view a few images, rather than the entire collection of images displayed on one page. This selective image option enables lower data consumption, speeding up the internet connection for smartphones using the updated mode.

The new feature will initially be available to Android users in India and Indonesia and if no one dies then it will be rolled out to other countries over the next few months. The move has left the Tame Apple Press without much to say.

One paper pointed out that you did not need it because Safari had ad-blocking to help reduce data consumption but had to admit that a data-saving option has yet to be invented by Apple. It is running late, Opera also does it. Still when Apple does introduce the technology the Tame Apple Press will claim that their favourite company invented it.

Data Saver debuted in January 2014 and has now become a popular addition to both Android and iOS Chrome apps.

In March, this year, Google extended the feature to desktop and laptop. It aims to reduce data bandwidth by compressing web pages through Google’s servers before they are downloaded to a user’s device.

Originally the setting claimed to save up to 50 per cent of the user’s bandwidth, but now with added competition from browser rival Opera, Google has been spurred to improve its compression capabilities.

Marshmallow will need full encryption

sshot4ffc6ccb1c544Google is going to insist that devices running its OS Marshmallow operating system will to have full-disk encryption enabled.

Google’s first attempt to make default full-disk encryption mandatory for phone manufacturers was with Android 5.0 but it had to abandon that plan because of poor performance from some of the phones.

The Tame Apple Press has been marketing the fact that Apple is doing better because iOS already encrypts user data making it “unhackable.”

With the release of Android 6.0, the Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD), which sets guidelines for manufacturers, has also been updated. The document now lists full-disk encryption as a requirement instead of a recommendation.

If the Android phone is not low-memory device — with about 512MB of RAM — and supports a secure lock screen, it must also support full-disk encryption of both the application data and shared storage partitions, the document says.

If the device has an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cryptographic operation performance above 50MB/s, the full-disk encryption feature must be enabled by default during the initial set-up.

Google said that the encryption should use 128-bit or greater AES keys. They are not aloowed to write the encryption key to the storage area later. The encryption key should never be transmitted off the device.

Of course coppers are furious because it means that they will have a hell of a job snuffling people’s personal data any more.

In addition to encryption, Google also requires a verified boot for devices with AES performance over 50MB/s. This is a feature that verifies the integrity and authenticity of the software loaded at different stages during the device boot sequence and protects against boot-level attacks that could undermine the encryption.

Smart payments are a dead end

Dead-End-286While mobile tech companies, including Apple and Samsung, are getting all enthusiastic about mobile payments, they are almost certain to be a dead end.

Market Platform Dynamics Chief Executive Karen Webster told the Code/Mobile conference in California that mobile payments have been slow to catch on with the world’s consumers.

The reason is fairly obvious. They are not solving any real consumer problem. Shoppers don’t have any difficulty pulling a credit card out of their wallets.

Rather, they’re most concerned about whether they’re getting the best deal for the item they’ve just purchased.

Adding technology at this end of the transaction is pointless, she said.

If she is correct then there are a lot of companies and banks which are going to end up with egg all over their face. They have effectively conspired to bring in tech that no one really needs to and requires a lot of up-front investment.

But thinking about it, the tech industry has been doing a lot of that lately. The smartwatch concept was based on the fact that people would not want to pull their phones out of their pocket. Anyone who wants to spend $450 to avoid using that much energy has serious problems – they don’t need technology they need counselling.

The only way the mobile companies, such as Apple and its ilk, make any sales at all is by making the act look cooler than it actually is. Opening your smartphone and waving it at a screen does look way cooler than waving a piece of plastic, but it is not more or less convent.

Technology companies, particularly in the more desperate mobile world, are just re-inventing the wheel with some increasingly silly ideas. In Apple’s case it pays off. Its fan base will queue for a dog turd if it had an Apple logo on it. Its fans have been screaming at their banks threatening to take their overdrafts elsewhere if they do not adopt Apple Pay.

However, if Webster is correct and the majority of saner users are not going to bother, particularly once the novelty has worn off.

Apple helps China censor its citizens

ChinaFruity cargo cult Apple is helping the Chinese keep their citizens under control by censoring its news and wiping tricky content from phones and tablets.

Apple has disabled its news app in China because it does not want to offend the government by telling Apple fanboys about what is going on in the world.

Greater China is now Apple’s second-largest source of revenue after the United States, with sales of more than $13 billion in the third quarter. There are fears that the Chinese are losing interest in the shiny cargo cult and Apple does not want a scrap with the authorities right now.

Beijing generally insists that companies are responsible for censoring content inside China. In Apple’s case, that would mean it would probably have to develop a censorship system to eliminate sensitive articles from feeds.

Since this means developing working software, Jobs’ Mob has placed this in the too hard basket and completely disabled the service for users in China.

The move is already troubling some users. Larry Salibra, an entrepreneur who founded Pay4Bugs, a software testing service, pointed out the issue last week on Twitter. Salibra said he found what Apple was doing “very disconcerting.”

He said Apple was censoring news content that he downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA.

“On device censorship is much different than having your server blocked by the Great Firewall or not enabling a feature for customers with certain country iTunes account. That Apple has little choice doesn’t make it any less creepy or outrageous.”

Microsoft releases shed-loads of Windows 10 stuff

SurfaceSoftware King of the World Microsoft has shown off a  laptop, a line of Lumia smartphones, a new Surface Pro tablet Microsoft Band, all running on Windows 10.

Microsoft needs Windows 10, launched in July, to help it win a bigger share of the market for tablets and smartphones.

The Surface Book, will start at $1,499 and is twice as fast as Apple’s MacBook Pro. It will be available from October 26, with preorders starting on Wednesday.

The laptop has a 13.5-inch display with 267 pixels per inch and features a track-pad made of gorilla glass.

The company unveiled three phones at an event in New York. The Lumia 950 with a starting price of $549 and the 950XL which will sell for  $649  when they hit the shops in November,. The Lumia 550 will cost $139 when it becomes available in December.

The Lumia 950 includes a 5.2-inch display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor with hexacore CPUs. The Lumia 950 XL has a 5.7-inch display and a Snapdragon 810 processor with octa-core CPUs. The 550 has a 4.7-inch HD display and runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 210 processor.

The new Surface Pro 4 tablet – a larger but thinner and lighter version of the Surface Pro 3 – is priced at $899 and will be available from Oct. 26 with pre-orders starting on Wednesday.

Launched nearly a year and a half after its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4 features a 12.3-inch screen with 267 pixels per inch. It runs on 6th-generation Intel Core processor and has 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage.

Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than Apple’s MacBook Air, Panos Panay, the corporate vice president for Surface Computing at Microsoft, said at the event.

Top Vole Satya Nadella said:  “We’re moving people from needing to choosing to loving Windows, and these devices promise to fuel even more enthusiasm and opportunity for the entire Windows ecosystem.”

Microsoft suffered its biggest-ever quarterly net loss in the three months ended June 30 after taking a $7.6 billion writedown on its Nokia handset business.

The company had said savings from the restructuring of the business would be pumped into its new flagship operating system, its fast-growing cloud business and its hardware division, which includes Xbox gaming consoles.

Microsoft also said its new tablet and smartphones will come with Windows Hello, an automatic biometric sign-in option introduced earlier this year.

The feature allows users to scan their face, iris or fingerprints to verify their identity and give them access to Windows phones, laptops and personal computers.

Microsoft introduced a Surface Pen, which has year-long battery life, 1,024 pressure points and comes in five colors with inter-changeable pen tips.

The 950 and 950XL handsets feature a 20-megapixel rear camera, have up to 32GB of storage, 4K video and use liquid cooling technology. Microsoft said storage on the phones could be extended to up to 2 terabytes using a memory card.

The Microsoft Band 2, which allows users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, will be priced at $249 when it becomes available on October 30.

Unlike its predecessor, Microsoft’s entry product in the wearable technology market a year ago, the new Band has a curved display, which uses the Corning Gorilla glass 3, and has a barometer sensor to track elevation.

Microsoft said it was taking applications for a development kit for HoloLens, the holographic lens device that allows users to see 3D renderings of computer-generated images. The kit will be available in the first quarter of 2016 for $3,000.

HoloLens gives Microsoft a stake in the emerging market for virtual and augmented reality, which is also being targeted by Facebook’s Oculus.