Tag: Android

Google denies ripping off Apple

Google invented some key Android tech two years before Apple released the iPhone, a court was told this week.

The second Apple v. Samsung patent infringement trial is underway with Cupertino claiming that five of its patents are being infringed upon by devices such as Galaxy S3, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Job’s Mob wants $2 billion in damages for the five patents even though they make up a small part of the gizmo’s functionality.

Samsung claims that some of the features it is alleged to have copied from the iPhone were first developed by Google.

Now a key figure in the Android team, Google vice president of Android Hiroshi Lockheimer told the court how it invented some of the technology long before Apple.

He told the court that it was important that Android had its own ideas. The team was very passionate about what it was doing and it tried to make Android very different from iOS. There are “thousands” of features in Android Lockheimer says they all aim for ease of use.

Apple alleges that Samsung’s devices infringe on its quick links feature, for which it holds patent number ‘647. Lockheimer testified that Google engineers actually developed the background synchronizing and quick links feature for Android between 2005 and 2006.

They had a head start on Apple which didn’t launch the original iPhone until 2007. The timing is important for Samsung because on it the argument that these features were first created by Google can be based.

Samsung also plans to call other Google executives including Dianne Hackborn and Cary Clark will testify about operation, design and development of Android quick links, which Apple claims to have invented.

Roping in Google to this trial shows a lot of what Apple’s patent trolling is all about. So far Jobs’ Mob has been going after the suppliers to make them less happy about using Android, but refusing to take on the creator of the software – Google. 

AV for Android is pointless

The Virus Shield for Android apps which shot to the top of the Google Play store earlier this month is as useless as a chocolate teapot.

Made by Deviant Solutions, the popular, well-rated, easy-to-use application, which claims to prevent “harmful apps from being installed on your device” for just £2.40 is a complete fake, it is alleged.

Virus Shield does not scan apps, settings, files, and media all it does is that its shield icon changes from an “X” image to a check mark after a single tap.

Programmer Zhuowei Zhang tweeted about the scam, writing that “it’s literally a single activity that displays a picture,” and dubbed Virus Shield the “crap app of the week”.

The application can be traced to a Live.com email address the trail of Deviant Solutions goes cold.

The tame Apple press claims that this problem highlights the ease with which developers can add apps to Android stores like Google Play. This would never happen with Apple’s tightly controlled App Store, Apple’s unpaid press officers thundered.

Actually, it is nothing to do with that and more to do with the state of the AV market. After all how many people have AV gear sitting on their machines all updated and still manage to get viruses? In many machines, AV software is the homeopathic cure for all malware. It might work, but you are never sure why.

Virus Shield attracted thousands of users and no one knew or cared that they were still getting malware installed until the software was checked by Zhang.

Intel buys another wearable computer maker

Fashion bag maker Intel is looking for something with a little more technology inside it to complement its fashion bag range.

The company has written a cheque to buy the fitness-tracking band maker Basis Science.

Chipzilla is not saying how much it paid for Basis, which is one of the few to make a bob or to from digital watches that capture data such as heart rate, activity, and sleep.

Information is synched wirelessly to a smartphone which reads the data.

Wearable computing gear has become the latest thing thanks to inexpensive sensors and increasingly powerful smartphones that can be used to analyse data collected. As yet the health market is been one of the few areas that can find a use for the technology.

Mike Bell, general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group said that the acquisition of Basis Science provides immediate entry into the market with a leader in health tracking for wearable devices.

“We will build upon this foundation to deliver products that bring people greater utility and value,” he said.

Buying Basis speeds up Intel’s move into wearable computing, according to the chipmaker. Basis bands will continue to be sold at shops, but it was not clear if they would get Intel branding. 

Delays hinder Microsoft Nokia deal

Nokia has warned that its deal with Microsoft appears to have become bogged down and will be delayed at least until April.

The $7.5 billion sale of most of Nokia’s phone business to Microsoft was expected to close in the first quarter.

Reuters said that Microsoft has also expects the deal to close in April.

The deal has been rubber stamped by the authorities in the US and EU but apparently some antitrust authorities in Asia are still conducting their reviews, it said in a statement.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said on the company’s bog that Vole was nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process.

“Currently we are awaiting approval confirmation in the final markets.”

The company last week was given a new $414 million tax claim by Indian authorities, following a recent Supreme Court decision to order Nokia to give a $571 million guarantee before transferring its Chennai factory to Microsoft.

Nokia said its tax disputes in India would not have an impact on the deal schedule.

Observers are not too stressed at the delays. It took Vole five months to complete its purchase of online chat company Skype in 2011. 

Haiti builds its own Android tablet

The Western Hemisphere’s least developed country has made a surprising entry into the high-tech world with its own Android tablet.

Haiti, which is better known for its rum and annoying US right wing Christians with its hybrid African-Catholic religion, has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sûrtab, a made-up name using the French adjective “sûr,” meaning “sure,” to suggest reliability.

The project started with a $200,000 grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and uses imported Asian components. There are three models all with 7-inch screens that run on Android. The base model is a simple wi-fi tablet with 512 megabytes of RAM for about $100, to a 3G model with 2-gigabytes of memory for $285.

This is the second time that Haiti has had an assembly industry. In the 1970s and 1980s the country had a thriving assembly industry, including computer boards. This was killed by a US economic embargo in the 1990s which followed a military coup.

Sûrtab said that the company  pays two to three times the Haitian minimum wage of $5 a day. There is no production line; instead, workers assemble each device from start to finish. Apparently this improves quality because it means that they are not zombies. 

Depending on the model, it takes an employee between 35 minutes and an hour to make a tablet. The company produces between 4,000 to 5,000 tablets a month, but plans to double that in April. 

Replicants find back door to Android

Developers working on the Replicant OS which is a free and open-source spin of Google’s Android have found a backdoor into the device’s file-system.

The backdoor works on several Samsung Galaxy mobile devices using the stock Android image, but it was present in “most proprietary Android systems running on the affected Samsung Galaxy devices, including the ones that are shipped with the devices”.

This means that Samsung Galaxy devices running proprietary Android versions come with a back-door that provides remote access to the data stored on the device.

It can be found in the proprietary software that is in charge of handling the communications with the modem.

Using the Samsung IPC protocol, it implements a class of requests known as RFS commands that allows the modem to perform remote I/O operations on the phone’s storage.

When the modem is running proprietary software, it offers over-the-air remote control, that could then be used to issue the incriminated RFS messages and access the phone’s file system.

This means that anyone who knows about the backdoor can walk directly into the Nexus S, Galaxy S, Galaxy S2, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab 2, Galaxy S 3, and Galaxy Note 2. In fact the Galaxy S seems to be the least secure with the back-door program running as root.

Replicant thinks it is possible that these were added for legitimate purposes, without the intent of doing harm by providing a back door.

What is a little strange is that the problem was reported on this Replicant Wiki page a few weeks ago but none appears to have noticed. 

Android is the Malware king

Android is paying the price of its popularity with more than 97 percent of all malware being tailored for the Google operating system.

Security firm F-Secure, which today released its 40-page Threat Report for the second half of 2013 said that the situation has become bad.

Android malware rose from 238 threats in 2012 to 804 new families and variants in 2013. Apart from Symbian, F-Secure found no new threats for other mobile platforms last year.

To be fair Android threats come from the strangest places. Of the top 10 countries reporting Android malware detections to F-Secure’s systems in the second half of 2013, 75 percent of the reports originated from Saudi Arabia and India; in comparison, the five European countries in the list combined only accounted for a little over 15 percent of reported detections.

The other problem is that Android has become so popular that Malware writers have more of an interest in mounting attacks on it.

F-Secure adds that despite the extreme focus of malware authors on the Android platform, F-Secure believes it would be incorrect to say that Google hasn’t been doing anything about it.

Only 0.1% of those virus threats were found on Google Play which suggests that third-party app stores are the most likely sources of mobile malware.

The top four stores are Anzhi, Mumayi, Baidu and eoeMarket, which all cater to the mainland Chinese user population that has restricted access to Google Play, less than 10 percent of the samples were identified as malicious. But at the very bottom of the list was Google Play itself, with the lowest percentage of malware in the gathered samples: 0.1 percent. F-Secure also noted that “the Play Store is most likely to promptly remove nefarious applications, so malware encountered there tends to have a short shelf life.” 

Android is lord of the tablets

Figures from Gartner say that while tablet sales grew 68 percent in 2013 it appears that Android is the big winner.

Big G said that worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68 percent increase on 2012.

Sales of iOS tablets grew in the fourth quarter of 2013, iOS’s share declined to 36 percent in 2013. This is because tablet growth in 2013 was fuelled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers rather than those who want to mortgage their house to buy another overpriced toy.

History will look back on 2013 and say it was the year that tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications, Big G said.

Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, said that as the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditised, in 2014, it was critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value. Otherwise, they are going to lose brand loyalty and improved margins, she said.

In 2013, the share of Apple’s iOS dropped 16.8 percentage points as the market demand was driven by the improved quality of smaller low-cost tablets from branded vendors, and white-box products continued to grow in emerging markets.

Gartner analysts said emerging markets recorded growth of 145 per cent in 2013, while mature markets grew 31 percent.

“Apple’s tablets remain strong in the higher end of the market and, Apple’s approach will continue to force vendors to compete with full ecosystem offerings, even in the smaller-screen market as the iPad mini sees a greater share”, Cozza said.

In 2013, Microsoft’s tablet volumes improved but share remained small. Despite Microsoft now acting more rapidly to evolve Windows 8.1, its “egosystem” still failed to capture major consumers’ interest on tablets.

“To compete, Microsoft needs to create compelling ecosystem proposition for consumers and developers across all mobile devices, as tablets and smartphones become key devices for delivering applications and services to users beyond the PC,” said Cozza.

Microsoft is better in the ultramobiles market which are more productivity oriented, where its partners are ramping up new form factors and designs.

The tablet market has become a challenging environment for branded hardware-driven players. They are squeezed by service-driven and content-driven players, and aggressive prices from white-box vendors. In addition, a situation where the top two tablet vendors have captured 55 percent of the market in 2013 compounds the challenge, the report said.

Samsung exhibited the highest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 percent, in 2013. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablets, together with strong marketing and promotions, helped Samsung bridge the gap with Apple. 

Microsoft does some more management shuffling

The shy and retiring Microsoft executive Steve “there’s a kind of hush” Ballmer only just left the building, but someone is already reshuffling his staff.

New broom Satya Nadella has been playing musical chairs at the Volehill.

Tony Bates and Tami Reller, will leave the company while a former Clinton family aide Mark Penn will become its chief strategy officer.

Penn will get a bigger hand in determining which markets Microsoft should be in and where it should be making further investments.

In the Ballmer days, Penn was an executive vice president at Microsoft overseeing advertising and strategy.

Bates is the former Skype CEO who was in charge of Microsoft’s business development, will leave immediately. He was our favourite as a potential CEO candidate to succeed Steve Ballmer because we planned to call him Master Bates throughout his term of office. No word about what his cunning plan is.

Eric Rudder who had the appropriate title of “head of advanced strategy,” will temporarily take up Bates’ duties and marketing executive Chris Capossela will replace Reller, the report said.

Reller, one of the few female executives at the company and co-head of Microsoft’s Windows unit, will remain with the company for some time to help with the transition.

The plans were leaked by loyal staff at the Redmond Vole Hill. Nadella told staff of the changes on Friday and the company plans to announce them publicly on Tuesday. 

Intel produces sound technology shocka

Fashion bag maker Intel seems to have been moving away from its roots lately, but it looks like its new SSD 730 series shows that there is still hardware life in the chipmaker yet.

Lately the SATA-based SSD world has been a bit of a snooze. Most current leading solid-state drives are pushing the upper limits of the 6Gbps SATA interface and can manage 500MB/sec in read-write bandwidth. This has made it difficult for anyone to tell the world “hey I am different.”

The Intel SSD 730 Series Solid State Drive is a consumer drive which uses the same Intel-built controller and NAND Flash design that Chipzilla used on its Enterprise DC S3500 series.

Chipzilla has improved its controller clock speed by 50 percent and the NAND Flash interface by another 20 percent.

Intel guarantees the new SSD 730 series for five years and rates the drive for 70 gigabytes of writes per day.

The drive has a good IO throughput, especially with small random 4K transfers and large sequential reads.

It is still a bit pricy at $249 for the 240GB drive and $489 for the 480GB variant. These are the pre-channel price so they will probably be cheaper when they actually hit the shops.

Still, it is nice to see Intel hitting the headlines for making some good technology again.