What's in Store for Apple's iOS 7?
There's been talk recently that Apple's products are beginning to coast on their glorious past. So, with Apple's big Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) arriving in San Francisco in three weeks, the speculation mill has been heating up about what the company might offer when it decides to unveil the new iOS 7.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that manufacturing of a "refreshed iPhone" was beginning in second quarter, with a possible launch during the summer, and that a less expensive iPhone could be on the market as soon as the second half of this year. The newspaper also said that Apple's next version of its iOS would be shipped by the middle of this year.
Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, has told news media that his team "can't wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X" into developers hands. This might imply some minor updates to the current version will be released at WWDC, or it could mean the company will tease or unveil the full iOS 7 redesign that is said to be under way. Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Sir Jonathan "Jony" Ive, who is known for a more minimalist style, is said to be leading a complete overhaul of the OS's interface.
However, there have also been reports on the Web, attributed to "people with knowledge of the matter," that the full-scale redo of iOS may not be ready for WWDC.
Rumors have suggested a less-textured direction for the new look, which some have described as "very, very flat," cleaner, simpler, losing any shine or gloss, and bearing new icons. Some observers have speculated that users might even have a choice between displaying the new flat design or keeping the old interface.
One possible pitfall to a simpler, flatter design,...
Google Glass Raises Congressional Privacy Concerns
The buzz around Google Glass continues, but it's not all good. Some in Congress are raising privacy issues around the futuristic product.
Eight members of the House Privacy Caucus sent a letter to Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page. They have some questions about the privacy aspects of Google Glass. And they want answers.
"As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans," the letter says. "Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google's plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share."
The caucus then puts forth eight questions:
1. How does Google plan to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?
2. What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use? Are product lifecycle guidelines and frameworks, such as Privacy By Design, being implemented in connection with its product design and commercialization?
3. When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing? Would a user be able to request such information? Can a non-user or human subject opt out of this collection of personal data? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person? If so, explain. If not, why not?
6. Would [device-specific] information be collected from users operating Google Glass?...
U.S. Defense Department Gives iOS 6 Security OK
In a vote of confidence for Apple's iOS devices, the U.S. Defense Department has given the all-clear for employees to use iPads and iPhones for work. But only those running the latest operating system, iOS 6, and only if issued by the government.
The Pentagon previously approved the Samsung Knox and BlackBerry systems as secure enough for its employees, and made the decision after allowing some to use Apple devices during a trial period.
In announcing the decision, the Defense Information Systems Agency said it had approved the Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) for iOS 6, allowing government-issued mobile devices to be approved for connecting to DoD networks "within current mobility pilots or the future mobile device management framework. "
Pilot Program In Place
Employees won't be able to use devices they acquired on their own, however.
DISA is the agency responsible for a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, which is in source selection now and expected to have a contract awarded in early summer, the statement said. That protocol will manage and distribute mobile applications and fend off persistent cyberattacks that have been targeting private and government computers in search of secrets.
"All of these pieces must be in place to allow the secure use of commercial mobile devices on department networks," said Mark Orndorff, program executive officer for Mission Assurance and NetOps, and chief information assurance executive at DISA, in the statement. "DISA is running a pilot program today where we bring this all together."
Chester Wisniewski, a senior cybersecurity analyst at Sophos International, said approving STIGs is a common procedure for nearly any type of technology or operating system. "Everything that is in use must have a STIG defining how it is to be deployed, which options must be enabled/disabled, etc.," he said. "While it is certainly a good thing for Apple, I...
Should Enterprises Skip Over Windows 8?
IT will skip Windows 8 as the enterprise standard. So says a new Forrester Research report penned by David K. Johnson that goes by the same name.
"Windows 8 is the boldest release of the OS since Windows 95. Microsoft chose to discard the Start button in favor of a new look designed to tie together the PC, tablet, and, smartphone experience," Johnson wrote. But he noted that the "unorthodox offering" drives IT leaders to ask a number of questions.
Those questions include: Is Windows 8's new interface too far of a departure for some employees to learn, and will there even be any employee demand for it? Does Windows 8 offer enough new value to justify migration investments, and if so, when, and across which devices?
The report goes on to explain why Forrester believes most businesses will not adopt Windows 8 as their primary standard, but must be prepared to meet employee "bring your own device" demand. The latter point lines up with a recent Gartner report suggesting that half of companies will mandate BYOD for employees.
The UI Beef
Windows 8 started out of the gate with disadvantages. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen set the stage for the complaints with a review that tore the operating system to shreds last November.
Nielsen didn't like what he deemed a reversal of Microsoft's user interface strategy, one that differs from the traditional Bill Gates-driven style that emphasizes powerful commands. He said Microsoft has "gone soft" and "smothers" users with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.
"One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. Windows no longer supports multiple windows on the screen," Nielsen wrote in a blog post. "Win 8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a...
Syrian Electronic Army Hacks Financial Times
The Financial Times is the latest victim of the Syrian Electronic Army, a "hacktivist" group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.K.-based newspaper reported the attack followed a phishing attack on the company's e-mail accounts.
Twelve posts entitled "Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army" appeared on the FT's tech blog between 12:38 p.m. and 12:42 p.m. London time on Friday, with the company's Twitter accounts also disrupted, the Financial Times said.
"We have now locked those accounts and are grateful for Twitter's help on this," said Robert Shrimsley, the managing editor of FT.com. "Unfortunately this is an increasingly common issue for major news organizations."
No New Tricks
Ken Pickering, development manager for security intelligence at CORE Security, said the Syrian Electronic Army's methods are straightforward: They rely on a phishing e-mail with a link to a spoofed Web page that in some cases looks like Google Apps, and is able to yank an employee's credentials fairly easily.
"However, some old tricks are good ones, and until we actually educate users to think before they click, these attacks will continue to be successful," Pickering told us. "There are vast architectural changes we could make to the Internet to make this happen, or we could all follow one simple policy: Don't enter your password on a link you followed from e-mail. If you get a notification from somewhere, just go to the site itself via your browser. It will cost you an extra 10 seconds of typing, but I promise it's worthwhile."
People tend to reuse passwords, Pickering said, so tactics like this are easy and effective. Once hackers have access to e-mail, he said, injecting malware into a network by using internal e-mails as a carrier is exceptionally effective. And it only takes one weak link to begin a chain of several attacks.
"I wish I could...
Windows Phone Now No. 3 in Market, BlackBerry No. 4
Has Microsoft Phone moved into a coveted though distant third place for smartphone platforms behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS? A new report from IDC says it has.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker found that Android and iOS took an overwhelming combined 92.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in the first quarter, a huge increase of 59.1 percent over the same quarter last year. Separately, Android took 75 percent and iOS 17.3 percent.
Windows Phone, for the first time in IDC's reports, took third place with 3.2 percent, barely ahead of the BlackBerry OS, which had 2.9 percent. This compares with 2 percent for Windows Phone in Q1 of 2012, and what had been a more substantial 6.4 percent for BlackBerry. In January of this year, BlackBerry released its new BlackBerry 10 platform.
Rounding out the top half dozen platforms, Linux had 1 percent and the dying Symbian, which posted 6.8 percent in first quarter of last year, now has 0.6 percent.
We asked Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, if the Windows Phone showing in this report appeared to be just a blip, or if seemed to be a forward motion that could continue to keep Microsoft in third place.
He replied that he sees this "as forward motion" and not a blip, and the reason is Nokia. We can see now, Llamas said, "how serious they are and how serious their carrier partners are," as evidenced by their evangelizing, marketing, and steady stream of new Windows phones. Llamas said "it takes some time" to launch a new platform, and Nokia's efforts are now bearing fruit.
While other manufacturers have released Windows Phone devices, Microsoft's partnership with Nokia is the key to whether the smartphone platform succeeds. Nokia's devices accounted for 79 percent of Windows Phone shipments during Q1.
In Sight at I/O: Google Glassware
Google Glass' capabilities are becoming clearer. At the Google I/O developers conference now taking place in San Francisco, the first wave of brand name apps for the new interactive headgear -- of course, called Glassware -- are entering the field of view.
This week, apps were unveiled from CNN for getting news flashes, from Evernote for accessing notes and reminders, and from Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter for keeping up to date with your social network. The new software joins others previously announced by The New York Times and social networker Path.
The apps are intended to comply with Google's new guidelines for a platform that is continuously with the user and potentially overlays everything the user sees. For instance, Google advises that interruptions to a viewer's attention should be short, relevant and timely, so the CNN app allows a user to choose the subject area -- sports or politics, for instance -- for which attention-breaking interruptions are warranted. Additionally, the time of day can be set when such news bulletins can be sent, after which a user can call up a brief summary and a video.
The fashion magazine Elle has developed an app so fans of that magazine can flip through photos, hear a portion of an article read aloud, share articles or designate some for reading later. Facebook's software enables sharing Glass-captured photos on Facebook, and Twitter's offers the ability to voice-post and to filter which people's tweets to receive.
Evernote users can send notes to Glass, providing a to-do list when you're actually out in the world, and Tumblr's shows a user's feed or selections thereof.
One application by an independent development team indicates the potential for entirely new forms of weird behavior. Called Ice Breaker, it sends a notification to nearby users of the same app. The Glass-wearing Ice...
Intel Going Mobile with Its New CEO
In his first speech as the new head of Intel, CEO Brian Krzanich said he would focus on beefing up the company's presence in the tablet and smartphone markets. Krzanich officially took the CEO reins Thursday, after serving as Intel COO since 2012. He's the sixth CEO in company history.
As part of its mobile push, Intel launched "Experience Intel. Look Inside," a world tour to introduce consumers to mobile devices based on Intel products, including the Ultrabook, thin and light laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs and smartphones.
Interactive Mobile Displays
Intel's tour will feature a custom-built installation that will travel to cities around the world during the next six months. The installation will provide consumers with various collaborative and visual interactions to experience Intel technology.
For example, consumers can experience the newest Ultrabook convertibles, 2-in-1 Intel-inspired devices that flip, fold and swivel from laptop to tablet. Consumers can also play with Intel-powered products, including thin and light laptops, tablets, smartphones and all-in-ones.
The first stop is New York, and it's not just about the products. Intel said the tour will also feature relevant artists, designers and thought leaders to create customized digital interactions, all powered by the Ultrabook. The installations span art, data visualization and gaming to show off the Ultrabook's features.
One of the designs is from Matt Pyke of Universal Everything. He created an experiential design that transforms guests' drawings -- completed on Ultrabooks -- into a digital flock of "wings" projected on the interior walls of the installation.
Then there's the Office of Creative Research, a multi-disciplinary research group. Its team has created custom data visualizations around the evolution of the computer, highlighting changes in speed, power and the size of computers in recent history. And Hide & Seek, an independent gaming studio, has designed the first game created specifically for Ultrabook...
HP and SAP Team To Advance HANA Database Technology
Project Kraken is a joint initiative by Hewlett-Packard and SAP to help enterprises improve their business processes through super high-speed reporting and data analytics. A prototype for the new system, which uses HP hardware and SAP software technology, was demonstrated Thursday at the Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla. The initiative is based on HP server technology innovations and optimized with the in-memory SAP HANA database for the SAP Business Suite.
HANA sounds like an acronym, but is actually a name coined by SAP AG for its database technology. In basic terms, the benefit of HANA database technology is the unusual speed and power it provides by keeping all data in-memory at all times.
Using that method, processes like data analysis and reporting can work much faster than if the system had to move data between the database and outside applications. The time savings can be critical for big-data environments that require massive processing power and immediate system response times.
More Data, Less Time
With Project Kraken, HP and SAP say they are on a mission to give customers more choice in scalability for large, online transaction-processing applications that require real-time analytical data insights. If the technology performs as marketed, it will give retailers, financial institutions, utilities, governments, and others a new alternative to detect patterns, analyze massive data volumes on the fly, and perform their operations quickly.
"With Project Kraken, HP and SAP are illustrating how customers can achieve a step-jump in performance, while adding simplicity in the management of the environment," said Vishal Sikka, a member of SAP's Technology and Innovation executive board. "It shows how large enterprises can confidently run their enterprise applications, including SAP Business Suite, with growing quantities of data in shorter windows of time."
Sikka said the offering will "fundamentally and forever change the database market."
So what's under the...
Cloud Computing Gains Another Competitor with Google
Get ready, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Google is upping the services offered through its Cloud Platform.
At an event Wednesday at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco, the technology giant announced that its Compute Engine will now be available to any users, not only those who have Google Gold support.
To make that possible with Compute Engine, which provides a high-performance, hosted environment for running virtual machines, it will be billed in instances as small as one minute to 10-minute increments, there will be shared core instances for low-intensity workloads, and advanced routing features have been added for creating gateways and VPN servers.
Additionally, large persistent disks will support up to 10 terabytes per volume, and the company said it has completed ISO 27001:2005 international security certification for Compute Engine, Google App Engine, and Google Cloud Storage.
'All the Right Things'
Google also said that its App Engine platform, version 1.8.0, will now add limited preview support for the PHP programming language, one of the most commonly requested additions.
The 5-year-old App Engine currently supports Python, Java and Google's Go. Google said PHP was being added so that developers could run open-source programs like WordPress. In order to ease the process of building modularized applications, App Engine will also now have the ability to partition apps into components that have individual scaling, deployments, versioning and performance settings.
There is also a new Cloud Datastore service, a managed and schema-less storage for non-relational data. The company said the standalone service offers automatic scalability and high availability, and provides such capabilities as ACID transactions, SQL-like queries and indexes.
Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC, said Google "is doing all the right things to become a serious cloud platform competitor." He added that the company had previously "evolved App Engine...
Soundbars Up the Ante on TV Sound
The days of home theaters with multiple stereo speakers spread around a room may be numbered, thanks to the soundbar.
The soundbar is a slender collection of speakers in a single housing that connects directly to the TV -- so there's no worrying about stringing up speaker wire. The devices have been around for a while, but those in this year's crop are cheaper and more powerful, and have the ability to connect to smartphones, tablets and PCs for streaming music.
Soundbar prices range from upwards of $1,400 for multiple speaker systems from Bose and Philips to $700 for the new Sonos Playbar and $100 to $200 for lower-end units from Samsung and Sony.
This week, TV manufacturer Vizio began shipping its latest, the S4251w-B4. At $329, (street price, $299) it is $200 less than Vizio's previous model. It also has built-in Bluetooth to stream music into the living room from a smartphone, tablet or PC.
"If you have a Spotify or Pandora account, just come in, pair the phone or device with the soundbar, and you're set," says Matthew DeHamer, a Vizio product manager. "You don't have to have the TV on."
Soundbars are filling a gap in the audio quality of many new TVs. As prices continue to fall for flat-panel television sets and models get thinner and larger, manufacturers have skimped on sound. Speakers on new TVs are generally inferior.
The Consumer Electronics Association projects that soundbar sales will rise 22% in 2013.
Bringing Internet-streamed music into the living room has been a huge push for wireless speaker company Sonos, which goes beyond Bluetooth with a series of smartphone and tablet apps that let the device act as a remote control for TV and music.
Consumer response to the Sonos Playbar has been greater than expected. "We can't make them fast enough," says Sonos CEO...
Technology and Labor Sectors Spar on Immigration
To the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it's more sinister: The push by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.
The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system's ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners -- fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million -- has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders hoping to make inroads in Washington.
"A lot of people agree that employers should have access to (highly trained) immigrants -- that they are a benefit to the country, and we are a country of immigrants," said B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration. "I think the question is how much of a good thing is good."
The Senate immigration bill -- the result of months of quiet negotiations among eight influential senators -- is on track to nearly double the number of highly skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. under what's called an H-1B visa, from 65,000 to 110,000. The number of visas could climb as high as 180,000 depending on the number of applications received and the unemployment rate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee planned to take up the portion of the bill relating to H-1B visas on Thursday, paving the way for an eventual floor vote and setting...
Google Bets Its Empty Wallet on Gmail Tie-In
Google first demoed Google Wallet two years ago in its New York City offices. But nothing much has come of the app that promised to make your phone a wallet.
Google has hardly abandoned the idea of letting customers tap, pay and save using their Android devices and near field communication. Google Wallet is still a key part of the company's ongoing effort to improve shopping on both sides of the checkout counter.
But Google has rolled out a new concept at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco -- one that might trouble PayPal. Google is setting up a function to allow U.S.-based adult Gmail users attach electronic money to an e-mail. Google Wallet is still at the center, but you don't need a phone to make the transaction.
"Paying back your friends is now as simple as sending an e-mail, whether you're chipping in for lunch or reimbursing your roommate for your share of the rent," said Travis Green, product manager for Google Wallet, in a blog post. "Google Wallet is now integrated with Gmail, so you can quickly and securely send money to friends and family directly within Gmail -- even if they don't have a Gmail address."
As Simple as Attaching a File
Here's how it works: When you open up your Gmail and compose a message, you'll see a dollar sign ($) in the row of icons at the bottom, just to the left of the icon you click to attach a photo. When you click the icon, you'll be prompted to enter the amount of money you want to transmit. Press "send" and the transaction is complete.
Sending money is free if your bank account is linked to Google Wallet or using your Google Wallet balance. You will pay a fee if you send money using your linked credit card...
A Tale of Two New HP Hybrid Tablets: 1 Android, 1 Win 8
Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday unveiled two hybrid tablet-notebooks: the Android-powered HP SlateBook x2 and the Windows 8-based HP Split x2. Both are detachable PCs that offer the full functionality of a notebook with a removable screen that also is a tablet.
The HP SlateBook x2 and Split x2 are follow-ups to the Envy x2. The HP SlateBook x2 is the first Android detachable device with the Nvidia Tegra 4 mobile processor. The HP Split x2 features a 13.3-inch diagonal display and powerful processor and is ideal for work or play.
"Customers want to access and share content anywhere, anytime, on any Internet connected device -- and they expect those connections to be seamless," said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and general manager for Consumer PCs at HP. "The HP SlateBook x2 and the HP Split x2 are next-generation devices and the latest examples of our continued commitment to evolving the computing experience by providing the flexibility necessary for customers to be productive at home, at the office or on the go."
The SlateBook x2 aims to allow users to shift from entertainment to work by combining tablet portability with notebook productivity in a lightweight device that leverages Android. A magnetic hinge design and dual battery system -- one battery in the base and one in the tablet -- work to make that possible.
The SlateBook x2 runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and delivers Google Now, Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive and Google+ Hangouts for multi-person video chat as well as access to apps and digital content through Google Play.
The SlateBook x2 features an Nvidia Tegra 4 mobile processor. That paves the way for users to access the TegraZone app and experience Tegra 4-optimized games. The device offers a 10.1-inch HD touchscreen display. The SlateBook x2 also includes 64 MB of storage...
At Google I/O: New Spotify Rival, Maps Revision, More
The Googlepalooza for developers, Google I/O, opened Wednesday in San Francisco, and the expected stream of announcements has begun. The current lineup includes a new music service and a redesigned version of the company's popular Maps application.
The new streaming music service, with the mouthful name of Google Play Music All Access, is priced at $9.99 monthly after a one-month free trial, matching the premium level pricing of competitor Spotify. Users can get a free, one-month trial, and sign-ups by the end of June will be charged only $7.99 monthly.
Initially, the service will offer 22 top-level genres, and curated playlists will be offered. The Google service arrives before an anticipated Apple streaming service, expected to be unveiled at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference next month.
Google Maps has been entirely rebuilt, in the largest redesign since the product was launched eight years ago. Users will see frequently visited places highlighted when they log on, obtained by Google via info about that user from all of its services. When a user travels to a new city, Maps will make recommendations based on preferences and on travel selections from others who frequent the same kind of places.
Maps will be modified in real-time to reflect a current selection, such as all museums being highlighted when you select a museum. Google Earth is now being incorporated into the online Maps, so landmarks can be explored in 3D, and other users' uploaded photos will allow views of the interior of many local businesses.
Also announced were a variety of updates for Google+, including a redesigned screen layout, automatically generated hashtags, and a revamped Hangouts that brings together the existing video chat service with Messenger and Google Talk. Additionally, Google+ offers two new photo editing tools, Auto Enhance and Highlights.
Auto Enhance allows a user to...