The original Glass designers had optimistic visions of people blissfully living their lives in tandem with a wraparound frame and a small display screen hovering over their eye. However, the dream quickly gave way to disillusionment as early adopters found that their device delivered less than promised and the Google Glass was further criticized on concerns of privacy of the people around the user.
Google as a company was very reliant on the search for its massive revenues. Google along the way has launch many products and services, however these are not minting money for the company as Google would have liked. Anything that is not Google’s search, display, and video advertising, seems to be lagging behind. Google, with the formation of Alphabet has sent out a clear signal that all Google products need to become accountable for earning their place in the company’s balance sheet. We should see Google infuse our lives with their presence in more ways in the coming year. One step seems to be the wearable segment getting a brand new lease on life in the enterprise segment. Alphabet’s X, which oversees the development of the Google Glass, has announced that the Glass Enterprise Edition is being rolled out to more businesses, after two years limited trial program.
Glass ‘Enterprise Edition’ first broke cover back in 2015 in a Federal Communications Commission, US government body leak, and the new version has had many upgrades over the consumer variant. With a faster atom processor, a higher-resolution 8MP camera, the Glass is also striving to boost Glass’ battery life, one of the major drawbacks in the Google Glass consumer Edition. The display element of Glass 2 will be both larger than the original and able to move both vertically and horizontally. this would begin to alleviate another popular gripe regarding the original Glass: that the display was just too hard to focus on.
The Google Glass 2, Glass Enterprise Edition project is currently under the supervision of Nest co-founder Tony Fadell. Alphabet worked with over “30 expert partners” to tweak the overall design and functionality of the Glass with the likes of GE, AGCO, Boeing, Volkswagen, and DHL. The team at Alphabet made many enhancements to the design and internal hardware, introducing a lightweight model with increased comfort for prolonged use.
Workers at AGCO, an agricultural machinery manufacturer in Jackson, Minnesota, are using over a hundred Glass Enterprise Edition units. Using Google Glass Enterprise Edition has led to a decrease in machinery production time for AGCO by reducing the amount of time spent on “back and forth” for workers to view instruction manuals or sending photos from laptops and tablets as they assembled machines and accessed checklists. The Glass has reduced machinery production time by 25 percent and inspection times by 30 percent. Alphabet noted that DHL was able to increase its supply chain efficiency by 15% after turning to Glass Enterprise Edition. This Glass wearable also allowed doctors at Dignity Health to increase the interaction time with their patients.
The reason why Google Glass 2 work so well in a business setting vs those in private settings is that in the enterprise world, Glass is not an outgrowth of the distracting smart phone, but a tool for getting work done. The Enterprise Edition runs only the single application which is necessary to do the job. There’s no Tweeting, Snapping, Facebooking, distracting notifications, or rage-generating headlines. The company is making Google Glass Enterprise Edition accessible to more businesses via partners. While it is great to see the Google wearable find its momentum in the enterprise segment, it’s unlikely we’ll see a consumer-facing variant.
Glass in an enterprise setting is not a toy, it’s a tool that enhances our ability to perform as professionals.
Qualcomm Is Trying To Get iPhone Sales Banned In The U.S., Again.
The ongoing legal turmoil between Apple and Qualcomm is escalating every passing month, and both the parties are trying to hit the other where it could hurt the most.
Initially, angling for a ban on the import of iPhones and iPads, Qualcomm has changed tacks to now induce an outright ban on the sale of iPhones that have already been brought into the U.S.
Qualcomm filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) citing their view that these devices infringe on one or more Qualcomm patents that cover key technologies that drive some features and functionalities on Apple’s devices.
Since iPhones and iPads are all manufactured in China, Apple has to import its devices into the U.S. to sell them in its home country, and that’s exactly where Qualcomm wants to hit Apple. Its not entirely clear exactly which devices Qualcomm is seeking to get banned, but it’s likely that Qualcomm has the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and some recent iPads in it’s sights.
What is also most interesting is that Qualcomm has only requested devices running on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks banned, even though these devices use chips from Intel. So you know, Apple devices on carriers such as Verizon use Qualcomm’s processors, so this move seems like a strike not just against Apple, but also against Qualcomm’s competition, Intel.
Qualcomm has been saying that Apple is in violation of six patents that pertain to extending a device’s battery life while allowing the device to retain certain functionalities.
Interestingly, none of the patents are essential to a standard, which translates as Apple is not required to license these, as it is required to do for other patents the two companies are in dispute about.
The current complaint is being filed in both, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (the same place where the previous complaints were logged).
Qualcomm’s General Counsel, Don Rosenberg said “Qualcomm’s inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards”.
He added, “Apple continues to use Qualcomm’s technology while refusing to pay for it”.
It is expected that the complaint will start to be investigated in August, with a trial happening towards the end of the year, or early next year. If a ban is imposed (something that is being considered highly unlikely), it will not happen for the next 18 months.
We must also keep in mind that Qualcomm might not necessarily expect the ban to actually be put in place. It could very well just be another feint so as to attack Apple on multiple grounds, and thus gain leverage.
Truth be told, such escalation was expected in the fight between the two partners-turned-adversaries, that commenced at the beginning of the year.
While it started with the Federal Trade Commission suing Qualcomm for anti-competitive trade practices, it soon took on more ominous form when when Apple filed its own suit for the same.
Since then, the fight has only become clumsier, with Apple now withholding all payments due to Qualcomm, and the latter trying to get the iPhones banned from sale as a response.
Apple claims that the chipmaker is charging “disproportionately high” fees for the use of its patents, and abusing its position as the market leader in smartphone modems.
Qualcomm is not just a chipmaker, it is also one of the primary suppliers of LTE modems, along with a lot of what goes into your phones. They hold a considerable chunk of standard essential patents, which means that if a company wants to make and sell phones, it has to pretty much cut a deal with Qualcomm, at least for the use of the standard essential patents.
As I said before, the ongoing dispute between the two giants is likely to result in a new trend for the industry – which could culminate with the licensees having additional stake over the patented tech, while the patent holders will have lesser “pull” over how much they charge and thus how the industry functions.
Sounds good to me, now that I’ve learnt how much Qualcomm charges, unilaterally at that, and simple correlation yields that you and I ultimately end up paying for those self-servingly over-valued patents!
Earth shakes when a big tree falls.
Users were reminded again of this maxim as analysts and researchers scrambled in a tizzy, to contain the attacks of what appears to be a new ransomware that is infecting computers worldwide.
Termed as Petya, the cyber attack is another jolt to the tech ecosystem, that is still reeling from the aftermath of the WannaCry attacks, that had affected over 300,000 computers worldwide.
Security experts are expecting the worst, as they say that no kill switch is possible right now.
The attack has chiefly hit the geographical regions of Ukraine and Russia – although the ‘kill zone’ has rapidly spread to various big firms in the western hemisphere – like the advertising giant WPP, French construction materials company Saint-Gobain and Russian steel and oil firms Evraz and Rosneft .
The brunt of the intrusion was felt closer home too when operations at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust were shut down.
The ransomware locks the user out of her system and asks for a Bitcoin ransom worth USD 300 (approx. INR 19,400) – just like its predecessor WannaCry.
Although Wannacry exploited the vulnerability of the Windows operating system, namely EternalBlue, Petya locks the ‘Master Boot Records’ in the operating system which is supposedly the most important data trove of the system and contains all the information on disk partitions as well as the code that gives way for OS to be booted on the memory system.
The ransomware is also affecting the systems in other variants, although with at ‘lesser’ severity than the original.
When a system gets infected, the malware essentially encrypts the entire file system – sending the user a ransom note that warns her against switching off while rebooting. Unsuspecting victims are then asked to send the ransom to an address along with the confirmation mail of the Bitcoin transaction that is supposed to be made.
According to the Ukrainian police, the attack originated from a seeded file of the software update mechanism of an accounting program that is used by the Ukrainian Government. A second wave of phishing campaign was also used to plant the malware, forcing most of the Ukrainian public facilities to be shut down.
Even the radiation monitoring system of the infamous Chernobyl was shut down, forcing the employees to use manual methods to circumvent the problem.
Despite the severity of the attack, it is highly ambiguous at this moment to ascertain if the intent of the attacker was to gather money. Cyber experts have termed the payment method through just one email address as “amateurish”. The email ID was later shut down. According to available details, the Bitcoin wallet that was attached to the ID was only filled with ten thousand dollars, a meager sum for an attack of such ginormous proportions.
There’s another, more sinister belief that’s doing the rounds – because of its unusual focus on the Crimean peninsula, the attack is being seen as thinly veiled attempt to national sabotage. According to Comae’s Matthieu Suiche, “Pretending to be a ransomware while being, in fact, a nation-state attack, is in our opinion a very subtle way from the attacker to control the narrative of the attack”.
The country’s prime minister acknowledged the severity of the attacks but assured that “IT experts are doing their job and protecting critical infrastructure.The attack will be repelled and the perpetrators will be tracked down”.
The details of the solutions, if any, are still incomplete. Infected users are being implored to not pay the ransom – since there is no guarantee of a fix. Also because there is no current method of decryption of the infected data, users are asked to format the drives and use backups.
Major antivirus companies such as Kaspersky are saying that the most they can do right now is to spot the malware. The fix to the problem is being worked upon, and till that time, the user must update the Windows critical patch to address the EternalBlue vulnerability, at least, so that they can keep WannaCry at bay.
This might come as bad news to some WhatsApp users, but the world’s foremost messenger application, with over one billion users worldwide has decided to withdraw support for some operating systems and devices on 31st December, 2016.
What this means is that the users of these devices will no longer receive any future software updates on the App thereafter, though WhatsApp will not be blocking services to the devices. So, WhatsApp will continue to run, but won’t get any more jazzy upgrades.
Well, since you are obviously going to be curious as to which these operating systems are, here’s the list that WhatsApp has published:
This does not come as a fresh announcement as it is actually a reminder from their earlier announcement made on their blog back in February of 2016 (around the seventh anniversary of the application). The post had stated: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp”.
The reasons stated for the withdrawal of support for these devices by the Facebook-owned company are simplified into – they believe that the messenger application and its features have grown far beyond the scope of these operating systems, which can no longer incorporate within them the latest features, in general, or those of security.
The technology over the years has obviously improved drastically, and these older operating systems, even logically speaking, would lack the capacity to withstand the changes.
The WhatsApp announcement post goes further, almost nostalgically explaining: “About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time”.
Updates to this Article:
In developing news, however, WhatsApp just launched a video calling feature on its application for all its users. Along with this new feature, it also decided to extend the support for Blackberry and Windows operating systems until July 2017, as of now.
This seems like a move planned as per the market, competing with a number of rivals such as Facebook’s own Messenger, Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s recently launched Duo, and independent similar applications like Viber, Line, and others.
WhatsApp has a dominant hand in the market, so, it would be wrong to state that WhatsApp is playing catch up with other applications, but what is certain is that WhatsApp is gearing up to retain its position in the market. These latest moves only serve to highlight that intent.
While WhatsApp, back in February, politely requested the users of these older operating systems (and of course, devices) to buy devices running on more recent OS before the end of the year, now, with their latest move they are extending the support for a few of these by six months.
But we don’t think they’re going to be providing any further extensions. So if you’re an avid chatter, on one of the devices on the endangered species list, we recommend you begin saving up and move out soon.
Update (on 8th June, 2017):
The six month extension that Facebook-owned Whatsapp had so zealously provided for the operating systems in concern has now come to an end. As of June 30th, the above mentioned operating systems will no longer receive support for the messenger application. The apps won’t die, they just won’t receive any more updates.
Whatsapp has been making a lot of changes to its ecosystem lately, with talk of bringing in unique features that will allow you to ‘recall’, or ‘edit’ a sent text. and with bringing in features like audio and video calls, stories, and working around the idea of a ‘status’. It is quite clear that Whatsapp is moving towards bringing in more and more features for its users in a crowded market. To keep doing that, it is important for them to invest their energy judiciously. The withdrawal of support for these operating systems is precisely that, a move towards judicious investment of energy.
Update (on June 23rd, 2017)
It seems like the end of life date for BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms has been pushed back again. WhatsApp, on their website, has reportedly confirmed the extension of its services for BlackBerry and Nokia S40 platforms till December 2017 and December 2018, respectively.
As per a report by Netherlands-based fan website WhatsAppen, WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS7+ recently received an update that extends support for the platforms until December 31, 2017.
As far as support for Nokia S40 platform is concerned, the end-of-life date has been moved from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
This, however, gives a mixed message, given the extension is not being granted to Nokia Symbian S60 platform. There are very limited number of customers who use the Nokia S40 platform, but the news will be a relief to them nonetheless.
Commuters On Delhi's Metro Can Now Pay Fares With A New Watch
Commuters on Delhi Metro can now pay with a swish of their wrist. Users will be able to wear their smart card on their wrist as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has enabled the use of wrist watches launched by Austrian company LAKS, to be used as modes of payment at the gates.
The watches are called Watch2Pay, and are available for purchase through e-commerce platforms such as PayTM, with a starting price of INR 3,000.
“The new facility is expected to provide the commuters a more convenient and fast access to the Delhi Metro network. The commuter will simply have to touch the wrist watch to the screens of the AFC (Automatic Fare Collection) gates at the metro stations to get access”, said a DMRC statement.
The watch works on NFC, or Near Field Communication, which is technology that allows two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone or a watch, to establish communication by bringing them within close proximity of each other.
Watch2Pay uses the same principle to allow the AFC gates to collect the ticket amount from the user.
A watch like this works on the basis of SIM-sized card that is user-inserted, and depending on the card, one can choose what NFC functionality they want the watch to perform.
Amongst other things, the Watch2Pay can also be used for access management to events, for tickets, as company IDs, or as micropayment & loyalty cards. The technology is not much different from that used in sunglasses that Visa had released that could be used to make payments through one’s credit and debit cards.
Other than the NFC abilities, the Watch2Pay is a regular looking watch, that does not come with any other ‘smart’ abilities, as one would suppose. Which is a bit of a downer, however it may just be a function of time (no pun intended), till it evolves to hosting other ‘smartwatch’ capabilities.
For the moment, it comes with the metal dial and tells you the time the same way your Titan does!
The watch in question can be recharged the same way a Metro card is – over the counter or through recharge card terminals. The watch comes from the same company that had joined hands with Hyderabad Metro Rail for something similar back in 2015.
Thinking of getting one? Read our review of the Watch2Pay in our add-on section, to know more about the product, it’s capabilities, and our own assessment of whether it’ll make a worthwhile buy, or not.
Your Phone’s Motion Sensors Can Give Away Your PIN and Password.
Are you using fitness applications to track your run and the path you took? You might just be vulnerable to hackers who are out there steal your data, particularly your PIN and Password.
What do fitness applications have to do with hackers you ask? Well in a nutshell, motion sensors on your phone are operated by the applications you install which in turn can give away information to hackers. Any application that taps into your phone sensors, like the camera, microphone, GPS and a few others, can pick up information by the way your phone tilts or moves as you type.
Researchers, read cyber specialists at UK’s Newcastle University, have deciphered ways by which a malware can decipher data meted out to the sensors. Malware can be sneaked into a device in the form of applications or a web page and the hackers hit payday when these applications or web pages are kept open while accessing ones sensitive data, allowing them access to your private information. The researchers claim the accuracy of hacking these devices being so strong, that 70% of the 4 digit PINs can be deciphered in the first go and they have a 100% accuracy by the 5th try. This is really worrying, given the fact that our world is moving primarily towards a vision which incorporates digital banking that is poised to be accessible through popular chat systems like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Companies like Apple and Firefox issued patches to block such malware so that such data would not be available to hackers. This decision could only be purported by the ethical hackers these companies have on their payroll. Unfortunately, Google has not paid cognizance to this issue. Despite being the biggest OS provider in smart phones, Android is yet to provide such patches. Google has reportedly known about this issue, but has been quoted as saying that it is still developing its patches. The diversity of the Android versions out there seems to be slowing down their efforts for a secure patch.
The report has recently been posted in the International Journal of Information Security and the team is looking at deciphering how these malware can potentially track wrist movements and when the user, is sitting, walking ,running etc. by hacking the user’s application profiles and the data that follows. The lead author, Dr. Maryam Mehrnezhad, a research scholar at the School of Computer Sciences, when asked about the report shared:
“Most smart phones, tablets, and other wearables are now equipped with a multitude of sensors, from the well-known GPS, camera and microphone to instruments such as the gyroscope, proximity, NFC, and rotation sensors and accelerometer. But because mobile apps and websites don’t need to ask permission to access most of them, malicious programs can covertly ‘listen in’ on your sensor data and use it to discover a wide range of sensitive information about you such as phone call timing, physical activities and even your touch actions, PINs and passwords.More worrying, on some browsers, we found that if you open a page on your phone or tablet which hosts one of these malicious code and then open, for example, your online banking account without closing the previous tab, then they can spy on every personal detail you enter. And worse still, in some cases, unless you close them down completely, they can even spy on you when your phone is locked.Despite the very real risks, when we asked people which sensors they were most concerned about we found a direct correlation between perceived risk and understanding. So people were far more concerned about the camera and GPS than they were about the silent sensors.”
Going by the technique, the wearables are also in the cross hairs – especially your smart watches. Be careful, while the devices may offer limited functionality in your life, they do open you up to fraudulent intent by nefarious hackers. We have looked at securing the main gate (locking the phone with alpha numeric and fingerprint passwords) and dredging the moat around the castle (securing the apps and including encryption on our stored data) however we need to seek out and secure all entry points like the air vent and sewage channels which enable unseen services to the users, just like the sensors on our smart devices.
Stricter Rules and Regulations In Online Advertising Affect Google And Facebook
The world is surely being digitized.
From transactions to socializing, digital is the word that the world is bending to.
Global revenue from advertisements are growing exponentially, creating jobs and employment for artistic, creative individuals who have found ingenious ways to gain user attention and generate traffic. This trend has created wonders for Google (including YouTube) as it is the largest recipient of this global advertisement revenue, with Facebook being stuck in a distant second place.
You may be surprised to learn that Facebook, despite all it’s reach and social graces, receiving only about one third of the revenue received by Google!
Over 77% of Google’s ad revenue is generated from their own websites, thanks to their humungous AdWords platform which covers almost all services used by Google.
To gain the top spot on Google’s Search, companies (and people) bid for the spots – obviously, the higher the bid the higher the spot. And it’s really no surprise that bidders at the bottom of the pile won’t even have their ads displayed due to their dwindling position on the list.
Google operates on a cost per click basis, with the advertisers paying Google anywhere form a few cents to USD 50 per click depending upon the nature and importance of the advertisement.
That’s not all though. Google has another ace tangled up in their web of user-inducement.
Capitalisng on the digital revolution and cementing their earning opportunity, Google AdSense also allows placement of advertisements within blogs and other websites.
Facebook also earns revenue in a similar (but not same) way. While most of Facebook’s revenue is generated from website and mobile advertising, in contrast to AdWords, Facebook advertisers can target users based on information like age, gender and geographic locations to custom tailor their advertisements.
Due to the nature of Facebook’s website, the average session tends to last much longer than the typical Google search, so information collected from Facebook is a better representation of consumer habits.
Given how majority of the developed and developing world, is tuning onto YouTube and Facebook, rather than their TV screens and print media, it is likely that advertisements would be more prevalent in the online sphere rather than the offline content.
But all’s not rosy.
Given that content has generated traffic in some cases where the proponents have resorted to hate-spreading and filth to get views or reads, advertisements placed on those very articles or videos have created enormous wealth for the content providers.
This has called for stricter rules and regulations.
Earlier, the policy had a very narrow range, addressing speech that was threatening against defined groups including religious and ethnic groups, LGBT groups and individuals.
The policy has now been expanded to include more groups like immigrants and refugees and it also applies to discriminatory pages which weren’t covered before.
Google has therefore revised its policy on hate speech and online racism.
This regulation has deterred advertisers from lucrative but malicious content, both on websites and YouTube as Google now allows companies to choose what kind of content, they’d like to advertise upon. For those who choose to not advertise on content that might be ‘mildly offensive’ or ‘politically volatile’, will reduce considerable revenues for the content providers and in the long run, will reduce viewership.
All said and done, Google and Facebook will retain their positions at the top even if they take a marginal hit in their earnings in the present term, yet this change is good and necessary.
Xiaomi, best known for catapulting it’s way into unforeseen success in the smartphone world, and it’s amazingly low prices, experienced rampant growth not just on an Indian scale but in every country it entered.
When Hugo Barra took over the steering wheel a few years ago, the brand was an unknown entity, and Barra, along with a young, hungry team made magic happen, bringing the company global repute, and a place at the top-five brands table. The tide was high!
Then in 2016, Xiaomi hit some breakwaters that stemmed it’s high-tide momentum. The company had a tough year, with their global growth and revenue ebbing into a little bit of a slow pool. But it seems like a bet that Barra made on India might be paying off.
The company spent about USD 500 million on India since its debut in 2015. India was also the country where Xiaomi crossed USD 1 billion in sales revenue in a single year, for the first time.
It’s no surprise thus, that Xiaomi’s doubling the bet on the India!
Xiaomi’s co-founder, Lei Jun recently pledged another investment of the same size over the next three to five years. He also added that he expects to double revenue in India this year to USD 2 billion.
So it seems like Jun is letting India hold the key to rejuvenating and reviving the brand after having been eclipsed by local competition here and even in its own home country of China.
“We faced many challenges. Many negative reports about us,” Jun said, “But it was never as bad as it was made out to be. We have gone back to healthy growth. We will resume rapid growth in the next two years”.
At a time when the global demand for smartphones seems to have stagnated, India has surprisingly been one of the very few markets that is still moving rapidly. This could be owing to the hunger for more and more connectivity in a country that still has a long way to go in that respect, or to the simple arithmetic of the humoungous population of India and that of the neighbors in the subcontinent, that depend upon it for all sorts of advancements.
Regardless of the reason, what is quite clear is that this market is attracting foreign players who are very effortlessly moving Indian brands like Micromax to the side, with their superior quality and customer focus, not to mention superior devices.
Xiaomi’s devices (like Oppo’s) have got the looks, the feel, and the features and the likes of Micromax, Lava, Karbonn are once again being relegated to a quiet, dark corner of the market where only the very basic customers ever venture.
The country is undoubtedly Xiaomi’s most important foreign market, especially given a brand like Xiaomi would be eaten alive for the patent violations if it even tried to step into the Western markets.
With this latest re-doubling investment, Xiaomi joins the growing list brands manufacturing their devices in India, others being Huawei, Lenovo, Samsung, and very recently Apple.
A large part of this investment, would go towards a second manufacturing plant built with partner Foxconn. This would create 20,000 jobs in the next three years, and as Jun says, will manufacture one new phone per second.
There is also talk of a third production plant in the wind.
“In the next two years we want more and more influence in India”, Jun said. “We want to take more risks in India. But we want to take controlled risks”. This would include boosting production closer to projected demand, moving away from its traditional reliance on flash sales to maintain scarcity.
Xiaomi’s bet on India paid off at a time when the global smartphone market seemed to be dipping. It is now expected that the global smartphone market will bounce back from the low it saw in 2016, but however that goes, Xiaomi’s bet on India, counting on the dynamic and growing market, should keep it going – provided the products match up to our ever-increasing expectations!
On the heels of the Flipkart-eBay announcement also came the announcement that Flipkart is now partnering with Micromax, to develop and market mid-range smartphones in the Indian market.
The smartphones will be called Evok, and will cost between INR 6,000 to 12,000. We do not know much about the devices yet, except that they can be expected out quite soon. What is also quite probable is that Flipkart will be the exclusive seller for them, much like it is for the Bharat 2, an INR 3,499 smartphone Micromax recently launched, and for the Dual 5, an INR 24,999 smartphone for the premium mid-range segment with Micromax’s first dual-camera set.
“It’s a long-term agreement with Flipkart where we will be developing products jointly based on the insights and consumer understanding we get,” Shubhajit Sen, Chief Marketing Officer at Micromax said.
The simple way to understand this is that the partnership will benefit both the parties in unique ways, while also giving them a joint front to fight competition. Micromax has been looking to expand its online presence for a while now. The brand, made for the expanding Indian market back in the year 2000, has had quite an amazing offline presence so far; their online presence, however, needs work, and Flipkart might be the key.
As for what’s in it for Flipkart is concerned, the retailer has been looking to sell more phones in tier 2 and tier 3 markets, and Micromax will give it the exact products to sell. Micromax’s already existing popularity in certain segments of the Indian market would only serve to boost sales, and flow more business Flipkart’s way.
The online retailer that just received a fresh round to the tune of $1.4 billion in funding seems to be warming up to the idea of expanding beyond. The move might be a good one at that. The Indian e-commerce market is basically flooded with names, and brands, and it is also at the moment, struggling, to keep up. Flipkart has managed to prove itself to be the bigger of the players in the market, recently also having acquired Myntra, and Jabong, its two biggest competitors in the clothing/fashion e-retail business. However, to maintain its edge now, it’ll have to keep being innovative, and smart.
The same goes for Micromax, the smartphone company that once changed the face of the smartphone market in India by bringing cheaper better budget phones in a time when phones used to be an “investment”. The brand, another Indian baby, of course, became quite popular amongst the populace, but with the advent of the Chinese budget brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo and the likes into the Indian market, Micromax’s stand started to shake. While Micromax mocked up the better phones in the Indian market, these brands worked on mocking up the international biggies. Microsoft dropped out of the top-5 selling smartphone list last year, and now it’s struggling to climb back up.
In a space where Flipkart is defending itself against Amazon, the American giant that has been only half as old as Flipkart in the Indian market, and where Micromax is defending itself against the Chinese budget brands that are just growing by the day, the partnership might be a key strategic move for the both of them.
Anonymous Indian hackers have claimed to have posted personal details of over 1.7 million Snapchat users on the Deep Web. This purportedly is a repercussion to an allegedly derogatory comment made by the CEO of Snapchat, calling India a “poor country” and unfit for the expansion of the free app.
To the uninitiated, Snapchat is a super-popular photo-sharing messenger that has about 300 million monthly users. Of these, about 4 million monthly users are Indian.
Over 2.5 billion Snaps are reportedly shared on the app every day.
Now, a hack is a serious enough transgression for any brand, but to have customers’ personal data harvested and then flung out to the wind, is a cut that runs much deeper.
Thus it’s no surprise that Snapchat has denied outright that any such hack or breach in user data has taken place.
Further, no known or specific Indian hacker group has come forward claiming responsibility of the purported leak, which, if the news were true, should have happened by now.
On another level, Snapchat continues to deny that any such adverse comments were uttered by Evan Spiegel, their CEO.
They claim that such caustic remarks were made in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Pompliano, a former employee of Snapchat (who had joined Snapchat having jumped ship from Facebook). Interestingly, Snapchat also claims Pompliano was fired within two weeks of joining Snapchat, and the suit he has filed also alleges many other claims (that are currently sub judice).
That, however, has not made much of a difference to the offended Indians. Many of whom have gone out of their way to instigate and veto campaigns like #UninstallSnapchat and #BoycottSnapchat on social media.
Such is their ire that these campaigns have successfully dragged the app’s rating down from five stars to one, on Apple’s App Store.
Coming out in defense of the company, their spokesperson said in a statement: “This is ridiculous. Obviously, Snapchat is for everyone. It’s available worldwide to download for free. Those words were written by a disgruntled former employee. We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world“.
If the threat of the user accounts having been breached is true though, it won’t be the first time that Snapchat has had its user data compromised. Back in 2013, hackers gained access to 4.6 million Snapchat accounts, posting an edited version of this data on a publicly accessible website, finally forcing the company to make an apology to its users for some earlier indiscretions.
As far as the threat of the current purportedly leak is concerned, we (Chip-Monks) are still on the fence about it being credible. If you do want to be extra careful, we recommend you go ahead and change the password for your account, just to be extra safe.
Commission Alleges Qualcomm Kneecapped Samsung's Exynos Chips' Sales
Qualcomm is super, super, super-huge in it’s domain and even bigger in it’s influence over the smartphone industry. However the one thing it is not, is well-reputed.
The brand seems to be egotistic, almost neurotic when it comes to the control it wants to exert over the industry. I think this perhaps stems from being poor self worth.
Given it’s tech prowess, proprietary advancements and innumerable patents in the world of processors, Qualcomm has become the supplier choice for almost every premium brand out there. But… it’s proclivity to demand and enforce self-serving clauses in the agreements has been noticed by Trade Commission and Courts earlier. Now, it’s in a soup again, for the same self-serving and monopolistic restrictions placed within it’s agreements with Samsung.
Qualcomm has been accused by the Korean Fair Trade Commission of illegally blocking Samsung from selling its Exynos SoCs to third party phone manufacturers. However, no direct action is expected from Samsung against its ‘partner’.
Qualcomm and Samsung have had a symbiotic relationship for a couple of years now. This relationship while beneficial to both, has not really been a friendly one for either of the companies. Yet, given the fact that both these legal entities have leverage over each other, the ‘partnership’ shall remain existent until something of major consequence happens.
To understand why such an accusation has been made by the KFTC, acquainting oneself with a brief history about the relationship between both the companies becomes imperative.
Here is the whole timeline of events leading up to the current relationship –
Qualcomm is currently appealing the fine, and it seems unlikely that Samsung will take any direct action against it for the Exynos sales to third party OEMs.
This might however change, if the regulators bring down the 1993 deal, leaving Samsung with the opportunity to sell Exynos processors to other smartphones without the risk of compensating Qualcomm with a high licensing fee.
Samsung might even turn into a strong competitor, on par with MediaTek, given the fact that it could add other components like memory chips and displays to the SoCs, which Qualcomm would not be able to match.
Why wouldn’t Samsung want to take direct action against Qualcomm?
As mentioned before, Qualcomm had agreed to let Samsung use both the Snapdragon (a Qualcomm product) and Exynos (a Samsung product) SoCs in its devices. In case Samsung decides to stop using Snapdragon processors while using only the Exynos processors, Samsung would be costing its foundry its Snapdragon orders. Both, stock and flow of Snapdragon orders, would instigate unnecessary revenue cuts.
Given the fact that Samsung’s growth in mobile devices has been stagnant, this would be a business blunder.
The relationship remains symbiotic between these two companies, but any aggressive move is unlikely to be made by Samsung unless the 1993 patent deal is struck down. On the contrary Qualcomm’s reputation has been declining significantly given the fact that Apple, a longtime customer is suing it too, for lop-sided licensing agreements, along with many other smaller manufacturers.
There’s no other way to say this – Qualcomm needs to get real. The world today doesn’t suffer autocracy too well – and while Qualcomm may be whistling it’s way to the bank for now, however given that Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and Intel are all investing hugely in devising newer (and often better) chips of their own, Qualcomm may just have to use these agreements as packaging paper in a few years. With the Internet of Things well on it’s way, and Automobile Automation being the big ticket for the next decade, this mayn’t be the best time for Qualcomm to play the my-way-or-the-highway card.
It might just find itself on a rather desolate, lonely and barren stretch of road, with no place to go.
Intruder Alert! Burger King's "Innovative" Advertisement Boomerangs.
The great grump Samuel Johnson once let us on to something. That promise, a large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. Well, Johnson should have seen the new Burger King ad. For it is exactly these kinds of promises, that sometimes encroach upon the entrepreneurial sportsmanship he cited.
Advertising is, and I believe has always been, an exercise in tightrope walking. A good advertisement can be a visual telegram. A bad one hangs like an albatross around your neck. And the worst part is, most of the times you don’t even know how customers would react to it.
The granddaddy of the advertising industry, David Ogilvy remembers Lord Leverhulme in his Confessions of an Advertising Man stating “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half”.
In their new 15 seconds ad, a geeky Burger King salesman tries to convince you of the richness of their burger by not explaining it himself; instead, he tries to trigger Google Home on your device via voice activation. If your phone is in the hearing range of the television, the innovative one-two punch is supposed to dole out information about Burger King’s famed Whopper Burger, direct from Wikipedia – want it or not.
We don’t doubt that as an advertising method, this was ingenious trick.
Any advertisement is supposed to grab your attention, and this one from Burger King managed to do that, and more. It even grabbed the attention of your phone!
Our point of contention is that the advertisement borders on intrusion. Forcing your way out of television into my phone isn’t exactly what advertisements are supposed to be. That is the job of propaganda.
As usual, the tongues began wagging. Someone with a cruel sense of humour edited the Wikipedia entry of Burger King, adding a long list of richness in the flavours of the burger. “Cancer-causing “, “A chocolate candy“, made up of “toenail clippings” and “rat” were some of the twitterati’s favorites.
Wikipedia later was forced to lock the entry, allowing only authorized editors to manage the text on the page.
But the damage has been done. And the powers that be aren’t exactly happy.
Authorities at Google raised their eyebrows when they saw the company piggybacking (read: misusing) their device’s feature. As of now, Google Home has been tweaked so that it doesn’t respond to the advertisement’s prompt – “What is the Whopper burger?”.
However, if a human user asks this question instead of the advertisement, it responds.
The advertisement predictably found its way to YouTube, where it is clocking more dislikes than likes. Which is a telling verdict of public mood towards this over-zealous promotion.
Burger King later issued another advertisement in lieu of the previous one. The new advertisement had three versions instead of one. Google struck those down too.
Burger King has now stopped airing their ad, and their spokesperson maintains that they haven’t heard from Google.
We understand that this is a bit early, for it is entirely possible that Google is planning to rain legal subpoenas on the companies.
With Burger King scoring a clear win, we are still curious about their response.
You should know, this is not Burger King’s first brush with controversy either.
They’d once sent critics into uproar when they had made depreciatory comments regarding Mexicans in one of their ads. And they were panned for that too.
But it was long back. And it was an ad that went bad.
This here, is uncharted and very unwanted territory. Beginning with this intrusion, one sees the possibility of a pattern emerging – one that is not desirable in the least.
As Norman Douglas had so presciently said. “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements”. And I love it when dead people are right.
There’s a bigger issue that we all need to recognise now, and Burger King’s boomerang has knocked a lot of people’s heads with something scary.
Eagerness to impress sometimes becomes an intrusion, and Burger King’s misuse of technology gave the world a whiff of what the Internet of Things-enabled integrated life will be like. Technology everywhere, devices always listening, and the potential controllability by some over-intelligent people who see ways to hack into them, to intrude into our personal space.
And people didn’t like it.
Cisco India Inaugurates Cyber Range Lab To Combat New-Age Threats
Cisco India recently inaugurated its Cyber Range Lab, a first-of-its-kind setup in India, aimed at training and build the skills necessary in security staff to combat new-age threats.
In a country like India, still discovering the Internet and Digital Commerce, and where the need for cyber security experts has been growing manifolds, this is an enormously important step towards providing cyber security. Cisco has four other such labs in Australia.
How this will basically work is that the lab will immerse people in simulated real-world cyber-attacks, with the objective of training them on how to properly prepare for, respond to and manage a broad variety of threats.
“The lab will use 200-500 different types of malware, ransomware and 100 attack cases to deliver realistic cyber-attack experiences”, said Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco in India and SAARC.
Owing to a lack of training and skills required for security jobs worldwide, organisations are facing obstructions in deploying advanced security. It is a direct consequence of that the common man uses any technology – from shopping online, to banking online, to ordering food online – with blind belief and with an assumption that the merchant site is the one responsible to take care of his security.
This common man is met with stark disappointment when he later realizes that the systems in place on the merchant site might actually not be enough, that the internet is a dynamic space that is as vulnerable to manipulation as it is to innovation.
India, as a country, is in a special spot when it comes to cyber security. We’ve rapidly gone from 5th century B.C. to the 21st century A.D., practically overnight.
It wasn’t too long ago, that the only connectivity we had were dial-up connections – that while frustrating, were considerably more secure. Today, we have free Wi-Fi at a lot of places; from restaurants and institutions offering free Wi-Fi on their own behest, to ventures like Google’s program to bring free Wi-Fi to railway stations, and RailTel’s extension on the same. There is also a call for free public Wi-Fi in certain urban areas, especially the hot spots like Connaught Place, or Khan Market, in New Delhi, and similar places in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
When we do hail for free Wi-Fi, what we do not realize is that in exchange for the “free” we are placing our security at risk.
A not-necessarily-similar but equally noteworthy risk comes from the use of e-commerce platforms. While before demonetization, a select few internet savvy Indians used e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato etc. Most of these places also had a cash on delivery (COD) option for the skeptic Indians who preferred not believe in the security of online transactions.
Post demonetization, most Indians seem to choose the option to pay online, rather than pay cash on delivery. Which means that people who are not necessarily tech savvy are making transactions online, placing themselves at risk.
A completely different story is that of Paytm, and other e-wallets, that require a whole different paradigm for security.
Currently, in the country, goods and services, insurance, the banking system, and stock exchanges, face critical security threats. India is a country that has had the onset of technology quite suddenly, and not in a systematic manner. It is a country that does not have the necessary systems in place to deal with cyber crime, nor does it have the necessary system of cyber law in place, or that of cyber security. Whatever India does have, is basically a mish-mash of things that have been patched together in the time of need, when a problem arose and had to be solved.
In a space of this kind then, Cisco’s Cyber Range Lab, a cyber security venture, becomes quite important. If not be functionary in establishing the necessary system in place, this venture at least raises the right questions and concerns.
“With the cyber security framework in place now, the need is for active implementation to better handle the ever-changing threat landscape. An effective implementation of cyber security requires IT infrastructure and technical expertise for which the industry should play a responsible role” said Gulshan Rai, National Cyber Security Coordinator.
Just a few days ago, we’d written about how India was very, very far behind in developing and promoting the use of Electric Vehicles. We’d spoken about costs, poor supporting infrastructure and insufficient governmental focus on this sector as some of the debilitating elements.
Well, one of them, Governmental focus has a new, good story to tell!
Here’s another moment of pride for Indians, thanks to the stupendous people at ISRO.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) under Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully developed path-breaking lithium-ion batteries that are high-density units, which despite higher charge storage capacity, are actually smaller, lighter and more compact than regular batteries.
ISRO had developed their innovative lithium ion battery technology and used it for their space applications – to power satellites and other space missions. Seeing that done successfully, ISRO and ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) began working jointly a while ago, to adapt and develop this indigenous lithium ion technology for automotive use.
One of the first things they realised was that the batteries for automotive use would need lower specifications, have different energy densities (compared to the batteries used in space), as well as be made suitable for higher ‘duty cycles’ – the number of the recharge instances and the very life of the battery, would need to be enhanced since automobiles would see more rigorous use across their lifetime.
ISRO’s capability to craft the right chemistry and to translate the technology helped them create compact lithium ion battery systems that could meet the grade set by the ARAI.
Interestingly, during the ‘develop’ phase itself, ISRO was approached by over a dozen automobile manufacturers to partner and launch electric vehicles based on their battery technology. But the government realised the potential for a larger mission and requested ISRO to make the technology available to multiple players instead of looking at a technology partnership.
Thus, ISRO will share this technology with domestic automobile manufacturers and will enable them for mass production. The information will be accessible even to private players in a true innovation-for-mankind move. The sharing of manufacturing technology will aid mass-production of batteries, thus increasing competition and help bring down prices further. That, is the government’s first priority.
So far, manufacturers have had to import lithium-ion batteries, making the final product expensive and accessible only to a few. With the technology available locally, manufacturers will be able to roll out cheaper and more efficient batteries. This will boost production to a scale that may soon enable cheaper and more reliable electric vehicles. Estimates yield that bulk production could lower prices by up to 80%, making batteries feasible for the budget-conscious Indian.
The indigenously manufactured and customised batteries have successfully cleared multiple rounds of tests. And not just lab-tests – earlier in 2017, an electric two-wheeler prototype was rolled out, powered by the indigenous lithium-ion battery.
As per reports, Mahindra Renault, Hyundai, Nissan, Tata Motors, High Energy Batteries, BHEL and Indian Oil are interested in indigenous production and are expected to incorporate the technology into upcoming products and vehicles in the coming years.
Clearly, the government is looking to boost the sale of electric vehicles to solve the problem of air pollution that Indian cities are currently besieged with. Delhi has long been listed among the top 10 most polluted cities worldwide. And while the Indian government has tried various measures to bring down pollution, there’s not been any significant effect.
With the situation not improving, there’s been a rise in sales of air purifiers, with even bottled pure air entering the market!
The government is now relying on the value-for-money appeal of budget-friendly electric vehicles to help tackle the problem of pollution in the country. Here’s a toast to them!
While ISRO had developed and delivered the prototypes to the ARAI for testing at their Pune facility, and the ARAI was expected to clear the batteries by end of 2016, the clearance is running a little behind. Get with it, guys!
BlackBerry Is Getting A Huge Refund From Qualcomm After A Royalty Dispute
Qualcomm, the chipset maker, is set to return nearly USD 815 million to the Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry. This hard bargain from Qualcomm comes as a return on the royalties overpaid by BlackBerry between 2010 and 2015.
The dispute between the two has been over royalties BlackBerry paid in advance to Qualcomm. These royalties were seemingly for use of Qualcomm parts or patents used in BlackBerry smartphones. While BlackBerry’s argument is that that there was supposed to be a cap on those royalty payments, which was not applied at the time, Qualcomm is saying that BlackBerry’s payments were supposed to be non-refundable. In addition to the base amount, Qualcomm will also be paying BlackBerry an interest and the attorney fee.
The facts of the primary royalty deal between the two are not clear. But what is quite clear is that Qualcomm seems to just be tired of all that is going on with it lately. Qualcomm’s global business has been taking a lot of hits, with lawsuits and allegations, and it finds itself in a position where it is now working on self-preservation.
The decision, for a change, was not made in court but reached upon by the two parties in mutual agreement. While Qualcomm has made it clear that it does not agree with the agreement, it seems to be going ahead anyway, perhaps only to make the matter go away.
There have been a lot of similar matters that Qualcomm has been dealing with recently.
Their much-heated multi-country and multi-lawsuit battle with Apple, of course, deserves a mention. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also in binds with Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices involving its licensing agreements. There’s even a matter of a commission finding Qualcomm’s “prenup” agreements to be unfair especially with agreements signed almost 20 years ago with Samsung.
Issues of this kind have lately been turning into a bigger and bigger problem for Qualcomm. While most of us know them for their chipsets in our devices, a major chunk of Qualcomm’s business is licensing patents. If issues of this kind keep creeping up, the latter might keep taking hit, or worse, might be in danger of something bigger.
We are not yet clear on how much of the Apple scene, or the FTC scene, actually feeds into Qualcomm’s battle with BlackBerry, but we can certainly say that this new deal is a hit to their global patents business.
Apple To Explain Why Decrypting iPhones Would Be “Unduly Burdensome”
It does not take much effort to make a legal case interesting and popular. Just add the name ‘Apple’ to it.
You’d recall, in a recent case against Apple, the FBI had demanded Apple provide a backdoor to all encryption. FBI’s Director, James Comey who is clearly in favour to backdoor encryption, now says (and believes) that it can be done “without disregarding safety”.
The administration as well as the Congress decided to go against the move and thus Apple was able to ward off the pressure of being forced to unlock and decrypt the iPhone.
But, Apple is yet to explain why decrypting iPhones is “unduly burdensome”.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wants to bring forth the issue of privacy against law enforcement in the domain of debate.
But the judiciary is divided.
“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate” said Brian Owsley, a former Magistrate Judge in Texas who had issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.
The presiding Judge in the case, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who’s dealt with a case resembling the current situation (in 2005), is challenging Comey’s desire to use the 1789 All Writs Act so as to emerge victorious in 2015 encryption issue.
Despite such support, Apple is still having a hard time dealing with law enforcement agencies as they are unconvinced with Apple’s plea regarding the inviolability of the iPhone’s security.
The company has gone on record, saying that it literally has no way of getting a hold of the encryption key which is required to access a user’s data.
“If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key”.
Despite this and other logical arguments, including the right to privacy, FBI’s James Comey continues to maintain his opposition
“The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law”.
Accusations, arguments are being thrown back and forth. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr, suggested that the iPhone would soon be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice”, underlining the danger of the infallible security features like iPhone encryption.
Apple, on the other hand, tries to elucidate the danger of sacrificing such features. Building in a backdoor would mean making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The NY Times said it best,
“The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices, concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit”.
All that said and done, if one takes an impartial view of the matter, both sides are correct in their own right – there’s need of privacy, and there’s the threat of mal intent. And America of all countries of the world, faces the maximum acts borne of that malice, year after year.
So while I can’t pretend I don’t see the chance of misuse of backdoors, I (like the rest of the world, including Apple and the FBI) also can’t see a viable middle path – one that I can think of being used conscionably. Oh, NSA, what have you done?!
Microsoft Buys Deis To Boost It's Azure Cloud Service
Microsoft is buying Deis, a small company that specializes in Containers – a modern way to develop and deploy software.
What’s Microsoft going to do with this acquisition? Well that’s the question we’re going to help you answer!
Simply put, this seems to be an act of self-improvement – one that is aimed at “sponsoring one’s weakness“.
The undeniable fact is that when one thinks of cloud computing services, Microsoft’s Azure does not ring up any major recall.
Despite a lot of efforts on the part of the Silicon Valley’s biggest IT giant, towards upgrading their cloud computing services and it’s appeal, Azure hasn’t really become one of the top players. Amazon, Google and even Dropbox have held the podium for a long, long time.
So this acquisition may be one of Microsoft’s steps toward climbing that vaunted podium.
Microsoft, over the time, has bought into many renowned companies and start-ups, so as to either boost its sales or improve its efficiency. This new buy of Microsoft has got to do with the latter, i.e. increased efficiency.
Thanks to Deis’ proprietary technology, Microsoft may now be able to live up to consumers’ expectations by providing Azure with the smoothness and heightened efficiency that they (users) have come to enjoy from Microsoft’s competitors.
Well, Deis is a San Francisco based open-source tool provider that enables teams to create and manage applications on the Google-backed Kubernetes platform. The company also specializes in containers.
Containers can be considered as one unit of cloud computing, and what Google’s Kubernetes does, up until this point, is that it allows many containers to be compartmentalised – to the extent that multiple containers can be managed on a single cloud instance.
While all that jargon is prone to go over your head, all that you need to know is that it means increased efficiency for the Cloud. Deis even claims to take this one step further.
Deis has in the past, claimed that it can make it easier for companies to use Google’s Kubernetes for their own purposes. This is a management specialization which is poised to save space and increase efficiency.
Now that we know what Deis is and what they do, we shall return to our topic at hand: Microsoft buying Deis. How will it help Microsoft?
Well, for starters, the tools provided by Deis will make Azure function better with a better consumer interface. Microsoft is undoubtedly expecting (or is it, hoping) that the acquisition of Deis will help consumers to work better with Microsoft’s existing container portfolio including Linux and Windows Server Containers and Azure Container Service.
Whatever the case be, Microsoft seems to be making a strategic and planned investment here. Software containers, at this point, are pivotal and are touted as the new building blocks of cloud-based applications. Thus, they are somewhat, a necessity as small to big businesses are turning to third-party public clouds – like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services – to run their applications.
So, in a time where the market is turning to third-party clouds, being able to make them run in the most reliable and efficient manner is critical. This is Microsoft’s next step in precisely that direction.
As far as what Deis is getting out of the equation – well, they get a broader customer base.
Deis has been contributing extensively to the Helm, Workflow and Steward open source projects and intends to continue doing so. But now, working with Microsoft, the company would be able to take their service to a much wider and more heterogeneous audience.
Gabriel Monroy, the CTO of Deis said: “From our new home at Microsoft, you should expect nothing less. We will continue our contributions to Workflow, Helm, and Steward and look forward to maintaining our deep engagement with the Kubernetes community. The future of open source infrastructure at Microsoft is very bright”.
The deal was made behind closed doors and hence no financial information is available except for the name Deis was bought from the parent company, EngineYard.
The deal, however, does mark a change in Microsoft’s approach to the market. Microsoft had for years, established itself as a closed-source proprietor of software and hardly considered the open source market to be a market worth investing in. That felt almost like Microsoft was refusing to move with time.
However, Satya Nadela’s introduction into the company has changed that. From acquiring massive cloud computing exhibitors, to a time when nearly a third of all machines in Azure run Linux (the popular open-source operating system favored by many developers over Windows), it’s quite a change.
It would be interesting and important to see which way the company continues to move.
“At Microsoft, we’ve seen explosive growth in both interest and deployment of containerized workloads on Azure, and we’re committed to ensuring Azure is the best place to run them”, said Microsoft’s Executive VP for its Cloud and Enterprise Group, Scott Guthrie.
With that change of approach in mind, buying Deis is a smart move for Microsoft. “…the Deis team brings a depth of open source technology experience — furthering Microsoft’s commitments to improve developer productivity and to provide choice and flexibility for our customers everywhere”.
Uber Faces A Nationwide Ban In Italy For Its Competitive Edge Over Customary Taxis
What happens when you become really good at what you do? You get banned!
Surprised? Well, so was Uber.
Uber’s super-success as the global leader in the taxi industry, has simplified millions of lives, provided employment to hundreds of thousands of others and revolutionised public transport along the way.
Now, in this thankless, intertwined world, they face new challenges every day for precisely this reason.
The latest in a series of lawsuits against Uber was filed in December 2016, in Italy, by a union of the traditional taxis, stating that they were at a competitive disadvantage against the American ride-summoning service.
Surprisingly, an Italian court, in all it’s intellectual propriety, has ruled in favor of the taxi unions and prohibited the operations of Uber completely in the entire country!
Uber is not allowed to ply any automobiles, make any promotions or advertisements, nor can it continue using its phone applications.
Ever so graciously, the court has granted Uber a grace period of 10 (full) days to observe its ruling and pull out of the country. If they fail to do so, they will have to pay a penalty of 10,000 Euros for each day that they remain active in the nation.
This ban, however, is not applicable to its Eats food delivery service, which is active in many cities in Italy.
All sarcasm aside, not all of us fully grasp how traditional taxis really do face oblivion thanks to disruptive services like Uber. The biggest cause of the inability is the tradition.
Traditionally-regulated taxis report to a nerve center after each ride, while Uber drivers are free from this particular string.
Uber also makes use of a beguiling simple smartphone application to ease communication between part-time drivers and the customers. Conventional taxi systems do not make use of this technology as yet.
They are also heavily regulated in Italy as they need to have operating licenses that are quite expensive. Uber drivers, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to get those licenses in small towns at a lesser cost.
Their international structure also allows them to override a lot of the regulations and taxes that traditional taxis are subject to.
There is no way that old-fashioned car services can contend with their prices. Considering all of this, it’s not that hard to understand why the customary taxi drivers everywhere are so bent out of shape with Uber’s rise.
Apart from losing various legal battles in Taiwan, Germany, France, Brazil and many other nations, Uber is also facing legal action in its parent country from Alphabet’s Waymo. On top of that, a number of sexual harassment claims have been filed against Uber drivers over the years – an issue they need to take seriously.
Though all this seems like the build-up to hopelessness and frustration, Uber is determined not to give up. A spokesperson said that they “are shocked by the Italian court’s decision and will appeal. Thousands of professional, licensed drivers use the Uber app to make money and provide reliable transportation at the push of a button for Italians”.
Keeping aside competition, it is actually a battle between the old and the new, the customary and the modern, the long-established rules and the upcoming technology. Conventional taxi drivers have no way out of the nexus of taxes and regulations, whereas Uber has circumvented all that from the very beginning. A lot of governments are not ready to accept that, and Uber is paying for that. Not to mention, we the customers also have a stake in this, though there’s not a lot we can do to help.
Not all efforts yield the desired product – and Samsung’s clearly aware of that maxim. It might be feeling a little raw learning of it firsthand, after the discovery of numerous vulnerabilities in it’s proprietary mobile-device operating system, Tizen.
Samsung started working on Tizen around 2013, with visible sincerity. The open source mobile operating system was being created as an alternative to Android, given that Samsung wanted to limit its dependence on Google and also increase profitability by reducing licence costs.
Apparently, this reliance will not end anytime soon, as Tizen has proved to be the embodiment of code-related vulnerabilities, at the behest of amateurish coding.
An Israeli researcher, Amihai Neiderman revealed that he’d discovered as many as 40 vulnerabilities in the code base, which could easily be leveraged to enter into, and control Tizen-powered devices.
He said, “I found 40 bugs, and most of them look exploitable”.
At the Security Analyst Summit, Neiderman threw light on the issue saying, “It feels like 2005 in terms of the vulnerabilities I found”.
He kind of smashed another nail into the coffin when he added, “Tizen is not mature enough to be sent to the public like this. I found a few vulnerabilities in the first few hours of research. A dedicated Tizen researcher could find way more”.
Some of the code of Tizen has been taken from Bada, an older, more basic mobile operating system. Yet, the problematic code seems to have be written over the last two years and bears mistakes that the researcher says one could have expected ages ago.
Some of the issues flung at Tizen are that the communication setup is far from secure, data was found to have been transferred frequently without protection, and even the potential of hackers being able to wrest total control over a Tizen-powered TV via TizenStore.
That’s not the worst of it.
One of the major errors in code could allow an intruder to install malicious code via the inbuilt update mechanism. And this could happen despite a built-in authentication programme (which is supposed to prevent such a thing from happening in the first place).
Neiderman has shown that the authentication system can be overridden.
In an interview with Motherboard, Neiderman said it appears that the code has been written by an undergraduate who has overlooked all the important security features.
The scary part is that Tizen-powered phones Samsung phone have been sold in India since 2015. Not only that, they’ve also reached Bangladesh and Nepal. Neiderman claims that Samsung has already added language support for Sri Lanka, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and Ghana. So there’s clearly a long-tail roll-out plan that Samsung has in mind for this platform.
Worse, Tizen already runs on around 30 million TV’s!
What’s Samsung doing about this?
Well, initially, Neiderman only received an automated email response from Samsung when he wrote to them with his findings. After the report appeared in Motherboard however, Samsung claims it is “fully committed to cooperating with Mr. Neiderman to mitigate any potential vulnerabilities”.
Clearly, Tizen is not ready to be a competition to Android. Until the code is fixed, Tizen is a hacker’s delight.
Not Everyone Wants To Earn Off Your Privacy - ISPs Pledge Not To Sell Browsing History
Everyone was agape when the new rules and regulations regarding internet privacy were announced in the U.S..
As per the new rules, all your browsing history was allowed to be shared with any third party provided it paid the highest dollar to the ISP.
Companies like Comcast, Verizon could earn a stinking amount of profit with an estimated annual pay of UDS 35 billion or above! And that is some serious money!
In the midst of such mess with privacy, companies like Sonic and Monkeybrains are like the silver lining in the dark clouds gathering overhead.
Sonic and Monkeybrains are some of the few companies that have publicly opposed the repealing of internet privacy rules.
Monkeybrains had stated “one of the corner stones of our business is respecting the privacy of the customer”.
Jasper, the CEO of Sonic had gone on record saying, “We have a long history of differentiating ourselves that way”.
Sonic with around 100,000 and Monkeybrains with approximately 9,000 subscribers have assured their customers that they will not put up their subscriber’s information, or usage data in the open market.
Major internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T have agreed to play as per the “ISP Privacy Principles” which depend on the guidelines given by the Federal Trade Commission. However, unlike the Obama-era you will not be asked for your consent before the browsing history is put up for sale.
Apparently, the ISP’s do not consider your browsing history as sensitive information and thus are in favour of the older FTC guidelines where your browsing history might be collected and shared without your permission.
So what does your ISP know about you?
Well, a lot. Your name, address, and plethora of other information like your social security number. They even know the websites you visit, how often you visit them, when do you visit them. So, they might not know you on a personal level but then that’s not really necessary.
With the above mentioned information at their disposal, you are more or less an open book with your social, political, sexual inclination in front of their eyes.
And now possibly, in front of a third party too!
“We or our advertising partners may use anonymous information gathered through cookies and similar technologies, as well as other anonymous and aggregate information that either of us may have to help us tailor the ads you see on non-AT&T sites”.
They elucidate the policy in the following manner, “For example, if you see an ad from us on a non-AT&T sports-related website, you may later receive an ad for sporting equipment delivered by us on a different website. This is called Online Behavioral Advertising, which is a type of Relevant Advertising.”
Companies like Comcast are claiming that the new rules will have “zero effect” on the privacy protection offered to the customers.
On the other hand, Consumer Advocates and Democrats’ lawmakers are arguing that the primary protection to the privacy of the customer has been removed.
The Republican lawmakers are justifying their position by underlining the fact that the rules which have been repealed had favoured web giants like Google over ISP’s.
Meanwhile Sonic remains firm on its stand. “We don’t believe that telephone companies should listen to our telephone calls”, Sonic’s Jasper explained how customers perceive their internet providers. “Carriers are in a different position, and that position is a trusted position in the minds of consumers.”
Jasper further added that ISP’s do not share the conditional approach to service like YouTube or Gmail do – where their customers receive a free service in return of the ”implicit” permission to keep track of customer’s online activity.
This isn’t a topic that’s going to go away, and no matter what Trump and his followers extol as reasons, the fact is we’re becoming unwitting pawns in their hands, and it is only through conscionable providers and services like Sonic and Monkeybrains, that we’re going to be able to maintain a modicum of our privacy.
Such a world we’ve suddenly voted ourselves into!
Huawei Smartphones Face A Ban In The U.K. For Patent Infringement
It looks like the dragon might finally be coming home to roost.
After an order by the High Court of the United Kingdom, Huawei, the Chinese megabrand, faces an injunction on the sale of its smartphones in the U.K.
The company has been in a long-running legal battle with Unwired Planet, an American patent owner, over royalty payments related to key networking technology used in Huawei’s devices.
The High Court ruled this week that Huawei must pay Unwired Planet for patent infringement. The ruling also specified that in order to keep their sales going, Huawei must license the patents from the patent holder.
The catch is that Unwired Planet is adamant on issue only a global license, which will obviously cost Huawei more, and Huawei wants one specifically for the U.K. Unwired Planet is clearly working on the premise that the nature of the license is such, that it is by standard, only issued on a global scale.
But on the other hand, the only reason Huawei has even come to the table to talk about the license is because a court is holding a gun to its head; its natural for them to want to cut the cheapest possible deal.
An element of the ruling might, however, also be a relief for Huawei in that regard though. As a part of the ruling, the global royalty rates ordered by the court were much lower than the ones sought by Unwired Planet. This might give Huawei the much-needed nudging to cut a deal.
“We welcome the decision by the Court that Unwired Planet’s royalty rate demands have been found to be unreasonable”, a spokesman said. “Huawei is still evaluating the decision as well as its possible next steps. Huawei does not believe that this decision will adversely affect its global business operations”.
Huawei, currently, is the third largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world. Even though its share of the market in the U.K. is considerably lesser than it’s standing on the global scene, the Chinese megabrand has established itself quite well in this usually-unfriendly Western market.
Unwired Planet, before the suit with Huawei, had also gone to court with Google and Samsung, within the U.K. Both of those companies have successfully reached a deal with Unwired Planet to keep their shops running.
Even though the move of granting an injunction for the sale of a smartphone company’s products is an unprecedented move in the British territory, it comes in the light of what has been quite a hot topic for debate lately – intellectual property right and violations.
The thing about brands like Huawei, most of them incidentally Chinese, is that they are usually quite lax and loose about using technology that already exists in the market. This make their devices cheaper, yes, but technically, the secret sauce is not always theirs.
It is thus that they become the possible hot spots for patent infringements and violations of intellectual property. This is also the reason why Xiaomi has not yet entered the U.S. market, as they are said to be vulnerable to tons of lawsuits the moment their smartphone portfolio sets official foot on U.S. shores.
It is for the same reason (possible patent infringements) that Huawei too, does not sell in the U.S. market. The company has built itself up as a mock-up of Apple, but it can only sell smartphone accessories in the U.S. market for now, for the fear that the country’s patents and intellectual property laws will eat them alive.
Their sale, in the European markets, is also quite selective and cautionary, by the way.
Huawei, however, is not alone the allegations of patent infringements and violations of intellectual property. It is because of the bowl of soup that intellectual property rights have become around the world that smartphone makers have clashed a lot with each other and with specialist patent owners in courts around the world in the last few years.
The claims have always been that the technology in the smartphones has either been unlawfully copied, or someone is not being paid enough for the use of technology, or that someone is demanding too much.
The truth of the matter however is that in most cases, it is a chicken-and-egg situation, where it is impossible to tell what exactly happened historically – hence the correct lens is not usually available to apportion blame for the circumvention.
For now, though, Huawei seems to be stuck. Even though it believes that the impending injunction on the sale of its smartphones in the U.K. might not have an impact on its global sales, Unwired Planet might be ready to file in more courts in other countries where it believes its patents are being infringed upon. And until they do reach a deal, the noose is only going to tighten around Huawei.
So, will Huawei finally come home to roost and cut a deal, or will they go toe-to-toe in court?
Well, they have some strategising and thinking to do on that.
“iPad is the world’s most popular tablet” boasted Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at the launch of 9.7 inch iPad less than two months ago.
Popular it may be, but is Apple’s iPad the most satisfactory tablet anymore?
As per the new J.D. Power study, Apple’s tablet has been relegated to second position in the sphere of customer satisfaction.
So who bagged the gold medal? Microsoft Surface.
2,238 people who have owned a tablet for less than a year were asked for their views, so as to measure their satisfaction with their tablets.
The study evaluates customer satisfaction across five major factors – Performance, Ease of Operation, Features, Styling & Design, and Cost.
Microsoft’s Surface tablets managed to grab top honours with people finding its styling and design factor to be superior to that of Apple’s iPads. Yes, you read that right!
Jony Ive must surely have seen red at that one (got the pun?)
He’s sure to be disheartened as design is one of Apple’s chief strengths. Its like Microsoft has beaten Apple on its home turf with a smashing six (pun intended).
The study also indicates that a number of Surface users are young people who are early adopters of technology – hence once they like a product, they tend to be loyal.
It’s not an easy task to push Apple from the top of any pile, least of all from that of tablets (a line that for the longest time has held iPads as synonymous to Tablets), and for Microsoft to have managed to do that, is quite a strong indicator of the character of the machine that Microsoft has created.
Microsoft must be gloating over its win and it’s new “customers-our-priority” ethos might have a lot to do with the strong performance put out by the Surface lineup. A Microsoft spokesperson put it succinctly, ”Building products that deliver the power, versatility and dependability that allows our customer to create their best work in any setting is fundamental to everything the team does”.
Apple has every right to sulk but it cannot really complain about the results. A lot of people believe Apple has not provided adequate attention to the iPad lineup, and innovation is grinding to a halt. Microsoft on the other hand, won its customers delight when it did away with the ARM-based version of Surface, and moved to Intel hearts. The move worked and Surface has been appreciated by its customers for the improved performance.
It will be interesting to see Apple does anything to change course and revitalises it next few iPads. Meanwhile, kudos to Microsoft.
As we’d hinted, Reliance Jio yet again tried to stand itself on the shaky legs of freebies, with it’s Jio Summer Surprise Offer. But TRAI has instructed it to withdraw the offer, as well as the additional benefits it gave.
There is a catch in that as well – those who have already subscribed for the offer still get to keep it.
The Jio Summer Surprise Offer was basically an extension of the Happy New Year Offer – offering three more months of freebies.
Users could get unlimited mobile data (with 1 GB of Mobile Data, everyday) for free, 100 SMS’ per day, as well as free access to Jio’s suite of apps, such as Jio Cinema and Jio Music – all for three more months.
The catch, this time, however was that this was only available for Jio Prime members, who purchased the 303 (or higher) prepaid recharge or enrolled in the 303 (or higher) postpaid plan.
Perhaps struggling with the low climb-on rate for their Prime membership, Jio had also extended the registration date for their Prime offer by 15 days. They were calling it a grace period, to supposedly allow those who haven’t been able to register for the Prime offer yet.
The move to extend the deadline, was not a shocker, to anyone. Given how Jio Prime seemed to be struggling to garner the same response as Jio itself did initially, it was quite expected.
In a rare execution of power and an even more gratifying industry-first stand, the TRAI asked Jio to withdraw the offer on the grounds that it was no longer feasible for the telecom industry to afford the kind of practices that Jio has been upto.
The Authority observed that any fall in industry revenue would negatively impact investment and loan repayment capacity, which may result in defaults on loans and spectrum purchase charges owed by operators to the government.
“Today, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has advised Jio to withdraw the three months’ complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise”, the company said in a statement. “Jio accepts this decision. Jio is in the process of fully complying with the regulator’s advice, and will be withdrawing the three months’ complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise as soon as operationally feasible, over the next few days”.
So, no more people can register for the Jio Summer Surprise offer, nor for the Prime membership. But those who have already subscribed to it before the mandated withdrawal will still be able to continue on the offer and enjoy it’s promised benefits and discounts. “All customers who subscribed before discontinuation will remain eligible for the offer,” says the Jio announcement.
Moves like these, however, begged the question of how long did Jio plan to run itself on the backbone of freebies?!
Had Jio not extended the Happy New offer, in addition to announcing the Prime freebies, we perhaps would have been less critical of them. But this extension, that got quashed only after TRAI said so, seemed to drive home the matter that Chip-Monks has been stating for a while now – Jio is dangling freebies as candy for people.
It’s claiming that the candy is not free anymore, but the truth is that it’s just dirt cheap. Paying INR 303 for the minimum recharge, plus INR 99 for Prime membership, to get three months of everything-unlimited – Data, calling and texting, in exchange for INR 400, is the definition of dirt cheap candy.
Yes, people would have signed up for it, but not necessarily because they loved, or appreciated Jio’s services. It would have been more because they would’ve found it really pleasant on their pockets, and who in the world minds cheap internet, even if it is not the best?
However, we must give Jio some credit for overhauling the Indian telecom market, with the scramble it unleashed, from which Indian customers certainly benefited.
The question though, remains. For how long will Jio rely on dangling candy?
At the end of the day, there’s something that Jio’s not getting – the network sucks, calls don’t connect, calls are impeded by choppy connectivity so much so, one needs to hang up the call, fish out the other phone, and resume the conversation. If anything, it’s made a lot of us value our existing (primary) telecom operators a wee bit more!
Jio: How about investing some of that candy back into sweetening the services and the service – proving a wholesome meal that nourishes, rather than just offering an after-dinner mint? Or worse, be relegated to being just a topic of conversation around the dinner table?
WhatsApp Might Soon Be Coming Under Governmental Regulatory Framework
We all like our privacy, right? Obviously, we want whatever information and messages we share with friends to remain that way – personal. And don’t you just hate it when anybody checks your phone – because it feels like a violation of personal space.
Well, a lot of that might be about to change.
They had said in their petition:
“It is also the responsibility of the State to guarantee and ensure the protection of the personal and private data and information of these millions of citizens, when they use such modes of communications to engage in conversations and exchange private and confidential data and information.”
The Department of Telecom argued that Over-The-Top services such as Facebook, WeChat, Skype, WhatApp, Viber etc. are not under any kind of regulatory framework, even though they use telecom service providers’ network to access their customers.
They are not subject to the Telegraph Act, nor are they obligated to registration or licensing with DoT.
Licensed operators, on the other hand, operate under proper monitoring and security regulations. They also have to pay a license fee (which OTT services are exempted from).
In order to plug that gap, the DoT has informed the Supreme Court that the TRAI will be coming out with a new regulatory mechanism for online data security by Diwali this year.
WhatsApp’s representatives KK Venugopal and Kapil Sibal argue that all WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption – which prevents any third party from reading chats and their content, So, there is no breach of privacy.
The Supreme Court bench has passed on the matter to a Constitutional Bench and fixed April 18 as the hearing date. But a request was made to delay the hearing by a couple months as there may be new privacy laws by then.
Though endless arguments can be made from both sides, it is an important issue and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Phat said, privacy is not a matter to be taken lightly. As we step forward in trying to make a Digital India, security issues need to be addressed so that we can all feel safe while using OTT services.
Google's Revised Ad Policy Aims To Disincentivize Hate Speech By Demonetising It
Google’s hate speech policy is undergoing intensive surgery with new areas being added to address concerns of ads promoting and even financially funding inappropriate content online (Basic Economics 101).
Several media outlets in the U.S. joined the clamour triggered by the British government, complaining against the placement of advertisements over videos that are offensive or promoting forms of hate speech.
The changes fulfil the plans that Google had announced back a month ago, in response to the YouTube controversy that arose and then almost spiralled out of control.
This was not the first time a controversy has been seen – just a little while ago, Google got caught up in the furore over Fake News (specifically about Google’s ad network supporting fake news).
The policy additions should over time, address an increasingly toxic online environment that currently harbours content that borders on hate speech.
The policy has now been expanded to include more groups like immigrants and refugees and also applies to discriminatory pages. The language of the policy is such that it covers pages which deny the Holocaust or promote the exclusion of certain groups. Earlier, the policy had a very narrow range, addressing speech that was threatening against defined groups (including religious and ethnic groups, LGBT groups and individuals).
The definition of protected groups and individuals has been expanded as well, to include those who share “any characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination and marginalization”.
The definition implies that harassing and disparaging speech against immigrants or refugees will be in violation of the policy.
Summers, who oversees the development and implementation of Google policies impacting publishers, said in a statement that this status was used as a proxy for attacking people in what is commonly known as a protected group.
The revamped policy will also apply to specific pages with content in violation of the policy meaning that the ads will not need to be removed from an entire site or account.
What this means is for example, an article on Breitbart that uses a derogatory term for transgender won’t get any ad money but will still receive ads on others pages.
Google denied commenting about whether the parent company would be affected or not. Keeping in mind the size of the revamp and understanding that the change is global, the current implementations wouldn’t be noticeable immediately.
In March, Philipp Schindler, Google’s top business executive, in his blog, mentioned how the company was taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content to remove ads from the inappropriate content more effectively.
The policy enables companies to reject their advertisements being played on content that might have “offensive or malicious intent” as per YouTube’s own standards.
Although it sounds like a decent step, however YouTubers across the spectrum have mentioned that the move is reducing their ad revenues and sometimes for reasons that “don’t make sense“.
While a majority of YouTubers do use curse words in their videos, now companies can stop putting advertisements on such videos too. YouTubers like Pewdiepie have gone outright against YouTube for “pandering” to the press like Wall Street Journal and some other websites who initially caused the stir by doctoring videos of the said stars as supporting the Third Reich.
It remains to be seen how YouTube fares with these decisions and policy changes, and how much of it survives beyond the first few months. Revenue after all, is the lifeblood of all online forums.
Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, and the owner of YouTube, recently announced that it is introducing a new system that will let outside firms verify advertisements’ quality standards on YouTube.
Coming as what Alphabet hopes, will be the remedy to the huge advertising boycott YouTube has been up against lately, this change also embraces wider definitions of “offensive content”.
Over the last few weeks, a whole bunch of companies including AT&T, Verizon, Enterprise and even the British government have pulled their ads off of the YouTube platform following the British government’s vociferous objection to one of their ads being played on top of an extremist video that featured highly provocative and offensive content.
The British Government’s reaction and consternation placed the spotlight on YouTube’s current policies that stated that all ads YouTube carries were overlaid atop videos basis the amount of viewership of the content, but did not consider the content of the video itself; nor did it (YouTube’s algorithm) look for any parity between the video’s content and the ad itself.
YouTube did have some checks in place to ensure sensitive content was flagged, but the definition of “sensitive” or “offensive” that YouTube used so far was very loose and half-hearted.
The cause and the effect combined to made the situation extremely problematic for the brands, YouTube, and Alphabet itself.
Why? Well, YouTube’s erstwhile policies and methods basically meant that videos supporting terrorism, extremism and such morally offensive subjects had ads running atop them from brands of every nature, who had absolutely no support or allegiance to said videos. In fact, none of them would’ve really known of this disparity either, given the randomness driven by the automated algorithm that places ads on the platform.
Miffed and offended, many large brands pulled their ad campaigns off of YouTube, and involuntarily triggered a boycott of the platform by other brands too.
This included brands like PepsiCo., Johnson and Johnson, and WalMart, amongst many others.
Let me diverge for a bit, and state the un-obvious.
Just a few months ago, something of the kind would perhaps not have gained this form of momentum or impetus.
The fact is that there is a rising anxiety in people’s minds regarding the trustability of the “new online” – everyone has become a little extra sensitive to whatever they see online. The entire Fake News incidents and how people could’ve been manipulated by what they read/saw online is still very raw in their minds.
Add to this the fact that Facebook recently admitted flaws in how it reported ad performance to ad buyers.
With all of that in play, digital advertising has come under greater scrutiny lately, and thus Alphabet’s YouTube problem kept snowballing as things rolled downhill.
To be fair to Alphabet, navigating this issue is certainly no cakewalk. Content worth as much as 400 hours is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and navigating through that much content is obviously not an easy job.
To top it all, as per Alphabet’s erstwhile policies, any channel with a certain number of views were seeded with ads running on top of their videos. Alphabet had not implement, so far, any methods to categorise channels basis the nature of the content they doled out, nor had they formulated differential policies towards the ad-overlays.
Amidst all this though, is one undeniable fact – advertisers and brands depend upon Google’s system to get them the best results. So being the customer, brands’ interests and brand image is paramount to YouTube’s existence, even more than it’s revenues.
Quite a good example would be that of Google’s AdWords, the larger ad business that Alphabet runs across the internet. Over the years, it has been Alphabet’s policy to not stand between the publishers, and the advertisers, for fear of becoming too much of an arbiter of what’s appropriate.
But in the process of making the path from advertiser to targeted audience eyeballs as efficient as possible Alphabet does make a lot of money. So it must then, not shrug away from the onus of responsibility when its systems run into issues.
Even after apologies, and statements promising that steps would be taken in this regard, brands are still pulling the plug on their YouTube ad spend, and Alphabet’s shares are doing the frisky dingo on the charts.
All in all, Alphabet has lost about USD 25 billion to this tailspin that YouTube has hit, and even though that number does pale in comparison to the entirety of Alphabet’s income, it is still quite a big number.
The new policies should be of some relief. After the forest caught the fire, Alphabet has improved its ability to flag offending videos and immediately disable ads. This has led to some advertisers circling back.
With these new changes in the policy, we can expect more advertisers to come circling back. But the question will still remain: Is this going to be the solution?
We think not.
Even though the policies have been changed to broaden the definition of sensitive content, there’s not enough information shared by Alphabet to convince the world that there are now enough checks in place to mark sensitive content as such and treat it differently.
Case in point would be that of YouTube channels like Real Women Real Stories.
Run by Israel-based entrepreneur Matan Uziel, the channel features videos of women narrating to the camera their experiences of sexual abuse. Under even the amended policies, this would be marked off as sensitive content (under the unchanged policies it was marked off as sensitive content, and ads were taken off of the channel).
And there are many other channels of this kind that have, and will be, marked off.
So, even though it may be quite clear what content a channel is running, machines and algorithms don’t really yet know to interpret it correctly. The content in Real Women Real Stories is not particularly offensive, not promoting terrorism, extremism, or violence of any kind – but it did get the stick.
What I’m saying is that there is rather a much-needed journalistic approach to real stories that need to be told. Yet, these channels will receive the same treatment as purposefully offensive content made with mal intentions do. That does not seem fair, and neither do the policies enabling such interpretations.
So, while Alphabet has admittedly taken the first baby steps – only after having been kicked in the gut by the advertisers – yet, there is a long way to go for them to actually be able to work this out properly.
With YouTube’s ad revenues hopefully preserved now, Alphabet must surely realize that the task is not yet done.
MediaTek Still In The Line Of Fire For Slowing Down LTE Connections In India
We’d reported about MediaTek based dual 4G SIM smartphones facing degraded 4G connectivity, about a week ago. Set when the issue was first reported, our article covered the why’s and the how’s (of resolution).
Since there’s been a bit of movement on the matter, we thought we’d provide you an update on the matter.
Despite MediaTek’s claims to the contrary, the Cellular Operator’s Association of India (COAI) still maintains that the cause of the problem are faulty MediaTek chips (that come on most budget-smartphones these days).
The COAI reportedly wants to eliminate the MediaTek processors from smartphones in the Indian market and wants to sanction a higher quality of handset testing.
Given such a staunch allegation, the COAI had written off a letter to the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and is still awaiting a reply from the Regulator.
The letter which stated “Placing a SIM (which has only 4G LTE capability) in the number 2 slot (2G-only) significantly deteriorates the throughput of any other operator’s 4G SIM present in the main slot, by as much as 40 per cent” is fairly certain in it’s premise.
This explains why some of us face slow network connectivity every time we put in a 4G/LTE SIM in the second slot of our smartphones, and could never figure out as to why our handsets suddenly started functioning at a reduced speeds.
To prove whether the said allegations are true or not, certain smartphones which harbour the specific MediaTek chips were tested for their quality of cellular network connections. Different models from different brands were used – Lenovo A7000, Lenovo K4 Note, Moto G4, Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Redmi Note 3, Oppo A35 and Samsung’s Galaxy J7 – and issues were found on most of them.
The media’s attention then moved to manufacturers and most of them denied any such culpability or even reports of such issues. Xiaomi, too denied the existence of any of such issues with it’s handsets.
“The analysis in the report specifically points out a degradation in network quality of service (QoS) for handsets that have a MediaTek chipset. All our smartphones are shipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in India and are optimised for India-specific bands for the most efficient usage of 4G/LTE,” announced a Xiaomi India spokesperson.
“TRAI is yet to respond to our letter. Neither has Department of Telecommunications (DoT) got back to us. TRAI has informally asked us to submit some additional information on the testing and indicated that they would like to call an industry meeting to discuss the matter”, said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI.
In a later development, it came to the fore that the COAI assumes that this network degradation problem has more to do with a software malfunction than a flaw in MediaTek’s hardware.
The telecom Regulator has recently been requested to issue an order which calls out all the smartphone brands to roll out their respective Over The Air (OTA) updates within a (suggested) stipulated time frame of 4 weeks to fix the bug.
MediaTek made a statement recently assuring the public, “We recently became aware of these reports and it is of the utmost priority to address. We are already working closely with all the telecom operators to ensure any reported issues are resolved”.
It will be interesting to see how TRAI responds to the COAI’s letter and how MediaTek manages to come out of this fix. India is an important market for MediaTek, and it will undoubtedly be keen to win back the trust of its loyal customers and of course, the brands that use MediaTek wares in their phones.
Russia Wants India's EVM Technology For Its 2018 Presidential Election
Kejriwal’s claims aside, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) tech used in India seems to be world-class.
What better evidence of the inviolability of the EVMs could there be, than other countries – especially countries once at the forefront of hardware design and manufacturing than Russia – seeking to use our EVM technology for their upcoming Presidential elections of 2018?
Russia recently sought help from the Election Commission of India to get a first-hand view of the hardware, software, technology and fail-safes of our EVMs.
In fact, Nikolai Levichev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Election Commission, visited Uttarakhand during the recent Assembly elections to look at the technology in operation first hand.
He also reportedly closely monitored the electioneering process in four other states. Following the first-hand experience, he also held wide-ranging consultations in Delhi with senior officials across ministries, in order to come to the best possible arrangement where the two countries could share the technology and gain from the exchange.
Obviously, Russia and India have had a close relationship in the past, for a variety of interests. And each such exchange has proved beneficial for both the parties involved.
In this case, from the looks of it, Russia is seeking to learn from India’s experience in conducting smooth polls through EVMs.
However, this comes at a peculiar time, when the Opposition in India has raised the possibility of EVMs being tampered with in the recently-concluded Assembly polls in five states.
In exchange for the technology, Russia will reportedly help India in developing state-of-the-art tabulation systems for the counting of votes. A system of the kind would definitely help Indian officials obtain region-wise and grou-wise polling patterns, much faster.
While it may come to you as a surprise, the fact is, this won’t be the first time that India would be aiding a country in its election procedure, either.
Back in 2014, Afghanistan fell short of ballot papers during their elections, and at the time it was India who supplied Kabul’s election body with the ballot papers at an extremely short notice.
The upcoming Presidential election, the one in which Putin (the current President), will be contesting re-election, are expected to be a mammoth task in Russia. While the population makes the task challenging in India, it is the terrain and the geographical diversity that makes it a challenge in Russia.
The election body of the country has been seeking the use of technology in their election process for a while now. By seeking the EVM technology used in elections in India, Russia is trying to make the task more manageable, while increasing the efficiency at the same time.
The question then is: if Russia considers the tech safe and unimpeachable, why doesn’t Mr. Kejriwal? Well, that’s for some other fine folks to answer, not Chip-Monks
Back in 2002 when Elon Musk had founded SpaceX, the company “basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band” or so he recalls, nostalgically. That was many, many moons ago, and obviously, things have changed since!
The company that just a few days ago was able to bring about the first ever full-reuse orbital rocket booster (the most expensive part of the rocket), seems to now be looking to expand further.
The company that started with a dream to go into space “one day”, has grown to employ hundreds of people. The company has expanded its size, scope, and prowess with growing revenues from government and private contracts.
Now, having crossed the last big milestone, this 15-year long company is looking to chart out more, far-reaching adventures.
We know that because Musk’s SpaceX just announced 473 new job openings!
The jobs are in quite a variety of fields, but most of them have a description that starts with:
“SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not. Today SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars“.
Of the job listings, 49% of the positions call for engineers, 33% for technicians, 5% for machinists, 5% for specialists, 5% for managers, and 1% for directors – and all are based in the U.S.
Impressively, not all jobs require you to be a tech genius – there are job listings for lawyers, cooks, baristas, and even security officers.
So the expansion’s on across the board, and not just on one particular wing.
Basking in the glow of the successful, historic launch a few days ago, Musk said SpaceX is “looking to make it a routine, if not boring, affair to launch, land, and re-launch within 24 hours”. He added: “I’m confident it’s possible to achieve a 100-fold reduction in the cost of getting stuff into space“.
The next goal the company is to build a fleet of 4,425 satellites that will blanket Earth with high-speed internet access. This is in addition to their existing lofty goal of making expendable rockets, and making traveling into space not much different from driving out in your car!
So, SpaceX, with that on your chalkboard, you better get cracking already!
After almost a year long wait, Apple finally opened the door to its App Accelerator in Bangalore this week.
The App Accelerator, as the name suggests, will function as a place to speed up the development of mobile applications for Apple’s iOS ecosystem – by providing weekly training, app reviews, and one-on-one guidance to to developers.
Clearly, the App Accelerator comes with the idea of harnessing the already-bustling app development market in India. It’s a little late though – announced in May 2016, it’s indeed curious that it took the Tech Monolith this long to get set up in one of the world’s foremost software development markets.
“I think what we hope from this accelerator is that we can help the local market create apps for customers in India that better meet the needs of our growing customer base here“, said Apple’s marketing head Phil Schiller. “We also think we can help developers here at the accelerator to make apps that reach further around the world, because there’s an entire world that wants their software too, and having that opportunity is something that’s of benefit to them and now people here can help them learn more about that and take better advantage of it“.
This is not the first place that Apple has opened an App Accelerator – Brazil and Naples have already witnessed similar platforms to boost app development in and around their locales.
What could set India apart, is that while Brazil and Naples’ ecosystems focus on students as new developers, the App Accelerator in India will also focus on India’s existing app development community.
The market in India is strongly dominated by Apple’s competitor, Google’s Android ecosystem. This App Accelerator probably won’t do much in that regard, but what it might do is provide a way for Apple to court developers who are looking to branch out of Google’s ecosystem.
Apple has been showing a lot of interest in the Indian market for a few years now. The reason for their interest is obvious: India, outside of China, is the biggest market a brand can cater to or even hope for.
However, the market also comes with its complexities, and while Apple has diligently been navigating a lot of those in the last year, they might still be a long way to go.
Christopher Stringer, the lead designer of the original iPhone, and one of the top two or three dreamers on Apple’s Design team, has decided to leave the Silicon Valley megabrand. Though an official statement of departure is yet to be made by Stringer as well as the company, the news has been confirmed by multiple sources.
Stringer, even before joining Apple, was quite a star in the tech world. He’s is the same creator who helped develop Dell’s design language and won an ID Design Review award for an innovative light switch.
Stringer has been a designer with Apple since 1995, and over the course of his career at Apple, he worked on projects of different sizes and magnitude – including the early PowerBooks and tower computers, the iPhone, or even something as overlooked, but ever-admired as the designs on product packaging. It was not the size of the project that seemed to draw him, but the magnitude of the vision.
Stringer was also the first designer to give testimony at the Apple-Samsung trial where, according to Reuters news service, “Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie”.
Speaking of his work at Apple, Stringer described the role of an industrial designer at Apple as “to imagine objects that don’t exist and to guide the process that brings them to life. And so that includes defining the experience that a customer has when they touch and feel our products. It’s managing the overall form and the materials, the textures, the colors. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to building the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.”
A couple years ago, when Jony Ive (now, Chief Design Officer at Apple), was promoted, Stringer was one of the two people who were contenders to take on the design studio. Even though he did not get to be the top boss back then, he has been the right-hand man for Ive, and the backbone to the Apple design team.
It is unclear at this point if he is joining another company, or if he is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, but 52-year-old Stringer will definitely be missed at Apple after he is gone.
The departure of a person such as Stringer would ordinarily raise the question of how would it affect the team and the work around it, what would the future Apple designs be like, and would a difference, or ‘something missing’ be felt?
Well, the answer to the last one would mostly be no.
This is so because the designing of a product at Apple is not done by one person alone. The design team at Apple, or any organization of the kind, is a tightly knit team, and each product has designated a design lead, the designer who does most of the actual work, and one or two deputies, who all work on the idea together. The vision, thus, is a shared one.
Even though Stringer’s contributions will be missed, his departure from Apple is not expected to jeopardise the creativity that the world’s come to respect Apple for.
With more and more people becoming environment conscious, electric automobiles are beginning to have their day in the sun.
A lot of manufacturers are focusing on this – and the progress they’re making is helping this new line of automobiles to show promise as a viable mode of transportation.
The market is flooding with new models, and Hyundai (one of the more modern car makers) too has lain forth, its aspirations in this sector.
Apart from being eco-friendly, the main reason for the surge in electric modes of transportation is the tightening noose on emissions and fuel-usage in China, America and Europe. Hyundai is also being pressurized by its investors to plant deeper roots in a market segment that has so far been dominated by Tesla Inc.
Lee Ki-sang, the head of Green Cars Operations of Hyundai-Kia, said at their research center in Yongin, Seoul that “The electric-vehicle platform will require high up-front investments but we are doing this to prepare for the future“.
Hyundai has already begun working on their first dedicated framework for electric automobiles to push itself further into the segment. While that architecture is not going to be realized anytime soon, Hyundai Motor along with its affiliate Kia Motors, is planning to manufacture electric cars from the platforms they already have. They will launch a small electric SUV first, as they have ample demand in the market. It will be followed next year by a sibling model from Kia Motors.
The sub-compact and compact models would be “more competitive” than their rivals, offering a range of more than 300 kilometres per charge. If they don’t start offering long-range models, Hyundai will soon become a mere memory in the electric automobile segment.
The chassis they are building will accommodate the battery in the floor of the car. This will prevent the weight of the battery from disturbing the balance of the car, in addition to increasing the cabin space as well as enabling sufficient battery capacity.
Right now, the global vehicle sales for electric vehicles stands at a mere 1%. Considering that Lee Ki-sang is expecting it to rise to 10% by 2025, he is definitely going to be putting in a lot of effort to be prepared well for that wave, and to lead it from as far ahead as possible.
Go for electric vehicles and you too will be doing your bit for your environment. Who knows, we might even live to see the day when solar powered vehicles are in fashion!
Apple Gains A Win In Australian Courts To Retain Control Over Apple Pay
It really was fun to watch Australia’s four big banks sweating and trying to win a legal battle against Apple for its proprietary payment technology Apple Pay.
They tried every which way to Sunday, to convince the esteemed bench that they ought to have access to Apple Pay, but in turn all they received was a facepalm.
It had to be a tough battle when big names like Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Bendigo & Adelaide are involved. The four banks collectively control two-thirds of Australia’s credit card market!
Now, since the question would be burning in your head – the banks wanted Apple to grant them access to its contactless payment technology so as to avoid paying commission to Apple for charges made through Apple Pay.
However, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made it clear that banks cannot force the demand of their own digital wallets (integrated within their individual apps) on Apple.
The Near Field Communication (NFC) based technology allows iPhone users to settle their payments from their phones, and the money gets deducted from the bank card which is registered with Apple Pay.
So each time an iPhone user makes a transaction, Apple gets fees for it.
No doubt, the stakes were high for Apple as being on the losing end would have meant severe blow to it’s profit margins. In a way, the banks wanted Apple to function more like Google in terms of its method of payment – Google allows contactless payment from individual apps.
So far the banks have prevented their customers from using Apple Pay until the company agreed to give them access to iPhone payment technology. The threat to Apple was seen as a tool to “reduce or distort competition”, Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC explained that “it is a tricky issue for competition regulator to force one competitor to adopt a strategy of other competitor”.
So where do banks stand now?
Let’s be real, the four banks (and thus other Australian banks too) have lost the pressure they had built on Apple. Now they can only individually negotiate with the company.
Plus, if they still refuse their customers to make payments through Apple Pay, then they face the risk of decrease in number of account holders.
It’s not surprising that the banks are “disappointed”.
Palmer Luckey, the co-founder of Oculus VR and creator of the Rift headset, has taken the exit door out of Facebook. This comes just after the first anniversary of the launch of the flagship Rift VR headset.
Luckey had been the face of Oculus and of the Rift headset up until last September, but the road became a little bumpy following the news that he’d donated USD 10,000 to a group spreading pro-Trump memes. Luckey did subsequently apologize for the backlash that this brought his company, but he started to stay a little out of the public eye and even skipped last October’s Oculus Connect event, even though he had the keynote spot at the one before.
The man had almost been a breath of fresh air at a time when almost all big tech companies are formed by people straight out of college, working with their frat bros.
He had been home-schooled, was a college-drop out who frequented message boards asking for help taking apart and rebuilding game consoles in his parents’ garage before expanding to a deep interest in 3D screens and head-mounted displays.
It was when he managed to gain the attention theof legendary game developer John Carmack, his Oculus co-Founder, that the gaming community looked up to him.
He’d showcased one of his VR headset prototypes at a major gaming conference. Thanks to a generous serving of investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Formation 8, Oculus had the perfect recipe for a tech unicorn.
Back in 2014 Oculus VR had been purchased by Facebook, which had drawn a huge amount of attention to the future of Virtual Reality (VR), and to Luckey personally.
But all was not rosy. Facebook had to battle legal cases that involving both Luckey and John Carmack, in the last year. The accusations were centered around stolen trade secrets. Accusations against Carmack were rebuffed, but the court did order Facebook to pay Zenimax USD 500 million, as Luckey had failed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed with Zenimax.
As a part of the Oculus team, Luckey did receive about USD 2 billion in cash and stock, when Oculus was bought out by Facebook.
“When Facebook first approached us about partnering, I was skeptical“, the then 21-year-old Luckey wrote at the time. “As I learned more about the company and its vision and spoke with [CEO Mark Zuckerberg], the partnership not only made sense but became the clear and obvious path to delivering virtual reality to everyone“.
Luckey’s departure from Facebook comes right after a shakeup at the company’s Oculus wing, leaving the entire Oculus nestled close to Zuckerberg.
Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe too stepped down, not too long ago. Ex-Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra was appointed as Facebook VP of VR just recently. And now this!
It leaves one wondering what exactly is it that Facebook is up to at the moment really, and how much of this is strategic, and how much a business decision.
Oculus VR’s statement regarding the Luckey’s departure is as bland as they come: “Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best“.
China’s TCL Plans To Invest $5 Billion In A Display Panel Production Facility
In the wake of the growing demand of smartphones, TCL plans to invest an estimated amount of 35 billion Yuan (USD 5 billion) in a facility to make display panels for smartphones and tablets.
The China based electronics giant has so far not been able to dip it’s toes in the world’s foremost industry (at the moment). Obviously, it would be loathe to stay away much longer.
As per Reuters, TCL will construct a production facility in the central city of Wuhan to produce display known as LTPS-AMOLED (low temperature poly silicon-active matrix organic light emitting diode).
The Guangdong-based company said that the proposal is yet to receive approval of the government.
With the increase in wealth and advancement in technology, no electronics major would like to stay away from the benefits and revenues accruing from the world’s biggest every industry – or smart devices. There’s more than enough demand out there for all manners of suppliers, and TCL is a proven biggie.
TCL is not going to stop at displays either. There’s so much demand for other parts of the devices too, both on the global and domestic level, that TCL is going to vie to produce a major percentage of the ever-growing demand of all things required in electronic gadgets.
TCL is not the only one to come with such a plan. BOE Technology had announced in November that they plan to invest 46.5 billion Yuan in a project that aims to produce AMOLED display panel in Sichuan province.
Double Trouble: Two 4G SIMs In Your Phone = Lower 4G Performance!
Most people would be happy having one 4G connection, but with the alarming ease with which Indians are getting 4G connections these days – what with Jio, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea all competing for your Data spend, there’s an unexpected issue brewing.
Recently, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) outed a freak observance – in a letter addressed to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) the representative body cited evidence that MediaTek-powered smartphones experienced a significant reduction in Data speeds if 4G-enabled SIMs were simultaneously placed in both the SIM slots of the device.
As per tests conducted by the telecom body, data speeds measured from the primary SIM slot were reduced by almost 40% when a 4G Jio SIM was placed in SIM slot 2 of a MediaTek powered smartphone.
Following up on the issue, Taiwan-based MediaTek has said it’s working out a solution, but it also took the opportunity to deny the assertion that this problem was just specific to handsets using its chipsets.
In an official statement, MediaTek Inc. said, “The COAI report confirmed other chipset providers are having the same reduced data rate issues. Half of the eight devices the COAI cited as causing network degradation are powered by other chipset makers or competitors to MediaTek. Additional testing by MediaTek, also confirmed this network slowing effect in handsets based on non-MediaTek chipsets”.
Indian media reports that the other handsets facing this dual-SIM network loss issue include Qualcomm-powered Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Redmi Note 3, Moto G4, Vivo V5+, Oppo A33 and Samsung Galaxy J7 (2015), while the MediaTek devices tested for the problem include Intex Aqua Craze, Micromax Canvas 5, Lenovo A-7000, Moto E3 Power and Lenovo K5 Note.
The interesting thing is though – while data speeds are reduced by almost 40% on MediaTek devices, COAI’s results show that Qualcomm powered dual-SIM handsets also reduce data speeds by anywhere between 2%-35%, depending on the model of the smartphone. The Redmi 3S apparently lost 35% of Data speeds.
Now, to get out of the line of fire, MediaTek says that it’s designed a software-based optimisation solution which will improve network performance and that this solution is currently being tested with mobile operators.
The company confirmed, “Once the solution is fully tested and approved – expected in the upcoming days – it will be shared with customers to resolve network concerns”.
Further, the chipset maker also said that this dual-SIM device issue is limited to India and is being caused due to the fast maturing networks with their own requirements for SIM cards. MediaTek also pointed out that “carriers provide their own SIM card requirements for their networks and share those with chipset makers. SIM requirements across 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks in India have led to some unintentional compatibility challenges for the industry to address”.
So if you’ve been wondering why your dual-powered smartphone’s been acting so dorky lately, you now know. But don’t lose hope, just work with one 4G SIM for a little while, till things sort themselves out.
Microsoft's Docs.com Website Makes Personal Information Totally Public
Microsoft – a name that we all immediately recognize and trust. This reputation has been earned by always making good on customer expectations and upholding customer interests. However, recent findings have brought to light that using Microsoft’s Docs.com service may compromise your sensitive and personal information.
I urge you to immediately ensure that you have no personal data on the website (www.docs.com).
Security researcher Kevin Beaumont was the first one to make the public aware of this worrying information. He posted a message on his Twitter account on March 25 saying, “Microsoft have a website called http://docs.com where Office 365 customers can share anything in public. It has a search function”.
Several researchers have found a lot of documents containing highly private information such as lists of passwords, social security numbers, medical records, contact details, bank account numbers, credit card details and the like, by using very simple search procedures.
It seems that the people were unaware of their documents being publicly available!
Within a few hours, the search bar from the website was removed by Microsoft. The change, however, was only temporary as the search bar is now back up. The information that was leaked out is still available on Bing and Google as it has already been catalogued by the search engines. Until the documents are removed from Docs.com itself, anyone can easily access them.
But we cannot go around believing that Microsoft is the only responsible party here. To their credit, they have always given a privacy warning to users stating that the information they are uploading will be openly accessible. The default setting for any uploaded document was public visibility, which the users did not know. In a statement to Ars Technica, a Microsoft spokesperson said:
“Docs.com lets customers showcase and share their documents with the world. As part of our commitment to protect customers, we’re taking steps to help those who may have inadvertently published documents with sensitive information. Customers can review and update their settings by logging into their account at www.docs.com.”
Now, we all know that online records are always vulnerable to hacking, and it is up to us to protect our personal information by not putting it online to the extent possible. Otherwise, you make yourself susceptible to identity theft, fraud, blackmail, and much more. So we need to be very careful with what we publish and we can all sleep a little better in the future, knowing that our privacy is intact.
Telecom in India (and everywhere else in the world), is a marathon – actually a steeplechase. And like any long-range sport, the rules are simple – keep running, stay in the game, but conserve your resources with the end game in mind.
Only those who pace themselves and stay alive to competition can even hope to be anywhere near the finish line.
But newcomers to the sport often make the mistake of speeding up too early, the trophy looming large in their thoughts. Some even consider the more staid approach as a needlessly pessimistic gameplan.
Consequence? More often than not, they burn out just 10% into the race.
Is that happening in Indian telecom? Seems so.
From the start, Reliance Jio was saddled with three weights around it’s ankles – being the newest entrant in the telecom game, it needed to make a loud splash (to get people’s attention), it needed poach away customers from their current providers since there aren’t too many new customers to be had in the already-overcrowded Indian telecom market. Most importantly, it (Jio) was saddled by it’s own seven-year-long run-up to launch. Behemoths have been built ground-up in lesser time – ask Google, or Facebook!
Anyway, in order to achieve the first two objectives, Reliance did what Reliance does best – appeal to Indian customers through their wallets – freebies are the currency that Reliance often relies on, but this time it seems to be backfiring on them.
When the network launched to the general public a little over six months, it completely rocked the telecom market in India. Offering all it’s wares for free, it created a shockwave in a market that is price-sensitive to a fault.
People switched to Reliance Jio in millions, making it the fastest growing network in the history of the world. Customers flocked to it, to experience the network (but between you and me, most were just happy to get gazillions of bytes of Mobile Data free). Customer acquisition numbers were bandied about, newsrooms aghast, and barrels of newsprint ink spilt toasting the new entrant. Last I heard, over 122 million people had signed up with Jio. That is a staggering number for a market already thriving with eight other operators.
At Chip-Monks, many a water-cooler moment was spent dissecting the reality people had forgotten – most customers had bought additional connections to get onto Jio – they hadn’t transferred out of their original provider’s network! That, by itself, foretold what would happen once the freebies were retracted. People would have to choose whom to spend their dime on.
And in the telecom world, that spend is decided upon three things – network quality, customer service (actually the lack of the need of it) and finally, cost.
The first factor itself became Jio’s stumbling block – as people experienced Jio, they realised that they were sacrificing network quality for the pennies they saved, gaining Data quotas they couldn’t use because the service didn’t always work, speeds were lower at 4G than other providers’ were at 3G. So there wasn’t much in there for customers to appreciate.
Now, as freebies come to an end, so does the novelty.
The question thus became – what would Jio do, to hold onto these 122 million?
Answer: follow Amazon and create a “Prime” club. But instead of customer experience being the calling card for the club, Jio fell back on what it knows best – more freebies.
Launched five weeks back, on the 21st of February, the Jio Prime offer provides a year long supply of Data and calls at extremely subsidised rates. Paying just INR 99 to enrol with Jio’s Prime program and only INR 303 (which is less than US$ 5!) gets the member 28 GB of 4G Data and free calls to anyone in India!
Sounds like a sweet deal, right?!
Well, market response to it does not seem to reflect that – of the current 122+ million Jio customers, only close to about 16 million have signed up for the Jio Prime offer.
That pale number, is then the answer – not many people are interested in Jio when it’s not free.
Embarrassingly, the number is less than half of the target Jio had reportedly set for itself internally.
Just two days from now, Reliance Jio will switch over to being a paid service for the first time and this lukewarm-at-best response, must have Ambani worried – especially after pouring in an additional US$ 4.4 billion into Jio just two months ago.
Has Jio tired itself out already? Did it’s strenuous 400-meter dash cost it a place in the marathon? We’ll only figure that out as time passes, and Jio’s mettle is further tested.
In the meantime, we see this as an opportunity for all the other operators in the market to gain back some of the space and the customer-sovereignty they may have lost during the run. That, however, is also not going to be easy.
The telecom industry in India is struggling, to say the least. The reasons are many and it’s not pleasant for anyone. There is looming debt, over every big wig in the industry, and Jio’s brazen entry only made it worse – the operators that were already struggling to make certain ends meet were forced to drain their resources further, to stay alive in the cut-throat competition.
To combat his new annoying neighbour on the block, who was enticing the world with ‘free service’ coated candy, competitive offers were put out on the market by each operator – Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and even BSNL. While we don’t have numbers yet, however it’s clear – the customer benefited by the turf war. And that’s always a good thing.
Customers saw a hitherto unseen benevolent and generous side of their telecom operator, and speaking from personal experience – it was a good feeling, to be wanted, and to be valued.
Going back to my earlier statement, Indian telecom customers value network quality and customer service more than cost – and each Telco needs to focus on these two critical elements if they are to remain in the marathon. Jio’s mad-dash and how it caused the somewhat-complacent existing operators to up their game, should remain in their minds for some time to come.
Back to Jio – not having achieved the intended numbers that Jio had set for itself, the question arises – will Jio extend the deadline to sign up for Prime? And if it does, will others extend their competitive offers?
Time will tell, but I am forced to recall my closing words on my earlier article about Jio and it’s approach –
“All said and done, Jio has set many ripples in the water, however since it has to wade the same waters itself, one would think it’ll learn to swim instead of splashing around“.
In a recent development, the Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi announced on Monday that they intend to create over 20, 000 job opportunities in India over the next three years!
If this goes through, this will nearly triple the number of jobs created till date by Xiaomi in India.
This would be a major step on the part of the company that has been endeavouring to go global and gain a stronger footing outside of the home domain of China.
Xiaomi’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Lei Jun, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his week-long visit to India, to discuss the company’s journey in the country so far. The discussion reportedly also extended to how smartphones are changing the lives of Indian consumers, and what more lies in the future.
The company first stepped into the Indian market in 2014 and in a scant two years, India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for this evolutionary firm. You’d recall, the Chinese brand crossed USD 1 billion in sales in India, within the year 2016.
The budget products that are the backbone of the company have clearly caught India’s imagination. And popularity in the Indian market, is a trump card for any brand hoping to make it big internationally.
Clearly this phenomenal track record, and the fact that there’s still a lot of untapped potential in the dynamic Indian marketplace, that has fuelled Xiaomi’s decision to expand it’s base in India.
The declaration came during The Economic Times global Business Summit 2017, where the founder, Lei Jun acknowledged India’s huge contribution to Xiaomi’s global revenue. In addition, he talked about China’s the Internet Plus policy to integrate the internet with traditional industries and in turn, catapult economic growth.
There’s another fuse waiting to be lit – the expansion of 4G networks in India will ensure easier access to the internet, and create even more appetite for supporting products like smartphones, hotspot equipment and the like.
Xiaomi seems to be counting upon exactly that.
Xiaomi already has an existing plant in Andhra Pradesh, set up in 2015, which currently manufactures (reportedly) 75% of the company’s products sold in the country.
Once the newly announced second plant becomes functional, almost 95% of the smartphones sold by the company in the country will be manufactured in-country!
Quite to the beat of the Prime Minister’s overarching economic initiative, isn’t it?!
The company’s newly-made Vice President, Manu Kumar’s words second Jun’s sentiments.
Last week, at the launch of Redmi 4A, Kumar conveyed that Xiaomi shall be able to manufacture one smartphone every second with the new plant. The plant shall be located in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh.
What might be even more notable, is Xiaomi’s aim – to incorporate 90% women in the workforce. This could be an incredible step towards women empowerment, in a country that quite starkly seems to be struggling with engaging and employing women.
Their first plant, which employed over 5,000 people from the nearby villages, also included 90% women. So the aim might not be far-fetched at all.
More power to Xiaomi!
Samsung Lands Bang In The Middle Of A Legal Wrangle Between Nokia And Apple
Legal battle and Apple – call it a houseful show.
This particular story started a year back, when the good old Cupertino technology giant Apple sued Nokia on the grounds of patent infringement.
Apple accused Nokia of intentionally removing certain patents from an agreement between the two companies. As per Apple, five of the removed patents were transferred to certain third party companies so that Nokia could ‘extort’ an excruciating amount of USD 100 million from Apple.
But then Nokia hit back at Apple with a list of accusations against the company. It alleged various instances of breach of patent by Apple. Nokia claimed that Apple has violated as many as 32 of Nokia’s patents in every iPhone following the iPhone 3GS.
That’s not all, a new twist in the case has made it all the more interesting.
Nokia has requested to be granted access to documents and deposition testimonies from the Samsung-Apple case which pertain to Samsung’s legal allegations against Apple on the issue of patents. Nokia believes these documents will be helpful to it’s patent related legal battle against Apple, and prove Apple’s culpability and repeated violations of patents.
As per Patently Apple, Nokia has requested a motion to be granted access to certain documents that can prove to be highly favorable to its position in the on-going legal conflict against Apple –
“The Letter seeks documents and deposition testimony from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., based in the Republic of Korea. The evidence sought by Nokia is highly relevant to the Investigation and unobtainable by other means”.
There’s not been a decree on this request yet, though, a favourable decision in this regard may actually prove to be an interesting wildcard in the Nokia-Apple fight.
Bug In OnePlus 3 And OnePlus 3T Allows Hackers To Violate The Smartphone Using Malicious Chargers
OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T have fast become very popular around the globe. However, in light of some recently uncovered information, it looks like these smartphones might have a security flaw – which might cause the trend to spiral a bit. Unless fixed.
Researchers at Aleph Security, a cyber security company, discovered and disclosed a bug on the devices, that poses quite a serious security risk for the users. As per the information uncovered, hackers can infect your device using a malicious charger!
This newly discovered bug, named CVE-2017-5622, allows hackers to take over a device even when it is completely turned off. The flaw leverages existing vulnerabilities and bugs and gains access to the user’s personal data. And all this happens without the user even realising that her device is being usurped!
What makes the situation even more serious is that this new bug works with the support of the already existing older bugs. So they use one vulnerability to enter the device, and another one to eliminate any evidence that the device had been hacked, or its security breached.
Videos demonstrating the effects of the bug have surfaced recently. The first video shows the attack as the device lies charging. The hackers gain gains temporary root access to the violated smartphone, replacing the operating system with an affected one.
In the second video, the same process is used to install an app onto the smartphone which appears to be visible to the smartphone user. The latter can give the hackers much more sensitive information than the former can.
What is also noteworthy is that the same researchers reported to having pointed the bugs out to OnePlus, who subsequently claimed to have fixed it via the OxygenOS 4.0.3 update. Also, the bug only affected the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, and not the OnePlus 2, so some of the users can rest easy there.
That said, OnePlus, get on the horse mates, and cracked the whip on the bugs, before customers bolt from the stable.
Microsoft has finally admitted a bit of a defeat and one can see it finally altering its course in the arena of Connected Cars, via its new agreement with Toyota.
As per the agreement, Microsoft has decided to license a batch of its Connected Car patents to Toyota. This marks Microsoft taking a step back after their failed attempt at including Windows in cars from three years ago.
Rather than thinking of this as Microsoft eating humble pie, we at Chip-Monks actually view this as a sign of a changing Microsoft. Under Nadella, Microsoft is being a more thinking company and is not averse to changing course, if it helps Microsoft conquer barriers or set up new bloodlines… successfully.
As part of this joint endeavour, Microsoft’s new auto licensing program would provide Toyota access to navigation, entertainment, voice recognition and gesture controls.
On the Toyota side, this would enable them to take their cars to the next level of being connected – and they are a smart bunch, they are. Car makers do not understand infotainment or connectivity as well as they do automobile mechanics. So, leveraging existing world-class technology and expertise, will get Toyota over the fence faster, and indeed make their cars more integrable, than if they tried creating the infotainment package from scratch.
As far as the specifics of the deal are concerned, neither company is revealing much, including the monetary value of the deal. However, what might be key to Microsoft, may well be the fact that the agreement between the corporations is not exclusive and Microsoft can offer its technology to other automakers as well.
This is a classic Microsoft move which they played the first time back when the company was still a baby; give your tech to one, but make sure the fine print doesn’t stop you from giving it to others. Exclusivity has never been part of Microsoft’s ballgame.
What’s also noteworthy is that this is not the first time that Toyota and Microsoft have teamed up for a project. The companies have been working together on Toyota’s Data Science Center- Microsoft’s cloud computing platform is currently being used by Toyota Connected which in turn, aims to individualise customer experience. The kinship between the two, one can say, should be quite smooth then, and one that both of them will benefit from.
As far as counting the candies for Microsoft is concerned, well, this comes in tow of Microsoft’s attempts to get car companies to use its tech for their connected cars. Microsoft has been trying to swing that one properly for a while now, and one must admit, it has not been doing all that badly.
At present, Renault-Nissan uses Microsoft’s Azure platforms which include critical services like remote vehicle diagnostics. Microsoft is also working with Volvo, who use it’s Holo Lens augmented reality platform to interact with virtual parts.
Microsoft’s endeavours with Renault-Nissan and Volvo have been going much better than the one they had undertaken about three years ago – the futile efforts to emulate and create something along the lines of Apple’s CarPlay system. They’d called it the Windows In The Car concept, and that ambitious project couldn’t really be transformed into anything close to a real entertainment system.
This deal with Toyota, which we can assume would include more and more components of a connected car, would only take Microsoft’s efforts a few steps further.
As to where they are headed is concerned, to be honest, Microsoft, unlike the other Silicon Valley bigwigs Apple and Google, is not a company that would really consider making their own cars. They have always been software oriented, and have revelled in knowing that their software gives life to the world’s most advanced hardware.
That’s what they did with computers, successfully, and phones, unsuccessfully. To make their stand on this clearer, Microsoft executive, Erich Endersen stated, “Microsoft doesn’t make cars. We are working closely with today’s car companies to help them meet customer demands”.
That said, the tech giant is certainly working on increasing its sphere of influence across telematics, infotainment and other related systems in connected cars. Harman revealed not too long ago that it is working to integrate Microsoft’s Office 365 into its infotainment systems.
Nissan and BMW, too, are working on bringing Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant to their cars. With this new deal, we might see other car companies hopping onto the bandwagon soon, if all goes well.
Google Pummelling Symantec To Ensure Better Internet Encryption
For all that world may consider Google to be, it is definitely the Dean of the Internet, in many ways.
In that role, and to drive better user privacy and internet security, Google has taken on Symantec over it’s (Symantec’s) role in ensuring the sanctity of the encrypted portions of the internet.
Google, who had previously accused Symantec and its partners of mis-issuing tens of thousands of certificates that certified encrypted web connections, quietly announced this week that it (Google) is downgrading the level and length of trust that Chrome will place in certificates issued by Symantec.
Before we delve into this further, let us pause for a moment and help you understand the kinds of certificates we’re referring to, what Symantec does and what are the implications of mis-issuing certificates for encrypted web connections.
Well, there are two kinds of sites usually, the ones with HTTP, and the ones with HTTPS prefixes. First up, the same site can have two different versions or just one, depending on their own motives.
HTTPS connections are usually found on banking sites, login pages, and sites which need an extra layer of security. This ‘S’ in the address, the extra layer of security is certified by deputed Certificate Authorities, who verify the identity of the website’s owner and check for some mandatory security protocols having been adhered to by the website, and only then, issue the site a certificate authenticating that they are who they say they are and that the necessary protocols are in place.
Think of this like a passport issuing authority.
Once a passport is issued by a legit authority, everyone in the world considers it valid and thus deems the information on the passport as being valid. The onus of checking the information lies upon the authority in the equation.
Similarly, once a certificate has been issued, everyone in the world is expected to trust it. But there is a catch.
The onus of the verification, in the Internet world also lies on the certificate issuing authority. Without their authentication of a website owner’s identity, users can’t trust that the site on the other end of their HTTPS connection is really who they think it is. Makes sense, up until here?!
Well, Symantec is a giant in the world of these certificate authorities. It’s certificates vouched for about 30% of the entire internet, in 2015! So we must believe that they have been doing their job properly and they are trustable.
Google, however, does not think so.
Google claims that Symantec has issued at least 30,000 certificates without properly verifying the websites that received the certificates. The allegation is thus quite grave. Not only does it undermine the trust users can place in the encrypted web, it also leaves the user in a limbo, not knowing if the sites they have been relying on owing to the HTTPS tag, can really after all be trusted, or not.
Google has been claiming that Symantec’s behavior failed to meet the baseline requirements for a Certificate Authority, creating what it termed as “significant risk for Google Chrome users“.
To add to this, Ryan Sleevi, a Software Engineer at Google, said, “Symantec allowed at least four parties access to their infrastructure in a way to cause certificate issuance, did not sufficiently oversee these capabilities as required and expected, and when presented with evidence of these organizations’ failure to abide to the appropriate standard of care, failed to disclose such information in a timely manner or to identify the significance of the issues reported to them. These issues, and the corresponding failure of appropriate oversight spanned a period of several years, and were trivially identifiable from the information publicly available or that Symantec shared“.
Google also pointed out that Symantec partnered with other CAs, like CrossCert (Korea’s Electronic Certificate Authority), Certisign Certificatadora Digital, Certsuperior S. de R. L. de C.V., and Certisur S.A., and did not follow proper verification procedures. This allegedly led to the mis-issuance of 30,000 certificates.
This is not the first time that Symantec and Google have gone head to head. The spat has been on for over a year now.
Back in October 2015, Google discovered that Symantec has mis-issued certificates for Google itself and for Opera Software. “Our investigation uncovered no evidence of malicious intent, nor harm to anyone”, Symantec had stated back then. But that did not allay Google’s concerns.
Google, has now taken steps to mitigate possible impacts to users. It stated that it will begin the process of distrusting Symantec-issued certificates in its Chrome browser.
It is said that Google will update Chrome’s code, which would reduce the length of time the browser trusts a Symantec-issued certificate. This would then also over time, require sites to replace old Symantec certificates with newer, trusted ones.
“Since January 19, the Google Chrome team has been investigating a series of failures by Symantec Corporation to properly validate certificates. Over the course of this investigation, the explanations provided by Symantec have revealed a continually increasing scope of misissuance with each set of questions from members of the Google Chrome team; an initial set of reportedly 127 certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 certificates, issued over a period spanning several years,” Sleevi wrote in a forum post outlining the case against Symantec. “This is also coupled with a series of failures following the previous set of misissued certificates from Symantec, causing us to no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec over the past several years.”
Symantec’s response so far has been: “Google’s statements about our issuance practices and the scope of our past mis-issuances are exaggerated and misleading. For example, Google’s claim that we have mis-issued 30,000 SSL/TLS certificates is not true. In the event Google is referring to, 127 certificates — not 30,000 — were identified as mis-issued, and they resulted in no consumer harm. While all major CAs have experienced SSL/TLS certificate mis-issuance events, Google has singled out the Symantec Certificate Authority in its proposal even though the mis-issuance event identified in Google’s blog post involved several CAs”.
Symantec has also stated that they are open to discussion with Google, to try to resolve the situation. Symantec has purportedly cut ties with four of the firms associated with the mis-issued certificates. That might help them save some face with Google when they do come to a discussion table.
“Symantec will vigorously defend the safe and productive use of the Internet, including minimizing any potential disruption caused by the proposal in Google’s blog post”, the company said.
For website owners who currently use Symantec to verify their HTTPS connections: You should, in the meantime, start taking steps to ensure Chrome users can access your sites without getting hit with security warnings!
After so very long, Apple has done a “… One more thing”!!
Unexpectedly, out of the blue, well… red, there now is a new iPhone in town – and it’s Red!
It’s not a tinge of red, not metallic pink, it is all red. The back, the buttons, the fiddly little nano-SIM tray – all red!
There’s so much red on it, that you almost don’t notice that the front is white. The thing I love most about it? The silver Apple logo around the back. It just shimmers and pops against the gorgeous red!
Why am I gushing? Well, time to be honest – there’s never been any other exciting colour on iPhones, since… well, forever.
They created Rose Gold (and every other brand suddenly followed suit) – I know, I know. But for some reason, the pinkish phone never really struck my fancy. It was too, well pale and subtle. There’s never been a stand out, “look at me” colour, on an iPhone. Nor a cheerful one.
Part of the (RED) campaign to help fight HIV/AIDS, this phone puts the focus right back on the noble cause, and how much some of the largest people and brands are committing to it.
A portion of the proceeds from every sale go toward the Global Fund, a group committed to fighting AIDS around the world.
I don’t know if you know this or not, Apple has been working with PRODUCT(RED) for about ten years now.
“For 10 years, our partnership with (RED) has supported HIV/AIDS programmes that provide counselling, testing and medicine that prevents the transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child. So far, we’ve raised over US$130 million through the sale of our (RED) products. Now we’re introducing iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition. Every purchase brings us a step closer to an AIDS‑free generation“, (RED)’s website states.
So, all the iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED bang is for a good cause in a way.
If you’re still in the dark about the changes on this newest iPhone – well there aren’t any others. Except for the exterior colour, nothing else has changed on the devices. All the interior hardware and functionality remain the same – which is alright, because we’re sure they already have the iPhone 8 (or whatever it’ll finally be called) in the pipeline, and most Apple users would be expecting the real changes there. I don’t think the world would’ve settled for just this novelty on the iPhone 8.
Who all got this treatment? Well, only the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. All the other iPhones bear only the existing livery – clearly Apple’s giving you yet another reason to ditch that old iPhone!
Speaking of which – will folks ditch their current phone? Well, to be honest, I and my boss, almost did. Instantly.
Realistically though, we do not have a clear answer to how many people would trade in their current devices for a ‘novelty’. We do have some speculation though – much like the iPhone SE last year filled in the gap in the 12 month product cycle, this novelty iPhone too, is kind of filling in the blank pause, till September 2017.
A lot of smartphone brands launch multiple models through the course of the year, but Apple doesn’t like to satiate demand that’s building up during summer. They let it simmer till Fall. But with mid-term product launches two years running, maybe, just maybe, they’re tentatively agreeing to the notion that 12 months becomes to long a period of silence.
Further, while the new Red iPhone may be more a product of vanity than a product of genius, it sure does fill in another void nicely – that left behind by the Note7 crash-and-burn. In fact putting out a ‘new’ variant just before the Samsung Galaxy S8 has even been formally announced, may be another show of genius on Mr. Cook’s part.
He is known to be a shrewd operator, no matter what, who says!
Moving on, also released alongside the iPhone 7 PRODUCT(RED) was a 9.7 inch iPad that comes with an upgraded processor, and a dramatic price cut. The new iPad starts at USD 330 (for 32 GB), down from USD 400 previously.
Apple also increased the minimum storage on the iPhone SE to 32 GB (up from the previous lowest of 16 GB), without increasing the price.
There’s more. The new iPad Mini will only come in a 128 GB model, and that certainly is a lot of memory capacity for a tiny tablet!
You can get the iPhone RED starting March 24th, at USD 750 for the 128 GB iPhone model and at USD 870 for the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus model. If memory’s failing you, these are the exact same prices of the non-RED models. Sweet!
Last, and I particularly love this part – for the first time ever, the new model launches in India, on the very same day as it does in the U.S. Now, that makes me proud! Apple finally proves that India’s just as important as the Dollar economy!!
In a move that looks straight from a chewed out heist film, authorities at Apple yesterday awoke to an unknown entity’s claims that they’d broken into almost 300 million iCloud and Apple email accounts.
The hackers are demanding ransom from Apple, threatening to wipe out all the accounts’ data if not paid. Most of the accounts supposedly compromised are of Apple’s @icloud and @me domains.
The hackers, quaintly naming themselves as the “Turkish Crime Family” first asked for 75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum (which is another form of online cryptic currency like Bitcoin).
Alternatively, they have asked for USD 100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange of leaving the data intact. The deadline for providing the demanded ransom is April 7.
The threat came to light, when Motherboard published the incident and it’s contact with one of the hackers. The hacker supposedly told Motherboard “I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing”.
To prove the veracity of their claims, hackers provided Motherboard with screenshots of the alleged email exchange between them and Apple’s security team. Later, they also provided Motherboard access to one of the accounts that was used to contact the security team.
According to the chats contained in the email account provided to Motherboard, a week ago, Apple’s security team asked the hackers to share a sample of the data set. The contact seems authentic, as the return path of the email address bore routes via an @apple.com domain server.
They also uploaded a YouTube video, where one can see a hacker controlling a senior citizen’s iCloud account, including her backed-up images, along with access to the remote-wipe ability.
Despite the alleged gravity of the events, security agencies are considering the evidence as “inconclusive”, at best.
One wonders that this might be just an elaborate bluff to extort money from the company. The name of the group sounds amateurish at best, the ransom amount seems disproportionate and the evidence of break-in is quite flimsy.
But most tellingly, the claim of hacking these many accounts on their own, seems braggadocios, at best. One of the major inconsistencies in their stories is that one of them claims 559 million compromised accounts, another, a mere 300 million.
Last, they’ve not provided any further evidences to back up to their rather lofty claims, except for the aforementioned YouTube video.
To quote Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com, “Whether the group has the means to do as it claims is debatable – supposed correspondence with Apple and a YouTube video showing the takeover of an account may well have been faked – but what is not up for debate is Apple’s resolve to not pay a ransom to make the group back down. While Apple’s stance that it will ‘not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law‘ is the right one to take, I cannot help but wonder if the option to pay $100,000 in iTunes gift cards, rather than $75,000 in untraceable crypto-currency, could have been explored in association with law enforcement”.
Even more interesting is Apple’s response to the ransom request – Apple itself threatened to send the archived communication data to the authorities and retorted, “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law”.
These type of break-ins are not new, nor are their ways novel.
Reading the email-exchange on the account provided to Motherboard, it is plain to see, that the hackers approached multiple media outlets shopping around for any one of them to listen to, and take the hackers’ threat seriously. Finally, one of them agreed to publish the story.
Clearly, This is one of those attempts to put pressure on Apple using someone’s journalistic integrity.
Apple has told Fortune magazine that there was no evidence of a break-in into their systems, including iCloud and Apple ID’s.
“The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services”, the company said.
One of the security analysts who had access to the sample data shared by the hackers found that most of the accounts being claimed as hacked actually contained data that matched information obtained during the LinkedIn breach.
For those of you who don’t know about this, last year it became know that LinkedIn was gradually hacked into since 2012 and almost 100 million accounts’ data was stolen. This was a huge blow not only to LinkedIn but to other platforms too.
Here’s why. Most of us use the same password(s) across most of our online accounts. Now, in any case of any of your accounts being breached, your common password can easily be used to access your other personas and accounts online, and your data can be stealthily stolen, long after the breach comes to light.
Assuring the customers of their safety, Apple’s spokesperson has assured that the usual methods and standard procedures of safety have been taken.
“The company is actively monitoring to prevent unauthorised access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”
Till now, there has been no further news of any progress, one way or another. We’ll keep our ear to the ground and let you know what we hear. Meanwhile, we highly, highly recommend you immediately trigger two-factor authentication on all your iCloud, Me and Google/Gmail accounts!
Takes only a minute, but you’ll sleep better.
Sony Xperia L1 With 5.5 inch 720p Screen And Android 7.0, Launched
Sony recently took the world by surprise as it unexpectedly launched a new entry-level smartphone dubbed the Xperia L1 as the successor to the original Xperia L that was launched way back in 2013.
For those who follow the rumour mills though, the launch of this device isn’t completely out of the blue, as a Russian certification listing had pointed towards the release of this new device, a week before the launch of the Xperia L1, .
This new device keeps with the tradition of Sony’s design language of bezel-less displays and thus the Xperia L1 too, sports an almost edge-to-edge 5.5 inch 720p IPS LCD display.
Disappointingly though, it also means that Sony’s continued with the tradition of having pretty thick bezels at the top and bottom, much like in the newly launched Xperia XZ Premium and Xperia XA Ultra smartphones that were released last month, at the MWC.
Under the hood, the Xperia L1 is powered by a 1.45 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737T processor coupled with a Mali T720 MP2 graphics processor and 2 GB of RAM.
On the storage front, there is 16 GB of inbuilt memory which is expandable. The Xperia L1 runs on the latest Android Nougat software. What’s more, Sony has also added – to the budget smartphone, which adapts the device to your surrounding and predicts what you’d want to do or which app you’d like to use at that particular time.
For shutterbugs, the Xperia L1 carries a decent 13 megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera. Connectivity options on this dual-sim smartphone include, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, A-GPS, GLONASS, and USB Type-C for charging and data syncing.
The Xperia L1 packs Android Nougat but at the same time, disappointingly, is driven by just a 2,620 mAh battery. This battery is also supported by Sony’s proprietary Qnovo Adaptive Charging and for times when you are on the go and running low on battery, you can always switch to Sony’s STAMINA mode to make the most of your dying battery.
The interesting part on this recently-launched phablet is that while it shares it’s name etymology with a four year old model, it is not very similar as its predecessor. This of course is a win-win situation for users as no one would really want their 2017 device to have specs reminiscent from such an old model.
The Xperia L which came in with a 4.30 inch display size, was powered by 1 GHz dual-core MSM8230 processor coupled with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. It was powered by a 1750 mAh battery (my garage door opener has more battery nowadays).
Well now you must be thankful that the Xperia L1 is a huge upgrade to the Xperia L and hasn’t really inherited any of the features from its predecessor!
Target segment wise, the Xperia L1 has been launched only in select markets in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, North America and Latin America, at the moment. Whether Sony decides to roll out Xperia L1 in Indian market is something which is uncertain presently and might also depend on the performance of this device in other markets.
The price bracket for this smartphone hasn’t been pinned down as yet, though the company has made it clear that the device will be an affordable one, saying the phablet will be available from mid-April at an “accessible price point”.
Apple Pulled Up For Fixing Prices Of iPhones In Russia
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service conducted a rigorous seven month long investigation into Apple’s trade and pricing practices, for it’s products being sold in the region.
The investigation found Apple’s Russian unit guilty of fixing prices for a variety of its iPhone models across retailing enterprises within the country.
The agency implied that Apple’s indigenous unit in the country had reportedly told retailers to ‘hold the prices’ of their iPhones; in the event that Apple’s demanded prices were not met or if the prices were ‘inappropriate’, the company had the discretionary power to terminate key contracts with the aforementioned retailers for not conforming to its pricing guidelines.
As ascertained from the report, the prices were fixed for a period of three months, which worked significantly in Apple’s favour. The models that were affected include notable iPhone versions including that of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. However, the agency is reported to not have found any signs of price manipulation and coordination for the current iPhone 7 model.
Apple has been granted three months to appeal the ruling, if at all. And on the occasion that the company does contest the ruling but loses the appeal, it could be fined around 15% on the sales that were attributed to the Russian market.
The value of the fine might not be something that would worry Apple’s executives and hence, the production and supply cycles are not likely to experience any notable changes. That said, the report and it’s conclusions will definitely be a slur on the brand’s normally-whistle-clean image.
There’s some good news on this matter though.
The Federal Antimonopoly Service has already appreciated the level of cooperation it received from the multinational technology company, and has also stated that Apple has confirmed it’s cessation of these practices with immediate effect.
Apple has also instrumented a set of training protocols and regulatory antitrust compliance norms to prevent the company from indulging in similar activities in the future.
Now, let me attempt to explain why Apple enlisted such practices in the first place.
Perhaps the reason why Apple exercised such practices is because it has consistently positioned itself as a luxury brand producing premium products, and could hence charge a premium price for them.
This market strategy has found itself to be successful almost everywhere, but revenue-hungry retailers deliberately selling their products at prices lower than the MSRP tend to undercut those efforts and hence damage the company’s goals to promote itself as a luxury brand.
On the other side of the spectrum, this isn’t the first time the Russian authorities, especially the, FAS has held a top smartphone company accountable.
Google had been fined just a year back, for stopping phone manufacturers from installing rival search engines on their phone’s home page. The fine amounted to about 438 million roubles which amounts to around USD 7.4 million. This penalty ended up allowing other competitors to enter the market and stopped the multinational firm from exercising a monopoly over it.
Back to Apple. In August, when the company was initially being investigated, it had maintained that it was innocent and that the retailers were free to set their own prices. However, the stance had changed recently. An Apple spokesperson speaking to the Times said that Apple has “worked closely with FAS during their investigation” and is “glad to put this matter behind us.”
Apple will surely move forward while giving fairly less weightage to this as a problem.
A lot of us, when buying a new smartphone, look for one with a Qualcomm processor in it.
Recognised as a hallmark of a great device, what most people do not realise is that Qualcomm, in addition to the processor, also makes and provides a lot of other vital components of your phone. The System on Chip (SoC) also hosts the memory controllers, modems, and other parts of the chipsets.
There’s more, Qualcomm’s proffer also include features like RF front-ends, Quick Charge capabilities, its digital-to-analog audio converters, Wi-Fi products, touchscreen controllers, and fingerprint readers, and the software and drivers used to make all of this stuff work.
Despite doing so much for of the heavy lifting in smartphones and tablets, Qualcomm seems to only be getting credit for a minuscule portion of it’s arsenal. It is precisely to drive this point home that Qualcomm had decided to rebrand it’s wares, and is asking the world to stop calling its processors “processors”.
All considered, Qualcomm’s band of products truly are “platforms” now. A that’s the moniker that Qualcomm would like you to use too.
So basically when you refer to “Snapdragon”, you’re actually going to be referring to the entire hardware and software platform that ships in a device with a Snapdragon SoC in it.
Qualcomm said it best: “…the word is an inadequate representation of what the technology actually is, and the solutions that tens of thousands of Qualcomm Technologies innovators have worked on. In truth, Snapdragon is more than a single component, a piece of silicon, or what many would misinterpret as the CPU; it’s an anthology of technology, comprising hardware, software, and services that are not fully captured in a word like “processor.” That is why Qualcomm Technologies is refining our terminology by referring to Snapdragon as a “platform” instead of a processor.”
Just to clarify, again, it is not that Qualcomm just added these to its list of products; they have been making and putting these in our phones for more than a while now, now they would just like for us to remember it!
This is not the first time Qualcomm is rebranding itself. What they are doing now is only an extreme version of what they did back in 2015, when they got rid of “Gobi” modem branding and started using the all-hailed “Snapdragon“.
Another thing they are doing is repositioning the branding to refer only to their premium processor. Oh, sorry! Premium platforms!
The Snapdragon 200-series, which is already quite rare and is used only in very low-end devices, would no longer have the Snapdragon name associated taking it. It would now be called Qualcomm Mobile.
As far as the midrange Snapdragon 400 and 600 tiers and the high-end Snapdragon 800 tier are concerned, there’s been no particular rechristening announced for those. So it is safe to assume that the only rebranding they are getting is not being called “processors” anymore.
Truth be told, whether this will make any difference to the consumers in general, is highly questionable. Perhaps for the tech-savvy who like to dig into the information about their devices might find this interesting, and remember it; a phone with a Snapdragon processor already has the weight of the branding for a generic consumer of devices.
What it might do is make Qualcomm’s tech easier to sell to the OEMs, the ones making the phones, and actually buying the tech; it doesn’t really do anything for the kinds of features Qualcomm has already been offering alongside the Snapdragon chips.
To recap, this issue caused the phones to reboot repeatedly, rendering them useless. Apparently, users who got defective units of the phones were refused replacements as their devices were out of warranty, or in some cases, LG replaced them with other faulty ones!
In January last year, LG acknowledge the problem with the G4 and attempted to address the boot loop mishap (after much prodding), claiming that it was the result of “[a] loose contact between components“, and started offering replacements and fixes officially.
The lawsuit highlights that LG undertook a rather meek recall by offering faulty replacements, or denying replacement altogether for out of warranty devices.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that “LG continued to manufacture LG phones with the boot loop defect” even after admission of a hardware defect. The lawsuit also claims that several V10 users also faced the same issue as its “hardware closely resembles the LG G4 with only a few adjustments, such as expanded storage and an additional camera“.
One of the plaintiffs complained in the lawsuit that LG replaced his defective G4 unit twice with faulty units, and his third one also constantly freezes. The suit demands “damages in an amount to be determined at trial” and hopes that the federal judge order a “comprehensive program to repair all LG phones containing the boot loop defect“, in addition to some compensation for harassing the customer.
LG is yet to respond to this lawsuit.
Tech giant Intel recently announced that it would purchase Mobileye, the Israeli automotive technology company for a sum of USD 15.3 billion. The deal which is expected to take roughly nine months to close, is not a real surprise for the market.
Intel and Mobileye have been working together since 2016 in a bid to provide the world with an efficient solution for technology for self-driven vehicles. Once the acquisition deal is finalized, Intel’s subsidiary, the Automated Driving Group will be integrated into Mobileye and will function from Jerusalem.
Mobileye, has been a marquee in the automated technology industry. It entered the U.S. stock market, Nasdaq, in 2014 and now commands a market cap of USD 10.5 billion.
The company today specializes in technology and services ranging from mapping, sensor fusion, crowd-sourced high definition maps (expected to start from 2018), front and rear facing camera technology.
In addition, Mobileye has strong relationships with a vast number of automakers which includes a tally of 27 marquee car manufacturers like Audi and BMW with whom 10 production programs have already been initiated respectively.
Clearly, the company is a strategic and significant buy for Intel.
In a statement, Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel suggested that the acquisition was a great step forward for its consumers, the automotive industry as well as their shareholders. He also elaborated the functioning relationship between the two companies and said, “Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers”.
The deal also deems that Prof. Amnon Shashua, the CTO and co-Founder would head Intel’s autonomous driving division and the acquired organization, being a part of Intel shall be based in Israel, which would also assist Intel in working easily with the other acquisitions it has in mind.
They intend to acquire Omek Interactive for its gesture-based specialized technology and Replay Technologies for its 3D video capabilities, both of which are based in Israel. It is also said to be interested in acquiring Ginger Softwares, a personal assistant software.
Mobileye’s co-founder, President and CEO, said that this move would benefit their consumers with a technology that would be safer, reliable and less costly. He also added that it would do so by “pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry”.
The industry itself is booming over the course of the last few years as it has seen major acquisitions and partnerships like that of Samsung’s announcement to acquire Harman, last year, and Intel’s announcement of acquiring 15% stake in the mapping company HERE.
Intel is also in the process of acquiring Yogitech and Itseez for integrating their specialized technical knowhow for the betterment of safety and navigational functionalities in their automated cars.
Intel itself has dedicated a sum of USD 250 million for the automated vehicle space. Like Intel, Valeo, the automotive parts giant, announced that it’s acquiring Germany based startup Gestigon,that develops in-car 3D image processing software that will make communication between the driver and the vehicle easier and efficient.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that the autonomous automobile is in for an extremely interesting few years!
Samsung Commits To Monthly Security Updates - Only For U.S. Phones
Following the reveal of some frightening security vulnerabilities in Android, a lot of smartphone manufacturers were quick to announce that they would be issuing monthly security updates to their devices, to ensure that their phones are constantly up to date against threats discovered in the interim.
The good news for Samsung owners is that if you live in the U.S. and you own an unlocked Galaxy handset, Samsung is committing to issue monthly security updates to your devices.
This isn’t to say that Samsung never cared about security, it’s just that their updates weren’t particularly frequent.
In a statement obtained by the folks at ZDNet, Samsung said, “Due to various circumstances, we have been releasing security updates for unlocked (open) Galaxy devices in the U.S. on a quarterly basis. However, we have now resolved the challenges; and we are committed to releasing security updates for those devices on a monthly basis.”
Clearly this is good news and for some Galaxy handset owners; further Samsung has also revealed that it’s March security update should be coming soon for unlocked handsets like the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge – though it remains to be seen if it will include the Nougat update with it.
It also remains to be seen if Samsung will really be able to keep to this schedule for real.
Apple Hires Respected iPhone Security Researcher To Enhance iOS Security
Privacy has become an issue-paramount, in today’s digital world.
Not only are privacy advocates driving attendance to potential concerns, now privacy issues also rest at the center of concern for everyday users of all things digital.
Be it smartphones, laptops, email, social media or even app-security – the risks are manifold.
So it’s no surprise that tech brands are starting to pay increasing attention to privacy and security in all that they do. This reflects best in Apple’s latest hiring of Jonathan Zdziarski.
Zdziarski is an iOS security researcher who has spent several years independently researching security and privacy hacks in Apple’s operating systems.
Known as NerveGas in the hacker community, Zdziarski is the person who pointed out security backdoors to Apple’s iOS, back in 2014.
He also provided technical expertise during Apple’s clash with the FBI last year, following the San Bernardino shooting – by taking apart aspects of FBI’s case.
He”s so good at what he does, that he’s even published his findings in full-scale books; like one book on forensic analysis and recovering data on the smartphones and another book that explains how to write software for smart devices.
The news of his employment with Apple came through via his personal blog, where he announced:
“I’m pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a position with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team, and am very excited to be working with a group of like-minded individuals so passionate about protecting the security and privacy of others.
This decision marks the conclusion of what I feel has been a matter of conscience for me over time. Privacy is sacred; our digital lives can reveal so much about us – our interests, our deepest thoughts, and even who we love. I am thrilled to be working with such an exceptional group of people who share a passion to protect that“.
We aren’t yet sure what capacity he will be joining the tech megabrand at, but one can safely assume that he’ll be working on making the already quite secure iOS ecosystem, even more so.
Apple’s stance on user privacy and security became quite clear last year when their tiff with FBI was dragged to court in a prolonged proceeding. They refused to help FBI crack into the phone, and they took the stand until the last bit, until FBI managed to get an external source to crack the phone for them.
Zdziarski’s hiring could very well be to ensure that if another such situation were ever to arise, no external source whatsoever would be able to crack into the phone again.
Apple has long been boasting of their phones being so secure that even they (Apple themselves) can’t crack into them, or so is their claim on the latest devices and with iOS 10’s security capabilities. So, if some external source has been able to crack into an iPhone, that’s quite an egg on Apple’s face and could impact their device sales and most definitely, iOS’ image in the marketplace.
Zdziarski would be just the right person to make things better and even more inviolable.
Apple has, for now, declined to comment on the hire. But it certainly makes sense for them to bring in-house one of the world’s foremost experts on their technology who has proven his grain time and again, especially by pointing out things that Apple got wrong in the first place.
Exploding Headphones Reignite Fears About Batteries On Planes
Not many people have forgotten the fear caused by the Samsung Galaxy Note7’s unpredictable and explosive nature. In fact, I am aware of many, many people who no longer charge their phones by their bedside, and others who absolutely abhor the idea of charging their phones at night.
I recently learnt something interesting – as per mandates from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), logistics companies are restricted from carrying any merchandise/packages that contain Lithium-Ion batteries out of India. Let me clarify – Individuals cannot ship out phones, powerbanks or even battery-powered hard-disks etc.; while corporates with due licenses and documentation provided by relevant ministries can export such products, but after much paperwork and disclaimers.
The point is, that the risks of unexpected behaviour by batteries within portable devices (most of which tend to be Lithium-Ion based concoctions) has shaken people’s and authorities’ confidence.
Barely had the Note7 fiasco settled, fears were recently renewed after a pair of headphones exploded on a flight to Australia.
A lady was badly burned by a pair of battery-powered headphones that exploded while she was sleeping.
“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face“, she told the ATSB. “I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck. I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire“.
The poor lady received burns across her face, neck, lips and hand as the headphones caught fire.
The Australia Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) reported that the explosion was caused by the batteries in the headphones. It further went on to describe that the battery and cover had melted and were stuck to the floor of the aircraft!
The ATSB has however refrained from mentioning the brand of the headphones in question.
Do we know what exactly happened?
Not exactly. But were we to go with the best guess, we’d surmise the following:
Since we do not know what brand the headphones were, we’d think that the headphones used Lithium-Ion batteries, which are susceptible to what’s known as thermal runaway.
What basically happens is that any increase in the temperature of the batteries, regardless of the source being internal or external, causes the electrolytes to react with the battery’s other chemicals. This creates a gas, which in turn further increases the heat. The situation can escalate to the point of it turning into an explosion and fire.
We can’t be certain that this is what happened in this case, but the description from the authority and the victim does lead us to believe that our guess is viable.
This is what reportedly happened with the Samsung Galaxy Note7 too, as well as in an earlier case of exploding hoverboards (that were also banned on flights some time ago due to the spontaneous, unprovoked explosions and fire incidents).
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 has the dubious distinction of being the trigger for airlines to have banned it, and they remain on high alert and low-tolerance in this regard.
With this new report, concerns regarding the same happening with other battery powered devices have resurfaced and are causing a fair bit of consternation – in fact, the Australia Transport Safety Bureau has issued a general warning to the public at large.
So the question is, will your headphones catch fire? Well, most likely not! But do watch out for anomalies, especially if it starts to head up significantly. You should be more or less good to go otherwise.
I’m curious to see if this sets the fuse off and if other countries and authorities take similar decisions and impose restrictions. We’ll let you know as we hear more
With Mobile Data wars reaching an all new zenith, Airtel has been advertising a ‘surprise’ for its users whereby under a new ‘Free Internet’ offer, postpaid users could get up to 30 GB of Data free across three months. Starting March 13, customers can utilise 10 GB Data per month for three months.
This is the ‘surprise’ offer that Airtel has been teasing rather loudly for quite some time now.
This offer can only be availed using their ‘MyAirtel’ app, which can be easily downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store in case you don’t have the app.
The homepage of the app is dominated by a clickable tagline saying, ‘Enjoy India’s fastest network with free Internet. Claim now’.
In order to avail the benefit of this offer you can simply click on ‘Claim Now’, but all of this has to be done before March 31 – yeah, just like the Reliance Jio Prime Membership.
However, as happens with every “free” offer in this world, there is a little asterisk attached with this one as well. We say this because not all users are reportedly getting the whole 30 GB – some users have gotten less data. In some cases, the users don’t get a message notifying them about the free data, at all!
The best-fit solution to all this is to reach out to Airtel’s customer support team if you get stuck with a offer not percolating into your account correctly. Airtel tends to be a fairly good with their customer experience (provided you take the initiative of reaching out to them!).
If you think you’ve seen this earlier, you’re probably right. This offer is identical to Vodafone’s data plans from late last year. Vodafone was offering 10 GB of data free for 30 days at the regular price they’d charge for 1 GB of Mobile Data. The major difference here being that Airtel is offering these 10 Gigs of data for free.
Not only this, Airtel has also announced that it will be offering free incoming calls and SMS when you travel around the country, and are also going to stop charging any “premium charges” on outgoing calls starting April 1. Data consumption too, will be at the usual “home” i.e. your residential area’s rate as you roam across India.
Airtel, in order to retain its existing customers and to lure new ones, had earlier doubled monthly Data under their ‘My Infinity’ plan. In fact, prepaid recharge packs were also rolled out that offered 1 GB bundled Data every day!
Take for instance, a plan by Airtel that at INR 345 offers free local and STD calls to any network coupled with 1 GB of data which comes with its own set of terms and conditions, as the plan constrains you to consume 500 MB data during the day and the balance 500 MB data between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
While the INR 345 plan inhibits your data usage to some extent, the INR 549 pack comes with 1 GB of data per day without any cap on timings.
Not just Airtel, other network providers like Vodafone and Idea have also slashed their data tariffs to stave off competition which has escalated since Reliance Jio entered the scene in September 2016. However, it seems that Jio’s Prime membership plan looks invincible when compared to either prepaid or postpaid plans by other network providers.
Under Jio’s Prime Programme, by spending INR 303, users can get access to unlimited Data, while 28 GB is available at 4G speeds. The Fair Usage Policy trigger under this programme is set to 1 GB per day, beyond which the surfing experience will get throttled to a much lower speed
Another plan offers 2 GB data daily for a month at INR 499. This plan is of course the cheapest plan available presently, with its free voice calling and unlimited SMS’ atop the Data offer.
Reliance Jio has also assured the customers that it will keep designing its data plans in such a manner that the users can always get 20% more value as opposed to other service providers.
Vodafone’s INR 1,299 plan that offers 3,000 minutes of local + STD calling and around 8 GB of data. Idea, though, doesn’t have any ‘awesome’ 4G data plans up their sleeve, as of now. It has announced free incoming calls on domestic roaming and unveiled international roaming value packs, though.
In case you are wondering why this ‘surprise’ by Airtel suddenly, then as per Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, this offer is a celebration of the fact that Airtel was adjudged as India’s fastest mobile network by Ookla. So now you know this is Airtel’s way of sharing their happiness with you.
“You know our celebrations would be incomplete without you. And we want to thank our valued postpaid customer, you, for being part of our journey. Because words don’t suffice, we would like to give you an Airtel Surprise” said Vittal.
Game Of Lawsuits: Oculus' John Carmack Sues ZeniMax For $22.5 Million
The feud between Oculus and ZeniMax Media seems to be heating up once again, with Oculus’ CTO, John Carmack, having sued his former employer for earnings that he claims are still owed to him.
Looking at things in the larger picture, this suit might appear to be an act of contrition on the part of Oculus after having lost the USD 500 million lawsuit to ZeniMax last month, however it appears that that is not quite so.
Carmack’s suit against ZeniMax Media is for USD 22.5 million, which he states is the amount that is due to be paid to him for his portion of the 2009 sale of his game studio id Software, known for such pioneering video game classics as Doom and Quake.
The lawsuit also reveals that ZeniMax paid USD 150 million for the game studio.
Carmack worked for ZeniMax Media, a game publisher behind such titles as Skyrim, until late 2013 when his contract expired. It was then that he got on to Oculus VR, a virtual reality development firm, which has now been acquired by Facebook.
Carmack claims ZeniMax Media has not paid the remaining sum due to, what the suit calls, “a series of allegations regarding claimed violations of Mr. Carmack’s Employment Agreement”, this assumedly relates to ZeniMax’s suit against Oculus regarding the theft of trade secrets.
It is this part that makes it seemingly linked to the ZeniMax lawsuit against Oculus, which ZeniMax recently won in court.
At the center of the trade secret’s lawsuit, was ZeniMax Media’s assertion that the Virtual Reality technology they had created was used illegally by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey to create the Rift headset (and which subsequently became one of the primary reasons for the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook for USD 2 billion).
While ZeniMax was demanding USD 6 billion as compensation in the case, they were awarded USD 500 million, mostly for copyright infringement.
One assumes that Facebook saw the ruling as not much more than a slap on the wrist.
So, while it is tempting to see Carmack’s lawsuit in this series of events, it actually has an individual standing of its own.
Carmack’s lawsuit goes on to detail that Carmack was set to earn USD 45 million from the sale. Of this amount, half was to be given in monetary payment, and the other half as half a million shares of the common stock of ZeniMax Media.
Carmack’s suit states that though he has received the latter, he is yet to receive the former USD 22.5 million in any form, despite having made multiple formal and informal requests.
What’s ahead for now is that ZeniMax is suing Facebook to stop it from selling Oculus Rift VR headsets, and Facebook is all set to appeal the USD 500 million judgment against them.
Back when ZeniMax had tried to loop Carmack in on the trade secrets lawsuit, he was found to not be guilty of having leaked any trade secrets. He, however, was found to be guilty of having violated ZeniMax’s copyrights.
With that hanging in the background, it would be interesting to see this case unfold.
Will Carmack be paid the money he was promised? Does he even need it, or is this lawsuit the lynchpin on another game of lawsuits between the two companies? Dunno, but we’ll be watching out for you!
Microsoft Decides To Shut Down It's Social Network, So.Cl
Some make their presence felt in their absence.
Microsoft SO.CL has been one of those things in the tech universe – forgotten in plain sight, until its departure.
Back in 2011, when Facebook was a relatively new, wet-behind the ears social network, everyone seemed to be launching its competitors. In fact, Google Plus was launched with that aim in mind. But unlike Google Plus, So.Cl was never meant to be a competitor.
Launched in 2011 by Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs division as a social community (rather than platform), where the objective was “collaborative consumption, not communication”, it was initially for university students.
Later, So.cl opened up to anyone once it had gotten going and subsequently added support for mobile devices, too.
During the initial days and prior to its public launch, many had assumed it to be a Facebook competitor. But it actually used a Facebook log-in to sign up or sign-in to the service. So, in a way, it was just a Facebook app.
If you’re looking for a comparison, the focus on image collages and video made So.cl a little like a Pinterest-style service for visual content. It also carried a tiled look to match the “Metro” design used for Windows 8 on mobile and desktop.
Much like Metro, everybody left So.cl after trying it at a lark, perhaps because it was never really clear what it was for. It ended up mostly being a site to share and discuss random stuff you found on the internet, something you can already do on Facebook. Unlike Facebook, though, it lacked basic features including the ability to simply upload a photo.
Also now that Microsoft also has Linkedin in it’s arsenal, it makes even lesser sense for So.cl to continue to exist.
Anyway, after living a lacklustre existence for almost five years, So.Cl is exiting the arena. In a brief research blog, it informed the users that the site will be shut down on March 15.
“Socl has been a wonderful outlet for creative expression, as well as a place to enjoy a supportive community of like-minded people, sharing and learning together. In supporting you, Socl’s unique community of creators, we have learned invaluable lessons in what it takes to establish and maintain community as well as introduce novel new ways to make, share and collect digital stuff we love”.
Ten years later, when Facebook would be an even bigger giant than it is now, this would be stuff of technological anecdotes. How the world attempted to slow down Facebook by putting competition, and how Facebook decimated them.
So long So.Cl. You were never meant to end with a bang, it was always going to be a whimper.
Lenovo Backtracks 'Moto By Lenovo' Branding, Puts Smartwatches On Hold
It was just last year that Lenovo had announced that it planned to completely re-brand the ‘Moto’ line of devices that they’d acquired a couple years ago from Google, to ‘Moto by Lenovo’, completely dissolving Motorola name.
But with a change in leadership at Lenovo, there is word that the company might be planning to backtrack this branding strategy and let Moto remain pinned with Motorola, and retaining the “bat wing” M logo that has become the face of Moto over the years.
Additionally, word is that Lenovo might also be putting the smartwatches line (subsequent to the second-gen Moto 360) on hold for a while.
In a more surprising (but imminently intelligent) move, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer is also said to be contemplating a switch of all of its subsidiary brands to Moto’s branding. This would also include the sub-brands like Zuk. The switchover, however, is expected to be gradual.
This news comes in the back of other market decisions the company is making under the new leadership. This also includes plans of doubling down on Moto Mods, as well as bringing the Moto Z to more carriers in the US.
Coming back to rumour of Lenovo’s decision to halt any smartwatches for the time being, this ‘decision’ is said to be based on the fact that they did not sell enough smartwatches to justify the existence of the business, and in the highly dynamic smartwatch market, it indeed is hard to survive.
“I don’t want to be in the business doing a product for the sake of doing a product because we need to do a follow-up”, said Motorola Chairman and President, Aymar de Lencquesaing.
But one must be clear that this halt on smartwatches is only towards bringing out new smartwatches to the market. The company will continue to work on the device, with the hope of coming up with something that could be brought to the market at some time in the future.
Lenovo seems to be acting on the instinct to tap into the legacy of the Motorola brand, for starters. Motorola was one of the pioneers of smartphones in the last decade, and their flip phones are an image that most of us can not get out of our heads. Then things went downhill thanks to some poor decisions. Subsequently bought by Google for primarily its patents, Motorola sold off to Lenovo in 2014.
With this decision, the brand might again gain some stability, which it well deserves after having given the market the famed Moto G series of mid-range smartphones that have been rocking the market for many years.
Welcome back, Motorola!
Nokia's Android Smartphones To Be Made In India
The much beloved Nokia recently rose like a phoenix with a slew of Android phones, some of which have been announced, and some of which are still under wraps.
These phones, while not top-drawer devices, still caught the fancy of millions of fans the world over. Built on Android (given that Windows Mobile is a dying platform), these smartphones are from the budget-range of the smartphone spectrum – but built solidly, priced well, and enabled with decent processing capabilities, they may just reestablish Nokia.
The news comes from HMD Global’s India VP Ajey Mehta, who has reportedly said that the smartphones will be manufactured through Foxconn in India.
One could see this as a smart move to get the complete tax benefits in a country that already has quite a big audience for the said phones.
The phones are expected to be in the market by June, and if they are manufactured within the country then the company can avail the tax benefits for the same, and gain itself more return on each buck. “By June, these products will be launched globally and India will serve as a key market for us again. Our attempt is to source 100 per cent from the country because of tax benefits“, said Mehta.
Nokia, the brand, is now run by HMD Global. Constituted by ex-Nokia employees, HMD basically possesses the rights to use the brand name, while being an entirely different company.
Reading some of the assessments post the announcement of this trio from Nokia, one could believe that the trio has not received a very positive feedback from critics. They say that the market has moved on to bigger and better phones, while Nokia is grappling at the basics n all respects – but critics have been wrong before.
There are three facts no one can deny:
So, while Chip-Monks believes there’s a huge market for simpler phones like those that Nokia is trying to remind people of (and it would succeed over time), there is also an undeniable fact that competition in the market is brutal. So, for Nokia’s overly simplified phones to survive, they do, absolutely, need to be priced right and be able to meet the fundamental expectations of the masses.
In such a competitive space then, what might work out well for Nokia, is the nostalgia that is attached to the brand name. HMD has been smart is playing on to that, especially with the announcement that they will be bringing back to the market the quite beloved Nokia 3310.
Now that HMD Global has confirmed that the phones will be manufactured in India, one can be certain that their prices will be proportional to (if not lesser than), those announced for the European markets. One can also be certain that it is not only the brand that will enjoy the benefits of manufacturing in India, but the market as well – seeing how the additional costs of bringing the phone to an international market can be spared.
The devices will be hitting the stores in June this year, and we can be hopeful that Nokia-HMD play this one out intelligently!
Samsung’s Oscars Ads Are Basically A Promise That Its Phones Won't Explode Anymore
Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 debacle and the legal woes that have befallen some of Samsung’s executive management are something that will not be erased from the media’s or the users’ memory for a long time. But, it’s not impossible.
Samsung disappeared into it’s shell a long time after the debacle, with hardly any new releases over the last few months, and even the few that did get released rolled out to the public, did so with nary any fanfare.
Now, Samsung is starting to walk out to the sunshine again. It seems to be doing a lot of small and big things to explain last year’s disaster taking a vow of sorts, to never let that happen again. Clearly, it’s efforts are aimed at re-instilling a sense of faith among its users.
Part of this ‘disaster management’ effort, Samsung spent a lot of money advertising its products at the recent Oscars ceremony. In fact, three commercials were run during the Oscars.
Two 30-second advertisements focus on Samsung’s promise of quality and the fact that its devices undergo rigorous security checks.
The first ad emphasised on the point that quality devices is something that Samsung has a reputation for, and that the company is all set to stake its reputation, promising that forthcoming Samsung devices will not explode in users’ pockets.
“Our phones are extensively tested, retested, and then, tested again,” the first ad claimed. “Innovation is our legacy. Quality is our priority.”
To drive home those words, the commercial sported images of Samsung handsets being exposed to various torture tests. The battery seemed to be a sturdy unit as it was able to tolerate majority of it as the phone was shown being baked in an oven, pierced, dropped and prodded by several contraptions that replicate all sorts of abuse.
The ad sure must have sent home the right message to all the audience present at the Oscars.
The second ad, on the other hand, showcased Samsung’s eight-point battery safety check, which Samsung terms as its harshest safety check ever.
The short commercial though didn’t let out any specific details about the process or the kind of cutting edge technology Samsung has employed, to make all new Galaxy handsets explosion proof.
But the tests indicated in the commercial do speak a lot about Samsung’s priorities in it’s recently revised manufacturing processes.
The sad part of it all is that neither of these two ads include even a minute sneak peak of the much-anticipated Galaxy S8. The ad featuring the eight-point battery test used Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge as illustrations, which still sport a Home button unlike the Galaxy S8 which is rumoured to have embedded fingerprint sensor under the screen itself, instead of a physical home button.
Greedy me – I kept scouting for any form of a sneak peek at the upcoming S8!
A third ad was also aired, but it was slightly different – starring filmmaker Casey Neistat, one of the most popular YouTubers ever.
It showed Neistat standing in a tux as he narrates “The Rest Of Us”, clearly an ode to remind us that most YouTubers don’t have fancy professional cameras or big money to cover production costs, yet they manage to create video content just because they want the world to know their ideas.
“We don’t have big awards shows or fancy cameras, but what we do have are our phones“, Neistat says.
Once again, we got a lot of shots of devices like Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and the Gear 360, but still no Galaxy S8
The aim here seemed to be to strike a chord with the youth who thrive on neo-platforms especially social-media based ones, to present their creative content.
Neistat had played a major role in Samsung’s Oscars presence last year as he walked the red carpet with a prototype of the Gear 360 to demonstrate Samsung’s handheld VR camera to the world.
“Casey has been a partner of ours for some time“, said Samsung CMO Marc Mathieu in an email. Further, “he exemplifies our brand belief, which is ‘Do What You Can’t’. Today, empowered by technology and a can-do attitude, you can accomplish anything“, said Mathieu.
Samsung has lost a lot of goodwill (which is an even bigger hit than it’s USD 5.3 billion bleed) due to the Note7’s explosive demeanour – not many phones (or any other such consumer-level devices) have been banned on airlines, nor can I recall another incident of this magnitude that caused the eventual scrapping of a product altogether.
Samsung is recovering from a big hit to the solar plexus, and it’s recovery efforts seem will keep pecking at the subliminal message that Samsung devices can be trusted.
Mathieu says it best – “[There will also] be a focus on regaining consumers’ trust, reinforcing the role of our technology in their lives and successfully launching our next flagship devices, all anchored in placing the human—not just the product—first“.
Samsung will also place an increased impetus on customer care to “reinforce its emotional investment and commitment to consumers“.
“We are targeting this generation of doers, people who go out and make things happen“, Mathieu said. “Our goal is to ultimately empower consumers to realize their ambitions. If the phone in your pocket can do anything, so can you“.
Perhaps it is time to let Samsung out of the dog-house. Everybody makes mistakes, don’t they?
Facebook Laying 500 Miles Of Fibre In Africa To Provide Better Internet
Facebook has just partnered with Airtel Uganda and BCS to create about 500 miles of optic fibre in Uganda.
This is being done as an effort to bring more people online, which is clearly Facebook’s biggest mission at this time.
While details about the new initiative are still scanty, what’s clear is that each of the three partners are committing major financial resources to help the plan succeed.
Facebook’s plans to dominate the internet landscape in Africa is an open secret.
Facebook which is already either the first or second most visited site in any African country (according to Alexa statistics), has become synonymous with internet in Africa.
With over 100 million of its 1.8 billion total users being in the African continent, Facebook is not about to slow down its dominance of the digital landscape in Africa.
Two years ago, Google acquired New Mexico-based drone maker Titan Aerospace, the maker of solar-powered drones to distribute internet across parts of the developing world that don’t yet have Internet access, after Facebook failed to buy it.
The project would argument Google’s Project Loon which instead uses orbiting balloons to bring internet connectivity to the developing world.
Meanwhile Facebook acquired Ascenta Consultancy, a U.K. based drone maker and incubated it into it’s not-for-profit venture, Internet.org.
This project at Facebook already has a cluster of star scientists and engineers who formerly worked at NASA and the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
Back to Africa, the chase between Google and Facebook continues.
Google has been laying fibre cable around Kampala since 2013 in a project dubbed Project Link, with the simple goal of building a super-fast, high-capacity fibre network that would enable any local mobile operator or Internet service provider (ISP) to connect more people in Kampala to a faster, more reliable Internet.
However, nothing much can be said of either Facebook’s or Google’s efforts so far to lower internet costs in Uganda or Africa. In Uganda alone internet penetration rates are estimated at 16% as of last year and one gigabyte of prepaid Mobile Data costs the average resident nearly 18% of their monthly income.
African governments have over time become very insecure about their citizens’ usage of social media. During last year’s general presidential election, the Ugandan Government took a major step and shutdown access to social media platforms for apparent national security reasons.
In Kenya, the Communication commission hinted on locking down the internet during August’s presidential elections although the commission has denied such allegations.
Facebook’s relationship with the Ugandan government has been also tested when the social media network refused to turn over the identity of TVO, a re-known whistle blower who’s been very critical of the government.
I know this article seems a little all over the place, but that’s because information isn’t readily available yet, and both Facebook and Google too, are being closelipped about their plans and intentions.
If you recall the furore that Facebook’s internet.org (now called Free Basics) had caused in India, when Facebook came calling at the world’s largest democracy with the same “free/fast internet” spiel, it’s no wonder that both of them are trying to “fly under the radar” at this time.
Whatever the motives, I, for one, am glad that Google and Facebook are helping wire up Africa. Humanity needs to pull together, and for that, there needs to be connectivity and communication.
HTC has been in the news for quite long as there were rumours about the three U-series smartphones in its pipeline. Ahead its official launch on January 12, popular tipster and ROM developer @LlabTooFer made public, HTC’s codenames that were being used for the three devices which are HTC Alpine, HTC Ocean Note and HTC E66.
Now that two of these three smartphones have launched on January 12, we can put all the rumours to rest and see what all HTC’s offering through these new devices.
HTC Alpine a.k.a. HTC U Play
HTC U Play sports a 5.2-inch Full-HD display (1080p) with a MediaTek Helio 64-bit octa-core processor and 4 GB RAM. Memory is expandable up to a whopping 2 TB via microSD card. In terms of software, the device runs on Android Nougat with HTC Sense, offering Google Assistant as well.
For the shutterbug in you, the HTC U Play boasts of a 16 megapixel rear camera which comes loaded with BSI sensor, Phase Detection Auto Focus, Optical Image Stablisation and f/2.0 aperture. Further, it supports Full HD (1080p) video recording at 30fps.
The U Play caters well to selfie aficionados too, as it boasts of a 16 megapixel front camera that comes bundled with UltraPixel mode, BSI sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Just like the rear camera, the secondary camera also supports Full HD 1080p video recording.
The device is sustained by a 2,500 mAh battery enabled with fast charging support (5V/2A) that can offer up to 15 hours of talk-time and up to 427 hours of standby time. Cool!
The 4G VoLTE-enabled HTC U Play will hit the shelves somewhere in mid-March and the 64 GB storage variant will be available for INR 40,000 in Blue, Black, Pink, and White colour variants.
HTC Ocean a.k.a. HTC U Ultra
The HTC U Ultra sports a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2,560×1,440 pixels) Super LCD display along with a secondary 2-inch display with 1040×160 pixels resolution in the same manner as found in LG V20. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Under the hood, the U Ultra is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset paired with 4 GB of RAM.
In India, the U Ultra has been launched in its 64 GB inbuilt storage variant and sadly there will be no 128 GB variant here. Just like U Play, the storage can be expanded up to 2 TB.
Camera-wise, the HTC U Ultra comes endowed with a 12 UltraPixel rear camera with 1.55-micron pixels, a BSI sensor, laser + phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilisation, an f/2.8 aperture, and dual-tone LED flash. For all your video chat needs, the device boasts a 16 megapixel camera with an UltraPixel mode, and a BSI sensor.
The 4G-enabled HTC U Ultra will be available from March 6 in Blue, Black, Pink, and White colour options for INR 60,000.
Things common to the U Ultra and U Play
Both phones come bundled with a one-year insurance that covers liquid as well as physical damage to the smartphones.
Both, HTC U Play and HTC U Ultra utilise USonic technology to deliver high quality audio. Additionally, the phones also pack a pair of USonic earphones, which can detect sonic pulses and adjust the audio accordingly to match each user’s unique ear architecture.
Another USP that the devices share is the Sense Companion feature, which is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based system that, basis the user’s daily routine, figures out recommendations and suggestions. The voice-assisted virtual-assistant will in some ways, be similar to Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S Voice.
But to delineate itself, HTC has gone a step ahead and has claimed that its virtual assistant has the potential to make suggestions just on the basis of user’s calendar or preferences.
HTC E66 a.k.a. HTC One X10
The HTC One X10 is the only smartphone that is still under a shroud of secrecy, since HTC hasn’t outed it yet.
Well, on the basis of previous reports and leaks, this is expected to be a phablet that sports a 5.5-inch display with a Full-HD resolution. Under the hood, the device is expected to be powered by an octa-core 1.9 GHz MediaTek MT6755V/C Helio P10 processor, supported by the Mali T860 graphics processing unit. On the storage front, this device is expected to offer 3 GB RAM coupled with 32 GB of built-in storage.
The cameras on the One X10 are expected to be 16.3 megapixel on the rear and an 8 megapixel unit on the front.
Details about the availability of One X10 aren’t out as yet but we do have a price group in which to place the device. This smartphone is rumoured to be about CNY 1,200 or INR 11,500 (approximately).
The pricing on this one places it in the mid-range smartphone bracket and it might be good enough to give a tough fight to similarly positioned offers from Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Meizu.
HTC struggled to leave its mark in the smartphone industry throughout 2016 despite delivering the HTC 10 which did decently well, but not well enough to dredge HTC out of it’s current slump.
All this clearly implies that HTC’s hopes are now hooked onto the U-series which might help it emerge victorious in this universe of Galaxies and Pixels.
Microsoft Forges Cloud Partnership With Flipkart To Take On Amazon’s AWS
While you were sitting at home, idly passing time, munching on something, watching your favourite show on Netflix, Microsoft and Flipkart cracked a significant, symbiotic deal that would benefit both the parties involved and would also end up providing the users of Flipkart an upgraded, glitch free, smooth experience.
Recently, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella visited India and finalised a deal with Flipkart whereby Flipkart will use Microsoft’s Azure as its exclusive cloud platform. This deal would help Microsoft penetrate the Indian market which is already rife with competition in the cloud storage arena – with Google, IBM and Amazon’s Web Services already battling it out in our superheated startup-rich ecosystem.
“Combining Microsoft’s cloud platform and AI capabilities with Flipkart’s existing services and data assets will enable Flipkart to accelerate its digital transformation in e-commerce and deliver new customer experiences”, said Nadella.
Nadella was all praise for Flipkart at the event in Bangalore. He said, he has “always been an admirer of what Flipkart has done”. He further added that companies like Flipkart have undertaken this project of starting the Second Wave of Technology entrepreneurialism in India. The first wave occurred with Infosys being instituted in the early 80’s, per Nadella.
Flipkart plans to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning and analytics capabilities from Azure to match it up to the likes of Cortana Intelligence Suite and Power BI, in order to tweak its data and put the same to use in advertising, merchandising, marketing and customer service.
Well this definitely sounds like a good news for all of Flipkart’s customers as the company’s adoption of Azure would elevate user experience!
Flipkart has been consistently working in this direction after it faced certain glitches during its first Big Billion Day Sale. To solve problems at their end and to ensure glitch-free experiences to it’s users, Flipkart is following in the footsteps of Facebook and Google and dealing with the same vendors to accomplish the same.
Peeyush Ranjan, Head of Engineering at Flipkart proved this, “We are building the same kind of data centres Facebook and Google have. We are working with the exact same vendors”.
“Given Microsoft’s strong reputation in cloud computing, coupled with scale and reliability, this partnership allows us to leverage our combined strength and knowledge of technology, e-commerce and markets to make online shopping more relevant and enriching,” said Flipkart’s Bansal.
This deal with Flipkart is like a link in the chain for Microsoft, as it has exhibited interest in investing in startups to push its cloud business in India, in the past also.
“The centre of entrepreneurial energy for us in India is around cloud”, said Nadella.
In fact, if recent reports are to be believed then, even Google is attracting Indian startups, considering them as safer bets to meet it’s aim of “next billion users and acqui-hires in high-tech areas”.
All this has been made possible by the kind of conducive environment that India has produced by developments like the implementation of a payment infrastructure built atop Aadhaar using cloud (NPCI) and a diagnostic application (Collaborative Digital Diagnosis System).
It is not that Microsoft Azure is being put to use by a startup like Flipkart for the first time. Quite the contrary – Azure is being increasingly adopted by a lot of startups, – in fact over 2,000 Indian startups have begun using Azure during just the last one year.
To underestimate the status of Azure as potential cloud business contender to Amazon’s Web Services would be a naivety. AWS has been around the corner since 2003 and entered the services space without a trumpet call, but it sure has been the harbinger of cloud revolution.
AWS has made it big by utilising it’s early bird advantage and has managed to bushwhack other established IT players as it enjoys much greater scale, a supremely competent support team and extreme reliability. Consequently, it enjoys a portfolio that constitutes over one third of the market, as opposed to single-digit shares for both Microsoft and Google.
India, with its booming startups seems to be a very fertile ground for public cloud services market, so much so that it is projected to grow 38% in 2017 to total USD 1.81 billion as per estimates.
Amazon also has sworn to spend USD 5 billion to build its business in India. Additionally, the company also opened its first AWS region in India (Mumbai) last year and had more than 75,000 Indian customers then.
However, it’s interesting to see how Microsoft Azure is clawing into the market, trumping its #1 rival, AWS via it’s agreement with Flipkart, and making inroads into the Indian market.
The cloud war is picking up and it seems that every company wants to put its best foot forward to acquire supremacy over others.
Well the Jio honeymoon’s about to meet the dawn. It’s soon going to be time for you to resume paying for your calls and paying for those YouTube videos that you now habitually download. Done without much care over the past few months thanks to Reliance Jio’s “introductory” offer, these new habits, will start hitting your bills soon. However, it’s going to be easy on your pocket.
Jio’s ‘Happy New Year’ plan which terminates soon on March 31- can be continued at a nominal cost of INR 99 for one year’s worth of free 4G VoLTE data! The catch is that this continuation of services can only be opted for by enrolling for the Jio Prime membership between March 1 and March 31, 2017.
Just like Jio’s ‘Happy New Year’ plan, the Jio Prime membership also has a ceiling of a Mobile Data limit of 1 GB data per day. Simple math, this totals up to 30 GB data per month for a year, rounding up to around INR 10 per day, which isn’t asking for too much!
Simply put, Jio Prime is just an extension of the current ‘Happy New Year Plan’. Voice calls, national roaming, data are all covered under this one. This plan packs free Jio apps like MyJio, JioChat, JioMoney, JioMusic etc., but these apps can be put to use via the Jio network only.
If we compare Jio’s Prime program to Data packages being offered by other service providers, Jio naturally emerges as the winner – Jio is offering 30 GB of Data for a month, top that with unlimited Data between 2 am to 5 am at just INR 303.
Competitors like Airtel are offering their ‘myplan Infinity’ plan that provides users with 30 GB of 3G or 4G Data with free voice calls, 100 local+STD messages etc. at INR 2,999.
Prepaid users of Airtel could get 1 GB of 4G Data for 28 days at INR 345 and can make unlimited calls to any network.
Talking about Vodafone, its Red Plans start from INR 1,699 for postpaid users and offers unlimited free (local + STD) calls, free incoming on roaming, 500 (local + STD) messages and 12 GB of Data. As far as Prepaid users are concerned, at a price point of INR 344, users get to make unlimited calls roaming on all mobile networks and 300 MB free Data for 3G handset users and 1 GB Data for 4G handset users.
Idea’s unlimited calling plans come bundled with just 3G Data; there seem to be no packages for 4G Data, as is the case with most of the other service providers.
Even a cursory glance at all the varied data plans offered by different network providers would make it apparent that, Jio is that one network which provides maximum data at minimum prices.
Jio’s list of perks doesn’t end here. Recently, Reliance provided the users with another lucrative offer which is being dubbed by the company as “Buy One Get One Free” Plan for Prime users.
As is indicated by the name of the Plan itself, Jio is offering Booster plans.
After getting a recharge of INR 303, Jio will provide the users with a booster plan costing INR 201, providing the users with 5 GB of Data. Alternatively, a recharge of INR 499 and above, Jio will provide the users with a booster plan of INR 301, that ensures 10 GB of Data.
The most fun part of this booster plan is that there is no cap on the validity of this data plan as long as the Prime pack is valid. However, the company hasn’t pinned down any exact dates about the activation of these add-on Data benefits as they will be unleashed eventually.
What happens if you fail to enrol for the Jio Prime before 31st March? Well, it goes without saying that the individual services and benefits will convert into paid elements.
Whatever be the case (Prime or not), Mukesh Ambani has claimed that not only will Reliance Jio always match the best value offers as opposed to its rivals, but it will make sure that it offers 20% additional data than its competitors at any given tariff plan.
Users that are still not on Jio could switch to this network on or before March 31 to enjoy the benefits of Jio Prime. On the other hand, existing Reliance Jio users can sign up for the Prime Pack very easily through the MyJio app.
Reliance Jio has been talk of the town since its very commercial launch in September 2016. If statistics are to be believed, then Jio has achieved the milestone of 100 million subscribers, in just 170 days.
Which means Jio has added seven customers in every second of every single day. That’s a mind boggling amount. I doubt this has ever been seen anytime, anywhere in recorded history.
However, the fact that there is a setback in this seemingly utopian setup as well cannot be ignored.
Complaints of bad network and lack of coverage have been constant. Reliance though, promises to address these problems and as a matter of fact, Mukesh Ambani has invested an extra INR 30,000 crores as recently as January 2017, to ensure that Jio continues to provide 4G VoLTE Mobile Data without any hitches across India’s large landmass.
Pirated material may no longer find its place on the first pages of two leading search engines Google and Bing (from Microsoft), at least in Britain.
The two search engine giants have accepted a new Code Of Conduct proposed by Britain’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that has been created to demote websites that stream or host pirated material.
After this the users, sure might have a hard time looking for disreputable content providers.
If statistics by Britain’s IPO are taken in consideration, around one in six internet users have access to pirated content, though the numbers are on a decline due to rise of legal streaming services.
The agreement comes after a long-drawn journey of campaigning by record labels and film studios who have constantly cited Google and Microsoft of ignoring (and perhaps festering) piracy deliberately and not intervening in the form of measures to protect copyright online.
However, Google is of the view that search engines don’t divert traffic to piracy websites.
A spokesman said: “Google has been an active partner for many years in the fight against piracy online. We remain committed to tackling this issue and look forward to further partnership with rights holders.”
The Code Of Conduct, the first of its kind in the U.K., will drive change in search result rankings such that when users try searching for content like digital books, music videos and cricket coverage, they will in all probability be directed to legit providers and not pirate sites.
It is however, important to realise that such changes will happen gradually, page rankings and their algorithms are seriously big complex, and making changes to these core logics is never taken lightly. So, while the search giants will begin their arduous tasks soon, changes are officially expected to be rolled out this summer.
Eddy Leviten, Director General at the Alliance for Intellectual Property, in this regard said, “Sometimes people will search for something and they will end up unwittingly being taken to a pirated piece of content…What we want to ensure is that the results at the top of the search engines are the genuine ones.”
It will be way too far-fetched to assume that the implementation of this code would mean complete extinction of pirating websites from search engines like Google and Bing, but what it would definitely do is that it will downgrade such portals from being visible in the search results and advance authentic distributors up in the list instead.
The Code thereby ensures that most of the traffic lands up on genuine websites and not on the illegal ones.
So how does one categorise this illegal piracy promoting websites?
Simply put, all the websites that have been served with copyright infringement notices will be in a way down-listed on the common searches on Google and Microsoft. Search engine autocomplete function would also adopt this Code, thereby removing terms or keywords that may lead to pirate websites instead of legitimate services that pay fees to copyright holders.
While the adoption of such a Code on Google and Bing is voluntary, there is a supervising body that will monitor Google and Bing’s response over the coming few months and then based on that apply stricter measures as and when required in the future.
The news has managed to garner positive reactions from a lot of influential people and publications.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of BPI, which represents record labels, said the code would not be a silver bullet for copyright holders.
“We have long campaigned for search engines to do more to ensure fans are directed to legal sources for music or other entertainment. There is much work still to do to achieve this. The Code will not be a silver bullet fix, but it will mean that illegal sites are demoted more quickly from search results and that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.”
Stan McCoy, of the Motion Picture Association in Europe, said “Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties’ willingness to try to improve that situation”.
“We look forward to working on this initiative alongside many other approaches to fighting online piracy, such as the Get it Right campaign that aims to help educate consumers about the many ways to enjoy film and television content legally and at the time of their choosing.”
It would be interesting to see how this code pans out in the UK and as to whether it will roll out in other countries as well or not.
Fate doesn’t seem to be doing Yahoo any favors lately. In fact, things are going pretty badly for them.
First they reported a breach of 500 million accounts in September last year, then another breach of one billion accounts again in December – the single largest data breach in known history.
These hacks go all the way back to 2013 and 2014. These historic (I know I shouldn’t be calling them “historic” but really, they are the cornerstone of many a ethical-hackathon watercooler conversation) cyberattacks, however, are not the end of their problems.
Yahoo users were once again warned of potential breaches during the last two years in February this year.
All the affected users received a warning by the Chief Information Security Officer of Yahoo, Bob Lord, which goes like this:
“We are writing to inform you about a data security issue that involves your Yahoo account. Our outside forensics experts have been investigating the creation of forged cookies that could allow an intruder to access users’ accounts without a password. Based on the ongoing investigation, we believe a forged cookie may have been used in 2015 and 2016 to access your account”.
A Yahoo spokesperson has confirmed that the forged cookies have been invalidated, so there is no chance of them being used again.
The company knew about this as far back as December when they made a filing saying “the company believes an unauthorised third party accessed the company’s proprietary code to learn how to forge cookies.” They believe that this latest hack was done by the same state-sponsored hacker they believe is responsible for the previous breaches.
So the question is why have they contacted the concerned users after two months? And more importantly, since the company has been breached regularly since 2013, what have they done to improve the security? Why did they only get to know about this last year? And if they knew about it already, why didn’t they come forward sooner?
Well, not many answers are forthcoming from the company.
These warnings were issued just as Verizon is about to close their deal with Yahoo. Notification of this round of hacking did affect the deal.
Although Verizon is going ahead with it’s acquisition, they have moderated this deal, originally set at USD 4.8 billion, by approximately USD 250 million.
We can only hope this rough period for Yahoo ends with the takeover by Verizon.
That said, if you use Yahoo for any personal or professional communication and work, I highly recommend you move to another more secure platform – there are many out there these days and ironically, most of them are better in their services portfolio too!
In the light of Hugo Barra leaving Xiaomi, Senior Vice President Xiang Wang was said to have been all set to replace him.
But recent announcements have indicated that the wind’s blowing another way.
The word now is that Manu Jain, who has until now been leading Xiaomi’s operations in India, will now be taking Hugo Barra’s place. The company confirmed the news on Friday.
This development, and the vacuum surrounding the place of the Global VP came as Hugo Barra, the man who has been known to practically turn Xiaomi from a “Chinese” brand to a global one, announced that he will be hanging his shoes to dry and exiting Xiaomi for a sweet trade-off at the Virtual Reality arm of Facebook, back in the Silicon Valley.
Before Manu Jain’s confirmation, Xiang Wang elevation to fill Barra’s chair was not a speculation. In fact an announcement to the effect had already come from Bin Lin, Xiaomi’s co-founder and President in a Facebook post, stating “Xiang Wang, Xiaomi Senior Vice President, will lead our entire global efforts moving forward”.
Clearly, there seem to have been some changes in that decision, the reasons for which are currently unknown.
The announcement regarding Manu Jain’s move up came in a tweet from the official Xiaomi handle, stating “@manukumarjain, congratulations from the entire Xiaomi family on your promotion to Vice President of Xiaomi!”
Jain will also be elevated to the post of the Managing Director of Xiaomi’s operations in India.
In case you’re wondering about Jain’s background – he joined Xiaomi back in 2014, after a successful tenure at Jabong. At Xiaomi, he has served as the Head of India Operations since the day the Chinese brand opened shop in India in 2014.
It was during his tenure that the company became the #1 brand for online smartphone sales in the country and carved out a sizeable slice of India’s smartphones pie overall.
It was also under Jain’s tutelage that Xiaomi exceeded USD 1 billion in sales in India last year.
Though Jain has received quite a lot of limelight for his work with Xiaomi in India, it has however always been Barra who had been the global face of the brand. The bad news on the anvil is that Barra’s exit may act as a blow to the company’s prospects in international markets.
What’s going to be interesting to watch now is how Manu Jain handles stepping into such big shoes, and how he handles the pressure to succeed outside of his home market.
Jain’s appointment is quite definitely a reflection on India’s position as an important market for Xiaomi. India is the second-biggest market in the world, after China, and Jain’s dual position now will have a critical role in maintaining Xiaomi’s position within the India market.
BlackBerry's Share Of The Smartphone Market Is Now Virtually Zero
BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion Limited — ruled the world as a major business-phone player for many many years.
Not only did they produce really good, robust and useful phones, they also had the world’s most secure operating system and software backbone. BlackBerry also had an edge by way of their brilliant BlackBerry Messenger, when all other manufacturers relied on costly and low-tech, unsecured GSM (or CDMA) based SMS’.
However its innings as an operating system of it’s own seems over – dying a slow death caused by newer, sleeker and more contemporary platforms that enable users with cutting edge features and unlimited capabilities via plug-and-play apps.
BlackBerry’s revitalised operating system, BB OS 10 never really caught on, especially as app developers never really sipped the Kool Aid. Struggling with a lack of apps and novelty, the operating system stagnated, and has now suffocated.
As per a research report published by research firm Gartner, in the fourth quarter of 2016, more than 432 million smartphones were sold, and of those, just 207,900 were BlackBerry devices running its own operating system.
That gives the Canadian smartphone company a share of the overall phone market of less than a single percentage point.
In contrast, a whopping 352.7 million smartphones running Google’s Android operating system were sold in Q4 2016, making up 81.7% of the market. In second place is Apple’s iOS, which sold 77 million units in the quarter, with 17.9% of the overall market share.
BlackBerry also sells handsets that run Android, like the DTEK60 and the Priv, whose numbers aren’t included in that 207,900 figure. But Gartner’s data confirms what we suspected – BlackBerry’s once unassailable independent phone ecosystem is dead in the water.
South Korea Tightening It's Regulations After Galaxy Note7 Fiasco
In what may become as a major blow to Samsung, South Korea has tightened battery safety regulations after the Galaxy Note7 fiasco. This will certainly add to the woes of the company (and other brands from the burgeoning economy), given that Samsung is still on its self-apology tour round the world after the Note7 debacle.
The news is especially aggravating since the South Korea is the home country of the company.
On 6th February, the South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy issued a statement highlighting its intent to provide more testing around the ubiquitous technology.
“We ask that the industry shares the view that making efforts to ensure safety is equally as critical as developing new products through technological innovation”, Vice Minister Jeong Marn-ki said in a statement .
The South Korean government published the results of its own investigation into the explosive phone, according to the The Korea Herald. Like Samsung, the state-run Korean Agency for Technology Standards too, concluded that the Note7’s volatility stemmed from its battery.
So, the government’s announcement of new, stronger regulations for smartphone battery safety issues could conceivably stem from it’s findings of the investigation.
The Agency tested 14 overheated Note7s, 46 stable phones and 169 batteries provided by Samsung over a three-month time frame. The tests concluded that the batteries exhibited “factors that cause explosions“, but said there were no flaws with the Note7 smartphones themselves. In other words, it wasn’t the phone that has caused the trouble, but solely the battery.
The South Korean government now plans to rejig a current law, which earlier only required the batteries to be inspected once before mass production. The revision, which should be in place this July, will require tests every two years.
A revision of the Phone Recall Process is on the anvil too. The intention is to empower the government to be able to issue cautionary advice to consumers against buying a certain product even before an official recall is instituted by the company in question.
The safety standards are now in line with those of the International Electro Technical Commission and European Union – but sources claim that in the near future, the country’s government will be adding new procedures to mimic the standard procedures of Japan and the U.S.
Also, the new measures will include requiring manufacturers to issue a certificate of the safety of Lithium-Ion batteries, that will be newly manufactured by a new process that doesn’t have the same errors as the previous one.
To me, all this sounds good. While naysayers may claim that government oversight will hamper the growth of the company that was quickly conglomerating itself into a new tech giant, I differ.
The best that these regulations have to offer is that they shall weed out unwanted developments that hinder consumer efficiency and threaten her safety.
While Samsung’s Galaxy Note may have put a dent in the trade reputation of the country which till now has been considered as a safe haven for companies, governmental interest in restoring (and thence, maintaining) the world’s respect and confidence in the nation’s products, is an excellent statement of intent and promise, by the South Korean authorities.
Last month, Samsung announced that its energy storage subsidiary, SDI, was working on a next-gen battery for electric vehicles that would allow for a range of up to 372 miles on a single charge. Being a well wisher of the company, we sincerely hope that these will be tested thoroughly before they find the vehicles reach roads and citizens around the world.
U.S. President Trump seems to be in a rush. Very soon after assuming office, he signed an Executive Order that not only got the citizens riled up, but also a lot of conglomerates across industries.
One of the industries that don’t seem to be taking too keenly to the change in U.S. policies is the Tech industry. A host of big-name tech companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft have already filed in a Washington court against the new government’s Executive Order.
Just so you know, the filing has been co-signed by as many as 97 firms, each one stating that their operations are affected by the Executive Order.
Not only that, these organisations have also warned their employees, directing them with the appropriate measures to take with respect to the changing immigration and refugee policies of the country.
Within an industry that to which foreign-born talent is central, the changing U.S. immigrations policy seems to be wreaking a havoc, leaving most bigwigs not only worried about their employees and business but also furious at the new administration for imposing such policies, in such a rushed manner.
Before delving further into the Tech world’s reaction to the new policies, an understanding of what exactly is going on is important.
A political switch over just happened in the United States, with the November 2016 elections, and the new President took office on the 20th of January. Within the first week in office, the new administration passed Executive Orders banning all immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – from entering the U.S. for are period of 90 days. It also bans refugee admissions for 120 days and Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.
To add to these, are restrictions on H1-B visas, that are expected to be put into place in the near future. H1-B are a type of visa for those working in what the government considers to be specialty occupations, and quite a big number of the workers in the Tech industry fall under this category.
If restrictions on the H1-B visas are placed, it could potentially lead to a huge number of problems for the companies, since they will either lose quite a significant number of their workforce or find them frustrated and disrupted, not able to bring to work their best.
The reason that the administration has been stating for this action (and was extensively used by Trump in the months leading up to the election), is the need for “protection from terror, caused by those of a foreign origin”.
The fact of the matter is that this marks a fundamental shift in America’s refugee policy, as well as immigration policy.
Returning to a discussion on the implications of the policy, one can’t emphasize enough how it could disrupt the functioning of the various industries around the world.
The world today runs on globalization, and almost all technology flows from one country to another. This platform of sharing and mutual benefit is what the Tech world, and hence ‘development’ in technology, runs on.
Inclusivity, thus, has been a critical element of the tech world, where anyone, from anywhere, with the right set of skills, is welcome and is treated with respect, and admiration.
To bring more perspective to things, one has to realize that the idea of inclusivity has best been seen in practice within the Tech world, time and again. Nothing reflects this better than the fact that a lot of the biggest of the names from the Silicon Valley are not inherently “American”; a lot of these people are either refugees or immigrants themselves, or their parents were.
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, was the child of a Syrian immigrant. The founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, was born to Iranian parents. The man behind Tesla, Elon Musk, migrated from Africa. Oracle’s Bob Miner is also Iranian. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is a Soviet-born refugee. Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Sunder Pichai of Google, Rajeev Suri of Nokia, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe are all Indian Americans and hence immigrants.
This is not limited just to the top guys; Silicon Valley hires talent from all around the world.
People from all nationalities, ethnicities, and origins are known to work together in the world’s biggest Tech companies, and that not just limited to the top executives.
A policy of this kind directly affects these companies, their people and their families, their policies, and their everyday workings. With their employees stuck in a limbo, it didn’t take long for the companies to pick a side, and come to the rescue of their staffers.
Google’s co-Founder Sergey Brin was seen at the San Francisco airport, protesting with thousands of average Americans. He, however, refused to make a comment, other than stating that he was protesting in a private capacity. The next day Google issued a statement stating that it was “concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.”
In addition, Google has vowed to “continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere“.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, was not too far behind. “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do… There are employees at Apple who are directly affected by yesterday’s immigration order. Our HR, Legal and Security teams are in contact with them, and Apple will do everything we can to support them”, he wrote in an email to Apple staffers. “Apple is open. Open to everyone, no matter where they come from, which language they speak, who they love or how they worship“.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella reportedly told his staffers on Saturday that the company is committed to providing “legal advice and assistance” to its 76 employees that are citizens of the affected countries. Another Microsoft email shared by Nadella on Linkedin also stated that the company will advocate for “protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings“.
Nadella has been known to support the issue.
Amazon sent out an email to its staffers as well. “As we’ve grown the company, we’ve worked hard to attract talented people from all over the world, and we believe this is one of the things that makes Amazon great — a diverse workforce helps us build better products for customers“, wrote Beth Galetti, Amazon’s vice president of human resources.
Facebook said in a statement Saturday that it’s “assessing the impact [of the ban] on our workforce and determining how best to protect our people and their families from any adverse effects.” In a post on Facebook in a personal capacity, the founder Mark Zuckerberg stated the important of migration in his person fact, saying “had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today“. Priscilla is his wife.
Over Twitter, executives from multiple companies have been critical of the new administration’s policies. This includes executives from Twitter, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Tinder, Youtube, Wikipedia, Instagram, Tumblr, Tesla Motors, LinkedIn, Yelp, Foursquare, and Salesforce amongst dozens of others.
The number of people that faced harassment and were stranded at the airports across the U.S. was in thousands. This included people like Computational biologist Samira Asgari, who was denied boarding at the airport due to her Iranian nationality and couldn’t go back to work on immune-genomics at Harvard. Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi couldn’t go back to the U.S. to attend the Oscars, where he has been nominated again. Sudanese doctor, Dr. Suha Abushamma arrived to start work at the prestigious Cleveland clinic, only to be put on to a plane back out hours later.
These new policies have been majorly referred to as the Muslim Ban. What is critical here is that even though these policies only govern the U.S., they are bound to affect the Tech industry the world over. These companies have employees who are disturbed and displaced, they will have to face logistical issues, in addition to not being able to hire new talent from the affected countries.
The question the is, how would these companies continue to function smoothly?
Over the last few days, several federal courts across the United States issued temporary halts on the new administration’s executive orders. However, it is the Washington state that has mounted the fiercest campaign against them, calling them “unlawful and unconstitutional”, and stating that it would have detrimental effects to Washington itself. Having signed the brief, these Tech firms have also made as bold a statement as they perhaps can at the moment.
The Tech world, which is known to mostly function without borders, and is strongly reliant on globalization, needs personnel from various countries and also needs bases in all of them. The new administration’s policies complicate this by many folds.
Having already condemned the policies publicly, and having already taken measures to set up funds for legal battles if needed, for their employees, what will be their next consideration?
While questions are many, answers will only be sought with time, as this unfolds further.
In a move that will define the progress of smartphone industry of India, Apple Inc. will be assembling its high-end flagship iPhones in India starting April 2017.
This would definitely bolster Apple’s foothold in the Indian smartphone market – a place currently dominated by Chinese and Indian players.
Earlier in January, the company officials had met the Ministry of information and technology representatives in Delhi, to decide the process of transfer to the country. The company is rumoured to have been negotiating issues such as tax concessions and import duties.
Analysts in the industry have been pursuing the case for equal treatment of players to ensure a level playing field. Therefore, any tax concessions or removal of import duties is liable to cause an outcry of protests from the other companies.
India has a smartphone base that is growing by leaps and bounds, and companies are rushing to tap the profits from it. Already, the country looks set to become the greatest market for the smartphones after the U.S. by next year.
Yet, Apple doesn’t enjoy any major share in the overall smartphone sales in India – coming at a meager 10th rank in the fourth quarter last year. It’s pricey products are attributed by many, as one of the major reasons. The market is dominated by Samsung and other such players who are selling the phones at costs that land at about one-fifth of the Apple.
There’s another problem that Apple faces in India (like they do in China) – three-quarters of Indian smartphones are made locally. So, if the company wants to build a stronghold here, it must build an Indian Apple ecosystem. And Bengaluru seems like a perfect place for building an environment!
The company currently sells phones through local distributors; per the latest development, Apple will assemble iPhones in Bengaluru. It has applied for opening retail stores in India last year, and that might come to pass sometime soon too (this our wishful-thinking comment, and not really supported by any official comment).
Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp is supposed to help Apple built its ecosystem here.
Speaking about the move, Indian Minister Priyank Kharge said that instead of giving Apple special treatment the government wants to give them certain incentives such as timelines and subsidies.
Detailing the government’s vision, he added, ”The government should give companies a timeline, say in 10 years they should be able to manufacture 100 per cent of phones and its components by procuring them from the local market. Such a timeline should be given because we don’t have that environment now.”
The groundwork for the company’s shift can be accorded to being an after-effect of Indian government’s “Make In India“ campaign, which insists on companies manufacturing their products locally instead of procuring them through import.
To encourage foreign investment, Government has also partially exempted the companies from the 30% rule. According to the rule, any overseas firm who was willing to profit from Indian market must procure 30% of raw materials locally in order to set up a commercial establishment.
The company is also looking to substitute its main sales region China in the Asian market. With Indian prices lowering due to a future manufacturing plant here, the company might be able to supplant its slowing growth in the Chinese market.
Heard of the gaming giant Razer? If you’re not a gaming aficionado, you’d be forgiven for not knowing them.
Well, Razer is a gaming major who goes with the matra “For Gamer, by Gamers”. Recently Razer acquired Nextbit, a startup behind a crazy smartphone called Robin, that was released last year.
Robin made news in the technology world because of its approach to storage – it was the first smartphone that leaned heavily on Cloud storage. It’s customised Android OS let the device merge that physical onboard storage with the cloud integrated, thus making the risk of running out of internal memory space history.
Founded by former members of Google’s Android team and an HTC veteran, Nextbit’s pioneering smartphone garnered appreciation for its attractive design and the innovative storage solution, to successfully gain crowdfunding on Kickstarter. On a personal note, I didn’t know i had a phone named after me!
Coming back to the acquisition, in a press release, Razer said that it had bought majority of Nextbit’s assets as well as taken on it’s management and employees.
Nextbit will continue to operate as an independent division under Razer, “doing exactly what we’ve been doing all along, only bigger and better”, shared Tom Moss, Nextbit’s CEO.
Razer currently deals in high-end laptop gaming accessories and with this move, plans on expanding into the smartphone business (perhaps with gaming as it’s devices’ core USP).
“With the talent that Nextbit brings to Razer, we look forward to unleashing more disruption and growing our business in new areas“, Razer’s CEO Min-Liang Tan said in a statement.
Financial reports of the deal have not yet been revealed, however it is being speculated that Razer must have paid through their nose to rope in Nextbit. For now, Razer has halted the sales of Robin and its accessories but has promised to release software updates and security patches all through February next year.
Interestingly, Nextbit is not the only company that Razer has acquired.
Last year, Razer acquired another android company THX Ltd, an audio technology company. I’m sure you would know THX from the movies – where a promotional THX Dolby sound effects teaser is screened prior to commencing the THX-enabled feature.
Similar to the Nextbit deal, Razer had bought almost all assets from THX, including their onboard staff.
Fun fact: THX was created by George Luckas in 1983, because he wanted better audio quality for his film “Return of the Jedi”.
THX has since then been a gameplayer in the audio universe, certifying audiovisuals for Consumer TV and more.
The deal was somewhat similar, with both companies (Razer and THX) continuing as independent divisions. Even though Razer was its parent company, there was no cross branding on any products that were to follow.
Razer’s two-companies-in-three-months deal might come off as unrelated, but it did excite a few people who thought of the possibility of Razer coming out with an audio-rich, game-ready smartphone some time soon. “Robin 2?”, some asked.
Well, it doesn’t seem so. Nextbit has dismissed the possibility of Robin 2.
Nextbit’s latest acquisition may serve Robin well, as they’ve not only found a parent company in Razer but have substantially increased their audience with loyal gamers. “In order to reach a wider audience and continue our mission, we decided to join with a larger brand”, Moss said.
Getting into smartphone space has always been a tough gamble. Given the dwindling fate of companies like HTC, one of the inventors of smartphones, such aggressive markets put Nextbit in a tougher position. However, Nextbit has survived the winds of uncertainty before and are not new to the unlikely and uncalled problems that comes along. Razer has had a clean and successful run with a huge customer base at their disposal via their gaming fraternity along with sufficient capital to be in the game for a while.
So while I can’t end with a prophesy at the moment, I can definitely say, I’ll look forward to see how this pans out, for both the brands involved.