Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that influences everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.
So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.
“I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, answering an analyst’s question during parent company Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.
He’s not predicting that mobile will go away, of course, but that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will come via smarter uses of data rather than clever uses of mobile devices like those that brought us Uber and Instagram.
Forms of artificial intelligence are already being used to sort photographs, fight spam and steer self-driving cars. The latest trend is in bots, which use A.I. services on the back end to complete tasks automatically, like ordering flowers or booking a hotel.
Google believes it has a lead in A.I. and the related field of machine learning, which Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has already pegged as key to Google’s future.
Machine learning is one of the ways Google hopes to distinguish its emerging cloud computing business from those of rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, Pichai said.
Comments Off on Verizon Emerged As Favorite Bidder For Yahoo
Verizon Communications Inc is the clear favorite in the fast approaching bid for Yahoo Inc’s core Internet business, according to Wall Street analysts, in large part because the telecommunications company’s efforts to become a force in Internet content have gone relatively well under the leadership of AOL Inc Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.
Verizon acquired AOL last June for $4.4 billion – its first big foray into the advertising-supported Internet business – and it is not yet clear how well the unit is performing financially. Subsequent moves, including the takeover of much of Microsoft Corp’s advertising technology business, a deal to buy Millennial Media for about $250 million and the recent launch of the mobile video service go90, are also too recent to assess.
Yet analysts have given the big phone company high marks for allowing AOL to operate independently and folding in other recent acquisitions without much drama. And they said Armstrong seems to be driving Verizon’s recent moves in go90 and recent acquisitions.
“The management puts a lot of faith in Armstrong,” BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk said.
That faith derives in part from the belief that Armstrong did a good job at left-for-dead AOL, especially in assembling a strong set of products to deliver targeted digital ads to customers.
Combining AOL and Yahoo, an idea that has come up many times over the years, could instantly make Yahoo a major player in Internet advertising, with Armstrong – one of the world’s top ad executives – at the helm, analysts said.
Armstrong “has good M&A experience, and a pretty solid ad tech stack,” B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha said.
Verizon’s hands-off approach that has worked with AOL, though, might not be suitable if the far-bigger Yahoo were taken over. With Yahoo’s struggling business, “the luxury of autonomy is simply not there,” Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said.
Verizon, AOL and Yahoo declined to comment.
Comments Off on FCC Votes To Tighten Broadband Providers Privacy Rules
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is moving toward major new regulations requiring ISPs to get customer permission before using or sharing their Web-surfing history and other personal information.
The FCC voted 3-2 last week to approve a notice of proposed rule-making, or NPRM, the first step toward passing new regulations, over the objections of the commission’s two Republicans.
The rules, which will now be released for public comment, require ISPs to get opt-in permission from customers if they want to use their personal information for most reasons besides marketing their own products.
Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly complained that the regulations target Internet service providers but not social networks, video providers and other online services.
“Ironically, selectively burdening ISPs, who are nascent competitors in online advertising, confers a windfall on those who are already winning,” Pai said. “The FCC targets ISPs, and only ISPs, for regulation.”
The proposed rules could prohibit some existing practices, including offering premium services in exchange for targeted advertising, that consumers have already agreed to, O’Rielly added. “The agency knows best and must save consumers from their poor privacy choices,” he said.
But the commission’s three Democrats argued that regulations are important because ISPs have an incredible window into their customers’ lives.
ISPs can collect a “treasure trove” of information about a customer, including location, websites visited, and shopping habits, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I want the ability to determine when and how my ISP uses my personal information.”
Broadband customers would be able to opt out of data collection for marketing and other communications-related services. For all other purposes, including most sharing of personal data with third parties, broadband providers would be required to get customers’ explicit opt-in permission.
The proposal would also require ISPs to notify customers about data breaches, and to notify those directly affected by a breach within 10 days of its discovery.
Comments Off on iPhone SE Goes With Qualcomm Inside
Contrary to our previous reports we got a tip that iPhone SE will continue using Qualcomm modems and not change to Intel.
The tear downs will start happening soon but our sources very close to the matter said with high certainly that all iPhone SE come with an updated Qualcomm modem.
Intel is still in the run but apparently Apple still felt confident to continue using Qualcomm even for this generation of the phone. A few analysts did suggested that iPhone 7 and beyond might get Intel LTE hardware, but not with iPhone SE.
Back in December, when we originally wrote that Intel got the iPhone SE deal, our sources did suggest that Apple can still change its mind if it doesn’t feel that Intel modem is ready. This might be the case, but in the future, we are quite confident that Apple will get a second LTE supplier at some point, just as it did with different manufacturing fabs.
Having two suppliers will drive the cost down, and for Apple every dollar or cent they save of components means millions more in its pocket. Apple claims “LTE up to 50 percent faster than iPhone 5s,” but it doesn’t give a real number. The iPhone 5S uses MDM9615 that was first introduced in 2011. This modem is at the technology range of Cat 4, X5 modem that Qualcomm ships in its entry level SoCs or as an external component.
We will have to wait for the first teardowns to appear as it is not easy to get to “ LTE up to 50 percent faster than iPhone 5s.” You would need a modem that is capable of 225 Mbps and the next of potential candidates for the iPhone SE is the MDM 20nm 9×35. Qualcomm calls this modem X7 these days, it use to call it Gobi back in late 2014 and this is a Cat 6, 300 Mbit per second download and 50 Mbit per second upload capable chip.
The fact that Apple continues the exclusive deal with Qualcomm is bad news for Intel, but we are sure that the team blue will keep working on getting inside of iPhone.
In a sweeping change of course directed at a tightly controlled television industry, cable and satellite operators in the United States will now be obligated to let their customers freely choose which set-top boxes they can use, according to a proposal announced by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.
The move is expected to have wide-ranging implications for large technology companies looking to get their brand names into every consumer’s living room. For example, under the new rules, Google, Amazon and Apple would now be allowed to create entertainment room devices that blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has until now resisted. Next-generation media players, including the Chromecast, Fire TV and Apple TV, would now be granted permission to line the backs of their devices with coaxial inputs and internal “smart access card” equivalents integrated right into device firmware with a simple subscription activation process.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut investigated the cable set-top box market last summer and found that the cable industry generates roughly $19.1 billion in annual revenue from cable box rentals alone.
Meanwhile, the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent since 1995, while the cost of PCs, televisions and smartphones has dropped by 90 percent. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admits that these economies of scale don’t need to remain so unbalanced any longer.
The FCC says its focus will be primarily on improving day-to-day television experience. In the past, the burdensome requirements of long-term contracts tethered to clunky, unsightly cable and satellite boxes has been a major source of customer complaints.
Wheeler has also said that access to specific video content shouldn’t be frustrating to the average consumer in an age where we are constantly surrounded by a breadth of information to sift through. “Improved search functions [can] lead consumers to a variety of video content that is buried behind guides or available on video services you can’t access with your set-top box today,” Wheeler says.
The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on Thursday, February 18th. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s full statement on the commission’s new proposal can be found here.
Qualcomm has told the assorted throngs at CES about a new Snapdragon 820 Automotive family of products. It will come in two flavors – a standard 820A and an 820Am that adds an LTE modem.
The chip is designed for in-car navigation and infotainment systems running QNX, Linux, and Android. It has wireless capabilities and can connected to your phone. The LTE version will link to the Internet.
They can manage multiple displays to run the screen in your dashboard and an infotainment screen in the back seat. It also offers support for high-resolution 4K displays for when some company inevitably decides to cram a high-res, high-density screen into one of its cars.
The 820A chips are close cousins ofthe the Snapdragon 820 SoCs that will start shipping in phones later this year and use Qualcomm’s custom-made 64-bit Kryo CPU cores, an Adreno 530 GPU, a Hexagon 680 DSP all cooked up with a 14nm manufacturing process. They will also use the Snapdragon X12 LTE which can manage 600Mbps down and 150Mbps up when the wind is behind it and it is going downhill. There are all the usual 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other features.
Qualcomm said that it used a “modular approach” in designing the chip, which means that the cars infotainment system can be upgraded with hardware and software updates, thereby enabling vehicles to be easily upgraded with the latest technology.
Car makers could theoretically swap out the chip or the entire package without needing to worry about software changes. Qualcomm specifically mentions upgrading LTE connectivity over the lifetime of the car to keep up with the capabilities of cellular networks.
Qualcomm says the 820A family will begin sampling in Q1 of 2016.
The Blog site Fudzilla has confirmed that the Kryo core might be the last custom developed CPU core from Qualcomm, at least for now.
The next generation SoC from Qualcomm, let’s call it Snapdragon 8×0, will use ARM Cortex cores. Our industry sources are confident that company’s leadership has put a great deal of pressure on Qualcomm QTI to reduce the cost of R&D and custom CPU core costs an arm and a leg. Using Cortex Cores is cheaper than developing a custom ARM based CPU such as Kyro.
Creating a custom ARM based CPU core is intensive too and Qualcom still has to build a Modem, GPU, DSP, camera ISP, Video processing unit as well connectivity inside of the SoC to provide the differentiating factor to the competition. It just appears that the Core itself probably does not need looking at.
But the move will hardly help Qualcomm compete in hostile and aggressive mobile SoC manufacturers’ competition.
Apple and Samsung have their own CPU cores. Huawei uses Cortex architecture but has its own SoCs for the 100 million phones it sold this year. These are businesses that are either very hard or impossible for Qualcomm QTI SoCs to get. Every Samsung SoC manufactured and sold in Samsung phones is one less for Qualcomm.
MediaTek might be the winner in this case, as MediaTek makes rather unique processors that are designed to compete well against those who use close-to-reference Cortex ARM solutions. MediaTek is the only deca core in three cluster architecture but we still have to see it in action before we pronounce anyone winner or loser.
Qualcomm will have to focus on its strengths of its late 2016 successor to Snapdragon 810. The strengths of Qualcomm lay in superior modem performance and a great Adreno GPU. However they will lose an advantage of a custom core that might bring a bigger difference from the competition.
This is certainly not something we expected but it is happening.
The service set up by WordPress to better support WordPress has failed users by suffering a security breach and behaving just like the rest of the internet.
WordPress, and its themes, are often shone with the dark light of the security vulnerability, but we do not hear of WP Engine often. Regardless of that, it seems to do good business and is reaching out to those that it does business with to tell them what went wrong and what they need to do about it.
A reasonable amount of threat mitigation is required, and if you are affected by the issue you are going to have to change your password – again, and probably keep a cautious eye on the comings and goings of your email and financial accounts.
“At WP Engine we are committed to providing robust security. We are writing today to let you know that we learned of an exposure involving some of our customers’ credentials. Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively taking security measures across our entire customer base,” says the firm in an urgent missive on its web pages.
“We have begun an investigation, however there is immediate action we are taking. Additionally, there is action that requires your immediate attention.”
That action, is probably to panic in the short term, and then to change your password and cancel out any instances of its re-use across the internet. You know the drill, this is a daily thing right. Judging by the WordPress statement we are in the early days of internal investigation.
“While we have no evidence that the information was used inappropriately, as a precaution, we are invalidating the following five passwords associated with your WP Engine account,” explains WordPress as it reveals the sale of its – actually, your, problem. “This means you will need to reset each of them.”
Have fun with that.
Comments Off on xCodeGhost To Wreak Havoc On IOS Devices
A security firm has released a list of ongoing and incoming threats that cover a range of things from Apple’s iOS to the Internet of Things (IoT).
In its third report this year, Quick Heal warns that Apple users in particular better brace themselves for impact as more and more malware writers who’ve earned their stripes targeting Android users turn their attention to iOS.
“As the number of iPhone owners rises across the world, iOS has become a new potential target for Android malware authors and hackers. It is expected that Android malware will soon be altered to attack iOS users as well, and jailbroken iOS devices will be the first wave of targets for these attacks,” explained the firm (PDF).
“Recently, the ‘XcodeGhost’ malware was found on the Apple App Store and this is just the beginning of such attacks.”
In a section on wearables, Quick Heal predicts hackers will increasingly target fitness trackers, something that other security researchers have already warned about.
A lot of space in the report is reserved for Android-flavoured threats, and users are offered advice on protecting themselves such as if there is an option to use a password over a touch sign-in, then you ought to take it.
“A group of researchers have discovered a serious security flaw in the Android Lollipop version running on devices right now. This flaw allows attackers to bypass the lockscreen of an Android smartphone by using a massive password and thereby exposing the homescreen,” it explains.
“The attack essentially works by opening the in-built camera application and afflicts people using a password to protect their Android device and lock their screen.”
The most significant Android threat is a rascal called Android.Airpush.G, which claims 30 percent of the bug pool and is the kind of adware thing that makes you want to take a hammer to your phone screen. The second most prominent issue is Android.Reaper.A, which can haul in a large data harvest when in place.
Quick Heal is not the only security company in town, and a post on the Symantec website also seems set to put the fear into the Apple user community. That post, read it here – if you dare, says that the Mabouia ransomware is capable of causing a problem for Mac and PC users alike.
Fortunately, Mabouia is a proof-of-concept attack that a researcher shared with both Apple and Symantec. Symantec says that the PoC effort achieves at least one first.
“Mabouia is the first case of file-based crypto ransomware for OS X, albeit a proof-of-concept. Macs have nevertheless already been targeted by ransomware in the form of browser-based threats,” it explained.
Software Giant Microsoft has joined Mozilla and will consider blocking the SHA-1 hashing algorithm on Windows to keep the US spooks from using it to spy on users computers.
Redmond had earlier said that Windows would block SHA-1 signed TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates from January 1, 2017, but is now mulling moving up the date to June.
There have been concerns about the algorithm’s security as researchers have proven that a forged digital certificate that has the same SHA-1 hash as a legitimate one can be created. Users can then be tricked into interacting with a spoofed site in what is called a hash collision.
In October, a team of cryptoanalysts warned that the SHA-1 standard should be withdrawn as the cost of breaking the encryption had dropped faster than expected to US$75,000 to $120,000 in 2015 using freely available cloud computing.
Programme manager for Microsoft Edge Kyle Pflug wrote in his blog that Redmond will coordinate with other browser vendors to evaluate the impact of this timeline based on telemetry and current projections for feasibility of SHA-1 collisions.
Mozilla said in October that in view of recent attacks it was considering a cut-off of July 1, 2016 to start rejecting all SHA-1 SSL certificates, regardless of when they were issued, ahead of an earlier scheduled date of January 1, 2017.