Archive for the ‘ Apple ’ Category


Which smartphone is the most secure?

Written by admin
December 25th, 2013

Not all mobile phone operating systems are created equal. As Spencer McIntyre of SecureState explains, there are unique differences and threats specific to each smartphone and, in the end, security is largely up to the user

These days, it is almost impossible to meet someone who doesn’t own a cell phone. More specifically, smartphones, whether it be the trendy iPhone, corporate favored Blackberry or modern Windows Mobile, almost everyone has joined the smart phone frenzy — and with good reason. A smartphone offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary phone.

Just like a handheld computer, most of the population relies on their operating system to multitask the demands of work, personal life and finances. However, many Smartphone users forget about the risks of malware on these crucial devices. In fact, a study from Rutgers’s University disclosed that malicious software for cell phones could pose a greater risk for consumer’s personal and financial well-being than computer viruses.

Clearly, there is a need for greater protection of cell phone software and greater awareness of cell phone vulnerabilities from owners, especially when it comes to what kind of operating system you are using. There are unique differences and threats specific to each Smartphone. Here are some important key points that consumers should consider to protect their mobile operating systems.

iPhone
There is a lot to be found regarding this popular device, half of our research findings surrounded the iPhone. Malware for this device took a different approach with the release of IOS 4. The multitasking that users take part in on their systems easily goes unnoticed, allowing the presence of malware to be easier to miss and less intrusive. Malware is more commonly found on iPhones that have been jail broken.

“Jail breaking” means freeing a phone from the limitations imposed by the wireless provider and in this case, Apple. Users install a software application on their computer, and then transfer it to their iPhone, where it “breaks open” the iPhone’s file system, allowing you to modify it; however, this also opens it up to malware. By jail breaking a phone, users are possibly allowing malicious applications into their device which has access to their personal information including their bank account. These applications are not subjected to the same limitations as Apple and therefore are easier to get from a rogue reference and infect cell phone.

Additionally, by not changing the password on a jail broken iPhone, the SSH service, is easy for malicious attackers to create worms used to infect the users operating device. An example of how important this threat is to note was highlighted by Ike, a worm created to raise security awareness when it comes to using these jail broken devices. It illustrates how once the core app has run its route, the vulnerability can gain complete control of the system.

Apple is slow to pinpoint vulnerabilities, including the SMS (texting) exploit released in the summer of 2010 by Charlie Miller. This also revealed that Apple is so slow to release that third party organizations were able to produce a security patch before Apple.

Windows Mobile
When it comes to threats, Windows Mobile takes the cake when it comes to attracting malware via SMS. Specifically the amount of SMS malware found on Windows Mobile devices is much higher in comparison to others. An interesting facet of the Windows Mobile OS is that many of the system calls are shared with it’s full-featured desktop counterparts. This detail has contributed to many pieces of malware that have originated on the Windows OS being ported to the Windows Mobile OS. A noteworthy example of this is the Zeus botnet that in recent years has begun to appear on mobile versions of Windows.

BlackBerry
A popular alternative to the previous two mobile operating systems, the BlackBerry is also quite different from the typical smart phone. The BlackBerry uses what is arguably the most closed source of the operating systems discussed herein. Research In Motion, the developers of BlackBerry have done an excellent job of keeping the sensitive inner workings of this smart phone a secret from the public. This is a contributing factor for the relatively small number of reliable exploits for the BlackBerry smart phone.

BlackBerry also suffers from the multitasking concerns that make it easier for malware to run unnoticed. An interesting proof of concept developed for the BlackBerry is the BBProxy application that was presented at DEFCON.

Symbian
There is not a lot of information regarding malware for this operating device, although it is the oldest of the smart phones and one of the most popular outside of America. Windows, Blackberry and Symbian are malware populated and not present on Android or iPhone. Along with the Windows Mobile family of Phones, Zeus has be ported the Symbian as well. The mobile version of Zeus is being used to intercept text messages sent as the second factor of authentication in many services.

Android
The Android operating system is the only open source operating system discussed herein. Android is unique in that it is community driven. The Android operating system is not owned by an individual organization, so it is developed in the best interest of the users. However, the applications are not monitored for vulnerabilities in the marketplace, so anyone can submit applications containing malicious functions which are less likely to be caught. Essentially, it is up to the users to determine if it is a safe and reputable source from which they are getting the app.

Amazon now has a 3rd party market place, which imposes additional policies and restrictions on applications that are distributed.

Android is based on the Linux operating system. On Linux, availability on Android is unlike others and there is not much evidence of ported malware. This is not because there is not any known Linux malware out there, but because it doesn’t receive much attention.

In Conclusion
All operating systems have distinct strengths and weaknesses; however, many are the same and essentially are up to the user and the configuration of the password. Users need to remember not to install apps from unnecessary sources, especially if they are unknown. While users can’t know them all, users need to ensure that they are from a reputable source. If not, that is where malware commonly comes from, with backdoor apps masquerading as secure applications. Also, jail broken phones are at a huge risk if the user maintains the default password and an even higher risk if not used in the Apple marketplace. Instances of malware exist on all of the phones and are even more relevant on ones using untrusted app sources. Consumers can keep this research in mind when using their smartphone to best protect their valuable information.


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Pricing details yet to be released by Apple

Black Friday is one of the few times during the year that Apple knocks down its iPad, iPhone and Mac prices, and the company has confirmed it will offer its version of bargains during a one-day shopping event on Nov. 29.

Apple hasn’t released pricing specifics, only saying that deals will be available online after midnight on Thanksgiving and at Apple stores on Friday. The company is pushing an Apple Store app to make purchasing simpler.

Apple typically knocks about $100 off Macs and about $50 off iPads, depending on the models. Free shipping is also usually part of the deals.

While other retailers that sell Apple products typically aren’t allowed to mark down prices, they often get around this by bundling gift cards with iPads, iPhones and Macs. For example, Target has a doorbuster on the iPad mini (non-Retina display) for $300 with WiFi and 16GB of storage. It comes with a $75 Target gift card. An iPad Air with WiFi and 16GB of storage goes for $480 and you get a $100 Target gift card. Staples has already cut $50 off the iPad Air WiFi model with 16GB of storage to $450. Best Buy is cutting the price on iPad 2 with WiFi and 16GB to $300, which is $100 off the usual price.


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iOS 7 first large-scale, commercial use of resilient TCP extension

Apple’s iOS 7 is the first large-scale use of a newly-minted Internet protocol, called multipath TCP. It lets computers send and receive data across different network paths and interfaces at the same time, such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G.

There is evidence [see screen shot below that Apple is using the new protocol for iOS 7 device links to Siri, Apple’s cloud-based, natural language voice command and navigation service. MPTCP is intended to create more robust connections, resistant to path failures, and to improve performance, especially for delay-sensitive applications such as voice. It’s part of an ambitious, global effort to transform the Internet from a mainly data network today to one that supports far more demanding applications such as telephony and IP TV.
apple ios7

The new protocol has been in the works for several years, and became an “experimental standard” of the IETF in January, as RFC 6824. Six months later, three implementations had been developed, including one for the Linux kernel. The Linux implementation is a project of the IP Networking Lab, part of the department of computing science and engineering at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

This week, completely unheralded, Apple’s iOS 7 became the first big commercial release of MPTCP.

Researchers have been working for years on creating “disruption tolerant” networks, which can automatically work around failures, sometimes multiple failures, and adapt to changing network conditions. [See from 2008 “Disruption-tolerant nets set for large-scale test”]

Today TCP is a single path protocol: if that path should fail for any reason, the session ends, and the connection has to be re-established.

By contrast, MCTCP is a TCP extension that enables the simultaneous use of several IP addresses or interfaces. Existing applications – completely unmodified — see what appears to be a standard TCP interface. But under the covers, MPTCP is spreading the connection’s data across several subflows, sending it over the least congested paths.

The benefits of this include improved network utilization, higher throughput, and greater resiliency by letting the network automatically and smoothly react to path failures. For more details in MPTCP design see “How hard can it be? Designing and implementing a deployable multipath TCP”

The Linux MCTCP implementers posted a video of the protocol in action, running over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and 3G. The demo starts with the launch of an SSH session. The traffic monitor at right in the video shows the session active over, from top to bottom, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G. The researchers turn off Ethernet, then Wi-Fi, and the active session – visible at the left – continues running without interruption or problems over the 3G connection.

“Without our MPTCP Linux Kernel, the session would simply stop working and the user would need to restart the ssh-session,” according to the post.

Apple’s use of MPTCP was discovered by one of the researchers active in the protocol development process, Professor Olivier Bonaventure, with the IP Networking Lab, in Belgium.

“Packet traces collected on an iPad running iOS7 reveal that it uses Multipath TCP to reach some destinations that seem to be directly controlled by Apple,” he wrote in a blog post. “You won’t see Multipath TCP for regular TCP connections from applications like Safari, but if you use SIRI, you might see that the connection with one of the apple servers runs uses Multipath TCP.”

We don’t yet know how Apple is using MPTCP. “At this stage, the actual usage of Multipath TCP by iOS 7 is unclear….” says Bonaventure. “The next step will, of course, be the utilization of Multipath TCP by default for all applications running over iOS7.”


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Juniper predicts big growth for smart watches like Samsung Gear and Apple ‘iWatch’ by 2018, but says it’s still a ‘niche’

Sales of so-called “smart watches” will surge from 1 million to 36 million in five years, according to a speculative new report from Juniper Research. But whether that defines “success” remains an open question.

Yet despite the frenzy of expectation around the rumored Samsung Gear and Apple “iWatch,” even Juniper acknowledges smart watches “will only appeal to a niche demographic when compared to tablet and smartphone for example and hence the market potential will be comparatively limited.” There are two reasons for that limitation.

One is that the utility and even usability of smart watches hinges on their wireless connections with companion smartphones or tablets. Another is that most of the apps touted for the smart watches appeal to a relatively small subset of consumers, such as heart rate monitors and calorie counters for fitness enthusiasts.

The full market study is available only for purchase, but Juniper posted a “white paper” that summarizes some of conclusions.

Juniper defines a smart watch as “a smart wearable appcessory that can be worn on a user’s wrist, offering a range of smart functionalities in conjunction with an external platform, such as the smartphone or tablet.” Those functions include displaying call, text and email alerts, accessing stock and weather information or “any fitness, sports or commerce applications such as heart rate monitoring, payments or ticketing.”

One category of smart watch is what Juniper calls the “dashboard/console watch,” which is simply a “dumb terminal” acting as a display for information and data from another companion device. One example is the CooKoo watch, with the CooKoo Connected App for iOS. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE wireless technology to connect with Bluetooth SMART READY devices including iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad mini, and 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation iPads.

The CooKoo displays incoming calls, missed calls, Facebook messages and posts, Twitter mentions, Google Voice SMS, email notification and more. Press a button and you can check-in to Facebook, remotely snap photos or record video, and control music played on your phone or tablet, and tag your location on the CooKoo Connected App map.

By contrast, according to Juniper, “multi-function” smart watches can do a bunch of things on their own, in addition to working with the phone or tablet. Juniper didn’t give an example but the Pebble E-Paper Watch, a Kickstarter darling, is certainly one, offering “beautiful downloadable watchfaces and useful internet-connected apps,” according to the website spiel. “Pebble connects to iPhone and Android smartphones using Bluetooth, alerting you with a silent vibration to incoming calls, emails and messages.” Another is the Italian-designed i’m Watch.

The smart watch booster site, SmartWatchNews, recently posted its list of the “Top 5 Smart Watches 2013.” But the mini-reviews seem unintentionally to damn with faint praise. “We feel that, although the Pebble Smartwatch [ranked number 1] is your best choice right now, it is still an incomplete product,” the post concludes. “We base this statement largely upon the complete lack of useful software.” And probably the fact that you can only pre-order it.

The i’m Watch was No. 3. “The problem with this smartwatch, like most of the contenders, is that the firmware and software just feel unfinished and incomplete,” SmartWatchNews concluded. “However, this shortcoming can be easily remedied should the much need updates be released.”

The Juniper study suggests that mobile payments may be one way to broaden the market for, and use of, smart watches. Shipments will be driven, Juniper predicts, “by a new multi-function segment capable of performing an array of additional functionalities such as tracking fitness and sports activities, payments or ticketing….”

Mobile payments and probably ticketing are being driven by advances in several areas, but one Juniper notes is near field communications or NFC. But NFC poses special challenges in something as small as a watch.

NFC operates at a very low frequency, around 13.56 MHZ, as this post at AntennaTheory.com explains. The antenna for such a chip actually acts more like an inductor: “If the magnetic fields from one inductor pass near another inductor, an induced current will exist within the second inductor. This is contactless energy transfer – exactly what NFC requires,” according to the post.

The result is that NFC antennas take up a lot of space. “In general, the larger the inductance of the antenna can be made, the better it will perform,” according to AntennaTheory. “Hence, NFC antennas are often simply loops of wire, occupying as much surface area as the device allows.” To illustrate, here’s a photo of the NFC antenna – a wrapped coil of wire – used in the Google Nexus smartphone by Samsung. Cleverly, it was mounted on the back of the battery, and covers nearly all of it, under a thin plastic back cover.

New materials are being used for antenna, such as very thin sheets of ferrite instead of copper wire. One example is the ferrite sheet antenna announced in February 2013 by Pulse Electronics’ mobile division. “Pulse’s thinner NFC antenna sends and receives clear signals even when installed in a handset in close proximity to the battery or metal housing,” according to the press release. But the sheet is still 35 x 50mm in size, or 1.37 x 1.90 inches. That will make for a big watch.

There are even indications that the age group considered most receptive to smart watches – the Millenials born from 1981 to 2000 – actually isn’t. A story at Phys.org carried the headline “Smart watches might not fit millennials’ needs, expert says.”

“A lot of the millennial behavior is transitory,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. “But as people age, they still are not wearing watches, and we’ll begin to find out next month if that behavioral change is transformational.” Samsung is expected to release its Gear smart watch in September.

The center is affiliated with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which has been tracking one group of people for 13 years, according to the Phys.Org post by Paresh Dave.

“The results, which fall in line with other market research surveys, show little interest in devices such as Google Glass, Nike’s FuelBand health monitor, the Fitbit activity tracker and smart watches among millennials. About 3 percent of respondents are using smart watches, Cole said.”

According to Cole, “everyone’s starting to dig in their heels against privacy intrusions and the blurring lines between work and play. Having a talking, tracking and texting watch isn’t about to make things easier for consumers.”

Apple may be trying to do just that. Rumors about an “iWatch” have been swirling since early this year. Apple has made trademark filings for “iWatch” in Japan, Russia and Mexico, at least. Most recently, Apple apparently has hired fitness industry consultant Jay Blahnik, who helped launch Nike’s FuelBand wearable, and create an online community around FuelBand’s data and apps. who played a key role in the development of the Nike+ FuelBand, a wearable with sensors and apps that link with iOS devices and the Nike+ online community.

Reporting on this, AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski quoted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments about wearable from earlier this year at the AllThingsD conference.

Here’s the quote: “You know I wear this, it’s the FuelBand. I think Nike did a great job with this. It’s for a specific area, it’s integrated well with iOS. There are lots of gadgets, wearables, in this space now. You’ve probably tried as many as I have, maybe even more. I would say that the ones that are doing more than one thing, that there’s nothing–this does primarily one thing, the ones that do more than one there’s nothing great out there that I’ve seen. There’s nothing that’s going to convince a kid who has never worn glasses or a band or a watch or whatever to wear one. Or at least I haven’t seen it. So I think there’s lots of things to solve in this space, but it’s an area where it’s ripe for exploration.”


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Latest report says Windows Phone will be neck-and-neck with iPhone by 2017.

Some time back, IDC predicted that Windows Phone would overtake iPhone to be the dominant platform in the smartphone business. This was met with a round of snickering and outright laughter. IDC gave Microsoft and Nokia until 2015, so they have two years to go, but right now, it doesn’t look like it will happen, does it?

And, according to this report from Canalys, it won’t happen. Canalys predicts that by 2017, the iPhone will have a 14.1% market share, while Windows Phone is right behind it with a 12.7% share. As of last year, the iPhone had a 19.5% market share, and Windows Phone a 2.4% market share.

Nothing changes with the Android market, which at this point should be called the Samsung market. It had 67.7% market share last year and will be at 67.1% in 2017.

Jessica Kwee, analyst with Canalys, said in the report that “Apple’s growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smartphone market is coming from the low end, and Apple is absent from this segment.”

Conversely, Microsoft and its partners, particularly Huawei, will deliver lower-end phones at more competitive pricing. Over the long term, the low-cost Chinese manufacturers will be what pushes Windows Phone into double digits.

“Longer-term it is the Chinese vendors that are best placed to challenge Samsung’s market dominance. Microsoft already has a relationship with Huawei and ZTE in the phone space, and Lenovo is a major partner in the PC space. These partners will be needed to help deliver the scale that Microsoft needs,” Kwee wrote.

I can agree on the Apple side of the analysis. Apple has always been a premium product maker for an affluent audience, and there is no intention of changing that. The game changer will be if Windows Phone ever lands OEMs that will push into the high end. It had LG and Samsung, then lost both. Nokia is going a great job, better than I expected, but it is essentially going it alone.

Then again, that’s how most of the smartphone market is operating if you think about it. The iOS market is Apple only. BlackBerry has talked of licensing its OS; so far, no takers. Nokia is pretty much the Windows Phone market with a little on the low-end via HTC, and Samsung is almost half of the total Android market.

There are other variables I don’t think Canalys took into consideration. What will Samsung do when it ships its Tizen OS? That will surely change the landscape. What if Windows Phone gains momentum and some of these also-ran Android phone companies decide they have a better chance with WP than against Samsung?

That’s why market predictions, like the weather in New England, are impossible to predict beyond one day.


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Apple and Microsoft must have missed sniping at each other, because this is petty.

It’s been a while since Apple and Microsoft took cheap shots at each other. I guess they got bored. One news outlet reports Apple is being difficult about approving the newest version of SkyDrive for iOS.

The Next Web reports that the two are at loggerheads over a new version of SkyDrive, which has a paid storage option because Microsoft doesn’t pay Apple a 30% cut of subscription revenue generated by paid storage services.

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A main sticking point is that Microsoft does not want to pay Apple the 30% cut, which runs in perpetuity regardless of whether users continue to use an iOS device or not, because the billing is done through their Apple account.

So if a user signed up for the enhanced-capacity drive on their iOS device and then moved to a non-iOS phone (say, a Windows Phone), Apple would still collect 30% of their fee for storage even though they aren’t using the iOS device any more. Microsoft is understandably not keen on this.

The problem is not limited to just SkyDrive. AllThingsD reports that this fee is also applied to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which Microsoft has all but acknowledged will be launched sometime next year.

A spokesperson for Microsoft responded to a query with this comment:

“Similar to the experiences of some other companies, we are experiencing a delay in approval of our updated SkyDrive for iOS. We are in contact with Apple regarding the matter and hope to come to a resolution. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

Apple, as usual, isn’t talking.

This problem could easily spread to other apps. Third-party developers that use SkyDrive would also be hit with the 30% fee, and they aren’t going to like that perpetual fee, either.

How this plays out will be very interesting. Microsoft could practice what it preaches and offer policies for the Windows Store similar to what it wants from Apple. This would be a key point of differentiation and potentially competitive.

If Apple continues to play hardball and extends the same courtesy to DropBox and other cloud storage apps, Apple could be the one shut out and shunned. Will it happen? Who knows? Tim Cook does not strike me as unreasonable, and now that this is out and in the media, the pressure may come down on Apple.

Now the real test for Microsoft will be how it behaves when the shoe is on the other foot.


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Tablet smackdown: iPad vs Surface RT in the enterprise

Written by admin
December 11th, 2012

IPads are already making their way into businesses via bring-your-own-device efforts with Microsoft Surface RT tablets hoping to follow suit as employees lobby for their favorite devices. But which one makes more sense from an IT perspective?

Read Network World’s other tech arguments.

The two products are roughly similar in price ($500), run touch-centric operating systems, are highly portable and weigh about a pound and a half.

The two most significant differences are that Surface RT comes with both a keyboard and a version of Microsoft Office – Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT – which expand the potential corporate utility of the devices.

Third-party keyboards are available for iPads as are third-party versions of Office-compatible productivity suites but they represent more work for IT. A rumor says Microsoft is working on a client that will allow accessing Office from an iPad through Microsoft’s service Office 365.

Office on Surface RT has its limitations. It lacks Outlook but includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and the Surface RT version requires a business license in order to be used for work. Still, having it installed out of the box is a leg up and gives workers the opportunity to tap into the productivity suite. The keyboard is a big plus.

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When it comes to numbers of applications iPad has far more than Surface RT, and neither one has the number of business applications that support traditional Windows operating systems. Surface RT is a Windows operating system that can’t run traditional Windows apps except for the Office suite specifically crafted for the platform.

Instead, Surface RT has its own class of applications called Windows Store apps, mainly because they can only be bought from the Window Store. They are tailored for touch tablets and must be vetted by Microsoft before they get into the store’s inventory.

They can be developed using XAML, with code-behind in C++, C#, or Visual Basic, and Microsoft has a provision for sideloading custom business apps to Surface RT without submitting them first to Microsoft. Even so, that’s a lot of work to get apps natively on the devices.

Both iPads and Surfaces support virtual desktops, which goes a long way toward making traditional apps available on them. Hosted virtual desktops (HVD) can be costly, Gartner says in a report called “Bring Your Own Device: New Opportunities, New Challenges”. Its research found that “shifting to an HVD model increases the onetime costs per device by more than $600.” Plus proper licensing of iPads for business use is complicated, the report says.

Managing Surface RT is possible via Windows cloud-based management Intune and Exchange ActiveSync for messaging. IPad also supports Exchange ActiveSync. Third-party mobile device management platforms can configure and update iPads as well as monitor compliance with corporate policies. They can also wipe or lock lost and stolen machines. OS X server can do all this as well.

Surface RT comes with security features iPad doesn’t. These include both hardware-based secure boot that checks that the system hasn’t been tampered with and also trusted boot that fires up anti-malware before anything else. That way malware can’t disable the anti-malware before it gets the chance to do its job. The same hardware security module can act as a smartcard for authentication, and Surface RT has full disk encryption.

The iPad has disk encryption but lacks the secure boot features of Surface RT. Its secure boot chain is based on read-only memory and its hardware security module doesn’t do double duty as a smartcard.

NOTE: There is another version of Surface that runs on x86 processors and supports any application that Windows 7 supports. It’s not available until next year, but is actually a tablet-sized full Windows laptop with all the touch capabilities of Surface RT.

That device would beat iPad hands-down if it cost the same, but it is likely to cost hundreds of dollars more than Surface RT.


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5 Things Microsoft Surface Must Do to Beat the iPad

Written by admin
October 22nd, 2012

5 Things Microsoft Surface Must Do to Beat the iPad
The Windows ship is leaking in a dozen places, pierced beneath the waterline by very pointy iPads. Where the Mac never really made a dent in Microsoft’s PC hegemony, the iPad is doing so: it’s being handed to children as a first computer, appearing in schools, and running point-of-sale systems for small businesses. If you consider the iPad a PC, then Apple’s the No. 1 PC maker, according to research firm Canalys.

That makes the iPad public enemy number one for Microsoft if it intends to maintain its PC leadership, and the new Surface tablet is Microsoft’s primary weapon. Surface comes in two versions. The Windows RT version matches the iPad on price, but has relatively few apps; all the same, this will be the model at which most consumers look. The more-expensive Windows 8 “Surface Pro” version will run existing business software.

I hate calling things a “such-and-such killer,” but Microsoft needs to at least slow the iPad penetration of iPads in business and claim a part of the consumer market. How can the company do that? Here are five paths to take.

Developers, developers, developers. Windows RT has fewer than 3,000 apps. The iPad has 250,000. Microsoft needs to beg, borrow, or steal to pump up the app count for RT. Fortunately, the company has plenty of experience with this – it’s managed to nurture more than 100,000 apps for Windows Phone even with that platform stuck in single-digit market share. Bring that experience to bear with the Surface and apps should ramp up nicely.

Bring Xbox to Windows RT. XBox is Microsoft’s most beloved consumer brand. And unlike the PS Vita and Nintendo DS, the Surface has enough horsepower to run pretty good approximations of Xbox games. Microsoft needs to bring as much of the Xbox experience as possible to the Surface. Once again, the company has done a pretty good job of this with Windows Phone, and it can do an even better job with the more powerful hardware here.

Reclaim Ground With Small Businesses. Small businesses are increasingly moving to iPad-based point-of-sale, order-taking and management systems. This major disruption has been brought on by Square and its ilk, and it’s cannibalizing the stodgy old world of retail business systems. Square’s Jack Dorsey has hinted at a Windows Phone app coming, but Square isn’t the be-all and end-all of small business systems. Microsoft needs to seize the day with custom Surface packages with hardware and software priced competitively to iPad solutions for different small business categories such as retail, real estate, and transportation.

Be Enterprise’s Best Friend. IT managers love a good relationship, and Apple has been cozying up to formerly PC-only shops, explaining to them how they can replace virus-prone, heavy PCs with light, secure iPads. Microsoft still has the infrastructure to take this back. Make sure that Surface RT can be managed with the same tools as enterprise Windows 8 installations, and then promote it as something that has all of the advantages of the iPad with more familiarity for Windows-friendly IT departments. If Microsoft wants to lean on SkyDrive, it needs to be enterprise-ready and secure enough for financial and legal firms.
Make Other Tablets Look Like Toys. Microsoft Office is the Surface’s greatest strength. It must integrate perfectly with the Office used on desktops, both from a user perspective (with even complex formatting intact, and features like version-tracking working properly) and from an infrastructure perspective (working with secure servers, domains, and policies.) Microsoft Office is, for better or worse, the backbone of American commerce. If Microsoft can make the Surface look like the only truly serious tablet, then it has a solid chance.

 


 

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10 Tips and Tricks for iOS 6

Written by admin
September 26th, 2012

Learn how a few special secret buried in iOS 6, as well as a couple of the most important features of Apple’s new operating system.

Maybe you’ve installed Apple’s iOS 6, the newest operating system for iPhones, iPad, and iPod touch, but do you know about all the tricks that are inside and how to use them?

Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, may have sparked a fury of Internet hate for the new Maps app, and I certainly won’t wag my finger at anyone who misses Google’s engine behind the Maps app, but plenty more goodies are tucked away in iOS 6 that you shouldn’t miss.

Here are ten of the best features and how to use them.
1. Swipe up to reply to incoming calls with a text message. Maybe you heard that when a call comes in, you can now reply with a text message instead of just declining the call. But these options don’t appear automatically. You have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal them.

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2. Customize your text replies to declined calls. The feature that lets you turn down phone calls but reply with text message allows you to use a canned message for added convenience. A few options appear when you swipe up, as mentioned in the first tip. To change what they pre-written texts say, go to

Settings > Phone > Reply with Message.

You can now customize your one-touch replies.

3. Learn how to work the Do Not Disturb option. A new feature called Do Not Disturb appears in the settings, but it’s nothing more than an on/off switch. Where can you set the hours for quiet time, or make it so that calls from emergency contacts come through? Oddly, these choices fall under the Notifications area. Go to

Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb.

The Scheduled button lets you define the hours when you don’t want to be disturbed. The Allow Calls From button just below it launches a new screen where you can exclude people from your do-not-disturb list.

4. Attach photos and videos to email in the Mail app. Formerly, using the mail app was occasionally a pain. You’d compose a message, remember that you wanted to send the recipient a photo, too, and realized you couldn’t actually attach anything to the draft. Now you can. In an email draft, press a hold anywhere in the body. In landscape mode (holding the phone horizontally), list of options will appear, including one to insert a photo or video. If you’re in portrait or vertical mode, just press the arrow button that appears until you see the right choice.

5. Read in full-screen mode. News articles, blogs, and other text-heavy pages, when viewed on an iPhone especially, cause squinting and more pinching, zooming, panning than most people feel comfortable doing. When Safari detects a text-heavy page in iOS 6, it supplies a button called Reader at the top right of the URL bar, which reformats the page in a full-screen and easier-to-read layout. You’ll also notice a “share out” or “send to” button (curved arrow) in Safari with a lot of great option beneath it also worth exploring. They’re mostly not new to iOS 6, but they do appear in a newly designed interface.

6. Pass your iPad or iPhone to friends without worrying they’ll get nosy. I admit that I’ve hesitated in the past before passing my mobile devices around to friends to let them look at photos or something that made me giggle on Facebook. The larger the group of friends, the more suspicious I am that someone might take liberties with my device when I’m not looking. The same is true, I’m sure, for parents who let their kids play with their iPhone or iPad. Guided Access, new to iOS 6, lets you lock down your device so that only the app you open can be used, and no other functionality works until you enter a unique four-digit passcode. It’s a little tricky to find and set up.

First, go to

Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access.

Toggle the switch to on and set a passcode. When you want to use Guided Access, just open the app of choice, and triple tap the home button. Be sure to hit the start button at the top right. But wait, there’s more (see the next tip).

7. Disable buttons in apps (in Guided Access). When you enable Guided Access in an app—which locks users from going into any other app or areas of the phone—you can also disable parts of the screen. For example, if you turn on Guided Access in the Photos app, you can also use your finger to circle parts of the screen you want to disable, such as the top row of buttons so that one can look through your other albums. Just be sure to hit the Start button in the top right corner before handing over your device!

8. Share Photo Stream. Apple’s syncing service, iCloud, handles images with speed and good responsiveness. But it was never easy to share your pictures until iOS 6 came along. To share your Photo Stream images, go to the Camera app and press Photo Stream. Then hit the plus button in the upper left, which will open a screen where you can fill information about how to share your Photo Stream, whether with a select few individuals, or by making it public on your iCloud account.

9. Learn what the new Privacy button means (and use it). A new Privacy button under Settings comes with little explanation. Tap it, and you might not know what information it’s even telling you because there are no instructions or explainers. Here’s what it does: Privacy shows you apps that can talk to other apps, and whether they are. For example, my Twitter app talks to my Flipboard app. I enabled that integration, and I’m okay with it. But if I didn’t remember allowing it, or wanted to shut it off, I can do so in the Privacy area with one quick motion. This feature gives you very good ability to quick ability to turn off any app-to-app sharing that you don’t want and you might have forgotten existed. So if you don’t want Facebook to know where you are, check the Location Services section of your Privacy buttons, and you can flip the switch off lickety-split.

10. Customize native Facebook alerts. A big new feature in iOS 6 was the direct folding in of Facebook functionality, meaning you can share to Facebook a picture from your Camera app or a link from Safari without ever opening the Facebook app itself. It works similar to the baked-in Twitter functionality that was new to iOS 5. What many users may overlook, however, is the ability to customize your Facebook chat and message alerts, separate from the Facebook app as well. They’re found under

Settings > Facebook > Settings.

Of course, you can also add Facebook alerts to your Notification Center, but that feature isn’t new (it’s under Settings > Notifications, and then scroll down until you find Facebook in your list of apps).

In a recent interview, Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky claimed that Apple is “10 years” behind Microsoft on security, as evidenced by the recent malware attacks affecting Mac OS X

There’s been a lot of chatter lately that the recent Flashback and Flashfake malware infestations plaguing Apple’s Max OS X are a sign that the Mac is not nearly as secure as Apple and its devout fans would like you to believe.
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Eugene Kaspersky, however, founder and CEO of Kaspersky Lab—a leading producer of security software—claims things are much worse. He says that Apple is in a potentially dire position and must change its approach to patches and updates, much in the same way Microsoft did year ago to more quickly and efficiently address vulnerabilities in Windows.

In a recent interview with CBR Online, Kaspersky said,

“I think they are ten years behind Microsoft in terms of security. For many years I’ve been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows. It’s always been possible to develop Mac malware, but this one was a bit different. For example it was asking questions about being installed on the system and, using vulnerabilities, it was able to get to the user mode without any alarms.”

Of course it’s possible to develop malware for OSX. Malware could be developed for any OS. As far as malware exploiting vulnerabilities, is that what’s been happening on Windows systems for ages?

Before we go on, we should point out what we believe to be a serious flaw in that statement. When Kaspersky says “there is no big difference between Mac and Windows,” that may be true on some level because they are both consumer operating systems, but the underlying technologies in OS X and Windows are fundamentally different. OS X is based on UNIX, which is decades more mature than Windows. And with that maturity also comes strong security.

Kaspersky goes on to say, “They will understand very soon that they have the same problems Microsoft had ten or 12 years ago. They will have to make changes in terms of the cycle of updates and so on and will be forced to invest more into their security audits for the software.”

This may or may not be the case. Kaspersky asserts that the success of Flashback / Flashfake will result in more malware being released for OS X. We’re not so sure. Most malware producers are in it to make a quick buck, not for notoriety. And the success of one piece of malware, doesn’t guarantee more will follow. Flashback / Flashfake may be getting some attention now, but targeting the Mac just doesn’t make as much financial sense as targeting Windows.

The fact of the matter is, even with relatively strong Mac sales, Windows-based systems far outsell the Mac and malware producers are always going to more aggressively target the largest install base. At least that’s our opinion. What say you?

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On August 9, 2011, Apple’s market capitalization briefly rose to $341.5 billion, edging it just ahead of Exxon, until that morning the highest-valued company in the world. The company Steve Jobs had co-created putting together computers, the one that Michael Dell had suggested shutting down 14 years earlier because it had no future, was now worth more than any other. The stock fell back by the end of the day, but it had made its mark; the transformation of Apple from financial basket case to ruler was complete. At the end of the day it was worth $346.7 billion; Microsoft was worth $214.3 billion and Google $185.1 billion.

Compared to the end of 1998 (Apple $5.54 billion, Microsoft $344.6 billion, Google $10 million), the aggregate wealth of the companies had more than doubled. Microsoft, though, had shrunk by 40%, after being outdistanced first in search, then in digital music and then in smartphones — in the latter category by both companies.
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The companies had changed enormously. Google was soon to celebrate its 13th birthday, having roared from a three-person garage start-up to web giant; it was struggling too with having nearly 29,000 staff worldwide. Larry Page, once more the chief executive, was forcing the divisions to justify themselves, getting divisional heads to explain their projects in soundbite-length memos. His greatest concern was that Google was getting too big and slow to act: “Large companies are their own worst enemy,” he said in September. “There are basically no companies that have good slow decisions. There are only companies that have good fast decisions.”

Where Apple hadn’t heard of Google 13 years before, now it had gone from having a common cause against Microsoft to being just a business acquaintance, and sometimes opponent; Apple and Microsoft bid together against Google for patents covering the mobile business. Apple was seeking to disintermediate Google from search with the cloud-based voice search of its upcoming iPhone. And they were constantly niggling each other in smartphones and tablets. Even so, by September 2011 the majority of mobile search still came from iPhones, according to Google testimony at the US Senate.

Apple had changed. From just under 10,000 full- and part-time staff in September 1998, it had grown to being 50,000 strong, though around 30,000 were in its retail store chain; the core of the company in Cupertino remained small and relatively tight-knit. The old enmity with Microsoft still flickered occasionally, but strategically they almost ignored each other. Apple’s position in PCs was set at 5% of the market. It had won in music. It didn’t do search. Its position in phones and tablets had pushed Microsoft to playing catch-up; yet the Redmond company could rely on the sheer heft of 1.5 billion PC installations to ensure a stream of replacements and of new sales for Office. Apple’s value, revenues and profits had all passed those of its old rival. Its reputation had been transformed from put-upon also-ran PC maker to world-spanning design brand. Tim Cook’s influence was visible in its inventory, whose value was equivalent to three days’ hardware sales.

Microsoft, by contrast, had gone from world-beater to catch-up. The staff at Microsoft (90,000 worldwide, compared to 27,000 in summer 1998) were a little battle-weary too. As Steve Ballmer, still the chief executive, spoke at the September 2011 all-hands company meeting in front of 20,000 employees, some simply got up and left, unhappy at the ‘cloud computing’ strategy, the stock’s lack of movement, and the lack of excitement at their employer. The version of Windows that would truly work on tablets was still a year away. Microsoft seemed mired in its fabulously profitable past – not a leader or innovator in search or on mobiles or tablets or anything. People began whispering that Steven Sinofsky, who had conquered internal politics and got the Windows team to grapple successfully with the future of tablets and chip architectures, might be chief executive material.

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Apple tops $600 billion in market value

Written by admin
April 12th, 2012

Stock price surges briefly to $649 per share

Apple stock price surged over the $600 mark today, about a month after shooting past $500. For a time, the company’s total market capitalization was more than $600 billion.

The stock price rose to $644 in the morning, and then fell back to $629 by midday. Only one other company has reached the $600 billion value: Microsoft on Dec. 30, 1999, was valued at $619 billion. Today, its value is $260 billion, according to an Associated Press story.

It’s all the more noticeable because stocks on the main exchanges fell yet again in response to poor U.S. job numbers last week, and continued concerns over the European debt crisis.

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BACKGROUND: Apple to issue dividends, repurchase shares from $98B cash balance

SCUTTLEBUTT: iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending April 6

Apple’s stock price has climbed 59% this year. A range of analysts have said the stock has been under-valued by the market, despite the company’s high revenues and huge profits created by the introduction of its iOS-based mobile products.

The question is how high will the stock price, and the company’s value, go? Last week, a stock analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, Brian White, attracted headlines by setting a target price of over $800 per share, and a goal of $1,001, which would bring Apple close to being a $1 trillion company. White argued that the start of iPhone sales on China’s biggest mobile carrier, China Mobile, and the launch of an Apple TV set, would expand Apple’s revenues and profits.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster also raised his price target for Apple’s stock, but not as high as White: Munster’s target lifted to $718 from $670, and others expect the price to at least top $700. Munster was quoted as saying his previous forecast underestimated Apple’s “expected growth rates for the smartphone and tablet markets.”

Some have speculated that the stock price surge was triggered by Apple’s recent announcement that it will use some of its nearly $100 billion in cash to pay a dividend and buy back some shares. But Dirk Schmidt, writing at the Asymco blog, cites data that show the price began ticking upward faster in late 2011, and then even faster starting in February 2012, well before the mid-March dividend news.

According to one account, today’s first intra-day trade over $600 came 22 trading days after the first $500 trade. That pace is faster than the 32 trading days needed to rise from $400 to $500.

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As third-gen tablet debut nears, Apple outsources offers for used iPads and iPad 2s

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Computerworld – With the retail debut of the new iPad just a day away, Apple has joined a slew of other companies eager to buy used iPads.

On Wednesday, Apple added iPad 2 trade-ins to its Reuse and Recycling program, which exchanges used hardware for Apple gift cards.

The move pits Apple against the likes of eBay’s Instant Sale buy-back service, and firms such as Gazelle and NextWorth that specialize in buying smartphones and tablets.

Reuse and Recycling is only available to U.S. customers. Apple outsources its electronics recycling and buy-back programs to PowerON, a Roseville, Calif. company.
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Full coverage: iPad

On Thursday, Apple offered $205 for a used 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2.

The quote was competitive with other buy-back vendors.

Gazelle, for example, quoted $180 for the same iPad 2 in “good” condition, or $200 for a “flawless” tablet. (Gazelle has said that most incoming iPads meet the requirements for the latter label.)

Meanwhile, NextWorth offered $200 for a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 in “good” shape, or $210.50 for one in “like new” condition.

eBay’s Instant Sale site, which generates quotes for used iPads and other electronic devices, also offered $200 for the iPad 2.

Some of the dealers’ prices have slipped since last week when Computerworld last covered tablet trade-in trends. On March 9, for example, NextWorth was offering $215 for a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 in good condition, while eBay, then running a deal that expired Saturday, said it would pay $290 for the same device.

In return for a used iPad, Apple sends sellers an Apple gift card valid only for purchases made at an Apple retail store or orders placed through its online store.

Other buy-back vendors are more flexible: Gazelle will send sellers an Amazon gift card — it automatically adds another 5% of the quoted price — or a check, or deposits the money in the seller’s PayPal account.

NextWorth offers checks, a Target gift card or PayPal deposits. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that eBay only does transfers to PayPal, the electronic payment service it owns.

Trade-in volume continues to climb. Yesterday, Gazelle said it had seen an eight-fold increase in trade-ins since Apple unveiled the new iPad last week.

Although supplies are already tight — the current wait time between ordering and shipping is two to three weeks — Apple will sell the new tablet in its own retail stores starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

Ten years ago Microsoft released its Tablet PC, with Bill Gate saying “within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” Things didn’t work out that way — the

Tablet PC died, and the iPad eventually took the world by storm. What went wrong?

Gates showed off a prototype of Microsoft’s Tablet PC at the COMDEX Fall 2001 computer show in Los Vegas. Manufacturers including Acer, Compaq, Fujitsu, and Toshiba said they would release Tablet PCs in the second half of 2002.

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Here’s how a Microsoft press release described the Tablet PC:

The size of a legal notepad and half the weight of most of today’s laptop PCs, the Tablet PC is a full-powered, full-featured PC that runs Windows XP and combines the power of desktop computing with the flexibility and portability of a pen and paper notepad.

It was touted to run Autodesk’s CAD software, versions of Microsoft Office, and Groove, collaboration software which Microsoft bought from Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes. The press release also noted that in his presentation, Gates:

emphasized that because it runs Windows XP, the Tablet PC is a fully-fledged, secure Microsoft .NET client machine that natively supports the .NET Framework.

All that tells you all you need to know about why the Tablet PC died. Rather than envision what people would really want to do with a tablet and then design the hardware for that, Microsoft instead force-fit Windows XP onto it. Windows XP was a great desktop operating system, but it was bloated overkill for a tablet.

Microsoft also decided that people would want to do the exact same things with a Tablet PC as they would with a desktop or a laptop. Here’s what Gates said at the announcement:

“The Tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available wherever you want it, which is why I’m already using a Tablet as my everyday computer. It’s a PC that is virtually without limits — and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.”

Because Microsoft envisioned it as a full-fledged PC and equipped it accordingly, it was expensive — typically $2,000 or more. Despite that price tag, it couldn’t really replace a desktop or laptop. It only found use in niche markets.

There were other problems as well. As TabTimes notes, the heavy use of a stylus was also a mistake.

Steve Jobs recognized that the tablet should be a consumer device and not a replacement for a desktop or laptop PC. He saw that it would require a different operating system, one designed for tablets, not traditional computers.

Will Microsoft learn from its mistakes when it releases tablets based on Windows 8? It’s not quite clear yet. The Windows 8 metro interface is well-suited for tablets, although the Windows 8 Desktop isn’t. If Windows 8 tablets are essentially hybrid tablet-PCs, it’s unlikely they’ll succeed.

Which Tech Giant Will Own the Future?

Written by nancy@freetrainingkey.com
November 4th, 2011

Of all of the companies, Apple has the most difficult path. This is because it recently lost the one person in the world who had the proper skills to run that company. This is because Steve Jobs redesigned Apple around his unique skill set. To continue at its current level, it can’t just be good — it has to be outstanding, and the firms that did this consistently last decade can be counted on one hand with four fingers left over.

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I ran into a new forward-looking video from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) last week that showcases a number of Microsoft technologies as they might be used a decade from now. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) produced a video a few years ago, equally compelling, showcasing a future based on its technology; unfortunately, it hasn’t been able to demonstrate a single design win yet that indicates it is on that path. This got me thinking of a Philips (NYSE: PHG) video (unfortunately I don’t have a link) in the 1990s that basically predicted the iPhone — a device it never actually made.

Over the years, it has often seemed like the companies in power have people inside who can accurately see the future but are often cursed by people running the business who can’t or won’t execute against that vision. They are able to see the future but in some terrible parody of the cursed Greek prophetess Cassandra, who could see but not change the future, they are unable to benefit from it.

I’ll look at four companies that are at various stages and consider their future chances: Microsoft appears to be in decline; Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is in transition; Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) appears to be the next Microsoft — in a bad way; and Facebook is the current heir-apparent.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a notebook from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) that looks like it was carved out of a block of aluminum and blends practicality with design elegance.
Microsoft on the Cusp

This is now Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft, and in many ways the firm bears little resemblance to the user-focused company that Paul Allen and Bill Gates launched in the 1980s. It is financially successful but clearly struggling in a market defined by Apple gadgets and user focus — which is somewhat ironic, given Microsoft’s initial success was largely because it was more user-focused than IBM (NYSE: IBM). The video I started out with accurately showcases a possible future for the company, but its historic problem is that it is too unfocused as a company, and the result is too many efforts that are massively under-resourced.

For instance, with Mango, the latest iteration of the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft has a product that is actually competitive and arguably better than Android — yet it is still losing market share, largely because it is massively underfunding it. It is spending billions on Bing, but the lack of progress there indicates it is under-resourced as well.

The test is not how much you spend, but whether you are making progress — and this new Microsoft focuses too much on containing costs and not enough on funding at levels that ensure success. That, to a large extent, is why it fails.

Channeling Yoda for a moment, it tries but it needs to do — and the end result continues to fall short of expectations. If Microsoft could accurately assess the cost of success, it would likely choose different battles to fight rather than underfunding the battles it is fighting. Seems like a simple thing, but if it made this one change, it would be far better for it.
Google: Death by Envy and Advertising

In 2007, this video foretold a future in which Google wins. It predicts that Google buys Microsoft in 2015 and pretty much takes over the world by 2050. Is really is rather interesting to watch. I do think it accurately showcases Google’s potential, but I don’t think Google is on this path either.

As was revealed in Steve Jobs’ biography, Jobs himself, effectively speaking from the grave, argued that Google was becoming Microsoft — too unfocused and too willing to toss crap out to the market. In short, Google needed to focus and grow up.

Children tend to obsess over showing up their elders. Mature adults focus on goals tied to success — well we should, anyway. Steve Jobs accurately described Google’s childlike excessive focus on Microsoft as its biggest problem and the reason that it has become a poor parody of that company.

Recently it even got its own version of the old Microsoft consent decree (which ironically mirrored IBM’s decades before). As I was writing, this info graphic was released showcasing that Android, Google’s premier operating system, pretty much screws the people who use it.

This brings up a second clear problem for Google, and that is quality. By separating the revenue from the product (it funds everything indirectly through advertising), it does what any product company knows is death: It makes its developers a cost center. Cost centers are naturally starved for funding and generally underperform as a result. So, for Google to reach its potential, it needs to stop focusing on showing Microsoft up, find a way to adequately resource its efforts, and focus instead on what it wants to be when it grows up — or it will fail, as Netscape did, for being the perennial child.

I also doubt Google wants to be remembered as the company that stole from Steve Jobs while being mentored and while Jobs was dying of cancer.
Facebook: Nibbled to Death

Facebook is clearly its own company. It doesn’t seem to be focusing excessively on any predecessor, and it is shifting its revenue sources from pure advertising into things more closely connected to products, like gaming. Interestingly, the video that showcases Facebook is being created, and it is being crowdsourced. This approach also showcases both the promise and problem for Facebook in the future. The video isn’t done, and the teaser is a collection of disjointed views from observers on the company’s future — kind of the video equivalent of a group of monkeys trying to type Shakespeare.

Because Facebook’s long-term success is most tied to how people interact, the core skills needed are more closely tied to skills like ethnography than they are to the engineering skills that typically define companies like this and currently define Facebook. In fact, coverage of Mark Zuckerberg (the CEO and vision behind Facebook) suggests that he is about as far from a people expert as we are likely to get in this business.

Already we are seeing services like Tagged, a social service designed to create deeper relationships, and Nextdoor, a Facebook-like secure offering focused on neighborhoods nibbling around Facebook’s edges. Services like this showcase Facebook’s core weakness — the very real problem that humans currently can’t scale to the relationship numbers that Facebook provides, and general services like Facebook have trouble focusing on the needs of small demographics or distinct geographies.

In short, Facebook’s future will likely be dependent on its ability to develop and apply leading expertise on human behavior and remain good enough for the majority of people looking for a social service. If it doesn’t, it isn’t Google it has to worry about — it is being nibbled to death by a ton of better-focused competing services, as barriers to entry remain very low in this segment.
Wrapping Up: Apple – The Next RIM or Reborn Again?

Of all of the companies, Apple has the most difficult path. This is because it recently lost the one person in the world who had the proper skills to run that company. This is because Steve Jobs redesigned Apple around his unique skill set. To continue at its current level, it can’t just be good — it has to be outstanding, and the firms that did this consistently last decade can be counted on one hand with four fingers left over.

Atari, Commodore, Netscape, Palm, Motorola and now Research in Motion (RIM) have all demonstrated that today’s champion can easily be tomorrow’s bozo. It doesn’t feel like Apple’s board or executive team has yet fully grasped that Apple can’t be sustained as it is without Jobs. It will have to change or find someone who can actually replace him.

Right now, this video showcases Apple’s future, and it desperately needs to change this outlook to something far more positive. In 1996, commenting on Apple, Steve Jobs appears in this video to have provided direction. But in the end, the company will have to maintain product passion at the top to continue to dominate — and right now, that is broken at Apple. Interestingly, this video by Corning may represent the best future for Apple, particularly if the new Apple TV rumor is true.

In the end, each of these companies must find in itself the vision, the focus, and the willingness to take the needed risks to define the future. Each could, but odds are that none of them will. Something to think about this week.
Product of the Week: Dell XPS 14z

Product of the Week

The XPS line has always been one of my favorites, and for most of this year, I carried the 17-inch older version of this product. The XPS 14z, initially released in China, represents the current state of the art in Windows 7 notebook computers. Pretty to look at and elegant in use, this laptop computer, at 14 inches, hits the proper balance between portability and usability in terms of size.

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Dell XPS 14z
Dell XPS 14z
(click image to enlarge)

Twelve inches is far more portable, but the screen and keyboard tradeoffs make them hard to use for heavy writers. Seventeen inches is an amazing desktop replacement, but portable it isn’t, and the weight and inability to use it in many planes — even in business class — makes it problematic.

While the 13.3-inch screen size is typically the better form factor, the unique LG Shuriken display this laptop uses is a 14-inch panel in a 13.3-inch mount, giving you the benefits of more screen size in a smaller laptop.

Dell went to a great deal of trouble to make sure this laptop balanced properly and unlike other premium laptops in its class (read MacBook Pros) it won’t try to iron your legs and dissipates heat properly.

With the passing of Steve Jobs, Dell is the only large PC company still run by its founder, and the XPS line is that company’s premier line. As a result, this is the product that is likely most closely designed for its founder.

Balance is important in any product, and whether you are buying from Apple or Dell, paying a little more for something you’ll depend upon is always worth the price — at least, it is to me. Since the XPS 14z is the quintessential Dell product and the most balanced Windows 7 consumer notebook I’ve yet seen, it is my product of the week.

iPhone 4S battery issue reminiscent of ‘antennagate’

Written by nancy@freetrainingkey.com
November 1st, 2011

commentary Apple’s silence on a problem that appears to be affecting a number of iPhone 4S users is bringing back memories of last year’s “antennagate,” something that could give hope to those expecting a fix.

As noted last week, users have flocked to Apple’s support site to complain about lower than advertised battery life on the new phone, which went on sale in mid-October.

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On paper, the new phone beats out its predecessor by one hour of 3G talk time, yet falls 100 hours shorter when it comes to standby–the time a phone will continue to run when not being used for phone calls or other functions. But affected users say Apple’s numbers are far too generous, with fully charged devices running out of juice during the course of a workday, even with minimal use.

Despite what’s now a 170-page support forum thread (among several others like it 1, 2, 3), and a number of media stories on the matter, Apple has refrained from weighing in to users or to press.

Why is that? Look no further than what happened when users took aim at the iPhone 4’s antenna design last year. Owners posted videos holding the phone tightly, showing that it would eventually lose some reception, something that was criticized as being a hardware flaw. Apple did not weigh in on the matter for three weeks, deciding instead to hold a press conference to address what had been dubbed “antennagate” with a sea of data to show that other phones had similar issues.

Is it too soon to classify Apple’s lack of reaction this time around to what happened last year around the iPhone 4 antenna? Not necessarily.

First off, this is affecting some users with the iPhone 4 as well as those with Apple’s newer iPhone 4S. In those cases it can be assumed that the culprit is iOS 5, a major software release Apple put out just ahead of the iPhone 4S hitting shelves that adds on a number of new features to the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 hardware.

So does that mean the software is half-baked? The run up to its release would suggest otherwise. Apple spent a considerable amount of time in near-public testing before delivering it to users (seven beta versions for developers, in fact), all inside a four-month span. That said, it’s not without some bugs.

Looking at the iPhone 4S specifically, it’s easy to wonder if it’s the hardware that’s slurping the battery life away. New to the 4S is a dual-core processor, a first for an iPhone, though not a first for an Apple device, with the iPad 2 jumping to Apple’s A5 processor earlier this year. A teardown by iFixit shortly after the iPhone 4S’ release showed it to be the very same processor that’s in the iPad 2, though running at a lower speed to save energy.

Does that really hold up as something to point a finger at though? During Apple’s iPhone 4S unveiling, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, suggested otherwise, saying the company had not only matched the battery life of the previous model but beaten it in some cases. “You would think if you put a processor that powerful inside a super thin phone, one of the things you’re going to trade off is battery life. But the hardware and software teams have worked really hard to get industry leading battery life as well,” he said.

Then again, if a report in the The Guardian last week is to believed, Apple engineers have been contacting some unhappy iPhone 4S users who had weighed in on the growing support thread about the issue, all in order to collect relevant phone usage logs. In a follow-up over the weekend, the outlet then suggested that the problem had to do with turning off an automatic time zone setting that was pinging for location data non-stop. Yet users who read CNET’s own coverage of that fix, and a number of users on Apple’s forums said that didn’t help.

What’s next?
Looking back at what Apple did to handle both the iPhone 4 antenna issue in 2010, as well as the location collection log that researchers highlighted earlier this year, one thing becomes clear: if it’s going to be addressed, there’s going to be data crunching on Apple’s end to either back it up or debunk it. As late Apple co-founder, then chief executive officer Steve Jobs said at the antenna press conference last year (emphasis mine):

“We heard about this not long after we started shipping just 22 days ago from today. It’s not like Apple’s had its head in the sand for 3 months on this guys, it’s been 22 days. Apple is an engineering-driven company. We’ve got some of the finest scientists and engineers here in the world in the areas were need to create our products. And the way we work is we want to find out what the real problem is before we start to come up with solutions. So we’ve been working our butts off for the last 22 days to understand what the real issues are here, so that we can come up with real solutions.”

That sentiment was echoed again in April this year, when all eyes turned on Apple to explain what it was doing with a collection of unencrypted location data that was being stored on iOS devices. In an interview with All Things D, Jobs said:

“We’re an engineering-driven company. When people accuse us of things, the first thing we want to do is find out the truth. That took a certain amount of time to track all of these things down. And the accusations were coming day by day. By the time we had figured this all out, it took a few days. Then writing it up and trying to make it intelligible when this is a very high-tech topic took a few days. And here we are less than a week later.”

In both cases Apple issued a software update to address the issue at hand shortly after acknowledging it publicly. Looking back on the release of the iPhone 4, it took Apple less than a month to release the first iOS software update for that device, which arrived as a patch of sorts to change the way the phone displayed carrier signal strength. For the location database it was two weeks for a fix that would remove the data store outright every time a user turned location services off.

So that brings us back to now. Will we get a similar software update for any battery issues? History would suggest that’s the case if it affects a big enough group of users. In those two aforementioned cases it was everyone with an Apple device, which does not seem to be the case with this latest issue. Could there still be a problem though? A 170-page thread on the matter, and reports of Apple contacting users about it for more data suggests so. Just don’t expect a press conference about it if there’s a fix in store.

HTC dealt a setback in Apple patent battle

Written by nancy@freetrainingkey.com
October 17th, 2011

Apple says phones such as the HTC Amaze infringe on its patents. HTC has countersued with its own claims of patent violation by Apple.

Apple didn’t infringe on four of HTC’s patents, according to an initial ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission’s administrative law judge.

The administrative law judge ruling, which is essentially a recommendation to the ITC’s judges, found “no violation” by Apple, Reuters reported. A final ruling by the ITC is expected in February.

The ruling is just one component of an increasingly complex set of complaints and lawsuits between Apple and HTC filed in multiple courts and employing several different patents. The four HTC patents in this case, for instance, don’t include an amended complaint that uses patents HTC acquired from Google. As a result, even a full rejection of these patents from HTC wouldn’t spell an end to the litigation.

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“This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings.,” HTC General Counsel Grace Lei said in a statement e-mailed to CNET today. “We are confident we have a strong case for the ITC appeals process and are fully prepared to protect our intellectual property.”

Apple wasn’t immediately available for comment.

HTC’s complaint was a response to Apple’s own volley of lawsuits alleging the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer had violated several technologies already used in the iPhone. HTC filed the complaint last year in the ITC, seeking a ban on the importation of iPhones, iPods, and iPad tablets. The initial complaint, however, used a weak set of patents, according to some legal experts.

“I didn’t take it seriously from the day it was filed,” said Florian Mueller, a legal consultant on patents. “Even if they were successfully enforced, I doubt they would pose a serious threat to Apple.”

Apple has gone on the offensive against the various Android manufacturers, hitting even longtime partners such as Samsung Electronics with lawsuits and bans in an effort to halt the growing momentum of Google’s mobile platform. While the iPhone remains the top-selling smartphone–with the iPhone 4S selling 4 million units over this past weekend–the widespread nature of Android has fueled Google’s market share gains.

Technology companies have increasingly used the ITC to settle their differences over the past few years. The process is quicker than a traditional district court, and holds the threat of a ban on the importation of devices or products. No ban has even been enforced on a technology company in the U.S.; the companies have always settled beforehand.

HTC was the first company hit with a lawsuit by Apple. The company is seen as the Android supporter with the weakest patent position, requiring recent assistance from Google. The company also acquired S3 Graphics, which owns patents that Apple may have violated.

Install Chrome OS on Macbook Air

Written by admin
August 2nd, 2011

You may not be looking to buy a separate netbook just for attaining the top notch security for your OS, but what you can always do is Install Chrome OS on your exisiting Macbook Air.

Previously,  we had shown you how you can install chrome OS on notebook, desktop PC using bootable USB and install Chrome OS on Virtualbox, vmware, this is the step further in that direction bringing full hadware support to MBA with nightly builds of Chromium OS.

 

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Warning: This method does a clean install, you would lose all your data, make backups before proceeding.

How to Install Chrome OS on Macbook Air [Chromium OS]

Step 1: Download Chromium OS from hexxeh’s site here and extract it.

Step 2: Using dd, burn the download image of Chromium on a USB (check this guide)

Step 3: Plugin the USB and boot your Macbook Air along with OS X install drive.

Step 4: Hold the “C” key on your keyboard and simultaneously press the power button, moment you see the apple logo, you can now leave the “C” key.

Step 5: You would now enter wizard that guides you through installation. When done with language selection, you would enter the wizard.

Step 6. Click “Utilities” from top menu and select Terminal.

Step 7: Type the commands:

dd if=/dev/rdisk1 of=/dev/rdisk0 bs=4m count=512

Step 8: When done, hold down the power button till it powers off.

Step 9: Unplug the USB drives and now power on your Air. Wait for few seconds and you’re done.

What’s broken:

* Boot times are not as good as REal chromebooks (22 seconds vs 8s)
* Bluetooth doesn’t work (Coming soon)

Threat from Mac ‘backdoor’ just isn’t credible enough to mention, says Intego

Computerworld – A Mac security firm today criticized Microsoft for warning Mac users of new malware, saying that the threat simply wasn’t worth mentioning.

 

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Late Monday, the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC), the group that researches malware and crafts signatures for the company’s antivirus products, alerted users of a new Mac “backdoor,” a program that, once installed, downloads additional attack code or lets hackers steal files from the compromised computer.

In a blog post, Microsoft malware engineer Meths Ferrer said that MMPC had found the backdoor, dubbed “Backdoor:MacOS X/Olyx.A,” in an archived file that also contained a Windows backdoor called “Wolyx.A.”

According to Ferrer, Olyx.A disguises itself as a Google application support file when run by the user, then establishes a remote connection to an IP address hosted in Seoul, South Korea.

But Intego, a French antivirus company that focuses exclusively on the Mac, took exception to Ferrer’s blog post.

“They’re making it out like this is something serious, but it’s not in the wild at all and not being installed,” said Peter James, a spokesman for Intego. “This is no big deal.”

A backdoor must either be manually installed by a user — perhaps after being tricked into running the file — or packaged with other malware that exploits a vulnerability or uses social engineering tricks to get the victim to run the program, said James.

There’s no evidence that Olyx is in wide circulation or being used by other malware, such as Mac-specific “scareware,” the phony antivirus software that fools people into installing it after faking security alerts.

“It could so stuff if it was in the wild, but it’s not,” argued James.

It’s rare to see one antivirus firm bash another for issuing a warning or alerting customers to a possible threat. But that didn’t stop Intego, which saw Ferrer’s blog as counterproductive.

“We get criticized every time we issue a security alert,” said James, adding that people accuse it of crying wolf about threats to the Mac, which has historically been relatively immune to attacks because of its small market share.

Cyber criminals with profit in mind are much more likely to target Windows simply because Microsoft’s operating system powers nearly 90% of the world’s personal computers.

“When something is a real threat, we’ll say something,” said James. “If it’s not, we don’t publicize [the malware] by issuing an alert. We’ve got other things to do.”

Intego created an Olyx definition for its VirusBarrier product on June 30.

“It’s kind of interesting that Microsoft took a month [to mention Olyx] after it started circulating,” James said, taking another swipe at the Redmond, Wash developer. “Maybe this is a sign that they’re going to be analyzing more Mac malware in the future.”

Other security companies have also made mention of Olyx, including Kaspersky Lab, which highlighted the backdoor in a malware report for June 2011.

IT workers with heart

Written by admin
July 25th, 2011

For these companies, employee volunteerism means improved collaboration and productivity on the job

Computerworld – You might think Steve Kranson, who works at Comerica Bank in Auburn Hills, Mich., is your average IT manager. But he’s also been known to log hours dressed up like the Easter Bunny, to the delight of local kids.

 

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Amy Crow, who spends most of her working hours as an IT project manager at Texas Health Resources, has been spotted stepping away from her computer to work on gardening and landscaping projects at nursing homes, organize donated linens and other household items for local disaster relief agencies and sing holiday songs at elementary schools in the neighborhood.

And Paychex Inc. employees Dan Canzano, vice president of IT operations and support, and Tammy Hall, director of enterprise service management, have spent some of their worktime polishing their poker-playing skills and raking in some big bucks for charity.

In all three cases, these IT professionals performed these activities with the blessing of their employers, who often allow workers to take paid time off to donate their skills, talents and time to charities and other nonprofit organizations.
I just interviewed two people under 30. They both asked about personal days for volunteering. Younger folks are asking about community involvement.
Marcia Riley, vice president of talent management and human resources, ESI International

Employers also benefit from these arrangements. In fact, they are increasingly more than happy to subsidize employees’ volunteer efforts outside the workplace, because they’ve noticed an undeniable link between employee volunteerism and improved collaboration and productivity on the job.

“Outside volunteer activities afford workers an opportunity to view their co-workers through a different lens,” says David Ballai, CIO at Reed Technology in Horsham, Pa.

“You see them assisting in the community and interacting in a different environment. When they come back to work, they have a more holistic view of their peers and can appreciate how they view the world,” he says. “It’s great for team-building.”

Moreover, volunteerism can enhance a company’s image in the communities where its employees and customers live. And offering time off — either paid for unpaid — for charity work can also help organizations attract younger, more community-minded and tech-savvy employees, experts say.

“I just interviewed two people under 30. They both asked about personal days for volunteering. Younger folks are asking about community involvement,” says Marcia Riley, vice president of talent management and human resources at ESI International, an Arlington, Va.-based training and consulting firm. “I was not asked that question 20 years ago. Younger folks are demanding this benefit, and good employers are responding.”

Anecdotal evidence indicates that an increasing number of companies are offering paid time off to employees who want to volunteer, either on company-sponsored initiatives or at a charity or agency of their own choosing. Comerica, for example, has donated more than 100,000 hours of its employees’ time in the past two years, which translates to more than $2 million worth of volunteer activities in the communities it serves.