Friday, September 13, 2013

Federal Court Denies Google Request To Dismiss Privacy Lawsuit

Google’s request to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the company of violating federal wiretap laws was denied, Reuters reported. Google mistakenly intercepted emails, user names, passwords and user data from Wi-Fi networks between 2008 and 2010 while they were creating the Street View application. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused Google’s bid to be exempt from the Wiretap Act, which regulates the collection of content on wire and electronic communications. Earlier this year, Google settled another Street View privacy case brought by 38 states, and had to pay $7 million in fines and agree to implement internal and external programs to train employees and users on how to maintain privacy.

The iPhone 5C: Unraveling The Mystery Of Apple's Colorful, Not-Quite-Cheap iPhone

Last quarter, Apple's profits were sagging. But Tim Cook still managed to smirk about it—and we're about to know why. The company that redefined consumer technology altogether now needs some elbow room. Apple's iPhone dominates in the U.S. and Europe, but markets elsewhere are a different story, a story with plenty of room for a plot twist. With the announcement of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, a plot twist of epic (or shall we say global?) proportion is in order. Here's how. Why Does The iPhone 5C Exist At All? Apple's iPhone 5C is a bright, candy-colored version of its popular iPhone that starts at $99. It differs from the premium model (the iPhone 5S) in that it is mostly made of plastic. The iPhone 5S is the new premium model, retailing for Apple's normal starting price of $199. Though it's the first time that Apple will launch a second tier of iPhone (it usually just points budget-minded customers to its last model), the iPhone 5C was widely expected to be priced even lower than its $99 starting price. Still, Apple has high expectations for the colorful device in Asian markets, particularly China and Japan, which will see their first day-one iPhone launch in history. The company has yet to announce pricing in Asia. Still, the iPhone 5C remains a puzzle. But maybe it's just as simple a reason as cutting costs and boosting profits? Assuming the iPhone 5C costs less than the iPhone 5 or 5S to produce, Apple's markup on the phone could rake in more cash than the company nets from its tier of non-plastic iPhones. If Apple were to have kept the iPhone 5 in circulation, it would likely have given it the last-generation treatment and dropped the starting price by $100, down to $99. With its plastic body, the iPhone 5C's components would cost considerably less than a metal-and-glass iPhone 5... and yet, the $99 price tag remains. Without a proper teardown, it's impossible to know what the iPhone 5C costs to build, but Apple's considerable shift in strategy seems to point to a higher markup. Why not just keep the iPhone 5 and sell the heck out of it in Asia? Well, no one gets excited over an old phone, even if it's a nice one. If Apple really wants to push the 5C in Asia, China specifically, hyping it up as a different (and not lesser) tier of iPhone isn't a bad idea.
Apple's Asia Opportunity Is Massive It's no coincidence that Apple will host an iPhone launch event in China for the first time. Apple is making an aggressive move on the Asian market—and with good reason. For the first time, Apple's new iPhones (this time it's a pair) will launch in China, Japan and Singapore on September 20, the same date as its major U.S. launch. Usually Asian customers are left in the lurch while Apple works out the kinks of an Asia launch. The U.S. likes to think of itself as number one in plenty of respects—but as far as smartphones go, the nation is small potatoes. China is the world's biggest smartphone market, far and away. In Q2 2013, 88.1 million smartphones shipped in China compared to 32.9 million in the U.S. India and Japan now trail third and fourth, with 9 million and 8.6 million smartphones shipments during that quarter, respectively. As this chart shows, Apple's potential for growth is slowing in the U.S. as the country reaches its saturation point. Growth in China and India by comparison shows no signs of stopping whatsoever.
To seal the deal in the world's biggest mobile market, Apple has been chatting up China Mobile—the world's largest mobile carrier and coincidentally the only one that doesn't sell the iPhone. If the rumors—and Tim Cook's visits to Beijing—pan out, China Mobile could hand Apple 700 million subscribers. That's seven times more mobile customers than subscribe to Verizon, the largest mobile provider in the U.S. Beyond that, Apple just struck a deal with Japan's NTT Docomo, Japan's largest carrier, netting itself another pool of 60 million potential iPhone owners. Who's Left To Court In The West? Here in the U.S., Apple might be able to rouse interest among the teens and tweens who don't already have an iPhone. From 2009 to 2011, the number of teens with smartphones exploded from 1.7 million to 4.8 million. The number of teens (ages 12 to 17) who owned smartphones grew from 23% in 2012 to 37% in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center. The bright, eye-popping colors of the iPhone 5C definitely appeal to the younger set, a generation weaned on the contract-free iPod touch. Apple needs to keep its momentum with teens in western markets, but that demographic isn't the real set of keys to the castle. What happens when you combine the booming Asian smartphone market with booming interest among teens hungry for their first smartphone? Why, a rainbow's worth of sales for the $99 iPhone 5C, of course.

WorkHands Wants To Become The Blue-Collar LinkedIn

According to the most recent statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation, blue collar workers make up roughly 60% of the workforce in each U.S. state. However, you’d never know that browsing the Internet. While there are dozens of job boards that specialize in white collar jobs, if you’re looking for a skilled labor job, your best bet is to check your local Craigslist listings. The staff of WorkHands, is hoping to change that. A LinkedIn-like service for blue collar workers in the U.S., a new social network that launched Tuesday. Putting The Internet To Work A software engineer, WorkHands CEO Patrick Cushing is the black sheep of his blue collar family. His dad fixed oil burners for a living, and his brother is a professional welder. He realized first hand that blue collar workers are always online, even if their jobs are not. “My brother has had Facebook since the beginning,” he said. “I looked at someone like my brother and realized he had all these online tools for his social life and none for his work career." Perhaps because of the white collar backgrounds of most Silicon Valley types, most job networks are designed with similar job hunters in mind. There are thousands of blue collar professionals connected on LinkedIn, but Cushing argues that network doesn’t cater to them as specifically as WorkHands does. “Linkedin makes it really hard to demonstrate what you’re great at in the trades,” he said. “If you’re a great welder, one of the best ways to demonstrate that is to show your welds.” A machinist's profile on WorkHands. In the same vein, the most prominent part of any WorkHands profile is a photo gallery. In this early adopter’s profile, photos of the student’s metalwork are placed more prominently than his experience or education history. Just like skillful code can be a ready calling card for a tech job, a well-welded piece of metal may be all a trades employer needs to see. WorkHands profiles also include sections you’d never see on LinkedIn, such as a place for workers to list the types of power tools they own and can use or a list of the workers’ licenses and certifications, used for operating heavy machinery or driving utility vehicles. But through testers, the WorkHands crew has met with the most enthusiasm with the photo gallery feature. “So many of the workers we talk to, we ask about their work and they pull out their phone and have pages and pages of photos of it,” said Cushing. “They’re inherently proud of the work they do with their hands.” Keeping Social Going For this reason, the WorkHands crew believes that it can keep workers using the network even after they’ve already found a job. They can upload photos and approve of connections’ handiwork by clicking the “solid” button, a straight-talking version of Facebook’s “like.” Other features are on the way, too. This quarter, Cushing hopes to launch private networks for technical schools, employers, and other organizations, a mobile app, and a job board. Right now WorkHands is free for workers and employers alike, but eventually the network will make money by charging companies for their job listings. Already, WorkHands has helped a handful of students at Laney College in Oakland, CA find jobs at a local ironworking company. The network has worked well for students, who are already constantly online, and for companies, which before have never had a network to find welders, woodworkers, and other skilled laborers all in one place. The blue collar Internet already existed, said Cushing. They just needed the right tools. “The assumption that this workforce isn’t already online is something we’re really trying to challenge,” said Cushing.

How iOS 7 Delivers For the Social Addict

Social applications on mobile devices live or die on ease of use. Speed, performance and efficiency matter. So what do Apple's iOS 7 and new devices like the iPhone 5S bring to the table for the social user on the go? Shoot More, Share More Updates to the iPhone 5S camera announced today will no doubt appeal to amateur photographers and videographers. Users can now take better quality photos and videos with their iPhones. New camera features such as built-in image stabilization and standard filters will make for faster taking, saving and sharing of images. More users are posting photos and videos online, and Apple is catering to those users by integrating Flickr and Vimeo into iOS 7. Users will be able to sign in to the photo- and video-sharing networks via the built-in settings application, which means easier access to the services similar to what iPhone users already enjoy with Twitter and Facebook. Apple ditched its native YouTube video app almost exactly a year ago, and Vimeo is a logical replacement given that it's YouTube's most serious competitor on the Web. Flickr integration will make it easier to share and save photos with a single click. With the new integration, we'll probably see instant login-in options for a variety of App Store apps, like Instagram, using Flickr. Both of these applications could see user growth as a result of being a standard social application on Apple’s mobile devices. Twitter Integration Shared Links in Safari populate with links Twitter and Apple think you might find interesting. When Apple launched iOS 5 back in 2011, its social network of choice was Twitter. Apple fully integrated it into iOS, simplifying the process of sharing photos, videos, and articles. Mobile Twitter signups immediately tripled. The launch of iOS 6 in 2012 included Facebook integration, making it easier for users to share directly from their devices. But with the release of iOS 7, the two social networks are once again on an uneven playing field. Twitter is receiving a slew of updates that Facebook won't get, at least not yet. It's not clear whether preferential treatment is Apple policy or not, but for the moment, Twitter is clearly getting some additional love. For instance, in iOS 7, Safari will feature Shared Links, a list of articles shared by people you follow on Twitter that are suggested by Apple and Twitter. Siri is getting Twitter integration as well, allowing users to verbally search what people are saying about topics and she (or he) will show users the resulting tweets. Siri can also post directly to Twitter, giving users a hands-free social experience. Twitter also made its way into the new iTunes Radio, a Pandora-like service for Apple devices. The radio application features over 200 genre-focused stations, one of which—"Trending on Twitter"—plays the most popular songs on the social network. Speed Up Your Social Life Additionally, Apple announced a new 64-bit processor for the new iPhone 5 that will make posting, saving and sharing faster. Although the processor is geared towards gamers, general users will see an impact on the load times of their favorite apps. The new background application refresh option makes sure social media feeds are kept up-to-date, even when you’re not actively using them. This eliminates the time suck and annoyance of waiting for feeds to refresh when users want to see the latest posts from their favorite social networks immediately. iOS users on devices other than the iPhone 5 can expect to connect to friends quicker on iOS 7. Social applications will load 11 percent faster on the new operating system, according to a report by application testing start up Appurify. The company took a look at the most popular social applications on the App Store and compared performance of the apps on iOS 7 to iOS 6 and determined that users can expect up to three seconds shaved off load time for many of their favorite apps.

Who Needs The 64-Bit Chip In The iPhone 5S? You Do

Apple yesterday introduced the A7 chip, the 64-bit chip at the heart of the new iPhone 5S that provides impressive graphics capabilities and processing power. The mobile game Infinity Blade III launched with the 5S, and during its presentation Apple used the game to show off the new iPhone's powerful graphics chops. But the A7 isn't just for gamers. It powers a whole bunch of features that you, the ordinary user, are likely to care about. A lot. In a nutshell, the 64-bit chip provides better speed, faster applications, more processing power, and better graphics. That means you can download videos and update your social media feeds faster. Apple's highly anticipated camera upgrade and fingerprint-based smartphone security both also require significant processing power. The camera application includes auto image stabilization and a feature that takes multiple photos with each button press, then discards all but the best one. An improved flash can adjust both color and intensity for different lighting situations, supposedly significantly decreasing overexposure, and a camera sensor that's 15 percent larger than its predecessor in the iPhone 5. Touch ID, Apple’s new security function that scans your fingerprint to unlock your phone and pay for purchases on iTunes, is located on the sapphire glass crystal home button. None of those features are easy to pull off. All benefit from the extra horsepower provided by the A7. iOS 7 has been completely reengineered for the 64-bit processor, Apple says. iPhone 5S will be backwards compatible with existing older 32-bit applications, but Apple said developers should be able to upgrade their apps to 64 bit easily.

Analysts: Amazon About To Get Serious Competition In The Cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) clearly leads the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) market and by some distance. But whether developers should follow AWS largely depends on where they want to go, according to new research from Forrester. Not only does this require a choice between Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings and IaaS, but there's also real IaaS competition brewing for AWS from Microsoft and Google. The easy choice of "AWS or more AWS?" may be about to disappear. Why Amazon Wins In Cloud But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, AWS offers five times the utilized compute capacity of each of its other 14 top competitors—combined. That's a big lead, and stems from AWS' quasi-religious focus on its customers' needs, as Gartner's Lydia Leong offers. Couple this with a "willing[ness] to invest massively in engineering" and "iterate at shocking speed," and you get a sense both for why Amazon has been so successful, and why it's so hard to catch up. Small wonder, then, that Forrester's developer survey finds that AWS has a clear lead, with 62% of developers surveyed indicated that they've implemented AWS already, with another 23% planning to do so. The numbers for Microsoft and Google are not nearly so good:
Amazon has been looking to extend this lead by making its IaaS offerings more enterprise friendly. Importantly, Amazon isn't building out a separate enterprise cloud, but instead is meshing enterprise features with its public cloud, a strategy that jibes with Leong's belief that "customers actively do not want two different clouds, since nobody really wants to shift between different clouds as you go through an application’s lifecycle, or for different tiers of an app, some of which might need greater infrastructure resilience and guaranteed performance." And lest anyone think AWS simply serves the rinky-dink individual developer with a dev/test workload, Leong stresses that its customers are decidedly "traditional enterprises of the Global 2000 variety (including some of the largest companies in the world)," in addition to the mid-market, "projected spend levels... increasing dramatically... use cases [that] are extremely broad,...[with] workloads [that] increasingly have sensitive data and regulatory compliance concerns." So, game over, Amazon wins? Cloud Competitors Rising Not so fast. If ever there were a market with deep-pocketed competitors who can financially afford to catch up and compete, this is it. And, as Forrester's Jeffrey Hammond argues, "We’re moving away from distinct leaders in a single market segment, like IaaS or PaaS, and toward a model that mirrors a traditional buying pattern, where app development professionals choose between best of breed services (e.g., compute, storage, RDBMS, messaging, CRM) or integrated data-centers of services (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Salesforce/Heroku/" In this world where buyers focus on best-of-breed, AWS doesn't necessarily always have the upper hand. For example, Microsoft already competes quite well with AWS when it comes to developers using a cloud relational database (RDBMS), as Forrester's survey finds:
This could be a function of enterprises turning to a trusted database provider for their RDBMS needs. It could just be a short-term blip as enterprises explore other cloud database offerings, an area in which AWS excels and Google is growing. Or it could just be, as Hammond suggests, that one-cloud-size-does-not-fit-all. In such a world, according to Leong, different cloud vendors bring different strengths, and each of the two primary challengers has pockets as deep or deeper than Amazon. Take Microsoft, for example. "Microsoft has brand, deep customer relationships, deep technology entrenchment, and a useful story about how all of those pieces are going to fit together, along with a huge army of engineers, and a ton of money and the willingness to spend wherever it gains them a competitive advantage." And what about Google? "Google has brand, an outstanding engineering team, and unrivaled expertise at operating at scale." Lots To Play For In Cloud In short, we're a long way from deciding an absolute winner in cloud computing. In part this is because we're still in the early days of adoption, and in part it's because, as Hammond insists, developers are increasingly buying the best tool for a particular job. Amazon has established a clear leadership position, but it isn't the only cloud vendor with a strong cloud story. Microsoft still needs to overcome its Microsoft-centric approach to the cloud (and everything else), and Google still needs to figure out how to operate like a business that enterprises can understand and buy from, but these are solvable problems. One thing is clear: as these problems are solved, an interesting but not particularly competitive cloud market will become even more interesting, and much more competitive.

The iPhone 5S: More Than An Incremental Apple Update

Apple aimed to impress with the iPhone 5S. To show the doubters that, yes, it could still innovate. To show people that the long-awaited new iPhones were not just some iterative update to what came before. Apple wanted to state, with authority, that its iPhone was the best damn smartphone ever built. The theme at yesterday's iPhone announcement was just that, “Apple Announces iPhone 5S—The Most Forward-Thinking Smartphone in the World.” It’s a lofty (if a bit trite) statement. It is also one that Apple came fairly close to making true. The iPhone 5S is an impressive feat of mobile computing, from the design in gold, silver and metallic grey to the 64-bit architecture inside. If it's not the top smartphone on the market immediately upon its release, it puts itself squarely in the conversation. See also: Gold Tones, Multi-Colored iPhones & Apple's Design Ethos Make no mistake, the iPhone 5S is not an iterative update over the iPhone 5 (the iPhone 5C is exactly an iterative update of the iPhone 5, but we will get to that in a bit). The iPhone 5S is a blend of power and sophistication, design and functionality in a way that will make Apple fanboys line up at their local retail stores all over again. It’s impressive. That is not something I thought I would be saying when I woke up yesterday morning. The rumors heading into the announcement of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C weren't really all that exciting. Better camera with dual flash? Sure, that’s expected. The A7 processor? Apple comes out with a new processor for the iPhone every year. It will eventually trickle down to other products like the iPad. A fingerprint sensor? Well, now that's a new feature that none of Apple's top competitors sport on their flagship smartphones. It may be a gimmick, but it is an interesting gimmick. Just like Siri was when it was announced.
The M7 “motion coprocessor” that tracks your movement all day was distinctly not expected. An entire system within Apple existing hardware that does nothing but monitor aspects of your health? That is a feature that blends hardware and software to refine an aspect of the iPhone that had to this point only been served by third-party apps. Apple's competitors perform similar functions too, as top Android smartphones like the Galaxy S4 and Moto X both have systems inside are sensitive to movement and health tracking. Apple is targeting the world with both the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. Each phone will support up to 13 4G LTE spectrum bands, meaning that each will work on just about any cellular carrier on Earth that employs 4G technology. If you take all of these updates individually, they are tangentially interesting. But when you put them all together, throw in the new functionality of iOS 7 and the gold/silver design of the body and put it into one cohesive unit and Apple has a flagship smartphone that it can be proud of. Apple has effectively mixed both creativity and innovation and came out with a top-notch smartphone. 64-Bit & iOS 7 The 64-bit architecture of Apple’s new A7 processor took a lot of people by surprise. The ability to put 64-but architecture onto ARM-based chips is fairly new. ARMv8 that runs a dual 64-bit/32-bit architecture was announced in October 2011 and not expected to ship in quantity until 2014. So, Apple is jumping the gun a little bit here. The company also said that all apps built for 32-bit architecture (everything before iOS 7) will be compatible with the new system. See also: Who Needs The 64-Bit Chip In The iPhone 5S? You Do Apple built iOS 7, the operating system that runs the iPhone, specifically with 64-bit in mind. Looking back, there were a fair amount of signals along the way that Apple would make such a move. Sprite Kit, the new rendering engine that runs all of the gaming in iOS 7, was described as a way to create games in “2.5D.” The new parallax features and gestures in iOS 7 could be pulled off with 32-bit but would be much smoother with the new processor. For the immediate future, the 64-bit A7 System-on-a-Chip (SoC) is a non-starter. 64-bit takes a lot of RAM (typically, 3GB and up) to initialize. That type of RAM won't be found in the iPhone 5S (it features 2GB) and even the top Android smartphones only approach 2GB. Most apps on iOS 7 will not see the benefit of the 64-bit architecture. What Apple did do with the 64-bit architecture is set a base that will be the starting point for future iPhone improvements and new types of apps and games to be built. Examples of what Apple did in iOS 7 to improve the experience on the iPhone 5S (and later, the iPad) abound. Yes, what most people will see with iOS 7 is the pretty new paint job (that matches the pretty new colors of the iPhone 5C and the muted gold and silver in the iPhone 5S), but Apple custom-built iOS 7 to be more powerful and accessible to everyday users. Now that we know it was targeted towards a much improved 64-bit architecture, that makes quite a bit of sense. The Year Of The Smartphone Camera Every new flagship smartphone to be announced this year has featured the camera as the most significant feature in the new device. BlackBerry started it off with its new BlackBerry 10 motion features, HTC followed up with the hullabaloo over “ultrapixels,” Samsung followed up with a 16-megapixel camera that sports a variety of “modes” like “Drama Shot” and motion-based editing. Nokia holds the title for best smartphone camera of the year (and probably next year too) with the 41-megapixel behemoth on the Lumia 1020 (mostly because it is a high quality digital camera that just so happens to have a smartphone attached to it). See also: Apple's iPhone 5S Camera Shoots To Kill: Big Aperture, Burst Mode And More Apple 8-megapixel “iSight Camera with True Tone flash” will fit somewhere in the middle of all of these. Yes, the sensors are better and the pixels are bigger, but that is what all the other major smartphone manufacturers have been doing all year. Yes, Apple made a decent jump with its camera hardware and the camera app within iOS 7 has more features, but Apple is not running away from the field here. By this time next year, when the presumptive “iPhone 6” comes out, the camera tech on the iPhone 5S may look antiquated. Apple has validated, along with the other smartphone manufacturers, one very important aspect of smartphone cameras: it is not all about the megapixel. Having a better sensor, a better lens, capturing more light and having software that is optimized towards taking good pictures is better than having more megapixels. HTC, Motorola and Nokia all understand this. With the iPhone 5S, Apple does too. The Iteration Of The iPhone 5
What do you get when you take an iPhone 5, change the body to plastic, add a pretty polycarbonate case and release it in a variety of colors? The iPhone 5C. The general consensus ahead of the announcement of the iPhone 5C was that it would be Apple’s low-end device. That turned out to be wrong. It is Apple’s mid-tier device (with the iPhone 4S as the low-end offering). The iPhone 5 will be killed off. The reasoning for this is likely that Apple found the iPhone 5 to be too expensive to build and sell at the price point that it would have to sell at to be the mid-tier. See also: The iPhone 5C: Unraveling The Mystery Of Apple's Colorful, Not-Quite-Cheap iPhone Except for iOS 7, there is not a ton of new stuff in the iPhone 5C that are an upgrade over the iPhone 5. “iPhone 5c is everything iPhone 5 was and more, in an all-new design packed with great features," said Apple's senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller. That about sums it up. The iPhone 5C will be targeted to the rest of the world in a major way. But it still might be too expensive at $549 for 16 GB, $649 for 32 GB off-contract. Apple is competing in markets like China and India with Android smartphones that sell for fractions of those prices and offer similar capabilities. A little new varnish on the iPhone 5 and decrease in quality of production materials may not help Apple in its quest to unseat Android as the globally dominant mobile operating system. iPhone 5c image with Phil Schiller courtesy Reuters