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Archive for the month “July, 2015”

All in the family: 2015 Moto G sounds like a 2013 Moto X for less money

Next week, Motorola is holding a press event where it’s expected to launch one, if not two, new Moto X handset models, as well as an updated Moto G phone. I’ll be there to report from the event and expect to have a device or two in hand.

While we wait, however, a fair amount of information has leaked about the Moto G, including alleged pictures and specifications for the device. Here’s a shot of new handset from who says it has the phone in hand.


I’m struck by the potential similarity here between what’s likely the 2015 Moto G and the 2013 Moto X; one of my all-time favorite Android handsets.

And not just in the looks department; frankly, the Moto X, G, E and Nexus 6 all share very similar design cues. It’s what’s reportedly on the inside of the next Moto G that reminds me of the phone I bought two years ago.

The Moto G is expected to have a quad-core 1.36 GHz Snapdragon 410 paired with 1 GB of memory, although there have been reports of a more expensive model with double the RAM.

The 2013 Moto X also came with 2 GB of memory and ran on a 1.7 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 that Motorola modified to include a natural-language processor and other sensors. I’m anticipating the Moto G configuration to rival the performance of the two-year old Moto X as a result.

That year, the Moto X display was 4.7-inches in size with a 1280 x 720 resolution. This year’s Moto G? It looks like a slightly larger 5-inch screen with the same resolution. And the Moto G’s anticipated 2470 mAh battery is similar to the 2200 mAh unit in the old Moto X.

In the case of the cameras, this year’s Moto G should actually exceed those found in the 2013 Moto X: The unit has uses a 13 megapixel rear sensor and 5 megapixel front camera.

Keep in mind that when the Moto X debuted in September 2013 the base model carried a price tag of $199 with a two-year contract, or $499 off-contract. In contrast, the Moto G has started at $179 without a contract; a massive price difference.

We don’t know yet how Motorola will price this year’s model, but the Moto G line has always represented a solid value and I don’t expect that to change. You may be getting a budget-friendly phone that’s at least as capable, if not more so, than Motorola’s 2013 flagship.

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Brazil-Angola undersea link gets datacenter

A 3,000 square meter datacenter will be built in the northeast of Brazil to support the requirements of a Brazil-Angola submarine fiber optic cable.

The facility that will serve the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) project will be created under a partnership between the city of Fortaleza and African telecoms giant Angola Cable.

SACS will have capacity of at least 40 Tbps and is scheduled to commence operations in the first quarter of 2017.It will be the first ever undersea link connecting Africa and South America.

Currently, the Brazilian city of Fortaleza – which is the point in Brazil that is nearest to Africa and Europe – already has seven submarine fiber optic cables.

In addition to SACS, Angola Cables is also involved as one of the shareholders of Monet, a link connecting Fortaleza and Santos, in the southeast of Brazil, with Boca Ratón in Florida.

Monet, which has Google as another key shareholder, will span 10,556 km (6,560 miles) and six fiber pairs, with overall system design capacity of a whopping 64 Tbps and completion date set for late 2016.

There is currently one cable connecting Brazil to Europe, Atlantis II, which is old and has limited capacity, being almost exclusively used as a telephony link. The country has four other submarine cables, each connecting Brazil to the United States.

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Pakistan to shut down BlackBerry services on “security” grounds

bbry.jpg (Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Pakistani authorities are planning to shut down BlackBerry’s secure messaging services in the country towards the end of the year, citing national security reasons.

A leaked memo dated July 22 from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), seen by ZDNet but its authenticity can’t be immediately verified, purports to show minutes from a meeting a week prior, calling on three of the largest major cell phone providers to shut down BlackBerry’s encrypted messaging service (BES).

“Due to serious concerns by the security agency, Mobilink, Ufone, and Telenor Pakistan are requested to offer 90 days notice as per the existing provisions to their BES customers for closing their BES connections, and ensure that all BES connections of their customers must be closed by or before November 30 without fail,” the official memo reads.

The named cell providers were asked to submit compliance reports due at the end of the month.

Citing an official at the PTA who asked not to be named, Reuters also confirmed the news.

There are thought to be only a few thousand BES customers in the country — most of which are government or business users, or attached to foreign embassies. But authorities are concerned that criminals are also using the encrypted service, which cannot be intercepted, amid almost daily terrorist attacks and abductions from both domestic threats and foreign fighters.

The country remains on high alert following recent bombings and numerous gun attacks in 2014.

News of the shut down comes just days after British civil liberties group Privacy International said Pakistan’s main intelligence branch was pushing for greater surveillance powers.

In a blog post, the privacy watchdog said the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was moving to “tap all internet protocol (IP)-bound communications traffic entering or travelling through Pakistan and corresponding monitoring capacities.”

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“It means capacitating the country’s most notorious intelligence service to spy on more of the country’s citizens and expecting it to police its own actions,” the post read.

It’s not the first time BlackBerry has faced being shut down by a government.

The Canadian smartphone maker’s secure messaging service has faced disruption in India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia, after their governments expressed concern that criminals and terrorists were using the service.

BlackBerry spokesperson Kara Yi said in an emailed statement: “BlackBerry provides the world’s most secure communications platform to government, military and enterprise customers. Protecting that security is paramount to our mission. While we recognize the need to cooperate with lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity, we have never permitted wholesale access to our BES servers.”

When asked to comment specifically on the reported upcoming Pakistan ban, Yi declined to comment further.

Representatives from Mobilink, Ufone, and Telenor Pakistan did not respond at the time of writing.

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Microsoft’s rolling Windows 10 launch: What’s coming next

Windows 10’s July 29 “launch” next week is not a typical one for Microsoft. It’s just the start of a slow and staggered rollout for the company’s newest operating system.

win10staggeredrollout.jpgNext week marks the start of availability of Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. Later in calendar 2015, as Microsoft officials said earlier this year, Microsoft will deliver Windows 10 Mobile for ARM- and Intel-based Windows Phones and new small ARM- and Intel-based tablets. Windows 10-based Surface Hub conferencing systems, HoloLens glasses and various IoT devices will happen starting later this year and beyond.

On Microsoft’s earnings call earlier this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provided a rough timeline as to what Microsoft watchers should expect over the next few months, in response to a Wall Street analyst’s question about the trajectory.

Nadella said the initial Windows 10 rollout would happen in three phases. The initial upgrade phase starting July 29, which is focused on getting Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade, plus “retail execution.” Then “come the fall you will see the devices from all the OEMs going into the holiday quarter,” Nadella said.

Nadella said Microsoft’s OEM partners have “over 2,000 distinct devices or configurations already in testing for Windows 10 upgrades, as well as hundreds of new hardware designs.” Some of these devices will be available on July 29, but the majority are likely to be coming later this year, in time for holiday 2015.

Nadella also noted that “we have a release of enterprise features … which will ship in that (fall) timeframe and I expect piloting to start and deployments to start in the second half of the fiscal year.”

“My bullishness for Windows 10 is more in the second half of the fiscal year,” Nadella said, which is between January 1, 2016 and June 30, 2016.

What are these enterprise features coming this fall, which may be considered part of the Threshold 2 update?

In Microsoft’s matrix comparing the features available in the different versions of Windows 10, there’s a footnote acknowledging that “Enterprise Data Protection” won’t be available immediately for Pro, Enterprise and/or Education editions. That functionality is coming”some time later.” EDP isolates personal data from corporate data to prevent data leaks. So I bet that’s one piece.

I also think the Business Store for Windows 10, a Web-based Store portal for companies distributing their own apps, might be another of those fall deliverables. And maybe those promised Universal Skype messaging, phone and video apps could be in this category, too. As Neowin noted this week, Microsoft has committed to making previews of these three apps available later this summer.

The original launch plan for Windows 10 called for Microsoft to deliver Windows 10 by fall 2015. But the Windows team decided to step up the pace and actually hit the back-to-school window with a new version of Windows for the first time in a number of years. Dell officials also acknowledged this acceleration in plans to’s Paul Thurrott.

Just a reminder: I’ve heard previously from sources that Microsoft is going to deliver a larger Windows 10 update with a number of new features this fall, most likely October. The codename for that update is Threshold 2. And after Threshold 2, we’ll see next year’s ongoing feature and security update parade, as well as two larger groups of new features for Windows 10. Those groups of updates are codenamed Redstone (probably 1 and 2) and most likely coming in spring/fall 2016.

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Top iOS news of the week: Happy watch owners, dominating smartwatch space, iOS 9 beta 2

It hasn’t been out very long but the Apple Watch has a 97 percent customer satisfaction rate. This tops that for the iPad (91 percent) and the iPhone (92 percent). We don’t know how many Apple Watches are in owners’ hands but we know they really like them.

Source: Appleworld Today

In a move that makes sense, Apple is now blocking app reviews from those running the iOS 9 beta. Apps often have trouble when running beta software, and there’s no reason to let them leave reviews. Developers should be happy with this move by Apple.

Source: TNW

In typical Apple fashion, the Apple Watch is already grabbing significant market share. Research firm Strategy Analytics estimates the Apple Watch already accounts for 75 percent of the smartwatch market. This is significant as the watch hasn’t been sold very long and had limited retail outlets until recently.

Source: CNET

Apple has released the iOS 9 public beta 2 for those of us testing the next big version. It typically has a lot of minor tweaks along with bug fixes and performance improvements.

Source: Cult of Mac

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Lenovo’s ‘Retro ThinkPad’ project sees its potential market divide

Survey results for screen sizeThinkPad users got excited about Lenovo’s idea to produce a new “ThinkPad Classic” that would provide all the best features of this long-running premium brand. But with the results of the second survey, and the launch of the third survey, it looks like going wrong. Perhaps we need not one “Retro ThinkPad” but two: a lightweight X version for road warriors, and a T version for power users.

When I wrote about the project last month, I suggested that the highly-mobile X220 would be the best place to start, and in the survey, I voted for a 12.5 inch screen. However, it turns out that I’m in a minority of only 14.3 percent (graph above). More than half of the 6,555 respondents want a 14.1 inch or 15.6 inch screen, which might well eliminate me as a potential buyer.

In today’s “Retro ThinkPad” blog post, Lenovo’s David Hill says: “Related to that, we’ve been really good at being able to fit a 14.1 inch display in the footprint of a 13.3 inch ThinkPad.”

That could tempt me, but I’d rather have a 13.3 inch screen in an 11.6 inch form factor – which is pretty much what you get with the Dell XPS 13 (2015).

The third survey may show a similar split between people who want a fast quad-core processor (even if it has a high TDP) and a low voltage battery-saving dual-core processor. Again, we’re talking different use-cases. The power users want a workstation processor, while the road warriors want a thinner ThinkPad with a longer battery life.

It’s hard to predict how this one is going to come out. Will Dave Hill be able to find a compromise that suits both camps, or will a compromise spec disappoint both camps, potentially leading to financial disaster?

Personally, I’d like to see the project result in two different Retro ThinkPads, each version optimized for its specific market. If not, then I’d recommend Lenovo go for the workstation market and ignore people like me. There are, after all, dozens of lightweight laptops and Ultrabooks already on the market.

Indeed, Lenovo has lots of options, including the X1 Carbon and X250, plus a plethora of Yoga convertibles with 11.6 inch and 13.3 inch screens. Some of them are cheap enough to be disposable.

The great ThinkPads from the past typically cost £/$2,000 or so, and you wanted them to last a long time. When you can buy an ultralight Yoga for £/$200 to £/$350, it’s no big deal if it only lasts a couple of years, as long as it does the job.

If you’re interested in buying a Retro ThinkPad, there are now three surveys: Survey 1, Survey 2 and Survey 3. (There will be a Survey 4 later.) But if you’re not interested in buying a Retro ThinkPad, please don’t fill them in.

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Review: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Caption: The four-cylinder engine sends 237 horsepower to the rear wheels, enough to propel the car to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 160. Alfa Romeo

Caption: The folks at Alfa say the 4C is inspired by the voluptuous 1967 Tipo 33 Stradale, but the curving elegance of that classic has been swapped for a design that looks like it was carved with a machete. Alfa Romeo

Caption: Alfa Romeo

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Caption: The Alfa Romeo 4C is a true driver’s car that connects you to the road in a way other 21st century cars don’t. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: The Spider is the drop-top version of the 4C, the sports car that launched last year to mark Alfa Romeo’s return to the US. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: It starts at $63,900 and hits US dealer lots in August. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: The car does a wonderful job keeping you in aggressively low gears, where power and torque are available at the twitch of a toe. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: Stab the brakes, get a downshift. Stab them hard, and you can go from 60 mph to a dead stop in under 100 feet. Alfa Romeo

Caption: This is the Immortan Joe regime equivalent of an automatic transmission, all about speed and fury. Alfa Romeo


Caption: The engine vents make the rear of the car look like Pikachu or a robot panda, depending on the angle. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: nside, there are no creature comforts. No arm rests, though the passenger can hang onto a leather strap. The cup holders are just deep enough for espresso cups. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: The 4C has a radio. I don’t touch it. Partly because listening to the four cylinders and turbocharger do their thing behind my head is pleasure enough, but mostly because I don’t need, or want, the distraction. Alfa Romeo

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Caption: The 4C doesn’t make driving easy—my lap times are, how you say, not bellissimo—but it does something better. It connects me to the road. Alfa Romeo

Review: Drop Connected Kitchen Scale

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Review: Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3




Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. Sub Title: Could Go Either Wayalcatel-phone-story1 MAURIZIO PESCE/WIRED

Google Offers To Give Away Patents To Startups In Its Push Against Patent Trolls

Back in April, Google launched a pop-up, temporary marketplace for companies to sell patents, with Google being the sole buyer. Today, the search and mobile giant is expanding that marketplace in the other direction: Google has started a program for startups to give away up to two non-organic patent families off Google, as well as potentially make offers to buy patents from it in the future. It’s tying up the offer with a requirement to join the LOT Network, a cross-company licensing push (others in the group include Dropbox, SAP and Canon) aimed at driving down the number of patent trolling suits.

If you are interested, you should get in touch quickly. Initially, this will only be open to the first 50 eligible startups.

As for what makes you eligible, there are a few caveats and requirements for startups to qualify to get Google’s patents. First, a company’s 2014 revenues had to be between $500,000 and $20 million.

Then, Google will not let you pick what you would like have. The company says that after you apply, if you meet the revenue requirement, it will send through to you, within 30 days, a list of three to five families of patents, and you can select two of them. “Google will retain a broad, nonexclusive license to all divested assets,” the company notes.

Google tells us that by “non-organic”, it means patents Google has purchased from third parties rather than developed in house. But Kurt Brasch, senior patent licensing manager at Google, tells us that those non-organic patents could still be very central to Google’s business. 

Interestingly, as part of a startup’s application process, even if you don’t end up getting anything, Google says it will give your startup partial access to its own database of patents — presumably covering only non-organic patents.

That in itself can potentially be valuable. “Participants will have access to part of Google’s portfolio and may inquire of us regarding the potential purchase of any such assets,” the company notes. It says it will assess those offers on a case-by-case basis. It seems that those purchases may not hold the same restrictions.

The patents themselves will come with some restrictions. Google says they will only be able to be used defensively — that is, to protect a company against another patent suit, not to file one against another company. If you try to sue based on the patent, ownership reverts back to Google.

And you also have to agree to join the LOT Network for two years before you can buy any patents.

The LOT Network is essentially like a patent owners’ club. Members get free licenses to use patents whenever one of those patents is commercially licensed to a non-member. There are some 325,000 patent assets in the LOT database already, and the idea here is for Google to help the group get stronger, as a way of warding off patent trolls.

While membership usually costs between $1,500 and $20,000 per year (depending on company size), LOT is waiving the fees for two years for startups joining through this program.

Brasch notes that for now none of the other members of the LOT Network will be launching patent transfer programs similar to what Google is doing. “It’s a Google initiative at this point,” he said. 

Google’s moves to transfer and sell off patents comes on the heels of its earlier effort in April to buy patents from third parties, also in a limited offer. Talking for the first time about how that went, Brasch said that Google “considered the experiment quite a success.”

Among the companies who appealed to sell patents were both operating companies but also many patent brokers.

“What that told us was that there is definitely a problem in the secondary market and people in the industry feel it,” he said. “People are looking for a different solution and there are ways for us to do that that could help both buyers and sellers.”

He said that Google paid prices between $3,000 and $250,000 for patents in the period, buying about 28% of the total offered, focusing on “patents that were clearly of interest and relevance” to Google. Those have directly gone into Google’s wider patent portfolio, becoming a part of the non-organic set that is now being offered in parts to interested startups.

Together with today’s news, all this highlights a couple of very interesting developments for the company.

First, it underscores Google’s bigger push in getting more tech companies to collectively act together to fight some of the negative aspects of intellectual property ownership, specifically around lawsuits that are less about safeguarding IP and more about making $$.

Google has been an outspoken and consistent critic of patent trolls, even if it has not been shy in building out its own patent assets and defending them in court.

Second, it’s yet another example of how Google is positioning itself as a broker and portal for all things patent-related.

Just last week Google made a significant upgrade to its patent search features, by incorporating search results from Google Scholar and its prior art database. And although the patent marketplace has been launched on a very limited basis so far, it seems like a good way of testing out features that could potentially be made more permanent in the long run.

Indeed, that’s something that Brasch highlighted, too. “I would expect something else coming out in the future, whether from Google or a broader group of organizations,” he said. On the earlier project to buy patents in April, he noted: “I think what we would ultimately say is that it was a significant success not only in patents but in terms of the information we gleaned. I think something more will happen here.”

More generally, Google has made a lot of headway into verticals like shopping, travel and media. And as the company continues to grow, I would not be surprised to see more vertical search/marketplaces like this crop up.

Updated with correction and clarification: There are two tiers to this program. The first is giving away two patent families for free to qualified startups. The second is potentially purchasing patents from Google beyond this.

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