Category: Telecom


BlackBerry 7 sales sputter after strong start

After some initial excitement for the new line of BlackBerry 7 smartphones and a strong launch–both unusual for RIM for the past year–sales are starting to sputter. That’s according to Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley, who said his checks indicate a slowing trend for BlackBerrys.

It’s likely sales have been blunted by the release of the iPhone 4S, as well as the lower price of the legacy iPhone 4 and 3GS models as well. The coming release of the Galaxy Nexus and phones running on the recently unveiled Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is expected to provide additional pressure, while Nokia may take some shine off RIM’s growth overseas, Walkley said.

“We anticipate increasing competition across all tiers of RIM’s products in 2012,” he said in a research note sent to clients today.

RIM had hoped for its upgraded BlackBerry 7 operating system to inject some life back into the company’s prospects and get it back on track as it migrates to a slicker next-generation platform. With that platform, BBX, expected to be delayed until the middle of next year, it’s more important than ever for its current BlackBerry 7 phones to have a strong showing.

A RIM representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

But aside from the flagship Bold 9900 smartphone, which has generally received favorable reviews, its other BlackBerry smartphones haven’t sold so well. RIM was suffering from weaker sales to consumers at Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel, as sales were dominated by the iPhone and Android devices, Walkley said. Even the Bold has lost its momentum following the launch of the iPhone 4S and subsequent price cuts to the older models, he added.

Overseas, Walkley said he was more bullish on Nokia’s prospects as it prepares to roll out its first Windows Phone devices in a few European markets. He expects Nokia to make more of a run in emerging markets where RIM has seen recent strength, which could cut into RIM’s growth. He added that RIM’s lower-tier BlackBerry devices that had been popular are slowing considerably in the face of new Nokia phones and sub-$200 Android smartphones showing up in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Nokia, meanwhile, is seeing more interest in its Asha series of phones in markets such as India and Indonesia, he added.

The troubled PlayBook

Walkley was also bearish on the prospects of the PlayBook, saying he only expects “soft sales” of the device. The PlayBook has been heavily discounted in recent weeks, with Black Friday specials pulling the price down to $200, but sales have still been anemic. The missing core features of the device–e-mail access, messenger services, and calendar–won’t arrive until an update next year. Walkley dropped his fiscal 2012 estimate for unit sales to 900,000 from 1.5 million units. In total, RIM has only sold 700,000 units to its retail partners through the August quarter, an extremely disappointing number.

The competition is only going to get worse with the $199 Kindle Fire out and Ice Cream Sandwich-powered tablets hitting the market in the coming months.

All of this bodes poorly for RIM, which has a rough year. Even its traditional stronghold of enterprise customers is vulnerable. A recent study by iPass found more corporate users on an iPhone than a BlackBerry. IPass was quick to note that the change in market share may be more due to the extreme growth of iOS, as opposed to RIM losing customers.

But it can’t be good if iPhone is beating RIM at its own game.

Source: CNET

PlayBook has a Flash-filled future; RIM’s worst decision to date?

Summary: Now that Flash has had its day in the sun, the PlayBook may now have a chance to quietly sail off into the deathly sunset.

Research in Motion plans to continue supporting Adobe Flash, days after it emerged that the platform was not only on its last legs, but that it was to be taken round the back of the stable and beaten over the head with a rusty spade.

In a statement on the company’s corporate blog, the BlackBerry maker said:

“Earlier today, Adobe announced plans to stop investing in Flash® for mobile browsing, and focus more efforts on HTML5. As an Adobe source code licensee, we will continue to work on and release our own implementations, and are looking forward to including Flash 11.1 for the BlackBerry PlayBook.”

At roughly 10am this morning, a collective face-palm slapping sound was heard across the United States and Canada.

It is as though the BlackBerry maker is purposefully trying to continually do things to deliberately lower its stock price. I’m serious; is this some game show that I’m not aware of, where contenders win a vacation to the Bahamas if they successfully cripple their company within the space of a year?

The PlayBook has hardly been the most popular tablet the market has seen in recent years. In fact, come Christmas, I would place money that out of the ‘major players’, including Samsung, Motorola, and obviously Apple, that Research in Motion’s tablet will still come bottom of the pile.

But to continue to support an already dead platform on a dying tablet is like throwing salt in the wound of an already squashed slug.

It’s not the best analogy I should have come out with, but you get the idea.

Granted, the PlayBook does support HTML5, at least giving the tablet a break from a major software update that would be necessary to effectively replace the world’s most used web plug-in. It saves on a lot of headaches down the line, which from the perspective of future proofing was not a far off move.

The Ontario-based company will have the ability to continue to develop Flash on its own moving forward, keeping a ‘healthy’ following of developers interested and supported — that is, if you considered the aforementioned slug analogy to be healthy.

The PlayBook never really stood a chance, stood in line like the nerdy, glasses-wearing kid next to its prom-queen older sister. Even when the PlayBook had a chance to shine, in its secure emailing client that emulated the BlackBerry enterprise encryption, the tablet launched without it. In effect, its most favourable feature was left behind its launch.

But the linchpin to the PlayBook has always been its less than desirable advertising.

Nearly all of the company’s advertising and marketing efforts have been on the fact the PlayBook, unlike the iPad, as the supreme competitor to all other tablets on the market, will support Flash-based content. Though it still will, and Flash will not suddenly drop off the edge of the planet in the next few months, the BlackBerry maker is going to have to think of a brand new marketing strategy.

At least now Research in Motion can advertise the PlayBook as something it should have been marketed as a long way back: “The most expensive paperweight you never needed in the first place”.

Source: ZDNet

Apple security expert finds apps-software bug

A software flaw in Apple Inc’s iPhones and iPads may allow hackers to build apps that secretly install programs to steal data, send text messages or destroy information, according to an expert on Apple device security.

Charlie Miller, a researcher with Accuvant Labs who identified the problem, built a prototype malicious program to test the flaw. He said Apple’s App Store failed to identify the malicious program, which made it past the security vetting process.

There is as yet no evidence that hackers have exploited the vulnerability in Apple’s iOS software. But Miller said his test demonstrated that there could be real malware in the App Store.

“Until now you could just download everything from the App Store and not worry about it being malicious. Now you have no idea what an app might do,” Miller said.

Miller said he proved his theory by building a stock-market monitoring tool, InstaStock, that was programed to connect to his server once downloaded, and to then download whatever program he wants.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Miller, who in 2009 identified a bug in the iPhone text-messaging system that allowed attackers to gain remote control over the devices, said that he had contacted the company about the vulnerability.

“They are in the process of fixing it,” he said.

Miller is scheduled to present his detailed research at the SyScan ’11 security conference in Taiwan next week.

 

 

Source: Reuters

KDE takes on Android, Apple’s iOS on smartphones and tablets

If another group was trying to take on Android and Apple’s iOS on smartphones and tablets, I’d dismiss them. RIM, BlackBerry’s parent company, is having a heck of a time getting anyone to buy into PlayBook and while HP TouchPad users loved it,HP killed the TouchPad after only a few weeks. So, why should anyone think that KDE, makers of one of the two most popular Linux desktops, should stand a chance with Plasma Active? Well, because KDE has a long history of delivering the goods with minimal resources.

So what is it? Plasma Active is not, like Android, iOS, or webOS, an operating system. It’s a KDE 4.x style interface and application programming interface (API) designed for touch devices. The Plasma Active Team states that “Plasma Active is innovative technology for an intelligent user experience (UX). It is intended for all types of tablets, smartphones and touch computing devices such as set-top boxes, smart TVs, home automation, in-vehicle infotainment. The goals for this KDE open source project are:

  • A fast embedded UX platform with minimal memory requirements
  • Customizable and modular to support different form factors
  • An interface that adapts as users change Activities.

In their GrandMaster Plan, the developers go into more detail about how they’ll do this: “Plasma Active runs on the proven Linux desktop stack, including the Linux kernel, Qt and KDE’s Plasma Framework. The user interface is designed using Plasma Quick, a declarative markup language allowing for organic user interface design based on Qt Quick. Plasma Active uses existing free desktop technology and brings it to a spectrum of devices through a device-specific user interface. Classical Plasma Widgets can be used on Plasma Active as well as newly created ones. The key driver for the development of Plasma Active is the user experience. Collaboration is made easy through high-level development tools and a well defined process. ”

“The first release of Plasma Active fully focuses on tablet computers. Plasma Active Tablet’s user experience is designed around the web, social networks and multimedia content.” Today, Plasma Active runs on MeeGo and the openSUSE-based Balsam Professional (German language site). There are also OS images for Intel-based tablets, and package builds for ARM and x86 platforms. The group is working flashable images for ARM platforms. The interface will also run on Oracle’s VirtualBox virtual machine. If you want to try it you can find downloads and instructions at the Plasma Active Installation page.

According to Sebastian Kügler, one of Plasma Active’s leading developers Plasma Active is “certainly meant as a replacement for iOS and Android, a completely open, community-driven project with strong backing by a group of (SMB-sized) businesses. We hope this appeals to many hardware vendors, and have in fact already started talking with some. The feedback so far was very good, and the concepts seem to appeal with potential partners. There is definitely demand for an open system without lock-in in the market for devices.”

Kügler also told me that they “have started investigating Tizen, [Intel and the Linux Foundations’ proposed replacement for MeeGo] but at this point, there is too little information out, and too many unknowns. We do see Tizen as a potential and likely target platform, but before Intel and Samsung release an SDK, our hands are tied. It’s not stopping us, since in the meantime, we can still run our stuff on MeeGo and Balsam, and we are investigating, together with the Mer team [Another mobile Linux operating system] how to get Plasma Active onto Mer.

That’s all well and good but does KDE have any industry support for this? Kügler replied, “My employer, open-slx backs this project, and we are actively working towards creating a wider ecosystem of companies around Plasma Active, to make good commercial support available, next to the community resources. This includes OEMs, ODMs and companies that can deliver support around Plasma Active, for example integration with new hardware platforms, support for custom-build OS images, 3rd party software, end-user support, etc.”

To that, I might add that unlike other such mobile projects, KDE starts with a large number of open-source applications that already run with it. That’s an advantage that neither RIM nor HP had. Personally, it’s hard for me to see a competitor to Android or iOS getting traction, but I’ve learned over the years not to bet against the KDE team.

Source: ZDNet

Intel and Google To Cooperate on Android Devices

Intel and Google will work together to optimize new generations of Android for the chipmaker’s low-power Atom processors. The move means Intel will take a step in a different direction from Microsoft and its mobile platforms, and Google will help Intel establish more of a presence in the mobile space dominated by ARM processors.

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday, Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed a Android smartphone using his company’s Medfield chip, which is based on Atom. The 32-nanometer Medfield is the company’s flagship processor for smartphones, and succeeds the 45-nanometer Moorestown processor, which was Atom-based but had size and power issues.

Intel/Android Smartphones Next Year

The giant Intel is expected to reduce its mobile processor line to 22-nanometer within the next year, which would result in a smaller size and, most likely, a lower power need.

Intel has dominated the market for desktop and laptop PCs, and its integration with Windows was so powerful that the combination was dubbed Wintel. But the dominant processors for smartphones and tablets are those based on designs from the U.K.-based ARM Holdings. ARM chips are used in smartphones and tablets from Apple, Samsung, HTC and Research In Motion.

Intel and Google said that they expect Intel-based, Android smartphones to appear by the middle of next year. The arrangement with Google gives the chipmaker an endorsement that its new chips will be competitive in the challenging mobile environment.

Otellini told news media that the smartphone business “is not established” in terms of permanently dominant players, and he noted as evidence the speed with which Android has risen to become the leading mobile operating system.

‘Will Anyone Care?’

Microsoft’s coming Windows 8 operating system, unveiled to developers earlier this week, will have a version that runs on ARM processors. In fact, although Microsoft has been insisting that Windows 8 will be one operating system running on many platforms, there will be a branch just for ARM. The company said that Windows 8 on PCs will run all Windows 7 apps, but Windows 8 on ARM tablets may not be able to do so. Metro apps, designed specifically for Windows 8, will run on all Windows 8 machines.

Michael Gartenberg, research director at the Gartner Group, said the announced arrangement between Google and Intel makes sense for both companies, but the key question is “will anyone care?” He said Intel “has a lot to prove about whether it can make a mobile processor” that OEMs will want.

Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, said the announcement showed “really, truly, nothing new.” Intel has, in the past, worked to some degree with other operating systems, while Microsoft has worked with other hardware makers, Greengart said.

One question is whether this new alliance with Google means that Intel’s own Meego mobile operating system, developed with Nokia, is now history. Greengart said it is “still around, but Intel is positioning it more for embedded applications.” When Nokia committed its product line to Windows’ Phone 7, he said, that “kind of killed any momentum.”

Source: NewsFactor

5 Reasons Droid Bionic Will Steal the iPhone 5’s Throne

The smart phone war is far from over. When the iPhone broke into the scene back in January 2007, it was clear it intended to remain there. However, the recent onslaught of high-quality and low-cost Android-fueled phones to make it to the market in the last year are leaving some skeptical. In fact, with Steve Jobs now out of the picture, many can’t help but ask: Is the iPhone’s time up?

That is where the new Droid Bionic from Motorola comes in. The Droid Bionic, released Thursday, is no weak contender in this fight to the top. Running on Android 2.3.4, the phone is miles ahead of even some of the most far-stretched rumors of the iPhone 5’s capabilities. With that being said, there are five reasons the Droid Bionic will be taking over the throne:

Price:

When the Bionic hits shelves early Thursday morning, it will not be undersold. With prices confirmed, such as $280 at Costco with free accessories, this phone is coming out swinging. As always, Apple plans to keep its customers in the dark, so no pricing is confirmed. However, knowing Apple’s past release of iPhone 4, one can expect a minimum $600 price tag.

Battery:

Anyone who has ever owned an iPhone knows one thing: There is no such thing as charging your iOS-powered phone too much. The Droid Bionic will operate using state of the art Lithium Ion battery with a capacity of 1,735 mAh, which is 315 more than the last iPhone released. Due to this, talk time is clocked in at 10.83 hours and stand a whopping 200 hours!

Flash:

Steve Jobs’ campaign against Flash compatibility has been a fight against what the people want. Bionic comes equipped to handle Flash and Flash-enabled software. This means no more sacrificing Web browsing or staring at error boxes where the flash content should be!

Music:

You would think that coming from having roots in an MP3 player the iPhone would have much more muscle in this field. However, the Droid Bionic once again outdoes Apple with the ability to handle formats such as WMA, eAAC+, AMR, and OGG. These formats, especially eAAC+, are some of the highest-quality, lowest-loss music media to date in the digital world.

Memory:

With no word from Apple yet on the iPhone 5’s ability to hold microSD cards, it is safe to assume the Droid Bionic is at the very top of its class. The microSD cards are already known for being some of the cheapest and most efficient ways to store data and Droid Bionic makes use of this. In fact, the new Motorola Smart Phone will be able to hold up to 32 GB of additional microSD or microSDHC memory!

The days of Apple’s rule over the kingdom are over. The new smart phone on the block, the Droid Bionic, is going to clean the floor with the lagging iPhone 5.

Source: Yahoo! / Engadget

Google buying Motorola: Nokia, Samsung, and other industry players react

Google said this morning that it dropped its “top five” Android partners a line yesterday to let them know that this Motorola acquisitionwas taking place — so naturally, many of them had prepared statements ready to go. The move will have ripple effects across several entire industries, though — not just the Android ecosystem alone — so we wanted to reach out and get reactions from a few companies that have a vested interest in Google’s successes and failures.

Overall, the theme across Android licensees’ initial statements is unwaveringly supportive at this point. Considering that Google’s primary goal is to shore up Android’s shaky patent situation, that comes as little surprise — though the striking similarity in some of the messaging suggests that Mountain View may have applied some pressure to show a unified front today. Regardless, the ball will be in Google’s court going forward to make sure that these guys aren’t put at a competitive disadvantage against Motorola — a move that could drive them away from Android altogether and into alternatives like Windows Phone, as Nokia’s statement seems to imply.

Follow the break for the full rundown from Nokia, HP, Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson, and LG.

 

Nokia

From Nokia, which had bypassed Android for its “commoditization risk” and is preparing to introduce a lineup dominated by Windows Phone devices in the coming years:

“This further reinforces our belief that opportunities for the growth of Nokia’s smartphone business will be greatest with Windows Phone. This could prove to be a massive catalyst for the Windows Phone ecosystem. Additionally, with our respective intellectual property portfolios, Nokia and Microsoft are working together to build and nurture an innovative ecosystem that benefits consumers, operators, developers and other device manufacturers.”

HP

HP hopes to go big with webOS through its own devices (and perhaps licensing deals at some point), which means it’s not directly affected by the Google-Motorola deal — but the seismic shift in the wireless ecosystem has the potential to affect the company’s fortunes nonetheless. Alas, they’ve issued a standard “no comment” today.

Samsung

Though Samsung Mobile US hasn’t specifically weighed in on the deal, JK Shin, President of Samsung Mobile’s global operations, had this to say:

“We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Google’s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”

HTC

HTC — which splits its time between Android and Windows Phone — called on CEO Peter Chou for this quote:

“We welcome the news of today’s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”

Additionally, the company insists that the deal won’t have an effect on its working relationship with Google:

“We are supportive of Google’s acquisition of  Motorola Mobility as this is a positive development to the Android ecosystem, which we believe is beneficial to HTC’s promotion of Android phones. The partnership between HTC and Google remains strong and will not be affected by this acquisition.”

Sony Ericsson

Bert Nordberg, CEO of the embattled company, released one of the briefest comments of the day — though it echoes the same sentiment that’s being conveyed by other Android manufacturers:

“I welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”

LG

LG Mobile boss Jong-Seok Park seems to have cribbed off Nordberg’s notes (or vice versa):

“We welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”

Source: Thisismynext

Security expert warns hackers can attack Android

A mobile security expert says he has found new ways for hackers to attack phones running Google Inc’s Android operating system.

Riley Hassell, who caused a stir when he called off an appearance at a hacker’s conference last week, told Reuters he and colleague Shane Macaulay decided not to lay out their research at the gathering for fear criminals would use it attack Android phones.

He said in an interview he identified more than a dozen widely used Android applications that make the phones vulnerable to attack.

“App developers frequently fail to follow security guidelines and write applications properly,” he said.

“Some apps expose themselves to outside contact. If these apps are vulnerable, then an attacker can remotely compromise that app and potentially the phone using something as simple as a text message.”

He declined to identify those apps, saying he fears hackers might exploit the vulnerabilities.

“When you release a threat and there’s no patch ready, then there is mayhem,” said Hassell, founder of boutique security firm Privateer Labs.

Hassell said he and Macaulay alerted Google to the software shortcomings they unearthed.

Google spokesman Jay Nancarrow said Android security experts discussed the research with Hassell and did not believe he had uncovered problems with Android.

“The identified bugs are not present in Android,” he said, declining to elaborate.

It was the first public explanation for the failure of Hassell and Macaulay to make a scheduled presentation at the annual Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, the hacking community’s largest annual gathering.

They had been scheduled to talk about “Hacking Androids for Profit.” Hundreds of people waited for them to show up at a crowded conference room.

Hassell said in an interview late on Thursday the pair also learned — at the last minute — that some of their work may have replicated previously published research and they wanted to make sure they properly acknowledged that work.

“This was a choice we made, to prevent an unacceptable window of risk to consumers worldwide and to guarantee credit where it was due,” he said.

A mobile security researcher familiar with the work of Hassell and Macaulay said he understood why the pair decided not to disclose their findings.

“When something can be used for exploitation and there is no way to fix it, it is very dangerous to go out publicly with that information,” the researcher said. “When there is not a lot that people can do to protect themselves, disclosure is sometimes not the best policy.”

Hassell said he plans to give his talk at the Hack in The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur in October.

Ryan:  If you are running an Android phone, two must have apps for your phone are:  Lookout Mobile Security for Android & Advanced Task Killer.

Source: Reuters

German hackers crack mobile phone GPRS code

The discovery of a way to eavesdrop so-called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology allows a user to read emails and observe the Internet use of a person whose phone is hacked, said Karsten Nohl, head of Security Research Labs.

“With our technology we can capture GPRS data communications in a radius of 5 km,” he told the paper before heading to a meeting of the Chaos Computer Club, a group that describes itself as Europe’s largest hacker coalition.

Phones using the newer UMTS standard are safer, Nohl said, but the crack effects industrial equipment, toll systems and anything using GPRS — including newer devices like Apple Inc’s iPhone or iPad which switch to the older GPRS in remote areas.

Source: Reuters

Men build small flying spy drone that cracks Wi-Fi and cell data

Built by Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform (otherwise known as the WASP) is a flying drone that has a 6-foot wingspan, a 6-foot length and weighs in at 14 pounds. The small form factor of the unmanned aerial vehicle allows it to drop under radar and is often mistaken for a large bird. It was built from an Army target drone and converted to run on electric batteries rather than gasoline. It can also be loaded with GPS information and fly a predetermined course without need for an operator. Taking off and landing have to be done manually with the help of a mounted HD camera. However, the most interesting aspect of the drone is that it can crack Wi-Fi networks and GSM networks as well as collect the data from them.

It can accomplish this feat with a Linux computer on-board that’s no bigger than a deck of cards. The computer accesses 32GB of storage to house all that stolen data. It uses a variety of networking hacking tools including the BackTrack toolset as well as a 340 million word dictionary to guess passwords. In order to access cell phone data, the WASP impersonates AT&T and T-Mobile cell phone towers and fools phones into connecting to one of the eleven antenna on-board. The drone can then record conversations to the storage card and avoids dropping the call due to the 4G T-mobile card routing communications through VoIP.

Amazingly, this was accomplished with breaking a single FCC regulation. The drone relies on the frequency band used for Ham radios to operate. Not wanting to get into legal trouble with AT&T and T-Mobile, they tested the technology in isolated areas to avoid recording phone conversations other than their own. The duo play to discuss how to build the WASP at the DEFCON 19 hacking conference.

Source: Digital Trends / Yahoo! News

Vonage offering unlimited international calling via mobile phones

Vonage’s international calling plan is stepping up to be a more affordable and flexible option as the service extends to mobile.

The new Vonage World plan is as follows: Subscribers can call land-line numbers in over 60 countries from either their own land-line or mobile phone using the VoIP service for $25.99 per month. Users can also call mobile numbers in up to 10 countries on the same plan.

Vonage suggests that anyone who already conducts international phone calls for a little as an hour a week could save up to $250 with this option.

Mike Tempora, senior vice president of product management for Vonage, said that the mobile option was in high demand from its customers, citing that “70 percent said they make international calls while their away from home either by using a calling card or paying high carrier rates.”

Additionally, the revamped plan includes the new Extensions feature, which enables customers to add any U.S. phone number (mobile, home or office) as another number on the plan. (Note that fax numbers as well as 800/887 and virtual numbers are not supported). That number can then double as a virtual calling card to re-route calls over the Vonage’s network.

For example, this makes the most sense if a subscriber has Vonage World at home or work, and wants to add his or her cell phone number to the plan, or vice versa.

The process to take advantage of this might seem a bit complicated on paper, but it’s rather straightforward. Once the user registers the number on his or her online account page, the user will then have to select a PIN number for validating the subscriber and the phone line later on. From there, when the user wants to make an international call, he or she just dials an access number, the PIN number and then the international phone number he or she is calling.

Tempora added that customers who use virtual numbers and/or international calling cards will find the process to be quite similar and intuitive.

Although this service is supported by any mobile device, there will be apps for iOS and Android in the coming weeks with a one-touch solution to streamline this process.

Ryan: Good news for people looking for a cheaper alternative to call overseas. I will be definitely downloading the app once it hits the Android Market.

Source: ZDNet