Genband Goes Over the Top with Fring Messaging Service

Texas-based Genband, in the business of communications services for carriers, announced Thursday it was picking up Fring's Internet-based mobile Over the Top (OTT) communications service.

Genband, in this deal, fattens its cloud portfolio for the consumer market. Israel-based Fring has enjoyed status as having helped to change the way consumers communicate on the go. Fring got an early start in the business of mobile messaging and video applications for mobile phones. As such, the company was one of the very first to offer OTT services, though outdistanced by big competitors.

According to Fring, it nevertheless grew a community of "tens of millions" of users across 200 countries. Its services can be used with all major smartphones and tablets including iPhones and Android devices, on any mobile operator, and any mobile Internet connection.

In the most fundamental terms, what Genband gets out of the deal is the ability to showcase these types of services. Integrating Fring solutions means Genband can tell service providers and network operators, who need to evolve their communications services rapidly to ensure that they stay relevant and competitive, that they can now compete more effectively.

In saying that Genband snapped up Fring, snap appears to be an appropriate verb.

Quick Action in Large Fonts

Genband CEO David Walsh blogged that as "the heaps of fallen technology giants illustrate, inaction is a recipe for failure."

He said technology and telecommunications industries "are littered with cautionary tales of innovative companies surrendering market dominance due to their inability to react quickly enough" to new competitive forces.

It did not take Nostradamus, he added, "to see that more and more consumers are turning to the Web -- the so-called OTT or Over-the-Top community -- as a viable option for much of their real-time communications and messaging."

Actually, he said, with the "writing...

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Microsoft Shows iPad Users the Money

Redmond is making an offer it hopes iPad users can't refuse. Microsoft is tempting Apple owners to trade in their iPads for $200 (minimum) gift cards.

Here's how it works: You can bring in your "gently used" iPad 2, 3 or 4 and get at least a $200 gift card you can redeem in Microsoft retail stores. The offer is valid until Oct. 27, 2013.

Some of the fine print reads, "To be eligible for trade-in, device should include power cord, if available, and device cannot be password protected. Microsoft Store gift-card value will be equal to trade-in value, and is subject to Microsoft's discretion and manager approval. All trade-ins are final."

A Winning Strategy?

Microsoft is clearly hoping consumers will use the credit to purchase Surface tablets. The company lists the Surface RT for $349 and the Surface Pro for $799.

"The tablet market is still evolving and vendors can rise and fall quickly as a result," said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker programs. "Apple aside, the remaining vendors are still very much figuring out which platform strategy will be successful over the long run. To date, Android has been far more successful than the Windows 8 platform. However, Microsoft-fueled products are starting to make notable progress into the market."

We turned to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, to get his take on the promotion. He told us wooing people to switch brands by lowering the cost of switching is a tried-and-true tactic in the United States. Still, he's not sure it's a winning one for Microsoft.

"The sales of the Windows tablets have been modest at best. And the customer satisfaction numbers for iPads are very high -- 70 percent-plus," Entner said. "There are very few disappointed iPad users that would be willing to take advantage of the...

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Buyout Completed, Dell Aims at the Enterprise with Its PCs

Whither Dell? That's the question being asked, most likely in other wording, following the news Thursday that the company's shareholders approved a buyout proposal to take the company private.

The $25 billion buyout by company founder Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners will award each shareholder $13.88, of which $13.75 is for the common stock and the balance of 13 cents represents a special dividend. After 25 years as a publicly traded company, the buyout means that management will no longer have to answer to Wall Street as it tries to reshape itself to match the changed computing market.

The buyout plan succeeded over staunch opposition from some shareholders, including activist investor Carl Icahn, who repeatedly said that the price sought by Dell and Silver Lake Partners undervalued the company.

Continuing in PCs

Dell, who will now own 75 percent and will remain as company chairman and CEO, said in a statement that he was "pleased with this outcome and am energized to continue building Dell into the industry's leading provider of scalable, end-to-end technology solutions." He told analysts after the announcement that the company will look to "go back to our roots, focusing on the entrepreneurial spirit that made it one of the fastest-growing and most successful companies in history."

Dell the company made its name in the PC market, but has suffered as the world of personal computing moves away from PCs. Gartner, for instance, has reported that demand for PCs dropped 11 percent in the second quarter, only the latest of a series of declines. But Dell CFO Brian Gladden told news media that his company will continue in the PC market.

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), pointed to several strengths that the company can build on. She noted, for instance, that in a survey conducted...

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Is Twitter Really Ready To Go IPO?

Microblogging service Twitter is going IPO. The social networking site, which has more than 200 million members, has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make its debut on the public markets with an initial public offering. Some are calling it the most anticipated IPO since Facebook, but others still wonder if the timing is right.

"We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO," Twitter tweeted. "This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale."

Not surprisingly, the message went viral, getting retweeted more than 13,000 times even as analysts start to dissect what this means for Twitter and other social media networks.

What's Twitter Worth?

We asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his reaction to Twitter going IPO. For starters, the way Twitter filed is telling.

Under the JOBS Act the microblogging service is permitted to confidentially file its S-1 if gross revenues are less than $1 billion. Twitter's revenues have been estimated to be roughly $600 million in 2013. And, Sterling noted, apparently the company was profitable in the fourth quarter of last year, although it may no longer be because of recent acquisitions.

"Given Facebook's recovery and the story that Twitter can tell the marketplace, I suspect demand for Twitter's offering will be heavy. It will likely seek considerably more than the $1 billion in VC funds that have been invested in the company over the past six years," Sterling said.

"Twitter's shares have been bought and sold on the private market for some time with the current value of the company being somewhere north of $9 or so billion," he said. "The IPO should push Twitter's market cap up well beyond that."

Learning from Facebook

Twitter is now seven years old and has been in the red for most...

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Gogo’s In-Flight Internet To Move at Jet Speed

Business professionals, along with regular fliers, love the ability to access the Internet while on a plane. However, the Wi-Fi data speeds on most planes is horrendous and prevents users from accessing videos and other larger files.

Gogo, which already equips some airlines with in-flight Internet access, has come out with a new technology capable of providing 60 Mbps data speeds. The technology behind this innovation is called Gogo GTO (Ground to Orbit) which can use satellites for downloads and cellular networks for uploads, thereby increasing data speeds.

Hybrid In-Flight Internet Service

To start, Gogo will work with Virgin America to launch the GTO service in 2014. Right now, Gogo's Internet service for airplanes only provides regular data speeds of 3-10 Mbps, about the same speed as 3G wireless. Gogo GTO should be able to reach speeds 20 times faster.

The company already has ground-based receivers that will still be used for uploads, but by providing a hybrid service, downloads will come significantly faster from satellites. Other companies are only able to provide a max of 10 Mbps, so the 60 Mbps is far superior to what any other company is offering for in-flight Internet service.

Gogo said it will use Ku microwave antennae to communicate with the satellites. Ku antennas are smaller than the ones used on airplanes which are partnered with other Internet service providers.

The Price of Internet

Gogo has yet to announce how much it will charge for the upgraded in-flight Internet service, but when the company upgraded its service last year to 10 Mbps the cost rose, and it likely will do the same this time.

Just like on-ground Internet service, it is not cheap to connect on an airplane. Gogo currently charges $45 a month for frequent fliers, which provides unlimited Internet access, and also offers a $14 day pass. Either way,...

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Cortana: Microsoft’s Answer to Siri and Google Now

When Apple launched iOS 6 with Siri, people thought that it would end up being the absolute standard in phones to have an intelligent voice assistant. Google took that expectation to heart and came out with what may have been an even better voice assistant, Google Now.

Microsoft is now entering the personal assistant market as well, with Cortana. Cortana has technically been rumored for a while after a leaked photo came out showing a phone with an app called zCortana. Since no one knew what zCortana was, few people paid attention to it. However, we now know that the application was an early version of Microsoft's new personal assistant, which will be on all Windows Phones moving forward.

Taken from Halo Video Game

The name Cortana actually comes from Microsoft's Halo series in which Cortana was an artificially intelligent character. Unlike Siri or Google Now, reports are suggesting that Microsoft wants to hard-wire Cortana into almost all of the core Windows Phone features.

Information provided by Cortana will be coming directly from the Satori knowledge base that currently powers Microsoft's Bing search engine. Not only will Cortana become an integral part of Windows Phone, it will also end up on the Windows OS and Xbox.

Early screenshots of Cortana are simplistic and only show off a basic screen with service and notifications options. However, Microsoft has stated that once Cortana goes live, it will adapt to its user, providing a unique experience and even predicting questions and answers.

It is likely that Microsoft will include the personal assistant in Windows 8.1, which is set to offer a notification center along with other UI changes. Coming Windows phones should also feature Cortana.

Battle of the Personal Assistants

Cortana is significantly different from Siri in that it does not rely on a user to input a full question...

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IDC Predicts Tablet Shipments Will Overtake PCs in Q4

Hold on to your laptops and desktops, because in the not-too-distant-future they may become collectors' items. A new report from IDC projects that shipments of tablets will exceed those of PCs in the fourth quarter of this year, for the first time.

This transition parallels smartphones' topping feature phones in the second quarter, which Gartner and others recently reported. Overall, the smart connected device market, which includes PCs, tablets and smart phones, is forecast by this IDC Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker to grow 27.8 percent this year compared with 2012, while the PC growth rate drops by 10 percent.

For the entire year, PC shipments are still expected to be greater than tablet shipments in 2013, but the upward trend is projected to continue until tablets exceed PCs on an annual basis by the end of 2015. By that year, smartphones will account for almost three-quarters of all smart connected devices on the planet.

A Game Changer

PC shipments accounted for 28.7 percent of last year's smart connected device market, compared with 11.8 percent for tablets and 59.5 percent for smartphones. By 2017, PCs are projected to drop to 13 percent, tablets will rise to 16.5 percent and smartphones, 70.5 percent.

The overall growth rate for the worldwide smart connected device market is expected to be 10.6 percent this year, but the upward trend will not continue forever. IDC expects this market to slow down to a growth rate of 3.1 percent by 2017, as lower-cost smartphones and tablets begin to saturate the markets. For 2013, for instance, the research firm predicts that nearly 70 percent of the smart connected device market will be smartphones and tablets priced under $350.

IDC Research Analyst Megha Saini said in a statement that, "at a time when the smartphone and tablet markets are showing early signs of...

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Massive Hack on Vodafone Germany Affects 2 Million Users

The personal details of about 2 million Vodafone Germany customers have been exposed in a hack that's making international headlines. According to the company, hackers tapped into an information pool of addresses, bank account numbers and dates of birth.

"Vodafone Germany has world-class security systems that are constantly updated and upgraded to block new emerging threats. However, this attack was highly complex and conducted with inside knowledge of our most secure internal systems," the company said in a statement.

"As soon as we discovered the incident we took all necessary steps to stop the attack, minimize any adverse impact for our customers and notify all relevant German authorities," company officials said. "We are sending our sincere apologies to everyone affected for any disruption caused."

We're All in Danger

We caught up with Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor at Sophos, to get his analysis on the latest breach. He told us whenever personally identifiable information is purloined by online criminals, it increases the risk to the victims, despite what the vendor might claim.

"This advice doesn't just apply to the two million who we know had their information stolen. It applies to everyone, all the time. Many criminals might try to use this information offline as well as online, so be cautious of any suspicious activity, like incoming phone calls claiming to be your bank," he added.

On-Premise Security Fails

We also asked Kevin O'Brien, an enterprise solution architect at CloudLock, for reaction to the Vodafone hack. He told us it reveals as...

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FTC Launches New Inquiry Into Facebook Privacy Practices

Facebook is no stranger to Federal Trade Commission inquiries. And that's a good thing, seeing as the social networking giant is facing another one.

The FTC is launching a new inquiry just days after key privacy groups asked the regulatory agency to block proposed changes to its privacy policy. Facebook in August said it would make changes to its privacy policies to bring more clarity on how it uses member data to target ads. The changes were set to go live on Sept. 5.

"Facebook never sought out a discussion with us beforehand about these proposed changes," Peter Kaplan, a spokesman for the FTC, told the New York Times. "We're monitoring compliance with the order. Part of that involves interacting with Facebook."

Fast and Loose

Consumer Watchdog, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Digital Democracy, Patient Privacy Rights, U.S. PIRG, and Privacy Rights Clearing House signed the letter to the FTC asking for intervention.

According to these groups, the changes will allow Facebook to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent. They contend the changes violate Facebook's current policies and the 2011 Facebook settlement with the FTC.

"Facebook has long played fast and loose with users' data and relied on complex privacy settings to confuse its users, but these proposed changes go well beyond that," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy director. "Facebook's overreach violates the FTC Consent Order that was put in place after the last major privacy violation; if the Commission is to retain any of its credibility, it must act immediately to enforce that order."

Impact on Minors

The privacy groups' letter said that the proposed changes' "impact on minors is particularly pernicious." In the proposed policy Facebook asserts:

"If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable...

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Keeping Up with Apple: Samsung Galaxy To Sport 64-bit Chips

After Apple announced this week that the A7 chip in its iPhone 5s will be the first 64-bit smartphone processor on the market, Samsung revealed on Wednesday that future Galaxy handsets will also go 64-bit.

And once again the South Korean electronics giant is taking on rival Apple. The news comes from a Samsung executive speaking at his regular weekly meeting with chief executives of Samsung's key affiliates in Seoul, as reported in The Korean Times.

Samsung's co-CEO Shin Jong-kyun said upcoming Samsung Galaxy smartphones will have 64-bit processing capabilities. The Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 run 32-bit processors.

Not in the Shortest Time

So when is Samsung letting its 64-bit smartphone out of the gate? No specific date was given. When asked about timing, the Samsung executive said, "Not in the shortest time. But yes, our next smartphones will have 64-bit processing functionality."

Some market watchers guess a 64-bit smartphone from Samsung will be forthcoming some time next year. Consumers by then will have been exposed to a lot of marketing information about how 64-bit processors can translate into actions they can enjoy, namely that their smartphones will be more powerful and faster.

The iPhone 5s from Apple will be driven by an ARM-based A7 processor that will handle code for more demanding applications, including high-end games. Apple trumpeted its A7 chip as ushering in 64-bit "desktop-class architecture" to a smartphone for the first time.

"With up to twice the CPU and graphics performance, almost everything you do on iPhone 5S is faster and better than ever, from launching apps and editing photos to playing graphic-intensive games -- all while delivering great battery life," according to Apple.

Wait, Just a Mobile Moment

Processors with a 64-bit address space have been seen in desktops and servers, not mobile devices, which typically use 32-bit chips....

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