Tag: mobile

Government to force better mobile coverage

TortureRackThe British government launched a consultation on new legislation to force mobile operators to improve coverage around the country.

Sajid Javid, the government’s culture secretary, said the  consultation will complement the work industry is doing and allow the Government to hear from the wider telecoms sector, businesses and the public,”

Traditionally governments hope that private enterprise will undertake such work voluntarily.  They drop some broad hints, coupled with threats of legislation and private enterprises rushes to it.  But for some reason the concept of rural coverage has not been a starter for the big telcos, so now the government has to make its threats clearer.

One possible option to eliminate poor coverage, which affects about one fifth of the UK, may include a national roaming plan, where subscribers will be able to switch between operators offering the strongest signal, the government said.

The government said it is keen to have comprehensive mobile coverage across the country to boost productivity and help provide jobs and economic security.

While this makes sense, it is the sort of thing that gives telecoms companies nightmares.

EE, the country’s largest mobile operator, said in a separate statement it does not want to implement national roaming as that would deteriorate network reliability and may also lead to price rises.

Vodafone agrees saying implementation “would be technically far more complex, slow to implement and would cause serious problems with network resilience”.

However the consultation include infrastructure sharing, allowing mobile networks to put transmitters on each other’s masts, and obliging the networks to cover a certain percentage of the UK.

What might happen is a group of telecoms will finally give in and agree to provide the sort of coverage the government wants.

Hong Kong protestors use Mesh

hong kong protestHong Kong’s activists are relying on a free app that can send messages without any mobile phone connection.

The move comes about because of fears that the Chinese government would block local phone networks to stop protestors organising.

However activists have turned to the FireChat app to send supportive messages and share the latest news. The app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Hong Kong, its developers said.

FireChat uses “mesh networking,” that allows data to zip directly from one phone to another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ordinarily, if two people want to communicate this way, they need to be close together. However, as more people join in, the network grows and messages can travel further.

Mesh networks were designed for people who are caught in natural disasters or, like those in Hong Kong, protesting under tricky conditions. FireChat came in handy for protesters in Taiwan and Iraq this year.

However Hans-Christoph Steiner at The Guardian Project, which helps activists circumvent censorship, warns that Firechat has no built-in encryption, so messages can be read by anyone within range.

FireChat has said it aims to add encryption in the future. Bluetooth communications come with an identifier called a MAC address, which could also be used to track down protest ringleaders.

Chinese authorities could also use radio jamming to shut down mesh networks in a local area, or prevent more people from joining by cutting off access to app stores.

“iPhone clone” faces cloning problems

OrphanBlacChinese phone maker Xiaomi, which faces continual attacks from the Tame Apple Press for daring to make a phone similar to Apple’s, is facing a cloning problem of its own.

Chief Communications Officer Li Lei at Xiaomi said that it was wrong that Xiaomi was an iPhone clone and the outfit created a masterpiece from scratch.

Where Xiaomi is similar to Apple is that it has a strategy of selling single models in large quantities.

“That is why Xiaomi products give such impression,” added Li. “We release very few models a year. As everyone knows iPhone 4 and 5, everyone knows Xiaomi 3 and 4.”

Li said that Xiaomi’s strong points were that its products reflect Chinese users’ unique characteristics or experiences. That is the same to other Xiaomi electronic products, including mobile phones.

Ironically Xiaomi’s biggest problem is knock offs. It has launched its products in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It plans to advance into 10 more countries within this year.

“The biggest problem of a fake is that it cannot guarantee the quality and also taints reputation of Xiaomi. Consumers may complain ‘How come a Xiaomi product is in poor quality,’ and give poor evaluation on Xiaomi products,” Lei said.

Of course, the Tame Apple Press thinks that is just one giant karma boomerang which they are praying is returning to bite Xiaomi.

Tablets and smartphones kill your brain

mybrianhurtsUsing mobile phones, laptops and other media devices at the same time could be changing the structure of our brains and not in a good way.

University of Sussex research reveals that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one particular region of the brain compared to those who use just one device occasionally.

This supports the view that high media-multitasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

Neuroscientists Kep Kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai point out that their study reveals a link rather than causality and that a long-term study needs to be carried out before anyone can be certain.

The researchers at the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brain structures of 75 adults, who had all answered a questionnaire regarding their use and consumption of media devices, including mobile phones and computers, as well as television and print media.

People who used a higher number of media devices concurrently also had smaller grey matter density in the part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the region notably responsible for cognitive and emotional control functions.

Kep Kee Loh said his study was the first to reveal links between media multitasking and brain structure.

Scientists have previously demonstrated that brain structure can be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. The neural pathways and synapses can change based on our behaviours, environment, emotions, and can happen at the cellular level (in the case of learning and memory) or cortical re-mapping, which is how specific functions of a damaged brain region could be re-mapped to a remaining intact region.

Kep Kee Loh said that the mechanisms of these changes are still unclear. It is conceivable that individuals with small ACC are more susceptible to multitasking situations due to weaker ability in cognitive control or socio-emotional regulation, it is equally plausible that higher levels of exposure to multitasking situations leads to structural changes in the ACC.

World moves to smartphones

shoe phoneFortune tellers at the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) have been consulting their tarot cards and are predicting that either there will be a tall dark stranger who will ask them out to lunch, or by the end of the decade, there will be nine billion mobile connections across the globe.

If it is the latter meaning, GSMA predicts that while three billion of those connections will be data terminals, dongles, routers and feature phones, the other two thirds will be smartphone handsets.

The organisation claims that the smartphone market is poised for huge growth over the next six years.  There are currently two billion handsets in active use.  It predicts that the demand is being driven by people in emerging countries.

In a report with the catchy title,  Smartphone forecasts and assumptions, 2007-2020, the GSMA said that developing economies overtook mature markets such as the US and western Europe in 2011.

GSMA chief strategy officer Hyunmi Yang said that in the hands of consumers, these devices are improving living standards and changing lives, especially in developing markets, while contributing to growing economies by stimulating entrepreneurship.

“As the industry evolves, smartphones are becoming lifestyle hubs that are creating opportunities for mobile industry players in vertical markets such as financial services, healthcare, home automation and transport,” he said.

Asia Pacific already accounts for half of global smartphone connections yet smartphone penetration is still below 40 percent in the region, even when China’s 629 million smartphone connections are included.

By the end of the decade, emerging countries will account for four in five smartphone connections, as regions like North America and Europe hit the 70-80 percent mark and growth drops off.

The fastest growing region is expected to be sub-Saharan Africa. When figures are based on smartphone adoption as a percentage of all mobile connections, the region currently has the lowest adoption rate of 15 percent in the world.

However, the wider availability of affordable handsets and the roll-out of networks are expected to change everything.

The GSMA claims that the main factors driving smartphone adoption in emerging countries is falling prices. The price difference between feature phones and smartphones is getting smaller and smaller and $50 smartphones are now a reality.

Mature markets have seen operator subsidies and the roll-out of 4G networks helping to maintain growth in the premium end of the market, while more intelligent, individualised data plans are also helping to win consumers over from feature phones in all markets.

“Smartphones will be the driving force of mobile industry growth over the next six years, with one billion new smartphone connections expected over the next 18 months alone,” said Yang.

Intel poaches Qualcomm exec

cracking-eggs-mFashion bag and bracelet maker Intel is attempting to prove that it is serious about mobile by headhunting one of Qualcomm’s gadget makers.

Amir Faintuch is a senior executive at Qualcomm’s networking and connectivity businesses Atheros, which we were surprised to discover has nothing to do with one of the three musketeers.

It is unusual for Intel to look outside its own company for senior executives and the hiring is being seen as a portent that the company is serious to sort out its struggling mobile business.

Faintuch will be an Intel a senior vice president and co-general manager of the Platform Engineering Group.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said Faintuch will  be among Intel’s dozen or so most senior executives and will co-manage the Platform Engineering Group with Josh Walden, a manufacturing technology expert who previously led the group.

Mulloy said that Faintuch brings experience designing “system on chips,” or SoCs, which combine features like modems, Wi-Fi and memory.  Chipzilla is still a little short on the expertise needed for designing SoCs.

“We want to accelerate our success rate with SoCs and get the designs aligned and the roadmaps aligned to do that. We’ve made good progress but there’s more to be done. Amir has extensive management experience and a strong resume,” he said.

Since taking over in 2013, CEO Brian Krzanich has made a number of sweeping changes designed to counteract a slump in PC sales, including opening Intel’s cutting-edge factories to other chipmakers willing to pay for access to them.

Still the traffic between Intel and Qualcomm has not been one way. In fact Qualcomm is seen as a nicer place to work. In 2012, senior executive Anand Chandrasekher, a 25-year Intel veteran, jumped over to Qualcomm to become the outfit’s chief marketing officer.

Intel talks about Core-M

Intel-Core-MIntel has finally split the beans on the chip it hopes will start to make an impact on the tablet market.

Broadwell-based processors will carry the brand name, Core M, and they will target tablets that are less than nine millimeters thick and need no fans.

If it all works, it means that tablets will finally get a PC-class processor if it fails then mobile users will have a hot melted ball of plastic in their laps.

For those who came in late Broadwell uses Chipzilla’s Intel’s 14-nm manufacturing process. Getting the secret sauce right has been tricky, Broadwell has been delayed several times due to some teething problems with this new process.

Intel claims it has got the process right and is now ready for volume production.

Intel VP and Director of 14-nm Technology Development Sanjay Natarajan provided Tech Report   with some details about Broadwell.

Most importantly, he said that the new 14-nm process provides true scaling from the prior 22-nm node, with virtually all of the traditional benefits of Moore’s Law intact. So rather than giving up on Moore’s Law, Chipzilla is doing its best to prop it up.

This 14-nm process uses second generation tri-gate transistors or FinFETs. This actually puts Intel well ahead of rivals which have not even come up with first-generation FinFET silicon.

Looking at the fins comprising Intel’s tri-grate transistors, they appear to have become closer together at the 14-nm node with something called the fin pitch reduced from 60 to 42 nm.  The fins themselves have grown taller and thinner. This improves density, while the new fin structure allows for increased drive current and thus better performance. It all means that Intel can use fewer fins for some on-chip structures, further increasing the effective density of the process. Fewer fins means the chips are more power efficient.

The gate pitch has been reduced from 90 to 70 nm and, as shown above, the spacing of the smallest interconnects has dropped even more dramatically, from 80 to 52 nm.

Natarajan said the new chip can flip bits at higher speeds than prior generations while losing less power in the form of leakage along the way.

What he suggests also is that Intel will eventually have to move beyond Moore’s Law if it is going to evolve. The reason is not the technology, but the cost of following Moore’s Law.

Chipmakers have had to use ever more exotic techniques like double-patterning—creating two separate masks for photolithography and exposing them at a slight offset—in order to achieve higher densities. Doing so increases costs.

If moving to finer process nodes cannot reduce the cost per transistor, the march of ever-more-complex microelectronics could slow down. Some chipmakers have hinted that we will be approaching that point very soon.

Intel claims that so far there is no problem and the math continues to work well. Currently there is a steady decrease in cost per transistor through the 14-nm node and this should flow into the 10-nm process.

Broadwell’s CPU cores have received a number of tweaks over Haswell’s which Intel claims has increased instruction throughput per clock by about five percent. In keeping with Broadwell’s mobile focus, Intel’s architects set a high standard for any added features in this revision of the architecture.  Now a new feature must contribute two per cent more performance for every  per cent of added power use. In the good old days a 1:1 was considered great.

Intel has done a fair bit on the graphics too. Broadwell-Y’s IGP is an increase in the number of modular “slices” of graphics resources included.  There are three versus two in Haswell. Each slice has its own L1 cache, texture cache, and texture sampling/filtering hardware.

All this means is that Broadwell’s display block can drive 4K displays and can using fixed-function hardware in conjunction with the graphics EUs to process H.265 video.  This means that H.265 decoding on Broadwell-Y is “fast enough for 4K” and the chip can handle 4K resolutions at 30 Hz.

Apple and Samsung lose out

1920s-telephone-advertApple and Samsung’s European bottom lines are being kicked by a surge of interest in local smartphones.

A report from Netbiscuits suggests that customers are becoming increasingly frustrated at the mobile market monoculture and Apple and Samsung are experiencing their first major challenge from disruptive European vendors.

Head of global research at Netbiscuits Duncan Clark said that his report marks a dramatic shift in mobile market share which are mirrored in Asia were emerging local vendors in Asia have been doing well.

French company Wiko and bq in Spain have muscled a “Top 50 devices” spot in their own countries for the first time ever.

Coupled with increased fragmentation in Asian markets as cheaper brands enter the market, it seems that smaller, companies are gaining popularity around the world and disrupting dominant players.

It is still early days yet, but it does show that the Golden Age where Apple and Samsung rule the smartphone world is coming to a close.





Intel suffers

intel_log_reversedBuried in Intel’s glowing results was one anomaly – its tablet business was taking off while its mobile unit revenue fell like a free falling team of elephants.

It was possible to see a significant spike in tablets using its chips, up 10 million last quarter, but its mobile revenue was just $51 million. This was an 83 percent drop from a year earlier.

While it is possible to explain some of that drop by a fall in its phone modem chip business it turns out that this was the cost of “contra revenue”,

As president Ronald Reagan found out, giving money to contras is always going to get you into trouble and what you are seeing is the cost of Intel buying its way into the market.

For 2014 anyway, Intel is selling a chip into low-end tablets that costly and complex to design into devices than rivals.  Tablet makers are happy because they get a higher end Bay Trail chip  for their cheap tablets but Intel’s bottom line  suffers and it smacks of desperation.

It all means that Intel can say it is “on track” to reach its goal of selling 40 million tablet processors this year but this means that more “successful” Intel is at getting device makers to use its chips, the more money it will lose.

Intel does not seem to care either.  It has said that it is tablet program is expected to take the company’s entire profit margin down by as much as 1.5 percentage points this year.  Intel can afford it, but it is questionable if his makes sense and it if would be better to invest in the 3.30 at Ascot.

Intel thought Bay Trail chip it is selling to tablet makers would wind up in high-end devices which cost a fortune. Instead, Intel’s opportunities have been in lower-end devices such as the Asus Memo Pad, a device that costs around $150.

Intel does not expect the mobile unit to turn profitable next year, but the losses should narrow, CFO Stacy Smith told the world+dog.

CEO Brian Krzanich believes that over time we can make this a profitable business.

US wants to make unlocking phones legal again

pressieThe US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a plan which would give mobile-phone users the right to “unlock” their devices and use them on competitors’ networks.

The bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, is similar to legislation passed by the House of Representatives in February and is expected to have bipartisan support when it reaches the Senate floor for a vote.

In 2012 ruling by the Library of Congress, who looks after US copyright law, made phone-unlocking illegal. Unlocking could sent you to jail where you cannot pass go or collect $200.

The move supported US wireless carriers who were “locking” smartphones to their networks to encourage consumers to renew mobile contracts.

However, there is some move amongst the wireless carriers to make it easier for consumers to unlock their phones after their contracts expire.

Leahy’s bill reinstates the exemption given to mobile phones in the copyright law before the 2012 ruling and calls on the officials there to reconsider the issue during its next round of reviews in 2015, potentially expanding the exemption to tablets and other devices.

In addition to allowing consumers to unlock devices themselves, Leahy’s bill would allow consumers to authorise someone else to do it for them.


Mobile ad spending to hit $40bn by 2018

smartphones-genericA three-fold jump in mobile ad spend over the next five years has been predicted by Juniper Research, up from 2013’s $13bn to in the region of $40bn per year.

All the usual suspects are cited as reasons for this growth, including better use of analytics and more innovative ad formats.

But the report highlights the disproportionately low levels of ad spend on mobile – the one device most people keep with them, or close to them, all day every day.

A historical lack of effectiveness on the part of mobile advertising may have held back any appetite to invest heavily and can be attributed to imprecise monitoring and measuring, according to Juniper. As the means to measure the ends improves, so spending on mobile advertising will become more of a science and less of an art – leading to an increase.

Sian Rowlands, a research analyst at Juniper, the author of the Mobile Advertising Report, explained: When a person is carrying out a task on their mobile device, they are often focussed solely on that task, whereas we see for people who watch TV, they are often multi-tasking, or on their phone at the same time. Furthermore, viewing on mobile devices and tablets is increasingly replacing TV viewing. Due to these factors, we would say that mobile is seeing a disproportionately low ad spend versus TV, and other formats.

By comparison with the $13bn spent on mobile advertising this year, TV annual ad spends are estimated to be between $150bn and $300bn.

“I would say this low mobile ad spend is attributable to the fact that mobile adverts have been, in some instances, quite ineffective,” Rowlands continued. “However, as we move towards a time when targeting capabilities and purchasing mechanisms improve, I believe we’ll see mobile advertising reach its full potential.”

Other Key Findings from the Report Include:

  • The fastest growing region, in terms of mobile ad spend, will be the Indian Subcontinent. Spend here will increase four times from 2013 to 2018.
  • Advertisers can increase conversions by simply adding mobile optimised features, for instance a ‘click to call’ button, or by linking to the correct app store.

The “Mobile Advertising – It All Ads Up” whitepaper is available to download from the Juniper website.


IBM buys Xtify

ibm-officeIBM has bought cloud based mobile messaging company Xtify for an undisclosed amount.

Big Blue hopes the buy will help it further push its capabilities in mobile towards digital advertising, as well as helping shape its public sector offerings, through cloud services.

Xtify, IBM promises, will provide campaign creation, personalised content, and real time analytics for mobile devices and browsers. It was built to retain mobile app users and site visitors. Campaign management also tells users when new promos or content are available.

IBM veep for digital marketing, Kevin Bishop, pointed out there’s profit to be had in selling technology to companies trying to figure out mobile. “The acquisition of Xtify provides new ways for our clients to foster a direct, one-to-one communication channel with their customers,” Bishop said.

Big Blue wheeled out some figures of its own to highlight just how important mobile strategy can be, claiming 73 percent of those surveyed in an IBM Business Value study “experienced measurable results” from mobile initiatives. It cites companies like Disney Stores and 20th Century Fox as among those using Xtify push notifications on mobile to boost sales.

IT departments nervous about BYOD

threeiphonesMost IT departments are not certain their mobile policies are compliant with both corporate policy and government regulation, according to a report.

Bring Your Own Device means staff are increasingly taking their smartphones into work. Despite this, according to research commissioned by Accellion, an enterprise security company, just 30 percent of organisations have an approved BYOD policy.

70 percent of respondents admitted to being “concerned” and a further 20 percent “extremely concerned” about mobile file sharing.

Additionally, 63 percent of those surveyed want to clamp down on VPN use, and about two thirds have or plan to allow official enterprise content management accross mobile devices. Of course, this means making sure the infrastructure is in place to secure those devices – especially running on sensitive networks.

There was a consensus on limiting or controlling with sites or folders are accessible to staff on mobile, for example, making sales documents available on mobile but blocking access to human resources.

14 percent of respondents were in the process of developing their own corporate app store, with another 14 percent already having one.

Windows devs struggle with mobile compatibility

acer-w3Windows app developers are gagging to code for mobile platforms but are finding the cost and complexity associated with the transition a barrier, according to a report.

Dimensional Research asked 1,337 Windows developers around the world for their views on going mobile.

According to the research, there is great demand for development, but delivery itself is challenging, revealing a disconnect between the interest in apps and the tools available to actually make them.

85 percent of the respondents had received requests for mobile apps. The most requested platform by far was for Android support.

Using HTML5 and JavaScript have not proved the way forward. Most respondents understood that native apps are ultimately the best for end users, while three quarters said using HTLM5 and JavaScript caused niggling challenges.

Senior researcher at Dimensional Research, Diane Hagglund, said that Windows developers see the need to bring their experiences to mobile. But “today’s development options either limit the end user or result in costly and complex native development across multiple platforms”.

“These Windows developers clearly need better options,” Hagglund said

HP and VMware team up for federated networks

HPHewlett Packard and VMware have teamed up to deliver the industry’s first federated network solution, which is designed to provide customers with more automation and visibility in physical and virtual data virtual centres. Or so they say.

Companies are embracing mobile, cloud, BYOD, so manual network configuration is proving tricky and demanding. Virtualisation helps, as it offers a centralised control pane, but it still does not automate configuration and provisioning of physical devices. That’s where the new HP – VMware “solution” comes into play.

It will combine the HP Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller with VMware’s NSX network virtualisation platform to let customers automate their physical and virtual network infrastructure, all in one place. The companies say the new networking solution will provide a centralised view, unified automation, visibility and control of the complete data center network, improving agility, monitoring and troubleshooting. Or so they say.

It all revolves around man or possibly woman hours. A typical cloud data centre network may need 10,000 provisions per day, each requiring at least 20 network command line changes. These 200,000 command line changes would require 3,333 man or woman hours to complete, assuming one minute per command. The HP-VMware networking “solution” threatens to eliminate manual configuration of both the physical and virtual data centre networks through interoperable automated orchestration of policies. It also will create a single view of the network, both physical and virtual. Or so they say.

“Customers are adopting network virtualisation to gain the necessary agility needed to realise the promise of virtualised and cloud data centres. To be successful, IT organisations need solutions to deliver common management of services and operations across the physical and virtual domains,” said Stephen Mullaney, senior vice president and general manager, networking and security business unit, VMware. “By collaborating with HP on a federated networking solution, we will help our joint customers create a unified network operations model that will radically simplify IT in the software-defined data centre.” Or so they say.

The new HP-VMware networking thing will be available in the second half of 2014, along with HP’s new ConvergedControl software.