Technology News
Google Builds Data-after-death Tool
Google will allow users to decide what happens to their data after they die or become inactive online, the first major company to deal with the sensitive issue.

The feature applies to email, social network Google Plus and other accounts.

Users can choose to delete data after a set period of time, or pass it on to specific people.

Internet users around the world have expressed concern about what happens to their data after their demise.

"We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife - in a way that protects your privacy and security - and make life easier for your loved ones after you're gone," Google said in a blogpost.

California-based Google also owns YouTube, photo-sharing service Picasa and Blogger.

Google said users can opt to have their data deleted after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Alternatively, certain contacts can be sent data from some or all of their services.

However, the company said it would text a provided number or email a secondary email address to warn users before any action is taken.

People are increasingly placing content on social networks and data storage facilities hosted in cyberspace, or the "cloud".

Other companies have also attempted to tackle the questions that raises after a person's death. Facebook, as an example, allows users to "memorialise" an account. 
April 12, 2013
Microsoft Files EU Android Complaint
Microsoft has accused rival Google of pushing Android handset makers to use its applications such as YouTube and Maps.

Along with Oracle, Nokia and 14 other tech firms, Microsoft has filed a complaint with the European Commission.

The group, known as FairSearch, argues that Google is abusing its dominance of the mobile market.

In response to the filing, Google said: "We continue to work co-operatively with the European Commission."

Trojan horse

"We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market," said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel for FairSearch.

"Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google's Android operating system," he added.

Android is now the dominant mobile operating system, accounting for 70% of the market, according to research firm Gartner.

The complaint describes Google's Android operating system as a "trojan horse", offered to device makers for free. In return they are "required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone," the complaint reads.

Privacy policy

Google is also under fire for its common user privacy policy which groups 60 sets of rules into one and allows the company to track users more closely.

Last week six European data protection agencies, including the UK and France, threatened legal action if Google did not make changes to its policy.

In October a European Commission working party said its privacy policy did not meet Commission standards on data protection.

It gave Google four months to comply with its recommendation.

Google maintains that the new policy "respects European law".

Microsoft itself is no stranger to EC scrutiny. In March it was fined 561 million euros (£484m) for failing to promote a range of web browsers in its Windows 7 operating system.
April 09, 2013
Privacy Fears Over Facebook Home
Facebook's "home" software for Android phones could "destroy" privacy, warn industry watchers and analysts.

Unveiled on 4 April, home is a "wrapper" for Android and puts Facebook feeds on a phone's main screen.

But the detailed data that could be mined from home users could intrude on private life, commentators warned.

Many took issue with the claim that home put people, not apps, at the heart of the mobile experience, saying it would help Facebook sell ads.

Handset home

Home was shown off in a presentation given at Facebook's campus by the social network's founder Mark Zuckerberg. He said it was an attempt to do away with app-centred systems that were a legacy of the computer world in which people clicked on an icon to start a program.

Once installed on a phone, home takes over the lock screen and main display turning it into a live feed of information, notifications and images Facebook users are sharing.

The "always on" nature of home bothered industry watcher Om Malik from tech news website GigaOm who said it could be a route to gathering data about users that would otherwise be hard to find.

"This application erodes any idea of privacy," he wrote. "If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action."

Users of home could see their privacy "destroyed", he warned.

Harry McCracken at Time pointed out that many other apps can grab data like home but said it would be "comforting" to get confirmation from Facebook that it had no plans to datamine the lives of its users.

Their worries were echoed by Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch who said "The Facebookification of the mobile web is a threat to openness, to choice, to privacy - but only if you care about those things".

Ms Lomas wrote that home would create many winners and losers and said it was a way for Facebook gradually to take over more and more functions on phones. Home will have monthly updates and Ms Lomas expected many of those to use Facebook as the core controls for a handset.

She also wondered if home would be a success or prove unpopular with users.

"Facebook thinks it's more important to people than it actually is," Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, told Reuters.

"For the vast majority of people, Facebook just isn't the be-all and end-all of their mobile experience," he said. "It's just one part."

"I see a more apathetic response among Facebook users than Facebook might be expecting," he added.

Jan Dawson, senior telecoms analyst at Ovum, said home was the "next best thing" to creating a Facebook operating system for mobiles.

Mr Dawson added that the change would let Facebook track more of a user's behaviour on devices and to serve up ads.

"That presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users' are once again in conflict," he said. "Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both."

The software will be available via Google's Play Store as a download and will work only with phones running Android 4.0 or higher - this accounts for about 50% of all Android phones. Home will be available on 12 April in the US and soon after in other territories.

No information was given about whether home would be redeveloped to work with Apple or Microsoft phones. 
April 08, 2013
Mobile Phone Celebrates 40th Anniversary
The first mobile phone call was made 40 years ago today, on 3 April 1973.

Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, called a rival colleague at another telecoms company and announced he was speaking from "a 'real' cellular telephone".

In 2012 a report carried out by the International Telecommunication Union found that there were six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide.

At the time the global population was seven billion.

"In 40 years we've moved rapidly from the mobile phone as a businessman's tool, through consumerisation and internet access to everything being connected," Dr Mike Short CBE, former president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and Vice President of Telefonica Europe, told the BBC.

"In the future we will see a much wider range of devices - many of which will be wearable," he added.

"We will work more fully with all the senses. The move to glasses has begun - how can we use eye control to change and look at pages?

"Wearables, in terms of (smartphone) watches, are coming. We'll also see health measurement body vests that can communicate with your phone and then your doctor," said Dr Short.

Phone father

Martin Cooper, now aged 85, is renowned as the "father" of the mobile phone.

In a previous interview with the BBC he admitted he thought the initial cost of the devices (in 1983 the first models cost $3,500, or £2,300) might be prohibitive to the mobile phone becoming a mass-market product, but he did recognise that the hefty handsets would probably shrink.

"We did envision that some day the phone would be so small that you could hang it on your ear or even have it embedded under your skin," he said.

Mr Cooper said his vision for a mobile phone was first conceived in the late 1960s when the car telephone was invented by AT&T.

He wanted to create "something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home but to a person," he said.

"It pleases me no end to have had some small impact on people's lives because these phones do make people's lives better. They promote productivity, they make people more comfortable, they make them feel safe and all of those things," Mr Cooper added.

He was also pleased to have been one step ahead of the competition.

"When you are a competitive entity like we were, it's one of the great satisfactions in life," he said. 
April 03, 2013
Blackberry Reports 1m Z10 Sales
Mobile phone maker Blackberry says it has sold one million of its new Z10 smartphones.

In better than expected results the company said it made profits of $98m (£65m) in the quarter, after posting a big loss for the same period last year.

The Z10 handset is seen as crucial to the future of Blackberry, which has struggled to keep up with new Apple and Android phones.

It has been on sale for a month in the UK, Canada and other markets.

It went on sale with little fanfare a week ago in the United States, Blackberry's most important market.Blackberry reports 1m Z10 sales

The figures do not include US sales.

Blackberry was previously called Research In Motion, but changed its name last year.

Analysts greeted the results cautiously, saying that it was too early to judge the success of the Z10 and its sister device the Q10.

Earlier in the week, Blackberry shares were hit when two major US brokerages expressed disappointment with the US launch of the Z10.

In a note to its clients Citigroup described the launch as "a big disappointment".

The Blackberry results also showed the company lost three million users over the year. Its handsets are now used by 76 million people, down from 79 million 12 months ago.

In total, Blackberry said it shipped a total of around six million handsets in the three months to early March.
March 29, 2013
Microsoft Faces European Open Software Probe
A Spanish group of open-source users has accused Microsoft of making it difficult for users of Windows 8 to install alternatives.

The group of 8,000 Linux developers has filed a complaint to the European Commission about a mechanism that locks out other operating systems.

Microsoft said the mechanism was a security feature.

Earlier this month the commission fined the firm 561m euros (£484m) for failing to offer users a choice of web browser.

The Hispalinux group told Reuters The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot in Windows 8 was "a de facto technological jail for computer booting systems... making Microsoft's Windows platform less neutral than ever".

Its 14-page complaint said users needed to request digital keys from Microsoft to install another operating system.

Microsoft said in a statement: "UEFI is an industry standard aimed at improving computer security and the approach has been public for some time.

"We're happy to answer any additional questions, but we are confident our approach complies with the law and helps keep customers safe."

Richard Edwards, a principal analyst at research firm Ovum, said: "I can't see too many purchasers of Windows 8 calling foul over this.

"Microsoft will argue that the reason the technology has been developed is to provide enhanced security."

In January, when the issue was raised by a Euro-MP, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Alumnia said the commission had no evidence the Windows 8 security requirements violated EU competition rules.
March 26, 2013
T-Mobile Blows Up Cell Phone Pricing Model
Long stuck in fourth place, T-Mobile made itself a relevant mobile player in the United States again on Tuesday, with plans to rapidly roll out its 4G LTE network and offer bargain plans with no contracts to entice potential customers.

Oh, and it now offers that quaint little device called the iPhone 5.

Though T-Mobile has only activated the 4G network in Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, and Washington D.C. for now, the company plans to gradually expand coverage to 200 million people by the end of the year.

T-Mobile's rollout will run on its existing HSPA+ network, which has theoretical data download speeds that are faster than the LTE networks of AT&T and Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500).

T-Mobile also claims it has 50 percent more bandwidth than AT&T (T, Fortune 500), which in a perfect world would mean that it could handle more people and suffer less of a performance hit. All of this, mind you, is apparently without the added spectrum it is going to get from its pending acquisition of MetroPCS.

But technical touts aside, T-Mobile is pairing this rollout with an aggressive pricing plan for consumers which tosses contracts to the side but requires consumers to pay full price for their phone.

Phones can be paid in full up front. Eligible consumers can also put $99 down, and pay $20 a month over two years. Once that phone is fully paid for, T-Mobile will unlock the phone with no questions asked, allowing users to select any carrier they wish.

Conversely, many unlocked phones from other carriers, including the iPhone 5 and 4S will be accepted and fully compatible with T-Mobile's network.

Mobile plans cost either $50, $60, of $70 a month, providing unlimited voice and text with 500 megabytes, 2 gigabytes or unlimited data, respectively.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere insists its customers will save money in the long run because its plans are cheaper. In truth, the cheapest AT&T plan costs a little less over the span of two years than the cheapest T-Mobile plan with a new iPhone 5 from Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500).

But when you make the bump past the cheapest plans, the value of T-Mobile's unlimited offerings rises -- especially considering that data tethering is thrown in for free.

All of this makes T-Mobile sound like a very alluring option for those currently disgruntled with their carriers. The big wild card will be whether the T-Mobile network can live up to its performance claims.
March 26, 2013
Facebook Adds 'Reply' Option To Comments
Facebook announced on Monday it is rolling out a new feature so users can reply directly to comments left on their page. Finally.

Followings months of testing, the social network aims to make navigating through conversation threads easier with the new Replies feature. This means that, instead of having to leave a response to a friend's comment way after new ones have been added, you will be able to address each individual comment.
Responses will be posted under the original comment too.

The site is also prioritizing comments based on engagement — the most active and popular ones will surface to the top of your posts. This will be especially helpful for pages with thousands of followers.

"You and your readers will have the ability to reply directly to comments left on your Page content and start conversation threads, which will make it easier for you to interact directly with individual readers and keep relevant conversations connected," said Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook's journalism program manager, in an official blog post.

"Also, the most active and engaging conversations among your readers will be surfaced at the top of your posts ensuring that people who visit your Page will see the best conversations."

For now, threaded replies only apply to Facebook pages, not profiles. Users will be able to opt into the Replies through the Page admin panel. Facebook will be bringing the feature to all pages with more than 10,000 followers by July 10, 2013, but pages can turn the option off along the way.

"At launch, this feature will only be available on desktop and we plan to make it available in the Graph API and mobile in the future," Lavrusik added.
March 26, 2013
Apple 'losing Inspiring Reputation'
Technology giant Apple is perceived as less "inspiring" than it was three years ago, a brand survey suggests.

The findings will heighten concerns among shareholders who have seen about $230bn wiped off Apple's stock market value since September 2012.

Smartphone rival Samsung is now seen as equally "inspiring" in the US, says the survey by consultancy Added Value.

Analysts fear Apple may have lost its way since its visionary co-founder, Steve Jobs, died in October 2011.

While Apple's brand still scores more highly overall, Samsung's is more consistently appreciated across the world, particularly in East Asia, says Added Value, part of Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP group.

Apple's reputation for market-leading innovation took a knock after the iPhone 5 was seen as an iteration of an earlier design rather than a characteristic step-change.

According to research by Gartner, Samsung and Apple now account for 52% of the global smartphone market, but in the final quarter of 2012, Samsung sold 64.5 million smartphones to Apple's 43.5 million.

Similarly, Apple's iPad Mini was a response to rival, smaller tablet computers already on the market, adding to the impression Apple was following, not leading.

Patent battles

In September 2012, Apple's share price topped $700 - a record for the company - giving the tech company a market capitalisation of more than $655bn.

But since then, the price has tumbled, wiping about $230bn off the company's value.

Since 2011, Apple and Samsung have been slugging it out across the world's courts in a series of distracting patent battles.

Apple first sued Samsung in the US for alleged intellectual property infringements. Other court cases have taken place in France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, South Korea and Japan, with no company yet emerging as the clear winner.

Apple may be sitting on a $137bn cash mountain, but unless it can recapture its role as an "inspiring" technology leader and settle its legal battles, the perception may grow that its best days are behind it, analysts believe.

'Bold and exciting'

In its Cultural Traction 2013 report, Added Value analysed the "cultural vibrancy" of 160 brands across 15 sectors, involving more than 62,000 respondents in 10 countries.

The top 10 brands perceived to be the most "visionary, inspiring, bold and exciting" were Google, Apple, Samsung, Ikea, Microsoft, Sony, BMW, Audi, Coca-Cola and eBay.
March 21, 2013
Samsung: We're Making A Smart Watch, Too
Apple, as the reports go, is working on a "smart watch," although the secretive company won't say anything about it, of course.

So, after months of speculation, what does its chief rival in the mobile world do?
Announce that it definitely is working on a smart watch.

Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, said as much during an interview in South Korea, where the company is based. And he said it's not a knee-jerk reaction to Apple's rumored plans.

"We've been preparing the watch product for so long," Lee told Bloomberg. "We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

He did not give any details on when the watch may be released, what features it will have or how much it will cost.

With its Galaxy S line of smartphones, Samsung has become the first competitor to provide a real challenge to the dominant iPhone. While Apple's iconic phone remains the single-most popular mobile device -- the release of the iPhone 5 led to a record sales quarter and was the most popular of the 75 million devices running Apple's iOS system that were sold in those three months -- Samsung moved into a solid second place with its Galaxy S III.

The S III outsold the iPhone 4S during the third quarter of last year before the iPhone 5's release, and the company announced last week that the Galaxy S4 is on its way.

Now the companies seem poised to go head-to-head again in what appears to be an emerging market -- wearable tech.

Nike's fitness-oriented FuelBand has led the charge. But few new products have captured the imagination of the tech-minded such as Google Glass, an eyewear-like headset that offers augmented-reality images as well as basic smartphone-like features. The device is due later this year and has started popping up on the faces of field testers.

Then there is Pebble, the smartwatch that raked in about $8 million on Kickstarter and has begun shipping to backers.

But will there be a market for these devices outside of early-adopter technophiles and loyalists who will scoop up any new product their favorite company creates? Early signs say the public might need a little more information first.

According to an unscientific survey of users by mobile deals site BuyVia, 26% of respondents said they were interested in buying a rumored iWatch, 38% said they were not interested and more than a third, 36%, said they weren't sure. (The survey was conducted before Samsung confirmed it's in the game as well.)
The top five features respondents said they'd like to see in a watch were e-mail and texting, phone calls, GPS, Wi-Fi and weather updates.

"While consumers are seemingly divided about their desire to own the rumored Apple iWatch, it's fascinating that the most desired features for the watch mirror popular iPhone capabilities," said BuyVia CEO Norman Fong.

"It's as though consumers are only interested in a watch that offers everything the smartphone does, only in a more convenient 'package.' What they seem to crave is a way to more easily access iPhone features everywhere they go."
March 20, 2013