Tech Industry Calls on Congress to Allocate More Mobile Spectrum

  • A team of tech companies including Apple, Samsung, and Nokia has submitted a letter to Congress requesting that it allocate more spectrum for mobile data, reports The Verge.
  • The letter argues the spectrum addition “is timely and relevant” to discuss alongside fiscal cliff debates.
  • “Now is the time to ensure the incentive auctions are as robust and successful as possible at liberating spectrum,” reads the letter. “We should also turn our collective attention on ways to reap the economic benefits of underutilized federal spectrum assets.”
  • “Other signatories include Intel, RIM, Qualcomm, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and Ericsson, all of which are members of the High Tech Spectrum Coalition,” notes the post. “The group believes that upcoming spectrum auctions won’t meet the demand for wireless broadband, nor will it be possible to ‘engineer our way out of this problem’ with more efficient technology.”
  • The letter asks Congress to urge spectrum holders to “become more efficient, to share with one another, to vacate, or to lease their spectrum.”
  • An earlier report this year also recommended the government consider sharing spectrum with commercial partners, since it’s “increasingly difficult to find desirable spectrum that can be vacated by federal users.”

Mobile Video Calling Creates New Frontier as Technologies Improve

  • “As the cameras and screens of smartphones and tablets improve, and as wireless networks offer higher bandwidth, more companies are getting into the business of enabling mobile video calls,” reports The New York Times, noting that the rise has been so quick that analysts have yet to compile numbers.
  • In 2011, Microsoft acquired video calling service Skype. Similarly, Apple developed its own FaceTime feature to sell the iPad and in September expanded the service beyond just Wi-Fi to cellular networks.
  • Google’s free video calling service Hangouts on its social network Google Plus allows up to ten people to video conference, and it features more than 200 apps. Just last week, Yahoo purchased its own video chat service OnTheAir. Tango Mobile is yet another video calling service, which has attracted 80 million active users and sees 200,000 join daily, according to CTO and co-founder Eric Setton.
  • Microsoft has incorporated Skype into its Windows 8 mobile phones, allowing people to receive calls even when the app isn’t running. Google is interested in “making money on the applications, but in learning more about them so it can sell more ads by getting people to use [Hangouts],” notes the article.
  • “Don’t expect video calling to improve productivity. Tango uses the same technology that enables video calls to sell games that people can play simultaneously,” the article states. “Google says some jokey applications on Hangouts, like a feature that can put a mustache over each caller, seem to encourage people to talk longer.”
  • “Tango’s average video call used to last six minutes, Mr. Setton said, but when the company started adding other applications to go with the videos, like games and designs that float over people, the average call length rose to 12 minutes.”

Malware Shift: Android Overtakes Windows as Top Security Threat

  • In the 2013 Security Threat Report from security firm Sophos, it’s been revealed that Android is now the top market for hackers, beating out previous frontrunner Microsoft’s Windows OS.
  • “The security firm found that during a three-month period this year, 10 percent of Android-based devices experienced some form of malware attack. Just 6 percent of Windows PCs, meanwhile, were hit by an attack,” according to Technology Review.
  • Cybercriminals understand more than ever that the technological future is in mobile, making this an issue of high concern considering over 100 million Android devices shipped worldwide in the second quarter of 2012, notes the report.
  • Because Android is fairly new, especially when compared to Windows OS, users are not yet conditioned to security concerns and will click on links or open unknown apps.
  • “To make matters worse, the anti-malware tools available in the Android ecosystem just aren’t as strong as they could be,” explains the article. “Security firms are behind the times a bit. And until they catch up, we’re all at risk.”
  • According to the Saphos report, in order to stay safe, users should only surf the Web to known sites and should not download anything that could be dangerous.

Opinion: Will Mobile Devices Eventually Replace the Big Screen TV?

  • In this opinion piece published on CNET, freelance writer Steve Guttenberg predicts that iPads and other tablet devices will eventually make having a large screen TV a thing of the past.
  • “By 2020 younger people who will have grown up with tablets won’t see a need to ever buy a big display, which will by then seem as obtrusive as a pair of 4-foot-tall tower speakers do to most buyers nowadays,” he suggests.
  • For the naysayers, Guttenberg cites audio technology as an example. Twenty years ago, it was hard to imagine that most consumers would be less concerned about a set of quality speakers and more interested in portability or personalization. Yet that’s where we’ve landed.
  • “With music, everyone except for a handful of audiophiles, listens in their cars, computer, or on iPod,” he writes. “A home hi-fi of any quality now seems irrelevant; the same fate is in the cards for TVs. They will start to look too big, too imposing for the room’s decor.”
  • This is interesting to consider now, as tablet sales are taking off in the consumer market. Will mobile devices such as the tablet kill TV?
  • Guttenberg believes we are heading in that direction: “There will always be a market for big TVs, just as there is for great audio, but big-screen sales will continue to shrink over time. Most people will be perfectly content to watch movies and sports on their iPads.”

Financial Analyst Weighs Pros and Cons of Zynga $7 Billion IPO

  • In an analysis of Zynga’s pricy IPO, Forbes contributor Peter Cohan advises investors to “avoid this stock.”
  • “Social media gaming sweat shop Zynga filed to sell 14.3 percent, or 100 million, of its shares, valuing the lot at $7 billion,” he writes. “Should you pay the price to get in on its IPO? No.”
  • Zynga does have some things working in its favor: 1) It operates in the highly profitable virtual goods market that is expected to more than double by 2014; 2) It has a competitive advantage with the largest player audience on Facebook and 383 percent annual growth rate from 2008 to 2010; and 3) It has the ability to sustain its leadership position. “In October, Zynga announced Project Z that would lessen Zynga’s dependence on Facebook users. If that and its effort to go mobile work, Zynga would be in a stronger long-term position,” suggest the article.
  • So why not invest? Zynga’s IPO valuation is too high relative to its competitors; its growth is slowing down; and, its net income shrank for the majority of 2011 leaving “razor thin” 3.7 percent net profit margins. “No amount of sweat-shopping will fix Zynga’s slowing growth,” reports Cohan.

Is the Carrier IQ Rootkit Tracking Everything on Your Smartphone?

  • As an Android, Blackberry or Nokia user, you may not know that an app called Carrier IQ is logging literally everything you are doing on your smartphone including keystrokes, SMS messages and HTTPS sessions. Other articles on Carrier IQ report that this information is being sent to the carriers.
  • Apparently, there is no way for a user to turn Carrier IQ off without replacing the operating system.
  • A former Justice Department prosecutor has told Forbes that this is “likely grounds for a class action lawsuit” as it violates federal wiretapping law. This story is beginning to get a significant amount of attention online.
  • To see Carrier IQ in action, watch the 17-minute video posted to the PC World article.

Wilocity to Showcase 802.11ad Tech at CES: Ready for 60GHz Wireless?

  • Founded by a team of execs and engineers from Intel’s Wi-Fi Centrino group in 2007, Wilocity is developing next-gen 60GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets for mobile and peripheral markets.
  • According to the company’s website: “Wilocity’s Wireless PCI Express technology will enable truly multi-gigabit wireless for a wide range of applications from I/O to networking to video.”
  • “Wilocity, which is leading the charge for next-generation technology called 802.11ad designed to reach 7 gigabits per second over short distances, plans to show off a variety of devices using its technology at the mammoth CES trade show,” reports CNET.
  • “In Wilocity’s dream, the company will excite people about the possibilities of wireless networking that’s faster than what typical computers today can do with a wired connection,” explains the post. “For example, a smartphone carried into the office could connect to a keyboard, mouse, and large display. A tablet carried into the den could become a controller for a game shown on the big-screen TV.”

Shopping Trend: Retailers Find that Consumers Prefer Apps to Websites

  • New iPad apps are rolling out this holiday season to entice the eight percent of online shoppers that own tablets.
  • That percentage may seem small, but Forrester Research found that 60 percent of tablet owners use their devices to shop and many prefer them to smartphones or computers for shopping. For clothing company Anthropologie, iPad shopping accounted for six percent of sales this year and is expected to rise to 20 percent with the introduction of their new app.
  • These new apps aim to provide a more interactive experience and capture some of the in-store essence by revamping their electronic catalogs and adding new features to their shopping pages.
  • Revel Touch has built apps for multiple companies including functions like a “virtual dressing room,” that allows users to create outfits and the ability to share choices on social networks. Apps allow tablet shoppers to zoom in, see videos and find the sizes they want with ease.
  • “You can bring the objects to life on an iPad and you can’t do that on paper — and you don’t have to chop down a tree,” the CEO of Catalog Spree told The New York Times. The company also reported that, on weekends, its users spend almost eight times as long on the retailers’ app as they do on the retailers’ Web sites.

Will New $99 Kobo E-Reader Compete?

  • Kobo announced it will release its $99 Kobo Touch with Offers in time for the holiday season.
  • The 6-inch e-reader is the same as the company’s $130 offering, but “the screen will display ads when it is in sleep mode or turned off, as well as in what the company mysteriously refers to as ‘discreet places,'” reports VentureBeat.
  • The device “will be a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Touch with Special Offers and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch,” suggests the article.
  • Although not widely known in the U.S., Kobo hopes to change that with unique features such as support for HTML, RTF and various image files.
  • According to the article: “Just last week, the Canada-based e-reader manufacturer was acquired for $315 million in cash by Rakuten, the largest online shopping mall operator in Japan, which may help the reader become an international hit. As for this season’s e-reader wars in the U.S., it’s still a scrappy underdog.”

Filmic Pro App from Cinegenix is Ideal Tool for Mobile Video Shoots

  • Filmic Pro is a $2.99 app from Cinegenix that transforms the iPhone’s video camera capabilities by providing prosumer features.
  • “The camera lets you set and lock your focus, exposure and white balance,” reports Appletell. “On the backend, a set of menus allows you to set the resolution, from 480×360 up to 1920×1080, though only the iPhone 4S supports that resolution.”
  • Filmic Pro can add color bars and a slate (including countdown) to the video, and bitrate can be modified. Additionally, the app enables exporting directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, or Tumblr.
  • “You can also set the Frames Per Second from 30 all the way down to 1,” according to the post. “There’s a simple audio meter, a thirds guide, a framing guide (2.34:1, a standard TV 4:3, and a cinematic 16:9). If you want to make your iPhone video look like it was shot on a 35mm movie camera, there’s a matte box function, too.”
  • Appletell suggests that Filmic Pro’s strengths involve greater control over shooting, setting frame and compression rates and the ability to export footage to Dropbox or FTP. The app does not allow users to edit, set titles, or add special effects.

Texas Instruments Video: Explaining How Immersive Spatial Audio Works

  • This 3 1/2 minute video by Texas Instruments clearly and concisely explains the three components of their 3D audio technology: beam steering, crosstalk cancellation, and head related transfer function (HRTF or the psychoacoustic effect).
  • “Laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other multimedia devices offer an impressive visual experience,” suggests the video. “However, the overall experience is hindered by space constrained audio systems that lack clarity and depth — until now.”
  • Texas Instruments explains in the video how its audio technologies convert the “small sound stage” into an enhanced, immersive experience via techniques that manipulate sounds in desired directions in a 3D space.
  • This is a must-view for anyone interested in spatial audio applications for consumer electronics.

Apple iPhone 4S: Recent iOS Update Fails to Fix Battery Problems

  • Apple released an iOS update on Thursday designed to fix the problem that iPhone 4S users running iOS 5 have been experiencing with regards to battery life.
  • However, many iPhone owners have reported the update (iOS 5.0.1) has had no effect in fixing the issue.
  • “A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices. We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks,” Apple said in a statement.
  • Based on the language of the statement, especially noting the generic phrase “a few bugs,” Digital Trends suggests the company may not know the cause of the problem.
  • “The recent iOS software update addressed many of the battery issues that some customers experienced on their iOS 5 devices,” said Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller, adding: “We continue to investigate a few remaining issues.”

Study says 80 Percent of Mobile Users Multitask while Watching TV

  • Digital advertising agency Razorfish recently partnered with Yahoo to conduct a study regarding consumer behavior and the simultaneous use of television and mobile devices.
  • “While 80 percent of mobile users multitask in front of TV, 70 percent say they multitask once a week, and 49 percent on a daily basis,” reports Lost Remote. “More than 60 percent check their phones at least ‘once or twice’ during a show with 15 percent active on their devices the entire time.”
  • These multi-taskers are primarily attracted to content related to reality shows, news, comedy, sports and food.
  • The study suggests that 38 percent believe the mobile activity enhances TV broadcasts, while an equal 38 percent find it distracting.
  • Lost Remote reports: “94 percent of mobile multitaskers communicate while watching TV, while 60 percent are looking up content. Of the communicators, the most popular activities in order are: texting, talking, email, social networking and IM.”
  • Razorfish and Yahoo also learned that most of the mobile activity takes place during commercial breaks.

Study: 300 Percent Growth in Mobile App Downloads Expected for 2011

  • Mobile analytics firm Flurry has released new estimates based on iOS and Android app-enabled devices.
  • According to the report, 25 billion apps will be downloaded in 2011, marking 300 percent growth from last year’s six billion.
  • Five billion Apple and Android apps are expected to be downloaded in December alone, based on the surge typically associated with mobile shopping and people on break looking for entertainment.
  • Revenue from the U.S. market will reach $2.5 billion, compared with 2010’s $1 billion.
  • The increase in app catalogs has helped the increase. iOS offers about 500,000 apps and Android is around 350,000.
  • ReadWriteWeb also points out that only 43 percent of U.S. consumers currently have smartphones, but the number is expected to reach 50 percent by Q3 2012, which will also fuel app downloads.

Warner Bros. Flixster App adds iPad and iPhone to UltraViolet Offerings

  • The new “Harry Potter” Blu-ray disc will include an UltraViolet download from Flixster, now that Warner Bros. has added a new feature to the UV service.
  • “Today, the updated Flixster app enables users to not only stream movies available on UltraViolet, but also download them to iPads and iPhones, a feature that was missing from Warner’s initial movie releases on UltraViolet,” reports CNET.
  • When fans purchase the three-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” they’ll also have access to a copy they can maintain in the Flixster cloud.
  • Warner Bros. became the first studio to adopt UltraViolet, with its release of “Horrible Bosses” last month. “Warner boasts 21 percent of the DVD market, the largest share of any of the major studios,” indicates the article.

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