Google aiming to go straight into car with next Android

ANDROID IN YOUR AUTOMOBILE: Google will provide details for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. — Reuters

ANDROID IN YOUR AUTOMOBILE: Google will provide details for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. — Reuters

Google Inc is laying the groundwork for a version of Android that would be built directly into cars, sources said, allowing drivers to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet without even plugging in their smartphones.

The move is a major step up from Google’s current Android Auto software, which comes with the latest version of its smartphone operating system and requires a phone to be plugged into a compatible car with a built-in screen to access streaming music, maps and other apps. The first such vehicles will debut in 2015.

Google, however, has never provided details or a timeframe for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. The company now plans to do so when it rolls out the next version of its operating system, dubbed Android M, expected in a year or so, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to discuss the plans publicly.

“It provides a much stronger foothold for Google to really be part of the vehicle rather than being an add-on,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and Automotive Practice Leader of industry research firm Gartner, who noted that he was unaware of Google’s latest plans in this area.

If successful, Android would become the standard system powering a car’s entertainment and navigation features, solidifying Google’s position in a new market where it is competing with arch-rival Apple Inc. Google could also potentially access the valuable trove of data collected by a vehicle.

Direct integration into cars ensures that drivers will use Google’s services every time they turn on the ignition, without having to plug in the phone. It could allow Google to make more use of a car’s camera, sensors, fuel gauge, and Internet connections that come with some newer car models.

Analysts said Google’s plan could face various technical and business challenges, including convincing automakers to integrate its services so tightly into their vehicles.

Google declined to comment.

Technology companies are racing to design appliances, wristwatches and other gadgets that connect to the Internet. Automobiles are a particularly attractive prospect because Americans spend nearly 50 minutes per day on average on their commute, according to US Census data.

Apple unveiled its CarPlay software in March and Google has signed on dozens of companies, including Hyundai, General Motors Co and Nissan Motor Co , for its Open Automotive Alliance and its Android Auto product.

Android Auto and CarPlay both “project” their smartphone apps onto the car’s screen. Many of the first compatible cars are expected to be on display at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

By building Android into a car, Google’s services would not be at risk of switching off when a smartphone battery runs out of power, for example.

“With embedded it’s always on, always there,” said one of the sources, referring to the built-in version of Android Auto. “You don’t have to depend on your phone being there and on.”

By tapping into the car’s components, Google could also gain valuable information to feed its data-hungry advertising business model. “You can get access to GPS location, where you stop, where you travel everyday, your speed, your fuel level, where you stop for gas,” one of the sources said.

But the source noted that Android would need major improvements in performance and stability for carmakers to adopt it. In particular, Android Auto would need to power-up instantly when the driver turns the car on, instead of having to wait more than 30 seconds, as happens with many smartphones.

Automakers might also be wary of giving Google access to in-car components that could raise safety and liability concerns, and be reluctant to give Google such a prime spot in their vehicles.

“Automakers want to keep their brand appeal and keep their differentiation,” said Mark Boyadjis, an analyst with industry research firm IHS Automotive. “Automakers don’t want to have a state of the industry where you get in any vehicle and it’s just the same experience wherever you go.” — Reuters

Google revealed Android 5.0 ‘Lollipop’

lollipoplead

Google has just revealed that the next major version of Android, 5.0, will be known as Lollipop. After months of teasing the OS, the search giant is finally taking what was previously known as Android “L” into the mainstream, with the first set of the devices expected to arrive early next month. Speaking of which, Android Lollipop will make its debut on the new Nexus 6, a big-screen smartphone from Motorola; the Nexus 9, an 8.9-inch tablet made by HTC; and the Nexus Player, a $99 media-streaming box with Android TV, the first one with Google’s novel home entertainment platform. What’s more, the company confirmed that Lollipop is coming to the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, as well as Google Play edition devices, in the coming weeks.

To make things better, Android 5.0 is also headed to a number of Motorola smartphones, such as both generations of the Moto X and Moto G (including the LTE model), Moto E, Droid Maxx, Droid Mini and Droid Ultra. Motorola didn’t say when exactly the upgrade would be available for those devices, but at least it has confirmed its plans to do so. Now that Google’s let the Lollipop out of the bag, we’re sure more manufacturers are due to start coming forward with their own announcement.

The Android 5.0 SDK is going to be available on Friday, October 17th, which means everything is slowly, and sweetly falling into place ahead of next month. In the meantime, stay tuned, because we’ll be updating this post if any additional details come in.

Source: Engadget

First look at new Windows and its name

A shadow of a man using his mobile phone is cast near Microsoft logo at the 2014 Computex exhibition in Taipei June 4, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

A shadow of a man using his mobile phone is cast near Microsoft logo at the 2014 Computex exhibition in Taipei June 4, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

Microsoft Corp will unveil a new name for its best-known product on Tuesday when it offers the first official glimpse of its latest Windows operating system.

The project, known for the past few years as “Threshold” inside the software company and “Windows 9” outside it, will likely get an entirely new brand, or just be called Windows, analysts said, ahead of its full release early next year.

The name change is symbolic of a new direction and style for Microsoft, which is veering away from an aggressive focus on Windows and PCs, the hallmark of previous Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer. The new, quieter emphasis is on selling services across all devices and is championed by new boss Satya Nadella.

The switch also represents a desire to erase the ill will generated by Windows 8, an ambitious attempt to redesign Windows with tablet users in mind, which ended up annoying and confusing the core market of customers who use mice and keyboards.

“Windows 8 was not a shining moment for Microsoft,” said Michael Silver, an analyst at tech research firm Gartner. “Probably the biggest issue that lingers is the negative brand equity in the name.”

Many users howled in protest over the death of the start-button menu and the introduction of a colorful grid of squares or tiles representing apps in what became known as the modern user interface, even though they could easily switch to a traditional desktop mode.

Judging by recent leaks online, which Microsoft has not tried to discredit, the start-button menu will come back in the next Windows, with an option of tacking on tiles if preferred.

But the problem of users having to toggle between the modern interface and the old-style desktop – for instance to use the full version of Excel spreadsheet software – has yet to be solved.

“The schizophrenic behavior between the modern user interface and the Windows desktop has got to go away,” said David Johnson, an analyst at tech research firm Forrester. “They have to smooth that out.”

Microsoft declined to comment on the new name, or what it plans to unveil on Tuesday.

The Redmond, Washington-based company has said only that it will have a “discussion” about where Windows is headed at a stylish event space in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The choice of wording and venue are key to a humbler, lower-profile Microsoft under Nadella, who is keen to rebuild respect in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley as it moves away from the PC and to play a bigger part in the mobile computing world fashioned by Apple Inc and Google Inc.

Nadella’s slogan is “mobile first, cloud first,” and although he will not be at the San Francisco event – he is traveling in Asia – that theme will be at the fore.

“This is a launching pad and catalyst for Nadella’s holistic cloud vision over the coming years,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at investment bank FBR Capital Markets. “Windows 9 is a potentially game-changing product release for Microsoft.”

Nadella is resigned to the fact that sales of PCs have leveled off, and with it sales of Windows. With the explosion of smartphones and tablets, Windows now powers only 14 percent of computing devices sold last year, according to Gartner.

His response is to focus on selling high-quality services – such as the Office suite of applications or storing documents in the cloud – to people on whatever device or system they are using.

“Microsoft is changing from a company that was Windows-centric to one that is services-centric,” said Silver at Gartner. “It has to be that way. Windows revenue is likely going to decline, and Microsoft’s task is to replace that Windows revenue with revenue from services on all sorts of platforms.”

The challenge is to come up with killer apps and services users can’t live without.

“Microsoft built their business on being very good at delivering what people needed in the moment, for example Excel in the 1990s,” said Johnson at Forrester. “That’s what Microsoft has to get back to, innovating and creating things that people find indispensable.”

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: Reuters

 

Alibaba is now bigger than Facebook

Traders work on the floor as they wait for a final price on the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. initial public offering (IPO) under the ticker ''BABA'', at the New York Stock Exchange in New York September 19, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Traders work on the floor as they wait for a final price on the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. initial public offering (IPO) under the ticker ”BABA”, at the New York Stock Exchange in New York September 19, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s initial public offering now ranks as the world’s biggest in history at $25 billion, after the e-commerce giant and some of its shareholders sold additional shares.

Overwhelming demand saw the IPO initially raise $21.8 billion and then send Alibaba’s stock surging 38 percent in its debut on Friday. That prompted underwriters to exercise an option to sell an additional 48 million shares, a source with direct knowledge of the deal said.

The IPO surpassed the previous global record set by Agricultural Bank of China Ltd in 2010 when the bank raised $22.1 billion.

Under the option, Alibaba agreed to sell 26.1 million additional shares and Yahoo Inc 18.3 million, netting the two companies an extra $1.8 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma agreed to sell an extra 2.7 million shares and company co-founder Joe Tsai agreed to sell 902,782 additional shares, according to the prospectus.

The source declined to be identified as the details of the additional sale have yet to be made official. Alibaba declined to comment.

Citigroup Inc, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley acted as joint bookrunners of the IPO.

Rothschild was hired as Alibaba’s independent financial advisor on the deal.

(Corrects number of additional shares sold by Jack Ma to 2.7 million from 12.7 million in 5th paragraph)

Source: Reuters

 

Apple unveils watch and larger iPhones

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014.

Apple Inc unveiled a watch, two larger iPhones and a mobile payments service on Tuesday as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seeks to revive the technology company’s reputation as a wellspring of innovation.

The first new product to be developed and introduced under Cook’s reign is a timepiece tethered to the iPhone that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications. It will price at $349 and go on sale in early 2015.

First impressions were mixed. Some expected Apple to blow away the current competition but others warned the fact that it requires a paired iPhone may limit its sales.

Starting at $349 – $50 more than the cheapest version of the iPhone 6 with a contract, the lofty price tag may also keep some consumers on the sidelines. It could go up to more than $1,000 for higher-end editions, IDC analyst Danielle Levitas said.

The Apple Watch can receive phone calls and messages, play music, serve as a digital wallet to pay for goods and monitor heart rates via special sensors. The watches will come in three collections, including a sport edition and an upscale line coated in 18-karat gold.

“People are kind of scratching their heads on this watch, especially the fact that to successfully use the watch and to take advantage of its capabilities, you also have to have an iPhone,” said Daniel Morgan, vice president at Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta. “I don’t know if they’re in the right direction with this iWatch.”

Still, rival watch and wearable device makers will keep a wary eye on Apple, which upended the music industry and drove once-dominant phone makers like Blackberry to the brink of extinction.

Sony Corp, Samsung, LG Electronics Inc and Qualcomm Inc have already launched smartwatches, albeit without much success.

“Not the knockout some were anticipating. A bit gimmicky also on the health end of the wearable bands market,” said Jon Cox, an analyst of Swiss watch companies at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich.

“Not as cool as I feared. Nick Hayek is probably sleeping a little easier tonight,” Cox said, referring to the chief executive of Swatch Group.

Shares of the company closed just a tad higher after having risen almost 5 percent before executives trotted out the watch. The stock tends to rise in the run-up to a major product launch, and come under selling pressure afterward as investors cash out.

BUY WITH BIGGER PHONES

The watch is unlikely to increase Apple’s top-line. Estimates vary but IDC expects total global demand of 42 million smartwatches in 2015. Apple sells that many or more iPhones in a good quarter.

But the pressure was on for the world’s largest tech company to wow on Tuesday, after a years-long drought of products beyond new iPhones and iPads. The prospect of a new gadget attracted a broader swathe of attendees than usual, with celebrities, fashion industry editors and even healthcare executives rounding out the mostly tech-industry crowd.

In a rare move, Apple had planned on livecasting its entire event online, with a simultaneous translation in Chinese. But the livestream went down about a half-hour in, prompting many users to take to Twitter to express their frustrations.

Also on Tuesday, the company took the wraps off a larger, 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. They will support more than 200 telecoms carriers worldwide, including all three in China – a key growth market for the company.

And it introduced a new mobile payments service dubbed “Apple Pay.” Each phone will come equipped with its new payments service, which launches in the United States next month and allows users to pay for items in stores with their phones instead of physically presenting their credit or debit cards.

Launch partners include Walt Disney Co, McDonald’s and Whole Foods. The move gives Apple access to a trove of data on how consumers shop in brick and mortar stores, where more than 90 percent of U.S. retail sales are still conducted.

Each new iPhone will come with a “secure element” chip and a near-field communications, or NFC, antenna.

Ben Milne, CEO of Internet payment network Dwolla, wanted to hear a lot more about how Apple will tackle the aging payments infrastructure. Apple Pay should get some level of mass adoption based on the number of iPhones out there, but Apple will have to tackle the current high costs of payment processing to make its new feature more widespread, he said.

“The old architecture that payments is driven on is not up to snuff for the future they want to build,” Milne said.

Source: Reuters

 

Facebook ready to spend billions to bring whole world online

Mark Zuckerberg (R), founder and CEO of Facebook, gestures during his conference at the Seminar ''Mexico Siglo XXI'', organized by Telmex foundation, in Mexico City, September 5, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

Mark Zuckerberg (R), founder and CEO of Facebook, gestures during his conference at the Seminar ”Mexico Siglo XXI”, organized by Telmex foundation, in Mexico City, September 5, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

Facebook Inc is prepared to spend billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

“What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world,” Zuckerberg said at an event in Mexico City hosted by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

“Even if it means that Facebook has to spend billions of dollars over the next decade making this happen, I believe that over the long term its gonna be a good thing for us and for the world.”

Around 3 billion people will have access to the Internet by the end of 2014, according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics. Almost half that, 1.3 billion people, use Facebook.

Facebook, the world’s largest social networking company, launched its Internet.org project last year to connect billions of people without Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia by working with phone operators.

“I believe that … when everyone is on the Internet all of our businesses and economies will be better,” Zuckerberg said.

 

Source: Reuters