Apple plans to combine iPhone, iPad, Mac apps

Apple is reportedly planning to give people a way to use a single set of apps that work equally well across its family of devices: iPhones, iPads and Macs. — Bloomberg

Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad introduced a novel way of interacting with computers: via easy-to-use applications, accessible in the highly curated App Store.

The same approach hasn’t worked nearly as well on Apple’s desktops and laptops. The Mac App Store is a ghost town of limited selection and rarely updated programs. Now Apple plans to change that by giving people a way to use a single set of apps that work equally well across its family of devices: iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware, according to people familiar with the matter.

Developers currently must design two different apps – one for iOS, the operating system of Apple’s mobile devices, and one for macOS, the system that runs Macs. That’s a lot more work. What’s more, Apple customers have long complained that some Mac apps get short shrift.

For example, while the iPhone and iPad Twitter app is regularly updated with the social network’s latest features, the Mac version hasn’t been refreshed recently and is widely considered substandard. With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features and updates at the same time.

Unifying the apps could help the iOS and macOS platforms “evolve and grow as one, and not one at the expense of the other,” says Steven Troughton-Smith, an app developer and longtime voice in the Apple community. “This would be the biggest change to Apple’s software platform since iOS was introduced.”

Apple is developing the strategy as part of the next major iOS and macOS updates, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. Codenamed “Marzipan,” the secret project is planned as a multiyear effort that will start rolling out as early as next year and may be announced at the company’s annual developers conference in the summer. The plans are still fluid, the people said, so the implementation could change or the project could still be cancelled.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple wouldn’t be first to bring mobile and desktop apps closer together. Before it discontinued Windows software for smartphones, Microsoft Corp pushed a technology called Universal Windows Platform that let developers create single applications that would run on all of its devices – tablets, phones, and full-fledged computers. Similarly, Google has brought the Play mobile app store to some laptops running its desktop Chrome OS, letting computer users run smartphone and tablet apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

It’s unclear if Apple plans to merge the separate Mac and iOS App Stores as well, but it is notable that the version of the store running on iPhones and iPads was redesigned this year while the Mac version has not been refreshed since 2014.

Apple’s apps initiative is part of a larger, longer-term push to make the underpinnings of its hardware and software more similar. Several years ago, the company began designing its own processors for iOS devices. It has started doing the same for the Mac, recently launching a T2 chip in the iMac Pro that offloads features like security and power management from the main Intel processor onto Apple-designed silicon. Much the way Apple plans to unify apps, it could also one day use the same main processor on Macs and iOS devices.

That would make it easier to create a single operating system for all Apple gadgets. Will Apple go there? Chief executive officer Tim Cook has resisted doing so, arguing that merging iOS and macOS would degrade the experience. “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user,” Cook said in 2012. Apple software chief Craig Federighi has called the blending of iOS and macOS “a compromise.”

Maybe so. But Apple has a long history of insisting it would never do something – make a small iPad, say, or a big iPhone – and then doing it anyway. — Bloomberg

Source: The Star Online

Tencent valued over $500B

JIAXING, CHINA – NOVEMBER 16: A speech about WeChat Ecosystem Innovation by Tencent is delivered during the Release Ceremony for World Leading Internet Scientific and Technological Achievements as part of the 3rd World Internet Conference (WIC) at Wuzhen Internet International Conference and Exhibition Center on November 16, 2016 in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province of China. The 3rd World Internet Conference (WIC) – Wuzhen Summit kicks off at Wuzhen township on Wednesday and will last to Nov 18, in Zhejiang Province. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Tencent has become the first Chinese company to be valued at more than $500 billion.

Shares of the 19-year-old company, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, rallied to reach HK$418.80 to give it a market cap of HK$3.99 trillion which takes past the $500 billion mark. Close rival Alibaba is Asia’s second-highest-valued firm at $474 billion.

Entry to the half-a-trillion-dollar club — which includes Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon — comes a week after Tencent posted a profit of 18 billion RMB ($2.7 billion) on revenue of 65.2 billion RMB ($9.8 billion) for Q3 2017. Overall profit was up 69 percent year-on-year and revenue rose by 61 percent thanks to Tencent’s games business

As SCMP pointed out, a US$9,000 investment in the company’s 2004 IPO would now be worth US$1 million.

Just looking at the last twelve months alone, Tencent’s share price has doubled thanks to impressive earnings reports like Q3.

Tencent’s market cap has more than tripled since March 2014 when it reached $150 billion, surpassing Intel in the process. Writing then, The Wall Street Journal opined that the company “isn’t yet a household name in the U.S., but it should be” and that still applies today.

WeChat, its messaging app that is China’s top social service, is closing in on one billion users overall but it has not managed to replicate that success overseas. Tencent has instead focused on investing itself into global positions.

Its lucrative gaming business focuses on PC and mobile and is the heartbeat of revenue, accounting for $5 billion in the last quarter alone, thanks to smash hits like Honour Of Kings, 2017’s top grossing game, and the acquisition of the companies behind hit games Clash Of Clans (Supercell) and League Of Legends (Riot Games).

Tencent’s investment focus seems to have gone into overdrive over the last year. It has bought up stakes in public companies Tesla, Snap, invested in India-based unicorns Flipkart, messaging app Hike, health portal Practo and Uber rival Ola. Other earlier-stage deals include flying cars, lunar drones and asteroid mining, while longer-standing investments like Sogou (search) and China Literature (e-publishing) have gone public over the past month.

If the recent Snap and Tesla deals are anything to go by, Tencent is likely to commit considerable resources to developing a base among U.S. tech companies. Not only does it believe it can learn from their experiences to boost its business in China, but it can add fresh perspective too — particularly around messaging/WeChat.

Source: TechCrunch

Xiaomi is world’s top wearable maker for first time as Fitbit sales slide

Xiaomi’s good run has continued after a research firm found that the Chinese firm has ranked top for sales of wearable devices worldwide for the first. Sales of Fitbit devices, meanwhile, plunged by 40 percent

Coming off the back of Xiaomi’s reentry into the world’s top five smartphone sellers, a new Strategy Analytics report found that it leapfrogged Apple and Fitbit to become the top seller of wearables in Q2 2017 with 3.7 million units shipped. Fitbit logged 3.4 million shipments during the quarter with Apple coming in at 2.8 million — the U.S. firm actually posted higher sales growth than Xiaomi. The rest of the field was responsible for a further 11.7 million units, or 54 percent of all wearables shipped during the quarter.

Xiaomi and Apple both grew their marketshare year-on-year (from 15 percent to 17 percent, and nine percent to 13 percent, respectively), but Fitbit’s share cratered from 29 percent to 16 percent.

Both Xiaomi and Apple take very different approaches to wearables. Xiaomi has a wide range of products that are priced competitively and feature heart-rate monitors and alerts — the Mi Band is priced as low as $14.99 in the U.S. — while the Apple Watch, at upwards of $269, is a more premium approach that’s packed with a fuller set of features. While they both stand for something at different ends of the market, Fitbit’s position is less certain.

“Fitbit is at risk of being trapped in a pincer movement between the low-end fitness bands sold by Xiaomi and the fitness-led, high-end smartwatches sold by Apple,” Strategy Analytics’ Neil Mawston said in a statement.

As for the other two, Strategy Analytics said reports that the next Apple Watch may include extended health tracking capabilities could help Apple reclaim the top spot. But for now its lack of health band options is what the firm believes is keeping Xiaomi ahead, the firm concluded.

Xiaomi has had a resurgent 2017 so far, bouncing back from two disappointing years in which it struggled to maintain once-explosive growth and missed sales targets. A push into offline retail in China and progress in India, where the company cracked $1 billion in revenue last year, have contributed to a more optimistic outlook this year, with CEO Lei Jun claiming it has reached “a major inflection point in its growth.”

The company said its phone sales were up 70 percent quarter-on-quarter in Q2 with 23 million sold in Q2. Now it is pushing on with its offline retail strategy and furthering its global expansion plan thanks to a $1 billion loan that was secured last month.

Source: TechCrunch

Seven highlights of Apple’s new App Store and iOS 11

Swiping down from top to bottom opens the Control Center. This is reconfigured in iOS 11 – for example with brightness and volume adjustment, as well as buttons for data links, flashlight and calculator. — dpa

A new operating system and a new Apple Store: Apple users have plenty to look forward to later this year, when the company will roll out its freshest software features to iPhones and iPads.

At Apple’s annual WWDC summit, the company announced that the iOS 11 mobile platform would launch in the second half of 2017 for iPhones from 5s, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad fifth generation, iPad mini 2 and newer, as well as the iPod touch 6.

Among biggest highlights of the new operating system is a brand new App Store, aimed at making it easier for users find new apps.

1: The Today tab in the app store

The categories at the bottom of the App Store application are being reworked with a prominent position given to the Today tab, which will highlight special applications and new arrivals.

These will be enriched with images and videos, as well as interviews with developers and background stories.

2: Games and apps go their separate ways

The App Store’s new Games tab will live up to its name. The presentations will be similar to those in the Today tab, but also include hit lists and selected collections.

The other apps are separate, with their own charts and collections in 24 categories. The tabs Updates and Search remain, with Search now providing improved results. In-app purchases will be more visible.

3: A new sound to Siri

The Siri assistant is being given a more natural voice and will also be able to translate from English into Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

The device will also be able to learn to adapt better to its user, making use of data from Safari, the mail app and iMessage.

4: iMessage in the cloud

Messages from iMessage will be synchronised through iCloud, iOS and macOS.

This means that the user will for example have to delete messages and conversations just once and will be able to transfer them to new devices more easily. However, this could impact data protection.

5: Improved photos

The camera’s Portrait mode now has an image stabiliser, high dynamic range (HDR) for improved contrast and so-called True Tone flash which will result in more professional images. In addition, file size will be compressed on iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

6: A “Do Not Disturb” mode for when driving

The devices will pick up when the user is driving and automatically switch into “Do Not Disturb” mode.

Push notifications will be suppressed to prevent disruption, and users will be able to inform selected contacts that they are driving.

7: Swipe up for a new Control Center

Swiping down from top to bottom opens the Control Center. This is reconfigured in iOS 11 – for example with brightness and volume adjustment, as well as buttons for data links, flashlight and calculator. — dpa

Source: The Star Online

MCMC: WhatsApp admin and members are accountable

PETALING JAYA: Administrators of WhatsApp groups may face legal action for failing to stop the spread of false information but investigations are based on complaints, said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

It said that while conversations in messaging applications, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and Telegram, are private, an investigation can be conducted to look into any offending comment if a complaint is made.

“Investigations will only be conducted if there are complaints made regarding the content shared within these groups.

“Therefore, members of the public, whether they are group administrators or members, should be careful when spreading information so that it does not become a case of spreading false information,” the commission said in a statement on its Facebook page on Friday.

The MCMC said that the spreading of false information is an offence under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA).

It stressed that any investigation it conducts will not differentiate between group administrators and members.

“If the group administrator or any member is found to have spread false information, then legal action can be taken against them,” it said.

The MCMC said that group administrators would be held responsible if they make a comment, request, suggestion or other communication that is obscene, offensive, false, threatening or irritating with the intention to hurt, abuse, threaten or harass others.

Furthermore, they will also be held accountable if they ask for such comments from other members in the group, as well as if they incite any other person in the group to make such comments.

It also said that any group administrator who obstructs an investigation by any enforcement agency will also be culpable.

“On these matter, MCMC will consider the need to establish guidelines on the usage of messaging applications and the like.

“At the same time, the public is urged to always be prudent when using social media for their own good,” the commission said.

Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari was reported on Thursday as saying that provisions under the CMA allowed for WhatsApp group administrators to face legal action for failing to stop the spread of false information in their groups.

Source: The Star Online

Android overtakes Windows

Report: Android overtakes Windows as the internet’s most used operating system

Mobile is today as important, if not more important, than desktops when it comes to the internet and apps. A clear reminder of that comes with news of a report claiming that Google’s Android has overtaken Windows as the internet’s most used operating system.

Research from web analytics company StatCounter found Android now accounts for a larger share of internet usage than Windows for the first time. During March 2017, Android users represented 37.93 percent of activity on StatCounter’s network versus 37.91 percent for the Microsoft operating system. It’s a small gap for sure — and it refers to usage not necessarily users — but it marks a notable tipping point that has been inevitable for the past couple of years.

StatCounter — which bases its findings on 2.5 million websites that it claims generate more than 15 billion monthly page views — tracked the gradual convergence of usage for the two operating systems over time. The chart highlights Microsoft’s failure to challenge with its ill-fated Windows Phone platform.

StatCounter: Internet usage based on operating systems Match 2012-March 2017

Interestingly, for Apple, the switch happened some time ago. During March 2017, Apple’s mobile users (iOS) were close to three times more active on the internet than users of its desktop machines (OSX).

StatCounter: Internet usage based on operating systems during March 2017

The wider Android-Windows trend has been evident for some time. Windows dominated, and continues to dominate, the desktop landscape, but worldwide PC sales have declined for the past five years to reach the same levels as 2008. In contrast, sales of smartphones continue to grow, and Android is the operating system for the lion’s share of internet users worldwide. Growth is highest in emerging markets like India. There, Apple has increased its sales but remains a niche player, with Android accounting for upwards of 90 percent of smartphones.

While the balance between iOS and Android is more level in Western markets like the U.S., the influx of new internet users from regions like Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America has tipped the scales in favor of Android. Indeed, a StatCounter report issued last week showed that mobile accounts for the vast majority of internet usage in countries like India (79 percent), Indonesia (72 percent) and China (57 percent), while desktop remains king in markets such as the U.S. (37 percent), U.K. (35 percent) and Germany (30 percent).

Those numbers have seen some shift in global revenue for developers, with China overtaking the U.S. as the most lucrative market for iOS apps worldwide, but Android continues to lag despite a larger base of users.

A recent App Annie report found that iOS accounted for just over 25 billion of the 90 billion app downloads made in 2016, with Android taking the remainder. Yet iOS apps pulled in the majority of the $35 billion paid out to publishers across the iOS and Android app stores.

That might change soon, though. Thanks again to its vast dominance in the emerging world, App Annie is predicting that 2017 could be the year that Android app earnings overtake iOS for the first time. That would be another important milestone.

Source: TechCrunch