Category Archives: News

Google working on a new version of Android for cars

Google 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.

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 authorized 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 currently “project” their smartphone apps onto the car’s screen. Many of the first compatible cars with this smartphone plug-in functionality are expected to be on display at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month and to go on sale in 2015.

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.”

Google’s software could potentially connect to other car components, allowing, for example, a built-in navigation system like Google Maps to detect when fuel is low and provide directions to the nearest gas stations.

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.”

Via: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/tech-news/Google-working-on-a-new-version-of-Android-for-cars/articleshow/45570340.cms

 

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Facebook to buy mobile messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion

NEW YORK: Facebook Inc will buy fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, as the world’s largest social network looks for ways to boost its popularity, especially among a younger crowd.

The acquisition of the hot messaging service with more than 450 million users around the world stunned many Silicon Valley observers with its lofty price tag.

But it underscores Facebook’s determination to win the market for messaging, an indispensable utility in a mobile era.

Combining text messaging and social networking, messaging apps provide a quick way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips – bypassing the need to pay wireless carriers for messaging services.

And it helps Facebook tap teens who will eschew the mainstream social networks and prefer WhatsApp and rivals such as Line and WeChat, which have exploded in size as mobile messaging takes off.

“People are calling them ‘Facebook Nevers,'” said Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed and an early investor in Snapchat.

WhatsApp is adding about a million users per day, Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said on his page on Wednesday.

“WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Since WhatsApp and (Facebook) Messenger serve such different and important users, we will continue investing in both.”

Smartphone-based messaging apps are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.

“Communication is the one thing that you have to use daily, and it has a strong network effect,” said Jonathan Teo, an early investor in Snapchat, another red-hot messaging company that flirted year ago with a multibillion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook.

“Facebook is more about content and has not yet fully figured out communication.”

Even so, he balked at the price tag.

As part of the deal, WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive officer Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board, and the social network will grant an additional $3 billion worth of restricted stock units to WhatsApp’s founders, including Koum.

That is on top of the $16 billion in cash and stock that Facebook will pay.

“Goodness gracious, it’s a good deal for WhatsApp,” Teo said.

TERMS

Shares in Facebook slid 5 percent to $64.70 after hours, from a close of $68.06 on the Nasdaq.

Facebook said on Wednesday it will pay $4 billion in cash and about $12 billion in stock in its single largest acquisition, dwarfing the $1 billion it paid for photo-sharing app Instagram.

The price paid for Instagram, which with just 30 million users was already considered overvalued by many observers at the time.

Facebook promised to keep the WhatsApp brand and service, and pledged a $1 billion cash break-up fee if the deal falls through.

Facebook was advised by Allen & Co, while WhatsApp has enlisted Morgan Stanley for the deal.

More:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/social-media/Facebook-to-buy-mobile-messaging-app-WhatsApp-for-19-billion/articleshow/30697095.cms

Winamp and associated services to shut down on December 20

One of the most popular media players of all time, Winamp, will cease to be available come December 20, 2013.

AOL has announced that it is shutting down Winamp.com and its associated web services and that the Winamp media player will also no longer be available for download.

“Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date. See release notes for latest improvements to this last release. Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years,” said the note on the Winamp.com website.

winamp-screenie.jpgThe Winamp media player was at the peak of its popularity in the late nineties. One of the highlights of the player was the capability to skin its user interface and add plug-ins to extend its functionality.

The player supports all popular file formats including Ogg Vorbis. Winamp also supports gapless playback for MP3 and AAC format files. It was also among the first players to offer streaming music through support for SHOUTCast, Nullsoft’s cross-platform software to stream media.

The first iteration of Winamp was developed by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev in 1997 as freeware. Frankel named his software company, Nullsoft, and continued development on the player. It was later turned into shareware with new features and functionality added to the player.

Nullsoft was acquired by AOL in June 1999, for $80 million in stock and since then is a subsidiary of the media giant.

The player was developed essentially for Windows, but betas for Android and Mac OS X and an alpha for Linux were also released, though only the Windows version has been updated regularly. The last version (Winamp 5.66) was released on 20 November 2013, the day the shutdown was announced.

For most people, who used PCs in the 90s the  “Winamp, it really whips the llama’s ass,” mp3 file that played on first launch, was synonymous with Winamp, or setting up a PC for the first time. You can download it to relive the era, by visiting Winamp.com.

More: http://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/winamp-and-associated-services-to-shut-down-on-december-20-449117

Facebook Leads an Effort to Lower Barriers to Internet Access

MENLO PARK, Calif. — About one of every seven people in the world uses Facebook. Now, Mark Zuckerberg, its co-founder and chief executive, wants to make a play for the rest — including the four billion or so who lack Internet access.

On Wednesday, Facebook plans to announce an effort aimed at drastically cutting the cost of delivering basic Internet services on mobile phones, particularly in developing countries, where Facebook and other tech companies need to find new users. Half a dozen of the world’s tech giants, including Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson, have agreed to work with the company as partners on the initiative, which they call Internet.org. Read the rest of this entry

Investigation finds fake Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers

Investigation finds fake Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers could be misleading consumers

How much do you like courgettes? According to one Facebook page devoted to them, hundreds of people find them delightful enough to click the “like” button — even with dozens of other pages about courgettes to choose from.

There’s just one problem: the liking was fake, done by a team of low-paid workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose boss demanded just $15 per thousand “likes” at his “click farm”. Workers punching the keys might be on a three-shift system, and be paid as little as $120 a year.

The ease with which a humble vegetable could win approval calls into question the basis on which many modern companies measure success online — through Facebook likes, YouTube video views and Twitter followers. Read the rest of this entry

YouTube’s Founders Challenge Vine and Instagram With New Video App

After months of teasing, the wait is over: Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who brought us the video-sharing site YouTube, are taking the wraps off their newest project, a video creation app called MixBit.

Versions for Apple mobile devices and the Web will be going live on Thursday, and an Android version is due in several weeks.

On the surface, MixBit resembles two other leading video apps, Twitter’s Vine and Facebook’s Instagram. As with those apps, users press and hold the screen of their smartphone to record video. Instagram users can capture up to 15 seconds of video, a bit longer than Vine’s six-second maximum. MixBit allows 16 seconds. Read the rest of this entry

Two Providers of Secure E-Mail Shut Down

Two major secure e-mail service providers on Thursday took the extraordinary step of shutting down service.

A Texas-based company called Lavabit, which was reportedly used by Edward J. Snowden, announced its suspension Thursday afternoon, citing concerns about secret government court orders.

By evening, Silent Circle, a Maryland-based firm that counts heads of state among its customers, said it was following Lavabit’s lead and shutting its e-mail service as a protective measure.

Taken together, the closures signal that e-mails, even if they are encrypted, can be accessed by government authorities and that the only way to prevent turning over the data is to obliterate the servers that the data sits on. Read the rest of this entry

Chrome exposes user passwords in plain-text without additional verification

If you’ve enabled Google Chrome’s ‘Offer to save passwords I enter on the web’ feature and have saved some or all of your passwords through it, you should remember to sign-out of your Google account in Chrome, especially if you use the browser on a shared computer.

Google’s popular Web browser allows you to save your passwords and manage them through a menu in the browser’s Settings page. When you click on ‘Manage saved passwords’ you get a list of your Saved passwords as well as a list of websites where you have instructed the browser to ‘never save’. Interestingly, when you click on one of your saved passwords, Google gives you the option to see the password in plain text by clicking on the ‘Show’ button which is placed along with the listing. It doesn’t ask for a confirmation or any additional verification by, say, prompting for your Google account’s password. Read the rest of this entry

Facebook Adjusts Its News Feed to Bump Up Older Posts

The Facebook news feed is getting slightly less mysterious — and perhaps more relevant, too.

In a blog post on Tuesday, the company explained some of the mysteries of the news feed, which is the flow of status updates and other posts on a user’s home page or screen.

On any given visit to Facebook, the average user could potentially see about 1,500 items, the company said, from wedding photos posted by a close friend to a mundane notice that an acquaintance is now friends with someone else. Read the rest of this entry

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