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Apple CEO: Watch is ‘profound,’ Apple Pay ‘fantastic,’ Alibaba the right kind of partner

From the Cnet.com article “Apple CEO: Watch is ‘profound,’ Apple Pay ‘fantastic,’ Alibaba the right kind of partner” by   

Tim Cook says the Apple Watch is “cool,” the iPhone will remain Apple’s top moneymaker, Apple Pay is in a skirmish with retailers, and he’d love to team up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — Apple CEO Tim Cook said the new Apple Watch is a “profound” gadget that people will want to use so much they’ll end up running down the battery every day and need to recharge it overnight.

Of course, he didn’t say what the battery life is for Apple’s first wearable, a smartwatch introduced last month and set to go on sale in early 2015 starting at $349.

But Cook, in a wide-ranging interview at the Wall Street Journal Live technology conference here Monday night, did say he’s encouraged by the new “constituencies” interested in the device. That includes health and fitness fans and fashionistas, who haven’t been the typical audience for tech gadgets. Cook credited Apple design chief Jony Ive and his team for recognizing that the wearable, which works with newer versions of the iPhone, needed to be more personal than the company’s other devices.

“They saw that something you wear has to be more personable, more customizable,” Cook said. “When you begin to wear something, it’s got to look really cool. It can’t be geeky.”

Apple is looking to new product categories like wearables to drive sales growth as competitors from Amazon to Google to Samsung work to woo away customers from its key products. Together, the iPhone and iPad account for more than 70 percent of Apple’s sales. But even with the Apple Watch in the wings, Cook said that the iPhone, which delivers more than half of revenue and the majority of Apple’s profit, will continue to be the company’s biggest moneymaker for the foreseeable future. (Apple earlier this month announced it won’t break out watch sales when the device is released.)

As for the iPhone, Cook said the smartphone brings in revenue from apps and services, including Apple Pay, a new mobile payments system that went live last week. More than 1 million people activated the service in the first 72 hours, with Cook boasting there are now more credit cards activated within Apple Pay than in all other so-called tap-to-pay or touchless payment systems combined.

But Apple’s chief acknowledged that the company is in a battle with retailers who may endorse rival payment systems as they seek to avoid paying transaction fees to credit card companies including MasterCard and Visa. Last weekend, drugstore chains CVS and RiteAid said they won’t accept Apple Pay. “It’s a skirmish,” Cook said. “Merchants have different objectives sometimes. But in the long arc of time, you only are relevant as a retailer or a merchant if your customers love you.”

In a 30-minute question-and-answer session, Cook also shared his thoughts on taxes (Apple, he said, is the largest US taxpayer), said he believes law enforcement should go after individuals to obtain smartphone and other personal data because Apple doesn’t want to be “Big Brother,” and warned that some “kind of event” will happen that will raise public awareness of security concerns.

He also said that he decided to discontinue the 160-gigabyte version of the iPod Classic because Apple could no longer get parts for the iconic media player, and that the engineering resources required to update it outweighed user demand.

Fans who have been waiting for the company to step into the television market heard a repeat of Cook’s criticisms of TVs, but no news of what Apple might have in the works. “You work on your computer and iPads and iPhones one way, and then you go into your living room and you’ve stepped back in time. I think there’s a lot to be done in this area,” he said. “What we’ll do I don’t want to be so clear on, but it’s an area of a lot of interest. I’m optimistic that there can be something great done in this space. ”

Cook stepped onto the stage after Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, said he would love to do a deal between Apple Pay and Alibaba’s own payment technology, Alipay. “I hope we can do something together,” Ma said.

While he expressed his admiration for Ma, Cook wouldn’t say what kind of a deal the two companies could do – only that such a partnership held appeal. “‘We like to partner with people that are wicked smart, with flexible teams that are product based that push us,” Cook said. “I think Jack has a company that’s exactly like that. If we can find some areas of common space, I love it. I love partnering with people like that.”

Here’s an edited transcript of Cook’s remarks.

On the iPhone continuing to be Apple’s biggest moneymaker in the next three to five years: The phone right now is the majority of the company’s revenue and profits. But that doesn’t mean the other businesses aren’t really important. And of course the phone is the sum of many things. Apple Pay is included in the phone. We have many services included in the phone. We have an $18 billion services business that doesn’t get noticed a lot but it’s huge and incredibly important to our ecosystem…In the long arc of time, there’s going to be a lot more smartphones sold and they’re going to continue to get better and better. I’m really proud of the products [we released this year].

In that period of time, the iPhone is still going to be the majority — at least 50 percent — of the company’s revenue and profits.

On the Apple Watch. I think the watch is profound. We’re super excited about it. We’re not shipping it yet and so everybody will have to see what they think when they start wearing it. But the thing I’m really encouraged about is the constituencies that are looking at it — these are vastly different kinds of constituencies. There’s the technology sector we always listen to, and that’s very important to us. But health and fitness is a new area. We have many people that are looking at it from that point of view and are really excited about what it offers.

And then we’ve got the fashion thing, which is totally new for us, totally new for most technology companies. I give Jony [Ive] and his team an incredible amount of credit here because they saw that something you wear has to be more personable, more customizable. When you begin to wear something, it’s got to look really cool. It can’t be geeky. It says something about you.

We think people are going to use it so much that you’re going to wind up charging it daily — overnight….Given my own experience and others around me, you’re going to wind up charging it every day because you’re using it so much that it’s going to need to be charged.

On uptake for Apple Pay and retailers like CVS, RiteAid saying they won’t play along. It’s a skirmish…We started last Monday. We’ve been at it for a week. I follow these numbers pretty closely. In the first 72 hours, we’d gone over the 1 million mark on activations of cards. Visa and MasterCard — we talked to these guys today, and they told us that if you sum up everyone else that’s in the contactless mobile payment at the point of sale, we’re already No. 1. And not just No. 1, but we’re more than the total of all the other guys.

Now we’ve got a lot more to go. We’ve got a lot of merchants to sign up, we’ve got a lot more banks to sign up, and we’ve got the whole rest of the world. We’re only in the US right now. We’re just getting started, but the early ramp just looks fantastic.

Merchants have different objectives sometimes. But in the long arc of time, you only are relevant as a retailer or a merchant if you’re customers love you.

I don’t know about you, but last year I had to change out my credit cards twice…This is a pain in the butt.

On Apple’s interest in TV and HBO’s decision to sell its content service a la carte. I think what HBO is doing is very smart. I applaud what they’re doing. They’re thinking about the consumer, and content companies win, just like any other company wins, when they really focus on the consumer. I think there’s consumers out there who want HBO but today it’s too hard to buy. Who wants to go spend all their life on the phone to get it activated?

I think it’s very clever what they did. I think you’ll see more content companies willing to do this, particularly if the mergers are allowed to occur…I think it’s the right thing as a consumer.

I think the current system has a lot to be desired. Content is really great, but I think if you go beyond the content, we’re living in the 1970s. Yes, we’ve got a faster pipe, and a faster pipe is good, but the interface into your TV is literally you’ve gone to a time capsule and it’s 30 years old. It hasn’t kept up. You work on your computer and iPads and iPhones one way and then you go into your living room and you’ve stepped back in time. I think there’s a lot to be done in this area. What we’ll do I don’t want to be so clear on, but it’s an area of a lot of interest. I’m optimistic that there can be something great done in this space.

On the health of the Macintosh computer business. The Mac business grew remarkably last quarter. It was up 21 percent in units. People a few years ago or just a year ago or two years ago thought that PC business was kind of dead. The PC business is going down — that was correct — but the Mac business has done well. We’ve kept investing there, we’ve kept innovating there. And we think the Mac has a great future.

With reporting by CNET News’ Shara Tibken.

 

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HTML5 is done, but two groups still wrestle over Web’s future

The following blog is an excerpt from the Cnet.com article ‘HTML5 is done, but two groups still wrestle over Web’s future’ by   

The World Wide Web Consortium finishes an update to this seminal Internet technology, but with two organizations in charge of the same Web standard, charting the Web’s future is a mess.

After a nearly 15-year gap, the World Wide Web Consortium said Tuesday it’s done standardizing the new version 5 of HTML, one of the two fundamental technologies that makes the Web work.

But while HTML5 is finished, a tug-of-war over how to set such standards — and therefore how to chart the future of the Web — is far from over. That’s because a second organization, the Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group, is also in charge of HTML, and a rift between the two appears to be widening instead of closing.

The tension between the W3C and the WHATWG has been present for years, but it’s got new consequences now: anything that slows the improvement of the Web means programmers are more likely to devote their energies to writing apps for smartphones and tablets running on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems instead of HTML5. When making their mobile operating systems, Google and Apple aren’t held back by the slower consensus-building processes used to make industry standards like HTML appeal to the broadest range of parties.

The Web isn’t dying, but slow development lets the world of mobile apps claim the initiative. The Web’s accomplishments — a computing system bigger than any one company working on it, and one with an impressive reach across the computing industry — diminish as its shortcomings rise to prominence.

In the meantime, the Web world must adjust to the differences between the two camps. The W3C, with a broader range of participants, uses a formally structured, deliberate, drawn-out process in which a series of drafts gradually become final standards released relatively infrequently. The WHATWG, born of browser makers’ cooperation when the W3C spurned their desire to improve HTML, produces a “living document” that’s continuously updated with the latest features and bug fixes. Where the W3C’s standard is fixed and stable, the WHATWG’s is fluid.

“It’s absolutely right that those different interest groups slug it out,” said Bruce Lawson, co-author of a book on HTML5 and an open standards advocate with browser maker Opera Software. “The Web is the biggest platform we’ve ever had. Therefore, it has more constituencies and competing interests than we’ve ever seen.”

W3C: The Web will win

W3C Chief Executive Jeff Jaffe acknowledges that the mobile app world is attracting a lot of developer interest. But in his view, the Web will prevail in the long run because it can span so many devices.

“There’s plenty of time for us to catch up,” Jaffe said. “The power and promise of interoperability across platforms is extraordinarily powerful. The mobile app was just the for the phone, but now it’s not. It’s going to be the e-book reader, the automobile, the TV. And all the sudden, the promise of interoperability is going to become even more important than when it was just the phone.”

To that end, Jaffe posted a blog earlier this month on application foundations. It calls for improvements in eight areas to make Web technologies more competitive with Android and iOS when it’s time for developers to write apps.

“What I’m trying to do is change the culture of the Web community to also think about what the developers need,” Jaffe said — not just nuts and bolts but functions like security, payments and tools that work even if a device isn’t connected to the Net.

Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady, who follows programmer issues, agrees that life is too hard for Web developers. “Native development” — writing apps for a specific operating system rather than for a Web browser on all operating systems — “is much more straightforward.”

Jaffe hopes to tackle these future standards issues this week in Santa Clara, Calif., at the W3C’s annual Technical Plenary Advisory Committee (TPAC) conference. Alex Russell — a Google employee who’s trying to improve the W3C through work on its Technical Architecture Group (TAG) — said TPAC also is a place to wrestle with the conflict around the best way to make standards.

“I think anyone trying to understand how screwed up this situation is really should come to W3C’s TPAC,” Russell said. “All of the agitators…will be there.”

HTML5 and W3C’s patent protections

For the W3C, the release of the final version of HTML5 — a step formally called a “recommendation” — is immensely significant. The nonprofit group was founded precisely to do such work, but the last version it released — HTML 4.01 — came in December 1999. The biggest change for average users of the Web, far and away, is video that becomes as ordinary as text and still images were before. That helps free the Web from browser plugins like Adobe Systems’ Flash Player that extend browser abilities but which also open them to new security and performance risks.

 

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iPhone 6 preorders estimated to have hit 100K in Samsung’s homeland

From the cnet.com article ‘iPhone 6 preorders estimated to have hit 100K in Samsung’s homeland’ by   

The iPhone numbers in South Korea top the preorders seen for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 over a similar period, says the New York Times.

The iPhone 6 is already proving hotter than the Galaxy Note 4 in Samsung’s home base of South Korea, according to preorder data cited by the New York Times.

Apple’s latest iPhones hit the preorder stage last Friday with all three of the country’s mobile carriers jumping in to take orders. Two of the carriers had reported preorder numbers in the tens of thousands in just under an hour, the Times reported Monday, surpassing the numbers for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 over a similar time frame in September.

The high preorder numbers in South Korea continue a trend seen in other countries. In the US and several other markets, initial iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus preorders reached a record 4 million in just 24 hours on September 12. In China, preorders for the new phones reportedly shot past 20 million over three days.

In mid-October, Apple announced that latestiPhone will sail to 36 more regions before month’s end to reach 69 markets altogether. The company plans to expand the phone to 115 countries by year’s end, which Apple said would be the fastest iPhone rollout yet.

In South Korea, the iPhone 6 officially will go on sale Friday. On the same day, sales will also launch in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Guam, Hungary, Iceland, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macau, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Thailand.

Among the three South Korean carriers, KT Corp said that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models captured 10,000 preorders in just one minute, then surpassed 50,000 in 30 minutes, the Times reported. Fellow carrier LG Uplus, which is a newcomer to the iPhone, said it counted 20,000 preorders for the phone in 20 minutes.

SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile provider, wouldn’t reveal specific numbers but told the Times that both the first and second batch of iPhone 6 presales have been fully booked. A third round was slated to start Monday morning.

Counting the specific numbers from KT Corp and LG Uplus and likely estimating the ones from SK Telecom, analysts believe that total presales for the new iPhones have hit around 100,000 in South Korea. That figure tops the estimated 30,000 preorders for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 seen last month over a similar period of time. A spokesman for LG Uplus confirmed to the Times that the pace of preorders for the Note 4 hasn’t matched that of the iPhone 6.

However, Samsung still is by far the dominant mobile phone player in South Korea with no immediate danger of being knocked off its throne. The company owns 63 percent of the market in its home country, said the Times, citing data from Counterpoint Research. In fourth place, Apple accounts for just 4 percent of the mobile phone market in South Korea.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment.

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Google’s head of Android to oversee its most important products

From the Cnet Article ‘Google’s head of Android to oversee its most important products’ by   

By promoting one of his most trusted lieutenants, Google CEO Larry Page can spend more time focusing on the future.

Google’s most powerful product chief just got more powerful.

Sundar Pichai, a well-respected executive who oversees some of the company’s most important businesses, has been elevated to take on even more of Google’s core products, the company confirmed to CNET.

Pichai already runs Android, the most widely used mobile operating system in the world; Google’s Web-based software Chrome; and the company’s suite of apps, including Gmail and Docs. Under the reorganization, he will additionally have oversight over research, search, maps, the Google+ social network, ads and infrastructure, according to Recode, which earlier reported the news.

The promotion punctuates Pichai’s quick rise inside the company as well as CEO Larry Page’s desire to off-load some of his management duties to better focus on overall business strategy. While Google’s search and advertising business still generates $50 billion a year in revenue, some financial analysts fear its business is slowing. The company last week reported that paid clicks for the third quarter rose 17 percent from the same period last year. That compares with 26 percent growth the year before.

While Pichai is taking on those new responsibilities, Page will continue to directly oversee a number of Google’s divisions, including the YouTube online video service run by veteran Google employee Susan Wojcicki. Page will also manage business and operations.

Pichai, a well-liked figure at the company, has been a magnet for Google’s product teams. He has been at the company since 2004, managing the Chrome department. He added Google Apps to his responsibilities in 2012 and Android in 2013.

Pichai was the clear star of Google’s I/O developer conference in June — serving as the keynote’s master of ceremonies as Google showed off its latest developments in Android and Chrome.

Though Google confirmed the staff change to CNET, it declined to comment further or disclose his compensation.

 

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Staples probes potential theft of customer credit card data4

From the Cnet.com Article by    

A pattern of payment card fraud suggests that data was stolen from cash registers in the Northeast US, security reporter Brian Krebs reports.

Staples said late Monday that it is investigating a “potential issue” involving its customers’ credit card data in what could be the latest US retailer to fall victim to a payment card system security breach.

The office supply chain announced it was working with law enforcement officials after security reporter Brian Krebs reported that “multiple banks” had identified patterns of payment card fraud that suggested data had been stolen from several locations in the Northeastern US. The pattern suggests that Staples cash registers in a handful of locations were infected with data-stealing malware similar to that used in other security breaches that allows thieves to create counterfeit cards, Krebs wrote.

“We take the protection of customer information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation,” Mark Cautela told Krebs. “If Staples discovers an issue, it is important to note that customers are not responsible for any fraudulent activity on their credit cards that is reported on [in] a timely basis.”

Staples did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many customers may be affected. The Framingham, Mass.-based chain has more than 1,800 stores nationwide, but Krebs said that it appears the theft is limited to a small subset of stores.

Data-stealing malware has become a popular tool of fraudsters in recent months. Home Depot revealed last month that 56 million customer credit cards were put at risk of theft as a result of a security breach that used custom-built malware to evade detection. A similar method was used late last year to expose the credit card data of 40 million Target customers and the personal information for an additional 70 million customers.

Since the Target hack, there has been an apparent uptick in security breaches at retail locations. Over the past few months, arts and crafts retail chain Michaels Stores, department store Neiman Marcus, and restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s all revealed they were victims of security breaches aimed at stealing customers’ credit card information.

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Apple dumps SSL 3.0 for push notifications due to Poodle flaw

From the Cnet.com Article by    

Apple will switch to the TLS encryption standard after disclosure of vulnerability that could expose encrypted data.

Apple said Wednesday it will stop supporting the encryption standard Secure Sockets Layer 3.0 for its push notifications service in response to a vulnerability identified earlier this month in the aging protocol.

Apple announced on its developer site that it will switch on October 29 from SSL 3.0 to Transport Layer Security (TLS), SSL’s more modern, less vulnerable younger sibling. Disclosed earlier this month, the vulnerability — called Poodle — allows encrypted information to be exposed by an attacker with network access.

“Providers using only SSL 3.0 will need to support TLS as soon as possible to ensure the Apple Push Notification service continues to perform as expected,” Apple said in its bulletin. “Providers that support both TLS and SSL 3.0 will not be affected and require no changes.”

To help developers test compatibility, Apple said it has already disabled SSL 3.0 in the development environment on its Provider Communication interface.

Poodle, which stands for Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption (PDF), is a problem because it’s used by both websites and Web browsers. Both must be reconfigured to prevent using SSL 3.0, and Poodle will remain a problem as long as SSL 3.0 is supported.

Once the most advanced form of Web encryption in use, the 15-year-old SSL 3.0 is used by few websites anymore, according to a study by the University of Michigan. However, Poodle still poses a threat because attackers can force browsers to downgrade to SSL 3.0.

Twitter already notified its users that it has disabled SSL 3.0 support, while Mozilla advised Firefox users to install a Mozilla security add-on that disables SSL 3.0. Along with Google and Mozilla, the University of Michigan researchers detailed how to disable SSL 3.0 for Internet Explorer.

Mozilla plans to disable SSL 3.0 in Firefox 34, the next version of the open-source browser. It’s currently in beta testing, with a release planned for the end of November. Mozilla has been testing the change in its Aurora version of Firefox, the precursor to the beta version, and so far, “There has been much less screaming about this than I anticipated,” said Mozilla’s Martin Thomson on Wednesday, discussing the change on Mozilla’s bug-tracker. Complaints would come from people who couldn’t use Web sites that required SSL 3.0.

CNET News staff writer Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

 

 

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Google looks to test ultra-high-speed wireless Net technology

From the Cnet.com article ‘Google looks to test ultra-high-speed wireless Net technology’ by .

Google is seeking permission to test a high-speed Internet service that could be in your home before Fiber.

Google is seeking FCC permission to test new technology that could marry the speed of Google Fiber to wireless services.

In an application to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday, the tech giant requested permission to conduct tests in California across wireless spectra. Of particular interest, as noted by Reuters, is a rarely used millimeter-wave frequency that’s capable of transmitting vast amounts of information through the air.

According to the publication, the tests could signal the creation of the base technology for use in high-speed, wireless connectivity — part of Google’s plan to extend its reach in the Internet service provider industry. If so, this would obviate the need for underground cables or fiber. A fast broadband service beamed into our homes could act as an extension to Google’s slowly expanding Fiber service, which offers up to 1 gigabit in upload and download speed — but laying the groundwork is a slow process.

The application, signed by Google Access and Energy division chief Craig Barratt, documents a 180-day test the company says will provide “valuable insight into Google’s technology innovations and potential business plans and strategy.” Though much of the application is redacted in order to protect confidential data, the tech giant states that the purpose of the test is to “expeditiously test radios in a way that is likely to contribute to the development, extension, expansion or utilization of the radio art.”

The test, if approved, will run on three sites in California’s San Francisco Bay area. The filing says that tests will be conducted in the 5.8GHz and 24.2GHz frequency, as well as the millimeter wave bands of 71-76GHz and 81-86GHz, and will be based on narrow-bandwidth transmissions.

In related news, Google recently unveiled plans to back the construction of a new undersea fiber optic cable spanning from the Brazilian cities of Santos and Fortaleza with Boca Ratón in Florida. The $60 million project will hold data capacity of 64Tbps, which will help improve Brazil’s poor Internet speed.

This article originally appeared as “Google tests ultra high-speed wireless Internet technology” on ZDNet.

 

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Siri, an autistic boy’s best friend

From the Cnet.com Article ‘Siri, an autistic boy’s best friend’ by   ()

A writer describes how her 13-year-old son seems to talk with Apple’s digital assistant more easily than with her. Can technology design virtual humans as we’d wish real ones were?

Can technology release us from the need to demand perfection from others?

This thought might cross minds after reading an extremely touching New York Times story about a 13-year-old autistic boy who gets on with Siri seemingly better than with his own family.

“Just how bad a mother am I?” writes Judith Newman, as she watches her son Gus and Siri interact happily for hours.

She describes how Siri can chat with Gus indefatigably. Siri is a bottomless mine of the very detailed information he craves.

But there’s a more moving aspect to Siri — and this story might just as well be about any digital assistant (say, Cortana): Siri, says Newman, is patient, polite and kind.

She doesn’t stoop to the knee-jerk, I’m-a-jerk responses that emerge from human mouths. She doesn’t shout or show anger. And if she mocks, she does it in the most gentle, kind way, as opposed to the brusque, condescending or contemptuous manner that humans all too often adopt.

When technology takes the place of a human, it doesn’t always have a happy ending. A recent videodramatizing (as if it needed it) the sheer agony of getting past automated customer service shows the pain that machines can induce.

But humans are dangerous.

We’re a primitive species that thinks it’s very clever. We demand perfection of others, when we’re hopelessly inadequate ourselves. We expect politicians, lovers, even bus drivers to be consistent, then we’re blithely contrary and capricious every day.

Somewhere inside, we know that we’re fairly incompetent most of the time. We frequently hate ourselves and our very inadequacy.

Then along come intelligent designers, gods who we hope have some good in their hearts. They present us with alluringly clever virtual beings who serve to remind us of aspects to which we can only aspire.

Will their role be less to entirely replace us than to free us from the burdens that we place upon ourselves and have little hope of overcoming?

Will Siri, Cortana and the rest of the traveling sisterhood serve not to dominate us, but to help us relax a little, perishable as we are? Will they actually release a little more of the good humanity and allow some of the bad to subside?

For many AI designers, the aim is not merely to assist, but ultimately to predict our needs. Google, for one, would adore it if you’d take its advice as to your future desires. Just think of the ads they’d have prepared in advance to make your life complete.

At what point, though, might we be able to trust our Siris more than we trust our silly selves?

At what point might machines be able to point our way to — or at least to create the circumstances for — more pleasant, caring behavior?

Is the true test of a better world one in which people are nicer to each other because they can finally accept themselves and their true deficiencies just a little more?

It’s an alluring thought that technology can make people not smarter, not more productive, not more self-aggrandizing, but merely more pleasant.

 

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Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks

From the Cnet.com Article  ‘Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks’ by Seven Musil  ()

The device will sport a health-tracking features and work with multiple mobile platforms, Forbes reports.

Microsoft feels the time is right to enter the smartwatch sector, according to a Forbes report.

The tech giant is expected to launch a smartwatch in the next couple of weeks that will have health-tracking capabilities, including a heart-rate monitor, according to the report, which cited unidentified sources.

The device will reportedly be capable of syncing with devices running several mobile platforms, such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, and last more than two days with regular use. The gadget is expected to be available to consumers by the end of the year, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft has been linked to current smartwatch efforts as far back as April 2013, when the company was reportedly shopping around suppliers in Asia for components to build a potential touch-enabled watch device. Reports earlier this year indicated that the device would physically resemble Samsung’s Gear Fit with a full-color touch screen viewable on the inside of your wrist.

Microsoft has dabbled in the sector before, marketing devices running its once-hyped Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). After pouring a lot of money into the effort and partnering with watchmakers such as Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch on high-end, touch-screen models that cost as much as $800, Microsoft pulled the stem out of the project in 2008.

Wearable devices such as smartwatches and smart glasses have commanded a great deal of consumers’ attention and manufacturers’ imagination in recent months. To differentiate their products from competitors, electronics makers have strived to create devices with varying options. While many smartwatches sport square faces reminiscent of digital watches of the 1970s, Motorola and LG have opted for traditional circular watch faces for greater fashion appeal.

But Microsoft seems to be focused on one of the key selling points that other players in the crowded smartwatch arena have already seized upon: health. Samsung’s Gear S — its sixth smartwatch launch in the past year — was unveiled in August and includes a heart rate monitor, pedometer, and sleep tracking.

Meanwhile, Samsung rival Apple unveiled the highly anticipated and much-speculated Watch last month. The new smartwatch taps into apps that can track heart rate, calories burned, activity level and certain fitness activities. It also works with other fitness apps, such as Nike+.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

 

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FBI director demands access to private cell phone data

From the cnet.com article ‘FBI director demands access to private cell phone data’ by  ()

To stop terrorists and other criminals, cell phones should have encryption backdoors to enable US government surveillance, argues FBI Director James Comey.

Cell phone encryption will prevent the federal government from stopping terrorists and child molesters unless the government is given special access, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told a Washington, DC, think tank on Thursday.

Comey, who noted that “both real-time communication and stored data are increasingly encrypted,” said that the trend by service providers to encrypt their customer data could prevent the government from lawfully pursuing criminals.

“Justice may be denied, because of a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive,” Comey said in his prepared remarks at the Brookings Institute. He explained that while Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) from 1994 mandated that telephone companies build wiretapping backdoors into their equipment, no such law forces new communication companies to do the same.

However, he didn’t mention that CALEA was expanded from its original mandate to include broadband Internet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems like Skype in 2004.

Comey called out the default encryption in Apple’s iOS 8, and the optional Android encryption that will become the default for that operating system when Android 5.0 Lollipop is released next month, as blocking law enforcement from fully gathering evidence against suspects. He said that the solution was for tech firms to build “front-doors” on consumer cell phones and smartphones.

“We aren’t seeking a back-door approach,” Comey said, referring to a common term for encryption that has been intentionally weakened. “We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law,” including court orders, he said.

The spying scandal that kicked off when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified surveillance documents has seen tech titans including Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook scramble to build tougher encryption into their products. Google’s Eric Schmidt warned that the spying will “break the Internet.”

The current fight over how to secure customer data isn’t the first time that tech firms and the US government have gone to war over encryption. In the 1990s, the “crypto wars” saw tech companies and industry advocates force the US government to repeal laws that deemed cryptography a weapon.

While evoking imagery of children at play and innocents exonerated of false accusations thanks to FBI investigations unencumbered by encryption, Comey derided concerns by the tech community that weakening encryption made devices more susceptible to cyber-criminal attacks.

He acknowledged that “adversaries will exploit any vulnerability they find,” but that those exploits introduced by a backdoor could be mitigated by “developing intercept solutions during the design phase,” he said.

Cryptography expert and University of Pennsylvania professor Matt Blaze disagreed with that assumption. Comey’s speech, he said on Twitter, “didn’t merely dismiss or minimize the technical risks of back doors, it completely ignored them.”

Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist on its Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said that Comey’s insistence on weakening encryption opens the data to “foreign governments and criminals,” he said, “whether you call it a ‘front door’ or a ‘back door.'”

Soghoian noted in a blog post from 2010 that CALEA explicitly protects the right of a telecommunications company to build encryption to which only the customer possesses the cryptographic keys.

Comey’s speech appears to want to change that. The FBI didn’t return a request for comment.

Google declined to comment specifically on Comey’s statements, but reiterated its support for encryption. “People previously used safes and combination locks to keep their information secure — now they use encryption. It’s why we have worked hard to provide this added security for our users,” a Google spokesperson said.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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