Samsung seems to have changed its mind over how businesses can get their hands on the company's Knox mobile security service.
The latest development in V3's epic saga to find out when Knox will arrive in the UK and how businesses will be able to make use of it occurred in early June when a Samsung spokeswoman told us: "Knox will be available as a software update for compatible Samsung devices later this year."
This would be fine other than the fact that Samsung told us in early May that Knox was available already on S4 handsets in the UK, but it was down to the mobile operators to offer it to their corporate customers.
The confusion was further compounded when we started getting reports suggesting numerous companies and even government agencies in the UK are already moving to roll out Knox and Samsung listed it as a core feature on its recently unveiled Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone.
The reports suggesting Knox-enabled smartphones are already in the UK began at the start of May when the Cabinet Office hinted it was considering following the US Department of Defense's example and approving the service for official use. Sadly Samsung is yet to respond to V3's request for comment on the report and whether some samples have already been activated in the UK.
The lack of clarity is particularly sad as Knox could be a huge selling point for Samsung's Galaxy range of tablets and smartphones in the enterprise, being a key tool that could remove the ongoing security concerns around Android. Knox is a security feature that is designed to offer a similar sandboxing service to BlackBerry Balance. The feature in theory will let users set up separate work and home areas on the phone, meaning businesses can have app management and data wipe powers on the work side, while being unable to touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.
While this won't stop business users getting infected with Android malware, either by falling victim to a nefarious phishing message or downloading a Trojanised application on the phone's personal side, it will at least help IT managers offer frontline protection on the work side. Here's hoping Samsung makes its mind up once and for all on when Knox will actually arrive in the UK soon.
30 Apr 2013
Google will always be a search company first. In spite of all the other things the firm has its hands in, search is its lifeblood. It makes plenty of ad dollars from it and it's become synonymous with the company.
That is why Google has been so keen to add to its mobile search repertoire. The firm has just added two new features that look to extend its search power into the mobile sector.
First, the company introduced Google Now for iOS. The move is a bit of a mobile warning shot at Apple. If Google can show off some Android features to iPhone users than the firm may be able to find some converts.
Secondly, the firm added app activity integration into its entire search platform. The integration allows users to see aggregated user info when they search app titles online. For Google, the move takes them one step closer to complete convergence of mobile and PC platforms.
Both moves speak to the company's ambition with search. It's no longer an independent part of a user's online experience. Search is now a piece of a greater whole of a users experience both mobile and sedentary.
You can think of search as Google's foundation. It is the thing that everything else flows from. When you search for something on Google it leads you to other services that the firm offers.
It's not just search, its search and then some. It's the core that lead Google to become all the things it is today. Plus, judging from the recent announcements it is also is the thing that looks to be guiding the company into tomorrow.
Apple finds itself facing a formidable challenge these days. Co-founder and company visionary Steve Jobs is gone. A once solid hold on an emerging market has been challenged by a series of knock-off vendors. And the company's once-solid financial resources are being called into question.
If that sounds familiar to you old-timers, it should. The company paced a similar situation some 20 years ago, and handled it in entirely the wrong way. The result was a catastrophe that almost destroyed Apple as a brand and wiped out what would become the most iconic technology brand of the 21st century.
Back then, the company was several years off the ouster of Jobs and the ascension of John Scully. Having decided that good enough would work, the company slowed up on development of the MacOS and turned to marketing, expanding the computer's reach and attempting to appeal to as many markets as possible.
With a brain drain and a horrible misjudgement of the market, Apple soon found itself in a terrible position when Windows 95 delivered a 'good enough' user experience to the MacOS with a far wider hardware selection and a better developer environment.
Eventually, the company was able to recover when Steve Jobs returned, overhauled the MacOS with OS X and refocused the company on making just a few products that were far beyond anything the competition could offer.
But now, with Jobs since having passed away, Apple finds itself in a familiar situation. Once a market darling, the company has seen its value fall substantially as the Android platform has won over hardware developers and helped fuel the creation platforms which are as good, and at times better than iOS with a lower price tag and a greater range of compatible offerings.
This has also started to eat into Apple's bottom line. The company saw the same PC sales pains that the rest of the market did, but in the case of Apple it also came with worries that the portable device line which has become the company's bread and butter was threatened as well.
As such, Apple needs to refocus itself and renew a commitment to overhauling its product lines. The company needs to realise that incremental updates and moderate improvements are not going to be enough to beet Android.
The company needs to recapture the spirit of Steve Jobs, the unrelenting, sometimes cruel drive that demands not only innovation and inspiration, but absolute perfection in the process. Someone at the company, be it Tim Cook, Jon Ive or another brilliant mind, needs to step up and demand that the coming versions of the iPhone, iPad and iMac be more than the best, but the sort of "insanely great" leap that helped to define Apple as the electronics powerhouse it has grown to become.
A recent study found that Amazon's App Store may actually become a real threat to Google's Play store. The report found that the amount of paid apps and the growth of Amazon's store could put it in real competition to Google down the road.
The theory is interesting but probably inevitable. A third competitor in the mobile space is bound to happen. Apple and Google can not own a huge sector of the market forever.
Whether an Android fork like Amazon's is that third competitor is yet to be seen. With Samsung building out Tizen and Firefox launching its mobile OS, someone will be able to compete with Apple and Google.
Amazon has its positives. Its devices are well liked for media consumption. They are cheap to purchase and Amazon has a strong ecosystem when you throw in its e-commerce business and cloud.
The company seems to be taking more cues from Apple than Google. Amazon looks to be headed towards an ecosystem that's well curated and offers premium apps instead of just a lot of them.
While Amazon devices may sell at lower margins than Apple's, its ecosystem is similar to the one used with iOS. It's well organised and puts the focus on easy of use instead of excessive features. That is why Amazon is able to sell paid apps to the tune of strong revenue numbers.
However, Amazon still has yet to capture the market in the way that Android and Apple have. Kindle Fire models in the wild are still are not competitive with the kings of the mobile world.
Whether that changes anytime soon is yet to be seen. However, so far, Amazon looks as though it has a solid plan to become a real competitor with Google and Apple.
Google had a pretty good quarter. The search giant saw decent revenue and continued success with its core products. Yet, investors still want more.
During the company's conference call with investors, many Google stock owners questioned the firm's significant investment in future technologies. Investors wondered why Google dollars were going towards things like self-driving cars and virtual reality glasses.
Analysts didn't understand why Google was putting money into products that only have the potential to make profit down the road, grilling company bosses on how they decide appropriate levels of investment for the blue-sky projects.
Google chief executive Larry Page reported that those types of projects are necessary for its future success. He said his responsibility as chief of Google was to make sure that the firm didn't get lazy and invest in only incremental upgrades.
But at Google they're making sure they don't get blindsided by the future. Page and co-founder Sergey Brin have always been looking to find the cutting edge of technology. From cloud computing to Google Fiber, the search giant has always made crazy bets on crazier technology.
That's why it must be so frustrating for Page to hear investors wonder why Google spends so much money on currently unprofitable technology. Google has made a lot of people a ton of cash. Yet, some still wonder if the powers that be know what they are doing.
It's smart to ask questions, but Page and company clearly have a plan that's been working. Most of the time, you'd complain if a company decided to rest on their laurels. But investors are worried about Google taking measured risks.
Investors absolutely have a right to question what Google is doing. Even the company's supporters must be starting to question its Motorola purchase. However, investors should be more trusting of Google in one category: R&D.
Google knows how to make things and even if those things won't always make money right away they are still good products.
So, maybe, the time has come for Google investors to have a little bit of faith. Googlers know what it takes to make money in the internet age and by investing in the future they'll make sure they make money on whatever comes next.
Microsoft has quickly become one of the most powerful patent licensing firms in the world. Following its deals to license patents to original design manufacturers (ODM) like Foxconn it has amassed a flow of cash on all the patents it has created during its illustrious career.
Redmond has reported that 50 percent of the world's Android phones are now made by firms that license its patents. According to a 2011 report from paidcontent.org, license fees actually made more money for Microsoft than Windows Phone devices.
That figure will likely roll over to the new line of Windows Phone if the firm continues to muscle Android makers into paying licence fees. Not to mention, if Windows Phone continues to struggle to gain a foothold in the market.
As Microsoft continues to licence its patents it will continue to make money hand over fist. Nothing about what the firm is doing is illegal. The last time a competitor argued that it was they lost.
Barnes & Nobles tried to fight Microsoft in court last year. The Nook maker argued that Microsoft tactics were of the anti-trust variety. Of course, a US judge dismissed that thought and Barnes & Noble ended up signing a licensing pact with Redmond.
The only one who has really put up a fight with Microsoft and its patent portfolio is Google. By way of its subsidiary Motorola, the search giant has fought hard to avoid paying fees to Microsoft.
If anyone could put up a true fight it is Google. However, precedent has already been set because of the Barnes & Noble case and it's hard to see a government authority stepping into to stop the Windows maker under current law.
After all, Microsoft did develop the technology completely above board. The R&D department in Redmond is one of the best in the world. So it's not like Microsoft hasn't invented truly ground-breaking tech.
It's just good business for Microsoft to make money on its patents. Perhaps that's part of the problem affecting the wider software industry when it comes to patents.
Overtime, Android handset makers may have to increase their prices because a piece of the pie goes to the licence owner. To cover overheads the next Galaxy phone might cost an even crazier price tag because of patent licence fees.
It hasn't affected prices yet. But that is mostly because margins are still pretty high in the smartphone market.
However, Microsoft may eventually end up being responsible for price hikes on phones it didn't have any effect on making, to cover the cost of licensing its patents.
Hopefully, it may not get to that point and lawmakers will clamp down on patent trolls before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, they are the only ones in a position to srop it.
Facebook doesn't make money on hardware, software, or subscriptions. Instead, they make money on the data users put out. They take the data users send out and sell it to advertisers who in turn sell users stuff through the use of targeted ads.
The idea that major corporations sell users data scares a lot of people. These people don't necessarily have anything to hide; they're just ordinary people who like to have a sense of privacy.
These people use Gmail, Facebook, and Google+. Some of them will even probably end up using Facebook Home.
These potential Facebook Home users spoke up about their fears that the app/skin/thing would invade their privacy in a way unheard of previously. So Facebook went on the offensive and dropped a Q&A for Home's privacy policies.
The Q&A basically said Facebook Home doesn't change the way the company handles user data. User's location data won't be collected in anyway that is unique and it won't collect data users create from other apps.
So if nothing changes then what is the end game? Why is Facebook making a free super-app that doesn't do anything new for advertisers? Because by putting itself on your home screen, Facebook can gleam a lot more data using the same policies.
By buying into Facebook Home users will be sort-of using a Facebook ecosystem. Facebook already has an app store which has the potential for growth. It also has a messaging service and a slew of other apps users could use to replace their current Android offerings.
The famous Microsoft "Scroogled" campaign derided Google for searching through Gmail messages to serve up sponsored ads. Google uses all of its apps to give advertisers some new kinds of data.
Now Facebook is doing the same thing as its semi-rival Google. It's building out an ecosystem in attempt to better understand how to sell its users stuff. So if you are the type to worry about Facebook Home's privacy policies, you should be less focused on Home and more focused on Facebook as a whole.
Facebook's current privacy policies are the real issue, not the future violations of an unreleased app. If anything is to be done, it should be getting Facebook to update its current policies to better adapt to mobile.
The company has already defined itself as a mobile company so perhaps it should make privacy policies that reflect that. If Facebook really wants to talk up its privacy agenda, it needs to really work to change what its current policies are and not to talk about what its doing with a new app.
05 Apr 2013
Everyone expected a Facebook phone and we all sort of got one. HTC launched the aptly titled HTC First, the mid-level handset with Facebook features front and center.
However, that wasn't really the whole story.
The real news is that Facebook has launched an Android Skin. Mark Zuckerberg and his team just launched Facebook Home, an Android "super-app".
Zuckerberg said Facebook Home is mobile software built around people and not apps (to which Microsoft said this). It's giving users the chance to get Facebook front and center on their mobile device.
So instead of launching a phone, Facebook has launched something phone-esque. It is an Android skin that offers Facebook something different while not offending its friends in the mobile world.
It's a good play from Facebook. They needed to do something to grow and move forward. As a public company they have investors to answer to and needed to show that they have a plan for the mobile market.
A phone may have come on to strong. Giving HTC exclusivity on Facebook would have probably failed in the long run. Too much competition exists in the smartphone arena. Facebook is too big to try to be a disruptive source like Mozilla.
So Facebook did the smart thing and made something that can be used across the world of Android. By doing so, Facebook has the chance to grab some mobile advertising data from all sorts of Android users.
Facebook can now offer location-based data that can be sent to advertisers to offer consumers location-aware ads. The social network can now better monetize mobile advertisements and see improved revenue in the mobile sector, where everybody checks Facebook anyway.
It may not be an amazing announcement, but it's a good one. Slow and steady seems to be Facebook's plan of action. The company is creating something that could branch out into other things but at the moment is pretty simple.