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BlackBerry Does Still Exist and It’s Doing Fine

BlackBerry-Still-Exists

TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd broke even in the first quarter, topping expectations, and forecast a smaller-than-expected annual loss on Thursday, even as its revenue fell sharply. Shares of the smartphone industry pioneer rose more than 4 percent in premarket trading.

The Canadian company, which has shifted focus from its once-dominant smartphones to the software that companies and governments need to manage their devices, said it expects to post an adjusted annual loss of around 15 cents per share.

Analysts had estimated a fiscal 2017 loss of 33 cents per share.

“They have not put figures behind some of their forecasts in quite some time, and hopefully that speaks to improved visibility into the business,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.

Excluding one-time items, the company posted profit of $14 million, or nil per share. Adjusted revenue totaled $424 million. Analysts, on average, expected a loss of 8 cents a share on revenue of $470.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company reported a net loss of $670 million, or $1.28 cents a share, as it ran up costs to restructure operations and wrote down the value of some assets.

A year ago, it reported a profit of $68 million, or 10 cents a share.

BlackBerry said the net loss reflected a $501 million impairment charge, a $57 million goodwill impairment charge, and a $41 million writedown of inventory and other charges.

Software and licensing revenue was $166 million in the quarter ended May 31, just below the growth rate they have targeted for the full year.

Colello said a better selling smartphone could make the segment profitable.

“They have done a really good job of cutting operating expenses and shrinking the cost side of the business as revenue has fallen over the past couple years. The problem seems to be that hardware keeps falling faster,” he said.

Read Article (Sharp & Martell | huffingtonpost.com | 06/23/2016)

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Why This Year’s iPhone May be Kinda Lame

Kinda-Lame

Rumor has it that Apple’s going to seriously shake up the way it updates the iPhone — and you probably won’t like it that much.

For nearly a decade, Apple has alternated between releasing big overhauls and smaller upgrades to its phones. Citing a top Apple analyst, the Wall Street Journal reported that the firm will follow up last year’s incremental upgrades to the iPhone with even more incremental upgrades — breaking its established update schedule.

That means consumers waiting to upgrade until this year’s expected major revamp will have to either bite the bullet and get the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, or wait an extra year and hope that rumors of a really big revamp for 2017 are true.

The reported decision — Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment — comes as the company faces mounting questions about slowing iPhone sales. The iPhone is at the heart of Apple’s revenue, but sales numbers have started falling. That’s bad news for the Cupertino company.

The smartphone market as a whole has slowed down a bit, with more consumers saying they’re happy to hang on to their phones for a little longer than they have in the past. It’s hard to say what, exactly, is causing that shift. But one theory is that companies aren’t able to offer the same scale of advances that they used to because the technology isn’t there yet.

“Look at it from the vantage point of innovation,” said IDC analyst William Stofega. “Part of the slowdown of the industry is there’s just very incremental updates and upgrades. The technology to really push the smartphone forward isn’t quite developed yet.”

In other words, Apple may have an innovation problem, but it’s not alone. Companies are continually making phones thinner and lighter for their power levels, but at a certain point consumers will be looking for breakthrough battery technology, flexible screens or something more drastic to reinvent the smartphone. And those advances, while in the works at various companies, aren’t yet ready for prime time.

Furthermore, changes in the way that mobile carriers have designed their contracts could also be changing the mental calculus for consumers considering whether to upgrade their phones. Today’s plans separate the cost of a phone from the cost of wireless service, which gives customers the option to upgrade their device every year. But, Stofega said, the new payment scheme encourages people to hold onto their phones longer, especially once the devices are paid off.

A change in how Apple manages its upgrade cycle would be acknowledging that its next big developments are still in the research and development lab. While the firm still has its eye on creating markets for its phones in places such as China and India, it’s also clearly looking to pull back its dependence on hardware. Focusing on services — Apple Music, iCloud, Siri — and other products such as the Apple Watch has been a big trend out of Apple in the past year. And Apple has been letting rumors about even crazier projects, such as the Apple Car, circulate unchecked.

At the end of the day, Apple may be betting that it is better to release a truly innovative smartphone later and disappoint some fans now, even if such a strategy could open the door for Samsung as well as budget-friendly firms such as Xiaomi and Huawei to grab market share.

Stofega thinks this approach could work in the long run, if properly executed. “People may start looking for a slower cycle,” he said. “And, in thinking about it, that could get all the fanboys and fangirls a better boom for their buck.”

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 06/22/2016)

Smartphone innovation seems to have stalled or reached some kind of standstill. New releases look very much like their predecessor or some other device with not much difference in features or originality.

HTC One M9 really looks like a make-over of an M7, M8. Sure, it comes with a new paint job, camera, processor, RAM and interface but they all look basically the same.

From a distance the Samsung Galaxy S6 could be mistaken for an iPhone 6, with the rounded silver border, antenna markers on the bottom, the drilled speaker holes, even the Touch ID fingerprint scanner appears replicated.

Concept Video: Here

This overview does beg the question, has the hyper-activity of smartphone innovation and design finally burnt itself out?

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Internet Pace Grows as Smartphone Slows Down

Smartphone-slowdown

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — What's the state of the Internet? It's growing slowly, but still outpacing the smartphone market.

So says Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst-turned-venture capitalist who has been the Nostradamus of online research for years. Her highly anticipated annual Internet status update, a staple at industry conferences, offers insight into major mega-trends for the tech industry.

On Wednesday, she was at it again. At the Code Conference here, she said Internet use is at 3 billion people worldwide (42% penetration), with China and India — countries coveted by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others — leading the way.

But the device of the moment isn't iPhone anymore. Its sales peaked in 2015, she reports, and the action has moved to the voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker, "which is just getting started," she said. Meeker is bullish on messaging (she called it "secret sauce") and ride-sharing services ("We may be entering an automotive golden age") but souring on online search.

In a 213-slide presentation, she said she expects global smartphone user growth to slow to 21% year-over-year from 31%, and shipments to cool dramatically, to 10% from 28%. Internet growth, meanwhile, is a victim of saturation in developed countries.

Worldwide smartphone unit shipments slipped 3%, to 335 million, in the first three months of 2016, the first such year-over-year decline, according to Strategy Analytics, which tracks smartphone sales.

Apple is feeling the pinch. The first-ever year-over-year decline in iPhone sales during Apple's fiscal second quarter was a major reason for the first drop in Apple sales in more than a decade and lowered expectations for the current quarter.

Worldwide, Android is far and away the dominant mobile operating system. It has 81% market share to 16% for Apple iOS, and three times the audience size of Apple.

Meeker, a venture capitalist at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has been involved in investments in tech firms such as SoundCloud, LegalZoom, Spotify, Twitter, Instacart and NextDoor. She sits on the boards of Square and DocuSign.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk doesn't see Google as a potential competitor to his firm. Instead, he's focused on Apple.

Apple, maker of the iconic iPhone and Macintosh computers, "will be a direct competitor," Musk said. He expects Apple to be in production with cars by 2020, but thinks it waited too long. "They should have started production sooner. It's a missed opportunity."

Speaking to the Code Conference here, the South African-born, charismatic CEO leads a company that sells electric cars, with a recent software update that includes partial self-driving features. Tesla cars start at around $80,000, but recently announced a 2017 Model 3 that will start at $35,000. The company has reaped about 400,000 orders for the car that include $1,000 deposits.

Internet giant Google is testing self-driving cars, but Musk doesn't see Google getting into the car business. "Google is not a car company," he said. "They'll license the technology."

Apple, on the other hand, hasn't publicly announced its intentions to get into the car business, but has been hiring engineers, and Musk clearly expects Apple to join the fray.

Musk was asked if the new Model 3 will be a self-driving car. He demurred, saying he would have an event in the fall to reveal the answer. Asked for clarifications, he simply said, "We’re going to do the obvious thing."

Musk, who is also CEO of rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, also talked about his passion of exploring Mars and space.

Missions to Mars will start in 2018, he said, and he predicted that trips for humans ("if things go according to plan") will begin in 2024 -- for arrival in 2025.

Musk, who has not flown into space, has said he wanted to die on Mars, but not on a landing. "If you had to choose a place to die, Mars is probably not a bad choice. Born on Earth, died on Mars."

Read Article (Graham &Swartz | usatoday.com | 06/01/2016)

To be sure, smartphones almost always get better with each new model introduction, and have beefier specs.  Still, it’s worth asking: is better, better enough? While nearly half the population contemplates “choice”, the other half contemplates simply learning to use the thing (Digital Literacy).

This miss-placed step of the Digital Era must be eventually addressed and sooner or later there will be finger-pointing as to just who dropped the ball.

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Windows 10 Tablets Just Don’t Cut It, 3 Reasons

Windows-10-Tablets

Microsoft needs to fix battery life, screen and app issues if Windows 10 tablets are to successfully compete on the same footing as Android or the iPad. Broadly speaking, if you’re after a tablet in 2016 you have three choices: Android, Apple’s iPad or Microsoft’s Windows 10 tablets.

While the first two are mobile born and bred, spawned from smartphone operating systems, Windows 10 comes from the other side of computing - the traditional desktop.

So-called two-in-one PCs, which are half tablet, half laptop, with the ability to transform in some fashion between the two, are about the only sector of PCs and tablets that’s growing. They seem like the perfect combination between a tablet and a computer without having to buy two devices.

Manufacturers such as Microsoft, Samsung and Huawei have started to make hardware that’s up to scratch with the best of Google and Apple. The Samsung TabPro S, which triggered this article, is a well built, snappy and attractive tablet. As a PC it is a great thin and light laptop replacement, but while Microsoft has made huge leaps with Windows 10’s look and feel there are still some big things holding its tablets back.

Some problems Microsoft can and should do something about, others aren’t that easy to fix.

The app gap

People talk about the “app gap” between Android and iOS – there are more tablet-specific apps for Apple’s iPad than there are for Android tablets – but Windows 10 is miles behind both of them.

I’m not talking about the sheer number of apps. Having the right apps available is much better than having many shoddy ones. I’m also not talking about the availability of Windows desktop apps, which is Microsoft’s ace in the hole compared to machines running Android or iOS.

It’s the third-party apps that make using a tablet fun and enjoyable that Windows 10 lacks. The classic example is video consumption apps. Netflix is available in the Windows Store, as is All 4 and Demand 5, which is good, but the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and Amazon Prime video are not. To access those services, you’re forced back into the browser and a desktop-like experience.

The same hit-and-miss selection extends to almost all other app areas. There’s a Facebook app, but no Instagram one, a Kindle app, but no ComiXology or Marvel Unlimited. When it comes to music apps you’re forced to use Windows desktop apps from Spotify, iTunes and others in the browser.

When there are apps they aren’t updated in line with apps on other platforms - for example the Twitter app still hasn’t gotten built-in Giphy support. And while desktop apps are great when using a Windows device as a laptop, they’re just not a good experience on a touchscreen tablet.

Blurry mess

The desktop app situation is made worse by Microsoft’s poor handling of high-resolution screens. Five years ago a high resolution display provided increased screen real estate by making everything tiny. Today the density of screens has increased so that text, images and icons look pin-sharp, not microscopic in size.

Windows Store apps scale fine with crisp text on the good-looking screens tablets such as the Samsung TabPro S have. But Windows desktop apps often look like a blurry mess, simply magnified without increasing the pixel density. It’s a very poor experience, particularly on a tablet. It makes me actively avoid using desktop Windows apps, but it’s almost impossible to exclude them all in favor of Windows Store apps because of the app gap.

Apps and resolutions aside, the real big flaw for Windows 10 tablets is battery life. I’m not talking about active use battery life - I got a full day of work without plugging in the TabPro S - but standby time.

When you hit the power button to put an iPad or Android tablet running Marshmallow to sleep you can be sure when you come back a day later that it’ll still have charge. Time and time again I’ve put Windows 10 tablets to sleep over night only to find them dead by the morning.

Microsoft’s built-in battery saver mode helps, but Windows 10 needs much tighter control over the power state of the device when asleep, particularly when users expect an instant-on response when coming back to their tablets.

Both Android and iOS excel here. The iPad Pro lasts a week on standby, as does Google’s Pixel C. I’m lucky if I managed to get a day of standby out of the TabPro S, which has one of the longest battery lives of any Windows 10 tablet I have tested.

The tablet market is waning, 2-in-1s are rising and with them the use of Windows 10 on tablets. Microsoft has an excellent opportunity to claim back some share of the mobile market, but it needs to work hard to crush the problems and narrow the app gap. Windows 10 tablets could be amazing, and while the hardware is getting there, the software isn’t right now.

Read Article (Samuel Gibbs | theguardian.com | 05/30/2016)

I will really be glad when talk of cross platform replacement stops. A tablet can assist a laptop but never replace it, there are certain multitasking processes laptop do that tablets can’t. And keep in mind, both are evolving at the same pace. If you doubt this, ask some pro gamers.

In the 21st century, millions of people continue to struggle when using apps or operating systems while technology continues to advance at an exponential rate. Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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US Nuclear Arsenal Controlled by 1970s Computers

1970s-Computers

Government Accountability Office report details ‘museum-ready’ machines which are still controlling nuclear force messaging system that is ‘obsolete’. The US military’s nuclear arsenal is controlled by computers built in the 1970s that still use 8in floppy disks.

A report into the state of the US government, released by congressional investigators, has revealed that the country is spending around $60bn (£40.8bn) to maintain museum-ready computers, which many technical staff members do not even know how to operate, as their creators retire and no updates put in place.

The Defense Department’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System (DDSACCS), which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to US nuclear forces, runs on a 1970s IBM computing platform. It still uses 8in floppy disks to store data.

We’re not even talking the more modern 3.5in floppy disk that millennials might only know as the save icon. We’re talking the OG 8in floppy, which was a large floppy square with a magnetic disk inside it. They became commercially available in 1971, but were replaced by the 5¼in floppy in 1976, and by the more familiar hard plastic 3.5in floppy in 1982.

Shockingly, the US Government Accountability Office said: “Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now so obsolete.”

The Pentagon said it was instigating a full replacement of the ancient machines and while the entire upgrade will take longer, the crucial floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year.

Given that magnetic media has a finite shelf life, and that disks and the drives needed to read and write to them are older than some of the operators of the machinery, the floppy revelation makes you wonder whether the US could even launch a nuclear attack if required. An “error, data corrupted” message could literally mean ‘life or death’.

Read Article (Hal90210 | theguardian.com | 05/26/2016)

OMG, this is the most embarrassing post I’ve ever made. To think, in this 2016 Digital Era any portion of our Nuclear capability being managed like this is unthinkable.

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And everyone must realize that Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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