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Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Hub In Canada (venturebeat.com) 37

BlackBerry's Unix-like OS, QNX, is already in millions of cars. But today they're expanding their facility in Ottawa "to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology," according to Reuters. And one analyst says "If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market." After a detour where QNX's industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself... "What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner," said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor who has worked with QNX since 2009.
Instead of focussing on AI, BlackBerry wants "a niche role as a trusty sidekick," Reuters reports, adding that besides a recent deal with Ford, BlackBerry is also holding advanced discussions with "more than one or two" major automakers, according to the head of the company.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Stops Making Phones, Licenses the BlackBerry Name To TCL For Android Phones (pcworld.com) 48

The BlackBerry smartphone is dead: Long live the BlackBerry smartphone. From a report on PCWorld: A week after it officially pulled out of the smartphone market, BlackBerry has agreed to license its brand to handset manufacturer TCL. The Chinese company will make and market future BlackBerry handsets worldwide except for India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where BlackBerry has already struck local licensing deals. This is hardly new territory for TCL, which manufactured BlackBerry's last two handsets, the Android-based DTEK50 and DTEK60. BlackBerry has taken a more direct route out of the handset manufacturing business than Nokia, another of the marquee phone brands of the early years of this century. When Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, it also gave that company the right to use the Nokia brand for a transitional period. When Nokia got its name back earlier this year, it promptly granted a 10-year license to HMD Global, a Finnish company, to use its name on new phones.
Blackberry

BlackBerry's Keyboard is Coming Back for One Last Dance (bloomberg.com) 37

BlackBerry has officially stopped making its own phones, but the company has one last treat for die-hard fans: a new phone sporting its trademark physical keyboard. According to Bloomberg: Chief Executive Officer John Chen had hinted at the phone in September, but hadn't confirmed it until Thursday, when he spoke to Emily Chang in an interview on Bloomberg TV. "We have one keyboard phone I promised people," Chen said. "It's coming." Under Chen, BlackBerry has gradually shifted from smartphones to software and said in September it would completely stop producing, stocking and distributing its own phones. Instead, it will license the BlackBerry brand to outside companies to put on phones they build themselves. The physical keyboard is BlackBerry's best-known smartphone feature, with many former users still lamenting its absence as they clumsily tap out e-mails on their iPhones and sign off with words like "pardon the typos."
Android

Nearly 9 Out of 10 Smartphones Shipped Run On Android (cnet.com) 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Google's Android operating system was the big winner in a big time for worldwide phone shipments, market researcher Strategy Analytics reported Wednesday. Android captured 88 percent of all smartphone shipped in the third quarter of 2016, a period that also marks the fastest growth rate in a year. "Android's gain came at the expense of every major rival platform," Strategy Analytics' Linda Sui said in a press release. "Apple iOS lost ground to Android and dipped to 12 percent [market]share," primarily because of "lackluster" sales in China and Africa, she said. And don't bother looking for BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows phones in the mix. They "all but disappeared" in the period between July 1 and the end of September. While Android's leading position looks "unassailable," it does face challenges in a market filled with phones made by hundreds manufacturers, few of which turn a profit. That's not helped by Google's new Pixel phone, which competes against the companies that made it popular in the first place, Strategy Analytics said. About 375 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2016, up 6 percent from 354.2 million units in the same period last year. Shipments of Android-based phones rose 10.3 percent, while Apple's iPhones fell 5.2 percent.
Microsoft

Snapchat, Skype Put Users' 'Human Rights at Risk', Amnesty Int'l Reports (cbsnews.com) 47

Shanika Gunaratna, writing for CBS News: Snapchat and Skype are falling short in protecting users' privacy -- a failure that puts users' "human rights at risk," according to a report by the organization Amnesty International. Snapchat and Skype received dismal grades in a new set of rankings released by Amnesty that specifically evaluate how popular messaging apps use encryption to protect users' private communications. In the report, Amnesty is trying to elevate encryption as a human rights necessity, due to concerns that activists, opposition politicians and journalists in some countries could be put in grave danger if their communications on popular messaging apps were compromised. "Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks," Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Amnesty's technology and human rights team, said in a statement. "The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes."Microsoft's Skype received 40 out of 100. WhatsApp fared at 73, and Apple scored 67 out of 100 for its iMessage and FaceTime apps. BlackBerry, Snapchat, and China's Tencent did 30 out of 100.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Says It's Done Designing and Building Its Own Phones (theverge.com) 90

BlackBerry today reported its fiscal second-quarter sales and said that it will stop making its iconic smartphones and focus on its software business. The Verge adds: BlackBerry has announced that it plans to stop making its own phones as the struggling company continues to focus on its software and security products. This is far from the end of BlackBerry devices, the production of which will be outsourced to third-party manufacturers -- as was the case with the company's recent DTEK 50, a clone of Alcatel's Idol 4 with BlackBerry branding. "The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners," said CEO John Chen in a statement. Elsewhere he stated: "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold." This isn't surprising news considering BlackBerry's ongoing struggle in the mobile market. According to estimates from Gartner, the company claimed just 0.1 percent of the market in the second quarter, equating to sales of some 400,400 units. The last BlackBerry phone manufactured by the company was the Priv, the company's first Android-powered device, released November last year.
Government

NSO Has Been Selling a Smartphone-Surveilling Malware For Six Years (nytimes.com) 98

The New York Times continues their coverage of the commercial spytech industry, noting its services "are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects... For the last six years, the NSO Group's main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones -- including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems -- without leaving a trace...to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations." Slashdot reader turkeydance quotes their article: That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like -- just check out the company's price list. The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user's location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device...

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group's corporate mission statement is "Make the world a safe place"... An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies....

One of the services offered by the NSO group is "over the air stealth installation," though they can also install their spying software through Wi-Fi hot spots. One critic argues "They can say they're trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place."
Democrats

Clinton's First Email Server Was a Power Mac Tower (arstechnica.com) 223

An anonymous reader shares with us an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: As she was being confirmed as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton contacted Colin Powell to ask him about his use of a Blackberry while in the same role. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigations memorandum published today (PDF), Powell warned Clinton that if it became public that she was using a Blackberry to "do business," her e-mails would be treated as "official" record and be subject to the law. "Be very careful," Powell said according to the FBI. "I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data." Perhaps Clinton's troubles began when she switched from a Blackberry-hosted e-mail account to an account on her Clintonemail.com domain -- a domain hosted on an Apple Power Mac "G4 or G5" tower running in the Clintons' Chappaqua, New York residence. The switch to the Power Mac as a server occurred the same month she exchanged messages with Powell. The Power Mac, originally purchased in 2007 by former President Clinton's aide Justin Cooper, had acted as the server for presidentclinton.com and wjcoffice.com. Cooper managed most of the technology support for Bill Clinton and took charge of setting up Hillary Clinton's new personal mail system on the Power Mac, which sat alongside a firewall and network switching hardware in the basement of the Clintons' home. But the Power Mac was having difficulty handling the additional load created by Blackberry usage from Secretary Clinton and her staff, so a decision was made quickly to upgrade the server hardware. Secretary Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department, Huma Abedin, connected Cooper with Brian Pagliano, who had worked in IT for the secretary's 2008 presidential campaign. Cooper inquired with Pagliano about getting some of the campaign's computer hardware as a replacement for the Power Mac, and Pagliano was in the process of selling the equipment off.
Android

iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter (macrumors.com) 191

An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?
Blackberry

Canadian Fined For Not Providing Border Agents Smartphone Password (www.cbc.ca) 276

Reader da_foz writes: A Canadian was reentering Canada when he was arrested and charged with hindering or obstructing border officials. At the time traces of cocaine were found on his bags and he was carrying $5,000 in cash. He provided his smartphone to border agents as requested, however refused to provide the password. Canada Border Services Agency officials asked for Philippon's smartphone and its password. From a report: "He handed over his BlackBerry but refused to disclose the code to access the phone. Philippon was arrested and charged under the federal Customs Act, accused of hindering or obstructing border officials." It is unclear if he provided the password while agreeing to the fine.
Android

900M Android Devices Vulnerable To New 'Quadrooter' Security Flaw (cnet.com) 129

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from CNET: Four newly-discovered vulnerabilities found in Android phones and tablets that ship with a Qualcomm chip could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected device. The set of vulnerabilities, dubbed "Quadrooter," affects over 900 million phone and tablets, according to Check Point researchers who discovered the flaws. An attacker would have to trick a user into installing a malicious app, which wouldn't require any special permissions. If successfully exploited, an attacker can gain root access, which gives the attacker full access to an affected Android device, its data, and its hardware -- including its camera and microphone.
The flaw even affects several of Google's own Nexus devices, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, according to the article, as well as the Blackberry DTEK50, which the company describes as the "most secure Android smartphone." CNET adds that "A patch that will fix one of the flaws will not be widely released until September, a Google spokesperson confirmed."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Enters New Phase Of Patent Monetization, Sues Internet Telephony Firm Avaya (arstechnica.com) 59

In what can be seen as a turning point for BlackBerry, the Canadian iconic company has filed a patent lawsuit against internet telephony firm Avaya. BlackBerry claims Avaya has infringed eight of its U.S. patents, and that BlackBerry should be paid for its history of innovation going back nearly 20 years. "BlackBerry revolutionized the mobile industry," the company's lawyers said. "BlackBerry... has invented a broad array of new technologies that cover everything from enhanced security and cryptographic techniques, to mobile device user interfaces, to communication servers, and many other areas." From an article on Iam Media: The move comes just over a year since Blackberry announced itself as a major player in the monetisation space with an agreement signed with Cisco, in which the Canadian company not only secured a cross-licensing deal but also "a license fee from Cisco." Another royalty-bearing deal was done with an unnamed company around the same time. Since then, the company has also signed two more deals with Canon and International Game Technology, both of which look to contain a royalties element to them; while in January it emerged that late last year Blackberry had sold a portfolio of patents to investment firm Centerbridge Partners for as much as $50 million. Blackberry CEO John Chen has made clear that he sees the company's patent assets as a key element in his plans. "We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround," he told delegates at a summit in Waterloo, Ontario, last September. He was at it again in May during an earnings call with analysts when he stated: "Many people have wanted to buy the patents... But I'm not really in a patent-selling mode, I'm in a patent licensing mode."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Says Its New Android Smartphone DTEK 50 Is the 'World's Most Secure' (theverge.com) 94

BlackBerry, which once assumed the tentpole position in the mobile market, announced on Tuesday the BlackBerry DTEK 50, its second smartphone powered by Google's Android operating system. The Canadean company is marketing the DTEK as the 'world's most secure' phone. It is priced at $300, and will go on sale in select markets on August 8. The Verge adds:The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch, 1080p display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB RAM, 13-megapixel camera, and 2,610mAh battery. The 8-megapixel front camera also includes a flash for taking selfies. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with BlackBerry's software features, such as the Hub. The software is similar to the software on the Priv released last year. The security features are highlighted right in the device's name, as it has BlackBerry's DTEK software that protects users from malware and other security problems often seen on Android smartphones. The DTEK app lets users quickly get an overview of their device's security and take action on any potential issues. BlackBerry says that it has modified Android with its own technology originally developed for the BB10 platform to make it more secure. The company is also committing to rapid updates to deliver security patches shortly after they are released.
Android

Phones Without Headphone Jacks Are Here... and They're Extremely Annoying (mashable.com) 536

A few weeks ago, we had an intense discussion on what would happen if Apple's next iPhone doesn't have a headphone port -- and what that means for the rest of the industry, as well as the pros and cons of ditching the legacy port. Over the past few months, we have seen many smartphone manufacturers launch new handsets that don't have a headphone jack. Mashable has a report today in which it says that it is already causing frustration among users. From the article: In the Android camp, phones like Lenovo's Moto Z and Moto Z Force and China's LeEco have already scrapped the 3.5mm headphone jack; to listen to music on the company's three latest phones, users need to plug in USB Type-C headphones, go wireless, or use a dongle. I'm all for letting go of old technologies to push forward, but what is happening is actually going to make things worse. The headphone jack has worked for 50 years and it can work for another 50 more because it's universal. Headphones I plug into my iPhone work in an Android phone, in a BlackBerry, in my computer, in my PS4 controller, in my tablet, in any speaker with audio-out, and so on. I can walk into any electronics store and pick up a pair of headphones and not have to worry about compatibility with any of my devices. I know it'll work. [...] With a universal headphone jack, I never have to worry whether or not the crappy pack-in iPhone EarPods I have will work with the Android phone I'm reviewing or not. I also never have to worry if I'll be able to plug my headphones into a friend's phone to listen to some new song. Same applies for when I want to use my earbuds and headphones with another person's device. And there lies the real issue. I will need different dongles -- a Lightning-to-headphone-jack and a USB-Type-C-to-headphone-jack to be prepared because I do carry both iPhone and Android phone on me daily. Dongles also get lost.
Blackberry

BlackBerry CEO 'Disturbed' By Apple's Hard Line On Encryption (theinquirer.net) 202

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he is "disturbed" by Apple's tough approach to encryption and user privacy, warning that the firm's attitude is harmful to society. Earlier this year, Chen said in response to Apple resisting the government's demands to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters: "We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good." During BlackBerry's Security Summit in New York this week, Chen made several more comments about Apple's stance on encryption. "One of our competitors, we call it 'the other fruit company,' has an attitude that it doesn't matter how much it might hurt society, they're not going to help," he said. "I found that disturbing as a citizen. I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out." He did say there was a lot of "nonsense" being reported about BlackBerry and its approach to how it handles user information. "Of course, there need to be clear guidelines. The guidelines we've adopted require legal assets. A subpoena for certain data. But if you have the data, you should give it to them," he said. "There's some complete nonsense about what we can and can't do. People are mad at us that we let the government have the data. It's absolute garbage. We can't do that." Chen also warned that mandatory back doors aren't a good idea either, hinting at the impending Investigatory Powers Bill. "There's proposed legislation in the U.S., and I'm sure it will come to the EU, that every vendor needs to provide some form of a back door. That is not going to fly at all. It just isn't," he said.
Blackberry

BlackBerry's 'Classic' Smartphone Is About to Disappear (fortune.com) 74

From a Reuters report:The beleaguered tech company continues its shift to software. BlackBerry will stop making its Classic smartphone, 18 months after launching it in an effort to entice users who prefer physical, rather than touch, keyboards, the Canadian technology company said on Tuesday. The Classic was launched early last year, with a physical keyboard in the vein of its Bold predecessor and powered by the company own overhauled BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry has since launched a phone powered by Alphabet's Android software and plans several more, and BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen last month expressed confidence the company's trimmed-down handset business can turn a profit by a self-imposed September deadline.
Blackberry

Senate Staffers Will No Longer Be Issued BlackBerry Devices (cnet.com) 29

An anonymous reader writes: Senate staffers will no longer be issued BlackBerry devices. According to Politico, a note sent to staffers on Wednesday said the Senate had no choice after BlackBerry decided to discontinue devices running its own BlackBerry 10 software. "Once we have exhausted our current in-house stock, new device procurements will be limited, while supplies last, to warranty exchanges only," reads the Sergeant at Arms note. The 600 BlackBerry smartphones currently in the Senate's possession will be supported for the "foreseeable future." The news comes after a report that President Obama has ditched his BlackBerry handset in favor of a "hardened" version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that is supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency. It also follows a report that the Canadian smartphone maker lost $670 million in the first quarter of its 2017 financial year. During BlackBerry's first quarter, the company sold roughly 500,000 devices at an average price of $290 each. They will apparently need to sell about three million phones at an average of $300 each to break even.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Remains Committed To Smartphone Business, Despite $670M Net Loss In Last Three Months (baytoday.ca) 78

AchilleTalon writes: BlackBerry CEO John Chen refuses to give up on the company's hardware business despite lackluster sales of its first Android-powered smartphone, the Priv. The Canadian smartphone maker reported a $670 million net loss in the first quarter of its 2017 financial year, but said its recovery plan for the year remains on track. Chen, who has stated the company's No. 1 goal is to make its smartphone device business profitable this fiscal year, said he expects the company's new mobility solutions segment to break even or record a slight profit during the third quarter, which ends Nov. 30, 2016. During BlackBerry's first quarter -- second full quarter to include Priv sales -- the company sold roughly 500,000 devices at an average price of $290 each, he said, which is about 100,000 smartphones fewer than the previous quarter and about 200,000 fewer than two quarters earlier. Previously, the company said it needs to sell about three million phones at an average of $300 each to break even, though Chen indicated that may change as the software licensing business starts to contribute to revenue.
Android

Obama Finally Ditches BlackBerry, Switches To Samsung Galaxy S4 (arstechnica.com) 138

Obama has finally been able to ditch his BlackBerry handset, something which he was stuck with for more than six years. Mr. President appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and told the audience that it was only this year that he was able to get a real smartphone. There's one caveat, though. The Android smartphone Obama has gotten is a "hardened" version, with pretty much all the unrequired features removed from it. Laughing with the audience, Obama said, the phone feels like the fake toy handset kids play with. ArsTechnica, citing documentations, claim that Obama is using a Samsung Galaxy S4 (a phone that was released in 2013), as it is the only smartphone currently supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency. From the report: The S4 is currently the only device supported under DISA's DOD Mobility Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) program. In 2014, a number of Samsung devices were the first to win approval from the National Security Agency under its National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program -- largely because of Samsung's KNOX security technology. And the S4, layered with services managed by DISA, is the first commercial phone to get approval to connect to the Secret classified DOD SIPRNet network. DISA has been working with vendors and the National Security Agency's Information Assurance Directorate to develop a Top Secret-capable mobile device for use by the Defense Department and the national leadership both on the move and within secure facilities. But currently, the highest level of classification that can be handled by commercial devices under the DMCC program is at the Secret level. Secretary of State John Kerry was a DMCC-S early adopter, and he served as a beta tester of the hardened Galaxy S4.

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