As curtains come down on the month of July, it’s showtime for Infowatch – the monthly newsletter that keeps you in touch with all the news, views and going-ons in the world of technology. Without too much of further ado, let’s just dive into the news bytes that captured our attention this month, what say? So, here are the tech highlights of July 2014:
Facebook Gifts Ends Its Run
It had been coming for some time, and the official announcement from Facebook finally arrived this month – that Gifts on Facebook would be shut down from the 12th of August. Mark Zuckerberg’s insanely popular social media platform is already experimenting with other ways to offer users a platform to buy/sell products on FB. Incidentally, Facebook Gifts had been offering only Gift Cards from mid-2013.
NASA Brings Mars Closer
Not literally, of course – but NASA has made sure that researchers now know more about the ‘red planet’ than ever before. Its Opportunity Rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, has covered over 40 kilometers on the planet, which is a new record. The previous record was held by Lunokhod 2 (a Russian rover) – which covered about 39 kilometers on the moon.
Cortana Comes To India
Something that every software and mobile app developers had been waiting for. Cortana – Microsoft’s mobile digital assistant (a potential competitor to iPhone’s Siri and Android phone’s Google Now) – is now available in India. Users of Nokia Lumia 630 in India can avail Cortana services, along with those who have the developer build of Windows Phone 8.1 on their handsets. This won’t be the latest version of Cortana (currently available in the United Kingdom and India) though.
Blackberry Shores Up Mobile Security Features
As of now, chances of Blackberry being able to catch up with Android or Apple Inc. is pretty much slim. That, however, is not keeping CEO John Chen from trying. In July, Blackberry acquired SecuSmart GmbH – a German mobile data encryption company. The firm also specializes in cyber anti-eavesdropping services. According to official sources, this acquisition has been made to increase the reliability factor of Blackberry, particularly for users from statutory government bodies.
The Wait Is Still On For The World’s First Tizen Smartphone
Announced in June, the world is still waiting for Samsung Z to arrive at the markets. When it does, it would be the very first smartphone to be powered by the Tizen operating system. Sources from Samsung have revealed that the company plans to strengthen the collection of mobile apps at the Tizen Store. Not surprising really, since Samsung has to directly compete with Google now!
Google Hangout Becomes Part Of Business Suite
Taking a cue from the immensely popular Microsoft Office suite, Hangouts has also been made a part of the business apps package offered by Google. The director of Chrome product management for business, Mr. Rajen Seth, has stated that people actually preferred a full business suite – instead of standalone applications. The addition of Google Hangouts to the business package is expected to give ‘Chromebox For Meetings’ a big boost.
Unemployment – The After Effect Of The Apple-Beats Deal?
Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine would remain employees of Apple, but many other erstwhile employees of Beats music have to search for new jobs. In particular, personnel from the HR, finance and support departments are being laid off. When Apple acquired Beats in the last week of May, industry experts had felt that a mass loss of employment would be an offshoot of this high-profile acquisition.
December Date For 5.5” iPhone 6 and iWatch
The 4.7” inch iPhone 6 will probably be launched on the 19th of September, but we will have to wait till December to get the first look of the 5.5” inch model. According to rumors at online iOS forums and mobile app companies, the much awaited Apple iWatch would also be released at the same time. Initial reports suggest that iOS 8 would be commercially released on another date.
OKCupid Lands Up In Trouble
Just when the furore over Facebook’s ‘experiment’ with the news feeds of users was dying down, another controversy of a similar nature has cropped up. This time, the offender is OKCupid, a popular online dating website. Site president John Rudder admitted that they had paired up non-compatible couples, as the part of a study. Although not many complaints have poured in after this declaration, OKCupid might still face punishment doled out by the American Federal Trade Commission.
Twitter Is Flying High
All those predicting that the end of Twitter is near have been proved wrong. In the last week of July, the overall market value of the company jumped by a cool $7 billion – thanks to the huge spurt in the number of worldwide users (nearly 25%). Twitter’s shares, as a result, have grown in value too, by almost 35%.
Microsoft Promises A Strong Nokia Comeback
There have been losses of nearly $700 million last quarter, the Nokia X series of phones have flopped – but Microsoft remains buoyant about Nokia’s chances of making a turnaround. By the end of 2016, over a billion dollars will be taken out of the Nokia project costs – which would plug all the losses. Within two years, Nokia is expected to generate profits. That would be a win-win scenario for Microsoft!
Galaxy S5 Fails To Improve Samsung’s Global Market Share
As per the quarterly reports released this month by Samsung, its share in the global smartphone market has slumped to 25% – nearly 5% lower than what it was at the same time in 2013. The rapid growth and popularity of Chinese mobile brands (like Huawei) is posing a serious challenge to Samsung, and Galaxy S5 has not quite been the standout device in terms of market adoption. The share of iPhones also witnessed a marginal fall during the same quarter.
Microsoft Unveils Its New ‘Selfie’-Phone
That’s right, 2013’s Oxford word-of-the-year now has a smartphone based on it! The head of Microsoft devices, Stephen Elop, unveiled a new 4.7” ‘Selfie’ phone, which has a high-quality 1.2 MP front camera. The phone would be a direct competitor of Samsung Galaxy K Zoom – another selfie-based smartphone. Let’s just hope that the selfie-fad does not taper off anytime soon!
The Amazon vs Flipkart Tussle Heats Up in India
It has boiled down to a game of financial muscle, as far as Amazon and Flipkart’s attempts to capture the maximum of India’s online retailing market share are concerned. In July, Flipkart pumped in a whopping $1 billion of fresh funds, to strengthen its presence in the country’s ecommerce sector. And how did Amazon respond? By coolly making an investment of $2 billion on its India operations – on the very next day.
Medical Technology Goes Up To The Next Level
Are you familiar with the name of Alex Pring? He is a six-year old kid from Florida, United States – whose entire right arm was missing. Well, Alex’s troubles are now behind him – thanks to prosthetics created by using 3D printers (yep, you read that right!). Although the artificial forearm and hand cost the boys family more than $355, it is indeed a big leap in the context of medical technology.
A New Malware Can Grab Your Credit Card Information!
BrutPoS is the name of this new malware, and it has reportedly already attacked around 750 retail outlets in India. Windows systems that have relatively ‘weak’ usernames and/or passwords are particularly susceptible to this malware. Interestingly, while the number of devices that have been hacked by BrutPos can be estimated, the individual systems that are under attack cannot be identified.
Google Can Now Protect Share Market Investors
Movements in the share markets are uncertain, and many investors have lost millions in single-day huge crashes. Google would, hopefully, minimize such risks – by predicting when (and the probable reasons for) a market crash is likely to happen. Experts from Boston University and Warwick Business School collaborated to add this functionality to Google. The algorithm has been prepared by mining data from Google Trends.
Zuckerberg Surges Ahead Of Larry Page and Sergey Brin
In other words, the ‘father of Facebook’ is now a wealthier person than the co-founders of Google. With a net worth of a shade under $33.5 billion, Mark Zuckerberg currently occupies the 16th position in the Billionaires’ Index (created by Bloomberg), with Page and Brin coming in at the next two positions. Bill Gates has held on as the richest person on the the planet.
Xiaomi Mi 3 Is A Huge Hit
So much so that, Flipkart ran out of stock of this new handset – within less than half an hour of it being listed on the portal. Although the exclusive partnership with Flipkart leaves room for doubt as far as the long-run sales of Mi 3 are concerned – there is no doubting that Indian buyers have taken to it in a big way. It’s not for nothing that Xiaomi is reputed as the ‘Apple of China’, after all!
How ‘Confidential’ Is Your iPhone Data?
Jonathan Zdziarski, a mobile research analyst, has shown that Apple can easily extract data stored on iPhones – without needing to seek consent from users. What’s more, iPhone-owners have no option to prevent such extraction (except for, of course, erasing all data). Representatives from Apple have admitted that unpublicized methods are indeed used for such data extraction. The announcement has startled general users and mobile app development experts alike.
In a new ad campaign, Microsoft has taken a dig at Siri’s intelligence – and that has also grabbed many eyeballs. Snapchat got a new rival this July, in form of Bolt Messaging (by Instagram). A study conducted by Strategy Analytics has revealed that the total count of smartphone-users would cross 2.5 billion by next year. That, in turn, would mean, bigger markets for mobile application development companies like us!
July 2014 (like practically every month nowadays) witnessed the arrival of many new, high-end smartphones. Apart from the Mi 3, Xiaomi released the Redmi Note and the Redmi 1S phones. The six-inch Asus phablet, also released this month, has won favorable reviews from analysts and experts. Karbonn brought the Opium N7 and Opium N9 handsets to the market as well.
That about wraps up our bird’s eye-view of what has been happening in the world of technology in July. On a more personal front, our mobile apps company celebrated the burgeoning success of the paperback/hardcover Story Time books for kids this month. If you are a regular on our blog, you are probably already aware that we are organizing a ‘Story Time Monsoon Camp’ in Kolkata – on the 15th, 16th and 17th of August (http://storytimeforkids.info/). Wish us luck for our preparations.
Infowatch will be back on the 1st of September (the last day of August is a Sunday, so…). Till then, do write in about any happening in the world of technology that captures your attention. If you feel any other news should have figured in our July-list, we would be happy to listen to your suggestions.
Here’s wishing a prosperous, rewarding August to all of you out there. We are looking for another really successful month too.
By the way, did you know that www.teksmobile.com.au is now live?