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Smartphone Kill Switch Law Reaches California Governor's Desk
August 12, 2014
California is poised to enact a consumer-friendly law requiring smartphone manufacturers to install "kill switches" -- that is, antitheft technology that would be activated by the carrier when a consumer alerts it that a device has been stolen or lost. The technology not only wipes the device of personal data but also renders it inoperable. The state legislature passed the bill on Monday.
What's Next for Sprint?
August 12, 2014
There's a New Sprint in town. Last week the earth shook twice in Kansas City -- once when Sprint decided not to end its pursuit of T-Mobile, and then again when it replaced CEO Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure. What can we expect next? First, Sprint is going to be a very different kind of company going forward. New CEO Marcelo Claure and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son will take Sprint on a new path.
Carrier Software Flaws Imperil Smartphones: Report
August 08, 2014
Wireless carriers pose a threat to mobile phone security, researchers have disclosed. Mathew Solnik and Marc Blanchou of Accuvant this week told an audience at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas that Android, BlackBerry and some iOS devices are vulnerable. The problem lies in a device management tool using the OMA Device Management Standard, which carriers embed into mobile devices.
Beacons Hit the Retail Spotlight
August 07, 2014
It was just six months ago that we saw what beacon technology could do on a wide scale. For Super Bowl XLVIII, the National Football League installed wireless transmitters in Times Square and at MetLife Stadium to send simple yet specific messages to smartphones: "bathrooms to the right," "snacks to the left," and so on. The deployment was considered a bold test for the nascent technology.
Sprint Sheds Hesse Along With T-Mobile Hopes
August 07, 2014
Softbank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has announced sweeping changes for subsidiary Sprint. Effective Aug. 11, Sprint President and CEO Dan Hesse is being replaced by Marcelo Claure, founder and CEO of Softbank subsidiary Brightstar. Also, Sprint has dropped plans to purchase T-Mobile. Hesse's replacement was expected, as Sprint has been hemorrhaging customers and piling up losses for some time.
NPR One Lets Listeners Hear Radio Their Way
August 06, 2014
NPR last week launched a mobile app that gives modern listeners a new way to access personalized radio content. NPR One provides mobile device users a stream of news stories based on their preferences. They can curate a playlist of their favorite NPR podcasts -- such as Fresh Air, for instance -- as well as stories aired on their local public radio station.
BlackBerry Ripe for Growth, Predicts CEO Chen
August 06, 2014
BlackBerry -- the "sick man of mobile" -- is poised for better times. That was the sentiment expressed by CEO John Chen in an internal memo distributed to BlackBerry employees last week. BlackBerry has completed its restructuring and the workforce reductions that started three years ago have been completed, Chen reportedly wrote in the memo. Better yet, it may soon be adding workers.
Qstream Runs Broader and Deeper
August 05, 2014
Qstream, which has developed a gamification-based app to help sales reps learn complex sales-related content, has broadened and deepened its functionality so the platform can be used in new scenarios. It has expanded the types of situations in which a company can use its Qstream license, said CEO Duncan Lennox, because it has proven to be wildly popular with companies beset by a common problem.
Apple's Big Blue Dilemma
August 05, 2014
Apple reportedly is gearing up to do what it does best -- introduce a new gadget or two. Word is the company will hold a spellbinding iPhone event come Sept. 9. With the dust not quite settled over Apple's recently announced liaison with IBM, it will be interesting to see whether there are any new corporate nuances in the upcoming presentation. Will Apple maintain its strong consumer focus?
Xiaomi Wins Key to China's Heart
August 05, 2014
Smartphone maker Xiaomi has been on a tear. It has risen from a lowly device maker to king of the Chinese market in just a year, according to a new report from Canalys. A year ago, Xiaomi held a 5 percent of China's second-quarter smartphone shipment rankings. By the first quarter of this year, it had achieved a 10.7 percent market share, behind Samsung's 18.3 percent and Lenovo's 11 percent.
Retailers Harassed by Backoff Malware
August 05, 2014
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week sounded an alarm warning retailers of a family of malicious programs aimed at compromising point-of-sale systems. Attackers used such software last year in massive data breaches that nicked millions of consumer records at Target and Nieman Marcus. Variants of the Backoff family have turned up in at least three forensic investigations.
Internet.org Hands Out Free Samples in Zambia
July 31, 2014
The Internet.org collective's mission of bringing the entire planet online took a step forward Thursday with the release of an app affording limited free mobile Internet access to users in Zambia. While around 85 percent of the world's people are located in areas with cellular network connectivity, only 30 percent access the Internet. In Zambia, just 15 percent have online access.
Target Adds a Ripple to Image-Recognition Pool
July 31, 2014
Target last week introduced In a Snap, a new image-recognition app that lets users buy products from the pages of select magazine and printed ads. It is unlike earlier variations of such apps in that consumers don't have to scan codes or follow a link to buy a product. It is similar to -- although far more limited than -- the Firefly functionality in Amazon's recently released Fire Phone.
Microsoft Sends Cortana to Far-Flung Corners of the Earth
July 31, 2014
Microsoft is preparing to debut an update to its Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, which includes expansion of its Cortana personal assistant availability to more regions. The update introduces Cortana to China and the UK in beta form, and Canada, India and Australia in alpha mode. Cortana is only just starting to make waves in the market, several years after Apple debuted Siri.
Thanks, C Spire - for Leading Mississippi Schools to Tech's Fast Lane
July 31, 2014
If you have been following business and personal technology in recent years, you've seen a quantum leap forward. Unfortunately, education is not moving ahead as quickly. Technology can help, though, and C Spire is setting a good example, propelling Mississippi schools forward. C Spire is helping schools and entire cities create a quantum leap of their own.
Twitter Claims Legions of Uncounted 'Users'
July 30, 2014
Twitter posted healthy revenue for the second quarter -- US$312 million, up 124 percent year-over-year. Its profit? Not there yet. However, even though the company reported a net loss of $145 million, investors are likely to overlook the lack of profit for some time. Financials aside, what Twitter really wants everyone to know is that it is big -- as in average monthly user big.
Android's Fake ID Could Put Millions in Jeopardy
July 30, 2014
An Android vulnerability that exists in every version from v2.1 Eclair to v. 4.3 Jelly Bean could expose millions of users, Bluebox Security has warned. The flaw lets attackers fake the certificates of specially privileged parties, such as Adobe and Google Wallet, and serve them up with malware that bypasses detection by Android. Attackers then can take over every app running on an Android device.
The Retail Channel Is Dead - Long Live the Omnichannel
July 29, 2014
As Amazon's Fire Phone finds its way into consumers' hands, brick-and-mortar retailers are on guard. Amazon's new device is equipped with technology that seems to have been designed to take showrooming to new heights -- or depths, depending on one's perspective. The Fire Phone, in brief, has functionality that lets users scan an item they see in front of them or in a magazine.
BlackBerry Picks Secusmart to Tighten Mobile Security
July 29, 2014
BlackBerry on Tuesday announced plans to acquire Secusmart, a developer of high-security voice and data encryption and anti-eavesdropping technologies. Mobile devices increasingly are being used for more critical tasks and to store more critical information, noted CEO John Chen. "The acquisition of Secusmart underscores our focus on addressing growing security costs and threats."
Bringing Retail Into the 21st Century
July 29, 2014
Let's get one thing straight: E-commerce will not kill the physical retail store. Hold on, I hear you object, the digital world has utterly disrupted our shopping habits. We rarely enter a store without having researched the big-ticket items we want to buy. Much of our holiday shopping is done with a mouse click. When we do venture into a store, we rarely do so without clutching a smartphone.
Swell Deal Could Give Apple Something to Talk About
July 29, 2014
It appears Apple is close to acquiring talk radio app Swell for $30 million. Much of Swell's development team reportedly will be joining Apple, and the app is expected to be shut down sometime this week. Although Swell managed to raise $7.2 million from the likes of DFJ, Google Ventures and InterWest Partners, it hasn't been able to get much traction in the crowded iTunes App Store.
Yahoo's in a Flurry Over Mobile Advertising
July 28, 2014
Another Yahoo acquisition hit the news last week -- Flurry Analytics, and it was widely seen as a bid to raise the company's profile in the hot mobile ad market. Mobile advertising will exceed $31 billion this year, eMarketer has predicted. The market currently is dominated by Facebook and Google, which together account for more than 75 percent of all mobile ads worldwide.

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