Start up: PC sales droop, app store revenues, security on Android and Microsoft, Apple Watch promise, and more

Not so many of these. Pic by PeeZeeZicht on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Do not use as a sterile swab. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

PC leaders continue growth and share gains as market remains slow » IDC

Worldwide PC shipments totalled 80.8m units in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14), a year-on-year decline of -2.4%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Total shipments were slightly above expectations of -4.8% growth, but the market still contracted both year on year and in comparison to the third quarter.

Although the holiday quarter saw shipment volume inch above 80m for the first time in 2014, the final quarter nonetheless marked the end of yet another difficult year – the third consecutive year with overall volumes declining. On an annual basis, 2014 shipments totaled 308.6m units, down -2.1% from the prior year.

Gartner gives 4Q 2014 a +1% growth, to 83.7m, and the whole year essentially level at 315.9m. Gartner includes 2-in-1 units, where IDC doesn’t. And growth came from enterprise – consumer sales kept falling.

Also remarkable: Apple shows as fifth largest, ahead of Asus, for IDC, with 5.75m; Gartner reckons Asus shipped 6.2m units (because it includes 2-in-1s).

App Annie Index Market Q3 2014 » App Annie

Google Play worldwide quarterly downloads were about 60% higher than iOS App Store downloads in Q3 2014, roughly the same lead as last quarter.

Emerging markets continued to show remarkable growth on Google Play and have helped drive the store’s impressive download growth over the last year. In the Q3 2013 Market Index, Google Play downloads were only 25% higher than iOS App Store downloads.

iOS retained its strong lead in app store revenue over Google Play. In Q3 2014, iOS App Store’s revenue was around 60% higher than Google Play’s.

Japan, iOS’ second largest market behind the US, led revenue growth in Q3 2014.

So iOS gets 62% of the downloads (100/160) but 160% of the revenue – in other words, 2.5x as much revenue per download on average (160/(100/160)). That gap is likely to expand as Android reaches more emerging markets. If you want to reach lots of users with a free app, Android is increasingly the place to go (other things being equal); if you want the money, it’s iOS.

Lots of other fascinating trends, including Indonesia’s growth and what is driving Google Play download growth.

Slick, useful apps put the wow in Apple Watch » WSJ

Chris Mims:

I’ve seen some of the applications that will launch for the Apple Watch when it makes its debut as early as March, albeit in simulation, and some are extraordinary. Along with the details Apple has already released about how the watch will work, it’s convinced me Apple Watch will be a launching pad for the next wave of billion-dollar consumer-tech startups…

To use a historical analogy, the shift to mobile is one reason messaging supplanted email. Email was a product of a particular set of behaviours, including sitting down at a computer at a designated time and putting a certain amount of thought into responses. BlackBerry turned email into something like messaging, and touch-screen smartphones made it apparent that email was itself an anachronism, merely one conduit among many for what has become real-time communication.

Consider the same sequence of events for contextual information—that is, alerts delivered at a particular time and place, such as reminders. Our phones buzz, we pull them out of our pockets or purses, read a push alert, swipe to unlock, wait a split second for an app to load, then perform an action that might have been designed with more free time and attention in mind than we have at that moment, if we’re on the go or preoccupied. All that friction is one reason, I suspect, why location-based social networks like Foursquare never took off.

An insightful piece; Mims isn’t just lauding the idea of a watch, but the interaction model. (Subscription required.)

A call for better coordinated vulnerability disclosure (CVD) » Microsoft Security Response Center

Chris Betz is Microsoft’s Google’s senior director of the MSRC, and one might guess that he’s mightily pissed off just now:

CVD philosophy and action is playing out today as one company – Google – has released information about a vulnerability in a Microsoft product, two days before our planned fix on our well known and coordinated Patch Tuesday cadence, despite our request that they avoid doing so. Specifically, we asked Google to work with us to protect customers by withholding details until Tuesday, January 13, when we will be releasing a fix. Although following through keeps to Google’s announced timeline for disclosure, the decision feels less like principles and more like a “gotcha”, with customers the ones who may suffer as a result. What’s right for Google is not always right for customers. We urge Google to make protection of customers our collective primary goal. 

Google gave Microsoft 90 days to fix the vulnerability – and declined to hold back to 93 days so the fix could be rolled out. Just a bit childish?

However Google has form on this: in 2010 one of its researchers, TravisOrmandy, gave Microsoft just five days to issue a fix – and then issued proof-of-concept code when it didn’t hit that deadline. The POC was exploited in the wild.

On the other hand, Jonathan Zdziarski points to this 2005 paper (PDF) which uses empirical data to indicate that “Our results suggest that early disclosure has significant positive impact on the vendor patching speed”. Sure, but Microsoft was patching. It just wanted to do it on its own, clear, schedule; Google’s assumption is that it knows Microsoft’s security priorities better than Microsoft does.

Google under fire for quietly killing critical Android security updates for nearly one billion » Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster:

Android smartphone owners who aren’t running the latest version of their operating system might get some nasty surprises from malicious hackers in 2015. That’s because one of the core components of their phones won’t be getting any security updates from Google, the owner of the Android operating system.

Without openly warning any of the 939 million [devices] affected, Google has decided to stop pushing out security updates for the WebView tool within Android to those on Android 4.3, better known as Jelly Bean, or below, according to appalled security researchers. That means two-thirds of users won’t receive cover from Google, the researchers noted.

It’s a wonder that Microsoft can resist discovering a few exploits and publicising them. But it seems that Rapid7 and Rafay Baloch have been churning them out pretty regularly, so no need to bother.

Apple also stops security fixes of iOS version [x-2] – but the proportion, and number, using those is generally tiny: at present it’s 4% by Apple’s figures – compared to 60.1% running a version of Android below 4.4.

Samsung considers rolling out Windows phone » Korea Times

This is one of those “all the promise at the front, all the disappointment at the back” stories. Begin:

In a move to cut reliance on Google’s Android mobile operating system, Samsung Electronics is considering releasing cheaper handsets running on Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 platform, sources said Sunday.

“Samsung has run pilot programs on the stability of Windows 8.1 software on devices. It is interested in promoting Windows mobiles,” said an official directly involved.

But the key issue is whether Samsung and Microsoft will settle their ongoing legal dispute over royalties.

“If the companies settle their litigation, then Samsung will manufacture handsets powered by the Microsoft-developed mobile platform,” the official said. “The timing could be the third quarter of this year at the earliest.”

Third quarter? Gah. That’s not going to move the needle – if Windows Phone is still a thing in the third quarter.

Vodafone UK’s CEO talks 4G and the future of the network » Vodafone blog

“For us it’s about having the strongest network,” [CEO] Jeroen [Hoencamp] says of 4G. “One of the things that makes us different from others is that we have our ‘low band spectrum’. What that means is that our 4G is on a lower frequency, which travels further and deeper indoors. Forget all the technicalities, though: all it means is that we can offer great indoor coverage, and that’s important because the bulk of mobile activity actually takes place indoors – whether people are at work and at home.

“Wherever we build 4G, we’ve proved that we can deliver great unbeatable 4G speeds and coverage, but it’s not a race to have the highest speeds because when it comes to mobile, speed only gets you so far.”

Jeroen explains that you need to have something extra to make that speed worth having:

“We could build a network just to achieve massive speeds,” he says, “but the reality is that you don’t currently need anything beyond 20Mbps on a mobile device. Even for streaming video you only need a couple of megabits per second, so we think less about absolute speed and more about using that bandwidth to enable more customers to enjoy great content on the move, even in the busiest places and at the busiest times.”

He also claims that “customers don’t buy 4G for the latest technology – they switch to Vodafone 4G because there’s particular content they want to access.” This sounds half-right – who cares about a snazzy tech name – but you can get what you want on any network. “The strongest 4G signal” sounds like something Vodafone is going to built an ad campaign around, though.

Here’s what happens when you install the top 10 apps » How-To Geek

Lowell Heddings watched his PC suffer so that you wouldn’t have to. It’s all pretty predictable (and horrible, and entertaining), but here’s the payoff:

Freeware software vendors make almost all of their money by bundling complete nonsense and scareware that tricks users into paying to clean up their PC, despite the fact that you could prevent the need to clean up your PC by just not installing the crappy freeware to begin with.

And no matter how technical you might be, most of the installers are so confusing that there’s no way a non-geek could figure out how to avoid the awful. So if you recommend a piece of software to somebody, you are basically asking them to infect their computer.

Also read the comments, where one person claiming to run a freeware download site (it seems) says that they’ve been offered up to $1.50 per download to bundle software. Multiply by a few million…

You wondered why innovation died on the desktop? Partly it was the rise of mobile. But it is also the prevalence of this sort of thing. Imagine if you were wary of recommending any less-known app to anyone on the grounds that it could screw up their phone and spill their life out.

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