Start up: smartphone epochs, UK buyers slow on tablets, OnePlus faces India patent suit, Uber redux, and more


Ahh – a Nokia smartphone. Photo by David Roessli on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Slippery when wet. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Innovator’s Stopwatch. Part 2 >> Asymco

Horace Dediu:

As diffusion proceeds through each adopter category, the product is re-positioned to address each group’s presumed behavior. Innovators (first 2.5% of the population) are offered novelty, a chance to experiment and uniqueness of experience; early adopters are offered a chance to create or enhance their position of social leadership; the early majority build imitate the leadership of the early adopters and justify it with productivity gains; the late majority are skeptics but, given a set of specific benefits, join the earlier adopters. Finally the laggards reluctantly agree to adopt as their preferred alternative of not adopting disappears.

The theory suggests that a firm can be successful if they modify their marketing and perhaps product mix to accommodate these adopter categories in a timely manner.

If this is the case however, why is it that those who have access to these data (i.e. who is buying and when) not to do the right thing?

Really you have to read it for the graphs, showing the rise and fall of Palm/WinMob, Nokia, Samsung (projected), and the rise of China and India. But what about Apple?


Mobile Innovation: we need to get past the App Store duopoly >> Continuations

Albert Wenger, of VC firm Union Square Ventures:

Many people have pointed to the amazing commerce integrations in WeChat in China as an example of what can be done. What fewer have said though is that China does not have an app store duopoly. So WeChat has been free to innovate on commerce without having to live in the confines of what Apple or Google deem appropriate (and hence not in conflict with their own ambitions). As far as I can tell Chinese smartphones work just fine and any claim that centralized app stores are required for security or quality control is simply a pretense for wanting to extract more economics. The price of Chinese phones also does away with the claim that cross subsidization is required for adoption or phone innovation.

I thought USV was sure that Android was going to be the only app store anyone would need. Now it isn’t? Also, why not just go HTML5, as some of the commenters suggest?


Huawei, with 30,000 patents in China, is preparing to sue Xiaomi >> Patently Apple

local first-generation smartphone manufacturer rivals in China such as Huawei and ZTE are now going after Xiaomi where they know they’re weak: Patents. With Ericsson’s success against Xiaomi in India, both Chinese rivals are now racing to file lawsuits. 

A Korean report tapping into industry sources stated that earlier this week Huawei and ZTE were known to be preparing to sue Xiaomi, OPPO, and Bubugao for infringement of their patent rights.

Earlier, Huawei and ZTE sent out a warning letter to these companies asking them to stop infringing on their patents and pay legitimate royalties. However, as they did not respond, Huawei and ZTE decided to take legal action against them.

An industry source added that “It was confirmed that China’s second-generation smartphone manufacturers had been violating four to five patents related to communications technology, including WCDMA, which is used in 3G mobile communications.”

Huawei and ZTE are strong patent holders, collecting more than 70 percent of relevant royalties in China’s mobile phone market. Huawei has nearly 30,000 of the 39,000 mobile phone patents in China. It has also registered 7,000 patents this year alone.

Oh dear, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.


OnePlus has been ordered to stop selling the OnePlus One in India after legal action by Micromax >> Android Police

Ryan Whitwan:

Micromax—which plans to launch its YU brand with Cyanogen soon—has gone to the Delhi High Court to allege OnePlus is infringing on its exclusive licensing of Cyanogen OS. The court agreed, and now OnePlus is barred from selling, marketing, or even importing its devices in India. Additionally, the company is not permitted to ship any device in India that bears the Cyanogen logo or branding even after it gets the OS situation worked out.

As we recently discussed, OnePlus says it was only notified of the exclusive agreement between Micromax and Cyanogen two weeks before the OPO was to launch in India. It plans to have a custom ROM of its own ready by February, with a beta release sooner. However, the devices shipping in India right now still have CyanogenMod installed. They won’t get official support or updates, but apparently that’s not good enough for Micromax.


Dixons Carphone shines but we’re not taking the tablets >> London Evening Standard

Computer tablets have failed to capture the [UK] consumer’s imagination this Christmas — they were tipped to be the biggest festival seller but sales have actually fallen, according to the boss of Dixons Carphone.

Seb James, chief executive of the newly merged phone and electricals retailer, suggested most people already had one and a technology shift was needed before people buy new versions.

His comments come as the company, created from a merger of the Currys, PC World parent and Carphone Warehouse, reported its first set of half-year results since the deal this year.

Sales rose 5% to £5.02bn in the six months to beginning of November. However, the company made a £20m loss before tax, thanks to the £100m spent on the merger — lawyer and banker fees alone amounted to about £11m.

Wonder what form a “technology shift” would need to take to get people buying a new round of tablets.


Uber: Exec accessed reporter’s private trip info because she was late >> Naked Security

Lisa Vaas:

In a letter to Senator Al Franken, Uber says it accessed a reporter’s account because “She was 30 minutes late” to a meeting and an executive wanted to know when she’d show up so he could meet her in the lobby.

And flash his iPhone at her. And tell her that he was tracking her, according to a report from The Guardian.

In fact, Uber New York General Manager Josh Mohrer reportedly poked at BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan’s personal data twice, on both occasions tracking her movements without her permission.

As an excuse, it’s lame. As a reason, it’s also lame. That hasn’t stopped Uber’s general counsel saying in the letter that it has a “strong culture of protecting [passenger] information.” Except when it doesn’t, clearly.

And as Franken pointed out in response, the letter doesn’t answer his questions – viz, what “legitimate” business purposes are for accessing customer data inside Uber.


Smartphone Comparison Chart >>Gnod

Interactive, and covering pretty much everything available in the US. Helpful if you are a specification freak; otherwise, more of a curio, though one on which you could waste an easy half an hour.


Shifting Freebase over to Wikidata >> Freebase on Google+

When we publicly launched Freebase back in 2007, we thought of it as a “Wikipedia for structured data.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve been closely watching the Wikimedia Foundation’s project Wikidata[1] since it launched about two years ago. We believe strongly in a robust community-driven effort to collect and curate structured knowledge about the world, but we now think we can serve that goal best by supporting Wikidata – they’re growing fast, have an active community, and are better-suited to lead an open collaborative knowledge base.

So we’ve decided to help transfer the data in Freebase to Wikidata, and in mid-2015 we’ll wind down the Freebase service as a standalone project. Freebase has also supported developer access to the data, so before we retire it, we’ll launch a new API for entity search powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Google bought MetaWeb in 2010; this move, giving the responsibility to the crowd, suggests either that upkeep was too expensive, or that Google has found better ways to do it internally.


Start up: how much (little) ‘Happy’ earned on Pandora, Sony hack spills on, ‘inception’ mobile hack, QNX trumps Microsoft, and more


Ford MyTouch, powered by Microsoft. Well, not in the future. Photo by HighTechDad on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Choking hazard in children under 3. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Project Goliath: Inside Hollywood’s secret war against Google >> The Verge

What is “Goliath” and why are Hollywood’s most powerful lawyers working to kill it?

In dozens of recently leaked emails from the Sony hack, lawyers from the MPAA and six major studios talk about “Goliath” as their most powerful and politically relevant adversary in the fight against online piracy. They speak of “the problems created by Goliath,” and worry “what Goliath could do if it went on the attack.” Together they mount a multi-year effort to “respond to / rebut Goliath’s public advocacy” and “amplify negative Goliath news.” And while it’s hard to say for sure, significant evidence suggests that the studio efforts may be directed against Google.

The Sony hack is laying bare huge amounts of the entertainment industry’s thinking. Read on for more.


Nation-backed malware targets diplomats’ iPhones, Androids, and PCs >> Ars Technica

Researchers have uncovered yet another international espionage campaign that’s so sophisticated and comprehensive that it could only have been developed with the backing of a well resourced country.

Inception, as the malware is dubbed in a report published Tuesday by Blue Coat Labs, targets devices running Windows, Android, BlackBerry, and iOS, and uses free accounts on Swedish cloud service Cloudme to collect pilfered data. Malware infecting Android handsets records incoming and outgoing phone calls to MP4 sound files that are periodically uploaded to the attackers. The researchers also uncovered evidence of an MMS phishing campaign designed to work on at least 60 mobile networks in multiple countries in an attempt to infect targeted individuals.

“There clearly is a well-resourced and very professional organization behind Inception, with precise targets and intentions that could be widespread and harmful,” the Blue Coat report stated. “The complex attack framework shows signs of automation and seasoned programming, and the number of layers used to protect the payload of the attack and to obfuscate the identity of the attackers is extremely advanced, if not paranoid.”


Ford dumps Microsoft for BlackBerry infotainment system >> CNN

Ford is upgrading its infotainment system to make it more like a smartphone or tablet – and it is dumping its longtime software provider Microsoft as part of the change.

Instead, Ford (F) will use BlackBerry’s QNX operating system for the new Sync 3 infotainment system. Ford Sync allows drivers to navigate, listen to radio and music, make phone calls and control the car’s climate through touch or voice commands.

Among Sync 3’s improvements will be the ability to expand or shrink the display with pinch-to-zoom gestures. Customers will also be able to swipe the screen’s display, as they do on a smartphone or tablet.

Wonder if it’s anything to do with the glitches in MyTouch that surfaced in 2011, when it said it “will send memory sticks to 250,000 customers in the US offering a software upgrades for its glitch-prone MyFord Touch system, which replaces the standard dashboard knobs and buttons with a touchscreen.”

A win for BlackBerry’s QNX, though unlikely to be a dramatic money-earner for a while, if ever.


Pharrell made less than $3,000 from 43 million Pandora streams of “Happy” >> Fusion

Through the first three months of 2014, “Happy” was streamed 43m times on Pandora, while “All Of Me” was played 55 million times on the service.

But how much money did all those streams make for the artists involved in creating the tracks?

According to an email from Sony/ATV head Martin Bandier obtained by Digital Music News’ Paul Resnikoff, “Happy” brought in just $2,700 in publisher and songwriter royalties in the first quarter of this year, while “All Of Me” yielded just $3,400.


Windows Phone wobbles: why users are losing heart >> Tim Anderson’s ITWriting

Unlike Ed Bott and Tom Warren I still use a 1020 as my main phone. I like the platform and I like not taking a separate camera with me. It was great for taking snaps on holiday in Norway. But I cannot survive professionally with just Windows Phone. It seems now that a majority of gadgets I review come with a supporting app … for iOS or Android.

Microsoft is capable of making sense of Windows Phone, particularly in business, whether it can integrate with Office 365, Active Directory and Azure Active Directory. On the consumer side there is more that could be done to tie with Windows and Xbox. Microsoft is a software company and could do some great first party apps for the platform (where are they?).

The signs today though are not good. Since the acquisition we have had some mid-range device launches but little to excite. The sense now is that we are waiting for Windows 10 and Universal Apps (single projects that target both phone and full Windows) to bring it together. Windows 10 though: launch in the second half of 2015 is a long time to wait. If Windows Phone market share diminishes between then and now, there may not be much left to revive.

Windows 10 and unified development won’t be Windows Phone’s saviour; mobile apps aren’t shrunken mobile apps (just look at a desktop website shrunken down to a mobile screen to realise that).

And the very first comment is from someone who has given up on Windows Phone. These are not good signs.


With WebRTC, the Skype’s no longer the limit >> Reuters

WebRTC, a free browser-based technology, looks set to change the way we communicate and collaborate, up-ending telecoms firms, online chat services like Skype and WhatsApp and remote conferencing on WebEx.

Web Real-Time Communication is a proposed Internet standard that would make audio and video as seamless as browsing text and images is now. Installed as part of the browser, video chatting is just a click away – with no need to download an app or register for a service.

WebRTC allows anyone to embed real-time voice, data and video communications into browsers, programs – more or less anything with a chip inside. Already, you can use a WebRTC-compatible browser like Mozilla’s Firefox to start a video call just by sending someone a link.

A terrific desktop browser technology that feels like it’s five or six years too late in reaching a standard. Video calling is on mobiles now, in a variety of different (incompatible) protocols, some cross-platform, some not.


Furious Google ended MPAA anti-piracy cooperation >> TorrentFreak

The leaked emails reveal that Google responded furiously to the perceived slur [in a press release put out by the MPAA in reaction to Google’s press release about its changes to its algorithm].

“At the highest levels [Google are] extremely unhappy with our statement,” an email from the MPAA to the studios reads.

“[Google] conveyed that they feel as if they went above and beyond what the law requires; that they bent over backwards to give us a heads up and in return we put out a ‘snarky’ statement that gave them no credit for the positive direction.”

In response to the snub, Google pressed the ‘ignore’ button. A top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business” with the movie group.

In future Google would speak with the studios directly, since “at least three” had already informed the search engine that they “were very happy about the new features.”


Tablet Ownership is Growing Faster than Ownership of Any Other Connected Device, According to The NPD Group

Tablet ownership among US consumers is on the rise, and growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device. According to The NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence, Connected Home Report, as of the third quarter of 2014 (Q3 2014) there were 109m tablets in use, up 35m from last year.

“Now that the tablet market is unmistakably past the early adopter stage we are able to gain visibility into what the user base is still doing with their devices, and in this case it’s often video focused activities,” said John Buffone, executive director, Connected Intelligence.

More than half, 55%, of tablet users report leveraging a video feature of their device. This includes video calling; taking, posting, and uploading videos; as well as watching video from a streaming service or app from a TV channel or pay TV provider. Video feature usage is even more prominent among younger consumers. Two-thirds (67%) of tablet users aged 18-34 use these video features compared to 53% of 35-54 year olds, and 45% of users age 55 and older. Further, watching video from a streaming service or TV channel app is the most common video focused behaviour.

By contrast, there are 176m smartphones in use, for the same population. You wonder why tablet sales are slowing at the high end (Apple)? Because the high end is saturated, and tablets probably have a four-year, not two-year, replacement cycle.

And video usage is going to suck the life out of the networks.


Workflow for iOS aims to simplify automation of complex multi-step tasks >> Apple Insider

Examples of tasks that can be accomplished with Workflow, as noted by developer DeskConnect, include:

• Add a home screen icon that calls a loved one

Make PDFs from Safari or any other app

Get directions to the nearest coffee shop in one tap

Tweet the song you’re listening to

Get all of the images on a Web page

Send a message including the last screenshot you took

Once an automated task has been created within Workflow, users can launch them from within the app, or via other apps using a Workflow Action Extension, in addition to the aforementioned home screen shortcut.

There are location-aware actions, and you can create a homescreen shortcut to call someone (that was the first one I created). Wonder if this – with its capability of putting shortcuts on the homecreen – will fall foul of Apple’s hokey-cokey app store policies.


Google shuts down Russian engineering office >> The Information

Amir Efrati:

Google launched engineering operations in the country in 2006, and its programmers, including a top coder named Petr Mitrichev, work on Web-search quality, developer tools and the Chrome browser, among other projects. It has a sizable Moscow office. Sales operations are expected to continue in some form.

It’s unclear exactly why Google is making the move now, but it is likely related to the Russian government’s decision to require Web companies, starting in 2016, to keep data related to its citizens within Russia as opposed to data centers outside the country. There also was an alleged recent raid by authorities of a high-profile foreign e-commerce firm in Moscow that sent shockwaves throughout the tech community.

Google’s flight from Russia follows similar moves by other well-known firms including Adobe Systems. Western venture and private equity firms also have pulled back their activities in Russia.

I think Efrati had the scoop on this; the WSJ followed it up.


Start up: Sony-signed malware, robots watching videos, Nexus 6’s lost finger lock, are tablets desktops?, and more


I love robots, by Duncan on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Swedish police raid The Pirate Bay, site offline >> TorrentFreak

This morning, for the first time in months, The Pirate Bay disappeared offline. A number of concerned users emailed TF for information but at that point technical issues seemed the most likely culprit.

However, over in Sweden authorities have just confirmed that local police carried out a raid in Stockholm this morning as part of an operation to protect intellectual property.

“There has been a crackdown on a server room in Greater Stockholm. This is in connection with violations of copyright law,” read a statement from Paul Pintér, police national coordinator for IP enforcement.


‘Destover’ malware now digitally signed by Sony certificates >> Securelist

Functionally, the backdoor contains two C&Cs [command & control servers for computers taken over by the malware] and will alternately try to connect to both, with delays between connections:

208.105.226[.]235:443 – United States Champlain Time Warner Cable Internet Llc

203.131.222[.]102:443 – Thailand Bangkok Thammasat University

So what does this mean? The stolen Sony certificates (which were also leaked by the attackers) can be used to sign other malicious samples. In turn, these can be further used in other attacks. Because the Sony digital certificates are trusted by security solutions, this makes attacks more effective. We’ve seen attackers leverage trusted certificates in the past, as a means of bypassing whitelisting software and default-deny policies.

We’ve already reported the digital certificate to COMODO and Digicert and we hope it will be blacklisted soon. Kaspersky products will still detect the malware samples even if signed by digital certificates.

Everyone says “ooh! Thailand again!” (a previous part of the hack was linked to a hotel in Bangkok) but nobody says “hmm, Time Warner.” What if the hackers are based in the US? (Speaking of which, has Re/Code walked back – as one says – on its claim that North Korea was behind the Sony hack?)


Android source reveals scrapped Nexus 6 fingerprint sensor >> Ars Technica

Methods like “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_FAST” and “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_SLOW” in the fingerprint API suggest it supported a “swipe” style fingerprint reader, which, unlike Apple’s stationary fingerprint reader, requires the finger to be moved across a sensor at the right speed. Another file said the system would show a picture indicating which part of the finger would need to be scanned next, which again points to it being more like a swipe reader and less like a whole-fingerprint scanner.

The fingerprint API would be open to multiple apps, with a comment saying Google had built “A service to manage multiple clients that want to access the fingerprint HAL API.” Presumably this would allow apps like Google Wallet to use your fingerprint as authentication.

Motorola had a fingerprint scanner in the Atrix in 2011. Sucked.


The real reason why Google is dropping the tablet v desktop distinction – it’s the user context, stupid! >> Search Engine Land

Looking at the huge amount of search query data that they have access to, Google picked up on a pattern in the way people use their devices. What they noticed is that user context trumps everything else.

“User context” refers to the time, location and device from which a search is conducted, and as [group product manager of Global Mobile Search Ads at Google] Surojit [Chatterjee] put it: “User context drives what people search for, and the actions they take. So for example, say I am at home in the evening, and I’m doing a search. The actions that I will take will be largely the same if I’m using a smartphone, tablet or notebook, because the context is the same. Particularly between notebook and tablet, the query patterns are very similar.”

Similarly, the types of searches that we typically think of as “mobile” searches are the ones that people make when they’re out and about, away from home or work – and that user context is actually far more important than the physical device they are using.

Also: “Currently, 80% of tablet traffic occurs in the home, in the evening, and Google is much more interested in user context vs. user hardware.”

In other words, tablets are the new laptops/desktops.


Korea’s shrinking market: domestic smart device market size likely to shrink for two years >> BusinessKorea

[Research company IDC] mentioned a decline in smartphone supply as the main culprit of the negative growth of the domestic market. The smartphone segment used to account for 80% of the overall smart device market, but the domestic supply is forecast to drop by 20.5% to 17.54m units and the sales by 29.2% to 12.345trn won (US$11.1bn) this year.

“The smartphone market has already reached a saturation point, and the market downturn has been accelerated by the recent suspension of the business of mobile carriers, the Terminal Distribution Structure Improvement Act and the crisis of Pantech,” IDC Korea explained.

Non-tablet PC demand is on the decline as well, with more and more people using their smartphones and tablet PCs instead of conventional PCs.

That’s a steep drop in Samsung’s and LG’s homeland.


OMG! Mobile voice survey reveals teens love to talk >> Official Google Blog

Mobile voice searches have doubled in the past year, says Google, which commissioned a study of 1,400 US adults so it could commission an annoying infographic:

We weren’t surprised to find that teens — always ahead of the curve when it comes to new technology—talk to their phones more than the average adult. More than half of teens (13-18) use voice search daily — to them it’s as natural as checking social media or taking selfies. Adults are also getting the hang of it, with 41% talking to their phones every day and 56% admitting it makes them “feel tech savvy.”

Those numbers feel high. Would love to know how they break down between smartphone platform; Google doesn’t specify that, and doesn’t show what the actual questions on the survey are.

Given that about half of smartphone owners in the US have iPhones, could it be that a significant portion of those people who use voice commands (because that’s what the survey asks about – not voice search) were actually asking Siri to do stuff?

Note though how Google cleverly elides from “voice search” (what it offers in the Google app) to voice commands – which don’t necessarily involve Google at all.


Digitimes Research: Lenovo mobile device shipments to lead Samsung by 9 million units in 2015 >> Digitimes

Note that by “mobile” it’s excluding smartphones, which might strike some as contrary. But anyway, Jim Hisiao and Joanne Chien report:

Despite difficulties to achieve further shipment growths for its tablet business, Lenovo with its advantage as the largest notebook brand vendor worldwide and aggressive promotions of its inexpensive and phone-enabled tablets is expected to achieve 50m in total tablet and notebook shipments in 2015, widening its gap with Samsung to 9m units.

Because tablet demand will weaken in 2015, Lenovo’s and Samsung’s strategies for the mobile computing device market are expected to focus on maintaining their tablet shipments. Digitimes Research believes Lenovo’s shipments for tablets with phone functions to emerging markets in 2015 are expected to remain strong…

…Samsung’s aggressive expansion of its tablet product line in the first half of 2014 did not receive a good response from the market. Since the company is expected to turn conservative about its tablet business and place most of the resources on the smartphone business in 2015, Digitimes Research expects the Korea-based vendor’s tablet shipments to drop to 36m units in the year.

As for the notebook business, after phasing out from the market in the second half of 2013, Samsung’s shipment volume has dropped rapidly and is only expected to reach 5m units in 2015.

Samsung’s essential weakness compared to Lenovo is its failure to make any profit from selling PCs.


Editorial: No comments. An experiment in elevating the conversation >> St Louis Post-Dispatch

Last Sunday, we challenged our region to have the serious discussion on race that it has been avoiding for decades. Such difficult discussions are made more challenging when, just to present a thoughtful point of view, you have to endure vile and racist comments, shouting and personal attacks.

If you’ve watched many of the talking heads on cable television try to discuss the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, you know what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, sometimes comments on newspaper stories and columns have a similar effect.

In fact, it has a name: “The nasty effect.”

That’s what University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele dubbed the negative effect certain comments can have on a reader’s understanding.

Comments on general news sites are a waste of the readers’ (and arguably writers’) time. I wonder how much further this trend will go.


Apple trial continues, without a plaintiff for now >> Associated Press

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers scolded Marianna Rosen and her attorneys on Monday for not providing more complete information about the iPods Rosen had purchased. That came after Apple lawyers successfully argued that the devices purchased by Rosen were not among those affected by the lawsuit.

But the judge also rejected Apple’s argument that the case should be dismissed because it’s too late to name a new plaintiff. She ordered the attorneys suing Apple to identify a new person, by Tuesday, who can serve as a lead plaintiff.

Both sides estimate about 8 million people bought iPods that are potentially affected by the lawsuit, which focuses on Apple’s use of restrictive software that prevented iPods from playing music purchased from competitors of Apple’s iTunes store. The plaintiffs say that amounted to unfair competition and that Apple was able to sell iPods at inflated prices because the software froze makers of competing devices out of the market.

Apple is carving out entirely new areas of law. There was the antitrust case where it had the minority share (in ebooks), and now a class action (also with antitrust implications) where none of the plaintiffs shows up. Presumably a suitable plaintiff will have to show that they bought music from Real and that it was deleted… but that they then couldn’t reload it or play it on any device, or only on the iPods? Did Apple explicitly promise that they would be able to buy music bought from anywhere on it? (I don’t think so.) The limits of this case aren’t clear.


Robots, not humans, fake 23% of web video ad views, study finds >> Bloomberg

Computers being remotely operated by hackers account for almost one in four views of digital video ads worldwide, according to a study that estimates such fraud will cost advertisers $6.3bn next year.

The fake views, which also account for 11% of other display ads, often take place in the middle of the night when the owners of the hijacked computers are asleep.

The result is retailers, automakers and other companies paying for web advertisements that are never seen by humans, or are seen by fewer people than they are paying for, according to the report released today by the Association of National Advertisers, whose members include Wal-Mart Stores, Ford Motor Co. and Wendy’s.

“We’re being robbed,” said Bob Liodice, president and chief executive officer of the New York-based association, which has 640 members that spend more than $250bn a year in advertising. “This isn’t about system inefficiencies or process sloppiness. This is about criminal activity.”

Between this and Google’s announcement that half of all online ads aren’t actually viewed, a lot of the basis for the online advertising business begins to look a bit shaky.


China’s polluted soil is tainting the country’s food supply >> Businessweek

A new study from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center examines the results of nearly 5,000 soil samples from vegetable plots across China. Roughly a quarter of the sampled areas were polluted. The most common problem is high soil concentrations of heavy metals—such as cadmium, lead, and zinc—which leach out from open mines and industrial sites and into surrounding farmland.

Plants grown in tainted soil can absorb heavy metals. People who ingest high levels of heavy metals over an extended time can develop organ damage and weakened bones, among other medical conditions.


Start up: tablet slowdown, find that toilet!, does live music pay?, BlackBerry’s iPhone offer, and more


“Finally, I got my iPad” by juehuayin on Flickr

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely.

Worldwide tablet growth expected to slow to 7.2% in 2014 along with first year of iPad decline >> IDC

The worldwide tablet market is expected to see a massive deceleration in 2014 with year-over-year growth slowing to 7.2%, down from 52.5% in 2013, according to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC). At the core of this slowdown is the expectation that 2014 will represent the first full year of decline in Apple iPad shipments. Both the iPad and the overall market slowdown do not come as a surprise as device lifecycles for tablets have continued to lengthen, increasingly resembling those of PCs more than smartphones.

“The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets,” said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2-3 years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks.”


The Great British Public Toilet Map >> Gail Knight

The Great British Public Toilet Map launched last Wednesday 19th November on World Toilet Day*

Previous versions of the map have existed since 2011, but this is now the largest publicly accessible toilet database in the UK by some way. It has over 9500 toilets, and I’d be confident of saying that the map will help you to find toilets no matter where you live.

If for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t, you can add, edit and remove toilets until it does! We’ve had over 1000 toilets added this week.

AT LAST. I judged a competition in April 2011 where this was one of the entries – and nearly the winner.


How Sonos and John MacFarlane built the perfect wireless speaker for streaming music >> Businessweek

[Mark] Trammell [a designer formerly at Digg and Twitter] likes to interview customers in their homes, sometimes in the moment when a Sonos speaker first arrives and a family is taking it out of the box and deciding where it should go.

“They’re looking for a Sonos-size hole to fill,” he says. The small Play:1 is good for bathrooms and kitchens; the Play:5 tends to go in living rooms and dens. The accessories allow for attaching other kinds of sound equipment, such as weatherproof outdoor speakers, to the network. The average Sonos household has 2.1 units.

A key moment tends to be when family members discover how to add to and remix playlists together. Mark Whitten, Sonos’s chief product officer, compares the experience to that of the Xbox. “The reason gaming consoles became ascendant wasn’t because of the games,” he says. “It’s because two kids were sitting on a couch, playing together.” Whitten was hired six months ago from Microsoft, where he introduced and oversaw much of the Xbox, including Xbox Live.

On an upward curve. Will someone buy them?


Automation makes us dumb >> WSJ

Nick Carr:

Late last year, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration taskforce on cockpit technology documented a growing link between crashes and an over-reliance on automation. Pilots have become “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive,” the panel warned. The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to spend more time flying by hand…

…Ten years ago, information scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands had a group of people carry out complicated analytical and planning tasks using either rudimentary software that provided no assistance or sophisticated software that offered a great deal of aid. The researchers found that the people using the simple software developed better strategies, made fewer mistakes and developed a deeper aptitude for the work. The people using the more advanced software, meanwhile, would often “aimlessly click around” when confronted with a tricky problem. The supposedly helpful software actually short-circuited their thinking and learning.


Lee Rigby Woolwich report in full >> The Guardian

Report by parliament’s intelligence and security committee setting out what the intelligence services knew before 2013 Woolwich killing of fusilier by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale

Worth reading in depth if you’re interested in how security services operate, and what they can (and can’t) get from data. For example: the killers were known, but low priority; a tapping order took a month to be signed; submarine cables are tapped, but even if their discussions had been picked up by them, the fact neither was under “active” observation means key comments would have been missed.


The Lee Rigby murder doesn’t justify an extension of internet snooping powers >> The Guardian

I wrote on the report:

the ISC [Intelligence Services Committee] has a point here. As the report highlights, when internet companies discover accounts associated with child exploitation, they are quick to pass on details to the authorities. But if someone suggests “let’s kill a soldier” in a message, the account is marked for closure. Adebowale had four out of seven internet accounts at one provider automatically closed over suspected terror-related activity; yet none was reviewed by a human. That’s a clear failure to link the action – closing an account – and the reason; communications companies can’t seek public approval for trying to prevent child exploitation, yet wash their hands of terrorism discussions.

The BBC is saying that the Adebowale comment was made on Facebook. Expect more developments in the next few days.


Intel decides to keep tablet subsidies, say sources >> Digitimes

Facing domination from ARM-based processor suppliers such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, Intel’s subsidies including those for marketing, have helped reduce vendors’ costs by around US$20-30 and have attracted vendors such as Asustek Computer, Acer and Lenovo to place orders for Intel’s processors, the sources noted.

Although the strategy helps Intel to maintain a share of around 90% in the notebook market, the strategy has taken a heavy toll out of Intel in the mobile device market as the company has generated about US$7bn of losses from its mobile and communications business during the past two years and will continue to see losses in the fourth quarter, the sources noted.

Internally, Intel has been debating about whether to stay in the tablet market, but the company has decided to push for the market since its absence could impact its PC business and create a hole in its Internet of thing (IoT) lineup, the sources explained.

The logic is sound. And $20-30 could make the difference between profit and loss for some tablet makers.


Pomplamoose 2014 Tour Profits >> Medium

Jack Conte (half of Pomplamoose) does the numbers for the band’s recent self-financed tour:

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses.

We lost $11,819…

…The point of publishing all the scary stats is not to dissuade people from being professional musicians. It’s simply an attempt to shine light on a new paradigm for professional artistry.

We’re entering a new era in history: the space between “starving artist” and “rich and famous” is beginning to collapse. YouTube has signed up over a million partners (people who agree to run ads over their videos to make money from their content). The “creative class” is no longer emerging: it’s here, now.

We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.


Trade in your iPhone >> BlackBerry Trade Up

Trade your iPhone for a BlackBerry Passport and get up to $550!

For a limited time, starting December 1st.

Upgrade to a BlackBerry® Passport and get up to $400 back for your iPhone and an additional $150 from BlackBerry. Subject to Terms and Conditions.

To qualify for this offer, you must have purchased a BlackBerry Passport from select online retailers on or after December 1st, 2014.

BlackBerry essentially gives you $150, and you get a tradein of $90-$400 depending on iPhone model. Doesn’t seem to tie you to owning the Passport for any length of time, so the arbitrage-minded might like to see how easy it would be to round-trip this: cheap secondhand iPhone from drawer -> get BlackBerry Passport -> sell off Passport -> get cheap iPhone -> repeat? The problem might lie in the third step though.

Unlikely there will be a rush of iPhone owners to bankrupt BlackBerry, but also gives an insight into roughly how much it values each user: must be more than $150 over typical contract length.


Whistling Google: PLEASE! Brussels can only hurt Europe, not us >> The Register

Andrew Orlowski, on the European Parliament’s inconsequential (yet consequential) motion to make Google split services from search:

Google today wields enormous power over other industries, in a way Microsoft never could, even at the zenith of its influence. Newspapers didn’t close, and musicians didn’t go hungry, because Windows was late. No Active X control ever destroyed an economic sector. Yet you can plausibly argue that the consequences for European industry and its citizens freedoms are at least indirectly attributable to Google’s strategic use (and abuse) of other people’s property and personal effects…

…DCMA provisions were designed to protect ISPs and other service providers in the mid-1990s, when the public internet was in its infancy.

Today, they are favourable to huge internet aggregators, and load the deck against individuals and tiny companies seeking to protect their work. Google required the music company to promise not to sue an unlicensed uploader, thereby protecting Google’s supply chain. “You can sign and get a fraction of a penny,” Google was saying, “or you can refuse to sign and get nothing. It’s up to you – but either way, we’ll use your work and make money off it.”

As he points out, though, the European Commission is hopelessly screwed in both its aims and implementation of anything digital.