Archiv für den Monat März 2015

WhatsApp Call: Details zum kostenlosen VoIP-Telefonie-Dienst

WhatsApp Call ist offiziell gestartet. zeigt Ihnen den kostenlosen VoIP-Dienst des Smartphone-Messengers in Bildern:
welche neuen Funktionen und Menüs die Android-Anwendung von WhatsApp ab sofort mit sich bringt

WhatsApp Call: So sieht die Nutzung in der Praxis aus

Nachdem ein WhatsApp Call angenommen wurde, lässt sich das Gespräch wie bei einem herkömmlichen Telefonat über das Mobilfunknetz führen. Die Übertragungsqualität ist abhängig vom verwendeten Smartphone und natürlich auch vom Internet-Zugang, der während der Verbindung am Smartphone zur Verfügung steht.

Während des Anrufs werden Name und Profilbild des Gesprächspartners angezeigt. Mit der virtuellen roten Taste lässt sich das Telefonat beenden. Dazu können die Freisprech-Funktion ein- und ausgeschaltet werden, das eigene Mikrofon lässt sich deaktivieren und wieder abschalten und es besteht auch die Möglichkeit, vorübergehend ins Chat-Fenster zu wechseln, um eine Textnachricht zu übermitteln. Diese bekommt der Gesprächspartner aber nicht sofort angezeigt, sondern erst dann, wenn er ebenfalls den Chat aufruft.

Auf der fünften Seite sehen Sie, was passiert, wenn Sie einen WhatsApp-Kunden anrufen möchten, der bereits einen WhatsApp Call führt.

WhatsApp Call während einer Sprachverbindung

Doing Business the Steve Jobs Way


Steve Jobs started out as an asshole — but, a new book says, he got better.

That, in a nutshell, is the takeaway from Becoming Steve Jobs, a new biography of the late Apple CEO, which tries to provide nuance to the oft-told story of Jobs‘ professional rise at Apple, including the wilderness years that followed after being pushed out and his triumphant return.

The book’s authors, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzli, suggest that much of Jobs’s professional image as a mercurial manager was shaped by „stereotypes that had been created way back in the 1980s,“ before he and Apple retreated from the press. „Perhaps that’s why the posthumous coverage reflected those stereotypes,“ the authors speculate.

Between that initial wave of press coverage and his return to Apple, Jobs‘ personality and management style shifted in subtle and not so subtle ways as a result of the struggles of NeXT, his follow-up effort, as well as inspiration from the creatives at Pixar, which he acquired and later sold to Disney. Just as importantly, the book claims Jobs was changed by falling in love with his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and starting a family.

Some elements of Jobs‘ management style stayed consistent, however.

He continued to push for „outrageous goals,“ as the authors put it, and he could still be severe and argumentative with colleagues. Yet the book suggests that his level of discipline, empathy and flexibility increased over the years to help compensate for his negative traits.

The book provides good lessons for all leaders, insofar as Jobs has become a widely observed case study for the archetype of the genius founder. The book highlights the sometimes contradictory leadership traits of a man who is quoted in the book as saying, „I didn’t want to be a businessman,“ and then went on to become arguably the most influential businessman of his generation. Here are the most revealing anecdotes.

Even visionaries need to hear realtalk

While Jobs often acted like someone who thought he knew best, the CEO nonetheless sought out mentors in the tech industry, including the founders of Intel, Hewlett Packard, Polaroid, National Semiconductor and others. Some, like Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, would remain lifelong advisors, sometimes to the exhaustion of the mentors:

Unable to sleep that night, Steve called his friend and confidant Andy Grove at 2 a.m. Steve told Grove that he was torn about whether or not to return as Apple’s CEO, and wound his way through his tortured deliberations. As the conversation dragged on, Grove, who wanted to get back to sleep, broke in and growled: „Steve, look. I don’t give a shit about Apple. Just make up your mind.“

Steve Jobs, the father figure

At NeXT, the computer company he launched after leaving Apple, Jobs was guilty of micromanaging, making impulsive bad hires and is described as an „equal-opportunity abuser“ who yelled at engineers as well as executives. But he also tried to be more of a „father figure,“ according to one former employee quoted in the book. His paternal instincts coincided with his own first attempt at being a father to the daughter he’d had out of wedlock and publicly rejected.

„Steve hosted annual ‚family picnics‘ for his employees in Menlo Park. They were kid-oriented Saturday affairs, featuring clowns, volleyball, burgers and hot dogs, and even hokey events like sack races,“ according to the book.

Later, at Pixar, Jobs gave a top filmmaker a small bonus and demanded he use it to buy a better car. „It has to be safe, and I have to approve it,“ Jobs is quoted as saying.

When he returned to Apple, Job is compelled to cut much of the staff and reorganize, but he expresses grief in a way that the brash young Jobs may not have.

„I still do it because that’s my job,“ Jobs is quoted as telling the authors. „But when I look at people when this happens, I also think of them as being five years old, kind of like I look at my kids. And I think that that could be me coming home to tell my wife and kids that I just got laid off. Or that it could be one of my kids in twenty years. I never took it so personally before.“

No reviews, little praise for direct reports

Those who worked for Jobs could expect an earful from the executive when dealing with him on any given day, but they rarely received formal reviews and feedback. „Steve didn’t believe in reviews,“ one former employee says. „He disliked all the formality. His feeling was, ‚I give you feedback all the time, so what do you need a review for?“

Likewise, he was less than generous in doling out praise to employees. Instead, he would show it by taking the best employees on walks. „Those walks mattered,“ recalled another employee. „You’d think to yourself, ‚Steve is a rock star,‘ so getting quaity time felt like an honor in some ways.“

Jobs‘ work/life balance

Early in his career, Jobs burned the midnight oil in the office along with much of his team, but by the time he returned to Apple, he was more focused on trying to balance his work with his new family.

Rather than hover over the shoulders of star engineers and programmers, he could do much of his work via email. So he would make it home for dinner almost every night, spend time with Laurene and the kids, and then work at his computer late into the night…

On many nights, Jobs would work alongside his wife, Laurene, at home. As his wife tells the authors, „Neither of us had much of a social life. It was never that important to us.“

Make time for spirituality and meditation

Some have wondered over the years how a man who famously went off to India and embraced Buddhism could reconcile that with running the largest corporation in the world. As it turns out, he continued to meditate until he and his wife had kids, which cut down what little free time he had left. In fact, according to the book, Jobs „arranged for a Buddhist monk by the name of Kobun Chino Otogawa to meet with him once a week at his office to counsel him on how to balance his spiritual sense with his business goals.“

Embrace life

After his first cancer surgery in 2004, Jobs‘ leadership style changed again. He had more sense of „urgency“ to pursue innovative products, and less time and energy to handle other business issues, ranging from human resources to manufacturing.

„When he came back from that surgery he was on a faster clock,“ Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, tells the authors. „The company is always running on a fast-moving treadmill that doesn’t stop. But when he came back there was an urgency about him. I recognized it immediately.“

Perhaps that’s why he and his team at Apple went on to accomplish so much in the seven years he had left.

Facebook Is Testing A New App Called ‚Phone‘

Further Reading:


Facebook has accidentally leaked information about a new app that it’s testing, called ‘Phone,’ and this news should come as no surprise to anyone who believes Facebook wants to be at the center of how we communicate with the world around us. That includes with all elements of texting (through Messenger and WhatsApp) and increasingly, voice.

The app appears to be some sort of native dialler for Android that shows information about who is calling, and which automatically blocks calls from commonly blocked numbers. A spokesman confirmed to Venture Beat that Facebook was testing the service, after Android Police first posted a screenshots of an install update that should have only been seen by Facebook’s internal network. Thanks to Apple’s closed system it’s unlikely Facebook is even exploring making such an app for iOS.

Why does Facebook want to give its users a native dialler? Facebook has allowed users to make video calls through its desktop client since 2011, and voice calls through Facebook Messenger since early 2013. But both these services require that people on either end of the line are using the same Facebook feature, and the calls can only take place over a mobile carrier data network or WiFi.

A native dialler application would appear to be Facebook’s first service that coordinates with a carrier’s all-important voice network.

(It has yet to be confirmed that ‘Phone’ will filter calls being made to your phone number and not just between Facebook users, but the former seems likely. The video and audio calling features that Facebook already has don’t seem popular enough that users would want a separate app just to block VoIP calls – and most of the calls you want to block are spammers and marketers who managed to get hold of your mobile phone number anyway.)

In essence, Facebook appears to be trying to wedge itself a little further into the relationship between its users and carriers, when users are carrying out one of the most fundamental acts that telcos rely on to make money – making voice calls. That’s a crucial step both symbolically and practically, and the fact that the service is called ‘Phone’ suggests Facebook eventually wants to be part of the phone-calling experience that carriers still dominate.

International carriers like Vodafone and BT Group are still stinging from the huge bite of SMS revenues that WhatsApp, the globally popular messaging service with 700 million active users, took out over the last five years with its free texting service.

The messaging service, which Facebook bought last year, is now rolling out a free voice-calling service. While that won’t involve a native dialler, it looks set to take yet another chunk out of carrier revenues, this time in voice.

Should carriers be worried about Phone? It’s easy to dismiss a new, forthcoming app from Facebook as yet another failed experiment that will get tossed on the same heap where Slingshot, Poke and the Android launcher Facebook Home reside.

Yet even if Facebook’s users don’t fall in love with Phone, and the service doesn’t go much further beyond the testing phase, there’s no question the social network wants to become a more integral hub for our everyday communications. That could eventually mean weaning consumers off their reliance on carriers’ voice and texting services, and driving the role of carriers further down into the ground as “dumb pipes” that transport our data and not too much more.

Wie sicher ist die eSIM (Universal SIM)?

Der Vertrags- und Netzwechsel soll mit der eSIM einfacher werden. Wird es damit auch einfacher, eine Telefonnummer gegen den Willen des Nutzers zu entführen?
Von ,

Ende letzten Jahres führte Apple mit dem iPad Air 2 in den USA und Großbritannien die „Universal SIM“ ein. Mit dieser kann man den Datenvertrag wechseln, ohne die SIM-Karte tauschen zu müssen. Vielmehr werden bei einem Vertragswechsel einfach die neuen Zugangsdaten auf die SIM-Karte programmiert.

Wenn man sie richtig macht, hat eine eSIM für den Kunden einige Vorteile: Der Vertragswechsel geht schneller. So ist denkbar, mal eben online einen Prepaid-Vertrag für ein lokales Netz abzuschließen, wenn man sich im Ausland aufhält, um den teuren Roaming-Entgelten zu entgehen. Für Mobilfunkhändler, insbesondere solche, die Verträge von mehreren Netzbetreibern und/oder Resellern im Angebot haben, vereinfacht sich mit der eSIM auch die Logistik.

Entsprechend verwundert es nicht, dass sich auch die Netzbetreiber hierzulande mit der programmierbaren SIM-Karte, der eSIM, beschäftigen. Während Vodafone dieser derzeit ablehnend gegenübersteht, plant die Deutsche Telekom bereits die Einführung. Der dritte Netzbetreiber, Telefònica, will hingegen erstmal den finalen Standard abwarten, bevor eine Entscheidung getroffen wird.

Wie sicher?

Wie jüngst geschrieben, ist das Prinzip, geheime Schlüssel auf SIM-Karten zu verteilen, so etwas wie das Herz der Kommunikation in den Mobilfunknetzen. Wird die Sicherheit dieser geheimen Schlüssel kompromittiert, ist die Sicherheit der mobilen Kommunikation insgesamt verloren. Dann hört künftig möglicherweise nicht nur die NSA massenhaft Handy-Telefonate mit, sondern auch der neugierige Nachbar oder bei Firmen die Konkurrenz. Ebenso ist zu fürchten, dass es dann vermehrt zu Identitätsdiebstahl kommt, dass beispielsweise Handy-Nummern vorübergehend oder dauerhaft entführt werden, um sich als jemand anderes auszugeben.

Die Erfahrung mit den zahlreichen Sicherheitslücken in Computer-Betriebssystemen lehrt: Wenn die „Guten“, also die tatsächlich mit dem Vertragswechsel beauftragen neuen Netzbetreiber, ein Update der eSIM auf einen neuen Vertrag anstoßen können, dann brauchen die „Bösen“ nur einen Fehler im Protokoll zu finden, um ebenfalls Vollzugriff auf die eSIM zu erlangen. Und solche Lücken im Protokoll kommen durchaus häufiger vor. Aktuell diskutiert wird beispielsweise die Möglichkeit, über eine Lücke in SS7 fremde Handys zu orten.

Auch ohne dass sie über das Netz programmierbar sind, gehören die geheimen Codes der SIM-Karten bereits zu den bevorzugten Angriffszielen der NSA. Zwar könnte die Möglichkeit zum Fernupdate die Sicherheit der SIM-Karten sogar erhöhen, insbesondere, wenn für dieses Update zusätzliche, nicht von der NSA überwachte Kommunikationskanäle genutzt werden. Zu fürchten ist aber, dass sich die Situation verschlechtert. In vielen Fällen sind die Ziele „mehr Sicherheit“ und „mehr Komfort“ nicht gleichzeitig zu haben. Beim Thema „SIM-Karte“ ist mein persönlicher Favorit „mehr Sicherheit“. Von daher bevorzuge ich es, auch künftig mit dem Vertrag die SIM-Karte zu wechseln.

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Chinesischer Chemiekonzern ChemChina kauft italienischen Reifenhersteller Pirelli

Mit der Übernahme erhält ChemChina Zugang zur Technologie für die Herstellung von Premium-Reifen.

Der staatliche chinesische Chemiekonzern ChemChina will den italienischen Reifenhersteller Pirelli komplett übernehmen. In einem ersten Schritt haben sich die Chinesen für knapp 1,9 Milliarden Euro 26,2 Prozent der Anteile gesichert. Das Paket wurde dem Mehrheitseigner Camfin abgekauft. Der Preis je Aktie beträgt 15 Euro.

So viel wird auch den anderen Aktionären geboten. Gelingt die Komplettübernahme, müssten die Chinesen 7,1 Milliarden Euro auf den Tisch legen.

Die Italiener erhoffen sich von dem neuen Großaktionär einen besseren Zugang zum asiatischen Markt. So soll das Geschäft mit Lastwagen-Reifen mit Teilen von ChemChina zusammengelegt und so das Volumen in dem Bereich von 6 auf 12 Millionen verdoppelt werden.

Pirelli hostesses take pictures as drivers compete
Pirelli ist mit seinen Reifen auch in der Formel 1 vertreten

Pirelli erzielte im Vorjahr in 160 Ländern mehr als sechs Mrd. Euro Umsatz und ist damit der weltweit fünftgrößte Reifenproduzent. Der Firmensitz soll in Mailand bleiben. Auch die Produktion soll in Italien weitergeführt werden. Die Übernahme soll bis zum Sommer abgeschlossen sein.Die Pirelli-Aktie legte am Montag mehr als vier Prozent zu.

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Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?

The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech

This article is from NyTimes and is published on the Idea due to exigent health concerns:


Credit Tim Robinson

In a similar vein, some researchers and consumers are now asking whether wearable computers will be considered harmful in several decades’ time.

We have long suspected that cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems if held too close to the body for extended periods.

Yet here we are in 2015, with companies like Apple and Samsung encouraging us to buy gadgets that we should attach to our bodies all day long.

While there is no definitive research on the health effects of wearable computers (the Apple Watch isn’t even on store shelves yet), we can hypothesize a bit from existing research on cellphone radiation.

The most definitive and arguably unbiased results in this area come from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a panel within the World Health Organization that consisted of 31 scientists from 14 countries.

After dissecting dozens of peer-reviewed studies on cellphone safety, the panel concluded in 2011 that cellphones were “possibly carcinogenic” and that the devices could be as harmful as certain dry-cleaning chemicals and pesticides. (Note that the group hedged its findings with the word “possibly.”)

The W.H.O. panel concluded that the farther away a device is from one’s head, the less harmful — so texting or surfing the Web will not be as dangerous as making calls, with a cellphone inches from the brain. (This is why there were serious concerns about Google Glass when it was first announced and why we’ve been told to use hands-free devices when talking on cellphones.)

A longitudinal study conducted by a group of European researchers and led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology and cancer epidemiology at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, concluded that talking on a mobile or cordless phone for extended periods could triple the risk of a certain kind of brain cancer.

There is, of course, antithetical research. But some of this was partly funded by cellphone companies or trade groups.

One example is the international Interphone study, which was published in 2010 and did not find strong links between mobile phones and an increased risk of brain tumors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 2014 that “more research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects.”

Another study, in The BMJ, which measured cellphone subscription data rather than actual use, said there was no proof of increased cancer. Yet even here, the Danish team behind the report acknowledged that a “small to moderate increase” in cancer risk among heavy cellphone users could not be ruled out.

But what does all this research tell the Apple faithful who want to rush out and buy an Apple Watch, or the Google and Windows fanatics who are eager to own an alternative smartwatch?

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician who focuses on alternative medicine and has written extensively about the potential harmful effects of cellphones on the human body, said that as long as a wearable does not have a 3G connection built into it, the harmful effects are minimal, if any.

“The radiation really comes from the 3G connection on a cellphone, so devices like the Jawbone Up and Apple Watch should be O.K.,” Dr. Mercola said in a phone interview. “But if you’re buying a watch with a cellular chip built in, then you’ve got a cellphone attached to your wrist.” And that, he said, is a bad idea.

(The Apple Watch uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to receive data, and researchers say there is no proven harm from those frequencies on the human body. Wearables with 3G or 4G connections built in, including the Samsung Gear S, could be more harmful, though that has not been proved. Apple declined to comment for this article, and Samsung could not be reached for comment.)

Researchers have also raised concerns about having powerful batteries so close to the body for extended periods of time. Some reports over the last several decades have questioned whether being too close to power lines could cause leukemia (though other research has also negated this).

So what should consumers do? Perhaps we can look at how researchers themselves handle their smartphones.

While Dr. Mercola is a vocal proponent of cellphone safety, he told me to call him on his cell when I emailed about an interview. When I asked him whether he was being hypocritical, he replied that technology is a fact of life, and that he uses it with caution. As an example, he said he was using a Bluetooth headset during our call.

In the same respect, people who are concerned about the possible side effects of a smartwatch should avoid placing it close to their brain (besides, it looks a little strange). But there are some people who may be more vulnerable to the dangers of these devices: children.

While researchers debate about how harmful cellphones and wearable computers actually are, most agree that children should exercise caution.

In an email, Dr. Hardell sent me research illustrating that a child’s skull is thinner and smaller than an adult’s, which means that children’s brain tissues are more exposed to certain types of radiation, specifically the kind that emanates from a cellphone.

Children should limit how much time they spend talking on a cellphone, doctors say. And if they have a wearable device, they should take it off at night so it does not end up under their pillow, near their brain. Doctors also warn that women who are pregnant should be extra careful with all of these technologies.

But what about adults? After researching this column, talking to experts and poring over dozens of scientific papers, I have realized the dangers of cellphones when used for extended periods, and as a result I have stopped holding my phone next to my head and instead use a headset.

That being said, when it comes to wearable computers, I’ll still buy the Apple Watch, but I won’t let it go anywhere near my head. And I definitely won’t let any children I know play with it for extended periods of time.

Addendum: March 21, 2015 Editors’ Note on
The Disruptions column in the Styles section on Thursday, discussing possible health concerns related to wearable technology, gave an inadequate account of the status of research about cellphone radiation and cancer risk.

Neither epidemiological nor laboratory studies have found reliable evidence of such risks, and there is no widely accepted theory as to how they might arise. According to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all said there is no convincing evidence for a causal relationship. While researchers are continuing to study possible risks, the column should have included more of this background for balance.

In addition, one source quoted in the article, Dr. Joseph Mercola, has been widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments. More of that background should have been included, or he should not have been cited as a source.

An early version of the headline for the article online — “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?” — also went too far in suggesting any such comparison.

You’re Never Too Old To Start A New Venture, Look At These Famous Entrepreneurs

Mark Zuckerberg and the current lot of 20-something CEOs are ruining it for people like us who’re facing a mid-life crisis. This infographic gets back at those young pricks and proves why it’s never to late to start your own venture.


Did you know?
McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc sold paper cups and milkshake mixers till he was 52
Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling was a single mom on welfare till she was 31
Harrison Ford was a carpenter till his 30s
Zara founder Amancio Ortega was a shirt shop helper till he was 30
Evan Williams co-founded Twitter at the age of 35
Niklas Zennstromm was 37 when he created Skype
Arianna Huffington started Huffington Post at the age of 54
Still not convinced? Here’s more:

So if you haven’t come up with that billion dollar idea yet, don’t worry, there’s still time.



Google balloons, “cell towers in the sky,” can serve 4G to a whole state

A single Project Loon balloon can cover an area the size of Rhode Island.

Getting ready for launch.

Google’s plan to deliver Internet service from balloons in the stratosphere has come a long way since being unveiled in June 2013.

A single “Project Loon” balloon can now remain in the air for more than six months and provide 4G LTE cellular service to an area the size of Rhode Island, according to Google. Company officials have taken to calling Loon balloons “cell towers in the sky.”

While there’s no announced date for a widespread service launch, Google has provided Internet to a school in Brazil and is partnering with cellular operators Vodafone New Zealand, Telstra in Australia, and Telefónica in Latin America.

The US probably won’t be the first place Loon powers a commercial service. Google is aiming to get more people in developing countries on the Internet (and that’s good for Google’s business, since a lot of those people will use Google services).

“For some countries, having Internet once a day for an hour is a huge deal,” Google software engineer Johan Mathe, who plays a key role designing Loon’s navigation system, told Ars in a phone interview last week.

Rather than offer Internet service itself as it does with Google Fiber, Google’s Project Loon is building technology that can integrate with the networks run by cellular operators. Telco operators can send signals from existing cell towers to Google’s balloons, and then the balloons send the signals down to smartphones and other cellular-connected devices. While Google says one balloon can cover an area the size of Rhode Island, the coverage area is really bigger than that because one balloon can send its signal to another balloon, which can then send Internet signals down to the ground. (A single balloon can cover an 80 km [49.7 miles] diameter. Rhode Island is 77 km [47.8 miles] north to south and 59.5 km [37 miles] east to west.)

“The main cost gain comes from the fact that you can cover a much bigger region with existing infrastructure,” Google told Ars. “Telcos take their preexisting infrastructure, point them to the sky, and they get a much broader coverage. For instance, if you already have towers to cover a city, you can point part of it to the sky, and you will be able to cover the whole region through the loon balloon network.”

The Loon devices are two balloons in one, an outer balloon filled with helium and a smaller one inside filled with air. “We can either pump air in it, which is going to make the balloon go down, or we can remove the air, which is going to make it go up. That’s how we change altitude,” Mathe explained.

Each balloon has a radio for sending and receiving signals and can send its GPS position to the ground so that Google’s mission control software can track it in real time.

A Project Loon balloon climbs up to the stratosphere.

Google has boosted the balloons’ potential altitude range from about 800 meters to a couple of kilometers, allowing more control over where they fly. Early on, Google could keep the balloons in the air for about five days. Now the average is more than 100 days, with a record of 187. A Google announcement this month gives a sense of how that flight was achieved:

In the same time it took the Earth to complete half of its annual orbit of the sun, our record-breaker managed to circumnavigate the globe 9 times, enduring temperatures as low as -75c (-103 F) and wind speeds as high as 291 km/h, soaring to a maximum height of 21 km and drifting over more than a dozen countries across 4 continents.

Having been in the air for just over 3 months we decided to put the balloon through its paces, making a series of altitude changes on its last circumnavigation to test our ability to fly north out of southern latitude bands. The test was successful and we managed to turn up to the Northern tip of Australia where we were able to access a much slower wind stream going in the opposite direction and sending our balloon lazily back over to South America. Finally, we brought it back into its original southern latitude band to swoop in and land in one of our Argentinian recovery zones for collection.

187 days is more than enough for Google’s purposes. In fact, the three-plus month average is enough because the company wants to be able to frequently upgrade the technology on the balloons, Mathe explained.

The shift from home Internet to cellular

When Loon started, Google was testing a system that delivered Internet service to antennas on people’s homes. Mathe explained that this was due at least partly to technology limitations. Project Loon is now capable of sending signals that can be picked up by the smaller antennas on phones.

“Because the power in a handset is smaller, you actually have to send more energy to send a data stream to a handset with a low antenna power than a… slightly more powered antenna you could have in a home,” he said.

There’s also a practical reason for focusing on cellular connectivity. “We see trends in developing countries where people are skipping laptops altogether and going straight to mobile,” Google spokesperson Katelin Jabbari told Ars.

Loon began with 3G-like speeds and is now using LTE, hitting about 10Mbps downloads. Real people have used Loon, but at small scales. “We’ve been doing extremely small experiments so far, one in Brazil where we gave Internet to a group providing Internet to a small school,” Mathe said.

A rural Brazilian school, Linoca Gayoso, gets Internet access for the first time, courtesy of Project Loon.

Loon could help carriers reach villages with tiny populations where it wouldn’t be economically feasible to build cell towers, Jabbari said. Google is negotiating with telecommunications partners to expand the tests into bigger pilot projects within the next year, with the goal of eventually starting commercial operations.

Google has also been doing short duration tests in California to evaluate connection technology and designs, but the long flights have been outside the US.

“Right now we are launching primarily from New Zealand,” Jabbari said. “We chose that latitude initially because there are good winds and New Zealand is really excited to have us. The countries we’re flying over were happy to give us overflight permission. Now we’ve gotten overflight permissions from all countries in the Southern Hemisphere.”

As for where pilot projects will begin, Jabbari said, “given that we have an established launch site in New Zealand and an established recovery zone in Latin America and other places, that’s where you’re most likely to see us, somewhere around there.” However, “we’ve had conversations with countries elsewhere and telcos elsewhere, those have all gone really well.” Jabbari said Google wants to create a “ring around the world” with its balloons.

What the service eventually looks like depends a lot on telecommunications providers.

“We’re actively looking for various partners everywhere to grow our potential,” Mathe said. “It really depends on partners and the kinds of things they want to provide to their customers and the kind of network access they want to provide.”


Siri creator Adam Cheyer nets $22.5 million for an Artificial Intelligence that can learn on its own

Viv Labs, a startup launched by a team that helped build Siri, just pulled in $12.5 million to finance a digital assistant that is able to teach itself.

TechCrunch first reported that Viv Labs has closed a Series B round led by Iconiq Capital that pushes the company’s valuation to „north of nine figures.“

A spokesperson for the company confirmed the investment to Mashable but declined to comment further.

According to TechCrunch, the company was not in need of new capital but was interested in the possibility of working with Iconiq, which Forbes has described as an „exclusive members-only Silicon Valley billionaires club.“ Together with a previous $10 million Series A round, the company has now raised a total of $22.5 million.

Unlike other digital assistants like Siri or Cortana, Viv can make up code on the fly, rather than relying on pre-programmed directives from developers.

Whereas Siri may be tripped up by questions or tasks it is not already programmed to understand, Viv can grasp natural language and link with a network of third-party information sources to answer a much wider range of queries or follow complex instructions.

Viv co-founders Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham previously served on the team that created Siri, which started as an iPhone app before Apple acquired it in 2010 for a reported $200 million.

“I’m extremely proud of Siri and the impact it’s had on the world, but in many ways it could have been more,” Kittlaus told Wired last year.

The cofounders told Wired that they hope to one day integrate Viv into everyday objects, in effect making it a voice-activated user interface for the much-hyped „Internet of Things.“

The company plans to widely distribute its software by licensing it out to any number of companies, instead of selling it to one exclusive buyer. One potential business model mentioned in the Wired report is charging a fee when companies using the service complete transactions with customers.

Viv Labs is reportedly working towards launching a beta version of the software sometime this year.


The company behind Viv, a powerful form of AI built by Siri’s creators which is able to learn from the world to improve upon its capabilities, has just closed on $12.5 million in Series B funding. Multiple sources close to the matter confirm the round, which was oversubscribed and values the company at north of nine figures.

The funding was led by Iconiq Capital, the so-called “Silicon Valley billionaires club” that operates a cross between a family office and venture capital firm.

While Iconiq may not be a household name, a Forbes investigation into its client list revealed people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz and Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and other big names were on its roster.

In addition to Iconiq, Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures and Pritzker Group VC also participated along with several private individuals. This new round follows the company’s $10 million Series A from Horizons, bringing the total funding to date to $22.5 million.

Viv Labs declined to comment on the investment.

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We understand that Viv Labs was not in need of new capital, but was rather attracted to the possibilities that working with Iconiq Capital provided. It was a round that was more “opportunistic” in nature, and was executed to accelerate the vision for the Viv product, which is meant to not only continue Siri’s original vision, but to actually surpass it in a number of areas.

Viv’s co-founders, Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham, had previously envisioned Siri as an AI interface that would become the gateway to the entire Internet, parsing and understanding people’s queries which were spoken using natural language.

When Siri first launched its product, it supported 45 services, but ultimately the team wanted to expand it with the help of third parties to access the tens of thousands of APIs available on the Internet today.

That didn’t come to pass, because Apple ended up acquiring Siri instead for $200 million back in 2010. The AI revolution the team once sought was left unfinished, and Siri became a device-centric product – one that largely connects users to Apple’s services and other iOS features. Siri can only do what it’s been programmed to do, and when it doesn’t know an answer, it kicks you out to the web.


Of course, Apple should be credited for seeing the opportunity to bring an AI system like Siri to the masses, by packaging it up and marketing it so people could understand its value. Siri investor Gary Morgenthaler, a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, who also invested personally in Viv Labs’ new round, agrees.

“Now 500 million people globally have access to Siri,” he says. “More than 200 million people use it monthly, and more than 100 million people use it every day. By my count, that’s the fastest uptake of any technology in history – faster than DVD, faster than smartphones – it’s just amazing,” Morgenthaler adds.

But Siri today is limited. While she’s able to perform simpler tasks, like checking your calendar or interacting with apps like OpenTable, she struggles to piece information together. She can’t answer questions that she hasn’t already been programmed to understand.

Viv is different. It can parse natural language and complex queries, linking different third-party sources of information together in order to answer the query at hand. And it does so quickly, and in a way that will make it an ideal user interface for the coming Internet of Things — that is, the networked, everyday objects that we’ll interact with using voice commands.

Wired article about Viv and its creators described the system as one that will be “taught by the world, know more than it was taught and it will learn something new everyday.”

Morgenthaler, who says he’s seen Viv in action, calls it “impressive.”

“It does what it claims to do,” he says. The part that still needs to be put into action, however, is the most crucial: Viv needs to be programmed by the world in order to really come to life.

Beyond Siri

While to some extent, Viv is the next iteration of Siri in terms of this vision of connecting people to a world of knowledge that’s accessed via voice commands, in many ways it’s very different. It’s potentially much more powerful than other intelligent assistants accessed by voice, including not only Siri, but also Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa.

Unlike Siri, the system is not static. Viv will have memory.

“It will understand its users in the aggregate, with respect to their language, their behavior, and their intent,” explains Morgenthaler. But it will also understand you and your own behavior and preferences, he says. “It will adjust its weighting and probabilities so it gets things right more often. So it will learn from its experiences in that regard,” he says.

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In Wired’s profile, Viv was described as being valuable to the service economy, ordering an Uber for you because you told the system “I’m drunk,” for example, or making all the arrangements for your date including the car, the reservations and even flowers.

Another option could be booking flights for business travelers, who speak multi-part queries like “I want a short flight to San Francisco with a return three days later via Dallas.” Viv would show you your options and you’d tell it to book the ticket – which it would proceed to do for you, already knowing things like your seat and meal preferences as well as your frequent flyer number.

Also unlike Siri today, Viv will be open to third-party developers. And it will be significantly easier for developers to add new functionality to Viv, as compared to Siri in the past. This openness will allow Viv to add new domains of knowledge to its “global brain” more quickly.

Having learned from their experiences with Apple, the Viv Labs team is not looking to sell its AI to a single company but instead is pursuing a business model where Viv will be made available to anyone with the goal of becoming a ubiquitous technology. In the future, if the team succeeds, a Viv icon may be found on Internet-connected devices, informing you of the device’s AI capabilities.

For that reason, the investment by Iconiq makes sense, given its clients run some of the largest Internet companies today.

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We understand that Viv will launch a beta of its software sometime this year, which will be the first step towards having it “programmed by the world.”

Morgenthaler says there’s no question that the team can deliver – after all, they took Siri from the whiteboard to a “world-changing technology” in just 28 months, he notes. The questions instead for Viv Labs are around scalability and its ability to bring in developers. It needs to deliver on all these big promises to users, and generate sufficient interest from the wider developer community. It also needs to find a distribution path and partners who will help bring it to market — again, things that Iconiq can help with.

But Viv Labs is not alone in pursing its goal. Google bought AI startup DeepMind for over half a billion, has since gone on to aqui-hire more AI teams and, as Wired noted, has also hired AI legends Geoffrey Hinton and Ray Kurzweil to join its company.

Viv may not deliver on its full vision right out of the gate, but its core engine has been built at this point and it works. Plus, the timing for AI’s next step feels right.

“The idea of embedding a microphone and Internet access is plummeting in price,” says Morgenthaler. “If access to global intelligence and the ability to recognize you, recognize your speech, understand what you said, and provide you services in an authenticated way – if that is available, that’s really transformative.”


Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales 2014


Led By iPhone 6, Apple Passed Samsung In Q4 Smartphone Sales, 1.9B Mobiles Sold Overall In 2014

If 2014 goes down as the year when smartphone sales globally passed the 1 billion mark (1.2 billion, to be exact, from a total of 1.9 billion mobile phones overall), Q4 will go down as the quarter when Samsung lost its footing as the world’s leader in the category for the first time since 2011. Today, Gartner published its figures for smartphone sales for the year and final quarter of 2014, and the numbers point to the juggernaut of the moment that is Apple.

In a period when overall there were 367.5 million devices sold, the iPhone maker overtook Samsung to sell the most smartphones in Q4, selling nearly 75 million devices compared to Samsung’s 73 million. While the margin between them does not seem particularly wide — it works out to a difference of 0.5 percentage points — it’s a significant reversal for the two.

The year before, Samsung sold over 83 million smartphones led by its Android-based Galaxy line, while Apple sold only 50 million devices. Samsung’s market share dropped 10 percentage points over the year. But with the introduction of the iPhone 6, things have changed.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q14 (Thousands of Units)

Company 4Q14Units 4Q14 Market Share (%) 4Q13Units 4Q13 Market Share (%)
Apple 74,832 20.4 50,224 17.8
Samsung 73,032 19.9 83,317 29.5
Lenovo* 24,300 6.6 16,465 5.8
Huawei 21,038 5.7 16,057 5.7
Xiaomi 18,582 5.1 5,598 2.0
Others 155,701.6 42.4 111,204.3 39.3
Total 367,484.5 100.0 282,866.2 100.0

Source: Gartner (March 2015) *Results for Lenovo include sales of mobile phones by Lenovo and Motorola.

“Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013,” writes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. “This downward trend shows that Samsung’s share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure.”

Indeed, the profits have been an important measure of how mobile handset makers have been faring. Strategy Analytics points out that Apple accounted for nearly 90% of all smartphone profits in Q4.

Other notable movers in the quarter were Lenovo, Huawei and Xiaomi. The last of these more than tripled the number of units that it sold between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, with its most recent figure of 18.6 million quickly catching up to Huawei’s 21 million and Lenovo’s 24 million handsets. Still, even combined, the three are not yet at the same market share as Samsung or Apple at the moment.

The overall figures for the year point to Samsung’s problems starting directly in the wake of Apple’s renewed energy in the market after the launch of its two iPhone 6 models. There, Samsung still more than dominated, with 307.6 million handsets sold and a 24.7% share of the market, compared to Apple’s 191.4 million and 15.4%.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2014 (Thousands of Units)

Company 2014Units 2014 Market Share (%) 2013Units 2013 Market Share (%)
Samsung 307,597 24.7 299,795 30.9
Apple 191,426 15.4 150,786 15.5
Lenovo* 81,416 6.5 57,424 5.9
Huawei 68,081 5.5 46,609 4.8
LG Electronics 57,661 4.6 46,432 4.8
Others 538,710 43.3 368,675 38.0
Total 1,244,890 100.0 969,721 100.0

Source: Gartner (March 2015) *Results for Lenovo include sales of mobile phones by Lenovo and Motorola.

So what will Samsung have to do differently to try to reverse course? Gartner suggests a more exclusive and unique approach for the handset maker, not unlike what Apple and OEMs like Xiaomi working on forked Android devices are doing.

“With Apple dominating the premium phone market and the Chinese vendors increasingly offering quality hardware at lower prices, it is through a solid ecosystem of apps, content and services unique to Samsung devices that Samsung can secure more loyalty and longer-term differentiation at the high end of the market,” writes Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

This is a bit of a broken record, of course: people have been talking for years about how Samsung and others like HTC need to create more differentiated experiences for its Galaxy devices to avoid the fate of being me-too Android acolytes. But despite its work on Tizen and other developments such is its Knox security suite aimed at enterprises, I’d argue that Samsung has yet to take that kind of strategy to heart, considering that its Galaxy line continues to be the mainstay and core of its smartphone strategy.

The reason for this is because Android continues to be a have a very powerful pull in the market. In 2014, Google’s operating system saw its share inch up past the 80% mark of all devices sold, or over 1 billion units (a figure that echoes those from other analysts).

This not only drives stickiness and familiarity with the operating system among consumers, but there is a whole ecosystem around Android apps, by way of the Google Play store, and native services that Google itself develops. Part from Google’s Android implementations, and you part ways with these services — a prospect that is not insurmountable but requires years of effort and investment to do so.

The bigger picture for other operating systems, in comparison to Android, is of shrinking market share even amidst wider growth. Apple’s and Windows’ market shares declined even as volumes respectively rose to 191 million and 35 million units. And BlackBerry continued to drop, now with only 0.6% of all smartphone sales on unit sales of 8 million — a drop of 10 million units.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 2014 (Thousands of Units)

Operating System 2014Units 2014 Market Share (%) 2013Units 2013 Market Share (%)
Android 1,004,675 80.7 761,288 78.5
iOS 191,426 15.4 150,786 15.5
Windows 35,133 2.8 30,714 3.2
BlackBerry 7,911 0.6 18,606 1.9
Other OS 5,745 0.5 8,327 0.9
Total 1,244,890 100.0 969,721 100.0

Source: Gartner (March 2015)

Drilling into Apple’s performance geographically, Gartner says that sales in China were up 56% while those in the U.S. were up 88% as the company finally played to the big screen crowd.

“Apple’s strong ecosystem and its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus drove strong replacements within the iOS base. These new smartphones also offered new users, who are looking for larger screen phones, a strong alternative to Android,” Gartner writes.

The bigger picture for mobile phone sales points to another interesting trend. While smartphones are now at 1.2 billion in annual unit sales, there is still a very sizeable feature phone market, with 700 million of these sold in 2014. And with the exception of Samsung, Apple and Microsoft — which now also counts Nokia’s legacy feature phone business among its total sales — we have a very even and long spread of other handset makers.

And “others” accounted for 33.5% of all sales, the biggest category of all — a timely reminder of the long tail of the industry, given this week’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. “All regions recorded growth in 2014, except Japan and Western Europe, which recorded declines of 2.8 per cent and 9.1 per cent, respectively,” Gartner notes.

As with smartphones, Samsung is also leading in the overall mobile category, with 20.9% market share although that is down by about four percentage points over 2013.

Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2014 (Thousands of Units)

Company 2014Units 2014 Market Share (%) 2013Units 2013 Market Share (%)
Samsung 392,546 20.9 444,472 24.6
Apple 191,426 10.2 150,786 8.3
Microsoft 185,660 9.9 250,835 13.9
Lenovo* 84,029 4.5 66,463 3.7
LG Electronics 76,096 4.0 69,094 3.8
Huawei 70,499 3.8 53,296 2.9
TCL Communication 64,026 3.4 49,538 2.7
Xiaomi 56,529 3.0 13,423 0.7
ZTE 53,910 2.9 59,903 3.3
Sony 37,791 2.0 37,596 2.1
Micromax 37,094 2.0 25,431 1.4
Others 629,360 33.5 587,764 32.5
Total 1,878,968 100.0 1,808,600 100.0

Source: Gartner (March 2015) *Results for Lenovo include sales of mobile phones by Lenovo and Motorola.