Zach Miners,IDG News Service, 5/21/3
The speed and developer tools from Chrome desktop OS are being brought to Android mobile devices
Google has shown off new features that can reduce data consumption and improve Web performance on Android-powered mobile devices, drawing partly from capabilities already supported in the Chrome desktop OS.
The improvements include new file compression formats for images and video, and a new commerce system that makes shopping easier on mobile devices, Google said at its I/O developer conference Wednesday.
The idea is to bring some of the capabilities that Chrome offers on the desktop to the Chrome mobile browser, said Sundar Pichai, head of the Android and Chrome operating systems at Google.
“Our goal is to make the Web better, both on the desktop and mobile,” said Linus Upson, VP of engineering for Chrome.
The mobile Chrome browser will get faster, for instance, by incorporating Google’s WebP open-source image compression technology. The format creates image files that are 30 percent smaller than JPEGs, which will help reduce data use and also conserve battery life, Upson said.
WebP also supports lossy and lossless image compression, transparency, color profiles and animated images, meaning it can be a replacement for GIFs. It also supports the photo metadata supported by other image formats.
Images comprise 60 percent of the bytes downloaded with Web pages, so a better image format can speed up mobile Web browsing, Upson said. Some online services, such as Google+ and Facebook, have already adopted the royalty-free WebP format.
Google’s VP9 video compression format is also being brought to Chrome on mobile devices. It’s designed to deliver better quality video at lower data rates than the widely used H.264 format, Google said.
VP9 offers roughly a 50 percent savings in data bandwidth usage over H.264, Upson said. That could make a big difference to people struggling to stay within their monthly data usage limits.
YouTube will start supporting VP9 later this year.
“We want all websites to take advantage of these new technologies,” said Upson.
In the interim, Google will offer a “data compression proxy,” currently in beta for Android, which provides an alternative way to reduce data usage and speed up mobile browsing, by using proxy servers hosted by Google. The technology can reduce data usage by 50 percent, Google said.
Google also wants to improve the buying experience on phones and tablets. The average check-out process involves filling out 21 fields on a smartphone, according to Google, with an average abandoned shopping cart rate of 97 percent.
To address the issue, Google has built a feature into Chrome that collects the user’s payment info and makes it available across other devices. At participating shopping sites, when the user goes to check out at an online store, a form will appear with the person’s payment information already filled in. The person can just review the billing and shipping information and hit “submit,” Google said.
“The goal here is to be able to allow developers to create their own tags, use them on a phone, and then take those same components onto a tablet,” said Upson.
There has been a lot of speculation that Chrome and Android will be brought closer together now that they are run by the same person. Google’s Andy Rubin left his post as head of Android in March.
Use of the Chrome browser has been growing steadily over the past couple of years, Google said at I/O. At the time of last year’s show, there were 450 million monthly active users, and there are now more than 750 million, Google reported.
“We’re just beginning to push the mobile Web forward,” said Google’s Pichai.
In: Android, Mobile Technology
Mobile versions of websites are so 2009.
You know those clunky, stripped-down versions of sites with addresses that tack an “m.” onto the beginning, and serve up a dumbed-down, limited version of their content? If Google has its way, those sites are headed for the dustbin of history.
At I/O, Google’s developer conference held this week in San Francisco, executives Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson showed off examples of websites that traveled smoothly from desktops to tablets to smartphones. A website for the upcoming second installment of the Hobbit movie franchise let you soar above Middle Earth on many devices. And a racing game had cars leaping from smartphone to tablet to laptop.
The vehicle of this, of course, is Google’s Chrome Web browser, which is now available across all those platforms (including, as of last year’s edition of the I/O conference, Apple’s iPhone and iPad).
The point of the demonstrations: You should be able to build your website once and have it adapt to different computing environments, a notion called “responsive design.” Rather than force the creator of a website to design for specific screen sizes and interfaces – like keyboards versus touch screens, say – or force users to go through contortions to use websites optimized for the limitations of the wrong device, websites should just sense what computing device is being used and reconfigure themselves accordingly.
Just a few years ago, that sounded like a pipe dream – hence, the proliferation of mobile-optimized websites standing alongside full desktop versions.
At ReadWrite, we haven’t just been writing about responsive design. Since last October, when we launched a major redesign of our site, we’ve been living it. So we’re naturally biased in favor of this concept.
It will take time and effort to rearchitect websites for this reality. And there will always be those holdouts- particularly within large, slow-moving businesses – who insist on designing for older versions of Web browsers or mobile devices. Legacy technologies which haven’t made the cross-platform leap, like Adobe’s fading Flash, need to be winnowed out. But those problem areas will increasingly be the exception, not rule.
Let’s just have one Web. That seems easier.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Flash
The Next Web, 5/21/13
Verizon has teamed up with privacy and business virtualization firm VMware to offer its Horizon Mobile virtual workspace solution on the LG Optimus Vu – known as the LG Intuition in the United States – and the Motorola RAZR M.
The concept is similar to BlackBerry Balance, a technology designed to separate and protect data stored for work and personal use on a single smartphone. LG said today that the new software built into the Optimus Vu “essentially divides the smartphone’s operating system in half”, creating a safe space for corporate-controlled business applications and information.
The LG Optimus Vu, which offers a rather square 5-inch HD-IPS display (768×1024 resolution) and a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8660 Snapdragon processor, will be reintroduced with the new software -despite being overshadowed by its successor, the Optimus Vu 2.
The LG Intuition was designed to go up against the Samsung Galaxy Note and Note II when it launched in the United States in September last year, but failed to gain any sort of meaningful traction with consumers. The device was met with some mixed reviews, but Samsung’s colossal marketing spend was no doubt a contributing factor.
The Motorola RAZR M, meanwhile, is an LTE-enabled Android smartphone with a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display and a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon processor. It’s not a bad device by any means, but neither is it one of Verizon’s most sough-after handsets. Precisely why these average smartphones were chosen over any other devices offered by Verizon is unclear.
Regardless, data protection is becoming an increasingly important element of any smartphone or tablet. As more businesses adopt the ‘bring-your-own-device’ policy in the office, consumers are having to address the best way to separate this data on a daily basis.
The addition of VMware Horizon Mobile lets users run a second operating system on both the Motorola RAZR M and the LG Intuition, keeping both work and personal applications isolated. It’s a better option than the current range of app container-based solutions, according to LG.
“LG and VMware are addressing the challenges IT departments face every day due to BYOD and the consumerization of IT,” said Boaz Chalamish, senior vice president and general manager of end-user computing at VMware.
“Creating a separate virtual workspace on a mobile device enables IT to provide security and control, while also reducing the burden and liability of managing the entire device. This approach strikes the best balance between addressing IT security needs and end-user freedom.”
Verizon says support for additional devices will be made available as the year progresses.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: BYOD, LTE, Motorola, Samsung, Verizon
Innovative product development firm Cambridge Consultants has collaborated with Airspan, a leading vendor of LTE small cells and broadband wireless products and solutions, to boost the data capacity capabilities of Airspan’s heterogenous network (HetNet) base stations.
The enhancements include LTE-Advanced features that support the deployment of HetNets, allowing operators to deploy small cells on the same radio channel as macrocellular LTE networks. Integrated networks deliver better coverage and capacity to users on both the small-cell and macrocell base stations.
The work on the AirSynergy LTE eNodeB base stations was part of a wider partnership between the two companies, working on LTE to enhance the performance and extend the capabilities of Airspan’s LTE products.
AirSynergy supports both 4G access technologies and Airspan’s intelligent wireless backhaul technology iBridge in a single small form-factor base station. The unique small-cell solution provides any time, anywhere mobile access to broadband services at much higher capacity than is possible with 3G networks. Airspan’s LTE and LTE-Advanced solution is compliant with the latest 3GPP standards and interoperable with commercial FDD and TDD user equipment and third-party EPCs.
“The small-cell market is growing rapidly today and our customers are turning to us to provide platforms that help them get to market faster with ever greater degrees of differentiation,” said Paul Senior, CTO at Airspan. “Cambridge Consultants has been invaluable to us in enabling us to offer a range of extra features and capabilities based on our core technology. We knew that, with a broadband wireless technology as demanding as LTE and LTE Advanced – and with very high user expectations – we required a development partner that we could truly rely on.”
Tim Fowler, commercial director in the wireless division of Cambridge Consultants, said: “LTE is the first cellular standard to achieve global acceptance and LTE Advanced is the next step on the road to delivering exceptional mobile broadband. Deploying heterogeneous macrocells and metrocells in the radio access network is now accepted as the best route to delivering higher capacity and lower operational costs for network operators. This in turn allows them to continue to expand their mobile broadband services and reach even more customers.”
Cambridge Consultants will be exhibiting its LTE work — along with other wireless projects — at CTIA in Las Vegas, May 21-23, stand 4121, and Critical Communications World in Paris, May 21-24, stand C210.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 3G, 4G, CTIA, LTE
Lucian Constantin,IDG News Service, 5/15/13
The Android threat landscape is starting to resemble that of Windows, according to F-Secure’s Mobile Threat Report
The Android threat landscape is growing in both size and complexity with cyber criminals adopting new distribution methods and building Android-focused malware services, according to a report from Finnish security vendor F-Secure.
The number of mobile threats has increased by nearly 50 percent during the first three months of 2013, from 100 to 149 families and variants, F-Secure said in its Mobile Threat Report for Q1 2013 that was released on Tuesday. Over 91 percent of those threats target the Android platform and the rest target Symbian.
“While the raw amount of Android malware continues to rise significantly, it is the increased commoditization of those malware that is the more worrying trend,” the F-Secure researchers said in the report. “The Android malware ecosystem is beginning to resemble that which surrounds Windows, where highly specialized suppliers provide commoditized malware services.”
One example of this is an Android Trojan program dubbed Stels that was distributed through fake Internal Revenue Service emails sent by the Cutwail spam botnet during the first quarter of 2013.
Those spam emails contained links that directed recipients to a website asking them to download and update their Flash Player software. This “fake update” social engineering technique has been used in the past to distribute Windows or Mac malware.
“By installing the so-called ‘Flash Player,’ the victim unknowingly grants the trojan the permission to make phone calls,” the F-Secure researchers said. “Stels will capitalize on this permission to reap profit by placing long-lined (a.k.a. short-stopped) calls while the device owner is asleep.”
Traditionally, Android malware writers have tricked mobile users into installing malicious applications on their devices by passing them off as legitimate apps on Google Play or third-party app stores. According to the F-Secure researchers, the new email-based distribution method now extends the risk of malware infection to Android users who are not actively searching for new apps, but are regularly checking email from their phones and tablets.
However, not only financially motivated cyber criminals have started using email to distribute Android malware — hacker groups behind targeted attacks do it too.
Back in April, security researchers from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab uncovered an email attack targeting Uyghur activists that distributed an Android Trojan program as an attachment. The attackers expected that some of their targets would check their email from their Android phones and designed the malware to steal contact details, call logs, text messages and other information from the infected devices.
An Android Trojan program called Perkele that’s designed to be used in conjunction with Windows online banking malware like Zeus to bypass SMS-based two-factor authentication schemes, is another example of an Android malware being offered as a service on the underground market.
Android Trojan apps like Perkele have been used as part of online banking fraud attacks in the past, but they have been generally available only to more sophisticated cyber criminal gangs. However, the creator of Perkele started selling his creation to smaller and less resourceful fraudsters for affordable prices.
“This signals the shift to malware as a service — Zeus-in-the-mobile (Zitmo) for the masses,” the F-Secure researchers said in the report. “Now anybody running a Zeus botnet can find affordable options for Zitmo.”
“In a way, Android is experiencing the same fate as Windows where its huge market share works in both good and bad ways,” the F-Secure researchers said. “Malware authors see plenty of opportunities yet to be explored on the relatively new and growing platform and they are drawing inspiration from Windows malware’s approaches, which is why we are now seeing trends such as commoditization of malware services, targeted attacks and 419 scams popping up in the mobile threat scene.”
In: Android, Mobile Technology, WinPhone · Tagged with: Malware, SMS
Sue Marek, FierceWireless, 5/10/13
AT&T’s Project Velocity IP, or VIP, includes the deployment of more than 40,000 small cells and those small cells will be instrumental in delivering a good customer experience, especially when it comes to Voice over LTE, which the operator plans to launch in some markets by year-end.
Speaking at the Jefferies 2013 Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference in New York Thursday, Bill Smith, president of network operations at AT&T, said that as part of Project VIP, AT&T is deploying both small cells and distributed antenna systems, or DAS. This year the company is focusing primarily on indoor deployments such as shopping malls and hotels, which will make for a better customer experience, particularly VoLTE.
Smith said that AT&T already is testing VoLTE in a few locations and will launch some initial markets by year-end. He added that AT&T’s VoLTE solution will let customers fallback to UMTS when out of LTE coverage, which he believes will make for a better customer experience, particularly in indoor areas where the existing DAS deployments may not offer LTE coverage.
Competitor Verizon Wireless is currently readying its network for VoLTE and plans to commercially launch VoLTE in early 2014, and is looking at offering HD voice and video calling services as well.
Smith also said that AT&T is planning to include UTMS, Wi-Fi and LTE into each small cell it deploys, noting that adding Wi-Fi to the small cell makes sense because there are many ways to monetize it. “It doesn’t mean that everything Wi-Fi is free. It could be free to the user, but we could monetize it through subsidies,” he said. “The business model remains to be worked out.”
Interestingly, he also said that on the enterprise front, the size and sophistication of cyber-attacks are growing and AT&T is using various tactics to identify bad traffic and block it. “The bad guys are pretty smart,” Smith said. “We are adding a lot of functionality in the network.”
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: AT&T, LTE, Verizon, WiFi
In a step to help browser-based apps catch up with the abilities of other software, Google has made it possible for programmers to push notifications to Web apps running in Chrome.
On Thursday, Google enabled a service called Google Cloud Messaging for Chrome (GCM) that brings push notifications to its browser and to Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system. Mark Scott, a Google product manager, announced the service in a blog post.
The technology means that servers can send a message — a stock price alert or news item, for example — that triggers an action in the browser. To use the service, developers’ own servers send a message to Google’s GCM server, which then communicates with Chrome, which then communicates with the developers’ Chrome extension or Chrome app, which takes the appropriate action like popping up a notification or opening a particular Web page.
“Your message is…delivered in near real time to Chrome,” Scott said. Users must be logged into Chrome for the service to work.
It may sound like a roundabout communication approach, but it means that Web apps need not constantly poll servers to see if an alert is ready. That wastes network usage and battery power, Google argues.
Google announced the move the week before Google I/O, the company’s developer-oriented conference that has a major emphasis on writing browser and Android apps and on using Google’s wide range of application programming interfaces (APIs).
The service is a close parallel to Google Cloud Messaging for Android, Scott said.
Push messaging, a staple of the mobile-phone world, can help Web developers keep up with what others can do. But as with all notification systems, it contributes to the potential problem: overwhelming users as apps, services, and people constantly vie for attention.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: API, Cloud, Push
Neil McAllister, The Register, 5/10/2013
Faster, less clunky than old-school Linux installers
In a move that could see Ubuntu veer even further away from the Linux mainstream, Canonical has proposed a new software packaging format designed to make it easier for developers to publish apps for Ubuntu’s tablet and phone–friendly future incarnations.
“This is not aimed at changing packages that are already part of the Ubuntu archive; for the most part our existing system works well for those, and they tend to have non-trivial dependency structures,” Canonical’s Colin Watson explained in a post to an Ubuntu developer mailing list on Wednesday.
Canonical will continue to use the Debian-derived dpkg and apt package-management tools for the base Ubuntu OS and the major software packages that come along with it, he said.
What Watson proposes, on the other hand, is a new, much simplified packaging format for the kind of lightweight, self-contained apps that will run on Ubuntu fondleslabs and phones.
Most of these apps will be based on the recently announced (and still highly preliminary) Ubuntu SDK, Watson said, and he expects most of them to have no dependencies on other software at all, save the core Ubuntu SDK libraries.
To that end, Watson has developed a proof-of-concept app installation system, dubbed “click-packages,” that runs on top of the current Ubuntu packaging system but delivers a user experience that’s more in line with how apps are installed on other mobile platforms.
The system places each app into its own directory, and users don’t need root access to install them. It’s also fast – Watson says a typical app installs in about 0.15 seconds on an x86 notebook and in 0.6 seconds on a Nexus 7 fondleslab.
The app packages themselves are simple, consisting of only binary files and assets. Unlike .deb packages, they’re not allowed to run any maintainer scripts when they’re installed, updated, or removed. Creating new packages is as easy as feeding a prebuilt application directory into a simple tool, along with a JSON manifest file.
Watson’s prototype is written in Python, though he imagines it would run faster if it were ported to C. As it stands, however, it has the advantage of being small – less than 300 lines of code – which means it should be easy to debug and maintain.
Implementing the system in Python also means it’s highly portable. Developers can potentially build packages on non-Ubuntu Linux distributions, Watson says, or even Windows or OS X, as long as they have Python installed.
But although Watson’s proposal is in its earliest stage, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of inventing a brand-new app packaging system for Ubuntu, especially given that other, similar efforts are already underway elsewhere.
“I find it very sad that so many parties currently start reinventing the basic ideas of Listaller, instead of helping the Listaller project to improve, and kill the remaining flaws,” Matthias Klumpp, creator of the Listaller package-management system, wrote in reply to Watson.
Canonical has been earning a reputation for suffering from not-invented-here syndrome, of late. First it broke away from the Gnome desktop project with its own GUI layer, called Unity. Then in March it announced that it was planning to build a homebrewed graphics engine to replace the X Windowing System, ignoring the competing Wayland project, which had already gained the support of several other Linux distributions.
Canonical honcho Mark Shuttleworth has said that he’s quite content for Ubuntu to chart its own course with Canonical at the helm, and that developers who don’t like the way the OS is going should “move on” – so it should come as no surprise if Ubuntu bases its mobile app packaging system on homegrown code, rather than anything already in development.
According to Watson, he expects to have his prototype of the click-packages system ready for others to look at by the next Ubuntu Developer Summit, to take place online May 14 through 16. ®
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Linux, SDK
Sony may forgo the Xperia branding and adopt the new One Sony branding for this fall’s flagship smartphone, according to various reports. Rumored to be called the Sony i1, the possibly forthcoming Android handset could be among the most powerful devices to date.
Additional speculation called out a 5-inch 1080p HD display, 2GB RAM, and a 3,000mAh battery. Said to be centered on the CyberShot line, the phone was rumored to have either a 16-megapixel or 20-megapixel CMOS sensor with Carl Zeiss optics.
New, and still unconfirmed specifications trickling in this week tie the i1 to a glass-and-metal body that may also include traces of carbon fiber. As far as the screen is concerned, the phone is rumored to have a Reality/Triluminos Display with X-Reality image processing similar to that you would find in a Sony TV.
In other words, Sony could trot out phrases such as “true to life” or “most accurate” to describe the display.
Presumably running the latest version of Android, the software experience could also feature a new, custom Sony UI. Other details for the Sony i1 include water and dust resistance, 32GB internal storage, LTE connectivity, and front-facing stereo speakers. Not as slim as some or as bulky as others, the device is said to come in at 0.4 inch (10 millimeters) thick.
According to the latest chatter, the Sony i1 is expected in late summer or early fall, where it should come to the United States as an unlocked smartphone. Based on the rumored timing, I might look for an IFA announcement.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: LTE
Qualcomm’s chief technology officer, Mat Grob, pitched the idea of small, private cellular base stations this week, showing a base station small enough to be integrated into a set top box or home router.
“There really is no alternative,”said Matt Grob, Qualcomm’s CTO, during a presentation at the Qualcomm On conference in Santa Clara, California.
At the heart of its vision is UltraSON, an implementation of SON (self-optimizing network) technology that Qualcomm would use to turn many cells spread across a neighborhood into a unified network.
“We are working extensively with operators on this particular project,” Grob told MIT Technology Review after his presentation.
Qualcomm has installed 20 of the small prototypes in office buildings around its San Diego campus. A person driving or walking through the area receives a stronger signal on his phone, and faster downloads, as his device hops between the many small base stations, each with a range of tens of meters. “Our next step is to do a larger test, with a network operator and an infrastructure vendor,” says Grob.
Mobile carriers already sell small cellular base stations for personal use, but they can only be used by the subscribers that own them, not anyone.
Ericsson is also a HetNet proponent and has just launched a commercial trial of what it calls the City Site “integrated solution” in Nanning, the capital of China’s Guangxi region, with China Mobile. Like Clearwire, China Mobile is using TD-LTE in the 2.6 GHz band.
The four-meter-high (13-foot) unit includes a standard Ericsson base station with an integrated multidirectional antenna. The City Site has fewer limitations for site selection compared with standard radio base station, as it can be deployed in crowded areas, and is suitable for a variety of places, such as railway stations, business districts, schools, parks, squares, and main avenues.
Dish Networks has hinted about a “hetnet” approach in their proposal to buy Sprint for $25 billion. Dish already has 14 million roof-mounted antennas, so the costs and coverage of 4G infrastructure might be lowered significantly if Dish’s satellite antennas could be used to supplement cellular coverage.
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen blasted comments by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son as a “personal attack,” and he reasserted that Dish’s $25.5 billion bid to take control of Sprint would be better for the United States, reports Fierce Wireless.
“We’re offering a higher price. That’s just math,” Ergen said in an interview with USA Today. “We are an American company, and the modernization of Sprint’s network will have to be done from the U.S. You have to climb the towers here, and you’ll have to have U.S. employees who speak English. Operations command control will be in America. That’s good for jobs. It doesn’t mean that the other guys are bad. It’s just that we have an advantage.”
Ergen plans to offer bundled services — similar to AT&T and Verizon’s packages of data, voice and TV — and bet the future on the “TV-anywhere” trend.
Consumers will be able to watch regular TV programming on their laptops and tablets outside the home as video is streamed through its wireless networks, Ergen says.