SiliconFilter

Come On Google, Show Us Some Real Google+ User Numbers Already

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Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that things aren't looking so great for Google+. According to data from comScore, Google+'s users spend just about 3 minutes per month on the site. On Facebook, that number is closer to six or seven hours per month. Google itself, however, has never provided anybody with any useful data about the service and – at worst – is just using deliberately misleading information to provide the press with big numbers that look good but are absolutely meaningless.

100 Million "Active" Users?

In January, for example the company's CEO Larry Page said that the site had 90 million users at that time and that "+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly." That, however, was a pretty misleading statement. While it may sound that Page was saying that 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ every day, his argument was simply that 60% of those users who signed up for Google+ also use any other Google+ service on a daily basis. Those numbers said absolutely nothing about the engagement Google+ is seeing from its users.

Today, Google's VP for engineering Vic Gundotra – in what is clearly a reaction to the WSJ piece – talked to the New York Times' Nick Bilton and once again used the same kind of tactic. "On a daily basis, 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users." Google+, of course, is now part of virtually every other Google product, including search, which most of the company's users probably use on a daily basis without ever trying to actively engage with the company's social network.

Nice, Meaningless Numbers

Google is obviously trying to paint a nice picture here by using large numbers that, at the end of the day, say nothing about Google+ and how engaged its users are. Maybe things are great at Google+ and it has a huge, highly active community (though most of us aren't seeing it in our own accounts). The problem with this is that unless Google provides us with any concrete data, it just looks as if the company has something to hide.



1:56 pm


Google Comes Out to Play: Launches a Central Storefront for its Music, Movie, eBook and App Markets

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Google just announced a massive update to how it will market and sell content and app. The Android Market, Google Music and Google Books are now a thing of the past and have been integrated into a new service called Google Play. Google calls the service "a digital entertainment destination where you can find, enjoy and share your favorite music, movies, books and apps on the web and on your Android phone or tablet." The combined entertainment store will give users access to 20,000 songs you can upload to your free music locker and "millions of new tracks" for purchase, as well as access to the 450,000 Android apps that are currently available in the Android Market. In addition, Play will also let users buy content from Google's eBook and movie catalog.

Goodbye Android Market

Neither Google's eBook nor movie offers have been major hits, so this new combined market, which will be available online and on Android (where it replaces the Android Market), could help to raise the profile of these services.

The idea here, besides offering a central store, of course, is also to make it easier for users to seamlessly switch between devices as they read a book or watch a movie. All your data will be stored in the cloud, after all, and should be available from anywhere.

There are some geographic restrictions to what Google will offer where. In the U.S., users will be able to get access to the full selection of movies, apps, eBooks and music. In Canada and the U.K., Play will only offer movies, books and apps, while Australian users will only get apps and book and Japanese users will get access to movies and apps. In the rest of the world, Play will basically just be an app store for the time being. Google, of course, hopes to roll more services out to more countries in the long run.



10:28 am


Just in Time for Super Tuesday, Google Updates its U.S. Elections Site With Better Maps

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Today is one of the most important days in the run-up to the Republican convention in Tampa in August. With 10 states holding primaries at the same time, a less than stellar showing today could mark the beginning of the end for some of the Republican candidates. Just in time for this so-called Super Tuesday, Google has updated its Politics & Elections site with an upgraded visualization of past results and real-time updates from today's contest.

As Google notes, the updated map "lets you track both the state-by-state numbers as well as the results by county, with delegate counts in addition to raw numbers and percentages from the AP." The updated maps then provide users with a bit more detail than before, though the overall design hasn't changed too much.

Google is obviously putting a lot of emphasis on this election cycle. The company's video-sharing site YouTube, for example, will play host to the Washington Post's live video coverage of today's primaries and the company regularly provides pundits with updated graphics based on search volume across its network.



8:27 am


The Upgradable Car: Ford Sends Software Updates to 300,000 Drivers

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Late last year, when Ford announced the second version of its MyFord Touch interface, the company also announced that it would allow all current owners of cars with this system to update to the new version. In the world of auto tech, where development cycles can often last years and major software updates are virtually unheard of, this announcement raised quite a few eyebrows. When Ford first made the announcement, though, it didn't provide us with a specific date for when the update would be available to current drivers. Here is the good news: if you currently own a car that uses the MyFord Touch interface, you will get a USB stick with the free update in the mail sometime this week.

If you don't want to wait for the mail, you can also download the update and copy it on a USB stick yourself. Update: we misread the update announcement. You can make an appointment with your dealer to install the update, but you can't download the update yourself.

For more about what the new software will offer drivers, also take a look at our preview of the upgrade from last year.

In addition to the update, Ford is also launching this new version, which includes major usability and speed enhancements, on its 2013 Taurus and Flex models this year. The company and Microsoft, which provides the underlying operating system, worked together closely to provide drivers with a better user experience compared to the first version, which was often criticized for its sluggishness and ability to confuse users. 

The upgrade itself should take somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes and is as easy as plugging the USB key into the car's Media Hub. The car will automatically recognize the update and start the process. 

For Ford, this is an important update. The previous version of Touch was widely criticized by drives and reviewers for being too complicated and distracting. At the same time, though, it's this kind of new technology that is driving quite a few purchase decisions. Indeed, according to Ford's own research, 56% of recent Ford buyers say that technology was an important part in their buying decision. 



10:04 am


Mobile Security Takes a Front Row Seat at MWC

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Not too long ago, nobody really worried too much about mobile security. The worst thing that could really happen to your data on your phone, most people thought, was that you would lose the physical device and somebody could make calls or browse your address book. Today, however, with the proliferation of mobile malware that can do anything from downloading your contacts list to a remote server to sending you pricey premium SMS messages, as well as a general trend toward letting employees use a mobile phone of their own choosing, the issue of mobile security have become far more pressing. This trend was clearly on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, where numerous well-known security firms and even more startups showed off their latest products.

Security and Android

Most of these security products today focus on Android. To some degree, Google's mobile operating system provides the perfect breeding ground for malware, as its open nature allows users to install apps from numerous sources and stores besides Google's official app store. It's far easier then for a malware developer to create an app that exploits flaws in Android's security and get it into circulation than it would be for somebody who wants to create iPhone or iPad malware. Apple, after all, only lets users download from one store and exercises complete control over it.

Kindsight security demo

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk to Brendan Ziolo, the VP of marketing at Kindsight. The Alcatel-Lucent spin-off provides desktop and mobile security products, but here in Barcelona, the company focused on its newly released mobile security tools for Android.

While there are now numerous Android security tools available, Kindsight takes a somewhat different approach than most of its competitors, as it also works directly with mobile carriers to provide both software to end-users that can scan a phone for known malware as well as detection software that runs on the carrier's servers. The company is working with a number of mobile operators to bring its tools to their users and there is a good chance that you will find its software on your phone at some point in the future. Given the nature of these deals, though, you may never know that it's Kindsight that is running in the background (the carriers are more likely to give it their own name).

What Hackers Can do With Your Compromised Phone

Ziolo showed me a demo of a malware app the company developed for Android. Just by installing a malware-infested clone of Angry Birds, a hacker could – within seconds of starting the app – start spamming your friends with SMS messages, download your address book, locate you and even get access to your phone's camera and see a live stream from it without you ever noticing it.

With the company's software running, of course, users quickly get an alert about what is happening and can then uninstall the application. The scan on the phone itself is similar to a standard anti-virus or malware scan you would run on your desktop. At the same time, the company's software on your carrier's servers also keeps an eye out for suspicious traffic and can even detect some malware it has never seen before.

While there has been some discussion over how widespread the Android malware problem really is today, most reports indicate that it's growing quite rapidly. As Kindsight's Ziolo also rightly pointed out, unlike the early days of desktop malware, hackers can now rely on an established infrastructure for selling personal information and other data, making the whole business even more attractive and lucrative for these criminals.



8:31 am


For Qualcomm, Making Mobile Browsing Better Starts at the Chip Level

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When it comes to browser performance, we tend to talk a lot about what browser developers like Microsoft, Google and Mozilla can do to render web pages faster and make complex web apps like Gmail run smoother. Especially in the mobile world, though, there is a level of optimization that's happening at the level of the actual chips that are responsible for making your phone or tablet tick. That optimization is happening both in the design of the chips, as well as how the operating system talks to them. Yesterday, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I had a chance to sit down with Sy Choudhury, who leads Qualcomm’s Web Technologies initiative. For the most part, our chat focused on what chip makers can do to improve the mobile browsing experience, as well as the increasing importance of HTML5 in the mobile world (HTML5, at its core, is a set of technologies that allow developers to create highly-interactive web applications that look and feel just like regular desktop software).

Qualcomm, which is mostly known for producing the processors and chipsets that run a larger percentage of the world's mobile phone, is working together closely with both the Android and Chrome teams at Google to make your browsing experience on your mobile phone or tablet better. The company, of course, is also working together with other vendors, including Microsoft, but most of the optimization work is currently being done on the Android platform.

The difference between an optimized version of Android and the reference version from Google can often be quite dramatic. In Qualcomm's tests, for example, web pages render 20-30% faster in the optimized version and JavaScript programs are executed 70% faster. Qualcomm also optimized its processors to decode pictures faster, which leads to about a 25% improvement in rendering speed for JPEG images.

As Choudhury told me, this optimization happens at virtually all of the levels of the experience, most of which most users never think about. This ranges from how the browser talks to the network, to how it uses your phone's graphics hardware to make sure video plays without stuttering and all the way up to how your browser interprets JavaScript, the language most complex web pages today are written in.

Qualcomm browser web speed html5

Qualcomm is showing a number of impressive demos at the Mobile World Congress this week to demonstrate this work, including an Instagram-like photo-sharing application that lives in the browser. In another demo, the company is showing the difference between an HTML5-based game that has access to the graphics card and one that doesn't. Unsurprisingly, the one that doesn't use the tablet's graphics hardware directly features mediocre performance while the other runs just as smooth as a native app.

With Great Power Comes Worse Power Consumption

All this power, though, always comes with a trade-off – and more often than not, that trade-off is power consumption. For companies like Qualcomm and its partners, finding the right balance between those two poles isn't always easy. According to Choudhury, though, small tweaks can often make a big difference. Qualcomm, for example, changed how often the network chip shuts down when it is not in use and just a small change like this can lead to power savings of close to 7% under some circumstances.

Who Needs Apps When The Browser Can Do All Of This?

Qualcomm, of course, is also a member of the Core Mobile Web Platform Group Facebook announced at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week. In Choudhury's view, now that websites can access your phone's camera, display videos and render even games without the need for Flash and do so smoothly and without the user ever really having to think about what technology an app uses, there is almost no need for native apps anymore.

Qualcomm’s Web Technologies initiative
 


7:30 am


Small Cells: Not Just for Getting 5 Bars at Home Anymore

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Small cells and especially the so-called femtocells that are currently used by mobile phone carriers to give their customers an option to fix bad reception in their homes. Slowly, though, it's becoming clear that these devices, which basically put a little cell phone antenna and base station in your house and then route data and calls through your wired Internet connection, will be able to do quite a bit more than just ensure that you get five bars on your cell phone when you are home. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Alcatel-Lucent and other infrastructure providers to the carriers are now looking at other features that these cells can enable as well.

Today, I had a chance to talk to David Swift, Alcatel-Lucent's senior manager for product marketing small cell solutions, about the additional features that small cells and especially femtocells can enable.

What Are Femtocells Anyway?

When the telecom industry talks about small cells, it generally refers to two different kind of small base stations. The first are metro cells, which can cover small areas like a town square or a football stadium and provide cell-phone users there with enough coverage and bandwidth. The other group covers small femtocells which can be used in homes or businesses to provide better coverage and to offload traffic from the wider network. As Swift pointed out, the best way to think of these cells is as layers that are part of the general cell-phone network. The smallest of these devices is no larger than a small router and can be plugged right into any power outlet (see picture below). Some manufacturers like Netgear are also working on combining cable modems, wireless routers and femtocells into one device.

According to some analysts, the number of these cells in use will grow to somewhere around 62 million within the next three years.

Going Beyond 5 Bars

One advantage of these small cells, said Swift, is that they can now be used to provide location-based services. Your house could automatically turn on the lights or open the garage door for you, for example, when your phone is close enough to connect to the local network. Shopping malls and other venues could provide you with incentives or extra services when they sense that you are close.

On its stand here in Barcelona, Alcatel-Lucent is showing an augmented reality app, for example, that can alert users of deals and then point them to the right stores. This system would use the local small cells to triangulate your position with better accuracy than GPS, which doesn't work reliably indoors. This is somewhat similar to how others are doing indoor navigation today with the help of WiFi signals and there is no reason why developers couldn't combine both data sources to provide even more accurate indoor navigation.

With these small cells in place, carriers could also offer their customers additional services as well. Say you download a lot of podcasts, for example. Chances are, you don't want to download all of this data on the regular mobile network, but what if you could initiate the download on the go and then your phone would know when you are home and just download all the data later. You could do the same for large videos or apps, too.

Payments

Outside of the home, there are also interesting applications for this. A very low-power cell, for example, could enable an NFC payment solution without the need for special chips inside a phone and mobile carriers could enable you to use the equivalent of carrier billing to pay your groceries by just holding your phone against a very low-powered cell that only has a range of a centimeter or so.

Small cells were one of the hot topics at the Mobile World Congress this year. While at first it may seem like this technology is just about ensuring better reception for your phone, these little base stations and their larger brethren, the metro cells, could actually enable quite a few new applications and services in the very near future.

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8:15 am


Hands-On With Ubuntu for Android

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A few days ago, Ubuntu announced its plans to marry its full desktop operating system with the Android mobile operating system. Ubuntu, of course, is mostly known for its Linux distribution, but the company has recently also branched out into consumer electronics with its Ubuntu for TV initiative. Today, we got a chance to spend some hands-on time with the first prototypes of Ubuntu for Android. While it's still obvious that this is a prototype, it's hard not to be positively surprised by the current state of the project.

Here is how it works in practice – and this is a bit similar to the experience with a Motorola Atrix: when you use your phone on the road, it's a regular Android phone. For the most part, you wouldn't even know that it is running Ubuntu as well. When you plug it into its base station however, it becomes a full-blown desktop system that you control with a mouse and keyboard. It even runs Ubuntu TV as well.

A Need for More Speed

The prototypes Ubuntu is using to demonstrate the operating system aren't among the fastest. It takes a little bit before applications like Chrome start up, for example. Ubuntu is quite aware of this, of course, and expects that the first phones with the operating systems will use faster, multi-core processors with more RAM than its current prototypes.

Once your applications are running, though, the desktop feels sufficiently speedy. Maybe the coolest feature of the desktop, though, as that you still have access to the full Android OS, too. You can still make calls, use Google Maps or any other app that runs on the phone. This isn't some emulator either. All the apps still run natively.

Ubuntu hasn't announced any partners yet that will manufacture the phone, but an Ubuntu representative told me that a number of top-tier manufacturers have already approach the company since it first announced this project a few days ago.

More Than a Gimmick

Going into the demo, I couldn't help but think that this was mostly going to be a gimmick, but after seeing the product in action, it does feel like the Ubunut team is on the right track. Chances are, your phone will never be as fast as that multi-core (but also power-hungry) desktop under your desk, but most users never really tap into this power anyway.

Ubuntu is aiming this feature at high-end users for now, but one could also imagine this as a smart solution for developing countries where phones are often peoples' only way of getting online.



7:55 am


MWC: Where Cutting Through the Wireless Noise is Hard for Even the Most Advanced Devices

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No doubt, LTE is among the hottest topics at the Mobile World Congress this year. For the Congress, Spanish wireless carrier Telefonica expanded its network to 64 cell sectors across the conference center and at strategic points around the city. Our friends at Alcate Lucent just gave a chance to test out a Quanta MiFi hotspot on this network. Sadly, though, the fact that there are probably more wireless devices per square foot here than anywhere else in the world right now makes for an interesting experience that ranges somewhere from amazing to absolutely frustrating.

While there are a number of dedicated small LTE base stations around the conference center, the sheer number of other devices, including at least one phone and laptop for every attendee, combined with the presence of numerous untested wireless devices on the conference grounds (many of which currently operate under a special license), makes for some interesting results.

At best, we got a nice 16 megabits of download speed and around 5 megabits for our uploads. That rivals what many of us get from our broadband connections and in combination with some of the iPad and iPhone apps that Telefonica and its partner Alcatel Lucent are showcasing here in Barcelona (including augmented reality apps and video conferencing), it is obvious that this shows the way of where mobile networking is going.

In this noisy environment, though, we often got very low results as well, though, which at times barely got to 0.2 megabits. The Mobile World Congress, though, is a special place. Even though it's the world's largest conference focused on mobile technology, it's actually surprisingly hard to get a decent WiFi connection over the conference network. Even the dedicated network for the press room here is often barely working…



4:37 am


Ford: Telecom Companies and Auto Industry Have to Work Together to Avoid “Global Gridlock”

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Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company used his keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last night to lobby for a stronger cooperation between mobile tech companies and the auto industry to avoid "global gridlock." Given numerous predictions that we will see global car ownership go from about one billion to four billion by 2050, Ford believes that unless these cars get smarter and become an integrated part of a larger and Internet-connected transportation system, we will soon face massive problems. "Cars," Ford said," are a great untapped opportunity for mobile."

Cities, he said, will likely get to a point where emergency vehicles won't be able to get to where they need to be and food deliveries may never make it to their destinations either. That does sound a bit dramatic – as does his argument that "global gridlock" could one day become human rights issue – but there can be little doubt that smarter and more integrated transportation solutions are needed.

Smarter Cars to Avoid Gridlock

In Ford's vision, we will likely get to a point in the next 10 to 20 years where our cars will automatically route us around traffic jams and then direct us to a parking spot we already reserved before we even left for the trip. The car will be able to park itself (a technology that is already widely in use today), so we will be able to conserve space by parking cars closer to each other.

Even today, cars are already outfitted with large numbers of sensors. This data, however, almost never leaves the car. In Ford's vision, cars will soon become part of a mesh-like network of other vehicles, a city's infrastructure (think traffic lights, for example) and  other transportation options that will that will all be interconnected.

To get to this point, though, Ford acknowledged, automobile companies will have to work together with regulators, the mobile industry and other stakeholders. "Cooperation between the car and telecoms industries," he noted, "is crucial."

Image credit: Mobile World Congress



2:00 am


Report: Femtocells Will Soon Make Up 90% of All Base Stations

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As our voracious appetite for mobile data services grows, the traditional cell phone infrastructure is reaching its limits, even with the ongoing deployments of faster networks and higher capacities on the backend. Femtocells and other small base stations then, which are basically small cellphone base stations that can be installed in homes and businesses, will continue to grow in importance, as they can offload a lot of the wireless demand onto existing wired connections. Accord to a new study by Informa Telecoms & Media, these small cells will grow from 3.2 million this year to over 62.4 million by 2012.

This staggering growth, says the report, will largely be driven by femtocells, whose installed base is projected to grow from 2.5 million this year to 59 million in 2016. While most consumers – assuming they are aware of this trend – tend to think of femtocells as ways to mediate bad cell phone connections inside a house or business, this report argues that they will likely become an important backbone of how we use wireless networks in the future.

Besides these femtocells, the study also projects that slightly larger base stations for larger businesses and public areas will also continue to got rapidly, though their projected install base (around 500,000 in 2016) is dwarfed by the projected demand for femtocells.

Currently, small cells are being used in 23 countries and there are already more 3G femtocells in use today than there are traditional large base stations.



1:31 am


Facebook Launches New Mobile Web Standards Initiative, Easier Payments for the Mobile Web

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During a special lunch-time event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Facebook's CTO Bret Taylor introduced a number of new industry-wide initiatives for the mobile web. Facebook is also working with a number of other vendors to define better web standards that can be implemented across devices to ensure that users can get a consistent mobile web app experience across devices. The Core Mobile Web Platform, as this new group is called, will work to ensure that there are very specific mobile web standards that developers can expect to be available across devices and mobile browers.

As a part of this initiative, Facebook is also launching a test suite called Ringmark that will measure how well mobile browsers handle these new standards.

Mobile Web Payments

In addition, Facebook is also working with a number of large telecom companies to make payments on the mobile web easier. This, said Taylor, will give developers new ways to monetize their apps and hopefully drive innovation in the mobile web space. Instead of having to go through carrier billing and SMS-based confirmations, developers will be able to tap into Facebook's payment system and quickly confirm purchases.

More from Bret Taylor at MWC

Taylor, who was the co-creator of Google Maps and co-founder of FriendFeed prior to joining Facebook, noted that "Facebook and mobile phones were made for each other." As Taylor also noted, the features in your phone are interesting specs, but their real goal is to connect people. For Facebook then, mobile is a natural platform to be on. Taylor today argued that Mark Zuckerberg would probably have developed the mobile app first if he were starting Facebook today.

Taylor also announced that Facebook now has over 425 million users, many of which don't use smartphones, but still use feature phones. What's especially important to Facebook is that its OpenGraph API enables "anyone to share from any platform," no matter what phone they use. This also means, says Facebook, that its becoming easier to find interesting apps. Today, Facebook drives 60 million users to mobile apps and Taylor specifically noted how Facebook drives millions of people to Pinterest every day.

You can find more of our coverage of the MWC here and on live.orange.com.

Disclosure: Orange, which is a partner in some of these initiatives, sponsored my trip to Barcelona.



4:44 am


Opera Launches Opera Mobile 12 Browser for Android and Symbian, Opera Mini 7 For iOS

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Opera just announced the next version of its mobile browser for Android and Symbian, as well as a developer version of its more stripped-down Opera Mini browser. While the update doesn't feature any major changes in the user interface, the Opera team has made numerous changes underneath the surface. Most importantly, Opera added support for its advanced HTML5 parser Ragnarok, which should make running web apps on your mobile phone quite a bit faster. This will also allow developers to create more sophisticated web applications that can run in your phone's browser.

Another feature that should speed up the browsing experience is Opera's newly announced support for using your phone's or tablet's graphics hardware to accelerate 3D content in your browser.

In addition, Opera added support for using an Android device's camera in the browser, as well as support for web standards like CSS3 and CORS.

Even if you don't own an Android or Symbian phone, you will soon be able to use Opera's web-based and desktop emulators to try it out yourself. If you have Opera 12 installed on your phone or tablet, also have a look at the company's demo site.

Opera Mini: Version 7 for iOS and a New Developer Version

As for Opera Mini, Opera today launched the final version of Opera Mini 7 for iOS, as well as a developer version – Opera calls these 'Opera Next.' The Next version is Opera's way of beta testing new features before they are officially released. So if you want to get an early look at some of the browser's features (this version brings smoother scrolling and a new bookmarking interface, for example, give Opera Mini Next a try. It's available for feature phones using Java, as well as Android, Blackberry and S60 phones.

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3:44 am


Ford brings SYNC and AppLink to Europe

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At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Ford announced that it is bringing its SYNC and AppLink platforms to Europe. After selling close to 4 million cars with its voice-activated hands-free platform in the U.S., Ford now plans to sell more than 3.5 million SYNC-enabled cars in Europe by 2015. SYNC will speak nine European languages and also feature Ford's Emergency alert system (that's SYNC 911 Assist in the U.S.). The first car to feature SYNC in Europe will be the also newly announced B-Max vehicle, but Ford plans to quickly bring it to other cars as well.

SYNC and AppLink

In addition to SYNC, Ford is also launching AppLink, its platform for connecting mobile apps to the car and controlling them by voice, in Europe. The company is actively looking for local partners here that will enable their mobile apps for Ford's system.

SYNC, which had been available in the U.S. for a few years now, will now also speak nine European languages. Given the multitude of countries SYNC has to work in, one of the most important features of SYNC here will be the new emergency assist feature, which will automatically detect where you are and call the right emergency service for the country you are in and then talk to the emergency services in the appropriate language.

Looking ahead, Ford noted that it wants to bring more cloud-based services to the car as well. In Ford's vision, you next car would automatically shut down the lights in your house when you leave your garage, for example, tell you about road-work and traffic jams and also find a parking spot for you.

 



1:37 am


Nokia at MWC: Lumia 900 Going Global, a 41MP Camera Phone & Smarter Asha Feature Phones

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Nokia today announced that its Lumia 900 Windows Phone flagship device is going beyond the U.S. and will soon be available as an HSPA+ phone worldwide. The company also introduced its new Lumia 610 phone, as well as its new 808 PureView camera phone with a 41MP resolution (though it's worth noting that this is achieved through interpolation).

The company also announced three new Asha feature phones at the Mobile World Congress today. In addition to the HSPA+ version, Nokia also announced that the Lumia 900 is coming to Canada as an LTE phone. During the press conference, Microsoft also announced that it has now made Windows Phone compatible for the Chinese market and Nokia will soon introduce these phones in China. The new Lumia 900 phones will cost about 480 Euros that's without carrier subsidies).

The Lumia will also now feature Nokia Reading, a new hub for finding and reading news, eBooks, feeds and other content. Microsoft also today announced its first beta of Skype for Windows.

In addition to its new hardware, Nokia also announced a new partnership with Groupon, that will bring daily deals to the company's phones.

Lumia 610

Nokia also today announced the Lumia 610. Nokia called it the "prefect introduction to Windows Phone for younger users" and highlighted its "generous curves" and "confident feel." The phone will come with the usual Windows Phone features, including support for social networking and gaming though Xbox Live. It will come preloaded with the standard Nokia feature (Nokia Maps, Drive, etc.), but it will also feature Nokia's new Transport tool for finding public transport options in about 500 cities.

The phone will retail for around 189 Euros and come in four colors.

808 PureView

Also announced today was the S40-based 808 PureView – a camera phone with a 41MP Carl Zeiss sensor and high performance optics. To deal with the massive size of these pictures, Nokia will make it easy for users to zoom in and share just parts of a picture.

The phone will also feature 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.

Smarter Feature Phones

As Nokia noted, there are still billions of users out there that don't have feature phones and/or don't have data plans. In addition to these new feature phones, Nokia also announced its Nokia Life suite of products for these feature phones, though it's worth noting that the company is also making three free games from EA (Bejeweled, Need for Speed, and Tetris) available for these phones. Two of these phones, the Asha 202 and 203, will retail for around 60 Euros. Another, more high-end and social media-focused device, the Asah 302 (with a 1GHz processor) will also be available soon and retail for just under $100.

The Asha phones will also support Microsoft Exchange for the Asha 302 and the previously announced 303, making it "well equipped for business use."

Nokia Life

Nokia Life is focused on education, financial information and other services that can be delivered over SMS or through phone calls. Nokia Life also includes a sharing feature With this service, the company is clearly aiming at the developing world.

During the press conference, Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop noted that there is a major growth opportunity of the company in developing countries. Looking back to Nokia's last year, Elop noted how the company radically shifted its strategy just one year ago. In his view, Nokia has "radically changed [its] clock speed." He also cited the fact that Lumia sales have "exceeded Nokia's expectations," especially in Asia and the U.S., as signs of Nokia's turn-around.

Elop also stressed Nokia's move towards location-based services. In the Windows store, developer submissions are up 3x from last year, he said, and downloads from S40 devices, too, are growing.

Note: this post was cross-posted from live.orange.com.

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11:46 pm