24 September, 2015

Google is going to announce some new Android products on September 29

Google sent out invitations to the press on Friday night for a September 29 event. The company will likely introduce new Android smartphones and an updated version of the Chromecast.

The invitation has a clever play on words: "Join us for some tasty new treats and much s'more" - a reference to Android M "Marshmallow," the newest version.

Google's new gadgets have leaked several times in recent weeks. First, we'll get two new Android phones, one made by LG and another made by Huawei. The Android new blog Droid life reported this week that the LG model will be called the Nexus 5X. The Huawei model will be called the Nexus 6P.

Google is also expected to announce an updated version of the Chromecast, the device that plugs directly into your TV and lets you stream content from services like Netflix. 9to5Google was the first to report that a new Chromecast is coming.

22 September, 2015

There's a global alliance forming to stop Uber's world domination

Earlier this week, Didi Kuaidi - Uber's biggest competitor in China - and Lyft, Uber's biggest US rival, announced the two companies were teaming up to take on Uber.

The strategic partnership will let the companies share technology, product development, and local resources, and when US users of Lyft go to China (or when Didi users come visit the US), they'll be able to pay in their native currency on each app.

At a press conference earlier this week, Lyft founder and president John Zimmer called the partnership "the first step toward global coverage." It's no secret that this partnership is intended to let the companies overtake Uber.

Taking on Uber
Uber has been heralded as a ride-hailing giant; as of June, the company operated in 311 cities in 58 countries globally. And Uber has been investing heavily in China.

Uber's China branch recently closed a $1.2 billion round of funding. Uber is aggressively expanding its Chinese footprint, with plans to operate in 100 more cities in the country in the next year. And Uber's top three most popular cities - Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Chengdu - are all in China.

Uber's service is taking off in China much faster than it did in the US; nine months after launching in Chengdu, Uber had 479 times the trips it had in New York after the same amount of time.

Up until this partnership was announced, Lyft did not seem a formidable enemy to Uber. Lyft operates domestically and, although it is valued at an impressive $2 billion, that still pales in comparison to Uber's aggressive, international expansion and eye-popping $51 billion valuation.

But now that Lyft has teamed up with Didi, the two companies seem better suited to take on Uber. Didi recently closed a $3 billion round of venture capital funding, and it's valued at $15 billion, so it's well-equipped financially - in total, Didi Kuaidi has amassed a $4 billion war chest of venture capital funding.

Didi Kuaidi was created in February when competing apps Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache merged to cut the costs of competing with each other - and more importantly, with Uber. Didi's finances have also come into question. The company is losing buckets of money, according to leaked financial documents surfaced by the Financial Times.

Forming a global alliance
In addition to just the US and China, the Lyft-Didi partnership could signal an aggressive plan for taking on ride-hailing at a global scale. If you're bullish on Uber and don't believe in a ride-hailing market big enough for two players, that plan may sound crazy.

But Lyft and Didi's approach has something Uber's doesn't. US-based Lyft can now reach Chinese customers through an app native to their own country. Some of Uber's backlash in Asia stems from the fact that Uber is not a service native to Asia, and has subsequently struggled with adapting its service to suit laws in these countries.

In fact, South Korea has vowed to shut down Uber's operations in the country. As TechCrunch notes, "Korean law doesn't allow technology companies to store payment data as part of their purchase workflow, but instead requires consumers to retype their information with every purchase, ostensibly for security reasons."

But this global alliance against Uber could extend beyond just the US and China, ostensibly giving Uber a run for its money.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Lyft and Didi are in talks to expand their alliance with other Asian ride-hailing companies: India's Ola and Singapore's GrabTaxi.

Ths isn't entirely unexpected. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News reported that Softbank Capital, which has funded on-demand ride-hailing startups GrabTaxi and Ola, was behind a global alliance to take on Uber. Executives at both GrabTaxi and Ola, which are Asia-based companies that use taxis instead of private drivers, told BuzzFeed News they were working on "forming a global alliance of regional players."

Didi Kuaidi invested $100 million in Lyft months prior to the two companies' partnership. Didi Kuaidi has also invested in GrabTaxi. So it's easy to see how the partnership could extend to Singapore - where GrabTaxi is based - and to Ola, which is Uber's main Indian rival.

So besides the US and China, an expanded partnership would let Lyft, Didi, and its potential new partners - GrabTaxi and Ola -operate in India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. This would provide a distinct advantage to Lyft/Didi/Ola/GrabTaxi over Uber as GrabTaxi already operates in regional cities that Uber doesn't, like Thailand's Chiang Rai and Malaysia's Kuching.

At the press conference earlier this week, Zimmer declined to comment on adding more companies to its partnership. "We'll announce different parts of our global strategy down the road," he said.

21 September, 2015

Apple's iOS App Store just suffered its first major attack

Apple Inc said that it is cleaning up its iOS App Store to remove malicious iPhone and iPad programs identified in the first large-scale attack on the popular mobile software outlet.

The company disclosed the effort after several cyber security firms reported finding a malicious program dubbed XcodeGhost that was embedded in hundreds of legitimate apps.

It is the first reported case of large numbers of malicious software programs making their way past Apple's stringent app review process. Prior to this attack, a total of just five malicious apps had ever been found in the App Store, according to cyber security firm Palo Alto Networks Inc

The hackers embedded the malicious code in these apps by convincing developers of legitimate software to use a tainted, counterfeit version of Apple's software for creating iOS and Mac apps, which is known as Xcode, Apple said.

"We’ve removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software," Apple spokeswoman Christine Monaghan said in an email. "We are working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps."

She did not say what steps iPhone and iPad users could take to determine whether their devices were infected.

Researchers said infected apps included Tencent Holdings Ltd’s <0700 .hk=""> popular mobile chat app WeChat, car-hailing app Didi Kuaidi and a music app from Internet portal NetEase Inc.

The tainted version of Xcode was downloaded from a server in China that developers may have used because it allowed for faster downloads than using Apple's U.S. servers, Olson said.

Chinese security firm Qihoo360 Technology Co said on its blog that it had uncovered 344 apps tainted with XcodeGhost.

Apple declined to say how many apps it had uncovered.

20 September, 2015

Apple CEO Tim Cook says we may finally be able to delete those permanent apps Apple puts on your iPhone

If you're an iPhone owner, you've probably noticed that there are some apps you cannot remove from the phone.

These are apps made by Apple, and some of them frankly aren't that useful - the Tips app, for instance, isn't useful if you already know how to use your iPhone. The stocks app won't matter to you unless you follow the stock market.

Cook says Apple is looking into ways to make it possible to delete these apps, but it's a complicated issue. Here's what he told BuzzFeed News' John Paczkowski:

This is a more complex issue than it first appears...There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren't like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren't like that, we'll figure out a way [for you to remove them]. ... It's not that we want to suck up your real estate, we're not motivated to do that. We want you to be happy. So I recognize that some people want to do this, and it's something we're looking at.

With iOS 9, Apple's upcoming software update for iPhones and iPads, the company is adding a few more apps that won't be erasable. New apps for Find My Friends and Find My iPhone are coming in iOS 9.

17 September, 2015

New lawsuit claims Twitter is 'eavesdropping' on users' direct messages

Twitter was hit with a proposed class action lawsuit on Monday that claims its automatic link-shortening in direct messages amounts to wiretapping.

"Twitter surreptitiously eavesdrops on its users' private Direct Message communications," the complaint reads. "As soon as a user sends a Direct Message, Twitter intercepts, reads, and, at times, even alters the message."

The complaint was brought in federal court in San Francisco from Wilford Rane, as The Hollywood Reporter uncovered.

The suit alleges that Twitter's algorithms modify links sent through its direct message service. The suit uses a New York Times article as an example, which had its link modified to ""http:/t.co/CL2SKBxr1s" - though it still showed "www.nytimes.com" to the user. This, the suit argues, is deceptive.

The lawsuit claims that, by using this link-shortening mechanism, Twitter passes data to its analytics servers before sending users to the linked site. This allegedly allows them to benefit from higher advertising rates, according to the suit.

Bear in mind that this is merely a proposed class action, and has not been approved by a judge. The claimed damages run up to $100 per day for each user of two classes: those who received direct messages and those who sent them.

A similar class action against Google, which alleged that the company was combing through Gmail accounts for advertising purposes, was derailed when a judge ruled that the users were too dissimilar to make up a class.

Facebook was also smacked with a similar suit last year, which alleged it used data from private messages to target ads.

Read the full complaint here.

16 September, 2015

Apple's secret car project is rumoured to be having a 'big impact' on the production of Tesla vehicles

Tesla employees have been jumping ship to Apple to work on the company's ultra-secret car project, codenamed "Project Titan." This has had a "big impact" on the development of new Tesla vehicles, Apple Insider reports.

Apple Insider's source claims that Apple has as many as 1,000 employees working on Project Titan, with "many" of those having joined the company from Tesla. According to LinkedIn, however, just 80 Apple employees list Tesla as a former employer, and not all of these employees are engineers.

t's not clear whether delays to the production of the Model X have stemmed from the apparent exodus of Tesla employees, since the Model S Sedan also suffered significant setbacks even though production started long before "Project Titan" appears to have begun. There are also rumours of delays to the production of Tesla's Model 3, which is scheduled for delivery in late 2017.

Musk told Bloomberg in February that Apple had been trying "very hard to recruit from Tesla." Apple apparently offered 60% salary bumps and $250,000 signing bonuses. "But so far they've actually recruited very few people," Musk added at the time.

Around the same time, Business Insider received an unsolicited email from an employee at Apple about "vehicle development" at the company.

This person said Tesla employees were "jumping ship" to work at Apple.

"Apple's latest project is too exciting to pass up," the person said. "I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money."

Many of those hired before February - about 50 according to LinkedIn - turned out to be engineers who had interned at Tesla.

Meanwhile, AppleInsider's source "would not rule out" the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster previously expressed that this would be a smart move for Apple in the long-term. However, there's no indication that Musk wants to sell the company.

This hiring spree goes both ways. Tesla has hired about 150 people from Apple so far, according to Bloomberg.