Thursday, February 6, 2014

Boot up: Land Registry sales, smartphone bloodbath, Foxconn charges, and more

Lotus Formula One cars The Lotus-Renault team, left, became known as the Lotus team in 2012, while the Lotus team, right, became the Caterham team. Let’s hope the Russians bought into the correct one. Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

A burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Michael Cross (co-founder of the Free Our Data campaign):

The problem is that Land Registry is a key part of the critical national infrastructure and ministers know they cannot get away with flogging it to Amazon or Google. The 26-page plan put out for consultation last week bends over backwards to demonstrate that the new company will continue to be state controlled and enjoy an intimate relationship with the chief land registrar.

Indeed several functions would be shared after the split – these include keeping a register of title, dealing with objections and responsibility for the consequences of complaints arising from alleged maladministration.

As usual with these exercises, the government suggests three models for the new delivery company: it could be 100% state-owned, jointly owned by the state and a private partner, and wholly government owned but with its day-to-day responsibilities outsourced. With the third model clearly the bonkers option - a double layer of responsibility for an outsourcing contract is a recipe for blame-shifting and disaster - and the first too much like the status quo, the public-private partnership is clearly the favoured option.

But what would a private partner bring to the necessarily monopoly business of land registration?

Privatising Land Registry would almost certainly be bad for open data.

We see Android launcher will be one of the hottest topics in China in 2014. Ambitious Chinese companies or entrepreneurs always want control of users' access to Internet services and then monetize user traffic or sell services to users. On the Chinese Web, Qihoo is such a company that successfully converted its free security users into adopters of its browsers through which users access all Web content. Now the company is making revenues from businesses through a variety of online advertising offerings and from users through mobile gaming.

Tero Kuittinen:

There is little doubt now that the handset industry and Wall Street analysts have completely missed something essential about the phone market — some dreaded turning point was reached around the September-November time frame. The most likely explanation here is a sudden slowdown in high-end sales in affluent markets like North America and Europe, possibly combined with a faster than expected mix shift towards cheaper models in emerging markets.

We are now facing a genuinely fascinating March quarter. Is there a smartphone glut building globally? Will we see an escalation in price erosion as vendors fight for space in an industry that is not growing in the manner they expected?

Things could get very exciting in coming months.

Although Lotus would not confirm the buy-in, a spokesman for Yota Devices revealed that the tie-up with the team included an investment plan.

"It is not a sponsorship, we have bought a stake," Kirill Lubnin told AUTOSPORT.

"It is also important to underline that it was not our company which made the deal but our owners."

Lubnin said that the aim of the partnership was to make use of F1 technologies in its own business activities.

"The target is simple - Formula 1 has a very strong engineering component with a lot of innovative technologies," he added.

"So we would like to see what is possible to borrow from F1 to the IT-industry."


Woody Leonhard:

While the world waits for that puff of white smoke and the announcement of a new Defender of the Windows faith, I wanted to take a few minutes of your time and explain how things really look from the trenches.

No, I'm not going to tell you how to run a bazillion-dollar company with 130,000 employees and a bewildering array of products. You have enough folks with green eyeshades running around already -- no doubt with a nasty propensity to tell you, "Yes, sir!"

I just want to talk about customers, especially Windows customers. If you can keep us in the fold, we can help you out of this fine mess Microsoft seems to have gotten itself into.

A fine colossal profit-making mess you've got us into, Steve. Some of the points are good, though.

At the time, Samsung claimed that "[a] correlation between the Android version 4.4 and the supposed incompatibility of third-party accessories does not exist" and suggested that users buy official Samsung accessories. Today Samsung sent a new statement to Ars Technica:

"We have currently identified a software compatibility issue with the Galaxy Note 3 update to Android 4.4 (KitKat) and select 3rd party accessories. A software update will be available shortly. We are committed to offering a diverse and reliable mobile experience for all customers, providing continued support and solutions for any issues that arise with product updates for both Samsung manufactured and third-party accessories."

Samsung now says that the update did indeed break some third-party accessories, and an update is on the way to fix it.

Russia's second-biggest mobile phone operator, Megafon, said on Monday it had signed a direct contract with Apple Inc and resumed selling iPhones after a four-year break.

Megafon has not been able to sell iPhones since 2009 as the company and its rivals could not guarantee the sales volumes demanded by Apple, industry sources had said.

Megafon said it would buy various iPhone models under the new three-year deal with Apple.…

Apple has a 20% share of a $6.50bn Russian smartphone market in money terms, or 9% of units sold in 2013, according to cellphone retailer Euroset.

Ed Lea created this awesome graphic which explains the difference between user interface and user experience using breakfast cereal.

We like the data centre.

Samsung and Google, which are closely allied as the primary backers of the dominant Android mobile operating system, declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, which covers the two companies' existing patents, as well as those filed over the next 10 years. However, the agreement doesn't transfer ownership of patents and as a consequence won't allow Samsung to use Google's patents to defend itself in litigation with other companies such as Apple.

Samsung and Google also didn't specify whether the scope of the deal was limited to Android, which currently powers about four of every five smartphones sold globally.

The companies said that the agreement paves the way for deeper collaboration between Samsung and Google on research and development of current and future products.

The Motorola patents are covered as part of the licence. Quite what the point of the deal is (since there's not the slightest indication either was going to sue the other) isn't clear.

Meanwhile, Samsung signed a deal with Ericsson that will see it paying about $650m initially, and an ongoing royalty subsequently over standards-essential patents (SEPs.)

Taiwan prosecutors charged several former Foxconn Technology Group employees with taking bribes, in the latest setback for the manufacturer of iPhones and other popular gadgets.

Prosecutors said Thursday that they detained a former Foxconn general manager for allegedly taking kickbacks from suppliers. Prosecutors said three other former Foxconn employees were released on bail. Prosecutors declined to provide detail on the suppliers.

Prosecutors said they had no plans to investigate Foxconn's clients, finding no evidence in the yearlong investigation that they were involved in the alleged bribery.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, said it would fully cooperate with the investigation. "Our internal investigation found these violations to be limited to the procurement of consumables and accessory equipment related to a small part of our business," Foxconn said. "The employees in question are no longer with our company."

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