Sunday, October 5, 2014

Boot Up: Ellison era ends, Toshiba PC retreat, Apple's missing canary

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Larry Ellison has agreed to step down as chief executive officer at Oracle (ORCL), ending one of the most entertaining and profitable runs for a leader in business history.

Oracle announced Ellison's departure via a press release delivered on Thursday afternoon after the close of U.S. financial markets. The company said that Ellison will remain chairman of Oracle's board and take on the role of chief technology officer. Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, both presidents at Oracle, will each inherit the CEO title. Catz will remain as chief financial officer as well.

Era. Over.

While demand for the latest generation iPhone seems even bigger than expected, just a slice of those consumers looking to purchase the iPhone 6 plan to buy an Apple Watch next year, a new survey shows.

RBC Capital Markets raised its fourth quarter and fiscal-year 2015 estimates on Apple  Wednesday after a survey of 6,000 individuals indicated strong demand for both the iPhone 6 and pricier iPhone 6 Plus.

"Post our survey, we think not just demand for iPhone 6 is robust, but the [average selling price] move could be significant," the analyst group led by RBC Capital Markets' Amit Daryanani said.

RBC lifted its price target on Apple to $114 from $110 previously. Shares of the Cupertino tech giant were up 0.44% to $101.28 in recent trade.

However, just 11% of those consumers said they plan to buy Apple's most innovative new product since the iPad when the Apple Watch hits store shelves in 2015, while just 16% said they intend on utilizing Apple Pay when it rolls out in October.


Roughly 27% of the respondents who indicated intent to purchase an iPhone are new to Apple's ecosystem, with a majority switching over from Google's Android.

Japan's Toshiba said it would cut 900 jobs in a restructuring of its PC business that will include an exit from business-to-consumer operations in some regions.

The Japanese electronics conglomerate expects the PC restructuring to cut operating profit by 45bn yen ($414m) but did not change its earnings forecast for the current year to March, as better-than-expected earnings in electricity and other operations offset the impact.

Here's the press release. Wait for the other shoe to drop.

The next generation of Google's Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.

Android has offered optional encryption on some devices since 2011, but security experts say few users have known how to turn on the feature. Now Google is designing the activation procedures for new Android devices so that encryption happens automatically, meaning only authorized users will be able to see the pictures, videos and communications stored on those smartphones.


The more muted reception of iOS 8 in these early stages is likely due to several confounding factors. Perhaps most importantly, the pool of iPhones eligible to upgrade to iOS 8 is limited to iPhone 5S, 5C, 5, and 4S models, and many outlets have suggested that iPhone 4S users should not upgrade due to subsequent performance and functionality issues. If most 4S users decide to stick with their current OS, then the maximum potential adoption of iOS 8 shrinks to just over 65% of the North American iPhone user base who use iPhone 5-type models.

It's also 1.2GB and needs 5GB for installation; iOS 7 was 665MB, needed 2.9GB.

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated:

"Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us."

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called "warrant canary," which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple's warrant canary has disappeared.

Michele Spagnuolo, Federico Maggi, and Stefano Zanero:

In this paper we present a modular framework, BitIodine, which parses the blockchain, clusters addresses that are likely to belong to a same user or group of users, classifies such users and labels them, and finally visualizes complex information extracted from the Bitcoin network. BitIodine labels users (semi-)automatically with information on their identity and actions which is automatically scraped from openly available information sources.

BitIodine is a terrific resource if you're trying to investigate bitcoin dealings.

Ross Rubin:

Steve Jobs had said in the summer of 2010 that nobody would want to buy a big phone and compared jumbo smartphones to the now-defunct Hummer SUVs. Senior Apple exec Phil Schiller said last year that it wasn't clear that NFC (near field communications), seen by some as a promising technology for mobile payments, wasn't the solution to any problem.

And now the company has embraced those former pariahs. These reversals were just the latest in a long line of reversals of direction for Apple, which also once shunned Intel processors and SD cards in Macs, and kept video off the iPod line for many years after it appeared on competitive devices.

Was Apple wrong? Did it change its mind? Can we just not trust its stated intentions?

There are 886m active mobile subscriptions in India, giving the country a cellular penetration rate of 70%. However, relatively few Indians use those phones to go online: India has 243 million Internet users, a penetration rate of 19%, according to a July report by We Are Social.

About three-quarters of those Internet users rely on their mobile phones to go online, and if Google is right, the gap between mobile subscriptions and web use should narrow quickly. The company [on Monday] unveiled new low-cost smartphones for the Indian market to take advantage of a shift to the mobile Internet. "We expect India to be the second-largest Internet market by 2017," Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president, said at the announcement in New Delhi, Bloomberg News reports. "And it's happening due to mobile."

Google's Android One phones will likely create even more headaches for executives at Samsung Electronics. The Korean company is no longer India's top mobile phone brand, having fallen behind Micromax. Samsung now has 14.4% of the Indian market for all mobile phones (including old-fashioned feature phones), compared with Micromax's 16.6%, according to Counterpoint Research.

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