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    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    WikiLeaks leaks 'Fifth Estate' screenplay

    http://news.yahoo.com/wikileaks-leaks-fifth-estate-screenplay-200005690.html?.tsrc=yahoo

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    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Reuter site - AT&T seeking buyers for towers, could fetch $5 billion - Bloomberg

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    AT&T seeking buyers for towers, could fetch $5 billion - Bloomberg

    Tue, Sep 17 13:53 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - AT&T Inc is seeking buyers for its wireless telecommunication towers and is working with TAP Advisors LLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co on the sale, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

    The assets could fetch about $5 billion and buyers could include Crown Castle International Corp, SBA Communications Corp and American Tower Corp, the report said, citing one of the people. (http://link.reuters.com/qus23v)

    AT&T declined to comment.

    (Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel)

    Reuter site - Insight: How freewheeling Twitter became a money-spinning juggernaut

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    Insight: How freewheeling Twitter became a money-spinning juggernaut

    Mon, Sep 16 20:30 PM EDT

    By Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Around midnight on Christmas Eve of 2009, a handful of employees at Twitter received an unconventional holiday greeting from Dick Costolo, then the chief operating officer.

    "It was an email that said, 'We have to move really, really fast. There's no time to rest because we have a massive opportunity in front of us," recalled Anamitra Banerji, who headed the team that built Twitter's first advertising product. "It was kind of crazy because we were all on break, but that attitude was exactly what we needed at Twitter."

    The company is now on the verge of fulfilling the opportunity Costolo foresaw as it prepares for the most highly anticipated initial public offering since Facebook's debut last May. The offering is expected to value Twitter at up to $15 billion and make its early investors, including Costolo, very wealthy indeed.

    Yet Twitter's quick transformation from an undisciplined, money-losing startup into a digital media powerhouse took every bit of whip-cracking that Costolo could muster, along with a rapid series of product and personnel decisions that proved effective even as they disappointed some of the service's early enthusiasts.

    Costolo was a comparative late-comer at Twitter, joining the company three years after it's 2006 launch, but the company increasingly bears his imprint as it hurtles towards the IPO: deliberate in decision-making but aggressive in execution, savvy in its public relations and yet laser-focused on financial results.

    Costolo has not flinched in pruning and reshaping his management team, while Twitter, the company, has been ruthless in cutting off the smaller companies that were once a part of its orbit. A one-time comic actor who cut his teeth in business at Andersen Consulting before starting several companies, Costolo may never be as closely associated with Twitter as Mark Zuckerberg is with Facebook, yet he is arguably just as important.

    "The founders consider Dick a co-founder, that's how deep the connection is," said Bijan Sabet, an investor at Spark Capital and a Twitter board member from 2008 to 2011. "He's not this hired gun to run the company. He understands building out the business but also the product, strategy, vision."

    Twitter declined to make Costolo available for comment, citing the pre-IPO quiet period.

    BIRTH OF THE PROMOTED TWEET

    When Twitter's then-CEO Evan Williams brought on Costolo, an old friend and colleague from Google Inc, as COO in September of 2009, the three-year old company was already under pressure.

    The microblogging service was gaining hip, young users at an unprecedented pace, and its trio of co-founders - Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey - had been splashed across magazine covers as the embodiment of San Francisco cool. Yet the whispers in Silicon Valley were growing louder: Twitter didn't have the technical chops to make the service reliable at huge scale, and it didn't have any way to make money.

    "Having been on the core original team of engineers, we didn't have the skills among us to build a world class service," said Alex Payne, an early Twitter engineer, noting that many of the team members came from smaller start-ups and non-profit organizations rather than established Web giants like Google.

    Williams viewed fixing the site's notorious technical problems as the top priority but was ambivalent about the business strategy. For months, people familiar with the situation say, Williams weighed options ranging from display advertising to licensing Twitter's data to becoming an e-commerce hub to offering paid "commercial" accounts to businesses.

    Costolo - who had sold Feedburner, an advertising-based blog publishing service he founded, to Google for $100 million - had no such doubts. By his second month on the job, he had helped persuade Williams to green-light engineering positions to build Twitter's first ad unit, which would become the "promoted tweet" - the cornerstone of Twitter's business today.

    "Dick's conversations with Ev were key," said Banerji, now an investor at Foundation Capital. "He had a fundamental belief that this was the future of Twitter monetization and said, 'You have to do it.'"

    Over four months in early 2010, Costolo, working closely with Banerji and Ashish Goel, a Stanford engineering professor who specialized in the science of auction algorithms, to refine the promoted tweet. It resembled an ordinary Twitter message in every way, except that advertisers could pay for it to appear at the top of users' Tweet streams and search results.

    Costolo threw his heft within the company behind the advertising strategy. In early 2010, as the ads team drew up a related product called "promoted trends," Costolo privately told them to make sure he was in the room when they pitched the product to Williams, so it would get pushed through.

    A central mechanism governing the promoted tweet was "resonance," a concept coined by Goel. Because Twitter users can re-circulate or reply to tweets, including paid advertisements, the company had the real-time ability to gauge which ads were most popular, and those ads could then be made more prominent. And because the ads appeared in the same format as other tweets, they were perfectly suited to mobile devices, which could not handily display traditional banner ads.

    Paid ads that are inserted into a stream of status updates have since become something of an industry standard for mobile advertising. Its adopters include Facebook, which has enjoyed a 60 percent rise in its stock price in recent months due to its newfound success in mobile.

    "The closest thing before this was the contextual advertising that Google was selling, but the problem was that it was clearly an ad," said Charlene Li, the founder of Altimeter Group, an online research and consulting firm. "Promoted tweets look just like every other tweet. The form factor, the way it is displayed in stream - that was a breakthrough."

    When Costolo unveiled the promoted tweet in April 2010, Twitter announced it as a trial for only five brands, including Starbucks Corp and Virgin America, and users almost never saw the ads.

    But by the summer of 2010, Costolo felt confident enough in his concept that he began seeking a deputy to ramp up the company's sales effort. For months, he courted Adam Bain, a rising star at News Corp, and at the same time began assiduously courting marketers, from corner suites on Madison Avenue to industry conferences on the French Riviera.

    Under Bain, the Twitter ad team set it sites on the most lucrative advertising market of all: television. Twitter attached itself to TV programmers and major brand marketers by positioning itself as an online peanut gallery where TV viewers could discuss what they were watching.

    "Hashtags," which help people find the conversations they're looking for on Twitter, soon grew ubiquitous on TV, appearing in Super Bowl commercials, at Nascar races and on the Oscars red carpet.

    "It wasn't easy for Twitter to explain to people why they should buy content on Twitter until they sold it as a companion to TV," Ian Schafer, the chief executive of Deep Focus, a digital advertising agency. "Now you're even seeing the networks selling Twitter's inventory for them. That's magic."

    Twitter has steadily refined its targeting capabilities and can now send promoted tweets to people based on geographic location and interests. This month, the company paid more than $300 million to acquire MoPub, which will enable it to target mobile users based on websites they have visited on their desktop computers.

    As the promoted Tweet became a reliable revenue engine -generating a substantial chunk of the estimated $580 million in ad sales the company is expected to earn this year - Twitter began to evolve the service beyond its 140-character text messaging roots. Tweets today can embed pictures, videos, page previews and are expected to eventually have more interactive features, including those for online transactions and deals.

    FOCUSED AND RUTHLESS

    While Costolo has been widely credited with bringing management stability to a company that had struggled to find the right leadership formula among its three founders, he hasn't hesitated in making changes in the executive suite.

    "Jack always said he 'edited' his team, and Dick looked at it the same way," said a former employee. "He wanted to choose the top people around him, but he was ruthless with replacing his top people."

    Bain and Ali Rowghani, Twitter's influential chief operating officer, have emerged as Costolo's key deputies. A string of recent high-profile hires includes former TicketMaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as head of commerce; Geoff Reiss, former Professional Bowlers Association CEO, as head of sports partnerships; and Morgan Stanley executive Cynthia Gaylor as head of corporate development.

    Meanwhile, once-powerful executives including product guru Satya Patel, engineering vice president Mike Abbott and head of growth Othman Laraki have left the company, with each departure stoking chatter about Twitter's unusual rate of employee turnover.

    Rank-and-file employees described a chief executive who will pause from his workday to laugh with them at YouTube clips but who will also nudge them to put in long hours.

    At a conference last fall, Costolo told the audience he had sought out a new office for Twitter in central San Francisco partly because it would allow employees who lived in the city to go home for dinner with their families and still come back to work at night.

    Despite his on-stage charisma, several employees describe a CEO who can seem aloof.

    "He's always very cordial," said one former employee. "But try to get into a deeper conversation with him, and he's thinking about how much time he has to do that, because his schedule is tight and he has a lot to do. He's all business."

    Costolo's single-minded focus on Twitter's business goals has not been welcomed by everyone. It alienated many early Twitter enthusiasts who were interested in the political, social and technical potential of a unique new service that could fairly claim to express the sentiment of the world in real time.

    Twitter has slowly shut off third-party access to its data, preferring to keep the information for its own business purposes. It has cut off many developers that want to build new features that would interact with the Twitter platform.

    Its status as the most aggressive of all the global Internet companies in defending free speech and protecting its users from government spying is also in question. After years of essentially ignoring foreign governments that wanted it to comply with local laws, it announced last year that it had developed the technical capability to block Tweets by country, and it has recently begun to use it in countries including Germany and Brazil.

    Twitter is currently banned in China, where the country's own Twitter-like service, Sina Corp's Weibo, has 500 million registered users.

    "The most obvious effect of the IPO will be that it will push Twitter to go more international," said Jillian York, the director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    "I don't think there's much evidence that their position on free speech has softened in the U.S, but internationally, yes. I think they've absolutely run into the complexities of opening offices in other countries, potentially even made some promises that they couldn't keep."

    Yet Costolo has clearly kept his biggest promise: turning Twitter into a major media business. And in that regard, the IPO may be just the beginning.

    (Editing by Jonathan Weber and Ken Wills)

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Reuter site - Engineers searching for smartphone innovation look within

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    Engineers searching for smartphone innovation look within

    Thu, Sep 12 14:13 PM EDT

    By Noel Randewich

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As Apple and other smartphone makers find it harder to wow consumers with new devices, engineers think future breakthroughs may depend more on finding new ways to integrate existing components than on inventing more powerful chips.

    Apple's new iPhone 5S introduced on Tuesday shows how difficult it is to keep coming up with compelling innovations after years of blockbuster hits. The new device boasts a fingerprint reader and a beefed up processor, but it failed to inspire a rally on Wall Street typical of past smartphone launches by the Cupertino, California, company.

    While the first iPhone captivated the world in 2007 with multitouch screens and Apple's intuitive iOS platform, more recent top tier phones have featured less spectacular breakthroughs and consumers are becoming harder to impress. Many on Wall Street are concerned that serious smartphone innovation is drying up.

    The new iPhone's inclusion of a an emerging kind of chip, called the M7, points to where Apple and engineers at other technology companies are delving for future innovation that they hope will keep consumers hyped up about to smartphones.

    The M7, along with similar chips used by rival Samsung Electronics, helps smartphone makers take a small step among many toward what experts call contextual or perceptual computing - an emerging trend of enabling smartphones and other devices to continuously integrate data from cameras, microphones and other sensors so that devices can monitor the environment constantly and in real time, and react to it intelligently.

    With varying degrees of accuracy and energy efficiency, gyroscopes, barometers, microphones and radio chips already found in many phones can track location, position, orientation - a partial glimpse of what the user is physically doing at any given moment.

    The M7 coprocessor is meant to handle data from the iPhone's sensors using less battery power than the phone's main chip would use to manage the same data. That opens the door for developers to create applications that make more or even constant use of sensors in the phone, a small but important step toward improving contextual computing.

    "We're moving from purely computing, where you provide the data, to an intelligent system, where it collects its own data and then computes," said Gartner analyst Sergis Mushell. "But we're still far away. We're at the IQ level of frogs right now compared to humans."

    Samsung uses sensor processing chips made by Atmel in its Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S4 devices and they are on their way to becoming ubiquitous in high-end phones, said Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis.

    Smartphones already offer hints of contextual computing although the technology has yet to become a big selling factor for consumers. Phones using Google's Android platform make suggestions of maps and navigation to different destinations, like the home or office, depending on a user's location, habits, traffic and time of day.

    Motorola's Moto X smartphone has a microphone that is always listening for commands.

    As well as smartphones, semiconductor companies are also working on ways to deliver more sophisticated experiences using combinations of sensors and other chips in bracelets, watches and other wearables. Consumer products using sensors already include bracelets that track sports and fitness-related activity, including distances run and walked, heart beats and sleep.

    Last week, Samsung Electronics launched the Galaxy Gear watch, and Qualcomm launched the Toq smartwatch, both of which work in conjunction with smartphones.

    On Monday, Intel announced it is working on a new line of ultra-small and ultra-low-power microchips for wearable devices like smartwatches and bracelets, a bid by the company to be at the crest of the next big technology wave after arriving late to the smartphone and tablet revolution.

    Computing companies are also pushing contextual computing into medical devices that can help monitor the health of patients and give doctors early warnings when their conditions change.

    Better integrating movement and directional sensors with always-listening microphones and more personal data could let smartphones accurately monitor their location and activities, and figure out what advice and solutions to offer at any given time, whether shopping for groceries or running to catch a train.

    InvenSense, which makes gyroscopes and other motion sensors and competes against STMicro, plans to sell chips within a couple of years that can detect changes in altitude as small as riding an elevator in an office building and help navigate downtown corridors where skyscrapers block GPS satellites.

    After explosive 46 percent growth last year, global smartphone shipments in 2013 will expand another 33 percent and then increase at smaller double-digit rates over the next few years, according to IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. Asia, where many consumers spend less on smartphones, is expected to be the main source of growth.

    Citi analyst Glen Yeung downgraded his rating on Qualcomm's stock in July due to concerns the smartphone industry is running out of new ideas. He said that what smartphone makers do with chips and other components is becoming more important for innovating in phones than adding new hardware.

    "When you think about the relationship between software and hardware, this is where it's all going. We're getting to a point where we're commoditizing the hardware. All the tools I need exist," Yeung said.

    Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, the mobile industry's top chipmaker, disagrees. He says investors who believe that components are already mostly good enough are wrong.

    "We're building new radio designs specifically for the idea of the digital sixth sense, of having notifications, discovery of stuff that's around you," Jacobs told Reuters recently.

    Chipmaker Nvidia says games on future smartphones and tablets will use cameras and other sensors to add immersive experiences, making the player's environment part of the game.

    "End users have to have better experiences. If you just deliver a new chip but don't have the software to build on that ... then the end user isn't going to see any difference, and hence you get a gold iPhone," said Matt Wuebbling, director of product marketing for mobile.

    Broadcom, which makes chips that handle wifi, Bluetooth and other kinds of connectivity, is also researching ways to improve how its radio chips interact with GPS satellites and sensors.

    "There will be new connectivity technologies, more powerful devices, sensor integration and the integration for wearables," Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor recently told Reuters.

    "It's not time to close the patent office yet."

    (Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Claudia Parsons)

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Reuter site - Internet experts want security revamp after NSA revelations

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    Internet experts want security revamp after NSA revelations

    Sat, Sep 07 23:55 PM EDT

    By Joseph Menn

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Internet security experts are calling for a campaign to rewrite Web security in the wake of disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has developed the capability to break encryption protecting millions of sites.

    But they acknowledged the task won't be easy, in part because internet security has relied heavily on brilliant government scientists who now appear suspect to many.

    Leading technologists said they felt betrayed that the NSA, which has contributed to some important security standards, was trying to ensure they stayed weak enough that the agency could break them. Some said they were stunned that the government would value its monitoring ability so much that it was willing to reduce everyone's security.

    "We had the assumption that they could use their capacity to make weak standards, but that would make everyone in the U.S. insecure," said Johns Hopkins cryptography professor Matthew Green. "We thought they would never be crazy enough to shoot out the ground they were standing on, and now we're not so sure."

    The head of the volunteer group in charge of the Internet's fundamental technology rules told Reuters on Saturday that the panel will intensify its work to add encryption to basic Web traffic and to strengthen the so-called secure sockets layer, which guards banking, email and other pages beginning with Https.

    "This is one instance of the dangers that we face in the networked age," said Jari Arkko, an Ericsson scientist who chairs the Internet Engineering Task Force. "We have to respond to the new threats."

    Other experts likewise responded sharply to media reports based on documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showing the NSA has manipulated standards.

    Documents provided to The Guardian, the New York Times and others by Snowden and published on Thursday show that the agency worked to insert vulnerabilities in commercial encryption gear, covertly influence other designs to allow for future entry, and weaken industry-wide standards to the agency's benefit.

    In combination with other techniques, those efforts led the NSA to claim internally that it had the ability to access many forms of internet traffic that had been widely believed to be secure, including at least some virtual private networks, which set up secure tunnels on the Internet, and the broad security level of the secure sockets layer Web, used for online banking and the like.

    The office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday that the NSA "would not be doing its job" if it did not try to counter the use of encryption by such adversaries as "terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others."

    Green and others said a great number of security protocols needed to be written "from scratch" without government help.

    Vint Cerf, author of the some of the core internet protocols, said that he didn't know whether the NSA had truly wreaked much damage, underscoring the uncertainty in the new reports about what use the NSA has made of its abilities.

    "There has long been a tension between the mission to conduct surveillance and the mission to protect communication, and that tension resolved some time ago in favor of protection at least for American communications," Cerf said.

    Yet Cerf's employer Google Inc confirmed it is racing to encrypt data flowing between its data centers, a process that was ramped up after Snowden's documents began coming to light in June.

    Author Bruce Schneier, one of the most admired figures in modern cryptography, wrote in a Guardian column that the NSA "has undermined a fundamental social contract" and that engineers elsewhere had a "moral duty" to take back the Internet.

    RELYING ON NSA FOR HELP

    But all those interviewed warned that rewriting Web security would be extremely difficult.

    Mike Belshe, a former Google engineer who has spearheaded the IETF drive to encrypt regular Web traffic, said that his plan had been "watered down" in the committee process during the past few years as some companies looked after their own interests more than users.

    Another problem is the relatively small number of mathematical experts working outside the NSA.

    "A lot of our foundational technologies for securing the Net have come through the government," said researcher Dan Kaminsky, famed for finding a critical flaw in the way users are steered to the website they seek. "They have the best minds in the country, but their advice is now suspect."

    Finally, governments around the world, including democracies, are asserting more authority over the Internet, in some cases forbidding the use of virtual private networks.

    "As much as I want to say this is a technology problem we can address, if the nation states decide security isn't something we're allowed to have, then we're in trouble," Kaminsky said. "If security is outlawed, only outlaws will have security."

    (Editing by Peter Henderson and Eric Walsh)

    Tuesday, September 3, 2013

    Reuter site - Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

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    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    Tue, Sep 03 07:08 AM EDT

    By Jeremy Wagstaff

    SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The smartwatch could be as revolutionary as the smartphone - an intelligent device on our wrist that connects our bodies to data and us to the world - but only a handful of companies have the heft and vision to be able to pull it off.

    It's not through lack of trying. Watchmakers and others have been adding calculators, calendars and wireless data connections to wrist-straps for at least 30 years.

    Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is having another go on Wednesday, when it launches the Galaxy Gear in Berlin, but a source familiar with the matter said that the smartwatch device would be no game changer - more of a fashion accessory than an effort to redefine the genre.

    Sony Corp is also launching a modest update of its Android-compatible SmartWatch, while heavyweights Apple Inc and Google Inc have shown tentative signs of interest in developing such technology.

    The market potential, cheerleaders say, is vast. Leveraging advances in voice technology, biometrics, communications, cloud storage and power consumption, smartwatches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017, according to Credit Suisse.

    "Look at the way we experience mobile communication today - this is not the end point," said Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst at British-based consultancy Generator Research, pointing to the awkwardness with which most of us clasp the handset to our ear, remove it from our pockets to read messages, or tap in appointments and emails.

    "If you look at the phone today, it's important to ask: is this as good as it gets?"

    Wearable devices such as smartwatches or digital eyewear, the argument goes, could take over many of the more cumbersome functions of a smartphone while also adding functions we can so far only dream of.

    By tapping into sensors around the body, on objects and in other devices, they could offer what Plantronics, a headset maker, calls "contextual intelligence", harvesting data to create "a highly personalized experience in real-time", according to Joe Burton, the company's CTO.

    ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY

    Driving this optimism are advances in technology, and a more sophisticated audience already familiar with smartphones, apps, and wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth.

    The prices and size of sensors have fallen rapidly - making them a feature of many smartphones. Samsung's Galaxy S4 has nine, according to a report on wearable technology by Credit Suisse.

    An addition to Bluetooth, for example, uses much less energy and can push and pull data to a watch via the mobile phone, says Paul Williamson of CSR plc, a maker of such so-called Bluetooth Smart chips.

    With the technology now integrated into devices running the latest versions of Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, "smartwatches can render data from any of the applications that are running on your smartphone", Williamson said.

    Smartwatches like the Magellan Echo, for example, can stream data wirelessly from a range of third party fitness apps on a smartphone, without requiring frequent recharges.

    Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at British-based Cambridge Consultants, which advises companies and develops new technologies, called the adoption of Bluetooth Smart "a real game-changer".

    But so far wearables have remained a niche for early adopters, such as fans of Pebble Technology's crowd-funded smartwatch, which has sold 100,000 units since its launch earlier this year, or health and fitness enthusiasts embracing Nike's Fuelband or Under Armour's FitBit.

    And therein lies the rub, says Generator Research's Sheehy. Most of these players have either thought too small, or lack the heft to be able to break into the mainstream.

    That not only means having capital and resources, but being able to build on existing expertise in hardware, software, cloud and processing data.

    "This is tough technology," he says. "The number of companies who can do this are very few and far between."

    HURDLES REMAIN

    First there are remaining technological hurdles, such as powering the devices. Batteries will need to be 5-10 times smaller than those in smartphones, says Cosmin Laslau, mobile energy analyst at Lux Research, requiring innovation in cell materials such as silicon anodes and packaging - such as Apple's work on flexible batteries.

    Then there is a need for better displays. Both Apple and Samsung have been working on curved glass - Samsung is investing more than $6 billion on displays this year alone, and is planning to launch a curved mobile device later this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    There's also the fact that wearing a device is not quite the same as carrying one.

    For one thing it has to be stylish, says Gartner research director Angela McIntyre.

    Jonathan Peachey, CEO of Filip Technologies, spent three years working on a watch to make it acceptable for the kids who would wear it and their parents who would use it to track and communicate with their offspring via a smartphone.

    "Consumers need to develop a more personal relationship with a wearable computing device than they would otherwise with a handheld device," Peachey said.

    Key to this is the interface, says Thad Starner, Professor of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, whose pioneering work with wearable computers led to him be a technical lead for Google Glass.

    Developing a mobile interface for wristwatches and heads-up displays requires lots of experimentation, he says. The best way, he adds, is to build "living laboratories" where more and more people use them in everyday life.

    "The most important thing, right now, is to reduce the time between the user's intention to perform a task and the user's action to complete that task."

    His other projects point to the possibilities: a contraption that lets him answer students' text messages by voice while wandering across campus and a gesture interface that understands sign language.

    DO I NEED IT?

    But even if those hurdles are overcome, just how useful is a wearable device going to be? "Finding a role or a use for wearable electronics is the central question facing the industry today," says Mykola Golovko, an analyst at Euromonitor.

    Right now the most appealing prospects are as a "slave" to the smartphone or tablet, where the wearable devices collects data from the user's body or environment and relays it to the smartphone. The smartphone acts as a gateway to the Internet to process this information and merge it with other data before feeding it back to the device.

    "In this world the role of the smartwatch is not to replace the phone but to keep the data feed going and make it even more accessible," says Rob Milner, technical leader of smart systems at Cambridge Consultants.

    But this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

    "The multi-sensor combo packages and low-power wireless chips are available," says Shane Walker, an analyst at IHS, "now the data created from this pairing needs to be made compelling and useful."

    CRACKING THE NUT

    Which means that whoever cracks the nut of a mass market wearable device is less likely to be a pure hardware maker than a broader-based company.

    "You can call me a smartwatch skeptic," says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. "I don't see that any vendor, with the possible exception of Apple, can make smartwatches a mainstream success."

    Speculation aside, Apple has kept its cards close to its chest. CEO Tim Cook has called the wrist "interesting" and Apple has registered the trademark iWatch in Japan. Several Apple patents point to wrist-worn devices.

    And Google has staked a claim in wearables with its Google Glass, spectacles that include a small visual display. It bought start-up WIMM Labs, which had launched a smartwatch in 2011, and has demonstrated the power of contextual information with Google Now, which mines users' emails, location and other data to provide a personalized stream of data.

    Other possible players, says Generation Research's Sheehy, include Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc.

    "If Samsung or Google succeeded at this and Apple failed at this level, it would really be a handing over of the baton," he said.

    If the Galaxy Gear is the first salvo, Apple has little to fear. After two earlier wrist-phone flops in 1999 and 2009, Samsung is taking a cautious approach with its latest version of the smartwatch, according to the source familiar with Samsung's thinking.

    "Samsung is trying to say that it is not following but jumping into it ahead of its key rival, ie Apple," he said. "They are simply dipping their toes into the market as they don't want to take big risks with a costly bet on the new unproven category yet."

    (Additional reporting by Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    Reuter site - Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE9820G120130903

    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    Tue, Sep 03 07:08 AM EDT

    By Jeremy Wagstaff

    SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The smartwatch could be as revolutionary as the smartphone - an intelligent device on our wrist that connects our bodies to data and us to the world - but only a handful of companies have the heft and vision to be able to pull it off.

    It's not through lack of trying. Watchmakers and others have been adding calculators, calendars and wireless data connections to wrist-straps for at least 30 years.

    Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is having another go on Wednesday, when it launches the Galaxy Gear in Berlin, but a source familiar with the matter said that the smartwatch device would be no game changer - more of a fashion accessory than an effort to redefine the genre.

    Sony Corp is also launching a modest update of its Android-compatible SmartWatch, while heavyweights Apple Inc and Google Inc have shown tentative signs of interest in developing such technology.

    The market potential, cheerleaders say, is vast. Leveraging advances in voice technology, biometrics, communications, cloud storage and power consumption, smartwatches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017, according to Credit Suisse.

    "Look at the way we experience mobile communication today - this is not the end point," said Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst at British-based consultancy Generator Research, pointing to the awkwardness with which most of us clasp the handset to our ear, remove it from our pockets to read messages, or tap in appointments and emails.

    "If you look at the phone today, it's important to ask: is this as good as it gets?"

    Wearable devices such as smartwatches or digital eyewear, the argument goes, could take over many of the more cumbersome functions of a smartphone while also adding functions we can so far only dream of.

    By tapping into sensors around the body, on objects and in other devices, they could offer what Plantronics, a headset maker, calls "contextual intelligence", harvesting data to create "a highly personalized experience in real-time", according to Joe Burton, the company's CTO.

    ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY

    Driving this optimism are advances in technology, and a more sophisticated audience already familiar with smartphones, apps, and wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth.

    The prices and size of sensors have fallen rapidly - making them a feature of many smartphones. Samsung's Galaxy S4 has nine, according to a report on wearable technology by Credit Suisse.

    An addition to Bluetooth, for example, uses much less energy and can push and pull data to a watch via the mobile phone, says Paul Williamson of CSR plc, a maker of such so-called Bluetooth Smart chips.

    With the technology now integrated into devices running the latest versions of Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, "smartwatches can render data from any of the applications that are running on your smartphone", Williamson said.

    Smartwatches like the Magellan Echo, for example, can stream data wirelessly from a range of third party fitness apps on a smartphone, without requiring frequent recharges.

    Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at British-based Cambridge Consultants, which advises companies and develops new technologies, called the adoption of Bluetooth Smart "a real game-changer".

    But so far wearables have remained a niche for early adopters, such as fans of Pebble Technology's crowd-funded smartwatch, which has sold 100,000 units since its launch earlier this year, or health and fitness enthusiasts embracing Nike's Fuelband or Under Armour's FitBit.

    And therein lies the rub, says Generator Research's Sheehy. Most of these players have either thought too small, or lack the heft to be able to break into the mainstream.

    That not only means having capital and resources, but being able to build on existing expertise in hardware, software, cloud and processing data.

    "This is tough technology," he says. "The number of companies who can do this are very few and far between."

    HURDLES REMAIN

    First there are remaining technological hurdles, such as powering the devices. Batteries will need to be 5-10 times smaller than those in smartphones, says Cosmin Laslau, mobile energy analyst at Lux Research, requiring innovation in cell materials such as silicon anodes and packaging - such as Apple's work on flexible batteries.

    Then there is a need for better displays. Both Apple and Samsung have been working on curved glass - Samsung is investing more than $6 billion on displays this year alone, and is planning to launch a curved mobile device later this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    There's also the fact that wearing a device is not quite the same as carrying one.

    For one thing it has to be stylish, says Gartner research director Angela McIntyre.

    Jonathan Peachey, CEO of Filip Technologies, spent three years working on a watch to make it acceptable for the kids who would wear it and their parents who would use it to track and communicate with their offspring via a smartphone.

    "Consumers need to develop a more personal relationship with a wearable computing device than they would otherwise with a handheld device," Peachey said.

    Key to this is the interface, says Thad Starner, Professor of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, whose pioneering work with wearable computers led to him be a technical lead for Google Glass.

    Developing a mobile interface for wristwatches and heads-up displays requires lots of experimentation, he says. The best way, he adds, is to build "living laboratories" where more and more people use them in everyday life.

    "The most important thing, right now, is to reduce the time between the user's intention to perform a task and the user's action to complete that task."

    His other projects point to the possibilities: a contraption that lets him answer students' text messages by voice while wandering across campus and a gesture interface that understands sign language.

    DO I NEED IT?

    But even if those hurdles are overcome, just how useful is a wearable device going to be? "Finding a role or a use for wearable electronics is the central question facing the industry today," says Mykola Golovko, an analyst at Euromonitor.

    Right now the most appealing prospects are as a "slave" to the smartphone or tablet, where the wearable devices collects data from the user's body or environment and relays it to the smartphone. The smartphone acts as a gateway to the Internet to process this information and merge it with other data before feeding it back to the device.

    "In this world the role of the smartwatch is not to replace the phone but to keep the data feed going and make it even more accessible," says Rob Milner, technical leader of smart systems at Cambridge Consultants.

    But this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

    "The multi-sensor combo packages and low-power wireless chips are available," says Shane Walker, an analyst at IHS, "now the data created from this pairing needs to be made compelling and useful."

    CRACKING THE NUT

    Which means that whoever cracks the nut of a mass market wearable device is less likely to be a pure hardware maker than a broader-based company.

    "You can call me a smartwatch skeptic," says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. "I don't see that any vendor, with the possible exception of Apple, can make smartwatches a mainstream success."

    Speculation aside, Apple has kept its cards close to its chest. CEO Tim Cook has called the wrist "interesting" and Apple has registered the trademark iWatch in Japan. Several Apple patents point to wrist-worn devices.

    And Google has staked a claim in wearables with its Google Glass, spectacles that include a small visual display. It bought start-up WIMM Labs, which had launched a smartwatch in 2011, and has demonstrated the power of contextual information with Google Now, which mines users' emails, location and other data to provide a personalized stream of data.

    Other possible players, says Generation Research's Sheehy, include Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc.

    "If Samsung or Google succeeded at this and Apple failed at this level, it would really be a handing over of the baton," he said.

    If the Galaxy Gear is the first salvo, Apple has little to fear. After two earlier wrist-phone flops in 1999 and 2009, Samsung is taking a cautious approach with its latest version of the smartwatch, according to the source familiar with Samsung's thinking.

    "Samsung is trying to say that it is not following but jumping into it ahead of its key rival, ie Apple," he said. "They are simply dipping their toes into the market as they don't want to take big risks with a costly bet on the new unproven category yet."

    (Additional reporting by Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the smartwatch ? | Reuters.com

    http://us.mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE9820G120130903

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    Factbox: Companies in the smartwatch business | Reuters.com

    http://us.mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE9820G920130903

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    Microsoft swallows Nokia's handset business for $7.2 billion

    http://news.yahoo.com/microsoft-acquire-nokias-handset-business-7-2-billion-031642910--finance.html?.tsrc=yahoo

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