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Chrome gets sharp after dumping 30-year-old Windows technology

IDG News Service

Google last week said that it was finally ditching a 30-year-old technology to display fonts on Web pages in its Chrome browser for Windows.

In an announcement Thursday about some of the notable changes in Chrome for version 37, which reached Google’s Beta build channel earlier that day, a software engineer said the preview relied on Microsoft’s DirectWrite technology.

“Chrome 37 adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering even on high-DPI displays,” said Emil Eklund in a July 17 blog post.

Microsoft introduced the DirectWrite API with Windows 7, which shipped in the fall of 2009, and back-ported the technology to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) at the same time with what it called a Platform Update. Windows XP, the now-retired operating system — but one that still powers one-in-four personal computers worldwide — does not support DirectWrite.

Prior to the switch to DisplayWrite, Chrome used Microsoft’s Graphics Device Interface (GDI), which was a core component of Windows since the graphical user interface’s (GUI) debut in late 1985. Microsoft had been working on GDI for at least two years before that.

Chrome 36, the current version out of Google’s Stable build channel, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows.

Eklund said that DirectWrite had been a top user request for years: An entry in Chromium’s bug tracker — Chromium is the open-source project that feeds code to Chrome proper — about adding DirectWrite support to the browser was penned Oct. 22, 2009, the same day Windows 7 launched.

As far as a reason for the long stretch between that entry and DirectWrite support making it into Chrome, Eklund said, “The switch to DirectWrite … required extensive re-architecting and streamlining of Chrome’s font rendering engine.”

Much of that difficulty stemmed from the sandboxing — an anti-exploit and anti-crash technology — of Chrome’s rendering engine; it wasn’t until February of this year that developers reported on the bug tracker that they’d managed to get DirectWrite to work inside the sandbox.

Other browsers have long since adopted DirectWrite. Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, switched from GDI to DirectWrite with version 4, which debuted in March 2011. Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer (IE9) began using DirectWrite with IE9, which also shipped in March 2011.

DirectWrite was one of the reasons why Microsoft declined to add the then-powerhouse Windows XP to the list of supported editions for IE9, a move that made the company the first major browser developer to drop support for XP.

If all goes according to plan, DirectWrite support will reach the Stable edition of Chrome with version 37. Google does not hew to a set timetable to browser upgrades, as does Mozilla, but it typically rolls out a new version every six to eight weeks.

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Twitter and Facebook see a bright future for in-the-moment spending

IDG News Service

If you’re an impulse buyer trying to reform your ways, Facebook and Twitter are not on your side.

Both companies said Thursday they were working on new services to let their users either make purchases directly from their feeds or gain instant access to deals and promotions that can be redeemed in stores. It’s the latest display of competition heating up between the companies as they seek to add digital storefront real estate to their sites.

Why waste clicks getting to Amazon or eBay when you can have all your fun in between retweets or “likes”? Naturally, you might also retweet the advertiser’s promotion, which would make Twitter happy.

With Twitter, the technology comes courtesy of CardSpring, which Twittersaid it had acquired.

CardSpring lets software developers create offers inside their apps that users can add to their debit or credit cards. When the person makes a purchase in the store, the offer or discount is automatically applied.

The idea is that on Twitter, similar types of offers from businesses might appear in the stream. Twitter users could access the offers by providing their payment information to Twitter or some other processor. “We’re confident the CardSpring team and the technology they’ve built are a great fit with our philosophy regarding the best ways to bring in-the-moment commerce experiences to our users,” Twitter said in its announcement.

Twitter has already integrated some e-commerce functions to its site, such as by letting people add items to their Amazon carts by replying“#AmazonCart” to certain tweets. Twitter also has partnered with American Express to let card holders buy items by tweeting in a certain way. Those only work for users who synchronize their Twitter accounts with their Amazon or American Express accounts.

CardSpring’s technology could make for a more streamlined buying experience, maybe even one with a dedicated “buy” button. Previous reports have indicated Twitter might be looking in that direction.

Twitter did not say Thursday that such a button was coming. “We’ll have more information on our commerce direction in the future,” the company said.

A “buy” button for Facebook is definitely on the horizon. The company isnow testing a service to let users buy retail items directly from their news feeds or from a business’ page. There are only a few small and medium-sized businesses participating now. Facebook identified only one: Modify Watches, which makes interchangeable watches that the company says are “dope.”

Naturally, these e-commerce services could help Facebook and Twitter’s bottom lines by attracting vendors that want to connect with potential customers.

One barrier to their success could be people’s willingness to share their payment information with Facebook or Twitter. Facebook, in its announcement, said it built its feature with privacy in mind and that no payment information would be shared with other advertisers. People can also select whether they want to save their payment information for future purchases, Facebook said.

World Tech Update- July 24, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Facebook reports huge sales, Apple patents a smart watch and a space robot gets some updates.

 

Wall Street Beat: Transition to mobile, cloud hits tech earnings

IDG News Service

With Google, IBM, SAP, Intel and other tech titans reporting earnings this week, the focus is again on mobile and cloud technology. The general trend appears to be that the further a tech vendor has moved away from its legacy desktop-oriented products, the better its earnings are.

IBM has launched ambitious cloud and mobile initiatives—but the resulting products are not quite fully baked. IBM officials themselves acknowledge as much, with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty talking about “positioning ourselves for growth over the long term” in the company’s earnings release Thursday.

Earlier this year, IBM announced a global competition to encourage developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by its Watson supercomputer platform. Just this week, IBM and Apple said they are teaming up to create business apps for Apple’s mobile phones and tablets.

But such projects have a ways to go before they reach fruition. Meanwhile, IBM revenue growth is flagging. Its second-quarter revenue was US$24.4 billion, down 2 percent year over year. Profit jumped 28 percent year over year, to $4.1 billion, but that was mainly because it compares to a quarter when net earnings were unusually low due to a billion-dollar charge the company took for workforce rebalancing.

Though both revenue and profit beat analyst forecasts, at first blush investors appeared disappointed, driving down IBM’s share price overnight. IBM shares gained back ground Friday but in early afternoon trading were still down by $0.60 at $191.89.

SAP seems to be riding the transition to cloud while incrementally boosting revenue. The company Thursday reported that, though software revenue continued to decline, cloud-based sales rose.

The maker of ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) software reported that revenue rose by 2 percent year over year to €4.2 billion (US$5.7 billion) in the quarter. SAP’s cloud subscription and support revenue was €241 million in the quarter, up 52 percent. Due to provisions for its patent dispute with software maker Versata, however, its net profit dropped year on year by 23 percent to €556 million.

As usual, Google was the earnings star of the week, reporting Thursday that its core advertising business fueled a 22 percent year-over-year increase in sales, to $15.96 billion. Profit was $3.42 billion, up almost 6 percent year over year.

It’s hard to say how much of this is due to mobile, since Google does not break out numbers for mobile and desktop ads. However, Google has been working on a range of projects designed to get its software on mobile devices. Many of those projects are years away from contributing significantly to the company’s bottom line, so for now the company essentially runs on its tremendous ad business.

One issue is that ads on mobile devices cost less than ads for other platforms and as a result, even as the company successfully makes the transition to mobile, the average cost-per-click of its ads went down by about 7 percent last quarter. Google officials say that as mobile computing becomes more imbued with work and recreation, ads on mobile platforms will become more remunerative.

Investors seem to agree, as Google shares rose Friday by $21.09 to hit $601.90 in afternoon trading.

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Surface survives Microsoft cuts, but tablet strategy remains muddled

IDG News Service

As Microsoft announced its largest layoffs in its 39-year history — while saying it would press forward with its in-house Surface — analysts contended that the firm still hasn’t clearly stated its tablet strategy.

Earlier today, Microsoft said it would cut up to 18,000 jobs, or 14% of its work force, with the bulk of those layoffs coming from streamlining efforts after acquiring much of phone-maker Nokia.

The layoffs begin immediately, but as many as 5,000 will be left on tenterhooks for up to a year before knowing whether their jobs are safe.

Along with the layoffs, Microsoft also signaled an end to its experiment with Android, which powered the Nokia X series of smartphones. Nokia had kicked off the line prior to the deal’s completion.

“We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a message to employees.

Surface, the tablet-one-moment-notebook-the-next hardware that Microsoft debuted two years ago, will survive, the company made clear.

“With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams,” wrote Stephen Elop, the head of Microsoft’s device division, in a separate, much longer email to workers.

Nor, apparently, has Microsoft’s Surface strategy changed.

“More broadly across the Devices team, we will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings [and] devices, and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models,” Elop said.

While some on Wall Street have urged Microsoft to dump the Surface — and the Xbox for that matter — to focus on more profitable services and software, industry analysts contacted by Computerworld today weren’t surprised that the tablet/notebook survived the cuts.

“I’m not surprised that Microsoft is keeping Surface,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email today. “While it doesn’t fit 100% with ‘mobility and cloud,’ it’s close enough to keep it as it supports them driving their expanded definition of productivity by tying hardware, software and services.”

Others agreed.

“No, I didn’t think that they’d dump it,” echoed Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. research firm that focuses on the moves of nearby Microsoft. “Some people thought Microsoft would use this opportunity to ax the Surface, but it’s a big long-term bet for them. And the Surface Pro 3 sure seems to be a lot more popular than the earlier models.”

Microsoft started selling the third-generation Surface Pro 3 – an Intel processor-powered device that runs Windows 8.1 — last month, and will finish rolling out the line in two weeks. The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799, but costs $929 with a keyboard, a necessary add-on to fit the notebook replacement role that Microsoft markets.

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Standalone wearables coming this year, AT&T executive says

IDG News Service

The most successful wearable devices will be ones that can work without a phone, and AT&T will have at least one of them by the end of this year, the man who manages the carrier’s partnerships said.

“It needs to be an independent device. It needs to do something different for the end-user, for people to buy it en masse,” said Glenn Lurie, AT&T’s president of emerging enterprises and partnerships.

A likely place to start could be wearables for wellness, such as a device that knows when your workout’s begun, holds your music, and lets you post information about your performance to social networks, he said. “I think you’ll see devices like that this year,” Lurie said.

The hottest devices will be able to work both on their own and with a phone, Lurie said. They’ll also have to be simple to use, a bar that no wearable has crossed yet, he said.

Once wearables start talking to LTE on their own, the sky’s the limit of what consumers will take with them, Lurie said. “Just like tablets, it’s going to all of a sudden explode.”

Cars will be another hot category of connected devices, with natural-language commands letting drivers do many things, he said.

“We believe technology in a car can make the car not only a safer place, but a place where you can do everything you can do today with your smartphone in your hand,” Lurie said. But there are hurdles left to be crossed: Cars will need to be able to talk to both Android and iOS phones without those phones coming out of the driver’s pocket. And as cars age through several generations of mobile technology, their software will have to be upgradable over the air. “The car is going to become a smartphone with four wheels.”

Lurie has overseen AT&T’s new businesses and partnerships for years, going back to the carrier’s blockbuster deal to carry the Apple iPhone exclusively for five years. Speaking before the audience at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, he wasn’t giving away any secrets about what manufacturers are showing off to AT&T.

“The things I’m seeing are pretty darn exciting,” Lurie said.

World Tech Update- July 17, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Microsoft announces lay off plans, IBM and Apple team up and Google tests out Project Tango in space.

LinkedIn tries again to keep people connected, with a redesigned app

IDG News Service

LinkedIn is trying again to build a service on mobile that helps keep people in touch, even when they’re not actively job hunting.

On Thursday the company launched a redesigned standalone app to do that, called Connected. It’s an overhaul of the company’s Contacts app, which launched last year but was not as interactive as the new service. People who have that app downloaded will be prompted to upgrade to the new app on Thursday.

The new app will focus on bringing updates about people’s connections to their mobile device. Events like job changes, work anniversaries or mentions in the news will show up as cards that people can swipe through left to right. Swipe up on a card to dismiss it. Reach the end of a series of cards, and LinkedIn might recommend some other people to connect with.

Users can interact with the cards like they might a Facebook post, such as with a “like,” a comment, or even a follow-up phone call.

The app is available in English for iOS, but plans are in the works for Android and international versions. People do not have to manually add again their existing contacts; they show up when they sign in with their LinkedIn credentials.

LinkedIn’s main service already provides updates on people in the feed on mobile and desktop, and through email notifications, in addition to content like news articles, sponsored posts, and job suggestions.

But the cards interface of the Connected app, and its singular focus on people, is different. The app won’t let users, for instance, edit their profiles, search for jobs, or follow companies. Think of it like checking Facebook or Twitter to see what your friends are up to, but in a professional context.

David Brubacher, head of relationships products at LinkedIn, called it a new way for people to invest in their network of connections. Specifically, LinkedIn hopes the app will give people an easier way to keep in touch with their connections, particularly if they don’t have time for a face-to-face meeting.

“This app helps you invest in your relationships today, so opportunities blossom for you tomorrow,” the company said in its announcement.

LinkedIn, in other words, is trying to make its service more of a destination like Facebook or Twitter, rather than a means to an end. That’s a tough goal though for a site aimed at professionals. Whether LinkedIn’s new service takes off may depend on whether people really want to check another app to stay up to date on people who may not all be close friends.

But the app also aims to provide some smarts, by letting people sync their phone’s contacts and calendar. If you enable notifications in the app, you can receive push notifications like reminder alerts before meetings, or prompts to follow up or connect with people on LinkedIn after.

Users will be able to adjust these notifications in their settings. “It’s not our goal to bombard you with push notifications throughout the day,” said Vinodh Jayaram, LinkedIn’s director of engineering.

Coming soon: Mobile devices that can beam 4K video directly to TVs

IDG News Service

Smartphones and tablets will be able to transmit 4K video directly to big screens next year now that mobile chip maker Qualcomm has acquired Wilocity.

Wilocity makes chips based on WiGig technology, which wirelessly transfers data between devices at speeds of up to 7Gbps (bits per second) over a limited distance.

Qualcomm will integrate that technology in its 64-bit Snapdragon 810 mobile chip, it said Wednesday when it announced the acquisition. The first smartphones and tablets with WiGig will ship in the second half of next year, said Cormac Conroy, vice president of product management and engineering for Qualcomm’s Atheros division.

Device makers will ultimately decide if they want to use the WiGig chip in smartphones and tablets, a company spokeswoman said.

WiGig could spell the end of HDMI ports in mobile devices and also eliminate clutter and connectors required to transfer data or 4K video. WiGig is faster than Wi-Fi 802.11ac and LTE mobile broadband technologies, which are already in Snapdragon chips.

Qualcomm officials declined to say how much the company paid for Wilocity.

4K content is growing by the day and faster wireless data-transfer technologies are needed in mobile devices, Conroy said, adding it is the right time to integrate WiGig into Snapdragon.

Netflix has started streaming 4K video, and WiGig can turn mobile devices into media stations so streams can be dispatched to 4K TVs and displays. 4K video has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times that of 1920 x 1080 pixel, high-definition video.

The utility of WiGig goes beyond 4K video. Intel wants to free PCs of wiresby 2016 with the use of WiGig to connect desktops to displays, wireless keyboards and mice. Intel also views WiGig as a preferred data-transfer technology for mobile devices over low-power Thunderbolt, which would involve connectors and wires.

Dell is using WiGig technology in a wireless laptop dock.

Mobile device users will be able to sync data with the cloud faster through WiGig, said Tal Tamir, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Atheros, and formerly CEO of Wilocity.

Data exchange between mobile devices and the cloud is heavier in the enterprise, and WiGig will provide low-power, multi-gigabit throughput, Tamir said.

With PC-like data transfer capabilities, mobile devices could come close to becoming full-fledged computers, Tamir said. But WiGig won’t replace wired connectors like USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, which are widely used in computers, external storage devices, monitors and other peripherals.

WiGig has been around for years, but adoption has been slow. Qualcomm’s integration of the technology into smartphone and tablet chips should push adoption of the technology.

CIO.com Enhances Design and Functionality for a Consistent Visitor and Advertiser Experience Across Smartphones, Tablets and Desktops

IDG News Service

 IDG Enterprise—the leading enterprise technology media company composed of Computerworld, InfoWorld, Network World, CIO, DEMO, CSO, ITworld, CFOworld and CITEworld—reveals an enhanced design and greater functionality for CIO.com.  The award-winning site incorporates responsive design technology to scale editorial and advertising content to the user’s screen size, whether they are accessing CIO.com with a smartphone, tablet or desktop. 
“Technology decision-makers are mobile and want the flexibility to search for information no matter what tools they have access to at that moment,” said Matthew Yorke, CEO, IDG Enterprise. “This consistent experience allows our visitors to get the information they need from CIO.com to keep their businesses agile, no matter when or where a question arises.”
Website Enhancements Include: 

  • CIO.com enhanced through use of responsive design, including HTML5 and CSS3, to ensure usability and consistency for visitors using smartphones, tablets or desktops.    
  • High-quality content remains the key focus, while further showcasing the author. Additionally, hand-curated content pages will be incorporated on trending technologies such as Healthcare and Consumer Tech.
  • Visually enticing design with more prominent graphics and less pagination for a smoother reading experience, while maintaining ad impression impact.
  • Increased integration of social sharing tools for enhanced community building.
  • New navigation tools to optimize reader time-onsite, including lists showing what’s trending at the moment, a drop-down menu showcasing what other visitors are reading, and the top stories as selected by CIO editors.
  • Single, searchable “Resource Library” supporting all types of lead-generation content.
  • Shared functionality across IDG Enterprise sites for seamless execution of banner ads, lead generation and native advertising, making promotions more effective.

CIO.com’s editorial voice, content and design remains unique to the brand, while functionality has been aligned across IDG Enterprise sites including back-end capabilities enhancing search functionality and digital asset management for displaying more images and video content.  Navigation has migrated to a menu icon, next to the website logo, where visitors can navigate to key sections. Ads and promotional units are highlighted in a “deconstructed” right rail optimizing effectiveness and native advertising will be threaded intuitively throughout the site.

“The recent changes support the goals of CIO.com in that it is now more of a community for our readers to engage with our award-winning content as well as with their peers & industry leaders socially,” said Brian Carlson, editorial director/editor in chief, CIO.com. “The new site emphasizes our trusted, expert writers who our audience looks to when investigating technologies for their day-to-day needs.”