Latest Technology News

Google, mobile and the next billion

The change in Google's narrative over the past few months has been very interesting to watch. The recent "Peak Google" proclamations remind me of Facebook's post-IPO narrative in 2012. Conventional wisdom back then was that Facebook's decline was imminent as mobile was not a meaningful part of their revenue. Of course, Facebook's app install ads and other mobile initiatives disproved that narrative in short order.

Some observers even make it seem as though Google's growth has seen a major slowdown in 2014. Interestingly, both Google's revenue and operating profit growth accelerated in 2014. This isn't to say that mobile does not pose a challenge to Google. It does, but it is important to understand exactly what those challenges are and the way forward. By looking at Google's financial reports, their biggest challenge is a decline in operating margins. This has been triggered by increase in search advertising on mobile, which delivers lower CPCs. While consumers used search on PCs for more involved research on products/services, the interaction window for mobile search is shorter. Lower ad engagement led to fewer bids on keywords and consequently, lower CPCs and margins.

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Microsoft welcomes weak Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Microsoft welcomes White House's proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Late on Friday, the White House released a draft proposal for the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015. It is supposed to grant greater privacy rights to individuals, and sets out a framework in which codes of conduct can be constructed.

The bill comes in response to growing concerns about the amount of data companies store about their customers and users, particularly online. Government surveillance has brought privacy into the public eye, and this is the government's attempt to be seen to be righting wrongs.

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Happy 3rd birthday Raspberry Pi!

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Raspberry Pi celebrates its third birthday today. Well actually it doesn’t, as the super-affordable ARM GNU/Linux computer was launched on February 29 2012, in what was (obviously) a leap year, but it’s close enough.

In that time the Raspberry Pi has achieved staggering success. Two months ago it was revealed total sales had surpassed 5 million (and the Raspberry Pi Foundation says another half a million have been sold in this month alone), with new and updated models launched in the past year.

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Facebook lets you choose a custom gender, now it's time to drop real names

Facebook lets you choose a custom gender, now it's time to drop real names

Facebook found itself under fire last year for imposing a real name policy. Drag artists, the LGBT community, musicians and other groups were among those who felt they should be able to use a name other than the one that appears on their birth certificate. The social network ultimately backed down, but the whole debacle left something of a bad taste in the mouth.

People are able to use "the authentic name they use in real life" to identify themselves on the site, and Facebook has opened up gender options further. There's no need to feel limited by the male or female labels, or even make a selection from a readymade list -- you can now specify whatever gender you want. But is this enough?

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Xbox One selling badly in China

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It was big news last year when Microsoft announced that it would officially start selling the Xbox One in China. The original September launch date came and went ("Despite strong and steady progress, we are going to need a bit more time to deliver the best experiences possible for our fans in China"), but eventually the next gen console made it on sale.

Although China gave the green-light for the sale of 5 million Xbox units, actual sales have been way, way below that. Launch numbers (including pre-orders) were just 100,000 units, and the company responsible for Xbox One sales in China has posted huge losses.

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VLC 2.2.0 adds extension manager, resume playback, auto-rotate

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VideoLAN has announced the release of VLC Media Player 2.2.0 (and64-bit) for the desktop, along with coordinated releases for iOS, Android, and the first public betas for Android TV, WinRT and Windows Phone.

The desktop build now features a built-in extension manager. No need for manual tweaking any more, just click Tools > Plugins and Extensions, browse and install whatever you need.

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Vodafone customers to get 25GB of Dropbox free on iPhone and Android

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Cloud storage is the future. You can try to hold out, but all that kicking and screaming won't do you any good. While physical storage for home users won't be going away any time soon, the convenience of the cloud will convert many.

It feels like all the top cloud storage companies are eager to give away space nowadays, so it can be hard to choose. My choice is Dropbox, however, as it is cross-platform, including Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora. Today, Dropbox announces that Vodafone smartphone users can get 25GB of storage for free.

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Up and Atom! Intel rebranding its low-cost mobile processors with x3, x5 and x7

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Buying a new laptop, tablet or other device should be a fun experience. No one likes spending money, because let's be honest -- you work hard for it. When you finally decide to make that purchase, you want to be sure that you bought the right machine. Not only do you want to be sure that it is powerful enough, but you also don't want to pay for power you don't need. A wrong decision can turn a fun experience into regret.

Unfortunately, it can be confusing for the non-tech oriented consumer. Intel's battery-sipping Atom processors can be brilliant for low-cost machines, but the naming conventions are convoluted and can confuse customers. This is changing, however, as Intel is rebranding the Atom line.

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Twitter triples troll-tackling team

Twitter triples troll-tackling team

Like many social platforms, Twitter is often used by trolls to launch abusive attacks on people. It's something that Twitter has tried to tackle before, but now the company is stepping up its game. Having already made it easier to report abusive tweets, the same tools are being rolled out to simplify the reporting of content relating to impersonation, self-harm and doxing.

Dick Costolo had already promised that Twitter was ready to get tough on harassment, and now we know what he meant. The size of the team handling reports about abuse has been tripled, and this means that five times as many reported tweets are to be investigated.

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Lenovo to ship Windows 10 PCs without bloatware; offers 6-month free security to Superfish-affected users

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Just a week after getting caught for shipping Superfish adware in its recent computers, Lenovo announces today that it is done with placing bloatware on its systems. The world’s largest PC vendor promises that all its future computers will be running the pure Windows operating system and won't contain any inessential or trivial tools. In addition, the company also announces a free six-month subscription of the McAfee LiveSafe security suite for the Superfish-affected users.

"The events of last week reinforce the principle that customer experience, security and privacy must be our top priorities", the company writes in a blog post. "With this in mind, we will significantly reduce preloaded applications. Our goal is clear: To become the leader in providing cleaner, safer PCs".

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Lyrics come to the Spotify desktop app

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Song lyrics can sometimes be confusing -- think Jimi Hendrix "excuse me while I kiss the sky" that people mis-heard as "excuse while I kiss this guy". Numerous other examples exist, including prominent ones from Bruce Springsteen and The Police. Many times we're left completely confused and searching lyric websites to see if the ear deceived us.

Now music streaming service Spotify aims to save you a trip to A-Z Lyrics, or whatever site you use. The company is bringing the lyrics to you, right in the desktop app. The update will utilize Musixmatch, a service that has a good reputation for getting things right, regardless of how confusing it may sound.

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The top four places your data is at risk

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We all worry about protecting our information, but how do we know which activities or locations are most likely to put it in jeopardy?

Digital rights management company Seclore has produced an infographic showing the four places where your data is most at risk. Unsurprisingly perhaps some of these are areas where you have the least control.

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One in three of the world's population now owns a smartphone

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Although smartphones are commonplace in the developed world, there are still plenty of people who don’t yet own one, and they are still far rarer in developing nations.

However, smartphone growth is on the up, and according to the latest findings from Strategy Analytics’ WSS (Smartphones) research service, the number of global smartphone users reached 2 billion in 2014.

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Best Windows apps this week

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One-hundred and twenty in a series. Welcome to this week's overview of the best apps and games released for Windows in the past seven days.

The games category is without doubt the most popular category in Windows Store right now.

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4 reasons why cloud spending is set to explode this year

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The Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast report predicts fiercer competition in 2015 between traditional on-premise software vendors, pushing expenditure up to $3.8 trillion. It says that spending in the enterprise technology market will reach $335 billion this year, increasing by 5.5 percent over 2014’s figures. Traditional vendors are now having to increasingly compete with cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, lower prices and vendor software consolidation.

These trends have pushed traditional on-premise software vendors to increasingly offer more discounted cloud services to counter the onslaught by the incumbent SaaS players.

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