The world of VoIP services is one packed with various names bustling for attention. One of the biggest names in the game is Viber, which started small but grew impressively as it spread across platforms -- now it has grown to the point that it is deemed worthy of handing over $900 million. At least that is the view of Rakuten, the Japanese firm behind Play.com and the Kobo eReader that agreed to part with this not insubstantial sum of money for an outright purchase of Viber Media Ltd.
With around 280 million registered users, Viber could be quite a money-maker for Rakuten who explained that the service has a "rapidly growing numbers of users, especially in emerging countries". With its fingers already in various online pies -- ebooks, shopping and streaming media through Wuaki.tv -- Viber represents yet another string to Rakuten's bow as the company "aims to be the global number one internet services" provider.
Very little has been said about sales figures for Windows 8 of late, but today Tami Reller, Microsoft's executive vice president of Marketing outed the most recent number of sales during a webcast. Reller revealed that 200 million Windows 8 licenses have now been sold. This is an impressive increase from the last sales figures of 100 million back in May 2013, but sales of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system remain slower than its predecessors.
The 200 million licenses do not include volume license sales, but the number does include sales to the public as well as those to OEMs. A doubling of sales in under a year is not to be sniffed at, but it will probably do little to calm the vocal groups keen to bash Windows 8's success. Ultimately the speed of sales is still a little slow. While more than 40 million licenses were sold in the month after Windows 8's release, this was not sustained.
Time capsules are a cool idea, and they're something many of us put together at school. A box, tin, jar or other container to house keepsakes, momentos, favorites things and other objects that capture the zeitgeist. After 1983's International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado, the organizer decided to create a time capsule on a larger scale -- a 13 foot pipe that looked a little like a torpedo. Into it were a range of goodies from attendees and presenters. Steve Jobs threw his Apple Lisa mouse and the capsule was dubbed the Steve Jobs Time Capsule.
The plan was to unearth it in the year 2000 -- that iconic year that was seen to hold such promise and power before it arrived -- but it was lost thanks to a combination of landscaping, poor memory and a lack of mapping. The TV show Diggers brought the capsule above ground for the first time in 30 years back in September, but video footage of the excavation has only just been released.
Apple overtakes Microsoft! That’s not a headline you'd expect to read, and when you look at sales of Macs versus Windows desktops, Macs and Windows laptops, or any combination of these, it is Windows devices that are always going to come out on top. But look at things from a different angle and it is a very different story. In Q4 2013, the number of Apple devices sold exceeded the number of Windows PCs sold around the world.
This is an interesting demonstration of the notion that mobile devices are very much on the increase. Compared to Windows PCs, Macs account for a very small percentage of computer sales, but once sales of iPads, iPods and iPhones are factored in, Apple overtakes PCs -- not by much, but it is still significant. It is also worth noting that while Windows Phone is widely derided for poor sales, once these smartphones are included, Windows devices return to the top of the charts -- but again, not by much.
According to figures released by International Data Corporation (IDC), 2013 was the year that smartphones really took off -- a staggering 1 billion units shipped. As has been the case for some time, it is Android and iOS that continue to dominate, with Google's mobile operating system claiming a 78.1 percent market share, and Apple's 17.6 percent. As has been the norm, Windows Phone found itself in third place, although it did manage to increase its market share to 3 percent.
The figures are based on shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013, and when compared to the same period in 2012, Android and Windows Phone both made gains while iOS lost some of its market share. Jumping from 70.3 percent of the market in 2012, Android's growth was impressive, while iOS dropped 3.3 percentage points from 20.9 percent. Looked at in terms of percentage points, Windows Phone's jump from 2.6 to 3.0 percent of the market, it still represents an improvement of more than 13 percent.
Chromebooks may be increasing in popularity, particularly in business, but they still have a long way to go before they catch up with Windows-based laptops. One of the factors holding back Chromebook is, both obviously and ironically, Chrome OS. It is a perfectly capable operating system for anyone locked into the Google ecosystem, but it has one failing -- for many people, at least -- it will not run Windows applications. But all this is set to change thanks to a new venture between Google and VMware.
VWmare is a name long-associated with bringing one platform's apps to another using virtualization, and now it is pushing its DaaS platform (or VMware Horizon Desktop as a Service Platform for Service Providers to give it its full, unabridged title) as a way to bring Windows applications to Chromebook users. As this is something that will be available on a subscription basis, it is likely to appeal to businesses rather than individuals, but it does break down another obstacle for anyone with two minds about Chromebook.
The US is used to being a dominating force in the world -- this is true in sport, politics, economics, and many other areas -- but the European Commission thinks there should be less US influence over the internet. There are concerns about the level of control the United States has over the technologies and protocols that underpin the internet. One area for concern is ICANN which operates on behalf of the US government yet exerts control over procedures that have global effects.
There is also concern that Europe does not currently have enough sway over the internet. Neelie Kroes, commissioner in charge of telecommunications policy, said: "Europe must contribute to a credible way forward for global internet governance. Europe must play a strong role in defining what the net of the future looks like."
You know how sometimes it just seem like too much hassle to scroll through your contact list to place a call or send a text to someone? Well, no more! There's no need to update your app, but Google's Search tool for Android has been enhanced with a new voice-dialing feature. The app now lets you use phrases such as "OK, Google, call mom" or "OK, Google, send a text to dad" you can... well... place a call to your mom or compose a text message to send to your dad.
Before you start panicking that Google has started spying on your family and is now aware of the relationships you have with each of your contacts, fret not! This is not an entirely automated feature -- you will need to specify which of your contacts is your mom, your dad, and so on. If you try to call your mother using the vocal command before having set up your relationship, you will be prompted to choose which of your contacts gave birth to you -- on subsequent utterances, the call will be placed straight away.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous US philanthropists last year. In 2013, the couple donated 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, amounting to some $992.2 million. The Chronicle of Philanthropy put together a list of the top fifty most generous donors in 2012, ranked according to the size of individual donations.
The list is concerned only with gifts and pledges of cash and stock to non-profit organizations and it might be surprising to find that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is not at the top spot -- in fact, it does not appear in the list at all. This is explained by the publication:
HTC is a brand that has fallen from the lofty heights it enjoyed just a few years ago. Today, the company releases fourth quarter earnings and the figures do not make for particularly happy reading.
On the positive side of things, the results show HTC managed to break even -- this is good news having suffered losses throughout 2013. It's not great news as profits stand at just NT$0.31 billion, but it's certainly better than a loss.
Legal threats on Twitter are nothing new, but it is usually Twitter users who are the subject of litigation. In the case of the @JamesDean account, however, it is Twitter itself found on the receiving end of legal action. Acting on behalf of the James Dean estate, celebrity licensing agency CMG Worldwide is attempting to wrestle control of the Twitter account -- which is currently being used to tweet quotes by and about the star -- from the hands of its current owner.
The complaint says that Twitter is breaching trademarks owned by James Dean Inc by placing "objectionable content" online. CMG Worldwide has been in touch with Twitter to ask that the account activity be stopped, and that contact details for the account owner be handed over. Twitter has refused both requests. It is hard to see how the James Dean estate could have suffered "immeasurable and irreparable" damage. It is also interesting to note that the complaint suggests that unless the account activity stops, then James Dean Inc "will continue to be irreparably harmed and suffer actual damages in an amount as yet undetermined". There is no suggestion of what irreparable damage has actually been caused.
The biggest news of the week has to be the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO at Microsoft, which brought to an end weeks of speculation and rumor. Bill Gates also stepped down as chairman. A leaked version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 appeared online giving us all a sneak peek of what we can expect to see in the upcoming release -- including context menus on the Start screen, a new enterprise mode in Internet Explorer, and different ways of working with modern apps. Ahead of this big release, it was Windows XP that was showing growth rather than Microsoft's latest operating system.
In other Microsoft news, Xbox One's first big update was revealed to be coming up on 11 February. Sony announced that it was selling its VAIO business to enable it to focus its attention on mobile devices. Business and individuals who rely on 37signals' products found that the company was not only changing its name, but also dropping all of its services apart from Basecamp. There was another blow for Bitcoin as the online currency was effectively banned in Russia.
You might think that Russia has just about enough on its plate at the moment, what with having the Winter Olympics to host and fending off global accusations of homophobia, but the Central Bank of Russia has found the time to slap a ban on Bitcoin. This is not the first country to outlaw the online currency -- it's something that has already been done by Thailand and it's being considered by others.
The General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation looked into "the so-called virtual currencies" phenomenon and found that there was a risk of Bitcoin being used for money laundering. The damning ruling refers to Bitcoin and other similar currencies as "money substitutes". Citing Article 27 of the Federal Law, the General Prosecutor said that "the official currency of the Russian Federation is the ruble", going on to say that money issued in other forms is prohibited.
The social network for professionals, LinkedIn, is to acquire Bright, a job-search site that matches employers with potential employees. This is a purchase that makes a lot of sense for LinkedIn, the Facebook of the working world, helping to make it even easier for people to connect across industries. While LinkedIn has around 11 years of experience under its belt, Bright is more a newcomer, having only launched three years ago.
It seems like a perfect pairing. LinkedIn members have their resumes online as part of their profiles. Bright makes use of resumes to link people to jobs. It just seems to make sense. The three year old site is being purchased for what LinkedIn describes as "approximately $120 million, subject to adjustment". This total comprises 73 percent stock and 27 percent cash. The deal is expected to conclude by the end of Q1 2014.
Actual, real-life meetings are just so passé! In fact I have hardly met up with any of the people I work with in person -- we are living in the digital age, man! But the likes of Skype and FaceTime show that there is still an interest, even a need, for virtual face-to-face time, and this is particularly true for businesses. Conference calls are easy to set up on the phone, but there are times when it really does help to see what’s going on at the other end. Today Google takes the wraps off its solution: Chromebox for meetings.
As you would expect from Google, and probably guess from the name, this is a box running ChromeOS. Powered by a 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor, there are four USB 3.0 ports as well as HDMI and DisplayPort++ connections, and network connectivity is provided by an Ethernet port as well as an 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi adaptor. Also provided is an HD camera, a mic and speaker combo, and a remote control.