BlackBerry Messenger fuels the London Riots, putting Research in Motion on the hotseat, while the Verizon workers’ strike boils over amid accusations of violence and property destruction.
Technology Plays Role in London Riots
The London riots left the entire country in a tangled mess, leaving Scotland Yard to unravel how social media and text messaging aided the violence. Authorities say rioters communicate through Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger system because it is encrypted and free from police monitoring.
Consequently, British lawmakers called for the company to suspend the messaging service in London, hoping to prevent further secretive communication among rioters.
RIM did say it would assist U.K. police in tracking down agitators and looters, but did not indicate whether it would hand over customers’ private chat logs to British authorities.
Verizon Employees Strike, Things Get Messy
Verizon saw approximately 45,000 wireline workers strike after labour negotiations hit a standstill. The picketing landline technicians are fighting to keep their pensions and health insurance premiums unchanged, which Verizon seeks to limit as downgrades its wireline business in favour of supporting the growing wireless market.
The strike began peacefully but mudslinging quickly followed. Verizon complained striking workers purposely-cut fibre optic lines and blocked managers from entering or exiting company buildings. Union representatives denied these claims and accused Verizon supporters of vehicular assault against picketing workers.
Following the upheaval, Verizon filed injunction requests to keep the Communications Workers of America picket lines away from its facilities. The phone giant said the court orders were necessary to keep service operating smoothly in areas affected by the strike.
The FBI is now investigating Verizon’s claims picketing workers sabotaged its communication lines. The bureau is looking into 90 different incidents, including a wire-cutting that left a small-town police station and hospital without power.
While Verizon’s wireline service garnered most of the attention, the wireless side quietly made an unpopular move. The carrier now requires users buy a hotspot-capable data plan if they want to tether data from their smartphones to other devices. Users can no longer use jailbreak apps like MyWi to share their handset data.
Apple Active on Legal Front
Germany’s district court in Dusseldorf granted Apple’s request to bar Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Europe. The ruling may lead to heavy fines for Samsung or imprisonment of its management per German law.
Along with its injunction against Samsung, Apple filed another patent infringement case regarding Motorola’s Xoom. Apple alleges the Xoom infringes on the “look and feel” its iPad design, but it’s unclear if the company is seeking a European ban on the tablet.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is set to review another of Apple’s patent infringement complaints, this time against HTC. The patent in question concerns iPhone features like scrolling and programmable touchscreen displays.
As it continues its litigation war on rivals, Apple added even more ammunition to its patent library. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office granted the company 21 new patents, including technology for the iPhone 4′s visual voicemail system and integrated touch screen.
Apple is also involved with old business regarding its iPhone 4. The two men who found an iPhone 4 prototype in a bar last year and sold it to Gizmodo are facing criminal charges. Apple originally demanded police investigate the loss last year, just one day after Gizmodo published photos of the prototype.
Apple’s Legal Problems
If Apple is mainly on the offensive in the courtroom, it is also playing a defensive game. Operating Systems Solutions is suing the company for allegedly stealing its patent for the Mac OS X startup process. The company wants Apple to destroy all remaining advertisements, circulars and brochures related to the process.
Also, Apple, along with five major book publishers is facing a class action lawsuit accusing it of illegally fixing e-book prices. The law firm, Hagens Berman, says Apple and the publishers conspired to raise prices on iBookstore downloads, forcing Amazon to do the same to keep up with competition.
Apple: The Other Stuff
Amazon is challenging Apple with its Kindle Cloud Reader, a web-based HTML 5 app that lets iPad and iPhone users read Amazon e-books using the Safari browser. The new HTML 5 app allows Amazon to bypass strict AppStore requirements, freeing the online store from sharing 30 per cent of its in-app purchase revenues with Apple.
Those who want to try out Amazon’s new web-app but don’t have an iPhone may want to stop at RadioShack. The electronics retailer decreased prices on all versions of the iPhone 4 by $30.
As RadioShack clears its iPhone 4 stock, rumours of iPhone 5 features are flying about. Developers found evidence in iOS 5 software indicating the iPhone 5 may include expanded speech recognition features plus a hearing aid mode.
While people in the U.S. are clamoring over the iPhone 5, it appears people in China will settle for any Apple phone. Chinese police arrested six people attempting to smuggle more than 100 Apple devices into northern Hong Kong using a pulley system.
Authorities in Kunming, China even discovered 22 fake Apple stores throughout the city. Officials told unauthorised retailers to remove Apple’s logo and products after Apple China accused the stores of competing unfairly and violating its registered trademark.
New estimates from a Bloomberg survey show Google+ recently claimed 13 per cent of U.S. adults and may pass Twitter and LinkedIn if it continues to grow at its current pace. Facebook will likely keep its social networking lead for now, however, as nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have accounts with the service.
While Google’s new social network flourishes, the company is facing heat from the Federal Trade Commission regarding its smartphone business. The FTC is looking into whether Google prevents Android smartphone makers from using competitors’ services. It’s also inquiring whether or not Google puts its own products first in search results above its competitors.
Google also faces scrutiny over its mobile devices’ ability to return decent search results. Oren Etzioni, a computer science professor at the University of Washington, is calling on the Internet giant to improve its technology, contending small keypads on Android phones lead to misspellings and poor search results.
Facebook Tops Mobile Internet Usage in Europe
Facebook is the number one site Europeans visit with their smartphones. The social network’s messaging system and photo features have reportedly propelled it to the top of the mobile list.
As its social networking chat service becomes more popular, Facebook launched a dedicated mobile messaging app for the iPhone and Android devices. Facebook Messenger lets users exchange instant messages, images and location using the GPS technology in their smartphones.
While features like Facebook Messenger are geared mostly for personal use, companies are now leveraging the social network to find potential job applicants. According to analysts, businesses are now using Facebook to find employees because they can advertise positions for free to the site’s 750 million users.
Facebook is working with California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to close prison inmates’ accounts. The two say they formed a partnership to protect inmates’ victims from further harassment.
Hackers Continue to Cause Trouble, Congratulate Themselves
Representative Mary Bono-Mack (R., Calif.) sent a letter to Internet security firm McAfee’s Dmitri Alperovitch requesting he brief her on how Congress may handle Operation Shady RAT’s five-year long international hacking spree. The U.S. government became especially interested in discovering the cyber attack’s perpetrators after McAfee suggested an unnamed foreign government backed the breach.
While the U.S. government focused on Operation Shady RAT, hacking group AntiSec hacked into U.S. police websites and posted officers’ social security numbers, credit card details and 100,000 e-mails. Hackers made clear the attack was in retaliation to recent U.S. and U.K. arrests of alleged AntiSec members.
Amid the havoc, hackers found time to hold the Pwnie Awards last week at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas. The event is a yearly occurrence that looks to honour “the achievements and failures of security researchers and the security community.” Stuxnet won “Most Epic Pwnage” for interfering with Iran’s nuclear systems while Sony won “Most Epic Fail” after suffering multiple embarrassing attacks.
One individual hackers may want to honour at the next Pwnie Awards is a 10-year-old hacker going alias CyFi. She infiltrated games similar to Farmville on the Android and iOS platforms to speed up their pace.
The Government and Technology
The Federal Communications Commission launched a plan to let consumers send text and multimedia messages to 911 emergency call centres. The service may come in handy for people who need to alert 911 but can’t talk on the phone because of a dangerous situation.
Should a major disaster down networks and prevent people from dialling 911, scientist Thomas Wilhem developed software that lets data hop from phone to phone. People can send messages using his Auto-BAHN application, which uses Bluetooth short-range radio technology and Wi-Fi.
But authorities hope to prevent such large-scale disasters before the fact. The New York Police Department announced it would form a unit to search Facebook and Twitter for crime plans and other illegal activity. If successful, the move may set a standard throughout the country.
Nokia and Microsoft News
Microsoft may introduce a second version of its Windows Phone OS Tango. This iteration of Tango would ship on lower-end Nokia devices set for emerging markets in Asia. If true, the plan may help Nokia and Microsoft claim market share in China.
But just as Microsoft’s Nokia deal is set to yield results, Microsoft lost one of those responsible for forming the partnership. Charlie Kindel, the manager of the Windows Phone project, announced he will leave the company to start his own business. Microsoft hasn’t named a replacement.
But Kindel is leaving Windows Phone in a better spot than when he found it. The operating system is beginning to draw eyes, as Motorola Mobility’s CEO Sanjay Jha expressed interest in building devices for the platform. This development is in stark contrast to Jha’s February statement in which he said Motorola would only focus on Android.
Skype integration may continue to make Windows Phone an attractive platform for manufacturers. The communications company, now owned by Microsoft, plans to create richer experience across Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Xbox Live, possibly helping Windows Phone standout against competitors.
AT&T’s Spectrum Plans Hurt, LTE Device Still Coming This Year
The FCC decided to combine its review of AT&T’s planned purchase of spectrum licenses from Qualcomm with its review of the company’s proposed T-Mobile merger. AT&T relied on its Qualcomm purchase to solve some of its spectrum issues, but the FCC’s decision will push the ruling back to next year.
AT&T is making strides to secure government approval for its merger with T-Mobile. The wireless carrier reportedly hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to line up buyers for its customers and for its wireless spectrum in an asset sale worth around $8 billion. The divestiture is necessary to win antitrust approval for the deal.
The carrier is also working hard to get its LTE off the ground. It plans to introduce one LTE-enabled handset by the end of the year, but faces an uphill battle against Verizon, which has four LTE devices available.
T-Mobile Brings Back Overage Fees
T-Mobile decided to revert back to charging overage fees instead of throttling data for its lowest data plan users. Customers that exceed the allotted 200-megabytes will now be charged $0.10 per megabyte rather seeing slowed data speeds.
The carrier will soon offer a new smartphone to tempt customers to exceed their data plans. The company is soon set to offer the Samsung Hercules, a variant of the popular Galaxy S2.
Sprint Faces LightSquared Trouble
Federal regulators ruled Sprint’s potential 4G partner, LightSquared, cannot operate its high-speed wireless network should it affect aviation GPS systems. The FCC says it will continue to monitor the service, in a move that may affect Sprint’s hopes to join with LightSquared in expanding its 4G network.
While Sprint’s LightSquared project faced a setback, the company went on the offensive against T-Mobile and AT&T in a new ad. Sprint’s commercial attacked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger and instead promoted its Virgin Mobile prepaid phone offering of $35-a-month for unlimited data.
New BlackBerry Phones Coming
RIM’s first QNX-based phone is BlackBerry Colt. The device is expected to feature a single-core processor and resemble the current BlackBerry 9900. RIM is banking on its QNX phones to bring the company a much-needed resurgence in the smartphone market.
Although RIM’s QNX phones aren’t scheduled to arrive until next year, the company has two new handsets on the way to bridge the gap. The BlackBerry Bold 9930 will sell at Sprint for $250 with a two-year contract, while the Torch 9850 will be available for $150.
HTC Moves Toward Cloud
HTC acquired Dashwire for $18.5 million, ostensibly to use its cutting edge sync services and deep mobile cloud experience to build its own cloud service. If it decides to take the plunge, HTC will compete head on with Google, Amazon and Apple’s cloud offerings.
HTC also invested $300 million in Beats Electronics. The company is putting its cash primarily into Beats’ audio processing technology, with which it plans to equip future handsets and tablets.
While HTC’s investments may help it in the future, the company is moving forward right now with near field communication-equipped handsets. The company plans to debut its first NFC-enabled device in China this September.
Sony and LG Settle Patent Dispute
Sony and LG settled their patent disputes outside of court by reaching a cross-licensing deal. The two sides had filed mutual patent infringement lawsuits regarding similarities in the technology in their televisions, Blu-ray players and mobile phones. The settlement may encourage other legally warring tech companies to find extra-court solutions.
Mobile Payment News
Mountain View, Calif.-based Pago Mobile emerged as mobile payment rival for fellow Mountain View company Google. Pago lets customers pay for goods and services at brick-and-mortar establishments with a smartphone app. 53 local merchants already use Pago’s service, as Google watches competition enjoy success right in its own front yard.
Visa is also preparing to play a part in the world of mobile payments. The credit card company plans to adopt dual-interface chip technology in the U.S. to build the necessary infrastructure for securing NFC-based mobile payments.
Athens Regional Medical centre began using Quick Response codes in its advertising to make it easier for women to schedule mammograms. When a woman clicks a picture of the code with a her smartphone, she’s linked directly to the hospital’s website, where she can learn about preventative measures against breast cancer and schedule a mammogram
Those working in healthcare may soon get a break from lengthy paperwork. Mitek System’s Mobile Capture technology is a cloud-based mobile document capture service for the healthcare and insurance industries. The service can process information and immediately store it on a data cloud for later access.