99.6 percent of new smartphones run Android or iOS

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The latest smartphone figures from Gartner are out, and they paint an extremely familiar picture. Between them, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. This duopoly has been the norm for a while now (in the second quarter of 2015 this figure was 96.8 percent), but it’s always impressive — and slightly terrifying — to see how Google and Apple continue to wring the last decimal point drops of market share from global smartphone users.

Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share.

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AWS public cloud is twice as big as Microsoft, Google, IBM combined

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Amazon Web Services is utterly dominating the competition, taking 45 percent of worldwide revenues for public cloud services, according to a new analysis.

Microsoft and Google might be increasing public cloud revenues faster than AWS, but they've also got a long way to go to come close to catching up, a new analysis from Synergy Research Group shows.

The combined revenues from Microsoft, Google, and IBM amount to less than 20 percent of worldwide infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, revenues in Q3 2016, compared with AWS's 45 percent, the research firm reports.

Microsoft warns iOS isn't as secure as you think

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Microsoft has warned customers that iOS is no more secure than Android, contradicting commonly held beliefs about the relative security of the two platforms. The company said that recent attacks targeting iOS prove it's as vulnerable as Android.

Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president for enterprise and client mobility, set out his views in a company blog post last week. He used the Pegasus iOS spyware, revealed last month, as an example of severe vulnerabilities present in iOS. Pegasus is capable of monitoring everything a user does on their device, leaving them vulnerable to further attack.

The malware was analysed by Lookout Security, a Microsoft partner. In its report, Lookout described Pegasus as "the most sophisticated attack we've seen on any endpoint." Since it originates from a leading iOS security firm, Anderson said the statement reveals a lot about the state of security on Apple's platform.

Anderson is attempting to challenge the trust that consumers typically place in Apple. Android threats are far more numerous and gain more widespread attention than attacks on iOS. iOS is not immune to potentially devastating malware though, in contradiction of the views of some customers. Anderson said Pegasus should be a "pretty startling wake-up call" that everyone is "under constant persistent attack" on every platform.

Microsoft executives have reportedly indicated "unwavering implicit trust" in Apple's iOS "countless times," revealing how strong the association between Apple and security has become. The belief that Apple's platform is stronger than Android appears to derive from iOS' closed nature. Because it's a more controlled ecosystem, the attack surface is lower than for Android malware.

This view is dangerous, according to Anderson. Every mobile device is at constant risk of attack, regardless of the platform it runs. "I know for a fact that all the providers of mobile operating systems go to superhuman lengths to harden their platforms and do everything they can to deliver the most secure operating system possible," said Anderson.

However, iOS, Android and Windows all have vulnerabilities that expose them to potentially devastating attacks. Some platforms are targeted more frequently than others but this shouldn't influence people to make assumptions about a platform's security. Pegasus demonstrates that even a closed ecosystem can be infiltrated by some of the most complex mobile malware ever observed.

Coming from Microsoft, Anderson's argument represents a powerful message to businesses and consumers that iOS may not be all it seems. Pegasus has proven iOS presents a viable attack vector to cybercriminals. It has also demonstrated that malware has been commercialised to the point that it's an off-the-shelf product, available for purchase from the secretive NSO Group. According to Microsoft, the idea of a single platform being more secure than others is an urban myth. In real-world terms, any device can be hacked and every user is a target.

Google opens Chromebooks to Android store

Google's Chromebook update will allow the inexpensive laptops to run apps from the Android store opening them up to apps from Microsoft Word to Quicken.

Microsoft has hit $1 trillion in all-time revenue, and with more profit than Apple

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Last quarter, Microsoft hit a major milestone: $1 trillion in all-time cumulative revenue reports technology consultant Jeff Reifman.

He noticed the milestone while researching a post about Microsoft's tax breaks in the state of Washington.

Microsoft hit the milestone in its last quarter, according to the spreadsheet posted by Reifman.

Apple hit $1 trillion in revenue earlier, in 2015, his research shows.

On the other hand, when it comes to profits, Microsoft has come out slightly ahead of Apple: $261.6 billion in cumulative profits for Apple, and slightly more, $265.2 billion for Microsoft.

Amazon and Google, younger companies than Microsoft and Apple, have not yet hit the $1 trillion revenue mark, but are about half-way there, Reifman reports. Amazon, for instance, came in at $545 billion in all time revenue but only $3.31 billion in profit.

As for Google, Reifman's research shows it has so far earned $417.3 billion in all-time revenue with $96.3 billion, cumulatively, in profit.

Microsoft open sources Xamarin's software development kit

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Two months after being acquired by Microsoft, cross-platform development-tool vendor Xamarin is continuing to push the open-source envelope.

On April 27 at Xamarin's Evolve developer conference in Orlando, officials announced Microsoft has open-sourced the Xamarin software development kit (SDK).

At Microsoft's Build 2016 developers conference last month, Microsoft announced intentions to open source the Xamarin SDK, runtime, libraries and command line tools. Microsoft also announced it would make Xamarin part of the various Visual Studio releases at no additional cost.

Today, company officials said Microsoft has open sourced and contributed to the .NET Foundation the Xamarin SDK for Android, iOS and Mac under the same MIT license used for the Mono project. The native application program interface (API) bindings for iOS, Android and Mac, the command-line tools necessary to build for these platforms, and the cross-platform UI framework Xamarin.Forms are all part of what's now open sourced.

Microsoft also is working to help Xamarin developers more easily connect Visual Studio to Mac so they can create iOS apps natively in C#. Xamarin's iOS Simulator remoting allows developers to simulate and interact with their iOS apps in Visual Studio, with support for touch screens. And its iOS USB remoting allows devs to deploy and debug apps from Visual Studio to an iPad or iPhone plugged into their Windows PCs.

Microsoft also unveiled some new Xamarin.Forms features; enhancements to the Xamarin Studio IDE to bring it closer to Visual Studio; and a Test Recorder Visual Studio plug-in at Evolve.

275 million Android phones imperiled by new code-execution exploit

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Almost 300 million phones running Google's Android operating system are vulnerable to a newly developed drive-by attack that can install malware and take control of key operations, a security firm has warned.

A proof-of-concept exploit dubbed Metaphor works against Android versions 2.2 through 4.0 and 5.0 and 5.1, which together are estimated to run 275 million phones, researchers from Israeli security firm NorthBit said. It attacks the same Stagefright media library that made an estimated 950 million Android phones susceptible to similar code-execution attacks last year. The following video demonstrates how a malicious attacker might use a Metaphor-style attack to take control of a phone after luring an unsuspecting end user to a booby-trapped website.

The NorthBit-developed attack exploits a Stagefright vulnerability discovered and disclosed last year by Zimperium, the security firm that first demonstrated the severe weaknesses in the code library. For reasons that aren't yet clear, Google didn't fix the vulnerability in some versions, even though the company eventually issued a patch for a different bug that had made the Zimperium exploits possible. While the newer attack is in many ways a rehash of the Zimperium work, it's able to exploit an information leak vulnerability in a novel way that makes code execution much more reliable in newer Android releases. Starting with version 4.1, Android was fortified with an anti-exploitation defense known as address space layout randomization, which loads downloaded code into unpredictable memory regions to make it harder for attackers to execute malicious payloads. The breakthrough of Metaphor is its improved ability to bypass it.

"They've proven that it's possible to use an information leak to bypass ASLR," Joshua Drake, Zimperium's vice president for platform research and exploitation, told Ars. "Whereas all my exploits were exploiting it with a brute force, theirs isn't making a blind guess. Theirs actually leaks address info from the media server that will allow them to craft an exploit for whoever is using the device."

The other big advance offered by Metaphor is that it works on a wider base of phones. Previous patches published by Google make anyone with version 5.1 or higher immune, and in some cases those may also protect users of 4.4 or higher, Drake said. Metaphor, by contrast, exposes users of 5.1, which is estimated to run on 19 percent of Android phones. Currently, Metaphor works best on Nexus 5 models with a stock ROM, but it also works on the HTC One, LG G3, and Samsung S5, the company said. Depending on the vendor, a drive-by attack requires anywhere from 20 seconds to two minutes to work.

Davos: Smart machines set to transform society

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Artificial intelligence will spur economic growth and create new wealth. Machines that “think” like humans will help solve huge problems, from curing cancer to climate change. Yet millions of human workers will need to retrain, as robots make their existing jobs redundant.

These are the contrasting messages provided by the world’s leading technologists during the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, as political and business leaders ponder how best to respond to the rise of smart machines.

Sebastian Thrun, the inventor of Google’s self-driving cars and an honorary professor at Delft University of Technology, told the Financial Times that “almost every established industry is not moving fast enough” to adapt their businesses to this change.

He suggested self-driving cars would make millions of taxi drivers redundant and planes running solely on autopilot would remove the need for thousands of human pilots.

One of the central themes of this year’s conference is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” referring to how technological breakthroughs are expected to transform industries across the world. Delegates argued that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will have the transformative effect that steam power, electricity and ubiquitous computing achieved in previous centuries.

“[Artificially-intelligent machines] can look at a brainscan better than most radiologists, but they can also weld better than any human,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, the institution which has a partnership with Uber to build driverless cars. “It’s affecting white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Nobody is inherently safe.”

But Mr Thrun was optimistic that redundant roles will quickly be replaced.

“With the advent of new technologies, we’ve always created new jobs,” he said. “I don’t know what these jobs will be, but I’m confident we will find them”

Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, said: “This challenge of displacement is a real one, [but] I feel the right emphasis is on skills, rather than worrying too much about the jobs [which] will be lost. We will have to spend the money to educate our people, not just children but also people mid-career so they can find new jobs.”

Microsoft Builds Android App Store For Its Own Android Apps Inside Of The Android App Store

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Microsoft has a new app out called ‘Microsoft Apps‘ on Android that contains a list of its Android apps that you can download on the Android app store.

There are two parts to this development. The first is that Microsoft’s cross-platform work continues, and that the company has yet to let up an inch on its work to bring its software and services to users on every rival operating system. And, the second point is that Microsoft has created an effective Android app store — catalog? — inside of the actual Android app store.

An early comment noted that fact. From the app’s page on Google Play:

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That comment is almost correct. At the same time, it can be difficult to sort through tens, and hundreds of thousands of apps to find the precise one that you are perhaps looking for. Microsoft wants to make sure that if you want to use its stack on Android, you can do so without unnecessary sleuthing.

The app has racked up four review so far, giving it an average score of 4 stars.

The new app might not make sense until you realize just how many apps Microsoft has on Android — you can take a spin through the full list here. It’s extensive. It’s almost odd to recall how big a splash bringing Office to Android and iOS once was.

Microsoft fans have a new toy, and the company has a potential conduit for its apps on the Android platform. Not too bad a turn of events for the Redmond-based software company.

Google Launches Android Studio 2.0 With Improved Android Emulator And New Instant Run Feature

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Google today launched version 2.0 of its Android Studio integrated development environment (IDE) for writing apps for its mobile operating system.

Android Studio, which is based on IntelliJ, launched back in 2013 and came out of beta a year ago. It includes everything a developer needs to build an app, including a code editor, code analysis tools, emulators for all of Google’s Android platforms, and more.

The new version is now available as a preview in the Canary release channel of Android Studio.

With version 2.0, as Google’s group product manager for Android Studio Stephanie Cuthbertson told me, the team wanted to build on the foundation it laid over the last two years and focus on speed. “For the IDE to be delightful, it doesn’t just have to be stable — but amazingly stabled,” she told me. The team felt that it achieved this with the last couple of releases.

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With this update, Google massively accelerated deployment speeds, for example. Cuthbertson tells me that a full build is now 2x to 2.5x faster than in previous releases. That’s a huge step forward, but what developers will likely appreciate even more in this new version is the addition of a new feature called “Instant Run.” This almost mimics the experience of writing HTML, where you write your code, reload your browser and see what changed. On mobile, that process typically takes quite a bit longer, even with the improved build speeds.

Instant Run lets developers build and deploy their apps once (both to the emulator or to a physical device) and then as they change their code and deploy it, it’ll only take a second or two before they can see those changes in the running app. This feature will work for all apps that target Ice Cream Sandwich and later. Cuthbertson politely refused to tell us how exactly Instant Run works, but promised that Google will detail the technology behind this feature in the future.

Given the size of the Android ecosystem, it’s almost impossible for most developers to test their apps on even the most popular devices early on in the development phase. With services like Xamarin Test Cloud, the AWS Device Farm and Google’s own Test Lab, developers have plenty of options to test their apps later on, but during the development process, most of the testing happens with the help of emulators. Google’s own emulator wasn’t always the fastest and easiest to use (to the point where Microsoft ended up releasing its own).

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With this update, Google is introducing new emulators that, given modern hardware, should run faster than any physical device. The team also rebuilt the interface, so that it’s now easy to trigger typical actions like firing up the camera. Developers will also be able to emulate different network conditions and emulate the GPS (even with pre-configured paths). The emulator also includes access to all the standard Google Play services. Maybe more importantly, though, you can now simply resize the emulator window to test different screen sizes.

For developers who build graphics-intensive apps and games, the Studio now also includes a new GPU profiler. This will allow developers to see exactly what’s happening every time the screen draws a new image to trace performance issues, for example. This tool is still officially in preview.

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