Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Google IO – 18 Months of Android Upgrades Coming

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We’ve all been there. That point where we don’t know whether to hang on to our current phone or lay down some exorbitant amount of money for the latest and greatest model. They might be upgrading the OS, you might have said. More often than not, especially for AT&T customers, the upgrades never come, and you end up missing out on the latest phone until it too is outdated. Google is trying to solve this problem, and has brought together an impressive set of partners to do so.

At yesterday’s IO keynote, Google announced that it was partnering with AT&T, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Vodafone, and LG to make sure that phones are upgraded in a timely manner for a definite period of time. The details are still forthcoming, but the general idea is that each carrier/manufacturer would guarantee 18 months of upgrades and support for each phone. With most American cell phone contracts lasting 2 years at a time, 18 months of upgrades is not so bad. In fact it is great! One thinks of the Xperia X10 which AT&T doomed to fail by letting it linger in Android 1.6, all the while Sony Ericsson was working on kicking out a Gingerbread release (expected this quarter). HTC has supported certain phones, yet other nearly identical models aren’t supported based on the type of screen. This type of thing could soon be a memory.

As new Android versions are released, the carriers would upgrade the operating systems much faster than their current rate of deployment. You wouldn’t find yourself being two to three operating systems behind the current version. This is pretty exciting news. This will go far in addressing the fragmentation issue. Developers won’t have to worry so much about backward compatibility once this system is set up. They can just develop apps for the latest OS. I think this will do a lot to bring some of the iOS-only developers on board with Android. If an app can be used across carriers, and there is a consistent OS running the devices, there will be a larger, non-fragmented audience standing in line to buy their apps.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes of this partnership. It would be nice to know that the phone won’t be obsolete within weeks of purchase. What about you? Do you think this can work? Will the carriers cooperate with Google? Let me know in the comments.

Sony Services Still Down

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

As you may be aware, Sony has recently been the victim of a hacker or group of hackers. Details have continued to come out over the last few weeks, and Sony is continuing to update its security while trying to determine what has gone missing. The hacker(s) have gained access to quite a bit of information from users of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity. Many people have been upset by the breach, and understandably so. I’ve been patiently waiting to get back on the PlayStation Network so I can go about updating passwords and secret questions and such, hopefully avoiding any further trouble, especially concerning credit card information that may or may not have been compromised. While I, for one, am not upset at Sony, I would very much like to know the full extent of the damage, and ultimately would like to resume using the PlayStation Network.

On April 26, customers affected by the breach received a letter, the contents of which were echoed across Sony’s web sites, blogs, and social media networks. Here are the basics, according to the e-mail.

“We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011,
certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account
information was compromised in connection with an illegal and
unauthorized intrusion into our network. In response to this
intrusion, we have:

1) Temporarily turned off PlayStation Network and Qriocity services;

2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full
and complete investigation into what happened; and

3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our
network infrastructure by rebuilding our system to provide you
with greater protection of your personal information.

We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and goodwill
as we do whatever it takes to resolve these issues as quickly and
efficiently as practicable.”

As of May 10, the services are still down. As anxious as Sony fans are to get their services back, I would hope that we all recognize the importance of the security upgrades. Sony intends to do right by its customers, as expressed in communications over the last few weeks, and including a letter from Sir Howard Stringer. Here is the letter:

“Dear Friends,

I know this has been a frustrating time for all of you.

Let me assure you that the resources of this company have been focused on investigating the entire nature and impact of the cyber-attack we’ve all experienced and on fixing it. We are absolutely dedicated to restoring full and safe service as soon as possible and rewarding you for your patience. We will settle for nothing less.

To date, there is no confirmed evidence any credit card or personal information has been misused, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. We are also moving ahead with plans to help protect our customers from identity theft around the world. A program for U.S. PlayStation Network and Qriocity customers that includes a $1 million identity theft insurance policy per user was launched earlier today and announcements for other regions will be coming soon.

As we have announced, we will be offering a “Welcome Back” package to our customers once our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are up and running. This will include, among other benefits, a month of free PlayStation Plus membership for all PSN customers, as well as an extension of subscriptions for PlayStation Plus and Music Unlimited customers to make up for time lost.

As a company we — and I — apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused by this attack. Under the leadership of Kazuo Hirai, we have teams working around the clock and around the world to restore your access to those services as quickly, and as safely, as possible.

I know some believe we should have notified our customers earlier than we did. It’s a fair question. As soon as we discovered the potential scope of the intrusion, we shut down the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services and hired some of the best technical experts in the field to determine what happened. I wish we could have gotten the answers we needed sooner, but forensic analysis is a complex, time-consuming process. Hackers, after all, do their best to cover their tracks, and it took some time for our experts to find those tracks and begin to identify what personal information had — or had not — been taken.
As a result of what we discovered we notified you of the breach. Our investigation is ongoing, and we are upgrading our security so that if attacks like this happen again, our defenses will be even stronger.

In the last few months, Sony has faced a terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But now we are facing a very man-made event – a criminal attack on us — and on you — and we are working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world to apprehend those responsible.
In the coming days, we will restore service to the networks and welcome you back to the fun. I wanted to personally reach out and let you know that we are committed to serving you to the very best of our ability, protecting your information better than ever, and getting you back to what you signed up for – all the games and great entertainment experiences that you expect from Sony.

With best regards,
Howard Stringer”

As posted on the PlayStation Blog.

I am not sure what a free month of PlayStation Plus will do for those of us not using the service, but it looks like Sony is really trying to make up for the inconveniences suffered by the fans. I think that the identity theft insurance is critical here, so much more so than the free month of PlayStation Plus or the account credits for Qriocity or other subscribers. I personally have identity theft insurance, but it couldn’t hurt to have Sony’s policy backing me up too. As the letter notes, there have been no reports of credit vandalism since the potential loss of secured information. It looks like most of the lost credit card numbers were attached to non-American accounts. Purchase history and such in the network could pose a problem, but Sony is addressing it.

Once service is reinstated, you should immediately change your password and update your security questions. It would probably be a good idea to remove any saved credit card info as well. If you have used similar user names or passwords on other sites associated with your e-mail address, you should change all of those too.

While there is a lot of panic going around, I am not so worried. The internet itself is full of this type of activity. Using the internet is an acceptance of the inherent risks. This includes sensitive data stored on Facebook. Once you put something on the web, there is a chance malicious users will try to take advantage. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the internet at all. You run similar risks using an ATM machine or banking by phone. I don’t think this was as much a blunder on Sony’s part as much as simply being a large target. Amazon and Microsoft have had their own issues to contend with, largely due to their popularity. Sony is a pretty big target.

Sony will sort this mess out, and will do its best to encourage users to continue using the services. I am among those committed to returning to business as usual. As things devlop I’ll post updates to this blog. You can read the various posts and press releases here

What are your thoughts? Do you still trust Sony? Are you willing to resume using the services as they are reactivated? Let me know in the comments.

Cisco Discontinues the Flip Camera

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Cisco announced this week that it will be restructuring its consumer offerings. Part of this restructuring included a termination of the popular Flip video camera.

Cisco intends to focus on its networking and telecommunication products. It will offer transitional support for existing Flip customers. Part of the reason this has created shock waves in the tech world was that not only was the Flip a market leader, Cisco only purchased the Flip two years ago. It seems an awfully short time to give up a popular product. It was only this year that Sony and other firms came up with reasonable competition.

As a simple HD video camera, the Flip is pretty good. I’ve used the Flip a number of times for product review videos on this blog. My main complaint has been that there is no light, making it nearly impossible to shoot a quality video indoors. Sony added a light to its new Bloggie cameras, and I assumed the Flip would too. Now that the Flip is discontinued it will be easier to transition to the Sony. It wasn’t only pocket video cameras providing competition though. With my Xperia I can shoot 720p video, just like the Flip. I can also shoot 8.1MP still photos, something the Flip couldn’t do. Cell phones are quickly gaining ground in the consumer video market.

The news is certainly disappointing. Even more disappointing is that Cisco will be laying off roughly 500 employees by the end of 2011 as part of this restructuring. Hopefully they will be able to find new jobs by the time the hammer drops. If you have any thoughts about the demise of the Flip or just want to comment on my new blog layout, feel free to drop a note in the comments.