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Cortana Could Edge Out Siri, Google Now
March 13, 2015
Microsoft later this year will offer its Cortana personal assistant as a standalone app for iOS and Android devices. The engine behind Cortana is "arguably better than [Siri or Google Now] simply because it's far more mature and comprehensive," said tech analyst Rob Enderle. The Cortana personal assistant evolved from the AI character Cortana in the Halo video game series.
Apple's Researchkit Could Be Gold Mine for Hackers
March 13, 2015
Apple earlier this week announced ResearchKit, an open source framework that will let medical and health researchers gather data through iPhone apps. ResearchKit will be released in April. Apps to monitor asthma patients and for studies on breast cancer survivors, cardiovascular health and Parkinson's Disease, already have been developed using ResearchKit.
Apple Springs Bevy of New Products at Watch Event
March 9, 2015
The Apple Watch wasn't the only new product to take the stage at Apple's Monday media event -- Apple also introduced an all-new sleek MacBook. In addition, Apple nabbed the chance to be the exclusive launch partner for HBO's new streaming subscription service. Among the event highlights: Apple Watch will be available for preorder April 10, sale April 24; and Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000.
Apple Pay Cybercrime Burns Banks
March 4, 2015
Identity thieves are using Apple Pay to defraud banks of what could amount to millions of dollars. Due to weak authentication procedures at the institutions issuing the cards, fraudsters are able to use stolen cards to make purchases through Apple Pay. Before cards can be added to Apple Pay, they must be approved by the card issuer. Criminals are finding that process easy to game.
Android Pay: Mobile Payment Systems, Unite
March 4, 2015
Google this week confirmed that it's preparing to launch a mobile payments framework called "Android Pay." Google SVP of Product Sundar Pichai discussed the project at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Android Pay will be an API layer of Android. Google will incorporate standard features for mobile payments, such as tokenized card numbers, into an Android Pay software development kit.
Google Pads Its Wallet
February 24, 2015
Google on Monday announced a two-pronged thrust to beef up its efforts in the mobile wallet arena. It has struck agreements with Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile to preinstall the Google Wallet app, including its tap-and-pay functionality, on Android phones the carriers will offer later this year in the United States. The devices must run KitKat or later.
YouTube Targets the Mother Goose Set
February 23, 2015
Google on Monday announced YouTube Kids, a new mobile app designed to deliver family-friendly video content. The YouTube Kids app provides streaming content curated for families -- everything from do-it-yourself arts and crafts and elementary geometry clips to rugrat favorites like the Mother Goose Club and Minecraft, as well as lots and lots of train videos.
Yandex Asks Russian Authorities to Drop the Hammer on Google
February 18, 2015
Yandex has asked Russia's antitrust authorities to look into whether Google is breaking the country's laws by not allowing preinstallation of third-party services on Android devices. Three smartphone vendors told Yandex last year that they couldn't install its search engine as the default, the company claimed. Yandex is seeking to have the Android OS unbundled from Google Search.
Apple Pay Takes Flight on JetBlue
February 10, 2015
JetBlue on Tuesday announced that it will accept payments through Apple Pay in-flight. Passengers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch, will be able to use Apple Pay to purchase snack boxes, food, beverages, onboard amenities and better seating. JetBlue will accept Apple Pay on select flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco beginning in mid-February.
Is an Apple Maps Upgrade in the Works?
February 9, 2015
The ad on Apple's job site is innocuous enough, seeking an engineering project manager for Apple Search. However, that raises questions about whether Apple has plans to further improve its Maps app, possibly by strengthening local listings, which are increasingly important to businesses. "Apple may well revamp its street maps, as that application has far more value in an increasingly mobile world," noted Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a research director at the 451 Group.
Infected Android Apps From Google Play Affect Millions
February 4, 2015
The malware harbors fake ads that pop up when users unlock their devices, to warn them about nonexistent infections, or that their devices are out of date or have porn. Victims are then asked to take action. If they agree, they are redirected to poisoned Web pages that contain a variety of hazards. Google spokesperson Elizabeth Markman did not confirm how many devices had been hit.
Think Different: Apple's 10 Biggest, Riskiest Bets
February 3, 2015
Even the most vociferous Apple haters can surely admit that Apple -- judged upon the evidence of its record-breaking quarterly profit of $18 billion, the most of any public held company ever -- is not only firing on all cylinders but also creating products that consumers around the world are willing to pay a premium for. The sheer scope of Apple's success is mind-boggling.
Gadget Ogling: A Touchless Thermometer, Flashing Audio, and a Mesmerizing Mattress Cover
January 31, 2015
JoyWing's Wishbone is a fancier thermometer than what you or I will have seen on any trip to the doctor. It's a smartphone attachment that gives temperature readouts within a couple of seconds without even having to touch the person or material it's examining, thanks to an infrared sensor. It's inexpensive, at $26-35 for those pledging to the crowdfunding drive.
The Brave New World of Windows 10
January 23, 2015
Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled a slew of new features and capabilities coming in Windows 10: the convergence of the desktop and mobile; the advent of the killer universal app; more power and features for personal digital assistant Cortana, which will be on mobile as well as desktops and laptops; improvements to maps; a new browser; a strong emphasis on gaming; and holographic computing.
Chen Calls on Congress to Mandate BlackBerry Apps
January 22, 2015
BlackBerry CEO John Chen set off a barrage of online chatter Wednesday when he proposed that any rules the U.S. adopts to preserve Net neutrality also should guarantee application neutrality. Chen made the proposal in a letter to two U.S. congressional panels and posted an adapted version on the company's blog. Both the FCC and Congress are considering Net neutrality proposals.
Ubuntu Aims to Make the IoT Snappy
January 21, 2015
Canonical on Tuesday unveiled Snappy Ubuntu Core, a new rendition of Ubuntu targeting the Internet of Things. Snappy Ubuntu Core offers a minimal server image with the same libraries as "traditional" Ubuntu, but Snappy apps and Ubuntu Core can be upgraded automatically and rolled back if necessary. Snappy runs on any device with an ARMv7 or Intel x86 processor and at least 256 MB of RAM.
Adobe Opens Lightroom's Door to Android
January 19, 2015
Adobe last week released an Android mobile app as a companion to its Lightroom desktop application and cloud service. Adobe released a mobile app for iOS last year. The new app will include all of the functionality of the iOS mobile app -- but refined to take advantage of the Android platform, according to Shared Mangalick, senior product manager for photography at Adobe.
3 Reasons Apple Won't Pull the Rug Out From Under GoPro
January 16, 2015
Despite having the most popular camera on the planet in the form of the iPhone, the odds of Apple pulling the rug out from under GoPro by building its own action sports camera system -- even with using its forthcoming Apple Watch as a controller -- are so low they stand in stark contrast to the hysterical selloff of GoPro stock this week. What happened?
Cameron Takes Hard Line on Encrypted Communications
January 15, 2015
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is standing for re-election, has vowed to ban personal encrypted communications apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp if he is voted in. He also will allow UK government security agencies to monitor communications, with warrants signed by the Home Secretary. "The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe," Cameron declared.
Google Translate App Gets Silver Tongue
January 14, 2015
Google has released a new version of its Translate app for Android and iOS. It now lets users instantly translate text in foreign languages using their smartphone cameras. The translation will appear overlaid on the smartphone screen. Translate app features available on iOS for the first time are camera mode, including Word Lens; and conversational mode, said Google spokesperson Roya Soleimani.
Instacart Bags $220 Million
January 14, 2015
Instacart on Tuesday announced it has raised $220 million, following a $44 million investment round in June of last year. The company uses a fleet of personal shoppers, who are independent contractors, to purchase and deliver items to customers. "The two main differentiators for Instacart are our focus on grocery and our strategy to partner with retailers," said Instacart's Nilam Ganenthiran.
LG's WebOS: 3rd Time's the Charm?
January 13, 2015
LG Electronics turned up at last week's CES with a smartwatch that apparently runs webOS. LG used the watch to unlock an Audi at the show. "LG has never officially confirmed that we were planning a webOS smartwatch," said company spokesperson Ken Hong. "I think that is speculation based on the watch that Audi announced here at CES, which we developed but have not finalized the OS for."
Google Translate to Convert Talk to Text
January 13, 2015
Google soon will update its Translate mobile app to render words spoken in popular languages into written text, according to reports. This feature is already available for some major languages in the Google Chrome browser. In essence, the update will let two people converse in their own native tongues by listening to both and automatically translating their words.
Gadget Ogling: A Swank Walkman, a Brainy Grill, and Oh, So Much More From CES
January 10, 2015
Welcome to the year's first edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that offers infallible opinions on the latest gadget announcements. The mammoth CES trade show took place this week, and though it offered far too many new items to conceivably cram into a single column, we'll look at some of the most notable and notorious, including Sony's latest Walkman, a smart grill and more.

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Do video cameras make the world safer?
Yes - People exercise more restraint because of them.
No - We just get to see more horrible things happen.
Maybe - They might deter some kinds of crime.