The news this week was about war in the Middle East and in Ukraine. At home, we saw a solid, if not spectacular, jobs report and news that the economy expanded at a healthy 4 percent rate during the second quarter.
There was interesting news and commentary on the IT and telecommunications fronts as well. Here are some highlights.
Android’s Margin Grows
The various smartphone operating systems (OSes) continually vie for position. Some may rise a bit in a quarter, while others drop. That trend may be reversed in the next three-month period. In terms of total use, however, one thing is certain: Android is tops.
Its margin is growing. This week, Strategy Analytics said that Android accounted for 84.6 percent of smartphone shipments worldwide. The raw numbers even are more impressive:
Android accounted for 249.6 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, up from 186.8 million a year earlier, and about seven times more than the 35.2 million Apple iOS phones shipped. The market share of Apple's iOS slipped to 11.9% in the quarter from 13.4% in the same quarter last year.
Android has been the dominant mobile OS for a long time, which makes the level of growth surprising. The key is that it is perfectly positioned for lower-cost devices aimed at developing markets. The Computerworld story on the latest numbers cited Strategy Analytics’ commentary crediting strong growth in the Chinese, Indian and African regions.
“Hi. IBM Watson Speaking. How Can I Help?”
The last time many people heard of IBM Watson, it was roasting human Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings in 2011. Subsequently, IBM has spent a lot of money turning that parlor trick into a real business.
Watson is being used in a cloud configuration in several verticals to help organizations plow through and analyze mountains of data. Now, Watson is ready to meet the public directly.
Slate and other sites report that Watson will field questions from customers of USAA the military’s insurance and financial planning firm. Watson will answer questions as service people transition to civilian life.
The natural language abilities of Watson allow it to get to the root of what a person wants to know despite imprecisions in how questions are asked. That, coupled with Watson’s ability to analyze many thousands of documents, is thought to make it perfect for the role.
Carriers Slammed for Slow Cram Scam Ban
“Cramming” is the act of charging cellular customers for services that they do not authorize. A report that was released in conjunction with a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the practice showed that it continues to be a big problem, and implies that carriers may not be doing everything they can to stop it.
According to a Reuters story, the carriers in some cases allow vendors with very high refund rates – an indication that they are not on the level -- to continue billing for months. In some cases, the refund rates of the offending party – often small companies that provide ring tones, celebrity gossip and similar services – top 50 percent.
A cynic would suggest the slowness in responding has something to do with this:
But the money is collected by cellphone providers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile US Inc or Sprint, owned by SoftBank Corp, which typically keep 30 to 40 percent of the revenue, the staff report found.
The Internet of Fears
Jeff Burt does a nice job of framing security issues surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) on eWeek. He notes that it was the “Internet of Things Week” in the state of Massachusetts. That, obviously, was a celebration of the potential of the new and pervasive platform.
On the dark side of the IoT, security is a huge and frightening issue, especially since the IoT will be so deeply woven into the fabric of daily life that vulnerabilities can cause crippling disruptions. Clearly, the potential for trouble is great:
Hewlett-Packard on July 29 released the results of a study in which engineers scanned 10 popular IoT devices, ranging from thermostats and TVs to webcams and home alarms, and found that, on average, there were 25 vulnerabilities per device. The vulnerabilities included insufficient authorization—most allowed passwords like "1234"—insecure Web interfaces, a lack of transport encryption and inadequate software protection, according to the tech vendor.
This is scary stuff, especially the reality that vendors are bringing products to market quickly, which tends to short-circuit security, and the fact that elements are being combined in new ways that possibly add to the dangers.
TCP/IP Won’t Live Forever
And, finally, comes a story about keeping up with the incredible demands being put on the Internet. The creativity is a wonderful thing to watch.
The latest idea is to do away with the basic communication protocol of the Internet. TCP/IP is what has made everything possible. Network World reports that researchers from Aalborg University in Denmark, MIT and Caltech are working on a plan to get rid of packets and forward error correction (FEC).
FEC detects and retransmits packets that don’t make it to their destination. Replacing FEC with a “formula [that] figures out which parts of the data didn’t make the hop” would eliminate the need for the resend and vastly streamline networking.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.