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Archive for April, 2013

Microsoft and Google clash over smartphone apps

April 18, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apps, Customer Service, Google, Microsoft, Mobile Marketing, smart phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Microsoft has accused Google of pushing Android handset makers to use its apps like YouTube and Maps.
Microsoft and Google clash over smartphone apps
Along with Oracle, Nokia and 14 other tech firms, Microsoft has filed a complaint with the European Commission.

The group, known as FairSearch, argues that Google is abusing its dominance of the mobile market.

“We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel for FairSearch.

“Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system,” he added.

Android is now the dominant mobile operating system, accounting for 70% of the market, according to research firm Gartner.

The complaint describes Google’s Android operating system as a “trojan horse”, offered to device makers for free. In return they are “required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone,” the complaint reads.

Google is also under fire for its common user privacy policy which groups 60 sets of rules into one and allows the company to track users more closely.

Last week six European data protection agencies, including the UK and France, threatened legal action if Google did not make changes to its policy.

In October a European Commission working party said its privacy policy did not meet Commission standards on data protection.

It gave Google four months to comply with its recommendation. Google maintains that the new policy “respects European law”.

Microsoft itself is no stranger to EC criticism- in March it was fined £484 million for failing to promote a range of web browsers in its Windows 7 operating system.

Sky email system customer complaints rocket

April 16, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Email, Google, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Many of Sky’s email customers are being deluged with thousands of old and deleted messages as the company switches email providers.Sky email system customer complaints rocketIn recent weeks Sky has stopped using Google to provide email services in favour of Yahoo.

But the change has caused trouble as many customers are reporting that formerly deleted messages have been delivered again and again.

Some have spent hours clearing the messages out of overflowing inboxes.

Discussion forums on Sky’s support site have been filling up with messages from disgruntled customers complaining about the switch. The company, which has more than four million UK broadband customers recently changed from Google to Yahoo.

The switch has seemingly resurrected many messages users formerly deleted with some reporting that they had to go through thousands of messages before deleting them for a second time. Some unlucky customers had to suffer thousands of deleted messages being re-delivered several times.

Many others said the switch had wiped out email settings, deleted aliases and re-set filters. Customers called on Sky to do a better job of responding to complaints and explaining why old messages were turning up.

On its support site, Sky acknowledged the problems the changeover had caused.

It said it was aware of the issue and had “an ongoing investigation and are working to resolve it”. It pledged to provide an update about its efforts to fix the problem.

It said the problem emerged during migration as it was copying all customer emails to Yahoo’s mail servers. The issue should recede as mail services were synchronised, it said.

Digital revolution left Japanese electronic giants behind

April 11, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Customer Service, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Japan’s electronic giants once ruled the world. Sony, Panasonic, Sharp were household names.
Digital revolution left Japanese electronic giants behind
Now those same companies are in deep trouble, losing billions of Pounds a year. How have the mighty Japanese companies fallen so low?

Sony may make a small profit this year, its first since 2008. Panasonic (formerly Matsushita) is expected to post a £6 billion loss this year. Sharp, which is much smaller, is losing money so fast it will not survive another year without a major infusion of cash.

The Japanese giants, built their empires on making complex electrical machines – colour televisions, radios, cassette players, refrigerators and washing machines.

Yes, they contained electronic components, but they were basically mechanical devices. Then came the digital revolution- and the world changed.

The Sony Walkman is a classic example. it has no software in it. It is purely mechanical. Today you need to have software business models that are completely different.

The digital revolution not only changed the way electronic devices work, they changed the way they are made.

The whole manufacturing model shifted as companies moved production to low-cost countries. That has put huge downward pressure on profit margins for Japanese manufacturers.

Apple makes at least 50% profit margins on iPads and iPhones. People say iPhones are made in China, but maybe only 3% of the value of an iPhone stays in China. Quite a bit of the value actually transfers to the UK- where ARM makes the high value chips without which the boxes would be inert.

It is no longer possible to make profits today just by manufacturing – you have to do a lot more.

Just look at the car manufacturers- they have far more electronics in them than just mechanical engines. If you compare the under the bonner experience today with twenty years ago, it’s amazing the difference.

And if you car does breaksdown- twenty years ago a socket set, hammer and screwdriver could fix it. Now you need to plug a laptop into the car to diagnose the issues.

Times- they are achanging.

Blackberry sells million Z10 smartphones

April 09, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: BlackBerry, Dr Search, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

 Blackberry says it has sold one million of its new Z10 smartphones in the first three months of 2013.
Blackberry sells million Z10 smartphonesThe company reported profits of £65 million ($98 million) for the quarter, after posting a big loss for the same period last year.

The Z10 handset is seen as crucial to the future of Blackberry, which has struggled to keep up with new Apple and Android phones.

It has been on sale for a month in the UK, Canada and other markets.

It went on sale with little fanfare a week ago in the United States, Blackberry’s most important market. The latest figures do not include US sales.

Blackberry was previously called Research In Motion (RIM), but changed its name last year.

Analysts greeted the results cautiously, saying that it was too early to judge the success of the Z10 and its sister device the Q10.

Earlier in the week, Blackberry shares were hit when two major US brokerages expressed disappointment with the US launch of the Z10.

The Blackberry results also showed the company lost three million users over the year. Its handsets are now used by 76 million people, down from 79 million 12 months ago.

In total, Blackberry said it had shipped a total of about six million handsets in the three months to early March.

Government warned about creating a digital divide

April 04, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Dr Search, Search Clinic, Uncategorized, Website Design

The UK government is in danger of creating a digital divide by putting public services online, a report warns.Government warned about creating a digital divide

Ministers say 82% of “transactions” can be carried out online- as that is roughly the proportion of the population which uses the internet.

But the National Audit Office argued that the percentage of people able to access some services, such as those used by elderly people, was lower. It called for “continued access” to face-to-face and telephone services.

The government said it was continuing to offer help to users and promised to create websites “so good that people will prefer to use them”.

The coalition has moved most government services to the single gov.uk address, after Whitehall departments set up their own sites in a more piecemeal fashion. Other bodies are expected to follow by March next year.

It estimates that making services “digital by default” may save up to £1.2 billion during the current parliament, with future savings potentially reaching £1.8 billion a year in the longer term.

In its report, the National Audit Office (NAO) agreed there was “greater scope” for online public services.

It said: “The government, in calculating potential savings, has assumed that 82% of transactions with public services will be carried out online, the proportion of the population currently online.”

But it warned that “online use of some services falls short of that level”, and that “age, socio-economic group and disability do make a difference”.

The NAO looked at 20 public services and found the main reasons for lower take-up were: a preference for face-to-face dealings; an unwillingness to provide information online; and low awareness of some online services.

The report said: “The government has set out plans to help people not on the internet to use digital services. Given the scale of ‘digital exclusion’, the government now needs to put these plans into action to avoid a ‘them and us’ problem.”

The government is caught between a rock and hard place- on the one hand it wants to save money by channelling people to it’s websites and on the other hand they put up websites like the HMRC site which makes tooth extraction an alternative appealing option. I don’t just mean the joy of paying- but the so called interaction.

Mobile position data present anonymity risk

April 02, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, Mobile Marketing, mobile phones, Personal Security, smart phones, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Scientists say it is remarkably easy to identify a mobile phone user from just a few pieces of location positioning information.Mobile position data present anonymity riskWhenever a phone is switched on, its connection to the network means its position and movement can be plotted.

This data is given anonymously to third parties, both to drive services for the user and to target advertisements.

But a study Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility in Scientific Reports warns that human mobility patterns are so predictable it is possible to identify a user from only four data points.

The growing ubiquity of mobile phones and smartphone applications has ushered in an era in which tremendous amounts of user data have become available to the companies that operate and distribute them – sometimes released publicly as “anonymised” or aggregated data sets.

These data are of extraordinary value to advertisers and service providers, but also for example to those who plan shopping centres, allocate emergency services, and a new generation of social scientists.

Yet the spread and development of “location services” has outpaced the development of a clear understanding of how location data impact users’ privacy and anonymity.

For example, sat-nav manufacturers have long been using location data from both mobile phones and sat-navs themselves to improve traffic reporting, by calculating how fast users are moving on a given stretch of road.

The data used in such calculations are “anonymised” – no actual mobile numbers or personal details are associated with the data.

But there are some glaring examples of how nominally anonymous data can be linked back to individuals, the most striking of which occurred with a tranche of data deliberately released by AOL in 2006, outlining 20 million anonymised web searches.

Recent work has increasingly shown that humans’ patterns of movement, however random and unpredictable they seem to be, are actually very limited in scope and can in fact act as a kind of fingerprint for who is doing the moving.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Catholic University of Louvain studied 15 months’ worth of anonymised mobile phone records for 1.5 million individuals.

They found from the “mobility traces” – the evident paths of each mobile phone – that only four locations and times were enough to identify a particular user.

“In the 1980s, it was shown that you need 12 points to uniquely identify and characterise a fingerprint,” said the study’s lead author Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye of MIT.

“What we did here is the exact same thing but with mobility traces. The way we move and the behaviour is so unique that four points are enough to identify 95% of people.”

“We think this data is more available than people think. When you think about, for instance wi-fi or any application you start on your phone, we call up the same kind of mobility data.

“When you share information, you look around you and feel like there are lots of people around – in the shopping centre or a tourist place – so you feel this isn’t sensitive information.”

Sam Smith of Privacy International said: “Our mobile phones report location and contextual data to multiple organisations with varying privacy policies.”

“Any benefits we receive from such services are far outweighed by the threat that these trends pose to our privacy, and although we are told that we have a choice about how much information we give over, in reality individuals have no choice whatsoever.”