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Showing posts from April 9, 2018

F1: Vettel Gets Double Punishment From Verstappen Error

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Sebastian  Vettel spent the last 13 laps of today's race after being hit by Max Verstappen when the Red Bull driver made an ill judged lunge up the inside of the hairpin,  causing both cars to spin. The damage to the Ferrari resulted in the Championship leader falling down the field with chronic understeer to eventually finish eighth. There was more pain to come for Vettel though, after Verstappen was hit with a 10 second post race penalty,  elevating Vettel's main Championship rival Lewis Hamilton into fourth place and further reducing the gap between the two protagonists for the title. Seems to me that the stewards of the race made a mistake with the penalty and either should have increased the penalty to drop the Dutchman behind Vettel,  or carried over his penalty to the next race. It was good to see the mature attitude which both drivers displayed after the race,  with Verstappen apologising after the race and Vettel very sanguine about the impact of the collision. When t…

Formula E: Sam Bird Best Gladiator In Roman Circus

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Another stunning Formula E race in Rome,  with Sam Bird taking victory after pole sitter and early race leader Felix Rosenqvist damaged his rear suspension in a collision with the wall. 
Championship leader Jean-Eric Verge was able to recover from an early race collision with Alex Lynn to finish fifth,  whilst reigning Champion Lucas Di Grassi continued his recovery from a terrible early season with second place. 
Bizarre moment of the race came from Nelson Pique Jr. this time. The season. One Champion getting halfway down the pitlane after his car change pit stop before realising his seat belts weren't properly fastened. After making a futile attempt to resolve the issue Pique was forced to retire. 
Paris is up next and as ever the race is wide open. Rosenqvist will be looking to make up for his Roman error, Vergne will be looking to get back to winning ways and Di Grassi will be looking to continue his recovery. 
Should be exciting.

F1: Mercedes Manages To Throw Another Race In China

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It's hard to believe but Mercedes has now lost three Grand Prix on the bounce, with the latest screw up costing Lewis Hamilton victory in China. Following the bizarre collision between the two Toro Rosso cars - a result of a miscommunication when attempting to switch positions - Mercedes missed the chance to pit Hamilton,  something Red Bull managed to do,  winning them the race. That's a third race which should have been won by one of the Silver Arrows. A 100% fail rate,  unheard of in the modern hybrid F1 era. Lewis Hamilton is said to be in a bad place right now, despite closing the gap to Sebastian Vettel (more on that later). That's because the overall championship battle is tightening up. Bottas and Ricciardo have closed to a race win of the championship lead. And the Finn has now beaten the reigning World Champion in back to back races. Mercedes need to cut out the mistakes,  because although they still hold a car advantage over Ferrari and Red Bull,  those two have…

Norway's Right To Repair Validated In Apple Court Loss

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Apple has lost a court case which sought to prevent a small Norwegian repair shop replacing broken screens on iPhone's. The suit centred around the use of screens procured from the Apple supply chain or from broken iPhones. On winning the case the repair shop, owned by Henrik Huseby, guaranteed Norwegians the right to repair, something which Apple has constantly sought to limit. How things progress from here will be interesting. Apple has already used the Touch ID sensor replacement as an excuse to brick iPhone's being upgraded to the latest IOS version, a move that it had to wind back after public uproar. Will it do something similar to affect users with third party screens? Apple needs to read very careful now to avoid damaging customer loyalty - especially in those countries where it has no, or little, retail presence.

Is It Ironic That Apple's "Don't Leak" Memo Got Leaked

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Once a sealed vault where secrets were concealed right up until the day it released a new product,  Apple has become one of the leakiest ships sailing the technology ocean. I can't remember the last time an Apple announcement came as a complete surprise. Given the size of its supply chain and the need to have product ready to ship almost as soon as it's announced makes this state of affairs inevitable. So Apple sent its employees a strongly worded memo outlining the consequences of making confidential information. Like being sacked, imprisoned or even sued. How effective that was can be gauged by the fact that we know about it at all. For all that the leaks of new devices can be exciting and give us something to talk about,  I can't help missing the days when the first we knew of a product was when Steve Jobs pulled it from an envelope on stage.

Holden In 2018 Is Something To Be Avoided

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I promised an opposing view of the Holden situation earlier and here it is. In comparison to the upbeat message the Kiwi Holden importer is pushing,  John Cardigan - who correctly predicted the death of Australian car manufacturing way back in 2010 - explains why the brand is something to be avoided.

As a European I'm not so emotionally engaged in the Holden brand,  but the intense rivalry between Ford and Holden down under is a match for the US GM / Ford antipathy across the Pacific.

Is Holden suffering more of a backlash because it was seen as more of a home team than Ford, I wonder?  Remember Ford and Toyota both ended Australian car manufacturing recently too.

Holden Here To Stay? That's The Company's View Anyway

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Following last year's closure of its Australian manufacturing plant and the  sale of GM's European operations to the psa group,  Holden has looked increasingly vulnerable as a brand.

This is an attempt by Holden NZ to keep buyers engaged with the antipodean icon.

I'll also be posting a rather opposing view later today. One which sends a very different message.

Did Apple Badly Miscalculate HomePod Demand

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The China Times is reporting drastic reductions in manufacturing orders for the HomePod, suggesting Apple massively over-estimated demand for its Siri powered smart speaker. The paper suggests orders have been slashed from 500k to 200k monthly through Q2.

Whilst the news sounds dramatic, it still implies that Apple expects to find customers for more than two million HomePods in its first six months on sale. Whilst Amazon and Google are selling significantly higher numbers of Echoes and Homes respectively, these lean towards being 'smart' whereas Apple has focused on the 'speaker' end of the equation. I doubt many other speaker manufacturers are selling two million units every six months.

I'm guessing Apple was expecting many more customers to abandon Spotify for Apple Music, and the news that Apple Music has seen a large uptick in its adoption rate suggests many did, but perhaps not at the rate Apple had predicted.

The key thing here though, is that comparing the H…

Android OEMs Faking Security Updates

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A report in Wired yesterday broke news of a brewing scandal in the Android market, one which affects all Android smartphones and OEMs. It would appear that based upon the work of the team at Security Research Labs, Android OEMs have been lying to customers about the security updates which have been applied to their phones.
There's already a concern about the quality and timeliness of Android updates, never mind the tardiness of security updates. If those security updates turn our to be fakes anyway this could further damage the reputation of Android.
Google is investigating the companies named in the report. Whatever the outcome of the investigation this is looking like more and more evidence to align Android purchasing to one of Google's own programs - either by buying a Google Pixel smartphone, or choosing from Android One or Android Go certified phones.
At least then you'll have a fighting chance of getting what you've been promised.

LG Readying To Launch Its Next Smartphone Flop

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On May 2nd LG is planning on releasing a new version of its flagship phone,  expected to be badged G7 ThinQ. LG has been on a long running losing streak in its smartphone business,  nothing which has leaked suggests the G7 ThinQ will change that run. First of all there's the notch.  LG has followed other Android OEMs in copying Apple's worst new feature. Like huawei and OnePlus,  LG is going to allow users to hide the horns of the notch. Unlike other OEMs, LG hasn't actually made use of the notch to push the top bezel to the limits of the device. So why bother with the notch in the first place? Then there's the ThinQ name. Which sounds pretty unrelatable if you haven't come across it before. ThinQ is the branding  which LG applies to its AI solution. That AI solution which famously failed on stage at its launch. Underpinning all this failure is the LG name. Outside of Korea it stands for white goods and little else. So even when LG launches an excellent phone it ge…

PC Sales Down Or Flat, Depends Who You Believe

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The PC market shrunk by 1.4% last quarter according to Gartner,  which also saw the top four OEMs (HP,  Lenovo, Dell and Apple)  grow their share of the market at the expense of smaller manufacturers. Gartner also said that Mac OS grew it's market share year on year.Meanwhile over at IDC, it saw a PC market which was flat,  with 60m units sold and a fall in Mac OS sales,  reducing the market share of Apple's computing platform. In either case, tablet sales aren't counted, something which would change the shape of the market completely. If iPad sales were added to the mix Apple would top the charts comfortably.At what point Garner and IDC embrace tablet sales are part of the pc market I don't know,  but it's an anachronistic throwback which doesn't really reflect what's happening in the PC market.

Samsung And Apple Under Fire For Biometric Patent Infringement

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Both Samsung and Apple have received claims of patent infringement for biometric authentication, Apple for Touch ID and Samsung for use of patented techniques for its access control features like Knox. The two cases show what a minefield the current patent system is created.  Apple has just been put on the hook for $1bn to VirnetX for iMessage infringement, and is being asked for another $ by Firstface,  a Korean company. Meanwhile Samsung is being pursued for $2.8bn by PACid in addition to the many other awards it already has pending. Validity of the patents hasn't been established, but if they hold up it's very likely that these patent suits will make their way to other manufacturers in turn.

Snap Going In For Another Round Of Spectacles

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Snap had some success with version one of its Spectacles,  but ultimately it ended up writing  $40m of stock off after the hype died. Looks like the company still thinks it has a future in hardware in spite of this loss.I'm struggling to see a really good reason for anyone to buy a pair of goofy sunglasses with an embedded camera - especially when the sort of picture which normally gets posted to Snap is a selfie anyway. Still, it's a differentiator when compared with Instagram. Although if Snap ever makes a success of hardware you can rest assured Instagram will have its own version  before too long.

NTSB And Tesla Clash On Information Oversharing

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The NTSB has claimed that Tesla has been booted from the investigation into this month's fatal Model X crash, for sharing incomplete information against the organisation's wishes.Tesla has previously stated that it felt that sharing of information relating to the crash was an implicit part of its contract with customers. It also accused the NTSB of sharing partial information itself, whilst trying to limit communication from Tesla itself. In Tesla's view, it left the investigation of its own accord as a result.Once again the issue in question here is not whether the Autopilot system was responsible for the accident or not - there's no question the car was under the control of the software at the point of impact.The question is really whether Tesla does enough to ensure that drivers are being attentive when Autopilot is engaged. I'd have to say that there evidence of previous Tesla accidents suggests they are not.

Apple Music Posts Impressive Subscriber Growth

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Apple has announced a huge jump in subscriber numbers in the last couple of months, with the service now hosting 40 million paying subscribers - an 11% increase since the last report. The news was reported on the occasion of the announcement that Oliver Schusser would be taking on the role of managing Apple Music worldwide.

With Spotify focused on its direct listing IPO, Apple has an opportunity to close the gap to the market leader.  Spotify had just over 70 million premium subscribers at the last report, in order to retain its position as the market and thought leader, Spotify will need to be pushing 80 million subscribers.

Based on this most recent period of growth I'm expecting Apple Music to rapidly close the gap to Spotify.

Tesla Points Finger At Driver In Fatal Model X Crash

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Tesla has released an official statement on the recent Model X crash which claimed the life of Apple engineer Walter Huang. In the statement Tesla re-iterates its position that the driver had failed to respond to system warnings to place his hands on the steering wheel and was not paying enough attention to deal with the lane change issue and prevent the collision with the lane divider from occurring.

These seem like easily verifiable facts and really do point to the cause of the accident being Huang's inattention.

That said, it does appear that Huang's family disagree and has lawyered up ready for the inevitable Californian lawsuit.

Logic would dictate that Tesla has a solid defence here. For all that it pushes Autopilot as a self driving technology, it has gone to great lengths to tell drivers to remain vigilant when Autopilot is on - including the automatic warnings Huang is alleged to have ignored. The biggest risk for Tesla is that its advertising materials and commentar…

Microsoft Ending Development Of Windows 10 Apps

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Windows 10's bundled apps are looking like being the first casualties of Microsoft's decision to remove the focus from Windows 10. Brad Sams reports that multiple sources have confirmed developers on those affected applications are being pushed into the Edge web browser team.
The apps which are affected seem to be particularly low priority items which you're either not using or won't have too many problems transitioning to a third party alternative. Different rumours suggest that stocks, weather, sport and the calculator are affected.
Given that all of these amount to features which only really add value to consumers, it's no surprise to see Microsoft abandon them. Look through the list of bundled Windows 10 apps and you'll probably identify a few others which are at risk too.
Mail and Calendar aren't on the list according to Sams, however the very fact that they tie so neatly into an Office 365 subscription suggests that they will be soon. Why give away for f…

F1: McLaren Reshuffles Management After Bahrain Embarrassment

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McLaren has shuffled around it's management team in the light of its disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend. Having ditched its Honda partnership at great expense at the end of last season, the last thing the team needed was to be comprehensively outperformed by the Toro Rossos - which acquired the Honda engines McLaren ditched.
Zak Brown becomes CEO of McLaren Racing, with former race director Eric Boullier now reporting directly to Brown. Both are under pressure to deliver now, Boullier to deliver the performance McLaren has been promising and Brown to leverage that to find that elusive title sponsor.

Apple Loses $500m Patent Case For iMessage

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Apple and VirnetX have been litigating around iMessage and FaceTime for what feels like forever. Another step in the path to a final judgement was taken today, when the Texa Federal Court awarded VirnetX half a billion dollars for patent infringement. That's an increase of $75m on the previous award and probably not the result Apple was hoping for or expecting after appealing the previous decision. Update: Looks like this is additional to the earlier award, so Apple's into VirnetX for close to a billion dollars now.

There are still more than a few steps to go along this path, with Apple inevitably appealing against this latest ruling. Whether the decision gets to go all the way to the Supreme Court remains to be seen however, as VirnetX's patents are currently being reviewed for validity, a decision which may eventually kill this whole case anyway.

Here's Why The iPhone Will Ultimately Win The Smartphone War

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The smartphone war is over, you've picked your side and surveys tell us that you're unlikely to switch once that decision has been made. With its huge market share and excellent loyalty rates Android seems to have come out on top.

So how does this sit with my prediction that Apple will win the smartphone war - in volume as well as in profitability?

Well the evidence is there if you look for it. First of all we've had a number of surveys which pitch Android loyalty higher than iOS loyalty. Earlier this year Consumer Intelligence Research Partners put those numbers at 91% and 86% respectively. However with Android smartphone usage approximately four times that of the iPhone's those figures mean that approximately twice as many users will switch from Android to iOS as those who go the other way.

That drain will eventually level off at some point in the future, but it will close the gap between users on the two platforms drastically before it does.

Then there is the lates…

Facebook Has Been Slowly Boiling The Frog. Guess Who's The Frog

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The Cambridge Analytica incident has thrown Facebook's use of customer's data into very sharp relief and made it the focus of a media witch-hunt and political investigation. Mark Zuckerberg has been called before Congress to explain how Facebook slipped up so badly.
Unlike other claims of impropriety, where Facebook has a reasonable defence of 'this is what we told you we were going to do', the cascade of users whose information has been shared, with no reasonable expectation of this happening, nor anyway of control that sharing, needs to be explored, the actions and procedures of the company validated and controls put in place to ensure it cannot happen again.

To understand the core of the problem is necessary to take the information about the number of New Zealand Facebook users whose data was shared via Cambridge Analytica.

The Facebook quiz app 'thisisyourdigitallife' was used by ten Kiwis. However data on nearly 64,000 Kiwis was accessed by Cambridge Analyti…

Google Playing Catch-up In India, Launches Home And Home Mini

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India is a huge market, and it is growing rapidly. Anybody not marketing in India isn't playing the global game. With Amazon's Echo having been freely available through Indian retailers for a couple of months (and in a pre-release invite only offering before that) Google was at risk of losing the market. The arrival of Google Home and Home Mini is little surprise then.

This is an ongoing problem with Google's hardware offerings, it just doesn't seem to be able to get its products in front of consumers reliably - unless they are in the US.

At least for its Google Assistant ambitions that is somewhat mitigated by having Assistant installed on large numbers of Android smartphones. But Amazon is getting Alexa into more and more devices and services and also making it the centre for smart home integration.

Reacting to Amazon's moves is not the way Google wins this market. And if it wants to maintain its position as default search provider it does need to win this market

Audi e-tron Moves From PlayStation To Reality

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The Audi e-tron Gran Turismo, originally a concept created for the Sony Playstation game Gran Turismo, is now a real thing after Audi built the electric vehicle to serve as a promotional vehicle for its Formula E efforts. The e-tron will serve as a circuit taxi at Formula E events starting from this weekend's Rome e-Prix, with drivers Rahal Frey and three time Le Mans winner Dindo Capello ferrying around Audi’s guests. Its a shame Audi has only built one e-tron, as a field full of these would make for a spectacular support race for the main Formula E event.

Plug-in Electric Vehicle Sales Up 35% Across Europe

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Europe has got the Plug-in vehicle bug, if the rise in sales across the region is anything to go by. The arrival of updated or new models into the market has helped boost sales of fully electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 35% for the first two months of the year.

BMW has been the top selling manufacturer, with VW in a close second place but the arrival of the new Nissan Leaf 2.0 is likely to bring the Japanese manufacturer closer to the Germans over the rest of the year. If Nissan's merger with Renault goes ahead that process will happen quicker.

Europe's plug-in market now accounts for one in fifty news car sales across the region, a figure which surpasses that in the rest of the world.

Part of the reason for this is that Europe sees the need to improve air quality as a priority and this is best achieved by enticing customers into electric vehicles which either remove pollution completely (in countries with a high proportion of renewable electricity generation) or…

Microsoft Might Not Be Going Far Enough If It Sees The Surface Pen As A Source Of Notifications

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A few websites are talking about Microsoft enhancing the Surface Pen by allowing it to become a source of notifications. That seems a particularly strange thing to do, but probably not for the reason you're thinking about.

Microsoft has introduced Windows 10 on ARM and is expected to introduce a folding tablet codenamed Andromeda possibly as soon as this year. That tablet may well be the source of these rumours, but either Microsoft isn't thinking broadly enough or the rumours are based on a misinterpretation of what is being planned for the Surface Pen.

Andromeda will likely be the size of a large smartphone, but twice as thick. It will have all of the always on capabilities of a smartphone and, in theory, there's no reason why it couldn't run the Windows 10 Phone application in order to make calls.

Except that you'd look a bit of a numpty holding it up to your head.

Bluetooth headsets would mitigate some of that issue, but they aren't something you tend to wear …

Apple: We're Using 100% Renewable Energy Everywhere

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Retweeting an article by Fast Company, Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced that Apple has completed its transformation to using renewable energy on all of its sites globally. That's an astonishing achievement given the geographic spread and number of offices Apple maintains.
Of course that means Apple needs a new goal and I can't but feel there's an opportunity to step the game up once more. The next step will be to move manufacturing to renewables, a process which Apple has begin by persuading 23 of its suppliers to commit to such a move in the near future.
With much of Apple's manufacturing and assembly taking place in China, where big strides are being taken to move to renewable energy, Apple really has an opportunity to move things forward globally.
Apple's leadership on this should be applauded, whatever your thoughts on Apple as a business are, so long as it realises this isn't job done, just a step on the road.

PayPal Takes The First Steps In Banking Disruption

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PayPal has announced a new service which will allow Americans who don't have a bank account to gain access to banking services through PayPal. That includes allowing them to deposit cheques, use debit cards and ATMs. It's a big step for those Americans disadvantaged by a lack of access to banking services, but its bigger news for the banks who now have the first big internet company camped out on their doorsteps, ready to steal their business.

In that respect it is a small step PayPal has taken, but a hugely significant one. This low risk strategy allows it to fine tune the way it offers banking services on a relatively small user group, before rolling the service out more widely.

Now that PayPal is involved how long before the other potentially serious players in the financial market - Apple and Amazon - arrive?

Whilst commercial banking, merchant and funds management businesses look to be fairly safe (for now) consumer banking and loans look to be vulnerable and the banking ind…

Samsung Galaxy S9 Review

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Samsung's new flagship has been available for a little while now and with that extra time it's possible to get a better view of what the Galaxy S9 brings to the table. Whilst this is the latest flagship from Samsung it has more than a hint of iterative upgrade about it. Whereas the S8 was a game changer the S9 is very much about refining the phone, ironing out any wrinkles which the S8 suffered from and ensuring that Samsung's flagship is competitive with Apple's top iPhone.

So what has changed from the S8? Not the look and feel of the new phone, that's for sure. Although the chassis of the S9 is different to the S8, unless you have them side by side you'd struggle to know it. At least until you flip the phone over, in which case the relocated fingerprint sensor gives it all away. That means my concerns over durability remain, thanks to the curved screen. Don't drop this without a case on. Luckily Samsung includes a case in the box, so you have no excuses.

I…

HP Chromebook Tablet X2 Won't Compete With The iPad Pro

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HP has joined Acer in shipping a Chromebook Tablet, with its Chromebook X2, a product which appears to have the iPad Pro firmly in its sights.The X2 sports a 12.3" screen, keyboard cover and stylus. All very simlar to the iPad Pro, but I don't actually believe that it will steal many sales from Apple, even with its significantly better pricing.As yet we've seen no evidence that a Chromebook works as a tablet, and even the presence of Android apps doesn't guarantee that it will. Whereas iOS works very well on the iPad, especially when you factor in the App Store advantage.So if the Chromebook X2 doesn't compete with the iPad, where will HP gain sales? My guess is that the X2 will appeal to Windows users who want an alternative to something like the Surface Pro and are willing to try the altogether more controlled Chrome OS experience.

USB-C Still Problematic For Consumers, Nintendo Advises Caution

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USB-C got us all excited about an all new reversible connector, with fast charging and data transfer; compatible with all sorts of different devices. The reality turns out to be rather different than the promise.
Nintendo Switch users are the latest to find this out. The company has warned customers to be careful about the cables used to charge their consoles after a number of users had them bricked following the most recent system update, which broke the functionality of a number of third party accessories, including charging cables and docks.
Nintendo is advising customers that they should only use charging cables with a 56 kOhm resistor or risk damage to their units. Nintendo's own charging cables are recommended, although in most countries these can't actually be bought separately.
Rather defeats the object of that fancy new standard connection, I'd say.

PWA, Microsoft And The Windows App Gap

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There's a bit of noise today about Progressive Web Apps, Windows 10 Mobile's lack of support for them and what this means for the app gap - especially in light of the expected Andromeda folding tablet, which is looking more and more like the Courier concept made real.
Here's the thing with PWAs, to be fully supported they need proper browser support, which Microsoft never delivered in Edge on Windows 10 Mobile, because... well it needed the platform to die.
PWAs will run to an extent - they just won't support things like notifications, background tasks, running outside the browser... most of the things that distinguish a PWA from a pinned website basically.
Those who were hoping for a new lease of life for their Windows phones as a result of the adoption of PWAs are in for a bit of a shock. That's as a result of unrealistic expectations though. Microsoft have never suggested that Windows 10 Mobile would gain this capability.
That doesn't mean Microsoft isn'…

WTF? T-Mobile Austria Shows Blatant Disregard For User Security

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In an open invitation to any hacker who'd fancy a veritable treasure trove of customer details and passwords, T-Mobile Austria has confirmed that it stores customer passwords in plain text in its database. A customer service representative on Twitter claimed this was okay because the company's security was so good.
Let's hope its customers aren't re-using passwords anywhere else - nobody does that right? - and the company never suffers a data breach, because that also never happens.
The EU and the Austrian government need to sanction T-Mobile immediately - containing the risk and enforcing a quick fix as soon as practically possible. I'd even go so far as saying that company should be forced to shut its servers down, secure all copies - including offline backups, and be prevented from doing business until it demonstrates an appropriate level of care of the customer details it is entrusted with.
Perhaps more worrying is that if a company of the scale and with the (…