Tag Archives: wearables

Nokia Tries to Reinvent Itself, Again, by Taking Over Alcatel-Lucent

Rajeev Suri, Nokia’s chief executive, at its headquarters in Espoo, Finland, says the deal will increase the company’s relevance. “We’ll have the size to become a strategic partner,” he said.

Tucked away down a corridor at Nokia’s headquarters here is a reminder of its 150-year history. A colorful display traces its transformation from a maker of rubber boots in the 19th century to the world’s largest manufacturer of cellphones, whose market capitalization once peaked at almost $250 billion.

Those high-flying days, though, are long gone.

Nokia failed to adapt to the fast rise of smartphones and eventually
sold its faltering handset business to Microsoft. Now, in an effort to remake itself once again, Nokia has turned to manufacturing the telecom equipment that powers the mobile networks of global carriers like Deutsche Telekom and China Mobile.

That strategy will soon face its biggest test when Nokia completes its$16.6 billion takeover of its Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent in early 2016.

Nokia shareholders will meet in Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday to approve the deal. And despite some resistance, Alcatel-Lucent’s shareholders are also expected to give their support by the end of the year through a share-swap arrangement that will leave them with roughly a one-third stake in the enlarged telecom manufacturer. (Nokia shareholders will hold the remainder.)

The hurdles facing Nokia’s effort are high. The company must sidestep the checkered past of previous costly takeovers in the telecom industry that have often yielded more problems than solutions. Nokia is also confronted with tough competition. Low-cost Chinese rivals and a downturn in spending from carriers worldwide have cut growth prospects just as it edges toward its largest acquisition in years.

Yet, Rajeev Suri, Nokia’s 48-year-old chief executive, says the takeover of Alcatel-Lucent is exactly what his company needs to execute its yearslong makeover. That overhaul has included cutting more than 17,000 jobs, and the sale of unwanted assets like its digital mapping unit.

“When I took over, we were on the brink,” Mr. Suri said in a brief return to Finland between customer meetings in Asia. “Being able to pull off an acquisition that might make us No. 1, now that’s pretty exciting.”

“Through the deal, we’ll grow our relevance with our customers,” he added. “We’ll have the size to become a strategic partner.”

Analysts say both companies do offer complementary expertise: Nokia specializes in wireless networks, and Alcatel-Lucent is best known for its routers and other equipment that is used to create broadband networks.

But as carriers like Verizon Wireless and Telefónica of Spain, which represent the bulk of the companies’ revenue, pull back on mobile networks investments, industry watchers remain concerned that a bigger Nokia may struggle to find new customers to offset the moribund global telecom industry. Sales, including in the United States, have flatlined.

“For Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, it’s a matter of survival,” said Bengt Nordström, co-founder of Northstream, a telecom consulting firm in Stockholm. “The real challenge is where are they going to find growth.”

History also offers reason for caution. Alcatel’s merger with Lucent Technologies in 2006, for example, led to corporate infighting, dwindling sales and, eventually, wholesale layoffs. And Nokia’s own joint venture with Siemens, the German industrial giant, faced many of the same headwinds, finally culminating in Nokia buying out Siemens in 2013.

“The history of M.&A. is littered with hubris,” said Sylvain Fabre, a telecom analyst at the research firm Gartner in Bristol, England. “But Rajeev and his team have a track record that could make this work.”

Ever since Nokia first announced its takeover of Alcatel-Lucent this year, it has looked to previous deals, including its lackluster partnership with Siemens, to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Jorg Erlemeier, who led Nokia’s integration team, said the deal was specifically structured as a takeover, not a merger of equals, so that Nokia executives would assume lead management roles — a way to avoid confusion over how the expanded company would be run. Mr. Erlemeier’s team, which now numbers more than 1,000 people, has met almost weekly since April, negotiating logistics, corporate structures and possible job cuts ahead of the deal’s completion early next year.

Foreign companies have also had trouble acquiring French corporate giants in the past, partly because the French government holds stakes in a number of so-called strategic assets like the energy and telecom industries. The government, for instance, initially balked at General Electric’s offer to buy the energy assets of Alstom, a French conglomerate.

The French government, however, owns less than a 4 percent stake in Alcatel-Lucent. And Nokia has guaranteed it will maintain job levels in France and has created a $105 million fund to support local tech companies, efforts that have so far tempered concerns from French politicians.

“I’m realistic; this is something that had to be done,” said Philippe Camus, Alcatel-Lucent’s interim chief executive, when asked about the pending takeover. “We’re in a global market. Not all European champions can be French.”

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Smartphone sales stutter across Europe

Smartphone sales slowed across Europe in the third quarter, despite overall global sales reaching their highest ever levels, according to a new report

While smartphone sales reached their highest figure on record during the third financial quarter of 2015, growth in Europe stalled as user demand slowed, a new report has found.

Smartphone unit growth across Western Europe saw a rise of around 3pc year-on-year during the quarter, with the French market slowing to 5pc growth and the UK declining by 1pc, according to a report by GfK, which is based on consumer ‘point-of-sale’ data.

Growth was marginally higher in Eastern Europe at 4pc, where Russia and Ukraine’s declined by 6pc and 19pc respectively.

The report predicts a lift in demand in central Europe, forecasting an upturn of 4pc in the year’s final quarter, before rising to 9pc growth in early 2016.

Elsewhere in the world, growth was particularly strong in emerging Asian Pacific (APAC) countries including India, where sales rose by 40pc year-on-year – driven by strong demand from smartphone priced at $100 and under, which accounts for around 48pc of the market.

Over in China, mid-range and high-end smartphones were the drivers behind increased growth of 6pc overall. Sales of high-end handsets, defined as such by their $500 upwards price tags, which include Samsung Galaxy S6 flagship and Apple’s iPhone series, rocketed 65pc, while sales of more modestly priced mid-range units rose 25pc year-on-year.

Separately conducted research from Gartner found that smartphone sales fell for the first time during the second quarter of the year in the face of the rapidly cooling economy, falling by 4pc.

GfK predicts overall smartphone market growth in China will fall 4pc throughout 2015, before rising to a modest 3pc growth in 2016.

Unit demand in South Korea, home of Samsung and LG, fell 3pc compared to the same time a year ago, while Argentina and Brazil reported respective declines of 16pc and 15pc.

By the end of 2015, GfK estimates 1.3bn smartphones will have been sold, bolstered by a 13pc global sales rise in the fourth quarter.

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Digital detox: Could this jewellery give you your life back?

If you obsessively check your phone, there’s a fashionable new way to screen your calls, texts and emails. Jessica Salter reports

Vinaya: The jewellery that could be the cure to digital overload

We all know that we use our phones too much. The average person spends nearly nine hours a day on electronic devices according to one recent study, which also found that we spend more time checking emails in the morning than eating breakfast.

And last month, TED talk star Sherry Turkle argued in her bestselling book,Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, that being on our phones all the time is reducing our empathy. But unplugging totally is unrealistic – there are some calls you simply need to take and texts you must answer. So how can you digitally detox, while remaining partially connected?

Kate Unsworth believes she has the answer. Aged 27, she is a ‘digital native’ – Facebook was founded when she was 16 – and she admits that she used to check social media up to 20 times a day, and her emails at least 50 times a day.

‘I started to realise that my happiness depended on curbing my bad phone-checking habits. But I needed help doing it. There wasn’t anything on the market, so I had to build it,’ she says when we meet at her east London office.

Stylishly dressed in a black oversized shirt and skinny jeans with headphones around her neck, she has a large rose-gold ring with a black stone on her middle finger. It’s a piece from her line of hi-tech jewellery – that women will actually want to wear.

The stone in the ring, necklace or bracelet buzzes only when the most important calls, texts and emails (according to your preset list) come through, so that you can put your phone in your bag and forget about it. ‘I wanted to design something that would help people be more present and live in the moment,’ she says.

It’s an amazing device. The stone, called Altruis, is central to the design; it is packed with software that communicates via Bluetooth with a smartphone. ‘I’ve got my mum, my boyfriend and my two business partners programmed in, so when they email me, I know about it.’

The device has another feature where you can set a code word so that if anyone emails you with it in the subject line, you get an alert. ‘Mine is “bananas”. If my team or friends really need to get hold of me, they just text me that word,’ says Unsworth.

L-r: Kate Unsworth; Altruis rose-gold bracelet, £250, available from Vinaya

The Altruis has been 18 months in the making; a prototype has been tested by users for a year. But now it is finally available to buy in selected boutiques around the world, and on Unsworth’s website, Vinaya. From next spring, it will also be available at Net-a-Porter.

Unsworth’s journey to digital detoxing started three years ago, when she was working for a management consultancy company. ‘I was totally passionate about my job,’ she says. ‘I was giving it my all and that meant I was totally connected. If I was at dinner and an email came in, I’d reply under the table, and I’d step outside to take calls.

‘I’d even do it in the middle of the night and start again as soon as I woke up at 6am. It got to a point where my boss and my client both said they didn’t expect me to be online all the time, but I couldn’t help it. I was always “on”.’

One evening in February 2013, Kate was waiting in a restaurant when her friend called to say she would be two hours late.

‘I thought I would just catch up on work while I waited. Then my battery died and I remember feeling so angry. But I ended up having a glass of wine, relaxing, and thinking, “This is what I should have been doing in the first place.” By the time my friend got there, I felt like my whole perspective had changed. I realised I needed to switch off more.’

She banned herself from her phone completely, from the internet outside of office hours and started leaving work at 5pm. ‘From 5pm to 9am I wasn’t online. It didn’t affect my work at all. In fact, I found that it made me more focused and productive.’

She started noticing things happening around her. ‘I vividly remember sitting on a bus on my way to work behind a couple in their 70s. She leant over to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he turned to her and smiled. I burst into tears. I felt like for the first time in ages I was present enough to witness these small things that happen around us all the time.’

But after a strict two-week detox, Unsworth found herself slipping back into bad habits. ‘You get to the end of the day, you’re tired, and you think, “Sod it, I’ll check Facebook.” I assumed there was a product out there to help, but there wasn’t.’

Clockwise from top left: Altruis gold pendant, £275; Altruis rose-gold ring, ring, £220; Altruis gold and black ring, £220, all available from Vinaya

Kate had grown up tinkering around with electronic equipment. As a teenage wannabe DJ growing up in Cheshire she couldn’t afford brand-new kit, so her dad taught her to fix broken speakers. ‘I wasn’t a tech enthusiast at first, but I realised that actually technology allows you to be really creative.’

Then throughout her mathematics and statistics degree at Edinburgh, and a postgraduate in economics and econometrics, during which she learnt coding, she set up a business with her younger brother selling reconditioned ex-rental laptops to students.

She also knew the wearable-techmarket inside out. Although in 2013 it was a year before the term would become mainstream, she had been consulting on the industry and writing internal reports. Before and after work she started setting up meetings and Skype calls with anyone she thought could help, and began researching how and what she could create. ‘At some point I just realised that this was actually achievable. So I left my job.’

She found two partners: Dan Müller, an engineer who was working for a jewellery company, and Fabio Pania, an electronics engineer. Together they launched Vinaya, which has just secured funding from investors includingCarmen Busquets, founding investor of Net-a-Porter. The company now has 30 salaried staff.

But this isn’t just about creating a product that will sell. Unsworth is really committed to the idea that it will improve people’s lives. She has travelled in Asia and the company’s name, Vinaya, is a Buddhist term meaning ‘discipline’.

Kate incorporates spirituality into her office life – the team have daily yoga in the morning and meditation at 4pm, and her office is filled with candles and books on happiness. ‘I highlight bits in them and pass them round.’ But, she acknowledges,

‘There are definitely some members of the team who are less interested in the philosophical side of it, and more interested in the technical solutions.’ (The second floor is full of soldering irons; not a candle in sight.)

While half the company is focused on product development, the other half is an ‘innovation lab’. As a trained statistician, Kate was frustrated by the current studies on happiness, which she felt weren’t scientific enough. She employs a neuroscientist and conducts experiments, such as a recent one where they measured brain activity in CEOs partaking in a digital detox in the Moroccan desert.

Vinaya’s blog is filled with posts on research in the field, such as a report that shows empathy in young adults has been decaying since the turn of the century, or that children and adults are losing the ability to talk to one another. ‘There’s so much interesting research out there,’ Kate says. ‘Let’s bring it to light and look to create products out of it.’

She does practice what she preaches. If you email her, you get an automated message – extraordinarily for a young tech CEO – that she is only checking her email occasionally, and giving other contacts in the company to try.

This, she says, has reduced her emails by 70 per cent. She has removed all social media apps from her phone ‘so I don’t check them mindlessly’ and has a programme installed on her computer that only allows her on those sites for five minutes a day. ‘It’s enough time to check a contact detail or reply to a message, but that’s it,’ she says.

She is not, she insists, anti-technology. For her, it’s about working out how to live with it. ‘Technology’s going to be here indefinitely, in a much bigger way than it is today,’ she says. ‘So it’s about saying, “Let’s be smart about this. Let’s think about how we can integrate technology into our lives in a way that is beneficial to us.”

‘Because that’s what life is about; we should be on a path that helps us be more human and not less. It’s so we don’t morph into robots.’

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How a startup’s tiny dots could lead to better smartphone photos

With tech called quantum dots, InVisage promises to surpass the limits of today’s image sensors and vastly improve digital photos and videos. The first devices with its technology should arrive in early 2016.

The future of photography is arriving here with a steady drip, drip, drip.

At least that’s the plan for InVisage Technologies, a 75-person startup that hopes its exotic new material known as quantum dots will dramatically improve smartphone cameras when it arrives in devices in the first quarter of 2016.

“It’s revolutionary on a number of fronts,” said Chief Executive and co-founder Jess Lee, who will unveil the company’s first product on Wednesday.

In an exclusive look into its operations tucked inside a drab office building in the heart of Silicon Valley, InVisage showed CNET how it makes the tiny particles in an ultra-clean lab where staff wear coats, gloves, booties and hairnets to protect the material from contamination.

InVisage’s product, the QuantumFilm image-sensor chip, begins with a chemical reaction that fills a vial with an inky black liquid drop by drop. Concentrated, 1 fluid ounce is enough to make enough image-sensor chips for 10,000 cameras. The quantum dots themselves are less than 5 nanometers wide — small enough that more than 20,000 of them side by side would be only as wide as a human hair.

Chips with the light-detecting layer of quantum dots will outdo today’s image-sensor technology, Lee said. First, their better dynamic range can handle highlights and shadows better, letting you avoid the glare of overexposed faces in the sun while still discerning the subjects in the shade. Second, a fast-acting “global shutter” avoids the Jello-wobble effect that hurts today’s videos taken when the subject or camera is moving. Last, QuantumFilm-based cameras can be made thinner so phone makers can avoid the protruding camera lens present even on today’s top-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 6S and Google’s Nexus 6P.

Cameras are crucial to smartphone-powered activities like sharing photos with friends and family. We post more than 80 million images a day on Instagram alone. But image quality often falls short. Look no farther than Apple’s “shot on iPhone 6” ad campaign to see how smartphone makers push camera improvements to try to stand out in a crowded market.

“Image sensors are critical to smartphones,” ranking third in importance after battery power and the display, said InfoTrends analyst Ed Lee. “People continue to take more and more photos, and it’s going beyond just memory keeping and social sharing” as people use phones to search, scan and tryaugmented reality apps that add a digital layer to the real world.

‘Extremely difficult task’

InVisage won’t have an easy time meeting its ambitions. It’s going up against giants like Sony, which according to analyst firm IHS, accounts for about 42 percent of the $9.6 billion image-sensor business. Success requires increasing production to thousands of chips a day while maintaining quality. And it’s been tough developing InVisage’s technology. In a 2010 interview with CNET, Lee said he expected QuantumFilm image-sensor chips to arrive in 2011.

“Succeeding in the market will be an extremely difficult task for InVisage,” said IHS analyst Brian O’Rourke. “The image sensor market is ferociously competitive. The last startup to succeed in this market was OmniVision, which started in the 1990s.”

Even if it took five years longer than hoped, InVisage is fledging from the nest now, with help from more than $100 million raised in venture capital.

“While we’ve been taking longer to come to market than we originally predicted, this is brand-new technology,” said Lee, who previously worked at OmniVision.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) fabricates most parts of each QuantumFilm chip, but InVisage completes the job by adding the quantum dot layer. Lee wouldn’t identify which companies are buying its chips but said they are “aggressive early adopters…looking for a way to differentiate.”

Initially, InVisage expects to charge smartphone makers the same price as the latest silicon-based sensor technology. In the longer run, it expects to lower manufacturing costs.

InVisage is starting with smartphones but plans to power traditional still and cinema cameras, too.

“We have high interest in the high-end space,” Lee said. “It’s a personal goal of mine to get our technology into those hands.” High-end products have big marketing value for mainstream products, he added.

Quantum whats?

Today’s image sensors are specialized computer chips with a layer of silicon that is sensitive to light. The more light that strikes each of millions of pixels on the image sensor, the more an electrical charge builds up for that pixel. Circuitry converts that charge into image data.

QuantumFilm uses a super-thin layer of its light-sensitive quantum dots instead of silicon. Each dot is made of a semiconducting material that conducts electricity or not depending on its environment. Different dot sizes are sensitive to particular colors of light.

One of the biggest quantum dot advantages is better dynamic range — the span between the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights. QuantumFilm can record image details at brightness levels that would overwhelm a silicon sensor. Specifically, QuantumFilm remains sensitive to detail even as it absorbs up to eight times as much light, or up to three stops in photography terms. That translates into a sensor that better captures reality without resorting to multi-exposure “HDR” high dynamic range tricks.

QuantumFilm also has a useful feature called global shutter that reads each pixel of video data simultaneously. That can bring realism to videos otherwise spoiled when the camera holder or subject is moving.

Another perk: Because quantum dots are laid down in a continuous film, the number of pixels on a sensor isn’t baked into the hardware. A smartphone could be set to capture images with a maximum number of pixels for fine detail then changed to a smaller number of larger pixels for better low-light performance.

Digital image sensors have evolved slowly for decades, starting with technology called CCD (charge-coupled devices) before moving to conventional technology called CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) chip manufacturing that’s better suited to video and to use in smartphones. The most recent development has been backside illumination (BSI), which flips CMOS image sensors like pancakes so light shines on the back of the chip and electronic components won’t block light.

Lee thinks quantum dots are the next step for the entire industry in the quest for better image quality. “There’s nothing else out there,” he said.

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New Android adware tries to root your phone so you can’t remove it

A new piece of Android malware has been revealed by security firm Lookout, and it’s a clever one. The malware in question is a type of trojan adware called Shuanet, which is masquerading as 20,000 different popular apps. Shuanet doesn’t just display ads, though. It also attempts to root any device it is installed on, allowing the malware to survive factory resets.

Shuanet shares a lot of code with several other adware trojans that Lookout has detected recently known as Kemoge and Shedun. What’s interesting about Shuanet is that it doesn’t seek to wreak havoc on an infected device or clog it with other malware. This is adware first and foremost, so the goal is to get people to use their devices and see the ads.

The malware operators are downloading the legitimate Android APKs of popular apps, then integrating Shuanet and reposting them in third-party app stores. The thousands of apps repackaged by Shuanet include the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, NYTimes, WhatsApp, and more. These apps appear to function normally after being installed, so the user might not even realize anything is wrong. Just a few annoying popup ads, but such is the price we pay for living in a connected world, right?

ShuanetThe aspect of Shuanet that is grabbing headlines is that it roots your device, which is sort of true. It certainly tries to root any Android device it is installed on, but according to Lookout, it’s not using any new secret system vulnerabilities. It’s simply a package of older community-developed exploits that enthusiast users install to gain root access for their own enjoyment. If Shuanet successfully roots a phone, it moves the infected app to the system partition, which means it will survive a factory reset. The only way to remove it would be to use a root-enabled file explorer to find and remove the package. That would be tough if you didn’t know which app was the source of the infection.

This isn’t as calamitous as it sounds at first. As we’ve mentioned in the past, there are no universal root exploits on Android, and all of the public exploits included in Shuanet have been patched (for example ExynosAbuse and Framaroot). Thus, a device is only vulnerable if it’s running a rather old version of Android. Notice how the example image provided by Lookout is a Jelly Bean phone? A newer phone wouldn’t be rooted by Shuanet, but the ad features could still work.

It’s still very hard to get infected with Shuanet. You’d have to disable installation protection, ignore the Google security warnings, then manually install one of these apps from a shady third-party app store instead of simply getting it from Google Play. I’m not sure who would do that, but Lookout says it has seen it happening in the wild. It does not provide a figure for the number of infections, though.

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Google: Smarter ads in mobile games will be fun! No, really

Ads that pop up less often and allow publishers to offer full versions of games will make players happier in the long run, promises a Google exec.

Google is pumped up about ads in mobile games and thinks you should be too.

You wouldn’t be blamed for rolling your eyes, considering the message comes from a company that makes most of its money off advertising. But Jeff Birnbaum, head of gaming partnerships at Google, says that the smarter ads it has in mind pop up less frequently and lower the likelihood of annoying gamers. Relying on ads for revenue also means a publisher can offer you a complete game, rather than one that constantly nudges you to pay for extra lives or levels.

Birnbaum’s enthusiasm for getting Google more involved in mobile games underscores the enormous potential in the market, which was worth an estimated $13 billion last year, according to researcher PwC. While almost all of that revenue comes from in-app purchases — those levels or lives that cost you extra — Birnbaum believes advertising will start to catch up because it represents an untapped area of growth.

“We’re at a bit of a tipping point right now,” Birnbaum said in an interview last month.

The Mountain View, California, company’s push has an impact on gamers too. The search giant believes it can provide a better experience by serving you ads that target your interests.

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Birnbaum points to an extreme case to show that Google-powered game ads can work in the best interests of both player and developer. When Etermax, the Buenos Aires-based creator of the hit mobile game Trivia Crack, agreed to stop sticking in commercials from any ad network other than Google’s AdMob system, it produced some helpful changes for players.

The ads were more consistent, so if players wanted to close a video spot, they would find the button to tap in the same place every time. Tapping into just one ad network also means that the game runs fewer video ads and that individual players are less likely to run into repeat viewings of the same commercial.

“Seeing the same ad all over and over again…you don’t like it as a user, you don’t like it as a publisher, and you don’t like it as an advertiser, too. It’s bad for everyone,” said Maximo Cavazzani, founder and CEO of Etermax.

Birnbaum points to other benefits, such as speed, for game players when developers use fewer ad networks. Typically, a mobile game with advertising has multiple systems feeding ads to fill available slots in the game. These vendors bid in real time to fill that opening, but the seconds it takes to determine a winner add up to the time a player must wait for the spot to load, he said.

The more ad networks that a game includes, the bulkier the game is to download and store on your device, Birnbaum added. This means the next time you’re deciding which storage-hogging app to delete so you can fit more photos on your phone, you may put in your crosshairs a game loaded up with ad vendors.

Still, game advertising is bound to be a nuisance in the way that all commercials are, said Stephanie Llamas, director of research and consumer insights at video-game researcher SuperData. The least offensive ads pop up without interrupting play, she said, but more lucrative ads are going to be more disruptive. “Advertising in mobile games is going in the direction of all advertising online,” she said. “People have learned to tune it out.”

In newly industrialized countries, though, advertising in games is particularly vital, noted Fabien Nicolas, vice president of marketing at analytics company App Annie. Up to 70 percent of game maker revenue is coming from ads in places like India and Southeast Asia, where small incremental purchases are a greater burden on tighter disposable incomes, according to Nicolas.

Even in places like the US, where games are heavily weighted to in-app purchases, pressure is building on developers to squeeze more value out of the vast majority of players who never spend a dime, according to Nicolas. “We’re going to see the makers who are really excelling at in-app purchases try to figure out how to monetize the other 95 percent,” he said.

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Exclusive NBA content is headed to Verizon’s Go90 app

Go90, Verizon’s fresh new video service aimed directly at millennials, is already growing. The company just announced a multiyear partnership with the NBA, and in addition to Verizon becoming the NBA’s official sponsor, Go90 users are getting exclusive access to NBA original content, daily highlights, and out-of-market games. Verizon also says it plans on working with the NBA on a collection of original series. The youths of Gen Z should be excited.

Go90 launched last month as a way for Verizon to appeal to young, mobile audiences eager to watch videos on their phones. This deal brings the NBA into Verizon’s Go90 content fold, joining big Viacom properties like The Daily Show along with videos from all over the web. Users even have the option to share highlights via text and social media. Unfortunately, while a deal like this is certainly a coup, it doesn’t mean Go90 will be successful in the long run.

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Inside BlackBerry’s last-ditch plan to win you back with Android

Once the mobile maker to beat, BlackBerry is fighting for survival. Its secret weapon: the first-ever BlackBerry phone powered by Google’s Android software.

Most people go to Las Vegas to gamble, party or see a show.

On a warm winter’s day in January 2014, Ron Louks journeyed there to gamble. But he wasn’t trying his luck at the tables. He was there, on one of his first days on the job as head of BlackBerry’s smartphone business, to bet on the company’s future.

After landing in the desert city at the start of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Louks checked in with BlackBerry CEO John Chen and then set off for his first and most important appointment. Tellingly, it wasn’t with a wireless carrier or one of BlackBerry’s manufacturing partners. It was with Google.

“Android, in our mind, was a longtime coming,” Louks said in an interview last week.

Chen, a software industry veteran hired to help save the Canadian company in late 2013, had already been talking to Google about how BlackBerry could better work with Android, the world’s most popular operating system.

The next step was up to Louks, who previously worked at HTC and Sony Ericsson.

Nearly two years after that Vegas meetup, BlackBerry is getting ready to sell the $700 BlackBerry Priv, its first smartphone not powered by the company’s own mobile software. Chen and Louks hope that by tying their fortunes to Android, BlackBerry will do something it hasn’t been able to do in five years: win over customers who abandoned its once-almighty keyboard-based gadgets for Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

If the Priv is a flop, that will likely spell the end of the BlackBerry smartphone.

“If this doesn’t resonate with users, there’s not much else they can do,” said Chris Hazelton, an analyst at 451 Research.

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Inside BlackBerry’s last-ditch plan to win you back with Android

Once the mobile maker to beat, BlackBerry is fighting for survival. Its secret weapon: the first-ever BlackBerry phone powered by Google’s Android software.

Most people go to Las Vegas to gamble, party or see a show.

On a warm winter’s day in January 2014, Ron Louks journeyed there to gamble. But he wasn’t trying his luck at the tables. He was there, on one of his first days on the job as head of BlackBerry’s smartphone business, to bet on the company’s future.

After landing in the desert city at the start of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Louks checked in with BlackBerry CEO John Chen and then set off for his first and most important appointment. Tellingly, it wasn’t with a wireless carrier or one of BlackBerry’s manufacturing partners. It was with Google.

“Android, in our mind, was a longtime coming,” Louks said in an interview last week.

Chen, a software industry veteran hired to help save the Canadian company in late 2013, had already been talking to Google about how BlackBerry could better work with Android, the world’s most popular operating system.

The next step was up to Louks, who previously worked at HTC and Sony Ericsson.

Nearly two years after that Vegas meetup, BlackBerry is getting ready to sell the $700 BlackBerry Priv, its first smartphone not powered by the company’s own mobile software. Chen and Louks hope that by tying their fortunes to Android, BlackBerry will do something it hasn’t been able to do in five years: win over customers who abandoned its once-almighty keyboard-based gadgets for Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

If the Priv is a flop, that will likely spell the end of the BlackBerry smartphone.

“If this doesn’t resonate with users, there’s not much else they can do,” said Chris Hazelton, an analyst at 451 Research.

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South Korean telco proclaims it will be world’s first 5G network operator

SK Telecom opens a fifth-generation mobile network research facility in South Korea, where it claimed it would be the first operator of a 5G service.

South Koreans currently enjoy the world’s fastest Internet speeds, so it makes sense that they would be the first to get a fifth-generation mobile network, aka 5G.

SK Telecom, the country’s most widely used mobile carrier, on Thursday declared it would be the world’s first operator of a 5G network as it opened the doors of the 5G Playground, a facility dedicated to researching the nascent service, The Korea Herald reports.

Following 4G LTE, 5G is the next significant update to wireless Internet connectivity. SK reportedly demonstrated speeds of up to 19.1 gigabits per second, nearly 1,000 times faster than the 25 megabits-per-second in which 4G LTE users in South Korea currently luxuriate. That 5G speed would let you download a 2GB movie in fractions of a second.

“SKT will spare no efforts to achieve the world’s first commercialisation of the 5G network,” CTO Choi Jin-sung said at the opening of the Playground.

At the opening of the centre, which was launched in conjunction with tech giants Samsung Electronics, Nokia, Intel, telco infrastructure provider Ericsson and electronics firm Rhode & Schwartz, SK Telecom said it would have a test network running by 2017. That’s ahead of a globally standardised, commercially usable network by 2020.

But SK Telecom isn’t the only telco with its eyes on 5G. If it wants to be the world’s first 5G operator it’ll have to beat Verizon Wireless in the US, which is on track to begin testing its fifth-gen network next year and have some degree of commercial availability in 2017. Australia’s Telstra has pegged 2020 as the year for the commercial launch of its 5G network.

According to Verizon, 5G will offer a connection speed 30 to 50 times faster than the US’ current 4G LTE network. Meanwhile, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg in January said he expected 5G to power a proliferation of Internet of Things gadgets, items that make use of Internet connectivity, due to the network’s ability to interact uniquely with different types of devices.

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