EU Privacy Watchdogs Could Seek US Data Pack Review in 2 Years: Reports

EU Privacy Watchdogs Could Seek US Data Pack Review in 2 Years: Reports

European privacy watchdogs could ask for a review in two years of a new transatlantic data pact designed to help companies such as Microsoft and IBM to shuffle around user data, according to three people familiar with the matter.

European data protection authorities are assessing whether to endorse the EU-US Privacy Shield, a framework agreed in February that will allow companies to move Europeans’ data to the United States without falling foul of strict EU data transferral rules.

But the regulators have concerns about how much data US government agents can collect and access as well as the independence of a new US “ombudsperson” to handle EU complaints about US surveillance practices, the people said.

“Who is independent enough? Independence is a key criteria to addressing the real position of this person,” Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chair of the group of 28 EU data protection authorities, said last week in Washington when asked about the ombudsperson.

The regulators also have doubts about US assurances that Europeans’ data transferred to the United States will not be subject to indiscriminate mass surveillance, two of the people said.

The EU regulators might ask for the framework to be reviewed when a stricter EU data protection law comes into force in 2018 to see if it still meets EU privacy standards, the people said.

That would be separate from the annual review already foreseen in the agreement with Washington.

Falque-Pierrotin had hinted at the idea at a hearing in the European Parliament in March.

The regulators’ opinion will be published on Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting. While non-binding, it is important because the regulators enforce EU data protection law and can suspend specific data transfers.

In addition, the opinion will be watched closely by EU member state representatives who have to give their approval for the Privacy Shield to be formally adopted.

Commercial data transfers to the United States have been conducted in a legal limbo since October last year when the top EU court struck down Safe Harbour, a framework that for 15 years allowed over 4,000 companies to avoid cumbersome EU data transfer rules by stating that they complied with EU data protection law.

Revelations almost three years ago by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of mass US Internet surveillance programmes sparked outrage in Europe.

While privacy and consumer groups have urged the regulators not to lend their support to the Privacy Shield, arguing that it does not solve fundamental flaws with US enforcement of privacy, businesses have appealed for it to be swiftly approved.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Data transfer, Facebook, IBM, Internet, Microsoft, Privacy Shield, Social
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HP Sprout Pro With Projector, Touch-Capable Second-Monitor Launched

HP Sprout Pro With Projector, Touch-Capable Second-Monitor Launched

HP has announced a new model of its Sprout computer. Called the Sprout Pro, the new variant offers a specifications upgrade over the original Sprout, coupled with a range of suites. It starts at a price point of $2,199 (roughly Rs. 150,000) and will begin shipping in select regions starting next month.

HP surprised everyone in 2014 when it launched the HP Sprout, an all-in-one desktop that seemed like something taken out of Minority Report movie. Meant for product designers, it has a touch-sensitive mat, and is able to measure 2D and 3D objects that are placed on it. The company has just made the computing product better.

The HP Sprout Pro sports a 23-inch full-HD display (1920×1080 pixels) with support for 10-point touch. It is powered by sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6700 processor with Nvidia GeForce GT 945A (1GB GDDR5) graphics card and 8GB of DDR4-2133 SDRAM (expandable to 16GB). The HP Sprout Pro comes with 1TB SATA solid state hybrid drive with an 8GB flash drive. There’s also a 1-megapixel webcam.

Other features of the HP Sprout Pro include the HP Illuminator, a built-in projector that comes equipped with up to 14.6-megapixel camera and also the Intel RealSense 3D camera to instantly capture 2D and 3D objects.

hp_illuminator_official.jpg

There’s also the HP Touch Mat, the 20-inch mat that features 20-point touch-enabled feedback with an ultra-resistant top coating. It serves as a second monitor as well as keyboard and mouse input devices. The company also offers the Adonit Jot Pro stylus to write and draw. The HP Sprout Pro runs Windows 10 Pro out of the box.

On the connectivity front, the HP Sprout Pro supports 10/100/1000 Base-T Network, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n featuring dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 2×2 MIMO technology. There are two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and HP 3-in-1 media card reader.

HP has announced a range of new apps that go along with the HP Sprout Pro. These apps include HP Scan that brings professional-level document scanning, and HP External Display Mixer.

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Tags: HP, HP Sprout, HP Sprout Pro, HP Sprout Pro Launch, HP Sprout Pro Price, HP Sprout Pro Specifications, Laptops,PC, Windows 10, Windows 10 Pro
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Dropbox for Windows 10 Released With Biometrics Support and More

Dropbox for Windows 10 Released With Biometrics Support and More

Microsoft on Thursday announced that Dropbox has released its universal Windows 10 app, adding that users can utilise Windows Hello biometrics feature to sign into their Dropbox account.

Dropbox for Windows 10 offers several interesting features including the ability to allow a user to drag and drop files from Windows File Explorer to Dropbox app. Users can also utilise Quick Search and set up interactive notifications. However, more notable is support for Windows Hello, which will allow users to log into their account using fingerprint or face for authentication.

Dropbox already exists on Windows 8 as a modern app, and the new release is a re-launched app for the new desktop version. Dropbox said that users can continue to work on Windows 8 app, but they will be slowly upgraded to the new version.

Dropbox and Microsoft partnered in November 2014 and have since released a number of handy integrations – including the ability to edit Office files from within Dropbox app. Dropbox says that the partnership has resulted in 17 million users taking advantage of their collaborated features.

“Microsoft is excited to partner with Dropbox to bring more cloud storage and productivity services to Windows 10 across PC and tablets. With the arrival of Dropbox, Windows 10 fans have easy and convenient access to photos, documents, and files anytime, anywhere,” said Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism and Chief Evangelist, Microsoft

Dropbox said that an app optimised for tablets will be available in the coming days. It is also working on a Windows 10 Mobile app, which it expects to release in “early 2016.”

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Tags: Apps, Dropbox, Dropbox for Windows 10, Universal Windows app, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile
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China Plans Supercomputer Capable of More Than a Billion Billion Calculations per Second

China Plans Supercomputer Capable of More Than a Billion Billion Calculations per Second

China is planning a supercomputer 1,000 times more powerful than its groundbreaking Tianhe-1A within two years as it faces rising demand for next-generation computing.

The National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin will release a prototype in 2017 or 2018 of an “exascale” computer – one capable of at least a billion billion calculations per second, Meng Xiangfei, head of the applications department, said on Friday.

Exascale computing is considered the next frontier in the development of supercomputers and it would represent a significant achievement in computer engineering.

Tianhe-1A was recognised as the world’s fastest computing system in 2010. Though it has since been superseded by Tianhe-2, Tianhe-1A is being more widely used.

Computer scientists are finding it challenging to run contemporary applications at their optimum on faster supercomputers.

With its uses including oil exploration data management, animation and video effects, biomedical data processing and high-end equipment manufacturing, Tianhe-1A’s capacity is being stretched, Meng was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

It is carrying out more than 1,400 computing tasks and serving about 1,000 users per day.

The exascale computer will be wholly independently developed by the National Supercomputer Centre, according to Meng.

About a seventh of Tianhe-1A’s CPU chips are Chinese.

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Tags: China, Laptops, PC, Supercomputers, Tianhe-1A
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Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Get New Top-End Models

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Get New Top-End Models

If the existing top-of-the-line Surface Book and the Surface Pro models weren’t cutting it for you,Microsoft has introduced more powerful new models for both. Now you can finally snag a 1TB inbuilt storage with Intel Core i7 model.

The new top-end Surface Book model features 1TB of SSD, 16GB of RAM, a dedicated GPU, and a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor. It is priced at $3,199 (roughly Rs. 216,700). The new Surface Pro 4 model, which offers the same hardware specs aside from a discrete GPU, is priced at $2,699 (roughly Rs. 183,,000).

surface_book_official_019.jpg

Both the new models are available in the United States and Canada. The Surface Book is available online-only via Microsoft Stores and other select retailers. The new Surface Pro 4 will be available in Microsoft stores and through select retailers. Microsoft has not announced if this top end model will be made available in India, where the Surface Pro 4 was launched earlier this month.

Alongside the new models of the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, Microsoft has also launched a new Surface Pen. It offers the same specifications as other Surface Pen models, but comes in a Gold colour option. It also includes the Surface Pen Tip Kit that helps a user to change the tip in accordance with different writing and drawing styles. It is priced at $59.99 (roughly Rs. 4,100).

surface_pen_gold.jpg

The new gold Surface Pen is available in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. No details about when the new accessory will come to India.

Launched at a media event in October, the Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4 both have garnered raving reviews from the company. While Microsoft is yet to tell how many of these devices have sold so far, it noted recently that the sales are going well.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Display

12.30-inch

Processor

Intel Core M3

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

2736×1824 pixels

RAM

4GB

OS

Windows 10

Storage

128GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery capacity

See full Microsoft Surface Pro 4 specifications
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Tags: Laptops, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface Book, Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Tablets, Windows 10
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Why China’s Fake Apple Stores are Shutting Down

Why China's Fake Apple Stores are Shutting Down

At 22, Cheung is already a veteran of China’s imitation game. A month ago, she was peddling the latest iPhones and accessories in one of several copycat Apple Inc stores along a street of gadget outlets in the southern city of Shenzhen.

She still works at the same store but the counterfeit Apple uniform has gone, and the handsets she now touts are made by local Chinese firm Huawei.

The number of fake Apple stores along the busy street has dwindled by about a third from more than 30 as recently as September when Reuters reporters last visited the area, some replaced by unauthorised stores selling locally-branded phones from Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu and Oppo.

While China remains a crucial growth driver for Apple, the anecdotal evidence from Shenzhen illustrates the economic headwinds the US firm faces in a market that CEO Tim Cook has said will one day be its biggest.

Apple’s China sales grew 84 percent in the year through September. But, with China’s economy growing at its slowest pace in a quarter of a century last year, there are concerns that consumers are tightening their purse strings.

To be sure, copycat outlets represent just a small fraction of Apple’s sales in China, where it also sells handsets through mobile carriers and its own official stores. But they can be a useful gauge of demand. And the frequency at which these tech shops switch brand loyalty also reflects how fickle Chinese buyers can be, and underscores how fierce competition is in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Apple is expected to report later on Tuesday that its global iPhone sales rose by just above 1 percent in October-December, its slowest growth and far from the double-digit growth investors have come to expect.

“It’s not as cool as before to have an iPhone,” said Cai, a 23-year-old assistant at one of the remaining copycat Apple stores.

She said sales had about halved from October levels – when the iPhone 6s (Review) and iPhone 6s Plusdebuted in China – adding the iPhone had become a “street cellphone”, using a Chinese term to describe something that’s widely available and popular, but lacking in novelty value. “Using an iPhone is hardly something you can show off to people now,” she said.

It was unclear if the decline in the number of fake stores might be the result of any pressure by Apple to clamp down on counterfeiting of its brand. Apple China did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

National pride
While some Shenzhen shoppers praised the user-friendly iPhone for its security and design features, others said they preferred cheaper devices that use Google’s Android software.

“I don’t care about the brand, but it must be on the Android system,” said designer Wang Li, 26. “My last mobile was an iPhone. The system is stable, but I don’t like it that all the apps have to be downloaded from the App Store.”

Yang Qingbao, a 31-year-old investment bank manager, said “I think the iPhone has a higher brand value, but it’s hard to say its performance is better than Huawei.”

For others, national pride is a factor.

“I support Chinese brands,” said Li Hongxuan, a 33-year-old translator. “Huawei is cost-effective, though it may not be as good as the iPhone. Its functions are enough for me.”

CK Lu, a Taiwan-based principal analyst for industry research firm Gartner, said Apple retains its premium image in China, though competition is intense.

“The threat, or the risk, is first if Samsung can regain its premium image in China with the S7 coming out this year, and secondly, if Chinese brands can improve their brand image to challenge Apple,” Lu said.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Apple, Huawei, iPhone, Laptops, Mobiles, PC, Smartphones, Tablets, Wearables
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Google Brings Real-Time Commenting to Docs, Sheets, Slides for Mobile

Google Brings Real-Time Commenting to Docs, Sheets, Slides for Mobile

If you love collaborating with your friends and colleagues on the Google Drive apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides), you will like the new changes the company has made across its mobile office suite. Among other changes, the real-time commenting feature is now available on Android and iOS apps.

Google on Wednesday announced that Android and iOS users of its Google Drive productivity apps will now be able to add comments and follow-up things in real-time in Docs, Sheets, and Slides as well.

In addition, Google noted that it has made it easier to quickly add a teammate with whom you want to share the document, or invite for real-time collaboration. “You can now also quickly add a teammate to the conversation just by starting to type their name in a comment.”

Google is also making it easier for someone to just add a comment from the Web version of its productivity suite. Users will now see a comment bubble appear when they hover the mouse to the right side of the screen. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned features are also live for Google Apps users.

Microsoft’s Office is the most widely used productivity suite on the planet. However, the suite’s Web counterpart isn’t as nearly as popular. For users who rely on cloud services – especially Chromebook users – many of them prefer Google Drive as their productivity suite.

However, Microsoft has grown more focused in making Office Online (Office 365) more feature-rich and exciting for users. And so has Google. The Mountain View-based company recently updated the mobile and Web clients of Drive to improve search feature. But if Google wants to be relevant in this space, it will have to continually and aggressively introduce new features.

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Tags: Android, Apps, Google, Google Docs, Google Drive, iOS, Laptops, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Online, Mobiles,Office 365, PC
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Windows 10 Now on Over 200 Million Devices; Lumia Q4 Sales at Just 4.5 Million, Surface Going Strong

Windows 10 Now on Over 200 Million Devices; Lumia Q4 Sales at Just 4.5 Million, Surface Going Strong

Like a friendly but persistent sales rep, Microsoft has a message for anyone who owns a personal computer: If you haven’t yet upgraded to Windows 10, the company highly recommends it.

So highly, in fact, that in coming weeks, PC owners who have set their machines to automatically install important updates – like security fixes – could find the new operating system already downloaded and ready for activation.

Microsoft’s aggressive campaign to promote Windows 10 has led to its deployment on more than 200 million devices since its July release. It’s part of a multi-pronged strategy, along with a push to expand in “cloud” computing, that analysts say is driving the early stages of a financial turnaround, as evidenced by Microsoft’s latest earnings report on Thursday.

The Redmond, Washington-based tech company reported $5 billion in profit on nearly $24 billion in sales for the quarter ending December 31. Revenue and profit were both down from a year ago, but after adjusting for deferred revenue and one-time costs, the numbers were better than Wall Street analysts expected.

Microsoft beat Wall Street’s estimates for sales in key segments. Those include its cloud-computing segment, which lets commercial customers run their businesses on Microsoft’s servers, and the division that sells PC software, Surface tablets and Xbox gaming consoles. Adjusted earnings amounted to 78 cents a share, while analysts polled by FactSet had expected adjusted earnings of 71 cents a share.

“All around, this looks like a quarter that (Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella) can frame and put in his office,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said. Microsoft’s stock rose more than 3 percent in extended trading after the results came out.

Microsoft only sold 4.5 million Lumia phones in the recent quarter, compared to the 10.5 million sold last year.

Long a dominant seller of PC-based software, Microsoft has seen its profit decline as consumers and businesses buy fewer PCs, cutting into licensing fees Microsoft gets from computer-makers. The last major upgrade of its operating system, known as Windows 8, was widely viewed as a flop, which hurt PC sales even more.

Nadella, who was named to the top job in 2014, has been pushing Microsoft to adapt to a world where people are increasingly using mobile gadgets, and where businesses are moving more of their operations to remote data centres, accessed via the Internet.

Microsoft broke with tradition last July by releasing Windows 10 as a free upgrade for older PCs, with no charge for future updates. It’s also redesigned other popular products, such as the Office word-processing and spreadsheet programs, to work as mobile apps for devices running operating systems made by its rivals, Apple and Google.

The goal is to get people using Microsoft’s latest products, no matter what kind of device they prefer, said Frank Gillett, a tech analyst with Forrester Research. He said that should give Microsoft more opportunities to make money by selling premium features or apps, such as online storage, Skype minutes or music and games.

The company is already seeing an increase in sales of apps and online advertising, tied to new features in Windows 10, Nadella told analysts Thursday.

But it’s a gradual process, Gillett cautioned. Microsoft’s personal-computing division reported $12.7 billion in sales for the December quarter, down 5 percent from a year earlier. Within that division, Microsoft said revenue from licensing Windows to PC makers was also down 5 percent, although the company noted that was better than the 8.3 percent decline in overall PC sales that market researchers have estimated for the October-December quarter.

(Also see:  PC Sales Fall Again)

Meanwhile, analysts say Microsoft is also rapidly transforming its commercial-computing division by encouraging corporate customers to use its data centres. Microsoft’s commercial “cloud computing” service is now the industry’s second-largest, after Amazon’s.

The potential for that business “is massive – larger than any market we have ever participated in,” Nadella said Thursday.

Revenue for Microsoft’s cloud division rose 5 percent, to $6.3 billion, for the December quarter. The company has had more success in that business than other established commercial tech giants like Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, according to Ives, who called cloud computing a “bedrock” element of Nadella’s strategy.

As for the company’s aggressive promotion of Windows 10, those promotional nudges have drawn a few complaints from PC owners who don’t necessarily want to upgrade their software. But in coming months, Microsoft says the Windows 10 upgrade will be re-categorised from “optional” to “recommended,” which means people who use the automatic update feature on older Windows PCs could find the new software has downloaded automatically.

Microsoft says users will still get a prompt asking if they want to accept or decline the upgrade. They can also revert back to their old software if they change their mind within 31 days.

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Tags: Gaming, Internet, Laptops, Lumia, Microsoft, Microsoft Xbox, Mobiles, PC, Surface Tablet, Tablets, Windows 10,Xbox
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Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Get Firmware Updates; Users Complain They’re Buggy

Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Get Firmware Updates; Users Complain They're Buggy

Microsoft has released its first firmware updates of the year for the Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4computing devices. The updates aim to deliver a range of improvements, though if you were hoping fixes for battery drain and wake-up issues, your wait isn’t over just yet.

The Redmond giant on Thursday released January 2016 firmware updates for both its new Surfacedevices. The company notes that the updates will offer thermal tuning, wireless access point compatibility, and better support for 5GHz Wi-Fi network.

Additional improvements include enhanced keyboard detection and stability patches for Nvidiagraphics cards. The description of the update confirms that Microsoft hasn’t yet patched the battery drain and sleeping issues in the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and that should upset many users.

(Also see: Microsoft Says Upcoming Processors Will Only Support Windows 10)

Last month, Microsoft acknowledged an issue with the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book that waspreventing the devices from going to standby mode properly – this as you can imagine, also took a toll on the battery.

This is apparently happening because of issues in the Intel Skylake chipsets. Microsoft last month noted that it would release a fix for the aforementioned issues “sometime soon in the new year.” Now, it appears affected users would have to wait for a few more weeks.

If that wasn’t disappointing enough, the updates as per user complaints and are also causing driver issues. Oddly enough, the update has also made it harder to detach the Surface Book screen at all. Some users also note that after the update, their Surface device has stopped recognising the Surface Pen.

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Tags: Intel Skylake, Laptops, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface, PC, Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Tablets
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Xerox to Split Into Two, Icahn to Get Board Seats in One

Xerox to Split Into Two, Icahn to Get Board Seats in One

Xerox Corp said it would split into two companies, one holding its legacy hardware operations and the other its business process outsourcing unit, in which activist investor Carl Icahn will get three board seats.

Icahn, who first revealed a stake in Xerox in November, had said he would seek representation on the company’s board as well as pursue strategic alternatives. He later raised his stake to 8.13 percent.

Xerox shares rose 4.6 percent to $9.65 (roughly Rs. 655) in premarket trading on Friday.

The company, whose shares had fallen more than 30 percent in the past 12 months, has been trying to turn itself around by focusing on software and services as businesses cut costs and a switch to mobile devices hits demand for printers.

Larger rival Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co also split its computer and printer businesses from its faster-growing corporate hardware and services operations last year to adjust to the post-PC computing era.

Icahn has had considerable success with pushing companies to spin off their fast-growing businesses.

While eBay Inc split its payments business Paypal Holdings Inc, Manitowoc Co Inc separated its crane manufacturing business from its food service business.

Xerox said the separation would create a $11 billion (roughly Rs. 74,633 crores) document technology company and $7 billion (roughly Rs. 47,493 crores) business process outsourcing company.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Hewlett Packard, Icahn, Laptops, PC, Xerox
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