Samsung reveals new wireless streaming speaker, home theater system, portable stereo and two TV soundbars

BY MICHAEL GORMAN

Clearly Sonos, Samsung’s been peeking at your Play:1 playbook. After introducing the Shape wireless streaming audio system and the M7 speaker mere months ago, the Korean company is now ready to reveal a new, smaller member of the family, the M5, at CES. This new model has only three drivers (down from the five inside the larger M7), but still packs the same wireless audio tech as its elder — meaning it’s controlled by the Shape mobile app, connects to your local network through a Shape hub wired to your router and automagically fits into your existing system, whether it’s a multi-room or multi-channel setup. Additionally, Samsung’s cooked up a connect box that hooks up with old school analog speakers and loops them into the Shape system so they can be wirelessly controlled too.

Plus, Samsung’s crafted a pair of Shape-compatible soundbars, the HW-H750 and the HW-H600. The H750 soundbar pumps out 320W of sound and is built to sit beneath the largest of TV’s (curved or otherwise), while the H600 sound stand is designed so that smaller 32-55 inch TV’s sit directly on top of it while it pumps out multi-directional 4.2 channel audio.

 

Alongside those offerings, Samsung will be showing off a new HT-H7730WM home entertainment system at CES as well. The system comes with six speakers, one subwoofer, a Blu-ray player capable of upscaling to UHD (4K) resolution and an amplifier packing both analog vacuum tubes and digital amps. Additionally, despite having 6.1 speakers, the system delivers up to 9.1 channels of sound using the new DTS Neo: Fusion II codec.

Lastly, Samsung’s latest GIGA system will make its debut in the Nevada desert, the MX-HS8500. With 2,500W of power and twin 15-inch subs at its disposal, it’s got enough thump to wake the neighbors, but it’s not meant for home use as it’s been built to travel. That’s right, this GIGA’s got wheels and a retractable handle, so you can more easily take it with you to your next tailgate party. Plus, it still has the same visual flair as previous GIGA systems, meaning it has fifteen different lighting effects settings to please partygoers’ eyeballs. And, the HS8500 utilizes Samsung’s Bluetooth Hi-Fi wireless audio streaming tech to stream sound from the company’s compatible TVs. Of course, audio gear must be heard to in order to be fully appreciated, so rest assured we’ll be listening to all of Sammy’s new audio offerings at CES next week. Stay tuned.

full story: http://www.engadget.com/2014/01/01/samsung-audio-ces-2014/

iPhone users smartest, Test of Wits says. BlackBerry? Sorry

A series of brain teasers, called Test of Wits, put brainy hurdles in front of 2,000 smartphone users. Apple users finish 5 seconds before anyone else.

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An expression of intelligence? (Credit: Apple/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

You are your smartphone, and your smartphone is you.

It is, by now, an accepted wisdom that your choice of pocket computer says more about you than perhaps even you might articulate.

These pages are evidence that such a choice elicits a competitive element. So might I present a supposedly objective piece of educational research that shows iPhone users are a touch smarter than users of other phones?

As with all the finest educational research, this was sponsored by a betting company, Britain’s Ladbrokes.

It gave 2,000 human beings the Test Of Wits. This is a compendium of seven brain teasers that purports to examine just how sharp you are.

Before the human beings began the test, each had to state the manufacturer of his or her smartphone.

The results will cause pain to some and an increased level of arrogance among others. You see, Apple users were the victors. Yes, those vain, design-conscious poseurs (disclosure: I myself own an iPhone) do indeed have the sharpest minds.

As the Daily Mail reports, iPhone owners solved the Test of Wits 5 seconds faster than owners of any other phone.

Chugging along immediately behind them were Google Nexus owners. Staggering along with a huff and a puff in very last place were those who still have a BlackBerry.

Please allow me to give you a sample from this test. Question 1 reads: “What is the next number in the sequence? 2,5,10,17,26…

(A) 34

(B) 37

(C) 41

(D) 43

The second question asks you how many months have 28 days. (Clue: The answer isn’t 1.)

The test is very forgiving, as you can stay on the question until you get it right. So speed of clicking on buttons is a very important facet — as it is in all digital life, of course.

This piece of research is as much entertaining bunkum as the last. Still, because you’ll want the complete data, I’ll tell you that Samsung users came in third, HTC fourth and Nokia fifth.

However, I am sure that BlackBerry’s new management will worry that its users took an average of 22 seconds longer to complete the test (yes, a fulsome 118 seconds) than did iPhone owners.

 

It would be interesting to know how many of these BlackBerry owners still had the physical keyboards. I’ve always been told how much easier it is to type on them.

At least, that’s what Eric Schmidt says.

Well?

(Credit: Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

 

 

Motorola’s Flagship Moto X Gets A Permanent Price Cut

by  (@chrisvelazco)

Let’s be real here: there’s a decent chance that you picked up a new smartphone at some point during the holidays, so you’re off the market for at least a little while longer. As it turns out though, you may have been better off waiting a bit.

In a show of New Years magnanimity (or, you know, a ploy to push more units) Motorola hasslashed the prices of its sans-contract Moto X — a fully-customized 16GB model for any carrier will now only set you back $399 rather than the $499 it would’ve originally cost. Sadly, those of you with a woodgrain fetish will still have to pay a premium for those newly-available bamboo backs — $100 to be precise.

Does this ultimately mean you should pick up a Moto X over, say, a Nexus 5? Not necessarily — much as I love what the new Motorola is up to these days the Nexus is still my pick for Android device of the year — but it’s a little heartening to see a big name manufacturer is working to reduce the gap between on and off-contract device pricing for high-end smartphones. If anything, it’s that pricing precedent that seems most interesting here. Between this price cut and the introduction of the wallet-friendly Moto G back in late November, Motorola is positioning itself as a player that can deliver new remarkably solid (and in the X’s case, remarkably thoughtful) smartphone experiences at prices that can seem outlandishly low compared to most competitors.

But where does Motorola go from here? Will it be stuck playing the price game from here on out? It’s possible, but maybe that was the plan all along. CEO Dennis Woodside has mentioned multiple times in the past that he wanted Motorola to deliver cutting edge tech at reasonable prices, and I personally took the Moto G as an affirmation of desire. By slashing the price of its flagship device though, Motorola may be testing the waters to see if it can feasibly move its future products with similarly low price tags. If so, Samsung and rest of the low-cost smartphone leaders really need to keep on their toes.

full story: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/01/motorolas-flagship-moto-x-gets-a-permanent-price-cut/

Alleged Snapchat hackers explain how and why they leaked data on 4.6 million accounts

By Chris Ziegler

snapchat stories main (michael shane)
The individual or team claiming responsibility for SnapchatDB has responded to The Verge‘s requests for comment the morning after the database went online, containing a leaked collection of some 4.6 million apparent Snapchat usernames and partial phone numbers. “Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed,” they say. “Security matters as much as user experience does.”

 

“EVEN NOW THE EXPLOIT PERSISTS.”

Giving organizations a specific timeframe in which to fix a security flaw in their product before releasing details to the public is a common tactic among white-hat hackers, designed to put pressure on developers to fix the flaws as quickly as possible. In Snapchat’s case, the leak comes just days after a blog post in which Snapchat alluded to a flaw posted on Christmas Eve by Gibson Security that alleged it could match thousands of phone numbers to usernames every few minutes. “Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way,” Snapchat wrote.

Indeed, that appears to be what the team behind SnapchatDB did: “We used a modified version of [Gibson Security’s] exploit/method,” they tell The Verge. “Snapchat could have easily avoided that disclosure by replying to Gibsonsec’s private communications, yet they didn’t. Even long after that disclosure, Snapchat was reluctant to taking the necessary steps to secure user data. Once we started scraping on a large scale, they decided to implement minor obstacles, which were still far from enough. Even now the exploit persists. It is still possible to scrape this data on a large scale.”

SnapchatDB’s website has since been taken down “not due to legal action, but due to the hosting provider being intimidated by the overwhelming attention that this is getting,” they say.

SNAPCHATDB IS OFFERING THE UNCENSORED DATABASE TO SOME WHO ASK

SnapchatDB says that it isn’t related to Gibson Security, implying they’ve only used Gibson’s published methods to scrape user data and build a database. It’s hiding the last two digits of the phone numbers in that collection, but has said that viewers should “feel free” to contact it for the uncensored version, which it claims to be offering to some who ask. Who’s been asking for it so far? “Security researchers from around the world, professors from various universities, private investigators and attorneys,” SnapchatDB says. “Snapchat hasn’t made any efforts to contact with us but seeing how they disregarded [Gibson Security’s] communication attempts, and how they reacted after they noticed the scraping was going on, I don’t think they care enough.”

Snapchat has yet to comment on the leak.

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 pass 10% market share, Windows 7 still gains more, and Windows XP falls below 30%

By 

With the release of Windows 8.1 to the world in October, Microsoft ended 2013 with two full months of availability for its latest operating system version. While Windows 8.1 is certainly growing quickly and is eating into Windows 8′s share, the duo has only now been able to pass 10 percent market share, while Windows 7 seems to be plowing forward unaffected.

The latest market share data from Net Applications shows that December 2013 was a steady one for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, which gained 0.85 percentage points combined (from 9.30 percent to 10.15 percent). More specifically, Windows 8 fell just 0.01 percentage points (from 6.66 percent to 6.65 percent), its third loss to date, while Windows 8.1 jumped 0.86 percentage points (from 2.64 percent to 3.50 percent).

Meanwhile, Windows 7 gained a whopping 2.62 percentage points (from 46.64 percent to 49.26 percent). Just like in November, Windows 7 managed to gain more share in December than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined.

windows december 2013 Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 pass 10% market share, Windows 7 still gains more, and Windows XP falls below 30%

Windows 8, which saw its biggest gain in August at 2.01 percentage points and its biggest loss in November at 0.87 percentage points, will likely continue to slip. All Windows users are being encouraged to get the latest and greatest, and Microsoft is making the upgrade path to Windows 8.1 just a download away for Windows 8 users.

Going back to earlier versions, Windows Vista declined 0.11 percentage points (from 3.57 percent to 3.46 percent). Yet the biggest mover was Windows XP: it dropped a huge 3.38 percentage points (from 31.22 percent to 27.84 percent). We didn’t think it would fall below the 30 percent mark before 2014 was over, and yet here we are.

In 2013, Windows lost share every month except for March, July, and November. In December, Windows slipped 0.05 percentage points (from 90.88 percent to 90.83 percent). OS X also lost 0.13 percentage points (to 7.43 percent), while Linux gained 0.17 percentage points (to 1.73 percent).

Net Applications uses data captured from 160 million unique visitors each month by monitoring some 40,000 websites for its clients. StatCounter is another popular service for watching market share moves; the company looks at 15 billion page views. To us, it makes more sense to keep track of users than of page views, but if you prefer the latter, the corresponding data is available here(Windows 8 is at 7.57 percent).

Top Image Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

full story: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/01/01/windows-8-windows-8-1-pass-10-market-share-windows-7-still-gains-windows-xp-falls-30/#!q43Xn

Digital Ads: How Facebook, Google+, And Twitter Target Us

What kind of personal data do the social giants collect for advertisers? Have a look.

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Guest author Kelly Cooper currently serves as marketing manager at ShopIgniter.

The promise of digital media in online advertising is the ability to reach the right people with the right message at the right time. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all jockeying for the hearts and minds of customers and advertisers alike. But there are big differences in what they’re doing and how useful their understanding of their users may be to advertisers.

First, some background. Brands, which have long dreamed of advertising only to the people most likely to buy their products or services—and then evangelize them to others—have stampeded away from print. The National Newspaper Association reported print advertising has dropped 60% over the past seven years. And magazine print advertising has not fared much better, dropping 38% in the same period of time.

Reaching The Right People

Traditionally, media buyers have used targeting to minimize the waste of advertising to the “wrong people”—those not in their target market. With the rise of digital media, media buying has matured, making possible sophisticated buys that allow for targeting of specific consumer groups within broader markets.

This maturation is a direct result of the access to large data sets. The more data, the greater one’s ability is to serve targeted, contextual ads to relevant audiences. While it’s clear that print ad suppliers won’t be the winners of this race, digital players are all in contention to collect the deep data that will let advertisers accurately identify customer segments—or, better yet, interested individuals.

Which of the social giants are doing best at that? Let’s take a look at how Facebook, Google, and Twitter are using demographic and behavioral data to enable advertiser targeting.

Finding The Target Demographic

Demographic targeting is essential to create and optimize advertising for a particular audience. Smart marketers know the demographic profile of their target consumer and aim to deliver messages that are more likely to resonate with specific subgroups of people.

Facebook hosts an immense amount of demographic data and therefore offers media buyers the most options for demographic targeting. One can target a vast array of data sets—from relationship status and education level to expectant parents. Conversely, Google offers ads based on location, age and gender. Twitter, the newest of the three, offers only gender and location demographic targeting options.

Round One goes to Facebook.

Tracking Behavioral Rituals

Social networking platforms are behavioral because they facilitate communication between people. Every action a person takes—a follow, share, like, retweet, etc.—is a result of a specific behavior. And most of these behaviors can be used by advertisers to create and target audience groups.

Google search is also behavioral, although it’s comparatively limited—it focuses on a 1:1 browsing pattern, rather than a network of interactions. As a result, Google’s Interest Targeting tool works by analyzing browsing behavior to create “interest buckets”—groups of people categorized by the types of Web pages they visit most often. This allows advertisers to identify individuals who are interested in products or services that are similar to their own, even when those individuals are browsing Web pages that are wholly unrelated to whatever the advertiser is selling.

Facebook, by contrast, lets advertisers target an audience in three different ways—via “precise” interests, Facebook categories and “partner” categories. Precise interest targeting allows advertisers to group audiences by specific terms shared on their timelines. Facebook category targeting, by contrast, entails displaying ads to people who have shared specific terms on their timeline that relate to a more general interest. For example, media buyers could use precise interest targeting to reach fans of a specific basketball team, like the Portland Trail Blazers, whereas Facebook category targeting would pull in all basketball fans.

Partner categories, the most granular of the three, are clusters created by 3rd party data providers. These categories are derived from individuals’ off-Facebook activity. As such, they run the gamut of behavioral indicators, with categories ranging from purchase behavior to whether or not you are likely to invest.

Twitter’s ad platform also provides interest based targeting. Similar to Facebook’s two options, Twitter allows advertisers to group and target audiences by specific keywords shared on a users timeline or by a broader category. In addition, Twitter also has a very cool “like followers” feature. This allows advertisers to create an audience that is similar to a specific Twitter user or set of users. The tool groups “like followers” by finding commonalities between users—similar interests, for instance, or the set of accounts they follow.

Facebook has the data to allow advertisers to do this type of “like follower” targeting but reaching fans of a page that is not your own, is currently not an option.

Round Two: It’s anyone’s game on this one.

One More Time: Remarketing

Remarketing is a form of behavioral targeting that allows advertisers to serve messages to people who have previously visited a particular website. A snippet of code is placed on a webpage or set of pages and when a person visits the page, they are cookied. A cookie acts like a tracking tag and enables the ad to “follow” individuals around the web.

In Google, remarketing is used to serve ads to people as they navigate to other sites within the Google Display Network. In Facebook, it’s used to serve ads in the right-hand column as well as in desktop and mobile news feeds. This December, Twitter announced the global availability of its retargeting feature, “tailored audiences,” enabling browser-related information (a cookie ID) to be matched with a Twitter account so that it can push tailored, promoted items into users’ Twitter feeds.

Round Three goes to Google.

Google On The Hot Seat

It’s no wonder Google is putting more and more eggs into its Google+ basket. It’s clear that the battle is on between search and social giants, with each vying for the growing pie of digital media dollars.

With a target the size of Alaska on its back, Google must move faster, learn more, grow its behavioral and demographic database and in turn offer more ways to slice and dice audiences for tailored brand content. The clear winner in all of this: digital brand advertisers who have an endless supply of new tools, techniques and approaches to reaching audiences and subaudiences on what feels like a daily basis.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sean MacEntee via CC 

full story: http://readwrite.com/2014/01/01/digital-ads-personalization-google-facebook-twitter#awesm=~orJ5YjMqEfQXm5

4.6 million Snapchat phone numbers and usernames leaked

By Rich McCormick

snapchat

The phone numbers and usernames of more than 4.6 million North American Snapchat users have been leaked online. SnapchatDB, an unofficial site run by an anonymous individual or group, allows open access to two files — one an SQL dump, one CSV text — that show details of the photo-sharing app’s users alongside their location.

The final two digits of phone numbers have been censored “to minimize spam and abuse,” but SnapchatDB says people should “feel free” to contact it for the uncensored database, as it may release it under certain circumstances. Usernames are presented unedited, and SnapchatDB notes that “people tend to use the same username around the web.” Those that download the information, it says, can try to “find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with.”

THE FINAL TWO DIGITS OF PHONE NUMBERS HAVE BEEN CENSORED TO PREVENT ABUSE

SnapchatDB says the information represents the  “vast majority” of Snapchat users’ information, but an estimate of Snapchat’s user base based on a Pew Research Center study suggests that claim may be false. Early explorers of the data have also reported the database is incomplete. Reddit users report that the area codes represented show that all affected users are based in North America, with only 76 of the 322 area codes in the United States appearing in the leaked database, alongside another two Canadian area codes.

SNAPCHAT DOWNPLAYED THE THREAT TO USER INFORMATION LAST WEEK

The leak comes less than a week after Snapchat addressed concerns raised by research group Gibson Security. The group claims it first discovered a security hole in the photo-sharing app’s “find friends with phone numbers” function in August that Ars Technica says could’ve been fixed with a “handful of lines of code.” On December 24th, after Snapchat reportedly failed to respond to the problem, Gibson Security published details of the app’s private API, and showed how someone could check 10,000 phone numbers in just seven minutes.

In a blog post response on December 27th, Snapchat conceded that in theory, were someone to upload a huge set of phone numbers — “like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the US” — they would be able to match usernames to telephone numbers. But the company went on to downplay the threat, saying that it had “implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult” to do just that over the last year.

Snapchat — reportedly worth between $3 billion and $4 billion — also said it had “recently added additional counter-measures,” and would “continue to make improvements to combat spam and abuse.” It appears the specific breach identified by Gibson Security has been closed: SnapchatDB says that the 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers it has were obtained “through the recently patched Snapchat exploit.” The information, it says, “is being shared with the public to raise awareness on the issue.”

We have contacted both Snapchat and SnapchatDB for comment, and we’ll update you accordingly.