Sync brings new AppLink apps to customers; adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE to new vehicles

Sync brings new AppLink apps to customers; adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE to new vehicles

Ford is expanding its SYNC connectivity system, adding Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE and several new AppLink apps for consumers in an attempt to help drivers stay connected behind the wheel and even when they are away from their cars.

Starting this year, owners of SYNC 3-equipped vehicles will have more choice in how they access their smartphones in the car. iPhone users can activate Apple CarPlay, and Android users can activate Android Auto, two interfaces built specifically for those types of smartphones. In addition, the new SYNC Connect technology powered by 4G LTE gives owners the ability to remotely access features of their car. Owners can program a remote start, unlock doors, check fuel level or locate a parked vehicle via their smartphone as well. 

In North America, Ford is making Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available on all 2017 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3, starting with the Ford Escape. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3 will have the chance to upgrade later in the year too. 

“SYNC allows customers to bring the smartphone technology they’re comfortable with into a vehicle and use it without hassle,” said Don Butler, Ford executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services. “With SYNC, we move at our customers’ pace – making it easy for them to maintain a connected lifestyle no matter their choice of smartphone, apps or services inside and outside their vehicle.”

GM invests $500 million in Lyft, sets out self-driving car partnership

GM invests $500 million in Lyft, sets out self-driving car partnership

General Motors Inc said it will invest $500 million in Lyft Inc and laid out plans to develop an on-demand network of self-driving cars with the ride-sharing service. The biggest single Detroit-Silicon Valley crossover deal to date comes as automakers work out how to respond to the rush of technology companies such as Apple, Alphabet and Uber – Lyft’s biggest rival – to control cars of the future and likely reshape the global auto industry.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker’s investment accounts for half of Lyft’s latest $1 billion fundraising round. It is one of GM’s biggest investments in another company and the largest single cash injection to date by a traditional automaker into a young technology firm. The two companies said the partnership was based on the shared view that self-driving cars will first reach consumers as part of a ride-sharing service, rather than vehicles owned by drivers. “We think our business and personal mobility will change more in the next five years than the last 50,” GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview with Reuters.

The partnership will tap into GM’s work on driverless cars and Lyft’s software that matches drivers and passengers and calculates routes, to create a network of cars that would operate themselves and be available on demand.

The two companies did not set out a timeline to get the on-demand network up and running, but said they would immediately offer Lyft drivers short-term rentals of GM cars.

The announcement came as Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co said they would adopt the same software to link smartphone apps to vehicle dashboard screens. Toyota and Ford, two of the world’s biggest automakers, invited rival car companies to join them to counter the push by Apple, Alphabet, Tesla Motors Inc and others into self-driving cars, or what the industry calls autonomous vehicles.
Major automakers are trying to prevent Silicon Valley from dominating the future of self-driving cars and ride-sharing, and are also investing as a way to see whether Lyft and Uber are on the way to making money, said Matthew Stover, automotive analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group. “The only way to understand the implications and viability of this business model (Lyft and Uber) is to become an investor,” said Stover.

Last month, Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said the No. 2 U.S. automaker would explore the ride-hailing business with a fleet of specially designed Transit vans at its Dearborn, Michigan campus. GM CEO Mary Barra last fall said that while Apple and Google – now called Alphabet – are pushing to dominate dashboard displays with their software, automakers still control “the platform” of the vehicle itself. GM’s Ammann, who will join Lyft’s board as a part of the deal, said both companies had a “really common view of the future.” Lyft President John Zimmer said the “culture and vision are very alike” in both GM and Lyft.

The deal heralds a wave of alliances of varying forms between automakers and Silicon Valley companies as both try to capture new business as transportation evolves, said Xavier Mosquet, the U.S. auto practice leader at Boston Consulting Group in Detroit. “In the next 10 to 20 years, (transportation) will be one of the biggest areas for electronic and software investments,” Mosquet said. He expects ride-sharing driverless vehicles to develop first in big cities such as Singapore, London and New York, probably between 2022 and 2025.

Lyft said the latest $1 billion fundraising round included Kingdom Holding Co, the investment firm of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, which put in $100 million. Other investors included Janus Capital Management, Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc, Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Kuaidi and Chinese Internet company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Kingdom and Alwaleed are major investors in U.S. tech companies. Together they own more than 5 percent of Twitter Inc .

Lyft said the latest funding round valued it at $5.5 billion, cementing its status as one of Silicon Valley’s much-prized ‘unicorns,’ or companies worth more than $1 billion without going public. Lyft does not publicly disclose its financial performance, but media reports have suggested it is not profitable, like many tech startups.

Lyft is locked in a fundraising race with rival ride-hailing app Uber Technologies Inc. Lyft said it has raised a total of $2 billion since August 2013. Uber is reportedly in the midst of a $2.1 billion funding round that would value it as high as $64.6 billion.

IBM veteran Steven Mills retires

IBM veteran Steven Mills retires

International Business Machines Corp said on Monday Steven Mills, executive vice president, software and systems, decided to retire on Dec. 31, after a career spanning more than four decades.

Mills, 64, played a leading role in the growth of IBM Software Group since its inception in 1995 and under his leadership the company acquired over 30 software firms since 2001. He was appointed to his latest position in January last year.

Steve Mills joined IBM in 1973 after graduating New York’s Union College and has held a variety of leadership positions throughout his IBM career. Mills had rejected an offer from Hewlett-Packard Co in 2010 to become the software company’s chief executive, Reuters had reported, citing two sources.

Prior to the role of Executive Vice President, Mills was Senior Vice President and Group Executive, IBM Software Group for 14 years. For the past three years, hardware and systems were added to his responsibilities.

Mills had played a leading role in the growth of IBM Software Group since its inception in 1995. In this capacity, he was responsible for directing approximately 110,000 employees spanning development, manufacturing, sales, marketing and support professions.

With the addition of Systems, Mills was responsible for IBM’s products that contribute $40B of IBM’s revenue and provide critical business integration infrastructure that powers more than 100,000 enterprises around the world.

Lenovo K4 Note launched in India; goes on sale starting 19 January

Lenovo K4 Note launched in India at Rs 11,999; goes on sale starting 19 January

At an event held in New Delhi today, Lenovo introduced the heavily anticipated Lenovo K4 Note smartphone at a price of Rs 11,999. First launched in India, the company says that plans to manufacture more and more smartphones in India. In addition, the company is also offering five different wood designs as well. The device will be available via Amazon India starting January 19, for which registrations open at 3PM today.

The company has also launched a VR headset for the K4 Note in partnership with ANT VR, which can be purchased separately at Rs 1,299, or with the device itself for Rs 12,499 respectively. It’s predecessor, the K3 Note was one of the most successful devices for the company and sales crossed 1.2 million in six months.

Lenovo K4 Note Front Back

In terms of specifications, the smartphone features a 5.5-inch FHD display at 401ppi along with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The device is aimed primarily for multimedia consumption. It comes with a curved back and is 3.8mm in thickness. It is powered by a octa-core 64-bit Mediatek MT6753 processor paired with 3GB RAM. It comes equipped with dual front firing speaker by Dolby along with Dolby Atmos surround sound. One will also find a fingerprint scanner on the smartphone.

The Lenovo K4 Note includes an internal storage of 16GB which can be further expanded up to 128GB via microSD card. One will find a 13MP rear camera with dual-LED flash and a 5MP front facing camera. The K4 Note runs Android 5.1 Lollipop layered with Vibe UI. Connectivity features include dual-SIM slots, 4G LTE support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB OTG and A-GPS. A 3,300mAh battery completes the package.

LeTv to officially launch in India on 20 January

LeTv to officially launch in India on 20 January

At an event held in New Delhi, Dickson Lee, General Manger, APAC Smart Device at LeTv, unveiled three new innovative devices in India namely, Le 3D Helmet, LeMe Bluetooth headphones and a Super Cycle. The company says its aims to provide end-users with devices which have ‘superior performance and disruptive pricing’.

Both Le 3D Helmet and LeMe Bluetooth headphones are said to offer a unique video and audio experience to customers. The Super Cycle is an internet-enabled self-powered transport system which is said to take fitness to ‘newer levels’.

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The Le 3D Helmet is equipped with a 5.5-inch SHARP 2K LCD screen and a resolution of 2660 X 1440 pixels with 70 degree field of view. The device weighs less than 450 grams and comes equipped with a USB Type C port to connect with the phone for MHL signal input.

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On the other hand, at 180 X 176.8 X 62.8mm, the LeMe Bluetooth headphones come with frequency response of 20Hz – 20,000Hz for a wireless  audio experience. The device also sports a 195 mAh Li-ion polymer battery for on-the-go usage, enabling music playback time and talking time of 10 hours and standby time of 26.5 days with charging time of 2 hours. It will also be available in red, pink, blue, orange and white color variants. It also comes with microUSB Type B with a wireless range of 10m and weighs about 240 grams.

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Lastly, the Super Cycle is a first of its kind smart urban cycle which includes various sensors integrated. It helps in collecting all data when cycling and also monitors how you cycle. With cloud computing, it allows you to get real time data. The keyless and chain-less anti-theft technology installed with fingerprint identification is said to make the cycle smarter.

Dickson Lee, General Manger, APAC Smart Device of LeTv said, “At LeTv, it is our constant endeavor to provide our consumers with the most innovative products and best in class experiences. With the new devices, we aim to offer a unique combination of amazing features and top performance supported with good battery life packed in a sleek design. We are confident that our consumers will love the experiences on our devices. Empowered by the strong ecosystem, we are dedicated to offering Indian consumers lifestyle enabling products.”

LeTv is also likely to launch its flagship Superphones in India soon. The company entered the smartphone industry in April last year, and has reportedly sold 1 million Le Superphones.

Xiaomi rolling out MIUI 7.1 global stable build for select devices

Xiaomi rolling out MIUI 7.1 global stable build for select devices

Xiaomi has announced that it will start rolling out the global stable build of its MIUI 7.1. The MIUI 7.1 is the company’s custom ROM based on Android Lollipop.

The MIUI 7.1 global stable build will be rolling out to select eligible devices. The list of devices include the Mi 3 as well as its successor Mi 4. The Mi 4i and Mi Note will also get the new build. The list also includes the uber budget Redmi 2, Redmi Prime and Redmi 1S. The list doesn’t end here, and includes the Redmi Note Prime, Note 2, Note 3G and Mi Pad and Mi Pad 2.

The MIUI 7.1 build comes with ROM V7.1.2.0.LXAMICK that is already available for the Mi 2/2S. It can be downloaded here and you can take a look at the complete changelog. The changelog shows several bug fixes for the homescreen, music, backup, recorder and data use.

The MIUI 7 global stable build was rolled out in India last year. Some of the key features included personalisation options such as System UIs, Daily Lockscreen and Baby Album. Xiaomi had incorporated a set of four new system UIs available such as a pink UI inspired by high fashion (Rosé), a playful pastel pink UI (Pink Blush), a soft blue UI (Ocean Breeze), and a brown-gold UI for the sophisticated gentleman (High Life). The new Baby Album feature uses face recognition technology to automatically identify babies and group their photos together as well.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 to be launched in India on 7 January

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 to be launched in India on 7 January

Microsoft has officially sent out invites for the launch of its Surface Pro 4 in India on 7 January. The invite mentions, “Start fresh on a brand new Surface” which clearly hints at the fact that the company will unveil the new Surface tablet on that day. This will also be the company’s first Surface tablet launch in India.

During the Future Unleashed event in Mumbai held in November, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had also announced that the company’s Surface Pro 4 tablet will launch in India in January 2016. The tablet was launched in October in the US at a price of $899 (approx Rs 58,700).

With the kind of specification set that Microsoft has packed into the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, it seemed like it didn’t want to leave any room for competition to have an edge. Microsoft Devices head Panos Panay launched the Surface Pro 4, calling it the best Surface device ever. According to him it is 30 percent faster than the Surface Pro 3 and around 50 percent faster than the Apple MacBook.

The Surface Pro 4 sports a 12.3-inch display with densely packed pixels which makes Microsoft call it PixelSense display. The exact resolution is 2736 x 1824 pixels which gives 267DPI pixel density. It comes with a 0.4mm thick Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. Microsoft has also added a special G5 sensor to manage the optical stack, to enable a highly responsive touchscreen for touch as well as Surface Pen input.

The Surface Pro 4 has the same footprint as the 12-inch Surface Pro 3 thanks to thinner bezels. The Surface Pro 4 is powered by the 6th generation Intel Core M, Core i5 or Core i7 processors along with RAM going from 4GB to 16GB. It offers SSD storage options going from 128GB all the way to 1TB.

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Windows 10 Pro OS naturally comes out of the box giving you access to desktop class software. The Surface Pro 4 weighs around 766 grams and is just 8.4mm thick. On the camera front, you have an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera for video calls. On the connectivity front, you get Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, a full size USB 3.0 port and more.

Along with the Surface Pro 4, you will also get the Surface Pen, which has an eraser button on one end. The tip of the Pen has around 1024 pressure sensitive points which, according to Microsoft, ensure that the responsiveness of the Pen is on the higher side. You can click and hold the top of Surface Pen to activate Cortana. With one click of Surface Pen, a blank OneNote page appears for quick notes. And just last we had seen in the last generation, the Palm Block technology allows you to rest your hand on the screen to write naturally, just like a pad of paper.

Microsoft has also refined the design on the Type Cover, having the keyboard with more spaced out keys, less travel and quieter typing sound. The Type Cover is also compatible with Surface Pro 3. It also incorporates a fingerprint reader for quick authentication. The trackpad has been increased by 40 percent and it supports all Windows 10 gestures.

Canon India participates in the Consumer Electronic Imaging Fair 2016

Canon India participates in the Consumer Electronic Imaging Fair 2016

Canon will be showcasing its range of products at Consumer Electronic Imaging Fair (CEIF) 2016. This four day event will take place at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai from 7–10 January and will show showcase the DSLR range, Cinema EOS range, Professional Video cameras range, Inkjet Printers range and photo albums printed from DreamLabo machine as well.

Some of the products from the  Photofair will include the XC10, EOS C300 Mark II, EOS C100 Mark II, EOS 5DSR, Pixma G Series Printer, Pixma Pro Series Printer along with the Photo Albums from Dream Labo 5000 as well. Another attraction of the event will be Live Workshop on DSLR, Pro DV and Cinema Cameras too. 

Present at the Photofair exhibition, Andrew Koh, Vice President of Consumer Imaging and Information Centre, Canon India commented, “Our presence at the ‘World’s 3rd largest electronic Imaging show’ affirms our determination to embark upon 2016 with zeal and enthusiasm. Multinational technology brands, like ours, look forward to exhibiting latest developments/gadgets in the field of image communication. And this major annual event under the aegis of All India Photographic Trade and Industry Association (AIPTIA) will give us an opportunity to reach out to businesses and consumers at the expo.”

Ericsson, Volvo developing intelligent media streaming for cars

Ericsson, Volvo developing intelligent media streaming for cars

Swedish automobile giant Volvo on 5 January said it is developing intelligent high bandwidth streaming capabilities in collaboration with Ericsson which can create the possibility of a highway full of autonomous cars.

“Imagine a highway full of autonomous cars with their occupants sitting back watching their favourite TV shows in high definition. This new way of commuting will demand new technology, and a much broader bandwidth to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience,” said Anders Tylman, GM, Volvo Monitoring & Concept Center at Volvo Car Group in a statement.

Volvo aims to deliver high quality interruption-free experience in its cars using Ericsson’s cloud expertise and network.

“We recently unveiled our design vision for autonomous cars with Concept 26. We are working on future solutions to deliver the best user experience in autonomous mode,” the statement said.

Under the new intelligent streaming system, content will be tailored to the duration of a trip by predicting the route and looking ahead at network conditions to deliver a high quality uninterrupted viewing experience.

Ericsson’s Automotive Services head Claes Herlitz said: “Our research shows that almost 70 percent of all mobile data traffic will be from video in the coming years.”

“This requires an innovative connectivity, cloud and analytics solution that is not only capable of serving multiple moving vehicles across a highway, but also has the capacity to provide the high quality, uninterrupted video service.” Herlitz added.

Future Volvo cars will provide a one-click navigation with customised media list by learning the most common routes and travel times to enable a customer to choose a route and select content tailored to the amount of autonomous time available during that commute, the statement said.

“If you want to watch the latest episode of your favourite series, the car will know how long the journey needs to take and can optimise the route and driving control accordingly. With autonomous drive it is no longer just a question of just getting from A to B quickly – it’s about the experience you wish to have in the car – how you wish to spend the time you are saving,” the statement added.

It was just yesterday that Nvidia has unveiled a new, lunchbox-size super-computer for self-driving cars and said that the Volvo Car Group will be the new device’s first customer. Nvidia made its announcement at the beginning of the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2016 in Las Vegas detailing its new Drive PX 2 autonomous drive computer.

Huawei shipped 108 million smartphones globally in 2015, up 44 percent year-on-year

Huawei shipped 108 million smartphones globally in 2015, up 44 percent year-on-year

Huawei, the world’s top three smartphone vendor, said on Wednesday its smartphone shipments rose 44 percent annually to 108 million in 2015, thanks to strong sales in China and Western Europe.

The Shenzhen-based company also said revenue for its consumer business group, which sells products such as smartphones and tablets, jumped 70 percent year-on-year to $20 billion in 2015.

The company, which competes with global leaders such as Samsung Electronics Co and Apple Inc, said last week it expects to post a 35 percent jump in sales revenue for 2015, thanks to a strong performance across its business platforms.

At the onging CES 2016, the company is rumoured to launch the P9 smartphone. The specifications for the smartphone include a 5.2-inch display and the all-new octa-core Kirin 950 chipset. While the chipset recently made its first appearance in the Huawei Mate 8 smartphone, it now seems like the next likely contender to sport it could be the Huawei P9. The Kirin 950 SoC made by Huawei’s HiSilicon is indeed a unique one.

It packs in eight cores in all with the usual 4+4 set up. It has the 4 x Cortex A72 cores for heavy tasks, while the lighter duties are handled by the lower-powered 4 x Cortex A52 cores. But there’s more. Huawei’s HiSilicon team also managed to squeeze in an ‘i5’ co-processor which according to the company is present to support speech recognition, low-power consumption MP3, and many more low-powered tasks.