Canadian firm’s fleet-tracking service ‘Radar’ has made it a market darling again

 

A visit to trucking firm Titanium Transportation helps explain why BlackBerry’s stock is once again a darling in Canadian markets, having soared 70% in two months.

Nestled in an industrial area some 50 kilometres north of Toronto, the trucker is an early adopter of a new BlackBerry fleet-tracking service known as Radar, which uses $400 boxes to collect and transmit information on movement, temperature and physical contents of Titanium’s 1,300 truck trailers.

Efficiency gains tied to Radar should allow Titanium to get maximum utilization of its fleet, positioning it to cut the number of trailers by 5% and also reduce labour costs, company executive Marilyn Daniel told Reuters.

“Time is everything in our world,” she said. “Being able to tell a driver where exactly a trailer is as opposed to having a driver search through a yard for sometimes hours has been a definite improvement.”

Radar is emblematic of BlackBerry chief executive John Chen’s strategy for turning around the Canadian icon, by steering the company away from consumer electronics and back to its roots of selling products to businesses.

Industrial customers

Beyond Radar, BlackBerry is also betting on other types of software for industrial customers. It is leveraging its QNX subsidiary’s software foothold deep inside car infotainment consoles to expand into self-driving technology, while promoting its cybersecurity software and services to thwart increased threats from hacking.

BlackBerry’s stock rallied after it showed signs of progress in quarterly earnings results at the end of March, followed by news in April of a nearly $1 billion cash windfall from arbitration with Qualcomm expected to fund future investments in growth. That comes in the face of an expected revenue decline to below $1 billion this year for the first time since 2004. At its smartphone peak, BlackBerry had annual sales of $20 billion.

Among the recent BlackBerry bulls are institutional investors such as Nokota Management, which took a new position with almost 4.8 million shares in the first quarter, and Oppenheimer Funds, which added 3.3 million more shares to its existing 4 million share stake, according to U.S. securities filings.

Iridian Asset Management and Connor, Clark & Lunn Investment Management, two of BlackBerry’s biggest shareholders, each raised their stakes by around a quarter as of the end of March. Nokota did not respond to requests for comment, while the others all declined to discuss their stakes in BlackBerry.

The strategy is not without risks. BlackBerry faces challenges entering the telematics market, where analysts say rivals include Omnitracs, Teletrac Navman, Tomtom NV , Trimble Inc and U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc.

Verizon last year paid some $2.4 billion to buy GPS vehicle tracking firm Fleetmatics Group Plc.

Radar “is not a unique and earth-shattering product,” said Nicholas Farhi, a partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants who advises companies on optimising logistics operations.

That’s why some investors advise caution, saying it is too soon to figure out how to properly value the new BlackBerry offerings.

“It’s not the type of situation you can justify from a valuation standpoint,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management, which manages more than $1.5 billion and exited the stock a decade ago, when BlackBerry phones were still dominant. “It is all about hope and promise.”

 

WHAT PC GAME ANNOUNCEMENT FROM E3 2017 HAS YOU HYPED?

 

As we round the corner on our way out of another E3, it’s worth taking a look back and seeing what really stuck with us throughout the gigantic, announcement-filled gaming conference. Computers tend to take a back seat to consoles in the summer, but that doesn’t stop some big names from leaking through — here are some of our favorites, in no particular order.

 At the top of the list, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition snuck in at the end of PC Gaming Show. The remastered, re-engineered version brings updated graphics, better resolution scaling, and of course heavy doses of nostalgia. The updated version will make its appearance in the later part of 2017.

Next up, Bungie’s latest franchise is finally making the leap from console to computer with Destiny 2, and while PC gamers will have to wait a few weeks to actually play, it promises unlocked framerates, 21:9 and 4K support, and full keyboard and mouse integration. This MMOFPS looks gorgeous as ever, with a distinct art style and engaging social features to keep players talking and working together.weekly computing poll e3 2017 destiny 2 news screen 3

Although you may not have heard of it until E3, Lone Echo is poised to strike at the heart of virtual reality with a story-fueled, zero gravity adventure on a futuristic space station. Its multiplayer component, Echo Arena, pits real players against each other in a high-flying, full-contact version of Ultimate Frisbee. Intel announced that the game would be free for all Oculus Rift users to claim for a limited time after its July 22nd release date.

Finally, a unique Rogue-lite adventure from Devolver Digital makes our list for a unique take on the genre. The protagonist of Sword of Ditto attempts to cure the land of an evil force, but should they die, the world will collapse into darkness, and the player’s reincarnated spirit will have to try all over again. It’s always nice to see an indie game shine among titles with much bigger budgets.

What PC title are you most excited for that was announced at E3 2017? Let us know in the poll above, or respond on Twitter and Facebook to let us know if something else caught your eye.

 

Amazon has unveiled an early peek of Prime Day deals

 

Amazon’s Prime Day is just hours away, and the online retailer wants to keep anticipation high. To that end, the company has unveiled a sneak peek at some of the deals you can expect throughout the 30-hour extravaganza.

As is typical for Amazon, the company’s preview includes some generic promises, such as up to 40 percent off gaming laptops—but a handful are truly excellent deals. We’ve picked the top three that jumped out to us. Keep these on your radar, and when Prime Day sales truly kick off at 6 P.M Pacific / 9 P.M. Eastern on Monday evening, we’ll be tracking the best of the Prime Day tech deals on PCWorld.com.

Note: To take advantage of Prime Day sales, you must be a member of Amazon Prime. This service is Amazon’s $99-a-year club that offers free two-day shipping on orders, as well as a litany of frills like free premium video and music streaming, free online photo storage, a Kindle lending library, and various promotional offers. New Prime members get a free 30-day trial, which means you can sign up, get the Prime deals, and then dump the membership before the $99 fee kicks in.

Amazon Echo for $90

amazon echo

Amazon

This is easily the best deal yet for Amazon’s smart speaker. The lowest ever price was during its pre-order period, when early adopters could snag it for $99. This undercuts that by $10, and the lowest price on CamelCamelCamel by $40. The Echo—powered by the Alexa digital personal assistant—is a fantastic smart speaker for those looking to get started with smart home gadgets.

Nokia has an Android flagship in the works to challenge the Galaxy S8

 

HMD, the Chinese firm that paid big bucks to slap the Nokia brand onto Android phones, has big plans. It unveiled a new Nokia 3310 to rapturous applause at MWC, as well as a line of mid-level Android devices.

According to a new report out of China, that’s not all. HMD is said to be working on two flagship phones that will pack Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon 835, the same chip that (probably) powers the upcoming Galaxy S8.Nokia phones 2017

The report, from Chinese site MyDrivers, says that Nokia will be unveiling an all-metal flagship phone with dual cameras, a big screen, and a Snapdragon 835 under the hood. Those are eerily similar specs to what the Galaxy S8 is set to launch with, and close to basically every other Android flagship that launches this year.

Differentiation is going to be particularly hard because HMD can’t use the Nokia PureView camera tech that the company used to be famous for. One of the only reasons for buying one of Nokia’s Lumia Android phones was the camera, but that brand and expertise were bought up by Microsoft. It’s unclear who is going to be making the lenses and sensors for Nokia’s new phones, but it’s unlikely to be anyone you’ve heard of.

That’s not all, as Nokia is rumored to also be working on a second “flagship” device with a smaller screen but more or less the same specs. It’s set to get the same Snapdragon processor, up to 6GB of RAM (!!!!) and a good camera setup. If that comes to fruition, it could be a good option, since one trend the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 are likely to follow is increased screen size.

 

Creativity vs. profit: what has happened to gaming? – Reader’s Feature

 

A reader worries that video games have abandoned creativity for easy sequels, and that he’s part of the problem…

Uncharted 4 - well, it is subtitled 'A Thief's End'How I fell in love with Uncharted – Reader’s Feature

I am a millennial. Born in ’81, I am young enough to have been present at the rise of home gaming lead by Nintendo and Sega, but old enough to have seen nearly a complete evolution of it.

We have come a long way from Sonic and Mario. Yet I still find myself returning to Sonic on my iPhone, over many modern titles. Part of this is nostalgia, I am sure, but mostly it’s because it’s fun. I have invested in many A+ franchise titles in the past year or so. Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, FIFA 17, Mafia III, WWE 2K17… the list could go on.

The initial excitement fades quickly to a world of familiarity that ultimately leads to contempt. Every year is like Groundhog Day in gaming. Software houses fire out lacklustre ‘blockbuster’ titles as guaranteed revenue generators. Assassin’s Creed is my go to example.

This is a game that revolutionised the open world game for me. You felt like you had complete freedom. I remember seeing the first walkthrough and losing my mind. Now it’s just a game that comes out every 18 months with minor upgrades. No progression, it’s just a slap in the face to every gamer who invests the £60 and 40 hours in what has now become a rather uninspiring franchise.Creativity vs. profit: what has happened to gaming? - Reader’s Feature

How has this happened? We are spoilt for graphics and availability, but have we lost the art of creativity? Gaming has become big business and lost the creative risk taking that brought it to the dance as a mainstream media. It’s much safer to release a very minor upgrade to Assassin’s Creed than to attempt to create something new. Something new may fail and that is costing someone somewhere money, look at the Wii U.

With big budgets comes an expectation to provide a profit, it’s no different to the movie industry. It’s must easier and less risky to punt out a remake or sequel than to create a completely new IP. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Rockstar are the masters of only releasing a game that is a masterpiece and can be enjoyed for a whole console generation. I am still not only playing GTA Online but on occasion the main game. Contrast that to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which I didn’t even complete and is now gathering dust along with four other PlayStation 4 releases from that franchise.

The gaming industry was worth 91 billion in 2016, so a leap back to the heady creative days of the ‘90s seems far off. I myself am part of the problem, I continue to buy the A+ games in hope of a new direction. I do this sometimes without even being able to see a review of the game, a trend that for me has very worrying implications.

ws being allowed to be published before the release of a game. This indicates that the company is releasing a game it knows will get less than stellar recommendations – for me this needs to be addressed by the industry. If consumers are not able to garner opinions from expert before spending what is a considerable amount of money, eventually there may be a backlash. First week sales may crash as consumers train themselves to wait for the reviews to filter through before purchasing, the industry will only have itself to blame.

Ultimately, I am sure the rise of the indie gaming scene will provide those creative gems that we are so sorely missing in 2017. These companies are still agile and passionate about creating games for fun. Ultimately gaming is about escapism, if a gaming franchise becomes a chore then consumers will move – no matter how much is spent on marketing or review-hiding.

 

iPhone SE (2017) has a glass back, leak shows

While there was no new iPhone SE introduced during Apple’s spring event this year, the original is getting a bit long in the tooth. So the company is clearly working on a successor for the model released last year. And the new iPhone SE may in fact be outed as soon as next month, during Apple’s developer conference.

At least that’s what a new leak from China claims. It also purportedly shows us what the back of the 2017 iPhone SE will look like. If this is a truthful leak, then what’s obvious is that Apple will switch from metal to glass for the new model’s back.

What’s more, it may be using Ion-X glass, the same material that adorns the Apple Watch Sport, according to the writing inside that table on the sheet of paper that lies underneath the alleged SE (2017) shells.

The camera and flash are now aligned vertically on the back, switching from the horizontal layout seen in the original SE. Other details about the second-generation iPhone SE have sadly not been outed this time around, so its internals are still a mystery. However, Apple’s WWDC starts on June 5, so if it will indeed be presented there, then we’re very close to finding out all there is to know about it.

 

LG’s T-Mobile G6 BOGO deal has its end date moved up

 

Over the weekend, there was some confusion regarding the BOGO deal that LG was offering on the T-Mobile G6. Now that Monday is here, though, some new info has surfaced.

LG today updated its T-Mobile G6 BOGO offer to end today, May 15. The offer was previously scheduled to be available until June 8.

A T-Mobile memo leaked out yesterday that said that this LG offer had been pulled. Today T-Mo is telling customers that the deal is on, but is also saying that anyone with questions needs to contact LG, which makes sense because this is an LG offer, not a T-Mobile one. tmolgg6blackHowever, for reasons unknown (and unlikely to be officially announced), LG has moved up the offer’s end date by several weeks.

With LG’s deal, you can buy two T-Mobile LG G6 phones and get a $500 electronic rebate check to cover the cost of the second device after you submit your contact info, a photo of the receipt, and a photo of your IMEI. The G6 is a highly-specced flagship that’s only a little more than a month old, so this was a pretty good deal for those folks that’ve been able to take advantage of it.

Have you taken LG up on its T-Mobile G6 BOGO deal?

 

Apple has finally found someone to support HomeKit

 

It’s been a year since Apple officially launched its internet-of-things smart-home service – an event that we noted at the time was somewhat undermined by the fact that there were virtually no products that worked with it.

Twelve months later and two weeks out from its annual conference, Apple has finally snagged its first big customer. What’s more, Belkin says that its compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit standard won’t just extend to a single product, but to every Wemo device it has produced – every smart plug, switch, light and camera.

There’s only one downside: you will have to buy a specific HomeKit bridge to make it work.

“Wemo is offering this bridge to address the overwhelming request from customers to make currently installed Wemo products work with HomeKit and other HomeKit compatible products,” said Belkin’s CTO Brian Van Harlingen cheerfully, adding: “We’re proud to work with Apple to bring together two of the most influential Smart Home platforms.”

This is quite a shift from exactly a year ago when Belkin decided it wasn’t going to bother with Apple’s tightly controlled ecosystem.

“We hear you, Wemo fans. Trust us, we do. We know you really want HomeKit compatibility for your Wemo devices and we are sorry that we’ve kept you hanging for so long,” it opined in a blog post in March 2016. “But the short answer is that Wemo will not work with HomeKit in the immediate future. Before you get mad and stop reading, please hear us out…”Happy business people celebrate. Photo by Shutterstock

But why?

And the reason behind the decision was the same as pretty much every other manufacturer of smart home products: Apple’s insistence that its own special chip be added to all products to make them work.

“Right now the only way to make Wemo work with HomeKit is to build a completely separate line of products and we don’t think that makes sense for the overall Wemo ecosystem,” the company explained.

“HomeKit integration requires a specific hardware component and cannot be accomplished with a software or firmware update to existing devices. Though we have tried to find a workaround solution, thus far nothing has fallen within Apple’s HomeKit guidelines.”

The decision by Apple back in 2015 to require people to use special hardware to work with its system has been a disaster for the company.

It had to scrap its plans to launch HomeKit with a new “Home” app for the iPhone at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that year, despite having teed it up the year before.

It took another year for the app to appear, and even then it was a half-hearted effort, with senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi doing his best to sound excited.

What we found most notable was the fact that half of the customers listed on the slide Federighi shared with WWDC attendees two years earlier were no longer featured.

Arrogant

The reality is that Apple’s arrogance has caused it – not for the first time – to overplay its hand. It changed course on its smart home plans when they decided it needed to build security into the product and, being Apple, that it had to be in control of that.

Apple’s logic was that smart homes would rely on smart phones, and as the maker of the iPhone it was in a position to effectively dictate the market. All it would need to do is create an easy-to-use app and everyone would jump on board.

Except they didn’t. And the smart home market has slowly grown with only a few companies bothering to include HomeKit in their plans. “HomeKit collides with the rest of the industry,” the CEO of WigWag, Ed Hemphill, told us when we asked around about the dearth of HomeKit products back in October. “Their approach is just onerous and unnecessary.”

But Apple is not out of the running just yet. The slow acceptance of smart home products by consumers, combined with continuing security concerns over smart home and internet-of-things devices, means that the market has not moved as swiftly as many expected.

However, with industry and governments now getting serious about new IoT security standards, and with devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home adding voice control and activation into homes, that window of opportunity is closing.

This year’s WWDC will be on June 8 and if Apple doesn’t announce something that moves it forward drastically when it comes to the smart home, by the time June 2018 comes around it may well have lost its chance to grab a decent chunk of the market.

Behold the bridge: Wemo changes its tune, but there’s no escaping the clunkiness of the solution

Rule change?

Last year, Wemo said that “no current Wemo device will ever be able to work with HomeKit unless Apple changes its rules.” We asked Belkin if that meant Apple has relaxed its rules to make the new bridge viable; Belkin told us no.

“The rules haven’t changed – we decided to go with a bridge approach so that would go onboard all current Wemo users. We had lots of customers asking for support,” a spokesperson told us.

It’s possible that Belkin felt that demand was sufficiently large from Apple users for there to be a market for the bridge (it will be out this fall for an undisclosed sum), but just as likely is that it has received early notice of Apple’s plans and decided that something was better than nothing.

But the reality is that a bridge is a terrible compromise. It will need to be plugged into your router and presumably also into an electrical socket. Control commands will then have to pass through it to your various Wemo products. It is inelegant to say the least and a step back for an industry that realized a long time ago that adding a new bridge every time you install a new smart home device from a different manufacturer was never going to scale.

The future is undoubtedly in using standards and protocols that allow products to work and communicate together without having to pass through proprietary interfaces. So while Belkin’s decision to support HomeKit is a sign that Apple is not yet a smart-home lost cause, it does highlight the fundamental stumbling block that continues to exist with Apple’s product.

Unless Apple plans to bring out its own line of smart home products, it’s hard to see how it is going to persuade everyone else to play ball.

Mysterious HTC Ocean phone renders leaked: Has four cameras

Yesterday, we reported that a HTC smartphone codenamed as the Ocean Life is coming down the pipe. According to a post on Twitter, the smartphone will come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 chipset and the Edge Sense technology.

Mysterious HTC Ocean phone renders leaked: Has four cameras

Today, images of another HTC smartphone has appeared on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo. However, unlike the Ocean Life, it seems to be a flagship device. We say this as the renders show the smartphone featuring a bezel-less display. So it is not that likely for a mid-ranger to have an edge-to-edge display. However, we are not denying the possibility of it being the same device.

Maybe HTC has decided to put more focus on the design-aspect, rather than the inner specifications. Also, it is too early to say anything for sure. Until we get any indication from HTC itself, the authenticity of these images remain undefined.

Mysterious HTC Ocean phone renders leaked: Has four cameras

Looking at the images, you can see the HTC phone sporting a border-less display with no bezels on its sides. Even the top and bottom bezels are pretty thin. Interestingly, the top bezel of the phone bears the Ocean logo. Moreover, a front dual camera setup is also visible.

The smartphone’s corners are rounded and it seems to bear vertically stacked dual cameras along with dual-tone LED flash on its back. Unfortunately, other than the pictures, no features and specifications has been revealed.

It goes without saying, this is just a leak. So you ought to take this with a pinch of salt. In any case, HTC is expected to launch a new smartphone sometime in October.