News Roundup: CES gets washed out

News Roundup: CES gets washed out

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Meltdown fallout, Huawei’s US woes, and Facebook’s new Portal.



Another year, another CES. 2017 saw Alexa rule the roost, so this year Google tried to steal some of the thunder. The search giant promised fancy Assistant-based smart speakers/displays from JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony, while a host of others showed off devices featuring Google’s voice tech. 

That obviously didn’t stop Alexa making an appearance, the biggest news being Acer embedding Amazon’s helper into some of its laptop ranges this year. Baidu also made an effort with some Duer-based devices.

Virtual and Augmented Reality tech was out in force again. HTC showed off a new Vive, Lenovo now offers a standalone DayDream VR headset (and a new camera to film VR content),  Oculus is partnering with Xiaomi for a new headset, RealMax’s AR gear apparently promises a decent field of view, and Vuix has made some AR glasses that don’t look terrible or like 80s sci-fi.

Elsewhere, Razer’s Project Linda tried to revive the ‘use the phone to power a laptop’ idea, Pizza Hut had a self-driving delivery van, GE put a giant screen into a cooker hood, Samsung’s Flip looks a lot like Google's Jamboard or Microsoft’s Surface Hub, and LG debuted a very sharp-looking foldable screen. Kodak decided to make a big move into the cryptocurrency and Blockchain space with the KodakCoin and mining machine. The Hushme was on show. Despite still being a terrible idea.

Despite the perception (or maybe just personal hope) that the smartwatch gad was over, connected timepieces were out in force. Casio, Misfit, Blocks, Kate Spade, and Skagen were all peddling smartwatches.

Robots made a big splash this year. There were robots to bring you beer, robots without arms, fancy Segways, and one for developers that looks a little like a poor man’s Johnny 5.

It wouldn’t be CES, of course, without some SNAFUs. And there were many. There was LG’s uncooperative robot helper, an IoT safe you can defeat with a fist, Google’s water damaged stand, and the fact all of CES suffered a power cut because of the rain. Which led to the secure charging lockers being a bit too secure and not giving phones back. Whoops.

Also pole dancing robots and orgasm art just seem like odd choices.


Twitter: One rule for them, another for the rest of us

What does it take for a world leader to get kicked off Twitter? A lot.

“Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the company said in a company blog this week. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

In an interview with BBC Radio, Twitter’s European chief, Bruce Daisley said the only time they would look to censor someone like President Donald Trump would be if he tried to dox someone.

“If someone tweets private information, if someone tweets someone’s private address, phone number, then they are no-go areas where we don’t permit that. So in those instances, what we often say is we ask for that tweet to be removed,” he said.

In other news, the Ugandan government is looking to create national alternatives to social media platforms.

Facebook kills M, launches Portal

Facebook is killing off its M personal assistant, but will reportedly soon be entering the home device market. The rumoured ‘Portal’ device will apparently be a video-chat device akin to Amazon’s Echo Show, and include facial recognition linked to people’s FB accounts.


Meltdown fallout

It’s been a great year so far for Intel. The revelations about two chip vulnerabilities that go back decades has seen plenty of bad press this week.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich addressed the issue in his CES speech, saying that the quick response by companies has been “amazing”, that security is Intel’s “job no.1”, and reiterated that there’s been no evidence of these vulnerabilities being exploited (yet).

What he didn’t address was the fact his questionably-time sale of stock last year may be subject to investigation. He also sidestepped the fact Intel has been hit with several lawsuits as a result of the flaws.

Elsewhere, the NSA has denied that it already had the two vulnerabilities on its books.

“[The] NSA did not know about the flaw, has not exploited it,” Rob Joyce, White House cybersecurity coordinator told the WaPo, “And certainly the U.S. government would never put a major company like Intel in a position of risk like this to try to hold open a vulnerability.”

Except for all the times the NSA had vulnerabilities affecting major companies like Microsoft. 

Qualcomm admitted it was affected by Meltdown & Spectre, Microsoft had to halt patches that bricked AMD devices (and merely slowed down everyone else), IBM said its patches could take a while, Nvidia has issued patches and said its GPUs aren’t affected, and neither is the Raspberry Pi.



Google has acquired Redux, Salesforce has bought Attic Labs, Accenture now owns Mackevision, Verizon has got its hands on threat detection startup Niddel, iam+ has purchased Earin, Ring has snapped up Mr. Beams, and Cyxtera has splashed out for Immunity Inc.

LG says it will no longer do regular device releases. GoPro is getting out of the drone business and may be up for sale.



New year, same old FBI. FBI Director Christopher Wray complained this week that the agency has over 7,000 devices it can’t lock and called this situation a “major public safety issue”. At a different event, the FBI’s Stephen Flatley said Apple was an “evil genius” and a “jerk” for making his job harder, and praised hacking company Cellbrite.


Huawei still denied in the US

Though it is a large player almost everywhere else in the world, Huawei has long been denied entry into the US. This week saw a deal between the Chinese giant and AT&T fall through, leaving Huawei still unable to sell its handsets directly to US customers.

In his speech at CES, current CEO Richard Yu had more than a few words to say about AT&T’s decision to back out.

“Everybody knows that in the US market that over 90 percent of smartphones are sold by carrier channels,” he said. “It’s a big loss for us, and also for carriers, but the more big [sic] loss is for consumers, because consumers don’t have the best choice.”

IDG Connect writer Phil Muncaster has written about the deal and the possible fallout between US and Chinese companies.


Buffett vs Bitcoin

Warren Buffett, a man who has gotten very rich out of his ability to predict market movement, isn’t a fan of Bitcoin. “I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad end,” he told CNBC.

“We don't own any, we're not short any, we'll never have a position in them.”


Green news

IDG Connect has written a few times about the eWaste problem: expensive, harmful, and difficult to source materials are casually thrown away instead of being properly recycled. Dell, however, is looking to change all that.

The company has partnered with actress Nikki Reed for a new jewellery line made out of gold from recycled electronics. More importantly, the company will also be using recycled eWaste gold for motherboards in new devices, including the Latitude 5285 2-in-1.

Meanwhile, ethical smartphone company Fairphone is testing a new ownership model in an effort to make phones more environmentally friendly. The company will be testing an ‘as a Service’ model for companies, essentially leasing devices to companies and leaving Fairphone able to take devices back and upgrade them as needed in a modular fashion.


Won’t somebody think of the children?

It’s not exactly a shock that today’s tech is designed to monopolize our time. But suddenly that’s bothering shareholders. An open letter to Apple from two of its stockholders – JANA Partners and The California State Teachers' Retirement System – calls out the Cupertino Company over failing to act on the “growing societal unease about whether at least some people are getting too much of a good thing when it comes to technology.”

The letter talks about the distracting nature of these devices, the increased levels of depression and lower levels of sleep, and the general negative psychological impact phones have on the youth of today.

“Even the original designers of the iPhone user interface and Apple’s current chief design officer have publicly worried about the iPhone’s potential for overuse, and there is no good reason why you should not address this issue proactively.”

In response, Apple has said it plans to introduce more parental controls to its devices.

”We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them,” Apple said in its statement to the WSJ. ”We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”


Won’t somebody think of the white male conservative?

What do you do when you’ve been fired from one of the world’s largest technology companies for writing a well-circulated manifesto outlining your sexist views? You sue the company!

James Damore has filed a lawsuit against the company because  white, male conservative employees at Google are “ostracized, belittled, and punished”. Poor guy.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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