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News Roundup: Smart vs. Swiss, women & code, and $4 smartphones

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Jigsaw, Clive Sinclair and CITOs.

Smart overtakes Swiss

It’s a sad day for style. New figures suggest that the number of smartwatches sold has overtaken sales of Swiss timepieces for the first time. According to Strategy Analytics, the fourth quarter of 2015 saw 8.1 million smartwatches shipped versus 7.9 million Swiss watches. For the technology companies, that figure represents a surge of over 300% on Q4 of 2014, while the Swiss industry has seen a drop of almost 5%.

Women & code

Do women write better code than men? Possibly, according to a new study. The yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper analysed pull requests from code repository GitHub and found that code submitted from “outsiders” – people not owners or collaborators of projects – are more likely to have their work accepted than men, but only if their gender is hidden.

M&A

IBM has continued its Watson expansion by acquiring Truven Health Analytics, Google has bought Singaporean messaging startup Pie, SAP has snapped up Cloud analytics startup Roambi, Amazon now owns payment firm Emvantage, YouTube has snaffled Bandpage, and Palantir has got its hands on Kimonolabs.  

Dell has denied rumours that its acquisition of EMC is on the ropes. “I can assure you any suggestions our debt financing is in jeopardy are off-target and do not reflect our financing terms and the progress of our financing to date,” said Rory Read, Chief Integration Officer of Dell in an open letter. He added the process acquisition currently is “underway and remains on track, as planned” and we can expect a close sometime between May and October.

Are Toshiba, Fujitsu, and VAIO planning to merge their PC units? Bloomberg says yes, Toshiba says it has no plans to exit the PC business.

Google has announced that it is shuttering photo service Picasa.

NSA

-          The New York Times suggests the amount of data the NSA slurps up has been overestimated.

-          The NSA says the Paris attacks wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for encryption.

$4 smartphones

Smartphones are now essentially worthless. How else can you explain the world’s cheapest smartphone going on sale in India for just $4? The Freedom 251 from Ringing Bells went on sale at 6am on Wednesday. Obviously the company’s site crashed within minutes.

The phone is rumoured to be heavily subsidised by the Indian Government, possibly in support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Made in India” initiative. An analyst at Counterpoint Research criticised the move and said this merely creates fake demand and is an unsustainable business model.

Previously Walmart had released a $10 smartphone, as had Canadian firm DataWind. They must be livid they’ve been undercut by more than 50%.

AlphaGoogle’s Jigsaw

The Alphabet/Google restructuring continues. This week saw Google Ideas morph into the tech incubator Jigsaw, and will be another one of Alphabet’s separate units. “The team’s mission is to use technology to tackle the toughest geopolitical challenges, from countering violent extremism to thwarting online censorship to mitigating the threats associated with digital attacks,” said Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in a Medium post.

Yahoo! is also having a bit of a reshuffle. Marissa Mayer’s company will be closing Yahoo! Labs and will replace it with Yahoo! Research, which from what we can tell will do much the same.

CIoTOs

It’s official, there’s a hot new C-Level position on the block: The Chief Internet of Things Officer. A new survey from Webroot and IO suggests that over half of UK public companies plan to employ a Chief IoT Officer (CIoTO) in the next 12 months.

Verbatim

Another week, a new slew of soundbites from “cybersecurity legend” and Libertarian Presidential Candidate John McAfee. This week he jumped into the row over whether Apple should allow the FBI backdoor access to its phones, saying that he will decrypt the information they want, free of charge, and save Apple from installing anything nasty. He also reaffirmed his support for simpler tax systems and the need to combat China’s growing cyberarmy.

Last week you may recall someone set up a page advocating for IBM’s Watson AI to become President of the United States. Newsweek asked Transhumanist Party leader and Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan about his thoughts on running against an AI. “An artificial intelligence president could be truly altruistic. It wouldn’t be susceptible to lobbyists, special interest groups or personal desires,” he said. “I think in 2020 you will see a field emerge with competing AI robots for president, who want to debate and discuss policy.”

Sir Clive Sinclair isn’t happy with the UK Government. ”Unfortunately, our government has never devoted anything like sufficient money and other resources to IT,” the creator of the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum told V3 this week, “with the result that countries such as Singapore, Korea, Japan and China are probably the world leaders today, and of course India has many millions of coders and IT specialists who market their skills widely on the internet.” He also said it was ludicrous that there are no scientists in cabinet positions within Government.

Another week, another out of touch tech entrepreneur. This week saw Justin Keller of Commando.io write to an open letter to San Francisco mayor Ed Lee and police chief Greg Suhr saying that as a wealthy person who has earned the right to in the city, he “shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.” Way to relate to the common man.

Hacking

Trust no one in IT; they’re probably hackers. A new study from Absolute Software suggests that up to one in six IT managers have hacked their own or another organization. Naughty naughty.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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