News Roundup: MWC, #FiorinaForPrez and Facebook City

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Paul Allen Submarines, Software that violates human rights and YouTube Kids.


Plenty of news from this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. If you’re into gadgets, there were phones galore from Microsoft, BlackBerry and Samsung. Blackphone, Jolla and Sikur pushed the security focus, while Archos went for high-memory tablets. The wildcard award goes to Monohm, who have unveiled a circular smartwatch cum pocket watch called the Runcible.

Wearable tech was a big deal this year; HTC & Valve debuted a VR headset, AVG showed off some daft privacy specs, and Metaio showed off their touch tech. Smartwatches came from Huawei, LG and Haier. There was also fingerprint tech from Qualcomm, phone charging furniture from IKEA and projectors from Lenovo. Smart cars also featured briefly.

In the enterprise space, a new group including the likes of Box, Cisco, VMware's AirWatch and Workday have come together in order to push common standards for deploying mobile apps. The group, named ACE (App Configuration for Enterprise), want a standard approach to configuring and securing apps in the enterprise in order to make things simpler, quicker and more secure. Meanwhile, the Apple/IBM alliance has also just revealed its latest wave of business apps for iOS devices. Industries provided for in this update include retail, transport and financial services.

Google were also out in force at MWC. Aside from announcing their move into mobile networks, the search giant provided updates on its internet-providing balloons and drones. The balloons can now stay in the air for as long as six months, according to senior vice president Sundar Pichai, while its solar-powered drones will start test-flights in the next few months. Pichai also said he was unsure of alternative Android vendor Cyanogen’s value proposition and was keen to see what the Apple Watch will offer. LATAM mobile company Yezz also showed off some modules for Project Ara.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was also in town to talk about his project. Casting aside the notion of Facebook-for-all, he claimed Telcos are "the folks who are here leading the charge to bring the internet to the world," and that he would be willing to work with the likes of Google for the cause, even though he thinks fancy internet proving tech is just sexy talk. One of Facebook’s VPs said the hope is to launch the scheme in 100 countries by end of year. Zuckerberg also took part in another “town hall Q&A” session this week, where he talked about hiring people, staying nimble and more.


Rumours around former HP CEO Carly Fiorina making a presidential run continue. The Republican entrepreneur recently said that her HP credentials would make her a good president, even if the same article suggests many HP staffers would be terrified at the thought. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C this week she bashed Hilary Clinton, talked about Russia and generally reaffirmed that she’s pretty right-wing. No one is sure how far she can go yet, but pitching herself as the GOP’s anti-Clinton will do her no harm.


The usual dose of NSA-related headlines…

-          NSA director shockingly refuses to comment about spying claims, then releases a report on the harm the Snowden leaks has done to the agency that is completely blank.

-          One Yahoo! executive gave the NSA both barrels at a security summit.

-          Canadian spies are also slurping up emails on a large scale.

-          NSA staff can make a mint working in Silicon Valley.

-          The EFF wants there to be a UN privacy watchdog.

-          One Dutch MEP is unhappy with the “cowboy practices of secret services.”

-          FinFisher spyware – used by governments the world over- is the first piece of software to be judged as violating human rights.

Ed Snowden recently took part in another Reddit AMA in order to promote his CitizenFour documentary. Unfortunately the mods thought he was a fake and banned him mid-session. Once restored, he claimed he would have leaked sooner, revealed his view of government reform and once again denied he was a Russian spy.  His lawyer told Russian news agency TASS he would be willing to face trial in the US if he could get fair one, but Snowden himself sees this as unlikely.

Has Al-Jazeera found the next Snowden? The news outlet has gained access to a host of spy documents from South Africa's spy agency, the State Security Agency (SSA). So far the cables have revealed insights into Israel’s Mossad agency and how Africa is becoming increasingly important to the spying efforts of various intelligence agencies. Headlines include the head of Greenpeace being monitored, Russia being spied on, and more. Obviously the South African government is not too pleased.

Gemalto – who the NSA & GCHQ reportedly hacked – seem non-plussed by the allegations. The company apparently accepts the attacks happened but it’s not a big deal. Good job they’re probably not the only SIM-maker to get hacked.

In the wake of the Superfish scandal, Lenovo has done a complete about-face, while security researchers have found plenty of other examples of similar software out there in the wild.

China vs. Tech

Fresh from demanding foreign tech firms hand over their source code - a practice that has prompted President Obama to get involved even if they apparently have “nothing to fear” - the Chinese government has now decided to bar US tech vendors. Companies such as Apple, Intel, McAfee and Citrix have been removed from state approved purchase lists in lieu of local alternatives. Cisco was listed among the vendors banned, but has denied this is true.

Meanwhile, Iran’s embrace of the internet looks set to continue after Iranian media reported the government are in talks with Google to place servers within the often isolated country.


On the 25th anniversary of Adobe Photoshop, its inventor Thomas Knoll says he gets a thrill when people use his software as a verb, but is concerned about it being used in making models skinnier.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz recently took part in a Reddit AMA, and claimed other AR/VR devices “can cause a spectrum of temporary and/or permanent neurologic deficits."

Former MySpace VP Sean Percival spoke about the formerly massive social network in Oslo this week. He blames News Corp and the “massive spaghetti-ball mess” of the site for its decline, and also revealed the company once tried to buy Spotify but the Swedish streaming service wasn’t interested.

German car manufacture Continental likes the cut of Apple’s jib. "Apple has an excellent reputation on information and communication systems and has incredible financial strength," said CEO Elmar Degenhart, confirming that his company “would be interested" in partnering with the Cupertino firm on a car. Hard to imagine a car company that wouldn’t thought, right?


The Nasdaq Composite index is finally back up to its dot-com bubble peak. Tech investor and Sharknado 3 actor Mark Cuban has warned that this tech bubble is even worse than in 2000.

But bubble or no, money is being spent in a big way. Apple has reportedly bought audio software maker Camel Audio, Uber’s newest acquisition sees it taking on mapping tech startup deCarta, Box has bought both Cloud app Airpost and security startup Subspace, Google has acquired Facebook marketing firm Toro and has confirmed its acquisition of Softcard, IBM’s Watson unit has swallowed AlchemyAPI, Docker has snapped up networking startup SocketPlane, HP has confirmed its Aruba Networks purchase, Silent Circle has taken over the remaining stake of Blackphone from Geeksphone, and Fitbit now owns Fitstar.

Also in the news this week: NXP Semiconductors and Freescale Semiconductor have merged to create a $40 billion manufacturer, Avago has purchased Emulex, Twilio has bought authentication firm Authy, Kofax has taken over Aia Holding, security vendor Proofpoint has taken on security firm Emerging Threats, Brocade has acquired Connectm, Parallels now owns 2X Software and Australian internet services provider Melbourne IT has purchased domain registration company Uber Global Group – no relation to the taxi app.

In the rumour section, Japanese firm NTT Communications Corp is apparently in talks to acquire German data center provider e-shelter and Microsoft want social news reader Prismatic.

Jay-Z’s bid to take on Spotify has hit a snag after minority shareholders rejected his offer to buy Swedish music streaming service Aspiro.

Facebook City

A few weeks ago reports broke that Facebook were planning to create their own town, complete with housing, hotels and more. The Daily Mail has fleshed out the plan a bit and included pictures showing models of the proposed town. According the WSJ, this is part of a wider trend of Silicon Valley’s tech firms buying up land in the notoriously expensive Valley to ensure room for expansion.

If these firms want everything to run smoothly in these tech Utopias, they’re going to have to get the bus drivers on board. Coach drivers working for the likes of Apple, Yahoo!, eBay voted to unionise this week, not long after Facebook’s drivers rejected a $6 an hour pay rise.

 New stuff

Away from MWC, there’s still been plenty of new gizmos released. Google has revealed the first app from its drive to be more child-friendly. YouTube Kids comes with a simpler design, kiddie-friendly content and time-outs to stop square eyes.

ARM and IBM have revealed a new Raspberry Pi-esque computer tailored for the Internet of Things. The companies say it takes just five minutes to unbox the mbed and start sending readings to apps.

Apple might get on the covers of fashion magazines, but it’s hard to deny the Pebble watch. It’s still one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever, and arguably launched the smartwatch craze we’re in the midst of. To celebrate the launch of the new Pebble Time and Time Steel, the company has returned to Kickstarter, and raised over $8 million overnight. The figure now stands at $16,516,962 from over 65,000 backers. The transition of Kickstarter from platform for creators to glorified pre-order and marketing tool is complete.

The One Laptop per Child scheme, while noble, has received a lot of flak over the years. To say it never reached its goal is fair, but that hasn’t stopped the next generation trying to keep the torch aflame. XO-infinity is a new modular laptop from Australian organization One Education, and promises cheap, long lasting products that even 4-year-old can assemble. The modularity means the computer can be upgraded and tailored as is needed, much like Google’s Project Ara. So far the program has delivered 50,000 XOs to children in 300 schools across Oz.

Paul Allen: Submarine Ace

Tech billionaires must spend time pondering what to do with their fortunes. Bill Gates wants to cure malaria, Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, Steve Ballmer wants to watch basketball. But Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen likes submarines and military history. A research team led by Allen – whose yacht is called M/Y Octopus - recently found the final resting place of Japanese battleship the Musashi. Sunk in World War II, it has taken eight years to find the ship off the coast of the Philippines. When director James Cameron went exploring in the sea, he got a song on South Park, we can only hope Allen gets one too.


« Tech is #notjustforboys


Fight! Amazon and Alibaba clash over foreign markets »
Dan Swinhoe

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

  • twt
  • twt
  • twt
  • Mail

Recommended for You

Trump hits partial pause on Huawei ban, but 5G concerns persist

Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond

FinancialForce profits from PSA investment

Martin Veitch's inside track on today’s tech trends

Future-proofing the Middle East

Keri Allan looks at the latest trends and technologies


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?