Monthly Archives: August 2016

Mobile World Congress

One of the biggest disappointments at this year’s Mobile World Congress, which opened Monday, is that the Samsung Galaxy 8 phone won’t make it. The phone’s official launch is scheduled for March 29.

The Galaxy line has been the ultimate iPhone fighter. Rumors around the anniversary edition of the iPhone suggest that it will do amazing, magical things, like 3D selfies. (OK, I’m really missing Steve Jobs at the moment — who the hell wants 3D selfies?!?)

Missing the biggest historical alternative is keeping a lot of us home this week. Still LG, Motorola, Lenovo and Qualcomm are expected to make huge announcements that could result in the iPhone 8 looking a tad out of date when it finally launches later in the year.

I’ll share some observations on what they have in store and close with my product of the week: a new PC camera from Logitech that enables Microsoft Hello on laptops and desktop PCs that otherwise wouldn’t support it. (When it works, Microsoft Hello is actually pretty cool.)

 

Gigabit Wireless

Some of this stuff we can anticipate just from Qualcomm launches. Perhaps the biggest of late is the Qualcomm X20 Modem. This part is likely to dominate the high-end phones announced at MWC and for good reason. It isn’t that it provides a maximum throughput of 1.2 gigabits — while impressive, that would just blow out our data plans — but that it uses carrier aggregation that increases overall data speeds by 2x or better.

This means you’ll have a far better chance of syncing your mail or downloading a book, movie or big file during the last minutes before the flight attendant forces you to put hour phone in airplane mode. It also means that cloud-based services likely will work much better on your phones, which will open up the door for things like…

 

Cloud-Based Artificial Intelligence

Let’s not kid ourselves — services like Siri suck. We’ve been waiting for some time for Apple’s partnership with IBM to result in a far better, Watson-like personal assistant. However, the richer the service, the less likelihood it can run on the phone, and the more it needs significant battery life.

If you really want a powerful artificial intelligence experience on the phone, you need both a powerful cloud-based AI and enough bandwidth to make the thing work, so expect some interesting, and far more powerful, cloud-based services announced this week.

Watson may be a stretch — though I doubt it — but the vastly improved Google Assistant is expected to be displayed on a far wider number of phones this year. So, one way or another, the new smartphones are likely to become a ton smarter.

GE Digital VP For Women

Beena Ammanath is vice president for data and analytics at GE Digital.

She has worked in the data analytics field for more than 20 years and serves as board director at ChickTech, a nonprofit dedicated to recruiting girls and women into the tech workforce and retaining them once they’re there.

Ammanath also serves on the Cal Poly Computer Engineering ProgramIndustrial Advisory Board, helping to shape the future generation of computer scientists with her expertise. She recently was named one of the top female analytics experts in the Fortune 500 by Forbescontributor Meta S. Brown.

In this exclusive interview, Ammanath speaks to TechNewsWorld about AI, analytics, and diversity in tech.

TechNewsWorld: You are one of the thought leaders on artificial intelligence. How do you think AI will impact businesses and jobs?

Beena Ammanath: I have worked in a number of industries — e-commerce, financial, marketing, telecom, retail, software products and industrial — over the past two decades. I have seen how the growth of data from OLTP systems to data warehouses to big data and data science has impacted businesses.

I believe we are just at the tip of the iceberg with AI today. AI is not by itself an industry — more of a technology that is positioned to transform businesses across a number of sectors. AI will be so intertwined and pervasive within business operations in the future that it may be impossible to do business without AI. Fundamental business models of today are going to change, as AI evolves.

Tesla’s driverless car is still in its early AI stage, but it won’t be that long before drivers put their cars completely on autopilot. In a few years from now, Uber may not need drivers; just idle cars will be needed. But even more broadly, the whole transportation ecosystem is going to change.

The Palm Jumeirah Monorail in Dubai is a fully automatic driverless train that can shuttle up to 6,000 passengers an hour. The locomotive industry is poised for a revolution — not only passenger trains, but also long-haul goods transportation.

There will be an impact on jobs, but I see it more as job roles changing and not necessarily as job reduction. The jobs most at risk are those that are routine-intensive and are strictly defined with limited tasks. If you think of the transportation example, in a few years we may not need as many drivers, but we will need more programmers and support personnel.

Best Linux Desktop

After I resolved to adopt Linux, my confidence grew slowly but surely. Security-oriented considerations were compelling enough to convince me to switch, but I soon discovered many more advantages to the Linux desktop.

For those still unsure about making the transition, or those who have done so but may not know everything their system can do, I’ll showcase here some of the Linux desktop’s advantages.

 

You Can’t Beat Free!

First and foremost, Linux is literally free. Neither the operating system nor any of the programs you run will cost you a dime. Beyond the obvious financial benefit of getting software for free, Linux allows users to be free by affording access to the basic tools of modern computer use — such as word processing and photo editing — which otherwise might be unavailable due to the cost barrier.

Microsoft Office, which sets the de facto standard formats for documents of nearly every kind, demands a US$70 per year subscription. However, you can run LibreOffice for free while still handling documents in all the same formats with ease.

Free software also gives you the chance to try new programs, and with them new ways of pursuing business and leisure, without their prospective costs forcing you to make a commitment.

Instead of painstakingly weighing the merits of Mac or Windows and then taking a leap of faith, you can consider a vast spectrum of choices offered by hundreds of distributions — basically, different flavors of Linux — by trying each in turn until you find the one that’s right for you.

Linux can even save money on hardware, as some manufacturers — notably Dell — offer a discount for buying a computer with Linux preinstalled. They can charge less because they don’t have to pass on the cost of licensing Windows from Microsoft.

 

You Can Make It Your Own

There is practically nothing in Linux that can’t be customized. Among the projects central to the Linux ecosystem are desktop environments — that is, collections of basic user programs and visual elements, like status bars and launchers, that make up the user interface.

Some Linux distributions come bundled with a desktop environment. Ubuntu is paired with the Unity desktop, for example. Others, such as with Debian, give you a choice at installation. In either case, users are free to change to any one they like.

Work Into Social Networking

Facebook last week launched new features for advertising job openings on the network.

Although many companies already have been using Facebook to find workers, the new functionality formalizes its job search capabilities, the company said.

U.S. and Canadian businesses can use the company’s new jobs bookmark to list open positions and allow users to apply directly from the site.

Page administrators can track applicants and communicate directly with them using messenger. They also can boost job postings to reach a larger audience.

 

User Experience

Jobs will appear in users’ News Feeds and also will be listed on individual businesses’ pages. Users can click on the Apply Now button to trigger the prepopulation of their personal information, but they will be able to review and edit that information before submitting their application.

Over the next few weeks, companies in the U.S. and Canada will be able to list jobs on their own pages and users will be able to find job listings at Jobs on Facebook.

It is not clear how Facebook intends to monetize the job listings. For example, will there be specific job-related charges for listing jobs? Will there be remuneration if a company fills a particular job through a Facebook ad?

 

Direct Competitors

The new functionality is certain to place Facebook into direct competition with LinkedIn for corporate users and individual job seekers. LinkedIn, which Microsoft last year acquired for US$26.2 billion, is the leading social media site for networking and job searching in the U.S., by many accounts.

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn charges monthly subscription fees for job search services, depending on the level of functionality the user desires in terms of networking, contacting recruiters and accessing messaging functions.

Facebook also will be in indirect competition with websites such as Indeed, Monster, Craigslist and others that target job seekers.

“Social media is the new frontier for marketing and sales,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“By tapping into their employees’ social media experiences, companies can leverage their professional contacts to reach a wider audience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Privacy Jitters

A major test for Facebook’s new job search capabilities is whether users will feel comfortable combining their social media activity with professional job searching, warned Zach Fuller, paid content analyst at Midia Research.

Security considerations likely will give some users pause when it comes to allowing potential employers to access their private information.

“Whether consumers are comfortable merging the work and social aspects of their lives will prove to be the critical factor, particularly given the potential privacy issues,” Fuller told TechNewsWorld.