CCleaner malware targeted networks at Google, Microsoft, Samsung

The malware attack on Windows utility CCleaner may have been more targeted and sophisticated than it seemed. In the days since the attack was announced, researchers have been poring through data from a seized command and control center, finding evidence that the attackers were using the compromise to target some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.

New posts from Avast and Cisco’s Talos research group detail the findings, as first reported by Wired. At the time the server was seized, the attackers were targeting a string of internal domains with a second-stage payload, designed to collect data and provide persistent access to any infected device.

The list of domains, published by Talos, reveals a number of major tech companies. “Ntdev.corp.microsoft.com” is an internal domain for Windows developers, while hq.gmail.com appears to be the internal Gmail instance for Google employees. Other targets include Sony, Samsung, Intel, and Akamai. The domains also include a German slot machine company and major telecoms in Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The list only includes domains that were targeted during the four days before the server was seized, so it’s entirely possible other companies were targeted earlier in the campaign. Still, the nature of the two-stage payload suggests the attack was targeted, aiming to break into specific companies rather than compromise millions of computers at once. “This was a typical watering hole attack where the vast majority of users were uninteresting for the attacker, but select ones were,” Avast researchers wrote. Researchers now estimate only 700,000 computers were exposed by the attack, down from earlier estimates of 2.2 million.

It’s still unclear which companies were successfully compromised. Talos registered at least 20 computers that were targeted by the payload, but researchers have not disclosed which companies were involved. It’s also unclear what the attackers were looking for, although Talos notes that the domains targeted “would suggest a very focused actor after valuable intellectual property.”

Neither group has made an official attribution, but Kaspersky researchers have noted significant overlapping code between the CCleaner attack and previous attacks by the Axiom threat group, a finding that Talos confirmed. Previous research has tied the Axiom group to Chinese intelligence services with moderate to high confidence.

Still, researchers are likely to learn more about the campaign in the weeks to come. Data from the initial command server has revealed several other servers used in the attack, which law enforcement is currently working to locate and seize.

What does Google want with HTC’s smartphone business? | Technology

Google has announced it’s acquiring a $1.1bn chunk of HTC’s smartphone business, and with it providing the once leading Taiwanese phone brand a much needed lifeline. But what does Google want with part of a smartphone business?

Google isn’t buying the whole of HTC, just a relatively large part of the Taipei-based company’s smartphone business and not its Vive virtual reality headset business. Google gains half of HTC’s research and development team – about 2,000 people – and a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property, allowing it to take advantage of some of HTC’s advances in smartphone technology.

HTC gets a cash injection, which will help it survive in some very competitive markets, and Google gets to continue its “big bet on hardware” according to Rick Osterloh, the company’s senior vice president for hardware.

It’s “a business decision to have access to one of the best R&D teams”, said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research. But it’s also “a sort of emotional decision to save its close partners”.

Little history of hardware

While Google is the creator of the Android operating system, which is now used on more than 2bn devices a month, or 89% of mobile devices according to IDC, it has only dabbled with making its own smartphones and tablets. It routinely partnered with firms such as HTC, LG and Huawei to make the Nexus series of a devices, which sold in low volumes and acted as showcases for each new version of Android.

Google bought Motorola in 2011 for $12.5bn (£9.24bn), and while it ran it as a separate company selling smartphones aimed at the low end, the acquisition was really about a large stock of important patents.

“Its main reasoning was to acquire Moto’s patent portfolio so as to protect against Apple (and Microsoft) while also providing stiffer competition to Samsung (although Google would never admit this),” said David McQueen, research director at ABI Research.

Google sold Motorola to China’s Lenovo in 2014 for $2.9bn without the collection of patents.

Google Pixel smartphone.



Google’s Pixel smartphone, made by HTC. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

It wasn’t until 2013 that Google’s first true own-brand hardware arrived in the form of the Google Chromebook Pixel – a £1,000 laptop designed and made as much as a developer showcase and for use internally at Google as a viable product to sell to the public. Google also launched its Chromecast streaming stick in 2013, which has since become its biggest hardware success with more than 30m units sold since launch.

Google followed up with a revised Chromebook Pixel in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the company made its own Pixel Android smartphone. The Pixel and Pixel XL were premium smartphones aimed directly at Apple’s iPhone and were manufactured by HTC for Google, with no branding or mention of HTC on the product or packaging.

The Pixel smartphones represented a new stage in Google’s ambition to do battle with its rival Apple directly, rather than continue conducting a proxy war using Android and various third-party manufacturers such as Samsung.

What Google has done with its HTC deal is buy the expertise that made last year’s Pixel smartphones, bringing the team responsible in-house.

Thomas Husson, Vice President and principal analyst for Forrester, said: “Two weeks ahead of the likely announcement of new Pixel smartphones and other emerging hardware devices, HTC’s acquisition illustrates Google’s commitment to the consumer device space. Official release of new products on 4 October is likely to demonstrate that Google is finally serious in developing a more tightly-controlled device ecosystem.”

Eyeballs on screens (and ads)

As the percentage of smartphone owners in developed nations nears saturation point and the differences between device hardware have diminished, the smartphone game has rapidly become much more focused around the services the phone can deliver rather than the device itself.

For Google, this means its plethora of web services. From Gmail to Google Play to the latest entrant in the series, Google Assistant, it’s all about keeping people within the Google ecosystem. The more time people spend with Google products, the more information the company can glean and the more potential contact points it has to sell advertising.

Google created Android as needed its search and services front and centre in the new smartphone world.



Google created Android as needed its search and services front and centre in the new smartphone world. Photograph: Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

That was the reason Android was developed in the first place, as Google saw mobile as the next evolution of computing and needed its search and services front and centre in the new smartphone world. It’s also the reason Google pays Apple $3bn a year to remain the default search provider on the iPhone.

But as services have become more and more important, third-party Android manufacturers, including the biggest smartphone player of them all, Samsung, have started to develop their own services. Samsung’s Bixby is a clear shot across the bow of Google Assistant, for instance, while HTC and others started integrating Amazon’s Alexa.

The European Union is also currently investigating Google’s marshalling of Android for anticompetitive practices, which might force the company to stop pre-loading Google search on third-party Android devices, among other things.

Faced with the potential for a changing landscape where Android is no longer as effective a delivery system for Google services, the decision to produce its own hardware starts to make sense.

Pure, undiluted Google

Osterloh said: “Our team’s goal is to offer the best Google experience — across hardware, software and services — to people around the world.”

With the Pixel smartphone line, Google has the opportunity to drive home a device that is all Google, no longer diluted by other’s services and produce a device line that could weather the storm of EU intervention within Android ecosystem. As Apple has proved time and time again with the iPhone, when you fully control both hardware and software on a device, you can do things with the wider services-and-devices ecosystem others would struggle with.

McQueen said: “What is in Google’s favour this time is that it is buying just a part of HTC, and it is a part that can help it deliver smartphones with a premium, elegant industrial design while also providing much tighter integration between hardware, the Android OS and Google’s services.”

samsung salesmen



Samsung dominates with a global smartphone marketshare of 21% in 2016 with 311m units shipped. Google sold around 2m Pixel smartphones in 2016 and HTC sold just 13.9m with a marketshare of 0.9%. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Despite being the maker of Android, there’s no doubt Google faces a massive uphill battle in the smartphone market. Samsung dominates with a global smartphone marketshare of 21% in 2016 with 311m units shipped, according to data from IDC. Apple is a close second with 15% and 215m units, while China’s Huawei is the third-largest smartphone manufacturer and rising, with a marketshare of 9% and 139m units. For perspective, Google sold around 2m Pixel smartphones in 2016 and HTC sold just 13.9m with a marketshare of 0.9%.

“Although shipments in the Pixel range are currently less than 2m a year, this tie-up will undoubtedly be a good thing for Google. It will help it grow scale in the high-end while turning it into a major competitive threat to the other Android original equipment manufacturers rather than just as a point of reference,” said McQueen.

Hardware to deliver voice

The next evolution of smart technology is arguably artificially intelligent voice assistants. This “ambient computing” revolution promises access to information anywhere, at any time by means other than a device – think Star Trek: the Next Generation’s ever-present computer.

The smartphone was the first wave of access to information anywhere, any time, and will likely be a ready conduit for the foreseeable future. Most smartphones already come with some form of voice assistant, from Siri and Google Assistant to Cortana and Alexa.

For Google this next stage of computing is incredibly important. Google Assistant is its latest foray, connecting various related features from search and voice commands to Google’s massive internal encyclopaedia and delivering it not only through a smartphone but also smart speakers, computers and even cars.

For Google to compete fully with the likes of Amazon in this new voice-enabled arena, it needs hardware efforts. The Google Home smart speaker was a crucial first step and it is expected to be joined by a smaller Google Home speaker on 4 October.

Geoff Blaber, vice president of research, Americas, for CCS Insight said: “As computing, AI and search become pervasive, Google needs to ensure that it can deliver its services as seamlessly and broadly as possible. That requires deeper involvement in hardware”

Whether it’s a speaker, a smartphone or a computer, in an increasingly competitive landscape, Google needs much better integration between hardware and software if its services are to continue to thrive.

New public safety software and services shown at Motorola Solutions’ London Innovation Centre

Phil Jefferson, vice president for Western Europe and North Africa, and country manager UK and Ireland at ‎Motorola Solutions; said that the company had spent $553 million on R&D in 2016 and in the same year had spent a further $1.5 billion on acquisitions associated with new technology.

Eduardo Conrado, Motorola Solutions’ EVP – chief strategy and innovation officer (pictured below), added that the company invests in roughly 10-15 start-ups each year and looks for research that could be applied to the world of public safety. He drew attention to the increasing use of voice to access the internet (as seen in the growing use of Alexa and Google Home).

He added that one of the company’s design goals is providing consistency across platforms, both in terms of interface and the data that can be accessed by the user. Conrado also noted that a typical police officer’s time is split as follows:

  • • 60 per cent – proactive policing
  • • 15 per cent – dealing with incidents
  • • 25 per cent – post-incident (filling out forms and other paperwork)

He explained that Motorola is seeking to digitise as much of the post-incident work as possible, so that police officers are free to spend more of their time on proactive policing.

In addition, “We’re working on a full set of applications that enable communication and information sharing across [narrowband] radio and LTE networks and then on the backend [there’s] a lot of emphasis with our data scientists on looking at how we use artificial intelligence and machine learning, not only to improve efficiency, but in some cases to predict where crime will happen.”

He expects there will be greater use of video analytics with it being used to trigger specific actions. Motorola expects that in the near future police officers will be equipped with 360-degree body-worn cameras, augmented reality visors, biometrics and an audio “virtual partner”.

To illustrate the latter, Conrado showed a video in which a policeman had to question a member of the public who only spoke Mandarin and cloud-based real-time translation software allowed him to ask her questions in the same language and hear her translated responses. Conrado said that the company is looking to bring this feature to market next year.

He also discussed another use case in which video analytics can be used in combination with body-worn video to search for a missing person, in this case a child with brown hair and a blue t-shirt, through using the camera’s own processing abilities (intelligence at the network edge). Only when one of the body-worn video cameras in the field detects a match, is data sent back to the control room. Conrado adds that while it might be possible for the officer wearing that camera to initially miss the child, it narrows down their location and it could be possible to use voice/audio prompts to quickly tell the officer where to look. However, Motorola’s current focus is on optimising the processing taking place on the camera rather than the work flows associated with this feature.

He added that one of the issues associated with facial recognition is that it requires that the camera and the face(s) being analysed to be a particular angle to each other, and there are also certain lighting requirements.

Olatunde Williams, head of field & solutions marketing – Europe & Africa at Motorola Solutions (pictured above left) and his colleague, Adrian Parsons (above, right), senior technical architect, demonstrated a use case for AI combined with natural language processing software. It involved an officer (played by Parsons) in a police car pulling a suspect vehicle over for inspection, with the car’s radio system logging the switching

on of the warning lights and other actions. The officer can vocally request data on the vehicle using commands such as “vehicle check required on licence plate”, “Tell me more about [the vehicle’s registered owner]” and “Any active cases on that vehicle?” and then asking for more information on that case, so that the officer can best assess whether the occupant poses a threat.

Parsons later explained that the system could be configured to suit an organisations’ business processes and preferences. He also highlighted the current regulations that require police officers to have valid reasons for stopping vehicles and retrieving information about them and their owners, which have to be considered when drawing up these processes.

Parsons wore a radio in the form factor of a jacket (shown above right) and its man-down functionality by dropping it on the ground.

David Parry, Motorola Solutions’ director EMEA marketing, and one of his colleagues demonstrated a future fire incident command concept, that uses augmented/mixed reality. In it the incident commander wears an AR headset to see a 3D map of the building in which the fire is taking place (shown below), track the progress of a search within the building (searched areas turn green), view video feeds from cameras worn by the firefighters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying above the incident and 360-degree cameras mounted on fire engines. The commander can via the same AR interface, view the status and movement of the vehicles as they approach the scene, while the status and health of firefighters within the building is shown using different icons.

Parry added that the system automatically tracks oxygen consumption, so that should a firefighter be close to running out of air, the icon will change, alerting the commander to the need to order them to withdraw. He notes that currently such timings are measured manually with stopwatches and that the in-building layout functionality requires 3D plans of the building where the incident is taking place to be available.

Martyn Parker, Lincolnshire Police’s IT Futures programme director (shown left), said that the force spent £2.8 million on a four year Pronto solution supported by 775 mobile devices (the Samsung Note 4). He added that the force is currently looking to upgrade to more modern devices. The force’s use of Pronto is typically saving an hour per shift and has reduced the time required to process road traffic collisions from 30 minutes per booklet to 10 and eliminated the need for paper booklets.

“We have to report on several annual data returns to the Home Office to make sure that our crime compliance, our management and handling of domestic [abuse cases] are accurate and Pronto gives us that security and ability to be able to put and mandate processes in place to make sure that we get compliance from our [frontline] staff,” Parker said. “They’re not always thinking about legislation and policy changes, we push those onto the mobile application…

“When an officer takes a photograph of someone who has been assaulted, a bruised eye or whatever the injury is and they take that picture, the Pronto application will produce that in a format that’s an exhibit, produce it into our records management system (RMS), which can seamless go through to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), ensuring that it has all the correct naming conventions, all the detail and accuracy which is required… without another human being needing to interact within the process – it’s really positive time saver for us.”

He said that the application also prompts users to take personal statements from victims of crime, “so they don’t have to continually remember the data they need to capture – the system is helping them do that.”

Parker added that the number of instances in which high risk referrals to the force’s partners for domestic abuse, stalking and harassment cases have been missed have dropped to zero since the process started to be managed by the Pronto mobile data application because of the automated process it used. Prior to its introduction, the force used to miss 7-8 per week.

He also said that City of London Police is deploying an instance of Pronto based on Lincolnshire’s solution. Motorola Solutions is developing a fingerprint solution to search the new Home Office Biometrics Gateway and introducing a mobile mapping and messaging solution integrated with Pronto.

Ian Williams, chief inspector and digital policing lead for West Yorkshire Police (shown above) said that his force is using Pronto for 28 processes, across 5,500 devices and has started using Bluetooth enabled folding keyboards so that officers can more easily enter data onto the system while on the move – they spend around 10,000 hours every month inputting data). He added that West Yorkshire Police wants its officers to be inputting data in locations where they are visible to the public such as a local Macdonald’s, regardless of how this might be portrayed by the tabloids.

He notes that Pronto is “much more timely. For example, someone gets arrested, they get brought back into custody, you’ve got a certain amount of statements and evidence, but you might want a little bit more – you might have missed something. So, you can dispatch an officer to take a statement, upload it and within a minute that can be disclosed to the defence, sent to CPS to get a decision… And we shouldn’t underestimate officers’ access to data [via Pronto], with that integration, you’ve got that full array of data that enables them to make really good decisions and look after the safety of themselves, the public and vulnerable victims.”

Williams also discussed West Yorkshire Police’s use of Pronto Forensics. “CSI integration is a really big one for us, on the back of what we’ve done [with Pronto] for the frontline, we’ve delivered [similar functionality to] crime scene investigators [across] the whole region, there are four forces in our region. Investigators now integrate with several systems, some of them local, some of them national… [allowing] them to collect all their evidence at the scene, bag it up, put it up on the systems and get results coming back before they’ve even left the scene…

“We have investigators who within an hour of [the] initial examination [of a crime scene] are identifying suspects to go out and arrest. We’ve had a murder where a gentleman was badly burnt and the only thing that was recognisable was his hand. We took the fingerprint from that and the result from that enabled us to identify him and subsequently a suspect, in that timescale….,” Williams concluded.

Both Williams and Parker highlighted the advantages of getting involved with suppliers to ensure that their products and services are best suited to forces’ requirements as possible.

Motorola Solutions’ innovations span cellular phones and systems in the mid-80s, to introducing the world’s first TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) nationwide digital radio network, which is the basis for Airwave – the network went live in 2005 based on Motorola Solutions´ TETRA technology and currently powers public safety communications in the country. Motorola Solutions completed its acquisition of Airwave in February 2016.

In 1994, Motorola Solutions developed radio, cable and antenna systems for the newly opened Channel Tunnel between England and France, and in 1998 CityLink Telecommunications consortium, which included Motorola, was selected to replace and manage the radio transmission services for the entire London Underground Tube network.

Meanwhile, in 2004, Motorola Solutions was selected to provide more than 30,000 MTH800 digital radios for Metropolitan Police Service officers to use on the Airwave nationwide TETRA communications network. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s command and control system went live in May that year and Motorola Solutions supplied and implemented the system.

In 2015, Motorola Solutions was chosen to provide user services, system integration and critical functionality for the UK’s next generation LTE Emergency Services Network (ESN).

Motorola Solutions moved its Europe, Middle East and Africa regional headquarters to London in 2017.

Google Paid HTC $1.1 Billion To Turn Itself Into a Phone Maker

After years of half-heartedly and occasionally hamfistedly building gadgets, Google’s finally all-in on the hardware game. Google will announce a number of new products on October 4, reportedly including two new phones, a smaller version of the Google Home, and a high-end laptop. And on Wednesday, the company announced an agreement with struggling manufacturer HTC that will import a team of engineers over to Google, to help close the gap between Mountain View’s hardware ambitions and its present reality.

The tie-up’s not quite the acquisition that had been rumored, but rather a “cooperation agreement.” Google is hiring a team of HTC employees—about 2,000 people in all, members of HTC’s “Powered by HTC” division—most of whom have already been working on Google’s Pixel phones. Those employees will stay in Taipei, Taiwan, where HTC is headquartered, but they’ll become full-on Googlers. In exchange for those workers and a non-exclusive license for some of HTC’s intellectual property, Google’s paying HTC $1.1 billion. Both sides hope to close the deal by early 2018. Even after the arrangement is finalized, HTC will continue making its own phones, and building Vive VR products.

According to one source, the agreement essentially shortcuts the acquisition process. Google doesn’t need an entire company; it just needs engineers that can help it tightly integrate Pixel hardware with its homegrown software. So rather than deal with enveloping HTC whole cloth, it can simply pay for and quickly get the team it needs. A team which, again, already makes Google hardware. In some ways, all that changes is the ID badge.

Moto Memories

But the ID badge matters. Google learned this the hard way. When it plunked down $13.3 billion to buy Motorola in 2011, the marriage seemed to make sense. Motorola offered a patent portfolio that would help Google fight in an increasingly litigious mobile industry, plus plenty of cash and assets. Those were all more important, and less exciting, than another little part of Motorola’s business that Google picked up: the hardware team. It seemed that finally, after years of watching other companies make Android phones that paled next to the iPhone, Google was taking its fate in its own hands.

The beautiful coupling of hardware and software, of course, didn’t happen. Google made a big show of not favoring Moto in any way, walling the company off from the very software makers it needed to produce truly great products. “Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open,” Larry Page wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “We will run Motorola as a separate business.” The real problem, according to former employees, was that Google just wasn’t serious about making hardware. It saw itself as a platform company, not a phone company.

‘I don’t even think anyone’s pissed at this point. I think they’re resigned.’ —Avi Greengart, GlobalData

Today, though, the time seems right for Google to assert more control over the Android ecosystem. Android dominates so completely that even if, say, LG feels threatened by Google’s hardware aggression, it has virtually no recourse. “At least until the next big technology wave comes, and probably even then, we’re likely stuck with iOS and Android,” says Avi Greengart, who tracks devices and platforms for analysis firm GlobalData. “I don’t even think anyone’s pissed at this point. I think they’re resigned.” Plus, Google made these ambitions clear a long time ago; the Pixel already exists, and it didn’t drive anyone out of business yet.

And in a lot of ways, HTC fits Google far better than Motorola ever did. The two companies have a long history of working together: In addition to the Pixel, HTC manufactured the very first Android phone, the G1. HTC has also had a long run of success as a white-label manufacturer building devices for other companies, and even made a few of the best early Android phones, like the ceramic One X. Even its current device, the HTC U11, ranks among the best Android phones on the market.

Streamlining

If all goes well, the new team of former HTC-ers could finally centralize and simplify Google’s manufacturing, which has previously sat somewhere on the spectrum between “complicated” and “chaos.” The company built phones with Huawei and LG, routers with TP-Link and Asus, augmented-reality gear with Lenovo, and lots of in-house products with various contract manufacturers. While Apple preaches the integration of hardware and software, Google’s been all over the place.

Tighter control over manufacturing affects more than just the bottom line. “Bringing that design capability in-house would likely allow Google to design exactly the phones it wants to, giving it both more freedom and a greater ability to optimize designs to get exactly what it wants and needs from the hardware,” says Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. New technologies like augmented reality and virtual assistants, especially, require massive power and optimization. Apple’s ARKit works so well in part because of Apple’s new A11 Bionic processor, and its dedicated GPU and neural-processing chips. If Google wants Google Assistant and ARCore to work seamlessly, it needs to make sure the underlying hardware can support them. And even if its traditional Android hardware partners churn out workhorse devices, Google risks that Samsung and others (but mostly Samsung) will eventually want push everyone to Bixby and the Gear VR instead.

As always, a shift like this takes time to fully shake out. It’ll likely be a couple of years before we see what happens when Google lets a bunch of HTC employees hang out in the Googleplex with Android engineers. There are lots of unanswered questions, too: What does this talent drain do to HTC’s existing products, from its phones to its Re cameras to the scale and fitness band it built with Under Armour? What does this mean for a company like LG, Google’s supposed partner for the Pixel 2 XL? One thing we do know, more surely than ever: Google’s a hardware company now. And it’s coming for everybody.

UPDATE: This story has been changed to reflect the number of HTC employees joining Google.

Motorola Moto X4 India launch date October 3, price in India

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 21, 2017 10:31 am


Motorola, Moto X4, Moto X4 Price, Moto X4 India, Moto X4 Price in India, Moto X4 launch in India, Moto X4 specifications, Moto X4 India Launch, Moto X4 Review Motorola Moto X4 will launch in India on October 3, and the company has sent out press invites for the same.

Motorola Moto X4 will launch in India on October 3. The company has started sending press invites for the launch of the Moto X4 in India. While the invitation doesn’t provide any information on what Motorola will launch or unveil, the picture on the invite is a pretty clear signal at the arrival of the Moto X4 in the country.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the fact the company has recently started putting out teasers for the phone on its Twitter handle. Moto X4 will be launched in India on October 3, but we have yet to learn when exactly it will be available and how much it will cost. The smartphone was first announced last month at the annual IFA tradeshow in Berlin.

For those who’re interested, Moto X4 offers a 5.2-inch (1920 x 1080) display, a Snapdragon 630 processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, microSD card support, and a 3,000mAh battery inside. Like other Motorola smartphones, Moto X4 runs a pure version of Android Nougat. On the camera front, Moto X4 has a dual-camera setup, comprising of a 12MP and 8MP sensor. Also, add a 16MP shooter in the front of the phone for self portraits and video calling.

Moto X4 will have a lot to live up to, considering the competition is getting fierce in the premium mid-end segment. When launched in India, Moto X4 will be directly compared to the OnePlus 5, Vivo V7+, and Honor 8 Pro. The latter smartphone, especially, has been praised for its superior camera and overall performance.

Moto X4 launches in the pre-Diwali season when a lot of other players will also be offering their newer smartphones. We’ll have to see how the Moto X4 is priced in India. The Moto Z2 Play is currently the latest premium offering in India from the company at a price of Rs 27,999.

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Google signs agreement with HTC, continuing our big bet on hardware

About a year and a half ago, I joined Google to pursue my dream job to create compelling hardware products, built with Google’s smarts at their core. As a first step, we brought together various consumer hardware-related efforts and established a single hardware organization within the company. Our team’s goal is to offer the best Google experience—across hardware, software and services—to people around the world. Last fall, we introduced our first family of Made by Google products, including Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream View and Chromecast Ultra, and we’re preparing to unveil our second generation of products on October 4. We’re excited about the 2017 lineup, but even more inspired by what’s in store over the next five, 10, even 20 years. Creating beautiful products that people rely on every single day is a journey, and we are investing for the long run.

That’s why we’ve signed an agreement with HTC, a leader in consumer electronics, that will fuel even more product innovation in the years ahead. With this agreement, a team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team. The deal also includes a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.

In many ways, this agreement is a testament to the decade-long history of teamwork between HTC and  Google. Together, we’ve achieved several mobile-industry firsts, including the first ever Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1 (I loved mine!); as well as the Nexus One in 2010, the Nexus 9 tablet in 2014, and the first Pixel smartphone just last year.

It’s still early days for Google’s hardware business. We’re focused on building our core capabilities, while creating a portfolio of products that offers people a unique yet delightful experience only made possible by bringing together the best of Google software—like the Google Assistant—with thoughtfully designed hardware. HTC has been a longtime partner and has created some of the most beautiful, high-end devices on the market. We can’t wait to welcome members of the HTC team to join us on this journey.

Google’s HTC deal: Can Google learn from its Motorola miscues?

Google is serious about manufacturing its own hardware…again.

Google will reportedly buy HTC’s smartphone operations and intellectual property in a move that foreshadows that it is serious about integrating software and hardware and selling premium devices on multiple fronts.

The purchase of HTC’s division isn’t likely amount to much–HTC is valued at $1.9 billion–but Google would acquire a supply chain, research and development and skills that would be hard to create in-house. HTC has already halted shares pending an announcement.

HTC suspends trading, Google acquisition rumors blaze to life

If this HTC deal sounds vaguely familiar that’s because it was only a few years ago that Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion and then offloaded it to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. The Motorola purchase had a lot to do with hardware knowhow, but more to do with defending patent lawsuits.

What’s different this time? Frankly, I’m not so sure. Google probably realizes hardware is a conduit for its artificial intelligence, ads and Android. Cue the Amazon Alexa envy. But that reality doesn’t mean Google can integrate HTC well or even keep the talent.

HTC and Google have been strong partners. HTC is a supplier for Google’s Pixel line. What’s unclear is whether HTC can continuously offer premium hardware that can serve as a showcase for Google’s services. HTC’s sales have crumbled since peaking in 2010.

htc-results-2-year.png

Add it up and Google will face its challenges with HTC. Then again, Google is throwing a financial lifeline to one of its key hardware partners.

Here’s how the ledger looks:

Why buy HTC

  • HTC provides a supply chain and manufacturing expertise. HTC, which has roots as a third party contract manufacturer, would know how to ramp up other product lines such as Google Home and may even play a role for Nest down the line.
  • The price isn’t that bad. You could argue that Google would have had to spend what HTC was worth anyway just to come close to being a hardware player.
  • Google can have a tighter hold on Android. Sure, Lenovo, Nokia and HTC promise that they will keep up with Android and refrain from customizing the mobile OS too much. But the biggest player–Samsung–won’t play that game.

Why HTC is a dumb purchase

  • HTC isn’t selling out to Google from a position of strength. HTC’s wearable strategy hasn’t panned out. HTC Vive is promising on the virtual reality front, but is massive. And HTC hasn’t been a smartphone leader of late.
  • Google likely hasn’t learned from its Motorola experience. To make HTC truly work, Google will have to bridge cultural divides. Google couldn’t make Motorola work so it’s unclear whether it’ll have any more luck with HTC.
  • It’s unclear how much innovation HTC will really bring to Google, which counts ads, artificial intelligence and computing scale as its core competencies. Google may be limiting its Pixel designs by limiting its partner choices to HTC.

$50 Google Home Mini leaks online ahead of October 4 Pixel event

Why it matters to you

If you’re looking for a Google Assistant speaker to place in all your rooms, the Google Home Mini might be the affordable option for you.

The Amazon Echo has been well received for a number of reasons, including the fact that you don’t necessarily always have to buy a full Amazon Echo for each room. Google has already launched its full-sized Google Home speaker, but now it’s launching a more affordable speaker that you can put in each room — rumored to be called the Google Home Mini.

The Google Home Mini has been rumored for some time now, but the latest leak gives us a pretty good look at what the speaker is supposed to look like. The leak, which comes from Droid-Life, shows off a puck-shaped speaker in three colors — which happen to match the leaked colors for the Google Daydream headset.

According to the leak, the speaker will be available in Chalk, Charcoal, and Coral colors, and it seems as though the speaker will be powered — not wireless — based on the leaked images. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — the idea here is that you’ll be able to get a speaker for each room.

Of course, if you’re buying one for each room, you’ll probably want something pretty affordable, and thankfully the Home Mini reportedly will be. You’ll be able to get one for $50.

The Home Mini should be able to do pretty much everything the standard Google Home can. It’ll come with Google Assistant, and will allow you to schedule things, set reminders, and so on — like Google Assistant on the Home speaker and on an Android phone. The speaker in the device may not be as loud as the standard Google Home, but it will be great for those who don’t necessarily need a loud speaker or those who simply want things like smart home control.

The Google Home Mini isn’t the first non-Home speaker to be launched with Google Assistant. In the past few months, we’ve seen a few devices launch from the likes of JBL, Mobvoi, and even Panasonic, coming in at different price points and with different focuses. The thing that really brings them all together, however, is Google Assistant, which powers all of the speakers. Check out our full list of the Assistant-powered speakers to be launched so far.




Motorola redux? Google appears set to buy HTC

Enlarge / The all-glass back of the HTC U11.

Ron Amadeo

Evidence is mounting that Google is going to buy HTC. Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan is reporting HTC shares will halt trading tomorrow pending a “major announcement” from the company. The speculation is that the struggling smartphone and VR headset company is going to be sold, and further speculation suggests the buyer is Google.

The “Google to buy HTC” rumors have been churning for some time. The local Taiwan media has been reporting whispers of talks between the two companies since the beginning of September, and one site, Apple Daily, is reporting that the sale is already a done deal.

So what would Google want with HTC? Any tech watchers’ mind should immediately jump to the last time Google bought a failing Android OEM: its acquisition of Motorola. Along with a ton of patents, Google got a bunch of factories dedicated to producing smartphones and other products. It sold off the parts it didn’t want, like the cable modem business, and then it set about whipping Motorola into shape. After clearing the 18-month product pipeline the old Motorola execs left in place, Motorola turned into one of the better Android OEMs out there, offering stock Android, fast updates, and a simple lineup of about three main phones across the pricing spectrum. Google eventually got rid of Motorola, though, probably as a result of negotiations with other Android OEMs.

Google’s HTC acquisition would again result in the company owning a bunch of factories. So does it just bring Pixel production in-house? Google now has a formal “Hardware” division, run by former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh, and the company has been pumping out hardware like the Pixel, Google Home, Google Wifi, Chromecast, and the Daydream VR viewer. If it bought HTC, the group would actually have its own factories. The “Vive” team is now a wholly owned subsidiary of HTC and seems gift-wrapped for a potential buyer.

Currently, Google’s Pixel line brings great software to the table, with things like a highly optimized version of stock Android and the Google Assistant, but there’s not much of a focus on hardware. The 2016 Pixel was built by HTC and looks just like an HTC phone. The 2017 Google Pixel 2 XL is being built by LG and looks a lot like an LG V30. Other than the glass window on the back, there isn’t much focus on making hardware that stands out. If Google does acquire HTC’s factories, it could start more deeply customizing what its phones look like, because right now Pixel phones look like they are made from off-the-shelf parts from other manufacturers.

While we haven’t seen the results hit the market yet, Google has seemed more interested in hardware lately. Rumors have also suggested Google is interested in creating its own SoCs, and the company now has a position called “Lead SoC Architect,” filled by Manu Gulati, a former chip architect at Apple. On stage at I/O, Google suggested future phones would come with special processors dedicated to machine learning. Without an HTC purchase, Google would have to get a third party to use these new chips, but if it buys HTC, it can quietly work on integrating these new chips into an actual product.

HTC’s struggles have been well documented and ongoing. The company peaked in 2011 with a mix of Android and Windows Mobile phones but never managed to recover once Windows Mobile died and Samsung swallowed up much of the high-end Android market. HTC spent several years making boring flagships with little design growth and botched marketing. The company eventually tried to transition away from the smartphone market, investing in a fitness band (which never actually launched) and a weird, viewfinder-less camera.

HTC’s only real success has come from partnering with other companies. With Valve, it created the HTC Vive VR headset, one of the first good VR headsets on the market (along with the Oculus Rift). It also partnered with Google to create the Google Pixel smartphone, which has consistently been hailed, at Ars and other places, as the best Android phone on the market. While these products were critical successes, they sold in low volumes and are not the kind of successes that can keep HTC afloat. HTC doesn’t even have much to do with the success of either product. Valve owns all technology that makes the Vive work. The Pixel is only good because of Google’s software optimizations, and this year it added LG, a competing hardware company, to the program. Google and Valve both seem like they just needed a manufacturer, and HTC was desperate enough to make other companies’ products.

This all seems like something Google has done before, but, remember, that’s kind of Google’s thing. It wanted to sell smartphones directly with the Nexus One program, then it didn’t. Then it bought Motorola and started making its own smartphones, then it decided it didn’t want to do that anymore. Now it’s starting up again with the Pixel program, and maybe it wants to get even more involved with hardware.

Whatever HTC’s announcement is, it’s coming sometime Thursday, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled.

Nest Expands Into Home Security With First Security System Designed to Be Easy on Residents, Tough on Intruders

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

nest.com), architect of the thoughtful home, today announced a home security solution that includes the Nest Secure alarm system, Nest Hello video doorbell, Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera, and corresponding software and services.” data-reactid=”23″>Nest Labs, Inc. (nest.com), architect of the thoughtful home, today announced a home security solution that includes the Nest Secure alarm system, Nest Hello video doorbell, Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera, and corresponding software and services.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170920006136/en/ ” data-reactid=”24″>This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170920006136/en/

  • Nest Secure alarm system – A home security system designed to be tough on intruders and easy on you. The Nest Secure starter pack includes these products:
    • Nest Guard is an all-in-one security base that provides the alarm, keypad and a motion sensor, along with a friendly voice.
    • Nest Detect is a category first: a sensor that detects both motion and open or close movement in one compact, battery-powered product. Put it on a window and it will know when it opens. Stick it on a wall and it senses motion in a room. Place it on a door and it can do both.
    • Nest Tag is a convenient fob that can attach to a keychain, allowing you to easily arm and disarm Nest Secure without a passcode. Nest Tags are easy to share with family members and trusted people who regularly enter the home, like dog walkers.
  • Nest Hello video doorbell – Nest’s first video doorbell combines the trusted security and intelligence of a Nest Cam with the familiar convenience of a doorbell.
  • Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera – Purpose-built outdoor security camera that protects homes with best-in-class imaging and intelligence, and tamper resistant, weatherproof components.

“Today, Nest is delivering on the next phase of our strategy to create the thoughtful home,” said Marwan Fawaz, chief executive officer of Nest. “We’ve had quite a year so far, expanding into 11 more countries, growing our product portfolio with the successful launches of Nest Cam IQ indoor and the Nest Thermostat E, and today we’re disrupting yet another product industry: home security. By building product experiences our customers love, Nest has experienced more than 60 percent growth on devices shipped in recent years and continues to expand to millions of homes around the world.”

Nest Secure is the first alarm system that is actually enjoyable to live with, designed to be convenient for homeowners as they come and go.

Everyone in the family has a different routine, so Nest provides multiple ways to arm and disarm: by tapping Nest Tag onto Nest Guard, through the Nest app, or by entering a code on the Nest Guard keypad.

Nest Secure makes it easy to monitor from anywhere, sending a notification if something needs attention. Customers have the option to add additional monitoring and deterrence by adding Nest Cams to their system, which are all controlled from the same Nest app.

Nest Detect sensors combine both motion and open/close detection so they can be placed on either doors, windows or walls. They also provide the option to temporarily bypass the alarm on the way out, with the press of a button, thanks to a feature called Quiet Open. And if someone forgets to turn on the alarm? Nest sends a Remind Me notification to arm it directly from the app.

Nest Guard is designed to remain on guard – with battery backup and an optional cellular backup service – even if Wi-Fi is down or the power is out. And with an easy, voice-guided setup that doesn’t require tools, screws or wires, it’s simple for either the customer or a Nest Pro to install.

Today, Nest is shipping intelligent and powerful cameras. But there is one important area of the home not completely addressed by Nest Cams – the front door. It’s the place people come in and out. Where the action happens. And one of the first places burglars check for occupants.

Nest Hello can detect a person, then send an alert and a snapshot, even if that person doesn’t ring the bell. With Nest Aware, customers can get alerts when strangers or suspicious activity like people talking or dogs barking are detected.

Nest Hello customers can engage with guests and strangers at the door from anywhere and have a natural conversation with HD Talk and Listen. Echo suppression and ambient noise cancellation ensure it’s easy to hear each other, even on noisy streets. A list of pre-recorded responses makes it easy to quickly and effortlessly answer visitors with one tap from the app.

Buying a security camera is driven by the peace of mind that comes from knowing the home and family are protected. But when it comes to keeping an eye on the home, we know people don’t want more information, they want better, actionable information.

Earlier this year, with the launch of Nest Cam IQ indoor, Nest introduced one of the most intelligent and powerful cameras on the market to bring better security to the inside of your home.

Now, Nest is extending that intelligence outside. Featuring a brand new design, Nest Cam IQ outdoor is a camera that does more and requires less time from customers. Instead of just showing what’s happening, it will deliver critical, actionable information via an alert – like spotting someone unfamiliar in the yard – so users know that the alert is important.

Not only is Nest bringing new hardware to its camera portfolio, but will provide customers the option to add the Google Assistant to Nest Cam IQ indoor. It’s the first security camera to have the Google Assistant built in, and will be available via a free software update for all current and new customers this winter. The Google Assistant adds a new level of intelligence to Nest Cam IQ indoor, including the ability to ask questions, control the home, and manage tasks.

Through the Works with Nest program, Nest has been working with partners to create integrations with its portfolio of new security products.

As previously announced, Nest has been working with Yale, which brings 175 years of expertise in locks, to build a modern take on a secure deadbolt. The new lock, as well as Nest’s own products, leverages both the Thread and Weave technologies to securely communicate with Nest Secure and other Nest products, even if the power is out or there’s no Internet connection. The Nest + Yale lock will be available early next year.

Customers can disarm the Nest Secure alarm system when they unlock the Nest + Yale lock, and they’ll be able to unlock the door when they notice a friend (or delivery person) through the Nest Hello video doorbell.

Nest will also launch a new accessory, called Nest Connect, that will ensure Nest Secure will work in large homes, as well as enable the Nest + Yale lock, and similar products, to connect to the Internet and be controllable via the Nest App.

When it comes to security, making a home seem like it’s occupied can provide powerful deterrence. Works with Nest products including lights, switches and plugs from companies such as Lutron, LIFX, and Philips can connect with Nest security products to make it look like you’re home when Nest notices you’re away. That can help prevent break-ins from happening.

And with Chamberlain’s MyQ-enabled garage door openers, users can get a notification if they’ve left their garage door open. Then they can close it from wherever they are with a tap on their phone.

The Works with Nest program, using technologies such as Thread and Weave, enables Nest products to work seamlessly with products from other manufacturers as a complete system.

Nest Secure can be pre-ordered beginning today on nest.com and will ship in November, when it will become available at leading retailers in the U.S.

  • The Nest Secure starter pack, which includes Nest Guard, two Nest Detects and two Nest Tags, has a suggested retail price of $499.
  • Customers will be able to purchase additional Nest Detects for $59 and Nest Tags for $25.
  • A Nest Secure starter pack plus Nest Cam Outdoor will be available on nest.com and at Best Buy for $598, a $100 discount versus the standard bundle price of $698.
  • Cellular backup service will be available on nest.com for $5 per month or $50 per year.
  • Nest has partnered with MONI to offer its award-winning, 24/7 professional monitoring service in the coming months.

And we’ll be launching Nest Secure in Europe and Canada next year.

Nest Cam IQ outdoor will be launching in the United States, Canada and all Nest European markets in November at leading retailers, and can be pre-ordered on nest.com beginning today.

  • Nest Cam IQ outdoor is available at a suggested retail price of $349 or in a two-pack for $598.
  • To get more details about when it will be available, please visit www.nest.com.

Nest Hello page for more information.” data-reactid=”72″>Nest Hello will be available in the U.S. and Canada in the first quarter of 2018, and Europe later next year. Visit the Nest Hello page for more information.

Nest’s mission is to create a home that’s thoughtful – one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it. The company focuses on simple, beautiful and delightful hardware, software and services. The Nest Thermostat E™, Nest Learning Thermostat™, and Nest Energy Services keep you comfortable and address home energy consumption. The Nest Protect™ smoke and carbon monoxide alarm helps keep you safe, and Nest Safety Rewards lets you save money through participating home insurance providers, while Nest Cam™ keeps an eye on what matters most inside and outside your home.

nest.com.” data-reactid=”75″>Nest products are sold in 18 countries across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific and are installed in every country in the world. The Nest Learning Thermostat has helped save approximately 14 billion kWh of energy to date, enough electricity to power New York State for 100 days. Through the Works with Nest program, third-party products can securely connect with Nest devices to make homes safer, more energy efficient and more aware. For more information, visit nest.com.

*Source: Nationwide “Brand New Belongings” survey 2013.

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