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RSA Cryptographers Discuss Security

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Friday 28 February 2014 7:45 pm

What do the world’s greatest cryptographers think about the current state of information security? At a panel at the RSA Conference Feb. 25, the discussion began with the National Security Agency (NSA) disclosures about surveillance of Americans.

Adi Shamir, professor in the computer science department at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the “S” in RSA, said he was not surprised by the NSA disclosures. “Everyone assumed that the NSA has lots of tools and abilities,” Shamir said. “Tactically, the disclosure is a treasure trove, and it is fascinating to read about the exploits.”

Whitfield Diffie, who currently serves on the advisory board at SafeLogic, said he was disturbed by the revelation that the NSA would attempt to tamper with security standards in order to gain advantage. “I grew up in an era where I believed the government was 100 percent interested in the security of American communications,” Diffie said.

Read the full story at eWEEK:
NSA, Snowden Revelations Not Surprising: RSA Panel

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Windows 8.1 May Become A Freebie OS

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Friday 28 February 2014 1:45 pm

Microsoft is reportedly building a variation of Windows dubbed “Windows 8.1 with Bing.” It’s apparently part of an experiment to offer the operating system with tighter integration to featured Microsoft apps and services—primarily, at least at first, Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Windows Bing may also be part of a plan to boost adoption by giving away the OS for free or at a reduced cost to both individual users interested in upgrading their Windows 7 machines and PC makers. The Verge reported Friday that Microsoft might give away a consumer version of Windows Bing for free.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft is cutting Windows 8.1 licensing fees by 70% for installations on low-cost computers of $250 or less. In that scenario, original equipment manufacturers currently charged $50 would only have to pay $15. It’s not clear how (or if) the two approaches would work alongside each other. 

Publicly, Microsoft loves to wax poetic about Windows 8, whose sales have surpassed 200 million licenses. But according to NetMarketShare, Windows 8 ranked third worldwide among desktop operating systems in February, behind Windows 7 and Windows XP. (Windows 8.1 comes in at combined, Windows 8 and 8.1 are still third behind XP.)

Microsoft certainly appears eager to push its cloud services and apps to combat Google, whose Chromebook and Android initiatives are chipping away at Microsoft’s business on both desktops and smartphones. Several reports have suggested that the company is mulling over free or low-cost variations of Windows Phone as well, plus a possible software mash-up of Windows Phone with its hybrid desktop/tablet OS, Windows RT.

I reached out to Microsoft’s PR team, and will update this item if and when I hear back. (Update: A Microsoft spokesperson has responded and, predictably, has “nothing to share.”) 

IPCom’s $2.2 billion Apple lawsuit tossed out

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Friday 28 February 2014 1:36 am

IPCom, a company that owns patents and asserts those in infringement trials, has lost in its bid to generate $2.2 billion in damages off Apple.

The company, which has been referred to by some as a “patent troll” because it doesn’t actually make products but uses its patent portfolio as a revenue generator, was rebuffed on Friday by the Mannheim Regional Court, which found that Apple did not in fact infringe on two standard-essential patents brought before it by IPCom. The case also included a patent-infringement claim against HTC, which was also thrown out.

According to Foss Patents’ Florian Mueller, who was first to report on the news, IPCom acquired the patents years ago from Bosch after that company left the
car phone space. The patents relate in general to access to emergency responders from mobile devices.

IPCom’s loss does not mean that the company can’t appeal the decision. However, it appears at this point that the ruling puts the prospects for IPCom’s future with these patents on thin ice.

New Fitness Trackers Will Record Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Thursday 27 February 2014 1:24 am



ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series where ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.

Simple step trackers are going the way of the dinosaur, as a new generation of fitness devices cram more sensors and smarts into smaller and smaller shapes. This next wave will track our movements in three dimensions—and that’s a crucial difference.

Why? Because the kind of vigorous exercise that really advances our health is multidimensional, too. 

As someone who sprints up stairs, lifts weights at the gym, and dabbles in yoga and bodyweight workouts, I’ve long been dissatisfied with fitness trackers that count steps and stop there. And I’m not alone: One friend clipped his wrist-based Nike FuelBand to his shoes to get points for a bike ride. I’ve heard similar tales of gyrations done in the name of counting gyrations.

Tracking What’s Next

Atlas Wearables, Lumo BodyTech, AmiigoMoov and others are among the companies whose devices promise to work with the way we actually move—and quite possibly displace incumbents like Jawbone and Fitbit.

Two key developments are enabling these new devices: small sensors and big data.

Moov, for example, packs an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer into a package the size of a few quarters. The addition of a magnetometer allows it to consistently orient itself to the Earth’s gravity, Moov cofounder Nikola Hu told me. That means Moov can accurately track the motion of a fist jabbing through the air during a cardio boxing workout, with a virtual coach comparing your punches to a real boxer’s recorded movements. Moov started taking preorders Wednesday for its $59 device, which the company hopes to ship this summer.

Atlas’s tracker uses multiple accelerometers and a heart-rate sensor to track not just your movements—it counts sets and reps of exercises for you—but also the vigor with which you do them. Even though the device sits on your wrist, Atlas says it can detect distinct patterns that let it tell a pushup from a deadlift. The company is taking preorders on Indiegogo through March 8 for the $159 device, which it plans to ship in December.

The Lumo Lift could correct your posture—and do much more.The Lumo Lift could correct your posture—and do much more.

Lumo is making a posture-oriented device, the Lumo Lift, that aims to prevent you from slouching. But the company could have greater ambitions: At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, founder Monisha Perkash demonstrated to me how a companion app for the Lumo Lift can accurately track your body position. A next-generation product might analyze your form throughout a sequence of yoga postures.

And I recently met with Stéphane Marceau, the CEO of OMsignal, which is planning a line of athletic shirts which will measure a full range of biological signals, down to your breath. It also takes much more detailed heart-rate signals, capturing the minute fluctuations known as heart-rate variability that provide deeper clues to your health and physical performance. The company plans to take preorders in the spring and ship its shirts this summer.

OMsignal’s shirt will even measure your breaths.OMsignal’s shirt will even measure your breaths.

Fitness entrepreneurs have a lot of choices these days—build your own, or just rely on the sensors built into smartphones and smartwatches. Jamo, for example, introduced a dance-fitness app earlier this week that relies on the iPhone’s built-in accelerometers to tell you if you’re matching an instructor’s sweet moves. And Focus Trainr uses sensors in the first-generation Samsung Galaxy Gear to analyze your movements in a way that’s conceptually similar to Atlas’s approach. The “peculiar but impressive” wrist devices Samsung unveiled this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona promise even more fitness-related applications. 

A Flood Of Personal Data

While several of these hardware startups have succeeded in taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in preorders, it’s not clear if they’ll make the leap to the mass market the way simpler fitness trackers have. One big problem is taking all the data they’re generating and actually making it useful.

OMsignal, from what I’ve seen of the shirt’s companion app, gets closest to this idea with its “OM index,” a metric for stress. Even with simplified indexes and measurements, though, we can easily get more data without getting more information about our bodies. The best apps will provide context and behavioral cues.

As a gym rat, I’m drawn to the sheer butchness of the Atlas device. But I can’t recall ever struggling to count sets and reps. (I use a simple and efficient app, GymGoal, to do that.) I would like a device that doesn’t just evaluate my form but coaches me with audio prompts in the middle of an exercise to drop lower in a squat, say, or make sure my chest touches the ground in a pushup.

Or better yet, how about a device that can capture my workouts and report back high-level observations to my personal trainer, so I don’t have to do the fiddly work of analyzing the data and massaging it into usable form? It’s clear that inventors are doing clever things with the latest hardware, taking advantage of the ever-dropping cost and power consumption of sensors. But when it comes to tracking our performance in the gym, they must remember that their competition is a mirror, a notebook, and a pen.

Images courtesy of Atlas Wearables, Lumo BodyTech, and OMsignal

OSSIM Open-Source SIEM Set to Update to Version 4.5

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Wednesday 26 February 2014 7:23 pm

Security vendor AlienVault is set to release a milestone update in early March for both its open-source and commercial Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions, aiming to provide an improved user experience and enhanced security visibility.

SIEM technology plays a pivotal role in the modern security landscape, enabling organizations to log and monitor security events. The Open Source Security Information Management (OSSIM) 4.5 and AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM) 4.5 releases both debuted this week with new capabilities. AlienVault is the lead commercial sponsor of the OSSIM open-source project.

OSSIM contains all of the new features found in USM v4.5, Russell Spitler, vice president of product management at AlienVault, told eWEEK.

Read the full story at eWEEK:
AlienVault Advances Open-Source SIEM

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Citi paints not-pretty picture for Apple’s iPad, future market

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Wednesday 26 February 2014 1:04 pm

iPad Air. Tablet growth is heading south in a hurry, says Citi.

iPad Air. Tablet growth is heading south in a hurry, says Citi.


(Credit:
Apple)

Citi Research has released a report that doesn’t bode well for the iPad if its conclusions prove to be accurate.

In data-dense presentation titled, “Mobility Hardware and Components, Marketing Presentation, March 2014” released Wednesday, a team of analysts reiterated a familiar Citi theme, saying the era of “device exhaustion” has arrived, adding in the same set of bullet points that “we are NOT positive on Apple” (emphasis Citi’s).

Though this wouldn’t be the first time Citi has been sour on Apple, Citi’s forecast for the
tablet market makes Apple the most vulnerable due to its leadership status.

Citi sees tablet year-to-year growth in the 20 percent — or slightly above — range this year, then dipping below 20 percent by the first quarter of 2015.

That compares to the heady 140 percent-plus growth seen in early 2013.

While market-growth deceleration happens with any device eventually, Citi sees the tablet cycle running its growth course sooner than had been previously expected.

The Citi report reflects a January IDC report on tablets that said “markets such as the US are reaching high levels of consumer saturation.”

Overall, Citi’s device exhaustion theme doesn’t only apply to tablets.

“Device Exhaustion is driving shorter product life cycles. Developed markets are approaching smartphone saturation. Average Selling Prices (ASPs) are poised to fall. Innovation in smartphones is becoming elusive. Margins in the supply chain are at risk,” Citi said in a summary.

And what’s the next big thing? “So look for unique focus areas of investing such as Internet of Things (IoT),” the report said.

Adobe Responsibly Handles 0-Day

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 25 February 2014 6:49 pm

Adobe issued an unscheduled zero-day update for a security issue on Feb. 20 for its Flash Player 12.0.0.44 and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh, and Adobe Flash Player 11.2.202.336 and earlier versions for Linux.

“These updates address vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system,” Adobe warned in its advisory.

In total, the Adobe update is fixing three identified common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). Adobe noted that only one of them (CVE-2014-0502) is actively being exploited in the wild.

Read the full story at eWEEK:
Adobe Updates for Zero-Day Risk, Handles Emergency

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

The Slow-Motion Collapse Of Mt. Gox Is Bitcoin’s First Financial Crisis

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 25 February 2014 12:47 pm

Now Bitcoin users know what a cryptocurrency crisis looks like—up close and personal. 

Early Tuesday morning, troubled Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox abruptly halted trading altogether, following months of increasingly lengthy delays in processing withdrawals for users cashing out bitcoins they stored at the exchange. The precipitating event: A document alleging that Tokyo-based Mt. Gox has suffered an enormous and extended bitcoin theft—one amounting to 744,000 bitcoins, or about $380 million, over the past two years—that rendered the exchange insolvent, or nearly so.

That leaked document—apparently a crisis-management plan offered to Mt. Gox’s board—made the rounds after Bitcoin entrepreneur Ryan Selkis released on his blog yesterday. If the document is genuine and news of the theft is true, it would mean that roughly six percent of all Bitcoin in circulation have been stolen.

The bitcoin promptly plummeted against the dollar, falling 23% to below $440 Monday night before rallying to around $520, where it remains at other Bitcoin exchanges as of publication. At Mt. Gox itself, the price of bitcoin dropped below $150 before the exchange suspended trading, presumably reflecting a stampede by exchange customers anxious to cash out their accounts at any price.

Mt. Gox issued a brief and uninformative statement on its website:

In light of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox’s operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly.

Welcome To The Brink, Bitcoin

All that sets the stage for the first real financial crisis in Bitcoin history—one likely to unfold without government intervention or shock absorbers like deposit insurance that helped buffer more traditional meltdowns, such as the 2008 financial collapse that triggered the Great Recession.

First, though, a few caveats. At the moment, panic over the still-unconfirmed Mt. Gox allegations appears to be limited. And even if the worst were to come to pass—say, should Mt. Gox collapse completely and wipe out its depositors—the stakes for the world at large remain quite limited. Bitcoin, which at heart is a sort of digital cash, features nothing analogous to the baroque web of debt, derivatives and other opaque financial securities that contributed so heavily to the 2008 collapse. 

The real risk to Bitcoin, though, lies in the degree to which the failings of Mt. Gox come to be seen as shortcomings in the largely unregulated cryptocurrency system itself. Bitcoin proponents insist that Mt. Gox’s problems are isolated and due to its own poor management. But other exchanges also operate with no third-party oversight and varying degrees of transparency, which may not quell user concerns about the cryptocurrency’s stability and reliability—particularly in light of a rash of other recent Bitcoin thefts and scams.

A Run On The Bitcoin Bank

Consider for a moment the uncanny way Mt. Gox’s situation parallels that of ordinary banks in the runup to financial crises. First, there’s the bank run.

When depositors queue up to withdraw more money than a bank actually has on hand, they can drive it out of business. Federal deposit insurance is designed to prevent runs at traditional U.S. banks, but of course no such protection extends to Bitcoin users. Prior to deposit insurance, step one in the bank-run playbook was to delay withdrawals by any means possible. 

Complaints about Mt. Gox’s slowness to release its depositors’ funds have mounted for months—ever since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seized Mt. Gox accounts holding $5.5 million in May and June of 2013 on suspicion that the exchange was operating an “unlicensed money transmitting business.” At various times, Mt. Gox claimed the delays were due to technical issues, although outsiders suspected the exchange was simply having trouble working with traditional banks.

Then earlier this month, the exchange abruptly suspended all withdrawals, blaming its problems on an “inherent flaw in Bitcoin” called transaction malleability. That particular issue, it turned out, was apparently well-known, didn’t affect the underlying security of transactions and hadn’t seemed to bother any other major exchange.

If Mt. Gox is indeed insolvent, those delays start to make a lot more sense.

Just ask Richard Weston, organizer of the DC Bitcoin Users Group and the man who sold me my first bitcoin. When I spoke to Weston in October, he strongly recommended I trust Mt. Gox with my exchanges. Now he’s lost his trust in it completely, and he’s glad I didn’t take his advice. 

“For me, it started when I was trying to get my cash out of Mt. Gox a few months ago,” he said. “Basically, U.S. customers could not do cash withdrawals because banks refused to deal with Mt. Gox, though Mt. Gox wouldn’t come out and say that. Instead they would send canned response after canned response about a delay in withdrawal time.”

Eventually, Weston had to remove his Mt. Gox money as bitcoins and sell them for cash for a loss on other exchanges. Today he keeps his bitcoins in a Blockchain wallet. 

Mt. Gox, Too Big To Fail

The leaked (and unverified) “Situation Crisis Strategy Draft” document argues that Mt. Gox is simply too important to the Bitcoin ecosystem to collapse:

The reality is that MtGox can go bankrupt at any moment, and certainly deserves to as a company. However, with Bitcoin/crypto just recently gaining acceptance in the public eye, the likely damage in public perception to this class of technology could put it back 5~10 years, and cause governments to react swiftly and harshly. At the risk of appearing hyperbolic, this could be the end of Bitcoin, at least for most of the public.

[…]

The likely consequences will be larger than this localized financial damage, and we believe that the benefits of keeping MtGox stable and running outweigh the risks. This isn’t about saving MtGox anymore.

Translation: Mt. Gox is too big to fail. We’ve heard that line of argument somewhere before. Outside Mt. Gox, however, it may not be widely shared. Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program, says that a Mt. Gox collapse would actually benefit the Bitcoin community.

“In the long term, this is good for Bitcoin,” he told ReadWrite in an interview. “It’s good that an unprofessional exchange will exit and leave a space for serious players like Coinbase and Circle to come in and provide serious service to consumers.”

Dear Bitcoin: Please Bail Us Out

Which leads us directly to the Bitcoin Bailout, otherwise known as part one in the plan to keep Mt. Gox afloat outlined in that (still unverified) crisis-management document:

The stakeholders of MtGox are not the owners, but everyone in Bitcoin. This is sad but the reality.

The current situation will negatively affect everyone who owns or operates in Bitcoin. We will need to inject fresh coins inside the system in order to establish a basis to eventually clear the books by running the exchange (perhaps 200,000 coins). The costs of not doing so are incalculable at this stage.

The document calls for a new company—simply dubbed “Gox”—to raise bitcoin funds from unspecified “partners” via donations and in exchange for equity. It’s not exactly clear who would want to participate in the recapitalization of the exchange; the plan is similarly silent on what recapitalization would do for Mt. Gox’s current customers, beyond a vague reference to preventing a “bank run from customers” by—guess what?—limiting withdrawals.

Obviously, there’s no government help in the offing, unless you count the banking regulators who want to use Mt. Gox’s problems to push for greater Bitcoin oversight. 

So far, nobody has been able to authenticate the veracity of the leaked document, and Mt. Gox executives certainly aren’t speaking up. So it’s entirely possible that this strategy was a trial balloon, a failed pitch from outside consultants, or something else entirely—even an outright fake.

Collateral Damage

Financial disasters are essentially crises of confidence—times when people fear that the banks and other institutions holding their money won’t give it back when they ask for it. The big question for Bitcoin is whether Mt. Gox’s problems are specific and isolated, or whether they herald a broader erosion of trust in the cryptocurrency.

Sure, the bitcoin may have stabilized quickly following last night’s rumor-revelations, but it could easily start swinging wildly again when the next shoe—assuming there is one, as seems likely—drops. Perhaps more important, that current price stability is a decent indication that current Bitcoin users remain confident, but it tells us very little about the view of the outside world.

In order to work as a mainstream means of exchange, Bitcoin needs to keep establishing stronger links with the real world and building confidence in the cryptocurrency among traditional financial institutions. Bankers, however, are often conservative, and wouldn’t be wrong to view Bitcoin as a threat to some of their current business models. And so they may be less sanguine about Mt. Gox’s woes than Bitcoin’s true believers.

“Our biggest obstacle is the bank community,” Weston, the Washington, D.C., Bitcoin proponent told me. Federal money-laundering charges against a former Bitcoin CEO didn’t help; now an alleged Bitcoin theft at Mt. Gox makes virtual currencies that much more suspect. “Why, as a banker, would I support these?” he asked. “Because from [their] perspective it looks like a scam.”

Now, Weston said, we may be back at square one.

“The lesson learned is that Bitcoin is not for everybody,” he said. “It really is a niche for people who are computer savvy and feel comfortable handling and storing their own bitcoins. That’s where we are right now because it’s hard to trust any exchange after what happened with Mt. Gox.”

Hindenburg image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TiVo co-founders launch $49 video streamer

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 25 February 2014 12:42 am


(Credit:
Qplay)

The folks who co-founded TiVo are unveiling their follow-up act: a streaming service that lets you create video playlists from across the Internet, play them on TV screens, and share them with others.

Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton, who unveiled TiVo 15 years ago, are trying a different twist on televised entertainment with Tuesday’s launch of Qplay. The services enables users to stream online video from sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, news organizations, Facebook, and Twitter feeds to a television screen. Users can also build their own playlists and share them with other Qplay users.

The service comes in the form of an
iPad app and adapter that plugs into an HDMI port on a TV. The videos don’t come directly from the iPad, but from a cloud operated by the company. There is no
Android version yet, and the service doesn’t work with phones either, though Ramsay says both are coming. Also notably missing are support for premium content like Netflix and Hulu, though Ramsay also said that both are coming to the service “soon.”

The market for streaming video options is already competitive, with popular contenders like Google’s Chromecast and Roku. At $49, Qplay is more expensive than Chromecast, and the same price as cheaper Roku models. The adapter — a bit smaller than of a deck of cards — is also clunkier than the pint-sized Chromecast, which is so small that it can be confused for a USB stick. It will also be a challenge for the company to woo consumers to forgo the big name devices for a newcomer that seems less flexible, at least for now.

Ramsay said that Qplay’s draw is in its capabilities in personalization, and the ease of which people can share videos and playlists. He mentioned one scenario where a user could make a playlist for a specific movie that might include: the movie itself (once those premium content deals come through), interviews with the actors, and behind the scenes extras. The user can then make the playlist available to other fanboys and girls. One aspect that consumers might enjoy is that when you add a video to a playlist, you skip the pre-roll advertisement that would have played.

“It transforms short-form video into a long-form experience,” Ramsay said. You can do an awful lot of that with YouTube playlists and a Chromecast already, but Ramsay insists that culling content from a variety of sources other than YouTube is what sets Qplay apart. For its part, Ramsay said the company discussed the possibility of partnering with Google to use the Chromecast as a way of beaming into TVs, but ditched the idea because the device didn’t do enough to support Qplay’s plans for playlists and setting up an environment where videos from different apps could intermingle with each other.

Ramsay said that the company also has plans for premium services, like watching live TV or implementing DVR capabilities, and or letting a user upload his or her own content to include in a queue. To that end, the company gives itself room to experiment with the business model in its terms of service. Right now, use of the service is free with the purchase of the TV adapter, though the company said it reserves the right to charge for service in the future. Ramsay also said he’d like the adapter to eventually be bundled into the price of the service.

To be fair, Ramsay stressed that the launch would be in an “early adopter” phase. But, like the support for Netflix and Hulu that are for now sorely missing, users will have to wait and see how those other premium services will play into the Qplay ecosystem.

Samsung’s Gear Fit doesn’t run Android or Tizen, and other surprises

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 25 February 2014 12:42 am

Samsung’s new Gear Fit includes a curved glass display.


(Credit:
CNET)

BARCELONA, Spain–As if Samsung didn’t already have enough operating systems to worry about, it’s now adding another. Well kinda.

The Korean electronics giant loaded its new fitness band, the Gear Fit, with a real-time operating system instead of the Android software used in its phones or the Tizen software used in its new Gear smartwatches.

“It’s a much simpler OS, and it helps us keep the battery life three to four days whereas Gear 2 is [about] two days,” Seshu Madhavapeddy, senior vice president of product and technology at Samsung Telecommunications America, told CNET.

An RTOS’ defining feature is that it can respond with certainty to some kind of event, such as someone pushing the emergency stop button on a factory robot. In practice, an RTOS often is selected because it can run on really limited computing hardware. For Samsung, it allowed the company to incorporate a smaller amount of memory and a less powerful processor than in its Gear 2 watches.

However, there are drawbacks, as well. Because the operating system is pretty basic, there won’t be an app ecosystem. Samsung can’t release its software development kit to app makers for Gear Fit like it will for Gear 2, Madhavapeddy said. Rather, Samsung has to customize the apps it wants on the device on its own, or it will have to work closely with developers to release apps for the product.

“You can’t just publish an SDK and say you can go to town with it as you would with Tizen on Gear 2,” Madhavapeddy said.

Samsung on Monday unveiled its newest flagship phone and three new wearable devices — the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches and the Gear Fit health band. The company is counting on its new products to help it establish a strong position in the wearables market. It’s also using the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo as a way to launch Tizen, the open-source Linux operating system that’s an alternative to
Android alternative.

As part of the announcement of Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, Samsung said it would open up its software development kit for the wearables to developers. In the case of the first Gear, Samsung closely controlled what apps could be on the Android-based device, rather than opening the gadget up to the entire Google Play universe of apps. Before launching the first device, Samsung sought out app developers and worked with them to create software that would work well with the smartwatch.

Gear Fit

Samsung now will allow any developers to make apps for the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, but it’s still keeping app development for the Gear 1 invite-only.

“That’s the real advantage in Gear 2 versus Gear 1 — that now it’s an open SDK,” Shoneel Kolhatkar, senior director of product planning at Samsung Telecommunications America. “Typically, innovation comes from developers.”

Gear 2 will launch with about 100 apps globally, with the first batch curated by Samsung. The company expects many other developers to release apps over the next few months. Samsung will host a developer day on Wednesday at Mobile World Congress to drum up interest in making apps for its devices.

Meanwhile, the smartwatches are still Samsung-only, and that’s unlikely to change. Madhavapeddy said that’s because the smartwatch technology is closely tied to the hardware in Samsung’s products.

“There are certain fucntionalities we have in this product in terms of how they interact with Galaxy that we really can’t replicate on a different platform,” he said. “If you offer it on other operating systems or platforms, there would be reduced functionality.”

For example, two-way voice interaction wouldn’t work, nor would the smart relay feature that allows the phone to open a full message when a notification arrives on the Gear.

Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo work with 17 Samsung devices. Gear Fit works with 20, with the extra three coming from Samsung’s Tab 3
tablet series.

Gear Fit also can be used as a standalone device for health features. However, features such as notifications won’t work unless the fitness band is connected to a Samsung mobile device.

Samsung Gear Fit, hands-on (pictures)

-Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

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