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Has Apple set the scene for its next small big thing?

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App Analytics in App Store Connect offers app developers a way to explore important app metrics such as transactions, redownloads, total downloads, pre-orders and updates; developers can drill down for insights into territory, source, device and so on, allowing them to understand and develop key app markets.

That’s great for developers, but what does it mean to enterprise users? For most, it’s an opportunity.

What’s in it for enterprises?

Companies with B2B or B2C apps can dive inside the information made available by users to extend their reach and better understand their customer base — what works, what doesn’t, and where core customers are located.

(You don’t gain access to individual addresses, of course. But the insights Apple provides can help companies determine the key locations in which their app succeeds.)

It’s also possible to measure the impact of marketing campaigns across multiple outlets. You can measure downloads from Smart App Banners in Safari and monitor the impact on sales/engagement of your marketing campaigns.

All of this can help businesses offering iOS apps build a deeper connection and understanding with their mobile customers, but it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of the quantity of data Apple’s devices have on what we do. Your iPhone even knows how many times a day it gets picked up. So, it’s better the information is kept on the device, rather than being shared.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple gains traction as enterprise workplaces become hybrid

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Fresh research once again shows the extent to which the move to hybrid working has boosted Apple adoption across the enterprise, proving that employees will opt for systems from the company when they can.

Given choice, most employees use Apple

The research was made available by Kandji, one of a growing number of companies now offering device management of Apple hardware to enterprise clients. The data is based on a global survey of 300 IT decision makers conducted by Dimensional Research and confirms Apple’s grasp on many enterprise hearts and minds.

”When given the choice, most employees choose to use Apple devices at work,” said Adam Pettit, founder and CEO of Kandji. “By April 2020, 70% of the workplace reported that they worked from home — an all-time high. Personal and professional work environments became one in the same, increasing desire for the familiar Apple experience in both settings. Demand for Apple devices at work will continue to escalate, as the remote workplace becomes the standard.” 

Among other findings, Kandji’s research shows 70% of companies more than doubled the number of remote or hybrid workers in the past two years, while 76% of respondents reported employee use of Apple devices also increased. 

Keep people happy, or lose them

Macs are the biggest beneficiary of this. Earlier this year, we learned Apple’s Mac sales now account for 23% of enterprise PC sales, while last week we heard that employees are prepared to join the Great Resignation and quit their job if they can’t use their choice of platform.

In 2019, IBM also shared its own internal data. Pointing to clear productivity and cost benefits from use of Apple kit, IBM CIO Fletcher Previn said:

“Now, I don’t know if better employees want Macs, or giving Macs to employees makes them better. You got to be careful about cause and effect — but there seems to be a lot of corroborating evidence that says you want to have a choice program. And with that, thank you very much.”

Kandji now claims Mac notebook use across the enterprise climbed 63% with more than half (53%) of IT decision makers surveyed saying requests for Apple devices have increased in the past two years. This increase is far greater for Apple (42%) than any other device (11%).

iPhones use climbed 38%, iPad use was up 35% and Mac desktop deployment also climbed, this time by 22% over the last two years.

Apple seems to be proving its own case, given that 85% of IT pros surveyed say they “would recommend Apple devices for professional use to a colleague or peer.”

Confidence in Apple is increasing

The thing is, while in recent years the trend among enterprise employees to pick Apple devices when they get the chance has become increasingly clear, this rapid proliferation has given employees the best insight yet into how well Macs and other Apple systems perform in business.

The result? Confidence in Apple devices in comparison with other options has increased.

Fifty-four percent of those managing the devices reported they are more confident in the ability to deal with Apple devices than those who manage Windows devices. The feedback says 56% are more confident in the ability to remotely manage Apple devices versus Windows (37% more confident).

When it comes to the platform wars, 48% said Apple devices are advantageous for hybrid workers compared to Windows/Android.

Apple is also winning the TCO argument

There has been a long-running argument around cost. The traditional view is that Apple’s equipment is more expensive to purchase, while the rebuttal is that these investments hold their value longer, last longer and cost much less in terms of tech support.

The latter arguments are quite clearly winning the mind wars: 75% of respondents say that while Apple devices are initially more expensive to buy, they are less expensive to maintain and support in the long run. In addition, 84% said Apple devices are more secure than devices from other vendors.

“The data indicates that Apple devices are a great fit for hybrid work environments,” said Pettit. “If this is any indication of the future growth of Apple in the enterprise, we have much to look forward to in the modern workplace.” 

All (100%) of those companies that have moved to support a hybrid workforce say their company benefits from having a hybrid workforce, and 97% agree that hybrid workforce is here to stay. 

What are the benefits of a hybrid workforce?

While the biggest benefit across the last couple of years has been the ability to maintain business activity during Covid-19, other benefits include the ability to draw talent from a wider geographic pool, better recruitment and retention, the ability to boost diversity, increased productivity, and reduced costs.

Interestingly, 28% of companies believe online meeting dynamics are more amenable to traditionally disadvantaged workers and 24% believe hybrid improves corporate culture.

The biggest challenges? Many managers struggle with the cultural shift and in finding ways to evaluate employee productivity remotely. (Also read: 3 ways to build stronger remote teams.)

However, the consensus is that the good outweighs the bad — 85% of companies surveyed say it is good for business and in the vast majority of cases believe this new work model is here to stay, as suggested earlier this year in a Dice survey.

You can download your own copy of the Kandji report here.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

What’s in the latest Firefox update? 93 improves SmartBlock, debuts sponsored search suggestions

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Mozilla this week updated Firefox to version 93, which now blocks downloads over insecure connections, improves the browser’s anti-tracking prowess and introduces Firefox Suggest, the newest way the company will try to earn revenue.

The organization’s security engineers also patched seven vulnerabilities, four marked “High,” Firefox’s second-most-serious label. The majority of those vulnerabilities were in the “memory safety bugs” bucket, a category that covers a wide swath of memory corruption and memory leak flaws.

Firefox 93 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS, and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only launch (or relaunch) the browser to install the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page or pop-up shows that the browser is already up to date or displays the upgrade process.

Mozilla last upgraded Firefox four weeks ago, on Sept. 7.

Iffy downloads blocked

Starting with Firefox 93, the browser will block, at least temporarily, any download attempts over an insecure connection — one using the now-outdated HTTP protocol — even if those downloads are requested from a page secured with HTTPS. (Downloads are often transmitted from different servers or Internet locations than the page where they’re listed.)

When Firefox recognizes an insecure download starting, it will pause the data transmission and put a message on the screen to alert the user, who can continue the download or delete the file, partial though it might be.

The Pixel 6’s most important feature might be invisible

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Twelve days and counting.

It’s hard to believe, with as long as we’ve been talking about this topic, but Google’s much anticipated Pixel 6 phone and its plus-sized sibling, the Pixel 6 Pro, are finally set to make themselves official. The new devices will emerge from Google’s metaphorical womb a week from Tuesday — on October 19th, as Proud Mama Googleschmoop announced this week.

We’ve been thinking about the Pixel 6 phones for so long now that it almost feels like we know everything about ’em. But the phones’ most significant advancement may be something we haven’t yet encountered — and may never actually see, at least in any literal sense. In fact, the full scope and value of its presence might not become clear for some time yet, even after the Pixel 6 makes its way into our curiously moist person-paws.

Let me do a real quick rewind, and I’ll explain what I mean.

The Pixel 6 processor story

Back when we first heard rumblings about the idea of Google building its own custom processor for the Pixel 6 — way back in the year 2020, approximately 47 years ago — we talked about how having a Google-made chip inside the phone could matter for us regular ol’ Android-adorin’ animals in a few key ways.

One is that it’d give Google total power to decide how long the processor — and thus the phone around it — is supported. While nothing’s official on that front just yet, leaks suggest the Pixel 6 could receive a whopping five years of operating system updates, which would certainly put that point into action.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

What the iPhone 13 says about Apple’s 2021 MacBook Pro

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Apple frustrated most of us with mealy-mouthed comparisons and opaque speed benchmarks when it unveiled the iPhone 13 and its A15 Bionic chip. It seems the company could have made big claims, and the fact it didn’t may be a Mac story.

A spark in the dark

Think back to the announcement and you may recall Apple chose not to give us solid comparison data against the A14 Bionic chip, instead offering comparisons against a previous model of the device. So we had to try to guesstimate what the real performance improvements might be.

I have no idea why it chose to do so, given the strategic important of its processor designs. As is customary with an information gap of this kind, Apple’s critics quickly began sharing weird stories claiming the silicon design teams are suffering a brain drain.

Perhaps they are. Perhaps they aren’t.

But Apple has many engineers, so staff churn is to be expected. Misinformation grows in darkness, so it’s business as usual to my eyes.

What we’ve learned

Apple at launch called the A15 Bionic up to 50% faster than its competition. The four-core GPU in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini (five GPU cores on both Pro models) offers 40% (50% on Pro) better graphics performance, it said.

This wasn’t true. In fact, the truth is more impressive.

Fresh benchmarks from AnandTech show the A15 Bionic to be 62% faster than competing chips. While its processors seem to need more power, they are more energy efficient, with 32MB cache on the chip. This makes the processors more efficient again by keeping much of the routine operations on the processor, rather than driving these through memory.

The report also identified a 50% improvement in the L2 cache on the performance cores, and notes that the 12MB L2 cache on the chip matches that of the M1 processor on Macs.

What about Macs?

Given that Apple’s A-series processors are siblings to its M-series Mac chips, what’s good for one is good for both. And this suggests some of the iterative improvements we’re about to see appear in the M1X-powered MacBook Pro’s we expect Apple to introduce soon.

(While the potential introduction of these new pro Macs has been an intermittent rumor all year, soothsayers seem solidly behind the idea these will appear this month.)

Of course, translating the performance gains we’ve seen in Apple’s iPhone 13 chip into relative potential gains for the M-series Macs is deeply speculative, uncertain and cannot be relied upon. So, with that caveat, let’s speculate:

  1. If Apple has been able to unleash a 60% improvement in comparison to competing mobile processors, it should be able to tweak additional performance on the Mac variant thanks to the larger heat sink.
  2. Noting that the focus in this chip seems to be on energy efficiency, AnandTech observes a 17% power efficiency gain in the A15 compared to A14 chip. This should translate into a significant battery life gains on the new Macs.

The report also claims the A15 delivers a 28% performance uplift. Given the performance seen with the M1 Macs — best epitomized by Adobe Photoshop which runs at 1.5x the speed on them — it’s reasonable to anticipate similar gains on M1X Macs.  This matters because Macs are used to get stuff done, and a 28% boost on the 50% (1.5x) increase Photoshop sees on an M1 means we can speculate (and this really is speculation) that Apple’s pro M1X Macs will deliver much, much greater performance than you get from the Intel systems they replace.

Announcing the M1 Macs, Apple claimed:

  • 3D titles render 6.6x faster in Final Cut Pro.
  • Project building is 3.6x faster in Xcode.
  • Machine learning is 15x faster.

I suspect key Apple partners will already be working with these new Macs in their labs. We know Adobe was able to work closely with Apple to optimize Photoshop for the M1 chip. That work also bleeds into iPads, which already share the Mac chip.

AnandTech also says: “In the GPU side, Apple’s peak performance improvements are off the charts, with a combination of a new larger GPU, new architecture, and the larger system cache that helps both performance as well as efficiency.”

Mac users in pro markets will be curious to see whether this kind of graphics performance gain also comes to the next-generation M-series chips. If so, this translates into real productivity gains and opens the window to further creative opportunity.

Given the current M1 Macs provide 17-hours of battery life, the possibilities for mobile work are boundless. Perhaps we’re looking at a Mac you can use for days without a power supply.

Given Apple’s silicon teams are already designing processors to put into products in 2025, all of this bodes well for Apple’s platforms. “When we design our chips, which are like three or four years ahead of time, Craig and I are sitting in the same room defining what we want to deliver, and then we work hand in hand,” Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president for hardware technologies, told Om Malik.

Now, I don’t know the extent to which any of these speculations will be met, but with a Mac event anticipated later this month, we won’t have long to find out.

NB: We’ve all gotten into the habit of calling the next-generation M-series chips “M1X,” but don’t be surprised if Apple calls them something else — M1+, for example.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Apple’s Siri needs to become a ‘bicycle for the mind’

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It’s time for a Siri redesign. I’m not talking about new search domains or new voices, but a fundamental revision of what the Apple voice assistant does and who it is for.

What could be

Apple users need their products to do things. Designers, architects, entrepreneurs, videographers, statisticians, doctors, students, all kinds of creatives and knowledge workers, these people use their devices to get things done. Siri needs to help them with that.

I read all the criticisms made against Siri. Some seem overblown, but not all of them. The one thing that rings true is the notion that Siri attempts to deliver too much for too many people. There’s the home automation Siri, the smart conversation Siri, the alternative UI Siri, the Siri that plays the wrong track and the Siri that never quite understands what you want it to do.

But what about the Siri that helps you get things done? That’s where I think a redesign needs to take place.

What I want

Personally, I want Siri to actively help me get things done. I want that on-device intelligence to help me find and manage research materials, I want it to automate filing, saving, and tagging of items with a few simple training commands. I want it to be able to seek things out over time. I might say, “Hey Siri, I’d like you to find all the articles online containing an original quote by Steve Jobs and present them to me at 5 p.m.”

And when it comes to that presentation, I’d like the assistant to be smart enough to identify the top 10  most repeated Steve Jobs quotes it finds, grab some royalty-free images, gather all of this together in a PDF report, and tweet it out to my followers as a small mark of the huge respect I still feel 10 years since the great man left us.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Android vs. iOS in the enterprise: IT now has a real choice

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Ever since Apple introduced its mobile device management (MDM) protocol for managing devices in 2010, the iPhone has been the de facto standard in smartphones for businesses across every industry. The company held on to that position for a decade by providing a plethora of management capabilities, numerous ways to secure corporate conversations and data, the ability to separate personal and business content, and a way to monitor to ensure that every Apple device being used for business is in compliance with corporate requirements.

Meanwhile, Android devices were pretty much treated as pariahs in many organizations. Over the past decade, there has been good reason for that, but it’s time for a reassessment. For example, now there’s the Android Enterprise initiative, which offers APIs and other tools for developers to integrate support for Android into their enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems.

Let’s look at how the Android platform has been catching up to iOS and how the two stack up overall.

Fragmentation: Not the Achilles’ heel it used to be for Android

For consumers, one advantage of Android is that they have hundreds of devices to choose from at every price point. The array of features varies to a remarkable degree, and Android devices can be customized in a multitude of ways.

My first week with an iPhone 13 mini

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I’ve been using a Product (Red) iPhone 13 mini for the past week. It manages to be small, highly portable, and pretty much uncompromised compared to larger models. Almost anything you can do with a larger iPhone, you can do with this device.

Who is it for?

There’s this trend among many writers to remain fixated on the high-end, but the majority of Apple’s tens of millions of new smartphone purchasers don’t look at devices like that. Yes, sales breakdowns favor the Pro devices (which provide the very best cameras), but there’s a healthy market for all the company’s devices.

Last year’s alleged slow sales of the iPhone 12 mini followed the release of the iPhone SE, which scooped up lots of purchasers who might well have chosen the mini if they’d known it was coming.

So, who is the iPhone 13 mini for? At its simplest, it’s for anyone using a smaller iPhone who doesn’t want to carry a larger device.

The people who want a mini this time around will likely be those upgrading from a 4.7-in. iPhone 6S, 7, or 8, who want the power of an Apple smartphone but not a larger size. There will also be a smattering of upgrades from iPhone X and 11 series devices. Most consumers now using an iPhone 11 or 12 won’t want to upgrade, unless they’ve developed a pressing need for 5G connectivity or a hard-to-handle Apple product purchasing addiction. (Hi Ken!). [Editor’s note: Fact check, true.] 

While enterprise users might veer toward the Pro range, many people simply need an iPhone for communication and a little collaboration; the mini is good for both.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

The Chrome shortcut sidebar you didn’t know you needed

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I’ll admit it: I’ve found myself tempted to switch browsers more than a few times lately.

Let me offer up a little context on my near-transgressions: I’ve relied on Chrome for longer than I can remember at this point. Standard story, I know, right? But it’s true: By and large, Chrome gives me everything I want in a browser and then some. We’re very much in the comfortable marriage phase of our relationship: Sure, the initial thrill of the courtship might be gone, but we know each other inside and out now. And we’ve gained a level of trust, familiarity, and comfort that’s tough to replicate.

Even so, every now and then, some alluring new thang comes along and flashes its fancy features in my direction. Maybe it’s Microsoft Edge, with its enticingly unusual approach to putting tabs on the side of the screen instead of at the top. Maybe it’s the appropriately named Sidekick — no, not the early T-Mobile phone that acted as a kind of future-predicting ancestor to Android, but the Chrome-competing desktop browser that tries to reimagine the browser window as a web-based work operating system of sorts. It arranges your tabs as apps in a persistent vertical sidebar, collects your notifications in a single streamlined place right alongside your web window, and adds in a smart search system that acts as a universal finder tool for all of your online stuff.

I’ve spent plenty of time flirting with comely young creatures like these, and — I’ll admit it — I’ve even had the occasional dalliance when I’ve switched over to ’em for a short while. But in the end, I always end up coming back to Chrome. Getting accustomed to an entire new browser environment, giving up all the useful forms of cross-device syncing and Google service integration I’ve learned to rely on, and letting go of my many mastered shortcuts and time-savers from the Chrome environment is always just too high of a price to pay for some new feature or interface idea.

Well, I’ve got good news: If you’re similarly committed to Chrome but intrigued by some of these newer productivity-promising browser concepts, there’s now a way for you to have your cake and eat it, too. And its name — rather ironically, for something that’ll keep you from having to switch browsers — is Switch.

Allow me to introduce you, won’t ya?

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Despite ‘do not track,’ iOS apps collect data; Android makes its own privacy move

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Computerworld | Sep 30, 2021

Despite app-tracking transparency, iPhone apps continue to track users, according to the Washington Post. It found that the type of data gathered about a user’s device could be used to ID individual iPhones — even after users explicitly asked apps not to do so. Meanwhile, in Android 11, app permissions automatically reset for unused, older apps. Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis and Macworld Executive Editor Michael Simon join Juliet to discuss iPhone versus Android privacy measures and how fingerprinting affects users.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s latest right-to-repair trick is delightfully evil

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The right-to-repair is a crucial enterprise IT issue, as it always has been. Whether that means using a large IT operation’s team or one of the third-party repair providers that have been contracted to help, the demand that enterprises exclusively use one vendor to fix anything is abhorrent. And one can’t mention abhorrent without mentioning Apple’s repair history. 

I’ve always been impressed by how clever (evil?) Apple can get when trying to protect its repair revenue. With that ind mind, a new report from MacRumors doesn’t disappoint. (The site picked up on a YouTube video from Phone Repair Guru detailing what’s going on.)

What’s impressive about this particular Apple maneuver is how intricate it is. Somehow, the company has  coded the screens on its new iPhone 13 models to identify the original screen. When it’s replaced — even with another Apple authorized screen purchased from Apple — Face ID still won’t work.

I’ll let the original story tell a little more of the tale.

If a customer gets their ‌iPhone 13‌ display replaced by a third-party repair store or provider, such as those not licensed or affiliated with Apple through its Independent Repair Program, Face ID on the iPhone will no longer be usable,” MacRumors reported. “Despite this, if an ‌iPhone 13‌ display is replaced with a ‘non-genuine’ or even a genuine, original ‌iPhone 13‌ display, Face ID stops working, despite there seemingly being no hardware within the display itself needed for Face ID to function.”

In testing, the media outlet found that this apparently wasn’t a glitch. “The repair provider swapped two original ‌iPhone 13‌ screens and, in both cases, Face ID was inoperative after the new screens were installed. It seems to be the case that if the original screen is put back with the original ‌iPhone 13‌, Face ID returns, ruling out the possibility of an improper installation.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Chrome, Edge kick off faster release cadence; enterprises can skip versions

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Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge began their every-four-weeks release cadence with the launch last week of version 94 of each browser.

Google released Chrome 94 on Sept. 21, while Microsoft issued Edge 94 three days later, on Sept. 24.

From those dates, Chrome and Edge will upgrade every four weeks. Chrome 95 and Edge 95, for example, will debut Oct. 19 and Oct. 21, respectively. There will be exceptions to that pace for holidays, however. For instance, Chrome 96, the final version of 2021, will release Nov. 16, and be followed by Chrome 97 on Jan. 4, 2022, a seven-week interval.

Google announced the then-upcoming change to a more frequent release schedule in early March; Microsoft quickly followed with news of its own several days later.

(Microsoft cannot divorce Edge’s release schedule from Chrome’s because both are powered by Chromium, the open-source project dominated by Google engineers.)

The new release tempo for Chrome and Edge mimics that of Mozilla’s Firefox, which switched to the same four-week schedule in September 2019.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

On app tracking, both Android and iOS have to do better

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Mobile app use continues to climb in enterprises worldwide, and it won’t be long before almost all employee/contractor communications take place over mobile devices. That’s why it’s such a threat to security and compliance that mobile apps have extensive access to everything on a device — and few limitations on what those apps can share.

Apple argues that it’s already doing something about this in iOS with its app tracking transparency push. But a report in The Washington Post last week undermines the company’s promises. Why? Because Apple has been trusting app vendors to actually do what they agree to do. (No one could have foreseen that blowing up.)

Before we dig into the latest Apple app-data-sharing developments, there’s a bit of potentially good news coming for Google Android users. In a blog post this month, Android pledged to roll out new rules starting in December that would, by default, lock out any permissions for apps that haven’t been used in a while. 

This would basically protect users from old apps they’ve forgotten, making sure that app access to sensitive device information is limited. This differs from Apple’s tack in that it doesn’t appear to rely on vendor cooperation.

“In order to work, apps often need to request certain permissions, but with dozens of apps on any given device, it can be tough to keep up with the permissions you’ve previously granted – especially if you haven’t used an app for an extended period of time,” the blog post said. “In Android 11, we introduced the permission auto-reset feature. This feature helps protect user privacy by automatically resetting an app’s runtime permissions – which are permissions that display a prompt to the user when requested – if the app isn’t used for a few months.

“Starting in December 2021, we are expanding this to billions more devices,” the post continued. “This feature will automatically be enabled on devices with Google Play services that are running Android 6.0 (API level 23) or higher. The feature will be enabled by default for apps targeting Android 11 (API level 30) or higher. However, users can enable permission auto-reset manually for apps targeting API levels 23 to 29.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple, 1Password, and Cloudflare all move to protect email

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Apple’s new Hide My Email feature, designed to protect users against phishing attacks and unwanted marketing spam, has swiftly become but one of a variety of options now available.

The river becomes a flood

For a very long time, the daily ritual of checking email accounts has been one in which many of us must first delete the majority of messages received because our addresses have been sold all over the place. Spam filters help, but in my experience plenty gets through — and you can’t easily tell who shared your address(es) in the first place.

Everyone is at it. Capturing and selling email addresses and data about people is a big business. Not only that, but most privacy and security breaches begin with phishing emails carrying suspect links and fraudulent requests for personal information.

It’s a scourge the deeper impacts of which became crystal clear during the pandemic, when phishing incidents climbed 220%, according to F5 Labs. There was even a wave of such attacks posing as official emails from Apple.

Now people in the industry are doing something about it.

Apple’s Hide My Email

Apple introduced Sign In With Apple at WWDC 2019. This let you sign up for services and accounts privately, protecting your email address. That service still exists, but has been augmented with the new Hide My Email feature.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose the best desktop-as-a-service solution

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Thanks to the pandemic, working from home no longer languishes as a rare option for a few workers. It’s mainstream business practice. Just ask Google, Facebook, Netflix, or the U.S. government: They’re all either delaying office reopenings or shifting to remote or hybrid work.

With this work transformation, the desktop is also changing. Decades ago, we used dumb terminals attached to mainframes for corporate work. Then, 40 years ago, we moved to the PC. We still have PCs on our desks, but increasingly, we’ve been moving back to the centralized model.

Today’s Windows PCs are far more likely to run software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings such as Microsoft 365/Office 365 or Google Workspace than they are old-style office suites such as Office 2019, WordPerfect Office, or LibreOffice. Indeed, by Statista’s latest count of office productivity software market share, office software that’s hosted on-premises barely counts. Microsoft 365/Office 365 has 47.5% of the market, followed by Google’s application family, with 44.56%.

The natural next step in IT evolution is to move not just productivity software, but also the desktop itself, to the cloud.

Why? Because just as cloud-based SaaS made better financial sense for companies than the old models, the same is true of DaaS. Or, as your CFO might say, DaaS trades capex license spending for opex subscription costs.

For example, to run Windows 11, most users will need brand-new PCs. But if you elect to go with Windows 365 Cloud PC — Microsoft’s new, easy-to-use DaaS Windows service — you can run it on your existing hardware.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple puts a Map to the future on iPhone

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Apple has begun rolling out its long-in-the-making augmented reality (AR) city guides, which use the camera and your iPhone’s display to show you where you are going. It also shows part of the future Apple  sees for active uses of AR.

Through the looking glass, we see clearly

The new AR guide is available in London, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. Now, I’m not terribly convinced that most people will feel particularly comfortable wriggling their $1,000+ iPhones in the air while they weave their way through tourist spots. Though I’m sure there are some people out there who really hope they do (and they don’t all work at Apple).

But many will give it a try. What does it do?

Apple announced its plan to introduce step-by-step walking guidance in AR when it announced iOS 15 at WWDC in June. The idea is powerful, and works like this:

  • Grab your iPhone.
  • Point it at buildings that surround you.
  • The iPhone will analyze the images you provide to recognize where you are.
  • Maps will then generate a highly accurate position to deliver detailed directions.

To illustrate this in the UK, Apple highlights an image showing Bond Street Station with a big arrow pointing right along Oxford Street. Words beneath this picture let you know that Marble Arch station is just 700 meters away.

This is all useful stuff. Like so much of what Apple does, it makes use of a range of Apple’s smaller innovations, particularly (but not entirely) the Neural Engine in the A-series Apple iPhone processors. To recognize what the camera sees and provide accurate directions, Neural Engine must be making use of a host of machine learning tools Apple has developed. These include image classification and alignment APIs, Trajectory Detection APIs, and possibly text recognition, detection, and horizon detection APIs. That’s the pure image analysis part.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Japan’s Super Nintendo World theme park will feature smart Mario-themed wristbands

Japan’s Super Nintendo World theme park will feature smart Mario-themed wristbands

Starting in Osaka, Japan and opening later in the US and Singapore Image: Universal Studios Japan Super Nintendo Land, the Mario-themed expansion to Universal Studios, is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and tech-infused theme park attractions t…