Shield ‘fire hazard’ recall is another hurdle for Nvidia’s game-streaming strategy

Not pictured: fire.

Nvidia is one of a handful of companies that is trying to make a play for the gaming system space, but a defect in one of its marquee consumer products could damage its reputation before it truly gets started.

The Nvidia Shield tablet is under a recall. If you own one of these 8-inch Android slates, you can contact Nvidia for a replacement device. This recall is in response to the threat that the Shield’s lithium-ion battery can overheat and burst into flames, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This is a potentially deadly situation, and it’s also one that could negatively mark Nvidia’s Shield brand, which it has invested heavily in. The tablet is part of a three-product line that includes a dedicated handheld controller with an attached screen as well as its recently released $200 Android TV box, which is also simply called Shield. All of these products are centered around Nvidia’s growing cloud service that streams games over the Internet similar to the way Netflix works with video. But gamers are already skeptical of streaming and the cloud due to concerns about bandwidth and latency, and — while unrelated — this battery problem will only give customers another reason to avoid using Nvidia products.


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One of the biggest issues for Nvidia is that offering people a way to play games is a crowded, competitive space. You can spend a couple hundred dollars on a Shield product, but — at this point — why would you take that risk (even if it is only a perceived risk) when you could get an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 for just a little bit more or a gaming PC with Windows 10 or Steam Machine for a little bit more than that. These alternatives can all play many of the same games, and some even have cloud streaming or local streaming from a PC to a TV.

“Nvidia has received four report of batteries overheating due to thermal runaway,” reads a CPSC report. “[This includes] two reports of damage to flooring.”

We asked Nvidia for a comment, and it explained that this is a learning experience.

“Nvidia and the consumer-electronics industry continue to learn a great deal about battery technology and battery manufacturing processes,” a spokesperson told GamesBeat. “We have implemented enhanced quality control processes and we continue to aggressively adopt best practices to avoid such concerns in the future.”

For now, Nvidia is working with the CPSC, and it has agreed to replace all Nvidia Shields that are affected by this problem. That amounts to 88,000 units in the United States and Canada. If you own an Nvidia Shield tablet and are wondering if you are covered under this recall, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Check the side of your Shield for the model number
  • Look for model number “P1761,” “P1761W,” or “P1761WX”
  • And check to see if your have a serial number from “0410215901781” through “0425214604018”
  • If you have both of the above, then you’ll need to get in touch with Nvidia.
  • Either call Nvidia toll free: (888)943.4196
  • Or go to Nvidia.com, scroll to the bottom, and click on “Nvidia Tablet Recall Program” link.

Shield tablet recall program

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With over 10,000 businesses signed up, Android for Work expands to carriers for the first time

Googler Rajen Sheth talks about Android for Work at a press event at Google's San Francisco office on Feb. 25.

Android for Work, which encompasses all of Google’s enterprise-oriented features and services for its mobile operating system, has expanded to 40 companies today, including new device manufacturers, application makers, and management providers. At the same, Google has announced that more than 10,000 businesses are now testing, deploying, or using Android for Work.

Google first announced Android for Work at the company’s Google I/O conference in June 2014. In February 2015, the program hit general availability, as Google released an Android for Work app, a Google Play for Work business-oriented app store, and new apps that support common productivity tools.

Here is the full list of Android for Work partners:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 6.08.59 AM

As part of the partner expansion today, mobile carriers are joining Android for Work for the first time. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Rogers, Bell Canada, Telus Mobility, and KT are now offering broad support for Android for Work, which essentially translates into customers turning to their carriers for Android for Work’s integrated security, management, and productivity solutions.

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Researchers find vulnerability that affects 95% of Android devices

Lollipop Forest Google Android

Researchers have found a vulnerability in Android devices that allows hackers to access a device remotely without the owner ever knowing it was compromised. The flaw affects roughly 95 percent of Android devices running operating system version 2.2 to 5.1, according to cybersecurity firm Zimperium.

At fault is a media library (used to process media files) called Stagefright. Zimperium says it found multiple vulnerabilities in the framework. The company plans to present its research at the Black Hat 2015 security conference and at the hacking conference Def Con in August.

Using a person’s telephone number, hackers can send a media file via MMS that gives them entry into a device. What’s more, a device owner may never know. Hackers could conceivably send through the trojan file while the device’s owner is sleeping, get access to their phone, and then delete any evidence the phone was hacked. Once the exploit is completed, a hacker can remotely operate a phone’s microphone, steal files, read emails, and get personal credentials.

“These vulnerabilities are extremely dangerous because they do not require that the victim take any action to be exploited. Unlike spear-phishing, where the victim needs to open a PDF file or a link sent by the attacker, this vulnerability can be triggered while you sleep. Before you wake up, the attacker will remove any signs of the device being compromised and you will continue your day as usual – with a trojaned phone,” says Zimperium chief technology officer Zuk Avraham.

Though Google has applied patches to Android Open Source Project, Zimperium says device owners should be proactive in updating their phones. Android owners can reach out to their telecom providers and device manufacturers to ensure their phones get the update.

Those with Silent Circle’s Blackphone running PrivatOS version 1.1.7 are already protected against the Stagefright vulnerability.

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When Selling Virtual Products Abroad, Don’t Put Prices On Autopilot

pure-internet1 If you have a physical product that you want to sell in more than one country, determining the price in different markets can be challenging. You might have to open an office in each country, or at least hire a consultant to assess local demand and analyze the competition. But if you have a virtual product — say an app for a mobile phone — setting the price for it in different… Read More

The Backed Pack: Remix Mini brings Android to a tiny $30 Windows-like PC

remix-mini

Each week our friends at Backerjack highlight a cool crowdfunded gadget. This week we look at the Remix Mini, which has raised nearly 16 times its funding goal and is on track to surpass a million dollars.

Once upon a time, in a land before laptops, towering desktop PCs peppered the landscape, their hulking shells loaded with all manner of cards and drives dependent on support from the operating systems of their day.

The Remix Mini PC shows how the desktop has evolved in an era of mobile hardware and software. The elongated dish-like device, which makes the Mac mini look large in comparison, is devoid of buttons. (It turns on with a touch to its top surface.). Its rear is only slightly less minimalist — with two USB ports, an HDMI connector for a monitor, a microSD slot and headphone port. Something of a surprise is a standard Ethernet connector, which may be welcomed by corporate users or anyone who wants to escape the occasional unpredictability of Wi-Fi.

<iframe width=”480″ height=”360″ src=”https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1123481999/remix-mini-the-worlds-first-true-android-pc/widget/video.html” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”>

Like Jide Tech’s previous product, the Surface-like Remix Ultra Tablet, the Remix runs an Android variation called Remix OS. While the Remix includes support for Google Play, the company has gone out of its way to make the user experience familiar for Windows fans. For example, in lieu of home screen shortcuts, there’s a taskbar, and apps can run in phone mode, which allows them to be moved around between windows. That said, without a touchscreen (like that of the Remix tablet), some apps may not deliver fully on their experience.

But the Remix Mini uses only 10 watts of power and certainly won’t be priced like a desktop PC. It’s currently being offered for a pledge of only $30 for a version with 1 GB of RAM and $10 for a version with 2 GB as part of the Kickstarter campaign. Both should ship in October. The campaign seeks to raise $50,000 by August 29.

Remix Mini packs a great deal of functionality in a small package. However, like the Mac mini, the cost goes up significantly if you don’t happen to have an HDMI monitor hanging around. That said, at less than $50 shipped for the basic version, it even compares favorably to set-top boxes such as Roku and Apple TV. Being smaller and less expensive than the MiiPC, the Remix Mini is a no-brainer as a second device or Chromebox alternative.

To keep up with the latest crowdfunded gadgets, sign up for the Backerjack Daily Digest.


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YouTube’s New App Plays To Creators

4481461680_4273d06822_b Yes, we love videos of cats falling, but YouTube’s content creator network has blown up over the past few years. There’s some really great content being created by budding superstars. coughPewDiePiecough. Today, the company released a new version of its app (Android first, and iOS soon) that helps feed content from those superstars to their fans. The app now has a new subscription… Read More

Android M brings native visual voicemail to your dialer app

The Nexus 6 phone with Android Lollipop.
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Google recently released a preview of its Android mobile OS, Android M, and one of the biggest improvements in the new version is visual voicemail.

Visual voicemail lets you see and play back your voicemail messages without having to dial up your carrier’s voicemail system, and wait through all the prompts.

In Android M visual voicemail gets its own tab in the message center. You can see all your voicemails arranged on cards, and you can click each one to access the audio. On each card you’ll find volume and playback controls, as well as some links for quickly responding to the voicemail via message or phone call.

Android users have been able to use Google Voice or third party apps to do this, but now the feature will soon run natively on the device. This eliminates screen taps and makes things much cleaner.

Android M also features improved app permissions (Allow Facebook to access your microphone?), a deep sleep mode to save battery life, and native support for Android Pay and the fingerprint reader authentication that goes with it.

For more information about Android M, here’s what Google announced at its I/O developer conference this year.

Hat tip: Android Authority

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China helps iOS maintain commanding revenue lead over surging Google Play

Google Play revenue
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We’ve done this boogie before: Google Play is absolutely demolishing iOS’s App Store when it comes to sheer download numbers, but iOS is still making way more money.

And Google Play really is surging. That Android app market had 85 percent more app downloads (both games and other apps) than iOS in the second quarter of the year, according to industry-tracking firm App Annie. That’s up from the 70 percent lead Google Play had in Q1 2015. This was once again due to emerging markets like Brazil, India, and Vietnam adopting Android handsets.

“However, it is worth noting that smartphone penetration remains below 30 percent in many of these countries,” reads the App Annie report. “[This leaves] significant room for growth. This bodes well for Google’s Play’s longterm growth prospects.”

But Apple is still the dominant money-maker in the $30 billion mobile gaming market. It generated 70 percent more revenue than Google Play. This is primarily because, unlike the iOS App Store, the official Android market isn’t in China. That massive Asian country has actually already moved ahead of the United States in terms of iOS downloads, and those consumers are spending money.

“We expected China’s explosive download performance in Q1 2015 to lay the foundation for future revenue growth, and that prediction seems to be holding true,” reads the report. “iOS developers are reaping the benefits already, as China saw the biggest quarterly sequential gain in revenue share in Q2 2015.”

But Google is still well positioned for the future. In addition to the aforementioned nations like Brazil, the Play store is extremely popular in places like Taiwan. And that is a right-place-at-the-right-time situation for Google, which is reaping the rewards from a market that is ballooning at a rapid rate. It is a country that is especially aggressive when it comes to spending on games.

“Even as Germany continues to enjoy stellar year-over-year growth, Taiwan’s performance in Q2 2015 helped it rocket past Germany in Google Play revenue,” reads the report. “Taiwan’s performance in Q2 2015 was almost entirely driven by the Games category.”

 

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Android has come a long way since Google bought it 10 years ago today

At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on May 29.
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Believe it or not, it’s been 10 years since Google bought Android Inc., a startup that was quietly building software for cell phones. Rich Miner, a cofounder of Android Inc. and now a general partner at Google Ventures, tweeted early this morning that today is the 10-year anniversary of the deal.

“People thought we were crazy when we acquired … Android,” Google noted in its most recent annual report. Tech media outlets were shortsighted in their guesses about the implications of the deal.

Indeed, Android has come a very long way. The mobile operating system held more than 53 percent of all smartphone market share at the end of 2014, while Apple’s iOS had 41.6 percent, according to comScore . Globally, Android had more than 1 billion monthly active users in June 2014, Google said. More than 1.05 billion Android smartphones were shipped around the world in 2014, giving the OS 81.5 percent market share, compared with 192.7 million units and 14.8 percent market share for iOS, according to IDC . Put simply, Android has come to be the smartphone standard around the world.

Buying Android — for a reported $50 million — was Google’s “best deal ever,” Google executive David Lawee said in 2010. Now, that statement is easy to understand — even though there are other acquisitions that have come to be very important for Google, like DoubleClick and Upstartle (which became Google Docs).

The Google-designed Moto X smartphone at the device's 2013 launch event.

Above: The Google-designed Moto X smartphone at the device’s 2013 launch event.

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

As a consumer product, Android has gone through many phases through the years.

Back then, it seemed like more of a concept than something that would eventually become the dominant operating system all over the world. Here’s what it looked like:

The “high-end prototype” smartphone that engineering director Steve Horowitz used to show off the capabilities of Android was calling on “high-speed 3G networking.” Remember that?

In 2008, Google announced the first official Android phone, HTC’s T-Mobile G1. And in 2008 Google also launched the Android Market, giving consumers access to apps.

By that time, the phone could scan barcodes, store e-books, and help you navigate to a given destination. Googlers used the phrase “applications without borders” to communicate that with Android, developers could expose application data for other apps to use.

By 2009, with Android 1.5, known as Cupcake, users could get tactile feedback as they typed with the virtual keyboard, rely on speech recognition to run Google search queries, record and share videos, add home screen widgets, and make the phone change from portrait to landscape mode:

In 2010, Google invited reporters to its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, to check out the Nexus One, a smartphone designed by HTC but sold online through Google. You could choose from a variety of mobile carriers. When a reporter asked if the Nexus One was an “iPhone killer,” Android Inc. cofounder and then-Google senior vice president Andy Rubin responded that it wasn’t. It was, he said, a “superphone,” according to VentureBeat’s archives.

The online Nexus One store didn’t end up succeeding. But, with the release of subsequent phones and tablets, Nexus itself did prove to be the flagship brand for Android devices.

Later in 2010, with the release of Android 2.2, codenamed Froyo, you could use an Android phone as a mobile hotspot, and you could install all updates with a single tap, so long as they weren’t asking for new permissions:

Google introduced Android 2.3, with the name Gingerbread, in December 2010. As a result, Android users could make VoIP calls and take advantage of near-field communication (NFC) in apps.

In February 2011, Google unleashed Android 3.0 — Honeycomb — as a version meant for tablets.

In May 2011, Google hit the 100 million Android activations mark. That same year, Google announced that it would come out a new version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0. It formally launched a few months later, with the Galaxy Nexus as the debut phone.

In June 2012, Android moved forward with the unveiling of Jelly Bean. That release included question-answering to take on the Siri personal digital assistant in iOS devices.

Android KitKat, first detailed in October 2013, brought improvements like decreases in memory footprint for specific apps, meaning that a device with just a small amount of RAM could comfortably run many apps at once.

As a result of Google’s 2011 acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google was able to control the hardware specifications of not just the software but the hardware in Android phones like the highly customizable Moto X, which was released in 2013, and the Moto E, which came out in 2014.

By 2013, there were 1 billion Android device activations.

In 2014, at the Google I/O developer conference, Google released a developer preview of Android L, a substantially refreshed version of the operating system. It was the first version of Android to incorporate Material Design, a user-interface standard that Google has been gradually rolling out across its many consumer-facing properties. Google stripped away the mystery behind the “L” within a few months by announcing that it officially go by the name Android Lollipop.

The Nexus 6 phone with Android Lollipop.

Above: The Nexus 6 phone with Android Lollipop.

Image Credit: TechStage/Flickr

This past May at Google I/O, Google previewed its latest iteration of the operating system: Android M. The feature list includes custom tabs in Chrome; Android Pay, a revamped version of Google Wallet; the Doze power management tool; native fingerprint sensor capability; and Google Now on Tap, which lets you drill down on text in any app and instantly bring up context and actions through Google Now.

That last feature in particular shows where Android is going — doing things that rely heavily on but abstract away the tedium of mobile app switching and core Google web search.

Here’s to the next 10 years of Android, Google.

At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on May 29.

Above: At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on May 29.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat
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Nintendo working on 5 mobile games all in different genres, according to DeNA

Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby
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When Nintendo finally enters the mobile gaming market later this year, it will try to have something for everybody.

The company is creating games in five different genres for mobile, according to remarks by DeNA West chief executive officer Shintaro Asako at the Pocket Gamer Connects event in San Francisco today. These games will all use existing Nintendo properties to appeal to existing gamers. The publisher revealed in March that it will expand to start building apps for iOS and Android rather than continuing building software exclusively for Nintendo hardware. With consumers spending more than $30 billion on smartphone and tablet games worldwide, this move is widely seen as Nintendo’s attempt to stay relevant in a changing marketplace.

Asako’s statements went beyond simply mentioning that Nintendo is building five games — he even mentioned specific genres.

“I understand some people like RPGs, casual games,” the executive said. “That’s why we decided to work together to create five games, hitting on different genre-utilizing IPs. We want to make sure out of those five IP that we can end up attracting hundreds of millions of people.”

Beyond talking about the games themselves, Asako also reconfirmed that Nintendo is handling all the creative work. The publisher, which is responsible for some of the most beloved games ever made, is designing the gameplay, art, and more. DeNA is only building the technology that enables these games to run as live services on mobile.

“Nintendo has by far the best gaming IP,” said Asako. “DeNA’s expertise is definitely backend.”

Nintendo still hasn’t announced its first mobile game, but it has repeatedly said they will come this year. In May, the publisher revealed that Mario Kart designer Hideki Konno is in charge of the mobile gaming division. Seeing as that is one of the best-selling Nintendo titles, it suggests that the company is taking this new initiative seriously.

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