Qualcomm alleges that Apple’s iPhone infringes on Palm Pre patents


Shortly after the announcement of the iPhone X in September, my colleague Natasha Lomas noted the similarities between the phone and how WebOS operated on the Palm Pre. She ended her article, noting “in the iPhone X it’s clear you’re looking at a little ghost of the Pre.”

It seems that Qualcomm’s legal team was taking note, they cited that line in a complaint alleging that Apple ripped off Palm’s patented interface.

In the latest escalation of the nearly year-long legal battle, Qualcomm filed three complaints Wednesday in U.S. District Court alleging violations on 16 different Qualcomm patents by Apple, some related to RF transceivers and power-saving measures, some related to multi-touch displays and some related to the innovations of Palm.

Why does Qualcomm care about palm? Well, in 2014 Qualcomm bought a bunch of Palm patents from HP, some apparently related to the company’s design choices for WebOS and the Pre. In the complaint, Qualcomm specifically alleges that Apple copied the operating system’s “cards” design interface.

Other alleged patent violations include the functionality to respond to a call with a text instead of answering, the ability to refocus the camera by tapping on the screen and the idea to drag multiple uses out of the power button including ending a call.

“All of these Palm inventions—owned by Qualcomm—have vastly improved the functionality of mobile devices and the user experience, and all of them are widely found in Apple products without license or permission,” the complaint reads.

These are accusation sure to piss off Cupertino.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn’t believed to be too happy when the Pre surfaced as we noted in the September story. “We don’t mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them,” Cook said of competitors during a 2009 earnings call. Many took this as a dig at Palm.

Many of these technologies feel essential to most modern smartphones, but things are getting personal for Qualcomm which is playing David in a major legal battle with Apple which has likely contributed to curtailing profits at the technology firm. Nearly a year ago, Apple filed a $1 billion suit against Qualcomm and proceeded to cut off royalty payments while encouraging its suppliers to do the same.

All the while, Apple has reportedly been building iPhone prototypes which eradicate usage of Qualcomm technologies altogether.

Qualcomm has remained defiant, challenging Apple on alleged patent violations. The rhetoric has been strong too, in this complaint, Qualcomm says that Apple’s products “would lose much of their consumer appeal” without Qualcomm technologies.

Google Home learns how to multitask


Google’s smart speaker got a little smarter this week, with the addition of a multitasking feature. The new capability make it possible for the device to accomplish two different missions at the same time. It was rolled out with little fanfare and first noted by CNET. We’ve since confirmed the addition with Google.

It’s a bit surprising that the company rolled it out to Home units with no mention. It’s a handy addition to what’s essentially been a single-minded device. The company has been promising to add Routines since the Pixel 2 event a few months back, essentially creating pre-determined scenes that let tie a bunch of actions to a command (something that’s been supported by both Siri and Alexa for a while). This is something else, though.

Rather than having to preload all of that via an app, you can simply ask it to perform two job simultaneously. Only two, though. Not three or four — that would be flying a little too close to the sun. You also have to separate tasks into individual commands, as the device won’t understand two tasks crammed into the same sentence. Even though it’s limited, the silently-released feature is arguably more handy than the forthcoming Routines since it can be accomplished on the fly.

In spite of letting Alexa get a pretty massive head start, Google’s done a pretty solid job playing catch up to the Echo’s existing skill set. The new one comes as the company readies Home Max, a premium addition to the Home line due out sometime next month.

Apple marks World AIDS Day with in-store and in-app donations


After raising $160 million for the Global fund as part of its partnership with (Red), Apple is marking tomorrow’s World AIDS Day by offering up a bunch of opportunities to donate. The easiest of the bunch is the company’s promise to donate $1 to the fund for every transaction made with Apple Pay at the company’s retail stores, on its site or in-app.

In honor of the occasion, 400 of the company’s stores will turn their logos red for the week, and the App Store will offer content devoted to the invent. All of the proceeds from in-app purchases made on Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga, meanwhile, will also go to benefit the fund.

Apple’s fundraising makes up more than a fifth of the $500 million (Red) has raised for the Global Fund since starting. The partnership has drummed up $30 million this year thus far, and provided the equivalent of 475 million days of medication since starting, according to the company.

“Connecting through our products and services helps make it easy for our customers to join us in the effort to create the first AIDS-free generation,” Apple VP Lisa Jackson said in a release tied to the news. “By working with (RED) to stop the transmission of HIV from moms to their unborn babies, we’re already seeing a significant impact in areas where help is needed most.

Featured Image: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

Blue Apron loses its CEO


Blue Apron founder Matt Salzberg is stepping aside as the company’s CEO, the company announced Thursday. CFO Brad Dickerson has been promoted to take his place.

It’s been a volatile past few months for the cooking kit company, which went public in June. Shares closed Thursday at just $2.99. Blue Apron had gone public at $10 per share, after originally hoping to go public between $15 and $17.

But Amazon purchased Whole Foods just days before its debut and investors were concerned that this would eventually impact Blue Apron. There was also skepticism about Blue Apron’s customer retention.

Blue Apron’s costly new warehouse also put a dip in investor enthusiasm, as it was revealed that the company would spend less on marketing to help finance it. Marketing had been a key element of Blue Apron’s growth.

Salzberg will be staying on as Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Blue Apron laid off 6% of its employees last month.

Competitor HelloFresh recently went public in Europe.

Featured Image: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch will now take place in 2018


SpaceX had been planning to launch its huge Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time this year, with a timeframe set most recently for sometime in November. Here on the last day of November, we know that’s not happening – but now we also know we won’t see a Falcon Heavy launch before early 2018 at least.

We shouldn’t have to wait that long into next year, however; SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that the company still plans to do a static test fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket, with all 27 Merlin engines used simultaneously, before the end of 2017. And should that proceed without any major issues, it’s possible Falcon Heavy could launch within the opening weeks of 2018, according to Engadget.

This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has pushed back its planned Falcon Heavy debut launch: In fact, its initial proposed test flight was supposed to be in 2013 originally. Delays aren’t uncommon in the space business, however, and Elon Musk’s rosy projections for potential timelines are always a bit overly optimistic.

Musk also cautioned earlier this year that he wasn’t expecting Falcon Heavy’s first flight to go off without a hitch, going so far as to suggest that it likely wouldn’t make it into orbit, or even very high off the ground on the first try. The test is designed as a test, however, and rocket science involves a lot of unpredictable variables that you can only address once you’re testing in real-world launch situations.

Here’s what rumored Trump CIA pick Tom Cotton thinks about surveillance, Russia and other issues


As rumors build that the Trump administration plans to boot Rex Tillerson from his post atop the State Department in order to replace him with Mike Pompeo, it’s worth examining who would lead the CIA in Pompeo’s absence. Trump is reportedly considering Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton to replace Pompeo as the head of the CIA — a pick that isn’t uncontroversial given Cotton’s deep Trump loyalty and relative intelligence inexperience.

The insanity of treating these massively consequential roles as interchangeable aside, here’s a bit of background on Cotton in case the rumors come to pass.

Who is Tom Cotton?

An Army veteran, Cotton served two combat tours in the Iraq war where he received a Bronze Star, among other decorations. He served one term in the House before joining the Senate in 2014 where he is serving his first term.

What does Cotton do in the Senate?

Cotton serves on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Joint Economic Committee and the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He serves as the chair of the Air Land Power Subcommittee and the Economic Policy Subcommittee.

Cotton on surveillance and Section 702

Cotton strongly believes in intensive surveillance measures as a prophylaxis against terrorism — a hardline stance that’s vehemently opposed by privacy advocates. “We’ve deprived very patriotic intelligence officials of critical tools that would keep this country safe,” he told Politico after losing a battle in favor of enhanced NSA surveillance measures.

Unsurprisingly, Cotton is a staunch supporter of Section 702, a controversial portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that provisions warrantless surveillance of American citizens. As he wrote in September, Cotton supports a full reauthorization of Section 702:

“I’m pleased that Attorney General Sessions and Director Coats have joined me in calling for a clean and permanent reauthorization of FISA Section 702. It’s crucial to collecting the intelligence we need to keep our country safe, and it has all the necessary safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy rights. My bill would extend the program indefinitely, as requested by the Trump administration, and now is as good a time as any for the Senate to pass it. The threats to our nation won’t end anytime soon, and neither should this vital tool.”

Cotton on election security

Cotton has expressed concerns about state-level election security, one of the least partisan viewpoints regularly expressed by the Arkansas Senator.

“These state governors, legislators, secretaries of state need to understand that if their voting systems are connected to the Internet, and they don’t have an auditable paper trail, that what didn’t happen in 2016 could happen in 2018, which is, say the actual impact on tabulated votes,” Cotton told Politico in a wide-ranging interview last month.

“No evidence that happened in 2016, but could happen. And we certainly don’t want that to happen. So I would advise every state, like I’ve advised my own state, to take very seriously this threat.”

Waterboarding controversy

In 2016, Cotton told CNN that he didn’t believe that the extreme interrogation practice of waterboarding qualified as torture: “Waterboarding isn’t torture. We do waterboarding on our own soldiers in the military,” Cotton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “If experienced intelligence officials come to the President of the United States and say we think this terrorist has critical information and we need to obtain it and this is the only way we can obtain it — it’s a tough call. But the presidency is a tough job. And if you’re not ready to make those tough calls, you shouldn’t seek the office. Donald Trump’s a pretty tough guy, and he’s ready to make those tough calls.”

In 2015, Cotton joined 20 other Republicans in voting against a Senate amendment that would ban torture, particularly the kind of practices that proved controversial during the Bush administration.

Cotton’s Trump loyalty remains intact

Cotton has been described as “the GOP’s staunchest young hawk” and doesn’t have a reputation for working with anyone outside his own party. Cotton, a close ally and a loyalist of President Trump, has recently told anyone standing in the way of Trump’s foreign policy ideas to resign.

Cotton fiercely opposes Obama-era policy toward Iran, including its nuclear deal with Tehran, going so far as to draft a controversial letter in 2015 directly to the leadership in Iran that at least one Army general called “mutinous.”

On Russia and the 2016 election

A close Trump ally in Congress, Cotton has gestured toward his disbelief of the CIA’s own analysis of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. In a Senate Intel hearing with Jeff Sessions earlier this year, Cotton lobbed Sessions softball questions, at one point eliciting a laugh from the Attorney General with the question “Have you ever, ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting United States senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of espionage?”

In later intel hearings, he generally strayed from the task at hand along with the committee’s other deeply partisan Republicans, introducing new threads like a criticism of the FBI allowing Russian diplomats to “wander around the country” in some back and forth with FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Bill Priestap.

In June 2017, Cotton used his time in a Senate Intel Committee hearing to mock Hillary Clinton for “blaming her loss” on external factors, going so far as to suggest that she has become an “unwitting agent of Russia’s goals in the United States.” In the same hearing, Cotton used some of his other time to question if states and localities that run elections should avoid Kaspersky Labs security products but received no substantive response.

In an interview with Politico, Cotton seemed to accept the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s desire to sow chaos while dismissing the idea that Russia electing Trump was its best outcome:

“But also that they wanted to help elect Donald Trump. I think there’s at least some—an open question, there, not based on classified information, but based on the campaigns that the candidates ran. Donald Trump wanted to increase defense spending. Hillary Clinton didn’t want to, as much. Donald Trump wanted to accelerate nuclear modernization, not so with Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump wanted to expand ballistic-missile defense, not so with Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump wanted to pump more American oil and gas, Hillary Clinton did not.”

While he nearly always lines up with Trump’s more out-there notions, he doesn’t always line up. In June, he voted in favor of Russian sanctions, a departure in his record of voting with Trump 92.3% percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker of Cotton’s voting record.

More footage from Cotton’s committee service is collected online on his YouTube channel.

Featured Image: Michael Vadon/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Wearable numbers get a bump, as consumers shift focus to smarter devices


The wearable space seems to still be figuring itself out — though in spite of some reports about the death of the category, overall growth remains one of the few constants. According to the latest numbers from IDC, the global bump was pretty modest for Q3 of this year, at about 7.3-percent, year over year.

More interestingly, the numbers point to a larger overall trend of consumers moving from  dumber, low-end devices to smarter ones. The study defines the latter as devices that are capable of running third-party apps — so pretty much smartwatches, at this point.

That trend does seem to lend some credence to Fitbit’s recent decision to go all-in on smartwatches with multiple high profile acquisitions that led to the creation of the Ionic. That device was something of a mixed bag, though its release did go a ways toward bolstering the company’s sales in recent months.

Fitbit’s fortunes appear to be a mixed big as well, in this latest report. The good news is that the company caught back up to Xiaomi, after the Chinese hardware company surpassed it for a bit, thanks to some seriously low cost devices. The two are basically tied for first according to IDC’s chart.

The one time far and away leader in the space experienced a steep drop in shipments, with a 33-percent year over year decrease. Of course, the Ionic is considerably more expensive, which means the company doesn’t have to ship as many units to make the same revenue — even so, it’s going to have to start selling a lot more smartwatches to make up for those declines.

And while this quarter points to a growth in higher end devices, other recent trends have focused on cheaper devicse. That’s certainly driven Xiaomi’s growth, though the company did suffer a slight year over year decline, due perhaps in part tot the fact that the company hasn’t made much of a dent outside of its native China. That hasn’t really hurt Huawei’s growth, however. The company shot up 156-percent year over year, blowing past Garmin to capture fourth place on the chart.

Apple also had a nice bump at 52-percent year over year, thanks to the company’s decision to push back the announcement of the Apple Watch 3. That jump likely also had something to do with this recent shift toward smart device purchases.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin