Tag Archives: mobile

Samsung evolving KNOX into complete mobile device management solution

Samsung introduced KNOX at the 2013 Mobile World Congress (MWC). It is a secure app and data container for Samsung mobiles, backed by hardware, enabling businesses to run apps that are isolated from a user’s personal apps (which might include badly behaved or even malicious apps). Data is encrypted so that business secrets are safe if the device goes astray.

The core of Knox is a hardware process called TIMA (Trustzone Integrity Measurement). This checks for tampering in the core operating system (trusted boot) and sets a tamper bit if it detects a problem. The tamper bit cannot be set in software alone.


A device with KNOX activated can be flipped between personal and business (KNOX) personalities. It is like having two smartphones in one. Whether this is a desirable approach is up for debate, but it does secure business apps and data.


We did not hear much about KNOX after last year’s MWC. It was released a few months later, but snags included limited device support (only the latest Samsung devices), the need to prepare apps with a special KNOX wrapper before they could be used, and the need to hire a Samsung partner like Centrify to provide administration tools.

All that has changed following last night’s announcement of the next generation of KNOX. Highlights:

Most apps can now be installed in KNOX without any special wrapper

You can use a third-party container such as Good, Fixmo Safezone, or MobileIron AppConnect in place of the KNOX container, but still using KNOX hardware protection.

Two factor authentication (for example requiring a fingerprint swipe as well as a password to access a KNOX container)

KNOX supports Microsoft’s workplace join (a kind of lightweight domain join) for secure access to Microsoft network resources.

Samsung has introduced a cloud-based Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool called KNOX EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management). This runs on Microsoft’s Azure platform and integrates with Azure Active Directory (which can itself link to on-premise Active Directory) so that small businesses on Office 365, or large businesses which prefer a cloud tool, can manage both Knox and other devices. EMM is primarily aimed at SMEs but apparently can scale up without limit.

EMM will also support non-Samsung devices.

EMM includes an app marketplace allowing businesses to purchase and deploy apps. The example we were shown was the Box cloud storage service.


Availability is promised for the second quarter of 2014.

Samsung Galaxy S5 with Gear 2, Gear Fit: quick hands-on, screenshots

Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5 Android smartphone at an event last night in Barcelona, during Mobile World Congress. I attended the launch and spent some time trying the new Galaxy after the event.


The first thing that struck me is how light it feels. It is 145g according to the spec.

Here is the home screen:


The UI in general is clean and easy to use:


I was interested in the camera, having looked at the camera on the new Sony Xperia Z2 yesterday, in comparison to the Nokia Lumia 1020. The S5 has a 16MP camera and Samsung showed off its fast automatic focus in the press launch. Here are the camera options:


I took a couple of snaps with both the S5 and the Lumia 1020 for a quick comparison. The Lumia easily bested it. I’d judge that the Xperia Z2 would easily best it too. That said, the camera is fine and I doubt users will be disappointed; it’s just not the best choice if you are particularly keen on photography.

Health is big theme, especially in conjunction with the Gear Fit band. Samsung’s JK Shin said that keeping fit is a third key feature in a smartphone alongside camera and connectivity. Here is the fitness app:


Samsung has included a heart rate sensor, so I took my pulse:


There is a Kids Zone, reminiscent of what Microsoft has done for Windows Phone:


Other notable features are water and dust resistance, fingerprint sensor with PayPal integration, and apparently new Enterprise security features of which I hope to learn more later today.

It looks like an excellent phone. A game changer? Enough to draw users from Apple? It feels more like just another smartphone, albeit a good one, but that may be just what the market wants. No silliness like the S4’s air gestures, just a solid new smartphone.

On sale date is April 11 2014.

Key specs:

  • LTE Cat.4 (150/50Mbps)
  • 5.1” FHD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display
  • 2.5GHz Quad core application processor
  • Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat)
  • Camera: 16MP (rear), 2.0MP (front)
  • Video: UHD@30fps, HDR, video stabilization
  • IP67 Dust and water Resistant
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80, MIMO(2×2)
  • Bluetooth®: 4.0 BLE / ANT+
  • USB: USB 3.0
  • NFC
  • IR Remote
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, Hall, RGB ambient light, Gesture(IR), Finger Scanner, Heart rate sensor
    2GB RAM
  • Storage:Internal Memory: 16/32GB, microSD slot upto 64GB
    Size and weight:  142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm, 145g
  • Battery: 2800mAh Standby time: 390 hrs / Talk time: 21 hrs

What’s up with Facebook acquiring “we don’t sell ads” WhatsApp

Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for a breathtaking $16 billion. Too much money by any normal valuation; but that might not matter if it makes sense strategically.


What is the value of WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable.

says Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook is purchasing an extension to its “social graph”, a billion people’s interconnections. The obvious goal is to accomplish two things:

  • Defend Facebook from disruption and keep users on its network – particularly the younger demographic that may be drifting away.
  • Gather more data which will be used for targeted advertising and potentially rich future services.

There are two companies which dominate the Internet today, and they are Facebook and Google. Their business model is mainly advertising, but they may be better perceived as data companies than as advertising companies. The big bet is that future technology will revolve around smart, deeply personalised services that will improve our lives, based on what they know about us, our friends and connections, our location, our preferences and and our schedule. The clearest expression of this is Google Now which can notify you when to leave for your meeting based on current traffic – without you having to spend time configuring settings or entering data. Google looks at your schedule (which it knows through your calendar), your location (which it knows through your smartphone), mashes that data with its mapping and traffic services, and surfaces the result as a notification.

The trade-off is that you hand over your data to Google (enabling it to provide ever-richer services) while receiving in return an easier life.

Does the deal have a dark side? Undoubtedly. Might future services be paid for, might Google or others take advantage of that data in ways we dislike? Quite possibly. This is the bet though; and it is everywhere.

Take the automotive industry for example. I wrote up the latest buzz in automotive marketing for the Guardian, and heard this from one of the experts I consulted:

“The actual car; the engine, the wheels, the drive shaft, the bodies, those have become commodities. The differentiator for cars is the in-dash system, the computer," says Patrick Salyer, CEO of Gigya. “If car companies can connect with their customers’ social login, they can build a permanent lasting relationship. If the car company tracks things about me like my driving habits and where I go, it is actually a value add insight. That is a reason to stay with that car company”

Salyer thinks that Facebook, Google and automobile companies are in a war to own that data. It is all about the data.

This therefore is what Facebook is buying: future data, in a messaging service that because of its mobile orientation may prove to be a kind of successor to email and SMS messaging.

That is the rationale, but will it work? The problem with WhatsApp is that it is fashionable; and what comes into fashion can go out, too, especially for the young. You can bet too that Google (Facebook’s biggest problem) will counter by using its OS platform, Android, to point users towards its own messaging services. If you have an Android phone you are already logging into Google, no need to sign up for another service.

Who knows, two to three years from now we may be joking about how much Facebook paid for WhatsApp. But Facebook can afford a few big gambles, and does not need for all of them to come off.

Postscript: you should read WhatsApp founder Jan Koum’s blog post on Why we don’t see ads while it is still online.

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

Money, as songwriter prophet Bob Dylan observed, does not talk. It swears.

CES analyst predicts flat global consumer tech sales, massive dominance of smartphones and tablets, drift towards low-end

At CES in Las Vegas yesterday, CEA Director of Industry Analysis Steve Koenig presented data and predictions on global tech spending trends. The figures come out of CEA Research and are based on sales tracking at retail outlets around the world supplemented by other data.


This being CES, I was expecting a certain amount of hype around how consumer technology is changing the world, but in fact Koenig’s presentation was matter-of-fact and somewhat downbeat. He said that the overall consumer tech spending trend is flat, with rising spend in emerging markets (especially China) more or less making up for declining spend in mature markets, which he says is due to market saturation. His figures show 2% growth in spending in 2013 but a 1% decline in 2014. Given the uncertainty of this kind of forecast, let’s call it flat.

The “market saturation” factor is a point to ponder. It suggests that technical devices are “good enough” for longer. It also suggests that overall the new gadgetry on show at CES is not sufficiently exciting to persuade us to spend a higher proportion of our income on consumer electronics.

Looking at his figures though, it is not just a matter of saturation. Another factor is device convergence. We are spending less on cameras and camcorders because a smartphone is good enough. We are spending less on printers because there is less need to print stuff; we can view it on a tablet. We don’t need a SatNav any more; we use a smartphone (or it is built into the car’s dashboard). In fact, we are loving our smartphones and tablets so much that spending on almost any other kind of tech is in decline. Here’s the slide showing how these mobile devices are forecast to account for 43% of consumer tech spending in 2014:


Spending on smartphones is forecast to increase by 9% in 2014, and on tablets 6%. Almost the only other broad category for which significant revenue growth is forecast in 2014 is video games consoles, thanks to the launch of new generation Xbox and PlayStation boxes (maybe Steam boxes too). That is a product cycle, not a long-term trend. Personally (my thoughts, not Koenig’s) I reckon games consoles will decline thanks to competition from smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Global TV sales are expected to increase by 2% in units.

The other big picture trend identified by Koenig is the reduction in the average selling price (ASP) of smartphones and tablets. Smartphone ASP is down from $444 in 2010 to $297 in 2014.


This trend is partly because the quality of cheaper devices has improved, but also because the emerging markets which are spending more are also markets that want lower prices. Taken together, this translates to a significant shift towards the low end. Overall, CEA forecasts that tech spending in developing markets, primarily on low end devices, will equal tech spending in mature markets for the first time in 2014.


Of course this is largely an Android story. I will add though some reflections on what has happened with Windows in the light of these trends. Microsoft was right to adapt Windows for tablets, but if you look at how Windows 8 was launched there was too much focus on the high-end, trying to copy Apple rather than compete with Android. That was a mistake, and it is only recently that OEMs like Asus, with its T100 Windows 8.1 tablet, have started to come out with decent low-end devices. Nokia on the other hand has done exactly the right thing with its Lumia Windows Phones, building market share with excellent low-end smartphones. Whether that momentum will be sustained following Microsoft’s acquisition will determine the fate of the phone platform. 

Finally, note that forecasting the future is never easy and this time next year the picture may look quite different.

Update: Koenig’s slide deck is here.

2013: the web gets more proprietary. So do operating systems, mobile, everything

There may yet be an ITWriting review of the year; but in the meantime, the trend that has struck me most this year has been the steady march of permission-based, fee-charged technology during the course of the year, even though it has continued trends that were already established.

The decline of Windows and rise of iOS and Android is a great win for Unix-like operating systems over Microsoft’s proprietary Windows; but how do you get apps onto the new mobile platforms? In general, you have to go through an app store and pay a fee to Apple or Google (or maybe Amazon) for the privilege of deployment, unless you are happy to give away your app. Of course there are ways round that through jailbreaks of various kinds, but in the mainstream it is app stores or nothing.

The desktop/laptop model may be an inferior experience for users, but it is more open, in that vendors can sell software to users without paying a fee to the operating system vendor.

Microsoft though is doing its best to drive Windows down the same path. Windows Phone uses the app store model, and so does the “Metro” personality in Windows 8 – hence the name, “Windows Store apps”.

What about the free and open internet? That too is becoming more proprietary. Of course there is still nothing to stop you putting up a web site and handing out the URL; but that is not, in general, how people navigate to sites. Rather, they enter terms into a search engine, and if the search engine does not list your site near the top, you get few visitors.

In this context, I was fascinated by remarks made by Morphsuits co-founder Gregor Lawson in an interview I did for the Guardian web site. His business makes party costumes and benefits from a strong trademarked brand name. Yet he finds that he has to pay for Google ads simply to ensure that a user who types “morphsuits” into a search engine finds his site:

Yes, it is galling, it really is galling," he says. "We are top of the organic search, but we also have to pay. The reason is that some people like organic, some people like to click on ads. Google, in their infinite wisdom, are giving more and more space to the ads because they get money for the ads. So I have to pay to be in it.

It is also worth noting that when you click a link on Google, whether it is a search result or an ad, it is not a direct link to the target site. Rather, it is a link which redirects to that site after storing a database record that you clicked that link. If you are logged into Google then the search giant knows who you are; if you are not logged in, it probably knows anyway thanks to cookies, IP numbers or other tracking techniques. It does this in order to serve you more relevant ads and make more money.

Of course there are other ways to drive traffic, such as posting on Facebook or Twitter – two more proprietary platforms. As this internet properties grow and become more powerful, they change the rules in their favour (which they are entitled to do) but it does raise the question of how this story will play out over time.

For example, Lawson complains in the same interview that if he posts a message on Facebook, it will not be seen by the majority of Morphsuits fans even though they have chosen to like his Facebook page. Only if he pays for a promoted post can he reach those fans.

The power of Facebook must not be understated. One comment I heard recently is that mobile users on average now spend more time in Facebook than browsing the web and by some margin.

Twitter is better in this respect, though there as well the platform is changing, with APIs withdrawn or metered, for example, to drive users to official Twitter clients or the web site so that the user experience is controlled, ads can be delivered and so on.

These are observations, not value judgements. Users appreciate the free services they get from platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter, and are happy to give up some freedom and share some personal data in return.

The question I suppose is how much power we are ceding to these corporations, who have the ability to make or break businesses and to favour their own businesses at the expense of others, and the potential abuse of that power at some future date.

I appreciate that most people do not seem to care much about these issues, and perhaps they are right not to care. I will give a shout out though to Aral Balkan who is aware of the issues and who created indiephone as a possible answer – an endeavour that has only small chance of success but which is at least worth noting.

Meanwhile, I expect the web, and mobile, and operating systems, to get even more proprietary in 2014 – for better or worse.

Making sense of Salesforce 1 (it’s all about mobile)

At its Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Salesforce has been hyping up its newly announced Salesforce 1. The keynote left us in do doubt: it is fantastic, it does mobile, it does cloud, it does “internet of things”.


Co-founder Parker Harris describes Salesforce 1 at Dreamforce

But what is Salesforce 1? For those of us who like fluff-free facts, it has been difficult to discern. The APIs that make up the Salesforce 1 platform seemed on the face of it to be the same ones Salesforce has always had; yet the company says it has multiplied the number of APIs by 10 to create Salesforce 1 (a figure I still find hard to understand).

It is beginning to make sense to me. Salesforce 1 is a brand, a platform and an app.

As a brand, Salesforce 1 encompasses all the APIs that form the Salesforce platform. The best place to understand the current state of Salesforce 1 is here, where you can see links to all the APIs, including Force.com, Heroku, ExactTarget, Radian6 (social media listening), Pardot (sales automation), Desk.com (service cloud) and GoInstant (build real-time multi-user apps). Those individual APIs still exist in their own right, but Salesforce 1 is a new brand that encompasses all of them.

There is also a Salesforce 1 app for iOS and Android. This is mainly an HTML5 app, which makes it odd that it is iOS and Android only. As I understand it, you can also use a mobile browser and get a similar experience, so it might not be too bad for Windows Phone users after all.

The Salesforce 1 app is actually an evolution of the Chatter mobile app. As I understand it, it is built with the Aura framework, for creating a responsive user interface, with strong support for touch control. The Chatter app was renamed Salesforce 1 at the start of Dreamforce.

The Salesforce 1 app is built around a feed, and Salesforce describes it as a feed-first approach. Chatter has support for Publisher Actions, which now in Salesforce 1 have a more prominent role, making the feed capable of initiating tasks and being a mobile-friendly centre of operations. Some vendors I have spoken to, such as FinancialForce (wholly owned by Salesforce), see this feed-first approach as being the core of what Salesforce 1 is about. 

When Salesforce talks about creating Salesforce 1 apps, that might refer to either of two things.

One is to create custom apps for your Salesforce users, which you can do without needing much code in some cases, which will be viewed through the Salesforce 1 app.

The other is to use the Mobile SDK for iOS or Android to create a native app. This does not have to be an HTML5 app, but could be if you want the quickest route to something that works.

According to CEO Marc Benioff, speaking to the press, much of the effort behind Salesforce 1 was in making the Salesforce browser UI properly mobile-friendly. He said that this includes mobile client libraries as well as the server APIs. Salesforce has an rapid visual builder for browser apps running on its platform, called VisualForce, and apparently getting these apps working nicely on mobile took huge effort.

Benioff gave the impression that VisualForce now works perfectly on mobile, but the booklet given to developers expresses reservations:

Only VisualForce pages enabled for Salesforce Mobile Apps and attached to a tab can be added to the Salesforce 1 navigation menu. Note that you may have to optimize these pages to work and/or display correctly on a mobile device.

Nevertheless, you can see the intent here, that anything running on Salesforce will work well on a mobile device. Benioff says that he only takes a smartphone with him when travelling, no laptop or even tablet, and he expects to be able to do all his work through it.

You could therefore call Salesforce 1 the optimisation of the Salesforce platform for mobile, subject to the iOS/Android limitation.

According to Salesforce then, the new mobile-enabled platform is more productive than other app-building tools. The idea is that many corporate apps can be implemented to run in the existing Salesforce 1 app, which perhaps more correctly should be called a client, while apps that need to be deployed more broadly, such as to consumers, can be built using the Mobile SDK and deployed to the App Store or Google Play.

Developers of course are used to these kinds of claims and will be sceptical. Still, if you have adopted Salesforce to the extent that all your users are on the system, then it might make sense to build apps with Salesforce 1 and have a lot done for you, including user management and authentication.

There is talk at Dreamforce of the “app gap”, the fact that typical enterprises currently have most of their apps designed for the desktop, but are planning for most of their apps to be mobile. That gap is an opportunity for Salesforce 1.

Against that, note that apps built with Salesforce 1 are not portable to other platform, and there are the usual questions about the extent to which businesses are willing to entrust their business to a third-party cloud platform, and if so, which cloud platform is the best choice.

Is Salesforce 1 the same old stuff repackaged, or something new? It is a bit of each.

As an aside, the focus here on iOS and Android will not be helpful to Microsoft/Nokia trying to sell Windows Phone in the enterprise. You can also understand why Microsoft is partnering with Xamarin to enable its .NET, C# libraries to work on iOS/Android. If enterprises are going mobile and largely not using Windows Phone to do so, Microsoft has no choice but to give full support to those rival mobile platforms.

As BlackBerry stumbles, there are now three mobile platforms that matter

Today has been tumultuous for BlackBerry. Investment company Fairfax Financial, BlackBerry’s biggest shareholder, was intending to buy the company for US $4.7bn, but that deal fell through, apparently because of failure to attract other investors to what seemed a risky endeavour. Instead, Fairfax and other investors will invest US $1bn of new money into BlackBerry. CEO Thorsten Heins is to step down, and John S Chen, formerly CEO of Sybase, will take on the CEO role. Here is what Chen says:

BlackBerry is an iconic brand with enormous potential – but it’s going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim our success.  I look forward to leading BlackBerry in its turnaround and business model transformation for the benefit of all of its constituencies, including its customers, shareholders and employees.

Note the key phrase here: business model transformation. What does that mean? Presumably, that the company cannot no longer be primarily a supplier of mobile devices, but will attempt to build a new business based on mobile device management, mobile security, messaging, or who knows what.

It is relatively easy to explain why BlackBerry, whose dire financials released at the end of September triggered the crisis changes, got into trouble. Like Nokia, it found that a strong position in mobile phones had suddenly become a weak position, thanks to competition from Apple and then Android. The iPhone was not just a better mobile phone, but one that changed the computing landscape. I am not going to reiterate why, but think design, think apps, think usability, think mobile computing in place of smart phones. BlackBerry was not prepared for this, nor was Nokia, nor was Microsoft.

In October 2010 I wrote about which mobile platforms will fail. This was my list of current mobile platforms:

  • Apple iOS
  • Google Android
  • Samsung Bada
  • MeeGo
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS (QNX)
  • HP/Palm WebOS
  • Symbian
  • Windows Phone 7 and successors

Today, Samsung Bada, MeeGo, WebOS, Symbian and now BlackBerry 10 are gone or all-but gone. There are now three mobile platforms that matter:

  • Apple iOS
  • Google Android
  • Windows Phone

I realise that many have written off Windows Phone as a contender, but I include it because it is actually growing its market share, and because it is the future of Windows. Desktop and mobile versions of Windows will merge, and while Microsoft has challenges in this market, for sure it is not dead yet.

We should also at least nod to Amazon which is building its Kindle platform, based on Android but an Amazon platform, and will likely introduce a mobile phone at some point; and to Mozilla for Firefox OS; and to Samsung which is making efforts to meld Android into more of its own OS thus fracturing the platform, and to Chinese vendors like Xiaomi who are doing some of the same.

Why has BlackBerry 10 failed? Reviews have been mixed, but it is as far as I can tell a decent mobile OS, and the underling QNX embedded operating system was a good choice given that the company decided against Android.

However today you need not just a nice mobile platform but an ecosystem of huge scale. BlackBerry 10 may objectively have be better initial effort at a new mobile platform than Windows Phone 7 was, in a parallel situation, but it is even later, and lacks the backing of a deep-pocketed company content to lose money for years in the hope of eventually establishing its viability. BlackBerry also lacks the wider ecosystem that surrounds the other three platforms.

While no doubt the strategy adopted by Heins could have been improved, it was more that the task was too great, than that the execution was poor.

Does anti-virus work? Does Android need it? Reflections on AVG’s security suite

I’m just back from AVG’s press event in New York, where new CEO Gary Kovacs (ex Mozilla) presented the latest product suite from the company.


Security is a huge topic but I confess to being something of a sceptic when it comes to PC security products. Problems include performance impact, unnecessary tinkering with the operating system (replacing the perfectly good Windows Firewall, for example), feature creep into non-security areas (AVG now does a performance tune-up product), and the fact that security software is imperfect. Put bluntly, it doesn’t always work; and ironically there was an example at a small business I work with while I was out there.

This business has AVG on its server and Microsoft Security Essentials on the clients, and somehow one of the clients got infected with a variant of a worm known as My little pronny which infects network shares. It may not be the exact one described in the link as these things mutate. Not too difficult to fix in this instance but a nuisance, and not picked up by the security software.

IT pros know that security software is imperfect, but uses do not; the security vendors are happy to give the impression that their products offer complete protection.

Still, there is no doubt that anti-malware software prevents some infections and helps with fixing others, so I do not mean to suggest that it is no use.

AVG is also a likeable company, not least because it offers free versions of its products that are more than just trialware. The freemium model has worked for AVG, with users impressed by the free stuff and upgrading to a paid-for version, or ordering the commercial version for work after a good experience with the free one.

Another key topic though is how security companies like AVG will survive the declining PC market. Diversification into mobile is part of their answer; but as I put it to several executives this week, Windows is particularly vulnerable thanks to its history and design, whereas operating systems like Android, iOS and Windows RT are designed for the internet and locked down so that software is only installed from curated app stores. Do we still need security software on such devices?

My further observation is that I know lots of people who have experienced Windows malware, but none so far who have complained about a virus on their Android or iOS device.

What then did I learn? Here is a quick summary.

AVG is taking a broad view of security, and Kovacs talked to me more about privacy issues than about malware. Mozilla is a non-profit that fights for the open web, and the continuity for Kovacs now with AVG is that he is working to achieve greater transparency and control for users over how their data is collected and shared.

The most striking product we saw is a free browser add-in called PrivacyFix. This has an array of features, including analysis of social media settings, analysis and blocking of ad trackers, and reports on issues with sites you visit ranging from privacy policy analysis to relevant information such as whether the site has suffered a data breach. It even attempts to rate your value to the site with the current settings; information which is not directly useful to you but which does reinforce the point that vendors and advertisers collect our data for a reason.


I can imagine PrivacyFix being unpopular in the ad tracking industry, and upsetting sites like Facebook and Google which gather large amounts of personal data. Facebook gets 4 out of 6 for privacy, and the tool reports issues such as the June 2013 Facebook data breach when you visit the site and activate the tool. Its data is limited though. When I tried it on my own site, it reported “This site has not yet been rated”.

AVG’s other announcements include a secure file shredder and an encrypted virtual drive called Data Safe which looks similar to the open source TrueCrypt but a little more user-friendly, as you would expect from a commercial utility.

AVG PC TuneUp includes features to clean the Windows registry, full uninstall, duplicate file finder, and “Flight mode” to extend battery life by switching off unneeded services as well as wireless networking. While I am in favour of making Windows leaner and more efficient, I am wary of a tool that interferes so much with the operating system. However AVG make bold claims for the efficacy of Flight Mode in extending battery life and perhaps I am unduly hesitant.

On the small business side, I was impressed with CloudCare, which provides remote management tools for AVG resellers to support their customers, apparently at no extra cost.

All of the above is Windows-centric, a market which AVG says is still strong for them. The company points out that even if users are keeping PCs longer, preferring to buy new tablets and smartphones than to upgrade their laptop, those older PCs sill need tools such as AVG’s suite.

Nevertheless, AVG seems to be hedging its bets with a strong focus on mobile, especially Android. We were assured that Android is just as vulnerable to Windows when it comes to malware, and that even Apple’s iOS needs its security supplementing. Even if you do not accept that the malware risk is as great as AVG makes out, if you extend what you mean by security to include privacy then there is no doubting the significance of the issue on mobile.

Review: Bayan Audio Soundbook Bluetooth dock

The Bayan Audio Soundbook is a portable wireless speaker system for your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop. Oh yes, and an FM radio too.


It measures 160 x 88 x 38 mm –  chunky for a portable unit, and at 530g not that light, though heavy is often good when it comes to audio. Not something for a pocket or small handbag, but fine to tuck in your case.


The unit feels solid and has an unusual design. The front flaps down and folds back to make a stand, and the action of opening it also switches the device on. Hence the Soundbook name: open and play.


This is a Bluetooth 4.0 device, and supports A2DP and aptX for high quality audio. Pairing your smartphone is a snap, with no codes involved. It also supports NFC (Near Field Communications), which worked well using a couple of Android devices I tried, a Nexus 7 tablet and a Sony Xperia phone. Just tap against the NFC logo on the underside of the flap, and a dialog appears to confirm the connection.

The Soundbook, in combination with your mobile, is also a speakerphone. There is a built-in microphone, and it behaves like a Bluetooth headset, pausing the music to let you take a call and resuming afterwards.


You can also connect without Bluetooth, using an input on the rear. Finally, there is an output jack socket so you can use the Soundbook as a wireless input to your hi-fi.

Battery life is up to 10 hours for radio or wired connections, shorter if you are using Bluetooth.

The USB power connector is the Mini-B type. A shame that Bayan did not choose the Micro-B standard which is now more common.

So how is it? It seems a lot of thought has gone into the design and the flexibility is impressive. The actual sound quality though is only so-so, thanks to the small 1″ internal speakers, and lacking in bass despite a 2″ passive bass radiator. It is stereo, though you will not notice unless you are very close and I wonder if Bayan should have borrowed an idea from Logitech’s excellent Squeezebox or UE Radio, and gone for mono. At maximum volume it is pretty loud though rather strident.

Still, this is all a matter of expectations. It is miles better than the tinny speaker built into your smartphone or tablet, and the speakerphone feature is useful.

The FM radio is not too good unless, perhaps, you are particularly close to the transmitter. Bayan says there is “an advanced integrated FM antenna” but in practice I found it difficult to get decent reception other than for a couple of local stations, and even then only after careful placement. There are no presets; you have to press and hold tune up and tune down buttons to scan for channels, which is inconvenient.

You cannot switch between Bluetooth sources other than by disconnecting the current source in order to connect another. However, it will remember up to 4 pairings at a time.

Pros and cons

The Bayan Soundbook is nicely designed and supremely flexible. I particularly like the speakerphone capability, which means you can stick this on your desk, enjoy the music, but still take hands-free calls.

That said, if this is a device for a desk, Bayan should have made it a bit larger and bumped up the sound quality.

This is best for portable use then, for which it is not bad, though a little bulky and heavy. I could more easily forgive that if the sound quality were just a bit better.