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New macOS on the way

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Apple this week previewed macOS Sierra, a major update to its desktop operating system, which now features Siri, a universal clip board and better integration with iCloud. 

Addressing criticisms that the desktop OS has not kept up with the mobile iOS, Apple has brought Siri to the Mac with new capabilities to help with the things users do every day on their desktop.

With Siri, says Apple, users can look up information, find documents, pin or drag and drop search results, and even adjust system preferences. Integration with iCloud is expected to make Desktop and Documents folder available on an iPhone and iPad so “you always have access to the files you need”. It is not clear, however, whether users will still need to pay for capacity beyond the free 5GB on offer.

Universal Clipboard allows one to copy content, including text, images, photos and video from one Apple device and paste it in another.

“macOS Sierra is a major update that makes your Mac smarter and more helpful than ever with improvements to the apps you know and love and great new features throughout,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “With macOS Sierra, you can get information, find files and multitask using Siri, access your Desktop and Documents from anywhere, copy and paste between Macs and iOS devices, and rediscover precious memories in Photos.”

Apple provided the following information:

Siri Debuts on the Mac

Siri on the Mac is now just one click away. The familiar features of Siri are now on the Mac with brand-new capabilities specifically designed for the desktop. Easily accessible from the Dock, menu bar or keyboard, Siri lets you use your voice to search for information, find files and send messages. For example you can ask Siri to locate a specific document you worked on last night, add a meeting to your calendar or start a FaceTime call. With Siri on the Mac, you can also drag and drop items from Siri search results into your documents or emails, pin Siri search results in Notification Center to keep an eye on information like sports scores or stock prices, and even adjust system preferences, set reminders and search your Photos library. With its debut on Mac, Siri is now on all four Apple software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — and handles two billion requests per week across 36 countries.

Your Desktop & Documents on All Your Devices

With macOS Sierra you can automatically have all the files on your Desktop and in your Documents folder on any Mac, iOS device or even PC. You simply save your files on your Desktop or within your Documents folder as you usually do and you will have them everywhere you need them. You can access your files on your iPhone and iPad in the iCloud Drive app and on iCloud.com or the iCloud for Windows app. And when you log into a second Mac, your files are automatically on the Desktop and in the Documents folder, exactly where you saved them.

Copy & Paste Between Devices

Continuity across your Apple devices also gets better in macOS Sierra. With Universal Clipboard, the contents of your clipboard are available across all your Apple devices via iCloud. You can easily copy and paste text, images, photos and video between your Mac and your iPhone and iPad.

Tabs in Almost Every App

To help you navigate your Desktop with more efficiency, macOS Sierra takes the popular Tabs feature from Safari and makes it available across Mac apps that support multiple windows, including Maps, Mail, Pages, Numbers, Keynote and TextEdit, and even third-party apps. With Tabs you can browse multiple locations in Maps without losing your place, copy and paste between Pages documents in full screen, or quickly jump between multiple email drafts in Mail.

Picture in Picture on the Mac

You can now keep an eye on one thing while working on another. macOS Sierra lets you float video from Safari or iTunes in a window over your desktop as you work, and even resize, drag and pin video to any corner of your screen. The video stays put when you switch spaces, so you’ll never miss a thing.

Shopping on Your Mac with Apple Pay

Users love to shop online using their Macs and with macOS the shopping experience in Safari is now even better. Apple Pay on the web makes it easy to make secure and private purchases when shopping on participating websites. You no longer need to share credit or debit card numbers with an online merchant and actual card numbers are not stored on your device, nor on Apple servers. Just look for the Apple Pay button at checkout on many of your favourite shopping sites and complete your purchase with Touch ID on your iPhone or by using your Apple Watch. Strong encryption protects all communication between your devices and Apple Pay servers, and Apple Pay does not track your purchases.

Rediscover Memories with Photos

The new Memories feature in Photos helps you rediscover favourite and forgotten moments deep in your Photos library by automatically creating curated collections of occasions like a first birthday party, wedding or family vacation. With new advanced computer vision, Photos now understands the people, places and things inside your images using on-device facial, object and scene recognition and location information to group images into albums. The People feature automatically groups your photos into Albums based on who is in them. Places now displays your photos on a world map so you can see where they were taken. And, perfecting your photos like a pro is now even easier with the new Brilliance tool, which pulls in highlights and adds contrast to enhance details throughout your images.

Additional macOS Features

• Auto Unlock lets you simply walk up to your Mac while wearing your authenticated Apple Watch and be automatically logged into your desktop.

• Optimised Storage frees up space when your Mac starts getting full by storing infrequently used items in iCloud and reminding you to delete used app installers, and even clearing out duplicate downloads, caches, logs and more.

• Messages makes conversations more interesting, now allowing you to preview web links and watch video clips within the app, post reactions like a heart, thumbs up and more directly onto a message bubble with Tapback, and use bigger emoji for more message impact.

• Apple Music in iTunes makes it even easier to discover new music and browse exclusives and new releases.

Privacy in macOS

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of Apple hardware, software and services. iMessage and FaceTime use end-to-end encryption to protect your data by making it unreadable by Apple and others. Services like Siri and Maps send data to Apple’s servers, but this data is not used to build user profiles, and Photos uses on-device intelligence to organise your images using facial, object and scene recognition.

Starting with macOS Sierra, Apple is using technology called Differential Privacy to help discover the usage patterns of a large number of users without compromising individual privacy. In macOS Sierra, this technology will help improve autocorrect suggestions and lookup hints in Notes.

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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