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MWC: How Huawei claims the lead in foldable handsets

The new Huawei Mate X, which unfolds into a tablet, is an attempt to claim the future, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

When Huawei announced its answer to Samsung’s Galaxy Fold at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona on Sunday, it invoked the language of science fiction and space travel to emphasise the futuristic approach of the new Mate X.

The handset is a two-in one smartphone and tablet, using 5G connectivity for speed, a foldable screen for versatility, artificial intelligence for anticipating user needs, and a new mode of interfacing for an enhanced user experience.

Bruce Lee, VP of Handset Business at Huawei Consumer Business Group, with the Mate X unfolded.
Pic by Arthur Goldstuck.

The key to the foldable screen is a Mechanical Hinge called the Falcon Wing, simultaneously invoking the iconic Millennium Falcon and X-Wing spacecraft from Star Wars. The very colour of the device was invented for Huawei, which describes it as an “Interstellar Blue colour wave”. It says it “epitomises the beauty of technology and sets a higher bar for future smartphones”.

And then there is the positioning of the phone: It represents a voyage into the uncharted,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, at the launch, echoing the classic Star Trek slogan, “to boldly go where no phone has gone before”.

Can it be all that? Star Wars, Star Trek and the very future of space travel, all in one device? Of course not, but then this is not science fiction. It is the practical reality of flexible and foldable displays finally entering the mainstream.  The challenge is to convince the public to pay a premium price and, as with the Galaxy Fold, that is unlikely with the first generation of foldables.

What it does do, however, is confirm that Samsung has not been able to take a clear lead in foldables, having beaten Huawei by a mere four days with its announcement, and with a format more clunky than that of the Mate X.

The Samsung Fold has a 4.6-inch front display, and opens up to a 7.3-inch mini-tablet. In dramatic contrast, the Mate X has a massive front display measuring 6.6-inches, folding out into a 8-inch tablet. The fundamental difference is that the Fold display is on the inside of the device, separate from the cover display, while the Mate X is on the outside, allowing the cover screen to transform directly into the tablet display.

This has also allowed the Mate X to follow a more elegant design, with the two halves clipping neatly into the frame of the device. The Fold looks like two phones on top of each other. The result is that the Mate X is two thirds the thickness of the Fold, at 11cm compared to 17cm, when folded. That makes for a far bigger device in fact being far more compact.

Click here to watch the Gadget exclusive Huawei Mate X demo, recorded by Arthur Goldstuck.

Click here to see where Samsung leads, and pricing of the foldable handsets.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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