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In Depth: Android in 2020: the future of Google’s mobile OS explored

In Depth: Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

Cast your mind back to late 2008, when the first Android-powered handset saw the light of day. Obama won his first Presidential election, Apple launched its App Store (the iPhone had appeared the year before), Google announced its own Chrome browser and we got our first look at the company’s new mobile OS on the T-Mobile G1.

The Android of 2013 is a world away from that 2008 version, where the Android Market was in its infancy, there were no native video playback capabilities and the G1 had no multi-touch support. But Google is going to have to keep innovating and improving its mobile OS to keep the lion’s share of the smartphone market.

We’ve taken a peek into the future to consider what Android might look like in the year 2020. With new Android monikers now appearing about once a year, its codename should start with an “R” – Rhubarb Pie, Rocky Road or Rice Pudding, perhaps? Or maybe even Rolos, given the tie-up deals Google is putting in place these days?

Here are the four key features we think could play the biggest part in Android’s ongoing evolution over the next seven years:

1. Maps in Android in 2020

Apple’s Maps app may not have set the world alight when it launched, but it’s here now (alongside Nokia’s offering), and that means Google needs to up its game to stay ahead. The 2013 Google Maps refresh brought with it a greater level of customisation based on your personal searches, and this will only increase in the future.

With Google Now and Google Latitude tracking your every move, you’ll see directions to your favourite pub appear on-screen every Friday lunchtime. If the pub in question has an Android-powered bar installed, you might even find your tipple of choice waiting for you when you arrive.

Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

As for all of the services hanging off Maps, Google is already hiring out the Street View cameras and enabling you to peek inside buildings – you can expect Android 2020 to offer better imagery of most public buildings, as well as tappable info as you move around.

There might even be an option to enable Google to anonymously augment its Street View data with the snaps you take on your phone to provide an even more up-to-date view of the world.

2. Android messaging in 2020

Google has already made its intentions clear with the Hangouts upgrade we got at I/O this year. With Facebook, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype et al to battle against, there’s no doubt we’ll see Google push further into the universal messaging game, covering SMS, email, instant messaging and video calling with tools that are baked into Android.

You won’t have to have separate apps for each of these, as the UI will be unified in a way that makes it easy to seamlessly slip between each method of calling.

We might even get Google Voice in the UK by the time 2020 rolls around, though don’t hold your breath.

Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

How far Google can go depends on the networks and its competitors in the field – it’s already launched an ultra-fast internet service in the US, so telecoms could be next. And the company has been sniffing around unused wireless spectrum frequencies, too.

Don’t be surprised to see free 5G video calling and texting between Android devices by 2020, with all of your conversations grouped by person rather than platform, and archived and searchable in Gmail.

Eric Schmidt has already predicted that every human will be online by 2020 (no doubt hoping that we’ll all have a Google+ page too), and the more people his company can help get connected the better for Google’s bottom line.

3. Android payments and security in 2020

Over the next few years our phones will become even more important for making payments, transferring money and verifying our identity (everything from getting through the door at work to logging into Facebook).

The Google Authenticator app of 2020 could work with your device’s NFC chip to automatically log you into Gmail when you sit down at your laptop, for example, or pay for your flight when you step on a plane. Apple has Passbook, and Google will want an equivalent in place too.

Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

We’ve seen tattoos and pills shown off as possible authentication triggers of the future, and Android 2020 will play a big part in proving you are who you say you are, whether it’s at a coffee shop or Google I/O.

Basic face recognition is already available, but in the years to come it has the potential to get much more accurate. It might even be joined by fingerprint or retina scanning built into Android’s camera app, or at least part of the phone, now that Apple has shown that fingerprint scanning is a viable option with its new Touch ID technology.

4. Android hardware in 2020

Hardware innovations are going to play a big part in Android’s roadmap. Besides the obvious smaller, thinner, faster improvements for our phones, bendable screens should be in place in the near future – the likes of Samsung have the tech already in production, and Android will change to adapt itself through scrolling rivers of news, status updates and other notifications.

Ever-changing, ever-optimising displays will be the order of the day, and the batteries and mobile processors of 2020 should be able to keep up.

Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

Google Glass has of course generated plenty of buzz this year, good and bad, as has the rumour of an Apple iWatch to compete with the Galaxy Gear. It looks like the wearable tech revolution is about to take off, and by the time 2020 rolls around this could mean miniature devices on our glasses, wrists and clothing, ready to capture every moment and record every movement.

You won’t need to take photos any more, since Google will simply pick out the best pictures from the unedited stream of the day’s events. Nor will you need to decide what to eat for dinner – Android 2020 will know what you’ve been doing today (and what you’re probably doing tonight), and can pick out the most suitable foods for you.

Android: the 2020 edition

The only certainty about Android’s future is that it has a fight on its hands to stay competitive. Apple’s new-look iOS 7 has given Google plenty to think about, not least with its tie-ins with Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Flickr and Vimeo.

Android’s continuing integration with Chrome and the desktop/laptop will make for an interesting story too – they’re both run by the same man, Sundar Pichai, remember – and perhaps Google’s biggest challenge will be to convince us that we can trust it with more and more information about where we are, who we communicate with and the way we live our lives.

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Explained: What Windows 8.1 can do for BYOD

Explained: What Windows 8.1 can do for BYOD

One of the big questions around the prospects for Windows 8.1 in the workplace is how well it will fit into the management of employees’ mobile devices. Many businesses are ready to go along with the trend towards ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), and they will have to think seriously about how they can manage devices that run on the new operating system.

The core issues are how existing mobile device management (MDM) systems will be able to manage Windows 8.1, and what else can be done if you also have Windows Server 2012 RS, the accompanying server and cloud platform.

IT admins will probably be encouraged by the provision of a lot more management options within Windows 8.1 than Windows 8. Some need upcoming versions of Windows Server, but Microsoft is building key mobile device management standards into Windows 8.1 (including Windows RT 8.1 for mobile devices), so it should provide more control for any MDM system.

This includes those already widely used to manage smartphones and tablets, such as MobileIron, AirWatch or Microsoft’s own Intune service, but there will be an advantage with Windows 8.1.

Using such systems usually involves installing a management client on a device, and Windows RT devices will only work with Intune. But Microsoft is building an agent that supports the open OMA-DM standard and the Simple Certificate Enrolment Protocol (SCEP that Apple uses for iOS management). The agent will be within Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, which will make it possible to manage the systems through the same software, and in many cases with the same policies.

This will include using the agent to change some settings in Windows, and although Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed which ones, it will be possible to distribute wireless and virtual private network settings, including the certificates needed for virtual private network connections. There will also be a function to run reports on which devices are connecting, and whether they have up-to-date anti-virus software and the latest Windows updates.

If a business has apps that it wants its employees to use, such as an expenses reporting tool, it will not have to go through the Windows Store but can sideload them into Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 devices and send out any updates.

Windows 8.1 Active Directory

If it runs Active Directory it can use it to manage 8.1 systems at two levels: it’s possible to simply place a certificate on a device to control access to company resources; or allow users to register their device with Active Directory through the new Workplace Join feature in PC Settings. Workplace Join also works with iOS devices and will support Android in time.

Windows 8.1 web applications proxy

The Web Application Proxy in Windows Server 2012 R2 can make file sharing on a server available over a secure HTTPS connection, so users can sync files through the Work Folders function to their devices and save them back to the server when they’re on the road. Admins will be able to back them up with the normal processes.

The main limitation of Work Folders is that everything has to be synced, rather than choosing which files to copy to a device as is possible with SkyDrive syncs. On a tablet that could take up a lot of space.

But there is a big positive in that, when anyone leaves the company or loses their device, it’s possible to wipe the synced files remotely – without having to wipe the whole system and their personal content – and to remove certificates, VPN profiles and apps.

Windows 8.1 Workplace Join

Both Workplace Join and the Web Application Proxy require the use of Active Directory Federation Services, which is easier to work with in Windows Server 2012 R2. If a business makes use of two factor authentication, it can make employees use it every time they connect from outside the company network, or just the first time they register on Workplace Join to prove their device is trustworthy.

Unlike Active Directory, which makes it possible to apply group policy to control almost every setting on PCs owned by a company, Workplace Join doesn’t provide for the control of any settings. For that, users have to allow the PC Settings function to turn on the built-in MDM agent.

This is the same on iOS and makes Windows 8.1 devices much more like other smartphones and tablets widely used in BYOD.

Overall, IT admins will get more tools to control employees’ devices that use Microsoft’s operating system, and this will help it fit more comfortably into a BYOD environment.

Posted in Computing, Mobile Phones, Security, Software, WirelessComments Off

Blip: Ashton Kutcher, he of ‘Jobs’ movie fame, might be the new face of Lenovo

Blip: Ashton Kutcher, he of 'Jobs' movie fame, might be the new face of Lenovo

Lenovo may soon have a new face in the form of Ashton Kutcher a.k.a. Steve Jobs a.k.a. Kelso (yeah, that’s getting pretty stale).

Kutcher is reportedly on the cusp of signing a $10 million (about £6.5m, AU$10.8m) deal to appear in a series of Lenovo ads. It may seem a little random that the guy playing the founder of Apple would put his mug up for the world’s current No. 1 PC maker, but on the other hand, maybe it makes perfect sense?

He gave surprisingly astute observations about the world of social media and his personal interest in technology investments earlier this year at CTIA 2013. He’s famous for funding start ups, plus we’ve seen him flashing those pearly whites for Nikon since 2009.

Could Kutcher made Lenovo cool? We may soon see.

More blips!

Here’s to the crazy ones! Here’s to more blips!

Posted in Computing, Internet, Social Media, Software, Technology, WirelessComments Off

Blip: Ashton Kutcher reportedly the new face of Lenovo

Blip: Ashton Kutcher reportedly the new face of Lenovo

Lenovo may have a new face soon in the form of Ashton Kutcher a.k.a. Steve Jobs a.k.a. Kelso (yeah, that’s getting pretty stale).

Kutcher is reportedly signing a 10 million dollar deal to appear in a series of Lenovo ads.

He gave surprisingly astute observations about the world of social media and his personal interests in technology investments earlier this year at CTIA 2013 so he’s no stranger to the tech world.

We’ve also seen him flashing his pearly whites for Nikon ads since 2009.

Whether he’ll don a Jobs-esque appearance and demeanor for Lenovo is of course, debatable, but after such a high profile role, it’ll be hard to separate the two personas.

More blips!

Here’s to the crazy ones! Here’s to more blips!

Posted in Computing, Internet, Social Media, Software, Technology, WirelessComments Off

In Depth: Windows 8.1 security: what’s been improved

In Depth: Windows 8.1 security: what's been improved

In all the fuss about the Start screen, it’s easy to miss that Windows 8 had major improvements to security; that was the culmination of ten years of work on defending the operating system, senior product manager Chris Hallum told us.

“Windows 7 is six times more likely to get infected than Windows 8 and Windows XP is 21 times more likely to be exploited.”

But that was still all defensive reactions; for Windows 8.1, he said, Microsoft is going on the offensive with better malware protection, new ways of checking the security certificates web sites rely on – and with a plan to add encryption and biometric security to every PC.

The built-in anti-malware tool Defender will protect against more threats in the browser, including from plugins and ActiveX controls. “In Windows 8.1 we will scan those payloads before they’re executed,” Hallum told us.

Protecting against stolen certificates

Microsoft will also be more active about protecting the browser against stolen certificates; because the browser trusts those certificates to identify popular web sites that you log into, hackers have started targeting them (and the authorities who issue them) as a way to break into your accounts.

“Public certificates have already been hacked,” Hallum points out; in a number of cases certificates for well-known companies like Yahoo and Google have been compromised and used on fake web sites to steal credentials.”

Windows 8 vs Windows RT: what’s the difference?

For Windows 8.1, Microsoft will operate a service tracking certificates for the top million web sites. “If we see a certificate being used fraudulently or showing up on a server where it shouldn’t be, we will work with the certificate authorities,” Hallum said, noting that this will protect other versions of Windows and indeed other platforms too.

Windows 8.1 encryption and BitLocker

With Windows 8.1, encryption isn’t just for business users any more, although Microsoft is improving BitLocker performance for business systems (up to 30 times faster than in Windows 8, Hallum claims). “We need it not just to protect your data but also the system itself; we don’t want people to be able to tamper with Windows system files,” he explained.

That’s why all versions of Windows will now include encryption; BitLocker in the business editions and the same device encryption that’s already in Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 in the home editions. “We expect encryption to be pervasive,” he predicted.

If you're putting confidential information on a Windows 8.1 tablet, encryption and biometrics will keep it more secure

There are some hardware restrictions on this; you need a PC that is capable of Connected Standby with Windows 8 or 8.1. That means the PC has a UEFI BIOS and either a separate Trusted Platform Module (TPM), ARM’s Trusted Zone or Intel’s Platform Trust Technology for storing information securely.

It also means there is are no Direct Memory Access connections, which includes both FireWire and the Thunderbolt technology Intel developed with Apple; Hallum says Microsoft is talking to Intel about ways of making Thunderbolt more secure but DMA connections can transfer code directly into memory, bypassing system security.

Windows 8.1 Provable PC

Microsoft will also use the information about the PC stored in the TPM to ‘harden’ Windows with a cloud service that’s provisionally called Provable PC Health (expect the name to change, Hallow says). This will use the record of secure boot stored in the TPM to verify that your PC isn’t infected. “We can remotely analyse the security state of the device and the integrity of the device.” Hallum says, claiming that this will detect even sophisticated malware like Flame.

“We will inform the user if there is a problem and if there is an infection Windows can put them back in a safe state. If there is an infection that can steal their credentials we will inform them, and we will help them remediate their Microsoft account.”

Defender was improved within Windows 8

Once you can store information securely and prove that your PC doesn’t have a rootkit or a virus that could compromise that, you can use your PC as a way to authenticate that’s more secure than a password.

“Passwords are increasingly problematic,” Hallum points out; “people can have them phished or they can be guessed.” Windows 8 can already use the TPM as a virtual smartcard but that’s not truly two-factor authentication. You need something else to prove your identity and that will be your fingerprint.

Windows 8.1 fingerprint sensors

Today’s fingerprint sensors are big, clumsy (you have to swipe your finger across them carefully) and easy to fool with a fake finger. More powerful sensors can tell the difference between a real finger and a fake – they can tell if your finger has a pulse – and they can detect prints from four fingers at once, but those sensors currently cost $100 or more.

Microsoft is working with partners who can get the price down to about $4 each, so you’ll get them in notebooks and tablets and even printers. And that could do way with insecure passwords entirely. “We want to make biometrics completely mainstream,” says Hallum boldly.

Windows 8.1 virtual smartcards

Businesses get extra features as well. Windows 8.1 gets a way to use devices like Windows RT tablets, which can’t jon a domain but do have a TPM, as virtual smartcards – as long as they use the new workplace join option so you identify to your company network which device you’re using. That would mean that the files you can sync from your Windows Server file server to your RT tablet using Work Folders can be protected by Information Rights Management, which only lets authorised people open, print or copy those files.

Windows 8.1 selective wipe

Windows 8.1 will also include selective wipe for removing business files from a personal computer without deleting your personal files too. Work files will be protected by the encryption and admins will be able to send a command (using standard device management software like Mobile Iron, Airwatch or System Center) to erase just those files. That will work on both x86 and ARM devices running Windows RT.

Senior Director Stella Chernyak summed the combination up as Microsoft’s answer to the BYOD trend. “As a user I can bring my personal device to work and easily join a corporate network with workplace join, and the company has a way to have my device recognised so when they expose the company data they know what device they’re exposing it to. They don’t manage the devices, they manage their corporate information, they control who has access – and they can remotely wipe business data and apps from that personal device if I’m leaving the company.”

Now check out the other features in Windows 8.1

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