Free upgrade gave Windows 10 a one-month boost

Recent data from an Irish metrics firm shows that the free upgrade to Windows 10 initially kick-started usage of the new operating system, but that within a month of its July 29 release, gains fell below the threshold set by Windows 7 six years ago.

Although the numbers reflect only the first 40 days of Windows 10’s wider availability — and the early burst of increases fueled a record for Microsoft — they illustrate a shorter-than-expected impact of the free upgrade.

Data from StatCounter, which measures usage share, a percentage of the total desktop-and-laptop-driven online activity by a specific operating system, was used by Computerworld to analyze Windows 10’s gains. Week-over-week increases in usage share for both Windows 7 and Windows 10 during their respective first 40 days were calculated, and then to eliminate daily variances — usage of a new OS typically spikes on weekends because consumers compose the bulk of early adopters — the results were charted using seven-day rolling averages.

The results were surprising.

Although Windows 10’s average week-over-week increases started out extremely strong — in the neighborhood of 2.4 percentage points — they were halved by Day 21. Eight days later, Windows 10’s increase was below Windows 7’s at the same post-release point. Since then, Windows 10’s usage share gains continued to slip, reaching four-tenths of a percentage point on Day 40.

Windows 10 usage share Data: StatCounter
Windows 10’s week-over-week increases in usage share started out gangbusters, but have fallen sharply. Meanwhile, Windows 7’s increases took a slower, steadier pace six years ago, and have recently surpassed those of its successor.

Comparisons to Windows 7 were also illuminating.

That operating system was a traditional release for Microsoft in that it was a paid upgrade for those who wanted to install the new software on an existing machine. Microsoft sold discounted upgrades for Windows 7 for less than two weeks prior to its October 2009 launch, pricing those upgrades at $50 (Home) and $100 (Professional). The bulk of Windows 7 gains, however, came not from the in-place upgrades, but from users purchasing new systems.

In light of the long-term shipment slump of PCs — three and a half years and counting, with no immediate end in sight — Microsoft felt it necessary to provide Windows 10 free of charge in order to jump-start usage. It simply couldn’t wait for the usual replace-with-new-PCs model to gradually push customers to the new OS.

Windows 10 has continued to increase its usage share, according to StatCounter: On Sunday, the OS broke the 8% mark for the first time. And its lead over Windows 7, thanks to the early surge, remains secure. As of Day 40, Windows 10’s usage share was 1.2 percentage points higher than Windows 7’s, representing a 44% advantage.

Windows 10 usage share, chart 2Data: StatCounter
Windows 10 continues to collect usage share gains, cracking the 8% mark two days ago.

But the fact that Windows 10’s average week-over-week increases have been steadily shrinking, and and more importantly, that they’ve dipped below those of Windows 7’s for the last 6 days — and in 8 of the last 12 — signals that the biggest results from the free upgrade are behind Microsoft. Going forward, increases will likely be more in line with historical patterns.

The comparison between Windows 10 and Windows 7 is not apples-to-apples, maybe not even apples-to-oranges, since there are dissimilar variables, ranging from the time of year. Windows 7 at 40 days was into early December, PC buying prime time, while August is at the tail end of the second-best stretch, back-to-school, with few Windows 10-equipped devices yet on shelves. And there are vastly different personal computer dynamics in 2015 versus 2009.

Sans a free upgrade, however, Windows 10’s increases would have likely been much, much smaller, far below Windows 7’s, putting Microsoft in an impossible spot. But that counterfactual is impossible to prove.

One thing does seem clear: If Windows 10’s usage share — and data derived from other third-party sources — doesn’t improve at a faster pace, Microsoft could run through the 12 months of its free upgrade without enough to justify the effort, or make its professed goal of 1 billion Windows 10 devices by mid-2018.

Computerworld will check in on the progress of Windows 10’s usage share gains at intermittent intervals.

Opera Mini 11 for Android Adds New Data Compression Feature and More

Opera Software on Tuesday released an updated version of its Opera Mini browser for Android. The highlight of the updated app, now up to version 11, is the inclusion of a new compression technology.

Opera Mini 11 for Android gives users the option of High or Extreme compression modes. The two modes optimise the data consumed by the app on opening webpages, images or videos in different working conditions. The new High compression mode in Opera Mini lets users access Web content faster by compressing the webpages without affecting the viewing quality or the layout, useful for both 3G and Wi-Fi connections. Extreme mode on the other hand compresses webpages more ‘extensively’ than High compression mode, affecting the layout dramatically but remaining useful by offering high-speed browsing on very limited data connectivity. This was the only compression mode available forOpera Mini for Android.

opera_mini_app_screenshots_google_play.jpgOther features in Opera Mini 11 for Android include a revamped UI for saved pages and bookmarks, in which both are now fixed entries above the Speed Dial. Also, the saved pages are now listed in a full screen list, showing both the title and the URL. Easy management of downloads in High-compression mode, new tab switch, Private-browsing mode, customisable browser layout, scalable interface with higher resolution for tablets and big screen phones, updates in the Discover new feed, and a data counter showing the Internet data saving progress, are some other updates in the new version.

The updated Opera Mini app for Android is available to download from Google Play.

 

“Opera Mini has for a decade helped hundreds of millions of users across the globe to access their favourite content on the internet no matter which mobile phone they had or how slow their data connection was. With the rise of better smartphones and better network conditions our users now want the option to have a less aggressive data compression mode so they can experience the full internet when network conditions allow for it,” said Christian Uribe, Product Manager of Opera Mini at Opera Software, in an emailed statement.

Microsoft kills off some of Nokia’s apps for Windows Phone

Windows 10 Mobile running on a Lumia 940XL.
Microsoft announced Friday that it will cease development of several apps Nokia developed for Windows Phone as the company streamlines the photo experience on Windows 10 Mobile.

In a post to Microsoft’s Lumia Conversations blog, Editor-in-Chief Tiina Jaatinen said that Lumia Storyteller, Lumia Beamer, Photobeamer and Lumia Refocus will have their online services shut down after October 30, and the apps will no longer be available. The Lumia Panorama and Video Uploader will continue to function, but Microsoft won’t be updating those apps any more.

All of the apps have been pulled from the Windows Store, but those people who already have them installed on their devices will be able to keep them. After Oct. 30, those apps that rely on online services to work will cease to function. It’s bad news for people who rely on software like Lumia Beamer, which allows users to display a still from a phone’s screen on another device, but it’s not clear exactly how many people will be affected by the change.

The post said that it’s ceasing work on those apps to focus on the Photos and Camera apps for Windows 10 Mobile, the next version of the company’s operating system for phones that’s supposed to be released sometime this fall. According to Jaatinen, many of the features of these apps are already included in the Photos and Camera apps on Windows 10 Mobile, but not everything will be making the trip.

Case in point: the Lumia Storyteller app, which uses information about when and where a photo was captured to create a video collage of images doesn’t have an analog in the current system apps for Windows 10 Mobile. It’s hard to say what will come of that app after the shutdown of its online service, which is used for sharing the videos with other people over the web.

Some of the shutdowns make a degree of sense because of new functionality included in Windows 10 Mobile. One of the operating system’s marquee features is Phone Continuum, which will allow users to mirror the contents of certain phones to external displays. It’s a higher-fidelity experience than what Lumia Beamer currently offers, but will require a dock and new phone hardware in order to work.

The culling of these apps is in line with Microsoft’s mobile strategy of late. In July, the company announced that it was cutting 7,800 jobs, primarily in the mobile phone business that it acquired from Nokia. CEO Satya Nadella said at the time that the company would have a tighter focus on creating a smaller number of phones for particular markets, rather than producing a full line of handsets like it used to following the Nokia acquisition.

Google May Return to China With Google Play Android App Store

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Google is talking with Chinese authorities and smartphone makers about opening an online shop in China stocked with applications for Android-powered mobile devices, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The move would mark a return for the US Internet firm, which moved its online search service from Mainland China to Hong Kong in 2010 after a cyber-attack targeting Gmail users and a clash over censorship.

Many Google services, such as its free Gmail email, are blocked in China.

Google-backed Android powers the majority of the smartphones in the world and is available free for device makers in China and elsewhere.

Manufacturers such as Xiaomi customise their own version of Android, while Baidu and other Internet players in China run app stores that don’t share revenue with Google, according to the Journal.

Opening a Google Play online shop for digital content approved by the Chinese government and pre-installed on smartphones powered by a licensed version of Android would be a remedy for that situation.

Google has been working on the project for more than a year and hoped to have the China app shop on new smartphones by the end of this year, according to a source cited by the Journal.

Ola Switches to CNG-Only Cabs in Delhi Following High Court Order

Taxi aggregator Ola on Thursday announced a change to its taxi categories for Delhi NCR, followingpressure from the Delhi High Court in recent weeks for the company to use CNG vehicles for point-to-point transport within the national capital. Things took a turn on Thursday, when the Delhi High Court said Ola can only run on CNG fuel in the city.

Congress leader and senior lawyer P. Chidambaram represented ANI technologies (Ola) in the Delhi High Court and promised that diesel-based vehicles plying for the taxi service will be taken off the roads within two weeks.

Following the announcement, Ola has now split taxi categories in Delhi to ‘Within Delhi’ and ‘Delhi to NCR’. Users who choose the former category will be served by the firm’s all-CNG fleet of Mini cabs with charges of Rs. 8 per kilometre (minimum of Rs. 100 for the first 4 km).

The latter Delhi to NCR category is for those users who are looking to travel from Delhi to other parts of NCR, and Ola will serve them inter-state cabs. Ola says, as a bonus, pricing for all cabs, irrespective of whether they are hatchbacks, sedans, or SUVs, will be at its Mini prices (detailed above).

From Thursday, users of the app in New Delhi will not see any other taxi categories – such as Mini, Sedan, Prime, and TFS. Users of the app in other parts of NCR (for example, playing from Gurgaon to Gurgaon or from Gurgaon to Delhi) however will continue to see other categories and regular rates.

The company added it has already started “enabling large scale adoption of CNG vehicles for its driver partners,” and said it had rolled out an extensive driver outreach program for the same.

On Wednesday, the company said it was setting up mobile contact centers at Indian Oil CNG pumps across Delhi to encourage CNG adoption. Ola said it will also facilitate on-the-go audits and trainings at over 50 CNG pumps of IOCL, allowing driver-partners to do more rides in the city during the day.

The firm added that the majority of cars on the Ola platform in Delhi are already on CNG, and that in the last one week, it has added more than 3,000 CNG vehicles to its platform.

Delhi Woman Who Sued Uber Over Rape Accusation Ends US Lawsuit

A woman who sued Uber after accusing one of its drivers of raping her in India has voluntarily ended her lawsuit against the company, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

The passenger, who reported being raped and beaten after hailing a ride with the Uber driver in Delhilast year, sued the online car service in a US federal court in January, claiming the company failed to maintain basic safety procedures.

The driver was arrested by Indian police and appeared in court in December. Uber’s Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick at the time called the incident “horrific” and pledged to help “bring this perpetrator to justice.”

However, Uber also argued in court filings that the woman sued the wrong corporate entity as the driver had a contract with Uber B.V., a Netherlands-based entity with no US operations.

The court filing did not disclose any details on how the case was settled, and representatives for Uber and the woman declined to comment.

India is one of Uber’s largest markets outside the United States by the number of cities covered. The rape allegation triggered protests and reignited a debate about the safety of women in Asia’s third-largest economy, especially in New Delhi, which has been dubbed India’s rape capital.

Uber, valued at around $50 billion this year, has said it would introduce additional safety measures including more stringent driver checks and an in-app emergency button.

In the lawsuit, the woman, who resides in Delhi and was not named, called Uber the “modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking.”

“Buyer beware – we all know how those horror movies end,” the lawsuit stated.

Earlier this year, both sides had agreed to participate in private mediation to try to resolve the lawsuit, according to court filings.

Instagram Adds Features to Keep Up With Young, Messaging Users

Facebook Inc’s Instagram added new features on Tuesday allowing users to exchange messages in private and group conversations as the photo and video-sharing service aims to keep up with growing messaging service Snapchat.

The upgrade by Instagram, which has more than 300 million users, is the latest move in the escalating battle for a young audience addicted to messaging with younger and hipper rival Snapchat, which has 100 million users and growing.

The new features mean Instagram users can share pictures directly with one friend or a group of people and send back text responses or pictures, which Instagram hopes will make users want to stay on its mobile app or web site longer.

Young mobile users are increasingly interested in messaging friends and having conversations online, rather than merely viewing content. As much as 40 percent of all comments on Instagram posts mention other accounts, Instagram said, suggesting that many users like to flag content to users they know and start conversations about it.

The move comes a week after Instagram upgraded its service to allow new layout options in addition to its signature square for pictures and videos, which was viewed as a move to compete better with Snapchat.

Snapchat, which is popular partly because messages on its platform disappear after a few seconds, already offered a variety of picture and video formats. Earlier this year, Snapchat upgraded its service so users could exchange text messages in response to photos and videos.

Many social sites and apps have added specialised messaging features recently in a bid to keep users.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, launched its Messenger service as a standalone app earlier this year, and added a virtual assistant called ‘M’ last week that can complete tasks for users such as shopping.

On Tuesday, LinkedIn Corp said it would revamp its inbox with new apps and designs that mimic chat services.

India Funding Roundup: Reverie, Vyomo, DropKaffe, Djubo, BetterButter

Reverie
Bengaluru-based Reverie, which provides a Language-as-a-Service platform for businesses to incorporate local languages in their content and apps, has raised $4 million (roughly Rs. 26.5 crores) in its Series A from Aspada and Qualcomm ventures. Sahil Kini of Aspada will also join Reverie’s board. The firm aims to create a content-rich Internet that is accessible to over 5 billion users of every local language, and claims to have generated $1 million (Rs. 6.6 crores) in revenues as a boot-strapped entity.

Vyomo
YouWeCan-backed mobile marketplace app for beauty and wellness, Vyomo has raised $2 million (roughly Rs. 13.3 crores) in a pre-Series A round from Rocket Internet, Iamwire reported. Founded by Abhinav Khare and Poonam Marwah, the firm offers SaaS-based salon management software, and has apps for Android and iOS users to search and book appointments at beauty centres based on location, reviews, and ratings.

DropKaffe
Bengaluru-based online coffee shop DropKaffe has raised $300,000 (roughly Rs. 1.9 crores) in a seed round led by angel investor Manish Singhal and Silicon Valley-based fund P39 Capital, VC Circle reported. Founded in 2015 by Chaitanya Chitta, Amar Yashlaha, Lakshmi Dasaka, and Rakshit Kejriwal, the firm has delivered over 50,000 coffees, and plans to launch a mobile app soon.

Djubo
Ibibo group has acquired a minority stake in cloud-based hotel sales platform provider Djubo for an undisclosed amount, Medianama reported. Founded in 2014 by IIM alumnus Tarun Gulati, the Delhi-based firm will integrate its solution with Ibibo’s group products, such as PayU, Redbus, and Ryde.

BetterButter
Delhi-based BetterButter, an online social discovery platform for recipes has raised $250,000 (roughly Rs 1.65 crore) in seed funding, led by GrowX Ventures, with participation from M&S Partners, Manish Singhal, and Rajesh Sawhney. Founded in 2015 by Sukhmani Bedi and Niyaz Laiq, the platform lets users create, share, and discover recipes, and also plans to launch an app soon.

Former FireEye Intern Admits Developing and Selling Malicious Android Tool

20-year-old Morgan Culbertson has pleaded guilty in Pittsburgh federal court to developing and selling a malicious tool called Dendroid. The tool in question allows an attacker to make an app that could hijack an Android device, steal its data, and use its camera to spy on victims.

Dendroid made headlines in 2014 when it managed to bypass Bouncer, Google’s anti-malware screening system to find a place in Google Play, Android’s marquee app store. A custom remote access toolkit (RAT) – aka remote administration toolkit – Dendroid allows an attacker to remotely control the device the malicious tool it is installed on. It was being sold for around $300 (roughly Rs. 19,900), and charged $65,000 (roughly Rs. 43 lakhs) for the source code of the malware.

A former FireEye, a security firm intern, Culbertson said that he improvised malware detection by discovering new malware families and using a plethora of different tools. He was arrested in an international law enforcement targeting the Darkode, a crime online forum in July.

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Touted as the world’s biggest English-language online crime forum, the site had more than 250 to 300 active members. FBI and Europol shut it down in July after a strategic 18-month operation. The agents had found personal information of more than 19,000 people taken from a database of social security numbers, and 20 million email addresses.

(Also see: US Darkode Hacker Pleads Guilty to Aiding Online Break-Ins )

Culbertson has taken responsibility of developing and selling Dendroid. “I committed the crime, so I am responsible,” said Culbertson. “I understand what I did was wrong and I take full responsibility. I would like in the future to use may skills to help protect people.”

He could face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The verdict will arrive on December 2.

Uber Hires 2 Security Researchers to Improve Car Technology

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Uber Technologies Inc has hired two top vehicle security researchers, the company said on Friday, high-profile additions that come as the ride-hailing service ramps up its work on technology for self-driving cars.

Charlie Miller, who had been working at Twitter Inc , and Chris Valasek, who worked at security firm IOActive, have resigned from their jobs and will join Uber next week.

Miller and Valasek won wide attention this month after demonstrating that they could hack into a moving Jeep.

Uber said that Miller and Valasek will join the company’s Advanced Technologies Centre, a research laboratory Uber opened in Pittsburgh in February and staffed with dozens of autonomous vehicle experts hired away from Carnegie Mellon University.

An Uber spokeswoman said Miller and Valasek will work with the company’s top security officers “to continue building out a world-class safety and security program at Uber.”

Raffi Krikorian, who heads Uber’s Advanced Technologies Centre, tweeted a welcome to the duo on Friday.

Miller tweeted that he was looking forward to starting his new job on Tuesday. Valasek tweeted that his last day at IOActive will be Monday.

As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure.

Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centres to build up this capability.

Uber on Tuesday announced a partnership with the University of Arizona, offering the school grant money to fund research into the mapping and safety technology needed for autonomous vehicles, which Uber will test on the streets of Tucson, Arizona.

(Also see:  Uber Drivers to Stage 1-Day Hunger Strike in Hyderabad)

This partnership follows the more tumultuous effort earlier this year at Carnegie Mellon University that resulted in Uber hiring away more than 40 of its top scientists and researchers, leaving one of the world’s top robotics research institutions reeling.

And in March, Uber bought digital mapping firm deCarta, a San Jose, California-based company whose technology offers search and turn-by-turn directions.

Miller and Valasek’s Jeep efforts, which were coordinated with manufacturer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV , prompted the first vehicle recall to protect drivers from possible malicious hacking.

FCA USA LLC recalled 1.4 million vehicles to install software intended to prevent hackers from emulating the experiment, which used the cellular network to enter the entertainment system and then win control of the engine, brakes and steering.