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Friday, April 1, 2016

The machine that may have cracked the iPhone

Cellebrite may have helped FBI crack iPhone</p> <p>Israeli Company Cellebrite may have been the technology company that helped the FBI crack the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone.</p>
The Israeli company that may have cracked Apple's iPhone on behalf of the FBI isn't confirming that it contributed to the law enforcement agency's investigation of the San Bernardino shooting rampage.
But the company's website is revealing.
Cellebrite co-CEO Yossi Carmil told CNBC on Wednesday that "under no circumstances do we comment on our forensic business clients, ever." He added that the company has a "set of ethics we will never violate."

Cellebrite makes a series of what it calls Universal Forensic Extraction Devices, or UFED. Cellebrite's product is a touch-screen device that taps phones directly for information. Cellebrite also has corporate clients, and its operations aren't limited to data retrieval.

A company brochure claims the company's UFED Touch is capable of extracting data, deleted data including texts and passwords, as well as replicating SIM cards from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, and Microsoft Windows-supported products.
It is unclear whether the device demonstrated on the company's website is the extraction device used by the FBI to crack Syed Farook's phone in California, but a company video does provide a window into how the company works with older iPhones that aren't as encrypted as the more recent devices made by Apple.
Cellebrite is based in Petah Tikvah, just east of Tel Aviv, but has offices elsewhere. Its U.S. headquarters is located in Parsippany, New Jersey. It is owned by a Japanese company, Sun Corporation.
Sun's stock, which trades in Japan, is up 43 percent over the last month.

Apple faces innovation test: Former evangelist

The Apple iPhone SE is introduced at an Apple event in Cupertino, Calif. on March 21, 2016.
 As one of the world's most successful brands celebrates its 40th birthday on Friday, its former chief evangelist told CNBC the company was facing an innovation test.

Guy Kawasaki, responsible for helping build a critical mass of support for Apple's Macintosh line during the 1980s and 1990s, praised the company's transition from garage start-up to tech behemoth, but highlighted the importance of product innovation.
"What's going to make us want to abandon what's already there and go to the next curve? That's the big test for Apple," he said.
"Theoretically, they should be creating a computer that makes everyone want to throw away their Macintosh, just like Macintosh made people want to leave the Apple II," he continued, referring to the company's old series of desktop computers.
Innovation isn't a matter of upgrading the operating software or making devices smaller and flatter, he noted.

"They should be milking their cash cows to get new calves. But that takes enormous courage and vision."

Apple has a long history of bringing innovative ideas to the market. Even its innovation failures have had an interesting track record.
In his last column for the Wall Street Journal in 2013, storied technology columnist Walt Mossberg wrote that the Newton Message Pad, introduced in 1993, was one of the twelve most influential tech products over the past two decades. The Newton promised to recognize handwriting, which it failed to do, but it was a forerunner of other technology, including artificial intelligence, Mossberg said.
Other Apple products that made Mossberg's list were the iPod digital media player, released in 2011, the iPhone, first released in 2007, the MacBook Air, released in 2008, and the iPad, released in 2010.
When asked about the company's latest iPhone SE, Kawasaki called it a "back to the future" moment, referring to the device's smaller size.

"In fact, I ordered an SE this afternoon; I'm still drinking the Kool-Aid, I guess," he chuckled.
Critics often say CEO Tim Cook lacks the vision and drive of his predecessor Steve Jobs, but in the long run, Kawasaki believes Apple's powerful brand image has remained intact.

Sony’s 4K movie streaming will cost $30 a film

Sony is launching a 4K Ultra High-Definition movie-streaming service next week but it's not cheap.
4K is a relatively new picture technology used by TV manufacturers that quadruples the number of pixels found in a full-HD picture, with the aim of giving a clearer image on screen.
The service, called Ultra, will debut on April 4 only on Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs that have Android TV, Google's answer to Apple TV, on them.
Sony said that each movie will cost $30 in 4K with high dynamic range (HDR). Images shot in HDR essentially make the contrast between light and dark colors even more prominent so the white highlights are even brighter. The purpose is to make the image on screen look more realistic.

Movies will include Sony Pictures titles such as "The Night Before" and "The Walk" as well as older movies like "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon".
"Consumers are rapidly upgrading their living rooms to 4K, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's new Ultra streaming service will provide a premium viewing experience to satisfy growing demand for 4K movies and television shows," Jake Winett, vice president of consumer services and advanced platforms at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a press release on Tuesday.
Customers who purchase eligible Sony 4K Ultra HD televisions with Ultra this summer will receive four complimentary movies when they sign up for the service.

Huawei 2015 earnings see stronger revenue growth, net profits

Chinese tech powerhouse Huawei reported a 33 percent rise in net profit for 2015 from the previous year, on the back of its growing consumer device business and rising demand for information and communications technologies (ICT) globally.
Net profit rose to 36.9 billion yuan ($5.7 billion), it said in a statement. Huawei, which saw growth in all three of its business units, saw a 37 percent year-on-year increase in global revenues to 395 billion yuan despite economic headwinds.
However, 2015 gross margin fell by 2.5 percentage points to 41.7 percent due to increased investment in Research and Development (R&D), said the Chinese tech firm.

"Huawei owes its long-term growth to the sheer size of the ICT market, which is the driving force of digital economies around the world. However, our growth is also a direct result of strategic focus and heavy investment in our core businesses," said Guo Ping, deputy chairman and rotating CEO at Huawei, in a statement. 
Huawei's carrier division, which accounted for the largest part of Huawei's 2015 revenues, saw revenues rise by 21 percent on-year to 232.3 billion yuan on the back of increased demand of 4G networks over the year.
The Enterprise business group generated 27.6 billion yuan in annual revenue, 44 percent higher than in 2014.
The Shenzhen-based company made the greatest strides in its consumer device business, which includes smartphones and tablets. It recorded a 73 percent boost in annual revenues from the previous year to 129.1 billion yuan, a testament to "Huawei's growing influence as a consumer brand," the tech firm said.
Huawei's debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) ratio fell to 0.58 compared with 0.72 in 2014. Huawei's operating expense ratio was also lower by 2.3 percent, as Huawei reported that it has increased efficiency through better management and higher investments.
"We wrapped up 2015 in a robust financial position, with stable cash flow from operating activities, increased cash availability, and effective risk control," said Sabring Meng, chief financial officer at Huawei.

Fed rate hike expectations jolting currencies

U.S. fifty dollar bills are run through a counting machine inside a currency exchange store in Mexico City, Mexico.
Susana Gonzalez | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.S. fifty dollar bills are run through a counting machine inside a currency exchange store in Mexico City, Mexico.

The dollar is flexing its muscles again, now that Fed officials are suggesting a rate hike may come sooner rather than later.
The dollar firmed as commodities sold off, sending the dollar index up 0.5 percent to just above 96. Platinum plunged more than 3.5 percent in its worse sell-off since January, while gold lost about 2 percent to $1,223 per troy ounce.
Both the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar were down more than 1 percent against the greenback. Oil was also weaker. West Texas Intermediate futures lost 4 percent, closing below the key $40 level — at $39.79 per barrel.
The dollar index has been moving higher since March 18, two days after the Fed met and sent a seemingly dovish message to markets. But more recent hawkish comments from Fed officials have helped give the dollar a lift in a fairly dramatic move against a basket of currencies as traders reassess interest rate expectations.

Indonesia tells Grab, Uber to partner with transport businesses to operate

Thousands of taxi drivers and other public transport stage a protest in March against transportation services online that are considered illegal. In their second protest, they again demanded the government to curb such online-based freight transportation, Uber Car and Grab Taxi.

Ride-hailing apps Grab and Uber must partner with a transport business and register their cars by the end of May if they want to continue to operate in Southeast Asia's largest economy, a minister said on Thursday.
"Uber, Grab are app companies. If they want (to operate), they have to partner with a transportation business entity, like a car rental company," Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters.

Azwar/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Thousands of taxi drivers and other public transport stage a protest in March against transportation services online that are considered illegal. In their second protest, they again demanded the government to curb such online-based freight transportation, Uber Car and Grab Taxi.

The proliferation of cheap taxis using ride-hailing apps Grab and Uber in gridlocked Jakarta has made the traditional pick-up and drop-off taxi services unprofitable, threatening the business models of the country's top taxi firms.
Indonesian cabbies clashed with drivers working for online apps on Tuesday, pulling them off their bikes and assaulting them as thousands of drivers took to the streets of Jakarta calling for a ban on ride-hailing apps like Grab and Uber.

Experts say Beijing could let market forces guide the yuan lower against the dollar

Mitul Kotecha warns of growing risks leading to yuan depreciation in the second half of 2016 as the greenback strengthens. </p>

China will not do a one-off large devaluation of the renminbi or yuan, but policymakers could still weaken the currency by stealth, analysts told CNBC on Thursday.
Ever since Beijing surprised the world by unexpectedly depreciating the renminbi in August, money managers such as Kyle Bass, David Tepper and Bill Ackman have ramped up bearish bets against the yuan.
Concerns that the currency could fall sharply have been exacerbated by funds flowing out of the mainland, with China's foreign-exchange reserves falling to $3.20 trillion at the end of February, dropping from $3.23 trillion the previous month. That followed $100 billion per month in average currency outflows during November, December and January.
Some analysts, however, are skeptical of expectations for a big one-off drop for the currency.
For one, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier Thursday at the Boao Forum for Asia in China's Hainan province that the country will not devalue its currency to boost exports, according to a Reuters translation.
That followed comments in February from the People's Bank of China (PBOC) Governor Zhou Xiaochuan to Chinese financial magazine Caixin that there was no basis for the yuan to keep falling.
Getty Images
But despite those assurances, Mitul Kotecha, head of Asia forex and rates strategy at Barclays, told CNBC's "Street Signs" that he still expects the yuan to weaken to 7 against the dollar by the end of the year.

The dollar is currently fetching around 6.5097 yuan. On Thursday, the PBOC fixed the yuan mid-point at 6.5150, compared with Wednesday's fix of 6.4936.

But Kotecha doesn't think China needs a large one-off devaluation for the currency to weaken to his target level.
"I think we can get there by stealth," said Kotecha, implying market forces could help to weaken the yuan gradually. 'If we look in the past, when the dollar had been strong, China had allowed its currency to gradually depreciate." He expects a gradual move won't cause any shockwaves in the market.

He isn't alone in expecting a weaker yuan.
Lim Say Boon, chief investment officer at DBS Private Bank, agreed, suggesting that would allow Beijing to say "market forces" are at play.
Previously, the Chinese leadership has said it wants to make the yuan's exchange rate more market-driven.
Lim added that China will be careful to not do a large, one-off devaluation because it "would be a huge test of their credibility." But he still expects further weakness in the currency, forecasting a drop to 6.7 or 6.8 against the dollar by the end of the year.

Kotecha expects the yuan weakness against the dollar in the second half of the year will be largely driven by a combination of dollar strength and weakness in China's capital markets.

"We do think the dollar will rebound as we go into the months ahead," he said, as the U.S. growth story remains intact and markets will start re-pricing U.S. Federal Reserve rate hikes. At the same time, Kotecha expects capital will continue to flow out of China and the economy will continue to face pressure from relatively high debt levels.

Corporate debt stands at around 160 percent of gross domestic product, double the size of the U.S., according to a Thomson Reuters study last year.