The browser has become synonymous with bugs, security problems and outdated technology. Even as Internet Explorer has improved dramatically in recent years, it continues to lose serious ground to rival browsers.
Once the most-used Web browser, Internet Explorer had been on a steady downward trajectory for years. Its share of the browser market fell below the 50% threshold in 2010 and sank below 20% in October, according to browser usage tracker StatCounter. Google’s (GOOGL, Tech30) Chrome is currently the browser leader, commanding a 48% share of the market.
This summer, Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) promised big, upcoming changes for Internet Explorer. Now, it appears those changes could include the once-unthinkable: Replacing IE with a new browser.
ZDNet reported this week that Microsoft would introduce a new, stripped down browser that has been codenamed “Spartan.” It would debut with Windows 10 next year, and it would function similarly to Chrome and Firefox.
Microsoft declined to comment.
The Spartan browser will be built on a different software platform from IE, so it won’t be backwards-compatible, ZDNet reported. That means Microsoft will continue to ship IE with Windows to ensure that corporate apps continue to function properly.
Company IT departments and governments tend to be very slow to adopt new browser versions, particularly if they build custom applications for them. That’s why the most-used version of Internet Explorer stubbornly remains IE 8, which debuted in 2009.
South Korea even passed a law in 1999 requiring that banks and retailers use digital certificates — created by Microsoft, and available exclusively on Internet Explorer.
So IE won’t go away just yet. But this could be the beginning of the end.
Microsoft has acknowledged the steep hill it has to climb to regain consumers’ trust. In an August “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit, engineers from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team said that the company had been thinking about ways to revitalize Internet Explorer — including a new name for the browser.
If Microsoft ultimately decided to send IE off into the sunset, it would mark the end for one of the most reviled software applications of all time.
Internet Explorer debuted in 1995 as part of Windows 95 and became an instant hit. It successfully killed off Netscape Navigator, and it achieved a virtual monopoly in the early 2000s. At its 2002 peak, Internet Explorer commanding 95% of the browser market.
But Microsoft failed to innovate, essentially leaving Internet Explorer 6 alone to gather dust and cobwebs for five years. That frustrated customers and sent them fleeing for greener pastures.
Microsoft finally released IE7 in 2006, but the damage was done — Microsoft paved the way for Firefox and then Chrome to surpass it.
It wasn’t until the release of Internet Explorer 9 in 2011 that Microsoft released a truly modern browser. Still, to this day, IE still doesn’t support extensions, it isn’t available on non-Windows devices, and it doesn’t sync with other devices by default — all mainstays of Chrome and Firefox.
It seems like Microsoft has finally woken up, and just wants to kill the thing altogether. A fresh start makes sense.
Ironically, Microsoft allowed IT departments to dig a hole so deep that it might be years before Internet Explorer will die once and for all.
I realize wireless is not lawsuit proof, but wireless communication continues to change the world. We don’t build the future by designing what is perfect. We build the world by designing what is impossible. Imagine wireless like a glimpse into past and future worlds. SETI proved this. We don’t possess technologies to interpret signals from other planets. They are insurmountable technologies we have not witnessed or considered. Does it give us the right to reject technology based on security concerns. Americans have not seen the atom, but we know it exists. I have witnessed technology allowing us to to play ping pong with atoms. What is this invisible space and how do we explain it? What gives us the right to reject it?
Telsa injected energy into thin air. He was right, but politics determined the right course of action toward the elimination of political common sense. There is no doubt the planet is dying, but no solution for a planet that appears to rule technology politically. We live in a toe in the water mentality. Nothing has changed since I tested my toe in the water last night, but how long do I wait before we follow stupidity into blindness? Politics keeps us blind to the immediate reality of the planet? They ask us where is the danger? We cannot prove a danger that exists in scientific fact? Hawking proved speculation matters more than scientific fact.
Unfortunately, Hawking proves more than universe reveals. He is an eye to the future. A solar system fails just like a body fails. Who is watching the universe when Hawking fails us? Who is the prime mover to our political reality? Why is making money more important to the survival of the planet? Americans believe they can survive the planet by making the world rich. I have a message for America. The worse is yet to haunt a starving planet.
These are not the best of times to be one of China’s massive, state-owned steel mills. The domestic economy is slowing, competition is increasing, and there’s widespread disgust and impatience with the smog pouring out of their stacks. In short, their lucrative business model for the past three decades is slowly dying. So what’s a manager of a Chinese steel mill to do?
One surprisingly popular option is to bid China goodbye. In November, Hebei Iron & Steel Co Ltd, a provincial-owned company and China’s largest steelmaker by production, announced that it was moving 5 million tons of its annual production — roughly 11 percent of the 45 million tons of steel it makes every year — to South Africa. According to press reports, it won’t be going abroad alone. By 2023, Hebei Province — China’s most polluted province — plans to export 20 million tons of steel, 30 million tons of cement and 10 million weight boxes of glass capacity (a weight box equals roughly 50 kilograms) to points still not named.
At first glance, the export of excess industrial capacity wouldn’t appear to make much business sense. As Bloomberg News noted two weeks ago, Hebei Iron & Steel’s South African mill will be “equivalent to two-thirds of that nation’s output last year, and a third of continental Africa’s.” In other words, it’s not clear there’s much demand in these new locales for the Chinese steel giant’s plentiful wares. Why, then, are they doing it?
The officials in Hebei Province who oversee the company may have felt they had no choice. First, they undoubtedly faced political pressure to reduce their environmental impact in China: reducing production of steel, cement and glass — all highly polluting industries, especially in developing countries — will have a direct impact on Xi Jinping’s pollution goals. (Starting in Hebei will have the added benefit of cleaning up polluted, neighboring Beijing.)
Second, Hebei may simply be at a loss as to how to scale back businesses that they recognize have become massively bloated. Officials in China’s construction-related industries clearly have too much capacity and too little demand. Back in September, I attended a speech in Beijing where a Vice-President of the China Iron & Steel Association announced that Chinese steel production capacity had grown by 200 million tons since the end of 2012, to reach 1.1 billion tons total. Much of that capacity isn’t used — China is projected to manufacture around 750 million tons of steel this year.
The effect on domestic Chinese steel prices has been devastating. Consider the price in Shanghai for steel reinforcing bar (rebar), a key component to building everything from subways to residential high-rises: it’s fallen twenty-nine percent this year. That drop was largely precipitated by China’s economic slowdown (and the slowest growth rate since 1990).
So where is the steel going in the absence of a strong domestic market? During the first 11 months of 2014, China exported 86 million tons of steel (almost equal to total U.S. production in 2013), up 47 percent over the same period in 2013. But the export market is hardly a sustainable bet in the long-term, especially at a time when the United States and other importing countries are erecting anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel.
For a company looking for growth over the long-term, and significant capitol to invest, that really only leaves one choice: go global. In fact, the Chinese government has had a “go global” policy since the 1990s, whereby companies are encouraged to set up subsidiaries abroad, for the purpose of extracting raw materials and energy and — to a lesser extent – manufacture. But unlike in the past, when going global had served as a nice long-term goal, today’s “going global” strategy has taken on urgency.
Indeed, on Wednesday, China’s ruling State Council announced that China will further promote “going global” by Chinese firms, including with financial assistance. As described by the State Council, the goals are two-fold. First, China is keen to see its flagship firms become internationally competitive — so much so, that it’s obviously willing to encourage even quixotic forays abroad. Second, bankrolling such overseas expansions is a signal that China wants better returns — in the form of profit and political influence — on its considerable foreign exchange reserves. Though Hebei Iron & Steel announced its South African plans two months before the State Council’s announcement, it’s all but certain that it’s benefiting from the promised subsidies.
Will it work? In the short-term, just by virtue of adding so much unneeded capacity to South Africa’s steel trade, Hebei Iron & Steel will likely create a smaller version of the saturated market that’s hurting it in Hebei. But just as China’s domestic steelmakers turned to exports when local markets weren’t generating sufficient demand, Hebei Iron & Steel will likely count on using its newly-built modern South African mill to meet demand in emerging Africa. To be sure, it’s hardly a safe bet. But so long as China appears incapable of fostering a climate in which companies want to invest, it might just be the best one available — and one that other Chinese companies are also likely to soon embrace.
The skeptical tech press in 2007 couldn’t seem to understand what Fields, who then ran Ford businesses throughout the Americas, was doing at a show known for cutting-edge phones and video games, he said. Coming from old industry, he jokes that they asked “why aren’t your knuckles dragging across the floor?”
Now cars are among the main attractions at the International CES that opens Jan. 6 featuring vehicles with touchscreen dashboards and others controlled by smartwatches. Fields is making a triumphant return as Ford’s chief executive officer, where he’ll deliver a speech about the dawn of the connected-car era. Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche will be there, too, discussing the latest concept of a self-driving Mercedes-Benz. They join a record 10 automakers showing their wares on an exhibit space the size of three football fields.
“CES has become a major launch point for a lot of the big automakers,” said Mark Boyadjis, technology analyst for researcher IHS in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “CES is a way for them to get on a global stage for technology.”
The evolution of Ford’s CES exhibit tells the story of the automotive ascent at the trade show that attracts 140,000 visitors. Five years ago, Ford displayed its new Taurus on a 20-foot-by-20-foot piece of carpet. This year, Ford has a two-story display with five vehicles, a wall of digital screens and private offices for conducting business.
“We’ve come a long way from a single car on a carpet,” said Alan Hall, a Ford spokesman who manned that first basic booth.
Ford is not alone. This year, Volkswagen AG makes its debut at the show that also includes Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), General Motors Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp., Audi, BMW and FCA US LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC.
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, in its second year at CES, has a sprawling exhibit that includes a fleet of more than 100 cars and covers 57,475 square feet (5,300 square meters) of space just outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. Visteon Corp. (VC), a supplier of technology to car cockpits, doubled the size of its display, a gleaming silver and orange structure that houses three demonstrator vehicles and four private offices.
The amount of exhibit space at CES dedicated to car technologies has almost doubled over the last five years to 165,000 square feet, according to Tara Dunion, a spokeswoman for the show.
“When you look at who’s coming, with Mark Fields and Dieter Zetsche and all of us, it has become an auto show,” Tim Leuliette, Visteon’s CEO, said in an interview. “It’s reflective of the vehicle becoming a mobile device. Welcome to the new world.”
Competing on Computing
Drivers are demanding their cars keep them constantly connected like a smartphone on wheels. In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 percent of car buyers, more than twice the 14 percent who care most about horsepower and handling, according to a survey last year from the Accenture consulting firm. The number of cars connected to the Internet worldwide will grow more than fourfold to 152 million by 2020 from 36 million today, according to IHS.
“Every carmaker has invested copious amounts of money bringing electronics to their vehicles,” Boyadjis said. “It’s now less about the horsepower under the hood and more about the horsepower in the center stack” of the dashboard.
That new reality of the road has transformed CES into an essential stop on the trade show circuit for automotive big wheels. Alan Mulally, before he retired as Ford CEO last July, worked the floor at several CES shows. Last January, Audi chief Rupert Stadler wowed the techies with a self-driving A7 prototype powered by processors the size of a notebook. This year, Zetsche will reveal a new autonomous concept car. Mercedes recently showed drawings of a self-driving car with four inward-facing seats around a coffee table.
“CES has definitely become an A show,” said Brad Stertz, a spokesman for Audi, which will show its next iteration of the self-driving car on Jan. 5. “It’s important now more than ever, especially in the luxury segment, to be seen as a technology leader.”
Even traditional technology exhibitors are getting on the automotive bandwagon. Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), a Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker for video games and personal computers, has converted three-quarters of its stand this year to automotive, including displaying a new roadster and an electric supercar.
“Two years ago, our booth would have been filled with PCs and people playing video games,” said Danny Shapiro, senior director of Nvidia’s automotive business unit, which supplies processors to Audi, BMW and Tesla Motors Inc. “This year we made a strategic decision to shift the focus of the booth on automotive and de-prioritize some of the other things.”
It’s a shift driven by dollars. The Consumer Electronics Association forecasts factory-installed vehicle technologies will increase 3 percent in 2015 to $11.3 billion. Nearly one-third of U.S. households now own a vehicle equipped with an electronic infotainment system, according to CEA.
Many of those systems get their start in Vegas. CES, despite its setting on the Vegas Strip, has less glitz and more substance than typical auto shows, said Visteon’s Leuliette, who is booked solid with prospect meetings next week.
“The Detroit auto show is a social event,” Leuliette said. “We’re making decisions in Vegas.”
Typical of high rollers in Vegas, the big deals go down in private hotel suites far from the convention floor. In those closed-door meetings, technology suppliers show off their most futuristic wares to automakers intent on keeping the deals secret until the high-tech feature is ready for the road.
“It’s a fruitful liaison between these two industries,” said Hildegard Wortmann, head of product management for BMW. “My schedule is completely booked through in half-hour slots. It’s a very packed day and very intense, but very useful.”
Wortmann made her first visit to CES in 2012 and returned to Bavaria with a firm message: “We have to be there.”
BMW debuted its first CES exhibit last year, offering test drives of its i3 electric car. Showgoers queued up for more than an hour to get behind the wheel.
This year, BMW is getting in on the wearable-technology craze that swept the show in recent years with products such as Google Glass and Fitbit. The luxury automaker will show a fully automated valet parking technology where the driver gets out of his car and issues a command through his smartwatch: “Go park yourself.” The car then finds an open space in a parking garage and parks itself until beckoned by the driver to return.
“Most of the visitors at CES are really very techie and very nerdy. They really want to test our stuff,” Wortmann said. “We keep you entertained, I promise.”
Hyundai also is showing off wearables, with a smartwatch that can start or unlock a Genesis luxury sedan with the tap of the finger.
Wearables are on the watch list for Tim Nixon, chief technical officer for GM’s OnStar unit. He is trying to carve out time to walk the floor to see whether something like Google Glass could replace heads-up displays in cars. But he’s so booked with client meetings, he may have to do his scouting early in the morning, before the show opens.
“Every year I ask the folks who are pulling the calendar together, ‘Can you please give me a four-hour block just to wander?’” Nixon said. “We start out with good intentions, but it never works out.”
Some of the biggest buzz is building for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s CarPlay and Google Inc.’s Android Auto systems that mimic the functions of an iPhone or an Android phone on a dashboard touchscreen. They are scheduled to go on sale early next year. When Apple first showed CarPlay on a few models at the Geneva Motor Show in March, it stopped traffic on the convention floor.
“There were mobs of people who wanted to see that Apple screen inside a car,” said Nvidia’s Shapiro, who was there. “It was nuts. You couldn’t even get close. Everyone just swarmed those cars.”
Visteon’s Leuliette is hoping for a similar reaction to a downloadable dashboard he’ll be introducing. Covered in digital, curved touchscreens, the contents of the dash — speedometer, navigation, stereo and climate controls — can be downloaded and updated throughout the life of the car, keeping its technology as current a smartphone, Leuliette said.
“We’re going to show this is not just some crazy idea,” Leuliette said. “We will walk away with some handshakes that will ultimately lead to business.”
The ability to get deals done is what drives automakers to CES. As technology trumps horsepower, auto execs are discovering the future of their mobile device depends more on the tech geeks at CES than the gearheads at an auto show.
“We’re thinking of ourselves as a mobility company and not only a car and truck company,” Ford’s Fields said. “We want to be viewed as being part of this community.”
North Korea went on a tirade against President Barack Obama on Saturday, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating Internet outages that have hit the country in recent days.
The statement also blasted Obama for pressuring Sony Pictures to release “The Interview,” a satirical film that portrays the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The statement, which was released through the country’s state media and attributed to a spokesman for the policy department of the National Defense Commission, charges that the U.S. “feigned ignorance” regarding disruptions to North Korean websites earlier this week.
It also called Obama the “chief culprit” in prodding Sony to release “The Interview,” the Journal said.
The movie was shown at around 300 independent theaters and was released online on Thursday. Sony had previously canceled the wide release of the film after a hacking attack that U.S. authorities have blamed on North Korea. Pyongyang has denied a role in the cyberattack on Sony.
After the attack on Sony, Obama said the U.S. would “respond proportionately” over the incident.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — If Apple Inc.’s year had a theme, it was the year the company finally started to chip away at that colossal hoard of cash.
After a little nudging by activist investor Carl Icahn, Apple AAPL, +1.90% boosted its share-buyback program in April to $90 billion and increased the pace of capital returns. New data from FactSet show that Apple has been the biggest buyback spender of 2014 among the S&P 500, pouring more than $56 billion into the program on a trailing 12-month basis as of the end of the third quarter. That’s nearly three times the outlay of runner-up IBM Corp. IBM, +0.44% which spent $19.2 billion.
Apple bought back $17 billion in shares last quarter, a 240% year-over-year increase that marks the second-highest dollar amount spent on buybacks during a quarter by any individual company in the S&P 500 since 2005, when FactSet began tracking the data. It’s second only to Apple’s own record of $18.6 billion set in the first quarter as part of the same buyback program.
Morningstar analyst Brian Colello said that while it’s not all surprising the world’s most valuable company would top a list such as this given its enormous cash cushion, he said the buybacks have undoubtedly been a “big contributor” to the stock’s strong performance in 2014.
Adjusted for a 7-for-1 stock split earlier this year, shares of Apple have climbed more than 43% over the last 12 months. Since hitting a 52-week low back on Jan. 30, they have been on the march higher — flirting with all-time highs since September.
“It showed that management was confident in its upcoming product launches and helped to put a floor into the company’s valuation during times of skepticism,” said Colello.
Apple is the world’s most valuable company, with a $641.7 billion market cap, almost double the market valuations of the next companies on that list, Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -0.41% and Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, -0.55% both valued around $377 billion.
In total, the S&P 500 companies spent an aggregate $143.4 billion on share repurchases last quarter and $567.2 billion on a trailing 12-month basis. Those figures represent 16% and 27% respective increases from the same periods last year and put Apple’s contribution at 11.8% and 8.1%, respectively.
Icahn’s insatiable appetite for returns, though, is rarely satisfied. The billionaire sent yet another letter to CEO Tim Cook in October saying the stock would be much higher if Apple spent a total of $100 billion on share repurchases. To provide perspective, that would represent 64% of Apple’s $155 billion in total cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, as of its most recent 10Q filing.
It’s a clean and quick solution to the current messy method of looking up lyrics. Song lyric sites are notoriously slow, and they inundate you with pop-up ads.
The feature, which rolled out last week, seems to be in testing mode. Google doesn’t display text for most songs. For instance, it only works with 4 of the top 10 classic rock songs considered the best of all time: “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” “Freebird,” “Layla” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
Google’s song results also link back to Google Play, where you can buy and download the song.
A Google (GOOG) spokesman provided an enigmatic comment about its new feature — a reference to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
“There’s a feeling you get when you turn to a song and you know that the words have two meanings. Well it’s whispered that now if you go search the tune, maybe Google will lead you to reason. Ooh, it makes you wonder…”