Ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry has confirmed it is soon to launch an Android-based device, which will feature a slide-out physical keyboard in addition to the usual touchscreen.
Due to be available "late in the calendar year", the smartphone will be marketed as the BlackBerry Priv, with the name reflecting the fact that user privacy will be a key selling point, according to the firm.
"Priv will be the solution for smartphone users who are learning daily of the lack of privacy they have on their current devices," wrote BlackBerry chief executive John Chen on the Inside BlackBerry blog.
"Priv will be the answer for former BlackBerry users who miss the physical keyboard but needed apps. And, we're responding to current - and prospective - BlackBerry users who need it all: choice, innovation, security, privacy and productivity."
Chen added that his firm is working with Google to bring "the best of BlackBerry security and productivity to the Android ecosystem". This seems to extend to bringing many of the BlackBerry features to Android on the Priv, including the BlackBerry Hub that brings together all updates from email text messages and social networks into one place, and supporting Android for Work with BlackBerry's BES 12 enterprise mobility platform.
"Launching an Android device is a tremendous new market opportunity as we continue our focus on building a cross-platform strategy," Chen said.
It's a terrific proposition for dedicated Android users who are seeking greater productivity and powerful privacy features. And we are advancing our own platform, redefining the expectations of mobility in today's age of risk and cybercrime so that we can serve customers even better."
That BlackBerry was working on an Android handset codenamed Venice had been rumoured for some time, but of late photographs and even purported technical specifications have been cropping up on gadget and mobile news sites.
These details point to a device with a screen about 5.4in in size with a resolution of 1440x2560, and a Qwerty keyboard that slides down from behind the screen. It is said to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB memory and 32GB of flash storage, and based on a build of the Android 5.0 Lollipop version of Google's operating system.
BlackBerry has had a difficult few years, but Chen, who was made chief executive in 2013, remains upbeat about the company's future prospects.
"BlackBerry is a new company. We have new life. And we plan to continue to surprise our customers and the industry. This is just the latest move along that path," he said.
However, BlackBerry said it remains committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, with version 10.3.3 scheduled to be delivered in March 2016
Android 6.0, the next major update to Google's mobile operating system, has been officially named as Android Marshmallow, having been previously announced as Android M.
Android product manager Jamal Eason confirmed the name, which follows the sugary theme of previous Android version names. He also announced the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow SDK tools for app developers.
"Whether you like them straight out of the bag, roasted to a golden brown exterior with a molten centre, or in fluff form, who doesn't like marshmallows? We definitely like them" wrote Eason.
"Since the launch of the M Developer Preview at Google I/O in May, we've enjoyed all of your participation and feedback. Today with the final Developer Preview update, we're introducing the official Android 6.0 SDK and opening Google Play for publishing your apps that target the new API level 23 in Android Marshmallow."
Android 6.0 Marshmallow introduces a new permissions model where, instead of apps requesting permissions during the installation process, they will ask for permissions as and when they are actually needed. Eason recommended that developers update their apps to offer this functionality ahead of Marshmallow's launch.
The upcoming OS also adds a Direct Sharing feature that allows users to share content with contacts within an app, as well as native support for fingerprint sensors. Some Android Lollipop devices, such as the Galaxy S6 Edge+, already include a fingerprint sensor, but Android Marshmallow will include support for this feature at the system level.
The USB-C platform will also be supported in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. This enables speedier file transfers, and Google said that handsets equipped with a USB-C port can be charged up to five times faster than current models.
Google has not confirmed a specific release date for Android 6.0 Marshmallow, although Eason's blog post mentions that the OS "launches to the public later this fall".
Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2 smartphones will not receive an upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system.
Samsung revealed the news on Twitter in response to a tweet requesting information about the possible rollout of Lollipop to the smartphones. The tweets below show Samsung UK's answer.
The decision not to push Android 5.0 to the smartphones, which are now several generations old, could be designed to prompt customers to buy the latest Galaxy S6 handset.
Buyers who are keen to get their hands on the latest version of Android can opt for the third generation of the phablet, the Note 3, which Samsung confirmed will receive an upgrade to Lollipop.
"We can confirm that the Note 3 shall be receiving the update. We'll be sure to let you know as soon as it is ready," the firm said.
But Samsung did not indicate when the Note 3 would receive the upgrade. "Unfortunately we would not be able to give you a time frame. We really do apologise for this," it said.
Samsung may be apologetic, but users of the older smartphones could be stuck on KitKat for longer than they want, which in turn could prompt them to purchase more recent Samsung models.
Samsung would no doubt welcome this, as a report from Reuters said that the company has not shifted as many Galaxy S6 handsets as it would like, forcing the firm's investors to lover earnings expectations for the second quarter.
Samsung has denied that it is suffering from less than stellar sales of the smartphone, and analyst firm Gartner debunked the talk of weak Galaxy S6 sales.
However, the release of the Galaxy S6 failed to improve Android's UK market position, leaving Apple's iOS to capture an increasing share.
The performance of the Galaxy S6 is still significantly better than the examples in V3's top 10 quirky smartphones that stand out from the iPhone and Android crowds.
Microsoft had a busy and mildly confusing week, having launched Office for Android and touted discussions with Samsung over concerns about disabled Windows Update, then befuddled Windows users over the parameters for free upgrades to Windows 10.
The Redmond company also joined Google, Amazon Web Services and Intel to set up the Open Container Project to explore the standardisation of container software, and was reported have a multi-million dollar deal with the US Navy to extend the support of Window XP.
Microsoft Office launches on Android smartphones
Microsoft launched full versions of its Office software suite for Android, allowing corporate customers to access Word, Excel and PowerPoint on mobile devices running Google's operating system.
The full release follows a preview period which Microsoft claimed saw the software suite tested on over 1,900 different models of Android smartphones in 83 countries.
Microsoft: We're talking to Samsung over Windows Update disable concerns
Microsoft said it is in talks with Samsung over the South Korean firm allegedly disabling the Windows Update system on some of its laptops.
The Redmond company told V3 that it would not recommend that anyone disable the feature, and that it is "addressing" the issue with Samsung. "Windows Update remains a critical component of our security commitment to our customers," a Microsoft spokesperson told us.
Microsoft Google, AWS and Intel throw weight behind Open Container Project
Microsoft joined a coalition of Amazon Web Services, Intel, IBM, Google, HP and Docker in a move to create the Open Container Project aimed at standardising the use of container software.
The project will be run as part of the Linux Foundation, and also includes members such as Cisco, EMC, Fujitsu Limited, Goldman Sachs, Huawei, Joyent, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat and VMware.
Windows 10: Microsoft confuses users over free-for-all insider build changes
Microsoft released, and then quickly edited, some information about the incoming Windows 10 release and the methods through which its customers will get the upgrade for free on release day.
Windows Users have complained that Microsoft's explanation of the process is complicated and confusing and that where once Microsoft suggested a Windows 10 upgrade was free for all, the offer is actually only free for some.
US Navy pays Microsoft for yet more Windows XP support
Microsoft was reported to have been paid millions of dollars by the US Navy to continue the support of Windows XP, despite the company's best efforts to wean organisations and individuals from the old operating system.
The Navy did have an extension agreement with Microsoft to support Windows XP until 8 June 2015, but then sought more time to migrate away from its existing systems.
Microsoft could sell Windows 10 on a USB stick
Microsoft is reportedly planning to sell Windows 10, home and professional editions on USB thumbsticks in retail stores.
The Windows Central website, via a German publication called WinFuture.de, has insider sources claiming that the USB option will join the more conventional DVD packaged option in shops.
Google has won the dismissal of an anti-trust case about the Android operating system in use on smartphones in the US.
The case related to Android smartphones coming bundled with other Google services such as YouTube. This limits competition from rivals such as Microsoft, according to the consumers who brought the case.
Google had said in response that owners of Android smartphones are free to download other apps from the Google Play store. However, the claimants argued that most phone owners do not know how to do this or would not bother.
Judge Beth Freeman has now ruled that she could see no case for Google to answer.
"Their alleged injuries - supracompetitive prices and threatened loss of innovation and consumer choice - are not the necessary means by which defendant is allegedly accomplishing its anti-competitive ends," Freeman wrote in her decision.
The ruling is unsurprising given Freeman's comments in December when she said that the case appeared to be without merit and that she would take serious convincing to believe otherwise.
"The speculative nature of the damages is really quite concerning to me," Freeman had said.
The claimants have 21 days to issue an appeal against the ruling.
V3 contacted Google for comment on the decision but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Google will no doubt be glad to have the case out of the way, as the company faces several other legal issues around the world, including in the UK where it has been ordered to amend its privacy policies by the Information Commissioner's Office.
The firm also faces a similar Android anti-trust case in Europe where rivals including Microsoft and Oracle have submitted documents arguing that Google abuses its position in the market.
Google also faces the possibility of legal action in the UK over the long-running Safari privacy tracking case as the Court of Appeal considers whether the company can be tried under existing UK legislation.
A flaw in Microsoft's Outlook for Android and iOS applications means that some devices handling corporate data are ignoring IT departments' passcodes and encryption policies.
Dirk Sigurdson, director of engineering at Rapid 7's Mobilisafe, reported uncovering the flaw in a threat advisory, warning that existing Active Exchange controls will have no effect on smartphones or tablets running the iOS and Android apps.
"One of the commonly used security features of Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync is the ability to define access policies which limit email access to devices which meet the minimum security requirements," read the advisory.
"On the other hand, Outlook for iOS and Android, which were just recently released by Microsoft to the Apple and Play stores, behaves quite differently. Any ActiveSync policy defined on the server is completely ignored.
"Your company can define a sophisticated passcode or encryption policy that will have absolutely no impact on devices if this new email client is used by your employees."
Sigurdson added: "If your organisation is dependent on ActiveSync policies in any way you should immediately block ActiveSync access to Outlook for iOS and Android."
Microsoft launched the iOS and Android apps in January. They were soon labelled a "security nightmare" soon after when IBM researcher Rene Winkelmeyer reported finding several faults.
It is unclear whether Microsoft is aware of the bug. The company had not responded to V3's request for comment at the time of publishing.
Robert Miller, senior security consultant at MWR InfoSecurity, said the flaws prove that companies should not assume products are secure by design and must be more proactive with their defence strategies.
"Businesses should be careful about making assumptions around the security features of a product," he said.
"In the case of the Microsoft Outlook mobile app, Microsoft made no claims that devices will follow ActiveSync security policies when the app is installed.
"It is important that companies take the time to investigate the security of products before using them.
"This could be done either directly by raising questions with the app's developers, or through third parties who can investigate the security of products."
Outlook is one of many popular services to have suffered flaws recently. Researchers at Sucuri reported finding a zero-day vulnerability in WordPress that was being exploited by hackers to infect thousands of websites earlier in February.
Meanwhile, three zero-day vulnerabilities known to have been actively exploited by hackerswere found in Adobe Flash.
Google already appears to have the upper hand in a legal case about whether the company should face anti-trust charges owing to the dominance of its Android operating system after a judge raised concerns about the paucity of evidence being presented.
The case relates to the fact that Android smartphones come bundled with other Google services. This, according to the two consumers who brought the case, limits competition from rivals such as Microsoft.
Google has said in response that owners of Android smartphones are free to download other apps from the Google Play store. However, the claimants argue that most phone owners don't know how to do this or won't bother.
However, in the first stages of a hearing determining whether there is a case to answer, US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman raised concerns that she does not see much of a case being presented by the claimaints.
"The speculative nature of the damages is really quite concerning to me," Freeman said, as reported by Reuters.
Reuters added that Judge Freeman said she was minded to dismiss the lawsuit, but will give the claimaints a chance to present more information to persuade her otherwise.
Google will, of course, be hoping that the case does get thrown out, as it is already facing plenty of legal tussles in nations around the world.
Google is facing similar scrutiny in Europe. Rivals including Microsoft and Oracle have submitted documents arguing that Google abuses its position in the market.
Meanwhile, European MEPs voted recently on the notion that Google should be broken upas one possible way to counter its dominance in the search market.
Such a move is unlikely, but the fact that the vote was passed underlines the strength of feeling against Google.
Google was also threatened with a €15m fine by the Dutch Data Protection Authority earlier this week regarding privacy policies the firm introduced in 2012.
Fines have already been issued in France and Spain, and the UK is expected to make a ruling on its investigation in the new year.
Google also faces the possibility of legal action in the UK in 2015 over the long-running Safari privacy tracking case as the Court of Appeal considers whether the company can be tried under existing UK legislation.
SoftMaker has officially released the SoftMaker Office HD suite of applications that offers the full features of a desktop office productivity suite for workers with a tablet running the Android platform.
Announced earlier this year and available as a preview release since October, SoftMaker Office HD comprises a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool all designed with features and capabilities to match their desktop counterparts.
The move comes as Microsoft is offering a preview of its Office for Android tablet suite, made up of versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are said to be very similar to the Office applications available for Apple's iPad.
SoftMaker's applications, TextMaker HD, PlanMaker HD and Presentations HD, are compatible with ARM-based tablets running Android 4.0 or above, with a 7in screen or larger recommended.
As well as having similar capabilities to a full-blown desktop application suite, the SoftMaker Office HD apps are claimed to offer a high level of compatibility with the DOCX, XLSX and PPTX file formats used in Microsoft Office, as well as the DOC, XLS and PPT formats used in earlier versions of Microsoft's platform up to Office 2003.
This means that workers in organisations with a bring your own device policy will be able to exchange documents between Android tablets and desktop Microsoft Office applications, as well as with colleagues.
"Anything you can do on a PC you can now do on the go on your Android tablet. You can do it using the menu structure you're used to, and it's perfectly adapted to touchscreen use," SoftMaker proclaims on its website.
As an example, TextMaker HD offers spell-checking as you type, supports tables, pictures and charts in documents, plus headers and footers, and even provides a track changes feature.
Likewise, PlanMaker HD is capable of handling large worksheets of a million rows, supports pivot tables and can generate up to 80 different chart types from data, with 2D and 3D charts supported.
Presentations HD not only opens and displays PowerPoint files, but allows users to create and edit presentations with numerous animations and slide transitions, SoftMaker said.
All three applications sport a user interface optimised for touchscreen operation, but also support an external keyboard and mouse. The apps integrate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote and OneDrive to store and access document files in the cloud.
SoftMaker Office HD is available on the Google Play store and from the SoftMaker website, where it is currently listed at £18.20. The licence permits the software to be installed on up to three Android devices.
Hardware firms BlackBerry and Samsung have announced a partnership to offer an end-to-end security solution for enterprise Android users.
BlackBerry said that the partnership will deliver "highly secure mobility for Android" through a combination of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 12 and Samsung's government-approved Knox system.
Additional enterprise security will be included in Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets that run the Knox software.
The partnership will seek to exploit the increased use of Samsung tablets by consumers and workers, and BlackBerry's long-standing enterprise reputation.
BlackBerry said that the combination of services, expected to be available in 2015, will offer "a new and highly secure mobility option" for businesses.
"BlackBerry has developed a very close partnership with Samsung and we're committed to deepening the interaction between our engineering and product development teams for the long term," said John Sims, president of global enterprise services at BlackBerry.
"It is a natural progression in our path to provide customers with more alternatives to meet their evolving mobile needs.
"Samsung Knox offers a number of hardware and software security features, and our partnership allows us to tightly integrate these capabilities with BES 12."
The system will link secure connections with enterprise-standard device, application and data management stems, allowing workers to separate business and personal content on tablets and smartphones.
Samsung will resell BES 12, while BlackBerry will offer Knox as an extra for the BES 12 gold subscription level.
"We share the goal to provide enterprises with the most secure mobility solutions through this partnership with BlackBerry," said Injong Rhee, senior vice president of the Knox business group at Samsung Electronics.
"Samsung Knox is focused on delivering secure mobility solutions to enterprises and, combined with BES12, we will offer more options for customers that need enhanced levels of security on Android devices."
Microsoft is furthering its plans to have Office running across multiple device platforms with the release of a preview of Office for Android tablets, new apps for the iPhone and iPad, plus confirmation that touch-optimised Office apps for Windows 10 are on the way.
Announcing the news on the Official Microsoft Blog, corporate vice president for Office John Case said that the company is "taking the next major step to bring Office to everyone, on every device".
The firm announced new Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for iPhone users, along with updated Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPad, plus a preview of Office for Android Tablet.
To sign up for the preview to test early versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, users will need a tablet running Android Kitkat with a screen size of 7in to 10in.
Microsoft's move comes as German developer SoftMaker is also previewing a suite of full-blown Office apps optimised for Android tablets.
The Office for iPad and Office for iPhone apps are available now, but require an iPad or iPhone running iOS 7.0 or later.
Microsoft also looks set to finally deliver on its promise of touch-optimised versions of the Office apps (PowerPoint pictured below), which have been expected ever since Windows 8 was released.
"Our vision of Office everywhere wouldn't be complete without Windows, so I'm pleased to confirm that new, touch-optimised Office apps for Windows 10 are in the works and we'll have more to share soon," Case wrote.
Microsoft also announced that people can now create and edit Office content on mobile devices without requiring an Office 365 subscription.
Until now, mobile Office use has been tied to the Office 365 cloud service for document storage, which required a paid subscription.
"Starting today, people can create and edit Office content on iPhones, iPads and soon Android tablets using Office apps without an Office 365 subscription," Case said.
"Of course Office 365 subscribers will continue to benefit from the full Office experience across devices with advanced editing and collaboration capabilities, unlimited OneDrive storage, Dropbox integration and a number of other benefits," he added.
The move comes in the same week that Microsoft and Dropbox announced a partnership to allow editing of and access to Office files from Dropbox.