Technology News


With Audio Focus, Apple Side-Steps Smart Speaker Competition


Apple raised the curtain on HomePod, its upcoming smart speaker, during Monday's keynote presentation at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

The company also announced some desktop OS features for the iPad, and revealed its plans to become an augmented reality powerhouse. "Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide marketing, told an enthusiastic crowd at the San Jose Convention Center in California. HomePod, which will sell for US$350, is slightly less than 7 inches tall and is covered with a seamless 3D mesh fabric which, Schiller said, has "incredible acoustic properties." Inside the speaker, there are seven tweeters, each with their own driver, that give sound precise directional control. HomePod also has a 4-inch woofer that uses dynamic software modeling to eliminate distortion as the volume is cranked up. The "smarts" of the speaker is from an Apple A8 processor. "It's perhaps the biggest brain ever in a speaker," Schiller said. The HomePod will be available in December.
Heat on Sonos and Bose
The processor, which can be found in older iPhones, allows the speaker to do real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam forming and multichannel echo cancellation. "You don't have to know what any of that is," said Schiller. "Just know that it sounds incredible." There are six microphones in HomePod, so it can handle voice commands -- even when it's playing music -- through Apple's digital assistant Siri. "We really believe it's going to take your home music experience to the next level," Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event. Although the smart speaker market is dominated by Amazon and Google, Apple appears to have set its sights on other players in the speaker market. "It's going after Sonos and Bose sound systems in the home," noted Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. "This is a powerful home audio speaker first that also supports Siri," he told TechNewsWorld.

Focus on Music

Apple is positioning HomePod more as an audio device than a smart home interface, said Jonathan Collins, a research director at ABI Research. "The focus looks to be more about competing with Sonos and supporting Apple's Music service than its HomeKit efforts," he told TechNewsWorld. "The price tag is notably higher than both Amazon and Google's smart home offerings," he pointed out, "and while it will no doubt appeal to Apple fans, there is little to suggest -- at least from the initial details -- that this will directly compete against those Echo and Home devices."

More iPad Muscle

In addition to announcing a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, Apple revealed a number of features in iOS 11, which will be released in the fall, that give the tablets desktop operating features like drag and drop, an expanded dock for quick access to favorite programs, and support of a file system, including baked in support for popular third-party apps like Dropbox and One Drive.
"Those are the features on the Mac that most of us have been wanting on the iPad for at least three years," Creative Strategies' Bajarin said. "Now the iPad is very similar in experience to the Macintosh," he added. "That tells me that Apple believes that the iPad is the future form factor for mobile computing." The iOS 11 features were needed if the iPad Pro wanted to live up to its "pro" name, maintained Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research. "Without a file manager, you really couldn't use it as a professional tool," he told TechNewsWorld. "Now the iPad is much more functional for a professional who's used to using a file manager in their work," Krewell added. "This is a big step up for iOS."

AR Powerhouse?

Apple also introduced to developers a new AR kit that it believes will make the company a leader in the augmented reality domain. "With AR kit, iOS 11 becomes the world's largest augmented reality platform," Cook said. What Apple introduced with AR on mobile is significant, maintained Bajarin. "They'll dominate the AR space in mobile almost overnight," he said. "The AR kit will create a level of innovation within their software developer community that is going to result in an amazing amount of new apps." While there may be lots of new apps, whether or not there will be a lot innovation remains to be seen. "They're not adding any hardware," Krewell noted. "They're just using the existing iPhone platform for AR, so it's a limited version of AR -- a better version of Pokemon Go."

Open Source Survey Exposes Community Troubles

GitHub this week released the results of its survey on open source software development, practices and worldwide communities. GitHub partnered with researchers from academic institutions, industry organizations and the open source community to collect responses from more than 6,000 participants.

The results show the importance of open source documentation and reveal some of the problems missing or poorly done documentation can have on users and project adoption.
The survey also reveals an ongoing concern about nasty interactions among some open source developers, rudeness toward community members, and negative attitudes toward female programmers. Open source software plays a significant role in today's society and economy. The purpose of the survey was to gain an understanding of the people who build, maintain and use these projects, according to GitHub. The survey sought to uncover concerns about the sustainability of open source, and the critical network of services and technologies that depend on it. Survey respondents expressed concern over a growing unresponsiveness within communities toward users. The survey identified what open source users value in software: Stability and security were the top responses, while support and innovation were least important. Some people see open source as a quasi-Utopian approach to IT. However, the survey indicates that the community and associated groups and individuals are heir to the same prejudices and bad habits as mere mortals, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "It will be interesting to see if the folks involved can bring the same level of imagination and innovation to fixing those problems that they do to software development," he told LinuxInsider.

Survey Parameters

The Open Source Survey 2017 is an open data project by GitHub and collaborators from academia, industry and the broader open source community. The results are an open data set of findings about the attitudes, experiences and backgrounds of those who use, build and maintain open source software. Github sought data on open source software development practices and communities. The survey posed more than 50 questions on a wide variety of topics and collected responses from 5,500 randomly sampled respondents associated with more than 3,800 open source repositories on GitHub. In addition, the survey includes more than 500 responses from a non-random sample of communities that work on other platforms. About 70 percent of respondents were employed full- or part-time. Some 85 percent of them had contributed in some way to software development -- as developers or designers, or in other roles in the software industry -- frequently or occasionally as part of their main job.

Major Concerns

The survey found that problems permeate open source communities in two primary areas: documentation and behavior. On the positive side, the survey also showed that using and contributing to open source often happens on the job. and that open source is the default when choosing software. Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said missing or poorly done documentation was one of the problems they encountered using open source. Respondents agreed that documentation was highly valued as a means for establishing inclusive and accessible communities, but that it frequently was overlooked.
"Documentation is always an issue, as many developers love to develop but hate to document what they develop. This starts with committing code, and extends more noticeably to writing things like user guides," said Simon Ritter, CTO at Azul Systems. The situation hasn't changed much since the early days of open source software, and it's doubtful that it will change any time soon, he told LinuxInsider. The same is true regarding the negative community interactions, Ritter said. "This is part and parcel of the open source movement -- always has been and always will be. Everyone thinks they know how to do things the 'right' way, and people who do it differently must be wrong. Developers, by nature, hold strong opinions," he observed. One of the benefits of open source software is that the development process is open to the public and available for inspection, noted Jeffrey Carver, computer science professor at The University of Alabama. "This openness gives potential users and potential contributors more confidence in the integrity of the project compared with projects for which they do not have this type of access," he told LinuxInsider.

Bad Behavior

The survey revealed an ongoing concern over negative interactions among some devs and unresponsiveness within some communities. It also showed concerns for troublesome attitudes toward female community members. Negative experiences have real consequences for project health, the survey found. Some 21 percent of people who experienced or witnessed negative behavior said they stopped contributing to a project because of it, and 8 percent said they started working in private channels more often. Negative interactions are infrequent but highly visible, and there are consequences for project activity, the survey analysis revealed. Discouraging effects can extend far beyond the individuals directly involved. Forty-five percent of respondents witnessed and 16 percent experienced bad behavior, the survey shows. The most frequently encountered bad behavior was rudeness. Twenty percent witnessed name calling and 5 percent experienced it. Eleven percent witnessed stereotyping, and 3 percent experienced it.
More serious problems included sexual advances, stalking or doxxing. Each was witnessed by less than 5 percent of respondents and experienced by less than 2 percent. However, those behaviors cumulatively were witnessed by 14 percent and experienced by 3 percent. Setting positive expectations of behavior and addressing negative incidents quickly can improve contributor retention and collaboration, the report concluded.

Policies Need Clarification

The survey revealed that open source is used widely in professional contexts. Some 94 percent of respondents used open source at least sometimes in their professional work, while 81 percent used it frequently. Sixty-five percent of those who contributed to the community did so as part of their work duties. A significant number of respondents reported that their employers' official policies and IP agreements were unclear regarding what was allowed and under what terms. Businesses have played a key role by subsidizing open source work by employees, so creating and communicating clear policies could encourage more frequent, regular contributions, the survey analysis notes. Other key findings:
  • Open source is the default when choosing software. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they always sought open source options when evaluating new tools.
  • Security matters when choosing new software. Eighty-six percent of respondents said it was extremely or very important. Most users believed that open source was more secure, on average, than proprietary software.
  • Stability and user experience are big factors when it comes to choosing software. They were extremely important for 88 percent and very important for 75 percent of respondents.

Major Benefit

Due to GitHub's massive importance, its survey has the potential for advancing the open source movement, noted Azul Systems' Ritter. "Literally anyone who is anyone doing open source development is hosting their code on Github," he pointed out. The survey is a wake-up call for organizations that have turned a blind eye to the issues it exposes, said Pund-IT's King. "You could argue that GitHub helps to bring a sense of order to open source, and that without it that world would be considerably less approachable and more chaotic," he said.

Illuminating Factors

It's interesting that the top problems encountered in open source software have little or nothing to do with technical skills or software requirements, said University of Alabama's Carter. Even the documentation issue is more of a social response than a technical one, he said. It's remarkable that so many coders are so bad at documentation, said King. It is a bad habit analogous to drivers who ignore the fluid levels in their vehicles, or pilots who blow off safety inspections. The huge gender imbalance among contributors surprised Ritter. "I know there is a gender imbalance in the software development world as a whole," he said, "but 95 percent male dominance does seem larger than I would expect."

Metis CDS Debbie Berebichez to Women in STEM: Chase Your Dreams

Debbie Berebichez is chief data scientist at Metis and co-host of the Discovery Channel's Outrageous Acts of Science. You can follow her on Twitter@debbiebere.

In this exclusive interview, Berbichez shares her thoughts on shaping the STEM conversation to make it more inclusive for women.
Metis Chief Data
Scientist Debbie Berebichez
Metis Chief Data Scientist Debbie Berebichez
TNW: Describe the trajectory of your career. How did you get where you are today? Debbie Berebichez: I grew up in Mexico City, and I was part of a conservative community that discouraged women from studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. I was told that I should probably study something easier and more feminine than physics. My mom told me not to tell boys that I liked math, because I'd have a hard time meeting someone. When it came time to go to college, I applied to schools to study philosophy, which was a field where I could ask questions that seemed more appropriate for girls. I realized, though, that the more I tried to hide my love of physics and math, the more it threatened to come out. I wanted to know about the universe and how things worked.
In the middle of my studying for my B.A. in philosophy, I decided to apply to schools in the United States, and I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to go to Brandeis. I flew there in the middle of the winter as a transfer student, and I had two more years to go.
I took a generic class in physics -- Introduction to Astronomy. In that class, I met a teaching assistant, a student from India, and I would go to him and ask questions about homework problems. He said I wasn't a typical student, since I didn't just want an A. I had an infinite curiosity about how the world and the universe worked, and he said I could do physics. He connected me with his Ph.D. advisor, the head of the physics department at Brandeis -- he told me to come and talk to him. He gave me a book on vector calculus and told me to study it over the next two months. If I passed a test on it, he'd let me skip the first two years of physics classes. The teaching assistant became my mentor, and he spent every day that summer tutoring me. This is how my mission in life began, when he passed the torch to me to help other minorities and women to study science. Then I went back to Mexico to do a master's in physics. I went to be close to my family again. Everyone was telling me that I already did what I wanted to do, and it was time to settle down. I was still very curious, though, and I wanted to do more research. I wanted to be able to do research something and find out about the world and nurture my curiosity. While I was doing my master's in Mexico, I realized that the kind of research I wanted to do, I couldn't do in Mexico, so I applied to Stanford. Six years later I became the first Mexican woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford. I realized after completing my Ph.D. that with privilege comes responsibility. I wanted to mentor other women and pay it back. I first went to Wall Street, where I worked as a "quant," and I pursued my media career on the side. That's when I started doing TV, finding places where I could describe science in fun and creative ways. I also veered toward data science, which is how I found my dream job at Metis, where I'm in charge of building curricula. This is where I found my calling, since I can help women and minorities succeed within science, and I'm also teaching. TNW: What is Metis, and what do you do there? Berebichez: Metis is a data science training company. It has four verticals, and all of them have to do with data science training. Data science is a combination of math and statistics with computer science and communication, and those things come together to explain the insights that one can gain about a company or a problem. At Metis, we train people and companies in various aspects of data science. TNW: What is it like being a TV host? What do you enjoy about it? Berebichez: Outrageous Acts of Science takes scientists who come from different areas. We watch YouTube videos of people doing crazy or fascinating stuff, and we explain the science behind them. I love the ability to reach many people and explain things in lay terms, and I love doing that on camera, because it reaches a lot of fans. TNW: What challenges have you faced as a woman in tech, and how have you overcome them? Berebichez: On Wall Street, when I'd work with clients, I'd arrive with my male salesperson, and people would assume he was the quant -- the one in charge of research and models, and that I was his assistant. This was a continuous bias that I had to face. At Metis, I've helped shape the conversation. It's empowered me to mentor young women and also to shape policy. At Metis, we offer a scholarship to women and minorities, so we do things actively to bring women in. I also try to recruit and hire women. Even though it's a tech company, over 60 percent of the employees at Metis are women, and they also occupy a lot of leadership roles. I always try to do things that change the conversation. TNW: What advice would you give to girls and young women who want to go into science? Berebichez: My first piece of advice is to never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. It's as simple as that. Don't let an authority figure or the media tell you that your dreams cannot come true. The second piece of advice is that being a woman in STEM can open up an immense number of opportunities. I have so many female friends in STEM who've gone on to do fascinating things. You can go into all kinds of companies and solve problems around the world. If women are part of the conversation, we can help shape the world. The more women we have in STEM fields, the more we're going to live in a world that's fair and just.

Accelerate your WordPress site in 12 steps

How Fast Is Your Website Uploaded?


There are important reasons why we ask this question:

  • On average, 60% of users who come to your site tend to leave your site if your pages are slowly opening
  • Due to the low site speed and the fact that users abandon your site, your site's quality score may decrease as the "Bounce
  •   Rate" (see Google Analytics) increases,
  • If your site scores low on the Google Page Speed Insights test, it may lose value in the rankings;
  • According to an announcement made in 2010, Site Upload Speed has become an important ranking criterion on Google.


Let's leave all this to one side; Today we are going to endure a web site that takes 10 seconds to upload? According to many analytics, if the speed of your web site increases by only 1 second, it means an average improvement of around 70%.

Especially for WordPress users, it is possible to increase the site speed with a few adjustments. In this article we will talk about the following topics:

- How can we detect plugins that slow down your site? - What can you do to keep your infrastructure clean? -What do you need to keep the HTML pages, images, JavaScript code and CSS files in your browser compressed? -How can you set the cache cache correctly?

Of course, the first thing to notice is that we need to deliver our site to a fast and good hosting company so that these arrangements can work.Secondly, we need to choose a good theme. Unfortunately, not all WordPress themes have equal speed and functionality. For example, WordPress's default theme, "Genesis," is loaded at least 0.5 seconds faster than any other theme. To see if the theme is how quickly, after making arrangements of themes with Google Page Speed Insights tool we recommend that you do the test.

Once these arrangements are made, one of the most important factors that make a site fast is to have a network called "CDN network" that allows you to host your content on a different server. What does this mean?

Nowadays, Web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer etc.) will try to read all of them if the content on your site is collected on a single server, which will cause slowness. If you use a CDN server, the browser will have the chance to read the content in parallel and it will be able to reach the user faster by compiling both the site content and the high-dimensional content at the same time. Tests show that using a CDN server provides about 55% acceleration on average.

The first three items were the main arrangements we made on the server side. Now, let's see how we can make edits in WordPress:

1: Detecting Plugins That Slow Down Your Situation:

P3 Profiler is add-ons, plug-ins that are running on your site, themes and so on. By measuring the speed and showing how much slower your site is to slow down your site. As an example, I want to share a few screenshots from my test:


As you can see, the SEO Ultimate plug-in is at the top of the list of add-ons that slow down the site. What can you do in this situation? You can try to find another add-on that will not affect your site speed with this magnitude.

2: Compress Your Site: The size of web pages is much larger than we normally think. For example, a file 65 kb in size may not be too blurry. However, the table in which many files come together can be seriously worrying. Gzip is the most convenient tool that can be used to compress files on your site. When we test a small web site that we just gave an example, we get a surprising result:


(Gzip test can make the address)

3: Compress Images: Images are one of the biggest factors that cause a site to slow down. For WordPress, WP Smush is plug-in is one of the best add-ons that will cure this problem. If you are not familiar with using professional tools like Photoshop or Gimp, WP-Smush will come to you like a drug.

4: Enable Browser Cache:

"Browser caching" may not make sense to you alone, and the concept can confuse your head. When a user visits a web page, the browsers fetch the page's items. On this count, if the user comes back to the page, the upload speed will be even higher. WP Super Cache is a plugin that can help you in this regard is a useful add-ons.

5: Keep Infrastructure Clean:

When we say "database", middle and lower level site managers start to sweat. But WordPress makes your business really easy from this point of view.WP-Optimize is plug-in, garbage files and cleans your site regularly, and gave no quarter to pinch and swell.

6: Minimize JavaScript and CSS Files: Other important factors that cause a site to slow down are JavaScript code and CSS style files. JavaScript comes into play when it comes down to shrinkable code. In addition, these codes may cause some items to fail to load because the browser may insert an infinite loop in the request to display the page. In this respect, correcting and minimizing JavaScript code will be very healthy.

CSS Style files determine how and where your pages will look, frames, buttons, and characters. If we want a site to look simple or stark, we can contact CSS. Even simple sites may slow down due to CSS functions. In this respect, the compression of CSS style files is healthy. Both JavaScript, as well as to reduce and edit CSS code, " Better minify WordPress " plugin is you can use.

7: Close PingBack and TrackBack Feature:

PingBack and TrackBack features are a warning system that works when other WordPress sites link to your page. Link to follow ahrefs or majesticseouse external tools such as will be more healthy. To turn off this feature, you can go to "Settings - Discussion" (or Settings - Discussion) in the WordPress admin panel.

8: Standardize Visual Resolution and Character Set:

If a user comes to your site, you use more than one character set on your site, or your videos have different resolutions, your browser will work separately to load all of them. This will also have a negative impact on your page's load speed. Make sure that all of the images you upload will have standard resolutions. Make sure all of the content on your site has the same font (font).

9: Place CSS Files at the Top of the HTML Code and JavaScript Files at the bottom of the HTML Code:

Scanners can not scan your site before you scan the CSS style file. For this reason, CSS files need to be scanned first. Since the scanner scans the codes from top to bottom, the top of the CSS files should be close to the beginning of the HTML code.

JavaScript code, as we mentioned in article 6, can cause the browser to insert an infinite loop in the middle of the page load, leaving the load unfinished. To avoid this, place the JavaScript code near the end of the HTML code.

10: Use Sprite Property in Your CSS Files:

CSS Style files are a set of visual functionality files. Some of the buttons we see on our site, background images, frames, sidebars etc. are included in the CSS package. CSS packages also have a certain size, and these items can also shrink.

Reduction occurs when items in CSS packages are replaced by smaller and lighter items. The modified file is called "CSS Sprite". But the sprite using the code, you can make these arrangements.

11: Use "Keep Alive" Feature:

The HTTP Keep Alive feature allows the browser to load all open files on the site server without permission. Thus, when the user visits the site, it is used with the bandwidth right granted.

12: Change PHP Codes With HTML Codes:

PHP has a great code system for making websites. However, since it uses server resources at a high level, it is very likely to cause speed problems.For the quick opening of your site, replace PHP code with HTML code whenever possible, or try to use PHP at a minimum.


47% of web users expect your page to open for less than 2 seconds. According to a 2006 survey, a 100-millisecond increase has increased the site's population by 1%. In the age of technology and internet, speed means everything. If your Web site is slow, you are considered to be behind the times.

Microsoft Can Publish Three New Windows 10 Releases

The version of Windows that Microsoft accidentally released gave me tips on 3 new Windows 10 pending! On Friday, Microsoft mistakenly issued Windows 10 build 16212 for phones and computers; Which caused the users who were updating to get stuck when the devices were turned on. It took the company a few hours to clarify the situation, and eventually a blog post was shared explaining what the affected users should do and explaining the situation. In this mess, some Windows 10 users took advantage of the situation and tried to figure out Microsoft's plans. Twitter user AndItsTito, Windows 10 build 16212 found three new Windows6 10 SKUs in the pKeyConfig file.  
  • Windows7 10 Pro for Advanced PCs
  • Windows8 10 Pro N for Advanced PCs
  • Windows9 Server 2016 ServerRdsh
According to MSPoweruser, "Windows10 10 Pro for Advanced PCs" was previously referred to as "Windows11 10 Pro for Workstations". If this is true, the new SKU might be optimized for multi-core computers and Enterprise users. N version, like previous versions of Windows12, is being developed for the European Union countries. Microsoft is forced to publish non-media-player Windows13 in the EU. In addition, Rdsh stands for "Remote Desktop Session Host". This version of Windows14 Server 2016 may be being developed to offer Windows15-based programs or the entire Windows16 desktop for Remote Desktop Service. The target of this new SKU can be the education sector and can be upgraded to Windows17 10 Education according to AndItsTito. Finally, we expect these new SKUs to be released soon as they are in the Windows18 10 Fall Creators Update release. However, Microsoft must first officially disclose the existence of these SKUs.

Uber fires 20 staff after harassment investigation

Uber has fired more than 20 people, and is taking other actions against staff, after a harassment investigation.

The taxi-app firm said the sackings related to sexual harassment, bullying and issues about poor company culture. Uber has been under fire over its treatment of women staff since a former employee wrote a scathing blog post about her experience. It led to two investigations and the uncovering of 215 complaints about harassment and other allegations. Uber has struggled with a series of controversies in recent months, including a backlash over aggressive corporate tactics and a lawsuit from Google-owner Alphabet over allegedly stolen technology for self-driving cars. Several high-placed executives resigned amid the turbulence, including a former head of engineering, who had failed to disclose harassment complaints at his former employer. Chief executive Travis Kalanick's filmed argument with an Uber driver over falling rates also fuelled criticism, leading him to say that he needed "leadership help". Susan Fowler, who wrote the critical blog post about Uber, said the company had ignored her complaints of sexual harassment. Widely shared, the blog prompted Mr Kalanick to launch the investigations. Does Silicon Valley have a sexism problem? Uber's mess reaches beyond sexism - and Silicon Valley Law firm Perkins Coie reviewed 215 claims, which included sexual harassment and discrimination as well as other complaints, an Uber spokeswoman said. The firm recommended no action in 100 of them; 57 remain under review, while others have received warnings or are in training, she said. Some of those fired held senior positions, she said.

The 215 claims investigated were broken down as follows:

Discrimination, 54; Sexual harassment, 47; Unprofessional behaviour, 45; Bullying, 33; Other harassment, 19; Retaliation, 13; Physical security 3; Wrongful dismissal 1.

Action taken and cases under review:

Staff fired, 20; Staff put in training, 31; Final warnings, 7; Claims still under review, 57.
Uber has also appointed Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under former US president Barack Obama, to investigate the company's broader culture. The findings of that report have been turned over to the board and recommendations are expected to be made public next week. Some changes are already in place. Uber announced the hiring of two women to high profile positions this week. Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, will serve as a senior vice president for leadership and strategy, working with the head of human resources Liane Hornsey. Ms Hornsey is herself relatively new, starting at the company in January. Bozoma Saint John, a former marketing executive at Apple, is also joining Uber as chief brand officer. Uber employs more than 12,000 people globally. About 36% of the workforce is female, according to a diversity report the firm published earlier this year. Women hold about 15% of the technology positions.

By Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco

It goes without saying that this issue doesn't go away with these firings. Uber has major questions still to answer - some of them will hopefully be addressed when more details of the report are made public. Most troubling is why Uber's own internal HR measures weren't thorough or fair enough to see that the actions of 20 employees warranted dismissal. Instead it took a brave former employee - and then an expensive, lengthy investigation - to get to that point. So as well as detailing what it has done to address those existing complaints, Uber will now have to be very clear about how it will handle such issues in future. Crucially, the lessons from this report should not be heeded by Uber alone. As many people have pointed out to me since we began reporting this story, this is a problem that affects the technology industry across the board.

Apple’s iOS 11 Makes Siri a More Natural Woman… and Man

New voices for Siri and peer-to-peer payments are among the new features in the next version of Apple's mobile device operating system iOS 11, previewed at the company's annual Worldwide Development Conference on Monday.

"With the new operating system, Apple has doubled down on many of the applications it has developed for iOS," said Ross Rubin, the principal analyst at Reticle Research. "Much of the enhancement of the OS has come via those core applications versus general new functionality," he told TechNewsWorld. How Apple has improved Siri for the upcoming OS is an example of that.

New Voice, New Sex

With iOS 11, Apple has given Siri a voice that's more natural and expressive. What's more, a male voice has been added. "I like how Apple is underscoring the idea of 'more natural,'" said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst with Gartner. "Conversational interfaces are arguably the most intuitive way to interact with machines," he told TechNewsWorld. "Apple's competitors certainly agree, given the efforts and emphasis they've put on it."

Parlez Vous Francais

In addition, there's a translation function. You can tell Siri to ask, "What are the most popular dishes in your restaurant?" in Chinese, and it will ask the question in that language. Languages initially supported by Siri translate are English, Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Siri's IQ also got a boost. "Siri not only understands your voice, it understands the context," Apple Senior Vice President for Software Engineering Craig Federighi said at WWDC. "It understands your interests. It understands how you use your device, and this allows it to ultimately understand what you want next." In iOS 11, Siri uses on-device learning to understand topics of interest to you so it can flag news items that might interest you, or make a calendar appointment based on reservation made on the Web.

Paying Your Peers

The Apple Pay mobile payment system gets an expansion in iOS 11. It will be able to make person-to-person payments through the iMessage app. "Apple Pay is the No. 1 contactless payment service on mobile devices, and by the end of the year, it'll be available in more than 50 percent of retailers in the U.S.," said Federighi. The new iOS expands its use of NFC technology. Up to now, NFC use has been limited to Apple Pay. With iOS 11, it also will read tags, which can convey information about a product to a device, or provide authentication. Adding that function helps the NFC market in a number of ways. For example, companies and developers working with tags no longer have to cobble together workarounds to accommodate iOS devices. "There are a lot of examples of applications that have been successful in Europe and Asia. where the Android market share is much higher," explained Paula Hunter, executive director of the NFC Forum. "Here in the U.S., we've had a lot of application providers hesitant to go full throttle with NFC, because a significant portion of the market is served by Apple," she told TechNewsWorld.

Messages in the Cloud

Apple's new OS will make it easier for developers to forge applications that tap into the camera and motion sensors in iOS devices to create augmented reality programs through ARKit. "Tim Cook excited the market a number of times last year by speaking about AR," Gartner's Nguyen said. "This announcements feels like more of an official endorsement-acknowledgement of AR as a tech everyone should be paying attention to." With iOS 11, Apple's Messages app will be integrated with iCloud. That enables all conversations to be synchronized automatically across a user's devices. In addition to be being convenient, the feature saves space on a device, because most messages will be stored in the cloud.

iPad Gets Productive

With the next version of iOS, Apple will add some desired productivity features to the iPad. For example, it has a new customizable dock that can be pulled up at the bottom of the screen with a finger flick to give you quick access to your favorite apps. "To someone trying to get real work done, I think some of the improvements to iPad iOS will be welcomed -- in particular, the new dock," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. "The new dock puts a new spin on multitasking, moving iOS closer to macOS," he told TechNewsWorld. On the other hand, for consumers who use their iPad Pros primarily for content consumption, the new features could make the devices seem a bit more complex than they're used to, Moorhead pointed out. Other productivity enhancements include an improved app switcher for moving between active apps, and a new feature for managing files -- not only locally and in iCloud, but on services like Box, Dropbox and OneDrive. Moving files, text and photos is easier, too, with a new drag-and-drop feature. Apple Pencil is more deeply integrated into the iPad with iOS 11. Inline drawing is supported, and the Notes app can be accessed from the lock screen with a tap of the pencil.

Never Wanting Customers

Apple supports two new media formats in the new iOS: HEVC for video and HEIF for photos. Both formats offer good quality and smaller file sizes. The company also improved its Memories app to identify photos in more ways -- by anniversaries, for example, or sporting events or birthdays. When the new iOS arrives next fall, developers need not worry about finding customers for their wares, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the audience at the WWDC keynote presentation on Monday. "Eighty-six percent of our customers are running iOS 10 and taking advantage of its capabilities. This blows away other platforms that suffer from horrible fragmentation," he said. "With iOS, developers can always target the latest capabilities and features of our latest operating system," added Cook, "and be confident that there's customers there for them."

Cloud Giant Microsoft Acquires Deis from PaaS Company Engine Yard

Cloud giant Microsoft has acquired Deis from San Francisco, California-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company Engine Yard. Microsoft, which has headquarters in Redmond, Washington, United States, aims to attract developers to the Deis platform which offers tools for adding applications to containers running on single physical servers. Financial aspects of the deal were not released. Containers make it easier to build applications and put them in the cloud. They facilitate virtualized environments by deploying software code in isolated in process zones. Containers also control Operating System (OS) requirements for specific tasks to maintain optimal performance. With the Deis acquisition, Microsoft aims to make Azure the best platform for app development. Deis offers Open Source (OS) tools including ‘Workflow’ and ‘Helm’ that manage ‘Kubernetes’ – a system originally developed by Google that manages containerized applications in a clustered environment. "We are honored to add our experience leading and growing open source projects with large user bases and a diverse set of external contributors,” said Gabe Monroy, the CTO of Deis on his blog. “Over the years, we have worked hard to be open, reliable, and dependable open source maintainers. From our new home at Microsoft you should expect nothing less. We will continue our contributions to Workflow, Helm and Steward and look forward to maintaining our deep engagement with the Kubernetes community. The future of open source infrastructure at Microsoft is very bright." Do you know of any other companies involved in acquisitions? Let us know the details. Add your comments below.