The decline of the PC, the rise of 3-D smartphones

Our weekly roundup of interesting stories online including the emergence of 3-D software for smartphones to a call for governments to protect encrypted communications online.

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As one technology waxes, another wanes. This week saw the battering of the 35-year-old PC industry, along with news of innovations in the still-buoyant smartphone sector. Against this backdrop, many technology companies are focusing on how technology can be used responsibly to protect national security without compromising privacy.

PC shipments take a nosedive in Q4

PC shipments have been taking a battering for a while, but the last quarter was the worst of all. IDC said that shipments fell 10.6 per cent in the last quarter of 2015, which was the biggest drop ever in a single quarter. Only Asus and Apple increased their shipments in Q4, at 0.8 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively. Shipments of machines from vendors other than the top five were hit the hardest, dropping 21 per cent overall.

Gartner’s numbers were slightly better, with an 8.3 per cent overall drop in PC shipments, but were still alarmingly low for what was meant to be one of the better quarters in the year. Microsoft’s Windows 10 distribution strategy isn’t helping the situation, suggested reports. The company’s free upgrade option for PCs makes it easier for people to upgrade existing machines without having to replace their hardware.

Google’s Tango inches closer to reality

Google’s Project Tango moved a step closer to commercial introduction as Lenovo announced that it would ship a smartphone using the 3-D computer vision platform this summer.

Tango is a software framework designed to work with specialized hardware and create spatially accurate 3-D representations of indoor spaces. This enables devices to understand where they are in indoor spaces and track their own movement.

Potential applications for Tango-enabled phones include precise indoor navigation without GPS, (to direct customers to aisles with particular products in stores, for example) and augmented reality. The announcement came just a few days after Intel released a Project Tango development phone sporting a RealSense camera.

Google also publicly stated this week that it would like to see Project Tango make its way into spatially-aware robots and drones.

Tech experts turn focus to terror threat

Over 200 tech experts around the world wrote an open letter to governments, in a bid to prevent them from installing back doors that could be used to break encryption. Governments must not “ban or otherwise limit user access to encryption in any form or otherwise prohibit the implementation or use of encryption by grade or type,” the letter said.

Signatories to the document, published at, included the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Internet Democracy Project.

While privacy advocates fret about protecting encrypted communications online, some governments are eager to access them so they can gather intelligence about terrorist activities. The letter was published just three days after a selection of technology companies met with U.S. federal officials to discuss how the technology industry could pitch in to combat terrorism.

Best of expertIP

Security was also a key topic at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, said Jared Lindzon in a blog post for expertIP this week. The show featured its first ever CyberSecurity Forum this year, highlighting an increased interest in security as data breaches continue to make headlines. IT also saw several companies exhibiting new security products and services, including a cyber-security training and education services to help companies prepare their employees.

Concerns over security are understandable. The ID Theft Center published a report this week highlighting the loss of 169,068,506 records across 781 breaches in the U.S. alone. This was almost double the number of records lost in 783 breaches the prior year.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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