Mobile Digest: Apple aims to revive iPad with enterprise focus

Hackers make everyone from carmakers to Google look silly at Def Con and Black Hat USA, as Apple quietly courts enterprise app makers for the iPad. Andrew Tolve reports.

In this week’s Digest: Apple, The Wall Street Journal, Adidas, Runtastic, Def Con and Black Hat USA Hackers Conferences, Google, Tesla, Lookout, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, Jeep Cherokee, Wired Magazine, Samsung, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now, Apple Siri, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, Microsoft and Skype for Business.

In the news

It’s that time of year again when all the mobile media runs amuk with iRumours in the build up to Apple’s September launch event. This year has been no different, as news outlets have spun out supposedly newsworthy articles about everything from whether the new iPhone will feature Force Field technology to if it will be dubbed the iPhone 6s or iPhone 7. We hope you have something better to do with your time, although here’s a good breakdown of the latest rumours if you don’t.

Out of all this chatter did emerge an important story, however: in the face of flagging iPad sales and stagnation on the technological innovation front, Apple has attempted to revitalize its tablet with a new Mobility Partner Program. The goal is to develop an ecosystem of apps that turns the iPad into the optimal mobile device for the enterprise. Famous for its secrecy and its aversion for partnering with outside firms, Apple hasn’t said much publicly about the program, but a report in The Wall Street Journal reveals that Apple is collaborating with more than 40 tech firms to develop apps for specific industry segments, such as pharmaceuticals and accounting. This September Apple is expected to launch a larger, 12.9-inch iPad Pro that will provide businesses more room to display information to customers.

In the money

Sports company Adidas acquired health and fitness app company Runtastic for $239 million. Runtastic operates a network of more than 20 health and fitness apps that cover a variety of endurance, health and fitness activities. The apps have more than 140 million downloads and around 70 million registered users. Adidas plans to beef up its sports science, wearables and fitness monitoring capabilities with the acquisition.

In other news

Hackers descended on Las Vegas for the annual Def Con and Black Hat USA Hackers Conferences -- and proceeded to show the world how much stuff they can break into. One of the biggest reveals was that Google’s software patch for Stagefright doesn’t work. Yikes. That means that about a billion Android devices around the world are still vulnerable to Stagefright, which, as you may recall, is a vulnerability that hackers can exploit to take command of an Android device with one simple text message. Google is yet to respond.

Def Con was brazen enough to feature an entire Car Hacking Village, where hackers could play with real cars like the Tesla Model S. As the auto industry has rushed to embrace the mobile revolution, cyber hackers have repeatedly (almost exhaustively at this point) shown how susceptible carmaker software systems are. At the conferences, cybersecurity firm Lookout detailed how they were able to take control of a Model S and shut it down at low speeds and hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek discussed their recent high-profile hacking of a Jeep Cherokee, which got featured in Wired Magazine.

Samsung launched its new Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 smartphones. The South Korean electronics giant is in need of a shakeup to turn around a downturn in sales — and most analysts agree that the new phones are a step in the right direction. The phone is almost completely redesigned (to look a heck of a lot like an iPhone), but better manufacturing with a sleek metal siding, faster processors and less stuff crammed into the interface make it an improvement. At a suggested retail price of $649, however, the S6 is more expensive than the iPhone, with a worse battery, so whether this will stop the bleeding remains to be seen.

Microsoft made its Cortana digital voice assistant available for Android users as a free “Cortana on Android” download from the Android App Store. Google already offers a voice assistant called Google Now, but the consensus is that Cortana outperforms it, as does Apple Siri. So if you’ve got an Android device, you’ve got a choice to make. Microsoft is hoping the majority of Android users make Cortana the default setting on their phones.

Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., announced that it was doing away with two-year contract plans for smartphones. That means that all four of the big American wireless carriers have tossed two-year contracts aside, following T-Mobile’s lead. Users will now choose from four types of data plans and pay $15 per gigabyte of overage.

Want unlimited free calling to Mexico or Canada from the U.S.? Sprint is your company. As part of its Sprint Open World program, the wireless made all calls and texts to the U.S.’s borderlands free without additional roaming charges or contingencies.

Finally, Microsoft announced that it’s working hard on the mobile version of the new Windows 10 platform but didn’t given any firm dates for rollout. In the meantime, it did offer a preview of the new Skype for Business, which will be available on iOS and Android and offers a host of new features to make the calling app more suitable for business use. Ability to track current and pending meetings. Easy access to email addresses and phone numbers from Outlook contacts. And last but not least, easy one-finger muting — an absolute must for business meeting survival.

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.