Technology

The features Apple stole from Android: Best of the Web

Andrew Sadauskas /

The many ways Apple has helped to “inspire” Google’s Android and, in particular, Samsung has been the focus of countless lawsuits in recent years.

But is the innovation a one-way street, or are there features of the iPhone that have been copied from Google?

In a controversial article by Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica, some of the new features of iOS8 will be familiar to Android users:

Apple has taken the wraps off iOS 8, its newest mobile operating system, at its WWDC keynote. There were lots of new features added to iOS, but any observer familiar with Android saw quite a few things that seem… familiar. That’s because many of Apple’s announced upgrades were things the Android OS has boasted for years.

Some of the features are fairly trivial. Predictive text entry, being able to change your keyboard app, and videos in the app store are all cited by Amadeo as features Android had first.

In other cases, the features – such as inter-app communications, a cloud storage API, widgets and integrated search – are far more fundamental:

Google released Voice Actions, Apple released Siri, then Google countered with Google Now. Since then, the two have been compared in countless voice recognition shoot outs.

Google Now is one of the big differentiators Google has over Apple. Google’s voice assistant is all done in-house. The voice recognition technology is Google’s, as is the music recognition and answer service. Siri was originally a third party app done by a small development studio, and it’s really a collection of third-party services that Apple doesn’t own. Siri’s voice recognition is powered by Nuance. As we just learned, the music recognition is powered by Shazam, and most of the answers come from Wolfram Alpha or Bing. Google’s total control over everything allows it to implement things like hotword detection and streaming voice recognition sooner than Apple.

So has Google been paid its dues for its innovation in the smartphone market? Or should Apple get all the credit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

What the right to be forgotten means

A recent landmark ruling in the EU has given people the right to demand to be “forgotten” by search engines. Notoriously, around 12,000 people applied to have information about them “forgotten” on the first day.

So what is the ruling and how does it apply? Over at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan has an explanation:

You’ll find the new form here. It requires people to select one of the 28 European Union countries plus provides support for four non-EU countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. I’m checking with Google on why the other four were added; likely there’s some legal reasoning because these countries are often closely aligned in trade and other agreements with the EU.

The form allows an individual or someone representing an individual to put in a request. The form requires submission of a photo ID of the individual the request is for. So even if a third-party is doing the submission for someone else, they need that person’s photo ID as a way to prove they have some type of approval by them.

For Australian companies doing business in Europe or the UK, having a website “forgotten” by major search engines could have a disastrous impact on your business. It’s important to be familiar with how this ruling works, and what its full implications are.

Is the Internet of Things a tech disaster in the making?

One of the big buzzwords in the tech world at the moment is the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s a trend that sees a growing number of tiny computer systems embedded into everyday appliances and connected to the internet.

Over at InfoWorld, Paul Roberts points out that, like all computer systems, these devices are vulnerable to security risks:

Embedded systems are proliferating in nearly every corner of daily life. But even large-volume vendors pushing the hardware to consumers and businesses are often heedless of the need to manage the underlying software, says Cesar Cerrudo, CTO of security firm IOActive Labs.

Worse, these customers often defer to the hardware vendors on matters relating to security or conclude (wrongly) that embedded systems are too obscure to warrant protection, Cerrudo says.

The opposite is true. In its research, IOActive has uncovered the routine use of insecure or hidden protocols, backdoor administrative accounts with hard-coded credentials that cannot be changed, and vulnerable user authentication features.

According to Roberts, the biggest risk is that embedded systems won’t receive patches once they are deployed. It’s a risk demonstrated by Microsoft’s recent decision to finally end support for Windows XP:

Microsoft’s decision to end support for Windows XP in April was met with a collective gulp by the IT community. For good reason: Approximately 30 percent of all desktop systems continue to run XP despite Microsoft’s decision to stop offering security updates. Furthermore, a critical security flaw in Internet Explorer 8 disclosed recently by HP’s TippingPoint Division opens the door to remote attacks on XP systems that use IE8.

But Windows XP is just the tip of an ever-widening iceberg: software and hardware that is unpatchable and unsupportable — by policy or design.

The question of how – or even whether – embedded devices connected to the internet will receive patches for vulnerabilities is worth thinking about. The risks involved by leaving critical infrastructure connected through the internet through vulnerable hardware is likely to become a critical issue in the future.

After the Sun sets on a tech pioneer

Finally, for those who worked on servers or workstations in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the name “Sun Microsystems” will be familiar.

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever used a website that contains Java, you’ve potentially used one of its products without even knowing it.

Over at IEEE Spectrum, Tekla Perry looks back at one of Silicon Valley’s most important pioneering firms:

Sun Microsystems—born in 1982, gone public in 1986, struggling in the 2000s, and absorbed by Oracle in 2010—left its mark on Silicon Valley and the world. In Sun’s wake are 235 000 people who can count themselves as former employees. Its technical splashes continue to ripple through the world today (Sun’s slogan, “the network is the computer”, seems particularly prescient in today’s world of cloud computing). And its legendary pranks have yet to be topped (like “parking” software guru Bill Joy’s Ferrari in a pond and stabbing a giant tree trunk through former CEO Scott McNealy’s office).

Among the many interesting anecdotes is Sun’s common history with another of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, Apple:

The story of Steve Jobs going into Xerox Parc, seeing the Alto workstation, and being inspired to create the Macintosh is widely known. Less well known is that fact that Sun started in pretty much the same way. Sun co-founder and chief hardware designer Andy Bechtolsheim recalls spending a lot of time at Xerox Parc as an unpaid consultant during his graduate student days. These days, the position might have been considered an internship, but in those more informal times, Bechtolsheim recalls, it was more like an invitation to hang around, and he did so as much as possible, mostly testing chip design tools in development.

At the time, Parc researchers did their jobs using Parc technology—like the Alto computer, with its bitmapped display and Ethernet connectivity. He wanted one for himself, but Xerox wasn’t turning it into a product for engineers. So he built it himself using mostly off-the-shelf parts. That attempt turned into the Sun workstation.

So have you ever used a Sun server or workstation? How was it? Do you wish they were still around, or did you rue the day the company was formed? Leave your comments below.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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