‘Inquiry needed’ on GCHQ spy claims

internet giants at centre of Prism spying rowUS internet giants at the centre of spying row deny giving agents access to their servers

Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to launch an investigation into allegations that Britain’s electronic listening post GCHQ has been gathering data through a secret US spy programme.

Labour’s Keith Vaz said the claims were “chilling” and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper demanded an inquiry.

According to The Guardian, GCHQ had access to data covertly gathered from leading internet firms in the US.

GCHQ said it operated within a “strict legal and policy framework”.

The Guardian says it has obtained documents showing that the secret listening post had access to the Prism system, set up by America’s National Security Agency (NSA), since at least June 2010.

‘Astonished’

The documents were said to show that the British agency had generated 197 intelligence reports through the system in the 12 months to May 2012 – a 137% increase on the previous year.

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Analysis




Britain’s GCHQ has an incredibly close relationship with its US counterpart – and that is now drawing it into controversy.

At issue is whether America’s Prism programme has been used to cast a significantly wider surveillance net over communications.

Is Prism simply a means of accessing forms of communication information in a more streamlined way (by directly accessing servers) or does it involve collecting whole new categories of information? And about whom?

Critics will ask whether GCHQ could have used this to get round existing restrictions on whom it collects on.

That’s something the spy agency seems to be pushing back against by saying that everything it does is within a legal and policy framework to make sure it is authorised, necessary and proportionate.

It should come as no surprise that spy agencies spy – and that they don’t like talking about how they spy or on whom.

But this revelation will lead to questions from the public about whether those agencies might be spying on them.

The newspaper said that the Prism programme appeared to allow the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to circumvent the formal legal process required to obtain personal material, such as emails, photographs and videos, from internet companies based outside the UK.

Mr Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “The most chilling aspect is that ordinary American citizens and potentially British citizens too were apparently unaware that their phone and online interactions could be watched.

“This seems to be the snooper’s charter by the back door. I shall be writing to the home secretary asking for a full explanation.”

Ms Cooper called on the prime minister to ask the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, to investigate “the UK’s relationship with the Prism programme, the nature of intelligence being gathered, the extent of UK oversight by ministers and others, and the level of safeguards and compliance with the law”.

“It is important for the UK intelligence community to be able to gather information from abroad including from the United States particularly in the vital counter terror work they do,” the Labour frontbencher added.

“However there also have to be legal safeguards.”

‘Conflict’

The UK’s data protection watchdog, the information commissioner’s office (ICO), has raised its concerns with its European counterparts.

It said there were “real issues about the extent to which US law enforcement agencies can access personal data of UK and other European citizens”.

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Start Quote

Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate”

End Quote
GCHQ spokesman

“Aspects of US law under which companies can be compelled to provide information to US agencies potentially conflict with European data protection law, including the UK’s own Data Protection Act.”

A GCHQ statement did not deny the Guardian’s story.

A spokesman for the agency, based in Cheltenham, said: “Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Intelligence and Security Committee.”

US spies have been accused of tapping into servers of nine US internet giants including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google in a giant anti-terror sweep. All deny giving government agents access to servers.

But the Prism programme has been strongly defended by James Clapper, director of US national intelligence.

And President Barack Obama said it was closely overseen by Congress and the courts and that his administration had struck “the right balance” between security and privacy.

He also stressed that the surveillance of phone call “metadata” did not target US citizens or residents and government agencies were not listening to telephone calls.

‘Serious issue’

Civil liberties campaigners in the UK have said they are deeply concerned.

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Start Quote

I call on all web users to demand better legal protection and due process safeguards for the privacy of their online communications”

End Quote
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
World wide web inventor

Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, a long standing campaigner against the government’s proposed Communications Data Bill – dubbed a “snooper’s charter” by critics – said he would “raise the issue as soon as possible in Parliament”.

The data bill, which would have authorised the retention of every UK citizen’s web browsing records, was dropped because the Lib Dems did not support it.

But the home secretary has talked of its importance to national security, following the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

The director of civil rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said the reports “suggest a breach of trust on the grandest scale… showing contempt for privacy, legality and democracy itself”.

She added: “Have those who failed to persuade in the Parliament chamber decided to smuggle blanket surveillance in through the back door?”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said the revelations were “deeply concerning”.

He said: “I call on all web users to demand better legal protection and due process safeguards for the privacy of their online communications, including their right to be informed when someone requests or stores their data.”

Nick Pickles, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “There are legal processes to request information about British citizens using American services and if they are being circumvented by using these NSA spying arrangements then that would be a very serious issue.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22813893#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Government demands action on web safety


Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

Internet mouse

Google, BT and a clutch of other web giants and internet service providers have been put on notice – the government wants action on sorting out the problem of harmful content on the internet.

The Culture Secretary Maria Miller has summoned them to a meeting on 17 June where they will be expected to come up with plans to do more to stop access to material such as child abuse images or material designed to promote terrorism.

In her letter to the companies, the culture secretary says there is widespread public concern:

“Whether these concerns focus on access to illegal pornographic content, the proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred, or the ongoing battle against online copyright theft, a common question emerges: what more can be done to prevent offensive online content potentially causing harm?”

In a briefing to journalists, the language is even blunter.

“Woolwich is the latest catalyst,” an aide to Ms Miller says. “Enough is enough – concentrated effort is now needed by the whole industry.”

What this effort is expected to achieve in terms of concrete action by the companies is a lot less clear. They may point out that a whole lot of different concerns, from child safety to copyright infringement, are being lumped together.

In the case of child abuse images (not “child porn” as some government officials still erroneously describe it) the law is already clear – they are illegal. The Internet Watch Foundation maintains a blacklist of such images, updated twice a day, and its members agree to block them – though there will be pressure on the industry to do more to fund the IWF’s work and be more proactive in hunting down offending sites.

But when it comes to other material that may be considered harmful but is not yet illegal, the internet industry may struggle to respond to Ms Miller’s demands for action. The companies will ask who is to decide exactly what is harmful and should be prevented from “potentially causing harm”, and they will not be keen to be cast in the role of internet censor.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is suggesting various ideas to be discussed at the summit. They include “a set of industry-wide protocols around how they respond to concerns around content when they arise, a look at the extent to which filters can be used, looking further at the public wi-fi proposals beyond the pornography focus”. It is also pointing to the code of practice agreed by the mobile broadband companies which restricts access to certain content on mobile phones and asking why the likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft can’t come up with something similar.

The government is stressing that it isn’t going into the summit with a list of demands, but, in the words of one official: “We’re saying this is a serious issue, there’s a lot of concern and we want you all to think about what you can do.”

The companies invited to the summit are keeping their heads down for now. But I imagine conference rooms at Google, BT and Microsoft will be booked out for the next fortnight as worried executives try to come up with simple solutions to make the internet a safer place.

Update: 12:56 BST

A number of web liberty campaigners, including the Open Rights Group and Index on Censorship, have written to Maria Miller expressing their concerns about her planned summit.

They warn that “an understandable desire to ensure a ‘safer’ environment online can easily lead to overreaching or unaccountable powers or practices”.

Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, said the government should be talking about concerted international action against criminals posting illegal content, rather than attempting to blame internet companies.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22794498#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Google patents pull-a-face passwords

Boy pulling a faceThe patent envisages people pulling a series of facial expressions to unlock their phones

Users could soon be asked to pull a series of faces to unlock their Android phones or tablets.

Google has filed a patent suggesting users stick out their tongue or wrinkle their nose in place of a password.

It says requiring specific gestures could prevent the existing Face Unlock facility being fooled by photos.

The Jelly Bean version of Android introduced the need for users to blink their eyes as a check, but users soon demonstrated it could be fooled.

A spokesman for Google was unable to comment on when the suggested technology might be implemented.

Fooled by Facebook

The document – which was filed in June 2012 but has only just been published – suggests the software could track a “facial landmark” to confirm a user not only looks like the device’s owner but also carries out the right action.

It says examples of the requests that might be made include:

  • a frown
  • a tongue protrusion
  • an open-mouth smile
  • a forehead wrinkle
  • an eyebrow movement

Face UnlockAndroid 4.0 introduced the ability to unlock devices by looking at them

It says the check would work by comparing two images taken from a captured video stream of the user’s face to see if the difference between them showed the gesture had been made.

The filing also notes several ways the software might check that the device was being shown a real person’s face rather than doctored photographs.

These include studying other frames from the captured video stream to check that the person had made a sequence of movements to achieve the commanded gesture, and confirming all of the frames actually showed the person’s face.

In addition it says the software could monitor if there were changes in the angle of the person’s face to ensure the device was not being shown a still image with a fake gesture animated on top.

Such efforts might help address criticism that its current face detection software is insecure.

Last year Google introduced a “liveness check”, requiring users to blink at their device to prevent its facial recognition program being fooled by a photograph.

However, a group of security researchers from the University of British Columbia posted a video online showing the feature could still be tricked.

They showed that an image of one of their members could be copied from Facebook, then – using graphics editing software – treated so that his eyes were painted over with colours matching his skin tone, and fake eyelashes were drawn on top to make it appear that he had his eyes shut.

Fake Facebook photoSecurity researchers showed that a photo could be treated to fool Android’s “liveness check” feature

By holding a screen up to the targeted Android device and flicking back-and-forth between the original and doctored images, they showed Android was fooled into believing it was being shown the subject blinking.

Laser beams

The latest patent says the additional checks should prevent such a spoof working, adding that a combination of specific gestures – such as a request for a blink followed by a half turn of their head and then a wink – could be issued at random to make it even harder to deceive the ID feature.

However, Google acknowledges even this might not be enough, envisaging a situation in which a device could be programmed to generate a video showing the user making the requested facial expressions.

To tackle this it says the device could also “emit light beams having different colours or frequencies, that are expected to induce in the eyes of a user a reflection of light having a corresponding frequency content”.

In other words, the software could use the device’s screen and flash to shine different coloured light into the user’s face and then check for related glints in their eyes as he or she made the requested facial gestures.

In the future it adds that a “3D-rangefinder” built into a phone or tablet might also use lasers to study the contours of the person’s face as an additional check.

Patent drawingThe patent suggests users would have to type in a password if they failed to make the right gestures

Despite all this, one cybersecurity expert said it might still be years before it became advisable to use facial recognition passwords.

“The problem with biometrics in the past has been that you have always been able to find a way to work round the requests to deliver what’s needed,” Prof Alan Woodward, chief technology officer at the consultancy Charteris, told the BBC.

“It sounds like Google is thinking about how try and counter this with randomness and movement.

“But there’s a long way between writing a patent about an idea and delivering it as a reliable security measure. I would expect people will still use traditional passwords for some time to come.”

A spokesman for Google said it did not discuss individual patents, but noted that it filed a variety of ideas that its employees came up with.

“Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t,” he added.

“Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22790221#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

FBI and Microsoft hit theft botnet

Windows logoCitadel spread by being included with pirated versions of Windows

The FBI and Microsoft have broken up a huge network of hijacked home computers responsible for stealing more than $500m (£323m) from bank accounts.

The Citadel network had remotely installed a keylogging program on about five million machines to steal data.

About 1,000 of the 1,400 or so networks that made up the Citadel botnet are believed to have been shut down.

Co-ordinated action in 80 countries by police forces, tech firms and banking bodies helped to disrupt the network.

“The bad guys will feel the punch in the gut,” Richard Boscovich, a spokesman for Microsoft’s digital crimes unit said.

Control code

The cybercriminals behind Citadel cashed in by using login and password details for online bank accounts stolen from compromised computers.

This method was used to steal cash from a huge number of banks including American Express, Bank of America, PayPal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo.

Citadel emerged after core computer code for a widely used cybercrime kit, called Zeus, was released online.

Underground coders banded together to turn that code into a separate cybercrime toolkit that quickly proved popular with many malicious hackers.

In a blogpost detailing its action, Microsoft said Citadel had also grown because malicious code that could take over a PC had been bundled in with pirated versions of Windows.

The millions of PCs in the criminal network were spread around the globe, but were most heavily concentrated in North America, Western Europe, Hong Kong, India and Australia.

Despite the widespread action, which involved seizures of servers that co-ordinated the running of Citadel, the identity of the botnet’s main controller is unknown.

However, Microsoft has started a “John Doe” lawsuit against the anonymous controller, believing him to use the nickname Aquabox and be based in Eastern Europe.

In addition, the FBI is working with Europol and police forces in many other countries to track down and identify the 81 “lieutenants” that helped Aquabox keep Citadel running.

Microsoft has also started action to help people clean up an infected computer.

Typically, it said, machines compromised by Citadel were blocked from getting security updates to ensure those computers stayed part of the botnet.

With the network disrupted, machines should be free to get updates and purge the Citadel malware from their system.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22795074#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Three network hit by net glitches

Three fasciaCustomers across the UK reported problems getting online via Three

Many UK customers of mobile operator 3 have been left without internet access thanks to a network glitch.

The problem is only hitting 3G services used to go onto the internet. Calls and texts are working as normal.

The loss of connectivity is thought to have started late on Monday night and was continuing to cause problems into late morning on 4 June.

Three apologised for the inconvenience and said it hoped to restore service soon.

The problems affected customers across the whole of the UK but Three did not reveal just how many had lost service. Many people took to Twitter to report problems. Three has about 9 million customers in the UK.

In a statement, a spokesman for Three said it was beginning a “phased process” to restore service on 4 June.

A couple of hours later it issued another statement saying net access had been restored in London and that it should end interruptions to other parts of its network by the afternoon “if not sooner”. It has not given any details about the cause of the problem.

In the past service interruptions on other networks have been blamed on botched updates and database failures.

In October 2012, O2 suffered network problems that lasted for about 24 hours which left about 10% of its 22 million customers with an intermittent service. Compensation was offered to subscribers after the problem was fixed.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22768846#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

London police target pirate websites

Police marchThe initiative aims to curb piracy by targeting site owners

The City of London Police has started contacting websites it believes are profiting by breaking copyright laws.

The police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have written to two sites known to share links to pirated copies of music, movies and games.

The letters warn the operators of the sites they are breaking UK laws that carry heavy jail sentences.

If site owners do not contact police by 14 June they face further action, the letters say.

Harmful site

In a statement, the City of London Police, said: “These websites are able to operate and profit from advertising on their sites without having licenses or paying the creators and owners of the films, TV programmes, music and publications.

“Intellectual property crime is a serious offence that is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year.”

In addition, said the statement, the action would help protect UK citizens from the malicious software and other harmful programs that could be found on these sites.

The initiative came out of work done with UK advertisers, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Publishers Association.

The news about the police operation was broken by copyright news site Torrent Freak.

It is not known which sites have received the letters – but both are known to be located and run beyond the UK’s borders.

The letters say the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has become concerned by “websites causing harm to the UK’s creative economy” and this has led to an initiative between government and media industry groups to target “criminal activity linked to websites involved in online copyright infringement”.

The sites are receiving letters because the NFIB has grounds to suspect their operators are infringing copyright, they say, and if the site owners are found guilty of breaking UK copyright laws they could face long jail sentences.

The letters urge site owners to contact the police to stop further offences being committed, adding if contact is not made before 14 June, the sites could face “police action”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22768850#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Apple loses patent case with Samsung

An Apple's iPhone 4s (L) and a Samsung's Galaxy S3 (R) at a mobile phone shop in Seoul Apple and Samsung have been locked in patent litigation for years

Apple has lost a ruling by a US trade panel in a patent dispute with its rival Samsung.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple infringed on a Samsung patent, which could mean some older models of the iPad and iPhone are banned from sale in the US.

The patent relates to 3G wireless technology and the ability to transmit multiple services correctly and at the same time.

Apple said it plans to appeal.

The ruling could also be reversed by a US presidential order within 60 days.

The ruling overturned an earlier decision by ITC Judge James Gildea, who said in September that Apple did not violate the patents at issue in the case, which was filed nearly three years ago.

“We believe the ITC’s final determination has confirmed Apple’s history of free-riding on Samsung’s technological innovations,” a Samsung statement said.

The ITC ordered a halt on all imports and sales on ATT-sold models of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS as well as the iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G. Some of those devices are no longer on sale in the US.

Import-ban orders from the ITC are subject to review by US President Barack Obama. Mr Obama could overturn it, thought it is rare for that to happen.

Apple is free to continue selling the models involved during the 60-day review period.

“Today’s decision has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement.

Android battles

The case is the latest amid a flurry of litigation between the two electronics giants, who are locked in legal battles in no less than 10 countries.

Analysts say Apple is seeking to limit the growth of Google’s Android system.

As a result, smartphone makers that use the Android system, like Samsung and HTC, have been embroiled in various legal battles.

In a separate patent fight in US federal court last year, Samsung was ordered to pay more than $1bn for patent infringement, an award that was later slashed to $598.9m.

Samsung is the world’s largest maker of smartphones. Analysts estimate it outsold Apple by nearly two to one in the first three months of the year.

However, Apple’s smartphone business is more profitable.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22777497#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Electronic election security blasted

hand putting vote into ballot boxThe French opposition UMP party had decided to hold an electronic primary election

A website says it cast several votes in France’s first digital election by registering under different names.

A name, address, date of birth and a card payment of three euros (£2.56) are required to register a vote in the opposition UMP party’s “open primary” to select a candidate for next year’s mayoral election in Paris.

But Metronews says it has used the same card to pay for multiple votes.

And it registered once as ex-President and UMP leader Nicholas Sarkozy.

Lists of local people eligible to vote in French elections are available to view by appointment in town halls, in order to ensure transparency.

Web security expert Graham Cluley said: “Concerns about electronic voting systems have been around for some years.

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Digital scanners suspended at the polls in New York

A network of electronic scanners installed across New York City polling stations to replace “lever voting machines” invented in the 1890s will not be used in this year’s mayoral elections, the city has announced.

The process of counting the scanned votes would be too cumbersome, the Board of Elections told the New York Times newspaper.

The scanners were introduced after concerns about vote counts in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

“The old method of casting votes is really in the stone ages in many ways, but the reason why they have stayed is that they are systems people trust.”

Mr Cluley added that at the very least, both the web servers and software involved in running a digital election needed to be totally secure.

“There’s a lot of demand for speed in revealing the result, which favours electronic voting, but if you’re going to hold one you better be darned sure it works,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22754003#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Minecraft creators release new game

Scrolls screenshotPlayers must use heroes, spells and artefacts to defend their idols

Minecraft-maker Mojang has released an early version of its newest game Scrolls.

The battle game pits two players against each other who fight using heroes, artefacts and spells from a virtual deck of cards.

The open beta or test period for Scrolls started on 3 June.

As with Minecraft, those who buy the beta version, which costs £13 ($20; 15 euros), pay a reduced price and get future updates for free.

The game revolves around a virtual deck of cards that players acquire by trading with other players or by spending a virtual currency, called gold, which they amass as they battle. Players can also convert real world cash into a separate currency, called shards, to help them build up a decent deck of cards.

During a bout, each player occupies one side of a virtual board and must defend five structures, called idols, from attack. The first player to destroy three of an opponent’s idols wins the match. The heroes, spells, artefacts and structures on Scrolls cards underpin a player’s strategy for protecting his own idols while attacking those belonging to their opponent.

Mojang is only the latest company to develop and release a battle game based around a deck of cards. Later in 2013, it will face competition from World of Warcraft creator Blizzard which is due to release a card-based battle game called Hearthstone that is based around Warcraft lore.

There is also a huge number of well-established collectable card games including Duel of the Planeswalkers.

While developing Scrolls, Mojang had to defend itself against a legal claim by developer Bethesda which makes the Elder Scrolls series of games. Bethesda wanted Mojang to change the name saying two games with the same name risked confusing people.

The two companies reached a settlement which allowed Mojang to keep using the name provided it never became a competitor to the Elder Scrolls.

Mojang is best known as the creator of the hugely successful Minecraft game that is set in a world made of blocks. About 17 million copies of the game have been sold, a total which includes versions for PCs, the Xbox console and phones and tablets.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22754054#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Laptop runs both Android and Windows

Asus Transformer Book TrioAsus’s chairman showed off its dual-booting Transformer Book Trio

A laptop running both Windows 8 and Android; a 6in (15.2cm) smartphone; and a hybrid mouse-touchpad are some of the devices to have been unveiled ahead of the start of Computex.

The tech show in Taipei, Taiwan runs from Tuesday to Sunday.

Other launches included the first PCs to feature Intel’s new processor, codenamed Haswell.

The event comes a week after researchers suggested PC sales were declining faster than had been thought.

IDC predicted that shipments of personal computers – including both desktops and laptops – would fall by 7.8% over the course of 2013. The firm had previously forecast a 1.3% decline.

It added that it believed tablet shipments would grow by 58.7% over the same period, putting them on course to overtake PCs by 2015.

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Foxconn and Firefox

Taiwanese firm Hon Hai revealed it is to develop five devices powered by Mozilla’s new Firefox mobile operating system.

Hon Hai is perhaps best know for making Apple devices at its Foxconn factories in China. However, analysts have suggested the firm could be responsible for assembling as much as 40% of the world’s consumer electronics.

Hon Hai said its Firefox line-up would include smartphones and televisions. It added that they would be released under others’ brands, rather than its own.

The news offers a boost to Mozilla’s HTML5-based OS which it is pitching as an “open alternative” to Android for low-end handsets.

The move also allows Hon Hai to diversify its operations. That may reassure investors following a Wall Street Journal report last week which said Apple was increasingly sending orders to another Taiwanese firm, Pegatron.

That trend poses a potential problem for manufacturers since margins on tablets are often thinner than they have been accustomed to with PCs.

Hybrid devices

Acer kicked off the announcements with news of an 8.1in tablet capable of running the full Windows 8 operating system.

The firm described the Iconia W3 as being the first device that lets Microsoft’s desktop OS be used comfortably with “a single hand”.

The Taiwanese company also announced a 5.7in Android handset which it called its “first phablet” – signifying a cross between a phone and a tablet.

The Liquid S1 offers slots for two Sim cards – allowing consumers to use it with both their business and personal accounts. However, its 720p resolution screen and a lack of 4G support may limit its appeal to buyers wanting a high-end device.

Asus – which is also based in Taipei – announced the Transformer Book Trio as the centrepiece of its news conference.

The device is marketed as a three-in-one device which can be used as a desktop, laptop or 11.6in tablet. Its key feature is that it can run both the Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android OS and Windows 8.

The firm said users would be able to synchronise data between the platforms in order to enjoy a “smooth transition” between each mode.

Acer press conferenceAcer’s new line-up included what the firm said was the industry’s first 8.1in Windows 8 tablet

Other news from the firm included the Fonepad Note – a 6in phablet featuring a stylus and 1080p resolution display – and the Zenbook Infinity Ultrabook, a laptop which has toughened glass covering the back of its display. At 15.5m (0.61in) thick, it is thinner than Hewlett-Packard’s Envy Spectre 14 which pioneered the idea of a glass-clad laptop in 2012.

Perhaps more unusual was the company’s VivoMouse. The wireless device combines a circular touchpad and mouse into a single device which can be dragged across a surface or operated while being held in the air.

Asus said the controller was particularly suited for Windows 8 users whose PCs lacked touchscreen displays.

New chips

Other announcements included:

  • Dell’s 11.6in-screened XPS 11 laptop. The device’s screen is attached to its body with a hinge which allows it to be twisted round and folded back over the keyboard in a similar manner to Lenovo’s Yoga range.
  • Two new Android tablets from Samsung. The 8in and 10.1in Galaxy Tab 3 computers offer an alternative to the firm’s existing 7in model. The larger model is unusual in that it is powered by an Intel-made chip rather than one of Samsung’s own ARM-based processors.
  • Gigbayte’s Slate S10A – a 10in tablet which is one of the first Windows 8 devices to be powered by AMD’s new A4-1200 processor.

VivoMouseAsus said its VivoMouse touchpad-mouse hybrid was an “entirely new kind of pointing device”

Several of the new laptops used Intel’s latest generation of Haswell chips.

The US firm said last month that the processors would be 50% more power efficient than the previous generation, Ivy Bridge. However, full details about their capabilities are being held back until a press conference at Computex on Tuesday.

One analyst said the variety of computers on show was evidence of innovation, but warned that the amount of choice might end up leaving shoppers perplexed.

“Many users have already moved away from wanting a fully functional PC to an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone,” said Ranjit Atwal, an analyst at tech consultants Gartner.

“As a result that leaves a smaller audience and now the challenge for PC-makers is how to target this group, which is also – by its nature – likely to be more demanding.

“The problem is that by throwing so many different designs at the wall in an effort to meet the challenge of wooing them, they risk confusing shoppers rather than winning them over.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22751326#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa