Archive | November, 2014

Government at Standoff with Mobile Encryption

Mobile EncryptionIn one of the few times an tech issue intersects with a political issue on this website, the Wall Street Journal reported today the United States Government is at odds with mobile device manufacturers and software developers over mobile encryption, saying it could lead to a “tragedy. ” The issue at hand is Apple, Google and other mobile software developers purposefully protecting users data, and preventing chances for law enforcement officers to unlock a locked device. In doing so, the software companies are combating the perception they are providing a “backdoor” for data to compromised by the government.

Law-enforcement officials, tone-deaf to the 4th Ammendment, believe this shift towards sheltering users data from government intrusion could lead to a tragedy. Even with a court-order it will now become more difficult for officials to gain access to a device’s data including pictures, messages, appointments or contacts. For instance, were Apple to be served with a court order, they wouldn’t even have the ability to decrypt the phone’s data.

While the government isn’t completely without recourse, as the majority of desired information can be obtained through wireless carriers, with regard to call logs and messages sent, coupled with files/information backed up to the computer.¬†As a result of NSA information being leaked in how data collection on US Citizens is carried out, some might rightly call it spying, tech manufacturers and software developers are doing their part to avoid the blame. The WSJ article also reports WhatsAPP, owned by Facebook, is now encrypting text messages sent via the free data-driven service. Manufacturers and software developers aren’t alone, however, as telecommunications providers are starting to challenge the legality behind the government collecting data (spying) on citizens.

Under the guise of the Patriot Act, and “national security” the director of the FBI, James Comey, was quoted as saying “We need our private sector partners to take a step back, to pause to consider, I hope, a change of course.” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, had this to say “Look, if law enforcement wants something they should go to the user and get it. It’s not for me to do that.”

The move to tweak software to encrypt data seems foolproof. As the government continues to overreach in “surveillance” rulings, there isn’t much (any?) legal precedence to force a manufacturer/developer to alter their Intellectual Property.

Photo from Wired‘s fantastic Article on iPhone encryption

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Lync to Become Skype for Business

Lync will become Skype for Business

Microsoft is rebranding it’s unified communication platform Microsoft Lync. Microsoft plans to retool their approach to unified communications, and launch under the name “Skype for Business” in 2015. Microsoft originally acquired Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.

The Redmond, WA based software giant made significant strides into the Unified Communications space, offering a cost-competitive unified communications platform which included Telephony, Chat, Collaboration and Video Conferencing all from the desktop, laptop or tablet.

Microsoft made a splash, albeit a light one, last summer in the audiovisual industry when they bought a booth to the InfoComm Tradeshow. It seemed to be the culmination of a few years of product development centered around integrating Lync into the classroom, conference room and board room. Manufacturers from Crestron to Vaddio and Polycom to SMART were all developing peripherals as well as room systems built around the Lync platform. While any talk of Skype at these shows were purely relegated to the consumer space, and a consumer grade of product associated with it.

Poised to make a deeper run in the professional av/uc space, Microsoft’s main purpose in attending the show, it seems, was to gather feedback from customers, and perhaps ideas for future products and platforms. With more and more manufacturers chomping at the bit to get a piece of the Microsoft Lync pie, as Microsoft themselves don’t manufacture hardware solutions, it seemed Lync was going to be influencing the products to be revealed at InfoComm 2015, slated for June 13-19 in Orlando, FL.

There was some debate yesterday, mostly on twitter, about what, if any, impact this announcement will have on the audiovisual industry. In short, it won’t be ground breaking, but it will have some effect on the industry. The most notable effect it has on the industry is blending professional and consumer platforms into one hybrid platform that some might argue does nothing well and everything poorly. Time will tell what functionality from the two drastically different platforms will make it into the Skype for Business release in 2015, but reports are already hinting at the user interface changing to look more like Skype and less like Lync 2010 or 2013. Reports also indicate H.264 encoding adoption so Lync will finally be able to directly federate with Skype.

Besides the blending of the “professional” vtc (professional in quotes because Lync wasn’t close to competing in quality or market share with Cisco/Polycom/LifeSize). It will be interesting to see how this will affect hardware manufacturers. Will there also be a hybrid-level set of hardware coming down the pipeline? Something that sits between the logitech table top webcam and a professional camera which connects via, or converts to, USB? Will there finally be a usable product between the $1000 and $3000 price points?

Time will tell, for all factors, how this decision will play out in our industry, and whether or not it will be a success for Microsoft. One thing that is for sure, Skype for Business is one step closer to bridging the comfort gap that prevents technophobes from adopting any modicum of videoconferencing. Also, it will be funny to think about all the telecom professionals now having the title of “Skype Administrator”

What do you think this will mean for the industry? For your users?

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