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Worse than ugly: Why Apple’s iPhone 11 may be the most boring upgrade ever

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New iPhone rumors point to a comeback for Touch ID, but is it needed?
Apple’s next iPhone needs more than Touch ID to remain competitive. Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani talk to Karen Roby in a Face ID face-off. Read more: https://zd.net/2xqKX9T

It’s July 4th weekend! So you know what that means: It’s the beginning of iPhone speculation season!

We don’t know exactly when Apple plans to have its fall iPhone event, but traditionally, its happened in either late September or early October. So we have about 8 weeks, realistically speaking before we know the real details about what Apple’s new smartphone flagship is all about.

iPhone 11 rumors: Price, specs, features and everything else we know CNET

Armchair Apple watchers like myself can only speculate about what features are going to be in the new phone. However, we already have a bunch of clues based on numerous leaks that have originated from Cupertino’s manufacturing partners in Asia as well as some other notable news items from the company’s partners.

Iterate much?

Many of the iPhone’s upgrades in the last two years have been iterative, especially since the introduction of the FaceID facial recognition technology that has been part of the line since the launch of the iPhone X — it’s now in every current generation phone the company sells, the XR, the XS, and the XS Max.

The iPhone X was a radical departure from iPhone 7 and iPhone 8: the device was virtually bezel-less and hardware button-free on the display area. However, the XR, XS and XS Max were not substantially different from the iPhone X in terms of overall industrial design. Apple introduced a larger form factor in the XS Max and a version with 3D touch removed in the XR, with a lower quality display, at a lower price point, as well as the usual component upgrades in the A-series SoCs.

TouchID to return because FaceID stinks?

However, it appears that the FaceID technology has not been as successful as one might have expected. It has been rumored that TouchID, the fingerprint recognition technology that was initially introduced in iPhone 6 and is now only available on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, may be making a comeback within the next year, albeit concealed underneath the screen (a la Huawei and OnePlus) rather than as a dedicated hardware button. Apple’s new version of TouchID purportedly works better than the Android in-display alternatives, as the sensor is supposed to function over a much larger screen area, so the finger doesn’t have to align with the sensor precisely.

One of the upshots of re-introducing this new under-the-screen TouchID is that it may also provide for a somewhat improved display.  The rumors are that the already nearly invisible bezel from the iPhone XS on the 5.8-inch version of iPhone 11 is nonexistent, like the Samsung Galaxy S10 or the Huawei P30 Pro. The larger “Max” is also said to have a less prominent bezel as well. No word on the elimination of the controversial and much-maligned “notch.”

More cameras! USB-C! Joy?

The other significant hardware upgrade? It appears that Apple is ready to throw in the towel on the proprietary Lightning connector and may be preparing for a move to USB-C charging and accessory connectivity, just as it has done with the iPad Pro. While I welcome the possibility of Apple moving to USB-C (and the reported 4000 MaH battery on the iPhone 11, which would be the largest it has ever had), I am not sure someone with an iPhone 8 would necessarily justify moving to this device based on the data and charging connector alone.

The not so big? It sounds like the next iPhone is getting a third camera. Also, like Huawei. Yawn. More camera means more better! It also means more ugly, if the renderings of the phones and leaked case designs hold water with the big camera bulge on the back.

Quantum dots? Sorry.

The upgrade I was truly looking forward to is not going to make an appearance — the “quantum dot” sensor technology that Apple was reportedly licensing from Nanoco, a British technology firm, has been canceled in iPhone 11.

Unlike CMOS-based camera sensor technology which can only process about 25 percent of the light that it is exposed to, a quantum dot sensor is much more sensitive, allowing for complete conversion of photons to electrons as they hit the sensor matrix, yielding a 100 percent fill factor and an increase in sensitivity by a factor of four. In English? That means you can now build smartphone cameras using smaller lenses and overall sensor area with the equivalent sensitivity to large format professional SLR and mirrorless cameras which have physically much larger CMOS sensors.


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However, that isn’t coming this year. Had it made it, it would have been an absolute no-brainer upgrade for many people from iPhone X or iPhone 8, including myself.

Could the iPhone 11 still go to higher pixels? It’s possible, especially if they go to a third 12MP sensor on the “Max” and do software tricks to combine them. I’m not necessarily expecting a superior CMOS sensor like the Huawei P30 Pro uses, which has a primary 40-megapixel sensor with an f/1.6 lens, a second ultra-wide 20-megapixel unit, and a third telephoto 8-megapixel sensor for zooming. The iPhone 11 “Max” is said to have a similar ultra-wide configuration to the Huawei P30 Pro, but the CMOS capabilities of the camera sensors on the yet-to-be-released device are so far unknown.

Improved image processing? Nope!

What else isn’t coming? Well, we haven’t seen any indication that Apple has made significant investments in image processing technology such as what Google has done for the Pixel 3, or what Huawei has done with its P30 Pro. This technology would be image processing on-device as well as with cloud-assist using a combination of dedicated hardware and software algorithms for features such as Night Mode and Portrait mode.

While iPhone’s conventional CMOS sensors and camera optics are as good as everyone else’s, Apple lags in software improvements that put it on par with cameras on its competitors’ devices.

I own both a Pixel 3 and an iPhone XS Max, and the quality of the close-up food photographs I take for the restaurant reviews I do for other outlets are vastly superior on the Pixel 3. The results of portrait mode on the iPhone are distorted and weird looking, and having to take photographs in dimly-lit environments are a significant challenge without additional spot lighting. That’s not the case with the Pixel 3 or the Huawei P30 Pro, which have onboard image processing capabilities.

Cloud improvements? Nah.

Apple’s image processing deficiencies is an area that, quite frankly, needs to be addressed in the iOS software and back-end cloud infrastructure itself. Part of the problem is that Cupertino does not have the cloud-based infrastructure dedicated to image processing as Google does. Apple reportedly has a $30M per month spend at Amazon, but it’s unknown to what extent it is using AWS for in terms of machine learning and other processing offload features.

That’s one of the reasons why I use Google Photos on the iPhone instead of the local Photos application. It’s a better experience even though the exposures taken with the iPhone aren’t given the same favored status in Google Photos  that are granted to Pixel 3 and other Android phones, which allow for full-resolution storage and manipulation of the images in Google’s cloud using the device or your personal computer. Unlike the Pixel 3, iPhone images in Google Photos are stored in “High-Quality” compressed size than “Original” uncompressed size.

Analysis: Bor-ring!

So what does this all mean? Well, it looks like the iPhone 11 is shaping up to be one of the most boring upgrades in recent memory. All of these small, iterative improvements are nice, but they aren’t particularly compelling, especially if you have an XS or an XR. Moreover, while the 11 “Max” is going to be a powerhouse with a giant, beautiful screen — just like the current XS Max is — there appears to be nothing coming for those folks who still want a smaller phone, like the iPhone SE.

Am I going to upgrade? Yes, because I am on the Upgrade Program. It means I am just going to continue the same lease payment, probably for only a few dollars a month difference. However, it feels just like bringing your Lexus into the dealership after a two-year lease and being handed the keys to almost the same model of next year’s version of your current car with no substantive improvements in it — routine and unexciting.

Will you be upgrading to iPhone 11? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.

Bitwarden

It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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