TechSummit Rewind 094

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple: Company’s U.S. employees now receive equal pay for equal work


Apple has released updated diversity figures showing slight but steady progress in hiring more women and underrepresented minorities (Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander, according to Apple) – and ensuring those employees are paid the same as their white male counterparts. The new numbers indicate the company increased the percentage of new female hires from 31 percent in 2014 to 37 percent so far this year, while underrepresented minorities’ percentage has increased from 21 percent of new hires in 2014 to 27 percent today.

According to the Cupertino, Calif-based company, pay gaps have been remedied between white and nonwhite employees and male and female employees in the U.S. by analyzing salaries, bonuses, and stock grants to ensure workers in similar roles with comparable performance earn the same wage.

“If a gap exists, we’ll address it. And we’ll continue our work to make sure we maintain pay equity. We’ve achieved pay equity in the United States for similar roles and performance. Women earn one dollar for every dollar male employees earn. And underrepresented minorities earn one dollar for every dollar white employees earn.”

-Apple, in the report

Overwhelmingly, most of Apple is still white males. 67 percent of its workforce is male, with 54 percent of the company’s employees being white.

BlackBerry Hub comes to Android Marshmallow


BlackBerry Hub, the catch all app for email, messaging, social media, and other accounts used on its Android and BlackBerry 10 devices, is now rolling out to all devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer.

It’s available now on the Google Play Store as BlackBerry Hub+, and will be free to use for 30 days. After that, users can opt for occasional advertising or pay $0.99/month for an ad-free experience. The free app includes the Hub, BlackBerry Calendar, and a password manager. Those that pay the subscription fee will also get access to BlackBerry’s Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher apps. According to the Waterloo, Canada-based company, it’s working to make Hub+ available on Lollipop toting devices. The Hub will remain free on BlackBerry devices.

Dropbox Paper comes to iOS, Android

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox’s Paper document-building app is now available on iOS and Android. Updates were also made to Paper’s Web beta, including enhanced tables, image galleries, and notifications across multiple devices.

“We see Paper being uniquely positioned. We’re not just creating documents, communicating, and getting feedback. We’re a holistic team solution in terms of being used as a hub. This is what we’re seeing our early users do. A huge differentiator is we do provide solutions regardless of what tools the users are using today.

“As the world changes, more and more collaboration is happening online, but there is a lot of collaboration that happens on the file system. One is, we’re [a] very simple user interface and that’s our link to Dropbox users – that [is] a philosophy we want to continue through Paper as well. We went through every feature we want to add a million times and [made] sure it works in the simplest way possible. That will continue, there’s no way that won’t happen.”

-Kavitha Radhakrishman, Dropbox group project manager

Basis recalls Peak smartwatch for overheating burn risk


Basis has issued a recall for its Peak smartwatch, citing the risk of burns or blisters due to overheating. According to the company, no fix could be found that wasn’t detrimental to the overall user experience “despite our best efforts.”

Peak owners can return the wearables and accessories to the company for a full refund. Basis urges all customers to stop using the device immediately and send it back. The company will no longer support the gadget, but stored data will still be accessible until Dec. 31. At that point, all Peak services will shut down, making the watch useless. Basis has set up a support site guiding customers through the process.

Average U.S. broadband speed crosses 50 megabits for first time

According to Speedtest, internet speeds are steadily increasing, with the U.S.’ average speed crossing 50 megabits for the first time.

That 54.97 megabit/second average is 42 percent higher compared to the same period last year, with upload speeds rising 51 percent year over year to 18.88 megabits per second. This is based on the roughly eight million daily tests conducted on Speedtest’s website and apps.

On average, Comcast (Xfinity) has the fastest average speed with 125 megabits, but Cox and Spectrum (Time Warner Cable, Charter, and Bright House Networks’ combined company) weren’t far behind with 118 and 114, respectively.

On mobile, Verizon and T-Mobile are tied at first place with just over 21 megabits download speeds on average, though Verizon creams T-Mobile with upload speeds averaging 11.59 megabits.

Facebook opens Area 404 hardware lab to build future


Facebook has opened Area 404 (named after the infamous “site not found” error message), a 22,000 square foot facility at its Menlo Park, Calif.-headquarters that’ll be home for most of Facebook’s hardware “modeling, prototyping, and failure analysis.”

It’s not segmented into product-specific divisions, dividing itself only into electrical engineering and prototyping workshop sections to encourage cross-team collaboration.

1Password launches $3/month individual subscriptions


1Password is introducing a monthly subscription for individuals for $2.99/month, getting you access to the password manager’s apps on every platform (desktop and mobile), meaning that you won’t have to worrying about paying for individual licenses or when major new versions are released.

You’ll get automatic syncing across devices through 1Password’s hosted platform, which also includes data loss protection and access to your passwords on the web. Subscribers can also get secure document storage, with extremely sensitive data being protected behind a “new multi-factor security model,” according to 1Password developer AgileBits.

Everyone who signs up/switches to an individual subscription before Sept. 21 will get their first six months free with “no ifs, ands, or buts (or ads),” according to AgileBits. The company will continue supporting the traditional per-platform license model and will update 1Password for both sets of subscribers.

Airbnb plans to build community centers in small towns

Airbnb community center

Airbnb is starting Samara, a new experimental design group to work on new hospitality projects. Its first project is to build “community centers” that draw tourists to small, little-traveled town.

The first center is being built for Yoshino, Japan. Samara hopes that the center will draw new people to the town, serve as a meeting place for residents and visitors, and encourage residents to open up spare rooms to Airbnb.

According to FastCo Design, the center is currently being displayed at a Tokyo concept home exhibit before being brought to Yoshino and opening soon afterwards.

The building will have a kitchen, communal dining table, and a publicly available living room. It’ll also include bedrooms, which will be rented out on Airbnb. The company won’t own or operate the space, leaving that instead to local groups, which will receive all profits beyond the standard Airbnb cut.

“Since we started, we’ve gotten calls from people in the U.K., China, Korea, Spain, France, and Italy, all with the same problem.”

-Joe Gebbia, Airbnb co-founder

Square earnings: Revenue of $439M, Loss of $0.08/share

Griffin Merchant case for iPhone 5
Griffin Merchant case for iPhone 5

Square has released its Q2 2016 earnings, which generated $439 million in revenue, a 41 percent increase from a year ago. Its gross payment volume (GPV) jumped 42 percent from the same time frame to $12.5 billion. Its earnings per share round up being a loss of $0.08.

The San Francisco-based company’s transactional revenue made up the bulk of Square’s $439 million in revenue in the second quarter, a 40 percent increase over last year. Square’s deal with Starbucks brought in $33 million and the coffee chain is “currently negotiating an amendment that may extend the agreement beyond the third quarter to allow Starbucks additional time to complete its transition” to another payment provider.

For the second quarter, the company reported that $189 million was extended to business customers through Square Capital, an increase of 123 percent from last year and 23 percent from last quarter. Over 34,000 business loans were provided in Q2. To date, Square has had an advance and loan loss rate of approximately four percent.

From Q1, GPV rose 31 percent, thanks to an increase in the number of larger sellers (those generateing over $500,000 in annualized GPV) as well as mid-sellers (those generating between $125,000 and $500,000), Square attributes its success with larger sellers to various reasons: its products’ differentiated ease of use and ability to train employees “in minutes”; a focus on “bringing payments together with additional services into one cohesive ecosystem”; and larger sellers will “benefit from fast access to capital, whether it’s next-day settlement of funds, Instant Deposit, or Square Capital loans.”

This topped the company’s guidance from Q1, estimating adjusted revenue to be between $151 million and $156 million – this quarter was $171 million.

For 2016, Square expects total net revenue to be between $1.63 billion and $1.67 billion, and cautions that total net revenue growth will be impacted by the “continued decline in Starbucks transaction revenue” as the relationship ends.

As for next quarter, the company has issued guidance projecting total net revenue between $410 million and $420 million, with adjusted revenue of $167 million to $171 million.

Penn National pays up to $170M for Rocket Games


Rocket Games, a San Francisco-based social gambling company, has been acquired by slow machine, video gaming machine, and casino company Penn National for $60 million and earnouts of up to $110 million based on company performance.

“Penn National’s accretive acquisition of Rocket highlights our ongoing strategic initiative to acquire emerging growth platforms that complement, and allow us to leverage, our core regional gaming operations and database of over three million active customers. Since the separation of our gaming assets from our real estate assets in 2013 we have been highly focused on a broad range of growth and diversification initiatives.

“Based on our internal analysis, a significant segment of Penn National’s database customers actively participate in social and online gaming, and we believe there are meaningful operating and revenue synergies between Penn National’s operations, our and social casino offerings and Rocket’s operations that will drive near- and long-term growth for our shareholders.”

-Timothy Wilmott, Penn National Gaming president & CEO

Rocket’s team is joining Penn in the acquisition.

“The entire Rocket team is delighted to join the Penn National family and leverage their expertise and nationwide reach to take our game development capabilities and company growth to the next level. Social and online gaming is an extremely attractive segment of mobile and online gaming, and tying our innovative gaming expertise to a traditional casino operator with a qualified database of customers will create unmatched opportunities for both Rocket Games and Penn National.”

-Bill Gelpi, Rocket Games CEO

Shopify raises forecasts


Shopify, the Ottawa-based company that provides software that helps small and medium-sized merchants sell products online, has bumped up its annual revenue forecast for the second time this year.

The revised outlook comes as the total amount of sales booked by Shopify users has ballooned to $3.4 billion, more than doubling from a year ago. The company also reported that it has over 300,000 customers, up 25,000 from Q1.

“There seems to be something going on. E-Commerce seems to be doing better than it has since the beginning.”

-Gil Luria, Wedbush Securities analyst

Shopify forecast 2016 revenue between $361 and $367 million, up from a previous estimate of up to $347 million.

According to Shopify CFO Russ Jones, despite the company’s unprofitability, they want to keep spending on growth and won’t be in the black until Q4 2017.

“We’re in an excellent position competitively and the market continues to grow.”

-Russ Jones, Shopify CFO

Baidu launches DuSee AR platform, integrates into mobile search app

Baidu Dusee

Baidu has announced DuSee, an augmented reality platform geared toward mobile devices. It’s being integrated into Baidu’s mobile apps, including the company’s core iOS and Android search apps.

However, Baidu is not releasing a headset, instead focusing on software.

“The path to better AR is through better AI. DuSee is a natural extension of Baidu’s AI expertise. The platform uses sophisticated computer vision and deep learning to understand and then augment a scene.”

-Andrew Ng, Baidu chief scientist

YouTube Kids brings ad-free playback, background audio support for Red subscribers


YouTube Kids is getting beefed up with a host of new features, including ad-free video, the ability to play offline when you don’t have a connection, and enjoy audio from clips when you’re using other apps, or have the screen turned off.

However, these features will only be available to YouTube Red subscribers.


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