TechSummit Rewind 156

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

Recently FCC-approved LTE-U wireless rolls out on T-Mobile

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The FCC has allowed several companies to activate the LTE-U wireless technology in their base stations. If all goes as planned, devices will be able to communicate cellular data over unlicensed frequencies that technically overlap with WiFi’s.

The basic idea behind LTE-U (and the related License Assisted Access and MuLTEfire techniques) is that some 5 GHz band frequencies used by WiFi routers were going unused. Carriers and device makers proposed allowing this spectrum to augment existing base stations’ signals and potentially improve short-range connection speeds.

The devices approved today are base stations from Ericsson and Nokia already in service and compatible with both LTE-U and LAA.

“These transmitters were already approved as LTE base stations previously. The grants issued today are for the ability for the devices to operate under Part 15 rules in the 5 GHz band.”

-An FCC representative

T-Mobile appears to be the first to take advantage of this, and compatible base stations should get the LTE-U boost in the spring.

Windows 10’s mail app gets Focused Inbox, calendar improvements

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Windows 10 mail app splash screen (Image: Andrew Okwuosah)

Microsoft is updating the Mail and Calendar apps for Windows 10 with new features ported over from its mobile apps. The biggest addition is Focused Inbox, which comes over from the Outlook apps for iOS and Android.

Focused Inbox lets you separate out an inbox into two sections that filter important emails into the Focused section, and less important emails (newsletters) into the Other section. In Windows 10, it’s available only on Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts, despite being available for Gmail and Google Apps accounts on mobile.

Mentions are also coming to the Mail app. You can simply @ and tag a name into an email message, and it’ll add a person to an email thread automatically if they weren’t already added.

On the calendar side, Microsoft is adding colored categories, interesting calendars, and travel reservation and package delivery support. Colored categories let you customize calendar events with colors to make things more readable at a glance. The interesting calendars showcase calendars for sports teams, TV shows, and more, and let you add them to your calendar.

However, the most useful feature here is the ability to display travel reservations and package delivery details. If an event is on your calendar, Mail will surface a useful summary card with all the details of your package or your flight. Improvements also include tweaking of the locations feature for calendar entries and an option to add Skype for online meetings. All of these changes are available now through an update in the Windows Store.

Apple Park ‘spaceship’ campus to open in April

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Apple Park in Cupertino, Calif. (Image: Apple)

Apple’s new spaceship headquarters will open in April and will feature some public areas.

The first employees will move into the 175-acre Cupertino, Calif.-campus at this point, according to the company, while building construction and landscaping continues around the site. It’ll take six months for 12,000 employees to move from the company’s current Infinite Loop headquarters and other offices scattered throughout Cupertino into the new Apple Park campus.

The campus is the last product from co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011 after battling pancreatic cancer. He envisioned the space as a beacon of innovation and a place for the company’s employees to continue their efforts to release groundbreaking headquarters.

The site is centered with a ring-shaped, 2.8 million square foot glass-clad building that Jobs dubbed a “spaceship” when he proposed the development to the Cupertino City Council in 2011.

In honor of the late co-founder, the new campus will include the 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theater. The entrance to the building will be a 20-foot-tall, 165-foot diameter glass cylinder with a “metallic carbon fiber” roof sitting atop a hill at one of the highest points on campus.

“Steve’s vision for Apple stretched far beyond his time with us. He intended Apple Park to be the home of innovation for generations to come. The workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment. We’ve achieved one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, and the campus will run entirely on renewable energy.”

-Tim Cook, Apple CEO

A 17-megawatt rooftop solar installation on site will be “one of the largest” on the planet, according to Apple. The main building will also be the “world’s largest naturally ventilated building, projected to require no heating or air conditioning nine months of the year.”

The landscaping will include 9,000 trees and two miles of paths for workers, along with an orchard, meadow, and pond. Employees can also take advantage of a 100,000 square foot gym.

“Steve invested so much of his energy creating and supporting vital, creative environments. We have approached the design, engineering, and making of this new campus with the same enthusiasm and design principles that characterize our products.”

-Jony Ive, Apple chief design officer

The public will be able to enter a café and a visitor center featuring an Apple Store on campus.

Fitbit paid $23M for Pebble

Fitbit disclosed that it paid $23 million to acquire smartwatch maker Pebble in the fourth quarter of 2016.

This accounts for both talent and intellectual property, according to Fitbit’s earnings statement.

HP earnings: 3.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue

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HP Inc., which houses the hardware business of HP, reported a 3.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue in the first quarter that ended Jan. 31. That’s helped largely by a stabilizing PC market.

However, the company’s net earnings from continuing operations fell to $611 million from $650 million a year ago. Earnings per share remained flat at $0.36.

Revenue rose to $12.68 billion from $12.25 billion.

Twitter tweaks brand direct messages to make them more human

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Twitter’s custom profiles feature in use by T-Mobile (Image: Twitter)

Twitter is tinkering with direct messages to let brands show customers that they’re communicating with a human, not an automated bot. With custom profiles, businesses can respond with a customer service agent’s name and photo rather than their company name to make users feel more at ease.

The first partner to use the feature is T-Mobile, which as long used the service to address customer feedback. Now when you interact with @TMobileHelp, you’ll see the real face, name, and title of the customer service agent that’s helping you.

These features aren’t being made available through the service. Instead, developers have the ability to incorporate the capabilities into their own offerings and market it to customers.

Custom profiles are available through Twitter’s Direct Message API, which remains in private beta. However, verified brands can get whitelisted by filling out this form.

 

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