TechSummit Rewind 163

Apple’s spring product announcements, Android O developer preview launches, and Apple’s new Clips social video app

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

Apple’s spring product refresh

Red iPhone 7

red iPhone 7

Apple’s iPhone 7 is now available in red as part of its Product (RED) program benefiting the RED fund. While the iPhone has previously offered Product (RED) cases, this is the first time that the iPhone has itself been offered in red. This new iPhone features a red aluminum finish.

“The introduction of this special edition iPhone in a gorgeous rid finish is our biggest (PRODUCT)RED offering to date in celebration of our partnership with (RED), and we can’t wait to get it into customers’ hands.”

-Tim Cook, Apple CEO

The model will launch starting this Friday in 128GB and 256GB models starting at $749.

9.7-inch iPad

iPad 9.7

The latest version of the 9.7-inch iPad is really a successor to 2014’s Air 2.

The new iPad features a 9.7-inch 2048×1356 Retina display with improved brightness with a faster A9 processor.

The cameras remain the same, for better or worse, with an eight-megapixel shooter on the rear and a 1.2MP FaceTime cam at the front.

Notably, the entry-level price has dropped to $320 for the 32GB version. Stepping up to 128GB will set you back $459, making this the cheapest tablet the company has offered thus far in its class. LTE versions will set you back an additional $130. The updated iPad will also be available starting Friday

An updated iPad mini is also available, but is more expensive. It’s now available with 128GB of storage only for $399, and the iPad mini 2 has been discontinued.

Google releases Android O developer beta; promises better battery life, notifications

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A developer preview for Android O is available now here.

The headline feature here is battery life.

For O, Google is continuing its trend of aggressively managing what apps can do in the background to ensure that runaway processes don’t destroy your battery.

“We’ve put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates.”

-Dave Burke, Android VP of engineering

Apps will also be able to “group” their notifications into categories called “channels.”

According to Burke, there are also “new visuals and grouping to notifications that make it easier for users to see what’s going on when they have an incoming message or are glancing at the notification shade.”

You can also snooze notifications so they appear at a later time, just like with email.

Google is also working to improve sound quality for wireless headphones with “high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs,” along with Sony’s LDAC codec.

App developers can also create “adaptive icons,” which will change their look and shape based on what home screen theme the user’s opted for.

Some other features based on how stuff gets displayed or navigated on the screen:

  • A genuine picture-in-picture mode for videos
  • A new pop-up window that apps can use instead of the system alert window
  • “Multi-display support for launching an activity on a remote display,” which could refer to a PowerPoint-like presentation mode or a Continuum-style Android-on-the-desktop mode.
  • New ways to support keyboard navigation, especially for arrow and tab buttons

Developers can test Andorid O in a desktop emulator or on the following devices:

  • Nexus 5X, 6P
  • Nexus Player
  • Pixel, XL
  • Pixel C

If you want to try it, you’ll have to manually download and flash it yourself, rather than sign up for an over-the-air update.

Apple’s Clips app makes social videos for other social networks

Apple Clips

Apple has announced a new company-made Clips app for social video that borrows features from apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Prisma, and iMovie and mashes them together into a video-making mobile app that’s separate from the core iOS camera app.

The app has a simple photo- and video-capture interface with several features. The main app page has a capture screen (square, like Instagram) with Photo, Video, and Library options below it. At the top, there are four options for styling the video: Live Titles, Filters, Overlays, and Posters. And at the very bottom of the screen there’s a timeline, because Apple has designed the app to encourage stringing together a sequence of clips.

Live Titles allow you to add text over still photos and videos with your voice without having to type in the text overlay: you can tap the Live Title option, choose a style, and then record your voice while the pap translates that to text. It will do this in 36 different languages, and create a sort of closed captioning over your Clips videos.

You also can’t scribble text over your Clips like you can on Snapchat or Instagram.

While you can save and share your Clips videos to any app, there isn’t any optimization if you share them to iMessage. Apple is rolling out Smart Suggestions for the first time, which means the app will suggest people you might want to share to in iMessage based on the same facial recognition software used in Apple’s Photos app.

Clips let you shoot or upload single video clips up to 30 minutes long, and the final video’s total run time can go up to 60 minutes. There’s also an option for full-screen, text-based graphics cards called Posters, which let you create bookends to your videos or title cards between shots.

Other not-so-new features include adding filters, basic text, contextual elements (location/time of day), emoji, and iTunes music tracks.

Clips launches next month for free exclusively on iOS.

TechSummit Rewind 156

LTE-U wireless rolls out on T-Mobile, Windows 10’s Mail app gets improvements, & Apple’s spaceship campus opens in April

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.

 

TechSummit Rewind 152

Eddy Cue reveals more details on Apple’s original shows, YouTube cancels PewDiePie’s original YouTube Red series after Nazi controversy, Nest adds automatic door detection for subscribers, and more

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

Apple’s Planet of the Apps launching this spring

Apple’s upcoming Shark Tank-like TV show for app developers, Planet of the Apps, will launch this spring exclusively on Apple Music, according to the company’s head of content Eddy Cue. He confirmed this news at Recode’s Code Media conference Monday.

The show will feature entrepreneurs Jessica Alba, Gary Vaynerchuk, Gwyneth Paltrow, and will.i.am to advise developers’ ideas for the next big app.

Developers will have 60 seconds to deliver an elevator pitch to the advisors, who will swipe left or right to express their interest a la Tinder.

Once an app makes it through the first round, the developer will work with an advisor to firm up plans to make it a business, while also receiving guidance from talent at big tech firms like Yelp and Uber.

For the final round, developers will pitch their proposals to investors from VC firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. The winners will receive significant funding and prominent placement in the App Store when it launches.

The company is also bringing Carpool Karaoke, based on the popular Late Late Show with James Corden sketch that features prominent celebrities belting out to hit songs, to Apple Music later this year. Will Smith, Metallica, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Ariana Grande, Seth MacFarlane, Chelsea Handler, and Shaquille O’Neal are slated to appear on the show’s first season.

“We’re trying to do things that are unique and cultural. … We think we have a real opportunity in the TV space to do that with Apple Music and shows and the things we’re trying to do aren’t being done by anybody else. … So yes, to the extent if we wanted to do what everybody else is doing, then you’re right, we might be better off buying somebody or doing that.

But that’s not what we’re trying to do. We are trying to do something that’s unique, takes advantage of our platforms and that really brings culture to it.”

–  Eddy Cue, Apple head of content

YouTube cancels PewDiePie’s original series following Nazi controversy

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PewDiePie, arguably YouTube’s biggest star, has always flirted with controversy. However, recent use of Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic humor went too far for his corporate partners. On Monday, Disney’s Maker Studios arm announced that it was severing ties with PewDiePie, and YouTube is also cutting its business relationship with the star.

PewDiePie was set to release the second season of Scare PewDiePie, his exclusive YouTube Red show that the video giant paid to produce. That show has now been cancelled, according to a YouTube spokesperson. PewDiePie is also being removed from Google’s Preferred advertising program, which is reserved for its bigger and more marketable creators. This cuts him out from brand advertising that generates more revenue than typical YouTube advertising.

PewDiePie won’t lose his channel or his over 50 million subscribers, and he can continue monetizing videos with the traditional advertising methods. However, YouTube did remove advertising from the videos that set this uproar into motion.

Nest adds automatic door detection, animated push notifications for subscribers

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Nest has updated its mobile app with additional features designed specifically for subscribers of its Aware program. On Monday, the company announced that automatic door detection and animated push notifications are available for premium customers. The goal here is to reduce the number of irrelevant alerts while helping you get to the important ones faster.

Using that same technology, the Google-owned company is added automatic door detection so that you can instruct any supported camera to lock onto any activity around the area. It leverages activity zoning to recognize where doors are in your home and when someone walks in or out, you’ll be notified. This functionality was available before, but it wasn’t automatic like it is now through the use of pattern recognition, sensors, and deep learning algorithms.

Another new feature lets you quickly access alerts instead of having to open the app. Nest Aware customers will now receive push notifications that will show animated previews of video clips highlighting activity in applicable zones. Nest will also display live video if smoke or carbon monoxide is detected.

When you’re alerted, the company’s app will show the important things so you can either find out that it’s a false alarm and move on with your day or deal with the threat for users of Android 7.0 Nougat or later and iOS 10.

All of these features are available now.

T-Mobile improves its unlimited data plan

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A day after Verizon resurrected its unlimited data plan, T-Mobile has countered with its CEO John Legere announcing several changes that will take effect on Friday. The T-Mobile One unlimited plan will add support for HD video, an upgrade from the current 480p/DVD-quality “optimizations” currently in place. Verizon doesn’t place any limits on video quality.

As of Friday, the plan will also let customers use up to 10GB of high-speed data each month for tethering. This matches Verizon’s plan, but T-Mobile only offered up to 3G speeds unless you upgraded to the T-Mobile One Plus plan.

Lastly, Legere announced a promotion that will offer two lines of T-Mobile One for $100. A two-line family plan usually costs $120 per month. Unlike other carriers, T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its advertised price – so that should be all you pay month to month. Verizon charges $140 (plus taxes and fees) for a two-line unlimited plan.

T-Mobile also has a higher threshold (28GB compared to Verizon’s 22GB) before its users might experience reduced speeds when the network is congested.

Yahoo Mail mobile app now does Caller ID, syncs photos

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Yahoo is rolling out a few changes to its Mail app that aim to help boost adoption of its mobile app. The app will now sync your phone’s photos to the desktop and help you identify phone numbers with a new Caller ID feature.

Caller ID works by identifying incoming phone calls and cross-referencing the telephone numbers with those from your email inbox.

On iOS, the app takes advantage of a particular caller ID and block setting (Settings > Phone > Call Blocking & Identification). After installing the updated version of Yahoo Mail for iOS, users can toggle the switch on to enable the Caller ID function. According to Yahoo, this will also update names in your call history or when you dial the phone.

The other feature is for photo uploads, making it easier to email photos from your phone when you’re on your desktop.

The feature integrates Yahoo’s new Tripod photo and video sharing platform, born out of Flickr, that also lets you do things like search photos by keyword.

The new Yahoo Mail app on iOS and Android makes your Camera Roll’s photos available to you from your desktop Yahoo Mail account. These photos are not being made public, and can only be viewed by you when signed in.

You can also search the photos using keywords to help you find the right image. The feature’s not enabled by default, but can you switch it on through Settings > Photo Upload. According to the company, photos can be removed from Mail without affecting their Camera Roll.

Screenshots will be uploaded in their original size with all other images being uploaded at 1600px. Yahoo’s exploring 2048×1536 along with other resolutions, and may make changes in the future.

Both features are launching today in the App Store (version 4.13) and Google Play (version 5.13).

Passenger drones will start flying in Dubai this summer

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Dubai Roads & Transportation Agency head Mattar al-Tayer announced plans to introduce a passenger-carrying drone service at the World Government Summit Monday.

According to the Associated Press, the one person drones could be ferrying commuters being predetermined checkpoints by July.

“This is not only a model. We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”

– Mattar al-Tayer, Dubai Roads & Transportation Agency head

The drone itself is the all-electric Chinese-made EHang 184, which debuted at CES 2016 and conducted flight tests in Las Vegas last summer. It’s a 500-pound personal aircraft, with room for one passenger weighing up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and a small suitcase in a separate compartment.

The EHang can fly about 31 miles (50 kilometers) on a single charge, hitting top speeds of up to 100mph.

For the proposed Dubai service, the drones will be piloted and monitored from a “remote command center,” offering flights within an area of 40-50 kilometers with a typical cruising speed of 100km/h (62mph).

Microsoft releases video-capture hack for HoloLens

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Microsoft has come up with “spectator view,” a new way for HoloLens [affiliate] users to capture video from the AR headset.

The feature requires a special camera rig that has been detailed in an open-source solution on the HoloLens GitHub page.

“Mixed reality capture is kind of the equivalent of the camera on your cell phone. It’s handy, it’s convenient, it does a good job of what it’s meant to do, but it’s not designed to be broadcast quality, what you’d see on TV. We realized we needed another way show other people what the wearer is seeing.”

– Ben Reed, Microsoft HoloLens head of business strategy

Spectator view requires a camera with a HDMI output. Once the HoloLens is mounted to the camera and stabilized with a tripod (with a custom mount), it can be wirelessly connected to a PC to share positioning data.

The next step is to output video from the camera to a PC capture card with a HDMI cable. Now the PC will be able to receive both positioning data and video. All of the rendering and processing of the data is done inside the Unity gaming development software and you get video of people walking around in HoloLens headsets and the apps they’re interacting with around them.

This is something that companies like Trimble, which uses its positioning and scanning technology to make mining apps, has been looking for since “day one.”

“For our mining customers, we were looking for something that would let them visualize the mines. In the past, with the kinds of tools we were using to clarify the idea, we’d have to say, ‘Hey, what we are going to present is not really what you’ll see in the HoloLens; there are some special effects.’ We had to set expectations among the users. What we can do now with spectator view is show a live stream of the user.”

– Aviad Almagor, Trimble mixed-reality program head

FTC Disclosure: Paw Print Media, the parent company of Paw Print, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

TechSummit Rewind 150

Companies oppose Trump immigration order, Uber hires Mark Moore to develop flying cars, & Google and Facebook’s program to help French newsrooms combat “fake news”

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

97 companies file opposition to Trump immigration order

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Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies have filed an amicus brief voicing their opposition to President Trump’s immigration executive order on the grounds that it is discriminatory and has a negative impact on business.

The companies filed the brief in a case brought about by Minnesota and Washington state challenging the order. The Trump administration appealed the case to the 9th Circuit after a Seattle federal judge halted the immigration ban over the weekend.

Other notable participating companies include:

  • Airbnb
  • com
  • Apple
  • Asana
  • Atlassian
  • Autodesk
  • Automattic
  • Box
  • Dropbox
  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Flipboard
  • GitHub
  • Google
  • GoPro
  • Indiegogo
  • Intel
  • Kickstarter
  • LinkedIn
  • Lyft
  • Medium
  • Mozilla
  • Netflix
  • Netgear
  • Patreon
  • PayPal
  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • Salesforce
  • Shutterstock
  • Snap
  • Spotify
  • Square
  • Squarespace
  • Strava
  • Stripe
  • SurveyMonkey
  • TaskRabbit
  • Thumbtack
  • Uber
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Y Combinator
  • Yelp
  • Zynga

The amicus brief highlights the contribution of immigrants to the tech industry while stressing the immigration controls already in place. The brief states that Trump’s immigration policies will make it more difficult and expensive for companies to hire new employees from around the world, and will make it more difficult for companies to conduct business because of travel restrictions on their employees. The companies also argue that the discrimination enshrined in the order will also trickle down to themselves – if job applicants can’t travel to the United States, employers might be forced to discriminate against them, according to the brief.

The Trump administration is also criticized for the order’s haphazard rollout, with the Department of Homeland Security and other enforcement agencies receiving little notice. The ultimate result, according to the companies, is that skilled workers will no longer seek employment in the United States.

“Skilled individuals will not want to immigrate to the country if they may be cut off without warning from their spouses, grandparents, relatives, and friends – they will not pull up roots, incur significant economic risk, and subject their family to considerable uncertainty to immigrate to the United States in the face of this instability.”

-The amicus brief

Notable absences include several companies that met with Trump before his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX, and Tesla. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended his decision to remain on Trump’s advisory council.

Amazon is listed as a witness in the Washington lawsuit brought against the ban, and according to a company spokesperson, Amazon was advised by the Washington Attorney General not to sign the amicus brief because of that status.

Uber hires Mark Moore to develop flying cars

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Former NASA advanced aircraft engineer Mark Moore is joining Uber as its director of engineering for aviation, with the primary goal of working on the company’s Elevate flying car initiative.

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) market real.”

-Mark Moore, Uber director of engineering for aviation

Uber envisions that people will take conventional Ubers from their pickup point to a nearby “vertiport” that dots residential neighborhoods. Then they would zoom up into the air and across town to the vertiport closest to their offices. These air taxis will only need ranges between 50 and 100 miles, and Moore thinks that they can be at least partially recharged while passengers are boarding or exiting the aircraft. He also predicts that we’ll see several well-engineered flying cars in the next three years and human pilots for the foreseeable future.

However, many obstacles remain. According to Moore, each flying car company would need to independently negotiate with suppliers to get prices down, and lobby regulators to certify aircrafts and relax air-traffic restrictions.

Google, Facebook to help French newsrooms combat “fake news” ahead of election

Google and Facebook will help a host of French news organizations combat the growing tide of fake news ahead of the upcoming French presidential election campaign.

Through the CrossCheck program, Google has partnered with First Draft and Facebook to support a coalition of notable newsrooms including Le Monde, Agence Frence-Presse (AFP), France Televisions, BuzzFeed, Global Voices, and Les Echos, to help the French electorate “make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches, and general online news consumptions,” according to Google News Lab’s France lead David Dieudonne.

“With combined expertise form across media and technology, CrossCheck aims to ensure hoaxes, rumors and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported. With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads, and news sites.”

-David Dieudonne, Google News Lab France lead

Vizio settles FTC lawsuit, agrees to get viewer consent before tracking TV habits

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Vizio will pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that it collected customers’ TV-watching habits without their permission.

The lawsuit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of New Jersey, alleging that Vizio began using software in 2014 built into over 11 million smart TVs to capture “highly-specific, second-by-second information about television viewing.” Vizio then allegedly worked with another company to associate demographic information with each household, so viewing habits could be paired with information like a viewer’s “sex, age, income, marital status” and more.

Vizio will now also have to obtain clear consent from viewers before collecting and sharing data on their viewing habits. It’ll also have to delete all data gathered by these methods before Mar. 1, 2016.

“The data generated when you watch television can reveal a lot about you and your household. So, before a company pulls up a chair next to you and starts taking careful notes on everything you watch (and then shares it with its partners), it should ask if that’s okay with you.”

-Kevin Moriarty, FTC attorney

Google makes it easier to see, share publishers’ real URLs from AMP pages

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Google is making a change to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), so users can easily view and share links that lead directly to publishers’ sites rather than Google’s copy of the content.

Now, the URL field of a browser will continue to show a Google URL. However, the AMP header area will display a link or chain icon that it calls the “anchor” button. Clicking on this will make the publisher’s direct URL appear, so that it can be easily copied and pasted.

For those who hold down on the anchor button, according to Google, it will trigger the native share feature of the browser being used. In Safari, this will give you easy access to things like Twitter or Facebook and well nothing for Chrome (since it lacks native share).

Next to the anchor button, the three dots that Google calls the “overflow” icon brings up help information about how AMP is displayed.

For those using Google’s iOS search app, native sharing is already enabled. According to Google, those searching through its app or natively on Android will get sharing features in the coming weeks.

South Korea to strengthen battery safety rules after Note 7 rules

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy, lithium-ion battery safety requirements will be strengthened and inspected regularly to avoid repeats of fires caused by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 batteries.

Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries would be subjected to greater oversight and regular inspectors, according to a ministry statement. Devices using lithium-ion batteries will also be subjected to more regular safety tests.

“We ask that the industry shares the view that making efforts to ensure safety is equally as critical as developing new products through technological innovation.”

-Jeong Marn-ki; South Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy vice minister

The government will also specifically monitor Samsung’s efforts to improve battery safety, such as x-ray testing and stricter standards during the design process.

Recall-related requirements will also be strengthened by broadening the types of serious product defects that manufacturers should report to the government, and seek legal charges to allow the government to warn consumers to stop using certain products even if they hadn’t been recalled.

TechSummit Rewind 149

FCC stops nine companies from providing federally subsidized internet, Planet acquires Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging division, & Snap files for IPO

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

FCC stopping nine companies from providing federally subsidized internet

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a move Friday that bars nine companies from participating in the Lifeline federal program meant to help them provide affordable internet access to low-income consumers – weeks after they got the green light.

It reverses a decision made by Democratic predecessor Tom Wheeler, and undercuts the companies’ ability to provide low-cost internet access to poorer Americans. In a statement, Pai called the initial decisions a form of “midnight regulation.”

“These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward.”

-Ajit Pai, FCC chairman

The program provides registered households with a $9.25/month credit, which can then be used to buy home internet service. Up to 13.5 million Americans without broadband service at home are eligible for Lifeline, according to the FCC. Roughly 900 service providers participate in the program.

Kajeet, one of the companies initially granted permission to provide service through Lifeline, sees the news as a blow to those that benefitted from the service.

“I’m most concerned about the children we serve. We partner with school districts – 41 states and the District of Columbia – to provide educational broadband so that poor kids can do their homework.”

-Daniel Neal, Kajeet founder

“The most obvious fact in our society is that high-speed internet is astronomically expensive for the middle-class and down. So in any way limiting the Lifeline program, at this moment in time, exacerbates the digital divide. It doesn’t address it in any positive way.”

-Gene Kimmelman, Public Knowledge president

The FCC can freely reconsider decisions it’s made on the matter within 30 days of making them. Four of the nine approvals were revoked in response to a complaint, while the other five were revoked within the 30-day window.

According to the decision, revoking the nine approvals “would promote program integrity by providing the [FCC] with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program.”

Planet acquires Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging division

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Planet will acquire Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging division and take over the operation of its seven high-resolution SkySat satellites. Once the deal closes, Google will start purchasing images for Earth and other products directly from Planet.

According to Planet co-founder and CEO Will Marshall, some of Terra Bella’s employees will join the company’s team.

“We’ve long admired what the team at Terra Bella has achieved, and we think the SkySat constellation of seven high resolution satellites is highly complementary to Planet’s existing medium resolution 60-satellite fleet. […] The two systems under one roof will be truly unique and will enable valuable new capabilities.”

-Will Marshall, Planet co-founder and CEO

Snap files for IPO

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Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, is going public at a valuation between $20 and $25 billion. The Los Angeles-based company’s looking to raise $3 billion in the offering. It will list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SNAP.

“In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This means that we are willing to take risks in an attempt to create innovative and different camera products that are better able to reflect and improve our life experiences.”

-Snap, in its S-1 filing

According to the company, Snapchat now has 158 million daily users and had sales of $404.5 million in 2016, up from $58.7 million in 2015.

Oculus CTO Carmack airs grievances over ZeniMax lawsuit on Facebook

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Oculus CTO John Carmack posted his disagreement with ZeniMax’s “characterization, misdirection, and selective omissions” during the proceedings on Facebook.

He denied claims that the plaintiff’s computer expert made about being “absolutely certain” that Oculus “non-literally copied” from the source code he wrote when he worked for ZeniMax-owned Id Software. The plaintiff accused Carmack of bringing company secrets with him when he left Id and joined Oculus in 2013. Carmack said that the internet would have “viciously mocked” the expert’s analysis presented in court if the code samples were released publicly.

“The analogy that the expert gave to the jury was that if someone wrote a book that was basically Harry Potter with the names changed, it would still be copyright infringement. I agree; that is the literary equivalent of changing the variable names when you copy source code. However, if you abstract Harry Potter up a notch or two, you get Campbell’s Hero’s journey, which also maps well onto Star Wars and hundreds of other stories. These are not copyright infringement.”

-John Carmack, Oculus CTO

He also denied accusations that he wiped his hard drive when the lawsuit was filed.

“[A]ll of my data is accounted for, contrary to some stories being spread.”

-John Carmack

However, ZeniMax claims that Carmack destroyed 92 percent of his hard drive as soon as he heard of the lawsuit.

“In addition to expert testimony finding both literal and non-literal copying, Oculus programmers themselves admitted using ZeniMax’s copyrighted code (one saying he cut and pasted it into the Oculus SDK), and [Oculus co-founder] Brendan Iribe, in writing, requested a license for the ‘source code shared by Carmack’ they needed for the Oculus Rift. Not surprisingly, the jury found ZeniMax code copyrights were infringed. The Oculus Rift was built on a foundation of ZeniMax technology.

“As for the denial of wiping, the Court’s independent expert found 92 percent of Carmack’s hard drive was wiped – all data was permanently destroyed, right after Carmack got notice of the lawsuit, and that his affidavit denying the wiping was false.”

-ZeniMax, in a statement

Google blurs line between websites, Android apps

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With Google’s latest Chrome Beta release, the company has given “Progressive Web Apps,” app-like websites, a higher status on Android. If you launch a site like Flipkart Lite in the latest beta, you’ll now get the option “add to home screen,” where it’ll appear like any other app on your home screen and app drawer. You’ll then be able to control notifications in the Android notification management controls, rather than in the Chrome settings like normal web sites.

Progressive Web Apps use the newest HTML and web features to make sites “reliable, fast, and engaging,” according to Google. To do that, they use “service workers” that cache key resources so the app loads faster and works even if you’re not connected to the internet. Sites also feel more like a “natural app” on the device, according to Google, with an “immersive user experience.”

These apps will also appear in Android settings, and allow you to set “intents” that’ll launch when you tap a certain URL, for instance.

Other new features include “CSS Grid Layout” support that gives developers more website design options and new ways for developers to display artist names, artwork, and song titles on media player lockscreens.

Version 57.0 of the Chrome beta is available now in the Play Store.

Apple selling Final Cut, Logic, other editing apps for $199 in new educational bundle

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It’s no secret that professional creative apps cost a pretty penny, but Apple is trying to alleviate the burden for students and educators. For $199, you can snag Logic Pro X, Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4, and Main Stage 3 – a $430 savings versus buying each of them separately. Together, the apps give students and educators a toolset for editing video, audio, images, and motion graphics.

According to Apple, the bundle is only available for teachers, faculty, staff, and college students. Apple’s student discount policy require verification by the UNiDAYS savings program for college students. After you purchase the bundle, you’ll receive a redemption code by email to unlock those apps in the Mac App Store.

LG redesigns 5K Mac monitor to handle being placed near a router

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LG has found a fix for a problem that left its UltraFine 27-inch 5K monitor unable to work property when placed within a few feet of a router.

According to a company spokesperson, LG is adding additional shielding to newly manufactured models.

“LG apologizes for this inconvenience and is committed to delivering the best quality products possible.”

-LG, in a statement

Existing models can also be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding.

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Qualcomm forces Apple into exclusive chip deal, Zuckerburg takes stand in defense of Oculus & Google mobile app begins saving ssearches

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

FTC: Qualcomm forced Apple into exclusive chip deal

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According to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission, Qualcomm forced Apple to use its chips exclusively in exchange for lower licensing fees, excluding competitors and harming competition.

The suit accuses Qualcomm of maintaining a monopoly over mobile processors through a “no license, no chips” policy, which imposed “onerous” supply and patent-licensing terms to extract high royalties from smartphone manufacturers and weaken competitors.

“Qualcomm recognized that any competitor that won Apple’s business would become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm’s competitors.”

-Federal Trade Commission, in a statement

According to the commission, Qualcomm’s patents are standard-essential patents – technology that’s essential to the industry and must be licensed to competitors under fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms. However, the complaint alleges that Qualcomm consistently refused to license some standard-essential patents to rival chipmakers.

“Qualcomm’s customers have accepted elevated royalties and other license terms that do not reflect an assessment of terms that a court or other neutral arbiter would determine to be fair and reasonable.”

-Federal Trade Commission

Qualcomm claims that the lawsuit is based on “flawed legal theory.”

“Qualcomm has never withheld or threatened to withhold chip supply in order to obtain agreement to unfair or unreasonable licensing terms. The FTC’s allegation to the contrary – the central thesis of the complaint – is wrong.”

-Qualcomm, in a statement

Zuckerburg takes stand in defense of Oculus

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According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, his company spent up to $3 billion to buy VR startup Oculus. This came out in testimony Tuesday in a lawsuit with ZeniMax Media, which accuses Oculus and Facebook of “misappropriating” trade secrets and copyright infringement. ZeniMax is the parent company of Id Software, developer of game franchises like Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake.

According to Zuckerburg, ZeniMax’s claims are wrong and follow a pattern of companies attempting to profit after a major deal like the Oculus one.

Zuckerburg also claimed that he hadn’t heard of ZeniMax before the lawsuit against Facebook, and his company’s legal team didn’t spend much time with him discussing the lawsuit because they didn’t think it was credible.

Google mobile app saves searches if your connection drops

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A new update to the Google mobile app for Android will save your search when your connection drops.

“With this change, search results are saved as soon as they are retrieved, even if you lose connection afterwards or go into airplane mode.”

-Google, on its Keyword blog

According to the company, power drain and data won’t be issues.

Google+ revives Events feature

New Google+

Events will return to Google+ on Jan. 24. This means that you won’t be able to create and join events on the web, but it won’t be a part of G Suite right now.

“Low-quality” comments will also be hidden by default. You will still be able to see if them if you want, but Google claims that this move will let you focus on the ones that “matter most.” The app has also been tweaked to use screen size more efficiency. This means that you shouldn’t notice less white space and more posts. There’s also a new zoom tool for Google+ on the web that’ll let you take a closer look at the finer details of an image.

Lastly, if you’re using the old Google+ on the web, you won’t be able to do so after Jan. 24th. The company promised that it’s still working on a new version.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise buys SimpliVity for $650M

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which split from HP in 2015, has acquired SimpliVity, a company that sells data center hardware that unites computing power and storage for $650M in cash. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of HPE’s 2017 fiscal year that ends on June 30.

“More and more customers are looking for solutions that bring them secure, highly resilient, on-premises infrastructure at cloud economics. That’s exactly where we’re focused.”

-Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO

The company will continue selling its converged infrastructure products, according to a statement, and will offer “integrated” HPE SimpliVity systems atop HP3 ProLiant servers.

Microsoft acquires Simplygon

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Microsoft is acquiring Swedish 3D data-optimization vendor Simplygon.

The announcement, made by corporate vice president of Next Gen Experiences Kudo Tsunoda, is part of Microsoft’s “3D for Everyone” strategy that is a key part in the Windows 10 Creators Update.

According to Tsunoda, Simplygon will help Microsoft simplify the process of capturing, creating, and sharing information in 3D. The Simplygon technology will complement the new Paint 3D application and new online creator community.

“Throughout our journey, we’ve been laser focused on helping developers push the boundaries of 3D. From our early days delivering advanced level-of-detail solutions, to the adoption of Simplygon SDK by most leading AAA game development studios, and our more recent expansion into enterprise AR/VR, Simplygon has made automatic 3D data-optimization increasingly more accessible to developers. Our next challenge is 3D For Everyone, the ultimate accessibility!”

-Simplygon’s managers, on the company’s website

TechSummit Rewind 140

Medium lays off a third of its staff, AT&T to conduct 5G streaming tests with DirecTV Now, & Apple will invest $1B in SoftBank’s tech fund

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

Medium lays off a third of its staff as it searches for a new business model

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Publishing platform Medium has laid off 50 people – roughly a third of its staff – amid growing concerns over its advertising-based model. The company will explore alternatives to pageview-based advertising in the hopes of developing a lucrative, sustainable alternative for writers and publishers.

“While we could continue on our current path – and there is a business case for doing so – we decided that we risk failing on our larger, original mission if we don’t make some proactive changes while we have the momentum and resources to do so.

“It’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.”

– Ev Williams, Medium CEO

According to Williams, Medium grew in popularity as a product last year with 300 percent growth in readers and published posts.

AT&T to conduct 5G streaming tests with DirecTV Now

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In a simultaneous test of wireless broadband and net neutrality, AT&T will test its upcoming 5G tech with DirecTV Now video streaming. Trial customers in Austin, Texas will be able to stream the services on a variety of devices over fixed 5G connections at several sites. The goal, according to the carrier, is to see how “wireless millimeter wave technology handles heavy video traffic.”

Apple to invest $1B in SoftBank’s tech fund

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Apple will invest $1 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund, which is scheduled to launch in the next few weeks with a focus on emerging technologies.

“We believe their new fund will speed the development of technologies which may be strategically important to Apple.”

– Kristin Huguet, Apple spokesperson

Zuckerburg aims to meet, listen to people in all 50 states in 2017

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg is using his yearly challenge this year as an opportunity to educate himself on the needs and problems of his users around the United States.

“My work is about connecting the world and giving everyone a voice. I want to personally hear more of those voices this year.”

– Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO in a Facebook post

House Republicans vote to fine lawmakers that live stream from the floor

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House Republicans have approved new rules that impose fines for live streaming on the House floor. This comes after lawmakers used apps like Periscope to broadcast their protest last year when the building’s cameras were turned off.

Lawmakers can now be fined $500 for a first offense and as much as $2,500 for subsequent offenses under the new rules, which also include fines for still photography.

Representative John Lewis, who participated in June’s protests said that the rules would have a “chilling effect on members who disagree with the proceeding of this body.”

“No congress, no body, no committee has the power to tell us that we cannot stand up, speak up, and speak truth to power. We have a right to dissent, we have a right to protest for what is right.”

– John Lewis, House Representative (D-GA)

TechSummit Rewind 134

Apple gets double of Samsung’s device activations during the holiday season, South Korea fines Qualcomm $854M & Lenovo launches a bevy of new ThinkPad laptops

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

Apple gets double Samsung’s device activations during holiday season

iphone-7

Nearly half of all mobile device and app applications across the United States during the week leading up to Christmas and the beginning of Chanukah were for the iPhone, according to the Flurry analyst firm.

During the week, 44 percent of all new phone and tablet activations involved Apple devices, while 21 percent were across Samsung devices. Huawei came in third with three percent of activations, while LG, Amazon, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Motorola each got two percent of device activations.

As for device sizes, 45 percent of all smartphones and tablets activated were medium-sized, down from 54 percent last year. Phablets grew from 27 percent last year to 37 percent this year, while small tablets fell by one percent to eight percentage points. Full-size tablets and small phones were stable at nine percent and one percent respectively.

South Korea fines Qualcomm $854M for violating competition laws

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The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), South Korea’s antitrust regulator, has fined Qualcomm $854 million for unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales. The chip maker will challenge the decision in court.

According to the antitrust regulator, Qualcomm abused its dominant market position and forced handset makers to pay royalties for an unnecessarily broad set of patents as part of its modem chips sales.

Qualcomm also restricted competition by refusing or limiting licensing of its standard essential modem chip patents to rivals like Intel, MediaTek, and Samsung, according to the KFTC, hindering their sales and leaving their products vulnerable to lawsuits.

The regulator ordered Qualcomm to negotiate in good faith with rivals on patent licensing and renegotiate chip supply agreements with handset makers if requested.

“We investigated and decided on these actions because Qualcomm’s actions limit overall competition.”

-Shin Young-son, Korea Fair Trade Commission secretary general

Qualcomm will file for an immediate stay of the corrective order and appeal the decision to the Seoul High Court. The fine amount and the method used to calculate it will also be challenged.

Lenovo launches new ThinkPad laptops with Windows Precision trackpads

thinkpad_x270_3-0

Lenovo will be updating its line of ThinkPad laptops in 2017 with newer processors, more authentication features, and improved trackpads.

Several new laptops, including the ThinkPad X270, the ThinkPad Yoga 370, four new ThinkPad T Ultrabooks, and the ThinkPad 13, will include support for Microsoft’s Windows Precision Touchpad that launched with Windows 10.

The new ThinkPads will run on Intel’s Kaby Lake architecture, the chipmaker’s latest, and some will get authentication features like Windows Hello support. That’s mainly coming to support European customers that face stronger security requirements, according to Lenovo.

Here’s the full lineup:

  • ThinkPad X270: 12-inch display with optional touch, starting at $999, available in March
  • ThinkPad Yoga 370: Full HD 13.3-inch display, $1264, shipping in March, comes in black/white
  • ThinkPad T Ultrabook: Variety of configurations starting at $909
  • ThinkPad L: 14/15-inch display, $779/$909
  • ThinkPad 13: Aimed at small business owners/students, $674

There is also an array of new docks that support Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C. Some of the laptops also come in white (including the Yoga 370), a first for the ThinkPad lineup.

TechSummit Rewind 132

Cyanogen’s shuttering its signature services, Apple pulls Withings products from its stores, a new Pew study confirms that 79 percent of Americans shop online, and more

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

Cyanogen shuttering services, OS in pivot

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Cyanogen is shutting down its services and nightly software builds on Dec. 31 as part of the company’s “ongoing consolidation.”

“The open source project and source code will remain available for anyone who wants to build CyanogenMod personally.”

-Cyanogen, in a blog post

Owners of Cyanogen OS devices (like the OnePlus One) must now transition to the CyanogenMod ROM for continued updates, which is led by a community of developers headed by former Cyanogen co-founder Steve Klondik.

Apple pulls all of Nokia’s Withings products from online store

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Less than a week after Nokia sued Apple for patent infringement in courts around the world for claims that Apple has refused to license its patents, Apple has pulled all products of Nokia-owned company Withings from its stores.

Links to the company’s bathroom scale and smart thermometer to Apple’s site give you the following error message:

“Looking for something? We thought so. However, the product you’re looking for is no longer available on apple.com. But we do have similar products to show you.”

-Apple, in an error message

Pew: 79 percent of Americans now shop online, fueled by cost more than convenience

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Eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online, according to a new Pew Research study. That’s 79 percent of U.S. consumers who shop on desktop or mobile, up from 22 percent in 2000. Over half (51 percent) have also bought something on mobile, according to the study, and 15 percent purchased after clicking through on a link shared on social media.

This is fueled mainly by cost, and the ability to research those costs and other matters, more efficiently across the web ahead of their purchase.

65 percent of online shoppers said if they needed to make a purchase, they’d compare real-world prices with those online and then buy where they would get the best deal. Only 21 percent said they’d buy without checking online prices for comparison, and 14 percent said they’d buy online without checking retail prices.

Compared with numerous other factors, the convenience of being able to make a purchase without going to the store is at the bottom of the list of what people considered important. Only 42 percent said this was either “somewhat” or “extremely” important.

Meanwhile, comparing prices (86 percent said somewhat or extremely important), asking questions (82 percent), buying from sellers they’re familiar with (84 percent), looking at the product in person (78 percent), and getting advice from people they know (77 percent), and reading online reviews (74 percent) were considered more important.

Pew also found that online reviews have become important to purchasing decisions, with 82 percent consulting online ratings when buying for the first time, and 46 percent said that reviews can help them feel more confident about their purchases.

However, 48 percent of shoppers said it’s often hard to tell if those reviews are truthful and unbiased.

The full report is available here.

Dutch market regulator bans T-Mobile’s ‘free’ streaming music service

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The Dutch Consumer and Markets regulator (AFM) ordered T-Mobile to stop offering a streaming music product that didn’t count towards consumers’ data usage.

The AFM called “zero rating” a violation of Dutch net neutrality rules, because it puts rival services at a competitive disadvantage.

According to AFM, T-Mobile Netherlands must stop offering it or face a $52,000 penalty per day.

Jawbone: Fitbit no longer seeking to block product sales

Jawbone Up2

Jawbone has resolved its legal battle with Fitbit.

The company confirmed to Recode that Fitbit is no longer seeking to block the import of its product.

“By dismissing this action, Fitbit is no longer seeking to block importation of Jawbone devices, including Jawbone products in development.”

-Jawbone, in a statement

In terminating the International Trade Commission case, Fitbit said that Jawbone was in dubious financial shape and was no longer selling the products in question.

“Press reports and other public documents indicate that the demise of Jawbone’s products has created substantial questions regarding Jawbone’s ability to continue to operate.”

-Fitbit, in a filing

Jawbone will continue with its own, separate case against Fitbit, which alleges that former workers took trade secrets to Fitbit.

Thundersoft buys Rightware for $68M to expand in automotive

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Thundersoft, a Chinese company that designs operating systems for drones and other connected devices, has acquired Helsinki-based company Rightware for $68M. The company develops graphical user interfaces for connected devices, with a special focus on automotive.

The deal should close in early 2017.

“The automotive market is one of the fastest growing segments for Thundersoft, and we are providing in-vehicle infotainment and cluster OS solutions to our customers worldwide. … In combination with Rightware’s unique technology, design knowhow and world-class talent, we can bring more value to our customers and transform the automotive industry with our innovations.”

-Larry Geng, Thundersoft CEO

“Kanzi is expected to power over 25 million cars by 2022. With Thundersoft, we can expand this footprint further and support our customers even better. We see that the specialization within the global automotive industry software will continue. This creates a huge possibility for us to position Kanzi as the industry standard software solution. The arrangement further strengthens our presence in the growing Asian automotive market and complements our strong footprint in the European and American automotive markets.”

-Jonas Geust, Rightware CEO

According to Rightware, current management will remain in place and will “re-invest in the company” as part of the deal.

Gear VR gets new VR browser

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Samsung’s Gear VR headset now offers an improved virtual reality web browsing experience.

Version 4.2 of Samsung Internet for Gear VR brings support for WebVR v.1.0, which mean let users stumble across images on some websites that let them view 3D versions of those images that can be viewed from multiple angles. However, Samsung did warn that the feature is experimental and can be on the buggy side.

Users can also change the background the sits behind the browser. Samsung tapped OTOY to provide the photos and claimed that each will “add depth to the user’s browsing, transporting them to a vibrant and realistic world that’s ripe for exploration.” There’s also a file browser for viewing content on the phone or through USB on supported devices.

The update is available now in the Gear VR store.

TechSummit Rewind 129

Apple launches iOS 10.2, live video comes to Instagram, Bill Gates launches a new fund to fight climate change, and more

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

Apple launches iOS 10.2

iOS10-Hero

Apple has launched iOS 10.2, which brings a few nifty features.

Perhaps most important is the very creatively named TV app, which is Apple’s all-in-one hub for streaming content. Instead of searching through several apps to find something to watch, you can simply glance at a single guide. There’s also a new Single Sign-On feature that lets you access content from select services without having to type your password in for every provider.

Finally, there are several new emoji, including the shruggie, David Bowie, face palm, bacon, and crosissant.

It’s a free download that should be rolling out now as an over-the-air update.

Instagram brings live video broadcasts to all U.S. users

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Over the next few days, Instagram users in the U.S. will begin seeing Live Video functionality pop up in their app.

Bill Gates to lead $1B, 20-year fund to fight climate change

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Bill Gates is leading a billion-dollar fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation.

Gates and his all-star line-up of fellow investors plan to announce the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which will begin making investments next year. The fund, which will go on for 20 years, aims to invest in the commercialization of new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas like electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial processes, agriculture, and energy-system efficiency.

“Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to.”

-Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures chairman

BEV directors include Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukeseh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner. According to net worth estimates from Bloomberg and Forbes, the directors’ combined net worth is nearly $170 billion.

Gates is “surprised” that technology isn’t discussed more as a solution to climate change, since clean-energy advances could limit any economic trade-offs from switching off carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it.

“People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all.

“It’s such a big market that the value if you’re really providing a big portion of the world’s energy, the value of that will be super, super big.”

-Bill Gates

BEV estimates the global energy market at a valuation of $6 trillion, with energy demand increasing by a third by 2040.

Uber employees secretly tracked public figures: lawsuit

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According to a declaration in a lawsuit filed against Uber by its former forensic investigator, the company’s employees used its lax tracking system to monitor the location of “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances.”

The lawsuit was filed by Ward Spanenberg, who worked on security systems at Uber from March 2015 to February 2016. According to the suit, the 45-year-old dealt with age discrimination, as well as retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged security lapses and other problems in the company. He was later fired.

According to the declaration, Uber would shut down office connectivity during law enforcement raids to stifle investigators, and improperly destroyed documents related to pending litigation.

If true, this could potentially run afoul of a settlement made in January on its “God View” tool with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to “designate employees with a legitimate business purpose,” and conduct regular assessments of the effectiveness of that program.  A representative for Schneiderman has confirmed that the office is “looking into it.”

“Uber continues to increase our security investments and many of these efforts, like our multi-factor authentication checks and bug bounty program, have been widely reported. We have hundreds of security and privacy experts working around the clock to protect our data. This includes enforcing to authorized employees solely for purposes of their job responsibilities, and all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

-Uber, in a statement

According to the company, approval “by managers and the legal team” is required for employees to access data and, although some employees do get legitimate access to data, that access is compartmentalized to what employees need for their jobs.

NVIDIA gets go-ahead to test self-driving cars in California

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Nvidia has been granted a permit by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start testing self-driving vehicle technology on the state’s public roads.

JetSmarter raises $105M Series C for private jet business

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JetSmarter has raised $105 million in Series C funding, at a $1.5 billion valuation, to build its marketplace for private jet services.

According to company CEO Sergey Petrossov, the round will be used for global expansion into Asia and Latin America, as well as increasing the number of routes and flights available to JetSmarter members in the U.S.

While anyone can download and evaluate its app, before flying JetSmarter members go through a light background check and pay $15,000 for a “core membership” in the first year they join. Members then get a free seat on a wide selection of flights, but have to pay for companion tickets if they want to bring a non-member along or pay to charter whole planes.

Members of the Saudi royal family, and hip hop icon Jay-Z, earlier backers of JetSmarter, increased their investments in the round.

New investors include an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund, private aviation company JetEdge, KZ Capital, and a Qatar-based private equity fund.

XOJET president and CEO Bradley Stewart also joined JetSmarter’s board, after an earlier partnership between the companies to allow JetSmarter to expand its North America flight offering.

As of today, JetSmarter connects travelers to flights in 50 markets around the world including New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Atlanta, London, Paris, Moscow, Dubai, and Milan. According to Petrossov, he wants to expand that to 80-100 markets by the end of 2017.

Possible destinations include more American cities, including connecting Florida destinations to Boston, New York, and Washington and from San Francisco to Seattle.

Microsoft Ventures launches AI startup fund, backs Element AI

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Microsoft Ventures is now pursuing investments in AI startups through a special fund dedicated to AI startups that focus on “inclusive growth and positive impact on society.” Secondly, it became the first backer for Element AI, a new Montreal-based incubator co-founded by “the godfather of machine learning” Yoshua Bengio, which is dedicated to the space.

According to Microsoft Ventures head Nagraj Kashyap, the fund is “focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society.”

“AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society. Microsoft is committed to democratizing AI with guiding principles to drive positive impact. Element AI shares our approach and philosophy.”

-Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Ventures head

Dropbox comes to Xbox One

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Dropbox has launched an Xbox One app.

“We wanted to solve an issue that we all have: making it easy to access and share your content from the biggest screen in your house. That meant giving users the ability to access files without the need to plug in an HDMI cord or connect to their laptop.”

-Rudy Huyn, Dropbox staff engineer

Once logged in, you can upload screenshots or pictures taken with Kinect straight to your Dropbox. You can also stream any video files in your Dropbox to the Xbox One. You can also upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from other universal Windows 10 apps you may be running on your console. And other applications (VLC, etc.) can see files in your account and access them.

The project was born at Dropbox’s annual hack week, when the entire company takes five days to build and show off a variety of projects.

“At this year’s event, one of our engineers decided to prototype the app, and demo’d it to other Dropboxers, showing how we can bring a new Dropbox user interface within Xbox that is optimized for TV screens and for gamepad navigation.

“Given what we heard from our users, we knew that there was demand for this app, and so we decided to make it available to everyone as a full blown offering.”

-Rudy Huyn

The development process was fairly simple thanks to the universal nature of Windows 10.

“The simplicity of building this app is part of why we decided to transform the prototype into a real product. A big reason that it was so easy to build is that Microsoft makes it easy to develop applications for Windows 10.”

-Rudy Huyn

However, some changes had to be made to best deal with a Xbox controller and a TV roughly 10 feet away. Specifically, Huyn noted the difference in how TVs display colors compared to monitors needed a new, darker theme with more contrast “to make the app easier on our users’ eyes.”

Facebook rolls out lightweight web version of Moments

Facebook Moments

Facebook is giving Moments, its mobile photo-sharing service, a more prominent role on desktop.

Users can now access a web version of the service on Facebook’s site through the left-side navigation, which takes you to a collection of your private photo albums.

Essentially, you can only view shared photos here. If you want to add photos to an album, leave likes or comments, or create slideshows, you’ll need to download the mobile app for iOS or Android.

Netflix launches standalone Google Daydream app

netflix-vr-app-virtual-reality-daydream-view-1

Netflix has launched its app on Google’s Daydream VR platform.

It looks very similar to its Gear VR app, placing you in a simulated cabin with a big screen TV for watching Netflix.