TechSummit Rewind 160

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B, Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M in severance, & Pandora Premium prepares for launch

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

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B

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Intel is buying Israeli computer vision company Mobileye for $15.3 billion, per Mobileye.

Intel is offering $63.54/share in cash for the company.

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry, and consumers. Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving, including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

-Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO

The new unit will include Mobileye and Intel’s Automated Driving Group and will be headed by Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua from Israel. The transaction is expected to close within the next nine months.

“By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

-Ziv Aviram, Mobileye co-founder and CEO

Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M severance package after Verizon deal closes

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Marissa Mayer, who is set to lose her job as Yahoo’s CEO after the closing of Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo’s operating businesses, will get a golden parachute package worth around $23 million, per a Yahoo regulatory filing.

Per the company, former IAC CFO Thomas McInerney will take over as CEO of the company after the Verizon deal closing, which is expected sometime in Q2. At that point, the company will change its name to Altaba Inc., with its major assets including its shares of Alibaba.

In addition, CFO Ken Goldman will be replaced by Yahoo VP and global controller Alexi Wellman.

When she’s terminated as CEO, Mayer will receive $3 million in cash, $20 million in equity, and $25,000 in medical-coverage benefits, per a Yahoo SEC filing.

Under their severance agreements, chief revenue officer Lisa Utzschneider would receive $16.5 million (including $14.7 million in equity) and Goldman would receive $9.5 million (including $7.8 million in equity).

Pandora Premium’s ready for prime time

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Just three months after announcing its plans, Pandora is ready to launch its full-fledged Premium on-demand music service.

For the most part, it’s everything you’d expect it to be: a $10/month subscription with millions of songs that you can listen to and save offline whenever you want. There are workout and driving mixes and – naturally – a  radio feature. However, Pandora has added a slew of personalization features and a simple experience that can be more approachable than Apple Music and Spotify.

“Today it’s just 30 million songs in a search box, essentially. I think that can be appealing to a small segment of the population, but for most people that’s just overwhelming; it’s hard work.”

-Tim Westergren, Pandora CEO

The first thing you’ll notice in Pandora Premium is that it takes less clicks to start playing music compared to Apple Music and Spotify. The app launches into My Music, which features a carousel of recently played albums and stations that can be played with one tap (that command requires multiple taps on Apple Music and Spotify).

Below the carousel is a list of all your saved music, sorted in reverse chronological order. You can also sort between album, artist, and song lists if you want, but the option’s hidden in a drop-down menu.

Simplicity is a key focus on Premium, with huge influence coming from Rdio, whose assets were purchased by Pandora just over 15 months ago. There’s big album artwork and a minimalistic look with clean, white lines that combine to form an intuitive design that will make it easy for new and current Pandora users to pick up quickly.

Pandora is also handling its catalog differently than other streaming services. While it has access to the same over 40 million song catalog as Apple Music and Spotify, it is curating the catalog to get rid of karaoke, tributes, and duplicate tracks to help improve search.

However, there are also a few quirks to get used to. Pandora Premium doesn’t have pre-generated playlists, instead relying heavily on its radio stations without restrictions.

To fix the inevitable issue of creating playlists from radio stations with four or fly songs, Premium introduces an “add similar songs” feature that will add three to seven songs to your playlist at the click of a button. The algorithm will determine a handful of songs you’d enjoy based on the current content of your playlist.

Pandora has taken the musical analysis and data science that powers its radio stations and used it to cluster songs that work well together and combine with your musical taste to offer a small collection of songs every time you tap the magic wand.

“Sequencing is such an important part. It’s not just grabbing the right music to put into a playlist for you, it’s also organizing it and sequencing it so it flows. Those are really important qualities when you want to have a listening experience that just works. Just grabbing a bunch of recommendations of songs and throwing it in front of you still requires you as the user to do work. Our whole aim was to do it for you.”

-Chris Phillips, Pandora chief product officer

The best part is that it learns your preferences as you keep or remove the songs it adds.

“If you delete all four [recommendations] but leave one in there, that’s a pretty strong signal that you like that one song. There’s a lot of really delicate constant learning going on around how you feel about those recommendations. If you delete it, we will learn right away.”

-Chris Phillips

Other features aimed at novices include a toggle to hide explicit music on radio stations and in search, a New Music section tailored to your tastes, Ticketfly integration for buying tickets to your favorite acts, and a My Thumbs Up playlist that includes every song you’ve ever liked.

However, gaps remain. There’s no way to edit the “up next” queue. There won’t be a desktop or iPad app at launch (a web app is in the pipeline). Echo support is coming, but it’s not there yet.

“We’re really going to be just maniacally focused on what really enhances the experience for everything. There will be power user capabilities. Will video appear on Pandora? That’s been on our list for a long time. But it’s more about what are the right things to do next and in what order, to make the product better and keep it simple. That’s our guiding philosophy.”

-Tim Westergren

The company hopes to become the very best – like no one ever was – with around 6-9 million Premium subscribers by the end of the year.

“We have very grand ambitions for what this can be. If we look around at the space right now, we just don’t think that there’s a product that’s done it right. No one has solved the ease of use and personalization part of the on-demand world. I don’t think there’s really a true premium product out there yet… we think we’re bringing something really different here.”

-Tim Westergren

Pandora has opted for a staggered rollout plan for Premium on iOS and Android. Existing Pandora free can test out Premium free for two months, with invites to the trial beginning to roll out tomorrow (Mar. 15). Pandora Plus users can try out Premium free for six months. Non-Pandora users can have access to the two-month free trial by signing up here, with invitations rolling out in mid-April.

Facebook tells developers not to use data for surveillance

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In response to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change and the Center for Media Justice, Facebook announced that it will clarify its developer policy to explicitly prohibit the use of Facebook or Instagram data in surveillance tools.

The ACLU has revealed several instances of developers using information gleaned from Facebook’s APIs to create surveillance tools for law enforcement, and each time, Facebook has decided to revoke access to its data.

Facebook has contended that this kind of surveillance is already against its policies, but its policy was revamped today to state that developers can’t “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit. Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

-Rob Sherman, Facebook deputy chief privacy officer

Facebook has cut ties with a few developers that make surveillance tools, and has worked with several others to bring their apps into compliance with the policy.

“We commend Facebook and Instagram for this step and call on all companies who claim to value diversity and justice to also stand up and do what’s needed to limit invasive social media surveillance from being used to target black and brown people in low-income communities.”

-Brandi Collins, Color of Change campaign director

However, just because Facebook says surveillance is banned doesn’t mean that developers will listen.

According to the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice, the next step is for Facebook to proactively enforce the policy, something Facebook argues it is already doing.

“Facebook and Instagram should institute both human and technical auditing mechanisms designed to effectively identify potential violations of company policies, both by developers and their end users, and take swift action for violations.”

-The coalition, in a letter to Facebook

Google’s Area 120 startup incubator reveals Uptime video sharing app

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Google’s Area 120 startup incubator has released Uptime, a group video messaging app that lets you watch and share videos with your friend.

As of now, Uptime is only available for iPhone as an invite-only app. Once you log in with your Google account, you’re greeted with an introductory video explaining how everything works. You watch a video, and your profile picture travels along a progress bar that wraps around the screen. If there are other people watching, their icons will also travel along. You can also react to what you’re seeing on screen by typing comments or touching the screen in real time.

However, there are some limits. There’s no way to record video or to stream live: you can only share YouTube clips. The app is also best oriented for portrait-recorded videos, rather than landscape. You can watch and comment on something like a movie trailer, but if you rotate your phone 90 degrees, it won’t let you type text or add reactions.

There’s also no readily apparent way to search for specific people, and the Find Friends button only lets you invite new people to the platform.

Vertu sells for $61M to exiled Turkish businessman

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British luxury phone maker Vertu has been bought for the first time since Nokia spun it off in 2012. According to the Telegraph, the company’s been purchase for $61 million by an investment vehicle funded by Turkish exile Hakan Uzan.

“Vertu is a powerful brand with an acknowledged market niche. I look forward to working with the team and providing the investment to enable Vertu to realize its full potential.”

-Hakan Uzan, Vertu owner

 

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

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

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 145

Google uses machine learning to reduce data for images, Intel wants sensors to help you with shopping, & the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 launches

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

Google using machine learning to reduce data needed for high-resolution images

Google Photos

Google has begun the process of integrating RAISR, a prototype technology that uses machine learning to make low-resolution images appear more detailed, into its online services. The technology will first upscale large images on Google+ and save users’ data in the process.

So far, it’s being used to tweak high-resolution Google+ images accessed on a “subset of Android devices.” When a user requests an image, Google+ retrieves a version that’s actually a quarter of the size and uses RAISR’s algorithms to “restore detail on [the] device.” This reduces the data cost of each image by up to 75 percent, according to Google. This technique is currently being applied to over a billion images a week, and has reduced “users’ total bandwidth by about a third,” according to Google.

The technique inserts new pixels into low-resolution images to make up for lost detail. However, while traditional upscaling uses fixed rules to work out which new pixels to use where, RAISR adapts its method to each image. It pays special attention to “edge features” (bits of the image that look like the edge of an object), making the resulting larger image look less blurred.

Intel wants sensors to help you with your shopping

An employee walks past an Intel logo during the 2014 Computex exhibition at the TWTC Nangang exhibition hall in Taipei

Intel is launching a Responsible Retail Platform that creates a common set of sensors, software kits, and other components for in-store tech. It promises to speed up inventory tracking, provide feedback on buying habits and personalize your shopping.

The company is investing over $100 million into the retail industry over the next five years to help get the ball rolling.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 launches at $30, ready to power up in other products

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Raspberry Pi Foundation has launched the Compute Module 3, a slimmed-down Raspberry Pi 3 for developing customized hardware like TV displays, industrial control systems, and home media players.

It delivers double the RAM and a 10-times boost to CPU performance over the first iteration released in 2014.

The new module contains the Raspberry Pi 3’s guts, featuring a 64-bit Broadcom BCM2837 processor at up to 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. By removing a number of ports, it offers a smaller design to make it more suitable than the Raspberry Pi for industrial applications.

The device also fits the DDR2 SODIMM sockets and has the same pin-out as the first Pi compute module. One notable change is that the Compute Module 3, at 31mm high, is one mm taller than the original one.

“The idea of the Compute Module was to provide an easy and cost-effective route to producing customized products based on the Pi hardware and software platform.

“The thought was to provide the ‘team in a garage’ with easy access to the same technology as the big guys. The Module takes care of the complexity of routing out the processor pins, the high-speed RAM interface, and core power supply, and allows a simple carrier board to provide just what is needed in terms of external interfaces and form factor.”

-James Adams, Raspberry Pi Foundation COO

The Foundation has also launched the Compute Module 3 Lite, which has the same processor and 1GB of RAM minus the flash storage. Builders can add an eMMC device or SD card socket on the base board.

Lastly, it’s releasing an updated version of the Compute Module IO Board 3, which provides HDMI and USB connectors, powers the module, and enables programming of its flash memory.

The standard Compute Module 3 costs $30 while the Lite version will set you back $25, excluding shipping and tax. The original Compute Module has been reduced to $25 from distributors RS Components, element 14, and Farnell UK.

Showing off its commercial applications, the Raspberry Pi Foundation highlighted a partnership with the European arm of NEC to integrate the module into a line of new large-format displays.

The module will power signage software and presentations on the NEC displays, and for CubeSats (mini-satellites made with off-the-shelf technology) by UK researchers.

Xiaomi stops disclosing annual sales figures, CEO admits company grew too fast

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Xiaomi has forgone its tradition of revealing how many smartphones the company sold the previous year. Its CEO Lei Jung admitted Xiaomi has been in transition after growing “too fast.”

“In the first few years, we pushed ahead too fast. We created a miracle, but also drew on some long-term growth. So we have to slow down, further improve in some areas, and ensure sustainable growth for a long-term future.”

-Lei Jung; Xiaomi CEO, in a letter to employees

However, Lei told his staff that the “difficult times are behind us.”

A range of business metrics were also provided in Lei’s letter that give a picture of how the company is doing:

  • Xiaomi reached $1 billion in annual revenue in India for the first time
  • Three of Xiaomi’s 54 offline stores passed $14.5M in gross merchandise value each – including sales of partner products – and it plans to open 200 more in 2017, and 1,000 more by 2020
  • Xiaomi’s ‘Mi Ecosystem’ has 50 million connected devices – which includes smart TVs, fitness trackers, and more – which brought in $2.2 billion in sales
  • Xiaomi has applied for 16,000 patents globally, 3,612 of which have been granted to date
  • Xiaomi’s revenue from “internet services” doubled in 2016

The most interesting note here is that Lei wants to push on and see Xiaomi develop its offline retail arm.

According to Lei, Xiaomi has to branch out because its current distribution model is limited.

“Xiaomi has great ambitions, and we are not satisfied with just being an e-commerce smartphone brand, so we have to upgrade our retail model, and incorporate offline retail for a new retail strategy.”

-Lei Jung

Xiaomi also plans on developing artificial intelligence, increasing its global presence, and developing fintech solutions in 2017.

Jung’s “humble” goal for the year is to reach $14.5 billion in revenue.

Facebook rolls out fake news filter in Germany

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Facebook will begin rolling out its fake news filter in Germany, according to the Financial Times, amid lawmakers expressing growing concern over the spread of fabricated news stories and Russian interference ahead of its national elections later this year.

The social network will begin fact-checking and flagging fake news for users in Germany over the coming weeks.

Under Facebook’s fact-checking system, stories reported as fake by users will be sent to Correctiv, a nonprofit news organization based in Berlin. If an item is deemed false, it will be marked as “disputed,” along with justification, and the site will warn users before they share it. Disputed items will also show up lower in News Feeds.

“Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next.”

-A Facebook spokesperson

The Bragi Headphone starts shipping

Bragi’s latest Headphone earbuds are now available for immediate shipping after a series of delays.

The earbuds are a stripped down version of the company’s Dash earbud, and ditches the fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, gesture controls, and app to simply function as a pair of truly wireless Bluetooth headphones. It’s shipping now on Bragi’s website now for $149.99, with Bragi estimating orders to arrive within two weeks.

TechSummit Rewind 143

Facebook’s Journalism Project seeks to strengthen online news, Alphabet kills solar drone project, Instagram Stories get auto-playing video ads and more

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

Facebook Journalism Project seeks to strengthen online news

Facebook_Logo

Facebook has launched its Journalism Project to soothe accusations of fueling the rise and spread of fake news.

The project focuses on three tenets, starting with the development of news products between Facebook and media outlets (new storytelling formats). The social network offered the example of a German media outlet developing a free subscription trial period for Facebook readers.

Next is a plan to offer tools and “best practices” training to journalists, including collaborations with the Knight Foundation, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, and the Institute for Nonprofit News. In addition, Facebook’s CrowdTangle tool for measuring social performance, will now be free to the company’s media partners.

Finally, Facebook is emphasizing the promotion of media literacy. The company pointed to new tools designed to make it easier to report fake news, efforts to remove financial incentives that motivate spamming, and a collaboration with third-party fact-checking groups to help identify hoaxes.

Alphabet kills solar drone project

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Alphabet has ended its exploration of solar-powered drones.

The program was a part of Alphabet’s X incubator for wild ideas after it acquired Titan Aerospace, which specializes in social powered drones that could fly at high altitudes for long periods of time, in 2014.

“Many people from the Titan team are now using their expertise as part of other high flying projects at X, including Loon and Project Wing.”

-An X spokesperson

Instagram Stories will now feature auto-playing video ads

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Instagram is rolling out full-screen, auto-playing video ads to its Stories sharing feature this week.

The roll-out will start with a trial involving roughly 30 corporate partners (including McDonald’s, Airbnb, and Nike), according to Instagram, before being offered globally to any advertiser.

The ads look and behave like a regular video story, running in full-screen with the ability to be liked, commented on, and shared.

Advertisers can take any video from their Instagram stream and turn it into a Story ad. Instagram will also be offering a full suite of analytics and metrics for that content, including the number of times a video ad is viewed and commented on.

According to Instagram director of product marketing Jim Squires, the ads will come with “precise targeting from Facebook, based on demographic and interest-based signals that have been built up over many years.”

Samsung: Over 96 percent of Galaxy Note7s returned to date

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According to Samsung, over 96 percent of all Galaxy Note 7 phones have been returned after a recall starting in September.

JetBlue completes Fly-Fi rollout, with free high speed WiFi on all planes

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JetBlue has officially completed its fleet-wide rollout of Fly-Fi, bringing free wireless internet to all of its planes.

The airline has also been adding in-flight streaming service partners, including Amazon Video and Music as part of a partnership between the two companies that lets non-Prime members shop through Amazon’s offerings, while Prime members get access to its usual content.

iZettle raises $63M to expand from mobile payments

izettle

iZettle, a Stockholm-based mobile payment startup that offers a card reader for use with mobile devices and a suite of financial services for small businesses, has raised $63 million in new funding.

The company has also appointed Maria Hedengren as its CFO.

“We have been following the impressive growth of iZettle since its inception. iZettle is an innovator and a clear market leader in Europe and we want to be part of its next chapter of growth. 2017 promises to be a vibrant and buoyant time for both iZettle and its market.”

-Gordon Watson, Victory Park Capital partner

According to founder and CEO Jacob de Geer, $47.62 million of the funding comes as debt from Victory Park Capital, with the remaining $15.87 million coming from existing investors like Intel, Index, Mastercard, and American Express in an extension of iZettle’s 2015 Series D.

The funding will be used partially for acquisitions, according to de Geer, particularly to expand its business into more services beyond mobile payments across its 12 markets of operation.

“There are a few big players in the payments world right now, but also many small companies, struggling to find the right and healthy business model. There are interesting ways of combining these companies today.”

-Jacob de Geer, iZettle CEO

 

 

TechSummit Rewind 136

Dell launches a 2-in-1 XPS 13, French workers win the right to ignore email after hours, Twitter’s China head leaves the company, and more

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

Dell launches XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop

dell-xps-13-2-in-1

Dell has officially introduced a new 2-in-1 version of its highly regarded XPS 13 laptop ahead of CES.

The machine features a 7th generation Kaby Lake Intle Core i5/i7 chip, Intel HD Graphics 615 integrated GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 128GB-1TB SSD, a 720p webcam on the bottom of the display with Windows Hello support, a fingerprint scanner, a 46 watt-hour battery, and a 13.3-inch QHD+ or FHD touchscreen.

Keeping with the XPS style, that display is framed by a thin bezel. The fanless PC offers an SD card slot and two USB-C ports, along with a USB-A to USB-C adapter.

The laptop is thinner than Dell’s 2016 XPS, measuring up at 0.54 inch at its thickest point. The keyboard hasn’t been squished down however with just 0.1mm more keyboard travel on the prior XPS laptop in its 2.7-pound body.

The convertible is available starting at $1000 on Jan. 5.

French workers win right to ignore work emails after hours

French workers have been granted the “right to disconnect” thanks to a new law passed Sunday.

According to Agence France-Presse, the right demands that all business with more than 50 employees negotiate new rules of online engagement with their workers.

Twitter’s China head leaves company

Twitter HQ

Kathy Chen, Twitter’s managing director in Greater China, has left the company after eight months.

Facebook, Google dominate 2016’s top apps

apps

Apps from Facebook and Google dominated a list of 2016’s top apps released by Nielsen.

Facebook grabbed the number one spot on the list with over 146 million unique users per month and 14 percent growth compared to last year. Facebook’s Messenger (#2) and Instagram (#8) also placed within the top 10. The photocentric social app showed some of the highest year-over-year growth, up 36 percent from 2015.

Messenger had over 129 million average unique monthly users.

However, Google grabbed the most spots on the year-end chart with YouTube (#3), Google Maps (#4), Google Search (#5), Google Play (#6), and Gmail (#7) also ranked within the top 10.

Notably Amazon surged in 2016. According to Nielsen, Amazon’s mobile app saw a 43 percent increase in monthly average uniques compared to 2015.

 

TechSummit Rewind 133

Handbrake finally gets its first stable release, Fake news triggers a Facebook Safety Check, Rent the Runway raises $60M and more

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

Handbrake updated to v. 1.0.0 after 13 years of development

handbrake_587

Video conversion app Handbrake is one of the world’s most popular in its niche, however it’s just coming out of beta after 13 years in development.

A load of new features is packed in, like new video presetx for the latest smartphones, tablets, consoles, and streaming devices. For backing up your movie collection, the app also includes new Matroska presets with support for Google’s VP9 video codec and Opus audio. Other noteworthy additions include the ability to select specific DVD titles and chapters to rip, improved subtitle support, and the option to queue up multiple encodes.

The team has also released new documentation for its Windows, Mac, and Linux apps that take you through the best ways to convert video, create advanced workflows, and troubleshoot any potential problems.

Fake news triggers Facebook Safety Check in Bangkok

facebook-safety-check

Facebook falsely activated its Safety Check feature after a flood of fake news suggesting that there was an explosion in Bangkok, Thailand.

Users in the country saw an alert to make themselves safe, but saw little details on where the reported explosion occurred. It was deactivated about an hour later.

Rent the Runway raises $60M

rent-the-runway

Rent the Runway has closed a new $60 million equity investment led by mutual fund company Fidelity with additional money coming from existing investors like Bain Capital Ventures and TCV.

“[G]iven a tougher market over the past year or so, I wanted to put the company into a sustainable financial situation where we were not beholden to external swings in the economy. We achieved that and saw that the market rewarded the strong financial foundation we had built.”

-Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway CEO

According to Hyman, the new money will help grow the company’s business after than it otherwise would, however market spending isn’t expected to grow beyond its existing four percent of revenue.

Chinese investors buy stake in HERE

HERE-Auto05

Chinese mapping company NavInfo, Tencent, and Singapore’s GIC sovereign wealth fund are buying a 10 percent stake in the HERE digital maps company.

According to HERE, owners Audi, BMW, and Daimler will reduce their combined stake in the company by 10 percent.

HERE will now form a joint venture with NavInfo to extend into China with NavInfo’s data and services, while Tencent will now use HERE’s mapping and location platform services in its products around the world.

T-Mobile rolls out Galaxy Note 7 battery shutdown update

samsung-galaxy-note-7

T-Mobile has become the first U.S. carrier to begin rolling out the battery shutdown update for the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

According to the changelog, the update will offer an on-screen reminder to owners about the recall and the steps required to return their defective device. Once the update is install, the device will be unable to charge.

AT&T & Verizon plan to roll out the same update on Jan. 5, while Sprint will do so on Jan. 8.

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

Instagram

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

bill-gates

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

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

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

nvidia-self-driving-car

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

jetsmarter

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

Microsoft Ventures

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.

 

TechSummit Rewind 128

Samsung will brick U.S. Galaxy Note 7s with final update, Obama orders a review of 2016 election cyber attacks, & Facebook corrects some metrics

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

Samsung will brick US Note 7s with next update

samsung-galaxy-note-7

Samsung will render remaining United States Galaxy Note 7s useless with its final update Dec. 19 – to be distributed across all major carriers within 30 days – that will prevent the devices “from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.”

This seems to be a last resort to get the flawed handsets back in the Korean company’s possession. According to Samsung, 93 percent of U.S. Note 7s have been returned, with roughly 133,000 phones unaccounted for. The next update will also kick off a push by Samsung to ramp up communication with customers that insist on keeping the devices for some reason.

“Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.”

-Samsung

However, Verizon has released a statement saying that they won’t be distributing the update to its devices.

“Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders, or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”

-Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon VP of Global Corporate Communications

Obama orders review of 2016 election cyber attacks

President Obama has ordered intelligence agencies to review cyberattacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, according to the White House.

In October, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyberattacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process … and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress.”

-Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser

According to White House spokesperson Eric Schultz, the review would be a “deep dive” that would look for a pattern of such behavior over several years during election time, dating as far back as the 2008 presidential election.

“This is a major priority.”

-Eric Schultz, White House spokesperson

President-elect Donald Trump isn’t convinced Russia is behind the attacks, according to an interview he did with Time.

“I don’t believe they interfered. They became a laughing point, not a talking point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’”

-Donald Trump, U.S. President-elect

“Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month.”

-Adam Schiff (California), House Intelligence Committee senior Democrat

Facebook corrects metrics affecting ad reach, streaming reactions, Like & Share counts

Facebook has announced correcting for a few more metric issues in areas like audience estimation for ads, live video reaction counts, and its Like and Share buttons.

There’s an update rolling out to its ad creation tool that’ll give advertisers an estimate of the potential overall reach and estimated daily reach of the campaign when they start building it. According to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, its methodology on this estimation has been improved – specifically for sampling and extrapolating the potential audience size – so it’s more accurate.

This helps give a better estimate for the target audience on Facebook and cross-platform (Facebook, Instagram, and the Audience Network).

However, the change to Live Video metrics is a correction.

In Page Insights, Facebook was misallocating extra reactions (Likes, Hearts, etc.) to the “Reactions from Shares of Post” section instead of “Reactions on Post.” This could’ve given the impression that Live Videos were seeing more engagement when shared than they really were.

According to the company, the fix will roll out in mid-December and will increase “Reactions on Post” by 500 percent on average, while decreasing the “Reactions on Shares of Post” by 25 percent on average.

Finally, there’s a discrepancy found between the counts for Like and Share buttons via Facebook’s Graph API and the counts when you enter in a URL in the search bar in the Facebook mobile app. The company’s still working to resolve this problem.

Michigan becomes first state to pass comprehensive self-driving regulations

Google self-driving car

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed four bills into law that creates the first comprehensive statewide self-driving regulations in the U.S.

The bills effectively amend the existing Michigan Motor Vehicle requirements as well as another law that previously banned automated driving in the state.

However, only motor vehicle manufacturers are allowed to operate an on-demand network of self-driving cars. According to MDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager Matt Smith, non-traditional automakers (Apple, Google, Uber, etc.) will be allowed to test and deploy their cars on public roads if the companies work with a motor vehicle manufacturer to develop/produce those cars or get their vehicle/prototype approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Google and Apple wouldn’t be classified as a motor vehicle manufacturer until they have vehicles on the open market that meet [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s] Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For now, they would be classified as a manufacturer of automated vehicle technology and could become a motor vehicle manufacturer if they met the requirements.”

-A Michigan DOT (MDOT) spokesperson

However, a Google spokesperson noted that the company’s self-driving car arm is recognized as a manufacturer of record by the NHTSA.

The self-driving coalition’s general counsel David Strickland – which represents Google, Uber, Volvo, Ford, and Lyft – wrote that the coalition was pleased that the state was taking steps to more innovation forward but warned against creating a patchwork of state regulations.

“We’re pleased to see that the Governor of Michigan and its state legislators recognize the tremendous safety potential and mobility benefits of self-driving technology. States play an important role in road safety, such as licensing and legislation, but the federal government should provide the national framework to prevent a patchwork of state laws and regulations. We advise states to avoid developing state-specific vehicle requirements that may contribute to inconsistency across the country.”

-David Strickland, self-driving coalition general counsel

AT&T will finally refund $88M in unauthorized charges

ATT-Logo

Roughly 2.7 million current and former AT&T mobile subscribers are getting more than $88 million in refunds from the Federal Trade Commission. The refunds are part of a 2014 statement where AT&T was accused of “mobile cramming” – the practice of tacking unnecessary third-party fees onto your bill without consent – along with two known cramming companies Tatto and Acquinity.

According to the FTC, AT&T was tacking on unauthorized $9.99 monthly charges for things like horoscopes, ringtones, love tips, and other fun facts from third-party companies and then keeping 35 percent of the charges. After the FTC crackdown, AT&T changed its billing practices and had to pay into the FTC fund that’s now issuing refunds amounting to “the most money ever returned to consumers in a mobile cramming case.”

The FTC also notes that customers should be getting an average of $31 on average. Around 2.5 million customers will see refunds show up on their AT&T mobile bill in the next 75 days and another 300,000 former customers will get their return via a check in the mail.

Facebook glitch reposts people’s random, old updates

Facebook_Logo

Facebook users are reporting a bizarre bug that dredges up digital memories without their knowledge or permission.

The glitch appears to be randomly grabbing users’ posts and tossing them back onto their walls – and their friend’s timelines. The reported content found by Gizmodo was able to find their timestamps altered by the glitch to look like they’d been recently posted.

Some users affected by the repost glitch noticed the issue after updating the app or checking the Year in Review feature.

Google giving employees’ holiday gifts to charity this year

Google.jpg

Google is giving its usual employee holiday gifts to charity this year. This follows last year’s option to employees to receive either a Nexus 5X smartphone or a charity donation.

According to Fortune, $30 million worth of products were donated – including Chromebooks, smartphones, and the associated tech support – to schools.

Molotov raises $23M, launches service aiming to revolutionize live TV

molotov

Paris-based startup Molotov has raised $23 million and launched a service poised to revolutionize the way we watch TV.

“The main problem we see is people sitting on their couch at 9 p.m. at night, and after 10 minutes of navigating through channels, feeling like there is nothing on. That’s something we feel frustrated by, as users and as members of the whole TV industry. And what people see as ‘nothing on’ is quite paradoxical, because free channels in France are spending about €300 billion on content.”

Molotov is a free app that allows users to watch 70 basic free channels in France in partnership with French TV stations.

Its selling point is an elegant interface that immediately shows the user what is being broadcast at that moment. There’s no video-on-demand, however, users can “bookmark” their favorite shows with a limited number of past episodes stored in the app’s cloud for later viewing. Premium users get additional storage.

By bookmarking a show, you also get alerted when it’s going to be on, or that an episode has been saved. If you come to a show late while it’s on live, you can restart at the beginning. Molotov doesn’t let you skip commercials.

TechSummit Rewind 127

Samsung scores a decisive Supreme Court victory in its Apple patent case, President-elect Donald Trump will meet with tech leaders next week, Softbank will invest $50 billion in the U.S., and more

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

Samsung scores decisive Supreme Court victory in Apple patent case

AppleVsSamsung_AP

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down an 8-0 ruling in favor of Samsung in its ongoing legal battle against its chief competitor

The court agreed that Samsung’s damages shouldn’t agree to the total cost of the products at issue, since the dispute only applied to pieces of the product.

However, the case will go back to a lower court to reassess the damages.

Trump meeting with tech leaders next week

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/Willis Glassgow)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/Willis Glassgow)

President-elect Donald Trump is set to hold a roundtable summit with tech industry leaders on Dec. 14 in New York. According to USA Today, the invitation came from chief of staff Reince Priebus, Trump’s son in-law Jared Kushner, and transition team member/Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

SoftBank will invest $50 billion in U.S. under Trump

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Speaking of Trump, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son (who runs Sprint’s parent company) made a surprise appearance at Trump Tower to confirm a deal with the president-elect to invest $50 billion in the U.S. over the next four years and create 50,000 jobs.

“I just came to celebrate his new job. We were talking about it. I said this is great. The United States would become great again.”

– Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO

Regulators approve Microsoft-LinkedIn deal with a catch

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The European Commission became the latest group to approve Microsoft’s $26.2 billion deal to acquire LinkedIn Tuesday, joining regulatory groups including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and South Africa. However, there’s a catch.

In order to receive the approval of Europe, Microsoft is doing five things over the next five years. Namely, LinkedIn competitors will still be able to receive access to participate in Office Add-in and promotional opportunities in the Office Store and the company won’t enter into agreements with PC manufacturers to pre-install the LinkedIn app or tile that would “favor LinkedIn on an exclusive basis,” among other things.

Apple launches iOS single sign-on to make logging into TV apps less annoying

apple-tv-app-1

Apple has rolled out its single sign-on feature for iOS, which lets users enter account details for participating cable providers once and automatically sign into TV Everywhere apps.

That list includes the following:

  • CenturyLink Prism
  • DirecTV
  • Dish
  • GTA
  • GVTC
  • Hawaiian Telecom
  • Hotwire
  • MetroCast
  • Sling TV

Now, there are still some major names missing (namely my cable provider Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Verizon FiOS, and Optimum) from this list. However, Apple expects to add more cable providers over the coming weeks.

Single sign-on also only works in certain apps, including

  • A&E (iOS)
  • Bravo Now (tvOS)
  • E! Now (tvOS)
  • Hallmark Channel Everywhere
  • History (iOS)
  • Lifetime (iOS)
  • NBC (tvOS)
  • Syfy Now (tvOS)
  • Telemundo Now (tvOS)
  • USA NOW (tvOS)
  • Watch HGTV
  • Watch Food Network
  • Watch Cooking Channel
  • Watch DIY
  • Watch Travel Channel

Again, a lot of important apps are missing (WatchESPN, ABC, CBS, Disney, HBO Go, and many others).

YouTube pays music industry $1B from ads

YouTube-logo-full_color

According to company chief business officer Robert Kyncl, YouTube has paid over $1 billion in advertising revenue to artists, labels, and publishers in the last 12 months.

“It is clear that this creative industry has two strong engines of growth – subscriptions, and advertising – and we are honored to be a part of it.”

– Robert Kyncl, YouTube chief business officer

Anil Dash named Fog Creek Software CEO, launches Gomix platform to remove app development barriers

fog-creek-software

Fog Creek Software, the company that spawned the births of Trello and Stack Overflow, has launched Gomix, a platform that wants to democratize app building. Gomix gives people working apps they can remix, modify, host, and deploy for free. Essentially, Gomix is designed to make building things on the web as fun as it used to be, according to newly appointed Fog Creek Software CEO Anil Dash.

Prior to joining Fog Creek, Dash co-created app community and directory Makerbase, which will become a part of Fog Creek.

“On a personal level, I came to Fog Creek because this is a company that’s always fought for making tech more thoughtful and more human. Back when [Fog Creek co-founder] Joel [Spolsky] started the Joel On Software blog, he was the only one saying that tech should be treating people better, both as users and as employees. And more than 15 years later, he’s still a fierce and fearless voice about how we should be more ethical. I wanted to be part of that tradition, as well as the same creative DNA that spawned Trello and Stack Overflow and FogBugz and so much more.”

-Anil Dash, Fog Creek Software CEO

Gomix is a combination of a web app store, an in-browser tool for editing Node.js code in collaboration with other Gomix users and a cloud hosting environment to run the app. Gomix will be part of FogBugz, Fog Creek’s software development suite for teams.

All of this is part of Fog Creek’s mission to democratize app development, practice social responsibility, and help everyday people participate in the software and internet economies.

“Now more than ever, the barriers to creating tech have to be torn down, and we’re excited to take our next big step.”

–   Anil Dash

Netflix becomes top grossing iPhone app for first time

Earns Netflix

According to app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, Netflix has become the No. 1 Top Grossing app in the iPhone App Store for the first time after introducing in-app subscriptions to its iOS app a year ago.

Since introducing in-app subscriptions, Netflix has grown its weekly net revenue from under $50,000 to nearly $2.9 million.

Google will reach 100% renewable energy for its global operations in 2017

Google.jpg

Google will be operating entirely on renewable energy by 2017 – including its data centers and offices.

“To reach this goal we’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally. And we’re focusing on creating new energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases.

“The cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.”

– Urs Holzle, Google senior vice president for technical infrastructure

Apple will start publishing AI research

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Apple is starting to tear down the walls at Infinite Loop with its AI research. According to company artificial intelligence research director Russ Salakhutdinov, Cupertino will start letting its AI researchers publish papers and engage with the greater AI community.

According to Salakhutdinov, the goal is to help attract and retain some of the industry’s top talent.

Google placing news feed in Android’s home screen

google-update

When Google Now launched four years ago, it promised to present you the information you need in swipeable cards. Along with transit times, meetings, and weather, Mountain View found that news cards were apparently popular.

An update to the Google app is refocusing itself more on news. Essentially, the app is splitting into two parts. On the right is “Upcoming,” which is basically the Google app you’ve come to love with the same, personally relevant news entries. But on the left is the “Feed,” dedicated to news the company thinks you’d be interested in based on your search history (and other info presumably). It’s rolling out now in the Google App on Android in the U.S., but will come soon to iOS and other regions.

GoDaddy acquires Host Europe Group for $1.79 billion to grow global footprint

godaddy

GoDaddy has acquired Host Europe Group in a $1.79 billion deal.

HEG is one of Europe’s biggest web hosting companies with a particularly strong presence in the U.K. and Germany.

GoDaddy will pay $650 million to the selling shareholders, with the rest being in assumed net debt. The deal has been approved by GoDaddy’s directors and HEG’s shareholders, but the deal still needs to pass regulators and is expected to do so in Q2 2017.

“By joining forces with HEG, we accelerate our expansion into Europe with the delivery of a broader range of cloud-based products, built on a single global technology platform, and supported by unparalleled customer care to help small businesses and web designers succeed online.”

– Blake Irving, GoDaddy CEO

Facebook begins asking users to rate articles’ use of “misleading language”

facebook-misleading-language-survey

Facebook is continuing its assault on the barrage of fake news on the platform with a survey asking users about “misleading language” in posts.

The company has confirmed the effort.

TechSummit Rewind 124

Netflix adds offline playback, GoPro cuts 15 percent of its workforce, and Apple marks World AIDS Day with a tint of red

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

Netflix adds ability to let you download shows, movies to watch offline

Earns Netflix

Netflix users worldwide can now play many of their “favorite streaming series and movies” offline. Right now, that selection includes a lot of Netflix originals (Stranger Things, The Crown, Narcos, Orange is the New Black, etc.) and a lot of random choices. There’s Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Paddington, Minions, and Kung Fu Panda 3 among others. Here are a few more notable selections:

  • Boyhood
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Nightcrawler
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Hot Fuzz

According to Netflix, more selections will be added in the near future.

Once you’ve updated to the latest version of Netflix for iOS or Android (out today), a download button will appear next to the play button for supported content to save content. There are two options of quality, according to a help page, Standard and Higher. No specifics were offered on the exact quality, but standard uses less storage space than the higher quality.

GoPro to cut 15 percent of workforce, shutter entertainment division

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GoPro is eliminating about 15 percent (over 200 full-time positions) of its workforce and shutting down its entertainment division to reduce costs.

Company president Tony Bates will also step down by the end of the year.

According to GoPro, the restructuring will reduce operating expenses to roughly $650 million in 2017 and achieve its goal of returning to profitability next year. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company expects to incur up to $33 million in restructuring costs.

Apple marks World AIDS Day with App Store specials, new (Red)-branded products

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Apple is refocusing on its decade-long partnership with the Product (RED) campaign today. Coinciding with Thursday’s World AIDS Day, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is launching several new products, special limited-edition items for App Store games, and donations tied to certain Apple Pay purchases to nudge customers to join the fight against AIDS.

“We’ve been part of (RED) from the beginning.”

-Lisa Jackson, Apple VP

The campaign has raised over $360 million for the Global Fund to fight the disease. Apple (including its Beats division) has raised nearly $120 million, making it the world’s largest corporate Global Fund contributor.

“Essentially, Apple is turning (RED)” for the next two days, according to Jackson, in the following ways:

  • 400 stores across five continents will either turn the Apple emblem red or display window signage related to the campaign and World AIDS Day.
  • 20 popular games will release exclusive in-app purchases of (RED) content, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Global Fund.
  • Apple has unveiled a (RED) smart battery case for iPhone 7, a (RED) Beats Pill+, (RED) Beats Solo 3 headphones, and a (RED) leather iPhone SE case.
  • Beginning today, Apple will donate $1 to (RED) for “every purchase made with Apple Pay” on the company’s website or the Apple Store up to $1 million. Bank of America has also agreed to match that donation for every Apple Pay payment made with the bank.

Office 365 launches new collaboration features

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Microsoft has brought real-time collaborative editing to PowerPoint.

The feature came to Word last year, and lets you “see what others are typing as it happens on a given slide,” according to Microsoft Office corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer.

According to Koenigsbauer, the feature is live now for PowerPoint for Windows users that subscribe to Office 365 or are part of the Office Insider program and everyone that uses PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Microsoft has also started showing notifications for certain kinds of activity in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. The feature will come to iOS in the next few weeks. Commercial customers will see the feature over the next few months.

Additionally, Microsoft has begun to show a Shared with Me section in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Office 365 subscribers using Mac, Windows desktop, Android, and iOS. The feature’s designed to help users located files that other people have recently shared with them quicker.

Facebook cuts off Prisma’s Live Video access

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Prisma added support to its iOS app for livestreaming its art filter effects in real-time via Facebook Live earlier this month – and Facebook has cut off the company’s access to the Live API.

“Your app streams video from a mobile device camera, which can already be done through the Facebook app. The Live Video API is meant to let people publish live video content from other sources such as professional cameras, multi-camera setups, games, or screencasts.”

-Facebook, to Prisma

However, a FAQ on the Facebook Live site for developers says the API can be used to apply special effects to video – which can arguably describe Prisma’s use.

“We were trying to fix the issue but Facebook has a strong policy, they only [allow] broadcast to different cameras, drones. Our app is no drone or camera. So this means we cannot do it.”

-Aram Airapetyan, Prisma Labs co-founder

Despite being blocked, according to Airapetyan, Prisma still has big plans for Live.

“The fact that we can do it is great and we’ll probably give users an opportunity to stream to different websites.

“We’ll seriously consider giving our users an alternative for live.”

-Aram Airapetyan

Surface Studio teardown reveals hidden ARM chip, removable hard drive

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iFixit has given Microsoft’s Surface Studio its signature teardown treatment, and has made a few discoveries on the all-in-one PC. The first is an ARM chip hidden behind the 28-inch display that powers the Studio’s PixelSense display.

Elsewhere, Redmond has soldered the RAM, CPU, and GPU to the motherboard, basically making the configuration set in stone. However, you can replace the hybrid drive without disassembling the display, as it’s housed in the base. iFixit gave the Surface Studio a five out of 10 on its reparability scale, on par with Apple’s 5K iMac.

Yahoo launches Answers Now mobile app

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Yahoo has quietly launched Answers Now, a native iOS app for its Q&A site. Like the web version, the app lets you view, ask, answer, and track questions posted by its online community.

The app gets a few upgrades over the legacy version, like the ability to upload photos, respond with emoji (a la Slack), click a button to say “thanks,” as well as search the web for sources to include in your answers within the app.

The app is still in invite-only status. Interested users need to request an invite code by sending a message to van-invite@yahoo-inc.com.