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 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.

TechSummit Rewind 147

Google Voice gets first revamp in years, Sprint buys a third of TIDAL, and Samsung keeps the Note brand alive

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

Google Voice gets revamped for first time in years

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Google has revamped Voice, its VOIP phone service, for the first time in years. The updates are available now on Android, iOS (over the next few days), and the web and brings it in line with the Material Design philosophy in Mountain View’s other apps. Once your mobile app is updated, the web client will automatically change over to the new design. According to Google, everyone should have it within a couple weeks.

According to Google’s blog post announcing the changes, “your inbox now has separate tabs for text messages, calls, and voicemails. Conversations stay in one continuous thread, so you can easily see all your messages from each of your contacts in one place.”

The update also brings over some feature that were previously only available for users who switched to Hangouts for some Voice functions like texting and voicemail. For one, photo MMS is now supported by Google Voice on all platforms and across most major carriers. Images show up inline in your conversations.

Group texting has also been added, with a clear label.

Voicemail transcriptions are still there, with support for Spanish transcriptions as well. Other nice touches include in-notification replies on Android, 3D Touch support for iPhone (mostly in Messages view), and a user experience that’s finally been edited.

Google has committed itself to “regular” updates and new features for the mobile apps and web client, though there’s no estimate on how often they’ll arrive. However, the company is working to implement RCS messaging in Voice.

If you’ve already switched over to Hangouts, there’s “no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to improve and add more features.”

Sprint buys 33 percent of TIDAL music service

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Sprint has acquired a 33 percent stake of Jay-Z’s music service TIDAL.

Sprint, Jay-Z, and other artist-owners will “continue to run TIDAL’s artist-centric service” with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure joining the company’s board of directors.

“The formidable pairing of Sprint and TIDAL will grow customers on both platforms by offering exclusive access for customers who subscribe to TIDAL.”

-Sprint, in a statement

Sprint will unveil “exclusive offers” and promotions in the near future.

Samsung sticking with Note branding for Note7 successor

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Despite the scandal that killed the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung will stick with the Note branding with the next iteration.

“I will bring back a better, safer, and very innovative Note 8.”

-DJ Koh, Samsung mobile chief

This comes despite the scandal that left an explosion (pun intended) of jokes and flight attendant warnings banning the Note 7 on all flights.

However, Koh believes that the Note has a devoted following that will stick with Samsung.

“We found through the investigative process, we knew there are lots and lots of loyal Note customers.”

-DJ Koh

Trump appoints Ajit Pai to head FCC

U.S. President Donald Trump has appointed Ajit Pai as the Federal Communication Commission’s chairman.

Pai has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2012, appointed by then-President Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Shortly after Trump took office, Pai indicated that a top priority under the new administration would be dismantling net neutrality, writing in a letter that he intended to “revisit … the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding … as soon as possible.”

Pai has a traditionally Republican stance: free market and minimal regulation, He’s been opposed to requiring ISPs to implement stricter privacy protections for consumers, increasing broadband benchmarks to promote higher speeds, and regulating mergers.

However, he did vote in favor of a bipartisan proposal that will enable the support of real-time texting for people with disabilities, allowing text to be transmitted letter by letter, rather than requiring a user to hit “send.” He also voiced support for rules that would reduce the rates inmates must pay to place calls in many states, though he voted against a proposal that would do this because of legal concerns.

Pai has emphasized his dissatisfaction with current policies on the FCC’s mandate to promote broadband deployment. He’s suggested adding tax credits and removing regulations that protect older technologies like copper wire that some communities rely on to speed up the process of closing the “digital divide between rural and urban America.”

He’s also been critical of the FCC’s willingness to pass partisan proposals under the leadership of Tom Wheeler, who was chairman during Obama’s last three years in office.

Pai will need to be reconfirmed by the Senate this year if Republicans want to keep him around. If reconfirmed, he’d get an additional five-year term that would keep him in place for Trump’s entire first term.

Google X co-founder Yoky Matsuoka returns to Nest

Yoky Matsuoka has returned to Alphabet as Nest’s Chief Technology Office.

She previously co-founded Google’s X lab and served as Nest’s VP of Technology before becoming the CEO of health-data company Quantus and joining Apple to work on Cupertino’s health-related projects.

According to the company, this is a new position.

Yahoo postpones Verizon transaction close to Q2 2017

The Yahoo logo is shown at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale

Yahoo released its Q4 earnings Monday, saying that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company generated $1.47 billion in revenue (up 15 percent) and earnings per share of $0.17.

Yahoo doesn’t expect to close its acquisition by Verizon until Q2 2017 – previously it was expected to close this quarter. Yahoo blames this on the enormous work required to meet closing conditions.

“The company is working expeditiously to close the transaction as soon as practicable in Q2.”

-Yahoo, in its earnings release

However, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer boasted on the quarter.

“What we have achieved reflects some of the most impressive teamwork, focus, and resilience I’ve seen throughout my career. We continued to build our mobile and native businesses – delivering nearly $1.5 billion in mobile revenue and over $750 million in native revenue – while operating the company at the lowest cost structure in a decade. With our 2016 and Q4 financial results ahead of plan, and the continued stability in our user engagement trends, the opportunities ahead with Verizon look bright.”

Much of the company’s revenue continues to come from non-Mavens programs ($824 million), but the company’s solution set of mobile, video, native, and social initiatives increased 25 percent year-over-year to $590 million from 2016. More revenue continues to come from desktop than mobile, but mobile got the biggest jump – 57 percent ($459 million) compared to 2.57 percent ($955 million),

Search revenue was up 45 percent from the same time last year to $767 million.

All 2017 Chromebooks will be compatible with Android apps

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All Chromebooks that launch this year will support Android apps right out of the box, according to Google’s list of Android-compatible Chromebooks.

Chan Zuckerburg Initiative acquires, will free up Meta science search engine

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Mark Zuckerburg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerburg Initiative has made its first acquisition to make it easier for scientists to search, read, and tie together over 26 million science research papers with Meta, an AI-powered research search engine startup.

The tool will be made free to all in a few months after it gets enhanced.

The key selling point for Meta is that its AI can recognize authors and citations between papers to surface the most important research instead of simply what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources.

“Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.”

-Sam Molyneux, Meta co-founder & CEO

“The potential for this kind of platform is virtually limitless: a researcher could use Meta to help identify emerging techniques for understanding coronary artery disease; a graduate student could see that two different diseases activate the same immune defense pathway; and clinicians could find scientists working on the most promising Zika treatments sooner. In the long run, it could be extended to other areas of knowledge: for example, it could help educators stay up to date on developmental science to better understand how children learn.”

-Cori Bargmann (Chan Zuckerburg Initiative president of Science, and Brian Pinkerton (Chan Zuckerburg Initiative president of Technology)

China makes VPNs illegal

Chinese authorities are now requiring the use of VPNs and special cable connections in China to be approved by the government, according to the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The new rules will be active from now until Mar. 31, 2018.

Samsung Galaxy S8 not appearing at Mobile World Congress

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According to Samsung’s Koh Dong-jin, the company’s S8 flagship will not appear at Mobile World Congress as it has traditionally done for the past several years.

TechSummit Rewind #013: January 14th, 2014

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the TechSummit Rewind, which presses pause on the technology newswire.

Continue reading “TechSummit Rewind #013: January 14th, 2014”

FCC approves Google’s white space wireless database

Google may have been on pins and needles while the FCC scrutinized its white space wireless database over the spring, but it can relax this summer — the FCC has given the database the all-clear. The approval lets Google serve as one of ten go-to sources for white space devices needing safe frequencies in the US. It also lets those with interference-prone devices, such as wireless microphone users, register the airwaves they consider off-limits to white space technology. The clearance won’t have much immediate effect when very few Americans are using the spectrum, but it’s a step forward for rural broadband rollouts and other situations where long-range, unlicensed wireless comes in handy.

[Source: Engadget]

Mystery BlackBerry 10 device hits the FCC with AT&T-capable LTE

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RIM’s January unveiling isn’t going anywhere without federal approval, and it seems the FCC is happy to oblige. Regulators put an unnamed BlackBerry device with a RFF91LW model number through the standard tests, giving it the green light for AT&T’s LTE and GSM bands, as well as a few international frequencies. The handset’s label sample is conveniently censored, of course, but FCC reports indicate that at least three of the devices RIM provided were running OS 10.0.9. Could we be seeing the “L-series” BlackBerry Z10? Or is this simply one of the Dev Alpha devices RIM has been handing out to developers? Either way, we’ll get verification next month.

[Source: Engadget]