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

mobileye

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 154

Uber announces plans to release a diversity report, WhatsApp launches its own Snapchat Stories clone, & Snap Spectacles go on sale online

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

Uber will release first diversity report in next few months

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A day after former Uber site reliability engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti posted a detailed narrative about unwanted sexual advances from her manager and a lackluster response from Uber’s human resources department, prompting Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick to call for an investigation. Kalanick reported more detail about the investigation and informed them that it will release its first diversity report in the next few months.

In an email to employees released today, Kalanick wrote that 15.1 percent of Uber’s engineers, product managers, and scientists are women, adding that the figure stands at 10 percent at Twitter, 17 percent at Facebook, and 18 percent at Google.

“I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do. Every Uber employee should be proud of the culture we have and what we will build together over time. What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace. It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”

-Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO

WhatsApp launches Status Snapchat Stories clone

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WhatsApp has launched Status, a new tab for sharing decorated photos, videos and GIFs that disappear after 24 hours. It’s another copycat of Snapchat Stories from Facebook, with the twist that it’s end-to-end encrypted like the messaging function.

The feature was tested for beta users in Nov., and the Status tab is rolling out now worldwide on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Users can watch updates from friends and reply privately, shoot and adorn imagery with drawings and captions and send their creations to all their contacts they’ve chosen with a persistent privacy setting. Sending media to specific friends is still done through message threads.

Status could also open up new advertising opportunities for WhatsApp, with the potential for full-screen ads in-between Statuses (a la Instagram and Snapchat).

The feature replaces WhatsApp’s AOL Instant Messenger-style away messages, which was the app’s only feature when it launched eight years ago.

Snap starts selling Spectacles online in U.S. for $130

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Speaking of Snap, the company’s Spectacles camera-toting sunglasses are now on sale online in the U.S. here for $129.99. Previously, they were only available at Snapbot vending machines placed in surprise locations and a pop-up store in New York.

That pop-up store has since closed, and according to Snap, Snapbots will “continue to land in surprising locations around the U.S. following a brief nap.” Buyers should expect to wait two to four weeks to get their Spectacles once they order, and can also buy $49.99 charging cases and $9.99 charging cables (both of which are included with the Spectacles).

“Response has been positive since November’s launch so we’re now happy to be able to make Spectacles more readily available – especially for those in the U.S. who have not been able to make it to a Snapbot.”

-A Snap spokesperson

Samsung reputation tanks in U.S. after Note 7 flop

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According to an annual survey from Harris Poll, Samsung’s reputation among U.S. consumers took a major hit last year after the Galaxy Note 7 recall. The company ranked 49th in the poll’s Reputation Quotient Ratings, which ranks the top 100 most visible companies in the U.S. according to public reputation. Last year, Samsung ranked third, ahead of both Apple and Google.

Amazon topped the list for the second consecutive year, followed by supermarket chains Wegmans and Publix. Other companies in the top ten include Apple, Google, and Tesla Motors (who didn’t make the cut last year). Netflix and Microsoft each ranked in the top 20 (18th and 20th, respectively), while Facebook ranked 66th.

The results are based on an online survey of over 30,000 American adults carried out between Nov. 28 and Dec. 16 of last year. The survey analyzes brand reputation based on social responsibility, vision and leadership, financial performance, products and services, workplace environment, and emotional appeal.

Google, Bing will soon prevent pirate websites from popping up in search

Google and Bing have agreed to a new voluntary code of practice in the U.K. that will make websites known to engage in illegal distribution of content less visible in search results.

The code is aimed at improving collaboration with rightsholders and accelerating the takedown process following DMCA notices.

The code will steer Brits away from pirated content and towards certified content providers for films, music, eBooks, and sports coverage.

The changes are expected to roll out by this summer.

Microsoft nabs Flipkart for Azure

Microsoft has announced a “strategic partnership” with Indian ecommerce giant Flipkart that will lead to the company adopting Redmond’s Azure cloud platform.

“Given Microsoft’s strong reputation in cloud computing, coupled with scale and reliability, this partnership allows us to leverage our combined strength and knowledge of technology, e-commerce, and markets to make online shopping more relevant and enriching for customers.”

-Binny Bansal; Flipkart CEO, in a statement

“At Microsoft, we aim to empower every Indian and every Indian organization with technology, and key to this is forging strategic partnerships with innovative companies like Flipkart.”

-Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

 

TechSummit Rewind 150

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

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

97 companies file opposition to Trump immigration order

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

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

Other notable participating companies include:

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

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

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

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

-The amicus brief

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

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

Uber hires Mark Moore to develop flying cars

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

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

-Mark Moore, Uber director of engineering for aviation

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

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

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

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

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

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

-David Dieudonne, Google News Lab France lead

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

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

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

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

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

-Kevin Moriarty, FTC attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Korea to strengthen battery safety rules after Note 7 rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

TechSummit Rewind 149

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

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

FCC stopping nine companies from providing federally subsidized internet

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

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

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

-Ajit Pai, FCC chairman

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

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

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

-Daniel Neal, Kajeet founder

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

-Gene Kimmelman, Public Knowledge president

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

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

Planet acquires Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging division

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

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

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

-Will Marshall, Planet co-founder and CEO

Snap files for IPO

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

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

-Snap, in its S-1 filing

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

Oculus CTO Carmack airs grievances over ZeniMax lawsuit on Facebook

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

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

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

-John Carmack, Oculus CTO

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

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

-John Carmack

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

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

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

-ZeniMax, in a statement

Google blurs line between websites, Android apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LG, in a statement

Existing models can also be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding.

TechSummit Rewind 148

The tech industry reacts to Trump’s travel ban, Lyft surges in App Store, and Fitbit lays off six percent of its staff

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

Tech industry reacts to Trump’s travel ban

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The tech industry has responded to President Trump’s executive order banning entry to the United States from seven countries.

Several big names, including early Twitter investor Chris Sacca, started a trend offering to match donations to those that donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Other executives followed, including:

  • Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
  • Nest founder Tony Fadell
  • Union Square Ventures partners Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, Amy Batchelor, & Brad Field
  • USV partner Albert Wenger
  • Ziggeo CEO Susan Danziger
  • Homeberw Venture partners Hunter Walk and Satya Patel
  • Intercom CEO Eoghan McCabe
  • Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield
  • Xamarin co-founder Nat Friedman
  • Sequoia Capital’s Mike Vernal
  • Charles River Ventures partner Izhar Armony
  • Facebook advertising head Andrew Bosworth

Google has also created a $2 million crisis fund that can be matched by donations from employees benefitting the ACLU, Immigrant Resource Center, International Rescue Committee, and Mercy Corps.

Uber will create a $3 million defense legal fund to cover legal, immigration, and translation costs for drivers affected by the ban.

Lyft CEO Logan Green pledged that his company will donate $1 million to the ACLU over four years.

For more coverage of the ban, check out Grasswire’s coverage.

Lyft surges to top 10 on Apple’s App Store following #DeleteUber campaign

Lyft

Lyft’s app has surged in the App Store thanks to the “Delete Uber” campaign that took place on social media over the weekend. People were angry that Uber appeared to be taking advantage of a taxi strike at New York’s JFK Airport to promote its car-hailing service. The company tweeted that surge pricing at JFK was switched off, shortly after the NY Taxi Workers Alliance called for a shop on pickups at the airport in response to what they said was the “inhumane, unconstitutional ban of Muslim refugees and travelers.”

The Alliance asked all drivers, Uber included, to not pick up at JFK on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 6pm to 7pm to protest Trump’s immigration and refugee ban.

Angry feedback from that Uber tweet launched the #DeleteUber campaign on Twitter, where users called out the company for their actions and CEO Travis Kalanick for serving as an economic advisor to President Trump.

Lyft started Saturday with a ranking of #39 in the Free Apps chart for iPhone. By the end of the weekend, it shot up to #7.

Fitbit laying off six percent of its staff

Fitbit

 

Fitbit will be reducing its global workforce by six percent after a disappointing fourth quarter.

We’re expected to learn more during their earnings call later today, but a preliminary statement details the loss of 110 jobs in a “reorganization of its business” designed to “create a more focused and efficient operating model.”

Starbucks unveils virtual assistant that takes your order via messaging/voice

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Starbucks is embracing the trend towards voice-based computing with My Starbucks barista, a new feature in the coffee shop’s mobile app that allows customers to order and pay for their food and drinks by speaking. This includes being able to modify their drink order, as if they were speaking to an actual barista. Additionally, the company is launching an Amazon Alexa platform, which lets customers re-order their favorite items by speaking to an Alexa-powered device.

“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility. Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal and equally important was finding the right partner in Amazon to test and learn from this new capability.”

-Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks chief technology officer

The feature uses artificial intelligence to process incoming orders through a new messaging interface in the Starbucks app. Here, customers can also interact with the virtual assistant by messaging their order chatbot style. The assistant can also confirm which location you want to order from, and help process the payment.

According to Starbucks, the new assistant will initially only be available to a thousand iOS customers nationwide during a limited beta test, with a phased rollout planned through this summer. The Android version will then follow later in the year.

The “Starbucks Reorder Skill” for Amazon Alexa lets customers re-order their usual items by saying “Alexa, order my Starbucks.” This will require customers to have the Starbucks mobile app installed on their device, and an account set up where they’ve designated their favorite order.

Dropbox brings its Google Docs competitor out of beta

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox’s Paper collaborative editing software is launching globally today. The minimal document editor and writing toll is the focal point, while Dropbox’s other services and features now plug into and augment the expect Paper experience.

“We fully expect Paper to be used in environments where people are using Microsoft and Google products. That’s the rule, not the exception.”

-Rob Baesman, Dropbox head of product

According to Baesman, Paper is “one part online document, one part collaboration, one part task management tool, one part content hub.”

“At Paper, teams can create, review, organize content in a flexible work space.”

-Rob Baesman

Dropbox is also throwing in some new features to Paper that signal the software’s direction. One of these features, still in beta, is the ability to collect work into separate “projects.” These projects now have special viewing and filtering options that help them be categorized easier and tracked over time. You can also assign employees to projects and set due dates, like task-management software products Asana and Trello.

Another aspect is Dropbox’s Smart Sync, which turns a company’s entire Dropbox account into accessible folders on the desktop file system on Windows or Mac. This allows employees to perform work without having to jump back and forth to a browser window.

Paper is available for everyone in the 21 language markets supported at launch today, but administrative features will require a Dropbox Business or Enterprise plan. Smart Sync is free for business customers through its early-access program.

DraftKings receives Malta gaming license

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DraftKings has gotten a Controlled Skill Games License from the Malta Gaming Authority, which runs gaming in the small island nation.

Since Malta is a part of the European Union, DraftKings can now use this license to expand into some other EU countries without any further licenses or permits.

DraftKings hopes to start offering contests in Germany and Malta sometime this quarter.

Hinge testing Audrey personal assistant service to help you get more dates

audrey-hinge

Dating app Hinge has been testing Audrey, a personal assistant that will message your matches for you and schedule your dates.

“We know the back-and-forth of getting to the first date can be frustrating, if not futile. That’s why we’re introducing Audrey.”

-Hinge, in an internal site

According to the site, you need to select the people you’re interested in. Then, Audrey will reach out and introduce you to those people. If the feeling is mutual, she will schedule a date on your behalf. Audrey will also provide “data and feedback” along the way to help you find your perfect match.

The service is currently in beta testing in New York.

 

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

samsung-galaxy-note-7

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

Toshiba Chromebook 2

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

meta

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

Samsung Galaxy S7

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 146

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

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

FTC: Qualcomm forced Apple into exclusive chip deal

china-qualcomm_fil10

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

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

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

-Federal Trade Commission, in a statement

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

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

-Federal Trade Commission

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

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

-Qualcomm, in a statement

Zuckerburg takes stand in defense of Oculus

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

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

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

Google mobile app saves searches if your connection drops

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

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

-Google, on its Keyword blog

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

Google+ revives Events feature

New Google+

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

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

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

Hewlett Packard Enterprise buys SimpliVity for $650M

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

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

-Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO

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

Microsoft acquires Simplygon

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

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

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

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

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

TechSummit Rewind 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 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 131

Google prepares two flagship smartwatches for Android Wear 2.0’s launch next year, Uber’s self-driving cars flee to Arizona, and Canada declares high-speed internet as essential

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

Google will launch two flagship smartwatches early next year

Tag Heuer Intel-powered smartwatch

Google will launch two new flagship smartwatches in the first quarter of next year, according to Android Wear product manager Jeff Chang. The watches will the flagship devices for Android Wear 2.0 and will launch with the platform.

The new models will be branded with Google’s manufacturing partners, similar to Google’s Nexus smartphone program.

After the new watches launch, existing Android Wear devices will be updated to Android Wear 2.0. The update will bring standalone apps that don’t require a phone to operate, Android Pay support, and support for Google’s voice-controlled Assistant.

The following devices will get the update:

  • Moto: 360 Gen 2, 360 Sport
  • LG: Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, Watch Urbane, G Watch R
  • Polar: M600
  • Casio: Smart Outdoor Watch
  • Nixon: Mission
  • Tag Heuer: Connected
  • Fossil: Q Wander, Q Marshal, Q Founder
  • Michael Kors: Access Bradshaw Smartwatch, Access Dylan Smartwatch
  • Huawei: Watch, Watch Ladies
  • Asus: ZenWatch 2, ZenWatch 3

Other partners will also release new Android Wear 2.0-compatible devices throughout 2017. Google has claimed its commitment to supporting and promoting these launches in order to help build awareness.

“We’ve enabled a lot of diversity with our hardware partners to target different types of consumers and preferences. This is a marathon, not a sprint. This category of product is here with us to stay.”

-Jeff Chang, Android Wear product manager

Uber’s self-driving cars flee to Arizona after California troubles

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Uber has begun implementing its Plan B for where it will test out its self-driving cars, moving the vehicles to Arizona with riders beginning to see them on the roads early next year.

“Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck. We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey.”

-An Uber spokesperson

“Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses. This is about economic development, but it’s also about changing the way we live and work. Arizona is proud to be open for business. California may not want you, but we do.”

-Doug Ducey, Arizona governor

Canada declares “high-speed” internet essential telecommunications service

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Canada has declared high-speed broadband internet access a “basic telecommunications service” that every citizen should be able to access.

“The future of our economy, our prosperity and our society – indeed, the future of every citizen – requires us to set ambitious goals, and to get on with connecting all Canadians for the 21st century.”

-Jean-Pierre Blais, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chair

The CRTC has also set new goals for download and upload speeds. For fixed broadband services, all citizens should have the option of unlimited data with speeds of at least 50 megabits/second for downloads and 10 megabits/second for uploads. Mobile coverage simply calls for “access to the latest mobile wireless technology” in cities and major transport corridors.

According to the commission, some two million Canadian households (18 percent of the population) currently don’t have access to their desired speeds. That’ll be helped by a $750 million government fund to help pay for infrastructure over five years. The CRTC expects 90 percent of the Canadians to have access to the new speeds by 2021.

The commission also mandates that wireless service providers will have to offer platforms that address the needs of people with hearing or speech disabilities within six months. According to Blais, this timeline is necessary because the country “can’t depend on market forces to address these issues.”

Pokemon Go comes to Apple Watch

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Niantic has brought the smash hit Pokemon Go to the Apple Watch, letting you more easily play Pokemon without having to always pull out your phone. Instead, you can tap to find nearby Pokemon, collect items from PokeStops, and even log your gameplay as a “workout.”

Your Apple Watch fitness sessions will also count towards hatching your Pokemon eggs and receiving candy with your Buddy Pokemon.

The app will also send push notifications about a variety of important in-game events, according to Niantic, including when they’re nearby Pokemon to catch, when you’re near a PokeStop, when your Eggs hatch, and when medals are awarded. However, you’ll still need to break out your iPhone when it comes time to actually catch the Pokemon.

The app is rolling out now in all markets where the main game is available.

Google employee sues company for being too confidential

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A Google product manager has filed a lawsuit in the San Francisco California Superior Court against the company for its confidentially policies on the grounds that they violate California labor laws. The suit alleges that Google operates an internal “spying program” on its own employees.

“Google’s motto is ‘don’t be evil.’ Google’s illegal confidentiality agreements and policies fail this test.”

-The lawsuit

The suit alleges that a Google co-founder reiterated at a company all-hands meeting that anyone who leaks confidential info would be terminated.

If Google is found guilty of violating California labor law, it could be fined up to $100 for each of the 12 alleged violations, multiplied by its over 61,000 employees. That fine doubles to $200/pay period/employee, up to an entire year, if any of the violations persisted past a single pay period. That means the maximum payout here could be as much as $3.8 billion, giving each Google employee around $14,700. The suit specifically mentions a Securities and Exchange Commission guideline that bans companies from preventing their employees from interacting with the agency about potential violations.

According to the lawsuit, Google’s Code of Conduct classifies confidential information as “everything at Google.” The company operates “Stop Leaks,” a program that encourages employees to report suspicious behavior, which includes other employees asking detailed questions about projects or other work details. The suit alleges that Google “suppresses information” about potentially illegal products or regulatory-skirting practices by advising employees not to include details signaling how the company may have broken the law or violated contract terms.

“We will defend this suit vigorously because it’s baseless. We’re very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information. Transparency is a huge part of our culture. One employee confidentially requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns.”

-A Google spokesperson

Djay Pro comes to iPhone for $5

After a year on the iPad, Djay Pro is launching on the iPhone today with the same headline features: the ability to mix four tracks at once, to control video alongside the tracks, and to easily get started.

As the name suggests, it’s meant for those who want to use the app to DJ at clubs and parties and need the ability to queue additional tracks and visuals.

In addition, the app also includes the ability to add more cue points on each track compared to Djay 2, 3D Touch and haptic feedback support, and has deeper Spotify integration, like the ability to select streaming quality.

The app is available now (for a couple weeks) at a sale price of $4.99 that’ll eventually get bumped up to $9.99. The app supports the iPhone 5 and newer.

BitTorrent Live comes to iOS

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Six months after its initial launch, BitTorrent Live has launched on iOS. It’s already available on the Fire TV, Apple TV, and macOS.

While the service offers a somewhat lackluster offering of 16 channels – including NASA, France 24, and One World Sports – the technology behind BitTorrent Live is significant. The service relies on peer-to-peer technology, casting viewers as a broadcaster for a more distributed method of streaming video that the company claims offers lower latency and more scalable steaming compared to traditional methods.

The app’s available now in the App Store.