TechSummit Rewind 161

Netflix ditches five-star ratings, New figures on Uber’s anonymous division, and Qualcomm rebrands its processors

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

Netflix ditching five-star ratings in favor of thumbs up

Earns Netflix

Netflix will soon make its first change to ratings in years, switching from a traditional five-star rating to a binary thumbs up/thumbs down system, per a press briefing from company vice president of product Todd Yellin.

“Five stars feels very yesterday now. We’re spending many billions of dollars on the titles we’re producing and licensing, and with these big catalogs, that just adds a challenge.

“Bubbling up the stuff people actually want to watch is super important.”

-Todd Yellin, Netflix VP of product

Per Yellin, the change will happen next month globally.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie ten times more frequently? What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

-Todd Yellin, Netflix VP of product

In addition to the ratings change, Netflix will also start percent matching, meaning that it will use algorithms to show a percentage below a title based on how likely it is a viewer will enjoy it. This is personalized, per Yellin, like dating sites that match you with potential partners based on interests or earlier activity.

Netflix is also “matching” members based on a global database of activity, not segmenting it by local markets. The company found that its members are willing to watch Netflix content that has been produced in other countries or has subtitled.

“We’re finding these clusters of people and then we’re figuring out who is like you, who enjoys these kinds of things, and then we’re mixing and matching those.”

-Todd Yellin

Docs: Uber’s anonymous cars drove over 20K miles, had to be taken over at every mile

uber-self-driving-car-transportation-930x620

Per documents circulating through Uber’s self-driving group obtained by Recode, the company’s 43 active cars in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and California drove 20,354 miles autonomously last week for only the second time since late December.

Uber passengers took around 930 self-driving rides in Pittsburgh last week and around 150 rides in Phoenix. These vehicles had a driver at the wheel to take over if needed.

However, those human drivers are taking over more often than they did in January.

Uber uses several methods to determine how its systems have progressed. Those include:

  • The average number of miles a car drives itself before a driver must take over for any reason
  • The average number of miles between “critical” interventions (when a driver must avoid causing harm, like hitting pedestrians or causing material property damage)
  • The average number of autonomous miles between “bad experiences” (jerky motions or hard braking, which are more likely to cause discomfort than damage)

During the week that ended Mar. 8, the 43 active cars on the road drove only an average of close to 0.8 miles before the safety driver had to take over for some reason.

The mile per intervention metric includes all the times driver have had to take back control from the system over the course of a week.

Reasoning for these interventions can vary, but they can include navigating unclear lane markings, the system overshooting a turn or driving in inclement weather. This excludes “accidental disengagements, end-of-route disengagements, and early takeovers.”

That’s down slightly from earlier this year. At the end of January, a driver had to take over roughly once every 0.9 miles and was at the one-mile mark during the first week of February.

Then there’s the company’s “critical” interventions. Last week, the company’s cars drove an average of approximately 200 miles between those types of incidents that required a driver to take over.

While that’s an improvement from last week, which was about 114 miles between critical interventions, that progress hasn’t been steady.

At the end of January, drivers only needed to take over after an average of 125 miles driven, but that dropped to about once per 50 miles during the first week on February. Those numbers then increased over the following two weeks but dropped again in the first week of March.

Part of that can be blamed on the cars being introduced to new routes (parts of Arizona) or having to navigate around objects or road markings they don’t recognize.

The cars also had more “bad experiences” during the week ending on Mar. 8 than in January. The miles driven between things like auto-detected hard decelerations or abrupt car jerks and movement has been cut in half from over four miles in January to less than two miles last week.

Per Uber’s self-driving team, the rider experience dropped significantly along Arizona’s Scottsdale Road. Cars were only able to drive 0.67 miles between interventions and two miles between bad events.

Google Home plays Beauty and the Beast audio ads

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Some Google Home owners have reported hearing an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast alongside a summary of the day ahead.

Some Android users also reporting hearing the ad through Google Assistant.

The ad was delivered with the usual Google Assistant voice, so it blended in seamlessly with the usual daily briefing of news, weather, calendar appointments, etc.

The company has since stopped serving that content to users.

“This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.”

-Google, in a statement

Qualcomm Snapdragon brand changing to reflect ‘platform’ capabilities

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Most of the mobile devices we know and love run on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that often get mistaken as just CPUs.

For that reason, Qualcomm is subtly changing its branding and messaging to now call the processors the “Qualcomm Snapdragon platform.” This helps Qualcomm explain that it’s more than just a processor inside – instead, it’s a system-on-a-chip with a cellular modem, GPU, and more.

“We can now articulate the value that we provide to a device manufacturer – from developing algorithms for great pictures and videos, to making sure that the battery is long lasting. More importantly, the word “platform” will be used to explain the combined key user experiences – camera, connectivity, battery life, security, immersion – that these essential technologies are designed to deliver.”

-Qualcomm, in a statement

This signals the chipmaker’s movement into selling its wares to more than just phone makers – think automotive, IoT, and laptop – with a broader branding paintbrush.

As part of this change, the Snapdragon name is being removed entirely from its low-end chips. The current Snapdragon 200 range will now be known as “Qualcomm Mobile.”

iMessage App Store growth slows

iMessage App Store

The excitement is fading for the iMessage App Store along with its growth. During its first few months of existence, the store saw growth of over 100 percent month-over-month. Between January and February, that’s dropped down to just nine percent.

Per a new report from app intelligence firm Sen.sor Tower, there are nearly 5,000 iMessage-enabled apps (the same number of iOS apps released in year one of its App Store).

Games continue to be the most popular iMessage app category, ahead of entertainment, utilities, social networking, and photo & video apps. However, even within these categories, many of the apps are stickers – for example, those that use existing IP from a popular gaming franchise.

Gmail can now stream video attachments on desktop

Gmail-com

Desktop Gmail users can now stream video attachments on the page, rather than being forced to download it first.

Attachments can still be downloaded, but clicking on a file will now pull up a YouTube-like video player that’ll let you play the clip back, adjust quality and volume levels, and even stream it to a Chromecast.

Per Google, the feature will roll out to everyone over the next 15 days.

Swatch launching smartwatch OS

A Swatch Scuba Playero wrist watch is displayed in a shop in Zurich

Swatch is developing an alternative to watchOS and Android Wear.

The company’s Tissot brand will launch a smartwatch towards the end of next year with the OS built in, per Swatch CEO Nick Hayek. Hayek claims that the system will need less power and will better protect data.

“There’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturize and have an independent operating system.”

-Nick Hayek, Swatch CEO

Swatch is willing to give third parties access to the operating system co-developed with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, per Hayek. The company has received about 100 requests for more information, with half coming from smaller Silicon Valley companies.

Amazon puts Alexa inside main iPhone app

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Available to all iPhone users next week, Amazon iOS app users will be able to talk to the company’s Alexa assistant.

Naturally, the assistant can shop and track packages, but she can also do other quirky things like tell jokes, give weather updates, and predict items like Best Picture at the Academy Awards or the winner of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It also plays music, controls Internet of Things devices, and grants Amazon app users access to over 10,000 skills.

At launch, Alexa won’t support the Door Lock API that lets users lock (and eventually unlock) doors with smart locks.

Settings changes still require use of the separate iOS Alexa app.

Nvidia partners with PACCAR on self-driving truck tech

Paccar

Nvidia has launched a new autonomous vehicle partnership with PACCAR, one of the largest makers of transport trucks.

The arrangement has already given us one proof-of-concept vehicle, a Level 4 autonomous truck that uses Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 platform with neural network training fed by data of humans driving tractor-trailers. The partnership’s announcement included a showcase of this initial vehicle managing a closed road course, with no one behind the wheel.

 

Two new Dave Chappelle comedy specials coming to Netflix Mar. 21

The specials come from Chappelle’s personal vault

Comedian Dave Chappelle is returning to his comedic craft with two new specials that will come to Netflix on Mar. 21.

The specials come from Chappelle’s personal vault: Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin filmed in Los Angeles’ The Palladium in March 2016 and Dave Chappelle: Deep in the Heart of Texas filmed at Austin City Limits Live at Austin’s Moody Theater. Both specials will premiere on the aforementioned day exclusively on Netflix.

“Within each of the two hour-long specials, self-financed by Chappelle and directed by Stan Lathan, the Emmy-nominated comedian brings his unflinching comedic style, tackling race, class, politics, pop culture, and more.”

-Netflix, in an email

Source: TechnoBuffalo

TechSummit Rewind 129

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

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

Apple launches iOS 10.2

iOS10-Hero

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram

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

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

bill-gates

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

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

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

-Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures chairman

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

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

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

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

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

-Bill Gates

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

Uber employees secretly tracked public figures: lawsuit

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

-Uber, in a statement

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

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

nvidia-self-driving-car

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

JetSmarter raises $105M Series C for private jet business

jetsmarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Ventures launches AI startup fund, backs Element AI

Microsoft Ventures

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

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

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

-Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Ventures head

Dropbox comes to Xbox One

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Dropbox has launched an Xbox One app.

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

-Rudy Huyn, Dropbox staff engineer

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

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

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

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

-Rudy Huyn

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

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

-Rudy Huyn

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

Facebook rolls out lightweight web version of Moments

Facebook Moments

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

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

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

Netflix launches standalone Google Daydream app

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

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

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

 

TechSummit Rewind 127

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

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

Samsung scores decisive Supreme Court victory in Apple patent case

AppleVsSamsung_AP

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

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

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

Trump meeting with tech leaders next week

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

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

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

softbank-340

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

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

– Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO

Regulators approve Microsoft-LinkedIn deal with a catch

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

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

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

apple-tv-app-1

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

That list includes the following:

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube pays music industry $1B from ads

YouTube-logo-full_color

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

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

– Robert Kyncl, YouTube chief business officer

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

fog-creek-software

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

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

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

-Anil Dash, Fog Creek Software CEO

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

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

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

–   Anil Dash

Netflix becomes top grossing iPhone app for first time

Earns Netflix

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

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

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

Google.jpg

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

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

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

– Urs Holzle, Google senior vice president for technical infrastructure

Apple will start publishing AI research

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

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

Google placing news feed in Android’s home screen

google-update

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

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

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

godaddy

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

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

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

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

– Blake Irving, GoDaddy CEO

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

facebook-misleading-language-survey

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

The company has confirmed the effort.

TechSummit Rewind 124

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

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

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

Earns Netflix

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

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

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

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

GoPro to cut 15 percent of workforce, shutter entertainment division

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

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

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

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

app_store_red_image_-0

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

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

-Lisa Jackson, Apple VP

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

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

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

Office 365 launches new collaboration features

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Microsoft has brought real-time collaborative editing to PowerPoint.

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

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

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

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

Facebook cuts off Prisma’s Live Video access

prisma-live-video-filter

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

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

-Facebook, to Prisma

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

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

-Aram Airapetyan, Prisma Labs co-founder

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

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

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

-Aram Airapetyan

Surface Studio teardown reveals hidden ARM chip, removable hard drive

surface-studio-lifestyle-3-web

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

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

Yahoo launches Answers Now mobile app

yahoo-answers-now

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

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

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

TechSummit Lead #016

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Lead, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

  • Starting in May, Netflix apps will get a data saver feature that lets people set their own consumption limits.
  • On Thursday, Apple announced that it was working with Will.i.am and veteran TV executives Ben Silverman and Howard Owens on a new show that spotlights the app economy.
  • According to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, deliveries of the company’s Rift headset will begin on Monday.
  • The latest update to Swarm uses check-in data to build a history of what you and your friends have been up to with a redesigned profile tab highlighting check-ins, streaks, and photos posted while out and about.
  • Line announced plans to give developers access to its upcoming chat bot API, web apps, and support for location-aware beacons at a company event in Tokyo.

TechSummit Rewind #050

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple, Microsoft, Samsung among tech firms implicated in child labor report

Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are among the tech companies and carmakers implicated in a new Amnesty International report that sheds light on apparent child labor practices in the sourcing of minerals used to create batteries.

The report created in partnership with Africa-focused NGO Afrewatch delvers into the world of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which accounts for half of the world’s cobalt sourcing, finding that children as young as seven are working in dangerous conditions for a dollar or two of income each day.

Beyond allegations of children laboring in between or instead of school, the report claimed that working conditions are extremely hazardous. Aside from the issue of working in cramped conditions daily with little to no protection, Amnesty claimed that 80 miners died in southern DRC during the last four months of 2015. According to the organization, many more deaths have since gone unreported since bodies can be buried in the rubble of an accident.

The report focused on Congo Dongfang Mining and Huayou Cobalt, DRC-based subsidiaries of Chinese and Korean companies respectively that “buy cobalt from [traders in] areas where child labor if rife.” The cobalt is then sold to battery component makers, who use it to develop batteries which are then sold to carmakers and tech companies.

According to Amnesty, 16 multinational companies were traced as Huayou Cobalt customers.

Samsung SDI, the Korean tech giant’s battery division claimed to have no dealing with either Huayou Cobalt or CDM to TechCrunch, adding that they “conduct written evaluations and on-site inspections in areas such as human rights, labor, ethics, environment, and health and safety on a two-year basis and awards them with certification.”

“It is a major paradox of the digital era that some of the world’s richest, most innovative companies are able to market incredibly sophisticated devices without being required to show where they source raw materials for source raw materials for their components.

“The abuses in mines remain out of sight and out of mind because in today’s global marketplace consumers have no idea about the conditions at the mine, factory, and assembly line. We found that traders are buying cobalt without asking questions about how and where it was mined.”

-Emanuel Umpula, Afrewatch executive director

“Amnesty International and Afrewatch are calling on multinational companies who use lithium-ion batteries in their products to conduct human rights due diligence, investigate whether the cobalt is extracted under hazardous conditions or with child labor, and be more transparent about their suppliers.”

-Amnesty International, Afrewatch; in a joint statement

“Microsoft is fully committed to the responsible sourcing of raw materials used in our products. That is why we work closely with and support organizations like Pact that are focused on addressing human rights issues in mining. We are specifically engaged with them on a pilot project to eradicate child labor in the Katanga region of the Congo related to cobalt mining.”

-Microsoft, in a statement to TechCrunch

“We appreciate the concerns Amnesty International raised. As discussed in our recent conversation, we share your interest in and dedication to improving the lives of workers around the world. Apple believes every worker in our supply chain has a right to safe, ethical working conditions.

“Underage labor is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards. We not only have strict standards, rigorous audits and industry-leading preventative measures, but we also actively look for any violations. Any supplier found hiring underage workers must 1) fund the worker’s safe return home, 2) fully finance the worker’s education at a school chosen by the worker and his or her family, 3) continue to pay the worker’s wages, and 4) offer the worker a job when he or she reaches the legal age.”

-Apple, in a statement to TechCrunch

General Motors salvages Sidecar for parts

sidecar1

General Motors has acquired the technology and most of the assets of Sidecar. The company is also bringing about 20 employees from the Sidecar team on board, including co-founder and chief technology officer Jahan Khanna.

Netflix whizzes past 75 million subscribers thanks to record international growth

Earns Netflix

Netflix announced its fourth quarter earnings Monday, notching $1.823 billion in revenue and $43 million in profit.

The Los Gatos, CA-based company added a record 5.99 million new subscribers in the quarter: 1.56 million in the U.S. and 4.04 million internationally. Netflix also projected that over six million new subscribers would sign up this quarter.

Netflix is planning a slate of 30 new original shows and 30 children’s programs for 2016.

“We’re releasing more shows in the next quarter than many networks will in a whole year.”

-Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer

Samsung changes Galaxy Note 5 internals to fix upside-down S Pen bug

Galaxy Note 3 color options (1)

Samsung has revised the Galaxy Note 5’s hardware to fix the dreaded upside-down S Pen bug.

“Samsung can confirm that the Note 5 internal S Pen mechanism has been changed to avoid the issue caused by inserting the S Pen incorrectly. As always, we recommend following proper instructions for storing the S Pen.”

-A Samsung spokesperson, to Android Central

Minecraft: Education Edition is launching this summer

MinecraftEdu, a tweaked version of the Microsoft-owned game that its name derives from, is now working on a new version of the game called Minecraft: Education Edition. It’ll be available as a free trial this summer, before individual and group pricing models are introduced for those that want long-term access.

The game will feature enhanced maps with a coordinate system to help teachers and students navigate together, digital portfolios, and simple world importing/exporting. Some of these were in MinecraftEdu, but Microsoft stresses that they’re working with creator TeacherGaming on new tools like a second-screen teacher experience. Educators using MinecraftEdu can still do so for now, but Microsoft will be offering them 12 months of free Minecraft: Education Edition access.

Dick Costolo becomes Index Ventures partner, fitness startup co-founder

Dick Costolo

Six months after stepping down as Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo has announced that he’s cofounding a new fitness-focused startup with former cofounder and CEO Bryan Oki.

The new startup is a “software platform that reimagines the path to personal fitness” aimed at health professionals, coaches, and therapists working in the fitness realm.

Costolo also revealed that he’s becoming a partner at venture capital firm Index Ventures.

Google rolling out ability to install apps directly from search results

Google search reuslts app install

Google is rolling out the ability to install apps from inside Google search results without opening the Play Store.

You can test this by opening the Google app and searching for the name of an app. It should appear at the top of the results with an install button. However, most are sent to the Play Store when they tap that button. Those with the new feature will see a Play Store-esque permission popup, followed by a mini Play Store frame appearing for the installation.

First Amazon Dash-powered devices go live to automatically reorder supplies

Amazon Dash Replenishment

Select Brother printers, a GE washing machine, and the Gmate SMART blood glucose monitor are among the first group of Amazon’s “Dash Replenishment”-powered devices.

These devices can be activated using either the company’s website or app. According to Amazon, the Brother printers are Dash-ready now, with the other devices ready by the end of the month.

For example, Brother connected printers that measure toner or ink levels have their customers sign up for automatic re-ordered on the Brother website. For those buying new printers, that signup will be part of the printer’s setup process.

However, these printers are placing Amazon orders on your behalf. According to Brother, over 45 models are immediately compatible with Amazon’s service.

GE’s new washer works in a similar fashion, offering its own smart technology that knows how much detergent to use per load and when you need to order more.

Gmate’s SMART Blood Glucose Meter will also include a feature that sends you more testing strips and lancets when your supplies run low.

Amazon also announced expanded relationships with Whirlpool, which previously committed to integrating Dash Replenishment into its Smart Top Load washer and Dryer. Now, the company’s Smart Dishwasher will also be powered by Dash.

GOJO, maker of Purell, will link up its touch-free hand sanitizer dispensing systems using the company’s Smartlink technology with Amazon Dash as well.

Starbucks now lets you save songs played in-store to Spotify

Starbucks songs
Spotify in the Starbucks app photographed on Fridday, January 8, 2015. (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)

Starbucks and Spotify are expanding their relationship with a new digital music experience for Starbucks customers allowing them to identify songs played in stories, download and save them to a Spotify playlist.

The feature is live now at the company’s 7,500 U.S. stores.

To use this feature, they’ll need to first launch the Starbucks app at a participating store. They’ll be greeted by a “Now Playing” section along with a “Recently Played” section where they can browse through tracks and choose those they want to save. From here, customers can also “love” a song to influence the store’s future playlist, share a song on social media, or play it on Spotify.

“Music has played a pivotal role in our stores for over 40 years and we have been at the forefront of how to integrate it into a retail experience. Today is the next era in that experience. We are merging the physical and digital, providing new access points for Spotify as they continue to grow globally, placing more control into our customers’ hands and giving artists the world’s largest stage for them to share their talent.”

-Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO

Apple’s U.S. diversity barely improved last year

Apple China Android

Apple’s U.S. workforce is slightly more diverse than it was last year, but the company is still overwhelmingly white and male, according to the company’s latest EEO-1 Federal Employer Information report. 30 percent of Apple’s U.S. employees are women, compared to 29 percent in its previous report. About 8.6% of its workforce is black, compared to eight percent in 2014, and 11.7 percent is Hispanic or Latino, compared with 11.5 percent. Among executives, senior officials, and managers, nearly 83 percent are male, and 83.5 percent are white.

Paw Print Rewind #028

Editor’s Note: This is the Paw Print Rewind, a daily recap of the top news headlines.

GM spending $1.4 billion to modernize Arlington SUV factory

The entrance of the General Motors of Canada head office is shown in Oshawa

General Motors is planning to spend $1.4 billion to modernize its SUV factory in Arlington, TX that builds the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban, and GMC Yukon.

Wells Fargo profit drops for second straight quarter as costs rise

ARLINGTON, VA -MAY 11: Wachovia begins the transition into Wells Fargo at an Arlington VA branch office with Tom Best working on the installation of new signage before the August  unveiling on May 11, 2011.  ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan/For Washington Post)
ARLINGTON, VA -MAY 11: Wachovia begins the transition into Wells Fargo at an Arlington VA branch office with Tom Best working on the installation of new signage before the August unveiling on May 11, 2011. ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan/For Washington Post)

Wells Fargo, the U.S.’ largest mortgage lender, reported a drop in profit for the second straight quarter as employee costs and other expenses rose as the company is struggling with slow revenue growth.

The San Francisco-based company’s net interest income rose four percent in the second quarter that ended on June 30th.

Net interest margin, the difference between the rates at which the bank borrows and lends, fell to 2.9% from 3.15% a year earlier.

Non-interest expenses rose 2.3% to $12.47 billion, accounting for about 58.5% of revenue.

Mortgage banking revenue, which account for 17% of its non-interest income, fell one percent.

“Mortgage banking was a little weaker than I had thought … that was a little bit of a disappointment.”

-Scott Siefers, Sandler O’Neill analyst

Net income applicable to Wells Fargo’s common shareholders fell to $5.36 billion from $5.42 billion.

Total revenue fell about one percent to $21.3 billion.

Uber settles San Francisco wrongful death lawsuit

Uber Surge drop

Uber has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of six-year-old Sofia Liu, who died in a San Francisco car accident, according to court filings.

Liu died after she, her younger brother, and their mother were hit by a car in a cross-walk on New Year’s Eve 2013. At the time of the crash, the driver was logged on to the Uber X smartphone app, and was available to provide rides, according to the lawsuit.

“The settlement is confidential and the family will only say that while nothing will ever bring Sofia back, they are grateful to the American Judicial System for providing them a way to resolve the legal issues raised by Sofia’s death.”

-Christopher Dolan, Liu family attorney, in a statement

Netflix subscriptions up

Earns Netflix

Netflix’s net subscriber additions rose about 94 percent year over year to about 3.3 million in Q2 2015, beating the company’s 2.3 million forecast.

“Subscriber growth was huge domestically and internationally. The technology, the breadth of content, and the quality of content is really working in their favor.”

-Barton Crockett, FBR Capital Markets analyst

The Los Gatos, CA company added 2.4 million subscribers internationally in the quarte,r taking its total to over 65 million users worldwide.

Revenue jumped 22.7% to $1.64 billion in the quarter that ended June 30th, from $1.34 billion a year earlier, according to the company.

Netflix’s net income fell to $26.3 million ($0.06/share), from $71 million ($0.16/share) a year earlier, because of its overseas expansion.

Intel revenue, profit improving as data center business grows

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

Intel reported growth in its data centers and Internet of Things businesses that offset weak demand for PCs that use the Santa Clara, CA-based company’s chips.

Revenue from Intel’s data center business, its second-largest, grew 9.7% to $3.85 billion in Q2 2015 from a year earlier, helped by continued adoption of cloud services and demand for data analytics.

“We continue to forecast robust growth rates of the data center group, Internet of Things group, and NAND businesses, which we expect to mostly offset the PC decline.”

-Stacy Smith, Intel CFO

Revenue from Intel’s PC business fell 13.5% to $7.54 billion in the quarter that ended June 27th.

“Our expectations are that the PC market is going to be weaker than previously expected.”

-Stacy Smith

The company’s net income fell to $2.71 billion from $2.80 billion a year earlier. Earnings per share were flat at $0.55 as the number of outstanding shares fell.

Net income fell 4.6% to $13.19 billion.

Bank of America profit soars as costs fall to lowest level since 2008

bank-of-americajpg-c06ad115b23aeca1

Bank of America, the U.S.’ second-largest bank by assets, reported its biggest quarterly profit in nearly four years as expenses fell to their lowest level since the financial crisis.

Bank of America, which has paid at least $70 billion in legal expenses since 2008, had its legal costs fall for the second straight quarter.

Litigation expenses fell to $175 million from $4 billion a year before, allowing the bank to reap the benefits of the cost cuts introduced by CEO Brian Moynihan after assuming the top job at the bank in 2010.

At the same time, net interest income rose 4.7% to $10.49 billion – the first rise in five quarters.

“We also benefitted from the improvement in the U.S. economy, where we are particularly well positioned.”

-Brian Moynihan, Bank of America CEO

Net income attributable to shareholders more than doubled to $4.99 billion ($0.45/share) in the quarter from $2.04 billion ($0.19/share) a year earlier.

The results were helped by a one-time accounting adjustment on mortgage bonds linked to rising interest rates.

Obama launches project for more broadband in public housing

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced a pilot project aimed at expanding broadband access for people who live in public housing, part of an effort to close the “digital divide” between rich and poor.

Eight Internet service providers, including Google and Sprint, have signed on to make the Internet cheaper and more accessible in 27 cities and the Choctaw Tribal Nation in Durant, OK.

Private and public institutions have pledged to invest $70 million in the plan. The federal government is contributing $50,000, according to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

The initiative will reach 275,000 households, and almost 200,000 children.

“While high-speed Internet access is given for millions of Americans, it’s out of reach for far too many.”

-Barack Obama, U.S. president

The Choctaw Tribal Nation is working with four local providers to bring the Internet to 435 homes.

In Atlanta, Durham, Kansas City, and Nashville, Google will provide free Internet connections in some public housing areas.

In select markets, Sprint will offer free wireless broadband access to families and kids in public housing. In Seattle, CenturyLink will provide broadband service for public housing residents for $9.95/month in the first year.

Cox Communications is offering home internet for the same price to families with school-age children in four cities in Georgia, Louisiana, and Connecticut.

The program also includes free training and technical support from providers like Best Buy, according to the White House.

Solar-powered plane grounded for nine months in Hawaii because of battery damage

Solar-Impulse

The single-seat Solar Impulse experimental aircraft will be grounded in Hawaii for at least nine months because of battery damage sustained during its 118-hour flight to Oahu from Japan, according to the project’s team.

The plane isn’t expected to take off on the next leg of its journey – a four-day, four-night flight to Phoenix – until late April or early May 2016, according to the team.

Additional time is needed to repair the plane’s four batteries, which store energy from the sun during daylight hours to keep the aircraft powered overnight, allowing it to remain aloft around the clock on extreme long-distance lights.

The repairs and testing will then push the next available window for completing the plane’s trans-Pacific crossing to next spring, in terms of weather conditions and sufficient daylight hours.

The batteries became overheated during the aircraft’s initial climb after takeoff on June 29 from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii, according to the team.

Wells Fargo wins dismissal of Los Angeles predatory lending lawsuit

Wells Fargo won the dismissal of a lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles that accused the company of violating the Fair Housing Act by engaging in predatory lending practices.

The “undisputed facts” show that Wells Fargo did not violate the FHA during the two-year statute of limitations period, according to U.S. District Judge Otis Wright.

Boeing taking big U.S. tanker charge, will affect profit

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago

Boeing will take a $536 million after-tax charge in its second quarter results to deal with problems in the fuel system of the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker it is developing for the U.S. Air Force.

The charge will result in lower full-year earnings, according to the Chicago-based company. Added funds were needed to cover higher development, certification and initial tanker aircraft production cost, while keeping the $49 billion, 179 aircraft program on track for the initial 18 tanker delivery by August 2017.

“While we have more heavy lifting coming up, we believe it is achievable and do not see any technical showstoppers.”

-Duke Richardson, U.S. Air Force brigadier general

The extra spending is needed to fix the tanker’s integrated fuel system, which delivers fuel to the aircraft and is also used for refueling other aircraft in mid-air, after problems emerged in testing, according to Boeing.

Testing of non-fuel system components is 90% complete, according to the company, and it is making progress on its overall ground and flight test program.

TechSummit Rewind #026: June 11, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple Music, labels investigated in two states

Apple Music

While Apple was preparing the launch of Apple Music, a service that lets you stream music for $9.99/$14.99 a month, New York and Connecticut’s attorney generals were investigating the company’s negotiations with music labels in search of potential antitrust violations.

The attorney generals wanted to know if Apple pressured the music labels to withdraw support for popular freemium services like Spotify and Pandora in favor of the company’s new Music service.

Universal Music Group has confirmed its cooperation in the industry-wide effort, a continuing effort led by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen.

The first written response to the antitrust inquiry came from Universal Media Group on Monday when the company’s legal firm, Hunton & Williams, sent a letter to the attorney generals. Universal Music Group had no agreements with Apple or other labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group that would impede free, ad-supported services, according to the letter.

Universal “shares the attorneys general’s commitment to a robust and competitive market for music streaming services in the mutual best interest of consumers, artists, [streaming] services, and content companies alike – and we have a long track record to that effect,” according to the letter.

“It’s important to ensure that the market continues to develop free from collusion and other anticompetitive practices.”

-Mike Mittenthal, spokesman for Eric Schneiderman

“We will continue to monitor that market to ensure that consumers and competition are protected.”

-George Jepsen, Connecticut attorney general

The European Commission is also looking into these negotiations.

Musk files to provide Internet from space

53879-spacex_test

SpaceX, the space company run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has asked the federal government to begin testing on a project to beam Internet service from space.

The plan calls to launch a constellation of 4,000 small satellites that would beam high-speed Internet worldwide. The effort “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space,” according to Musk.

SpaceX’s web of satellites would wrap around Earth in low orbit, handing off Internet signals to one another to make connections more reliable and reach more areas.

The filing, made with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month, is the first glimpse into how Musk will move with the project.

Tests are proposed to start next year, according to the filing, and the service could be up and running in five years.

The satellites would be deployed from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, then connecting to three West Coast ground stations. These tests would see whether the antenna technology used would be able to deliver high-speed Internet to the ground without hiccups.

“Some people might say the idea of satellite broadband has come and gone, but the cost structure of the business is so much better than when Bill Gates tried it. I think Musk’s track record of disruptive innovation would make this a really attractive business for the FCC to support.”

-Paul Gallant, Guggenheim Partners analyst

Facebook Messenger hits a billion Android downloads

Facebook Messenger for Android

Only two companies have apps with over one billion Google Play downloads, one is Google, but now Facebook has hit the billion-download club for the third time as its Messenger app has been downloaded over a billion times on Android, according to leader David Marcus. It joins Facebook’s own Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as Google’s Gmail, YouTube, Search, and Maps in this club.

Larry Page CEO of the year, bumping Jeff Weiner: Glassdoor

FILE - In this June 12, 2007 file photo, Google co-founder Larry Page smiles at a news conference held at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. When he replaced his mentor Eric Schmidt as Google's CEO last April, Page insisted that the company had to be more aggressive about countering the threat posed by Facebook's ever-growing popularity.  Page responded with a social networking crusade that is still reshaping Google Inc. as he marks his one-year anniversary as chief executive on Wednesday, April 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
FILE – In this June 12, 2007 file photo, Google co-founder Larry Page smiles at a news conference held at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. When he replaced his mentor Eric Schmidt as Google’s CEO last April, Page insisted that the company had to be more aggressive about countering the threat posed by Facebook’s ever-growing popularity. Page responded with a social networking crusade that is still reshaping Google Inc. as he marks his one-year anniversary as chief executive on Wednesday, April 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

Glassdoor has released its latest report on 2015’s top 50 CEOs, and once again the tech industry dominates the list.

Google CEO Larry Page has bumped LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner from the top spot.

The career website compiled its figures from company reviews submitted by U.S. employees between April 22nd, 2014 and April 21st, 2015. For a CEO to be considered, he/she had to receive at least 100 employee reviews during the last year. Only 20 of this year’s top CEOS were on last year’s report.

Last year, Page was 10th with a 93% approval rating, however, his rating increased four percent to 97% this year. Weiner saw his CEO approval rating drop seven percent to 93%, putting him in the 12th spot overall (sixth in tech).

Only 15 tech CEOs made the list this year, down from the 20 that did last year. Here’s the full tech list.

  • #1: Larry Page, Google, 97% approval
  • #4: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, 95% approval
  • #5: Scott Scherr, Ultimate Software, 95% approval
  • #10: Tim Cook, Apple, 94% approval
  • #11: Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia, 94% approval
  • #12: Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn, 93% approval
  • #21: Marc Benioff, Salesforce, 92% approval
  • #22: Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp, 91% approval
  • #33: Frank D’Souza, Cognizant Technology Solutions, 91% approval
  • #34: Thomas Richards, CDW, 91% approval
  • #35: Vishal Sikka, Infosys, 91% approval
  • #36: Brad Smith, Intuit, 91% approval
  • #39: Brain Krzanich, Intel, 90% approval
  • #47: Shantanu Narayen, 89% approval
  • #48: Brian Chesky, Airbnb, 89% approval

Zero female CEOs made the list, down from the two that made it last year.

“Gaining the trust and approval of an entire workforce is one of the most difficult yet rewarding responsibilities for any leader.”

  • Robert Hohman, Glassdoor co-founder and CEO

Instagram launching redesigned website with bigger photos

new Instagram web interface

Instagram is introducing a new desktop and mobile web design this week that cleans up the website and makes photos much larger than they currently are. Most noticeable is the change to desktop profile pages, which will display three large images in each row, rather than the five smaller images it does right now. The cover image grid is gone at the top, and a lot of the borders and rounded edges are going too. The website is also getting circular profile pictures.

The new layout will also be present on hashtag pages as well, and similar design updates will be on the desktop feed and mobile profiles. The pages are rolling out now, according to Instagram, and should be available to all users by the end of the week.

Unity lays groundwork for more VR games in latest upgrade

unity3d1

To help developers build games for virtual reality, Unity Technologies has begun adding VR-specific features to its suite of cross-platform development tools.

The company’s platform is already used to build games for smartphones, PCs, TVs, and game consoles. Unity 5.1 includes a few VR features.

Native Oculus Rift support is available to all users. To help developers, the Unity platform’s update also handles a number of VR-specific features like automatically applying head tracking and the correct field of view, as well as rendering them in stereo. Support for Microsoft’s HoloLens and Samsung’s Gear VR is coming in the near future.

The update also adds the Unity Multiplayer Service to make building multiplayer games easier. The Multiplayer Service is currently in preview, but will come to all users soon. It offers a Matchmaker server, designed to make it easier for gamers to find others to play with, and a Relay service, which aims to solve connectivity problems for players trying to connect to each other behind firewalls.

Verizon 5.1 is available now on Unity’s website. Developers can choose either the free Personal Edition or the $75/month Professional Edition.

Netflix investors approve share increase

Earns Netflix

Netflix’s shareholders have approved an increase in the number of shares the company is allowed to issue.

Company management will seek approval from the board of directors “in due course” to pursue a stock split, according to Netflix spokeswoman Anne Marie Squeo.

The video streaming company won approval to raise its share authorization to five billion from 170 million.

Shareholders also approved non-binding proposals to elect board members annually, to require a simple majority vote for all measures, and to increase the ability of investors to nominate directors.

Google Maps now lets you send places from desktop to iPhone

google-maps-adwords-panorama

The latest version of Google Maps for iOS, now available in the App Store, lets you send any place you search for with Google Maps on desktop to an iPhone or iPad. Your iOS device will get it pushed as a notification, and the app will take you there once you tap on it.

To activate the future, you need to enable it in the Google Maps for iOS settings menu. Inside the notifications section is a new option to allow notifications “sent from desktop apps.” Turn that on, and a new “Send to device” option will appear on desktop if you’re using the same Google account. Tap that, select the device you’re sending the location to, and you’re done from your mobile device.

The update also lets you edit business hours from your phone and makes it easy to view taken reviews and photos.

ADP cuts off access to Zenefits

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Corporate payroll incumbent ADP has all but declared war with HR startup Zenefits over the use of third-party data.

The dispute began around June 4th when ADP cut off Zenefits small business clients using ADP’s RUN payroll system from sharing data with Zenefits.

ADP did this because Zenefits was “pulling sensitive information, including unmasked Social Security numbers and employee banking information, in a manner that did not comply with ADP’s standards for data security,” according to a company statement.

“[ADP’s] gone and shut down accounts without telling customers.”

-Parker Conrad, Zenefits founder

Zenefits offers HR services to small and medium-sized businesses and works with several third-party partners to provide tools like payroll and insurance.

However, ADP “never integrated with Zenefits in any sense,” according to the company, and “never authorized [Zenefits’] method of extracting data.”

ADP shut off Zenefits’ access to its servers due to a spike in user traffic and a Zenefits security risk, according to ADP.

“[Zenefits] gained access to our systems by convincing clients to give them administrative access to our platform. Despite having many legitimate ways to integrate with ADP properly, Zenefits chose an insecure and indirect approach.”

-ADP, in a company statement

The two were partners and had an understanding, according to Conrad. Zenefits was on friendly terms with ADP and the latter company helped set things up for Zenefits customers using ADP for payroll.

The traffic spike was bogus, according to Conrad, claiming that ADP started shutting down access to certain customers well before June 4th and that using social security numbers and bank information is a normal practice.

“You can’t be an insurance broker without a social security number. There’s nothing we have done that is abnormal here.

“[ADP absolutely compete[s] with us on the insurance side but more importantly they compete with us on the HR side.”

-Parker Conrad

About .25% of ADP’s customers are from Zenefits, according to the ADP statement. The shut off effects about 10 percent of Zenefit’s customers, according to the company.

“We’ll be reaching out to each [affected customer] personally, by phone.”

-Parker Conrad

Conrad will recommend each customer to switch to another payroll provider like Zenpayrol, Intuit, or Paychex, according to TechCrunch.

 

TechSummit Rewind #021: April 25, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology stories.

YouTube stops working on older smart TVs, iOS devices, some third-party apps

YouTube API upgrade

If you own an older smart TV, iOS device or use a third-party app to use YouTube, you may need to upgrade it to keep getting your fix. Due to changes in the app’s API, It’ll no longer work on a number of models released in or before 2012, including the following:

· Apple TV second-generation

· Panasonic TVs

· Sony TVs/Blu-ray players

· Devices running Google TV versions 1, 2

You’ll know you’re affected if a video showing the notice above plays when firing up the app, though most models released in/after 2013 should be safe.

If you want to continue using YouTube, you’ll need to update your iOS devices to at least iOS 7. Third-gen Apple TVs need to be upgraded as well, while Google TV version 3 or 4 devices need the latest app update available on Google Play. However, Youtube.com still loads on Safari or any flash/HTML5 toting smart TV browser.

GoogleGoogle lets you download your web search history

If you were curious about what you were searching for online a few years ago, you now have an easy way to find out. Google has quietly launched an option to download your entire search history, if you use Mountain View’s search engine, of course.

Aziz Ansari getting own Netflix comedy

Aziz Ansari

Netflix must have liked the response to Aziz Anzari’s latest standup special, as the comedian’s about to get a lot more screen time. The streaming service has ordered a 10-episode series co-created by Ansari and Parks and Recreation executive producer Andy Yang, according to Deadline. It’s not clear what the show’s plot will be, but it’ll be co-produced by some of those who worked on Parks and Recreation and include guests like Homeland’s Claire Danes.

Turing Phone is secure both inside and out

Turing Robotic Industries Turing Phone

Turing Robotic Industries’ Turing Phone puts an emphasis on security, with its own server-free encrypted communication between owners and a fingerprint reader that encourages you to lock down your device. There’s also a magnetic charging system, so you won’t send your phone flying when rushing to take your phone off external power.

However, the real star is in the hardware. Its frame is built from “liquidmorphium,” a metal alloy that’s stronger than steel or titanium. While there’s also aluminum, ceramic and plastic in the body, that exotic structure should increase your device’s chances of survival after a nasty drop.

Performance-wise is a little lagging with last year’s Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 5.5-inch, 1080p screen. Its biggest advantages are a healthy up to 128GB of internal storage and the combination of an 8MP front camera and 13MP rear shooter with dual flashes. There’s broad support for North American and European LTE bands, too, so you shouldn’t miss out on fast data.

The Turing Phone should ship on August 10th, according to Turing, and will sell for $740 unlocked with 64GB of internal storage, or $870 for a 128GB variant.

US House passes bill allowing corporations to share your data

US House

The Protecting Cyber Networks Act has been passed by the US House of Representatives (307-116), and is designed to prevent future cyberattacks by allowing corporations to share information with each other and the government.

The PCNA would allow for data to flow between corporations via a government intermediary. There are provisions that would allow the government to use this data outside of cyber threats. The bill is still being finalized as it awaits the Senate’s approval.

Google launches Project Fi wireless network

Google is now a mobile carrier, with the launch of Project Fi for Nexus 6 owners. An early invite program is active now.

“Similar to our Nexus hardware program, Project Fi enables us to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

– Google, in a blog post

The service requires its own SIM card, and will work with both new and existing Nexus 6s. During its early access program, Project Fi will not work on other phones.

Google will charge consumers only for the data they use, rather than a flat monthly fee for a preset data amount. If you fail to use the data you pay for, Google will refund you the difference.

If you go over your plan, the company will charge you $10 per GB.

Project Fi will operate as an MVNO using T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks, giving customers access to both networks. The carrier will switch between them and WiFi to maintain strong reception.

“We developed new technology that gives you better coverage by intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it’s WiFi or one of our two partner LTE networks.”

– Google, in a blog post

Project Fi also supports voice calls and texting over WiFi, giving subscribers more flexibility.

Carrier phone numbers “live in the cloud,” according to Google, letting you text and place voice calls from a laptop or tablet without your actual phone nearby. When you are on the phone, calls can seamlessly transition to LTE when you leave a WiFi network.

If you’re interested in being part of this experiment, you can sign up here. Google will send out a small number of invites every week.