TechSummit Rewind 156

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

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

Recently FCC-approved LTE-U wireless rolls out on T-Mobile

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The FCC has allowed several companies to activate the LTE-U wireless technology in their base stations. If all goes as planned, devices will be able to communicate cellular data over unlicensed frequencies that technically overlap with WiFi’s.

The basic idea behind LTE-U (and the related License Assisted Access and MuLTEfire techniques) is that some 5 GHz band frequencies used by WiFi routers were going unused. Carriers and device makers proposed allowing this spectrum to augment existing base stations’ signals and potentially improve short-range connection speeds.

The devices approved today are base stations from Ericsson and Nokia already in service and compatible with both LTE-U and LAA.

“These transmitters were already approved as LTE base stations previously. The grants issued today are for the ability for the devices to operate under Part 15 rules in the 5 GHz band.”

-An FCC representative

T-Mobile appears to be the first to take advantage of this, and compatible base stations should get the LTE-U boost in the spring.

Windows 10’s mail app gets Focused Inbox, calendar improvements

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Windows 10 mail app splash screen (Image: Andrew Okwuosah)

Microsoft is updating the Mail and Calendar apps for Windows 10 with new features ported over from its mobile apps. The biggest addition is Focused Inbox, which comes over from the Outlook apps for iOS and Android.

Focused Inbox lets you separate out an inbox into two sections that filter important emails into the Focused section, and less important emails (newsletters) into the Other section. In Windows 10, it’s available only on Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts, despite being available for Gmail and Google Apps accounts on mobile.

Mentions are also coming to the Mail app. You can simply @ and tag a name into an email message, and it’ll add a person to an email thread automatically if they weren’t already added.

On the calendar side, Microsoft is adding colored categories, interesting calendars, and travel reservation and package delivery support. Colored categories let you customize calendar events with colors to make things more readable at a glance. The interesting calendars showcase calendars for sports teams, TV shows, and more, and let you add them to your calendar.

However, the most useful feature here is the ability to display travel reservations and package delivery details. If an event is on your calendar, Mail will surface a useful summary card with all the details of your package or your flight. Improvements also include tweaking of the locations feature for calendar entries and an option to add Skype for online meetings. All of these changes are available now through an update in the Windows Store.

Apple Park ‘spaceship’ campus to open in April

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Apple Park in Cupertino, Calif. (Image: Apple)

Apple’s new spaceship headquarters will open in April and will feature some public areas.

The first employees will move into the 175-acre Cupertino, Calif.-campus at this point, according to the company, while building construction and landscaping continues around the site. It’ll take six months for 12,000 employees to move from the company’s current Infinite Loop headquarters and other offices scattered throughout Cupertino into the new Apple Park campus.

The campus is the last product from co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011 after battling pancreatic cancer. He envisioned the space as a beacon of innovation and a place for the company’s employees to continue their efforts to release groundbreaking headquarters.

The site is centered with a ring-shaped, 2.8 million square foot glass-clad building that Jobs dubbed a “spaceship” when he proposed the development to the Cupertino City Council in 2011.

In honor of the late co-founder, the new campus will include the 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theater. The entrance to the building will be a 20-foot-tall, 165-foot diameter glass cylinder with a “metallic carbon fiber” roof sitting atop a hill at one of the highest points on campus.

“Steve’s vision for Apple stretched far beyond his time with us. He intended Apple Park to be the home of innovation for generations to come. The workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment. We’ve achieved one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, and the campus will run entirely on renewable energy.”

-Tim Cook, Apple CEO

A 17-megawatt rooftop solar installation on site will be “one of the largest” on the planet, according to Apple. The main building will also be the “world’s largest naturally ventilated building, projected to require no heating or air conditioning nine months of the year.”

The landscaping will include 9,000 trees and two miles of paths for workers, along with an orchard, meadow, and pond. Employees can also take advantage of a 100,000 square foot gym.

“Steve invested so much of his energy creating and supporting vital, creative environments. We have approached the design, engineering, and making of this new campus with the same enthusiasm and design principles that characterize our products.”

-Jony Ive, Apple chief design officer

The public will be able to enter a café and a visitor center featuring an Apple Store on campus.

Fitbit paid $23M for Pebble

Fitbit disclosed that it paid $23 million to acquire smartwatch maker Pebble in the fourth quarter of 2016.

This accounts for both talent and intellectual property, according to Fitbit’s earnings statement.

HP earnings: 3.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue

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HP Inc., which houses the hardware business of HP, reported a 3.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue in the first quarter that ended Jan. 31. That’s helped largely by a stabilizing PC market.

However, the company’s net earnings from continuing operations fell to $611 million from $650 million a year ago. Earnings per share remained flat at $0.36.

Revenue rose to $12.68 billion from $12.25 billion.

Twitter tweaks brand direct messages to make them more human

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Twitter’s custom profiles feature in use by T-Mobile (Image: Twitter)

Twitter is tinkering with direct messages to let brands show customers that they’re communicating with a human, not an automated bot. With custom profiles, businesses can respond with a customer service agent’s name and photo rather than their company name to make users feel more at ease.

The first partner to use the feature is T-Mobile, which as long used the service to address customer feedback. Now when you interact with @TMobileHelp, you’ll see the real face, name, and title of the customer service agent that’s helping you.

These features aren’t being made available through the service. Instead, developers have the ability to incorporate the capabilities into their own offerings and market it to customers.

Custom profiles are available through Twitter’s Direct Message API, which remains in private beta. However, verified brands can get whitelisted by filling out this form.

 

TechSummit Rewind 152

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

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

Apple’s Planet of the Apps launching this spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–  Eddy Cue, Apple head of content

YouTube cancels PewDiePie’s original series following Nazi controversy

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

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

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

Nest adds automatic door detection, animated push notifications for subscribers

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

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

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

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

All of these features are available now.

T-Mobile improves its unlimited data plan

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

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

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

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

Yahoo Mail mobile app now does Caller ID, syncs photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger drones will start flying in Dubai this summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft releases video-capture hack for HoloLens

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

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

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

– Ben Reed, Microsoft HoloLens head of business strategy

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

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

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

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

– Aviad Almagor, Trimble mixed-reality program head

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

TechSummit Rewind 133

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

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

Handbrake updated to v. 1.0.0 after 13 years of development

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

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

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

Fake news triggers Facebook Safety Check in Bangkok

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

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

Rent the Runway raises $60M

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

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

-Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway CEO

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

Chinese investors buy stake in HERE

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

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

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

T-Mobile rolls out Galaxy Note 7 battery shutdown update

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

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

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

TechSummit Rewind 132

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

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

Cyanogen shuttering services, OS in pivot

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

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

-Cyanogen, in a blog post

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

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

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

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

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

-Apple, in an error message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available here.

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

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

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

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

Jawbone: Fitbit no longer seeking to block product sales

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Jawbone has resolved its legal battle with Fitbit.

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

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

-Jawbone, in a statement

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

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

-Fitbit, in a filing

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

Thundersoft buys Rightware for $68M to expand in automotive

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

The deal should close in early 2017.

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

-Larry Geng, Thundersoft CEO

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

-Jonas Geust, Rightware CEO

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

Gear VR gets new VR browser

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

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

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

The update is available now in the Gear VR store.

TechSummit Rewind 115

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

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

The New York Times buying The Wirecutter for over $30M

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The New York Times is building consumer guide The Wirecutter for over $30 million.

“The New York Times is the perfect home for The Wirecutter because of our shared love and commitment to reader service and public good through rigorous reporting. And more important, we’re thrilled to have the chance to help Times readers find great gear that can improve their lives.”

– Brian Lam, The Wirecutter founder

 

“We’re very excited about this acquisition on two fronts. It’s an impressively run business with a very attractive revenue model and its success is built on the foundation of great, rigorously reported service journalism. Their service-focused guides align with our commitment to creating products that are an indispensable part of our readers’ lives.”

– Mark Thompson, The New York Times Company president & CEO

Microsoft hikes U.K. enterprise pricing by up to 22 percent due to Brexit

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Microsoft is increasing pricing on some of its products in the U.K. by over 20 percent as the British pound continues to weaken in the aftermath of the June Brexit vote.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, “most” of Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services will get a 22 percent price hike to “realign close to euro levels,” with enterprise software seeing a 13 percent increase.

“We periodically assess the impact of local pricing of our products and services to ensure there is reasonable alignment across the region, and this change is an outcome of this assessment. These changes are similar to the recent harmonization adjustments to pricing in Norwegian krone and Swiss franc we made in April 2016.”

– Sergejs Cuhrajs, Microsoft social media marketing manager

Businesses that operate in additional currencies will still be able to pay with those currencies. Also, Redmond isn’t increasing prices for consumer products.

America’s biggest banks take on Venmo with Zelle

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America’s biggest banks announced Zelle, a money-transfer app that they hope will compete against PayPal, Venmo, and Square Cash, Sunday at the Money20/20 payments conference.

The app is built on a bank-owned payment system connecting banks including Chase, Citi, and Bank of America. Users can send money with their phones to recipients who will get the funds immediately.
Zelle will launch next year.

Samsung promises Korean Note 7 owners 50 percent discount on Note 8

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Samsung is offering Korean Note 7 owners the chance to upgrade to a Note 8 for half the price when the handset launches next year. The company announced the deal as part of an ongoing exchange program for the phablet in its home country.

TD Ameritrade, Toronto-Dominion buy Scottrade for $4B

scottradeTD Ameritrade and Toronto-Dominion Bank have agreed to buy Scottrade for $4 billion, combining two of the largest online brokerages and expanding the U.S. arm of Canada’s second-largest lender.

TD Ameritrade will acquire Scottrade’s brokerage operations for about $2.7 billion in cash and stock, according to the company. Meanwhile, Toronto-Dominion agreed to purchase Scottrade’s online bank for $1.3 billion in cash.

The deal is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2017, with clearing operations moving to TD Ameritrade systems by 2018. About 28 million Ameritrade shares will be issued to Scottrade shareholders and Toronto-Dominion will purchase another 11 million shares. The companies expect $450 million in annual cost savings, with a quarter of that coming in the year after the close.

“This combination will allow us to leverage our strengths, increase our scale, and further accelerate our asset gathering capabilities.”
– Tim Hockey, Ameritrade CEO

T-Mobile earnings: Revenue up 18%, 929K new postpaid customers, net income up to $366M

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T-Mobile raised its forecast for customer additions for the year thanks to heavy discounted.

The Bellevue, Washington-based carrier now expects to add 3.7-3.9 million branded postpaid customers on a net basis this year, compared with previous forecasts of 3.4-3.8 million.

The company added 969,000 postpaid customers in the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, up from 890,000 in the second quarter.
According to the company, the Uncarrier benefitted from the iPhone 7’s launch and an increase in branded prepaid customer migrations to postpaid plans.

However, churn (the rate users switch to other networks) increased slightly to 1.32 percent from 1.27 percent in the quarter before.

T-Mobile’s net income rose to $366 million ($0.42/share) in the third quarter from $138 million ($0.15/share) a year ago. Net income in the quarter included after-tax spectrum gains of $122 million.

Total revenue rose 17.8 percent to $9.2 billion.

Paxata raises $33.5M to further develop machine learning for information management

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Paxata has announced that it raised $33.5 million to bolster the machine learning and semantics analysis foundations of its enterprise information platform. Led by Intel Capital, the investment brings the Redwood City, Calif.-based company’s total capital to $61.5 million.

Microsoft Ventures, Cisco Investments, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, and AirTree Ventures joined the round as new co-investors. Existing investors EDBI, In-Q-Tel, and Accel also participated.

Apple releases iOS 10.1 with Portrait Mode

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Apple has released iOS 10.1, the first significant update for iOS 10, to users over-the-air in the Settings app or by plugging your device into iTunes.

The main story here is the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait mode, which takes advantages of the 7 Plus’ two lenses to create some background blur. Apple uses these lenses to detect nine levels of depth. Then, software blur is added to the background layers. Portrait mode is still considered a “beta” feature.

Android Pay expands reach with new partnerships with Visa, Mastercard

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Google has announced two strategic partnerships with Visa and MasterCard aimed at expanding the reach of Android Pay. Pay users who are shopping online from smartphones will soon be able to make payments on hundreds of thousands of sites where either Visa Checkout or Masterpass are accepted at checkout.

According to Google, merchants won’t have to make any changes on their end when Android Pay support goes live as their buttons will update automatically.

To use Android Pay with the credit card services, customers will first have to link their accounts in the Android Pay app. Once set up, you can use Android Pay at checkout with your preferred authentication method.
The integration will roll out in early 2017, according to the company, beginning in the US with plans to expand to all Android Pay territories (the UK, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong).

PayPal payments, notifications coming to Facebook Messenger

facebook-messenger-paypalPayPal is now rolling out as an additional payment option within Facebook Messenger, which also supports payment from debit cards.

Available only to some users in the U.S. initially, PayPal customers wil now be able to link their PayPal and Messenger accounts, and they’ll also receive payment notifications directly within the Messenger app.

“We will continue to execute on our vision of offering PayPal in more places where people shop online, in app, and in store by partnering with companies who share our desire to create meaningful products that benefit both consumers and merchants.”
– Bill Ready, PayPal exeucitve vice president & COO

TechSummit Rewind 108

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

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

Samsung formally recalls Galaxy Note 7 in U.S.

samsung-galaxy-note-7-3

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has formally announced a recall of the Galaxy Note 7 in conjunction with Samsung Friday. Roughly a million devices are affected.

The CPSC recommends that customers with affected devices purchased before Sept. 15 “immediately stop using and power [them] down.” The agency also notes that once you contact the outlet you purchased the device from (carrier, retail store, Samsung.com), you will be entitled to a free Galaxy Note 7 with a replacement battery, a refund, or a new replacement device.

According to the CPSC, 92 batteries have overheated in the U.S., including 26 burn reports and 55 property damage reports.

T-Mobile has released a statement in response to the news, saying that it expects Samsung shipments of replacement units to arrive “no later than Sept. 21.” Customers who want a different device can get a full refund on the Note 7 and any accessories, with the money going towards any product in T-Mobile’s inventory. Restocking and shipping fees will be waived, and the carrier will include a $25 credit on your monthly bill.

AT&T released a similar statement, promising devices to arrive by the same date.

Apple repairs iOS 10 issue that caused connectivity loss for some T-Mobile iPhones

iOS10-Hero

Apple has addressed and fixed an issue with iOS 10 that caused T-Mobile iPhone users to lose connectivity this week. News of the fix was shared by T-Mobile CEO John Legere Thursday night.

Google offers enterprises Verified Access for Chrome OS devices

Source: OMG Chrome
Source: OMG Chrome

Google has announced the availability of Verified Access for Chrome OS devices.

Verified Access ensures that a network service (VPN gateway, server, certificate authority, or WiFi access point) can get a hardware-backed cryptographic guarantee of the identify (device, user) that’s trying to access it. Instead of primarily relying on heuristic client side checks, which leaves the door open for a compromised OS faking the signals being checked, Verified Access uses the Trusted Platform Module in ever Chrome OS device to let identity and status of verified boot and enterprise policy using a Google server-side API.

Duo Security and Ruckus Wireless are already leveraging the new API.

Google also announced that Smartcard Authentication support is now available for Chrome OS devices.

News organizations sue FBI for information on San Bernardino iPhone hack

iPhone_6_Svr_Family_Apps-PRINT

The Associated Press, Vice Media, and Gannett (USA Today’s parent company) filed a lawsuit Friday for information on how the FBI broke into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.

In the lawsuit, the news organizations said that the agency has no right to keep the technique used to crack the phone hidden. The suit asks the court to force the FBI to release contracting information on the hack.

“The public interest in receiving this information is significant.”

-The Associated Press, Vice Media, Gannett; in the complaint

Google acquires Urban Engines to bring location-based analytics to Google Maps

urban-engines

Google has acquired Urban Engines, a provider of location-based analytics for urban planning. The team will be joining Google Maps to “help organizations better understand how the world moves.”

 

TechSummit Rewind 087

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

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

Snapchat introduces Memories archive of your snaps

Snapchat has introduced Memories, a way to share and save old snaps in a private archive within the app.

The feature is rolling out now for iOS and Android, and can be accessed by swiping up from the main camera screen.

Once you open it up, you’ll see your saved snaps in reverse-chronological order. Individual snaps are displayed as rectangles, while circular posts represent stories with live previews of its snaps. There are also tabs for viewing just snaps (or stories/your device’s complete camera roll). From these tabs, tapping and holding a snap to enable new interactions like: editing the snap to add geofilters/timestamps, share it to your current story (with a white frame and timestamp to indicate that it’s a blast from the past), or select multiple photos to create a new story that can be sent to friends as an attachment within a message.

A search feature lets you find photos based on when/where they were taken, along with showcasing snaps on their anniversary dates. Object recognition has also been built in, with the ability to detect “hundreds” of objects at launch (sunsets, surfing, the ocean, etc.).

There’s also My Eyes Only, a section that lets you put embarrassing/explicit snaps behind a PIN code. According to Snapchat, Memories is the brainchild of an observation that people tell stories in person by sharing their phones with each letter, letting them swipe through photos of an event.

At launch, there are no revenue-generating products inside Memories. It could take up to 30 days for you to receive the update, according to the Los Angeles-based company.

Twitter tests live sports coverage at Wimbledon

Twitter Wimbledon live stream

Twitter tested its live sports coverage Wednesday at Wimbledon, with a video player pinned to the top of a dedicated Live page on Twitter, with a scrolling list of related tweets below.

The San Francisco-based company is not streaming live matches, because ESPN holds exclusive digital rights in the U.S. However, Twitter will have access to live interviews, analysis, and match replays.

“Twitter is increasingly a place where people can find live streaming video, and that includes exciting sporting events like Wimbledon. This livestream is an extremely early and incomplete test experience, and we’ll be making lots of improvements before it in its final form.”

-Twitter, in a statement

The Twitter stream includes a mix of content from Wimbledon and ESPN, which has held exclusive TV rights for the tournament since 2011.

Google Now on Tap now translates in any app

Google Now on Tap

Google Now on Tap can now translate text on any screen, offering to translate text that doesn’t match your phone’s default language even if there are multiple foreign tongues at once. It’s available today for phones using a major European language or Russian.

The feature is also getting a Discover button that shows a feed of content related to what you’re looking at.

Now on Tap’s camera-based image searching also now recognizes barcodes and QR codes.

Microsoft launches Skype Meetings video conferencing tool for small businesses

Skype Meetings

Microsoft has launched Skype Meetings, an audio/video conferencing tool specifically for small businesses.

The tool allows for PowerPoint collaboration and screen sharing with up to 10 people for two months. After that, only three people can join a video call.

Participants can join a Skype Meeting from most devices with a personalized URL.

Google buys Moodstocks machine learning startup to help camera identify objects

Google-new-logo-700x438

Google has acquired Moonstocks, a Paris-based company that has developed machine learning technology to bolster smartphones’ image recognition features.

“We continue to pursue our machine learning and research efforts, and Moodstocks is the latest proof of our commitment to this area.”

-Vincent Simonet, Google France research & development head

“Our focus will be to build great image recognition tools within Google, but rest assured that current paying Moodstocks customers will be able to use it until the end of their subscription.”

-Moodstocks, in a statement

Huawei sues T-Mobile over 4G patents

Huawei-MateBook-a

 

Huawei has filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile for mobile patent infringement, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, alleges that the wireless carrier rejected a deal to license 14 Huawei patents but continued to use its 4G technologies. Huawei isn’t seeking seeking financial damages, but they are asking the court to declare that they met its obligations to license patents at a fair and reasonable rate and to declare T-Mobile an unwilling licensee.

Facebook’s OpenCellular is an open-source wireless access platform for remote areas

OpenCellular

Facebook has launched OpenCellular, a new open source hardware and software project that aims to bring a more affordable wireless access platform to remote areas.

“One of the reasons the expansion of cellular networks has stalled is that the ecosystem is constrained. Traditional cellular infrastructure can be very expensive, making it difficult for operators to deploy it everywhere and for smaller organizations or individuals to solve hyperlocal connectivity challenges. It’s often unaffordable for them to attempt to extend network access in both rural and developed communities.”

-Kashif Ali, Facebook engineer

According to Facebook, OpenCellular will consist of two main subsystems: one for general purpose and base-band computing, and one to handle the radio. Both of them are designed to be modular somewhat.

According to Facebook, OpenCellular’s hardware design, firmware, and control software will be open source so interested parties can build their own versions. Their work will also be donated to the Telecom Infra Project, a Facebook-backed initiative for exploring new approaches to telecom infrastructure basics like access and backhaul.

Apple pushing organ donor registration in iOS 10

iOS10-Hero

iOS 10 is adding a new feature that’ll make it easier for users to register as organ donors. Users will be able to sign up as organ, eye, and tissue donors with a few taps. Registrations will be sent directly to the National Donate Life Registry.

“With the updated Health app, we’re providing education and awareness about organ donation and making it easier than ever to register. It’s a simple process that takes just a few seconds and could help save up to eight lives. Together with Donate Life America, we’re excited to deliver this new feature to iPhone users in the U.S. with iOS 10.”

-Jeff Williams, Apple COO

TinyCo bought by SGN Games

tinyco-logo

TinyCo, the San Francisco-based developer behind mobile games based on the Marvel universe and Family Guy has been acquired by Culver City, Calif.-based SGN Games.

“Other games have done it successfully, but [TinyCo] is a pioneer in the builder category, and they have an engine that allows them to do it with many more.”

-Chris DeWolfe, SGN Games CEO

According to DeWolfe, TinyCo has deals to create “several” more games based on other franchises.

“It didn’t necessarily come cheap but we love the relationship. Anytime you can have larger market share in a growing market, it’s a great place to be.”

-Chris DeWolfe

Darktrace gets $65M of fresh funding at $400M valuation

Darktrace

Darktrace, the Cambridge, U.K.-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $65M in fresh funding.

The round was led by global investment firm KKR, with participation from existing investor Summit Partners and new investors TenEleven Ventures and SoftBank.

This gives the company a valuation north of $400 million, with the new funding being used for further international expansion along with R&D.

According to Mike Lynch, whose Invoke Capital fund backs Darktrace, the company is developing technology to help companies respond to human-written cyberattacks and machine-learning-based attacks.

Appeals court: Anti-hacking law applies to password sharing case

A three-judge panel on the U.S.’ Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applies to a case where David Nosal, a former executive gained access to Korn/Ferry International’s confidential client data through a password that was voluntarily shared with him.

The Nosal case specifically focused on the question of whether he acted “without authorization,” with the panel concluding that “’without authorization’ is an unambiguous, non-technical term that, given its plain and ordinary meaning, means accessing a protected computer without permission.”

The court also upheld Nosal’s conviction for trade secret theft under the Economic Espionage Act.

In his dissent, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that “this case is about password sharing, and in his view, the CFAA does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.”

Bret Taylor joining Twitter board

bret_taylor_headshot

Twitter has appointed former Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor to its board.

“Bret brings to our Board a great mind for consumer products and technologies that will be invaluable to the company as we execute our plans for 2016 and beyond. His skills also complement those of our other recent Board additions, who bring expertise in finance, media, and entrepreneurship.”

-Omid Kordestani, Twitter executive chairman

TechSummit Rewind 076

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

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

Uber focuses on drivers with host of new app features

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

Uber is rolling out a host of new features designed to take some of the edge off of driving for the service, including more control over ride requests, fines for riders who make drivers wait too long, and discounts on Uber rides.

According to the San Francisco-based company, the new features are about trying to remove pain points from driving on the platform, and less about responding to ongoing litigation. Many of these updates were piloted in various markets and are now being rolled out broadly.

Uber is expanding its “Destinations” feature that enables drivers to pick up and drop off riders along a specific route. Drivers heading in a specific direction can input their destination into the app, with Uber’s algorithm sending them ride requests that appear along the way. Requests that would force them to deviate from their route would be filtered out.

Uber will also allow drivers to pause any incoming requests while they are currently in the middle of a fare, in case they need to go to the bathroom or fill up on gas before accepting the next passenger, or simply plan on calling it a day. This will allow drivers to decline the next request without negatively affecting their rating.

Riders in New York City, New Jersey, Phoenix, Dallas, and a dozen other cities can now be charged by drivers if they have to wait to more than two minutes.

“In the cities where we’ve been testing this, we’ve seen that riders are more likely to be prompt.”

-Uber, in a statement

The company will also be offering branded debit cards to drivers in more cities, allowing them to receive earnings simultaneously. Uber has currently opened 250 “Greenlight” locations worldwide, where drivers can get in-person support and questions answered, with plans to open more in the future.

Lastly, the company will offer discounted rides to drivers who may occasionally want to sit in the backseat of an Uber. Drivers who complete 10 trips in a week will get 15 percent off their next UberX ride, or 50 percent off an UberBLACK ride for every 20 trips done in a week.

Uber is also launching Behind the Wheel, a new blog to showcase drivers’ stories and news about “products and perks.”

Blizzard integrates Facebook login, live video into Overwatch

Overwatch

Blizzard Entertainment and Facebook have teamed up to wave Facebook identity and social networking services into Overwatch and other popular Battle.net games.

“It’s now exciting that Facebook Login and Facebook Live are now a part of Battle.net. So for any Blizzard game, and Overwatch is the newest, you can use Facebook Login to connect with friends better and do social gaming.”

-Leo Olebe, Facebook global games partnerships director

The Facebook Login will go live later this month with Battle.net games like World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III, StarCraft II, and the aforementioned Overwatch with their Facebook accounts.

This’ll pave the way for new social functionality in Blizzard games while highlighting Facebook as a platform for sharing, viewing, and discussing video game content. Blizzard is also in the process of integrating Facebook’s Live API to add “Go Live” streaming functionality to its games.

“We’ve worked on it for many months. The most important thing was to build something that is incredible for people, and Blizzard is always amazing at that. They had to really get behind this.”

-Leo Olebe

Players will be able to livestream their Blizzard-gaming sessions directly to their Facebook news feeds, timelines, and friends. Friends can subscribe to feeds and get notified when new streams are available.

“Blizzard games are best when played with friends, so it’s important to us to provide our players with features and services that make it easy and fun to share their experiences with each other. We’re working closely with Facebook on this integration for Overwatch, as well as our other games, and we look forward to sharing further details on our plans as development progresses.”

-Gio Hunt, Blizzard Entertainment executive vice president of corporate operations

As part of the collaborative agreement, Blizzard recently hosted multiple livestreams on Heroes of the Dorm, the Irvine, Calif.-based company’s collegiate tournament featuring Heroes of the Storm, and an Overwatch launch event.

In preparation for the Overwatch launch, Facebook worked with Blizzard on a mix of Facebook and Instagram marketing solutions, helping the company present the game to a broad set of gaming and entertainment audiences within the two networks’ audiences.

According to Olebe, over 650 million people play games connected to Facebook every month acorss web, mobile, and console.

Stitcher podcast platform bought for $4.5 million

Stitcher

Stitcher has been acquired by the E.W. Scripps company for $4.5 million, a year and a half after being acquired by the streaming service Deezer.

The company will operate as part of Midroll Media, a podcast advertising network acquired by Scripps last year, with over 200 podcasting partners like Neil Degrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, the Bill Simmons Podcast Network, Marc Maron’s WTF, and Nerdist.

T-Mobile Uncarrier 11 wants to buy loyalty with free stuff

Uncarrier11_006_low

T-Mobile will give one share of its stock to all of its primary account holders on postpaid accounts, while providing a chance to earn more shares by referring friends and family to switch to the “Uncarrier.”

You can go to the company’s website and enter up to 10 numbers at a time of people you plan to refer. If they sign up, you get a share. According to the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, it takes 24 hours to process a name.

Customers can get up to 100 shares/year through referrals, with subscribers who’ve been with the carrier for at least five years getting two shares per referral.

To access the stock, customers will need to sign up with Loyal3, a brokerage partner that’ll deliver the stock. According to T-Mobile, there’s no fee to transfer or sell the stock, and the program isn’t pushing you to use Loyal3.

T-Mobile will use Loyal3 to buy stock in the open market and grant them to customers, according to a company spokesman.

That’s just one part of the company’s Uncarrier 11 customer appreciation program that includes weekly giveaways of Domino’s pizza, Wendy’s Frosty desserts, and an hour of free WiFi accesss on Gogo-equipped planes.

Other one-time freebies will be thrown in, such as free Warcraft movie tickets.

According to T-Mobile, its partners are being paid less than face value due to the program’s promotional benefits.

The T-Mobile Tuesdays app, which is available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play, will also let customers compete from bigger prizes with partners like Gilt, Samsung, Lyft, Major League Baseball, and StubHub.

“This Uncarrier move is all about giving you good thanking! No strings. No gotchas.”

-John Legere, T-Mobile CEO

“It’s hard to avoid the sense that T-Mobile is running out of really meaningful things to do to attract new customers.”

-Jan Dawson, Jackdaw Resarch analyst

Cortana arrives on Xbox One preview

Microsoft has released a new Xbox One update to its preview members, with Cortana being baked in for the first time. The voice assistant will appear in the Xbox One dashboard, and can be accessed through the Kinect sensor or a headset. As a result, Microsoft is altering the way you activate Xbox voice commands to just “Hey Cortana.”

Initially, the integration will be available in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Germany and Spain, and you’ll be able to use Cortana to launch parties, see what friends are playing, and do basic sites. The assistant will also recognize your friends’ real names or gamertags. According to Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash.-based company plans to add Cortana features over time.

Alongside the integration, the update also includes a number of new features that coincide with Microsoft’s plans to combine the Xbox and Windows Store experience. A new game collection UI makes it easier to see what games are ready to install, and the tiled interface is now vertically aligned instead of browsing horizontally. The company is also improving the Xbox Windows 10 app’s sharing feature, allowing you to share screenshots and game clips directly to Twitter.

While the Xbox and Windows stores aren’t fully integrated yet, Microsoft is tweaking the store regardless with improvements including the ability to filter what games are on sale in the store, and access bundles, season passes, and other DLC easier. On the PC side, games purchased from Steam or elsewhere will now show up as an Xbox Live game hub so you can share clips, screenshots, and start parties using the Xbox app on Windows 10.

Microsoft is allowing preview members to opt-in to testing the update, with a subset of the features available this week before being expanded more broadly. The company is also merging the Xbox One Preview program with the Windows Insider program, so feedback will be more streamlined for both the Xbox Windows 10 app and the dashboard upgrades. The update will roll out to all Xbox One users later this summer.

U.S. Supreme Court lets Google advertising class action suit proceed

Google-new-logo-700x438

The U.S. Supreme Court let a lower court’s decision stand in a class action lawsuit against Google to proceed regarding claims that the company deceived California advertisers about the placement of Internet ads through Adwords.

Microsoft launches Planner project management tool as part of Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 Planner

Microsoft has launched Office 365 Planner, a project-management tool that aims to compete with tools like Asana and Trello. Planner will be rolling out worldwide to Office 365 users on Enterprise E1-E5, Business Essentials, Premium, and Education plans. The title will appear in the Office 365 app launcher, with admins needing to take no action.

In short, the app’s about structuring teamwork with the ability to set due dates and use virtual dashboards and email notifications to stay informed. Each new Planner plan automatically creates an Office 365 Group, allowing individuals to create public/private groups.

The company’s been working with a variety of Office 365 customers worldwide since the preview arrived. Going forward, Microsoft’s asking for feedback from all Planner users on its UserVoice service.

“We are committed to reading every piece of feedback we receive and turning that into action, so that we can continue to improve Planner.”

-Microsoft, in a statement

Future plans include adding the ability to assign a task to multiple people, external user access, plan templates, customizable boards, and dedicated apps for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Goldin unveils $100M neutral chip maker KnuEdge

Knuedge

KnuEdge, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s former head Daniel Goldin’s startup, is coming out of stealth mode with $100 million in funding to build a “neural chip” that aims to make data centers more efficient.

According to Goldin, the San Diego-based company’s brain-like chip will be significiantly more cost and power efficient than current chips based on the design popularized by computer architect John von Neumann.

The company has generated $20 million in revenue and is actively engaged in hyperscale computing companies and Fortune 500 companies in the aerospace, banking, health care, hospitality, and insurance industries, according to Goldin, with a goal to fundamentally transform the computing world.

SoftBank tackles debt with asset sales

softbank-340

SoftBank has announced a series of asset sales in a broader effort to reexamine its technology portfolio, reduce its debt load, and gain flexibility for future investments.

The Minato, Japan-based company plans to raise $10 billion by selling down its stake in Alibaba and $685 million from offloading shares in GungHo Online Entertainment.

“The asset sales seem [to be] an extremely good sign that the company is serious about improving liquidity and its balance sheets. In addition to boosting cash reserves, this should also help with the company’s credit standing and valuation.”

-Satoru Kikuchi, SMBC Nikko Securities analyst

Bitauto raises $300M

BitAuto

Bitauto Holdings, which operates a giant car marketplace and invests in transportation startups, has announced that its raised $300 million in funding. The company is traded publicly, and is valued at around $1.4 billion. However, this is notable because of who’s making it.

Chinese search giant Baidu, WeChat owner Tencent, and e-commerce portal JD.com are each taking an $50 million investment in the company, along with an additional $150 million from PA Grand Opportunity Limited.

“We are delighted to announce today the strengthening of our strategic partnership with Baidu, the leader in Chinese language online search. We are also pleased to welcome PAG, a leading regional private investment firm, as an important investor. My personal participation in this transaction is a further testament to management’s strong confidence in Bitauto’s future development.”

-William Li, Bitauto CEO

According to Bitauto, Tencent, Baidu, and JD.com are each purchasing 2.47 million newly issued ordinary shares of Bitauto at $20.23/share. The PAG investment is coming in the form of convertible bonds that will be due in five years with an interest rate of two percent/annum.

“Through our cooperation over the past year with JD.com and Tencent, China’s leaders in world-class e-commerce, social media, and big data, we have gained tremendous momentum in making Bitauto the industry leader in online automobile transactions. Through our new partnership with Baidu, we expect to leverage its partnership in mobile and desktop online search, big data and transaction services platforms for additional strategic advantages as we continue to create the industry leading new and used car purchasing experience for customers in China.”

  • William Li

Paw Print Rewind #044

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Dish swing to 2015 loss as subscribers decline

The sign in the lobby of the corporate headquarters of Dish Network is seen in the Denver suburb of Englewood

Dish Network swung to a loss in 2015, hurt by a drop in pay-TV subscribers and a wireless airwaves auction-related expense.

The U.S.’ No. 2 satellite TV provider’s net income attributable to the company fell about 21 percent from a year ago to $747.1 million ($1.61/share).

Dish incurred a $516 million expense related to a government auction of wireless airwaves.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company also had a $123 million asset-impairment charge to weigh on earnings.

Dish ended 2015 with about 13.9 million pay-TV subscribers including streaming service Sling TV, a decline of 81,000 subscribers from the end of 2014.

Churn, the rate subscribers defect to other services, grew in 2015 to 1.71 percent form 1.59 percent in 2014.

For the full year, the company’s revenue grew about three percent to $15.07 billion, with average revenue per user rising to $86.79 in 2015 from $83.77 in 2014.

In the quarter ending Dec. 31, net loss attributable to the company was $125.3 million ($0.27/share), while total quarterly revenue grew to $3.78 billion from $3.68 billion.

Wal-Mart quarterly earnings fall

The Walmart logo is pictured in Los Angeles

Wal-Mart Stores have reported lower quarterly earnings and cut its sales outlook due to a stronger dollar and recent store closures.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter ending Jan. 31 from a year ago for its’ sixth straight quarterly gain.

For the current quarter, Wal-Mart expected a U.S. same-store sales increase of 0.5 percent, down from the 1.1 percent rise a year ago.

“It’s the same old story. They continue to struggle to drive traffic and sales.”

-Brian Yarbrough, Edward Jones analyst

The company’s fourth-quarter net income fell 7.9 percent to $4.57 billion ($1.43/diluted share).

Excluding a charge for store closings and other items, earnings were $1.49/share.

Wal-Mart’s operating income fell 16 percent to $6.6 billion in the quarter.

Consolidated revenue declined 1.4 percent to $129.7 billion, depressed by the stronger dollar’s impact on international operations.

Uber losing $1 billion/year to compete in China

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

Uber is burning through over $1 billion a year in China to compete with local rival Didi Kuaidi, according to the company’s CEO.

“We’re profitable in the USA, but we’re losing over $1 billion a year in China. We have a fierce competitor that’s unprofitable in every city they exist in, but they’re buying up market share. I wish the world wasn’t that way.”

-Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO

“Smaller competitors have to bleed subsidies to make up for their insufficient driver and rider network.”

-Didi Kuaidi spokesperson

“I prefer building rather than fundraising, but if I don’t participate in the funding bonaza, I’ll get squeezed out by others buying market share.”

-Travis Kalanick

T-Mobile profit nearly triples, adds 2.1 million customers

T-Mobile Logo

T-Mobile US nearly tripled its profit in the fourth quarter, as its “Binge On” video streaming program and lower-priced plans helped it add over two million subscribers.

According to the Bellevue, WA-based company, net income jumped to $297 million ($0.34/share) in the quarter from $101 million ($0.12/share) a year ago.

Total revenue rose 1.1 percent to $8.25 billion.

“We aren’t just winning customers, we’re keeping them too. Contrary to the belief that most of the donation (of subscribers) in the industry is coming from Sprint, it’s actually coming to AT&T.”

-John Legere, T-Mobile CEO

T-Mobile added a net 2.1 million customers, including 1.3 million new monthly or postpaid customers in the quarter that ended on Dec. 31. In 2016, the company expects to add a net 2.4-3.4 million postpaid customers, compared with the 4.5 million customers added in 2015.

“Subscriber growth continues to be solid.”

-Craig Moffett, MoffettNathanson analyst

The company’s average revenue per postpaid user fell marginally to $48.05 in the fourth quarter from $48.26 a year earlier.

“T-Mobile was the only operator to not disappoint on ARPU, the monthly phone payments of its customers.”

-Walter Piecyk, BTIG Research analyst

Europe launches satellite to help track global warning

Europe launched the Sentinel-3A satellite Tuesday to help predict weather phenomena such as El Nino and track the progress of global warming as part of the multibillion-euro Copernicus Earth observation project.

The satellite, part of a system of satellites set to monitor Earth, blasted off on board a Rockot launcher from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region at 12:57 p.m. ET Tuesday.

It headed for orbit 506 miles above Earth, where it will collect data on sea surface temperature and height that will contribute to more precise weather forecasts and help forecast the impact of rising temperatures.

“When we speak about global warming, we often focus on rising air temperatures, but 90 percent of the energy put out on our planet ends up in the ocean.”

-Volker Liebig, European Space Agency Earth Observation program director

The Copernicus project has over $9 billion in funding committed until 2020.

Images taken by Sentinel-3A have a lower resolution than those from Copernicus’ first two satellites – Sentinel-1A and 2A. However, the 3A will cover a wider swath of Earth.

It can deliver images of the entire planet within two days, but that will be cut to under a day once its twin 3B launches next year. According to Liebig, that compares to around six days for the twin Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites.

AmEx to overhaul management, cut jobs

american_express

American Express will overhaul its management, streamline its marketing operations, and cut jobs as it looks to reduce $1 billion in costs over the next two years.

“At this time, we do not know what the magnitude of those [job cuts] will be, as decisions on specific positions affected are yet to be made.”

-Kenneth Chenault, American Express CEO

According to the New York-based company, chief marketing officer John Hayes will leave the company after over 20 years of service.

According to AmEx, the company is consolidating its marketing operations to avoid duplicate infrastructure, resources, costs, and processes.

The company is creating a global marketing operations unit, which will be led by Mike McCormack.

TechSummit Rewind #015: January 16th, 2014

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