Bill would suspend mass-collection efforts, require legal justifications
The USA Freedom Act (PDF file) was reintroduced in the US House of Representatives recently. It proposes to curtail the mass collection of the telephone records of US citizens under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, , and force intelligence agencies to justify selective acquisition -- more in accordance with the principles laid out in the US Constitution. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 25-2.
Ex-YouTube employees allegedly acquired by Comcast for video service
More details for Comcast's rumored rival to the YouTube video streaming service have reportedly surfaced. Not content with its existing battle against the search company's fiber Internet project, Comcast is allegedly planning to launch a service which will provide "short-form programs" similar to some of the more popular channels and content available on YouTube today.
High-speed service coming to city Comcast sued to stop municipal fiber network
Comcast has announced a new location that will receive its 2Gbps fiber Internet service, one that it has a litigious history with. Chattanooga, Tennessee will be getting the new Gigabit Pro service starting in June, a city that at one time Comcast sued to try and prevent the city's municipal fiber network from being constructed and competing against Comcast itself.
AT&T finalizes acquisition of Nextel Mexico for $1.88 billion
AT&T has completed its acquisition of Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings. Approved by the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, overseeing the restructuring of NII Holdings, as well as Mexico's telecom regulator IFT, the transaction costs AT&T $1.88 billion and grants them the spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores, and subscribers covered by the network. This is the second Mexico-related purchase completed by the carrier, having already acquired Iusacell.
Apple poaching more BBC Radio 1 producers for upgrade to Beats Music, iTunes Radio
Following the hiring of influential former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe in February as part of both iTunes Radio and a speculated revamp of the Beats Music service, a trade magazine for the music industry has reported that as many as four other top producers for Radio 1 are leaving to join Lowe to work on the revamped subscription service at Apple, which could be announced as early as June's Worldwide Developer Conference.
Stylus technology could help Microsoft improve handwriting input in apps
Microsoft has acquired the technology behind the Surface Pen used in the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3. The acquisition from Israel-based patent holder N-trig allows Microsoft to invest in improvements to the stylus, as well as making it harder for other tablet manufacturers to use the same technology in newer tablets, without Microsoft's agreement.
Full year financial report reveals Sony's restructuring efforts may be working
Sony anticipates a major change in its finances over the next year, with its full-year financial report predicting its operating profit will greatly increase. The company expects to achieve an operating profit of 320 billion yen ($2.7 billion) for the year ending March 2016, more than four times the 68.5 billion ($571 million) it reported for the year ending March 2015, as well as a net profit of 140 billion yen ($1.2 billion) compared to this year's 126 billion yen ($1 billion) net loss.
Amazon Instant Video iOS app adds HD video, cellular streaming
Amazon Instant Video now allows iOS users to watch HD content. Version 3.0 of the app upgrades the available resolution from standard definition to HD for both TV shows and movies. The same update adds cellular streaming to the app for the first time, as well as new mobile data usage settings, and also introduces streaming of content to an Apple TV using AirPlay.
Powerwall can store generated solar power, charge from grid at cheaper times of day
Electric car manufacturer Tesla has launched a new product, designed for the home. The Powerwall is a large battery connected to the building's power supply that can be used to store excess electricity produced from solar panels for use at a later time when energy generated doesn't cover energy usage, with the ultimate aim of saving its users money in the long run.
Commission may demand back taxes avoided due to Irish corporate tax laws
Apple has filed its latest quarterly report with the US government, and in so doing noted that an ongoing European Commission investigation of Ireland and its government's corporate tax rate could "require Ireland to recover from the company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid," calling that potential amount "material." While difficult to gauge, the eventual impact could be in the billions for Apple.
New apps tailored for eldercare, long-term monitoring of patients
As part of Apple's partnership with IBM, a new deal has been struck with Japan Post Holdings to improve elder care in the country. IBM will combine forces with Apple and Japan Post, which provides insurance and healthcare solutions in addition to mail delivery, to develop software to assist with information transmission, communications with family, and help monitor health parameters of customers.
Augmented reality HoloLens headset can run Windows 10 apps
HoloLens, Microsoft's augmented reality headset, also received some attention at the Build keynote, among updates to Windows 10. A brief demonstration showed how the headset could be used in industry for visualization and management of complex systems, as well as how it handles running Windows 10 apps, taking into account the available 3D space.
Electronista Game Replay for April 29, 2015
The Game Replay is a twice-weekly look by MacNN and Electronista on the wider gaming landscape, highlighting some of the more notable stories from the last few days. Today's list includes Steam killing paid mods for Skyrim, the addition of the CD-ROM versions of the Star Wars flight simulators on GOG, a location-aware iOS game being debuted at conventions, and the imminent game of the year edition of Shadows of Mordor
Mobile plummet may be halted by Galaxy S6 launch
Samsung has posted its quarterly earnings statement, missing analysts' and Wall Street estimates by nearly eight percent. The company reported income of 4.63 trillion won ($4.35 billion), notably lower than its 7.49 trillion won ($7.04 billion) it posted the same time last year, and the 5.35 trillion won ($5.03 billion) it posted last quarter. The vast majority of the declining profits came from what appears to be a struggling mobile division of the company pre-Galaxy S6 release, posting 2.74 trillion won ($2.58 billion) in profit, down from 6.43 trillion ($6.04 billion) won this time in 2014.
EU approves plan for cars to call emergency services at the time of an accident
The European Parliament has voted in favor of new regulations that would require new vehicles to call the emergency services in the event of an emergency. The eCall regulation, due to come into force from April 2018, will force manufacturers to install equipment that will automatically contact the 112 European emergency services line if in-car sensors or safety features are triggered, for example when the airbag deploys.
Spherical video software will help GoPro produce content for VR headsets
GoPro, the action camera manufacturer, is joining other manufacturers in the virtual reality market, by acquiring French startup Kolor. Specializing in spherical media, namely 360-degree videos and the associated software, the Kolor purchase will help provide GoPro with a way of creating content for the slowly-growing VR headset market and content stores.
UberEats provides rapid deliveries of food in Chicago, New York City
Uber is attempting to expand the usefulness of its fleet of vehicles, by providing more delivery options to its customers. The company's food service is expanding into two new cities, while a rumor claims it is planning to launch a merchant delivery program that could provide same-day delivery of produce to customers via nearby Uber drivers.
Electronics chain also a partner in rival MCX system, which disallows NFC
During yesterday's conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced an expansion of Apple Pay into Best Buy, with the mobile payment technology being accepting through the electronic chain's site immediately, and in stores later this year. Separately, Discover has announced that it will finally allow members to add their cards to Apple Pay beginning this fall. Discover was the last major credit card to resist joining Apple's initiative.
Amazon Business includes industry-only products, corporate credit lines
Amazon is extending its existing business services, by offering a version of its store meant for corporate use. Amazon Business is similar to the normal consumer store, except it has been customized to show work-related products and product categories, is limited to business customers, and has a number of features made specifically with corporate customers in mind.
Apple loves video software, Apple hates video software
It's Day Two of The Feature Thief, the mini-series of columns examining just what in the world was in Apple's mind when it abandons years of development in favor of a shiny new application nobody likes. To be fair, though, it's also examining how sometimes that move was necessary, and often how it works out rather well or even superbly in the end. Once the furor has died down, and especially once Apple has put back some features it's dropped, we can often say that the new applications are better. Whether it's worth the ride getting there is a different question –– and whether you should jump ship to rival companies' products is another.
Google adds LG Watch Urbane to store, discounts Moto 360, LG G Watch R
Smartwatch listings on the Google Store have been updated, with a new Android Wear addition and some price changes. The LG Watch Urbane is available for the first time in the store, priced at $350, while the LG G Watch R has dropped $50 from $300 to $250. The Moto 360 has also been discounted in the store, dropping from $250 to $180.
Yesterday, we took a trip up to Dallas to try on the Apple Watch Edition. Yes, that's the really expensive gold one. Sadly, there were no flutes of champagne, or tastefully-appointed back rooms. What we did get, instead was a friendly and enthusiastic Apple Store employee, and the heft of four to six ounces of 18-karat gold on our wrist. Keep this in mind: aside from the two sizes of screen to choose from, the price differences between the different models has everything to do with aesthetics and what the casing or band materials are made of, particularly with the Edition.
Patent Purchase Promotion initiative aims to reduce patent lawsuits
Google is starting up a new experimental program where it will acquire patents from inventors and companies wishing to sell. The Patent Purchase Promotion is framed by the search company as a way for it to "remove friction from the patent market" caused through the sale of unwanted patents to non-practicing entities, also known as "patent trolls," and the ensuing litigation.
Apple Watch debut doesn't materially affect debut, China growth up sharply
Unexpected strength in Mac sales along with the previously-predicted strong staying power of the iPhone 6 line has helped Apple see record-breaking performance for a fiscal second quarter this year. The company sold more than 61.17 million iPhones, about 80 percent of the number sold during the holiday quarter, which is usually followed by a drop of about 40 percent. Macs sold 4.56 million units, another record for a fiscal Q2 and up 10 percent year-over-year.
Spotlights on The Feature Thief mini-series, Amazon's sustainability, Deliveries app
If podcasts were eggs, The MacNN Podcast would be ready to deliver in a cardboard carton! We're up to episode 12, and we take a look at the top stories of the past week, including the retail debut -- such as it was -- of the Apple Watch, where a few select high-fashion stores did actually have stock to sell to walk-in customers. We also chat about the big industry news of the Time Warner-Comcast merger collapse, Randy Ubillos' retirement, and more.
Beyond the cool-gadget factor, can they really improve on the smartphone?
Anyone who's been listening to The MacNN Podcast knows there's been some discussion among the staff about wearing smartwatches, and if they think it would be beneficial to do so. Some of us are dubious it would be a useful addition to our workflow, some are skeptical but hopeful an application of value will arise, and some have already ordered theirs and are waiting patiently. Recently, a friend of ours scored several refurbished MetaWatch Frames from Meh.com for what we're going to call "a really good price." So we bought one, in an effort to see if there was any point to wearing a smartwatch.
Statement refutes claims new Nokia smartphones are in development
Nokia has refuted suggestions it will be returning to the smartphone market. A brief statement on the company's website denies that it has plans to "manufacture or sell consumer handsets," something that recent reports claim the telecommunications company will be doing in the future, after a two-year period away from the industry as part of the terms of its Devices and Services arm sale to Microsoft last year.
Analysts expect continued monster iPhone sales and pressure on iPad's share
Last month, Apple announced that its financials for fiscal Q2 2015 would be released on April 27. Just one day before the conference call, analysts are rushing to get their predictions out regarding what is very likely to be another monster quarter for the company. The short version is that the iPhone will continue to drive the lion's share of revenue and grow sales from the year-ago quarter, while the downward pressure on earnings from the iPad will continue -- and nobody's really sure what's going to happen with the Apple Watch.
The signs were there, but did either cable giant see them?
This past Friday, the Comcast Time Warner Cable (TWC) merger was officially canceled. A report by Bloomberg Business indicates the resistance by both the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been in play for quite a bit longer than just the week prior to when the deal was nixed.
More than half of the companies on record with complaints included
The European Union's first antitrust case against Google -- where the advertising giant is accused of giving more prominence in search results to its own shopping comparison services than competitors -- will include 19 companies as complainants, giving them the ability to see and comment on the full list of charges leveled against Google. However, a number of the companies are not directly involved in online shopping, suggesting that the charges brought against Google could be more wide-ranging than previously suspected.
Designer pair speak at luxury conference, but make case for mass-market quality
Apple SVP of Design Sir Jonathan Ive and fellow designer Marc Newson appeared at the first Conde Nast International Luxury Conference in Florence, Italy on Wednesday and gave an interview to International Vogue editor Suzy Menkes, during which they reiterated the standard speaking points on Apple's overall design philosophy and missing, but also discussed the Apple Watch in the context of the strata of the luxury market, and the meaning of craftsmanship in the 21st century.
Cricket Wireless adds Canada calls, texts to Smart, Pro plans
Cricket Wireless is upgrading some of its plans to include unlimited international calls and texts to Canada. The $50 Smart Plan and the $60 Pro Plan will gain the extra calling option, joining its existing Mexico calling option, with both new and existing customers receiving the benefit. Customers on the $25 Talk & Text and $40 Basic plans will not receive the upgrade.
Future uncertain for AT&T and DirecTV merger, future suitors for TWC
As expected, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have both walked away from the blockbuster merger deal, citing governmental resistance from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. In a statement about the collapse, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that "we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn't agree, we could walk away."
Image on Google Maps depicts Android mascot urinating on Apple
Users of Google Maps may find an odd image if they search Pakistan. Team Android reports someone has inserted an image of the Android mascot urinating on the Apple Logo. While it is unlikely to be an addition by a Google employee, it is possible that the image was added as part of Map Maker, a system that allows users to submit edits to the map for inclusion into the main Google Maps service, with the insulting image possibly overlooked during moderation.
Company in the middle of model shift from Windows to services revenue
Microsoft today announced that revenues for the quarter that ended March 31 grew to $21.7 billion. Net income, however, was a bit less than expected, coming in at $5 billion -- a 12 percent drop from the same quarter a year ago. These financial results include $190 million of integration and restructuring expense related to Microsoft's turnaround plan, and the ongoing integration of the Nokia Devices and Services business.
Company points to foreign exchange rate issues, maintains execution excellent
Despite posting sales figures of $22.7 billion, e-retailer giant Amazon has posted a net loss of $57 million in its first quarter of business of 2015. Net sales increased 15 percent to $22.72 billion in the first quarter, compared with $19.7 billion in first quarter 2014. Excluding the $1.3 billion unfavorable impact from changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 22 percent compared to first quarter 2014.
Company posts income of $3.6 billion for the quarter
Google today announced financial results for the quarter that ended on March 31. Google's first quarter revenue was $17.3 billion, up 12 percent from the same time period of 2014. Income for the company hit $3.6 billion, up from $3.5 billion, sitting in the middle of its own guidance, as well as meeting Wall Street estimates. The company's cash on hand and marketable securities grew to $65 billion, from $59 billion in the previous quarter.
FCC, Department of Justice threatening deal
Facing stiff opposition from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as staunch opposition from the Department f Justice and members of Congress, Comcast is reportedly going to drop plans to acquire Time Warner Cable. A final decision will be made today, and an announcement of the breakdown could be as soon as Friday, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Revamped iOS version could make integration easier, but sale seems unlikely
Apple and a number of other companies -- including Facebook, Amazon, Sirius XM, and China-based services Alibaba and Baidu are among many other firms being targeted by Nokia as it prepares to sell off its Here mapping service and technology. While Apple has periodically purchased map technology that can be integrated with its Apple Maps service in the hopes of eventual public transit data, Nokia may be overvaluing the deal.
Apple is three-quarters to previously-unthinkable all-time world record
Although it is well-known that Apple is the world's most profitable and most highly-valued publicly-traded company, most of the public and even many investors are unaware that its market valuation of nearly $750 billion now puts it 75 percent of the way to world record that has been a dream of investors for decades: the world's first company valued at $1 trillion. A Virginia-based investment bank now believes Apple will reach that goal by 2016.
Amazon deliveries to Audi trunks tested in Munich
Amazon is working with Audi to test home deliveries using the customer's car as storage. According to Ars Technica, Audi owners provide Amazon with an approximate location for where their car will be during a specific delivery window. A DHL delivery person will receive a one-time code to access the trunk of the car, allowing them to leave the parcel and close it, preventing access from anyone but the vehicle's owner. The trial will start next month in Munich, and is open to Amazon Prime members owning a compatible car.
Company points to acquisitions, costs growing stifling profit growth
Facebook today reported financial results for the quarter that ended on March 31. Revenue for the first quarter of 2015 totaled $3.5 billion, an increase of 42 percent, compared with $2.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Revenue slightly missed Wall Street estimates, with the consensus being $60 million more than the company reported. On the strength of user growth, revenue from advertising was $3.3 billion, a 46 percent increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 73 percent of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2015.
Project Fi switches between two carriers, provides credits for unused data
Google has confirmed earlier rumors that it was planning to launch its own wireless service. Project Fi is a virtual network that provides calls, texts, and data like other carriers, but the main feature of the service is that it will drastically simplify and potentially cheapen the user's bill, by asking customers to pay for the basic service and only for the amount of data they use in the month.
Apple's default browser remains tops in mobile, captures 10 percent of US desktop
A new study by analytics firm StatCounter has shown that Chrome and Safari are virtually neck-and-neck as the top mobile browsers, but that Safari was the clear winner in both North America and Europe. In particular, in the US Safari holds a 55 percent share of mobile browser use, with Chrome at 30 percent and generic Android browsers with 9.5 percent. In addition to just edging out Safari worldwide to be the top mobile browser, Chrome is also the dominant desktop browser worldwide, with a 52.6 percent share.
Settlement amount less than one percent of total requested by broadcasters
Troubled and failed TV rebroadcasting startup Aereo has finally ended its lawsuit with broadcasters, by agreeing to pay less than one percent of what has been requested. The settlement has the online service paying the broadcasters $950,000 instead of more than $99 million in copyright licensing claims, ending all litigation between the parties involved.
Daily TV show retooled as weekly live stream with returning hosts
A TV show about technology is making a comeback, but over the Internet instead of television. The Screen Savers, a daily Tech TV show which ran from 1998 to 2005, is going to be resurrected as "The New Screen Savers" by main host Leo Laporte and hosted on his own podcast network TWiT.tv as a weekly live show streamed online, with the first episode set to broadcast on May 2.
Snapdragon 820 chip could be produced by Samsung
Qualcomm is looking to switch producer of its Snapdragon mobile processors, a report claims. The Snapdragon 820, a 64-bit chip expected to be provided in samples to manufacturers before the end of the year for use in devices in early 2016, will allegedly be made by Samsung's processor production lines instead of its long-term partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).
Announcing expanded gaming news, examining the LA School iPad debacle, more
Another week, another roundup on the week in tech through the eyes of our MacNN and Electronista staffers! This week, The MacNN Podcast takes a poll on backup strategies among our writers, while Managing Editor Mike tells campfire tales of data loss from his days as a network consultant. We spend some time talking about our own expanded gaming coverage, adding more Mac game reviews and coverage as well as doubling our overall industry news. We dissect what's getting chipmaker AMD down, try to figure out the LA School District's iPad waffling, and more.
Impact not growing in relation to sales, however, with many factors out of Apple's control
The 2015 edition of Apple's annual Environmental Responsibility Report covering calendar 2014 is out, and as usual highlights the company's efforts to reduce, reuse, or mitigate its use of rare materials and its carbon footprint. While it points out that all of the company's data centers are now powered by renewable energy resources and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions during product use by 61 percent over the past seven years, Apple admits there are still areas, most of which are out of its direct control, where more could be done.
Comcast bringing 2 gigabit Internet to California in June
Comcast will be bringing its 2 gigabit Internet service to California, following the "Gigabit Pro" initial announcement for the service in Atlanta. Part of a number of upgrades to service speed for customers in the area starting from May, including free speed increases and a new 250Mbps tier, Comcast will introduce its gigabit-level service to nearly three million homes in the state starting in June. Pricing for the service has yet to be announced.