Google, Amazon Cut Speaker Prices In Market Share Contest
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google both discounted their virtual assistant speakers so deeply over the holiday shopping season that they likely lost a few dollars per unit, highlighting a sharply different strategy from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) as it prepares its HomePod speaker, analysts said.
Fight Extremism Or Get Higher Taxes, UK Tells Tech Giants
Britain may impose new taxes on tech giants like Google and Facebook unless they do more to combat online extremism by taking down material aimed at radicalizing people or helping them to prepare attacks, the country’s security minister said.
Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government which was being forced to spend vast sums on de-radicalization programs, surveillance and other counter-terrorism measures.
“If they continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivizing them or compensating for their inaction,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper in an interview.
His quotes did not give further details on tax plans. The newspaper said that any demand would take the form of a windfall tax similar to that imposed on privatized utilities by former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 1997.
Wallace accused the tech giants of putting private profit before public safety.
“We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers,” he said. “They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft-porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government.”
Facebook executive Simon Milner rejected the criticisms.
“Mr Wallace is wrong to say that we put profit before safety, especially in the fight against terrorism,” he said in an emailed statement. “We’ve invested millions of pounds in people and technology to identify and remove terrorist content.”
YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it was doing more every day to tackle violent extremism.
“Over the course of 2017 we have made significant progress through investing in machine learning technology, recruiting more reviewers, building partnerships with experts and collaboration with other companies,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.
Britain suffered a series of attacks by Islamic extremists between March and June this year that killed a total of 36 people, excluding the attackers.
Two involved vehicles ramming people on bridges in London, followed by attackers stabbing people. The deadliest, a bombing at a concert in the northern city of Manchester, killed 22 people.
Following the second bridge attack, Prime Minister Theresa May proposed beefing up regulations on cyberspace, and weeks later interior minister Amber Rudd traveled to California to ask Silicon Valley to step up efforts against extremism.
“We are more vulnerable than at any point in the last 100 years,” said Wallace, citing extremist material on social media and encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp as tools that made life too easy for attackers.
“Because content is not being taken down as quickly as they could do, we’re having to de-radicalize people who have been radicalised. That’s costing millions. They can’t get away with that and we should look at all the options, including tax.”
Facebook said it removed 83 percent of uploaded copies of terrorist content within one hour of its being found on the social media network.
It also highlighted plans to double the number of people working in its safety and security teams to 20,000 by the end of 2018.
YouTube said that progress in machine learning meant that 83 percent of violent extremist content was removed without the need for users to flag it.
Apple To Offer Discounts On Battery Replacements For Wrong Actions
Apple is apologizing to iPhone users for not keeping them in the loop about the routine slowdowns of phones with older batteries.
The iPhone maker, in a lengthy note, denied allegations that it was deliberately slowing phones in an attempt to boost sales through upgrades.
“First and foremost, we have never and would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” the note reads. “Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”
By way of apology, Apple is reducing the price of out-of-warranty iPhone batteries to $29 a $50 price cut. The deal, which will be available beginning in late January, will run through December 2018.
Apple also said it plans to issue an iOS software update that will give users “more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.”
Apple’s apology comes after the company was sued by iPhone owners in the U.S., Israel and France.
According to The Washington Post, a lawsuit launched in California is seeking roughly $2 trillion in damages. Lawsuits in California, New York and New Jersey are seeking varying amounts.
Apple’s note did not address the lawsuits or the requests for compensation.
The company ended its apology with a heartfelt statement, however: “At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support and we will never forget that or take it for granted.”
Galaxy S9 - Samsung Revealed Two Big New Features
Rumours suggest this next generation device will get its grand unveiling at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
This massive show opens its doors on February 26, meaning the S9 could be here before spring 2018.
With a launch date looming the rumours are coming thick fast with this device expected to be faster and more powerful than any of its predecessors.
Samsung has already revealed it’s started production its new processor and Qualcomm has also revealed its new Snapdragon 845 chip - a likely processor for the S9 - which offers unrivalled performance.
Improved battery life, brighter display and faster charging could also be included along with improved facial recognition which will unlock the device with a quick glance at the screen.
We're Slowing Down Older iPhones, Apple Confirms
Apple has acknowledged what many iPhone owners long suspected: It has slowed older phones.
The tech giant issued a rare statement of explanation saying that it has used software updates to limit the performance of older iPhones that may have battery issues that would cause them to turn off suddenly.
Apple insists the updates were made with a different goal in mind: It said the performance of lithium-ion batteries degrades over time, which can sometimes cause phones to suddenly shut down in order to protect their components.
The company said its software updates for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 are designed to "smooth out" peak power demands, prevent these surprise shutdowns and ultimately prolong the lifespan of batteries.
Doron Myersdorf, CEO instant-charging battery startup StoreDot, said that "smoothing out" means that phones will reorder incoming commands to make sure not all of them are done in parallel.
"The inevitable outcome of it will be an inherent slowdown of the average response times by the system," he explained.
Apple said in its statement that it will continue to use the feature with other products in the future.
"Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices," it said.
The revelation sparked an outcry among Apple fans, with some suggesting they may switch to rival Samsung.
"Since Apple admits they slow down old iPhones I'll admit I probably won't buy a new iPhone," said Twitter user Jeff Zenisek.
Google Boss To Quit In January
The executive chairman of Google owner Alphabet is to step down in January, the company has announced.
Eric Schmidt, who has been with the tech giant since 2001, will remain on the board as a technical adviser on science and technology issues.
Mr Schmidt has played a key role in the development of Google from a small California start-up to the global business it is today.
Alphabet said it expected to appoint a non-executive chairman.
In a statement Mr Schmidt said "the time is right in Alphabet's evolution for this transition".
He added that in recent years he had spent a lot of his time on science and technology issues and philanthropy and he would expand that work.
Google was founded as an internet search company in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Mr Schmidt joined the company as chief executive in 2001, becoming chairman in 2011.
In 2015 Google restructured and the new parent company was called Alphabet with Mr Schmidt becoming chairman.
Alphabet has more than 70,000 employees worldwide, and owns Google Search, Maps, Ads, Gmail, Android, Chrome, and YouTube.
Joe Beda, chief technology officer of technology firm Heptio and a former Google employee, said: "He helped them mature into the powerhouse business it is today without throwing away the uniqueness that was Google during those early days."
Alphabet board member John Hennessy said Mr Schmidt had been "tremendously effective and tireless in guiding our board, particularly as we restructured from Google to Alphabet".
Google still makes up the most of Alphabet's revenue and income.
However, the group also includes the so-called Other Bets unit, which includes the Waymo driverless car business and the Project Loon WiFi-enabled weather balloon venture.
Mr Schmidt said the Alphabet structure was "working well", and "Google and the Other Bets are thriving".
Microsoft Aids Sexual Harassment, Victims To Speak Out
Microsoft is taking steps to making it easier for sexual harassment victims to not only speak out about alleged abuse, but sue the company if necessary.
The tech titan is doing away with forced arbitration agreements for any employee who makes an accusation of sexual harassment.
The move, Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith said, was inspired by proposed federal legislation – S. 2203, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 – that was brought forward by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lindsey Graham. If it becomes law, it would enable those facing sexual harassment at work to “make their case in a public court, rather than solely behind closed doors in private arbitration.”
“Today Microsoft becomes the first Fortune 100 company to endorse bipartisan legislation that will ensure that people’s concerns about sexual harassment can always be heard,” Smith said. “We’re also taking a new step within Microsoft to ensure this will be the case, even while that legislation is pending.”
In a conversation with Sen. Graham, Smith said, he learned that 60 million Americans are unable to bring a sexual harassment claim in court because of employment contracts that require private arbitration.
Smith said he found the number worrying and set to reviewing Microsoft’s own practices. He said he discovered the company has contractual clauses that enforce pre-dispute arbitration for harassment claims in employment agreements “for a small segment of our employee population.”
“We concluded that if we were to advocate for legislation ending arbitration requirements for sexual harassment, we should not have a contractual requirement for our own employees that would obligate them to arbitrate sexual harassment claims,” Smith said. “And we should act immediately and not wait for a new law to be passed. For this reason, effective immediately, we are waiving the contractual requirement for arbitration of sexual harassment claims in our own arbitration agreements for the limited number of employees who have this requirement.”
Now that Microsoft has taken the step to do away with arbitration, it will be interesting to see if any other tech companies will follow suit.