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Zenefits Pays the Piper
December 1, 2016
The California Department of Insurance this week announced fines totaling $7 million against startup Zenefits, a provider of cloud-based human resources services. The company's former leadership "created an anything goes culture at the Internet startup, resulting in numerous violations of licensing requirements to protect consumers," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
iPhone 8 Dreaming in Full Swing
November 29, 2016
Apple's latest iPhone was barely out of the gate when rumors began percolating about the company's next new phone. Although the iPhone 7 garnered mostly tepid reviews, initial inventories sold out quickly, and the company had to scramble to meet demand. That demand may have peaked, though, which may be why chasers of the next big thing are looking down the road.
Hype Video Broadcast App Has Niche Potential
November 14, 2016
The folks who brought Vine into the world last month introduced a new video broadcasting app called "Hype." Available for free from Intermedia Labs in the iTunes App Store, Hype not only allows users to broadcast live to the Internet, but also lets followers interact with their broadcasts in real time. At first blush, it might seem that Hype's offering closely mirrors Periscope and Facebook Live.
BlackBerry to Deliver One Last Keyboard Phone
November 14, 2016
BlackBerry has a new phone in the works, and it will have a physical keyboard, according to reports that surfaced last week. The company recently announced that it would exit the smartphone hardware market and transition to developing back-end mobile security software. However, BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed that one last device is in the pipeline.
Google Insists Android Plays on Level Field in Europe
November 11, 2016
Google on Thursday fired back at the European Commission's charges that it violated antitrust law by imposing coercive rules on mobile operators and developers who use or write applications for its Android operating system. The EC this spring charged that Google's requirements to use its search engine and its Chrome browser on mobile devices running Android were coercive tactics.
Daydream Believers May Boost VR, Suggest Early Reviews
November 10, 2016
Reviews for Google's Daydream View VR headset began to appear on Thursday, and the consensus among those who were able to test the new US$79 device appears to be two thumbs up. Although it has limitations, Daydream could be a gateway to affordable virtual reality technology, they suggested. The headset needs to be paired with Google's new line of Pixel and Pixel XL phones.
Samsung's Next Galaxy Phone Could Have Siri-Like Smarts
November 9, 2016
Samsung Electronics this week revealed plans to unveil its flagship Galaxy S8 mobile phone with a new digital assistant powered by AI. The assistant will be based on technology gained with Samsung's recent acquisition of Viv Labs. The plans call for Samsung to incorporate the AI into its family of electronics and appliances, ranging from mobile devices to wearable technology and home devices.
Google's Pixel Wins a Place in the Sun
November 8, 2016
Google's Pixel smartphone, which made its debut last month, has gathered some high praise from reviewers. "The Google Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy," wrote Joanna Stern. "The other leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion," she added, referring to Samsung's doomed Galaxy Note7, which was recalled for safety reasons.
Gadget Ogling: Mac's Back, Nintendo Returns, and Huawei Goes to the Edge
November 5, 2016
Apple has unveiled a redesigned MacBook Pro, giving the company's core laptop its first full refresh in a few years. The design has metal on all sides, along with a Force Touch trackpad double the size of previous versions. There's a customizable OLED touch strip above the keyboard that responds to gestures and taps, useful for fast access to emoji or secondary controls within an app.
Lenovo's Yoga Book Aims for Top Shelf
November 2, 2016
Lenovo's recently unveiled 2-in-1, the Yoga Book, is available in Android Marshmallow and Windows 10 Home versions. Reviews have been mixed, with some praising its look and feel, but some considering its capabilities not up to scratch. Its Intel Atom processor doesn't provide enough power for a workhorse device, they've argued. The Android version costs $500 and the Windows version goes for $550.
Xiaomi Debuts Magical Mi Mix
October 27, 2016
Xiaomi on Tuesday fired another shot in the shrinking bezel wars, as it announced a smartphone with a front that's more than 90 percent display. The Mi Mix is a 6.4-inch phone that's stylishly crafted by French designer Philippe Starck. It sports a feature set that indicates Xiaomi wants to compete at the high end of the smartphone market. The Mi Mix has a screen-to-body ratio of 91.3 percent.
IBM's Watson Smartens Up iOS Enterprise Apps
October 27, 2016
IBM has announced that it will incorporate its IBM Watson cognitive capabilities into the MobileFirst for iOS ecosystem to help boost the productivity of the global workforce. It was a little more than two years ago that the company entered a groundbreaking partnership with Apple to enhance the mobile enterprise space. The move is part of an overall rollout of enhancements to IBM's Watson tech.
Microsoft's New Tech Targets Human Creativity
October 27, 2016
Microsoft made a slew of announcements at its New York City event Wednesday, focusing on the idea of user as creator. Among its new offerings: the Surface Studio, an all-in-one desktop computer with a touchscreen that's 12.5mm thick; the Surface Dial, a new input device that provides haptic feedback; the Surface Book i7; VR headsets for Windows 10; and a revamped Paint app with 3D capability.
Gadget Ogling: Magnificent Mics, Intriguing E-Ink, and Compact Computers
October 26, 2016
I've tried dipping my toes into the world of podcasting with a friend this year. We haven't found it easy to get together to record, but for the two trial runs we've had, I bought a Blue Snowball mic. I'm very pleased with the sound quality, so I'm fairly certain I'd be happy to have Blue's latest microphone, Raspberry. It's a gorgeous, portable little thing.
Microsoft Event: Come for Windows, Stay for Surface
October 25, 2016
Microsoft's Windows 10 event, scheduled for Wednesday, actually could focus more on hardware than on the operating system, given that the next Windows 10 refresh is expected in March. A new Surface device -- possibly an all-in-one computer with a 21-inch or larger screen -- could be in the offing. "Microsoft hasn't had a desktop Surface product yet," noted tech analyst Rob Enderle.
AT&T, Time Warner Brace for Regulatory Firestorm
October 24, 2016
AT&T and Time Warner on Saturday announced they had reached a merger deal, setting off alarm bells across the industry. AT&T has agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion. At least a year's worth of regulatory scrutiny, public hearings and political maneuvering is expected. The deal essentially would create the industry's first vertically integrated mobile provider of premium cable.
Nintendo Switches It Up
October 20, 2016
After months of speculation and buildup, Nintendo on Thursday officially unveiled its new gaming system, the Nintendo Switch. Previously known only by the codename "NX," rumors about this latest video game console began last year with a hint from Satoru Iwata, the company's late president. At the time Iwata suggested only that Nintendo was working on a new video game system.
Samsung Bows Under Note7 Fallout
October 20, 2016
Three owners of Galaxy Note7 smartphones this week filed a complaint in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, that could become a class action lawsuit against Samsung. "Plaintiffs and the Class have suffered injury in fact, incurred millions of dollars in fees, and have otherwise been harmed by Samsung's conduct," the complaint states. Samsung has recalled the phones and stopped producing them.
Apple Downshifts Driverless Vehicle Plans
October 18, 2016
Apple appears to be shifting its driverless car ambitions into a lower gear. Changes in the company's automotive strategy reportedly have resulted in hundreds of job cuts and the shelving of plans to build a car of its own. Project Titan's shift in direction follows months of disagreements, leadership uncertainty, and supply chain problems within the project.
HP Debuts Flashy New Computers
October 14, 2016
Watch out, Apple. HP on Wednesday introduced a new generation of premium computer products that could generate the kind of excitement in the market that's usually the domain of the folks at One Infinite Loop. Among the new HP offerings are a new tablet-laptop convertable, a svelte laptop, an innovative all-in-one model, and a 4k display designed for dual screen setups.
Snap Lines Up Bankers for Spring IPO
October 13, 2016
Snap this week hired Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to manage its IPO, according to multiple reports. JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Allen & Co., Barclays and Credit Suisse Group reportedly also will play a role. The IPO, expected as early as this spring, could result in a valuation of $25 billion or more. That would make Snap one of the highest-profile IPOs in years.
Amazon Throws the Books at Prime Subscribers
October 13, 2016
Amazon last week launched Prime Reading -- a new benefit for subscribers to its US$100-a-year Amazon Prime service that lets them access content for free. That content will come from more than 1,000 top Kindle books, Kindle Singles, magazines, comic books, children's books, and classic works from writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem.
Gadget Ogling: Google Embraces a Hardware Future
October 12, 2016
The first smartphones Google has made by itself, Pixel and Pixel XL, are the first to bear Android 7.1 and the first to have the impressive Google Assistant built in. The Pixel has a 5-inch HD screen, while the Pixel XL offers a 5.5-inch QHD display. The phones have a quad-core processor and 4 GB of RAM. I like that the fingerprint sensor is on the back.
Cyanogen's Android Alternative Goes Modular
October 12, 2016
Cyanogen on Tuesday announced that it was going modular. Future releases of its open source Android alternative will not support a full stack of the Android OS. The new modular setup will bring a slew of benefits to phone makers and developers, according to Cyanogen. "The new partnership program offers smartphone manufacturers greater freedom and opportunity," noted Cyanogen CEO Lior Tal.
Samsung Down, Galaxy Note7 Out
October 11, 2016
Samsung shares fell sharply on Tuesday after the company confirmed reports that it had halted production of its flagship Galaxy Note7 smartphone, just launched this summer. The move came after several replacement phones reportedly smoldered or caught fire. Shares fell 8 percent in the Korean market. Samsung had been working with the U.S. CPSC on a voluntary recall and replacement program.
All Systems Go for Andromeda
October 11, 2016
Although Google didn't drop any new details on the progress of Andromeda at its Pixel event, that doesn't indicate any tempering of enthusiasm for the new operating system. Andromeda reportedly is a mashup of Android and Chrome, with features from Chrome having been ported into Android rather than the other way around. It's expected to show up next year in a new laptop, dubbed "Pixel 3."
Samsung's Galaxy Note7 Assembly Lines Grind to Halt
October 10, 2016
Samsung has stopped production of its problematic Galaxy Note7 smartphones, according to multiple press reports Monday. The company had been offering replacements of the phone after issuing a recall due to defective batteries, but all four major carriers have stopped doing so, presumably because several of the replacements exhibited similar problems, including smoking and catching fire.
Google Resurrects Embrace, Extend, Extinguish
October 10, 2016
This almost sounds like a plot for a novel. Microsoft creates a successful strategy called "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" and then promptly forgets it, resulting in a string of failures. Google, which up to now seemed happy to repeat Microsoft's mistakes, accidentally picks up a successful Microsoft practice and uses it against Apple -- likely taking out a number of its Android partners.
Galaxy Note7 Snaps, Crackles and Pops, Spurring Evacuation of Plane
October 6, 2016
Southwest Airlines on Wednesday evacuated a plane after a Samsung Galaxy Note7 began popping and issuing thick smoke. Samsung last month began replacing Galaxy Note7s globally, following reports of several of the devices catching fire or exploding. It blamed the problem on an "isolated" faulty battery cell issue. The latest incident reportedly involved a replacement phone.
Google Plasters Its Name on a New Hardware Collection
October 5, 2016
Google on Tuesday unveiled a new smartphone and home hub that squarely aim at products from market leaders Apple and Amazon. The company's new branded smartphone, called "Pixel," marks a departure from past efforts. Up to now, Google's Nexus phones were made by a variety of manufacturers that sold them under their brands. "Google is trying to position itself as a complete supplier," said ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr.
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