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EU

Apple Increases App Store Prices By 25% Following Brexit Vote (theguardian.com) 72

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
Businesses

Tesla Is Investing $350 Million In Its Gigafactory, Hiring Hundreds of Workers (cnbc.com) 89

Just weeks after the massive Gigafactory started producing batteries, Tesla has announced plans to hire more workers and use the facility to make the motor and gearbox for its upcoming Model 3 electric sedan. CNBC reports: Tesla will invest $350 million for the project, and hire an additional 550 people, according to the governor's comments. That will be over and above the company's existing commitment to hiring 6,500 people at the Gigafactory, according to comments made by Steve Hill, the director of the governor's Office of Economic Development, to Nevada newspaper the Nevada Appeal. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made manufacturing efficiency a high priority for the company, but Tesla will require a lot of factory floor to meet its goal of to pumping out 500,000 cars by the end of 2018, and then making one million cars by 2020. Meanwhile, the city of Fremont recently approved Tesla's application for an additional 4.6 million square feet of space there.
Oracle

Labor Department Sues Oracle For Paying White Men More (usatoday.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
Businesses

Twitter Just Sold Its Developer Platform To Google (engadget.com) 23

Google has acquired a part of Twitter -- the part that isn't about tweets. Twitter's mobile developer platform Fabric will become part of Google, both companies announced Wednesday. From a report: Acquired by Twitter in 2014, Fabric is "a modular mobile platform" designed to help app developers improve the "stability, distribution, revenue and identity" of their products, according to Twitter's blog post. Everything from the ability to natively embed tweets in other apps to signing in with your Twitter credentials were made possible by Fabric. Now that it's been reacquired, Fabric will merge with Google's Firebase development platform. "We quickly realized that our missions are the same -- helping mobile teams build better apps, understand their users, and grow their businesses," the Fabric team wrote in its announcement. "Fabric and Firebase operate mobile platforms with unique strengths in the market today." And if you're an existing Fabric customer, don't worry, the platform will continue to function. You'll just need to agree to the new terms of service, which will be available once the deal is completed.
AI

AI Can Predict When Patients Will Die From Heart Failure 'With 80% Accuracy' (ibtimes.co.uk) 142

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Scientists say they have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that is capable of predicting when patients with a serious heart disorder will die with an 80% accuracy rate. Researchers from the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) believe the software will allow doctors to better treat patients with pulmonary hypertension by determining how aggressive their treatment needs to be. The researchers' program assessed the outlook of 250 patients based on blood test results and MRI scans of their hearts. It then used the data to create a virtual 3D heart of each patient which, combined with the health records of "hundreds" of previous patients, allowed it to learn which characteristics indicated fatal heart failure within five years. The LMS scientists claim that the software was able to accurately predict patients who would still be alive after a year around 80% of the time. The computer was able to analyze patients "in seconds," promising to dramatically reduce the time it takes doctors to identify the most at-risk individuals and ensure they "give the right treatment to the right patients, at the right time." Dr Declan O'Regan, one the lead researchers from LMS, said: "This is the first time computers have interpreted heart scans to accurately predict how long patients will live. It could transform the way doctors treat heart patients. The researchers now hope to field-test the technology in hospitals in London in order to verify the data obtained from their trials, which have been published in the medical journal Radiology.
Businesses

US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing (reuters.com) 56

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
The Almighty Buck

Blockchain Technology Could Save Banks $12 Billion a Year (silicon.co.uk) 108

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Accenture research has found Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent for eight of the world's ten biggest banks. That equates to annual cost savings of $8-12 billion. The findings of the "Banking on Blockchain: A Value Analysis for Investment Banks" report are based on an analysis of granular cost data from the eight banks to identify exactly where value could be achieved. A vast amount of cost for today's investment banks comes from complex data reconciliation and confirmation processes with their clients and counterparts, as banks maintain independent databases of transactions and customer information. However, Blockchain would enable banks to move to a shared, distributed database that spans multiple organizations. It has become increasingly obvious in recent months that blockchain will be key to the future of the banking industry, with the majority of banks expected to adopt the technology within the next three years.
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 81

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
Communications

Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies (digitaltrends.com) 157

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.
Businesses

Toshiba Might Spin Off Its Semiconductor Business (fortune.com) 11

Toshiba is considering spinning off its semiconductor business and selling a partial stake in the unit to Western Digital, the Nikkei financial daily reported on Wednesday. From the report: Toshiba will sell a roughly 20% interest in the unit for about 200 billion yen-300 billion yen ($1.77 billion-$2.66 billion) while retaining a majority stake, the newspaper reported. Besides Western Digital, U.S. investment funds are also showing interest in Toshiba's semiconductor business, the Nikkei reported, sources familiar with the matter.
Businesses

Facebook's Price Tag For Oculus Actually $3 Billion, Zuckerberg Reveals in Court (cnbc.com) 47

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed in court testimony Tuesday that the company actually paid $3 billion to buy Oculus. From a report on CNBC: His testimony came in a Dallas courtroom, when game maker ZeniMax alleges that Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014, stole the company's intellectual property. ZeniMax's attorney pressed Zuckerberg on the total Facebook paid for the company. Zuckerberg revealed that beyond the $2 billion price tag, that was widely reported, Facebook paid an additional $700 million to retain employees and another $300 million earnout for hitting key milestones. Nearly three years after Oculus' acquisition Zuckerberg defended against allegations that Oculus stole ZeniMax's intellectual property, also explaining his interest in VR and how it fits into his vision for Oculus.
AI

People Don't Realize How Deep AI Already Is In So Many Things, Salesforce CEO Benioff Says (cnbc.com) 156

Evolving technologies should develop at a steady enough pace to adequately replace the jobs they eliminate, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told CNBC on Tuesday. From the report: "Technology's always taken jobs out of the system, and what you hope is that technology's going to put those jobs back in, too. That's what we call productivity," Benioff said on "Squawk Box" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I think a lot of people don't understand how deep AI already is in so many things," he said, one being Salesforce's newly updated Einstein product, which Benioff said is not yet available to clients but can tell the company whether it will make or miss earnings estimates using artificial intelligence What business leaders at the WEF have been calling the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" is at the center of a global transformation in the technology space, as artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing gain traction, he said.
Businesses

Worldwide App Downloads Grew 15% and Revenue Soared 40% in 2016 (venturebeat.com) 19

Downloads, revenue, and time spent in apps all grew by double digits during 2016, according to a report by market researcher App Annie. From a report on VentureBeat: Time spent in apps grew more than 20 percent to nearly 900 billion hours in 2016, according to the year-end report. That's just one sign that the global app economy saw healthy growth during the past year. In its year-end retrospective, App Annie said U.S. time spent in apps grew more than 25 percent. Worldwide, downloads increased 15 percent by more than 13 billion across both iOS and Google Play. The platform owners paid out nearly $89 billion in revenues to publishers from in-app ads and app store revenue, up 40 percent from the year before. That means apps generated $127 billion in revenues overall, as platform owners take about 30 percent of the revenue.
Businesses

Apple App Store Prices Rise in UK, India and Turkey (bbc.com) 83

Apple is to put up the price it charges for apps in the UK, India and Turkey. From a report on BBC: UK costs will numerically match those of the US, meaning that a program that costs $0.99 will now be 99p. That represents a 25% rise over the previous currency conversion, which was 79p. "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business," it said. "These factors vary from region to region and over time." The rise will also affect in-app purchases but not subscription charges. The cost of a $0.99 app will become 80 rupees in India, representing a 33% rise from the previous price of 60 rupees.
Portables (Apple)

Apple To Offer 32GB of Desktop RAM, Kaby Lake In Top-End 2017 MacBook Pro, Says Analyst (appleinsider.com) 290

AppleInsider has obtained a note to investors from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that says Apple's 2017 laptop line will focus on internal component updates, including the platform-wide adoption of Intel's Kaby Lake architecture. What's more is that Apple is expected to manufacture a 15-inch MacBook Pro with up to 32GB of RAM in the fourth quarter of 2017. AppleInsider reports: Apple took flak in releasing its latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models with a hard memory cap of 16GB, an minimal allotment viewed as a negative for imaging and video professionals. Responding to customer criticism, Apple said the move was made in a bid to maximize battery life. Essentially, the Intel Skylake CPUs used in Apple's MacBook Pro only support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. Though Intel does make processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, those particular chipsets rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops with access to dedicated mains power. In order to achieve high memory allotments and keep unplugged battery life performance on par with existing MacBook Pro models, Apple will need to move to an emerging memory technology like LPDDR4 or DDR4L. Such hardware is on track for release later this year. As for the 12-inch MacBook, Kuo believes next-generation versions of the thin-and-light will enter mass production in the second quarter with the same basic design aesthetic introduced in 2015. New for 2017 is a 16GB memory option that will make an appearance thanks to Intel's new processor class.
Businesses

Oculus Accused of Destroying Evidence, Zuckerberg To Testify In $2 Billion Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ZeniMax Media, the parent company of both Bethesda Softworks and Id Software, says it will prove at trial that John Carmack and others at Oculus stole trade secrets to "misappropriate" virtual reality technology that was first developed while Carmack was working at Id Software. What's more, ZeniMax is now accusing Oculus of "intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing." Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Oculus parent company Facebook, is scheduled to respond to those accusations in testimony starting tomorrow, according to a report by Business insider. ZeniMax's statement comes after Carmack testified at trial last week, saying the case was "ridiculous and absurd." His testimony echoed Oculus' initial reaction when ZeniMax's accusations first surfaced in 2014. In court filings leading up to the trial, ZeniMax detailed its case that Carmack, while still an employee at Id Software, "designed the specifications and functionality embodied in the Rift SDK and directed its development." Carmack's technology and guidance allegedly "literally transformed" Oculus founder Palmer Luckey's early Rift prototype from a "primitive virtual reality headset" that was "little more than a display panel." Carmack allegedly used "copyrighted computer code, trade secret information, and technical know-how" from his time at ZeniMax after he moved to Oculus as CTO in 2013. As the trial began last week (as reported by a Law360 summary, registration required), Carmack told the court of his development of a virtual reality demo for Doom 3 in 2012 and his search for a VR headset that would be suitable to run it. That's when he says he got in touch with Luckey, leading to the now legendary E3 2012 demo that introduced Oculus to the public. ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damage, which matches the value that Facebook paid for Oculus in 2014. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Communications

Amazon Seeks FCC Permission To Run Wireless Tests In Washington State (csmonitor.com) 24

Amazon has filed an application with the U.S. federal government that details plans to experiment with wireless communications technology. The application asks the FCC for permission "to test undisclosed prototypes and their related software for five months in and around its Seattle headquarters," reports Christian Science Monitor. "The experiments will involve mobile devices and anchored stations alike, according to an FCC application made public last week and first reported by Business Insider's Eugene Kim, who noted the project could be part of Amazon's drone-delivery initiatives or something even more novel." From the report: In recent years, Google and Facebook have begun conducting wireless experiments of their own with FCC approval, pursuing a number of innovative projects, such as self-driving cars, as Mr. Kim reported. Amazon, meanwhile, has focused on its aspirations of drone delivery service for its online retail business -- a service the firm has pursued in Britain and several other countries as well. Given the company's wide-ranging interests, it is difficult to anticipate precisely what the tests entail. Last year alone, Amazon unveiled projects to change the way people grocery shop, offer drivers a voice-activated driving assistant, and ship cargo with its own branded planes, as the Monitor reported. Amazon's application to the FCC notes that the tests would begin indoors at the Seattle headquarters then later move outdoors to a customer service site more than 220 miles away, in Kennewick, Wash. The tests would last five months, beginning as early as Feb. 11, 2017, the documents state.
AT&T

AT&T Denies Refunds For DirecTV Now Customers, Despite the Service's Performance Issues (techcrunch.com) 88

A number of consumers report they're unable to get a refund for their subscription to AT&T's recently launched streaming service, DirecTV Now -- something they've requested after being unhappy with the new service's performance. From a report on TechCrunch: According to several postings on AT&T's official forums, customers found the only way to get help was through a hard-to-find chat feature, and when they asked the AT&T reps about refunds, the customers were told they were not offered. Writes one user with the handle EIUdrummerboy, after attempting to get a refund via chat, the rep told them specifically: "We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds."
Businesses

South Korea Prosecutors Seek Arrest of Samsung Chief Jay Y Lee For Bribery (cnbc.com) 38

South Korea's special prosecutors' office said it will seek a warrant to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's biggest conglomerate, accusing him of paying multi-million dollar bribes to a friend of President Park Geun-hye. From a report: Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was questioned for 22 straight hours last week as investigators probed a corruption scandal that resulted in parliament impeaching Park last month. The special prosecutors' office accused Lee of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($36.42 million) to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president who is at the center of scandal. Lee, who became the de facto head of the Samsung Group after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, was also accused of embezzlement and perjury in the prosecution's application for an arrest warrant.
Communications

Deutsche Bank Switches Off Text Messaging (smh.com.au) 70

Deutsche Bank has banned text messages and communication apps such as WhatsApp on company-issued phones in an effort to improve compliance standards. From a report: The functionality will be switched off this quarter, chief regulatory officer Sylvie Matherat and chief operating officer Kim Hammonds told staff in a memo. Unlike emails, text messages can't be archived by the bank, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. "We fully understand that the deactivation will change your day-to-day work and we regret any inconvenience this may cause," Matherat and Hammonds said in the memo. "However, this step is necessary to ensure Deutsche Bank continues to comply with regulatory and legal requirements." The policy also applies to private phones used by employees for work purposes. Communication apps such as WhatsApp, Google Talk, iMessage are also prohibited, the memo said.

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