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San Francisco's Yellow Cab Files For Bankruptcy ( 113

Applehu Akbar writes: Yellow Cab Cooperative, the largest taxi company in San Francisco, has filed Chapter 11. While competition from those newfangled ride-sharing services is a natural target for blame, a more proximate cause is Yellow Cab losing an $8 million accident liability suit by a passenger who is now paralyzed. Apparently the Yellow Cab drivers are...registered as independent contractors. So much for the medallion cab argument that they offer superior liability coverage.

Tech's Big 5 -- Here to Stay? ( 250

schwit1 tips a piece at the NY Times about the most entrenched companies in consumer technology: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. The article makes the case that these five have a such a strong grip on the modern tech industry that they're destined to stick around for the foreseeable future. From the article: Tech people like to picture their industry as a roiling sea of disruption, in which every winner is vulnerable to surprise attack from some novel, as-yet-unimagined foe. ... But for much of the last half-decade, most of these five giants have enjoyed a remarkable reprieve from the boogeymen in the garage. And you can bet on them continuing to win. So I’m coining them the Frightful Five. .... Though competition between the five remains fierce — and each year, a few of them seem up and a few down — it’s becoming harder to picture how any one of them, let alone two or three, may cede their growing clout in every aspect of American business and society. ... In various small and large ways, the Frightful Five are pushing into the news and entertainment industries; they’re making waves in health care and finance; they’re building cars, drones, robots and immersive virtual-reality worlds. Why do all this? Because their platforms — the users, the data, and all the money they generate — make these far-flung realms seem within their grasp."

GM Buys Failed Uber Rival Sidecar ( 20

An anonymous reader writes: The major automakers have several new technologies to fear, ridesharing services and self-driving technology chief among them. Both of these could dramatically affect how consumers buy cars. So it's perhaps not surprising that after investing $500 million in Lyft, GM has now purchased the assets of Sidecar, a ridesharing service that failed at the end of last year. GM wants to use Sidecar's assets to bolster Lyft — presumably in an attempt to keep Uber from becoming too big. "Sidecar helped introduce the concept of peer-to-peer car-sharing when it launched in 2012 and essentially allowed anyone who passed a background check to offer rides to smartphone-toting passengers." GM will certainly keep the gained knowledge for themselves, as well: "GM is preparing to introduce its own set of transportation services, which it has dubbed Maven, the source familiar with the matter said. The initiative may allow owners of GM vehicles to give rides to other passengers who are commuting in the same direction."

Trump Says He'd Make Apple Build Computers In the US ( 875

mrspoonsi writes with Business Insider's report that presidential candidate Donald Trump says he'd like to make Apple "start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries." From the article: Trump's ultimatum to the most valuable company in the world was made towards the end of a 45-minute speech he gave at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday. The most popular candidate in the Republican party said he would impose a 35% business tax on American businesses manufacturing outside of the United States. Apple has manufactured its Mac Pro at a factory in Texas since 2013, but the vast majority of its products (including the iPhone) are largely made and assembled in China. How Trump would force Apple's supply chain, which relies heavily on a vast network of suppliers and large factories throughout Asia, to be brought stateside remains unknown. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently called the U.S. tax code "awful for America." If Trump (or anyone) thinks this is a good idea, why start or stop with Apple?

Opel Dealers Accused of Modyfing the Software of Polluting Cars ( 147

An anonymous reader writes: Belgian public broadcasting station VRT has discovered that GM Opel dealerships in Belgium seem to be updating engine management code when Zafira cars equipped with the 1.6 litre CDTI diesel engine are brought in for service. After the software change, the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions drop sharply, at the cost of reduced power output. Bern University of Applied Sciences and environmental lobby club DUH previously found this model to pass European emissions standards only when the rear wheels are not rotating. When the rear wheels are made to spin along, NOx emissions increase to several times the limit set by European regulations. General Motors denied using defeat devices as well as the update program that seems to be taking place. However, an anonymous mechanic at an Opel dealership states that GM started pushing updates shortly after the Dieselgate scandal broke.

Whatsapp Will Become Free, Companies Can Pay To Reach Users ( 92

speedplane writes: The popular messaging service Whatsapp will soon become free (they previously charged $0.99 per year after the first). The troubling news is that to compensate for the lost revenue, companies will now be able to pay to contact users directly. "[Whatsapp founder] Mr. Koum said that his team was still experimenting with how such services could work, and that many companies were already using the messaging service, particularly in developing countries, to connect with mobile-savvy customers." If this smells like advertising, Whatsapp vehemently disagrees. A portion of their statement reads: "...people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no."

Tension Escalates Between Netflix and Its TV Foes ( 302

An anonymous reader writes: Viewership numbers are vital within the TV industry. For years, the networks have relied upon ratings to make money — higher numbers mean higher ad revenue. The most important part of the ratings system is that individual networks can't just claim whatever viewership they want; third-party companies like Nielsen control the stats. But Netflix doesn't operate by the same rulebook, and this is frustrating the networks. Execs from Netflix and various networks have started arguing about it, both at an industry event this weekend, and in media interviews. NBC had hired a firm to estimate Netflix's viewership numbers, because Netflix won't release them. Netflix says the estimate is laughably wrong, but has also suggested shows fare better on their platform than on cable or broadcast television. If true, it gives them leverage to recruit more and better talent to produce such shows. But it's impossible to refute without numbers, and the networks are increasingly annoyed they can't do that. NBC thinks the media tends to give Netflix a pass on these statements. FX chief John Landgraf said, "[Netflix's Ted Sarandos] shouldn't say something is successful in quantitative terms unless you're willing to provide data and a methodology behind those statements. You can't have it both ways."
The Media

Explaining the Lack of Quality Journalism In the Internet Age ( 311

schnell writes: While many lament the seeming lack of quality, in-depth journalism today, a Gawker article argues that the inescapable problem is that you need a paying (in some form) audience (of a large enough size) to do it. There are plenty of free "news" sources to be found online, especially blogs simply regurgitating and putting a spin on wire news reports. But as the article notes, "The audience for quality prestige content is small. Even smaller than the actual output of quality prestige content, which itself is smaller than most media outlets like to imagine." Even highly respected news sources like the New York Times are resorting to wine clubs, and the Washington Post is giving free subscriptions to Amazon Prime members to drive more corporate synergy and revenue. Rich parent companies are giving up on boutique, high-quality, niche journalism projects like ESPN's Grantland and Al Jazeera America because there simply aren't enough TV viewers/online ad clickers to pay the bills. So how do we reconcile our collectively-stated desire for high quality journalism with our (seeming) collective unwillingness to pay for it?

Google Has Toughest Interview Process For Developers, But Not the Worst ( 227

An anonymous reader writes: A casual survey of candidates' reactions to the interview processes of the biggest tech companies in the world shows Google as having one of the most grueling hiring gauntlets in the sector — but Twitter's is perceived as the worst. The survey measured the amount of time candidature took, as well as the number of stages and the methods involved at each stage, and additionally estimated whether the job-seekers felt positive or negative about the procedure.

Netflix Executive Admits a VPN-Blocking Policy Might Be Impossible To Enforce ( 172

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix's chief product officer Neil Hunt has admitted that the company has 'no magic solution' to subscribers who use VPNs to access content not licensed for their geographical region, commenting that 'It's likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game'. Hunt notes that Netflix can only rely on lists of VPN IP addresses, and that these can easily be changed. However since Netflix subscribers pay for the service via geographically linked credit and debit cards, this article wonders if Netflix really believes that hundreds of thousands of their subscribers are permanently in migration or on holiday — and also that venerable old VPN IP addresses — ones so well-known that they are routinely challenged by services such as CloudFlare — never seem to have any trouble connecting to a Netflix account.
The Almighty Buck

Open Salaries: the Good, the Bad and the Awkward ( 258

gollum123 writes: More employers, from Whole Foods Market, with 91,000 employees, to smaller companies such as SumAll and Squaremouth, are opening up companywide salary information to all employees. They generally don't disclose it to the public—but one company, Buffer, posts all employees' salaries on its website. The idea of open pay is to get pay and performance problems out on the table for discussion, eliminate salary inequities and spark better performance. But open pay also is sparking some awkward conversations between co-workers comparing their paychecks, and puncturing egos among those whose salaries don't sync with their self-image.
The Almighty Buck

Coin Teams With MasterCard In Wearable Payments Push ( 63

An anonymous reader writes: Smart payments startup Coin has announced it will team up with MasterCard to use its electronic card technology to help companies integrate payment services into their wearable devices. Under the new MasterCard partnership, owners of wearables with integrated Coin technology will be able to pay at retail outlets without the need to take out any cash or card . The deal is not exclusive, which means that there is still potential for Visa and American Express customers to benefit when the Coin-embedded tech begins to ship later this year.

China's Tech Copycats Transformed Into a Hub For Innovation ( 95

hackingbear writes: Following similar path of the 19th century America, China has advanced from being copycats to innovators. After its middle class has risen from 4% of population to 2/3 in the last decade, a generation both creative and comfortable with risk-taking are born. "We're seeing people in their early twenties starting companies—people just out of school, and there are even some dropouts," says Kai-Fu Lee, a Chinese venture capitalist and veteran of Apple, Microsoft, and Google, who has spent the past decade crisscrossing the nation, helping youths start firms. Major cities, i.e. Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, are crowded with ambitious inventors and entrepreneurs, flocking into software accelerators and hackerspaces. They no longer want jobs at Google or Apple; like their counterparts in San Francisco, they want to build the next Google or Apple. Venture capitalists pumped a record $15.5 billion into Chinese startups last year, so entrepreneurs are being showered in funding, as well as crucial advice and mentoring from millionaire angels. Even the Chinese government—which has a wary attitude toward online expression and runs a vast digital censorship apparatus—has launched a $6.5 billion fund for startups.

GM Dumps $500 Million Into Lyft ( 129

An anonymous reader writes: General Motors has invested $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft, and also committed resources to develop an on-demand network of autonomous cars. "GM will also work with Lyft to set up a series of short-term car rental hubs across the United States, places where people who do not own cars can pick up a vehicle and drive for Lyft to earn money." Lyft thinks the future of self-driving cars is in a network of vehicles people share, rather than individual ownership. GM, which produces millions of automobiles every year, seems to agree. The money will help Lyft compete with competitor Uber, which has raised over $10 billion in investments already. "The alliance with GM is surprising because automakers could consider ride-hailing companies like Lyft as long-term threats to auto sales. In an interview, [GM president Daniel Ammann] said that GM wanted to be part of the changing business models in transportation."

'Flexible' Working Can Keep You Stressed Out For Longer, Lead to Illness ( 151

schwit1 sends news about the effects of flexible working schedules on the people who try them. Research has found that many employees fall into a "grazing" pattern for work — constantly being interrupted while working, and continuing to keep up with work emails when not — which results in having elevated stress levels for a longer period of time. This can make such workers more susceptible to illness, and it shows distinct biological consequences to having a poor work-life balance. Flexible working policies can also raise the risk of poor working conditions, and create resentment among colleagues ... The findings are a blow to advocates of more sophisticated measures for enabling people to achieve a work-life balance in rich economies that tend to overwork some people while underutilising millions of others. With an estimated 10m working days lost to work-related stress in the UK last year, finding a good balance between the demands of home and the job now dominates concerns about the impact of work on health.

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