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Communications

Messaging Giant Line Becomes a Phone Carrier in Japan 10

Popular instant messaging service, Line, is entering the mobile carrier business in Japan. The company says that its carrier will utilise telecommunications infrastructure of major Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo and start at an affordable price of 500 yen (roughly $4.40) a month. Jon Fingas reports for Engadget: As of this summer, Japanese residents can subscribe to Line Mobile and get unlimited use of not only Line's chat and call services, but the "main features" (browsing and posts) of Facebook and Twitter.
Businesses

Samsung Plans To Give Up Authoritarian Ways, Act Like a Startup 98

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung on Thursday announced that it plans to reform its internal culture to act like a startup. Se Young Lee reports for Reuters, "Samsung's executives will sign a pledge to move away from a top-down culture and towards a working environment that fosters open dialogue. The flagship firm of South Korea's dominant conglomerate will also reduce the number of levels in its staff hierarchy and hold more frequent online discussions between business division heads and employees. [...] The pronouncement is the latest among sweeping changes attempted at a time of crisis by the conglomerate and carries echoes of a 1993 exhortation by Samsung Group patriarch Lee Kun-hee to executives to 'change everything but your wife and children.'"
Cloud

Google Opens Access To Its Speech Recognition API, Going Head To Head With Nuance (techcrunch.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google is planning to compete with Nuance and other voice recognition companies head on by opening up its speech recognition API to third-party developers. To attract developers, the app will be free at launch with pricing to be introduced at a later date. The company formally announced the service today during its NEXT cloud user conference, where it also unveiled a raft of other machine learning developments and updates, most significantly a new machine learning platform. The Google Cloud Speech API, which will cover over 80 languages and will work with any application in real-time streaming or batch mode, will offer full set of APIs for applications to "see, hear and translate," Google says. It is based on the same neural network tech that powers Google's voice search in the Google app and voice typing in Google's Keyboard. Google's move will have a large impact on the industry as a whole -- and particularly on Nuance, the company long thought of as offering the best voice recognition capabilities in the business, and most certainly the biggest offering such services.
Government

D.C. Regulators Approve Exelon's $7 Billion Takeover Of Pepco (washingtonpost.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WashingtonPost: District regulators approved a $6.8 billion merger between Pepco Holdings and Exelon on Wednesday, creating the largest publicly-held utility in the country. The merger means that Pepco will now be absorbed by a company with the largest number of nuclear reactors in the country and widespread operations throughout the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and New England. In voting 2 to 1 to approve the deal, the D.C. Public Service Commission said it "was in the public interest," noting that it would deposit $72.8 million in a "customer investment fund," set aside $11.25 million for energy efficiency and conservation programs targeted toward low-income residents, and carve out $21.55 million for pilot projects such as modernizing the electric distribution grid. "These benefits, among others, would not be available to District ratepayers if the merger is not approved," the commission said in a statement.
Intel

Intel's Former CEO (and First Hire) Andy Grove Dead at 79 38

The Verge reports the death at age 79 of former Intel CEO, Andy Grove, one of the best-known names in Silicon Valley, and in fact one of the people who are behind the fecund technological and business climate that made Silicon Valley a household name. Grove's professional life at Intel spanned five decades, beginning as a day-one, number-one hire, as director of engineering; he went on to serve as president, CEO, and chairman of the board, managing to write several books along the way; "Only the Paranoid Survive" is probably the best known. From The Verge's story: During Groves' tenure as CEO, Intel produced chips including the 386 and Pentium, which became name brands unto themselves and laid the groundwork for much of the personal computing era. "Andy approached corporate strategy and leadership in ways that continue to influence prominent thinkers and companies around the world," Intel Chairman Andy Bryant said in a statement. "He combined the analytic approach of a scientist with an ability to engage others in honest and deep conversation, which sustained Intel's success over a period that saw the rise of the personal computer, the Internet and Silicon Valley."
Businesses

Apple Pay Has a Siri Problem (theverge.com) 223

An anonymous reader writes: Katherine Boehret of The Verge reports multiple issues -- systematic, as well as general unawareness among vendors -- with Apple Pay. Citing instances from her own experience, she noted issues when using Apple Pay at McDonald's, Pret A Manger, and New York City cabs. From her report, "If I buy something at one of the wrong registers, the cashier must log out of it and log on at the right register before re-entering my purchase so I can use Apple Pay. This has happened at least a dozen times." She adds, "When a tool like Apple Pay works, it's like magic. You lift your phone, use fingerprint recognition to confirm the purchase, and walk away. The Wallet app in iOS shows you a list of your recent transactions, and adding credit cards is a simple process. But if Apple Pay fails enough times or isn't accepted at enough places, people forget it exists or think it's not worth trying to use. It's a lot like Siri in that way: too many failed attempts and you'll never open it again -- at least not on purpose."
Businesses

Amazon Employees Launch Matchmaking Startup For Coworkers (geekwire.com) 170

reifman writes: As posted earlier, Amazon's growth and predominantly male hiring has made dating in Seattle incredibly difficult for everyone. Two Amazon employees, Becca Goldman and Mahvish Gazipura, recently launched DateADev to help coworkers optimize their dating profiles: 'at Amazon [we're] surrounded by software developers and project managers all the time, we just noticed their need. We talk to them all the time about their frustrations with dating.' Goldman's gone on more than 500 dates in the past three years. 'Her experience ... helps her quickly assess an online profile of a potential partner.' Rather than drive its employees into moonlighting, Amazon could just start hiring more women.
Businesses

Rumor: Broadcom Phasing Out Wi-Fi Chip Business (digitimes.com) 65

jones_supa writes: According to sources in Taiwan at the heart of the electronics industry, Broadcom is looking to phase out its Wi-Fi chip business in a move to streamline its workforce and product offerings following its acquisition by Avago Technologies. In general, the Wi-Fi chip business yields relatively low gross margins compared to other product lines due to fierce price competition in the market for mass-market applications (such as notebooks, tablets, TVs and smartphones). Companies such as MediaTek, Realtek Semiconductor and RDA Microelectronics have already received a pull-in of short lead-time orders from Broadcom's customers in the Wi-Fi sector. Following its merger with Avago, Broadcom is expected to allocate more RD resources to solutions in the fiber-optic and server sectors. In addition, Broadcom has almost halved the workforce stationed at its office in Taipei.
Businesses

Laid-Off Abbott IT Workers Won't Have To Train Their Replacements (computerworld.com) 284

dcblogs writes: An angry letter from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) protesting Abbott Labs' IT employee layoff may be having an impact, but not the way the senator wanted. The layoffs are part of plan by Abbott to shift some IT work to India-based Wipro, a major user H-1B visas, and Abbott is proceeding with the cuts despite Durbin's plea "to reconsider this plan and retain these U.S. workers." Abbott put the number of impacted IT employees at "fewer than 150." Durbin's letter has it at 180. But Abbott may be making changes in how the layoffs are conducted. IT employees, who only spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were initially told they would be training replacements. But Abbott said Friday that the "affected Abbott IT employees are not being asked to train their replacements." The firm's statement appears to confirm the latest employee accounts of what's going on. One worker said the replacement training may be limited to employees who aren't losing their jobs. The training of replacements was a major issue for Durbin. In his letter to the firm, Durbin wrote: "To add insult to injury, the Abbott Labs IT staff who will be laid off will first be forced to train their replacements."
Microsoft

Microsoft Tries Hard To Play Nice With Open Source, But There's an Elephant In the Room 163

Esther Schindler writes: They're trying, honest they are. In 2016 alone, writes Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Microsoft announced SQL Server on Linux; integrated Eclipse and Visual Studio, launched an open-source network stack on Debian Linux; and it's adding Ubuntu Linux to its Azure Stack hybrid-cloud offering. That's all well and good, he says, but it's not enough. There's one thing Microsoft could do to gain real open-source trust: Stop forcing companies to pay for its bogus Android patents. But, there's too much money at stake, writes sjvn, for this to ever happen. For instance, in its last quarter, volume licensing and patents, accounted for approximately 9% of Microsoft's total revenue.
Businesses

Comcast Failed To Install Internet, Then Demanded $60,000 In Fees (arstechnica.com) 139

Earthquake Retrofit writes: A Silicon Valley startup called SmartCar in Mountain View, California signed up for Comcast Internet service. After hearing Comcast excuses for months, company owner Katta finally got fed up and decided that he would find a new office building once his 12-month lease expires on April 20 of this year. Katta told Comcast he wanted to 'cancel' his nonexistent service and get a refund for a $2,100 deposit he had paid. Instead, Comcast told him he'd have to pay more than $60,000 to get out of his contract with the company. Comcast eventually waived the fee—but only after being contacted by Ars Technica about the case.
Australia

Stephen Elop New Chief Innovator For Australia's Telstra 110

Freshly Exhumed writes: The former Microsoft executive excoriated by some industry watchers for the collapse of Nokia Mobile Phones, Stephen Elop, has re-emerged down under. Telstra says Elop is being appointed to the new role of Group Executive Technology, Innovation and Strategy, "leading Telstra's strategy to become a world class technology company" (stop giggling, you in the back row). Telstra cites Elop's "deep technology experience" and "innate sense of customer expectations."
Businesses

Alibaba To Train a Million Youngsters In E-commerce (thestack.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes: Alibaba has announced its plans to train a million teenagers and graduates living in rural areas of China to kick-start their own businesses. The Chinese e-commerce giant reached an agreement today with the China Communist Youth League to support the teenagers with funding, training and partnerships. The company's internet financing branch Ant Financial will set aside 1 billion yuan to invest in the training of recent college graduates who want to return to their home-towns and launch businesses.
Businesses

Peter Jackson and JJ Abrams 'Back' Sean Parker's Screening Room (variety.com) 288

An anonymous reader writes: Reports claim that Napster founder, Sean Parker, is working on a new service, called Screening Room, which would make major blockbusters available at home on the same day as they hit cinemas. The service would apparently charge users $50 per movie, and provide them with a 48-hour window to watch it. Now a new report claims that Hollywood titans Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams are among backers of Screening Room.
Bitcoin

Microsoft Store No Longer Accepts Bitcoins As Payment (techtimes.com) 116

westlake writes: It may come as a surprise to many here [but not all! -- Ed.], but back in December 2014, Microsoft began accepting Bitcoin.as payments for apps, games, and music purchased through the Windows Store, for its Win 10, Windows Phone and Xbox customers. Big-ticket items like MS Office were excluded. The service has been quietly discontinued. Crypto-currencies may excite the geek, but the Windows Store is mass-market and middle class, and the interest just might not be there.

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