The Tech News Blog

October 30, 2014

Tim Cook: ‘I’m Proud To Be Gay’

Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook today broke his silence to announce that, yes, he is gay.

"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now," he said in an editorial penned for Bloomberg Businessweek. "So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

A private man running one of the most scrutinized companies on the globe, Cook cited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' "

"I often challenge myself with that question, and I've come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important," Cook wrote.

"I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others," he continued. "So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

October 30, 2014

Microsoft Cuts 3,000 Jobs, Finishing Layoffs

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

The bad news: Microsoft cut another 3,000 employees today. The good news: this is pretty much the last of the layoffs announced by CEO Satya Nadella this summer.

In a statement to PCMag, a Microsoft spokesperson said the reductions are taking place across a variety of teams in many different countries, though there's no word as to which departments will be hit hardest.

"We've taken another step that will complete almost all the 18,000 reductions announced in July," the spokesperson said.

Today's cuts follow two previous rounds of layoffs. Microsoft kicked things off in July, axing 13,000 in the first wave before cutting another 2,100 workers in September.

GeekWire reported that about 638 of today's layoffs were in the Seattle area, for a total of 2,700 layoffs in Microsoft's home region, where the company employed some 42,500 people at the end of September. The report noted that many of the downsized positions were in support roles, including finance, human resources, sales, and marketing.

The reductions come as Microsoft works to integrate the Nokia handset business it acquired in April for $7.2 billion. Following the Nokia deal, Microsoft's employee headcount rose from about 99,000 last year to 127,000. About 12,500 of the 18,000 layoffs came from Nokia, including professional and factory workers.

In a July memo to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, pictured, said the company would largely nix work on Android-based devices. "We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows," he wrote. "This builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space and aligns with our focus on Windows Universal Apps."

October 28, 2014

YouTube Expects Paid Subscription Service Soon

YouTube Tips

YouTube is moving ahead with its plan to offered a paid subscription service that would allow viewers to skip the pre-roll ads, YouTube senior vice president Susan Wojcicki said last night.

The option is "near term," Wojcicki said during Monday's Code Mobile conference in California, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"There are going to be cases where people are going to say, 'I don't want to see ads,'" according to Wojcicki, who took over as YouTube's top exec in February.

Last year, YouTube launched paid channels as part of a new pilot program that gave content creators a new way to earn revenue from their videos. That expanded in October, but as the Journal pointed out, there is currently no option for YouTube users to subscribe to a premium service that eliminates all ads.

October 28, 2014

FTC Sues AT&T for Reducing Data Speeds on Unlimited Plans

AT&T Logo Building Note to mobile carriers: You better watch out how you use the word "unlimited." Because you might just find yourself in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission if the service you're offering isn't truly without limits, in terms of data.

Case in point—the FTC on Tuesday announced it is suing AT&T for misleading customers by charging them for "unlimited" data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that AT&T failed to adequately warn customers that unlimited data doesn't necessarily mean unlimited high speed data.

"AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "The issue here is simple: 'unlimited' means unlimited."

In a statement, AT&T called the allegations "baseless" and said it has been transparent about its throttling practices from the very beginning of the program, which started in 2011.

"We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented," the company said. AT&T added that the throttling program has only affected about 3 percent of its customers, and before any customer is affected, they are notified by text message.

"It's baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts," AT&T said.

Like many other carriers, AT&T slows—or throttles—data speeds after users reach a certain amount of data in a given billing cycle. The FTC complaint alleges that AT&T throttles speeds to the point that many common smartphone apps—like Web browsing, GPS navigation, and streaming video—become difficult or nearly impossible to use.

At the same time, AT&T's marketing materials emphasize the "unlimited" data which customers can get on its plans. Even when unlimited plan customers renew their contracts, AT&T failed to mention its throttling practices, the FTC claimed. And when customers cancel their contracts after being throttled, they are hit with early termination fees typically amounting to hundreds of dollars.

The agency estimated that AT&T has throttled at least 3.5 million customers a total of more than 25 million times since 2011. AT&T's throttling often results in speed reductions of 80 to 90 percent, or more.

This practice, naturally, doesn't sit well with consumers. Participants in AT&T focus groups "strongly objected" to AT&T's throttling practice and an investigation revealed that the company received thousands of complains about slow data speeds under the throttling program, the FTC said.

October 27, 2014

Microsoft Office 365 Users Get Unlimited OneDrive Storage

Microsoft OneDrive LogoScrew your cloud storage limits!

Microsoft just announced that all Office 365 subscribers will now get unlimited OneDrive cloud storage at no additional cost. Like, as much storage as you need. You'll never run out.

Redmond today started rolling out the unlimited storage limit to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers. The rollout will continue over the coming months; if you're eager to get more storage head over to the OneDrive website, where you can sign up for a spot at the front of the line.

Microsoft said this is a perfect opportunity to start taking advantage of the auto upload feature for your camera roll on your phone, so that all your snaps will be backed up in the cloud.

In a blog post Monday, Chris Jones, corporate vice president of OneDrive and SharePoint, said unlimited storage is just one part of Microsoft's broader promiser to deliver "a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share, and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organizations."

October 27, 2014

Amazon Unveils $39 Fire TV Stick

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Move over, Google Chromecast. There's a new sub-$40 streaming stick in town.

Amazon on Monday unveiled the Fire Stick, a $39 dongle that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV, and offers access to movies, TV shows, music, photos, apps, and games. That includes popular video and music services like Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, Twitch, Showtime Anytime, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, Vevo, Plex, A&E, PBS, PBS KIDS, Watch Disney Channel, and YouTube.

The device basically offers the same experience of the Amazon Fire TV , introduced less than seven months ago, in a smaller package, Amazon said.

On the gaming front, you'll be able to play titles like Monsters University, Ski Safari, and Flappy Birds Family, with more games being added each week. Fire Stick is also like having a virtual movie store in your living room, with more than 200,000 movies and TV episodes available to rent or purchase.

You can also wirelessly mirror your phone or tablet display to your TV from Amazon Fire tablets and Fire phone as well as Miracast-enabled devices from Motorola, Samsung, LG, and Google. It also features Amazon's Whispersync technology, which saves and syncs your music and video library across all of your devices so you can start watching on your phone or tablet and pick up on your TV where you left off.

Fire TV stick is available for pre-order today on Amazon's website and will start shipping out Nov. 19. Amazon Prime members who pre-order in the next two days can get it for $19. If you're not an Amazon Prime (or Netflix) member yet, you can get a 30-day trial of Netflix and Amazon Prime when you purchase the Fire TV Stick.

October 27, 2014

Report: CVS, Rite Aid Ditch Apple Pay

Apple Pay Hands On

Apple Pay has lined up a number of top retailers, but Rite Aid and CVS are not among them.

The drug stores, the New York Times reported on Sunday, have dropped nationwide support for Apple Pay.

"Given that we are still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options, Rite Aid does not currently accept ApplePay," a company spokeswoman said in a statement to PCMag. "We are continually evaluating various forms of mobile payment technologies, and are committed to offering convenient, reliable and secure payment methods that meet the needs of our customers."

CVS echoed that sentiment, saying in an emailed statement that "At this time, CVS/pharmacy cannot accept Apple Pay or other mobile payments that use NFC technology. We are in the process of evaluating mobile payment options for our customers."

The reasons for shunning Cupertino's highly anticipated service remain unclear. But the Times pointed to a rival service announced last month, which is under development by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). According to Bloomberg, the stores also shut out rival services like Google Wallet and Softcard.

October 23, 2014

Sprint Boosts Data on Low-End Family Plan

Sprint Logo The wireless carrier wars wage on as Sprint just announced it is upping its lowest shared family data tier to 1GB for $20 a month.

For those keeping track, that's double the amount of data Verizon offers (500MB) and more than three times as much AT&T gives (300MB) for the same price. Sprint previously offered 600MB of data for $20.

"This entry-level sharable data allowance reinforces Sprint's commitment to offering customers the best value in wireless," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in a statement. "We're offering customers a choice – whether they need a small amount of data or are a high-end data user."

The carrier's new low-end Family Share Pack plan is available today. With the new plan, you'll get 1GB to share among up to 10 lines. That's still not much, especially if you're sharing it with several other people, but it should be sufficient for those who mostly use their phone for making calls, and only occasionally use data.

The move comes after Sprint earlier this month upped the data on its high-end Family Share Pack plans in response to a recent AT&T promotion.

AT&T's promotion offers 30GB of shared data for $130, 40GB for $150, or 60GB for $225. For the same prices, you'll now get 60GB, 80GB, or 120GB of shared data on Sprint. Both deals are set to expire at the end of the month, though once you sign up, you can keep the shared amount you chose at the promotional pricing until you switch data allowances or change plans.

Verizon, meanwhile, announced earlier this month that More Everything customers can get 15GB of data per month for $110 or 30GB of data for $130 per month, up to 100GB for $375. The offer runs until Oct. 31.

October 23, 2014

Christian Bale Signs On to Play Jobs

steve jobsIt's official: Christian Bale will don a black turtleneck and a pair of round glasses in his new role as the iconic Steve Jobs.

As Aaron Sorkin told Bloomberg, the Welsh actor didn't even have to audition for his part the upcoming biopic about the late Apple co-founder.

"What we needed was the best actor," screenwriter Sorkin said in an interview with Bloomberg. "It's like the NFL draft: There are some people who make a science out of [it] … and other teams say, 'Who's the best athlete on the board?' We needed the best actor on the board, in a certain age range, and that's Christian Bale."

Calling the man behind Batman a "phenomenal actor," Sorkin said "there was a meeting" but no formal audition.

Bale was Sony's original choice to play Jobs, but he reportedly dropped out of the running when director David Fincher left the project earlier this year.

October 23, 2014

Apple’s iCloud Under Attack in China


Apple this week acknowledged that iCloud is under attack in China.

In a statement on its website, Apple said it is "aware of intermittent organized network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information, and we take this very seriously."

The attacks, however, do not compromise iCloud servers, according to Cupertino. Nor do they affect iCloud sign-in on iOS devices or updated Macs running OS X Yosemite and using the Safari browser.

"The iCloud website is protected with a digital certificate. If users get an invalid certificate warning in their browser while visiting, they should pay attention to the warning and not proceed," Apple warned. "Users should never enter their Apple ID or password into a website that presents a certificate warning."