The Tech News Blog

November 28, 2014

Best Buy Website Hit by Black Friday Outage

Generic Black Friday-Best Buy

The IT guy at Best Buy is probably not having a very good day.

On Friday morning, went offline and displayed a "We're Sorry, currently unavailable. Check back soon" notice. Website outages do happen, of course, but today is Black Friday, typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year, so any downtime likely means millions down the toilet.

As of press time, the site had been down for at least 30 minutes. On the @BestBuySupport Twitter feed, the account frantically tweeted a message at people discussing the outage: "We are aware of this issue and working to correct it asap. Please check back in a few minutes."

As the outage downtime grew longer, however, Best Buy started urging customers to "check back later" rather than "in a few minutes."

Best Buy Black Friday OutageBest Buy shoppers on Twitter reported being in the process of checking out when the outage hit. Some tried calling customer service, but that is unsurprisingly jammed at the moment.

Last year, Best Buy's holiday revenue was down slightly compared to 2012. In January, Hubert Joly, Best Buy president and CEO, said that those revenues were negatively impacted by aggressive Black Friday campaigns from rivals, supply constraints for key products, a decline in store traffic as the holiday season went on, and a disappointing mobile market.

This is not the first Black Friday gaffe for the company, though. In 2011, the store failed to deliver online orders made in November and December, including some Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday deals, in time for holiday gift-giving.

UPDATE: Best Buy tweeted around 11:30 a.m. ET that its site was back online, after approximately 1.5 hours offline.

November 27, 2014

Report: Yahoo, Bing Vie to Replace Google on Safari

Safari Tips

The term "Google" has become synonymous with search, but Apple users may soon have to readjust and "Yahoo" or "Bing" a query.

While Google serves as the Safari browser's default search engine, the companies' agreement is reportedly set to expire next year, making way for Cupertino to choose a new partner.

And according to The Information (via Ars Technica), Microsoft (maker of Bing) and Yahoo are already in talks with Apple Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue.

Upstart engine DuckDuckGo is also reportedly on the short list.

Yahoo recently announced that it will replace Google as Mozilla's default search engine for Firefox. And CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear in the past that she wants to usurp Google as Apple's iOS search default.

Google declined to comment on the reports; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 25, 2014

iPad Slump Signals ‘Massive Deceleration’ in Tablet Shipments

How We Test Tablets

The worldwide tablet market is poised for a "massive deceleration" in 2014 as iPad shipments continue to decline, according to a new forecast from IDC.

The analyst firm on Tuesday predicted that tablet shipments will increase just 7.2 percent this year to 235.7 million units, compared to 52.5 percent growth last year. The main reason for the decline? A slowdown in iPad demand.

In fact, 2014 is expected to mark the first full year of decline in iPad shipments. However, the iPad and overall market slowdown doesn't come as too much of a surprise as tablet lifecycles have continued to lengthen, IDC said.

"In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2 to 3 years," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. "What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."

November 22, 2014

Report: Sony Ditches Steve Jobs Movie

Steve JobsIt seems like there's some major change regarding the Sony-backed Steve Jobs bio-pic every week. If it's not someone dropping out of playing the late, iconic Apple co-founder, then it's rumors about who could be Jobs incarnate (or Woz).

In this case, however, the news is that Sony Pictures is dropping the movie entirely. Oops. But it seems as though the film has been kind of a mess ever since Sony bought the rights to Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography in 2011.

According to the rumors, David Fincher was first planning to direct it, with Christian Bale as Jobs. But when Fincher dropped out, so did Bale. Attention then turned to Leonardo DiCaprio, but when he too bowed out, Bale's name re-appeared on the casting shortlist, and the Oscar-winning actor officially signed on. But he apparently had (another) change of heart and left the project.

November 20, 2014

Apple Swaps ‘Free’ for ‘Get’ in App Store

Apple 'Get' Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases.

Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get."

The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.

The move comes several months after the European Union chastised Apple for not moving quickly enough to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. At the time, the EU said Google had committed to removing the word "Free" from games that include in-app purchases by September, providing targeted guidelines for developers so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions, and requiring a password before every in-app purchase unless the consumer opts out.

"Get" in iOSThat first commitment is now live. Though it was requested by EU officials, Re/code said Apple confirmed the "Get" rollout is happening worldwide.

Google took a similar approach this fall, removing the word "free" from all games that contain in-app purchases. It has also provided targeted guidelines for developers, so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions.

Both companies require users to enter passwords when making purchases or downloading new apps from their app stores.

The EU, however, called out Apple's 15-minute window once the password is entered, saying that "should not remain the default setting in the future."

In the U.S., Apple in January agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to customers in an FTC settlement over unauthorized in-app purchases made my children.

Google made a similar deal with the FTC in September, agreeing to refund up to $19 million to customers. Google was sued in March by a California woman whose children made about $66 worth of in-app purchases over the course of 30 minutes.

Amazon, meanwhile, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in July over accidental in-app purchases. The agency also asked that Amazon forfeit any money made from those unauthorized purchases.

November 20, 2014

No More Broken iPhones? Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4

Gorilla Glass 4 Good news for accident-prone iPhone users. Your smartphone screen could get a lot more durable in the future.

Apple supplier Corning on Thursday introduced its next-generation Gorilla Glass, which it said is two times tougher than any competitive cover glass now in the market. Gorilla Glass 4 was specifically designed to address smartphone users' No. 1 problem — screen breakage due to everyday drops, Corning said.

The company's scientists examined hundreds of broken devices and found that more than 70 percent of breaks were caused by "sharp contact" with rough surfaces, such as dropping the phone onto pavement. They used this knowledge to develop new drop-test methods that simulate real-world break events, dropping devices face-down from one meter in height, so that the glass came in direct contact with a rough surface.

They found that Gorilla Glass 4 is up to two times tougher than competitive glass. The company said it survives drops up to 80 percent of the time.

November 19, 2014

Intel to Merge PC, Mobile Chip Units

Intel Logo

Intel on Tuesday confirmed that it is merging its separate PC and mobile chip business groups to form a single unit for dealing with customers which is faster to bring products to market.

The new Client Computing Group headed by Intel senior vice president Kirk Skaugen will combine most elements from the current PC Client Group (PCCG) and Mobile and Communications Group (MCG), Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy told PCMag.

Intel's modem and RF chip business, currently part of the mobile chip unit, will be moved to the Platform Engineering Group (PEG) under the management of Aicha Evans, who is PEG general manager.

The reorganization will take effect in early 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news earlier this week.

"We're doing this to create better efficiency in dealing with customers. The line between tablets and laptops and phones and PCs is getting really soft," Mulloy said. "So for example, Core M, which we introduced earlier in the year, is being used in both PCs and in tablets."

Mulloy said Intel had gained considerable ground this year in selling processors for tablets, as well as for hybrids like 2-in-1s. The company has gone from having "zero market share" against mainly ARM-based chips to shipping upwards of "40 million units," the number of tablet-targeted processors he said Intel expects to move by the end of 2014.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, guessed that Intel's Atom and Core product lines are becoming less distinct with the emergence of next-gen processors like the Core M family with power draws low enough to enable fanless designs.

"One potential driver here is the potential growing overlap between the Core- and Atom-based architectures, particularly in the tablet space," Moorhead said. "Core is already demonstrating its capability to get to 4.5 watts, only slightly above the sweet spots for performance tablets. So Atom and Core appear to be blending, potentially driving the decision to merge the units."

But Intel still "isn't moving fast enough in phones," Mulloy said. Gaining share in smartphones, a product segment Intel has been notably weak in for years, was a priority set out by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich when he took the helm at the company last year.

The creation of the merged Client Computing Group is also intended to address Intel's lagging fortunes in the handset market, pushing the company to "move faster, and be quicker with engineering and getting products to market," Mulloy said.

Intel hasn't sorted out how it will report financials for the new business unit, but the Intel spokesman said that would finalized before the company's next earnings report to investors. Last quarter, MCG took a loss to the tune of about $100 million.

Intel is holding an event for investors this Thursday.

"It's unclear now as to exactly why Intel is merging the two business units, but I'm expecting a lot of details at Intel's Investor Day on Thursday," Moorhead said. "There are some benefits that I can see. Intel hasn't yet decided on exactly how they will financially report, but they could more easily bury the future mobile losses if they so choose. This could help take some of the pressure off of them until they see a lot more growth and profitability in mobility."

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November 19, 2014

Report: Apple to Add Beats Music App to iOS Devices

Beats Music

As iPhone and iPad users know, there are a few apps that stay on your device no matter what — Messages, Weather, Apple Maps, GameCenter, Stocks, etc. They come pre-installed when you buy your handset, and you can't delete them.

Soon, that list of mandatory apps could also include Beats Music. According to a report from The Financial Times, Apple is planning to roll the subscription music service it picked up as part of its $3 billion Beats acquisition into its iOS mobile operating system. This means, the service will be available on every iPhone and iPad — whether you like it or not.

The rollout is expected to happen at some point next year, possibly as early as March, sources familiar with the situation told The Financial Times. The move would mark Apple's first major push into subscription streaming music, a market that Spotify currently dominates.

November 18, 2014

Share 15GB of AT&T Data for $100

AT&T Logo Building Starting today, AT&T Mobile Share Value customers can get 15GB of sharable data for $100.

Usually, the $100 plan includes 10GB of data, but with this limited-time offer, new and existing subscribers earn 5GB of extra data for the same price.

That's equivalent to streaming 160 hours of music and 30 hours of video, surfing the Web for 300 hours, sharing 1,000 social media posts (with photos), downloading 100 mobile apps, and sending and receiving 10,000 emails.

There is no word on when the promotion ends, so act fast. New users can visit to sign up, while existing customers can select the new plan via their myAT&T mobile app.

As added incentive, AT&T is throwing in unlimited international messaging (text, picture, and video) on all Mobile Share Value plans at no additional cost.

With an AT&T Mobile Share plan, you pick your data bucket (from 300MB to 50GB per month) and then pay a monthly access charge for each smartphone ($40 per month for those on a two-year contract). If you want to add other devices to your plan, that's an additional charge ($10 for tablets and $20 for laptops).

November 14, 2014

Ads Go Live on Mozilla’s Firefox Browser

Mozilla ads

Heads up, Firefox users. Like it or not, ads are coming to your Web browser.

Mozilla on Thursday announced it is now rolling out ads within the browser on the desktop and mobile. The ads will show up next to the thumbnails of the sites you frequently visit when you open a new tab.

Mozilla is initially launching these sponsored tiles for two companies: CVS Health and The ads, plans for which were first announced in February, are live now in eight languages and 25 different counties.

Mozilla will indicate which tiles are sponsored, lest you think someone has been messing around on your computer and visiting the CVS Health website a lot. If you don't want to see the ads you can turn off the tiles feature by clicking the gear icon in the top right corner of the browser to access your preferences.

The decision to roll out ads comes after Mozilla late last year hired ad tech veteran Darren Herman to explore ways of bringing sponsored content to Firefox. Mozilla spent a year prototyping and experimenting with the feature before rolling it out this week.