No Gender Gap at Microsoft, CEO Claims

by Matt Klassen on October 24, 2014

There’s no gender gap at Microsoft, company CEO Satya Nadella announced earlier this week while discussing his firm’s latest cloud ventures, a follow-up on his comments earlier this month that women in the tech industry should “trust karma” to get them ahead in their field, instead of asking for raises. The comments ignited a firestorm of controversy, focusing attention on the extant gender wage gap and sexist hiring practices still prevalent in Silicon Valley.

But according to Nadella, while such a gender gap may exist in the tech industry in general, Microsoft remains unblemished by such sexism, stating that his company pays equally regardless of gender. “I checked that it is something that we are enforcing,” said Nadella, when asked about equal pay. “We are in fact in good shape. Men and women get paid equally at Microsoft.”

Of course Microsoft offered nothing concrete to back this up, and given that Nadella’s claim seems to fly in the face of the little research into equitable pay in the tech industry, you’ll have to forgive me if I remain sceptical, waiting for the day we receive some concrete evidence and not just Nadella’s good natured assurances.

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Amazon Q3 Earnings Reveal Disappointing Fire Phone Sales

by Istvan Fekete on October 24, 2014

The Amazon Fire Phone, billed as the greatest device the online retail giant knows how to build, is a pricey flop. During a conference call yesterday, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak disclosed to investors that Amazon took a $170 million write-down on weak phone sales.

The $170 million charge is primarily related to Fire phone inventory valuation and supplier commitment cost. In other words, the Fire phone has been a disappointment.

Net loss was $437 million in the third quarter, or $0.95 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $41 million, or $0.09 per diluted share, in third quarter 2013.

“As we get ready for this upcoming holiday season, we are focused on making the customer experience easier and more stress-free than ever,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “In addition to our already low prices, we will offer more than 15,000 Lightning Deals with early access to select deals for Prime members, hundreds of millions of products across dozens of categories, curated gift lists like Holiday Toy List and Electronics Holiday Gift Guide, new features like #AmazonWishList, and a great new lineup of products like Kindle Voyage and Fire HD Kids Edition. And if you order your gifts on AmazonSmile, we’ll donate a percentage of your purchase price to your favorite charity.”
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Verizon Unintentionally Provides a New Path for Better Net Neutrality Rules

by Matt Klassen on October 23, 2014

Verizon’s legal fight against Net Neutrality has unintentionally paved the way forward for the cause of the Open Internet, much to the chagrin of the rest of the broadband industry.

In 2010 Verizon took issue with the fledgling Net Neutrality framework proposed by the Federal Communications Commission; so much so, in fact, that the Internet service provider sued the FCC over the mandate that ISPs must treat all Internet traffic equally. Earlier this year a Washington D.C. Court of Appeals agreed with Verizon and struck down the Net Neutrality rules, sending the FCC back to the drawing board with a recommendation on how to create a framework that would be legally enforceable. I bet Verizon regrets that now.

But if service providers took issue with the original Net Neutrality standards, the revised standards the FCC has now developed—a way forward that was presented to the Commission as the result of its legal defeat by Verizon—must look like a veritable nightmare, as now the FCC is threatening to reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act and this time include wireless broadband service in its rules as well. Good news for users, bad news for ISPs.

It’s no wonder then, that reports indicate the rest of the broadband industry is secretly furious with Verizon, wishing the telecom giant would have left well enough alone, instead of driving the FCC back to the drawing board to create legally-based restrictive policies that will be easier to enforce and harder to resist.

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Google and Qualcomm Back Smartphone Screens with Augmented Reality Interface

by Istvan Fekete on October 23, 2014

Big tech players such as Google and Qualcomm (and others) have stumped up $542 million in a Series B fundraising effort for Florida-based augmented-reality developer Magic Leap. Google led the round, though.

Other interested parties participating in the fundraising round were Legendary Entertainment and its CEO Thomas Hull, private equity firm KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and others.

Magic Leap has developed a “biometric” platform entitled Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal as the company hopes to replace traditional smartphone screens with virtual-reality interfaces.

Nothing has yet been released to the public about Magic Leap’s project. The company, by the way, manufactures a head-mounted device.
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Apple Pay Purchases Seamless in Store, but Buggy in Apps

by Istvan Fekete on October 22, 2014

Apple Pay officially arrived on Monday: After updating to iOS 8.1, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners were able to start using their recently purchased smartphone to pay for their purchases. After more than two days of availability, the reports are in, and they are mostly positive.

As Molly Wood of the New York Times puts it, using Apple Pay is convenient, problem-free, and even fun. But that seems to be limited to in-store purchases. Eddy Cue was certain that Apple’s payment system would be used mostly for in-app purchases, but, as you may have suspected, the user experience hasn’t turned out to be flawless: it is limited, buggy, and seems to result in multiple charges for some purchases.
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Amazon Enters the Real World of Retail

by Matt Klassen on October 22, 2014

Despite its ability to dominate a multitude of markets, e-commerce giant Amazon is entering a space it knows little about: the real world. The company announced it has launched a pilot project centered on establishing brick and mortar retail locations, establishing a physical store located in New York and smaller satellite retail hubs in San Francisco and Sacramento in time for the holiday season.

Amazon’s emergence from the realm of digital commerce is motivated by the two greatest shortcomings the e-commerce giant faces when competing against physical retail outlets: the ability to have a hands-on experience with the product before purchasing and the delay of actually receiving the product purchased. By establishing retail hubs that serve both as shopping locations and distribution centres, Amazon is hoping to get products into customers’ hands more quickly, particularly when it comes to technology.

Beyond that, however, establishing a physical brick and mortar retail location will give Amazon something it’s never had: a physical presence. For many Amazon is nothing more than a website and a name on a box that comes to the door, a faceless digital corporation that is distant and impersonal. There’s no question that by creating retail space Amazon can give itself a human face, but one has to wonder if the cost of creating such an emotional connection is too great, robbing Amazon of the things that has made it successful so far: unrivalled selection at unbeatable prices.

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New Technique Allows Attackers to Hide Malicious Encrypted Android Apps Inside Images

by Istvan FeketeOctober 21, 2014

Researchers have uncovered a new technique that allows attackers to hide malicious encrypted Android apps inside images to evade detection by antivirus products and possibly Google Play’s own malware scanner. The developers demonstrating the attack are Axelle Apvrille, a researcher at Fortinet, and reverse engineer Ange Albertini, who presented their proof-of-concept at the Black Hat [...]

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Facebook, Apple need to Initiate Tech Cultural Change, not Egg-Freezing

by Matt KlassenOctober 21, 2014

For years the tech industry has offered its employees cushy perks and high salaries in an effort not only to attract top talent, but to help assuage the burden of sacrificing one’s personal life that often comes with these time-munching, intellectually taxing jobs. But beyond basketball hoops and beanbag chairs in the workplace, Facebook and [...]

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Microsoft’s Smartwatch Allegedly Launching Within Weeks

by Istvan FeketeOctober 20, 2014

Microsoft is about to enter the wearable device market: the software company is preparing to launch a smartwatch that will measure the wearer’s heart rate and work across different mobile platforms, Forbes has learned. One of the outstanding features of the Microsoft smartwatch will be its battery life, according to people familiar with the matter: [...]

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The Forthcoming U.S. Wireless Spectrum Auction and You

by Matt KlassenOctober 20, 2014

Wireless spectrum: It is to the wireless industry what oil is to the automotive industry, a finite resource that serves as the lifeblood of the modern conveniences we hold most dear. While I’ll admit that writing about the radio waves designated to transmit data over the air from your smartphone to the Internet isn’t the [...]

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