Microsoft Introduces Updated Surface PCs, New Headphones

At a New York City event, Microsoft unveiled updated Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and Surface Studio computers, and debuted Surface-branded wireless headphones with Cortana capabilities. Microsoft is one of several big tech companies holding hardware-related events this fall; Apple held its smartphone reveal in September and Google will hold its event on October 9. The Microsoft event mainly showed off updated existing products and made it clear the company is committed to manufacturing its own computers. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Updated Surface PCs, New Headphones

Worker Shortage Behind Amazon Pay Raise to $15 Per Hour

On November 1, Amazon will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for all its U.S. employees, including part-time workers and those hired through temporary agencies. More than 250,000 Amazon employees, including those at Whole Foods and 100,000+ workers hired for the holiday season, will benefit from the boost. The company also stated it would lobby to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been $7.25 per hour for almost ten years. Many interpret Amazon’s move as a response to a tightening labor market and political pressure. Continue reading Worker Shortage Behind Amazon Pay Raise to $15 Per Hour

FCC Plan Could Allocate Airwaves for the Deployment of 5G

Later this month, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a proposal to free up underused airwaves now used by broadcasters, telecom companies and utilities, to help jumpstart the deployment of 5G wireless technology. According to an FCC official, the proposal would help ease traffic on licensed spectrum typically used by Verizon, AT&T and other big carriers, and encourage more unlicensed radio traffic. The result would improve download speeds for next-gen Wi-Fi devices and aid wireless Internet service providers. Continue reading FCC Plan Could Allocate Airwaves for the Deployment of 5G

Right to Be Forgotten Case Could Affect Borderless Internet

In early 2019, the European Union’s highest court will likely rule on a dispute between Google and French regulators on the right to be forgotten. In 2015, French regulators ordered Google to respect this right on all its sites worldwide — in other words, not just google.fr but also google.com. Google’s argument (and that of many other tech companies) is that this “right” not only menaces free speech but is an onus for private companies, encroaches on sovereignty and creates a range of other risks. Continue reading Right to Be Forgotten Case Could Affect Borderless Internet

AT&T’s Ad Unit Xandr Revs Up to Offer Targeted Advertising

AT&T revealed its new strategy for advertising, to help monetize its $85.4 billion Time Warner acquisition. Brian Lesser, chief executive of new advertising unit Xandr (after Alexander Graham Bell) described plans to deliver ads targeting individuals and households. His argument is that the media industry needs to run ads to pay for expensive, critically acclaimed series, because revenue from subscription services isn’t enough. Xandr consists of recent purchase AppNexus, AT&T Adworks and its other adtech services. Continue reading AT&T’s Ad Unit Xandr Revs Up to Offer Targeted Advertising

California Restores Net Neutrality Rules, Justice Dept. Sues

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law restoring net neutrality rules that the Trump administration had repealed. The law prevents broadband and wireless companies from blocking or throttling access to Internet content or charging for faster speeds to favor one website over another. The Department of Justice quickly stated it would sue California to block the new law, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions adding that, “under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does.” Continue reading California Restores Net Neutrality Rules, Justice Dept. Sues

ILMxLAB, Oculus to Bring ‘Vader Immortal’ to Oculus Quest

Facebook’s Oculus VR announced that its new Oculus Quest wireless virtual reality headset will debut in spring 2019 with an original Star Wars VR story from Disney’s ILMxLAB. “Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series,” which will have three parts, will be led by executive producer/writer David S. Goyer, who wrote “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” Other participants include ILMxLAB director of immersive content Mohen Leo and Oculus head of experiences Colum Slevin. Continue reading ILMxLAB, Oculus to Bring ‘Vader Immortal’ to Oculus Quest

Pew Research Reveals Plateau in Broadband, Social Media

A recent Pew Research Center study revealed that the number of Americans who go online, use social media or own a smartphone/tablet has been stable since 2016. This plateau comes after many years of rapid growth. Pew Research also found significant numbers of non-users of these technologies, who are stymied by financial hardship, living in a rural area without services or disabilities that prevent full use of devices. An increasing number of users, however, are embracing smart TVs and wearable devices. Continue reading Pew Research Reveals Plateau in Broadband, Social Media

Amazon, TiVo Unveil Over-the-Air Products for Cord Cutters

Amazon recently introduced its Fire TV Recast, a networked DVR, and TiVo debuted its new set-top box, the TiVo Bolt OTA, with both companies’ products aimed at giving cord cutters a new way to enjoy content. Fire TV Recast allows consumers to watch and record over-the-air TV content with a Fire TV, Echo Show or other compatible mobile device. TiVo’s new STB joins its existing line of Bolt devices, including the voice-controlled Bolt Vox DVRs, and enables anyone with a digital antenna to watch live over-the-air TV. Continue reading Amazon, TiVo Unveil Over-the-Air Products for Cord Cutters

SoCal Cities Buck FCC to Create Regional Internet Network

Sixteen cities in Southern California’s South Bay have teamed up to provide cheaper Internet service to their 1.1 million residents. Their effort goes against a common belief that regional collaborations are unlikely to succeed because cities are busy, strapped for resources and competitive. It also irks the FCC, which believes that private companies are doing a great job of delivering Internet at low prices to everyone in America. The FCC has been actively discouraging states from building local Internet networks. Continue reading SoCal Cities Buck FCC to Create Regional Internet Network

Accounting, Finance Industries Demand Explainable AI Tools

As artificial intelligence-based tools become more widespread in the business industry, cloud service companies are debuting tools that explain the artificial intelligence algorithms they use to provide more transparency and assure users of their ethical behavior. That’s because regulated industries are demanding it. Capital One and Bank of America are just two such companies interested in using AI to improve detection of fraud, but want to know how the algorithms work before they implement such tools. Continue reading Accounting, Finance Industries Demand Explainable AI Tools

Tech Execs Address Concerns About Data Privacy Regulation

In a hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed on the need for legislating privacy for online users, but not everyone is on the same page as to what such laws should cover. Amazon and Google executives, whose companies depend on user data for revenue, warned that some kinds of regulation could have the unintended consequence of limiting the services they’re able to provide. What has become clearer is that hammering out the details of the legislation could take a long time. Continue reading Tech Execs Address Concerns About Data Privacy Regulation

Quest: Oculus Demonstrates its $399 Standalone VR Headset

Oculus’ prototype wireless VR headset, codenamed Santa Cruz, is now a product. The new Quest headset is slated to debut this coming spring for $399. At its annual developer conference, the Facebook-owned company showed off the Quest headset, which joins the $199 Oculus Go and $400 Oculus Rift (that requires a dedicated PC). The standalone Quest offers 6DOF (six degrees of freedom). In his keynote address at the event, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg reiterated his goal to have one billion people using VR. Continue reading Quest: Oculus Demonstrates its $399 Standalone VR Headset

Amazon Unveils NYC Retail Store for 4+ Star Online Products

Amazon has opened a brick-and-mortar retail store, dubbed Amazon 4-star, in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. Amazon 4-star is so named because it will carry goods — starting off with consumer electronics, kitchen, home, toys, books and games — that shoppers have rated with at least four stars, are sold by top sellers or are “new and trending.” This physical retail store joins Amazon’s 12+ bookstores and a few cashierless Go convenience stores, as well as the Whole Foods grocery stores it acquired. Continue reading Amazon Unveils NYC Retail Store for 4+ Star Online Products

State Officials Consider a Joint Investigation of Tech Players

In a meeting of nine state officials and representatives of five other states led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the market dominance and privacy practices of large tech companies were discussed, as well as the possibility of a joint investigation of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and others. Attorney General Doug Peterson (R-Nebraska) said his state is examining just such a multi-state inquiry into antitrust and consumer protection issues. Potential political bias, a previously raised topic, was barely touched. Continue reading State Officials Consider a Joint Investigation of Tech Players

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