Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Facebook is working with more than 25 companies to help them use chatbots in Messenger to order goods and answer customer service questions, without human assistance. Among its new partners are Disney, eBay, JetBlue, and The Wall Street Journal, all of which are contributing to making the Messenger app a focal point for shopping, news and entertainment. Facebook owns two of the largest messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp; both are piloting programs to let businesses communicate with customers. Continue reading Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Proposed Encryption Bill Faces Opposition from Silicon Valley

Washington and Silicon Valley are poised to clash again in the ongoing debate over encryption technology in relation to data privacy, law enforcement and national security. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (Republican, NC) and Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, CA), the panel’s vice chair, have introduced proposed legislation that would require companies to unlock encrypted devices when served a court order. Congress has been working on a balance between security and privacy regarding encryption, especially in the wake of the recent iPhone case. Continue reading Proposed Encryption Bill Faces Opposition from Silicon Valley

Bots Could Replace Apps for Microsoft, Facebook and Others

Bots are text or language-based user interfaces to a service rather than ones that are graphical, and they’re getting a boost from several big technology companies, especially those that missed out on smartphones and their apps. Microsoft has described a vision of bots that can do everything from book a hotel room to order pizza, and has debuted tools to make it easier for a developer or small business owner to build one. Now, Facebook has plans to roll out a bot store that connects with its Messenger service. Continue reading Bots Could Replace Apps for Microsoft, Facebook and Others

FBI Tries to Unlock More iPhones, Debate Continues in Europe

Since the FBI broke the encryption of the iPhone 5C belonging to terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, most likely with the help of the Israeli office of the Japanese mobile phone security firm Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization, it has been testing the method on other iPhone versions. It will not, however, disclose the phone’s flaw or the information found on Farook’s phone. European cases regarding locked phones are heating up, with France and England considering fines for companies that don’t help crack their phones’ encryption. Continue reading FBI Tries to Unlock More iPhones, Debate Continues in Europe

SoundCloud Debuts Subscription Plan in U.S. with 125M Songs

Berlin-based SoundCloud, which began signing licensing deals with major and indie record labels in 2014, just debuted its new subscription plan. The online music service’s 175 million regular users will now have the option of the free version, which features 100 million songs, or the $10/month subscription version, SoundCloud Go, which offers 125 million ad-free songs, and lets users save songs to their phones. In 2014, SoundCloud posted $19.5 million in revenue, but a net loss of almost $44 million. Continue reading SoundCloud Debuts Subscription Plan in U.S. with 125M Songs

After Months of Setbacks, Foxconn Strikes Deal to Buy Sharp

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based factory operator best known for assembling Apple’s iPhones, is acquiring two-thirds of Japanese electronics manufacturer Sharp, which supplies phone screens to Apple. The $3.5 billion deal, which follows a slew of public negotiations, rumors and setbacks, could provide Foxconn with leverage to make it a more attractive Apple partner. However, some analysts suggest that the acquisition will hand Foxconn an ailing and costly business. Foxconn is facing rising labor costs in China and a global slowdown in smartphones, while Apple diversifies its supply chain. Continue reading After Months of Setbacks, Foxconn Strikes Deal to Buy Sharp

Pandora Taps Westergren as Chief Exec, Moves to Streaming

Pandora Media, which has been a major player in online music for the last decade, is in the midst of reinventing itself. As competition in the online music space has grown fierce, particularly as Spotify and Apple Music have transformed streaming music, Pandora’s numbers of monthly users and its stock has fallen. This week, the company announced it was replacing its chief executive with one of its founders, Tim Westergren, who had been serving on the board. Pandora has also reportedly examined the possibility of a sale. Continue reading Pandora Taps Westergren as Chief Exec, Moves to Streaming

Government Says iPhone Unlocked, Apple No Longer Needed

The Justice Department revealed it has learned a way to unlock Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without help from Apple. Farook was a gunman in the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people. The announcement stalls the legal standoff between the federal government and Apple; the Justice Department will withdraw its efforts to enlist the tech company’s help in the investigation. While the news suspends the privacy vs. security debate, at least temporarily, law enforcement’s ability to open the device without Apple’s assistance raises new concerns. Continue reading Government Says iPhone Unlocked, Apple No Longer Needed

Europe Divides in Battle Between Privacy, Digital Decryption

As the issue of digital encryption versus privacy roiled in the U.S. over the FBI’s demand that Apple unlock the iPhone of a mass murderer in California, recent violence in Brussels and Paris has brought those same issues to the fore in Europe. Although privacy is enshrined as a basic right in much of Europe, lawmakers in some countries are considering proposals that would give greater powers to law enforcement to access personal digital data. But privacy advocates in those same countries are fighting back. Continue reading Europe Divides in Battle Between Privacy, Digital Decryption

Rental Kiosk Leader Redbox Readies Video Streaming Service

Redbox plans to launch a video streaming service called Redbox Digital. The DVD rental company previously launched Redbox Instant, a streaming service joint venture with Verizon, which lasted 18 months. The new effort will be a video-on-demand store similar to iTunes, Vudu or Google Play, letting consumers stream or buy digital copies of movies or TV show episodes. Redbox Digital will be part of the service’s existing loyalty program, integrate into its mobile apps and support TV-connected platforms like Chromecast and Roku. Continue reading Rental Kiosk Leader Redbox Readies Video Streaming Service

Apple Debuts Minor Changes, But Has Big Plans for iPad Pro

Apple’s growth by the end of Q4 2015 was a pallid 2 percent, and the unveiling of its new products at this week’s event from Cupertino showed only incremental changes: an updated 4-inch screen iPhone, a new smaller iPad Pro and a free update to Apple TV. But Apple has big growth potential in its future plans. Although iPad sales have been declining, the company sees the new iPad Pro as a replacement for the huge number of aging PCs, and brought the newly converted Citigroup and Pixar to the event to make its point. Continue reading Apple Debuts Minor Changes, But Has Big Plans for iPad Pro

Comcast, Amazon Partner to Sell TV, Internet, Phone Services

Comcast now sells TV, Internet and phone service on Amazon.com in a new retail partnership that has been a year in the making. A new Amazon landing page — the Amazon Cable Store — sells Comcast’s Xfinity-branded bundles, with dedicated customer service for Amazon customers. Comcast, which hopes the relationship will improve its customer service image, also opened two customer call centers to focus entirely on Amazon-generated inquiries about Comcast sales, part of $300 million earmarked to improve customer service. Continue reading Comcast, Amazon Partner to Sell TV, Internet, Phone Services

New Daily Talk Show from E! Now Livestreaming on Facebook

On March 21, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network E! debuted a daily live talk show — “Live From E!” — on Facebook Live. The show, which runs 15 to 20 minutes each weekday at 12:30 pm Eastern time, is shot with an Apple iPhone 6s Plus smartphone, and is also available on eonline.com and the E! Online app. The show represents a success for Facebook, which has been pitching TV networks, media companies, sports leagues (including the NFL) and celebrities to bring premium live content to its streaming service. Continue reading New Daily Talk Show from E! Now Livestreaming on Facebook

FBI Tests Method to Unlock iPhone, Cancels Today’s Hearing

The FBI asked to postpone a hearing scheduled for today regarding the Apple encryption case. The Justice Department may no longer need the tech company’s help in opening an iPhone used by gunman Syed Rizwan Farook in the San Bernardino shootings. A third party has reportedly come forward with a technique to help unlock the phone, which is currently being tested. Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the Justice Department’s motion to postpone. The government is required to provide an update to the court by April 5. Continue reading FBI Tests Method to Unlock iPhone, Cancels Today’s Hearing

SXSW Focuses on Big Issues, Lifestyle Products Replace Apps

At this year’s SXSW, the verdict is that apps are over. Instead, tech-influenced lifestyle innovations and big picture issues took center stage. President Obama became the first U.S. President to attend the festival, where he delivered a keynote address about encryption and fighting terrorism, without directly referencing the current battle between the Justice Department and Apple. In addition to hearing about futuristic technologies, SXSW attendees discussed the election and enjoyed “lifestyle brand” products. Continue reading SXSW Focuses on Big Issues, Lifestyle Products Replace Apps

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