Microsoft Purchases Minecraft Maker for $2.5 Billion

Microsoft has bought Mojang, the Swedish firm behind the popular video game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. The popular console and mobile game lets players build structures with Lego-style blocks, explore the area, and battle other players within the worlds created. The three founding members of Mojang, the game’s developer, are leaving the company as well. Mojang’s 40 employees will join the Microsoft game studio, but the three founding members will leave the company.  On social networking websites, Minecraft users have expressed differing opinions of whether the Microsoft acquisition will help or hurt their community. One reason Mojang’s owners sold the company to Microsoft is that Minecraft had gotten so big that managing it created too much pressure, according to Markus “Notch” Persson, one of the game’s creators. “Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance,” stated Mojang on its blog. “Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big.” (Geek Wire)(BBC)(Mojang)

Apple iPhone 6 Pre-Orders Set Record

The 4 million pre-orders for Apple’s recently announced iPhone 6 established a first-day record 12 September 2014 for the first 24-hour sales of an iPhone, doubling the previous record set by the iPhone 5. Apple will probably sell 9 to 10 million phones during the first weekend of sales, according to market analysts; however, Apple has yet to release its sales figures. Apple says demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is outpacing supply, meaning some customers must wait until October for the devices. Deliveries of pre-ordered phones will begin 19 September. “We believe significant demand will even spill into the March and June quarters [of 2015],” Barclays analysts wrote. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)(Computerworld)

RadioShack CFO Resigns

Citing personal reasons, RadioShack chief financial officer John Feray has resigned after seven months with the company, which potentially is facing bankruptcy. Radio Shack named Holly D. Etlin as interim chief financial officer. Etlin is also managing director of AlixPartners, the consultancy that has been helping RadioShack orchestrate a turnaround since July 2013. Last week RadioShack said it might have to file for bankruptcy protection if its cash situation worsens and its recovery options don’t pan out. (Reuters)(The Wall Street Journal)

US Hardware Makers Say Added Net-Neutrality Regulation Could Hurt Internet, Economy

The latest salvo in the ongoing US Net neutrality debate is a letter from 33 hardware manufacturers in which they say that regulating ISPs like public utility companies could hurt the Internet and the US economy. The letter to US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, published by various media outlets and released 9 September 2014 by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, was signed by Cisco Systems, Intel, IBM, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Panasonic Corp of North America, and other members of the Telecommunications Industry Association and/or the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. The US Federal Communications Commission is taking public comment on Net neutrality, a policy the FCC adopted in the FCC Open Internet Order 2010 that says carriers should provide the same level of service to all Internet traffic, regardless of source, content, or other factors. Supporters say this could let providers sell faster services to richer content providers, putting other providers at a disadvantage. Carriers say they should be able to run their networks as they see fit. A recent court decision said the FCC doesn’t classify Internet access as a telecommunications utility which exempts carriers from regulations such as Net neutrality. The commission is now considering reclassifying Internet access. The recent letter’s signatories say such a step would threaten growth and investment, including new deployments and network upgrades, ultimately affecting jobs and the US economy by creating “unnecessary obstacles.” Rather than devoting resources to building and improving infrastructure, they contend, businesses would be forced to move those resources to insure regulatory compliance. (Reuters)(PC World)(The Hill)

Home Depot Confirms Giant Data Breach

Home Depot confirmed that hackers breached its payment systems at US and Canadian stores, making it the latest victim in a wave of high-profile cybercrimes that have hit large companies since late last year. Experts estimate the attack on the home-improvement giant could be among the largest data breaches to date, with perhaps 60 million payment-card numbers stolen. The retailer, which has 2,200 stores in the US and Canada, has not indicated the number of customers affected. The breach may have affected anyone who shopped at Home Depot stores in the US and Canada from April to September 2014, said company spokesperson Paula Drake. The company is offering free identity protection and credit-monitoring services to these customers. Investigative security journalist Brian Krebs broke   the news about the attack on 2 September. He said he found some of the stolen payment-card data for sale on black market websites. Before Home Depot confirmed the breach, customers in the US state of Georgia filed a class-action lawsuit stating that the company failed to protect customers from fraud and didn’t alert them to the problem in a timely manner. Krebs says the malware used against Home Depot indicates the hackers were the same ones involved in the December 2013 attack on the Target department-store chain, which exposed data for 40 million payment cards. Home Depot says it will begin using systems for using payment cards with embedded chips, which are more secure, by the end of 2014. (BBC)(The New York Times)(Krebs on Security)

T-Mobile USA Files Suit, Alleges Chinese Telecom Stole Phone-Testing Robot Technology

T-Mobile USA has filed a suit in a US District Court alleging that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in 2012 and 2013  stole designs and parts from T-Mobile’s Tappy cellular-phone testing robot so that it could replicate the system.  The robot—kept in the company’s Bellevue, Washington, labs—simulates a human finger pushing buttons and tests how well devices perform under repeated, heavy use. T-Mobile says it was the first company to use a robot for testing. At the time Huawei allegedly stole information about Tappy, the Chinese company was providing devices for T-Mobile. Huawei officials, according to the technology news service Geek Wire, say they created their own xDeviceRobot for testing with T-Mobile’s knowledge. They contend that the information that T-Mobile says they stole were not used in the Huawei robot. T-Mobile did not specify the damages it hopes to recover. (GeekWire)(The Seattle Times)

Market Research Firm: Phablet Shipments Set to Surpass 175 Million

Mobile devices known as phablets—whose size is between that of a smartphone and a tablet—should top laptop shipments this year and surpass tablet shipments by 2015 according to new research from market-research firm IDC. The company says shipments of phablets, which have screens measuring between five-a-half and seven inches diagonally, should reach 175 million units in 2014, up from 56.5 million in 2013, and exceeding the 170 million portable PCs expected to ship this year. By 2015, IDC forecasts phablet shipments should surpass 318 million units, compared to 233 million tablets. The firm expects phablets to grow from 14 percent of the worldwide smartphone market in 2014 to 32.2 percent by 2018. Among the companies expected to soon release the devices are Apple and Samsung. “With Apple expected to join the space in the coming weeks,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker service, “we anticipate even more attention on phablets.” (PC Mag)(IDC)

US Internet Companies Plan Net Neutrality Protest

As the public comment period on the US Federal Communications Commission’s controversial Net neutrality proposal draws to its 15 September close, major US Internet companies have organized a protest designed to increase public awareness of the plan. Companies such as Reddit, Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Namecheap, and Vimeo, along with 35 advocacy groups, designated 10 September as Battle for the Net day. They posted graphic notices showing what a slower Internet would look like, saying this is what would happen without Net neutrality. Net neutrality, a policy the FCC adopted in 2010 that says carriers should provide the same level of service to all Internet traffic, regardless of source, content, or other factors. Without this, supporters say, providers could sell faster services to richer content providers, putting other providers and consumers at a disadvantage. Carriers say they should be able to run their networks as they see fit. A recent court decision said the FCC doesn’t classify Internet access as a telecommunications utility which exempts carriers from regulations such as Net neutrality. The commission is now considering reclassifying Internet access to enable Net neutrality. Battle for the Net day backers agree. The Sunlight Foundation—a nonprofit organization whose goal is to increase transparency and accountability in all levels of government in the US >— analyzed about 800,000 comments submitted to the FCC on Net neutrality so far and says it found less than 1 percent were clearly opposed to it. (The Verge)(Boing Boing)(Ars Technica)(Fight for the Future)(Battle for the Net)

Smart Chopsticks Function as Food-Safety Sensor

Chinese tech company Baidu is developing smart chopsticks that can act as a sensor telling users whether the food they’re eating is unsafe. The Baidu Kuaisou can detect issues such as the use of unsanitary cooking oil, a prevalent concern when eating Chinese street food. Kuaisou can also measure metrics such as food temperature, food nutrients, and product expiration dates. The device connects to computers that analyze sensor data via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Baidu is still testing the Kuaisou. A price tag for the chopsticks hasn’t yet been announced, and the company said the product isn’t yet ready for release commercially. (BBC)(TIME)(Business Insider)(The Wall Street Journal)

New Device Is a Smartwatch and a Fitness Tracker

Garmin, best known for its GPS-based navigation devices, is releasing a new wearable device combining the functionalities of a smartwatch and an activity tracker. Garmin’s Vivosmart is a redesign of its Vivofit and offers a wide range of alerts and information about a user’s activity including sleep duration, calorie expenditure, and the number of steps taken while walking. This wristband is the latest entry into what is shaping up to be a packed niche wearable-device market for combination smartwatches and fitness trackers. Garmin will sell the $170 Vivosmart initially at Best Buy and by November at other retailers. (Gizmodo)(The Wall Street Journal)(PC Mag)

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