Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Shutters Microsoft Research Lab

A new round of job cuts were made at Microsoft, resulting in 2,100 additional employees being laid off by the tech giant. The company also announced it would be closing the Silicon Valley labs of Microsoft Research as well. The company is aiming for a 14 percent workforce reduction, eliminating 18,000 jobs within the fiscal year. With previous layoffs, the company must still eliminate 2,900 jobs. The closure of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley came as a surprise since its work has been widely hailed, especially for its work in distributed computing. Earlier this year, Microsoft Research’s Leslie Lamport won the 2013 A.M. Turing Award. Its managing director is Roy Levin, a veteran researcher who has also worked at Digital/Compaq Systems Research Center and Xerox PARC. The company’s other 11 labs will continue operations. “Other valley companies, notably Google and Facebook, are likely to move fast to take advantage of the dozens of high-level researchers about to hit the market,” noted re/Code. (Geek Wire)(re/Code)

US Senate: Chinese Hackers Infiltrate Military Contractors’ Networks

Chinese government hackers repeatedly accessed websites belonging to US airlines and military contractors in a single year, according to a new report from the US Senate. At least 20 of the 50 successful attacks on military contractors were advanced persistent threats by hackers with Chinese government ties. The allegations were made and the findings recently released, although the investigation wrapped up in March. Those organizations responsible for moving troops and equipment were targeted; however, none of these transportation contractors was named. It was unclear whether any information was stolen. One incident involved a breach of a system on a commercial ship while, in another, malicious software was loaded on an airline’s computers. The US government report states officials were notified about only two of these incidents and additionally discovered there had been no sharing of information about them between agencies. Chinese government officials denied the allegations. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, stated “Judging from past experience, those kinds of reports and allegations are usually based on fabricated facts and groundless.” China has previously accused the US of accessing its computer networks. The US report calls for new procedures for contractors in which they would report both suspicious activity and cyberattacks. As it stands, contractors must only report network-level intrusions. Lawmakers said it is unclear if hackers still have access to these networks. (BBC)(Bloomberg)


IBM Making Watson Supercomputing Technology Available for Business Analytics

This November, IBM plans to release its Watson supercomputing technology as a cloud-based platform for business analytics. This analytics technology, which is already available for medical researchers, is designed to answer natural-language queries, as well as parse business data. “Watson Analytics is designed to help all businesspeople—from sales reps on the road to company CEOs—see patterns, pursue ideas, and improve all types of decisions,” IBM senior vice president Bob Picciano told the BBC. There is some market confusion, noted industry analysts, about whether Watson Analytics uses the supercomputer technology at all or whether it is a retooling of the company’s business analytics software. IBM plans to release free and premium versions of Watson Analytics. (BBC)(The New York Times)

Amazon Continues New Hardware Releases

Amazon is preparing to release six new or upgraded devices, including new e-readers and tablets. The basic Kindle e-reader now includes a touch screen. New tablets in the Fire line include a device for children. Amazon has been focusing on hardware—including smartphones and set-top boxes—as of late. Market analysts observe the hardware is specifically designed to drive more traffic to Amazon’s online shopping sites. Some industry observers say Amazon is out of its element in the hardware market against established vendors such as Apple and Samsung. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset-management firm, said Amazon should focus on app distribution and working with other firms’ hardware. However, wrote Will Oremus, senior technology writer with the Slate online magazine, “What makes Amazon so dangerous as a hardware company is that it doesn’t have to make money on its hardware.” He said that the company uses its hardware to get people to shop with Amazon but that now, consumers are finding the hardware itself attractive. (Reuters)(Barron’s)(Slate)

EU Regulators Issue “Right to be Forgotten” Guidelines

EU data-protection regulators have drafted a set of criteria regarding the handling of right to be forgotten appeals, after a two-day meeting in Brussels. The EU’s Article 29 Working Party—consisting of a representative from each member state’s data-protection authority and one from the European Commission—is expected to finalize the guidelines by the end of November 2014. The right to be forgotten gives Europeans the ability to request that search engines eliminate old or nonessential information about them. With some exceptions, search engines must do so. The new guidelines address matters such as record-keeping and the appeal of decisions not to remove material. For example, each EU member state would have to appoint a contact person to make sure that appeals are handled consistently. The guidelines are designed to provide regulators with criteria they can use in decision-making, such as the public role of the person making the request, if the information regards a crime, and how old the information is. The Article 29 Working Party met with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo before drafting the guidelines. The right to be forgotten has proven to be controversial since its implementation in May of this year. Proponents say it’s necessary to protect individuals’ privacy. Opponents say it will leave search results in Europe incomplete and different from those in the rest of the world, and cause too much work for search-engine operators. So far, Google has received 120,000 requests to remove information. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)

Toshiba Cuts Jobs in Restructuring of PC Operations

Toshiba is restructuring its PC business eliminating 900 jobs in the process. The company has not said which consumer computing markets it plans to withdraw from. The company plans to end its business-to-consumer offerings – hardware intended for individual and, typically, home use --, but expand its business-to-business segment, which focuses on computing hardware companies purchase for their enterprise users. Toshiba predicts sales in this segment will grow by 50 percent in fiscal year 2016. It is unclear how or whether Google Chromebooks, which Toshiba makes, are affected in the restructuring. “The PC market is expected to see a continuing trend to modest growth rates, and these transformation measures are necessary to support the business in securing consistent profits,” Toshiba said in a statement. This is the Toshiba’s second restructuring this year. It previously restructured its visual products business. (Reuters)(ZD Net)(MarketWatch)

Ericsson Shutters Modem Unit, Cuts Jobs

Telecommunications technology and service provider Ericsson has announced it will close its modem-manufacturing unit, cutting 1,000 employees. The company said that the falling price of modems, the expenses associated with continued operations, and technology trends, such as the increasing integration of modems with processors, were among the factors leading to the decision. Ericsson will now focus on developing radio infrastructure technologies, small cells – also known as mini-mobile networks --, and machine-to-machine technologies, according to Reuters. The unit had employed about 1,600 people in Sweden, India, Germany, China, and Finland. The company’s new R&D unit in Lund, Sweden, will absorb employees not laid off. (Reuters)(PC World)(Bloomberg)


Cray Awarded $13 Million Supercomputing Contract

The PTC Center for High Performance Computing at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, has awarded Cray a $13 million contract to provide it with a next-generation Cray XC supercomputer system and services later this year. This will be one of the first petascale supercomputers in Scandinavia. The KTH institute plans to use the new system for simulations in areas such as fluid dynamics, climate modeling, neuroscience, and plasma physics. The institute will also make the supercomputer available to external researchers though the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing and the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe. This is the latest contract of its type for Cray, which will also provide next-generation Cray XC machines to the Korea Meteorological Association and the US National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. (GeekWire)(MarketWatch)

New Panasonic Hybrid Devices Combines Smartphone, High-End Camera Functions

Panasonic has debuted a product that combines the features of a smartphone and an expensive, stand-alone camera. The Android-based Lumix DMC-CM1 has a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor—typically found on stand-alone cameras—that enables users to take photos in low light and high-definition video. The lens, made with Leica optics, lets users manually set variables such as shutter speed, aperture, and focus. Limited quantities of the CM1 will be available in Germany and France starting in November 2014 for €899. Panasonic did not indicate whether the product will be available in other markets later. (BBC)(PC World)

Smart Locket Keeps Loved Ones Close

The locket—a piece of jewelry, worn on a necklace, that holds treasured photos—seems like something from Victorian England. However, a new locket uses technology to store and display treasured photos and messages. The Purple prototype locket—which Startefact, the Artefact product design firm’s innovation and incubation program created —has a tiny display and touch screen. With a smartphone application, users can choose the photos they want to access and transfers them via Bluetooth. Users can also utilize Purple to send a photo or message to loved ones by text or via services such as Facebook or Instagram. “Purple is designed to be an heirloom piece of jewelry,” explains Artefact on its website <>. ”Materials like platinum, silver, gold and even brushed brass, together with pure smooth lines make it stand out in the sea of wearable gadgets.” The company is seeking partners to commercialize the locket. (Geek Wire)(WIRED)(Purple @ Artefact Group)

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