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Businesses

Toyota Forms 'Strategic Partnership' With Uber (theverge.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Toyota and Uber are forming a "strategic partnership" which will include an investment by the Japanese automaker in the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company. Under the agreement, Uber drivers can lease their vehicles from Toyota and cover their payments through earnings generated as Uber drivers. Toyota says it will invest an undisclosed sum in Uber, which is already the most valuable technology startup in the world. A partnership between Toyota and Uber could help the ride-sharing company solve a lingering question surrounding its self-driving ambitions, namely where its going to get a fleet of cars to equip with its autonomous technology. Toyota, which is the world's largest car manufacturer, is taking self-driving technology very seriously. It recently established the Toyota Research Institute to develop AI technologies in two main areas: autonomous cars and robot helpers for around the home. Last month, Google, Ford, Volvo, Lyft and Uber joined a coalition to help spur the development of self-driving cars, ultimately to make them arrive to the market faster. Meanwhile, Apple made an investment in Uber's Chinese rival Didi.
AI

Apple To Open Up Siri To Developers, Release An Amazon Echo Competitor (bgr.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR: According to a new report from The Information, Apple is finally ready to let Siri grow up. Specifically, the publication relays that Apple will finally offer official Siri APIs to developers, thus paving the way for third-party integrations, the kind that Amazon Echo users can't seem to get enough of. Things like ordering an Uber or pizza are currently impossible, because Siri is locked down by Apple. What's more, Apple is also reportedly working on a standalone device meant to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google's recently unveiled Google Home. If that's true, it's huge news -- Apple has been lacking any kind of smart home hub until now, but a Siri-powered device would be a serious play to get Apple into our homes. Google is the latest tech giant to announce a virtual home assistant. It unveiled Google Home, a small round gadget with microphones and speakers that listen and respond to your questions and commands.
AT&T

No, Apple Won't Become a Wireless Carrier (fortune.com) 32

Don Reisinger, reporting for Fortune: Apple won't be competing with its carrier partners anytime soon. Speaking at Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam during an interview on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook squashed rumors that his company is planning to eventually get into the cellular market to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon. "Our expertise doesn't extend to the network," Cook said. "We've worked with AT&T in the U.S., O2 in the U.K., as well as T-Mobile and Orange, and we expanded as we learned more. But generally, the things Apple likes to do, are things we can do globally. We don't have the network skill. We'll do some things along the way with e-SIMs along the way, but in general, I like the things carriers do."
Google

Apple, Microsoft and Google Hold 23% Of All US Corporate Cash Outside the Finance Sector (geekwire.com) 166

An anonymous reader writes: Apple, Microsoft, and Google are the top three cash-rich U.S. companies across all sectors of business, not including banks and other financial institutions -- holding a combined $391 billion in cash as of the end of 2015, or more than 23 percent of the entire $1.68 trillion held by the nation's non-financial corporations. Apple leads the pack with $215.7 billion in cash, followed by Microsoft at $102.6 billion, and Google at $73.1 billion. The numbers are documented in a new report from Moody's Investors Service that shows an unprecedented concentration of cash in the tech sector. For the first time, the top five companies on the Moody's cash ranking are tech companies, with Cisco and Oracle following Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Technology companies overall held $777 billion in cash, or 46 percent of the total cash across all non-financial industries.
Apple

Apple To Launch Thinner, Lighter MacBook Pro Models With OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID In Fall (9to5mac.com) 220

Apple plans to refresh its MacBook Pro line later this year. The makeover will see both 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models replace their function keys atop laptop keyboards with an OLED touch bar, according to a report. Both the models will also have Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and will support Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, multiple outlets are reporting citing ever-so-reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The refreshed MacBook Pro model will be thinner and lighter as well. There's no word on if -- and when -- the MacBook Air lineup will receive a refresh.
Iphone

Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls, Sending Email (fortune.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple. But here's the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple's last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails. A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple's devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple's FaceTime, as well as displaying a person's geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls. Last year, Apple was ordered to pay $533 million to Smartflash LLC for allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection.
China

Xiaomi Revenues Were Flat in 2015 (fortune.com) 55

Scott Cendrowski, reporting for Fortune: Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and second highest-valued startup in the world at $45 billion, barely grew sales at all last year. Revenue for 2015 reached 78 billion yuan ($12.5 billion), a 5% rise from 2014's 74.3 billion yuan. Taking into account the falling value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, sales rose 3% in U.S. dollar terms. Xiaomi has been mum about the 2015 sales total since founder Lei Jun gave a revenue target of 100 billion yuan ($16 billion at the time) at a government meeting in March last year. Flat sales growth represents a dramatic change of fortune for Xiaomi, which until recently appeared to be enjoying the momentum befitting China's hottest startup. It was coming off sales growth of 135% in 2014, and in early 2015 founder Lei Jun said at a press conference that Xiaomi's new smartphone was even better than Apple's iPhone. However the phone, the Mi Note, amassed early user complaints about hot temperatures and didn't become the mega-seller the company might have hoped.CNBC's Jay Yarrow said "The Apple-killer is dying." For the uninitiated, Xiaomi rose to fame in 2013-14 when the company took the world by storm with its cheap-priced handsets, TVs, speakers, power banks, and cameras. These devices offered top-of-the-line specifications for their respective echelon. The company has been called out before for allegedly copying Apple's iOS design in its MIUI Android-based operating system. In the past two years, Xiaomi has expanded its business to several Asian regions, and intends to sell a number of gadgets in the United States and Europe among other regions starting later this year. The company has also expanded its product portfolio, making weighing scale, rice cooker, suitcase and a range of other items.
Music

Spotify's New Family Plan Is Cheaper, $14.99 For Up To 6 people (techcrunch.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: Spotify on Monday announced some changes to its family plan subscriptions, allowing them to use Spotify Premium for $14.99 per month and get six different Spotify accounts and profiles. This is the exact same deal as the one you can get on Apple Music today. Spotify is just making sure you're not going to move your entire family over to Apple Music for pricing reasons. The company introduced family plans back in 2014. At the time, it was one of the first subscription services with family plans. You could get 50 percent off extra Spotify accounts. So it would cost you $14.99 for two accounts, $19.99 for three accounts, $19.99 for four accounts, etc. For big families with at least three accounts, the new Spotify family plan is cheaper. For singles and couples, it's the same price.
Government

How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers (theguardian.com) 133

10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself."

But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge...

Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."
AI

Ask Slashdot: Can You Have A Smart Home That's Not 'In The Cloud'? 181

With the announcement of Google Home on Wednesday, one anonymous Slashdot reader asks a timely question about cloud-based "remote control" services that feed information on your activities into someone else's advertising system: In principle, this should not be the case, but it is in practice. So how hard is it, really, to do 'home automation' without sending all your data to Google, Samsung, or whoever -- just keep it to yourself and share only what you want to share?

How hard would it be, for instance, to hack a Nest thermostat so it talks to a home server rather than Google? Or is there something already out there that would do the same thing as a Nest but without 'the cloud' as part of the requirement? Yes, a standard programmable thermostat does 90% of what a Nest does, but there are certain things that it won't do like respond to your comings and goings at odd hours, or be remotely switchable to a different mode (VPN to your own server from your phone and deal with it locally, perhaps?) Fundamentally, is there a way to get the convenience and not expose my entire life and home to unknown actors who by definition (read the terms of service) do not have my best interest in mind?

Yesterday one tech company asked its readers, "What company do you trust most to always be listening inside your home?" The winner was "nobody", with 63% of the votes -- followed by Google with 16%, and Apple with 13%. (Microsoft scored just 3%, while Amazon scored 2%.) So share your alternatives in the comments. What's the best way to set up home automation without sending data into the cloud?
The Almighty Buck

A Third Of Cash Is Held By 5 US Tech Companies (siliconbeat.com) 389

An anonymous reader writes: Moody's Investors Service released an analysis Friday that shows Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco Systems, and Oracle are sitting on $504 billion, which is roughly 30% of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015. Almost all of their earnings ($1.2 trillion) are stashed overseas in an effort to avoid paying taxes on moving profits back to the U.S. under the country's complex tax code. Apple has more than 90 percent of its money located outside of the U.S., according to its most recent filings. Moody's said in its report that "we expect that overseas cash balances will continue to grow unless tax laws are changed to encourage companies to repatriate money." Some of the other tech and Silicon Valley companies in the top 50 include Intel, Gilead Sciences, Facebook, Amazon, Qualcomm, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Opens First 'Next Generation' Retail Store (usatoday.com) 91

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has opened its new flagship store on Thursday in San Fransisco, throwing the curtain back on a design that puts a premium on hanging out over shopping. About 20 percent of the new store's space features an open Forum area where visitors can learn about Apple's various products. The new design is rolling out to stores in Brussels, Memphis and Guilderland, N.Y. "This is the next generation of Apple retail," Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online operations, told media. "Fifteen years ago today Apple opened its first two stores and we're thrilled to mark the occasion with the opening of Apple Union Square in San Francisco," she said. "We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs." The new stores were designed by Ahrendts and Apple's design chief, Jony Ive. "Among the other big changes in evidence is morphing Apple's Genius Bar to Genius Grove; the addition of a new Boardroom area dedicated to small business customers; and the advent of a new staff position, Apple Creative Pro, tasked with helping consumers with specific questions on music, photography, videos and the like," writes USA Today. "In addition, some of Apple's most significant store locations, include the [Apple Union Square in San Fransisco], will feature a public Plaza that will be open 24/7 and feature free Wi-Fi as well as occasional concerts and other performances." Oh, and you can't forget about the new 6K video wall, which display broadcasts various Apple products.
Google

Chromebooks Outsell Macs For the First Time In the US (theverge.com) 177

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Google's low-cost Chromebooks outsold Apple's range of Macs for the first time in the U.S. recently. IDC analyst Linn Huang confirmed the milestone to The Verge. "Chrome OS overtook Mac OS in the US in terms of shipments for the first time in 1Q16," says Huang. "Chromebooks are still largely a US K-12 story." IDC estimates Apple's U.S. Mac shipments to be around 1.76 million in the latest quarter, meaning Dell, HP, and Lenovo sold nearly 2 million Chromebooks in Q1 combined. Chromebooks have been extremely popular in US schools, and it's clear from IDC's comments the demand is driving US shipments. Outside of the US, it's still unclear exactly how well Google's low-cost laptops are doing. Most data from market research firms like IDC and Gartner focuses solely on Google's wins in the US.
Bug

iOS 9.3.2 Bricking Some 9.7-inch iPad Pro Devices With 'Error 56' Message (macrumors.com) 34

An anonymous reader writes: iOS 9.3.2 is causing problems for some 9.7-inch iPad Pro owners, with multiple users reporting issues shortly after installing the update over the air. Affected users are seeing an "Error 56" message that instructs them to plug their devices into iTunes. Apple has issued a statement to iMore, simply stating the company is "looking into a small number of reports" regarding this issue. The statement reads: "We're looking into a small number of reports that some iPad units are receiving an error when updating the software. Those unable to restore their device through iTunes should contact Apple support."
Security

Symantec Antivirus Products Vulnerable To Horrid Overflow Bug (zdnet.com) 79

An anonymous reader writes: Tavis Ormandy of Google's Project Zero team has discovered a vulnerability in Symantec Antivirus Engine. The said engine is vulnerable to a buffer overflow when parsing malformed portable-executable (PE) header files, reports ZDNet. "Such malformed PE files can be received through incoming email, downloading of a document or application, or by visiting a malicious web site," Symantec said. "No user interaction is required to trigger the parsing of the malformed file." For Linux, OS X, and other Unix-like systems, the exploit results in a remote heap overflow as root in the Symantec or Norton process, Ormandy said in the Project Zero issue tracker. "On Windows, this results in kernel memory corruption, as the scan engine is loaded into the kernel (wtf!!!), making this a remote ring0 memory corruption vulnerability -- this is about as bad as it can possibly get," he said.The vulnerability, if exploited, results in kernel memory corruption without user action and instant blue-screening on Windows.

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