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Microsoft Announces More Internal Changes

The changes that are sweeping through Microsoft continued this week with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealing further changes in both leadership and corporate organization. He says the changes are designed to 'tune' Microsoft's organization for maximum focus and impact.

'Today marks the start of another big week for Microsoft as we gear up for the Build conference in San Francisco,' Mr. Nadella writes in yet another email message to employees that was published publicly. 'In advance of Build, I want to highlight three announcements about how we're continuing to evolve and tune our organization for maximum focus and impact.'

First up is Scott Guthrie. About two months ago, Mr. Guthrie was assigned as acting leader of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise organization as part of a sweeping set of leadership changes at the company. (Those previous changes included the exits of both Tami Reller and Tony Bates.) Now, Mr. Nadella has promoted Guthrie to Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise organization, so he's staying on fulltime. 'As a leader, Scott has shown incredible energy and insight into how we create technology that others can build on, and which can be built on what others have created,' Mr. Nadella writes in the email.

Meanwhile, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will indeed be joining Microsoft as Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Devices Group, and he will report directly to Nadella. This needs to wait on Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's devices and services businesses, which is expected to conclude sometime in April.

Finally and perhaps most dramatically, Nadella also revealed that Microsoft will combine its Xbox and Xbox Live development teams with the Microsoft Studios team. This new Xbox group will be led by Phil Spencer, who will now report directly to Terry Myerson, who runs development for all of Microsoft's client OSes, suggesting that the Windows/Xbox One ties are indeed as close as many had expected. 'Phil will lead the Xbox, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video teams, and Microsoft Studios,' Nadella writes. 'Combining all our software, gaming and content assets across the Xbox team under a single leader and aligning with the [OS Group] team will help ensure we continue to do great work across the Xbox business, and bring more of the magic of Xbox to all form factors, including tablets, PCs and phones.'

On a related note, Nadella notes among other appointments that Mike Angiulo, previously a prominent fixture in the Sinofsky Windows regime, 'will continue leading Xbox hardware.' But he doesn't mention that Antoine Leblond, another victim of the Nadella and Myerson purges, has apparently left the company after 25 years there. We're seeing this happen with more and more of the Sinofsky acolytes. Recode says Leblond is leaving Microsoft effective today.

Nadella closes with a call to action, similar to his exhortation two months ago that the senior leadership team needed to be 'all in' on the strategy.

'I've discussed with the Microsoft leadership team the need to zero in on what truly makes Microsoft unique,' he writes. 'As I said on my first day, we need to do everything possible to thrive in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The announcements last week, our news this week, the Nokia acquisition closing soon, and the leaders and teams we are putting in place are all great first steps in making this happen.'

'There's a lot of work ahead of us and I am counting on every single one of you to bring your 'A' game every single day,' he continues, lest there be any confusion.

Microsoft Clarifies Email Snooping Policy

Microsoft amends its terms of service to stop peeking into customers' emails, even if it suspects they may be stealing from the company.

(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft said it will honor its privacy commitments to its customers, even those it suspects may be thieves.

In a blog post Friday, Microsoft executive VP and general counsel Brad Smith said that the company has reflected on the criticism it received over how it handled a 2012 case in which its investigators accessed the Hotmail account of a blogger alleged to have received stolen Windows code from a disgruntled employee. As a consequence of internal conversations and input from advocacy groups, Microsoft has decided that its privacy promises should also be binding on its own employees and agents.

[Say hello to the privacy revolution. Read March Madness: Online Privacy Edition.]

'Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer's private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required,' said Smith.

Smith said Microsoft will incorporate this change into its terms of service to clarify its commitment to customers and to make it binding.

Over the past week, Microsoft has been the target of withering criticism from privacy advocates who pointed out the hypocrisy of Microsoft's Scroogled ad campaign -- which takes Google to task for using algorithms to read Gmail messages to target ads -- in light of its own behavior. While many acknowledged that Microsoft may have been within its rights to access a customer account outside of normal legal processes, they said it was a stupid thing to do because of the damage done to the company's image.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation suggested in a blog post last week that Microsoft's decision to access the Hotmail user's account might qualify as a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Smith maintains Microsoft's actions were lawful.

The advocacy group said that Microsoft's insistence that its terms of service allow such action is itself worrying because so many possible actions could violate its code of conduct, thereby granting the company access. The EFF noted that merely linking to a Peanuts cartoon would be enough to justify a suspension of user privacy 'because Snoopy is eternally pantsless, and Microsoft specifically prohibits links to 'nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons.''

Microsoft's critics took time to praise the company for reversing its stance. 'Microsoft's legal team (and their privacy team who were involved in discussions) deserve serious praise for this change in policy,' said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the ACLU, via Twitter. 'Bravo.'

'While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us,' said Smith. 'Therefore, rather than inspect the private content of customers ourselves in these instances, we should turn to law enforcement and their legal procedures.'

The NSA leak showed that one rogue insider can do massive damage. Use these three steps to keep your information safe from internal threats. Also in the Stop Data Leaks issue of Dark Reading: Technology is critical, but corporate culture also plays a central role in stopping a big breach. (Free registration required.)

Now the question is whether Google and other companies that store customer data will join Microsoft in rejecting the special privileges written into their terms of service contracts.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

Samsung Tries Wooing Multitaskers With 28

Samsung is joining the push to empower desktop PC users with 4K ultra high definition (UHD) displays by announcing its new UD590 monitor. Like other 4K panels, the UD590 offers four times the resolution and pixels of a Full HD 1080p display at 3840x2160 versus 1920x1080. This allows for significantly more on-screen real-estate to play with and is especially useful when working with large, detailed photos and graphics.

The UD590 is built around an LED-backlit Twisted Nematic (TN) panel. These are lower quality panels compared to In-Plane Switching (IPS) and the such, though the upshot for consumers and gamers is that they're typically less expensive to own and capable of handling fast moving visuals without nasty artifacts. In this case, the UD590 retails for $700 MSRP and has a 1ms response time.

Other specifications include 170-degree/160-degree viewing angles, 370 cd/m2 brightness, two HDMI ports, a single DisplayPort, audio outputs, -1 to +15 degrees of tilt, and Picture-in-Picture 2.0 support, the latter of which affords users easy multitasking and the ability to adjust resolution, screen position, and sound as desired. Using PiP 2.0, users can even watch videos that maintain 100 percent of the source resolution.

'Samsung is a worldwide leader in display technology renowned for our UHD 4K TVs. The UD590 brings that UHD 4K technology to our monitor line up, offering unparalleled imagery right at your desk,' said Ron Gazzola, Vice President of Consumer IT Marketing at Samsung Electronics America. 'It offers a viewing experience unlike any other, perfect for consumers looking to enjoy premium display quality in their homes. We're also introducing several other consumer monitors this year to offer a wide range of high performing options to meet the needs of any user.'

The UD590 is available to pre-order now and will ship to consumers and retailers in April.

Moto G, Apple iPhone fuelling UK smartphone market as Android and Samsung ...

We're all used to Android being the definitive king of the smartphone hill by now, so it's not often you hear news of a wobble from Google's OS. However, market research bean counters Kantar Worldpanel Comtech's latest stats have shown that Android has slipped recently.

The numbers (spotted by the Inquirer) are for the end of February, and show that the iPhone has increased its market share by 3.1 per cent year-on-year in the UK, to 31.1 per cent - much of which, we'd imagine, will be down to the iPhone 5S (as the 5C wasn't so well received given its price not being much less than the flagship).

Android, however, has dropped from a 58.3 per cent market share to 54 per cent over the last quarter - a fairly substantial dip for a three month period. Samsung in particular had a rough ride, falling from 36.7 per cent to 30.2 per cent.

However, ebbing sales are to be expected given that the Galaxy S5 is just around the corner, with prospective buyers either electing to wait for the S5, or indeed for further S4 price cuts following the S5's official launch (it goes on sale 11 April).

Another interesting facet of Kantar's latest revelations about the UK market is the success of the Moto G handset, with Motorola going from next-to-nothing to a 5.9 per cent market share off the back of its budget Android wonder.

That's not surprising, really, given what you get for your money with the Moto G, which has pretty much been making every other budget Android smartphone look lacklustre since its launch last autumn.

Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said: 'Motorola was nowhere in Europe before the Moto G launched in November last year, but the new model has since boosted the manufacturer to 6 per cent of British sales. It highlights the speed at which a quality budget phone can disrupt a market.'

Apparently 83 per cent of Moto G owners are male, and almost half are aged 16 to 24-years-old, with 40 per cent earning less than £20,000 per year.

Across the whole of Europe, Android remained in pole position with a 68.9 per cent market share, with Apple following on 19 per cent, and Windows Phone on 9.7 per cent.

Microsoft Didn't Win Last Week, But Apple and Google Did

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In one respect, you have to give Microsoft credit. The company has rightfully crapped on Steve Ballmer's legacy.

At last week's Office for iPad event, Satya Nadella told us, even if indirectly, that everything Ballmer did at Microsoft in recent years was wrong. Yet, for some reason, the tech and financial media opts to portray Microsoft's new direction as a victory, that it's somehow doing Apple a favor.

We miss Steve Jobs so much. We're so desperate to replace him that the first cerebral, reasonably attractive and well-spoken guy to come along gets to third base with us on the first date. We're so smitten we have lose sight of reality.

It's all really quite pathetic ( quick MSFT loyalists, scamper to the comments section on Page Three and type ... 'Your article is what's pathetic').

Nadella's on a search and rescue mission. Admirable, but it will produce the same sad ending had Ballmer remained in charge.

Microsoft's shift in strategy -- really the only way forward -- will render it as irrelevant as BlackBerry . It's a win-win for Apple as well as Google .

Nobody has an inside explanation of what happened under Ballmer. Or technical reasons for why it took so long for Office for iPad to happen. Ballmer failed. Miserably. And, despite the obvious fact that he has a clue (evident even if he didn't follow Ballmer), Nadella will as well. Because there's no way to succeed in the environment Ballmer placed Microsoft in. Nadella can't win playing the cards he was dealt. (It's no wonder nobody else wanted the job).

I'll explain by responding -- point-by-point -- to an article TheStreet and Real Money Pro contributor Robert Weinstein wrote last week titled Google Can't Crush Microsoft.

Sony announces price and shipping date for 13.3in Digital Paper

Sony has announced that its long awaited 13.3in E-Ink Digital Paper will be available in May, at least in the US.

The device has a resolution of 1600 x 1200, and is approximately 7mm thick. It can display an entire letter-sized (A4-sized, more or less!) document in full-screen (16-level greyscale) with no need for zooming or scrolling, and the display is a touchscreen, having an attached stylus.

It's aimed at the business world and productivity - as opposed to being some giant novelty e-reader - replacing paper in the workplace, with the stylus allowing professionals to jot notes on documents and more easily share and collaborate.

The price clearly marks out that territory, too, with the tag set at $1,100 (£660) in the States, not exactly within reach of the average consumer. It will save on a lot of paper and printing costs when it comes to the enterprise world, though, or that's certainly the idea.

Digital Paper is apparently perfectly readable in bright sunlight, Sony claims, and it has built-in Wi-Fi, 4GB of memory with a microSD slot for expansion, and will last 3 weeks on a single charge.

Bob Nell, director of Digital Paper Solutions at Sony Electronics, commented: 'This is a true replacement for the vast amounts of paper that continue to clutter many offices and institutions. It is very easy to use and optimised for reading and annotating contracts, white papers, scholarly articles and legislation. The 'notepad' feature will have universal appeal, and notes can be shared with clients, colleagues, and co-workers.'

As to when the device will hit UK shores, Sony hasn't yet said anything about that, or the exact pricing for this country either.

Microsoft reverses course, vows not to snoop on 'private content' after Hotmail ...

A week after saying it was justified in snooping through a blogger's Hotmail account to track down a leaker of company software, Microsoft has changed course, saying it will refer such matters to law enforcement starting immediately.

The reversal, explained by general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post Friday, follows last week's revelation that it searched through e-mails and instant messages of a blogger who Microsoft believed had received proprietary code illegally.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella may bring new change to Microsoft by offering a version of Office for the iPad. Analysts say the lack of an Office version for the iPad may have robbed Microsoft of $2.5 billion in revenues. Fred Katayama reports. Reuters


A Czech company has developed a computerised, interactive device it calls a 'Magic Box'. Half teaching tool, half toy, the box is designed to teach children about modern technologies in a playful way. Jim Drury has more. Reuters



The search, in September, 2012, led to Alex Kibkalo, a Russian native who worked for Microsoft as a software architect in Lebanon. Microsoft turned over the case to the FBI in July, 2013.

Smith now says the company 'will not inspect a customer's private content ourselves' and will refer the matter to law enforcement if it believes its services are being used to facilitate theft of Microsoft property.

Microsoft Corp. owns Hotmail and the cloud storage service formerly known as SkyDrive. It alleged that the services were used so Kibkalo could transfer software files to the blogger, including a fix for the Windows 8 RT operating system that hadn't been released publicly.

The case spawned a wave of criticism, and Microsoft initially responded to it by saying that it would consult with an outside attorney who is a former judge to determine if a court order would be issued in similar searches in the future.

Many saw its initial response as inadequate.

'Last week's response was trying to create a mimic of due process with a shadow court that was run by Microsoft,' said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate. 'It was good to see Microsoft reconsidered.'

Smith said the company would also change its terms of service to make it clear what customers can expect, and consult with privacy advocates to come up with industry best practices going forward.

House GOP investigators say regulators twice declined to probe faulty GM vehicles

January 10, 2013: The logo for General Motors decorates the entrance at the site of a GM information technology center in Roswell, Ga. A congressional committee is investigating the way General Motors and a federal safety agency handled a deadly ignition switch problem in compact cars. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Congressional investigators said Sunday that federal regulators had declined on two separate occasions to open formal probes into complaints about an ignition switch defect in certain General Motors cars.

The finding was announced in a memo prepared by staffers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of a continuing investigation into events surrounding GM's eventual recall of 2.6 million small cars due to the defect, which has been linked to 13 deaths in traffic accidents. The investigators also determined that GM rejected a proposed fix for the problem in 2005 due to both the length of time needed for repair and the costs involved.

In response to the panel, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement Sunday saying it had 'reviewed data from a number of sources in 2007, but the data we had available at the time did not warrant a formal investigation.'

The cars were recalled by GM due to a flaw which causes ignition switches to move from the 'run' to the 'accessory' or 'off' position, which causes the car to stall and disables the air bags and power steering. The recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky from the 2003-2011 model years.

Investigations by the House panel, a Senate committee, regulators and federal prosecutors are continuing. GM CEO Mary Barra and NHTSA Administrator David Friedman are scheduled to appear Tuesday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. A separate Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

According to the memo, in September 2007, the then-head of NHTSA's defect assessments division emailed other officials in the Office of Defects Investigation recommending a probe into why front air bags weren't deploying in crashes involving 2003-2006 Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions.

'Notwithstanding GM's indications that they see no specific problem pattern, DAD perceives a pattern of nondeployments in these vehicles that does not exist in their peers,' the email, which is cited by House investigators, said.

But on Nov. 15, 2007, NHTSA officials concluded there was no discernible trend, and it decided not to pursue the matter, the House memo states.

In 2010, NHTSA officials again considered data on whether the Cobalt had a problem with malfunctioning air bags but again decided there was no trend, the memo states.

Congress is also investigating why GM didn't recall the cars sooner, because it first found problems with the ignition switches in 2001. The House memo provides new details about GM's consideration - but ultimate rejection - of potential solutions.

According to the memo, GM engineers met in February 2005 to consider making changes to the ignition switch after reports it was moving out of position and causing cars to stall. But an engineer said the switch was 'very fragile' and advised against changes. In March 2005, the engineering manager of the Cobalt closed the case, saying an ignition switch fix would take too long and cost too much, and that 'none of the solutions represents an acceptable business case.'

In May 2005, the company's brand quality division requested a new investigation into ignitions turning off while driving, and a new review suggests changing the design of the key so it wouldn't drag down the ignition. That proposal was initially approved but later cancelled.

In a statement released Sunday, GM said it deeply regrets the events that led to the recall.

'We are fully cooperating with NHTSA and the Congress and we welcome the opportunity to help both have a full understanding of the facts,' the company said.

FIVERRDIRECTORY.BLOGSPOT.COM contributed to this report.

Pardon me! Apple wants to address texting while walking mishaps with ...

While we're seeing some solid solutions come to market that may potentially be saving lives on the deadly texting while driving front, Apple is working on tackling the far less serious (but truly annoying) texting while walking mishaps. The solution is being dubbed 'transparent texting' and Apple has filed the patent this week.

If you're wondering what we're talking about you are undoubtedly one of the more serious offenders. Head down, glued to your smartphones' screen, engrossed in a text conversation and then....Wham! You've smacked right into someone or maybe gotten up close and personal with lamppost.

Apple explains in the patent that to enable a 'transparent texting' system, they are proposing that an app's background be modified to display video images continuously captured by the iPhone's rear-facing camera. This technology is essentially combining the video camera and texting app into one feature as the text message appears over the live video feed in the background.

As has been the case with anything Apple-related of late, the assumption is this feature would be worked into the upcoming iOS 8 plan but Apple has not officially made that announcement.

While the statistics surrounding the dangerous texting while driving epidemic are far more grim, an Ohio State University study reported that the number of mobile device-related injuries (and the study is citing those injuries that required emergency room treatment) tripled between 2004 and 2010. Of course, a big reason for such a huge increase was the wild increase in the number of smartphones sold during the period, but the numbers are eye opening just the same. And the biggest offenders, you ask? Those between the ages of 16-25.

While transparent texting certainly helps address the symptom of just how distracted society has become with their smartphones, it isn't exactly addressing what has basically become a sickness for mobile device users.

And while transparent texting does not currently address the texting while driving issue, it is somewhat encouraging to know that Apple, among others, is actively investigating unique ways to address general distraction issues such as this that are now part of the smartphone culture.

Rugged Olympus Stylus Tough TG


Olympus really seems to have stepped up its point-and-shoots lately and the new Stylus Tough TG-3 and Stylus SH-1 are further proof.

The third-gen model is just as rugged as the TG-2: waterproof to 50 feet (15m), shockproof from 7 feet (2.1m), crushproof up to 220 pounds (100kg), freezeproof to 14 degree Fahrenheit (-10C), and dustproof.

The camera also has the same 4x f2.0-4.9 25-100mm lens with an adapter ring for add-on waterproof lenses that's been used since the TG-1.

However, with the TG-2, Olympus introduced a Microscope function that digitally boosts zoom magnification from 7x to 14x while shooting as close as 0.4 inch (1cm) from a subject. The TG-3 takes this a step further by adding a focus-stacking macro mode.


Typically when you take close-up photos with a point-and-shoot only one small area will be in focus while the rest is blurred. If the camera has aperture controls, you might be able to increase your depth of field, but then you'd likely need to slow your shutter speed or increase your ISO.

The TG-3's Focus Stacking function gets around this by taking several shots shifting the focus from foreground to background and then layering them into one shot. (It's similar to what some cameras do for exposures for HDR photos or handheld night shots.) Olympus says the resulting picture has a focus area covering several centimeters.

To go along with its enhanced macro capabilities, Olympus developed an LED ring light guide that attaches around the lens. It uses the camera's built-in LED lamp and evenly distributes its light for shooting close-ups.

The Focus Stacking option as well as new time-lapse and sequential shooting modes are likely made possible by a new 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor (up from 12 megapixels in the TG-2) and a faster Olympus TruePic VII image processor. The camera also has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS.

The Olympus Stylus TG-3 is due out in June for $349.99, but you can check out the full details right now on Olympus' site.


Landing in stores before the TG-3 is the new Wi-Fi-enabled Stylus SH-1. Taking its design from the Olympus PEN interchangeable lens cameras like the E-P5, this updated version of 24x compact zoom SH-50 iHS gets the same sensor and processor combo in the TG-3.

To help handle any shake while using its f3.0-6.9 25-600mm lens, the SH-1 has Olympus' 5-axis image stabilization for both photos and video originally developed for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (the SH-50's was available for video only).

Look for the Olympus Stylus SH-1 in May for $399.99.

GM Ignition

Bloomberg News

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration manager recommended almost seven years ago investigating why air bags in some of 's Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion cars weren't deploying, a memo issued by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee shows.

The chief of NHTSA's Defects Assessment Division e-mailed other officials in the Office of Defects Investigation in September 2007, saying owner complaints from 2005 and 'early warning' data about warranty repairs and injuries justified an probe, according to the memo today from the committee. Congress is investigating an ignition-switch defect that can lead to air bag failure and has been tied to 13 deaths.

'Notwithstanding GM's indications that they see no specific problem pattern, DAD perceives a pattern of non-deployments in these vehicles that does not exist in their peers,' the official said, according the memo issued before a committee hearing on vehicle defects.

NHTSA chose not to open a formal defect investigation in 2007 after reviewing the air bag data, according to an interview between current NHTSA officials and the House committee's staff. That decision and the recall of 2.6 million cars this year are set to be the main focus of hearings this week, in which GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman will have to explain their handling of complaints of stalling cars and air bags that didn't deploy.

'At Stake'

'Lives are at stake, and we will follow the facts where they take us as we work to pinpoint where the system failed,' Representative Fred Upton, the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said today in a statement.

Barra and Friedman are scheduled to appear before Upton's committee on April 1, and a Senate committee on April 2.

The ignition-switch defect in six GM models including the Cobalt and Ion has been linked to the deaths in at least 31 crashes. GM recalled about 1.6 million cars worldwide in February, and an additional 971,000 last week.

GM approved production of the ignition switch in 2002 even though testing showed torque in the part fell short of the company's original specifications, the part's supplier, Delphi Automotive Plc, told House investigators.

In 2005, after months of studying ignition-switch failures noted by Cobalt customers, a GM project engineering manager canceled a proposed fix citing high tooling costs, piece prices and long lead times, according to internal company documents obtained by the House committee.

'None of the solutions presents an acceptable business case,' according to a GM memorandum cited by the committee.

Barra's Leadership

The congressional hearings present a test of leadership for Barra, who took over as GM's first female CEO on Jan. 15 and said she first learned the details of the recall two weeks later. Barra and other top executives are trying to remake the image of the Detroit-based automaker after last year shedding the last vestiges of U.S. government ownership linked to its 2009 bankruptcy.

Barra has apologized for the slow response that resulted in deaths. GM has also hired an outside investigator to probe the delay and has created a vice president position in charge of global vehicle safety, as Barra has sought to shore up GM's image and reinforce the automaker's message that it's recreating itself after its $50 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.

Firestone, Ford

Upton has said he wants to know why regulations already in place didn't catch the GM problems sooner. Upton led the probe in 2000 over highway deaths linked to Firestone tires on Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer sport-utility vehicles.

Upton, 60, was the lead House author of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, or TREAD. The 2000 law boosted communication between carmakers and the government and increased NHTSA's ability to collect data, with automakers required to report more potential threats such as defect claims or lawsuits, and recalls in other nations.

'The TREAD Act was supposed to keep folks safe and prevent this very situation,' Upton said in the statement. 'We now know the problems persisted over a decade, the red flags were many, and yet those responsible failed to connect the dots.'

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at Romaine Bostick, Steve Geimann

Microsoft changes policy: won't read your Hotmail anymore to track down ...

Microsoft read the email of Hotmail users without a warrant, in order to catch someone who'd leaked some Microsoft software. When they were caught out, the pointed out that they'd always reserved the right to read Hotmail users' email, and tried to reassure other Hotmail users by saying that they were beefing up the internal process by which they decided whose mail to read and when.

Now, citing the ''post-Snowden era' in which people rightly focus on the ways others use their personal information,' the company has announced that it will not read its users' email anymore when investigating theft or copyright violations -- instead, it will refer this sort of thing to the police in future (they still reserve the right to read your Hotmail messages without a court order under other circumstances).

As Techdirt's Mike Masnick points out, this is a most welcome change. The message announcing the change by Brad Smith (General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs) is thoughtful and forthright. It announces a future round-table on the questions raised by the company's snooping that the Electronic Frontier Foundation can participate in.

Smith asks a seemingly rhetorical question: 'What is the best way to strike the balance in other circumstances that involve, on the one hand, consumer privacy interests, and on the other hand, protecting people and the security of Internet services they use?' That is indeed a fascinating question, but in the specific case of Hotmail, I feel like it has a pretty obvious answer: change your terms of service so that you promise not to read your customers' email without a court order. Then, if you think there's a situation that warrants invading your customers' privacy, get a court order. This is just basic rule-of-law stuff, and it's the kind of thing you'd hope Microsoft's General Counsel would find obvious.

The fact that the question is being raised casts more light on Microsoft's extensive 'Scroogled' campaign, which (rightly) took Google to task for having a business-model that was predicated on harvesting titanic amounts of personal data. The takeaway here is that while Microsoft's business-model (at the moment) is less privacy-invading than Google's, that is not due to any inherent squeamishness about spying on people -- rather, it's just a practical upshot of its longstanding practices.

In part we have thought more about this in the context of other privacy issues that have been so topical during the past year. We've entered a 'post-Snowden era' in which people rightly focus on the ways others use their personal information. As a company we've participated actively in the public discussions about the proper balance between the privacy rights of citizens and the powers of government. We've advocated that governments should rely on formal legal processes and the rule of law for surveillance activities.

While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us. Therefore, rather than inspect the private content of customers ourselves in these instances, we should turn to law enforcement and their legal procedures.

This also has focused our attention on other important questions about the privacy interests of consumers as they use services across the Internet. What is the best way to strike the balance in other circumstances that involve, on the one hand, consumer privacy interests, and on the other hand, protecting people and the security of Internet services they use? It's an important question across the tech sector. And it's the type of question we believe would benefit from broader discussion rather than a single company or industry trying to divine the answers by itself.

We're listening: Additional steps to protect your privacy ( via Techdirt)

Antoine Leblond leaves Microsoft after 25 years

Microsoft executive Antoine Leblond has decided to leave the company after working for 25 years. Leblond has played major role at Microsoft in design and development division at Microsoft Office.

Leblond said that he will cherish the time he has spent at Microsoft. He added that he wants to experience the world outside Microsoft. He has only good memories from his 25-year tenure at Microsoft.

For nearly 20 years, Leblond worked at Microsoft Office unit. He was later moved to Windows division after Steven Sinofsky took control of the development division in year 2009. Leblond will leave Microsoft this week.

Leblond added in an email to his colleagues that he will miss them but he is also excited about his future.

Earlier, Skype CEO Tony Bates also left Microsoft. Marketing Chief Tami Reller had also announced her exit from the technology major recently. Microsoft has undergone major reshuffle at the higher executive level. In the reorganization announced last year, Leblond was not featured in the top leadership at Microsoft.

Antoine Leblond also held the position of Vice President for Windows Web Services. 'After almost 25 years, I've decided it's time for me to go out and see what the non-Microsoft world has to offer,' Leblond said in an e-mail.

Congress: GM twice failed to fix defect

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The Action 2 News School Closing System only displays school information when it has been activated by schools changing their schedule. Tune to WBAY-TV for weather advisories. More >>

Cost of Cloud Computing Continued to Go Down

Cost of cloud computing this week went down to historic low as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) engaged in a price war to slash price of various services such as running softwares, applications and websites. The recent move by these two industry rivals has also significantly reduced cost of storing large amounts of data on their cloud platforms.

At first, Google announced on March 25, that the search engine giant is cutting prices across several of its cloud computing services in order to make its products more competitive against Amazon's Web Services. For example, sustained use discounts will be around 53% of its previous pricing plan. The cost of using its servers will effectively go down from around US$ 0.11 to US$ 0.06 per hour on average.

In the blog post, Google said cloud computing prices have not followed Moore's law. 'over the past five years, hardware costs improved by 20-30% annually but public cloud prices fell by just 8% per year,' said Google.

Within a day (twenty hours to be precise), the man largely responsible for the world's largest cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services, Andy Jassy came out with an announcement to cut the price of its Elastic Compute Cloud by 30 to 40 percent. Amazon also ended up reducing cloud storage prices by 51%.

These two events establish three hard facts. First, Amazon was pursuing a 'value based pricing strategy,' where it charged way more to customers for its cloud services compared to the cost of building its infrastructure in terms of hardware and support service costs. Secondly, Google saw the divergence and engaged in a 'penetration pricing strategy ' to exploit this opportunity. The mentioning of Moore's law in the announcement certainly was done to expose Amazon's huge profit margins. Lastly, the whole fiasco makes us more optimistic about market power to bring customers the best service at a competitive price.

According to IDC, IT cloud services spending went from only US$ 16 billion in 2008 to US$ 42 billion in 2012. During the same time, business application usages went down to 52% from 57%and cloud storage usages went up from 5% to 13%. As more users realize the potential of cloud storage and running on-demand computing on cloud platforms, the cost is likely to go down further in coming years. However, this will certainly mean reduced profitability for Amazon Web Services next quarter.

GM recall process to be under congressional microscope


When General Motors Co chief executive Mary Barra faces Congress next week she will have to explain how the top brass at the biggest US automaker can say they knew nothing for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch linked to crashes and at least 12 deaths. For lawmakers trying to find who to blame for the lack of responsiveness by GM and its regulator to the tragedies, and in particular the multi-year delay in recalling potentially dangerous vehicles off the roads, it may turn out to be a frustrating couple of days. GM built a system to deliberately keep senior executives out of the recall process. Instead, two small groups of employees in the vast GM bureaucracy were tasked with making recall decisions, a system GM says was meant to bring objective decisions. It means that lawmakers may also focus on asking who is responsible for a system that failed so badly that there weren't red flags raised for those higher up the food chain. 'In this day and age, to think that stuff like this can be kept quiet or forgotten is ridiculous,' independent auto analyst and author Maryann Keller said. 'The right question to ask is who knew, when did they know and why was this not brought forth to be dealt with. Did they hope that it was just going to go away?' The company has recalled 1.6 million cars for a problem first noted in 2001, spurring the congressional enquiries as well as investigations by federal safety regulators, who will also testify, the Justice Department, and GM itself. GM has said Ms Barra and other top executives did not learn of the defective switches until January 31, explaining that smaller groups of lower-level company executives are responsible for leading a recall. Some executives who might use this argument include former CEO Rick Wagoner and his immediate successor Fritz Henderson, who have not discussed the matter publicly. 'The process here is supposed to be drilling deep into the data and objectively looking at this and having peer groups question it, and senior management and leadership's influence on that is not a healthy thing,' global product development chief Mark Reuss said last week. GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company was not yet commenting on why the decision to recall took as long as it did. GM is still investigating, he added. Within the GM community, several former executives contacted by Reuters were asking why the ignition switch problem did not catch the attention of company attorneys, engineers and employees who worked with dealers and processed warranty claims. 'Why did these dots not get connected? Or worse, if they were connected, why did it take so long to do something?' said one former executive with experience in service matters, who asked not to be identified and had not heard of the issue while it was developing. When the ignition switch in older-model cars, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, is jostled, a key could turn off the car's engine and disable airbags and other components, sometimes while traveling at high speed. 'Safety-related issues always got elevated attention,' said a former GM engineering executive. 'Something like engine stalls would get high priority.' Lawmakers will 'ask questions that will hold people accountable for the terrible accidents that have occurred', Representative Henry Waxman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is conducting that chamber's investigation of GM, told Reuters. Ms Barra will testify in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate on Wednesday. She and the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, David Friedman, are likely to face a barrage of questions from skeptical lawmakers. They may also have to deal with accusations from victims' families, some of whom plan to attend the hearings. A lawyer for some victims' families on Saturday invited Barra to meet with them in Washington next week. 'They need to hear from you, listen to your voice to know you are truly sorry and that you share in their grief and, to an extent at least, you understand their loss,' Robert Hilliard wrote in a letter emailed to Barra and GM lawyers. GM spokesman Greg Martin said by e-mail, 'Mary has expressed GM's regret and deep sympathy for all of those affected by the recall. We are determined to earn our customers' trust and to take actions necessary to make our safety processes world class. Arranging a meeting in the media is not respectful to the families. We will respond directly to the invitation.'Inside GM's recall process For more than a decade the company carried out engineering and field evaluation inquiries to track the problem, according to a timeline that GM filed with regulators. That document and others also suggest a failure to share information within the company. GM first learned of the issue in 2001 during pre-production of the Ion, and it issued so-called service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005. A February 2005 bulletin suggested dealers look for short drivers, who would be more likely to bump the steering wheel column, according to GM documents filed in a California lawsuit. Meanwhile, in a GM document introduced last year in a Georgia lawsuit, 6-foot-3-inch GM engineer Onassis Matthews said he inadvertently turned the ignition key off with his knee while test driving a Saturn Ion in February 2004. Matthews suggested moving the ignition key to a different location. As fatal accidents were reported, they were not always discussed broadly. In March 2007, NHTSA officials told a group of GM employees of a fatal Cobalt crash in July 2005. GM's legal team had opened a file in 2005, two months after the crash, but the automaker's employees at the 2007 meeting with NHTSA were not aware of it. In August 2011, an engineer was assigned to track a group of Cobalt and Pontiac G5 crashes in which the airbags did not deploy, but the process failed to include crashes involving Ion cars that resulted in deaths. The issue was elevated to the two committees responsible for calling for recalls in 2013. GM declined to say if the committees had looked at the issue previously. 'Product recalls was a closely held activity,' said a former executive in the global product development organisation. The system served two purposes. First, it put a group of experts in charge of the decision. Second, it kept news of potential recalls from leaking, the person said. One small group would vet incoming data and decide if a recall was warranted, then make a recommendation to an even smaller group in charge of approving the recall. If the second group approved a recall, the recommendation would then go to senior management. Jim Heller, chair of the products liability practice at Philadelphia law firm Cozen O'Conner said top executives 'can't be involved in every consumer's complaint, regardless of merit'. However, Mr Heller, who does not do work for GM, said a growing problem that would affect company earnings and public relations should have been communicated to senior management. GM's 2009 bankruptcy may also be part of the explanation, since it led to an exodus of executives, including Mr Wagoner and Mr Henderson, both of whom were forced out. Members of Congress, as well as safety advocates, want to know whether senior GM executives may have learned of the issue long before it surfaced in late 2013 and led to last month's recall. Wagoner declined to comment through a spokesman, while Mr Henderson could not be reached. Former North American chief Gary Cowger also could not be reached to comment. GM's former general counsel, Thomas Gottschalk, referred questions to the company, and GM said its current top legal executive Michael Millikin, who was previously the No. 2 executive in the department, also did not learn of the defective ignition switches until January 31. He is co-leading GM's internal probe. Lori Queen, who was previously in charge of GM's small-car engineering when the Cobalt was introduced, said she and her husband James, who was in charge of global engineering, would not comment. Former purchasing chief Bo Andersson, who is now CEO of Russia's largest automaker Avtovaz, also declined to comment. A company spokesman said GM's vice president of global product development Doug Parks, who was chief engineer for the Cobalt and Ion, was not commenting. The two Congressional committees are likely to decide on additional hearings and witnesses after they digest GM and NHTSA documents they have received and the information gleaned from next week's hearings.Lessons to learn Ms Barra has repeatedly apologized for the company's handling of the matter and said GM would focus on taking care of customers, and company officials have stressed cooperation in all investigations. She may get some credit from lawmakers for that attempt at transparency. GM's CEO 'gets high marks for admitting wrongdoing. On the other hand, she hasn't been there very long', said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, who is overseeing the Senate hearing. The senator said he would look at documents and listen to testimony before deciding about GM, and that the committee would be looking for explanations. 'You have to have lessons,' he said.Copyright @ Thomson Reuters 2014

Microsoft Windows XP Users Offered $100, But There Is A Catch; What Is It?

First Posted: Mar 29, 2014 05:21 PM EDT

Microsoft is currently offering its Windows XP users $100, but there's a catch.

Those who are eligible for the latest Microsoft deal can only redeem the store credit if they agree to update to a new Windows 8 computer.

This $100 promotion is part of Microsoft's attempt to get the last remaining Windows XP users off of the old operating system and into the hands of Microsoft's latest PCs. Windows XP currently stands as a 13-year-old Microsoft operating system.

Starting April 8, Microsoft will no longer make security updates to viruses and exploits to Windows XP.

Users that opt to participate in the promotion can redeem the credit online or in stores so long as they can verify that they do in fact own a Windows XP. Once verified, users will be able to purchase Microsoft PCs ranging in prices from $599 to $2,229. The offer ends June 15 and includes 90 days of free technical support.

Currently, Windows XP users make up approximately 30 percent of all Windows users while Windows 8 has recently moved past 10 percent market share. XP users who choose to participate in the deal could create a big payday for Microsoft.

Microsoft describes their newest Windows as 'familiar made better.' Its features include a new task manager and streamlined file management.

The operating system also allows custom setting of your start screen.

'Photos, news from friends, your favorite apps and sites-put what's most important to you on your Start screen. Choose your colors and move stuff around until it's just the way you like it,' Microsoft boasts on their site.

Similar to the Apple iCloud, Microsoft's Windows 8 features the SkyDrive that provides users with free online storage already built in to the new Windows. SkyDrive is accessible at any time through any device, including devices that are non-Windows.

To check out the newest PCs along with the new Windows operating system, click here.

Google to Android app developers: Shape up or ship out

Google announced some tweaks to its Google Play policies yesterday, aimed at clarifying and clearing up its policies on sexually explicit content, app promotions, and potentially deceptive in-app advertisements.

The announcement, apparently emailed to developers and posted by Philadelphia-based IT pro Anthony Farrior, covers a range of issues. About half of them seem to be aimed at eliminating shady app developer tricks, such as making advertisements look like system dialog boxes or other aspects of an app's user interface, tracking consumers' usage or locations without proper permission, or making modifications to the browser on behalf of advertisers or third parties.

Developers are also prohibited from using SMS to communicate with customers without first getting explicit permission for that.

Developers have 15 days to comply. After that, Google says it will start issuing warnings - or removing noncompliant apps from the store.

The new policies suggest that Google might be taking some steps to tame the 'wild West' nature of the Google Play marketplace, which has been far more open-ended that Apple's iTunes App Store since its inception. Google has long taken a far less restrictive approach regarding which apps it allows into its own store, whereas Apple's App Store policies are often so restrictive that they have provoked controversy among developers. On the other hand, with such liberal policies, Android apps are much more likely to be riddled with advertising (or outright spam) as well as malware. Google's new policies are a step toward curbing that problem.

Separately, the FTC earlier this week told VentureBeat that it would begin enforcing new COPPA rules to protect minors from inappropriate advertising and tracking in mobile apps.

It would appear that Google - and the government - are both taking steps to rein in some of the excesses of the mobile advertising and app marketplace.

We've reached out to Google for clarification on the new policies, and we'll update this post if we receive a response.

The summary of changes, according to the email:

We've updated our content policies to further clarify our stance on sexually explicit material and provide a better experience for our users, including minors We're introducing the App Promotion policy, which provides guidance on what app promotion tactics are disallowed when promoting your app on Play We've introduced a provision that requires you to clearly disclose when an advertised feature in your app's description requires in-app payment We've clarified the System Interference policy to prohibit any browser modifications on behalf of third-parties or advertisements We've re-emphasized in the Ads Policy that all advertising behavior must be properly attributed to, or clearly presented in context with the app it came along with We've also updated the Spyware section of our Policy Guidelines Help Site to address surveillance or tracking apps. Please take a look at the Google Play Developer Program Policy to see all the changes and make sure your app complies with our updated policies.

Hat tip: TechCrunch

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Windows Phone 8.1 Latest Videos Leak: Reveals Almost All Features

As the announcement day is fast approaching, Microsoft's new update for Windows Phone devices the Windows Phone 8.1 has been hitting the webosphere frequently. The update which is moreover like a revamped OS has yet again made it to the headlines via a recent leak. Software giant Microsoft is reportedly said to unveil the new update at the company's Build conference slated to take place earler next month on 2nd.

Coming courtesy of the Chinese website Coolxap, two videos of the device running on the Windows Phone 8.1 build has appeared showing few more features of the OS. The videos shows all the new features including the notification menu which the company calls Action Center. The feature was one of the most needed key feature in the Windows Phone devices. The feature works very much like Android. Thus to view the Action Center, you will have to swipe downward. The leaked video shows toggle switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Camera and brightness present in Action Center as well.

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Moreover, support for Live Tile background images is another feature which might interest a number of Windows Phone users. According to the video the users will be able to extract the image from Facebook, OneDrive, photo albums or the default pictures provided in the phone to set it as the background for Live Tiles. The particular image will appear as the background for Live Tiles, creating a parallax effect, as you can see in the image above.

You can check out the second video here

Windows Phone 8.1's leaked videos also show a revamped user interface for the Camera app and the updated Windows Phone Store. Also the company's most awaited voice assistant feature called by the name of Cortana will come in the new update. Other changes include a new version of Internet Explorer browser, improved multitasking, better storage management, VPN (Virtual Private Network) support and common apps for smartphones and tablets.

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A good news for Windows Phone 8 users is that Greg Sullivan, the public relations director for Windows Phone, back in January said that all smartphones running on Windows Phone 8 will get the 8.1 update.

One of the device which will feature a latest version of the OS is the Nokia Lumia 630 codenamed Moneypenny surfaced. Culminating all the leaks that took place in the recent past the Lumia 630 is said to come with 4.5-inch WVGA display, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 GPU,1GB RAM, 5MP rear camera and dual SIM support. Nokia Lumia 930 is another one which is also expected to launch with the same version of the OS.

Roku's new Media Streaming HDMI Dongle is now Shipping from Amazon and ...

After the Chromecast's success here in the US, it was only a matter of time before other manufacturers took that idea and did their own spin on it. Like Roku has done with their new streaming stick. The Ruko 3500R Streaming stick, is similar to the Chromecast in the fact that plugs into your HDMI port on the back of your TV and also doesn't require a set-top box like the other products from Roku, which are set-top boxes. Roku has over a thousand channels and counting, basically everything you can get on a normal Roku box, you can get with this streaming stick. Which isn't a bad idea, especially if you want a minimal setup, as most people won't even see this HDMI stick anyways. Unfortunately it doesn't work like Chromecast where you can cast from your Smartphone or tablet, but you can control it from your smartphone or tablet.

The Roku 3500R Streaming media stick is on sale now at all your favorite retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Roku's website. It'll cost you $50, which arguably is more expensive than the Chromecast at $35, but considering all the channels and programs you get with the Roku, it might actually be worth it. You'll definitely need to do your homework first before picking up either one and seeing which is the best fit for you. As both are really great devices, even at $50 the Roku 3500R is still a steal, but maybe not as much of an 'impulse buy' as the Chromecast is at $35.

For those interested we have a link below to both the Chromecast and Roku 3500R on Amazon. Both are available with Amazon Prime's free two-day shipping so you should get it pretty quickly.

Roku 3500R Streaming Stick (HDMI) (2014)Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player

Alex has been an Android user since the Motorola Droid back in 2010. He's been a huge Android fan ever since using many of the most popular flagships. He's currently rocking a Moto X and a G2.

Is Google Readying an Android 4.4.3 Update?

While the rumor mill has already started for Google potentially preparing an L-release Android update for I/O 2014, it appears we may not be quite done with Kit Kat yet. According to a new report out of Myce, Google employees have been spotted running new builds of Kit Kat on both the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7.

The latest build spotted on Hammerhead, aka Nexus 5, is version KTU83, and this update will hopefully bring a fix for the camera's battery-draining bug some users have reported. By Google's naming scheme for deciding a build number, we can assume that this build is running Kit Kat and is from March 24, 2014.

The Nexus 7′s last appearance on the Android 4.4.3 radar pegs the build number as KTU79, which means the build date for this one is likely March 21.

Considering that Android 4.4.3 (if it ever does indeed come out) is a 0.0.1 version bump up from the latest public version, not much is expected from the release except to squash bugs.

We'll update you as we learn more information.

Mozilla employees call for CEO Brendan Eich's resignation; 3 board members ...

Within one week of Brendan Eich's appointment as the new Mozilla CEO, the tech firm's employees are calling for his resignation; after reports highlighted the fact that Eich had made a donation to an anti-LGBT campaign in 2008.

The Mozilla employees' call for Eich's resignation stems from the revelation that Eich had, in 2008, contributed an amount of $1,000 in support of California's Proposition 8 campaign which opposed same-sex marriage.

According to a recent The Telegraph report, Eich's controversial donation was discovered on a public database in 2012; with Mozilla named as his employer.

Though Eich's donation to the Proposition 8 initiative stirred a controversy in April 2012, much of the criticism surrounding his donation subsided last year. However, the controversy resurfaced again this week after Eich was appointed as the new CEO of Mozilla.

Ever since his appointment, Eich's colleagues - who consider that his anti-LBGT stance goes against the company's philosophy - have been calling for his resignation via Twitter post which reads: 'I'm an employee of @mozilla and cannot reconcile having @BrendanEich as CEO.' The users who tweeted against Eich included Chris McAvoy, the chief of Mozilla's Open Badges project.

Meanwhile, amid calls for Eich's resignation, three members of the Mozilla board - two former Mozilla CEOs Gary Kovacs and John Lilly, and Shmoop CEO Ellen Siminoff - have reportedly stepped down.

Apple Loop: iPhone 6 Screens, Microsoft Office For iPad, iBeacons For MLB ...

Apple Loop: Microsoft Office (Excel) on the iPad (image:

The iPhone 6 screen size is debated online, Microsoft Office arrives on the iPad, staff are being sought for the iWatch, Mavericks reaches 40%, what is happening with the sapphire production, diversity in emojis, iBeacons at MLB parks, and the secret Scottish Apple store plans are a little less secret. Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many things that happened around Apple over the last seven days.

Now Every Snowball Has A Chance...

I don't think there's much doubt about the big news this week. Microsoft's release of Office for the iPad (with iOS versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel now available) opens up a world of possibilities for personal users, but this is going to be bigger news for Enterprise users. Because an Office 365 subscription is required, there will be countless iPad-equipped workers who have just had their productivity options increased because their workplace already has an Enterprise 365 subscription.

Apple is still taking the 30% cut for any Office 365 subscriptions sold through the app, but subscriptions outside the app do not seem to be affected by the App Store arrangement. While Cupertino did welcome the app with a bit more publicity than other software releases, the PR team did take the chance to remind people of the other tools available, including their own (free) suite of office apps.

How Big Will The iPhone 6 Screen Be?

One week after Apple tweaked the iPhone 5C range, the online discussion turns to the iPhone 6. Discussion once more is turning to the screen size of the next-generation iPhone with 4.7 inch screens being discusses as likely, and a 5.5 inch 'phablet' model as being considered but being delayed.

As always with Apple rumors, assume that my variation on Taniyama-Shiumra is in effect. Personally I feel that Apple is looking at larger screen sizes, but if the historical trend of reducing the SKU and preserving as much application compatibility as possible, I still consider a 4.9 inch screen to be the most likely candidate.

Apple Looking To Build Up Human Resources For The Smartwatch Project

More indications that the Apple iWatch project is more than a rumor, as Swatch CEO Nick discusses approaches made by '...all players in smart wearables up until today... However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement' (reports the FT, via MacRumors). furthermore Hubolt's Jean-Claude Biver discusses approaches by Apple to key members of his staff.

It's still unclear what direction Apple will take with their smartwatch project (my money is a focus on health and the quantified self), but the competition from Google has shown its hand with Android Wear this week. Android is focusing on a 'you are here, this is what you need to know' mode of operation, existing platforms such as Pebble are helping with alerts and social media updates, so Apple's choice is to have a better solution that addresses these areas, or move into a new third area.

If 'Threes' Is A Crowd, '2048′ Is A Riot

Sirvo LLC, the team behind the iOS game 'Threes', has written about the proliferation of clone games and 'inspired by' apps of the puzzle game, including a veritable fleet of '2048′ titles:

Next, came 2048 about ten days later. A game system identical to 1024 [and Threes] with one tweak, it removed the stones. Since, the game has grown in popularity after a posting on Hacker News on March 10th. It's freely available and open source, allows swipes so it can be played on the phone and has spawned many variants since, including our personal favorite: Numberwang 2048.

It's all in good fun, at least we'd like to think so, but try as our logical brains might, we still got the same 'cloning feeling'. Especially when people called Threes, a game we poured over for nearly a year and a half, a clone of 2048. Others rifled off that they thought 2048 was a better game than Threes. That all stung pretty bad. We know Threes is a better game, we spent over a year on it. And obviously, Threes is the reason 2048 exists.

It's another interesting view on the flooding of titles in the iTunes App Store and how proactive the curates need to be. It certainly feels like the current state of play is not favorable to original IP creators.

OSX Mavericks Adoption Reaches 40%

Online advertising firm Chitika's regular surveys in the mobile world have been useful at spotting trends with browsers and operating systems. They've turned their eye to OSX version distribution this week. Five months after its release, Mavericks is generating 40% of the web traffic by OSX devices. Leopard currently sits on 21%, Snow Leopard and Lion are both on 18%.

Make your Nexus 4 awesome again

Still kicking around with the Nexus 4 despite all your friends and family jumping on board the bandwagon of brand new devices? Fret not, you're not alone. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Nexus 4, in fact, when it was first offered for sale, Google ran out of stock within a half an hour of letting consumers at it. So, if you're still kicking around the Nexus 4, here's a few ideas to make it that much more awesome again.

© AndroidPIT View your screen on your HDTV

There are a few options for this route: you can grab a Chromecast and plug it into your HDTV and then cast all your favorite media from your Nexus 4 to your television. However, it Chromecast isn't available yet in your country or you're just not a fan, there's another route.

Not able to try Chromecast? Get an adapter and still connect your Nexus 4 to your TV! / © Amazon

The Nexus 4 does support Slimport HDMI, so you can use an adapter to plug into the microUSB port on the Nexus 4 and then plug it into an HDTV or projector. From there, you can mirror anything that is on the screen: games, movies, photos, and more.

Expand the storage via the cloud

Unfortunately, the Nexus 4 has a fixed amount of memory and no way of expanding it via microSD. Thankfully, nowadays as long as you've got the data plan to support it (or continual WiFi), you can easily store all the memory intensive stuff, such as videos, in the cloud. The Nexus 4 comes packed with Google Drive, but you might need more space if you're looking of carrying your entire music and video library along with you.

© Stokette /Shutterstock

Now that the services have become ubiquitous with mobile computing, there a ton to choose from and best of all, you can choose more than one if you need a little bit of extra storage. Check out our previous article on the best cloud applications for Android.

Unlock the Nexus 4, get a custom ROM

A recurring theme for most of the '...make your device awesome again' articles, but it's definitely something that should be checked out if you've had a device for awhile and are still on stock Android or manufacturer firmware. While the Nexus 4 does come with a stock Android experience, maybe it's time for a breathe of fresh air?

So many to choose from, which one will it be?/ © AndroidPIT

The nice thing about Nexus line of devices is that they're the easiest devices to unlock and flash a ROM to. In fact, there's even a toolkit that will do all the work for you in the name of the WugFresh Nexus Toolkit. Simply download the appropriate kit from the linked website and it'll walk you through how to unlock the bootloader, getting root access, and installing a custom recovery. From there, it's up to you to figure out which custom ROM you want to try first! If you're a bit stumped, check out our handy guide on how to choose what's best for you.

Make it at least look like a Nexus 5

Up until recently, the Google Now Launcher was just reserved for the Nexus 5. Thankfully, just over a month ago Google rolled out an update that allows other Nexus devices (and some non-Nexus devices) to use this new Launcher as long as you're running Android 4.4 KitKat. No longer will you have tap-and-hold your home button to get Google Now going, you'll be able to just swipe to right to get it going.

Experience the Google Now Launcher on your Nexus 4. © AndroidPIT

Further changes included in this new launcher also include an always-listening search bar just waiting for the 'Ok Google' phrase. As well, there are a bunch of visual updates to widgets, icons, and other tweaks. Grab the app yourself from the Google Play Store.

BlackBerry Wins Court Against Ryan Seacrest's Typo

(Photo : REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton) BlackBerry won the case against Typo Products LLC.

Last Friday, BlackBerry Ltd won the preliminary injunction to prevent Typo Products LLC, Ryan Seacrest's company, from selling a $99 iPhone case after the overriding judge said that Typo Products LLC had infringed on BlackBerry's patents, Reuters reports.

BlackBerry filed a case against the company for offering a physical keyboard that consumers can attach to their iPhone 5 models.

Judge William Orrick, U.S. District Judge in San Francisco, stated that the Canadian mobile phone creator proved the 'likelihood' of the infringement that Typo committed. He also said that Typo was not able to sufficiently provide their own patents on the said product.

As a result, Typo has been prohibited from selling the keyboard to the public.

'BlackBerry is pleased that its motion for a preliminary injunction against Typo Products LLC was granted. This ruling will help prevent further injury to BlackBerry from Typo's blatant theft of our patented keyboard technology,' a spokeswoman for BlackBerry said in an email.

Typo said that they were greatly disappointed by the results of the hearing and they would file an appeal. The company added that BlackBerry's arguments were weak and they 'lacked merit.'

'Typo will continue to make and sell innovative products that busy people can't live without,' the company said in a statement.

Olivier Taillieu, Typo's lawyer, said that this may just be a way for BlackBerry to monopolize the keyboard market. He added that this is a strategy of the company to claim keyboard designs from other companies, Bloomberg reports.

Since BlackBerry's popularity has been overrun by iPhone and Samsung, they are catching on to their sales target.

'The Q10 by and large was a failure' and 'has literally not sold,' Taillieu said. BlackBerry 'hasn't provided any evidence of nexus between the keyboard and the commercial success of this device,' he continued.

The lawyer reiterated that the verdict was unjust and that Typo did not plagiarize the design.

'Typo didn't copy the BlackBerry keyboard and is a 'grain of sand' compared to BlackBerry's,' he said.

'BlackBerry's problems are not related to Typo,' Taillieu said. 'We don't believe Typo is the reason for any loss of sales to BlackBerry.'

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Yahoo might be building an online video platform, but you won't be able to use it

Yahoo's reportedly planning to launch a web video platform in the next few months, and it intends to fill it with familiar faces and professionally made clips. How? By poaching some of YouTube's biggest stars, at least according to . The website's sources say Mayer and her crew are trying to win over popular YouTubers with the scent of money. Yahoo's apparently offering them (presumably) large guaranteed rates or bigger ad revenues for their videos, in an attempt to benefit from YouTube users' increasing discontent about how little they're earning on the platform. The company even promised them extensive marketing and the chance to promote their clips on Yahoo's well-trafficked home page.

Before you prepare to switch platforms, know that Yahoo's video service supposedly won't be open to everyone. If what Recode's saying is true, it won't be like YouTube where anyone can upload anything, even grainy, vertical clips -- it'll be exclusive to famous video creators the company's currently handpicking. The website's sources claim, however, that Yahoo will either develop its own content management system or acquire an existing video service like Vimeo in order to make the service available to more people after a year. They also say that this is second phase in Yahoo's plans to make it big in the web video space, with the launch of the company's Screen app for iOS being the first. With video being huge these days, we wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo's truly taking a crack at it in an effort to regain its losses.

GM Recalls A Total Of 4.8 Million Cars, Trucks, SUVs

GM Recalls A Total Of 4.8 Million Cars, Trucks, SUVs

By Rebeka Silva | Mar 29, 2014 05:05 AM EDT

General Motors announced two more recalls late Friday, bringing to 4.8 million the number of cars, trucks and SUVs the automaker has called back for repairs in the past month, according to Reuters.

The string of recalls, topped by an ignition switch problem in compact cars now linked to 13 crash deaths, has embarrassed the company and sidetracked its new CEO, who started work just over two months ago, Reuters reported.

GM has admitted knowing about the switch problem a decade ago, yet it didn't recall any cars until February, according to Reuters. The recall delay has brought two congressional investigations and probes by the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Late Friday night, GM announced it would recall 490,000 late-model pickup trucks and SUVs because transmission oil cooling lines weren't secured properly in their fittings, Reuters reported. Transmission oil can leak from a fitting and hit hot surfaces, causing fires, the company said in a statement.

GM said it knows of three fires and no injuries, according to Reuters. The recall affects Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks from the 2014 model year, as well as 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe SUVs and the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL SUVs.

The Silverado is GM's top-selling vehicle and an important profit center for the company, Reuters reported. The GMC Sierra also is among GM's top sellers.

Also Friday night, GM announced the recall of 172,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars because the right front axle shaft can fracture and separate while being driven, according to Reuters. The recall allows dealers to resume selling affected Cruzes after GM issued a stop sale order on the cars Thursday night.

GM also said Friday that it has found another death attributed to the ignition switch recalls, bringing the company's count to 13, Reuters reported. The additional fatality happened in 2013 and involved a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt in Quebec, Canada. The company didn't give further details of the crash.

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Objecting to new CEO, resignations sweep Mozilla board: Report

Stephen Shankland/CNET Mozilla announced some management changes Monday, but it turns out the shakeup isn't over yet.

Three members of Mozilla's board resigned over a disagreement over the Firefox developer's promotion of former Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich to the chief executive job, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Eich took the new job Monday and, in an interview with CNET that day, said two board members had resigned: John Lilly, a former Mozilla CEO who's now working at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education company Schmoop. But Mozilla's most recent CEO, Gary Kovacs, no longer appears on the Mozilla board Web site, and Mozilla spokesman Mike Manning confirmed his departure, too, without commenting on any of the directors' reasons.

As those three left, Spiegel Online CEO Katharina Borchert joined. That formed a board of three along with Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, who co-founded Mozilla with Eich, and Netflix CEO Reid Hoffman.

The board members left because they wanted an outside executive whose experience would help Mozilla gain influence in the fast-growing mobile computing industry, the journal reported, citing unnamed sources. Mozilla's mobile version of Firefox has vanishingly small usage, and its mobile operating system, Firefox OS, is a new arrival in a market dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Mozilla, a nonprofit organization with an unusually principled mission to keep the Web open, is an anomaly in the middle of a Silicon Valley generally more concerned with profitable technology startups. But apparently it's not immune to the boardroom politics of more ordinary corporations, and it's philosophical stance perhaps makes it more of a target for disagreements involving social politics, too.

Eich, on a plane to California on Friday evening, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. On Monday, he said Lilly was 'stepping off [the board] to focus on work at Greylock.'

Eich's appointment triggered some protests, including one prominent one from app developer Rarebit.

'As a married gay couple who are co-founders of this venture, we have chosen to boycott all Mozilla projects. We will not develop apps or test styles on Firefox anymore,' said Hampton Catlin, Rarebit CEO. 'Effective today, we're removing Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace and stopping work on all of our Firefox-related applications, notably the about-to-launch Firefox version of the popular Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android.'

Mozilla employees also took to Twitter to protest. 'Have waited too long to say this. I'm an employee of @mozilla and I'm asking @brendaneich to step down as CEO,' tweeted designer Jess Klein.

Mozilla is sensitive to the criticism. 'Our culture of openness extends to letting our staff and community be candid about their views on Mozilla's direction...We expect and encourage Mozillians to speak up when they disagree with management decisions, and carefully weigh all input to ensure our actions are advancing the project's mission.'

Stephen Shankland/CNET In addition, Eich, Baker, and Mozilla itself posted statements on the organization's policy embracing diversity.

'I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion,' Eich said in his blog post. 'I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to 'show, not tell'; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.

Daniel Glazman, chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium's group that standardizes the Web's CSS formatting technology, wrote a defense of Eich's right to an opinion. ' someone of our community for his/her beliefs can only have one side-effect: people will stop expressing their opinions because they will be afraid of the kickback,' Glazman said. 'That's not the world I want to live in, that's not my concept of democracy and freedom of opinion/speech.'

Instagram Trumps Twitter In Mobile Users

(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

All those shameless selfies and filtered photos have done Instagram well: The photo-sharing app is on track to surpass Twitter's monthly active mobile users in the US, according to a new report.

Research company eMarketer released new predictions this week on Instagram's growth: In 2013, 34.6 million Instagram users logged on monthly, and that number will reach 40.5 million this year. Meanwhile, Twitter's monthly active users are set to grow by 7 million this year to 37.8 million -- 2.7 million less than Instagram.

'Instagram usage in the US has ramped up rapidly and is already maturing, reaching regular usage levels nearly matching Twitter's, particularly on smartphones and among millennials and Gen Xers,' the report said. 'By the end of this year, almost 25% of US smartphone users will snap a photo, slap on a filter, and share their creations with their friends on Instagram on a monthly basis.'

[Not everyone gets it right every time. Read Twitter Turns 8: How To Fail In 140 Characters.]

Earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Instagram, which the social network acquired in 2012 for $1 billion, crossed the 200-million-user mark. Zuckerberg revealed the milestone during an investor relations call explaining Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus VR.

Instagram's growth under Facebook has been impressive. After the acquisition, Facebook said it would be happy if Instagram hit 100 million users. Two years later, Instagram has exceeded that expectation and gained an edge over Twitter.

The eMarketer report comes at an interesting time for Twitter, which announced two major photo updates this week: Users can now tag up to ten people in a photo and upload up to four photos in one tweet without it affecting their character limit.

While the update makes photo-sharing more convenient, it could be too little too late -- both Instagram and Facebook have impressive photo-sharing figures: Facebook users have shared more than 250 billion photos, while Instagram users have uploaded more than 20 billion.

The report also delved into the composition of Instagram and Twitter users. Twitter, which launched in 2006, is four years older than Instagram, and its user base shows signs of maturity. While Twitter's composition spreads the user population more evenly across age groups, Instagram's is still largely limited to a pool of millennial and Gen X users. Last year, 69% of Instagram users were between the ages of 18 and 44; this year, that figure will drop slightly to 67.5%, according to eMarketer.

'Over time, Instagram's user base in these age groups will approach, but not surpass, Twitter's,' the report said. 'eMarketer does not expect significant shifts in usage by age for either site within our forecast period, and Instagram's user count among 19- to 44-year-olds will remain about 1 million fewer than Twitter's in each year throughout our forecast.'

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Instagram's growing mobile market share is also good news for its advertising efforts. In October, the app announced it would slowly introduce image- and video-based ads into users' feeds. Earlier this month, Instagram landed its first major deal with ad agency Omnicom, worth as much as $100 million in ads from clients the agency represents, according to reports.

Kristin Burnham currently serves as's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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