Happy Monday. Over the weekend, we sampled smart-refrigerated wine, looked back on 15 years of iPod, and asked Amazon’s AI to fact-check politicians for us. Coming up this week: Apple’s MacBook event, some news from Microsoft, and a lot of companies reporting on their quarterly earnings — if you’re all about gross revenue and such.
‘schpensivePlum is the $1,500 smart wine fridge you can’t afford
Engadget editors run the gamut, from whisky connoisseurs to those looking for “whatever’s got the most booze in it.” We like the idea of Plum: a smart fridge aimed at making your wine taste the best it possibly can. It’ll even dispense it for you. (No, it doesn’t take wine boxes.)
Digital music was changed forever.The iPod: 15 years on
It’s been 15 years since the launch of the first iPod, the device that would lead to the iPhone, the iPad, iTunes music, and myriad other ways of taking our money. A lot has changed since then, but we all have a lot to thank Apple’s debut MP3 player for.
Compromises.Review: Razer’s latest gaming rig tries to deliver desktop gaming power and an ultraportable notebook
The Razer Blade Stealth gaming laptop has a powerful pitch: a portable, powerful notebook that could dip into the power of desktop-class graphics cards, changing it into a gaming powerhouse. Sean Buckley discovers that there are some caveats — most notably the poor battery life when the laptop is away from your desk.
Alexa is on it.Amazon’s talking speaker can now fact-check your leaders
The new Amazon Echo skill lets you fact-check any politician scrutinized by PolitiFact, FactCheck.org or the Washington Post — if that’s your idea of a fun Monday morning task.
But wait, there’s more…
- Samsung’s rushed Note 7 recall has had an effect on the Galaxy S8 — already
- Finally, ‘The Last Guardian’ is ready
- Elon Musk’s moon colony would rely on a lot of mining robots
- Nintendo’s new console won’t play your old carts and discs
Like it or not, the outcome of the Brexit vote has caused a lot of financial uncertainty in the UK. The government has yet to decide which course to take when it invokes Article 50, effectively triggering an exit from the European Union, but some major tech companies have already moved to reduce the impact of the falling pound. In a recent blog post, Microsoft shared that it too will soon amend prices, confirming that from January 1st, 2017, business software pricing will rise by 13 percent and cloud services will see a 22 percent increase.
Microsoft’s changes come as part of a periodic assessment of its local pricing “to ensure there is reasonable alignment across the region.” The fall in the value of the pound resulted in Apple hiking hardware prices in September, although the Redmond company says that consumer software like Office 365 and cloud services will not be impacted. However, because Microsoft doesn’t set the pricing offered by resellers, partners could still decide to implement their own increases.
For customers with existing agreements, they’ll likely be protected from Microsoft’s price hikes until they renew their subscription. “Customers with Enterprise Agreements have price protection on previously ordered enterprise software and cloud services, and will not experience a price change during the term of their agreement,” the company says. “Similarly, business customers with cloud commitment subscriptions such as Office 365 also receive price protection during their subscription term, which is normally twelve months from the start of paid subscription.”
Facebook has quietly upgraded its Messenger app for Windows 10 with the ability to make voice and video calls, VentureBeat has discovered. No more leaving the app to ring up a friend through a browser. If that new-but-familiar phone or camera icon that you’re probably used to seeing on iOS and Android has that green bubble up, your friend’s online — just tap either to start a call.
In case you don’t have the feature yet, you’ll likely get it soon: a Facebook spokesperson told the publication that it only started rolling out last week. When the feature does go live for you, you’ll get call notifications if someone rings you up and be able to leave voicemails in your friends’ inboxes. VentureBeat says you’ll also be able to choose which camera to use, record your video calls and do group voice — not video, unfortunately — calls if the whole squad wants to chat.
Facebook has also updated WhatsApp for Windows Phone with video calling capability, a Spanish website has reported. However, it’s an experimental release exclusively for select beta users, so you’ll have to be really lucky to be able to test it out before everyone else.
Microsoft is developing some cool new features for the Windows Ink Workspace, and Insiders are getting the first look. Insiders in the Fast ring who install the latest Windows 10 Preview for PC and Mobile will be able to doodle and write on their photos with Ink. They simply have to tap the Draw option while viewing a picture in the Photos app to bring up Workspace’s toolbar. There they can choose from the pen, the pencil and all the new calligraphy pen tools.
Microsoft has also combined Ink’s protractor and compass into a single tool called Stencil, so people can draw arcs and circles quickly and easily. Even better, Ink saves not just the final product, but also the drawing process, so they can share their masterpieces with friends either as a photo or a short video.
Besides Ink’s new abilities, the latest Windows 10 Preview also comes with a beefed up Camera app. It has a better photo timer and capture button, more accessible camera roll placement and zoom slider and a more prominent front- and rear-facing camera switch icon. PC users can also tap on the space bar to capture pictures. Microsoft tossed in more features and a slew of bug fixes with the preview version, as well, which it listed in detail on the Windows blog.
Microsoft’s Surface concept has gone from being a joke to becoming a significant part of its business. Sales of Surfaces devices jumped 38 percent during the last quarter (Q1 2017) reaching $926 million, compared to a year ago when they were just $672 million, according to Microsoft’s latest earnings report. The company points to increased sales of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book for the drive. CEO Satya Nadella also noted that enterprise orders of 500 or more Surface devices have increased by 70 percent.
The Surface’s success isn’t too surprising, though. The product line crossed the billion-dollar mark in early 2015, and it’s been steadily growing over the past year. While Patriots coach Bill Belichick might disagree, Microsoft’s most recent Surface devices are perfectly positioned to satiate the increasing desire for convertible laptops and tablets. Heck, Microsoft pretty much started the category (though the initial going was admittedly rough).
How good of an NBA 2K17 player do you think you really are? Well, you’re about to find out because on Thursday, Sony announced that it is teaming up with the ESL gaming network and hosting a month-long digital basketball tournament.
The PlayStation Tournament, as it’s being called, will run from October 27th through November 26th with “Major Cup rounds” every Saturday. And since the real NBA season is kicking off, the Tournament will be based on NBA 2K17. If you manage to be one of the top three players at the end of the tourney, you’ll score a prize pack with stuff like PlayStation Gear and controllers, plus bragging rights.
To participate, you’re going to need a copy of the game (duh), a PlayStation Plus subscription and an ESL account. You will need to register for the tournament beforehand at ESL but once you do, you’ll be automatically prompted when your time to compete comes. There’s no word on how large of a player pool this tournament will have but the matches will be 1-on-1. Sony is reportedly looking to expand the scope and playstyle variety of these tournaments moving forward.
This isn’t the first time that a console maker has waded into the tournament pool. Microsoft unveiled its Xbox Live Tournament Platform back in March at GDC, which enables developers to create their own game tournaments using Xbox Live. FaceIT and ESL have both already signed on to use the platform for their upcoming tournaments. What’s more, games like Halo and Destiny have already taken advantage of the platform to create their own miniature leagues.
Source: Playstation Blog
As a rule, automakers see software in a car as a means to an end. Even Tesla, as cutting edge as it may be, is only willing to give its code so much attention. However, China’s Geely wants to see what happens when you put code at the forefront. It’s launching a new Lynk & Co brand whose inaugural electric vehicle, the 01 compact SUV, is supposedly the most connected car to date. The centerpiece is an open software platform (built with help from Alibaba and Microsoft) that lets developers sink their teeth in — it even has the first dedicated app store for cars. Lynk & Co doesn’t provide examples, but it’s easy to see a streaming music service offering an app just for your 01, or custom navigation apps that go beyond the usual in-car GPS.
This is also one of the first vehicles built with sharing in mind, and we don’t just mean paid services like Zipcar. You can create digital locks that let specific people drive the 01 for a set amount of time. While you can run a car-sharing business if you like, Lynk & Co sees this more as a way of reducing the need for every family to have their own ride. You could share an 01 with others in your apartment building, or let a friend borrow it without having to give them a set of physical keys they could lose. You’ll only need tangible keys as a backup, the company says.
While there aren’t many specifics about the car beyond its software, the Lynk team says it’ll use the Compact Modular Architecture from its sister brand Volvo. In other words, it’ll have a safety-focused underpinning that can adapt to different vehicle shapes. You can also expect a flurry of driver assists, such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection.
For some, the biggest deal may be how you buy Lynk & Co’s cars. Much like Tesla, most sales won’t take place in person at all: you’ll typically buy the 01 online (at a fixed price) and have it delivered to your home. While there will be a handful of stores, the brand is hoping that cutting out dealers will significantly lower the cost. There’s even talk of getting the vehicle through a subscription model in addition to more conventional financing options. The main catch? You’ll have to wait. The first Lynk & Co vehicles reach China first in 2017, with Europe and the US coming later. It could be a while before you find out whether or not the 01 lives up to its early fanfare, let alone get a chance to buy it.
Source: Lynk & Co
You might not be happy that a hacker swiped millions of LinkedIn passwords back in 2012, but it sounds like you might soon get some justice. Czech police acting on behalf of the FBI and Interpol say they have arrested a Russian citizen suspected of compromising both LinkedIn and other US targets. Officials quietly caught the unnamed man in Prague on October 5th, but are only confirming the bust now for “tactical reasons.” A court will decide whether or not the alleged hacker faces extradition to the US.
Russia, not surprisingly, is demanding that officials send the accused back to his homeland. It might have a tough time making that happen, however. Prague is considered a staging point for Russian activities in Europe, and it’s no secret that the US is more determined than ever to hold Russian hackers accountable (the arrested man isn’t connected to the spate of hacks targeting the Democratic party). If the FBI gets its wish, this man could serve as a warning to hackers hoping that geography will keep American police at bay.
Via: New York Times, Mashable
Source: Czech Republic Police (translated)
Golf, but with ridiculous instruments of death like a fire-breathing triceratops head instead of woods and irons. That’s the pitch for Dead Rising 4’s season pass of add-on bits and sounds like the best kind of absurdity. Specifically, the “Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf” mode that’ll come out some time after the base game’s December 6th release date. A post on Xbox Wire says that the game of undead putt-putt is made all the more difficult with zombies acting as hazards and generally getting in the way on the mini links. It isn’t the Outlaw Golf sequel we’ve been clamoring for, but at least it’s something.
Not into golf? There will also be an add-on episode dubbed “Frank Rising,” which, as its name suggests, finds protagonist Frank West infected with the zombie virus and needing to find the cure before his life — and time — runs out. Sounds like an interesting twist on the original game’s ever-ticking countdown clock. And if you want to outfit Mr. West with a bit of [insert December holiday of choice] cheer, the “Stocking Stuffer Holiday Pack’ should do the trick.
The season pass will run you $24.99 if you’re going to take the wait-and-see approach (which is honestly the prudent option), or, you can go all out for the Digital Deluxe Version for $79.99. That’s a $5 savings over buying a physical copy plus the season pass, but you won’t have a green plastic case to put on your shelf. The choice is yours. Unless you own a PlayStation 4, that is. Sony fans will have to settle for an HD remaster of the first three games this fall, as DR4 is an Xbox One exclusive for the time being.
Source: Xbox Wire
It won’t shock you to hear that tech companies are trying to cozy up to politicians, but they may have more influence than you think. Bloomberg has determined that the five largest tech firms in the US (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) spent more than twice as much on lobbying in 2015 as the five largest banks — $49 million versus $19.7 million. Facebook and Google argue that the money is necessary to both explain their operations and defend an open internet, but there are mounting concerns that they may have too much sway.
For instance, New America Foundation’s Barry Lynn warns that these companies are terrified of “competition policy” that could restrict their businesses, such as a repeat of the federal anti-monopoly case against Microsoft. Google may not have dismissed the FTC’s antitrust probe due to lobbying, but there is a concern that companies could have officials look the other way. And it’s safe to say that they’re not fond of measure that would force them to repatriate cash stored overseas and pay taxes.
At the same time, it may be difficult for the feds to completely reject tech industry overtures. The government needs to cooperate closely with these companies for everything from fighting terrorist propaganda to modernizing data. The future administration will likely have to walk a fine line between listening to what tech has to say and preventing it from dictating policies that hurt both your market choices and the country’s bottom line.