Archive for September, 2016

Long-awaited MacBook Pro could include keyboard touch screen for function keys

Sep 29, 2016, 7:20am PDT Updated Sep 29, 2016, 8:16am PDT

Apple is reportedly working on an updated version of the MacBook Pro that could launch as soon as next month.

The new version will have a second, touch-sensitive screen situated above the keyboard, according to MacRumors. The Cupertino-based company plans to have the laptop ready to ship “in the second half of October.”

The touch screen will replace the function keys on current MacBooks. Instead of keys marked F1-F12, there will be a screen that employs Organic Light-Emitting Diodes that will offer functions that apply directly to the user’s task or application. For example, the display would show media controls while iTunes is in use or editing commands while iMovie is open. Apple could add new buttons through software updates.

The upgraded laptop will feature a USB-C port for charging, rather than the MagSafe connection on current MacBooks, per the report. The trackpad will be slightly wider and Apple will also bring the Touch ID fingerprint technology from the iPhone to the Pro line. TouchID will allow users to unlock the device with their fingerprint and easily use Apple Pay for online purchases. The laptops will encrypt fingerprint data so it can’t be hacked.

The company is in development on macOS 10.12.1, which will support the hardware’s new features. Apple will release the updated MacBook in two sizes, a 13-inch and a pricier 15-inch model. Both are expected to be thinner than current-generation MacBook Pros.

The MacBook Pro upgrade comes as the Cupertino-based company is seeing a sharp decline in iPad sales. Apple’s tablet sales were down in the second quarter, shipping 10 million units this quarter compared to 11 million units at the same time last year. However, sales of Macs, including the Pro line, were up 6 percent to $25.5 billion in the last fiscal year.

During the last quarter, Apple said net income was $7.8 billion in the quarter that ended June 25, down from $10.68 billion one year ago. Revenue also declined 14 percent to $42.36 billion compared with $49.6 billion last year.

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Amazon is eating away at Google’s core business

jeff bezos amazon ceo happy laughing smilingJeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.Alex Wong/Getty Images

Current Prices

For more and more people, Amazon is the first port of call when it comes to researching potential purchases — and that’s bad news for Google.

Over half of Americans now go to Amazon to carry out their first search for products, turning away from search engines and other online retailers, according to a new study from the marketing company BloomReach. (The research was previously reported on by Bloomberg.)

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed made their first search on Amazon, up from 44% a year ago. At the same time, just 27% of people began at search engines, down from 34%. Retailers also saw a decline, dropping to 16% from 21%.

(The study took place on Labor Day, May 1, and surveyed 2,000 US consumers. There’s no word on data from other countries, but it seems reasonable to assume that the data might be similar in Western markets where Amazon has a similar presence as in the US.)

It’s a yet another sign of how fully Amazon is dominating online shopping — but it’s also particularly bad news for Google.

Google’s original, core business is a search engine. But more and more consumers are now opting to bypass it in favor of heading straight to the ultimate destination.

A customer pushes her shopping cart through the aisles at a Walmart store in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles November 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian Shopping IRL is so passé.Thomson Reuters

The ads Google can serve next to product or shopping searches are especially lucrative (as they can be highly targeted at users clearly intending to spend money), making this trend more damaging than if Google’s search market were eroding in a different sector (educational searches, for example).

A Google representative declined to comment.

There’s still no guarantee, however, that people who visit Amazon first will definitely buy from there — something BloomReach acknowledges. “Just because consumers start on Amazon, that doesn’t mean they ultimately buy from Amazon,” marketing head Jason Seeba said in a statement. “Instead, they’re often comparing and researching products on search engines and other retailers.”

Plus, it’s not as if Google is dependent solely on search: Its revenue now comes from everything from its DoubleClick ad network to its Google Play purchases.

But even so, Amazon has become the unrivalled go-to destination to start Americans’ search for products — and that has to worry the world’s largest search engine.

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Twitter shares surge on report of possible takeover


Shares of social media platform Twitter surged more than 20 percent in morning trading Friday on reports that the company will soon receive a formal bid from a high-profile suitor, according to CNBC.

Possible contenders for the acquisition of San Francisco-based Twitter include Salesforce, Google and other high-profile tech names interested in the data it’s collected.

“Twitter’s board of directors is said to be largely desirous of a deal, according to people close to the situation, but no sale is imminent,” CNBC reported Friday.

“One source close to the conversations said that they are picking up momentum and could result in a deal before year-end.”

Requests for comment by the Business Times from Twitter, Google and Salesforce were not returned Friday.

At the end of July, slowing advertiser demand and a weakened revenue forecast walloped Twitter, pushing its share price down as the company scrambled to reassure investors it was on the right path.

Twitter recently ratcheted down its revenue guidance to a range of $590 million to $610 million in the third quarter, a significant drop from the $681.4 million analysts had expected. More importantly, Twitter said it had “less overall advertiser demand than expected,” as brands decided not to invest in the platform, adding to ongoing concern about how it will continue to make money.

On an earnings call Tuesday, CEO Jack Dorsey, CFO Anthony Noto and COO Anthony Bain said they are confident Twitter can continue to attract new users. Twitter is hoping new live video deals will lure in more users, and with them, advertising dollars.

Video streaming is part of a suite of new features rolled out by the company in recent months, including tools to allow users to create polls, make political donations and post photos or videos without affecting the 140-character count of tweets.

Twitter also has introduced the ability to buy products and services via a one-step button.

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Most tech startups exit without raising funds, sell for under $50M

Billion-dollar valuations and mushrooming funding round amounts gathered much of the attention of recent years in startup-land.

But a new report shows that the majority of tech startups exit before they raise any venture or private equity funding and their valuation on exit is less than $50 million.

Venture investment research firm CB Insights said in a report on tech exits in the first half of 2016 that 53 percent involved startups that had raised less than $50 million. Another 26 percent were valued at between $50 million and $200 million.

Only about 4 percent were acquired or went public with a unicorn valuation of $1 billion or more. These included General Motors buying Cruise Automation for $1 billion, Twilio going public with a market cap of $1.2 billion and Cisco Systems buying Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion.

Marquee acquisitions like Cruise and Jasper have increased during the tech IPO drought of the past year or so, but remain rare, Josh Elman of Greylock Partners said last week.

“That is increasing but it’s really only the strong companies that are getting acquired,” Elman said. “The acquihire market, where every team is worth something, has been falling away.”

It’s easy to see why they say that launching a successful tech startup is hard when you consider all of those numbers in the context of this rule of thumb — between 90 percent and 95 percent of them fail to achieve any sort of exit at all.

But the CB Insights report shows that it may not be necessary to do any venture visits to Sand Hill Road to sell a tech startup for millions or even tens of millions.

About 72 percent of the companies that exited in the first half did so without raising any outside venture, private equity or growth funding. That’s actually down slightly from the first half of last year when the number was 75 percent.

Cromwell Schubarth is TechFlash Editor at the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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GoPro just unveiled 3 new action cameras and a new drone

gopro hero 5 GoPro

GoPro just announced its new action cameras, called the Hero 5 Black, Hero 5 Session, Hero Session, as well as a new drone called Karma.

 Here are some new features and details of the new $399 Hero 5 Black action camera:

  • Water-proof without a housing down to 30 feet
  • A touch-display
  • 4K video
  • GPS
  • Voice control
  • 12-megapixel photos
  • RAW photo support
  • Wide Dynamic Range video
  • Improved image stabilization

The new $299 Hero 5 Session has a smaller cube-like design and has similar features as the Black model, including 4K video recording. However, it has more basic features and specs. The main differences are:

  • 10-megapixel photos
  • No display
  • No GPS
  • No RAW support
  • No Wide Dynamic Range video

There’s also a $199 Hero Session model:

  • 8-megapixel photos
  • 1440p video recording
  • Water-proof down to 30 feet

The new Karma drone costs $799 on its own, and can be bundled with the Hero 5 Black Session for $999, and the Hero 5 Black for $1,099. The Karma drone features a removable 3-axis gimbal to stabilize footage captured by a GoPro on the drone itself, in your hands, or when a GoPro camera is mounted on your equipment. The Karma will also work with the Hero 3, and Hero 4 GoPros.

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