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Thursday, January 29

Prime membership rescues Amazon from loss, $241 million profit posted

Amazon released its fourth quarter and annual numbers today through a its investor relations site and a web cast conference call. Prime service membership was called out as a key contributing factor increases in Q4 and full year 2014 numbers, with new Prime membership growing slightly faster in markets outside North America....

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Sky confirms future launch of own carrier on O2's mobile network

British pay-TV provider Sky will be moving into the mobile phone business, it has announced. The satellite broadcaster confirmed earlier reports that it would be working with the Telefonica-owned carrier O2 to have wholesale access to its 2G, 3G, and LTE mobile phone network and provide carrier functions to its subscribers, as part of a multi-year deal. ...

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Facebook introduces Foursquare-style Place Tips

Facebook has introduced a new feature to its iPhone app, called Place Tips. These appear at the top of a News Feed while on the go; tapping on an entry expands it and shows not just related posts and images from friends, but popular menu items and any upcoming events. Tips are triggered based on location tracking, and Facebook is currently testing them in New York City areas including Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, T...

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FCC redefines broadband speeds as 25Mbps downloads, 3Mbps uploads

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has changed its definition of broadband, after commissioners voted 3-2 in favor. The previous definition of 4Mbps download, 1Mbps upload minimum speeds have been increased to 25Mbps down, 3 Mbps up, a move which pushes higher the proportion of households in the United States declared to be incapable of receiving broadband Internet access. ...

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Google Play beats App Store in downloads, fares worse in revenues

Google Play is vastly outpacing the iOS App Store in terms of downloads, but the latter is generating more revenue, according to analytics company App Annie. Google saw about 60 percent more downloads than Apple during 2014, but the App Store produced 70 percent more revenue. This includes both initial and in-app purchases....

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Amazon WorkMail seeks to replace Google, Microsoft corporate email

Amazon is taking on Google, Microsoft, and other suppliers of remote workplace communications, with its own corporate email service. Dubbed WorkMail, the service is claimed to be a "secure, managed business email and calendaring service," hosted in the cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and could be an easier and cheaper corporate email system to manage than current services like Exchange servers....

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Microsoft OneDrive upgrades photo functions, offers Mac sync client

Microsoft has made some changes to OneDrive, with updates primarily concerning photography. Overall updates to image organization, searching, and sharing are accompanied by changes to the iOS app for work-related items, alterations which make it easier to access files stored on OneDrive for Business accounts without requiring a dedicated app, as well as a Mac client making file synchronization smoother. ...

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Hands On: Gravity Ghost (OS X, Windows)

Indie games have seen a lot of success in recent years, and with good reasons. Now that game design has become more accessible due to the wide availability of tools, and publishing has become easier due to things like Steam Greenlight, the gaming community is able to play an ever expanding catalog of strange and wonderful games. One such game is Gravity Ghost, a physics-centric puzzle game by Ivy Games....

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Apple, Samsung effectively tied for lead in global smartphone market

Apple's surge during the last quarter and Samsung's respective slump put the two corporations in a dead heat in terms of smartphone marketshare, according to Strategy Analytics. The research firm estimates that the companies each shipped about 74.5 million smartphones worldwide; while only Apple has announced that figure specifically, Samsung says that of the 95 million phones it shipped in total, the number of high-...

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Microsoft releases Outlook preview, ships Office for Android apps

Microsoft has made its Office apps available to all Android users, following the limited preview release and the iOS version. The apps, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, are accompanied by a new preview of another Office app, with a rebranded version of email app Acompli as Outlook downloadable from both Google Play and the iTunes App Store. ...

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Briefly: Gmail 'Send Money' option in UK, Sky Go app on PlayStation 3

Google is adding the Send Money option to Gmail in the United Kingdom. Originally available to US users since 2013, the option allows users to attach funds to an outbound email by selecting the £ symbol, which can also be used to request money, with funds transferred between users via Google Wallet. The feature is rolling out to all Gmail users in the UK over the age of 18 in the coming weeks. ...

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Qantas to offer Samsung VR headsets to select passengers

Qantas announced on Wednesday a trial entertainment service utilizing Samsung Gear VR headsets. The trial will make a limited number of headsets available in the Qantas First Lounges at the Sydney and Melbourne International airports, as well as on select A380 flights in first or business class....

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Silk Road trial shifts to focus to buyer and dealer experience

The trial of Ross Ulbricht in connection with the online BitCoin-fueled drug market known as Silk Road continued today with the testimony of a buyer-turned-dealer. Previously, the defense had attempted to suggest Ulbricht was framed, while the prosecution brought in an auditor to show that a chunk of Ulbricht's current reserve of BitCoins was obtained through Silk Road-related transactions....

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Samsung fourth-quarter, fiscal year 2014 results shows drop in profits

Samsung released its Q4 and FY 2014 results today, and as expected, the news was not good. The past three years have resulted in growth for the company, but fiscal 2014 shows an annual earnings decline, in spite of strong performance by the company's chip division. The earnings from smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices fell to 1.96 trillion Korean won ($1.8 billion), a 64.2 percent decline from the year-ago...

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China to require backdoors, audits for foreign enterprise sales

At the end of last year, the Chinese government approved a 22-page set of regulations for the sale of computer equipment to Chinese banks, but that will ostensibly apply to all enterprise sales. The rules require foreign companies to turn over source code, submit to audits, and build "back doors" into hardware and software so that the government can monitor devices. The new rules are expected to be the first in a ser...

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Review: Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 projector

Trying to find the perfect projector for a home theater can be tricky, as there are bountiful options on the market from a large number of manufacturers. Name brand aside, trying to find the right options for the based on room size, necessary features and functions can still leave consumers scratching their heads. Epson is attempting to give buyers a one-shot option to build their home theaters around, with the Epson...

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Wednesday, January 28

Sony Music Unlimited replaced by partnership with Spotify

The official PlayStation blog on Wednesday posted an announcement letting PlayStation users know about a new partnership with Spotify. The service includes existing playlists for those who already have Spotify accounts. The post also, however, contained the news that Sony's own Music Unlimited service will be discontinued in late March....

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Apple's Q1 certified as best quarter for any company ever

In addition to being the best quarter in the company's history, Apple's Q1 results also blew away quarterly revenue and profit figures for any company ever, according to credit rating analysts Standard & Poor's. Even more remarkably, CFO Luca Maestri noted repeatedly that fluctuations in major currencies (such as the Russian ruble and the unusually-strong US dollar) actually cost the company a potential five percent ...

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Facebook quarterly results reveal high mobile advertising revenues

Facebook's latest quarterly earnings reveal the social network is in good shape and continuing to beat projections, with a lot of it down to the continued increase of mobile devices to access the service. The social network's total revenues of $3.85 billion with earnings per share of $0.54, up from the previous quarter's $3.2 billion revenue and $0.40 earnings. ...

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Canada's data surveillance exposed by CBC News, Greenwald

Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Canadian equivalent to the US's National Security Agency (NSA), has been collecting data from roughly 15 million file downloads per day according to The Intercept journalists Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald, and CBC News. The surveillance operation, called Levitation, was revealed in a collection of files provided by Edward Snowden....

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TracFone settles with FTC over 'unlimited' plan throttling complaints

A carrier has settled with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over complaints it offered mobile phone contracts that claim to have "unlimited" data, but turn out do not. TracFone was accused by the FTC of capping and throttling customers on the "unlimited" plans, with the carrier agreeing to pay out $40 million in refunds to consumers as part of its settlement. ...

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BlackPhone manufacturer plugs text messaging bug in secure smartphone

A flaw in a security-focused Android smartphone's software caused it to be susceptible to attack, according to a security researcher. A now-patched vulnerability in an app included on the BlackPhone allowed attackers to read encrypted messages, contacts stored on the smartphone, and to also remotely control device functions. ...

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Sony reportedly plans 1,000 more layoffs from mobile division

Sony is planning to cull 1,000 more jobs from its smartphone arm, as it continues to counter its financial problems and become more profitable, a report claims. The under-performing mobile phone unit will apparently undergo layoffs in Europe and China, on top of existing plans to cut 1,000 positions within the division by October. ...

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Documents show Apple paid just A$80.3M in Australian taxes for 2014

Apple paid about A$80.3 million in taxes to the Australian government last year, despite pulling in A$6 billion in revenues in that country, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. While the company's actual tax bill must legally be kept confidential, an expense figure has to be produced for the sake of annual accounts. The A$80.3 million sum is over twice the A$36.4 mi...

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French law proposes holding tech companies accountable for hate speech

French lawmakers want to hold tech companies accountable for online hate speech. A proposed law, which will apparently be presented next month, will make Google, Facebook, and any company that offers online services to the public "accomplices" to hate-speech crimes, in an attempt to coerce them to monitor their services more closely, and force the removal of terror-related content. ...

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ZTE Blade S6 revealed with octa-core 64-bit processor, 13MP camera

Chinese device producer ZTE has introduced a new mid-ranged smartphone in its Blade series, this time with an octa-core processor. The Blade S6 uses the 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, and an Adreno 405 GPU, all packed behind a 5-inch HD IPS In-cell display within a 7.7mm-thick body. ...

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FCC nixes petition by hotels, disallows Wi-Fi hotspot blocking

A petition by Marriott, Hilton, and an association of hotel owners asking for permission to block guests from creating their own Wi-Fi hotspots has been resolved today in a public notice by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Specifically, the blocking of personal Wi-Fi hotspots is prohibited, and will be "aggressively" investigated and acted against, according to the agency. ...

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Yahoo barely misses market estimates, reveals Alibaba spin-off plan

Yahoo's quarterly financial results reveal it has marginally missed market estimates, but it still managed to improve on the last quarter, bringing in $1.18 billion in revenue after traffic acquisition costs (TAC), with a $0.30 non-GAAP earnings per share. The company also revealed it's intentions to spin out the last of its Alibaba stake, a move designed to prevent it from paying out a large amount of tax. ...

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Briefly: Motorola discounts in February, Amazon Fire Phone deal in UK

Motorola will be offering multiple discounts on devices in its mobile store, as part of a Valentine's Day promotion. From February 3 until February 14, the manufacturer is discounting pre-tax purchases worth $500 by $100, or $35 off $250 purchases, though an customers registering for the promotion within a one-hour window on February 2 will get codes worth $140 and $50 off the $500 and $250 respective purchases....

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