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News Roundup: Salesforce rumours, EU lobbying and MS Build

“Robot Buys Ecstasy, Gets Arrested”

EU tech lobbying

The latest figures are out for lobbying expenditure in the EU. Much like 2013, Microsoft was the biggest tech lobbying spender in Europe; spending €4.5-5 million [specific figures aren’t provided] trying to influence lawmakers. Google saw its spend increase from around €1.5 million in 2013 to around €4 million in 2014 – an almost three-fold rise and no doubt due to various legal challenges the company has faced in recent times. Other big spenders include Huawei, Intel, IBM Accenture and SAP.

Apple Watch

Apple has released its latest Q2 earnings. Guess what? The Cupertino company made lots of money again; $13.6 billion to be exact.

You might have heard the Apple Watch has been released to the public at large, which means there’s been lots of headlines as people discover its quirks: It doesn’t work on tattooed wrists, it costs just $83 to make and the Taptic engine is a bastard to manufacture, yes it does blend, no it doesn’t survive drops very well. Apple has banned fart apps and “Watch apps whose primary function is telling time,” but Tamagotchi apps are ok. 

Microsoft Build: Azure, HoloLens, Apps for all, and 3D printing

Microsoft held its Build event this week, and it was almost as exciting as an Apple or Google event(!). There were quite a few announcements around Azure, .Net Core, and Visual Studio 2015. Internet Explorer replacement browser Project Spartan has been re-christened Microsoft Edge, the company also revealed a new type of 3D printing file, a new way to port iOS and Android apps to Windows, and a site that can guess how old you are.

The company predicts there’ll be 1 billion Windows 10 devices within a couple of years, which might be a bit ambitious. But the star of the show was the HoloLens. The Augmented Reality headgear was shown off in all sort of different use cases, including robots. Seems the developers are happy with the gear too. It’s early days, but looks by far the best thing Microsoft has done in a long time.

 

Verbatim

Despite rumours to the contrary, Nokia say they will not be getting back into the smartphone space. In a short official statement the former mobile giant simply said; “Nokia notes recent news reports claiming the company communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of a R&D facility in China. These reports are false, and include comments incorrectly attributed to a Nokia Networks executive. Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets.”

Google’s Eric Schmidt has been talking about his company a lot recently. Turns out he still isn’t very happy about the NSA snooping on the search giant’s data, and AI is “the rage” for his workers at the moment. He also thinks there’s nothing but an “artificial distinction” between consumer and enterprise software.

So there’s quite a few big US tech companies suffering from regulatory disputes, and it sounds like Facebook has had enough. Richard Allen, the social network’s European VP of Public Policy, warned in the FT that due to Europe’s fragment regulatory landscape, “Facebook’s costs would increase and people in Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly, or not at all.”

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg this week revealed why the company started offering to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs. “There is a young woman working at Facebook who had got cancer,” she told Bloomberg. “She came to me and said I’m going to get treatment and that means I won’t be able to have children unless I can freeze my eggs and I can’t afford it but our medical care doesn’t cover it.”

Jackson Palmer, the founder of cryptocurrency DogeCoin, is exiting the “toxic” crypto community. “The cryptocurrency space increasingly feels like a bunch of white libertarian bros sitting around hoping to get rich and coming up with half-baked, buzzword-filled business ideas which often fail in an effort to try and do so,” he told Coindesk. “I don't have time for it anymore.”

Autonomy founder Mike Lynch is a bit confused about the whole lawsuit between his company and HP. “It’s been a bizarre PR war of words, almost nothing has happened after three years,” he told IB Times. “What we hope is that it will actually come to a point where someone has to stand up and explain what on earth this is all about. [HP] owned a business for a year, it’s been three years now and the regulators in the UK investigated it and found nothing. So, come on, let's hear what this is all about.”

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

-          BND (the German NSA) has been helping the actual NSA – providing IP addresses, emails, and mobile phone numbers of various European politicians and enterprises

-          Many within the CIA couldn’t make use of the NSA’s programs because they didn’t know about them

-          Officials within the US government who knew about the NSA programs couldn’t tell if it was actually useful or not

-          A former whistleblower says the NSA has so much data it’s become overwhelmed and useless

-          There’s an NSA coloring book for kids. They actually have a whole website for kids

-          F-Secure CEO Christian Frederikson “would be proud” if Finland gave Ed Snowden asylum

-          Airbus is suing because it says the BND stole blueprints and gave them to the NSA

New Stuff: Tesla, Glass II, TencentOS, and DHL drones

Plenty of interesting new gadgets and projects announced this week. Google Glass looks set to return to the public eye after the search giant announced a partnership with Italian eyewear maker Luxottica. “What you saw was version 1. We’re now working on version 2,” said Luxottica CEO Massimo Vian. “In Google, there are some second thoughts on how to interpret version 3 [of the eyewear].”

Tag Heuer has released some more details on its Google/Intel-powered smartwatch. The new wrist device will cost just over $1000 and have a battery life of 40 hours. When asked about competing with Apple Watch, Jean-Claude Biver said: “I hope they sell millions and millions and millions of them. The more they sell the more a few people will want something different and come to Tag Heuer.”

Samsung is looking to bring its VR headsets into the business space, although after the HoloLens demos they might have a tough sell.

Another week, another Android fork gets released. This time it’s Tencent’s turn. The Chinese tech giant’s new TOS+ looks slightly different and will be free to third-party companies.

Tesla has branched out from smart cars and into your house. CEO Elon Musk this week revealed the Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for the home which runs off solar power. Amazon Web Services is among companies testing pilot programs.

M&A

The big M&A news this week is Salesforce.com reportedly being up for sale. A report surfaced on Bloomberg quoting “people with knowledge of the matter” saying the company had been approached by a potential buyer. With a market value in the region of $49 billion, few companies would have both the financial clout and potential desire for such a deal; Oracle, IBM and Microsoft would be the obvious, Amazon, Google, SAP, Cisco or maybe even HP could be potential outsiders, and Apple has a big enough cash stack to buy whoever it wants. Oracle CEO Safra Catz yesterday seemed to shoot down the idea her company was involved, saying “If it’s acquired by someone else, it’s probably good for us, to be honest.” Watch this space.

According to Lagou.com - a Chinese IT jobs site – most mobile startups fold within two years. Don’t panic if you’re a startup in Europe though, you’ll most likely be acquired by a big US firm according to some new research.

Despite the debacle around its Q1 results, Twitter has acquired marketing business TellApart. Elsewhere, GoPro has bought French Virtual Reality startup Kolor, Amazon has snapped up Cloud company ClusterK, MasterCard now owns analyst firm Predictive Technologies, Capgemini has splurged over $4 billion for Igate, Akami now owns Octoshape, SolarWinds has got its hands on Papertrail, Avanade has splashed out for KCS.net and Bigcommerce has snaffled Zing.

Android-based gaming console and Kickstarter success story, Ouya, is in trouble. A memo from CEO Julie Uhrman leaked to Fortune showed the company is up for sale due to debt problems. “Given our debtholder’s timeline, the process will be quick. We are looking for expressions of interest by the end of this month.” The memo read.

Anonymous sharing app Secret is shutting down. Founder David Byttow Tweeted that he has “decided to shut down Secret, wind-down the company, and return the remaining money.” In an accompanying post on Medium, Byttow said that “Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company” and so is closing doors for good. He also says he will “publish postmortems so that others can learn from the unique mistakes and challenges we faced.”

“Robot Buys Ecstasy, Gets Arrested”

Robot Buys Ecstasy, Gets Arrested” may potentially be the best Bitcoin-related headline ever. Swiss art group !Mediengruppe Bitnik gave the software $100 worth of Bitcoin each week and programmed it to randomly purchase items from darkweb marketplace, Agora. The bot reportedly bought Ecstasy pills, a Hungarian passport, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and a Lord of the Rings eBook collection. Obviously such a dodgy stash attracts attention, and the police actually came and confiscated the various purchases.

In other Bitcoin news, Turkey is the country with the highest acceptance rate, Bitcoin startups get the most funding from the US, and the Chief Scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation says Bitcoin will gain legitimacy because the internet had a shady start and was used mainly for porn.

Paperless internet

Ever wondered how much paper it would take to print off the entire World Wide Web? Well wonder no more! In a clear case of having too much time and an overabundance of funding, researchers at the University of Leicester have calculated that it would take some 136 billion pages of A4 paper to print out the “visible” web, equating to around 16 million trees. 


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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