News Roundup: Alexa on PCs, no Ara, and strict cars

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Chief Speed Officers, digital Labour, and IFA’s gizmos.

Labour get digital

UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn released a Digital Democracy Manifesto this week. Or, in plain English, some tech policies. The embattled leader’s plans range from the tried and true (more broadband for everyone, protecting online freedoms), to slightly out there (online digital passports, all Open Source licences for Gov software), to plain odd (publicly-owned eBay/TaskRabbit clones, crowdsourced opinions on policy).

Reaction to the manifesto wasn’t kind, with The Independent’s John Rentoul calling the Labour leader “technologically inept,” The Telegraphic labelling it “an epic fail” and “trapped in the past,” while the The Memo said it was “a bad case of copy & paste.”

Apple actually paying tax leads to Irexit

The European Union has ruled that Apple has under-payed its tax in Ireland and owes almost $15 billion. While Tim Cook was unsurprisingly “maddened”, some of Europe’s anti-Europeans are claiming this is the perfect catalyst for Ireland to leave the EU – a so-called “Irexit” - and I guess become even more of a tax haven.

Facebook finds this news stuff hard

After the ruckus of the last few months, Facebook this week decided to hand over all control of its trending news feature to a machine. This backfired almost immediately and saw false, clickbaity news stories enter the trending feed. According to the Slate, workers previously assigned to selecting stories for the feed were shocked to be let go so early, describing the current system as “a half-baked quiche.

The irony in all this? A new survey suggests people want less news in their feeds.

Alexa to PC and No more Ara?

For whatever reason – probably down to seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Iron Man films too many times – tech companies really want us all to talk to our computers. Microsoft has sewn Cortana into Windows 10, Apple will be baking Siri into MacOS, but it seems Amazon feels left out. According to CNEt, Amazon and Lenovo are in the early stages of bringing Alexa to the Chinese company’s devices. No word on whether you’ll need a Prime account for it to actually do anything.

Project Ara – Google’s modular phone concept – was one of the company’s more fun ideas. So it’s a shame reports are coming out claiming the project is being canned. Both Reuters and Re/Code say sources claim the project is being shelved in order to streamline the company’s mobile efforts, although the technology could still be licensed out in the future.


SAP has reportedly acquired Altiscale, Cisco definitely has bought ContainerX, Nutanix has made a double swoop for PernixData and, Genesys has snapped up Interactive Intelligence, and Box has acquired Wagon.



-          The Director of the FBI says the US has never had absolute privacy, and wants an adult conversation about encryption. Saucy.

-          DARPA wants AI hacking tools with which to rule the world.

-          Hackers are starting to use electrical current tricks to hack devices.

-          The US might not hand over powers to ICANN after all.

There’s gold in them thar phones

Did you know there’s more gold in a tonne of discarded mobile phones than in a tonne of ore? Scientists have developed a new way to extract previous metals from eWaste that is far less toxic than previous methods.


In the wake of some unflattering headlines, Tesla is making some changes to its Autopilot driver-assist feature. Elon Musk’s cars will now lock you out of autonomous mode if the human drivers repeatedly ignore warnings about not having their hands on the wheel and actually paying attention like Tesla say they should.

Meanwhile, a bill being proposed in California could allow testing of driverless cars that do not come equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator or operator. Given that most people don’t trust autonomous vehicles at the minute, is anyone outside the industry likely to be pleased about this idea?

New stuff

IFA is going on this week, and the world’s technology companies are showing off some their new wares:

HP revealed its own take on the modular PC, the snazzy looking Elite Slice.

Acer showed off a massive curved-screen laptop that’s about as portable as a box of bricks. And acquired a pet-tech company.

LG has made a giant smart fridge running Windows 10.

In other news, Chinese search giant Baidu is Open Sourcing PaddlePaddle, its deep learning software, and Salesforce has revealed its AI platform is called Einstein.

Usain Bolt joins the C-Suite

Now that his Olympic career is over, what does Usain Bolt do with himself? Apparently the world’s fastest man joins the world of C-level executives. Bolt has joined Jamaican mobile operator Digicel as its CSO – Chief Speed Officer. In reality, the lifetime sponsorship deal probably works in similar ways to Alicia Key’s deal with Blackberry, Ashton Kutcher and Lenovo, or Wil.i.Am and Intel. Lots of money and very little effort.


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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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