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News Roundup: Political predictions, Apple Virtual Reality, and marine destruction

A roundup of the week’s tech news including drone predictions, Dropbox diversity, and fridgewatches

Politics

Microsoft enjoys using Bing to predict things. As the first election primaries draw closer, the company has released its predictions for who will win the first four Democrat and Republican primaries. Bing expect Hilary to win three out of the four for the Democrats, losing to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire only. Donald Trump however, is predicted to get a clean sweep across all four for the Republican nomination.

Republican candidate Ben Carson has set out his cybersecurity plans and policies. In an accompanying piece in Re/Code, Carson pledged to “prioritize America’s cyber sector” and “secure and advance America’s online presence.” Central to his policy is the establishment of a National Cyber Security Administration. “Just as NASA helped centralize America’s efforts in the space race, the NCSA will be instrumental in winning the cyberspace race,” he wrote. The plan was labelled “terrible” by Slate while the HuffPo said it lacked specifics.

Meanwhile John McAfee has continued to tout his position as the only candidate to have a real understanding of technology. This week the bath salt-loving Libertarian candidate claimed President Obama “has no real grasp of what "privacy" really means” and said that he was “concerned” by Donald Trump’s grasp (or lack thereof) of technology: “How then can we rationally consider electing someone who is not fully conversant in the technology that holds our world together?”

NSA

-          The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants the government to delete all the data it’s been collecting through NSA programs (but leave enough to allow it to sue.)

-          Despite the rumours, it seems ISIS hasn’t created its own Telegram-like encrypted messaging service.

Google VR Apple

Is the Virtual Reality space about to hot up? On the back of 5 million Cardboard units shipped, the rumours that Google is planning some heftier, Oculus Rift-style headgear refuses to go away. As well as the job listings which sparked the initial speculation, Google Head of VR Clay Bavor refused to rule out the prospect when talking to Time: “If you imagine the types of things that a company with the ambition and the technical resources and the know-how of Google would be working on, we’re working on a lot of those things.”

Apple’s Tim Cook, meanwhile, sparked his own rumour frenzy this week after not saying that VR was rubbish. “In terms of virtual reality, I don't think it's a niche,” he said during the company’s earnings call this week. “I think … it's really cool, and has some interesting applications.”

M&A

Apple has acquired EdTech startup LearnSprout, IBM has splashed out for Resource/Ammirati, Sony has bought IoT chipmaker Altair, Siemens has taken over CD-adapco, Juniper Networks has purchased BTI Systems, and AppDirect now owns Radialpoint.

China’s state-backed semiconductor manufacturer Tsinghua Holdings is in the market to splash some cash. According The Reg, the company’s chairman Xu Jinghong told Davos attendees he was looking to acquire two chip manufacturers. Tsinghua was previously in talks to acquire Micron Technologies but a deal couldn’t be reached.

Xerox has split itself into two companies, one focused on hardware while the other revolves around services. JungleDisk has broken away from Rackspace, and Toshiba is reportedly interested in selling part of its chip making business.

dotCloud, the company from which Docker originated, has closed down after its parent company went bankrupt. Facebook has announced that it is closing down its Parse mobile development service.

Dropbox diversity

Dropbox this week released its latest set of diversity figures, and things seem to have gotten worse. 59% of the company was white (up 4% on 2014) and 68% male (up 2%). “We know we have to do a lot better,” Judith Williams wrote in a blog post. “Our goal is to continue to increase the number of women and underrepresented minority applicants in our pipeline and make sure we remove any biases in the hiring process.” Dropboze aren’t the only overwhelming white & male tech company, most companies releasing figures have seen little shift over the last 12-18 months.

Drones

In the US, the FAA has seen the number of drones registered hit 300,000 in just 30 days. According to new research, the commercial drone industry is due to boom in 2016 as well. Juniper Research predicts revenue from commercial drones sales will reach $481 million this year, up from $260 million in 2015.

Meanwhile, a local rival of China’s Alibaba, has announced that it is to start testing drone delivery for its rural customers.

From fridges to watches

It makes sense for mobile companies to make smartwatches, it makes sense for sports companies to make smartwatches/bands, it makes sense for watch companies to make smartwatches. But what about companies that make fridges? Chinese electronics maker Haier, best known for appliances such as fridges, washing machines and dishwashers, has announced a new range of watches and fitness bands that will be shown off at MWC next month.

Hacking cars

The automotive industry might currently be engulfed in an emissions software scandal, but not so long ago it was freaking out about the fact researchers could hack a Jeep remotely while the thing was in motion. It’s kind of all been forgotten about but the problem hasn’t really been solved. “We are a long way from securing the non-autonomous vehicles, let alone the autonomous ones,” said Stefan Savage, computer science professor at the University of California at the Enigma security conference this week. He warned that the multitude of sensors and connectivity points means the attack surface for AI cars was even worse than regular cars. Panic stations, everyone.

Microsoft’s Paul Allen, noted marine conservationist, destroys protected coral reef

He might be one of the most generous people in tech, but Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is in hot water after destroying the majority of a protected coral reef with his boat. The Guardian reports that Allen’s boat, the 300ft MV Tatoosh, ripped up 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the Cayman Islands, representing some 80% of the West Bay replenishment zone. Allen, a noted marine conservationist, may be fined up to $600,000.

In March of last year, Allen discovered a World War 2 battleship off the coast of the Philippines.


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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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