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News Roundup: Apple Watch, Android Reality and Martha Stewart

A roundup of the week’s tech news including sovereign tech, taxes and Greenpeace

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You may have heard something about an Apple Watch being announced this week. Anyone with even a passing interest will have been surprised by the announcement. It’s a smartwatch, it’s got apps, it’s got a tragic battery life, you can buy crazy expensive versions and it’ll be available in April. There was also a new MacBook announced that did away with ports and right-clicking.

Apple ResearchKit sounds pretty cool; real-time mass medical studies can only be a good thing. Salesforce was the first enterprise company to announce an app for the Watch, but other developers aren’t so keen. Other Apple Watch factoids; it would take a Foxconn worker – the people assembling the device – almost three years to afford the gizmos they’ll be making, while gold analysts expect Apple to shake up their market.

Some Apple news not so widely reported was the company is following in Intel’s footsteps and committing more than $50 million towards helping diversity efforts in the technology sector.

NSA

Hillary Clinton may be the frontrunner in the Presidential election, but that hasn’t stopped her getting into trouble over operating a private server for her emails while in office. The admissions means the former Secretary of State broke various rules about transparency and security.

In an attempt to look more open, Sen. Lindsey Graham told NBC that you can “read every email I’ve ever sent” because he has, in fact, never actually sent one. Not a great boast for someone on the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. President Obama, meanwhile, is limited on which tech the Secret Service will let him have. "I don't text. I email. I still have a BlackBerry," said the POTUS, as well as admitting he rarely Tweets. "I can't use phones with recorders in them. So a lot of the new fangled stuff, for security reasons, I don't get."

The UK parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) has just released a report investigating the activities of GCHQ. The ISC found that “The UK's intelligence and security Agencies do not seek to circumvent the law” but did say that the legal framework is “unnecessarily complicated and – crucially -- lacks transparency.” The report also called for a single act of parliament to govern the activities of these agencies.

-          The CIA spent years trying to hack the security of Apple devices for years.

-          New Zealand has done some spying on behalf of the NSA, and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has refused to rule out mass surveillance.

-          You can buy web domains originally used by the NSA for dishing out spyware.

-          Ed Snowden would like asylum in Switzerland.

-          Wikimedia is suing the NSA and US Department of Justice.

-          Actual water leaks has caused problems for Germany’s spy agency.

-          GCHQ has created a giant Cloud computer out of Raspberry Pis, while the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has said the government shouldn’t ban Tor.

Android Reality

I was at the Wearable Tech Show in London this week and got to try a bunch of gizmos including various AR/VR tech. The Apple Watch was mentioned a few times just to get the elephant out of the room, but no one talked about the fact Google may be working on an Android system for Virtual Reality. According to the WSJ, Google has set a team of engineers the task of building an OS to compete with the likes of Oculus Rift and likely further its adventures with Google Cardboard. Details are scant and there’s been no confirmation from Google, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising if it were true.

The search giant is also working on a new way to rank results by how truthful they are. It’s currently only a theory in a Google research paper, but as the Washington Post reported, the company already does similar things for its Knowledge Graph. 

Sovereign Tech and Tech Tax

Previously we’ve written about India’s plan to provide “a digital Cloud for every Indian”, this week we’re bringing you a deeper look at Bolivia’s plans for a “sovereign Cloud”. Now Estonia – e-Stonia to its friends, and ever on the front of the digital frontier – is looking to back up pretty much all government services online so that even if the country’s government is sabotaged it will continue to function over the internet, providing services and enabling payments.

As government sponsored sovereign tech blooms, life is getting more expensive for tech firms. Both Russia and the UK are looking to charge international tech companies more tax.

M&A

Amazon Web Services has acquired IoT platform developer 2lemetry, SugarCRM has bought mobile startup Stitch, Docker now owns Kitematic, PayPal has got its hands on security firm CyActive, Bain Capital [previously owned by Presidential candidate Mitt Romney] has purchased Blue Coat, Square has snaffled up Kili Technology and Attunity has snapped up analytics startup Appfluent.

Meanwhile, Google is rumoured to be acquiring Indian mobile startup InMobi and are definitely closing down Google Code, Jay-Z’s off/on bid to buy music streaming site Tidal is back on again, and FriendFeed – a social network own by Facebook since 2009 – is finally closing down.

Verbatim

Will.I.Am might well be the ultimate tech hipster. This week he’s been talking about 3D printing. “Eventually 3D printing will print people. I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology,” he told dezeen magazine. “If you can print a liver or a kidney, god dang it, you’re going to be able to print a whole freaking person.”

As we mentioned earlier, the Apple Watch has a tragic battery life. The iPhone isn’t much better, but Apple’s chief designer doesn’t really care. In an interview with the FT, Jon Ive said a bigger battery would make the iPhone heavier, more cumbersome, less compelling. More useful too probably, but shhh.

Cyanogen are continuing their push to be the new face of Android. CEO Kirt McMaster this week claimed OEMs like Samsung will follow the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry into the grave. “They’re going to be slaughtered” he claims. “We think long term Apple itself will have problems because they’re just not good at competing at the low end.”

Even tiny companies should be thinking Green, claim Greenpeace. Talking at London’s Cloud Expo Europe, Greenpeace’s Head of IT Andrew Hatten said companies of all sizes should force the issue with their IT suppliers. “Now you might think, ‘I’ve got a small company, I can’t get much traction in this area.’ But we all have a role to play, as purchasers of services from datacentres and other organisations, about making the case for why we want that provider to use clean energy,” he said. “You’ll be amazed by the openness with which you’ll be received and, once you’ve got your foot in the door, you can then have an ongoing conversation and start to see change.”

Martha Stewart likes drones. Interesting fact right there.


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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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