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Yahoo’s shareholders have officially approved the company’s sale to Verizon for $4.48 billion. The deal will close on June 13th, 2017.
The purchase price was lowered by $350 million in the wake of the revelation that Yahoo passwords and personal information had been compromised in a massive hacking attack.
Yahoo stock is up 8.5% at the time of writing.
Sony is dominating Microsoft when it comes to the video game console wars. It’s no contest: Sony’s PlayStation 4 is outselling Microsoft’s Xbox One by 2-to-1 in North America. Things are more dire in Europe.
As Sony put it in a recent interview with Time Magazine: “In Europe, it’s really been fortress PlayStation by at least 3-to-1 in unit sales.” Woof.
There are a variety of reasons for Sony’s success with the PlayStation 4, prime among them the $400 price point of the PS4 at launch — a $100 price drop compared to Microsoft’s $500 Xbox One. Both consoles are dramatically less expensive now, yet Sony maintains its sales lead month after month in no small part due to the tremendous momentum it built early on.
But Microsoft’s been making smart moves to re-capture consumer interest since the lukewarm launch of Xbox One in 2013. One of the company’s smartest moves to date, in fact, is something that Sony outright disregards: the concept of backwards compatibility.
The term itself is a snoozer, but what it means for you is simple: The games you already own from previous consoles work on the new one.
Announced in June 2015, Microsoft’s Xbox One is able to play a huge portion of the Xbox 360 game library (so-called “backwards compatibility”). If you already own the game digitally, you simply download it to your Xbox One. If you own the disc, you put it in your drive, download a digital copy of the game, and you’re good to go. Maybe you just want to play a game from the previous console that you don’t own? You can buy it through the Xbox One and play it there.
It’s a service that few gamers will ever use. Just under 2% of time spent by Xbox One owners using the console is spent playing Xbox 360 games, according to a recent study by Ars Technica.
This is actually the reason that Head of Global Sales and Marketing at Sony International Entertainment Jim Ryan cited when asked by Time Magazine about a similar concept on PlayStation 4. With Sony’s rich history of games, from the first PlayStation through to the PlayStation 3, why not introduce backwards compatibility on the PS4?
“It is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” Ryan said. He’s not wrong!
And yet, it’s a crucial sell point for the Xbox One that Sony is choosing to ignore.
If owners aren’t actually using the feature, why bother supporting it? The answer is simple: It makes people feel good.
If you’re one of the tens of millions of people who bought an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, you no doubt spent even more money buying into their game libraries. Maybe you bought a few games, or maybe you bought dozens. Either way, those games become distinctly less useful when you buy a new game console. For one, it’s likely that you outright unplugged your older game console — TVs only have so many inputs, and people only have so much space in their home entertainment setups.
You could trade them in, but what if they were digital games? With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the vast majority of games were available both in retail stores on disc and as downloadable purchases. Do you just say goodbye to those games? The idea of a persistent digital library has become more and more normalized these days — when you move from an old phone to a new phone (or an old tablet to a new tablet), there’s an expectation that your digital software library will come with you (from games to apps to music and beyond).
Microsoft is embracing this philosophy with its push toward backwards compatibility. Sony, bizarrely, doesn’t seem to even grok why backwards compatibility is important to players. While Ryan is technically correct that few players actually use backwards compatibility, the impact such a service has is one of those un-quantifiable metrics that makes a tremendous difference in perception.
Say you’re a teenager asking your parents for a PlayStation 4 for a birthday present. Say your parents already bought you a PlayStation 3 years earlier, and a smattering of $60 games. “Does the PlayStation 4 play all those old games you own?” is a reasonable question your parents could ask, and it cuts to the heart of why something like backwards compatibility matters so much.
You may not care about those old games. You may never play them again, in fact. But you paid for them, and the value of being able to play them again is meaningful even if you have no intention of actually playing them.
That Sony seemingly misses this concept now is strange at best — this is a company that put backwards compatibility into every PlayStation home console with the exception of its most recent console, the PlayStation 4.
Things get even weirder when you see the rest of Ryan’s answer to the question about backwards compatibility.
“I was at a ‘Gran Turismo’ event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?,” he told Time Magazine.
To be completely clear, this is the head of PlayStation’s global marketing and sales expressing that he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to play classic PlayStation games — games that people grew up with, that hundreds of people worked to create, that hold a special place in the hearts of millions. Beyond being an outrageous thing to say from a public-relations perspective, it demonstrates a lack of understanding that reflects poorly on the entire PlayStation team at Sony.
Support for backwards compatibility won’t turn around Microsoft’s sales problem with the Xbox One, but it does set a strong foundation for the future of Xbox as a digital platform.
More importantly, Sony’s lack of understanding the importance of such a service puts Microsoft in a position to reclaim the hearts and minds — and wallets — of game console buyers in the long term.
There you were, living in a reality where laptops had a single screen. And then Razer introduced this monstrosity, and suddenly a paradigm shifted.
That’s right, folks: Razer is taking the bold step of not just doubling, but outright tripling the number of laptop screens. This is Project Valerie, a super bizarre concept from a company known for making very nice, very expensive gaming hardware.
As details of a bomb blast occurring at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK on May 22 and several knife and truck attacks in London on June 4 started flooding social media, one thing was conspicuously absent from Facebook: solidarity filters.
The filters, which let users lay a see-through flag of an attacked country over their profile picture, were first introduced by Facebook after the Paris attacks left more than 130 people dead in November 2015.
Along with the #prayforparis and #jesuisparis hashtags, the solidarity gesture quickly picked up speed — more than 120 million people used the French flag overlay in the first three days, a Facebook representative told Business Insider.
But Facebook’s swift decision to promote the solidarity gesture generated backlash in the form of sharp criticism from many who pointed out the lack of such compassion for crises in Lebanon and Syria. Facebook hasn’t promoted a solidarity filter since, the Facebook representative said.
The community response to the French flag filter led Facebook to rethink its strategy on promoting solidarity causes, the representative said, the result of an anxiety that the company might appear to be ranking the importance of human suffering depending on which events generated filters and which didn’t.
Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature has received similar criticism, much of which has been mitigated by the company’s decision to turn over activating the feature to a third party.
In April, Facebook took a new tack with filters, introducing the new Camera Effects platform, which allows users to create their own frames and flag overlays. The platform also offers the frame browsing option, where people can pick from popular “cause” frames created by others.
Facebook is promoting the Camera Effects platform as a way for individuals to use their own flag filters to “express support and unify behind the causes and movements they care about” rather than causes that are deemed important by others, the representative explained.
Users have created filters and temporary profile pictures for major terror attacks over the last year, including a heart with a Union Jack for the Manchester attack and a “We Stand With London” frame following the London attacks.
However, no one user-generated solidarity image or frame has, according to the Facebook rep, matched the millions of people who changed to a filter that has been promoted by the site (such as the 26 million who used the rainbow flag overlay that Facebook promoted after the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage across the US in June 2015). The only crowdsourced frame to come close a Mother’s Day frame created by user Susan G. Kormen last year, which was used by more than 24 million people.
Some observers have suggested that Facebook’s decision to not offer official solidarity filters has been mirrored by lessening user interest in changing their profile picture as a whole for major events. While Facebook’s promotion contributed to the popularity of certain filters, the frequency of terrorist attacks has also made it difficult for users to respond to each one.
“That shock meant people want to do something and doing something on Facebook meant putting a French flag on your Facebook picture,” Jon Worth, a Berlin-based political blogger who writes often about digital solidarity movements, told Business Insider in an email. “But since then the incidents have come thick and fast — and while each loss of life is indeed a tragedy, the repetitive nature of these attacks in Europe has left people jaundiced.”
The popularity of Facebook filters also tends to function in a cycle — a 2015 study found that people were more likely to change their Facebook profile in support of a cause after they saw 8 other friends do so first.
Artist Tom Galle, who co-created All Flags, an overlay filter of numerous flags made in response to what he and his partners felt was selective compassion after the Paris attacks of 2015, told Business Insider that while people still ask him to add different flags in the wake of new terror attacks, he has observed a general decline in what he calls “group solidarity” posts.
“I do think it is time to move on to other forms of internet activism that have more effect,” said Galle. “A problem I notice is that in a lot of cases people refuse to look at the big picture and think of ways to unite and attack the problem at its source.”
We live in an absurd and dystopian future.
Case in point: Russian government hackers are using comments on Britney Spears’ Instagram account to control malware.
Yes, you read that right.
Security researchers at Slovakian security firm ESET have been looking into Turla, a long-running hacking group believed to be linked to the Russian government that has targeted foreign governments, militaries, educational institutions and more.
And they found something pretty unusual, they wrote in a blog post: The malware has been receiving instructions via a seemingly innocuous comment on one of Britney Spears’ Instagram photos. (We heard about the malware via Engadget.)
In a now-deleted comment, user “asmith215” wrote “#2hot make loved to her, uupss #Hot #X.” Just nonsense spam, right? Nope. Hidden inside that message was a a string of characters — 2kdhuHX — that makes up part of a bit.ly link.
This link will connect it to its command-and-control (C&C) server — giving it instructions on what to do and retrieve stolen data.
This took place in February, and ESET believe it was a test, partly because the link was clicked very few times. The discovery raises some unsettling questions: Where else are dark messages hidden on the internet? How else might hackers be disguised in plain sight?
This isn’t the first time Britney Spears has become inadvertently caught up in the world of hacking. In December 2016 she was the target of a public hoax after hackers gained access to the Twitter accounts of Sony Music and Bob Dylan and claimed she had died.
Andy Rubin, an engineer known for developing Google’s Android operating system, has raised $300 million (£231 million) for his new startup, Essential.
The funding round, which was first reported by Bloomberg, values Rubin’s firm at $993 million (£765 million), according to analysis by research firm Equidate. That means it is practically a “unicorn,” which is the term given to tech startups when they achieve a billion dollar valuation.
Essential did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Rubin ran the Android division at Google for nearly a decade. He left in 2014 and set up a tech incubator called Playground Global, which is where Essential spawned from.
The paperwork for the funding round was reportedly submitted towards the end of May, just before Rubin unveiled the company’s first two devices: a “PH-1” smartphone and a speaker to rival the Amazon Echo.
Prior to the funding round, Rubin raised $30 million (£23 million) for Essential from Playground Global and Redpoint Ventures, according to Equidate. Essential’s other investors include Asian tech giants like Foxconn and Tencent based on the investor section on Essential’s website.
Rubin was on the brink of raising $100 million (£77 million) from Japanese tech giant SoftBank but the funding fell through due to a conflict of interest with Apple, which has partnered with SoftBank on its $100 billion (£770 million) Vision Fund.
The PH-1 is an upcoming Android device that packs some interesting features and clearly is intended to go head-to-head with the top smartphones from Apple and Samsung. The release date has not been confirmed.
The modular device has an edge-to-edge screen and magnetic connectors on the back that will allow owners to connect accessories, including a 360-degree camera that can be bought alongside the phone.
The PH-1 costs $749 (£577) to reserve with the 360-degree camera. It comes unlocked and with 128 GB of internal storage. For just the phone, it’ll cost $699 (£538). But unfortunately for international customers, it’s available only in the US, to begin with.
Along with that 128 GB of internal storage, it packs 4 GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Its casing is titanium and ceramic, and it comes in four colours — Black Moon (glossy black), Stellar Grey (matte dark gray), Pure White (glossy white), and Ocean Depths (a glossy green with bronze sides).
The screen is a hefty 5.7 inches — even larger than the 5.5-inch screen on the iPhone 7 Plus — but the relative lack of bezels on it means it has a smaller footprint than you’d expect. The rear camera is 13 megapixels, while the front-facing camera is 8 megapixels. Both shoot 4K video.
Additional reporting by Rob Price.
LONDON — Entrepreneur-focused startup bank OakNorth lent £300 million to small businesses last year and is expecting to lend out at least £500 million in 2017.
OakNorth’s annual accounts, filed with Companies House this week, show the bank made net income from its lending of £7.1 million last year, up from £156,000 in 2015, its first year of operation.
Chairman Cyrus Adalan writes in the report: “In the six months following the Brexit vote, we were able to triple our loan book and increase our lending to strong businesses as larger banks retrenched from the markets.”
Notable deals include £19 million lent to healthy fast food chain LEON in August to fund expansion.
Adalan adds: “We continue to see strong demand from businesses across all sectors.” He says OakNorth has a “qualified pipeline” to lend a further £500 million. The bank had a gross loan book of £276 million at the end of December 2016 but OakNorth announced in April its loan book had already reached £450 million.
Pre-tax losses edged up slightly from £2.2 million to £2.4 million in 2016. However, the bank says it is already breaking even on a monthly basis and most of the losses come from investment into technology.
OakNorth became the first bank to host its systems entirely on the cloud last May and the company’s annual report details investment in machine learning and artificial intelligence projects to help with credit modelling and loan origination. The bank says it is working on a system to “better predict real estate selling and rental prices” and to “benchmark and predict performance of new borrowers in sectors such as restaurants and catering.”
Customer deposits, attracted through a savings account, jumped from £10.9 million to £202.3 million in 2016. The bank has raised £91.6 million in equity funding to date.
OakNorth’s cofounder and CEO Rishi Khosla writes in the company’s report that 2016 was a “phenomenal year” for the bank. “We have established ourselves as one of the the UK’s fastest growing financial services companies,” he writes.
Kholsa cofounded OakNorth in 2015 as a “bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs.” Kholsa and fellow cofounder Joel Perlman had previously cofounded Copal Amba, a research company for banks that was sold to Moody’s in 2014. Earlier this year tech-focused investment bank GP Bullhound named OakNorth as a fintech startup it believes could one day be worth over $1 billion.
Good morning! Here’s everything you need to know in the world of tech this Thursday.
1. Uber fired an executive who allegedly obtained a rape victim’s medical records. Eric Alexander, who lead Uber’s business in Asia, reportedly obtained the woman’s medical records and shared them with other Uber executives.
2. Amazon’s site showed a picture of a dog, instead of products, to some people on Wednesday. The company had a rare outage which lasted for some time.
3. Apple is going to make it easier and quicker to get your iPhone screen repaired. It’s going to put its proprietary machine for repairing glass screens in almost 400 authorised repair centres in 25 countries.
4. A new leaked image suggests the anticipated OnePlus 5 phone will look like the iPhone. It’s going to have a smooth black finish, which is different to previous OnePlus phones.
5. iOS 11 lets you play FLAC lossless audio files straight from your iPad and iPhone. It’s a first for Apple, but you can’t play them through the Music app.
6. A judge has ruled that Uber has to hand over a key document in its legal fight with Google’s self-driving car company Waymo. The document is a due diligence report about Otto that Uber prepared during its acquisition talks with the startup in 2016.
7. Google’s drone delivery project Wing said it took part in a series of nationwide tests organised by NASA and the FAA. Competitors including Intel and DJI also took part.
8. We reviewed Apple’s new “Planet of the Apps” TV show. It’s “an unintentionally comical train wreck.”
9. The ousted founder of Unilad has won a legal ruling that could force the sale of the site. Alex Partridge won a High Court battle after being ousted from his own company.
10. An Irish fintech startup founded by a former Facebook employee has raised €25 million (£21.7 million) just 6 months after launching. Plynk links people’s Facebook accounts and lets them send money without any fees.