The iPhone 8 reportedly swaps the home button for gesture controls

The folks over at Bloomberg got their hands on some images of the next iPhone as well as some information from people familiar with the new model. Some of the features confirmed in their report were already known or at least heavily suspected, but there are also some new details about how the phone will function without the home button.

As has been reported before, the images viewed by Bloomberg show that the iPhone 8 will have thin bezels and a larger screen than the iPhone 7. It's also going to have a facial recognition sensor that, along with the earpiece and front-facing camera, will be contained in a cutout at the top of the screen. Some other physical details include rounded edges for the screen, a longer power button, a glass front and back and stainless steel edges with antenna cuts on the corners. The app dock is also getting a redesign and looks a lot like the iPad iOS 11 dock, according to Bloomberg.

But one of the bigger changes -- the removal of the home button that's been a part of the phone for a decade -- comes with some tweaks to how users will access the features that the home button has brought them to in the past. Now, what was once the home button's function is going the way of the iPad and Apple's laptop trackpads. Gesture controls will now bring you to the main app grid and show you which apps are open. The bottom of the screen will host a software bar that can be dragged upwards to open the phone and also to get to the multitasking interface once the phone is unlocked.

The new iPhone is expected to launch on September 12th alongside the 7s and 7s Plus models.

Microsoft reveals Spotify for Xbox One app

Spotify is planning to launch an Xbox One app soon, and Microsoft has confirmed its existence today. Major Nelson’s latest “this week on Xbox” video includes a brief glimpse of Spotify running as a background app on the Xbox One, confirming that the app will work while games are played. The Spotify app, spotted by Reddit members, can be seen for around a second in the Xbox One Guide at around 9 minutes in Microsoft’s YouTube video (above).

The Verge revealed on Friday that Microsoft is currently testing Spotify for Xbox One internally, and the app will be available soon. Spotify arrived in the Windows Store recently as a desktop version for Windows 10 devices, and not a special Universal Windows App that works on Xbox One devices. It’s unlikely that the Spotify app for Xbox One will be a Universal Windows App, but it does mean Microsoft’s console will soon have access to the popular music streaming service, more than two years after Spotify first launched on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles. 


How Apple could become a $1 trillion company

Apple reported its earnings this week, and with a surprisingly positive report the shares spiked again as Apple signaled a potential huge iPhone release.

With that jump, Apple’s market cap is now over $800 billion. This year alone, shares of Apple are up almost 35%. If Apple’s promise plays out — or exceeds — what Wall Street hopes for the September quarter, we may soon be asking ourselves whether or not Apple really will fulfill the promise of a company that could hit a market cap of $1 trillion. The company is of course one of a very long list of companies benefittings from a massive run up in the public markets, but there is still quite a bit to do.

With a potentially huge quarter on the way, a cash pile of hundreds of billions of dollars, an ever expanding line of products and a ton of good will heading into the back half of the year, we may see that question answered sooner rather than later. So let’s run through a couple key factors that Apple is going to have to address if it’s going to hit that largely symbolic but massive milestone nonetheless.

Get a blockbuster iPhone out

This is an obvious one. Apple’s core business is the glass slate in your pocket. It’s how you interact with the Internet, with every online service, and your core communications channel to the rest of the world. But even as we potentially move toward an end point for the smartphone — as in, if we’ve potentially already perfected the form factor and use case — Apple still has to come out with a fresh look and design.

Apple has the luxury of a consistent customer base and can wait while other companies discover new user experiences that it can wrap into the phone and then adopt the best of those. You could argue that, prior to iOS 7, Apple didn’t explicitly need to overhaul the interface into something with a more modern look. It didn’t have to ditch the green felt in the Game Center. But customers still crave new as both a status symbol and a feeling of new novel user experiences. Apple was arguably behind in the people-like-big-phones movement, and then when it finally caught up it unlocked an insane amount of customer demand that delivered some of the company’s best quarters in its history.

This feeds, critically, into the second point…

Lock people into buying the iPhone as a “hub” with an expanding portfolio of edge products

We’ve started to see a lot of moves by Apple to expand into new product categories like the Apple Watch. But with the emergence of newer products like the HomePod and the AirPods, it seems more and more likely that Apple could morph into a company with a portfolio of niche products that keep people locked into iOS. All of these products are powered by your phone, and as more and more of the computational user experience moves into a distributed environment — voice, wrist and such — Apple can make a very strong case for the iPhone as the hub of this universe of distributed products.

That, like everything else, forces lock-in as people have to buy the hub. The iPhone continues to become more and more powerful, but even with redesigns and upgrades, it’s still a multi-functional glass slate. New user experiences are starting to blossom into a movement that could change the way we interact with the Internet. But again, you still need to own the hub, and the hub is Apple’s core business.

Grow those incremental edge businesses, even if they’re niches

While Apple will probably always be a phone company, each incremental product that’s able to operate at a profit by nature will expand Apple’s value. Altering the calculus of the company’s operations (going from a “phone” company to an “everything internet” company) will require a reassessment of how to value it. Google, for example, at one point jumped ahead of Apple to become the most valuable company in the world but more or less has returned to the reality that it’s an advertising company and hasn’t shown the promise of becoming something more full-stack in terms of how we interface with the internet just yet.

Amazon, Google and company are all working to pick off niches of this area. Amazon is where you buy things, and you can do so with your voice (with the added benefit of asking questions). Google is where you search for things. Microsoft is, well, Microsoft, and so on and so forth. While Google is the arbiter of Android — which powers most devices on the planet — it’s not really in the same scope as Apple which is uniquely a device company. Each additional device or service, which creates that positive feedback loop of locking a user further and further down its rabbit hole, has the opportunity of adding incremental value to the company.

Services can become a Fortune 100 business, but the success of the HomePod (and its seeming perception as a speaker before an interface) would be like adding a Sonos. Apple can choose to try to own the full stack of content, music or other experiences from the actual human sensation to where it’s stored on the Internet. The company will always be gauged differently and will probably always be greater than the sum of its parts (in this case, the sum of the niches). But, each of those successful niches will create additional value regardless.

Build out a massive services business that surprises Wall Street

Apple has a huge edge here because it’s able to basically will content deals into existence. One of the great things about building this kind of a business is that it can be wildly consistent and continue to grow methodically. Certain elements can be hits-driven, such as original content, but Apple has so much power and weight that it can strong-arm exclusive music deals. Facebook was able to create a massive messaging ecosystem with Facebook Messenger by simply funneling people to the app, and Apple can do the same with products like Apple Music.

Consistent is good. Very good. It means that even when Apple might stumble on certain quarters it can generally rely on that amount of revenue — or income — to buoy its results. You can look at Amazon as an example case, where its retail business has some of the tightest margins in the universe but its server business continues to be very efficient at generating actual profit for the company. With that, Amazon could basically point to it on an earnings report and explain that it can have a portfolio of business lines that can in the future become billion-dollar-plus revenue streams.

Apple likes to say that its Services business will be the size of a Fortune 100 company soon enough. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, as every developer has to build for the App Store and Apple is able to get out these additional services like Apple Music that it has always executed well. If this business continues or begins to outperform, it’s an incremental addition to the company.

Keep Wall Street off its back

This is going to be a small sticking point as Apple is going to perpetually be a massive target for investors. Most won’t be successful in forcing the company to alter its strategy, but it is not unprecedented. Activist investor Carl Icahn pressured Apple to return more of its massive (and still increasing) cash pile to investors back in 2013.

These little piecemeal tributes are important when it comes to investors, as even the long plays are still looking for some kind of incremental returns over time. That can come in the form of stock repurchases and dividends, which offers investors an opportunity to capture some of the value of an increasing stock price while they watch it continue its march forward.

To hit $1 trillion, Apple is probably going to have to excel at every single one of these. The notion of adding $200 billion to its market cap isn’t outlandish, but it’s going to be a huge undertaking to do so. Apple’s stock jump earlier this week may have just been a setup for the next quarter — which could end up performing exactly as expected and halting that rise. It has to either continue to add valuable businesses to its portfolio or force a rethinking of what Apple is as a company and the multiples it gets based on its earnings.

At the end of the day, Apple is still ways off from $1 trillion. And companies across the board could take a nosedive for any number of reasons. But it wasn’t really that long ago when we were asking ourselves whether Apple would become the most valuable company in the world. Its iPhone business stalled and the company entered a holding pattern in the past year or so, but then signaled that it might have a huge next quarter with the next iPhone on the horizon. Basically, there is so much pent up demand from all the leaks and the possible radical redesign of the phone — especially as it morphs into the hub of a user’s Internet experience — that it could help Apple continue its march forward.

Apple became the largest company in the world, and now it’s time to start asking the next question: is Apple really going to become a $1 trillion company? All eyes are on the next quarter.

Healthy iPhone sales push Apple shares to record high

The iPhone 7 inside an Apple Inc. store in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 16, 2016. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters file photo
Apple Inc on Tuesday delivered surprisingly strong fiscal third-quarter earnings and signalled that its upcoming 10th-anniversary phone lineup is on schedule, driving the stock up 6 percent to an all-time high in after-hours trading.

The stock climbed above its intraday record high to $159.10 (120.44 pounds) after the company reported better-than-expected iPhone sales, revenue and earnings per share. The stock price move was expected to help drive the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the 22,000 mark on Wednesday.

Apple also said it hit a milestone of 1.2 billion iPhones sold.

The April-June quarter is traditionally a soft one for Apple as the market waits for the September launch of new iPhone models. But Tuesday’s results show that iPhone buyers may be less inclined than they once were to delay purchases until a new model is out.

The iPad product lines also showed unexpected strength, service revenue continues to grow at a healthy clip, and even the much-maligned Apple Watch showed a 50 percent sales increase.

Apple is widely tipped to adopt higher-resolution OLED displays for the latest iPhone, along with better touchscreen technology and wireless charging – which could come with a $1,000 plus price tag.

The phone is expected to launch in September.

The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current fourth quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Apple’s fourth quarter generally includes first-weekend sales of the company’s latest devices.

The forecast “makes it fairly certain that at least some new iPhone models will be released on the normal schedule,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. “That doesn’t necessarily mean all new models will go on sale then, or that they’ll all be in abundant supply, but I would think it means that at the very least the successors to the current phones will be available.”

But Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, cautioned that if Apple releases cheaper models before the premium models in its 10th anniversary phone lineup, the cheaper models could dampen sales of more expensive units released closer to the holidays.

The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6 percent to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts’ average estimate of 40.7 million units, according to FactSet StreetAccount. Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier.

But a lower average iPhone selling price of $606, well below Wall Street expectations of $621, caused iPhone revenue to come in at $24.8 billion, below expectations of $25.5 billion.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters the weak price was partly explained by Apple lowering the flow of inventory by 3.3 million units, which he said were “entirely at the high end of the range.”

Apple reports how many phones it sells to retailers, not how many phones it sells to consumers, what is known as a sell-in basis. When factoring how many existing “high end” phones the company cleared out of retail inventory, Maestri said average selling prices were higher.

The company’s net income rose to $8.72 billion, or $1.67 per share, from $7.80 billion, or $1.42 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $45.41 billion from $42.36 billion in the quarter, typically the company’s weakest, beating expectations of $44.89 billion.

China revenue down, autonomy to the future

Apple said revenue from emerging markets excluding China grew 18 percent, a bright spot. But sales from the Greater China region fell 9.5 percent to $8 billion in the latest quarter, as consumers switched to newer domestic offerings.

The decline was smaller than recent quarters. Apple’s Maestri said mainland China revenue was flat, as were iPhone sales in the mainland. Sales of other Apple products rose in mainland China and were also up in Taiwan.

“The decline from a market standpoint was concentrated in Hong Kong, which is a place that has been really affected by a reduction in tourism because the Hong Kong Dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar,” Maestri said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also directly addressed the company’s decision to remove so-called VPN apps from the App Store in China. Those apps help Chinese users circumnavigate government internet restrictions.

“We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business,” Cook said. “We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree. This particular case, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we’re seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate.”

Strong iPad sales of $4.9 billion – almost $1 billion above Wall Street expectations – and a 21.6 percent jump in the company’s services business that includes the App Store also helped boost revenue. In particular, Apple said that Walmart Stores Inc (WMT.N) would buy 19,000 iPads to train as many as 225,000 employees. The company also said it increased production of AirPods, its wireless headphones.

Apple CEO Tim Cook declined to directly address U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that Apple will build three new factories in the U.S., instead citing the company’s job creation efforts and a $1 billion U.S. manufacturing fund.

Cook also hinted that Apple’s experiments with self-driving cars may include ambitions that extend beyond cars. He said the company is making a “big investment” in autonomous systems.

“From our point of view, autonomy is sort of the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said. “And the autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways, and a vehicle is only one, but there are many different areas of it. And I don’t want to go any further with that.”

Alleged Russian hacker’s arrest caps long cybercrime career

In this photo, taken Wednesday, July 26, 2017, alleged hacker Pyotr Levashov speaks during a hearing to consider his extradition to the United States, at the National Court in Madrid. The US has orchestrated the arrest of five alleged Russian cybercriminals across Europe in the past nine months. The operations come at a fraught moment in relations between Russia and the US, where politicians are grappling with the allegation that Kremlin hackers intervened in the 2016 election. (Pool photo by Luca Piergiovanni via AP)

MOSCOW — From the early days of online stock scams to the increasingly sophisticated world of botnets, pseudonymous hacker Peter Severa spent nearly two decades at the forefront of Russian cybercrime.
Now that a man alleged to be the pioneering spam lord, Pytor Levashov, is in Spanish custody awaiting extradition to the US, friends and foes alike are describing the 36-year-old as an ambitious operator who helped make the internet underground what it is today.
“Levashov is a pioneer who started his career when cybercrime as we know it today did not even exist,” Tillmann Werner, the head of technical analysis at US cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, said.

“He has significantly contributed to the professionalization of cybercrime,” said Werner, who has tracked the alleged hacker for years. “There are only very few known criminals that had a similar level of influence and reputation.”
Born in 1980, Levashov studied at High School No. 30, one of the first schools in the Soviet Union to specialize in computer programming. Even at a competitive institution whose alumni went on to universities and Silicon Valley firms, Levashov stood out.

“He did have an entrepreneurial streak for sure,” former classmate Artem Gavrilov said. “He was a leader in school, tried to prove to everyone that he was the best.”
Levashov graduated in 1997, according to an entry published to an alumni website, listing his profession as “websmith” and “programmer.” Within a couple of years he had gravitated toward the burgeoning field of email spam, according to an ad attributed to him in US court documents.
With much of the world still just discovering the internet and few restrictions on the mass distribution of email, spammers more or less operated openly, blasting inboxes with pitches for Viagra knock-offs, online gambling, and pornography in return for a flat fee or a cut of the proceeds.
Internet registry records preserved by DomainTools suggest Levashov launched a bulk mailing website called in August 2002 under his real name. Early marketing material for the site boasts of “Bullet Proof Web Hosting,” a term used to describe providers that shrug off law enforcement requests.
The service would come in handy as the spam business became increasingly criminalized. With laws tightening and digital blacklists getting better, spammers resorted to hacking to get their mail across, using malicious software to turn strangers’ personal computers into “proxies” — a euphemism for remote-controlled conduits for junk mail. Hackers herded the proxies into vast botnets, armies of compromised machines that silently churned out spam day and night.
Court documents suggest that Levashov teamed up in 2005 with Alan Ralsky, a legendary bulk email baron once dubbed the “King of Spam.” More than a decade later, Ralsky still raved about the fictitious Severa’s skills.

“No doubt he was the best there ever was,” Ralsky said in a telephone interview.
It was with Ralsky that Levashov is alleged to have plunged into the world of the “pump-and-dump,” a scheme that worked by sending millions of emails talking up the value of thinly traded securities before selling them at a profit and leaving gullible investors to soak up the loss.
Ralsky, Levashov and several associates were indicted for fraud in 2007; Ralsky went to prison while Levashov — safe in Russia — avoided arrest.
By that point, Levashov was cybercrime nobility in his own right, allegedly running a forum for Russian spammers and the massive Storm botnet, whose sophistication drew global attention.
“There were spam botnets, certainly, before Storm, but it took things to a next level,” Joe Stewart, a security researcher with cyberdefense startup Cymmetria who grappled with Storm at its height, said.
Clever use of peer-to-peer technology and a fast-shifting digital infrastructure meant Storm could be regenerated quickly if part of its network was blocked. Respected security expert Bruce Schneier marveled at its engineering, writing in 2007 that Storm was “the future of malware.”
Storm didn’t go on forever, but two successor botnets — Waledec and Kelihos — have since been tied to Levashov. Indictments unsealed this year accuse the Russian of renting out Kelihos at $500 per million emails to send spam or to seed computers with ransom software or money-draining banking programs.
One of the indictments, which cited a January ad posted to a Russian cybercrime forum, appeared to catch Levashov boasting of his distinguished record.
“I have been serving you since the distant year 1999,” the ad said. “During these years there has not been a single day that I keep still.”
That’s likely to change. Levashov’s Spanish lawyer, Margarita Repina, recently told The Associated Press that her client’s extradition to the United States was all but certain.
Levashov’s wife, Maria, was more hopeful. She has forcefully proclaimed her husband’s innocence, saying he was more of a businessman than a programmer and that whenever she caught him at the computer he was playing video games.
“I believe it will be found that this is all a mistake,” she said.
Then again, in response to a question about Levashov’s links to the Russian government, she said: “I’m not a wife who knows everything about her husband.”


Tesla Model 3 electric car has no instruments, just a 15-inch screen

Image: Twitter/@TeslaMotors
Electric car manufacturer Tesla has delivered the first 30 units of their new Model 3 sedans. And the big difference from regular cars is the model’s lack of the traditional gauges and instruments.

On the evening of July 28, Tesla held a grand handover event to the first thirty owners of the Model 3 electric car. However, owners may need some getting used to the single 15-inch display sitting in the middle of the dashboard, according to The Verge.

The single-screen on the dashboard is a radical design change for the interior of cars and is part of the company’s ongoing strategy to push for driving autonomy in cars.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that in the future, drivers wouldn’t even care if there’s no instrument cluster.
“You won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often,” Musk said during the event.
He goes so far as to add that eventually, people will be able to “watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep” in Tesla cars.
The Model 3 is the first step in Tesla’s grand plan to make electric cars more accessible for the masses. By accomplishing this goal, it paves the way for greater adaption of electric vehicles, and the eventual retirement of their gas-guzzling predecessors. Alfred Bayle/JB


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