Mark Wycislik-Wilson

Microsoft has the patent for a thinner, re-designed USB-C connector

Thinner USB-C patent

It is a slow process, but USB-C is gradually becoming more and more popular -- although it's a long way from ubiquity yet. Ready to rock the boat a little, it has emerged that Microsoft holds a patent for a redesigned USB-C connector.

The patent is not brand new, but Microsoft's May 2017 filing for an "Ultra-Thin USB-C Connector" has just come to light. Another patent filing from April 2017 describes a new "USB-C Plug Receptacle". While the redesign is hardly going to set the world on fire, it's the sort of thing we could well expect to see in a refresh Surface lineup.

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Got a MacBook or MacBook Pro with sticky keys? Apple has a free service program for you

MacBook keyboard

For some time, a number of MacBook or MacBook Pro users have complained about problems with their keyboards -- specifically that keys either stop working completely, fall off, or become "sticky", resulting in repeated characters.

Now, after two years of complaints and a lawsuit about the butterfly mechanism in its keyboards, Apple has finally acknowledged that there is a problem. The company has also launched a keyboard service program so those affected by the problem can get it addressed, free of charge.

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Google Account revamped -- increased transparency and new security and privacy options

Google Account on mobile

Google has unveiled a new look for users' accounts, making information clearer, improving transparency and adding new options.

To make it easy to find information, Google has added a search function and there's also a cleaner look to aid navigation. Building on the previous update to Security Checkup, your Google account now also highlights settings you can change to improve your security.

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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigns over relationship with employee

Intel keychain

Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, has resigned after it came to light that he was in a relationship with an employee. Shares in the company dropped 1.3 percent at the news.

Although the relationship was entirely consensual, it was deemed to be a violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy which managers must abide by, and it has been brought to light in the context of the #MeToo movement. The current chief financial officer, Robert Swan, is to become interim CEO until a full-time replacement can be found.

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Microsoft acquires machine learning and AI startup Bonsai

Bonsai employees

Seeking to strengthen its artificial intelligence arsenal, Microsoft has announced an agreement to acquire San Francisco-based AI startup Bonsai.

Bonsai already had Microsoft links, having been set up back in 2014 by two former Microsoft engineers, Mark Hammond and Keen Browne. The company specializes in "deep reinforcement learning" which can be used to teach autonomous systems within simulations, and the company sees this tying in with Azure.

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Gamers waiting for virtual reality on Xbox are out of luck

Backtracking on what it said last year, Microsoft has announced that it has no plans to bring either virtual reality or mixed reality experiences to its Xbox console.

Back in March 2017, the company had said that it wanted to bring MR to Xbox users, but now it seems to have changed its mind. Microsoft has not really given any reason for the change of heart, but it has not given up completely on VR or MR.

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Alexa for Hospitality brings Amazon's digital assistant to hotel rooms

Alexa for hospitality

Not content with infiltrating people's homes with its range of Echo devices, Amazon is now looking to elbow its way into hotels with Alexa for Hospitality. Amazon has struck a deal with Marriott International that will see the introduction of Echo devices into rooms.

Guests can use these to play music, contact reception and get information about the hotel -- and both Amazon and guests alike will be hoping there won't be a repeat of the recent privacy slip up that resulted in an Echo recording and sharing someone's conversations.

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Satya Nadella speaks out against 'cruel and abusive' border policy and explains Microsoft's involvement with ICE

Satya Nadella on LinkedIn

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has publicly shared an email he sent to employees, in which he speaks out against current US immigration policy.

Describing the separating of children from their families as "cruel and abusive", he stresses that while Microsoft does work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the work amounts to support for "legacy" services and is in no way related to child separation. The president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, also used a blog post to set out the company position on the matter.

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Google launches Podcasts app for Android

Google Podcasts

Google has never really shown much interest in podcasts -- despite their age and popularity -- but today this changes. The company has launched a new Android app called simply Google Podcasts complete with ubiquitous AI for personalized suggestions.

Available in 47 languages, the app currently provides access to a collection of around two million podcasts, but this number is likely to grow very quickly. Google boasts of integration with Google Assistant and Google Home, the main benefit of which is being able to start a podcast on one device and continue on another.

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Bricked iPhones with 'Error 53' just cost Apple $6.7 million in Australia

Hanging Apple logo

Apple has been hit with an AUS $9 million ($6.7 million) fine for misleading customers in Australia. More than two years ago Apple started to "brick" iPhones that had been fixed at non-authorized third-party repairers, generating an Error 53.

Apple admitted to intentionally preventing certain repaired iPhones and iPads from working for security reasons, but later apologized and issued a fix. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Apple for "misleading or deceptive conduct", and now an Australian court has hit the iPhone-maker with a multi-million dollar fine

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Senate opposes Trump and votes to reinstate US ban on ZTE

ZTE battery closeup

ZTE has had a tough time of things in the US, having been slapped with a Denial Order that forced it to close its main operations. Despite the sanctions, President Trump expressed a desire to get the company back up and running, implementing a huge fine which ZTE agreed to pay in order to be allowed to operate in the US again.

But in a blow to the Trump administration and its work with Chinese president Xi Jinping, the Senate has voted to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to reinstate sanctions on the company.

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Microsoft issues statement distancing itself from ICE's separation of children from parents

Square Microsoft store logo

The separating of children from parents at the US southern border has created international outrage -- and lots of rhetoric from President Trump on Twitter. When Microsoft removed from its website a reference to working with ICE, the company found itself pulled into the political debate.

A blog post from January this year saw Microsoft stating it was "proud" to be working with ICE. When this was spotted, people took to social media to call out Microsoft, making references to the child separation policy; shortly afterwards, the ICE reference was deleted. Now it is back, and Microsoft has issued a statement clarifying its position about border policy.

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Google updates Android Messages so you can send texts from the web

Messages for web

Google is rolling out a series of changes to Android Messages, one of which makes it possible to send text messages from the comfort of your computer. Called "Messages for web" the feature enables users to use a desktop web browser to send SMSes rather than their phone.

While this is almost certainly the biggest and most exciting changes for Messages, Google is also pushing a number of other new features to the app, including Smart Replies, GIF search and link previews.

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Microsoft strengthens its education offerings by acquiring video discussion platform Flipgrid -- and makes it free

Microsoft and Flipgrid

Microsoft has acquired Flipgrid, a social video discussion platform used in classrooms around the world. The acquisition strengthens Microsoft's educational offerings and helps it to better compete with rivals Google and Apple.

Flipgrid is used by million of students and teachers to collaborate on lessons, covering everything from Pre-K to PhD level. The acquisition is great news for schools: Microsoft is slashing the current price tag of $1,000, and making the service free just like Office 365 for Education.

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Apple will automatically share the location of 911 callers in iOS 12

iPhone 911

Apple has announced that with iOS 12, iPhone users in the US will be able to automatically share their location with first responders when they make 911 calls.

Building on its currently-used location technology, Apple says that it will start to use RapidSOS's Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) data with 911 centers.

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