Microsoft Reorganization: Windows Out, Cloud In

Windows' reign as king at Microsoft has come to an end. Microsoft's latest reorganization, announced [last week], is a big one -- and its main function is to position the company's focus squarely on cloud technology. Windows has been relegated under the cloud umbrella, as has pretty much everything else in the big tech company's portfolio.

The Redmond company is undergoing a massive reorganization of its engineering teams, the most significant restructuring since CEO Satya Nadella took the helm four years ago.

The shifts de-emphasize the company's flagship operating software and put the spotlight on its growing businesses: Office productivity software, artificial intelligence and cloud technology, which allows users to tap into rented computer power and data storage over the internet.

The reorganization is not necessarily a surprise, said Gartner analyst and former Microsoft employee Ed Anderson. Rather, it's an acknowledgment of a shift that has been happening gradually for years.

"It does fundamentally elevate cloud to be the primary driver for Microsoft going forward," he said.

In a sign of the times, Windows devices chief and longtime Microsoft executive Terry Myerson will leave the company. Cloud boss Scott Guthrie, who has long been leading Microsoft's cloud-computing initiatives, will take over as chief of one of the two new engineering groups announced Thursday.

Myerson, who joined Microsoft after it bought his internet startup in 1996, will stay on for a few months to help with the transition. In a post on LinkedIn, Myerson called the day "emotional," and said he was enthusiastic about Microsoft's future.

Reorganizations are common within Microsoft's huge ranks, but this one marks the end of the long Windows-dominated era.

Nadella's shift in priorities mirrors the company's financial results: Its Azure cloud-computing division grew 98 percent during the second quarter, and Office 365 revenue increased 41 percent.

Windows, on the other hand, saw minimal increases. The...

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iPhone Forced Slowdowns: Users Have an Answer

The days of Apple slowing down iPhones to prevent battery shutdowns are coming to an end. [Last week], Apple released the newest iOS 11.3 version for its iPhones and iPads, which includes expanded battery settings that allow users to check their battery health and turn off Apple's default slowdown setting.

The new battery health settings are offered for phones between iPhone 6 and iPhone 7. IPhones 8 and X will not have the settings, according to Apple.

Apple received a firestorm of criticism in December after admitting that the company did indeed slow down aging batteries to prevent iPhones from unexpectedly shutting down. Apple apologized repeatedly for setting the slowdown as the default. The Cupertino tech giant said that it notified users in advance and that the slowdown of older iPhones was not a ploy to pressure users into upgrading to a newer model, known as planned obsolescence.

"When we did put it out, we did say what it was, but I don't think a lot of people were paying attention," said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a televised interview with ABC in January. "Maybe we should have been clearer as well, and so we deeply apologize for anybody that thinks we had some kind of other motivation."

In addition, Apple has been offering $29 out-of-warranty battery replacements for iPhones as old as iPhone 6 from January until the end of the year. Normally worth $79, the battery replacements are creating long wait times at Apple stores, and some analysts believed that may be affecting iPhone sales.

Since its admission of the battery slowdown, Apple has received heavy scrutiny from governments around the world, including the United States, and from litigious iPhone users. More than 40 lawsuits, many of them seeking class action status, were filed against Apple because of the slowdown.

Consumer watchdog agencies in...

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Dating App Grindr Changes Policy of Sharing Users’ HIV Status

Grindr, a gay dating app, will stop sharing users' HIV statuses with third parties after a report disclosed that the company passed the information on to two vendors.

The West Hollywood company's policy change came after a BuzzFeed report Monday that said personal data was being passed to two outside vendors hired by Grindr to test the performance of its app.

The report comes at a time of heightened anxiety about digital privacy because of the data misappropriation scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that received unauthorized data from millions of Facebook users through an outside app developer.

Grindr's vendors, Apptimize and Localytics, are fed user data that includes HIV statuses, GPS data, phone numbers and e-mail addresses that, when combined, could expose someone's private health information, researchers told BuzzFeed.

In response to an outcry Monday, Grindr will stop sharing users' HIV status to outside vendors, according to someone close to the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The policy change was first reported by Axios.

In a separate statement Monday, Grindr said it would never sell personally identifiable information to third parties, including advertisers. Apptimize and Localytics -- services that help Grindr test features on its platform -- are under contract to safeguard user privacy and security, the company said.

"As a company that serves the LGBTQ community, we understand the sensitivities around HIV status disclosure," said Scott Chen, Grindr's chief technology officer. "Our goal is and always has been to support the health and safety of our users worldwide."

Chen said Grindr, which has more than 3 million users, only shares personal information when necessary or appropriate.

"Sometimes this data may include location data or data from HIV status fields as these are features within Grindr," Chen said. "However, this information is always transmitted securely with encryption, and there are data retention...

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Unusual Approach: Spotify Saves Millions by Direct Listing on Wall Street

Daniel Ek, the chief executive of streaming service Spotify, is clearly a master of understatement. In a blog published ahead of the company's stock market flotation today, he warned employees and customers: "I have no doubt there will be ups and downs."

That is certainly likely to be the case in shares of this business. Markets are choppy enough right now, particularly in shares of technology companies, following Donald Trump's recent public sabre-rattling against the likes of Amazon.

And Spotify is taking things one step further with a very unorthodox approach to floating on the stock market.

Normally with an Initial Public Offering (IPO), companies coming to market hire investment banks to advise on the process, organize a roadshow with would-be investors and help market the shares.

Crucially, these banks also "underwrite" the offer, meaning that they agree -- at a price -- to buy any shares that go unsold at the flotation. This ensures that there is stability in the market when the shares begin trading.

In the case of Spotify, it has opted for a so-called "direct listing". It has hired Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and the boutique investment bank Allen & Company as financial advisers. But they will not be underwriting the issue as there are no new shares being sold.

The shares will simply float on the New York Stock Exchange, with no banks to mop up any excess stock, no-one to set the share price via the underwriting process and no-one to allocate shares to investors.

This approach will save Spotify tens of millions of dollars in fees. But it could mean trading in the shares will be exceptionally volatile as a result. The shares will simply find their own price, depending on how many buyers and sellers there are, while it could take some time for a price even to be...

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Report: Panera’s Web Site Leaked Customer Data for Months

Millions of customer records stored on Panera's website were leaked over a period of eight months, cybersecurity analysts said Monday.

The leaked customer records on PaneraBread.com include names, email and physical addresses, birthdays and the last four digits of the customer's credit card number, Krebs On Security reported.

The fast food chain allows customers to place orders on its website at approximately 2,100 locations around the country.

Krebs On Security said security researcher Dylan Houlihan first discovered the breach and notified Mike Gustavison, Panera's director of information security about the breach on August 2, 2017.

However, eight months after that warning, the customer records were still being leaked.

"The flaw never disappeared," Houlihan told Krebs on Security. "I checked on it every month or so because I was pissed."

Panera said it is investigating the breach and said the report of millions of customers exposed is false and the number is "fewer than 10,000."

"Following reports today of a potential problem on our website, we suspended the functionality to repair the issue," the statement said. "Our investigation is continuing, but there is no evidence of payment card information nor a large number of records being accessed or retrieved. Our investigation to date indicates that fewer than 10,000 consumers have been potentially affected by this issue and we are working diligently to finalize our investigation and take the appropriate next steps."

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Acer’s New Ultra-Thin Desktop Arriving Soon in U.S.

Set to arrive in U.S. stores later this month, Acer's new Aspire S24 desktop features a streamlined profile that's just 0.235 inches thick. The base also supports wireless charging for mobile devices. Powered by an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and with a 23.8-inch display, the S24 is priced starting at $879.99.

Unveiled in August during the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, the Aspire S24 (pictured above) has won design awards in Taiwan, where Acer is headquartered, and in Japan. The Taiwan Excellence Award highlighted the hyper-slim profile and user-friendly display of the all-in-one device, while the Japan Good Design Award singled out the S24 for its "geometric lines and simple design."

'Slimmest-Ever' Desktop

Describing the S24 all-in-one as its "slimmest ever," Acer said the new desktop is designed to be both functional and stylish. The company said the thin design also helps to free up desk space, as does the base support for Qi wireless charging, which reduces the need for extra plugs and cables.

In a statement, Frank Chang, senior director of stationary products for Acer America, touted the S24's "elegant aesthetics and convenient feature set." He added, "The ultra-slim form factor and wireless charging free up desk space, while ample power delivers smooth performance."

The desktop's thin display also features a narrow bezel of just 0.106 inches, with a black and gold color scheme for "luxurious appeal." In addition, the Full HD screen uses Acer's ExaColor, BluelightShield and Flickerless technologies to optimize color saturation and contrast and reduce blue light and flickering that can bother eyes and disturb sleep.

The screen is supported by a tiltable display that can be angled at anywhere from -5 degrees to 25 degrees, and offers 178-degree viewing and a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio.

1 TB of Storage

Offering 12 GB of memory and...

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No Joke: Tesla Stock Drops After Elon Musk Jokes About Bankruptcy

Tesla Inc. stock dropped more than 7% on Monday morning as the maker of electric cars comes out of a week of bad news -- including a big recall of Model S cars and an investigation into a fatal crash of a Model X SUV -- and investors expect the company will announce disappointing delivery numbers for its Model 3 car.

Tesla shares were down 7.5% at $246.11 around 8 a.m. PDT. They have sunk more than 20% this year.

Chief Executive Elon Musk made light of Tesla's troubles, tweeting an April Fools' joke on Sunday that the Palo Alto company had gone "completely and totally bankrupt" despite efforts to raise money, "including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter eggs."

"There are many chapters of bankruptcy and, as critics so rightly pointed out, Tesla has them *all*, including Chapter 14 and a half (the worst one)," Musk tweeted Sunday.

He followed up that tweet with one showing a staged photo of himself against the side of a vehicle, surrounded by a cardboard box that read "Bankwupt!" written in black marker. The text accompanying the photo read: "Elon was found passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by 'Teslaquilla' bottles, the tracks of dried tears still visible on his cheeks."

The joke did little to quell investors' concerns.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said it would investigate the fatal crash of a Model X SUV in Northern California. The vehicle hit a highway barrier near Mountain View on March 16 and then caught fire. Tesla said later in the week that the car's semiautonomous Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash and that the driver had his hands off the wheel for six seconds.

An NTSB spokesman said Monday that the agency is "unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla."...

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Is Snapchat Following in Facebook’s Data Leak Footsteps?

Snapchat is building a way for people to use their Snapchat accounts to connect with third-party apps. The idea, in theory, would let Snapchat users grant outside companies access to their Snapchat data to help personalize other services.

If that's the case -- and it looks like it is, based on these screenshots Mashable published -- it would mean that Snap is building out the same kind of API that just got Facebook into a whole mess of trouble.

You can't make these things up.

Mashable saw a beta version of Snapchat with a new section called "Connected Apps," with text that reads, "These apps are connected to your Snapchat account. Choose an app to control what it has access to."

Snapchat currently has an advertising API so people can buy ads through third-party dashboards, but it doesn't let people use their Snapchat account on other apps, or help people connect with their Snapchat friends on other platforms.

Facebook does, and has for years. An old version of that API, which allowed outside developers to collect data from users without their consent, is at the center of the company's entire Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The fact that Snapchat is considering sharing some data with outsiders is interesting in general, but particularly interesting given the recent news about Facebook.

There are a lot more questions than answers about the potential product. For example, what would connecting your Snapchat account to another app actually grant that developer? Would they have access to your contact list or private Snap messages? Would Snapchat let you post back to your account from other services?

A Snap spokesperson declined to comment, and the company is likely thinking a lot about those very questions, given the current climate around privacy sharing.

Hopefully, Snapchat will learn from Facebook's mistakes whenever it decides to roll this out.

Until now, Snap...

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Online Retailers Aim To Be the Next Private-Label Juggernaut

In Andrea Bright's home, Kleenex tissues, Charmin toilet paper and Glad trash bags have all been replaced by one brand: Prince & Spring.

Never heard of it? It's the 3-year-old house brand from Boxed.com, one among many new lines from online retailers vying to be the next private-label juggernaut. Think Costco's Kirkland Signature or Kroger's Simple Truth, but for online shoppers only.

Online retailers are creating their own brands for the same reason brick-and-mortar stores have long done so: They make a bigger profit, and the items help attract and keep customers. Jet.com launched Uniquely J last fall. Amazon now has Wickedly Prime, AmazonBasics and several other brands. And one new website, Brandless.com, has gone even further. Adamant that it's not a private label, it nonetheless sells only its own goods such as toothpaste, tampons and trail mix.

For shoppers, who may see the new brands atop their search results, the online-only store labels can offer cost savings on basics, organic items they can't find in nearby stores, or a change from products they see everywhere.

Bright, an academic counselor from Mattoon, Illinois, started buying Prince & Spring products about two years ago. They cost less, she says, and she finds them to be "very good quality."

Since online retailers don't have store shelves, they find other ways to get their labels in front of customers. Sites design packaging that pop on screens (Jet, for example, hired a tattoo artist for Uniquely J coffee labels). Some use organic ingredients or recycled materials to stand apart, while others ship boxes of free samples to hook shoppers.

In a box from Jet last December, Rachel Simpson got freebies: two Uniquely J sauces, including a Sriracha one.

"That was a pleasant surprise," says Simpson, a data entry clerk who lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas. She frequently buys another brand of Sriracha...

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Dilemma for Small Businesses: Raise Prices or Absorb Inflation?

Higher energy prices and borrowing costs make it more expensive than last year for Bill Savickas to operate his wholesale produce business -- especially since it's hard to pass the increases on to his customers.

"No one wants to be the first in the industry to raise rates and then look like the bad guy," says Savickas, the owner of Tampa, Florida-based Yankee Produce Co.

While inflation overall has been tame the past few years, economists including those on the Federal Reserve Board forecast an acceleration in price increases this year. That's going to put more pressure on small businesses that don't have the big revenue cushions that larger companies do to help absorb costs. Smaller businesses also don't have the negotiating power to get better prices from vendors. And many have already been contending with rising costs, particularly for labor and energy.

Yankee Produce uses big trucks to haul and deliver the fruit, vegetables and other food it sells. But nationwide diesel prices are up an average of nearly 30 cents a gallon from a year ago, which makes filling up an average tractor-trailer nearly $100 more expensive than it was in early 2017. The difference comes out of profit.

"I'm taking home significantly less money on the same amount of sales as I had a year ago," Savickas says.

He's also facing higher borrowing costs. The interest on his business line of credit was in the 6 percent range when the Fed was keeping rates stable, but now it's between 7 percent and 7.5 percent. And after an increase last week, many economists expect the Fed to raise interest rates two more times this year.

"It's changing by thousands," Savickas says of his interest expenses. "That only comes from one place, my paycheck."

Wholesale prices, those paid by companies, were up 2.8 percent in February...

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