Siri, speakers and software: Highlights from the Apple show
Greg Joswiak speaks about the iPad Pro during an announcement of new
products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose,
Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Jose, Calif. (AP) - Siri is getting a
new voice, and the Mac is getting a new name.
Apple unveiled new hardware, including a
Siri-powered speaker, and previewed upcoming iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple
Watch features at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
Here are the highlights:
An internet-connected speaker called HomePod is
coming in December for about $350. The speaker is similar to cheaper
devices from Amazon and Google.
Apple says it’s giving more emphasis to sound
quality, not just smarts. Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw
Research, says the price is good for a high-end audio device. Besides
playing music, Apple’s Siri digital assistant will also respond to
requests for information and other help around the house.
With an upcoming software update for iPhones and
iPads, Siri will learn your habits based on what articles you might be
reading, for instance. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it
will ask if you want to pay using Apple Pay. Google already tries to be
proactive with its Assistant on Android phones and Google Home speaker.
Siri, meanwhile, is getting a new voice. Or make
that new voices, with a male version of Siri getting a refresh, too.
And Apple Watch is bringing Siri front and center.
The smartwatch promises to learn about your routines to figure out what
information to display. That could include a reminder to make a call or
a flight reservation.
Apple says its Safari browser on the Mac will try
to guard your privacy by identifying and blocking data files that track
you as you move from website to website. Another Safari feature will
stop video from automatically playing on websites. The features are part
of the Mac software update this fall, to be called High Sierra. The
current version is just Sierra.
As for HomePod, Apple says that while the speaker’s
always listening, nothing will be sent to Apple’s servers until you say,
“Hey, Siri.” The protection is similar to what Google Home and Amazon’s
Echo speakers already offer. Even then, Apple says it won’t know who you
are - it’ll just get an anonymous ID to help process a response.
Apple is trying to make augmented reality a reality
with new tools for iPhones and iPads. Augmented reality is the blending
of the physical and virtual worlds. In one demo, Apple executive Craig
Federighi pointed a camera at a table on stage and added a virtual
coffee cup and a lamp on the real table. Although Apple is late to the
game, CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber says the new tools come “as the
technology hits an inflection point.”
Apple’s new iMacs are getting brighter displays and
graphics capabilities, which Apple says makes the Mac a great platform
for developing virtual-reality experiences. So far, interest in VR has
been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than
everyday users. Apple’s entry into the market could change that.
Apple is introducing a 10.5-inch iPad Pro in an
attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets. That
size offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model
couldn’t. Yet it isn’t as bulky as the 12.9-inch model. The new iPad
starts at $649 and will start shipping next week.
Apple also unveiled new Macs, addressing complaints
that Apple has let its Mac lineup languish in favor of its
better-selling products, namely the iPhone. New iMacs and MacBook
laptops start shipping Monday. Apple also unveiled the high-end iMac Pro
coming in December starting at about $5,000.
for the iPhone and iPad
With the next version of the iOS system for mobile
devices, messages will sync in the cloud. Only the most recent messages
will be kept on the device to save storage space.
For photos, Apple is replacing JPEGs with a new
format meant to reduce file sizes. Although the format is not exclusive
to Apple, it’s not yet clear how well the photos will work with
non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG. Apple will also
have new tools for organizing photos and creating sharable videos.
Apple is also bringing the ability to pay someone
back through its payment service, Apple Pay, much as PayPal and other
services already do. Before, Apple Pay transactions could be done only
with businesses and institutions.
Apple Maps will get lane guidance for highways and
floor plans for indoor malls and airports. Google Maps already does
And Apple will have a new “do not disturb” mode for
driving. The phone will block most notifications to reduce temptations
behind the wheel.
The free software, iOS 11, is expected in
September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones.
Need cash? Facebook expands
personal fundraising tools
New York (AP) - Facebook is expanding its
fundraising tools that let users ask friends and strangers to give them
money to help pay for education, medical or other expenses.
The company has been testing the
tool, which is similar to online fundraising services such as GoFundMe,
With the latest update unveiled
Wednesday, it has added sports and community fundraisers as options.
It’s also possible to raise money for medical expenses for pets, crisis
relief, funerals, and a slew of other categories.
To start a fundraiser, scroll down
the “menu” icon on mobile until you get to the “fundraisers” category.
On desktop, visit facebook.com /fundraisers. Facebook says it will
review all fundraisers within 24 hours.
There is a fee of 6.9 percent of
the total amount raised plus 30 cents for payment processing, vetting
Microsoft Surface gets battery boost, better viewing angles
Microsoft’s new Surface Pro laptop-tablet hybrid’s stylus will now mimic
pencil shading when tilted, much like the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro
tablets. Along with this, Microsoft plans upgrades to its popular Office
software with new pencil-like features. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
New York (AP) - Microsoft is
refreshing its Surface Pro tablet with longer battery life and faster
The new, fifth-generation device -
simply called Surface Pro - won’t look or feel drastically different
from its predecessor. But Microsoft is hoping its under-the-hood
improvements will help it compete with newer laptop-tablet hybrids from
Samsung and others. Not to mention Apple’s iPad Pro.
The Redmond, Washington, company
made the announcement Tuesday in Shanghai, China, in its first Surface
launch outside New York. It’s a reflection of the company’s expectations
of growth among a population that prizes premium gadgets from American
Microsoft pioneered laptop-tablet
hybrids, also known as 2-in-1s, with the original Surface in 2012. A
keyboard cover turns the tablet into a laptop. But innovation has slowed
down since 2014, when the Surface Pro 3 got a fully adjustable kickstand
to give the screen a broader range of viewing angles, similar to real
laptops. Before, the kickstand was limited to just two angles.
Meanwhile, other companies have
made their own 2-in-1 devices running Microsoft’s Windows 10. That
success contributed to a 26 percent revenue decline in the Surface
business in the most recent quarter. And competition is growing; Samsung
released new Galaxy Book models this week, while Huawei announced one
Tuesday in Berlin.
Jan Dawson, chief analyst at
Jackdaw Research, expects the new Surface will help revive sales.
“The external design isn’t
dramatically different, but there are lots of changes inside,” Dawson
Microsoft promises about 13.5 hours
of battery life, or about 50 percent more than the nine hours on the
previous device, the Surface Pro 4. The processors inside will be
faster, and lower-end models will ditch the fan.
The Surface’s stylus will now mimic
pencil shading when tilted, much like the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro
tablets. Along with this, Microsoft plans upgrades to its popular Office
software with new pencil-like features.
Microsoft will sell the stylus
separately for $100. The new Pro will start at about $800 and will be
available June 15 in about two dozen countries, including the U.S.,
China, Japan, South Korea and much of Europe. A keyboard cover starts at
about $130, or about $170 for a version that feels like fabric rather
than plastic. That brings the cost to more than $1,000.
Microsoft will have a version with
cellular capabilities this summer, but didn’t immediately disclose the
price. Samsung already has one out through Verizon in the U.S. for
$1,300, a price that includes the keyboard and the pen. A comparable
Wi-Fi-only model, out this week, costs $1,130.
Microsoft also recently announced a
laptop - without a detachable screen - aimed at students. That also
comes out on June 15, starting at about $1,000.
Huawei’s new 2-in-1 device, the
MateBook E, will include a keyboard cover but not a pen, which sells for
about $100. The European price is 999 euros ($1,120); the U.S. price
will be released closer to the device’s availability in July.
Zuckerberg urges Harvard grads to build a world of ‘purpose’
Facebook CEO and Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg, center, smiles as he
is introduced before being presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws
degree as Baylor College of Medicine professor Huda Zoghbi, left, and
actor James Earl Jones, second from left, applaud during Harvard
University commencement exercises, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Cambridge,
Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New York (AP) - Mark
Zuckerberg returned Thursday to Harvard, where he launched Facebook and
then dropped out, telling graduates it’s up to them to bring purpose to
the world, fight inequality and strengthen the global community.
“Change starts local. Even global
changes start small - with people like us,” the Facebook CEO said. He
shared stories about graduates such as David Razu Aznar, a former city
leader who led the effort to legalize gay marriage in Mexico City, and
Agnes Igoye, who grew up in conflict zones in Uganda and now trains law
“And this is my story too,”
Zuckerberg added. “A student in a dorm room, connecting one community at
a time, and keeping at it until one day we can connect the whole world.”
Such lofty talk now comes naturally
to Zuckerberg, a 33-year-old billionaire who has committed to giving
away nearly all of his wealth. In February, he sketched out an
ambitious, if vague, vision for Facebook that committed the company to
developing “social infrastructure” that would help build a “global
community that works for all of us.”
But it also strikes a sharp
contrast with the criticism Facebook has taken recently - not so much
for connecting the world (a big chunk of it, anyway) as for failing to
anticipate how vulnerable that connectedness could be to those who abuse
Zuckerberg, who like the graduates
is a millennial, started Facebook in his dorm room in 2004. What began
as a closed networking site for Harvard students is now a global
communications force with nearly 2 billion members. Facebook’s founding
was the subject of a Hollywood movie, “The Social Network,” in 2010.
Facebook’s effect has been
profound. It has connected people who would have never met otherwise,
letting them form supportive networks online and offline. And it has
allowed people to communicate in developing countries even if they don’t
have a phone number or a smartphone.
But it has also served to spread
misinformation bordering on propaganda, hateful views and bullying,
reflecting the worst parts of humanity back to us.
In his commencement speech, in
interviews and in his February manifesto, Zuckerberg is decidedly
optimistic about all that. He’s been saying he wants to make the world
more open and connected for more than a decade now, and he doesn’t
He told the graduates how, when
Facebook’s investors and executives wanted him to sell the company early
on, he resisted. “You see, my hope was never to build a company, but to
make an impact,” he said. But as a young CEO, he never explained this to
his co-workers, and the subsequent fight “tore our company apart.”
“I wondered if I was just wrong, an
impostor, a 22 year-old kid who had no idea how the world worked,”
Zuckerberg said. “Now, years later, I understand that is how things work
with no sense of higher purpose. It’s up to us to create it so we can
all keep moving forward together.”
Later in the speech, Zuckerberg’s
voice cracked with emotion as he talked about a high school student he
mentors who is living in the U.S. illegally. When Zuckerberg asked him
what he wants for his birthday, the student started talking about others
he wanted to help, and asked for a book on social justice.
“Here is a young guy who has every
reason to be cynical,” Zuckerberg said, his eyes welling with tears. “He
wasn’t sure if the country he calls home - the only one he’s known - was
going to deny him his dream of going to college. But he wasn’t feeling
sorry for himself. He wasn’t even thinking of himself.”
If he can do this, Zuckerberg said,
“then we owe it to the world to do our part too.”
Zuckerberg isn’t all talk on this
front. He signed the “Giving Pledge” commitment to donate the majority
of his money in 2010; five years later, he upped that to 99 percent.
Together with his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, he formed the Chan
Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization focused on advancing
science and education.
Zuckerberg follows another famous
Harvard dropout, Bill Gates, who spoke before its graduates a decade
ago. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College in
Oregon, gave Stanford’s commencement speech in 2005, reminding students
to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
In addition to delivering the
speech, Zuckerberg received an honorary degree, 12 years after dropping
out of Harvard, and was subsequently introduced to graduates as “Dr.
Mark Zuckerberg.” Others receiving honorary degrees included the actress
Judi Dench, the composer John Williams (known for “Star Wars,” ‘’Harry
Potter” and many other scores) and Somali human rights activist and
physician Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe.
“If I get through this speech today
it’ll be the first time I actually finish something here at Harvard,”
Zuckerberg said. He did.
What Twitter’s privacy changes mean for you
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New York (AP) - Twitter’s new
tracking of users and more targeting of ads to rake in more money.
Twitter recently reported its first
quarterly revenue decline since going public. That should give you some
clues about the reasons behind the policy changes, which take effect June
Twitter was already tracking users. For
example, if you visited a webpage that had an embedded tweet or a button to
share something on Twitter, you could be tracked and targeted.
With the changes, Twitter expands the
pool of people it can track and lets the company collect more data about
those people when they are visiting sites around the web, said Jules
Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, an industry-backed think
tank in Washington.
For example, the company will now keep
data about users’ web activities for 30 days instead of 10, which allows it
to create more comprehensive profiles of people.
In addition, Twitter will no longer
honor the “Do Not Track” option that lets people say no to being tracked by
the likes of ad and social networks. Many such networks no longer honor that
option anyway. Polonetsky said Twitter had been “one of the rare prominent
brands that respected Do Not Track.”
The short answer is money. A longer
answer? Targeted ads that are tailored to your whims and tastes are more
lucrative than generic ones. That’s the selling point of online advertising,
and the reason why companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter offer their
services for free. The implied understanding is that they will make money
off you by showing you ads.
Research firm eMarketer expects
worldwide digital ad spending to hit $224 billion this year. Google and
Facebook will command a combined $110 billion of this. Twitter, though, is
estimated to get just $2.3 billion, or about 1 percent. Twitter’s investors
are hungry for a larger slice of the pie.
Is this bad
That depends on whom you ask. Twitter,
of course, is giving the impression that it’s a good thing, or at least not
something many users will care about. In a pop-up notification telling users
of the change, Twitter chirps that you will “soon start to see more relevant
Tweets and ads based on your visits to sites with Twitter content.” It says
that the tailored ads you already see will improve and that “we’ve given you
even more control” over your data.
Your next option is to click a
highlighted “sounds good” box, or choose “review settings,” which appears in
less prominent type underneath. Sounds good? Not to privacy advocates.
“Twitter’s announcement is bad news for
online privacy. The company dropped Do Not Track and gave advertisers access
to more user data,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the nonprofit
Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Also, all of the settings now
default to disclosure, which means users have to go in and change their
If you are in the U.S., move to Europe.
Besides achieving your dreams of finally living in a tiny flat in Paris with
a stray cat named Gaston and a mustached baker named Olivier, you will also
have stronger online privacy protections.
Twitter will store data about your web
activities for 30 days now instead of 10, but it won’t do this for users in
the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (Iceland,
Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), because it’s prohibited.
Barring that, go to
http://twitter.com/personalization on a browser; from an app,
click the settings wheel from your profile, then choose “Settings” and
“Privacy and safety.” You can go through the permissions piece by piece and
decide, for example, whether to turn off personalize ads (but still get
Or, you can disable all, prompting a
warning that “Turning this off may make the Tweets and ads you see less
Is that what you really want? Click
“Yes, I’m sure” and that’s that.
Amazon’s streaming software
powers new smart TVs
Amazon’s streaming TV software will appear on a new line of
smart TVs designed to blend streaming TV services and over-the-air channels,
but not cable packages. (Westinghouse Electronics via AP)
New York (AP) - Amazon’s
streaming TV software will appear on a new line of smart TVs designed to
blend streaming TV services and over-the-air channels, but not cable
The TVs from Element Electronics will
be sold under the Element and Westinghouse brands and will cost more than
regular smart TVs from either brand. Officials say the TVs have better
hardware for reliable streaming and aren’t designed for casual viewers who
buy TVs only to never hook them up to the internet.
While Samsung and LG are still
developing their own smart TV systems, many other manufacturers have
abandoned in-house efforts and are turning instead to streaming TV companies
such as Roku, and now Amazon. The in-house efforts have largely been weak
because few streaming services bother designing apps for them, and they
don’t have big teams to look for security threats.
For the new TVs, Amazon’s Fire TV
remote is getting common TV controls such as volume, while the on-screen
menu is being adapted to incorporate live TV. Besides the rows of icons for
various apps and streaming content, there’s now a row just for shows
currently available through an antenna. There’s also a row for connected
devices, such as game consoles and DVD players.
Have cable? You can hook that up to the
TV, but you won’t get the menu integration. You’ll also have to use the
cable’s remote, as the Fire TV one lacks numbers for changing channels. With
over-the-air broadcasts, you do that through the on-screen menu.
Though officials say cable integration
may come, the decision to focus on over-the-air content reflects the growing
practice of “cord-cutting” - ditching cable services in favor of online
streaming services, including the ones offered on the Fire TV.
Prices range from $449 for a 43-inch TV
to $899 for 65 inches. The new TVs, called Amazon Fire TV Edition, will be
capable of displaying sharper video known as 4K resolution, though most TV
shows and movies are available only in high definition, the standard on TVs