Netflix plans a choose-your-own-adventure ‘Black Mirror’


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Netflix is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end. The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private. Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of "Black Mirror," the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December. Continue reading at AdAge.com

VW steps up digital push connecting cars through Microsoft cloud


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Microsoft Corp. and Volkswagen are set to strike a deal to use the U.S. software giant's cloud technology to connect the auto manufacturer's entire vehicle fleet as the world's biggest carmaker steps up its transformation into digital and mobility services. VW will channel all of its digital offerings through Microsoft's Azure software, creating the world's largest automotive cloud of its type in an effort that'll help streamline future developments, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company said Friday in a joint statement. By 2020, more than 5 million new cars per year will connect using the software. The two companies didn't disclose the value of the deal. "The strategic partnership with Microsoft will turbocharge our digital transformation," said VW Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess. "We will play a key role in shaping the future of auto-mobility." Continue reading at AdAge.com

Facebook says security breach affected about 50 million accounts


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Facebook says it discovered a security breach earlier this week that affected almost 50 million accounts. The company says it has fixed the breach, which allowed hackers to take over people's accounts. The social-media network said in a statement Friday that it has told law enforcement authorities about the breach. Shares declined about 3 percent on the news. There was a loophole in Facebook's code for a feature called "View As" that let people see what their account looks like to someone else. The vulnerability allowed people to steal access tokens -- digital keys that keep people logged into Facebook so they don't need to re-enter passwords. Once logged in, the attackers could take control. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Barstool Sports CEO defends site against harassment claims


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Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini, a woman overseeing a controversial and male-dominated business, defended the sports website following a Daily Beast article describing a history of sexual harassment and cyberbullying. In a blog post, Nardini acknowledged that employees of Barstool, which is majority owned by the Chernin Group, "make mistakes." But she said Barstool's politically incorrect commentary isn't mean-spirited and is why the site has developed a devoted fan base. "We are offensive and people will be offended," she said. "If you believe there is malicious intent and an agenda behind it, we'll never convince you otherwise." Continue reading at AdAge.com

Instagram founders exit Facebook as Zuckerberg tension grows


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The founders of Instagram are leaving Facebook after growing tensions with CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the direction of the photo-sharing app, people familiar with the matter said. The stock dropped 2 percent in pre-market trading Tuesday. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who have been at the company since Instagram's acquisition by Facebook in 2012, had been able to keep the brand and product independent while relying on Facebook's infrastructure and resources to grow. Lately, they were frustrated with an uptick in day-to-day involvement by Zuckerberg, who has become more reliant on Instagram in planning for Facebook's future, said the people, who asked not to be identified sharing internal details. Without the founders around, Instagram is likely to become more tightly integrated with Facebook, making it more of a product division within the larger company than an independent operation, the people said. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Apple, Salesforce join forces to boost mobile business apps


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Apple Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. announced a partnership Monday that aims to increase the number of mobile applications for businesses available on iPhones and iPads. As part of the agreement, Salesforce is updating its app with Apple's latest features, including integrating it with digital voice assistant Siri, Face ID security and Business Chat, an iMessage customer service function. The companies are also working on a software development kit that will more easily allow businesses to write apps for iPhones and iPads that run on the Salesforce platform. "Einstein could not be more excited to be friends with Siri!," Salesforce Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff tweeted. "This is the best of both worlds." Continue reading at AdAge.com

Toyota agrees to add Android auto in its cars


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Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to add Android Auto to its vehicles, according to a person familiar with the matter, ending years of resistance to the Google infotainment software due to safety and security concerns. For the first time, Toyota will allow Android Auto devices to connect directly to its cars, after announcing compatibility with Apple Inc.'s CarPlay in January. Previously both platforms could only connect with Toyota vehicles using SmartDeviceLink, a telematics system developed by Ford Motor Co. that controls how Android Auto and CarPlay look on the dash and limits their access to car data. The addition of Android Auto may attract customers who had stayed away from Toyota vehicles because of the lack of connectivity. More than 80 percent of smartphones use the software from Alphabet's Google, with the rest using Apple's iOS system, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. An announcement could come as early Continue reading "Toyota agrees to add Android auto in its cars"

Adobe to buy Marketo for $4.75 billion in marketing push


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Adobe Systems agreed to acquire software maker Marketo Inc. for $4.75 billion, bolstering its marketing tools in a bid to compete against Salesforce.com Inc. and Oracle Corp. in a fast-growing business. The deal, which would be Adobe's largest acquisition ever, is expected to close during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018, the San Jose, California-based company said Thursday in a statement. Adobe, the maker of image-editing tool Photoshop, has sought to develop a software suite that includes advertising, analytics and e-commerce programs. Marketo, owned by Vista Equity Partners, provides one of the last pieces of that puzzle. Adobe purchased Magento Commerce for $1.7 billion in June to enter the market for e-commerce. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Amazon promotes new gadgets, vision for smart homes powered by Alexa


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Amazon unveiled its vision for smart homes powered by the Alexa voice assistant, with a dizzying array of new gadgets and features for almost every room in the housefrom a microwave oven to a security camera and wall clock. The Seattle internet giant is pushing Alexa more deeply into customers' lives, hoping to popularize technology that has yet to go mainstream and connecting people more to Amazon's universe of things to buy. CEO Jeff Bezos sees voice as the next interface linking people and machines, like a mouse on personal computers and touchscreens on smartphones. The $50 hockey puck-shaped Dot is one of Amazon's best-selling devices, and with sound that Amazon describes as 70 percent better, it's going after audiophiles on Sonos turf. Amazon also introduced a subwoofer to go along with existing Echo products as well as a pair of amplifiers that work like audio control centers for the Continue reading "Amazon promotes new gadgets, vision for smart homes powered by Alexa"

ESPN says its new streaming service has passed 1 million subscribers


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Walt Disney Co. said its new ESPN+ streaming service passed 1 million paid subscribers in the first five months, in line with other new streaming businesses. The service, which costs $5 a month, is an crucial test of Disney's efforts to establish a direct link to consumers at a time when more people are watching TV on demand through smartphones and other mobile devices. ESPN+ offers thousands of hours of live programming, including professional hockey, baseball and soccer, as well as college sports that aren't available on ESPN's main cable networks. ESPN also says signed-in subscribers to ESPN+ won't see display ads or pre- or post-roll video ads anywhere on ESPN.com or the ESPN app. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Amazon may open up to 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021


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Amazon is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new AmazonGo cashierless stores in the next few years, according to people familiar with matter, an aggressive and costly expansion that would threaten convenience chains like 7-Eleven, quick-service sandwich shops like Subway and Panera Bread, and mom-and-pop pizzerias and taco trucks. CEO Jeff Bezos sees eliminating meal-time logjams in busy cities as the best way for Amazon to reinvent the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, where most spending still occurs. But he's still experimenting with the best format: a convenience store that sells fresh prepared foods as well as a limited grocery selection similar to 7-Eleven franchises, or a place to simply pick up a quick bite to eat for people in a rush, similar to the U.K.-based chain Pret a Manger, one of the people said. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment. The company unveiled its first cashierless Continue reading "Amazon may open up to 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021"

This is the weirdest driverless vehicle you’ve ever seen


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It looks scary and weird, and is designed to come knocking at your door. French carmaker Renault SA unveiled on Wednesday the EZ-Pro, an autonomous vehicle of the future that will deliver food to your place late at night or parcels to your office during the day. The massive, gray robot moving on square-looking wheels is a concept slated to hit the roads around 2030. While it won't need a driver, the EZ-Pro will have a concierge to help with the logistics of distributing online orders. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Amazon probed by EU on data collection from rival retailers


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Amazon risks following in the footsteps of Google after the European Union's antitrust chief said regulators are asking how the online retailer is treating smaller rivals trading on its own website. After fining Google billions of euros, the EU is checking how Amazon gathers information on sales made by competitors on Amazon Marketplace and whether that gives it an edge when it sells to customers, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters at a press conference in Brussels. While she stressed that the EU investigation of Amazon is at a very early stage, she said her team is "trying to understand this issue in full." Continue reading at AdAge.com

Facebook can’t settle an ad bias claim, draws new complaint


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Facebook hasn't been able to resolve a two-year-old lawsuit alleging that its platform enables race-based ad targeting and now faces new claims that it allows employers to tailor ads to illegally discriminate against women. Lawyers with Outten & Golden who worked on a gender-bias complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday are still in talks with the social networking giant to try to settle a 2016 lawsuit filed by the firm. It alleges that Facebook's technology let advertisers target groups by race in violation of California civil rights laws. A federal judge said in August that he would allow no more postponements beyond Tuesday after the 2016 case was put on hold months ago for mediation before he orders the litigation to proceed. Peter Romer-Friedman, an Outten & Golden attorney, said there's no settlement and that mediation will continue in October. Continue reading at AdAge.com

New ‘Call of Duty’ release energizes Activision shares


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Activision Blizzard's recent stock gains may be a sign that the company's new Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is ready to take on Fortnite in the fight for "battle royale" gamers. Blackout, the newest style of play in the billion-dollar Call of Duty franchise, has impressed analysts in beta testing, and the YouTube trailer has more than 4 million views ahead of the game's Oct. 12 release. The new mode "should be highly engaging and could later be monetized," according to Goldman Sachs analyst Christopher Merwin. Analysts expect further upside to Activision shares through the holiday shopping season. The stock has rebounded about 25 percent from its April lows after Fortnite's popularity triggered a broad sell-off in video game stocks. The free game helped spark interest in the battle-royale mode, where 100 people play at once. Electronic Arts is also planning a battle-royale mode for its upcoming Battlefield V Continue reading "New ‘Call of Duty’ release energizes Activision shares"

Time Magazine purchased by Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and wife Lynne


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Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne agreed to acquire Time magazine from Meredith for $190 million in cash, joining Jeff Bezos among tech billionaires buying venerable print publications. The move thrusts the brash 53-year-old entrepreneur, who helped lead the shift of software to an on-demand model, into a new role: media baron. It's a transaction reminiscent of Bezos's $250 million acquisition of the Washington Post in 2013. That purchase brought Bezos a Pulitzer Prize-winning, 140-year-old newspaper but also put him in the cross hairs of President Donald Trump, who has called the Post an "expensive lobbyist" for Amazon. Continue reading at AdAge.com

Musk signs up mystery passenger to take rocket trip around moon


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Elon Musk's rocket company signed up its first passenger for a flight around the moon, taking a giant leap toward commercializing space travel -- at least in terms of consumer demand. The person's identity will be revealed on Monday, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said in a tweet. Asked whether he'd be the first passenger, Musk -- who's also the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. -- posted an emoji of a Japanese flag. SpaceX has signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehiclean important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who's flying and why on Monday, September 17. pic.twitter.com/64z4rygYhk Continue reading at AdAge.com

Adobe shows strong growth, moves to appeal to hobbyists via mobile apps


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Adobe, the maker of Photoshop, gave a sales forecast that topped analysts' estimates, signaling that strong demand for its creative products continues to drive growth, even as the company pushes more into software for businesses. Revenue in the current quarter will be about $2.42 billion, the San Jose, California-based company said Thursday in a statement. Total revenue increased 24 percent to $2.29 billion in the fiscal third quarter. To power future growth, the company has launched more mobile apps to boost its appeal among hobbyists. The software maker has also pursued a strategy to make its traditional apps available on mobile devices, starting with Photoshop next year. Continue reading at AdAge.com