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Communications

Jay Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service Is Fraudulently Inflating Subscriber Numbers, Report Says (digitalmusicnews.com) 20

A new report published by Markus Tobiassen and Kjetil Saeter of Norwegian publication Dagens Naeringsliv is accusing Jay Z's Tidal music streaming service of fabricating their subscriber numbers by creating fake accounts and lying to the media and partners. The company claims to have more than 3 million paying subscribers with more than half of those paying $20-a-month. Digital News Music reports: Tobiassen and Saeter interviewed staffers at TIDAL, as well as partners and confidential sources. And the information that came back was pretty damning. "When 16 of the world's biggest pop stars, one a convicted cocaine smuggler and a former Israeli intelligence officer was not able to obtain enough customers to Jay Z's Tidal, the company began to inflate subscription numbers," the report alleges. DMN spoke this morning with Tobiassen, who offered a translation of the report. "On March 30th of last year, Tidal issued a press release stating that the company had reached 'three million members,'" the report states. "The news story reported worldwide was that Tidal had three million paying subscribers. Tidal also specified to online newspaper The Verge that this figure did not include trial subscribers. This was the last time Tidal reported a total number of subscribers to the public." The only problem with that? "In April 2016, one month after the press release issued by the company claiming three million members, Tidal made payments to the record labels for around 850,000 subscribers. The figure reported internally by Tidal in April is 1.2 million subscribers." The report further states that Tidal itself reported a figure of 1.1 million to the major record labels in late 2016. In other words, nowhere near the numbers reported to media outlets like Digital Music News and Verge.
Books

Amazon, Apple To End Audiobook Exclusivity: EU (marketwatch.com) 16

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple. From a report: The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon's unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store. The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.
EU

Apple Increases App Store Prices By 25% Following Brexit Vote (theguardian.com) 164

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
Communications

Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies (digitaltrends.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.
Movies

Apple Exec Jimmy Iovine Confirms Company's Interest in Making 'Pop Culture' TV Shows (hollywoodreporter.com) 85

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working to bring in veteran producers to help create original content, including TV series and movies. Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine has all but confirmed the report and company's intentions to expand. From a report: "We're going to do whatever hits popular cultural smack on the nose," Iovine said when asked about Apple's reported expansion. Days after The Wall Street Journal's report that Apple plans to expand into original TV series and movies, Apple executive Jimmy Iovine hinted at what that might look like. "At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," he told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know?" Iovine continued when pressed about the report. "We're going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We're going to try."
Android

Headphone Users Rejoice: Samsung Reportedly Not Killing the Galaxy S8's Headphone Jack (thenextweb.com) 79

An anonymous reader writes: Contrary to previous reports, Samsung's upcoming flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone will come with a headphone jack, unlike the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and several other Android smartphones. The news comes from both Sammobile and Android Police. The Next Web reports: "Both Sammobile and Android Police are today reporting that Samsung is not actually killing the headphone jack. Sammobile, appears to be retracting its own report last month suggesting the jack would be dropped thanks to recent case renders, while Android Police has independently confirmed that the S8 will maintain the 3.5mm jack through its own source. In related news, Samsung's display unit may have also just given us our first good look at the S8. While there's a good chance the phone in the video is a generic model (it appears to be a render, rather than a physical object), as CNET points out, it looks an awful lot like the leaks we've seen from the S8 so far. There are also a few curious touches for a something that's supposed to be just a render, including what might be a faint visible antenna line (on the upper left corner) and a couple of LEDs or sensors to the left of the earpiece grill. By the way, there's also a definitely a headphone jack in this render."
Businesses

Head of Sony Entertainment, Michael Lynton, To Step Down (deadline.com) 9

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton has told his employees that he is stepping down from the company. He will however be staying with the company for six months to help in the transition. Lynton's note to the staff reads: Dear Colleagues,

Today I will be announcing my resignation from Sony to focus on my position as Chairman of the Board of Snap Inc. This was not an easy decision for me, and one that I arrived at after long and careful consideration. Sony Corp will be issuing an internal note from Kaz to all Sony global employees as well as a press release describing the details and timing of my transition, which I have included below.

As some of you are already aware, I have been involved with Snapchat since its early days. Given Snapchat's growth -- and my growing role and responsibilities in it -- I recently determined that the time was right to make a change.

I leave Sony with great pride in all we have accomplished together -- from our greatest victories to overcoming our biggest challenges. Together we: Produced terrific films such as American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Social Network, Spider-man, Skyfall and Spectre; and hit TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, The Goldbergs, The Crown and Kevin Can Wait; Grew our worldwide networks business to 178 countries, including India with our ownership of the IPL cricket rights the Ten Sports Network; Completed the Lot's most significant capital improvement projects in decades including the Jack and Harry Cohn buildings, Calley Park and the beautiful new 8-story Akio Morita building, which brought Sony Music and Sony/ATV Music Publishing employees onto the Lot for the first time; Completed the $750 million acquisition of the Michael Jackson Estate's stake in Sony/ATV, making us 100% owners; And triumphed over the most devastating and disruptive cyber-attack in corporate history, keeping studio operations running and not missing a single day of production.

Chrome

Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC (theverge.com) 77

Audiophiles are getting a new way to listen to one of the top formats for lossless music. From a report: Google has begun adding FLAC support to Chrome, and it should be rolling out to the masses very soon. FLAC support is already live in Chrome's beta build and it's live in the current version of Chrome OS, too. If you have local FLAC files or come across one on the web, the added support allows Chrome to open it up in a completely bare-bones music player that takes over the entire tab. It's not exactly elegant, but it works. And it means that Mac users with Chrome installed will have an easy way to play back FLAC files should they come across one. While there are plenty of apps that can handle FLAC -- VLC being a popular one -- no native macOS app is capable of it. Windows 10, on the other hand, includes native support.
Music

Cassettes Are Back, and Booming (fastcompany.com) 564

Long time reader harrymcc writes: By now, it isn't news that vinyl albums continue to sell, even in the Spotify era. But a new report says that sales of music on cassette are up 140 percent. The antiquated format is being embraced by everyone from indie musicians to Eminem and Justin Bieber. Fast Company's John Paul Titlow took a look at tape's unexpected revival, and why it's not solely about retro hipsterism.
Movies

Apple Planning To Make Original TV Shows and Movies as Hardware Sales Soften (venturebeat.com) 130

While investors seem to remain optimistic about the future of Apple, it's no secret that sales of its iconic hardware products have flatlined or fallen over the past year. From a report: We'll have to wait until January 31 to find out how the company performed over the critical holiday period. But for the moment, its most promising category of revenue has been "services," which includes things like Apple Music, and has been on a big winning streak over the past several quarters. Now it appears Apple is getting ready to make an even bigger bet in that category. According to a story just published by the Wall Street Journal, the company "has been in talks with veteran producers in recent months about buying rights to scripted television programs. It also has approached experienced marketing executives at studios and networks to discuss hiring them to promote its content." According to the story, the programming would be part of is Apple Music subscription ($6/month for an individual plan, $9 for a family plan.) The movie bit is deemed to be "more preliminary," according to the Journal.
The Internet

Monopoly May Replace Iconic Pieces With Emoji Faces and Hashtags (cnet.com) 123

Hasbro, the toymaker behind Monopoly, is letting the public decide whether or not they should replace the game's iconic game pieces with new pieces inspired by pop culture and social media. CNNMoney reports: Gamers can visit the Vote Monopoly site and choose from more than 50 new options. The old tokens, including the thimble, top hat and Scottie dog, are also on the table. The voting takes place inside a digital house with shelves and furniture stocked with both classic and newfangled token options. Jazzy music plays in the background as you explore and take a closer look at the figurines. Some aren't too surprising. There's a horse, a sailboat, an airplane, a bike and a helicopter. Two of the stranger options are sliced bread and a fuzzy bunny slipper. Hasbro is offering up a number of tokens that may appeal to tech consumers. There's a cell phone that looks like it came out of the '80s, a television that looks very '50s, and a computer with keyboard that vaguely resembles the first flat-screen iMac. Internet denizens can also vote for a hashtag and emoji options, including a winking smiley-face, thumbs-up symbol, crying-laughing face and a Rich Uncle Pennybags version of an emoji face. Voting is open to internet users worldwide until January 31. The chosen tokens will be part of a fresh Monopoly game due to hit stores this summer, so think long and hard about whether you want to stare at a kissy-face emoji for the next decade or so. A special edition called Token Madness will offer the original tokens as well as the new winners.
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Music

Streaming Now Officially the Number One Way We Listen to Music in America (pitchfork.com) 180

An anonymous reader writes: It's official: according to a new year-end report released by Nielsen, over the course of 2016, streaming became the primary mode of music consumption in the U.S. Overall on-demand audio streams surpassed 251 billion in 2016 -- a 76 percent increase that accounts for 38 percent of the entire music consumption market. Plus, "the on-demand audio streaming share [of total music consumption] has now surpassed total digital sales (digital albums + digital track equivalents) for the first time in history." Nielsen's data is in line with others' findings.
Music

Dell Unveils XPS 27 All-In-One With 10 Speaker Dual 50W Sound System (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid writes: Over the past couple of years, Dell has been driving a redesign effort of its consumer and commercial product lines and has systematically been updating both design signatures and the technology platforms within them. Dell's premium consumer XPS product line, perhaps more so than any other, has seen the most significant design reinvention with the likes of its XPS 13 and XPS 15 notebook line. At CES 2017, Dell announced the XPS 27 7760 all-in-one PC that has a radically new look that draws at least one design cue from its XPS notebook siblings, specifically with respect to the display bezel, or the lack thereof. Though Dell isn't officially branding the touch-enabled version of XPS 27 with an "InfinityEdge" display, the side and top bezel is cut to a minimum, accentuating a beautiful 4K IPS panel. However, the machine's display might not be the most standout feature of the 2017 Dell XPS 27. Under that display, Dell actually expanded things mechanically to make room not only for a Windows Hello capable camera but a 10 speaker sound system that was designed in conjunction with Grammy Award-winning music producer and audio engineer, JJ Puig, that takes the system's audio reproduction and output capabilities to a whole new level. Its sound system is very accurate with dual 50 watt amplifiers at less than 1% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and a 70Hz to 20KHz frequency response. Though the system is currently built on Intel's Skylake platform, Kaby Lake versions are imminent and with discrete AMD Radeon R9 M470X graphics, it has decent gaming and multimedia chops as well.
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Communications

Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio (reuters.com) 303

Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network next week, as it takes the unpopular leap to digital technology. Reuters reports: Critics say the government is rushing the move and many people may miss warnings on emergencies that have until now been broadcast via the radio. Of particular concern are the 2 million cars on Norway's roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say. Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month. Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favor of DAB, which backers say carries less hiss and clearer sound throughout the large nation of 5 million people cut by fjords and mountains. Torvmark said cars were the "biggest challenge" - a good digital adapter for an FM car radio costs 1,500 Norwegian crowns ($174.70), he said. For the same cost, digital radio in Norway allows eight times more radio stations than FM. The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns ($29 million), saps investments in programs.
Displays

Samsung Claims Its New QLED TVs Are Better Than OLED TVs (theverge.com) 190

Samsung recently unveiled its latest flagship televisions at CES 2017, the QLED series. The company is challenging the notion that OLED TVs represent the pinnacle of picture quality in the living room. According to Samsung, the QLED TV represents its best achievement in image quality and viewing experience yet. The Verge reports: Of course Samsung would say that at an event meant to showcase said product. But the company insists it's made very real improvements compared to the flagship TVs it unveiled only a year ago. One of those upgrades pertains to brightness. The QLED TVs reach a peak brightness between 1,500 and 2,000 nits -- up from the 1,000 peak from 2016's lineup. Color reproduction has also been improved. The QLED sets handle DCI-P3 "accurately" and are capable of reproducing "100 percent color volume" -- something Samsung claims to be a world first. "This means they can express all colors at any level of brightness -- with even the subtlest differences visible at the QLED's peak luminance -- between 1,500 and 2,000 nits." Samsung says all of this is possible because it's using a new metal material along with the quantum dot nanocrystals. On the software end, Samsung's 2017 TVs are still powered by Tizen and feature basically the same user interface as last year. But there are some new additions like a sports mode that aggregates scores and other content from your favorite teams and an expanded Music section that lets you Shazam music as it's playing in a TV show and immediately launch that track in Spotify another streaming services. Samsung is also looking to clean up how its TVs look in your living room. New this year is a clear-colored "Invisible Connection cable" that runs from the TV to an external breakout box where you'll find all the HDMI ports and other critical connections (besides power, which is a separate input).
Microsoft

Specs of Qualcomm's First ARM Processor Capable of Running Windows 10 Leaks (mspoweruser.com) 107

Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 835's specs have leaked ahead of its CES reveal. An anonymous reader writes: According to the leaked press release, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 sports the Qualcomm Kryo 280 CPU (quad-core), Qualcomm Adreno 540 GPU, and Qualcomm Hexagon DSP to manage the different workloads. All of this combined together will result in a 27% increase in performance when compared to the previous generation. Qualcomm is also making significant improvements with the Snapdragon 835 when it comes to power consumption. To be precise, the Snapdragon 835 consumes 40% less power than the older generation which is supposed to offer the following: "1+ day of talk time, 5+ days of music playback, and 7+ hours of 4K video streaming. Should your phone need more power, Qualcomm Quick Charge 4 provides five hours of battery life for five minutes of charging." Qualcomm stated in the press release that the Snapdragon also comes with substantial improvements to the graphics rendering and virtual reality. According to the company, the Snapdragon 835 includes "game-changing" enhancements to improve audio, intuitive interactions, and vibrant visuals. The processor also offers 25 percent faster 3D graphic rendering and produces 60X display colors than the Snapdragon 820.
Transportation

Eavesdropping Uber Driver Helps Rescue 16-Year-Old From Her Pimps (washingtonpost.com) 219

Slashdot reader sabri writes "In California, an Uber driver saved a 16 year old girl from human traffickers after he overheard them talk about delivering the girl to a customer." The Washington Post reports: Uber driver Keith Avila picked up a passenger who looked like a 12-year-old girl in a short skirt Monday night. That was the first sign that something was off, he would say later. Two women got into his car with the girl outside a house in Sacramento. Halfway to their destination -- a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove, California -- they asked Avila to turn up the music, he said. Then the women turned to the girl. Avila listened in.

"They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: 'Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,'" Avila said on Facebook Live minutes after he dropped off the passengers, then called police to report the women whom he suspected of prostituting the child. The girl was 16, not 12, Elk Grove police told local news outlets. But Avila's suspicions were right, they said. The teen was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn, and her eavesdropping Uber driver had saved her.

The teen girl was returned to her family, while the two women with her were charged with multiple felonies. The driver had only joined Uber a few weeks earlier, but his Facebook Live video from outside his fare's house has now been viewed more than 240,000 times.
Cellphones

Google and Facebook Dominate The List of 2016's Top Ten Apps (betanews.com) 37

After surveying over 9,000 Android and iPhone users, Nielsen's "Electronic Mobile Measurement" has calculated the 10 most popular apps of 2016. Interestingly, the #1 and #2 most popular apps of the year were Facebook and Facebook Messenger. BrianFagioli writes: Facebook holds the first, second, and eighth spots -- remember, the company owns Instagram too. Google has the most number of spots in the top 10, with three, four, five, six, and seven [YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Play, and Gmail]. Rounding out the bottom of the list is Apple [for Apple Music] and Amazon. Google Play is sort of a weird inclusion, however, as it is the app which downloads other apps -- it probably should have been excluded.

Amazon saw insane growth, seeing a massive 43 percent year-over-year gain. Instagram comes in at second place with 36 percent. Facebook Messenger scores the third spot. The biggest surprise is that Apple Music is the top streaming music app, beating apps like Pandora and Spotify...because other music apps had huge head-starts.

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