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Moto X could have price slashed to $100 by Christmas, $50 for wooden covers

When Motorola announced it’s first flagship since becoming part of Google’s empire, it was to mixed response. But, if evleaks is right, as is often the case, then a forthcoming $100 price-drop could suddenly change a few minds. Currently, the customizable phone, that listens to your every word, will set you back $199 on your network of choice, so a drop to $100 on contract — reportedly just in time for Christmas — could see this rise up the gift lists. Oh, and those wooden covers? Our leaker claims will come with a $50 price tag, for those that want the natural look this winter.

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Google

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Source: @evleaks (Twitter)

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Project Loon simulations test internet from above the clouds, virtually

To make sure Google’s Project Loon is more internet via balloon than pie in the sky, the search giant turned to data simulations. Loon Rapid Evaluator Dan Piponi’s goal was to determine the possibility of a “nicely spaced flock of balloons” to provide reliable airborne internet. Proper spacing is key for this because if the gaps are too wide, coverage will be spotty — the opposite of what the initiative is hoping to achieve. He iterated “hundreds” of times using publicly available wind info to visualize how different stratospheric factors would affect balloon travel and found that yes, they could indeed be evenly distributed. Piponi posited that in the future, the balloons could have information about what other balloons are doing around them and adjust spacing on their own, accordingly. If you ask us, that sounds like the internet of things is taking to the clouds.

Filed under: Internet, Google

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Source: Project Loon (Google+)

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Google Confirms It Has Acquired Android Smartwatch Maker WIMM Labs

Google has confirmed it acquired WIMM Labs last year, a company that previously made an Android-powered smartwatch before shuttering operations in 2012. At the time a message on its website said it had entered into an exclusive partnership without releasing further details, but it’s now clear that partner was Google, rather than Apple as some had initially speculated. Google’s WIMM Labs acquisition was reported earlier by Gigaom.

Google is rumoured to be developing a smartwatch of its own, with patents turning up earlier this year (filed in 2011), and a report by the FT that claimed Google’s Android team was in the process of developing such a device. Google has also hinted at Android powering a range of wearable devices in the past, when CEO Larry Page let slip during a quarterly earnings call this year that Glass runs on its smartphone and tablet OS, and that Android is “pretty transportable across devices”. Google has also long had bigger ambitions for Android than just pushing it onto phones and tablets, with TV set-top boxes, in-car tech, home automation and wearables all areas where it’s actively encouraging Android to spread.

WIMM Labs started out building Android-based platforms for wearable displays, akin to Google Glass, and then created the WIMM One in 2011: a smartwatch powered by Android 2.1 that was aimed at developers as a sort of concept flagship ahead of a broader consumer launch. The WIMM One used Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g for connectivity, had 256 MB of RAM plus a 667MHz processor, and used a screen design that refreshed once per minute to conserve battery life. It also supported apps via a “Micro App Store” — installed and managed by users via a web-based dashboard. Android developers were offered custom APIs for adapting their software to the WIMM One’s tiny, 16-bit colour screen.

Google is not commenting further on the acquisition at this point, beyond providing confirmation that it picked up WIMM Labs in 2012. If Mountain View is building its own smartwatch it’s unlikely to beat its Android OEM partner Samsung to a launch, as the Korean company’s Galaxy Gear device is probably going to be unboxed next week in Berlin at a September 4 event. Plenty of other Android-powered smartwatches are also entering the frame via crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and also cropping up on the roadmaps of other Android OEMs. Meanwhile Apple’s rumoured iWatch remains elusive.

If Google isn’t building its own smartwatch hardware, acquiring WIMM Labs could be a way to help it develop a custom version of Android designed for wrist-mounted wearables, which it could then provide to OEMs the same way it currently does with Android proper. Given the amount of interest in smartwatches from OEMs big and small, that could be the better strategy for longterm platform growth.

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HTC's exiting designers interrogated for expense fraud and stealing trade secrets

Earlier today, several top designers at HTC were arrested in Taipei under suspicion of fraudulent expense claims, as well as stealing trade secrets ahead of leaving the company to run a new mobile design firm in both Taiwan and mainland China. Five people were interrogated, with the most notable ones being Vice President of Product Design Thomas Chien (pictured above), R&D director Wu Chien Hung and design team senior manager Justin Huang (who also personally sketched out the One’s design). Chien and Wu have been taken into custody, whereas the others were released on bail. Their offices were also raided yesterday for the investigation.

Reports say HTC chairwoman Cher Wang personally filed a complaint to Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau, which has since learned that Chien, Wu and Huang planned to set up a new design company aimed at the mainland Chinese market, and that they would resign after claiming their mid-year bonuses yesterday. The real beef HTC has here is that it apparently caught Chien secretly downloading files related to the upcoming Sense 6.0 UI design, and then shared them with external contacts via e-mail.

The trio is also accused of making false commission fee claims for the One’s aluminum chassis design. While the design was done in-house, the three men used an external design firm to invoice HTC for over US$334,000 worth of commission fee between May and July, and then split the money between themselves.

We reached out to HTC for a statement on this matter, but the spokesperson didn’t have much to provide at this moment:

“The matter is under investigation by relevant authorities. We therefore refrain from further comments.”

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, HTC

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Source: UDN (1), (2), China Times

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Facebook's Windows Phone beta updated to work on WP7 too

There was a time when Windows Phone 7 users could only look on as WP8-using peers Like status updates on their newer and shinier Facebook app. Not anymore. An update to the Beta version is now ready for download, bringing to the table a user interface similar to the WP8 version that meshes well with the platform’s aesthetics. Those who’ve been waiting for the update forever can hit the source link below — it’s available for both platforms, so WP8-toting folks can also join the party.

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Facebook

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Source: Facebook (Windows Phone Market)

Gel-based ionic speaker makes music from a clear stretchy membrane

In what is perhaps the most science-fiction worthy story of the week, scientists at Harvard have created a gel-based speaker that is both clear and stretchy, able to play music while demonstrating the abilities of ionic conductors. To show off its capabilities, the scientists used it to play the “Morning” prelude from Peer Gynt. You […]

Target Ticket video service reportedly to launch for consumers soon

Target has been beta testing a video rental and download service called Target Ticket — a service similar to Walmart’s Vudu and Redbox Instant — with select individuals, something that will change soon. Reportedly, workers of the franchise have received notification that the service will soon launch for the public, and with it will be […]

US agencies performed 231 offensive cyber-ops in 2011, leak reveals

This week has seen a new batch of documents swiped by Edward Snowden hit the media, with The Washington Post leaking a barrage of information in recent days. Among this information was data about a hacking collective the NSA has for targeting foreign subjects, and that was followed up today with information stating US agencies […]

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Washington Post report details how often security agencies break into other networks

The latest national security related revelation to come from the documents leaked by Edward Snowden is an account of how offensive computer operations work, and how many there are. The Washington Post reports that in 2011, 231 took place with about three quarters of them against “top-priority” targets, which its sources indicate include Iran, Russia, China and North Korea. Also interesting are details of software and hardware implants designed to infiltrate network hardware, persist through upgrades and access other connected devices or networks. The effort to break into networks is codenamed Genie, while the “Tailored Access Operations” group custom-builds tools to execute the attacks. One document references a new system “Turbine” that automates control of “potentially millions of implants” to gather data or execute an attack. All of this access isn’t possible for free however, with a total cyber operations budget of $1.02 billion which includes $25.1 million spent this year to purchase software vulnerabilities from malware vendors. Get your fill of codenames and cloak-and-dagger from the article posted tonight, or check out the “Black Budget” breakdown of overall intelligence spending.

Filed under: Internet

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Source: Washington Post (1), (2)

Microsoft avoids proxy hassle by striking cooperation agreement with ValueAct Capital

Microsoft has announced a cooperation agreement with ValueAct Capital, a shareholder with a 0.8-percent stake in the company and a designation as one of Microsoft’s largest shareholders. Under this cooperation agreement, ValueAct Capital has been given an option to join Microsoft’s board and will be given regular meetings with the company’s directors and executives. A […]

iPad mini rentals offered to fliers for the first time in the US by Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has announced that it will offer iPad Mini rentals to fliers in the United States, making it the first domestic airline to do so. The tablet will be offered on all of the carrier’s Boeing 767-300 aircraft, with the current portable entertainment systems on all of its 767s being replaced by the Apple […]

Facebook “Trending” box in testing as Twitter-aping continues

Facebook is trialling a new “Trending” topics section pulling together current hot topics on the social network, in a move that is unlikely to do anything to dismiss accusations that the site is copying Twitter. The new section shows around five currently topical subjects in the upper right corner of the Facebook news feed, though […]

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Former Waywire CEO Nate Richardson Joins AOL As President Of AOL Live

A few weeks ago we reported that Nate Richardson, the CEO and co-founder of Waywire, would be leaving the company as it makes a strategic shift from content creation to content curation. Well now we know where he’s landed: Richardson has joined our parent company AOL* as the President of AOL Live, TechCrunch has learned.

Richardson was one of the co-founders of Waywire, along with Newark mayor and Senate candidate Cory Booker and Sarah Ross. The company originally set out to focus on creating its own high-quality video content, but recently shifted direction to become more of a personalized hub for curated content. Richardson exited the company while the curation site was still in beta, and we’ve heard Waywire is looking to announce a new CEO soon.

We heard rumors that Richardson was being courted by AOL around the time of his departure from Waywire, but apparently he hadn’t joined the company at that time. That said, the decision to become part of AOL isn’t totally surprising, as Richardson has a long history of working in media. In addition to serving as the CEO of Waywire, years ago he had also been the CEO of ContentNext Media, former home of tech blogs such as paidContent and MocoNews.

Joining the AOL team also means that Richardson will be reunited with my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss, AOL Brand Group CEO Susan Lyne. Those two worked together while Lyne was CEO of Gilt Groupe and Richardson held various roles at the company, including Gilt City president and GM of Gilt Groupe’s Men’s section.

At AOL Live, Richardson will oversee the new live streaming video channel that the company is putting together. That channel has yet to officially launch, but the idea seems to be to offer up a continuous lineup of news and interviews that will match the type of content you’d expect to see on the AOL.com homepage. So lots of celebrity and entertainment news, sprinkled with light doses of sports, finance, and quirky lifestyle stories.

There will be lots of opportunity for AOL to experiment with that channel, as the company did when it held an open casting call for anchor auditions. Over the course of two days in June, AOL had anchor hopefuls come in and read the news of the moment, with a hilarious hodgepodge of characters swinging by the studio to try out.

The live auditions weren’t the only experiment that AOL Live will be testing out — apparently the company sees an opportunity to have live brand messages interspersed in the content, in addition to the usual pre-roll ads that will appear when someone starts up the stream.

The hope is that viewers will watch AOL Live in the same way they might leave daytime TV on while going about their day. Lyne told Adweek a few months ago that viewers could eventually get into the habit of leaving a live AOL player on minimized all day at work.

Anyway, it all sounds like an interesting new endeavor for Richardson.

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* While we’ve been told that TechCrunch is an integral part of the AOL franchise, neither AOL PR nor Richardson responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

But hey, it’s the Friday before a holiday weekend. I get it.

Twitter’s General Counsel to step down, look for work elsewhere

Twitter‘s General Counsel Alexander Macgillivray has announced that he will soon step down from his position in the company, handing the reigns over to his soon-to-be replacement Vijaya Gadde. He won’t be completely leaving the company initially, instead taking up the position of adviser for things like public policy and corporate development while looking for […]

Ars does Soylent, Day 4: The Soylent-powered man

Three days ago, Senior Reviews Editor Lee Hutchinson took a vow to spend a week eating nothing but Soylent, a nutritionally complete meal replacement created by engineer and entrepreneur Rob Rhinehart. He’s documenting his freedom from solid food by day. Read about Day 3 here.

Closing out day 3

As you can see in the video below, Matt and Steve came over as promised and a wonderful time was had by all. Matt was less than impressed with Soylent’s mouthfeel; after three full days, I’ve become used to it, but his description of it being like “a little kid was playing in the dirt and spilled his Purple Drank in the dirt and then slurped it up” isn’t inaccurate.

According to the latest Soylent blog entry, the chalky texture is the result of the “mesh size” of Soylent’s rice protein. Matt and I seem to mind it more than some past Soylent beta testers have, but Rob Rhinehart and crew are aware and are looking at a smaller-sized rice protein as they near a shipping product.

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Ceton Echo Windows Media Center extender won't support Android after all

Around nine months ago Ceton unexpectedly announced plans to support the Android operating system and apps on its $179 Echo Windows Media Center extender, but now that’s not happening. According to the company, Android is “up and running” on Echo hardware in its labs — we saw screenshots back in February — but early beta tests with home users showed a problem with an internal component. That flaw apparently causes a failure to update in some cases, and since efforts to find a workaround have been so far unsuccessful Ceton is shelving the project (presumably alongside its Q DVR). There’s no question this is disappointing for Echo users that expected the feature, but the possibility of a bricked box seem worth avoiding. We haven’t talked about the Echo much since it came out of beta with a fix for 1080i output issues — if you’re an owner then let us know if you were (still) waiting for Android, or if you’ve moved onto another solution like Roku, Ouya or Chromecast.%Gallery-slideshow47995%

Filed under: Home Entertainment, HD

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Source: Ceton Blog

Google Project Loon explains smart balloons for flocking internet

Google borrowed flocking patterns from birds for early design of its ambitious Project Loon, rolling out blanket coverage simulations to prove to naysayers that delivering wireless internet access from the stratosphere is practical. While some have questioned how the project expects to be able to consistently provide service when the mesh-networking balloons responsible are moving […]

iBooks price-fix settlement hits $162.25m but Apple appeal delays payout

The iBookstore lawsuit promising partial refunds for ebook buyers who paid over-the-odds for their downloads is another step closer to making payouts, with cash from Penguin and Macmillan swelling the combined coffers to $162.25m. In a new batch of emails to iBookstore customers affected by the price-fixing suit, the State Attorneys General and Class Counsel […]

Nokia Lumia 1020 heading to Canada on TELUS and Rogers

The camera-centric Nokia Lumia 1020, bearer of a 41-megapixel camera, will be arriving for Canadian customers on TELUS and Rogers, according to a tweet Nokia fired off saying as much. Other pertinent details — namely how much it will cost and when it will available — weren’t specified, but we’re hoping it won’t be too […]