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RTR4UWSNREUTERS/StringerAn aerial view of a public cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, March 26, 2015.Hello! Here's what you need to know for Friday.

1. French prosecutors believe the co-pilot on the Germanwings flight that crashed in France locked the captain out of he cockpit and crashed the plane on purpose.

2. Airlines including Norwegian Air Shuttle, Britain's easyJet, and Air Canada are among several carriers to quickly change their policy yesterday to require two people in the cockpit at all times.

3. An explosion caused a massive fire that spread to four buildings in New York City's East Village neighboured in Manhattan, causing at least two buildings to collapse and injuring 19 people.

4. Police seized the possessions, including boxes and a computer, belonging to the 28-year-old co-pilot who is believed to have crashed the Gemanwings plane into the French alps on purpose.

5. The Russian military is drastically cutting its planned fleet of fifth-generation fighter jets for 2020 due to the country's current economic situation.

6. Ukraine's $3 billion debt owed to Russia could threaten the International Monetary Fund's four-year financial aid program planned for the country.

7. Thousands in Mexico marched to mark the six-month anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students.

8. Egypt said it may send troops to Yemem to fight the Iranian-backed Houthis. 

9. Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been cleared of charges regarding an alleged conspiracy to protect Iranian officials over their supposed role in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre.

10. Amazon is in the early stages of talks to buy luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter, which could be the tech giant's largest acquisition ever, Forbes reports.

And finally ...

Australian PGA golfer Aaron Baddeley made what is being called the craziest birdie in golf history.

Original author: Dina Spector
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The tech industry is in a boom right now. We know that every boom has its bust.

But the hard part is figuring out when the turn will happen.

You're probably familiar with this chart. It's the historical tech-heavy NASDAQ index from its inception to the present date:

NASDAQ all timeYahoo Finance

See that quick rise and fall? That was the dot-com boom and bust.

(There are other more accurate measurements of the total value of tech companies, but this is a pretty good proxy and one that's commonly used, so let's run with it for the sake of argument.)

If you zoom in a little bit on the peak of the dot-com craze, between 1998 and 2002, you can see that the NASDAQ peaked in March 2000. March 24, to be exact:

NASDAQ PeakYahoo Finance

I lived through this time, and it's always fascinated me. Why did the tide suddenly turn? 

In December 1996, then-Fed chair Alan Greenspan warned that stocks were being driven by "irrational exuberance," but people kept buying.

Things got completely ridiculous in 1999 — that's when we saw companies with not only zero profits, but also zero revenues and zero customers, somehow going public. 

But people kept buying, all the way up to the spring of 2000.

What changed? Why did all the tech companies who looked great in January turn to dogs by the summer? Was there a big political change? No, that happened in November 2000, by which time the slide was well underway. Was there some great geopolitical disaster? No, that happened in September 2001, by which time the bubble was long over.

Here's another chart of exactly the same period:

NASDAQ april 3 2000Yahoo Finance

Why did I center this one on April 3?

Because that's the day something big happened in the tech industry.

That was the day that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft had violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, a national antitrust law in the United States.  

There were other big dates in that trial. On November 5, 1999, Jackson issued his "findings of fact," which formally stated that Microsoft was a monopoly and had used its monopoly power to intimidate companies like Netscape, IBM, Compaq, and Intel. And after the verdict, on June 7, 2000, Jackson issued his penalties, including an order to break Microsoft into two companies. (A lot of his ruling was overturned on appeal, and eventually Microsoft settled the case with the Department of Justice in 2001 and all the related antitrust cases with private companies and state attorneys general over the next several years.)

But that first date, April 3, was the day that the United States government formally declared that the biggest and most powerful company in the sector that was driving these crazy stock market valuations had broken the law.

If you're looking for a psychological event that might have spooked tech investors — or, less charitably, caused them to wake up and learn to read a financial report — that seems like a pretty good date to zero in on.

Right now, the most powerful company in the tech world is probably Apple. It's certainly the biggest. And as far as we know, there are no big government agencies investigating Apple.

But if Apple is number one, Google is number two.

In some ways, Google has a much broader reach than Apple. Sure, Apple has one of the most profitable products ever in the iPhone, but Google's mobile platform, Android, ships on about five or six times as many new phones every day.

Plus, Google dominates online advertising. It's got the biggest video site in the world, YouTube. It's got (arguably, depending how you measure) the most popular web browser on personal computers, Chrome.  

And Google is suddenly under a lot of scrutiny, both in the United States and Europe

History doesn't necessarily repeat itself. But at some point, something will cause investors who are pouring their money into tech companies — or the limited partners who are pouring their money into venture capital funds who are investing in tech companies — to change their minds.

Maybe it'll be a change in interest rates, a big geopolitical shift, a natural or manmade disaster, or some other macro event.

But if a powerful government decides to investigate Google's core business, and if it decides that Google has violated antitrust law, and if it hands down severe remedies like splitting Google into two companies, that might be a pretty strong signal to investors that the upside in tech isn't quite as unlimited as they might have imagined. 

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a government breakup of Google would cause a burst of new investment into its competitors. Maybe the Valley would rejoice that the giant has finally been slowed.

But that's not what happened last time.

Original author: Matt Rosoff
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Magic — the service that lets you text a number and get "anything you want as long as it's not illegal" — is raising $12 million from Sequoia Capital at a $40 million valuation, just a few days after graduating from the Y Combinator startup accelerator program, reports TechCrunch

If Sequoia is really investing in Magic at that insanely high valuation, it's banking that customers want simplicity more than anything.  

And the way Magic works is very simple: Text the official number with whatever you want, and they get it to you. Maybe your order is filled by Seamless or Postmates or another delivery company entirely, but you don't care. They give you a price (plus a markup), and if you agree, they deliver what you ordered, from pizzas to groceries to party supplies to liquor, like magic (get it). 

Magic appMagic

Just don't order a tiger. It's a thing.

Magic experienced a huge surge of popularity when it first debuted back in February. It was the weekend project of a company called Bettir, which was enrolled in Y Combinator, which mentors startups as they develop their business in exchange for some equity.

But after Magic caught fire out of nowhere, Bettir decided the service would be a better business, and changed courses partway through the Y Combinator startup program. 

Nothing Magic does is new. But it's the simplest way to order things that anybody has come up with, and just this week, Facebook explained how it thought chat is the future interface for businesses. 

Original author: Matt Weinberger
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Nadia ShourabouraNadia ShourabouraHointer founder Nadia Shouraboura

By the time Nadia Shouraboura left Amazon in 2012 after more than 8 years at the company, she had risen through the ranks into one of the most important positions: VP of technology, in charge of all its supply chain and fulfillment platforms globally. 

She was also a member of CEO Jeff Bezos' elite "S-Team" of direct reports. 

Once of her most memorable and impactful moments happened right after she was first hired, though.

Not long after Shouraboura joined the company in 2004, she made a huge mistake. When a shipment of new products came in, she instructed them to be put up on the highest shelves of the warehouse. When a bunch of orders for that product came in, there wasn't enough staff to get the product down fast enough (remember, this was pre Amazon's warehouse-robot days).     

"I was trying to figure out how I would save the situation," she told Business Insider. "So I came up with a model to figure out how to minimize the amount of money spent to fix the issue, so they wouldn't fire me."

Her model helped her figure out how late how many of the products would have to be, to theoretically cause the least damage. 

"I brought the model to Jeff Bezos and the S Team, and they basically told me that I was being an idiot," she says. "They said we just needed to ship everything as fast as we could, without regards to cost. We needed to make sure the experience was right, and then worry about the money afterwards."

Amazon brought on outside help and paid expedited shipping for all the orders, so that everyone would get their package on time. 

"It cost a lot — was a big number," Shouraboura says with a slight laugh. "That's customer obsession for you. That situation taught me a lot very quickly. They still adhere to that philosophy today."

"Customer obsession" is one of the company's main tenets. Amazon obviously didn't fire Shouraboura after her mishap, and she says she internalized that idea throughout her next 8 years at the company. Eventually, she left to found her own retail startup, called Hointer. Hointer is anti-Amazon in that it focuses solely on ways to improve brick-and-mortar retail. However, one thing is the same: The main focus of her company is to make the shopping experience more convenient for customers. 

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

Original author: Jillian D'Onfro
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Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer at Facebook F8Facebook

Facebook just can't stop giving away its secrets for free.

At this week's Facebook F8 developer conference alone, the social network released free tools to help mobile developers build better interfaces, and for Android developers to understand how their apps are being used, and for making apps crash less when they run out of memory. 

In the past, Facebook has given out technologies it invented like Cassandra, used by Apple, Netflix, and many more tech companies to manage their tremendous and growing amounts of data. 

The Facebook team shrugs off any concerns that giving away this technology for free is actually losing anything. 

"The technology we have isn't our competitive advantage," Ochino says. "Our advantage is the thing that we built." 

He's right: Facebook's value comes from the 1.4 billion people who use the social network. That audience reinforces itself — you have to use Facebook because everybody else uses Facebook — making it hard for competitors to catch up. And that audience is how Facebook makes money, by selling their attention to advertisers. 

Meanwhile, by giving non-critical technology to whoever wants it, Facebook makes its own apps and tools work better — and ensures that there's a broader base out there of future employees who know exactly how to work with the company's technology.  

As an example, look at React Native, probably Facebook's highest-profile software release from the F8 event, and announced at a second-day keynote session by Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer.

At a very basic level, React Native takes the stuff that Facebook uses to build its own user interfaces across the web (including the web versions of Instagram and WhatsApp), and lets anybody else do it.

The major advantage, says Wolff, is that it helps developers think about the interface first, ensuring that whatever you do in the app's plumbing doesn't gum up the works in a way a user would ever see. The upside is that the people who make the apps get to move a lot faster without worrying too much about breaking stuff.

"It's still really hard to build mobile apps and make them great," Wolff says. 

Facebook has been using React in various ways for the last three years. But by opening the doors up to its code, two things happen: Other developers look at it and say, yeah, this is cool, but this would be better. As the code that Facebook releases gets out and finds its audience, Facebook can take in their improvements and make it better. 

"We're not solving these problems in a vacuum," says Facebook software engineer Tom Ochino.

(This, incidentally, is the positive side behind of "open source," where everybody from Microsoft to Netflix to VMware releases stuff to the community.)

The other thing that happens is that those developers who work on the stuff Facebook releases often come to work for Facebook itself, sooner or later. It means they can be productive and get right to work on Facebook's systems on day one, Wolff says.  

Just don't expect Facebook to give away anything really valuable — like the technology it uses to figure out which advertisements to place in your news feed.

Original author: Matt Weinberger
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Apple's on top of the world right now, with strong sales across all its product lines — save for the iPad. Sales of the iPad have hit a wall, and while lots of people have different theories as to why that's the case, Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha believes there's a simple answer: Large phones are to blame.

Based on data from IDC charted for us by Credit Suisse and BI Intelligence, sales of large-screened smartphones (a.k.a. "phablets") have been growing consistently while tablet sales have been slipping over the last year. After all, why would you buy an iPad when you can buy a big phone that does everything the tablet does, and more?

bii sai cotd phablets_1024BI Intelligence/Credit Suisse

Original author: Dave Smith
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Marissa Mayer YahooREUTERS/Denis Balibouse


Yahoo has just added $2 billion to its share buyback program, an SEC filling revealed on Thursday.

Today's announcement will be an extension of the $5 billion share buyback program Yahoo started in 2013. 

Share buybacks are a common tactic large companies employ to boost their share price. The company buys back shares sold on the market, reducing the total number of shares available, thus boosting each outstanding share's price.

A big part of Yahoo's value has been tied up to its ownership in Alibaba shares, the giant Chinese e-commerce site that had the largest IPO in the US last year. Following the IPO, Yahoo sold $9.4 billion worth of Alibaba stock, retaining 15% of the Chinese company's overall shares.

But in January, Yahoo announced plans to spin off that remaining 15%. That means that Yahoo will soon be valued only on its core business, which has been flat or down for years.

The new buyback program, which will add some value to its shares, could be a good way to temporarily mitigate any type of concerns the shareholders might have.

In the filing, Yahoo stated:

The Board of Directors of Yahoo! Inc. (the “Company”) approved an additional share repurchase program of $2.0 billion (the “New Repurchase Program”) which will expire on March 31, 2018. The amount of shares of common stock authorized to be repurchased under the New Repurchase Program is in addition to the amount remaining under the Company’s existing stock repurchase program (the “Existing Repurchase Program”) announced in November 2013, which expires in December 2016."


Original author: Eugene Kim
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stacking cash chinaREUTERS/StringerUS multinational companies are holding more than $2 trillion of their cash abroad, JP Morgan wrote in a recent report.

Among the S&P 500, roughly $589 billion, or 63% of their total cash, was tied in foreign countries, it said.

It makes sense for companies to leave their cash abroad because they would otherwise get taxed again on the money they bring into the US. 

One thing that sticks out is that tech companies make up more than half of the top 25 companies with the most cash abroad, and nearly all of the top 10. This is partly because tech companies make a lot of sales overseas, and tend to have lower operational costs than (for instance) retailers or manufacturers, so they often keep a lot of cash on hand. 

Original author: Eugene Kim
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Plane cockpitFlickr/Pilots Of SwissToday, some planes can be commandeered autonomously. But automated flights are decades away, one expert says.

In the wake of what French prosecutors are calling a deliberate effort to crash an Airbus A320 into the Alps, renewed attention has again shifted to the critical role of airline pilots. 

At at time when driverless cars are being discussed actively in Silicon Valley, some may be wondering when the aviation industry will shift to a model that eliminates pilots in favor of automated aircraft. 

Not so fast. 

R.W. Mann & Co. is an airline industry and consulting firm based in New York, led by Bob Mann. Mann explained to Business Insider that “it won’t happen in my lifetime.” The biggest limiting factor, according to Mann, isn’t major airlines. 

It’s the insurance industry. 

“It would take a sea change on behalf of the insurance industry,” he said. Currently, it's impossible to insure transport planes with fewer than two pilots. Eventually, though, that could change. 

Planes can already be commandeered autonomously in the event of an emergency

Mann acknowledged growing concerns about pilot error and, worse, pilots deliberately crashing or diverting from the planned aircraft route. There is, he said, a backup option in the aviation industry in some planes that would allow operators to take control of a plane remotely. It’s called Boeing’s "Uninterruptible Autopilot" system.

But Mann said, “There is no evidence it’s ever been used.” 

And there’s also no evidence to suggest the aviation industry is considering moving closer to an automated format. 

Applying new technology will be extraordinarily costly for airlines

“Cockpits today aren’t designed for single-person operation,” Mann said.

This means that – on top of the difficulty with insurers and unions – airlines would have to commit to a costly redesign of all their aircraft. The current configuration of aircraft cabins make it so that one person can't access all the knobs and buttons to fly the plane, nor can he or she see all the relevant screens needed to make decisions. 

However, this is an issue airline industry has had to confront in the past. Nearly 50 years ago, unions howled when aircraft makers decided to go from a three-person cockpit down to two. William Langewiesche explained the change in a 2014 Vanity Fair article that touched on the argument for fully-automated pilots:

" the late 1970s, at the same time that John Lauber and the NASA researchers were pursuing their systematic studies of flight-crew performance and were coming up with the idea of Crew Resource Management. By then the individual aircraft systems—engines, fuel, electronics, pressurization, hydraulics, and so on—had become sufficiently self-regulating that there was no longer a need for a third crew member to control them manually. Airbus was the underdog, hemorrhaging public funds and making airplanes that did not sell. It decided on a no-compromise gamble to produce the most technologically advanced airliners that could be designed. Ignoring the union clamor, it started by imposing a two-person cockpit on its models, kicking off an argument about the value of pilots that still comes into view every time an Airbus crashes. Boeing, which was developing the 757 and 767 concurrently, took a more polite position, but the writing was on the wall. The Boeing 737 and Douglas DC-9 had already been certified to operate with two-pilot crews, without a flight engineer aboard. After a presidential task force in the United States studied the matter and concluded that a third crew member in the cockpit constituted, if anything, a distraction, the unions accepted defeat."

Still, there may be a growing need to confront the aviation industry’s problem sooner, and to do it with technology rather than manpower.

Mann pointed out that there's a future shortage of pilots looming after industry consolidation has eliminated jobs and, in some cases, made pay at regional airlines unattractive for junior employees. Stats tracked by the Regional Airline Association show the number of pilot certifications has plummeted by more than 50% since cockpits began carrying two, instead of three, pilots. 

Pilot certifications are fallingRegional Airline AssociationSince the late 1970s, fewer pilots have been certified.

More recently, sector employment has plummeted by more than 27%. Mann attributed this to broader consolidation and to fewer flights being flown now than in prior years.

airline jobs cuts 2000 2011US Department of Transportation - Research and Innovative Technology AdministrationAir transportation employment in the US has fallen more than 27% since 2000.

There are currently plenty of arguments against automated pilots. Mann cited stats indicating that up to 30% of military drones crash. Drone-mail delivery would thus be too costly to undertake from a balance-sheet standpoint – never mind shuttling human beings between locations.

Many experts think that a world of self-driving cars, automated shipping, and planes that fly themselves is inevitable.

In their view, the biggest bottleneck will be with regulators who will decide how quickly businesses and consumers can adopt sophisticated technology. But until insurance companies sign off on technology that puts a premium on automation over personnel, there may be little incentive for the aviation industry to act. 

Original author: Jonathan Marino
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Ruth PoratChip Somodevilla / Getty Ruth Porat

Google will be paying its new CFO, former Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat, a salary of $650,000, with a one-time signing bonus of $5 million, according to a new SEC filing. 

She'll also be getting a $25 million new hire grant and a $40 million biennial grant in 2016. 

Not bad, considering Porat made $29.6 million in total compensation at Morgan Stanley from 2010 to 2013, according to Reuters

When former CFO Patrick Pichette took the job in 2008, he had a salary of $450,000, with a signing bonus of $500,000, another $500,000 cash bonus after 6 months, and another bonus that brought his total to about $4.3 million, excluding stock options. His total pay in 2013 was valued at $5.15 million, and $38.7 million in 2012, thanks to a $22 million stock away, according to the Wall Street Journal

Here's the information from the filing:

The material terms of Ruth’s offer letter, as approved by the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee (LDCC) of the Board of Directors of Google, are as follows:

•Ruth’s annual base salary will be $650,000.

•Google has agreed to pay Ruth a special one-time sign-on bonus of $5,000,000. (If Ruth terminates her employment with Google before the one year anniversary of her start date, then Ruth will be required to repay the special bonus, prorated for time spent at Google.)

Google has agreed to make the following equity grants to Ruth in the form of Google restricted stock units (GSUs):

a $25 million new hire grant to be made on the first Wednesday of the calendar month following the month in which Ruth commences employment with Google (with the first $5 million vesting in December 2015 and the remaining $20 million vesting on a pro-rata quarterly basis in 2016 and 2017) a $40 million biennial grant in 2016 (scheduled to be granted in 2016 at the same time as other senior vice president biennial grants and vesting on a pro-rata quarterly basis from 2016 to 2019) Google will assist Ruth with relocation-related expenses pursuant to Google’s policy with respect to the relocation of officers.

Ruth will also be eligible to participate in the compensation and benefit programs generally available to Google’s executive officers.

A copy of the offer letter is attached hereto as Exhibit 10.1 to this Form 8-K and is incorporated herein by reference. The above summary of the offer letter does not purport to be complete and is subject to and qualified in its entirety by reference to the attached offer letter.

Additionally, on March 20, 2015, Google’s LDCC approved the following:

•a change to the compensation structure for Google’s senior vice presidents resulting in (1) the elimination of annual cash bonuses beginning in 2016 (for the 2015 performance year) and the shift to a pay model that includes only an annual base salary and biennial equity grants, and (2) changing the vesting schedule of future biennial equity grants to a pro-rata quarterly vest over a 4-year period (from a 4-year cliff vest); and

•a change to the compensation arrangements for Google’s outgoing CFO, Patrick Pichette, to pay out (on a pro-rata basis) the outstanding biennial equity grants that were scheduled to cliff vest in April 2016 and April 2018, based on the time Patrick will have served as Google’s CFO, in order to ensure that he continues performing in the role until such time as Google determines that there has been a smooth transition to the new CFO.


Original author: Jillian D'Onfro
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Facebook showed off a preview of its Internet service-providing drone at its developer conference. The solar-powered flier will have a wingspan greater than a 737.

Produced by Matthew Stuart

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Original author: Matthew Stuart
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Original author: Matt Rosoff
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rundown house sfRedfinA home needing some serious work just sold for $411,000 over its asking price, Curbed SF reports.

The four-bedroom home, located in San Francisco's Outer Sunset neighborhood, was listed for $799,000 in February and sold for $1.21 million just two weeks after coming onto the market. 

That's roughly 50% above asking and a lot for a house that even the listing warns is "in a deteriorative state; needs everything, not for the novice." According to Redfin, the buyer paid in cash. 

It's just another example of how crazy the San Francisco real estate market has become. 

Original author: Madeline Stone
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Facebook showed off a space-based virtual reality game at its developer conference Wednesday, and yes – it does look like you're in Star Wars.

Produced by Matthew Stuart

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Original author: Matthew Stuart
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laurene powell jobs on nbcNBCLaurene Powell-Jobs during a television interview.

Billionaire Laurene Powell-Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, has a long history as a Democratic donor including contributions to the party's likely frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton. However, Powell-Jobs also has close ties to one of the GOP's top White House hopefuls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

As of now, it's not clear whether either Clinton or Bush will have Powell-Jobs' support for their likely campaigns. 

Over the years, Powell-Jobs, whose net worth has been estimated at nearly $20 billion, has donated millions of dollars to political candidates in both federal races and for local California contests. Her contributions have almost exclusively gone to Democrats. 

The Silicon Valley heavyweight has already given money to Clinton. According to OpenSecrets, she has contributed over $40,000 to Clinton since 1999 when the former first lady ran for US Senate in New York. Powell-Jobs has also given $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary PAC, the group encouraging Clinton to run in 2016.

Along with her donations, Powell-Jobs has more personal ties to Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

With her late husband, the legendary co-founder of Apple Computers, Powell-Jobs befriended the Clinton family during the late nineties when then first daughter Chelsea was a student at Stanford. During this period Powell-Jobs and her husband would host the Clintons at their home in Palo Alto when they traveled to the area to visit their daughter. Powell-Jobs' longtime political adviser, Stacey Rubin, spent seven years working in President Clinton's administration. In 2012, Powell-Jobs attended President Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention alongside Chelsea. 

Rubin did not respond to an email from Business Insider asking about Powell-Jobs' plans for 2016 and her relationships with the likely candidates. Other representatives for Powell-Jobs declined to comment.  A spokesperson for Clinton also did not respond to an email from Business Insider.

Powell-Jobs' ties to Bush stem from her recent education reform advocacy. She joined the board of his Foundation for Excellence in Education  in early 2013. Powell-Jobs resigned from the foundation in August 2014.

Business Insider obtained Powell-Jobs' resignation letter from a source. In the letter, which was personally addressed to Bush and began "Dear Jeb," Powell-Jobs attributed her decision to leave the foundation's board of directors to time commitments.

"I have a great deal of respect for all that you and the organization have accomplished and for your clear and consistent focus on what is best for students and our country's future," Powell-Jobs wrote to Bush. "However, my person and professional obligations have prevented me from the deep engagement in the work of the Foundation that I believe is required of a Board Member."

Powell-Jobs went on to predict she and Bush will find further ways to work together on education reform.

"I will continue to champion your goals and am confident we will continue to find ways to collaborate to promote education reform priorities," Powell-Jobs wrote. "I wish you and the Board all success and I thank you for the opportunity to serve the Foundation." 

Bush also stepped down from the board of his foundation last year ahead of his likely presidential campaign. Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush, told Business Insider he was "grateful" for Powell-Jobs' work on the foundation.

"Gov. Bush had asked Laurene Powell-Jobs to serve on the board of his education foundation," Campbell said. "They both have a passion for education reform and Gov. Bush is greatful for her service on the Foundation for Excellence in Education's board." 

Laurene Powell Steve JobsAlexandra Wyman/Getty ImagesSteve Jobs and Laurene Powell-JobsSince the 2011 death of her husband, Powell-Jobs has increasingly focused on political causes, namely education and immigration reform. Long known to be notoriously private, Powell-Jobs only agreed to step into the spotlight in order to support her lobbying efforts to bring about reform. The 51-year-old also runs the Emerson Collective, an LLC that distributes grants and for-profit investments into entrepreneurial business ideas. The Wall Street Journal called Emerson a "stealth investment arm" of Powell Jobs’'overall philanthropic effort but since the collective is not a tax-exempt non profit foundation, it is not required to disclose donations. 

Powell-Jobs became vocal as an advocate for immigration reform in 2013. She has said the issue became a personal cause for her after she worked with undocumented teens through her nonprofit, College Track. She started that organization in 1998 to help low income students prepare for higher education, but has said she became frustrated when undocumented minors participating in the program placed college dreams on hold given the uncertainty of their legal status.

Her advocacy has turned Powell-Jobs from a seemingly staunch Democrat into a much more bipartisan figure. Powell-Jobs, who sat with First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2012 State of the Union address, didn't limit her outreach to liberals when she lobbied for her various causes. She surprised some when she met with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill in 2013 in support of the Senate's immigration reform bill. That legislation passed but ultimately failed to move forward in the House. 

"If it means that we have strange bedfellows so be it," she told NBC News at the time about reaching out to conservatives and liberals alike to push for change. 

A California political operative explained to Business Insider that Powell-Jobs' advocacy for education and immigration reform "grew out of her personal tutoring."

"She tutors kids in a really tough neighborhood," the operative said. "She spends a couple hours on a very regular basis tutoring kids."

According to the operative, Powell-Jobs began "intersecting" with GOP politicians because she realized "Democrats weren't the challenge to pass immigration reform" and it was "Republicans who opposed immigration reform." 

The operative also said Powell-Jobs is quite influential in wealthy Silicon Valley circles. They attributed this to her hands-on approach to philanthropy, "likable" personality, and her immense fortune. 

"Laurene is one of the more respected and really well-liked players because, I think, people really recognize her as someone who really has a seriousness of purpose. She's someone who has taken the time to roll up her sleeves and get involved on these issues and worked tirelessly on them," the operative said. "So, there's a real level of respect. In addition, she's one of the largest shareholders in one of the largest and most successful companies on the only planet we know that houses humans."

The operative said they could not predict who Powell-Jobs would support in 2016. 

With her vast wealth and wide influence Powell-Jobs would clearly be a coveted asset for any campaign she chooses to back. The bipartisan nature of her approach to advocacy and her prior links to Bush and Clinton may make it harder to tell how she'll choose to get involved in the presidential race, but it seems like they could make her an even more valuable supporter. 

Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster she employed during her lobbying efforts for immigration change, described Powell-Jobs as "instantly credible because she brings unusual intelligence and commitment to everything she does" in an email to Business Insider. Luntz also said Powell-Jobs' ties to both parties enhance her standing among other wealthy donors. 

"She's not partisan, so everyone listens to her," he wrote. 

Original author: Hunter Walker and Leslie Larson
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Facebook F8 messengerScreenshot

A big part of Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address at Wednesday's F8 conference is that you'll soon be able to interact with businesses via Facebook Messenger, placing orders and getting updates on them all in the same place.

In a session later that day, Facebook explained how — and why — you might actually want to. 

First off, it can help you keep your inbox clean, as Facebook Product Manager Rob Daniel pointed out. 

"Communication channels are really fragmented," says Facebook Product Manager Rob Daniel.

Your email inbox is cluttered with order confirmations, shipping confirmations, newsletters, and all kinds of noise that keeps you from finding what you want, Daniel says. If you're looking for a Virgin America itinerary, you'll have to dig through all the Virgin America newsletters and Groupon deals on Virgin America your search also turns up.

Moreover, Daniel says, just making quick changes on a retail order or looking for the status requires a lengthy process of going to the site, logging in (maybe going through a password reset if you're like me), finding your order. It can take a disproportionate amount of time and effort.

"We want to help you guys make things simple," Daniel. 

On the checkout page, where you'd normally have the option of getting a receipt via email, you can also connect a Facebook Messenger account for updates. It'll send you a message when the order ships, and embed the tracking information right there. 

If you want to see the status of your order, just ask in a message. Or, if you want another of the same, just ask in a message. If you ordered the wrong thing and need to cancel, just ask in a message. You're probably already on Facebook anyway, right?

For the businesses themselves, it's designed to be equally simple. It connects up to CRM systems like Salesforce's, so that the business can see your entire order history with the company.

Businesses will be able to talk to you straight from within Messenger, complete with stickers and the "Like" button. It'll look exactly like the Facebook Messenger you're already used to. 

And, most importantly, it's up to the user to link their accounts to a business, which keeps you in control. This means stores and restaurants won't spam you with offers. 

Original author: Matt Weinberger
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A Russian security researcher was able to hack into his own smart bracelet in a relatively easy way (well, easy for a programmer).

Roman Unuchek, a mobile threats expert at Kaspersy Lab, built an application that connected with dozens of devices in the wild and surreptitiously hacked into his own bracelet. He would not divulge what kind of device it is.

Smart bracelets are generally considered to be the "dumbest" of the smart wrist devices. They include Jawbones, Fitbits, Nike Fuel Bands, and numerous others that have no digital display but track movements and other biometric data. Their adoption has been rapidly rising — Nielsen predicts that a third of all US adult consumers will own some form of a wearable device by 2017.

So this hacking discovery may come as a wake-up call to companies trying to build out their wearables programs.

Hacking a smart bracelet generally consists of two parts:

Scanning and connecting to the bracelet (the easy part) Gaining authentication — that is, spoofing the actual user's identity — from the main app on the user’s smartphone (harder)

Unuchek was able to build an app that scanned the area for devices in his area. Most wearables connect using Bluetooth LE technology, a common low-powered protocol. Because these devices don’t have screens, they do not require passwords to connect. This made it a breeze to gain an instant connection from his hacking app to the devices.

He brought his new wearable-scanning app into the wild and connected to 54 devices in six hours. After one hour in a gym, he connected to 25 individual devices. While in a subway for two hours, he found 19 others. 

The authentication proved a bit more difficult. If a bracelet is already connected with a smartphone, the only way for it to communicate with another app is for this new app to be given the go-ahead. This requires quite a bit of savvy coding, as well as slyly having the device-wearer consent to the app's connection.

Unuchek's bracelet sought out authentication by sending a vibration. All he had to do was press the only button on his bracelet to complete the authentication.

If a real-world hacker kept trying to connect to the device, and the user kept getting phantom vibrations on their arm, they'd probably press the button in an attempt to shut it up.

As Unuchek explained, “It is not difficult to make the user press a single button on the wristband. You just need to be persistent. You can keep trying authentication process over and over until the user finally presses the button or moves out of range.”

By following those two steps, he was able to access the bracelet’s data. 

Of course, not much can be done with a hacked smart bracelet. The data these devices track are relatively benign. The hacker can learn how many steps the wearer made, or how well their sleep cycle is.  

But Unuchek sees a future of nefarious wearable hacks. For example, as the devices become more intelligent they may track more personal biometric data including pulse sensors. Stores could use this data to detect how users respond to in-store stimuli. Or, in a more farfetched world, hackers could write a torturous line of code that makes a bracelet vibrate incessantly, and the attackers “demand money to make it stop.”  

Whatever the possibilities with this data, Unuchek was able to highlight a real vulnerability in popular new connected technology. While he wouldn’t name the vendor, but it’s highly likely that this problem extends to numerous devices on the market. 

Original author: Cale Guthrie Weissman
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The new Facebook Messenger, which lets users install other apps to use with the popular chat platform, seems to conflict directly with Apple's App Store guidelines — meaning that Apple may have cause to pull Messenger from iPhones and iPads. 

"Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected," goes Section 2.25 of the App Store Review Guidelines, the bit in contention, as pointed out by Button co-founder Chris Maddern on Twitter.

This means that you can't run another app store within your own app, for the obvious reason that Apple doesn't want anybody operating a competing app store on its platform, as Amazon does on Android (to Google's annoyance). If you get an app on iOS, Apple wants to know about it, and if you're paying for it, it wants a cut. 

But just look at this screenshot from Facebook Messenger:

Facebook F8 messengerScreenshot

It resembles an app store, especially since any apps you install in Messenger appear on an iOS home screen.

Apple has banned apps in the past that don't fall in line with its guidelines, such as Launcher, which adds shortcuts to apps to your iPhone's lock screen in the notification panel. Launcher was just allowed back into the App Store, however. 

So far, there's been no indication that Apple has any intention to stop iPhone owners from using Facebook's new platform. 

Original author: Matt Weinberger
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mark zuckerbergDavid Ramos/GettyMark ZuckerbergFacebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is using his social media site to connect with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). 

Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, shared a video of a recent town hall meeting on his public Facebook page Wednesday and Zuckerberg "liked" the post.

In the video, Christie described how, as governor, he generally has to walk through side doors and "kitchens" when he arrives somewhere.

Along with "liking" the post, Zuckerberg left a comment.

"I love this. The part about walking through every kitchen and side door made me laugh so hard. This is why town halls are great," he wrote.

In addition to his public Facebook presence, Christie seems to have a private, personal page on the site. That page lists Christie and Zuckerberg as Facebook friends. The governor has not responded to a friend request from this reporter.

View the post Zuckerberg "liked" below. 

(via Weekly Standard)

Original author: Hunter Walker
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Tim Cook looking worried or sadReuters/Stephen Lam Apple CEO Tim Cook.


Apple's long-awaited smartwatch drops on April 24, 2015, although there are now rumours about problems with production of the device.

One source Apple Insider spoke to who is "familiar with Apple's internal logistics" told the tech blog that the Apple Watch has had production issues "at every stage of development."

There's also been reports from Taiwanese news site UDN Mobile that the Cupertino company may have to cut initial shipments in half — though as 9to5Mac notes, the site hasn't always been spot-on with its rumours. (And other manufacturers could also help alleviate the strain of production issues if necessary.)

But what Apple Insider is hearing seems to confirm that Apple is running into some issues with the Apple Watch, its first foray into a new product category in five years. There will reportedly be shortages of the device at launch, but these yield issues "are not a surprise to Apple's top brass," according to the website.

While still in development, the Apple Watch was referred to internally as a "black hole" because of the way it kept sucking in additional resources and employees. Even after four years of secret development, Apple still had to nix some of the health-tracking features it wanted to include, because it couldn't account for variations in skin texture and how tightly it was worn.

Apple's last new product category was the iPad, back in 2010. Five years later, there's a massive degree of both hype and uncertainty over the Apple Watch. Analysts are wildly divided in their estimates of how many devices Apple will be able to sell, and there's still no one single "killer app" making the Apple Watch a must-have.

Apple design guru Jony Ive has been a driving force behind the Apple Watch. A former colleague told the New Yorker that Ive has "always been a bit bling" and "always wanted to do luxury."

The design legend is finally getting his way, but it doesn't look like it's going to be clean sailing.

Original author: Rob Price
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