Imagine a world where you never have to download useless apps again … Google has you covered

It’s annoying when you have to download an app on a smartphone just to carry out one function. Well Google wants to fix this pain point and has begun testing one of its hotly-anticipated features announced last year called Android Instant Apps.


The feature was previewed last year at the Google I/O developers’ conference. Instant Apps works by letting a user hit a link and then opening a small part of the app required to carry out the specific task, without actually downloading it. The aim is to be as fast as loading a web page so an Instant App can be runnable in a few seconds.

One example Google showed off last year was paying for parking. If a person holds their phone near a parking meter with a special built-in chip, the Instant App will open to let people pay for parking.

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps at Google Inc., gestures as he speaks during the company’s Android One smartphone launch event in New Delhi, India, on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014.

On Monday, Google said in a blog that it had begun live testing of Instant Apps with a small number of developers including BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope and Viki, with the aim of collecting user feedback.

Google also said that the software development kit (SDK) needed for developers to make Instant Apps, will be available “in the coming months.”

Instant Apps gives the advantage of not having to download an app and store it on your phone which could take up a lot of memory space and even screen real estate. Sometimes and app is required just to do one specific task and then it needs to be deleted. But also, if you’re out without Wi-Fi and need to download an app, it can use up a lot of a person’s monthly data. Instant Apps could eliminate all of these issues.


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg denies he’s running for president

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., gestures as he speaks during a session at the Techonomy 2016 conference in Half Moon Bay, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

“No,” Zuckerberg wrote in response to a question about his intent to run. “I’m focused on building our community at Facebook and working on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” referring to the limited-liability corporation he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, founded in 2015 to advance human potential and promoting equality through major bets in education and science research. Zuckerberg did not immediately respond to follow-up questions about whether he’d explicitly ruled out a run.

Zuckerberg’s response comes after weeks of speculation from the tech press and beyond, set off by a series of events that indicated a run might be in the cards, including a pledge to visit the approximately 30 US states he hadn’t yet been to. “Will Mark Zuckerberg Be Our Next President?” Vanity Fair asked in January.

The clues were there. Zuckerberg, who had previously been described as an atheist, said over the holidays that he believes religion is important. He’s touring the US asking “folks” about how they live. He hired a former White House photographer to take his Facebook pics. He included a clause about potentially serving for office into Facebook’s stock restructuring deal, and he hired a former presidential campaign manager to help his quasi-charitable works. But as Zuckerberg indicated Tuesday, he’s more interested in wielding influence from Menlo Park than Washington, DC. A source close to Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed News the 32-year-old CEO has privately denied it as well.

“There’s absolutely no truth to the idea that Mark is running for office and I’ve heard it directly from him,” the source told BuzzFeed News. “Here’s the thing: For Mark, Facebook is global community that already plays this huge part in the lives of billions of people around the world and plays an incredibly important role in shaping the base on the issues that matter.”

Zuckerberg is preparing for a political battle, the source was careful to emphasize, but as a private citizen focused on the goals he has already outlined through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “There is absolutely a possibility that Mark may choose to play a stronger role in the political system and political debates,” the source said. Zuckerberg has been “very transparent” in his advocacy for “greater equality and optimizing research that find cures for disease and solves the fundamental problems of our time, but I really don’t see him stepping away from Facebook.”

Last week, Zuckerberg announced that he had poached Uber executive David Plouffe, a former campaign manager for Barack Obama, as CZI’s president of policy and advocacy. He also tapped Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush’s former campaign manager, in an advisory role. “You can make change, but in order for it to be sustainable, you need to build a movement to support it,” Zuckerberg told The New York Times.

Calling for a movement, backed by bipartisan political operatives, sounds awfully presidential, but Zuckerberg used the same language when he first launched CZI in December, 2015.

The stock restructuring deal ties back to CZI as well. The changes were made after Zuckerberg and Chan donated 99 percent of their Facebook shares, then worth roughly $45 billion, to CZI. In order retain control while he gave away equity, Zuckerberg introduced a new class of stock and revised rules, including a concession that “serving in a government position or office,” for two years would not constitute a voluntary resignation.

Success in business doesn’t necessarily guarantee success at the polls. . “First thing is these people should not be running for office,” Bradley Tusk, an Uber advisor and investor, who also managed Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 mayoral campaign, told BuzzFeed Newsduring a conversation about the increasingly political role played by Silicon Valley leaders. “It worked for Mike [Bloomberg] because of 9/11. If you look at the history of rich people from business or tech running for office, they almost always lose. That personality type is very different from running a company. The reality is if you’re Mark, with your wealth and platform,” you’re better off as CEO of Facebook than President, he said.

Tusk also pointed out that direct political engagement has not been as successful for Zuckerberg in the past. “Look at How much money did those guys get taken for? And they accomplished nothing,” he said, referring to Zuckerberg’s ill-conceived immigration advocacy group. “They are better off using their strengths and their skills,” than jumping directly into the political arena, Tusk said.

Trump tells business leaders he wants to cut regulations by 75% or ‘maybe more’

President Donald Trump (C) leads a meeting with invited business leaders and members of his staff in the Roosevelt Room at the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Business leaders included Elon Musk of SpaceX, Wendell Weeks of Corning, Mark Sutton of International Paper, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, Alex Gorsky of Johnston & Johnson and others. Trump meets with CEOs and pledges to cut taxes ‘massively’

At the White House with 10 senior executives, he repeated his campaign pledges to roll back corporate rules, arguing that they have “gotten out of control.” A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on which rules Trump will target or how the 75 percent was calculated.

“We’re going to be cutting regulation massively,” but the rules will be “just as protective of the people,” Trump told reporters at the meeting that included Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Democrats and interest groups have expressed concern about Trump’s plans to roll back Obama administration environmental protections and pull out of the landmark Paris climate accords, among other regulatory pledges.

In the wide-ranging statement Monday, Trump also reiterated campaign promises to cut taxes for businesses, saying he aims to get the business rate “down to anywhere from 15 to 20 percent” from the current 35 percent. He also said he wants to reward companies that manufacture in the U.S. and impose border taxes on products that American companies make abroad.

As he did on the campaign trail, Trump said his plans to push American manufacturing and renegotiate trade deals do not mean that he wants to abandon free trade. His statements came ahead of an expected executive order to start the process of revising the North American Free Trade Agreement and pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“What we want to do is bring manufacturing back to our country,” Trump said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t trade because we do trade. We want to make our products here.”

After the meeting, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris said the executives will come back in 30 days with suggested actions to boost American manufacturing.

Trump’s administration has already negotiated a deal with United Technologies for its Carrier unit to keep some jobs in Indiana rather than move them to Mexico, in exchange for $7 million in incentives over several years. Still, the company plans to shut down another Indiana facility and move hundreds of jobs to Mexico.

He has also targeted some companies, particularly automakers, for making parts abroad. Trump has pledged a tax on those products that are sold in the U.S.

Trump also touted his push to “massively” cut taxes for the middle class. Some independent analyses have concluded that Trump’s across-the-board tax cut proposals will balloon the national debt by trillions, but his administration has argued that economic growth will cancel out the effect.

Microsoft just laid off its best presenter

A staple of Microsoft’s recent press conferences has been Bryan Roper, the exuberant man wearing a trilby who was able to do a better job than anyone else on the planet at getting people excited about minor Windows features. But it looks like we’ve seen the last of him at Microsoft: Roper tweeted out today that he’s been laid off, as part of around 700 jobs being cut this week.

It’s a bit of a surprise to see Microsoft let go of such a recognizable and well-liked, if also often-mocked, face of the company. Microsoft loved Roper enough that it published a feature-length story about the strange circumstances that brought him from working at “a cruise ship piano lounge” to Microsoft’s marketing team. The company even called him a “rock star.”

Roper’s job was one of around 700 that are being cut at Microsoft this week, according to Business Insider. Microsoft announced last June that it would cut 2,850 jobs within a year, and this new set of layoffs is part of that. It’s a huge number of positions, although Microsoft still employs an enormous workforce of over 113,000 people.

Samsung bounces back from Note 7 recall with its best quarter in three years

It turns out that Samsung’s business is doing just fine following one of its most embarrassing product fumbles in recent memory. The company posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings today in line with expectations outlined this month, earning 9.2 trillion won (about $7.2 billion) in profit on sales of 53.3 trillion won (about $45.8 billion). That’s a more than 50 percent jump in profit from the same period a year ago. It also makes this quarter Samsung’s most profitable in more than three years, despite the Galaxy Note 7 recall that has embroiled the South Korean company in controversy for the last five months.

Just this past Sunday, Samsung released its report on the Note 7 that detailed how a rushed manufacturing schedule and irregularly sized batteries from one of its own subsidiaries caused some units to overheat and, in some cases, catch fire. The Note 7 recall did in fact drag on Samsung’s earnings in the fiscal third quarter of last year, causing the company to earn about $2.2 billion less than its projected $6.6 billion in profit for Q3 2016. However, this dip appears to have been temporary.

Samsung says the strength of its display and computer memory divisions helped it climb back. “Robust sales of high-end, high-performance memory products and expanded process migration in V-NAND, plus strong shipments of OLED and large-size UHD panels contributed to profitability,” the company wrote in a statement. Also helping Samsung in this case is a weaker Korean won relative to the US dollar. Because component deals — like OLED displays and memory, for instance — are often conducted in USD, profits from these sales were higher than normal last quarter, the company added.

That’s not to say that the S7 and Samsung’s lower-budget phone lines have been doing poorly. Samsung’s mobile division managed to post a year-over-year profit increase of about 4 percent to about $2 billion, having endured most of the Note 7’s costs in Q3. The company says it expects a noticeable bump in sales of low-cost phones in the Galaxy A and J series to help boost sales in the coming months as well.

Although these financials will go a long way in helping Samsung reverse the damage done by its exploding phone, there is still a considerable branding hurdle the company will have to clear in the coming months. Earlier today, Samsung executives said the Note brand will remain active as the company preps for the release of the Galaxy S8 and subsequent Note 8. So while the company has proven that it can still make considerable profits while weathering a product disaster, it will still have to deliver an immeasurably superior line of smartphones this year if it’s to continue holding onto its leadership position in the Android ecosystem.

President Trump is adding ‘Skype seats’ to his White House press room

The Trump White House is adding Skype seats to its press room. During today’s press briefing by press secretary Sean Spicer, it was announced that “beginning later this week,” there will be four Skype systems in the briefing room next to the usual White House press corps.

“This will open up the briefing to journalists who live beyond 50 miles of the Washington, DC area and to organizations that don’t currently have a day pass,” Spicer said. “As always, any organization is welcome to apply for a day pass. But we’re excited to open up into the field and fold here a diverse group of journalists from around the country who may not have the convenience or funding to travel to Washington. I think this can benefit us all by giving a platform to voices that are not necessarily based here in the beltway.”

Spicer gave no additional details on exactly which journalists or news organizations will be given access to the so-called Skype seats, nor how the integration into the press room will work. The Verge has reached out to Microsoft for comment.

The announcement comes amid early tensions between the new Trump administration and the press corps in recent days following disagreements over the attendance at Trump’s Friday inauguration. “I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest watched inauguration ever,” Spicer repeated again today after blasting the press for reporting underwhelming crowd sizes in a Saturday statement. “As you know, we’re all about big viewerships and large audiences here,” said Spicer as the lead-in to announcing the Skype seats.

”We want to have a healthy and open dialogue with the press corps. and the American people,” he followed. On Sunday, an exchange between NBC’s Chuck Todd and Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway on Meet The Press was widely mocked across social media when Conway suggested Trump’s side was presenting “alternative facts” to make its case.

Spicer pointed numerous times to an erroneous (and quickly corrected) report that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr from the Oval Office as evidence of the media’s rush to publish anti-Trump news. “Where’s the apology?” he asked, despite acknowledging a public apology days earlier. “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing.” Spicer suggested he was trying to reset the relationship between Trump’s White House and the press on Monday, telling the reporters present “I’m going to stay here as long as you want.”

Trump’s new FCC chief is Ajit Pai, and he wants to destroy net neutrality

Donald Trump has elevated Ajit Pai to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, giving control over the agency to a reliable conservative who’s been opposed to pretty much every big action the commission has taken in recent years, from establishing net neutrality to protecting consumer privacy to restricting major cable mergers.

Pai has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2012, when he was appointed by then-President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. Though an Obama appointee, Pai does not share Obama’s progressive views and is by no means someone Obama would have chosen to lead the commission. Rather, there’s a tradition of giving two out of the FCC’s five seats to the minority party; in nominating Pai — at the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican — Obama was sticking to that tradition.

Shortly after Trump’s election, Pai indicated that a top priority under the new administration would be dismantling net neutrality. In a letter, he wrote that he intended to “revisit … the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding … as soon as possible.”

Pai has long been critical of net neutrality, saying that the problem it’s trying to solve — big internet providers acting as gatekeepers to what we see and do online — doesn’t exist. He recently reiterated a prediction that the commission’s Open Internet Order, which established net neutrality, would be reversed or overturned in one way or another. He’ll now have the chance to play a role in that.

“On the day that the Title II Order was adopted, I said that ‘I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered,’” Pai said. “Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction will come true.”

Open internet advocates are already concerned about where Pai will take the agency. “Pai has been an effective obstructionist who looks out for the corporate interests he used to represent in the private sector,” says Craig Aaron, the president of a nonprofit called Free Press that’s fought for net neutrality, in an emailed statement. “If the new president really wanted an FCC chairman who’d stand up against the runaway media consolidation that Trump himself decried in the AT&T–Time Warner deal, Pai would have been his last choice — though corporate lobbyists across the capital are probably thrilled.”

“Some of the things we’ve seen in his record are certainly problematic for consumers and for competition,” Chris Lewis, vice president of the communications advocacy nonprofit Public Knowledge, tells The Verge. “Whether it’s his opposition to open internet rules, or opposition to basic privacy online, or opposition to the effort to extend the Lifeline program subsidies to broadband so that low income Americans have access to basic 21st century communications.”

Pai’s core stance is a traditionally Republican one: free market, minimal regulation. He’s been opposed to requiring ISPs to implement stricter privacy protections for consumers, opposed to increasing broadband benchmarks to promote higher speeds, opposed to regulating mergers, and even indicated a Republican-controlled commission might have let the Comcast–Time Warner Cable merger go through.

That said, he has not been opposed to absolutely everything done under Obama’s FCC. He recently voted in favor of a bipartisan proposal that will enable the the support of real-time texting for people with disabilities, allowing text to be transmitted letter by letter, rather than requiring a user to hit “send.” He has also voiced support for rules that would reduce the outrageous rates inmates must pay to place calls in many states, though he voted against a proposal that would do this, citing legal concerns (the rules are currently caught up in court).

One of the FCC’s mandates is to promote broadband deployment, and Pai has emphasized his dissatisfaction with current policies. He said last year that he believes the commission’s actions “over the last seven years just haven’t worked,” and he’s made suggestions — including adding tax credits and removing regulations that protect older technologies, like copper wire, that some communities rely on — that he thinks will speed up the process of closing “the digital divide between rural and urban America.”

Pai has also been critical of the FCC’s willingness to pass partisan proposals under the leadership of Tom Wheeler, who was chairman during Obama’s final three years in office. Commissioners from the opposing party were given more deference under previous leaders, he says, and prior leaders were willing to negotiate bipartisan solutions.

“The commission is much stronger when it speaks with a unified voice,” Pai told Morning Consult nearly a year ago. “It gets a lot more congressional support, it’s more likely to be held up in the courts and ultimately accepted by the American people.”

Prior to working at the FCC, Pai worked as a lawyer throughout government, at the FCC, the Department of Justice, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also served as counsel for Verizon between 2001 and 2003, focusing on antitrust and regulatory matters.

Pai’s tenure at the commission is set to expire this year, so he’ll need to be reconfirmed by the Senate if Republicans want him to stick around past 2017. That means Trump effectively gets to test out Pai for a bit before deciding whether to keep him around for much longer. If reconfirmed, he’d get an additional five-year stay that could keep him on through Trump’s term.

Qualcomm fires back against Apple over lawsuit and FTC action

Never a dull moment in the smartphone wars. This week, Qualcomm started getting serious regulatory heat when the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against the chipmaker, accusing it of anticompetitive tactics designed to shut competitors out from supplying components to handset companies.

Apple was one of the few manufacturers mentioned by name in the complaint, and accordingly, the company filed its own suit announced towards end of day yesterday, stating that, “Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined,” in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

Qualcomm has since provided us with a response, and it’s a dozy, so let’s just go ahead and paste the whole thing in here. This one comes from the company’s EVP and General Counsel, Don Rosenberg,

While we are still in the process of reviewing the complaint in detail, it is quite clear that Apple’s claims are baseless. Apple has intentionally mischaracterized our agreements and negotiations, as well as the enormity and value of the technology we have invented, contributed and shared with all mobile device makers through our licensing program. Apple has been actively encouraging regulatory attacks on Qualcomm’s business in various jurisdictions around the world, as reflected in the recent KFTC decision and FTC complaint, by misrepresenting facts and withholding information. We welcome the opportunity to have these meritless claims heard in court where we will be entitled to full discovery of Apple’s practices and a robust examination of the merits.

As you can see, the company plainly suggests that Apple’s ‘baseless’ attacks were behind the FTC’s charges, something the company accuses it of spurring on “by misrepresenting facts and withholding information.”

The statement also suggests that Apple acted similarly in other parts of the world, and seeming reference to the fact that the FTC wasn’t the first to get on Qualcomm for unfair practices in recent years.

The San Diego-based chipmaker has also faced similar issues around the world, getting hit with big fines in South Korea ($854 million) and China ($975 million), along with some scrutiny in the European Union.

About 700 Microsoft employees will be laid off next week, sources say

Microsoft is expected to conduct another round of layoffs next week when the company reports its quarterly earnings on January 26. About 700 jobs are expected to be impacted, according to someone familiar with the matter.

That is not a huge number compared to Microsoft’s workforce of about 113,000 people, but we understand nerves have been running high inside of Microsoft as employees hear rumors that hundreds of jobs will be cut.

This layoff is part of the previously announced plan to cut 2,850 roles announced in June in Microsoft’s annual report. At that time, Microsoft said that it planned to complete those cuts by June 2017, which is the end of Microsoft’s 2017 fiscal year.

Most of the 2,850 roles scheduled to be cut have already been eliminated, according to the person familiar with the matter. The upcoming cuts won’t be specific to any single group, but will be spread across the company’s worldwide offices and business units, including sales, marketing, human resources, engineering, finance and more.

The goals of these rotating smaller layoffs is not to reduce costs but to update skills in various units, this person tells us. And such layoffs don’t have much of an impact on Microsoft’s overall headcount. Microsoft is still hiring, with well over 1,600 job openings posted on LinkedIn.

We understand that Microsoft typically gives laid-off employees 60 days to find a new position internally and offers two weeks pay for every 6 months of employment, according one employee.

Under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has experienced several rounds of layoffs including cutting approximately 7,400 positions in its last fiscal year, primarily from the phone business and its largest ever layoff in history of 18,000 jobs in 2014.

US regulators are reportedly investigating why it took Yahoo so long to disclose it was hacked.

US regulators are reportedly investigating why it took Yahoo so long to disclose it was hacked.

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is examining whether the company should have told investors sooner about two huge data breaches.

Yahoo has faced pointed questions about exactly when it knew about a 2014 cyber attack it announced in September 2016 that exposed the email credentials of half a billion accounts.

Then in December, Yahoo said it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013.

The SEC issued requests for documents in December, as it probes whether the technology company’s disclosures about the cyber attacks complied with civil securities laws, according to the WSJ.

In a November 2016 quarterly filing, Yahoo said that it was “cooperating with federal, state and foreign” agencies, including the SEC, that were seeking information and documents about a “security incident and related matters.”

In the US, securities industry rules require companies to disclose cyber breaches to investors. Although the SEC has long-standing guidance on when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents, companies that have experienced known breaches often omit those details in regulatory filings, according to a 2012 Reuters investigation.

In September 2016, Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner asked the SEC to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives fulfilled obligations to inform investors and the public about the 2014 hacking attack.

The disclosures from Yahoo about both breaches came after the company agreed to sell its main business to Verizon in July, triggering questions about whether the deal would still be viable and, if so, at what price. The deal is expected to close soon, according to The New York Post, and will see what’s left of the business renamed as “Altaba.”

Other agencies looking into the data breach include the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and “a number of State Attorneys General,” Yahoo said in the November filing.