Apple Pencil Almost Impossible to Repair, Finds iFixit Teardown

Earlier this month, iFixit, which is popular for product teardowns and DIY fix-it guides, found that Apple’s recently launched iPad Pro is one of the most difficult to repair devices available on the market. Turns out, its accessory the Apple Pencil is even tougher to fix.

The iFixit team cracked open the Apple Pencil, a stylus accessory designed to work with the iPad Pro, to find that it is extremely difficult to open, and the components inside are “impossible to remove without shredding.”

Once the outer plastic case has been opened, there is an inner housing made of metal. Inside it is a lithium-ion battery of rating 3.82V, 0.329Wh, offering just five percent of the charge compared to the battery on iPhone 6s. The battery is apparently impossible to replace.

There’s also a pressure sensor and a tiny logic board inside the Apple Pencil. The board, which the team says is the smallest it has seen in any device, weighs just a gram. The company has actually folded the board to fit it inside the Pencil.

The logic board sports an ARM-based Cortex-M3 MCU chipset and Bluetooth Smart radio. In the tip, there are two emitters that sense the angle and orientation in which the device has been kept. The team also found two moving parts that are there to gauge pressure.

iFixit found the $99-priced device very difficult to repair. It gave it a repairability score of one out of ten. “The pencil is clearly not meant to be opened or repaired; you can’t get inside without destroying the device,” it concluded. For comparison, the iPad Pro scored a repairability score of three out of ten.

Google Said to Be Planning 2016 China Launch of Google Play

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Google, part of Alphabet Inc, aims to launch the China version of its Google Play smartphone app store next year, according to people familiar with the matter, its first major foray in the market since ending localised product support in 2010.

The Google Play app store would be set up specifically for China, and not connected to overseas versions of Google Play, two of the people said.

They said Google intends to comply with Chinese laws on filtering content that might be viewed as sensitive by the ruling Communist Party, and laws requiring the company to store the app store’s data within China.

A Singapore-based Google spokesman declined to comment.

Google largely pulled its services out of China five years ago after refusing to continue self-censoring its search results. It has maintained a limited presence in the world’s biggest smartphone market, but most of its services, including Play, have been rendered borderline inaccessible.

The US company would use a successful app store as a launch pad to place other products and services in China, said two people familiar with Google’s thinking.

They said, however, that the company has not settled on which product might come next.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and other top brass have made no secret that the company wants to get back into China, and Google Play would likely be its first foray.

But critics say Google has lost basically all ground in most of its major services, especially search and video streaming, to Chinese players.

The biggest competition might come from products on the wrong side of the law, said technology analyst Rob Enderle.

“There are a substantial number of free ways people get music in China that makes it difficult for any service, especially from the West, to get into the market,” he said.

Breaking the ice
For Google, having a product in China would be a symbolic gesture to show that the company values the market, said Shen Si, CEO of Chinese mobile advertising company PapayaMobile and a former Google employee.

“If they want to break the ice with the Chinese market then they have to pick a pretty important product to make available to the Chinese people and make it really localised,” she said.

“Google Play would be a really good product for that because it’s not very sensitive.”

Chris MacDonald, a business ethics expert at Toronto’s Ryerson University, agreed Google Play was a safer bet than search or Gmail in China but said Google should take its time deciding what product to bring to the market next.

“Which ones involve the least consumer data? Which ones are least likely to be politically sensitive or serve as a means of expression for political dissidents?” asked MacDonald.

If Google wants to penetrate the Chinese market in a meaningful way it has to be led by search, said Enderle.

“How do you use YouTube without search? Everything they’ve got hinges on search. In the end if they can’t get search in everything it is going to be even more crippled than it already is,” he said.

Google has had its employees working hard in China to lay the ground for the app store’s launch, said one of the people with knowledge of executives’ plans.

The US-based firm is hoping to launch Google Play in China some time after Chinese New Year in February next year, and before early summer, that person said. Another person at a company in China that works with Google said the store will go live in 2016.

The company hopes the app store will include as payment options Alipay, the online payment service from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s finance arm Ant Financial Services Group, and Tencent Holding Ltd’sWeChat Payment, said the person familiar with executives’ thinking.

Rather than requiring explicit approval from China’s government to launch the app store, Google just needs to comply with Chinese laws including those governing data storage and content filtering, the person added. That was echoed by PapayaMobile’s Shen.

Spokeswomen for Ant Financial and Tencent declined to comment.

Too big to ignore
China is too big a market for Google to ignore. Apple Inc complies with local laws and made $58.7 billion (roughly Rs. 3,88,059 crores) last in the year ended September 26 in Greater China, which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, making it its second-biggest market.

Last month, Google said it would take a minority stake in Beijing-based artificial intelligence firm Mobvoi as part of a $75 million (roughly Rs. 495 crores) fundraising round, as the US search giant tries to rebuild its presence in China.

Because services like its search, e-mail and mapping are blocked in China, the US firm is trying to cement partnerships with domestic providers like Mobvoi, which offers technology similar to Apple’s Siri and Google’s own version.

Mark Zuckerberg to Take Two Months of Paternity Leave

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday he will take two months of paternity leave after his daughter’s birth, a strong statement from one of the busiest and most powerful US executives on the importance of family time.

Silicon Valley technology firms have rushed to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits in an attempt to recruit and retain talent, but many workers do not take advantage for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

Facebook, the world’s biggest online social network, allows its US employees to take up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave, which can be used all at once or throughout the first year of their child’s life, a policy which is generous by US standards. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl.

A 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 21 percent of employers it surveyed offered paid maternity leave, and 17 percent provided paid paternity leave.

“This is a very personal decision,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, along with a picture of a stroller, a yellow baby carrier and his dog, Beast. “Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families.”

Zuckerberg, 31, did not say who would be running the company while he is out. Facebook did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

It is likely that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who oversees all of Facebook’s advertising, will assume leadership. Zuckerberg largely oversees products, but will likely rely on chief product officer Chris Cox while he is out.

Zuckerberg’s decision is unusual among high-level tech executives, especially men. Yahoo Inc CEOMarissa Mayer took two weeks off after her first child’s birth in 2012, and when she announced she was pregnant with identical twin girls in September, she said she would be taking limited maternity leave and “working throughout.”

Zuckerberg’s post generated more than 50,000 ‘likes’ in one hour and nearly 3,000 comments. Many of the comments lauded his decision and said it sent a positive message about US parental leave policies.

Sandberg commented and congratulated Zuckerberg and his wife. Noting the baby’s upcoming birth, she wrote in her post: “I can’t wait to meet her.”

Nasa Calls on SpaceX to Send Astronauts to ISS

SpaceX received orders Friday from the US space agency to send astronauts to the International Space Station in the coming years, helping restore US access to space, Nasa said.

The announcement was a formal step in a process that began earlier this year when Boeing was given the nod by Nasa to send crew to the orbiting outpost by late 2017.

Both Boeing and SpaceX have received billions in seed money from Nasa to restore American access to the ISS, after the US space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

The announcement of $4.2 billion (roughly Rs. 27,765 crores) for Boeing and $2.6 billion (roughly Rs. 17,188 crores) for SpaceX was made in September 2014.

Boeing announced in January that it would be the first, sending a piloted mission aboard its CST-100 Starliner capsule by late 2017.

However, in Friday’s announcement, Nasa said that “determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time.”

SpaceX is already flying cargo missions to the ISS, and is working on a crew version of its Dragon capsule to carry astronauts.

The announcement marked the “second in a series of four guaranteed orders Nasa will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts,” the US space agency said.

“The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May.”

Kathy Lueders, manager of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program, said “it is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from US companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”

The ISS is expected to remain operational until 2024.

Since the shuttle program ended in 2011, the world’s astronauts have relied on Russia’s Soyuz capsules for transport at a pice of some $70 million (roughly Rs. 462 crores) per seat.

“The authority to proceed with Dragon’s first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating office of SpaceX.

“When Crew Dragon takes Nasa astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for Nasa and our country.”

Microsoft Announces 10 Days of 10 Cent Deals, Xbox One Offers

Microsoft has some sweet new deals for you as we head into the holidays particularly if you’re a gamer.

There are a dozen deals for different flavors of the Xbox One console itself. Many of the deals come bundled with games that Microsoft is promoting heavily this season. Some of these bundles will start as low as $299 (roughly Rs. 19,700) a $100 discount.

Here’s a full list of the bundles, which are available from Thanksgiving Day through the end of the month.

Xbox One Limited Edition “Halo 5: Guardians” Bundle

Xbox One Elite Bundle

Xbox One 1TB Holiday Bundle

Xbox One “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” Bundle

Xbox One “Rise of the Tomb Raider” Bundle

Xbox One “The LEGO Movie Videogame” Bundle

Xbox One Special Edition “Gears of War” Bundle

Xbox One with Kinect Bundle

Xbox One “Fallout 4” Bundle

Xbox One Limited Edition “Forza Motorsport 6” Console

Xbox One “Madden NFL 16” Bundle

Xbox One “FIFA 16” 1TB Bundle

Microsoft has noted that supplies for the “Forza Motorsport 6” and “Madden NFL 16” bundles are already running low, so you’ll have to be quick with your mouse button when the deals go live to snag one.

If you’re all set in the console realm, Microsoft is also running a little promotion for its existing customers. Currently, Xbox One and Xbox 360 users will be able to upgrade to premium Xbox Gold membership for a discounted rate: one month of the service for $1 (roughly Rs. 66), after which it will renew automatically at the normal rate. Xbox Gold costs $60 (roughly Rs. 3,900) per year or $25 (roughly Rs. 1,650) every three months, depending on the package you get, and gets you discounts on games.

Non-gamers are in for some Microsoft deals, as well.

Windows which happens to be celebrating its 30th birthday this week is going to launch “10 Days of 10 Cent Deals” on Windows 10. The company will be offering more than 10,000 music, movie and game titles for a dime in total, with different deals popping up through the end of the month.

On the Office front, there a couple of interesting deals, though they may not honestly be the most exciting gifts. Shoppers can get $10 (roughly Rs. 660) off a subscription to Office 365 Home or Personal, which normally costs $100 (roughly Rs. 6,600) per year or $10 per month. You’ll also be able to nab $50 (roughly Rs. 3,300) off of the PC and Mac versions of Home & Student, which is Microsoft’s normally $150 (roughly Rs. 9,900) bundle of Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.

And if you want to give your whole life over to Microsoft, they’re also offering a “Work & Play” bundle that gives you a bunch of perks a year’s subscription to Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, unlimited world Skype calls and plus a $60 promotional gift card for digital entertainment content all for $149.

Apple Wins Patent Trial Against Pendrell Subsidiary

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A US jury on Friday found Apple Inc did not infringe five antipiracy patents owned by a Pendrell Corp subsidiary at trial in a Texas federal court.

The jury also found that Apple did not prove that the patents were invalid. No damages were awarded to Pendrell subsidiary ContentGuard Holdings.

An Apple attorney declined to comment. Samuel Baxter, an attorney for ContentGuard, said they are disappointed by the outcome and evaluating options.

The trial came after a jury in a separate case in the same court in September cleared Google Inc of infringing the same five patents. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd was also cleared in that case.

ContentGuard sued Apple in 2013 and Google and Samsung in 2014 alleging infringement of several antipiracy patents that help to restrict content to authorized users.

The company claimed Apple infringed by making and selling its popular devices, which use the iTunes and iBooks applications, to distribute DRM-protected songs, movies, TV shows and books. Apple denied any infringement and said the patents are invalid.

ContentGuard emerged from a partnership in 2000 between Xerox Corp and Microsoft Corp to form a digital rights management business, according to court papers. It is now owned by Kirkland, Washington-based Pendrell Corp, a publicly traded patent management company, and Time Warner.

Through its subsidiaries, Pendrell holds about 1,200 patents worldwide.

Intel Hires Ex-Qualcomm Executive Murthy Renduchintala to Run Top Unit

Intel Corp., the world’s biggest chipmaker, said it appointed Murthy Renduchintala as a company president and gave him control of two of its biggest business divisions.

Renduchintala, who left Qualcomm Inc. after losing out in a leadership shakeup, will oversee a new unit including Intel’s personal-computer chip and Internet of Things divisions its biggest source of revenue and one of its fastest-growing businesses, respectively, the company said in a statement.

“The caliber of leadership and experience Murthy brings to our executive team represents a significant move toward delivering the benefits of our strategy even faster than before,” Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich said in the statement.

While Intel and Qualcomm are leading producers of microprocessors, they have so far failed to encroach on each other’s turf. Intel has more than 80 percent of the market for chips that power PCs and all of the server market, but has racked up losses in a futile attempt to dent Qualcomm’s hold on the mobile phone processor business. For its part, Qualcomm has only just announced its first test chip for servers and hasn’t been able to find buyers for its designs for PCs.

Renduchintala was at Qualcomm for more than a decade and rose to be the co-head of its chip business. The company recently appointed Cristiano Amon to run that division.

“Murthy was offered another role within Qualcomm, but he chose to leave the company instead,” the San Diego-based chipmaker said in an email.

While Intel has led the chip market in processing performance and manufacturing, Qualcomm’s chip designers have delivered better systems on chips, semiconductors that combine the functions of several different devices into once piece of silicon. That type of chip, including communications, is increasingly taking over in mobile devices.

Brazil Anti-Trust Watchdog to Investigate Actions Against Uber

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Brazil’s anti-trust watchdog Cade said on Friday it would investigate anti-competitive actions by some cab drivers and taxi groups against ride-sharing software Uber.

Some cab companies have used “abusive means to block the entry of Uber in the market” that includes violence against Uber drivers and passengers, the watchdog said in a statement.

As long as controversy over the legality of Uber in the country is not resolved, the software should be considered a competitor in the market, the watchdog said.

The country’s main cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are moving to ban the mobile application after a series of protests by taxi drivers and strong lobby by local politicians.

President Dilma Rousseff blamed the application for increasing unemployment, calling on local authorities to regulate the service.

China Reportedly Mulling Its Own ‘Secure’ Smartphones

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As China, the world’s largest smartphone market, grows wary of US surveillance, it is mulling its own “secure” smartphones in an attempt to insulate them from surveillance.

The effort – another step in the country’s quest to build a homegrown tech industry – would involve state-owned companies as well as some of the private players, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has joined with China’s ministry of public security to develop a mobile operating system for police officers that it bills as more secure.

The country’s largest chip-design company, Spreadtrum Communications Inc., separately said it would begin mass producing a set of chips that run a Chinese operating system by year-end.

In China, almost all handsets are either iPhones or are powered by Google’s Android operating system – something not to the liking of Chinese officials.

Even the Chinese-made ZTE Nubia Z5 smartphone runs on Android and includes a Qualcomm Inc. processor.

Now, ZTE Corp. is working on a secure smartphone for government agencies using an operating system developed in-house, and a processor chip from a Chinese supplier, a company spokesperson was reported as saying.

However, ZTE’s secure phone reportedly would not boast of features like camera, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connections to minimize security risks. But without these features, the phone is not likely to appeal to the general public.

At the same time, a ZTE spokesman said that it was not possible to use exclusively Chinese-made hardware and software in a smartphone, but to meet the needs of government agencies it is trying to use domestic suppliers as much as possible.