Start up: adbock in India, no ISIS internet?, Galaxy S7 hints, what else Adele CD buyers buy, and more


“Yeah, let me tell you about my previous job.” Photo by steveleenow on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. No cadmium was harmed in the making of this post. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

iPhone users in India embrace ad blocking: survey » Livemint

Dhanya Ann Thoppil:

iPhone users in India are warming up to the US phone maker’s move to introduce ad blocking on its devices, as mobile banner blocking gains grounds in one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world.

A recent survey by market researcher GlobalWebIndex shows that 42% of India’s iPhone 6 users use the software to block ads on their devices compared with a global average of 31%…

…“There’s a sizable audience who are likely to adopt a similar approach on their smartphones and this is a behaviour which could spread quickly across devices, which could spell the end of the mobile ad banner,” the survey said…

…India ranked fourth among the 34 countries surveyed by the market researcher—after Russia, Poland and Indonesia—in terms of adoption of ad block.

To be sure, Apple accounts for only a tiny share of India’s smartphone market. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple has a 1.5% share of the 190m smartphones sold in India thus far. Android-based devices accounted for 93% of the market.

Interesting split. Bandwidth is really expensive in India. But so of course are iPhones.
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai outlines plan to capture Indian market with free Wi-Fi, recruitment and faster access – but not Android One » IB Times

David Gilbert:

In 2016, there will be more people using Android in India than there will be in the United States. Very few of those however will be using Android One, Google’s specially engineered version of its mobile software for emerging markets. On Wednesday Sundar Pichai, the new CEO of Google, addressed a large crowd in New Delhi where he avoided mention of the failed Android One effort and instead focused on Google’s new three-pronged approach to get people online and at the same time put Android and Google search right at the heart of India’s internet revolution.

The new approach will see Google aggressively increase its recruitment of developers in the region; getting people online with free Wi-Fi and an initiative to get women to use the internet; and by making the experience of using the internet much better — even for those with limited connectivity.

The Hindustan Times report is here but Gilbert’s has better background. Notable from the HT story: in India, mobile search passed desktop search in May 2013 – about two years before more developed countries.
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No, you can’t shut down parts of the Internet » Errata Security

Rob Graham:

ISIS doesn’t have any “ASN” [Autonomous System Number] of their own. (If you think otherwise, then simply tell us the ASN that ISIS uses). Instead, ISIS has to pay for telecommunications links to route traffic through other countries. This causes ISIS to share the IP address space of those countries. Since we are talking about client access to the Internet, these are probably going through NATs of some kind. Indeed, that’s how a lot of cellphone access works in third world countries — the IP address of your phone frequently does not match that of your country, but of the country of the company providing the cellphone service (which is often outsourced).

Any attempt to shut those down is going to have a huge collateral impact on other Internet users. You could take a scorched earth approach and disrupt everyone’s traffic, but that’s just going to increasingly isolate the United States while having little impact on ISIS. Satellite and other private radio links can be setup as fast as you bomb them.

In any event, a scorched earth approach to messing with IP routing is still harder than just cutting off their land-line links they already have. In other words, attacking ISIS at Layer 3 (routing) is foolish when attacking at Layer 1 (pysical links) is so much easier.

You could probably bomb fiber optic cables and satellite links as quickly as they got reestablished. But then, you could disable ISIS by doing the same thing with roads, bridges, oil wells, electrical power, and so on. Disabling critical infrastructure is considered a war crime, because it disproportionately affects the populace rather than the enemy. The same likely applies to Internet connections — you’d do little but annoy ISIS while harming the population.

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Samsung adding pressure-sensitive display, high-speed charging port to Galaxy S7 » WSJ

Jonathan Cheng:

Next year’s flagship will look largely similar to the Galaxy S6, and many of the new features take cues from other handsets already available on the market.

The pressure-sensitive display, for instance, will be similar to that offered by rival Apple Inc. on the iPhone 6s earlier this year. The responsive display allows the phone to interpret different taps and touches depending on how the user presses on the touch screen.

The Galaxy S7 will likely also feature a next-generation charging and connection port called a USB Type-C port, the people said, which will allow for a full day’s charge in under 30 minutes and in some cases significantly faster than that. The port has already appeared in smartphones manufactured by LG Electronics Co., Huawei Technologies Co. and others.

The noncurved version of the Galaxy S7 will likely also include an external memory card slot, one of these people said.

The retina scanner, which the company is considering for some versions of the phone, would come after handset makers, such as China’s ZTE Corp., have included the feature on some smartphones. 

So let’s see – stepping away from the S6’s wireless charging and lack of microSD; adding in pressure sensitivity (and USB-C, of course). Samsung can’t seem to make its mind up what features are important.
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Samsung restores its PC business by establishing independent business team » ETNews

Han Juyeop:

[The] New PC Business Team will hire additional employees by end of this year and will reorganize product lines with the aim of releasing products in the second half of 2016. It will also newly develop premium PCs that will become the sign of all products and will lay out its strategy for expanding shipment in thre years from now after organization product lines. However modification on whom will be in charge of tablet business is not decided yet. There is a high chance that PC Business Team will be in charge of products based on Windows OS.

Samsung Electronics’ PC business that was almost going to bankrupt rapidly grew between 2009 and 2012. After it went over a hump by shipping 10 million PCs for the first time in 2010, its brand was in the top 10 in industries for the first time. In 2011, it shipped out 14.3 million PCs. While traditionally strong PC businesses such as HP and Dell were growing at an one-digit rate or going through de-growth, Samsung Electronics along with Apple and Lenovo increased their shipments by 20 to 30% every year. Samsung Electronics once presented a blueprint that it would become a top 3 global PC business in 2015.

However its PC business went downhill after IT Solution Business Department disappeared and as PC business was absorbed and combined to Wireless Business Department within IM Sector due to reorganization of group at the end of 2012.

The estimate is its PC shipments for 2015 will total about 3.5m, almost halved from 6m in 2014, and down from a peak of 15m in 2012. Finding its way back will be challenging.
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The EU data law’s effect on online advertising industry – Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:

The European branch of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB Europe) interpretation of what has been released of the new rules so far identifies two key concerns: that the idea of “personal data” has now been widened, and that internet companies worldwide will now need to gain consent from European users before they use their data to serve targeted advertising to them. Furthermore, the raising of the digital age of consent to 16 from 13 could be hugely disruptive to companies that have strong teen user bases.

Townsend Feehan, the CEO of IAB Europe, the trade body that represents the European internet advertising industry, told Business Insider: “It’s the amputation of a significant revenue stream just at the moment publishers are having such a challenge in switching to digital.”

One of IAB Europe’s key concerns is that “everything” will now be considered personal data, according to Feehan. She added that the new rules include language suggesting that “some identifiers that could not possibly be used to trace back to an individual person” will be included under the “personal data” bucket.

Expect more popups, and agreement possibly hidden as small X marks or similar. Wonder if the US will take up this idea?
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Why Facebook still worries about Android » The Information

Amir Efrati:

Google’s future app notification filtering might be akin to the way Google automatically categorizes some Gmail email as “promotional” — advertising — or as spam, in which case it doesn’t even deliver the email to the inbox.

Several years ago Google began charging browser-based website owners like Yelp for using Google Maps on their sites, such as when visitors to Yelp located a restaurant. The rate Google charged depended on how much the sites used Google Maps. That caused an uproar and some website developers began using alternative mapping services like OpenStreetMap.

There’s no indication that Google is planning to start charging big mobile-app developers for using Google Maps on mobile or for using Google Cloud Messaging for notifications, especially given that Apple doesn’t charge developers for such privileges, either. But at Facebook, there was a sense that Google, under pressure to make money from Android, was interested in wringing some compensation out of Facebook.

Facebook is unique in its reliance on Android. It has upwards of a billion Android users and owns the two most-used mobile apps in the world, Facebook and WhatsApp, with two of its other apps, Instagram and Messenger, not far behind. As such, its app activity dwarfs that of other developers. In terms of advertising revenue, it generates more ad revenue from Android than any company other than Google itself.

The headline isn’t quite right; it should be “Why Facebook still worries about Google”. Android itself isn’t the concern. It’s what Google chooses to do with it.

The data about advertising revenue is a useful one, though.
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Hello from the shopping aisle: what (else) are Adele fans buying? » Nielsen

According to the HomeScan panel, Adele’s CD purchasers were more likely to be employed full time in professional/managerial roles and, as such, have higher than average incomes. Over 56% of them have household incomes of $70,000 (compared with 38% of total U.S. households) and 38% have household incomes of over $100,000 (compared with 23% of total U.S. households). With their higher incomes, they spend 48% more at retail than the general population: a total of $5,505 each year, compared with the average $3,713 for total U.S. households.

So what else is in these shopping carts? Adele CD buyers over-index for nonessential comfort/mood-related items—not unlike an Adele album—such as magazines, women’s fragrances, men’s toiletries, candles and incense, seasonal merchandise, cordials and liqueurs, and liquor. They also over-index for healthier food items like fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. They spent more dollars on computers and electronic products, health and beauty aids and hair care compared to other buyers of those items, suggesting they might not just be buying more but also be buying higher-quality, more expensive items.

They really spend heavily on electronics – 2.49x more than the average person, making that the biggest divergence from the average. No word on gender split, though.
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Is Adele really ‘dumb and uneducated’ and mean to her fans for keeping her album off Spotify? » Auddly

Helienne Lindvall:

XL Recordings left it up to Adele and her management to decide for themselves if the album would go on streaming sites. Though many more artists and songwriters would like to follow her lead, most of them are, however, at the mercy of their publishers, labels and PROs – companies and collecting societies that can afford to take a gamble on streaming, led by decision makers on salaries, unlike artists and songwriters. Likewise, when Spotify doesn’t make a profit, its employees still get paid every month.

This is why the music creators’ wishes may not always tally with their labels, publishers or PROs, but still needs to be respected. Some streaming proponents argue that artists “only” need 100 streams to equal the revenue of a single download (there are differing calculations on this with some claiming it’s more like a couple of hundred). It may not sound like a lot, but taking a look at my iTunes library it’s clear that not even my favourite records have reached that many listens – and I’m an avid listener. And what about Spotify users that don’t pay?

The elephant in the room, though, is YouTube. You can find the entire album there multiple times for “free”, with the top one having nearly half a million plays already. There’s no way to keep it off, either; you’d just be playing whack-a-mole. So while Adele’s decision is perfectly valid, it’s actually not changing the power balance that existed before streaming.
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Orifice Space » thewalrus.ca

Natalie Zina Walschots:

“I have to relabel all these asses. It’s going to take a thousand years.”

With less than an hour left in the workday, my boss opened his office door and spewed stress all over everyone in the content-creation department, located on the main floor of a squat office building in downtown Toronto. Grey carpet and beige walls, banks of cubicles on the lower floors and big offices with big windows for the executives above: this could be any content farm in the city.

All that sets my office apart from any other is that, instead of an insurance company or consulting firm, it houses an Internet pornography curator. We dozen or so staff writers share a space with customer service. Tech-support calls come from frantic, semi-erect subscribers unable to access our latest video uploads. The keywords for the content we generate comprise sex acts, positions, and assorted vulgarities: Rimjob. Doggy style. MILF. I once watched a co-worker Photoshop a porn star’s armpit stubble out of every single frame of a video in which it appeared.

So anyway, you were telling us about your tedious job that you hate. (Though this is not quite as good as – and is a lot shorter than – one of the internet’s Great Lost Treasures, the wonderful Diaries of a Porn Video Store Clerk; we’d would probably require Indiana Jones to unearth those, however.)
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Vulnerable parking apps allow hackers to steal your login and credit card details » Graham Cluley

Conducted by information assurance firm NCC Group, the assessment analyzed six parking applications for the Android operating system. Some of the apps had been downloaded from Google Play between 5,000 and 10,000 times, whereas others boasted one million registered users.

The number of installs for each app ultimately did not matter, however, as all of the applications were affected by security vulnerabilities.

According to an NCC Group blog post the review determined that while all of the apps used encryption to protect their customers’ sensitive information – something from which four major airlines should learn a lesson or two – not one verified the certificate used by the server.

Attackers could subsequently exploit this oversight to conduct man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, especially if the application used Android WebView and contained a bridge that could enable JavaScript running from WebView to access native device functions.

NCC didn’t look at iOS, which seems strange. As I understand it iOS 9 forces use of HTTPS, unless an exception is given, and checks the certificate except in particular circumstances. So if I’m reading this correctly, iOS 9 apps wouldn’t be susceptible to this MITM attack. Park safely!
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Gravity’s mystery CEO, Android audio latency, Engadget v Wikipedia v AI, and more


The Pill – so well-known and powerful it only needs the noun to describe it. Photo by Beppie K on Flickr.

Haven’t you heard? You can receive each day’s Start Up post by email. None of this “web” nonsense. (You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.)

A selection of 10 links for you. Aren’t they pretty. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The CEO paying everyone $70,000 salaries has something to hide » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Karen Weise does a wonderful job of just checking the damn facts about Dan Price, the guy who cut his own salary and raised his staff’s to $70,000 on 13 April:

In a follow-up interview in mid-November, I pressed Price about the inconsistency. How could what he told me about being served two weeks after announcing the raise be true when the court records indicated otherwise?

“Umm, I’m not, I have to look,” he said. The court document, I said, definitely says March 16. “I am only aware of the suit being initiated after the raise,” he replied.

“The court record shows you being served on March 16 … at 1:25 p.m.,” I said. “And actually, your answer to it was dated April 3,” also before the pay hike.

“I am only aware of the suit being initiated after the raise,” he repeated. I asked again how that could be, saying the declaration of service shows Price was served with the complaint, the summons, and other documents, “that you are a male, who is white, age 30, 5-feet-8-inches, medium height, dark hair.”

He paused for 20 seconds. “Are you there?” he asked, then twice repeated his statement that he was only aware of the suit being initiated in late April. “I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have,” he added.

That’s not the end of it either. There’s deeper stuff to come.
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Android audio latency in depth: it’s getting better, especially with the Nexus 5X and 6P » Android Police

Martim Lobao:

In a study published by the Audio Engineering Society, researchers attempted to determine the lowest latency detectable by different kinds of musicians…

What they found was a set of values below which absolutely no kind of delay or artifact was detected at all. With an 80% confidence level, this value was at least 28 ms for keyboards, whereas for drums, guitars, and bass, it was 9 ms, 5 ms, and 5 ms, respectively. Predictably, the lowest value found was for vocals, where singers only began to notice some slight artifacts at around 2 ms.

Using this data, we drew up another chart to compare these values with several Nexus devices running different versions of Android, as well as the iPhone 6, the iPad Air 2, and human reaction times to various kinds of stimuli. The red and green dashed lines represent the typical thresholds for detecting audio lags and for perceiving audio artifacts, respectively.

While it’s clear that OS updates play a large role (perhaps even the most important one), not everything can be attributed to software alone. Devices with older hardware like the 2013 Nexus 7 still have a latency of 55 ms, compared to the 15 ms on the Nexus 9 — and yet both are running Android 6.0. On the other hand, the Note 5 is roughly on par with the Nexus 5, even though the former runs Lollipop and the latter runs Marshmallow.

Audio latency is a perennial “it’ll get better next time, honest” challenge for Android. What the graph clearly shows is that every iOS device runs under the “detectable lag” threshold, and that every tested Android device runs above that same threshold. (Lobao calls this “unfortunate” and “an unfair advantage”, as though iOS were somehow cheating.)

Lobao pulls out some excellent examples of what the real-world effect of different delays sound like, such as this from SoundCloud.
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Doing real design work on an iPad » Subtraction.com

Khoi Vinh (who works at Adobe):

Some folks may have little tolerance for hoop jumping at all when OS X is so powerful and precise, and many people I talk to find my desire to go all iPad all the time to be somewhat pointless. But it’s more than an academic exercise to me; I genuinely enjoy using my iPad more than my MacBook. It’s lightness and portability is a joy, and its nimbleness—I can use it in portrait or landscape, with or without a Bluetooth keyboard, seated, standing or even walking—makes it right for almost every usage scenario. I also like its ability to run iOS apps because that’s what I’m thinking about in my day-to-day work more than anything; it’s invaluable to me to be embedded in the native environment and mostly free from accessing desktop apps.

I’ve already written a column about the “real work” conundrum for next Sunday’s Tech Monthly in The Guardian. Notable how articles like this are cropping up more and more.
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Samsung pulls out of cameras in the UK, cites decline in interest » Pocket-lint

Rik Henderson:

Samsung has confirmed to Pocket-lint that it will phase out the sale and marketing of digital cameras, camcorders and related accessories in the UK.

The company had been rumoured to be considering such a move on a global scale, with some suggesting that it would make a formal announcement during the CES trade show in Las Vegas in January. However, in response to such speculation in September, Samsung replied that it would be continuing with production of cameras and lenses.

It just won’t be selling them in the UK anymore, it seems.

First PCs, now this. Hard to think anyone is buying digital cameras or camcorders in appreciable numbers any more.
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I taught a computer to write like Engadget » Engadget

Aaron Souppouris:

Building on this, you can seed Engadgetbot with an idea by adding some “primetext” that it’ll build a sentence or paragraph from. A few examples, with the primetext in italics:

A display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, for all it’s worth, is an excellent companion at $200.

The problem with Android is one that affects the search to find a standard chipset for Android.

The problem with iPhone is products of the same section and everything is closer than one of the plungentications.

Some of those sentences are more prescient than others, and I don’t know where it learned “plungentications” from, but structurally all of these sentences are perfect. An RNN certainly can’t replace an Engadget writer, but an RNN can definitely form sentences like an Engadget writer.

Definitely. I can see it getting its own blog pretty soon.
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Despite privacy scare, Adele smashes secondary ticketing » MusicAlly

Stuart Dredge:

Coldplay’s six UK dates had 17,631 tickets available across the three secondary sites; Rihanna’s six UK gigs had 9,290 tickets available; and Adele’s 12-concert run had 649 tickets for secondary sale.

Or to put it another way, the average number of secondary tickets per Coldplay gig was 2,939, compared to 1,548 for Rihanna and just 54 for Adele:


Sources: Seatwave, GetMeIn, StubHub – evening of 1 December 2015

Even with caveats – Adele is playing arenas while Coldplay and Rihanna are playing stadiums, and StubHub had no Adele tickets available at all – those figures are startling.

The promise by Adele’s management that “the resale of tickets will not be tolerated” appears to have been followed through with action that hugely restricted the secondary market for the most-anticipated tour in years – Songkick said more than 500,000 people registered on Adele’s website for the pre-sale.

What action? “Songkick provided the opportunity to allow fans to register, and to use its proprietary technology to identify touts, reduce their ability to purchase tickets when advance sales commenced on December 1 and to cancel as many tickets appearing on secondary ticketing sites as possible,” claimed that company’s statement.

No further details have been given, but we suspect there’s a bigger story in that “proprietary technology to identify touts”.

Adele’s manager later said that 18,000 “known or likely touts” had been deregistered before presales, and more than 100 tickets cancelled after appearing on secondary sites. Chalk another one up to Adele and her management.

Wonder if they’ll share the “known or likely” list with other sites and/or artists?
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The Pill versus the Bomb: what digital technologists need to know about power » Medium

Tom Steinberg:

The oral contraceptive pill doesn’t, at first glance, appear to have the same visceral connection to power as a bomb or an engine. And yet as a technology that shifts power around it is perhaps unmatched.

This is because the Pill allowed women from the late 1960s onwards to control their own fertility, which allowed them to postpone marriage, postpone the birth of their first child, and turn these advantages into more education and greater involvement in the employment markets. Put together this gave women with access to the pill relatively greater power than they had before, both through greater earnings and through greater ability to choose how to live their own lives.

But what is most interesting to me about the nature of this technological power shift is that it did not dissipate as the technology became ubiquitous.

…Like a diode, the power of the Pill only flows one way.

(Emphasis in original.) Steinberg, who set up MySociety, and was a technology adviser to the 2010-2015 coalition in the UK, is now looking for people who’ve got comparable power-spreading technologies.
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Nokia’s Ozo VR camera marks a rebirth for the phone giant » WIRED

Maurizio Pesce:

The Ozo is set to be unveiled on November 30 in Los Angeles, and expected to cost around $50,000. That’s about three times the price tag of the GoPro Odyssey. However, while the GoPro’s footage must still be assembled in laborious post-production processes, the Ozo can generate a full 360-degree stereoscopic video in real time. Thanks to HD-SDI connections on the body, the camera can stream 1.5 Gbps of compressed RAW footage to store data from the streams from the eight lens, broadcast full 360-degree panoramic video, and also stream a low-res feed for monitoring. The camera is Wi-Fi enabled, too, allowing filmmakers to control the system remotely in real time while shooting.

Nokia’s bold move into virtual reality is a clear statement that the Finns are still alive, and that they’re more interested in the projected $150bn dollar VR industry than they are in the mobile handset industry.

It’s less a “rebirth” – Nokia’s network business has been doing OK – than a new direction, but the point about the VR industry compared to the handset business is a good one. And this is clearly aimed at content producers, a smart move.

So… when does Apple update Final Cut Pro to handle VR? Or will it introduce something entirely new?
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Wikipedia deploys AI to expand its ranks of human editors » WIRED

Cade Metz:

With his new AI project — dubbed the Objective Revision Evaluation Service, or ORES — [senior research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation, Aaron] Halfaker aims to boost participation by making Wikipedia more friendly to newbie editors. Using a set of open source machine learning algorithms known as SciKit Learn—code freely available to the world at large—the service seeks to automatically identify blatant vandalism and separate it from well-intentioned changes. With a more nuanced view of new edits, the thinking goes, these algorithms can continue cracking down on vandals without chasing away legitimate participants. It’s not that Wikipedia needs to do away with automated tools to attract more human editors. It’s that Wikipedia needs better automated tools.

“We don’t have to flag good-faith edits the same way we flag bad-faith damaging edits,” says Halfaker, who used Wikipedia as basis for his PhD work in the computer science department at the University of Minnesota.

In the grand scheme of things, the new AI algorithms are rather simple examples of machine learning. But they can be effective. They work by identifying certain words, variants of certain words, or particular keyboard patterns. For instance, they can spot unusually large blocks of characters. “Vandals tend to mash the keyboard and not put spaces in between their characters,” Halfaker says.

I CAN TYPING confirmed as fact. Next step: get the AI to write the Wikipedia articles. (Step after that: humans stop bothering to read Wikipedia?)
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The Surface Phone you’ve always wanted is happening » Windows Central

Daniel Rubino:

Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans have revealed that the rumored Intel-powered Windows 10 phone slated for May 2016 has been cancelled. Instead, an all-new flagship phone lead by Panos Panay and the team of engineers that built the Microsoft Surface and Surface Book has been given the green light. Slated for a release in the second half of 2016 this may be the long-wished-for Surface phone. Here is what we know and what we don’t.

What we know:
1) it’s about five years too late.
2) that’s all, really. It doesn’t matter if it’s a super-amazing premium flagship able to cure cancer while landing on the moon. Nobody (to a sufficiently good approximation) will buy it.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: