Desilu plans U.S. listing to complete Vonetize acquisition

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Desilu Studios plans to go public in the United States as a second stage of a proposed acquisition of Israeli technology start-up Vonetize.

The U.S. film studio famous for producing classic shows such as “I Love Lucy”, “Star Trek” and “The Untouchables” said on Friday that it had agreed a deal to take a controlling stake in Vonetize, the share price of which jumped 75 percent on Sunday.

Vonetize, whose technology enables over-the-top (OTT) live channel streaming and on-demand services, operates in 60 countries and has global partnerships with LG, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and Sony Universal among others.

Desilu said it had bought a 10 percent stake in cash from controlling shareholders at a company valuation of $50 million and received an option to buy a further 44 percent in the next 12 months.

Vonetize said on Sunday that Desilu would list in the United States to finance the deal for the rest of its proposed stake in the Israeli business.

Another route could be that Vonetize would dual-list on Nasdaq this year and then merge Desilu into that listing through a share-swap transaction, said Vonetize CEO Noam Josephides.

Some 40 percent of Vonetize’s shares are in free float.

Josephides said that Vonetize already has approval for a Nasdaq listing this year but a decision had yet to be reached.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by David Goodman

Trump's Call to Start a Space Force Tops This Week's Internet News Roundup

People look for inspiration and happiness in a vast array of places. Some see school kids walking out of class across America to take a stand for gun control and find hope. Others note that 7-Eleven now has customizable tater tots and are filled with joy. What do they get when they look at the internet? All that and a lot of bickering and tweets about calzones. Here, dear friends, is what everyone was talking about online last week when they weren’t talking about the new Avengers: Infinity War trailer.


What Happened: President Trump announced Rex Tillerson was being replaced as secretary of state on Twitter.

What Really Happened: Folks like to make jokes about Donald Trump running America via Twitter, but last week he announced an executive decision on the platform that was definitely not funny—at least not to the head of the State Department.

Yes, the change in Secretary of State—one of the most important, if not the most important, cabinet positions—was announced via social media, as if Trump was every parody of himself imaginable. For those who wanted more than just a tweet of notice about the new state of affairs, that was forthcoming … also via Twitter, of course.

Those around Tillerson, who had just arrived back in the country, were surprised by the news, suggesting that Tillerson himself wasn’t entirely prepared for what had just happened.

There might, it turns out, have been a reason for that, if one response from the State Department is to be believed.

OK, perhaps it was a little disingenuous to say that no one saw this coming, as some pointed out.

Unsurprisingly, the White House has a different take on the way everything went down.

Except, it turned out, chief of staff John Kelly’s message might not have been entirely clear.

There really is something to be said about Twitter’s role in all of this, isn’t there? Still, things couldn’t have been that bad, because Tillerson did make an appearance later that day to talk about his firing and smooth everything over.

OK, maybe it was kinda bad. (Tillerson’s failure to thank the president did not go unnoticed by, well, anyone.) Still, perhaps the split between Trump and Tillerson was for the best.

This is worth noting, as well. The State Department aide who put out the earlier statement saying that Tillerson didn’t know why he’d been fired? Yeah, there was a price to pay for saying that.

The Takeaway: Quick, we need a catchy way of talking about former Exxon CEO Tillerson now that he’s been ousted!

That’ll do.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

What Happened: House Republicans announced they were closing their investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, saying there was no evidence of such actions.

What Really Happened: Last week, with little warning, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election just … stopped.

“Case closed”? Sure, if you say so. And, it turns out, they really did say so.

There are others who might disagree with that take, of course…

As news of the surprise closure started to go wide, it was perhaps worth turning to the ranking Democrat on the committee to see if he had anything to say about the whole thing.

That would be a yes, then. And, sure, it seems suspicious to say the least that the Republicans just shut down the investigation unfinished with so much still out there unanswered, but surely the Democrats on the committee were given adequate warning that the investigation was being closed, right?

OK, but at least all the Republicans are agreed that this move was the smart one?

Well, fine, yes, that’s a little awkward. Still, at least one of the leading Republicans on the committee didn’t disagree.

Oh, come on. As the week continued, it eventually started to become clear even to the Republicans that this had been a mistake, with this headline putting it best: “Republicans Fear They Botched Russia Report Rollout.” Gee, you think?

The Takeaway: In what could only be described as a spectacular piece of timing, the Republicans announced that there was nothing Russians had done in regards to the 2016 election in the same week that the Trump administration finally signed sanctions into law against 16 Russians for their efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. There’s nothing like being consistent.

Meanwhile, Over at the Department of Justice…

What Happened: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation took aim at the Trump Organization.

What Really Happened: Meanwhile, you might be thinking, “I wonder how special council Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation is going? I’m sure that, if the House Republicans were right and there’s certainly nothing going on, he’ll be wrapping everything up too, right?” Funny story: He’s not wrapping everything up.

Yes, in what is pretty much the opposite of wrapping things up, Mueller is subpoenaing the Trump Organization’s records, which is … kind of a big deal, to say the least. Certainly, that’s what people on social media seemed to think.

But what could it all mean? Some people had theories.

And how is this going down with those targeted?

Somewhere, Devin Nunes is wandering around the halls of Congress, muttering to himself, “But I said nothing happened…!”

The Takeaway: It’s worth pointing out that the Mueller news dropped on March 15, which amused certain people online.

Oh, Canada

What Happened: Forget “Commander in Chief,” perhaps President Trump’s title could be “Gaslighter in Chief.” Or, maybe, “Man Who Should Perhaps Never Talk in Front of a Tape Recorder Ever.”

What Really Happened: This might sound like the kind of old-fashioned, unnecessary posturing of people stuck in the past, but once upon a time it was widely expected that the President of the United States wouldn’t be the kind of person who would boast about lying to the head of state of a friendly nation.

Those days, dear readers, are long gone.

Yes, the Washington Post obtained audio from a fundraising speech in which Trump boasted that he’d made up information that he used in an argument with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over whether or not the US runs a trade deficit with Trudeau’s country. (It doesn’t.) “I had no idea,” Trump can be heard to say on the tape. “I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.” As you might expect, people were thrilled about this display of, uh, political maneuvering? Sure, let’s go with that.

As the media struggled to understand what was happening, the White House press secretary attempted to smooth out the situation by, well, repeating the lie.

There is, also, a surreal second story to this audio of Trump that has nothing to do with lying to Justin Trudeau. Instead, it had to do with the “bowling ball test.”

As multiple outlets looked into the matter, it slowly emerged that it was probably all made up. Not to worry, though; according to the White House, it was just a joke.

The Takeaway: There’s really only response to this entire exchange, isn’t there?

Space Force? Space Force!

What Happened: When it comes to America’s manifest destiny, there’s only one direction left to go: To infinity… and beyond?

What Really Happened: With all the bad news going around the the White House, you can’t blame the president for wanting to change the narrative somehow. And you only get to do that, he knows, by thinking big and reaching for the stars. Last week, Trump gave a speech that showed just how literally he took that advice.

Sure, going to Mars is definitely thinking big, but is it thinking big enough? Not to worry, however; Trump was right there with the next big thing.

Space Force! Just the very idea got the media excited, and asking questions like, “For real?” and “What does that even mean?”, not to mention “Do we have to?” Sure, not every outlet took the idea seriously, but that’s the lamestream media for you. Everyone else was into the idea, or calling the president a laughingstock. It’s hard to be a leader. But at least Twitter understood the potential of Space Force.


The Takeaway: Make no mistake, people may joke now, but Space Force is the future.

Trump consultants harvested data from 50 million Facebook users: reports

(Reuters) – Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users in developing techniques to support President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, the New York Times and London’s Observer reported on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook logo is seen at the Facebook Gather conference in Brussels, Belgium January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The newspapers, which cited former Cambridge Analytica employees, associates and documents, said the data breach was one of the largest in the history of Facebook Inc.

Facebook on Friday said it was suspending Cambridge Analytica after finding data privacy policies had been violated.

The Observer said Cambridge Analytica used the data, taken without authorization in early 2014, to build a software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

The paper quoted Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, as saying the system could profile individual voters to target them with personalized political advertisements.

The more than 50 million profiles represented around a third of active North American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters, at the time, the paper said.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on,” the Observer quoted Wylie as saying.

The New York Times said interviews with a half-dozen former Cambridge Analytica employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, revealed it not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of it.

The Observer said the data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, built by academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work at Cambridge University.

Through Kogan’s company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the Observer said.

However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong, the paper said. It said Facebook’s “platform policy” allowed only collection of friends data to improve user experience in the app and barred it from being sold on or used for advertising.

Facebook said in a statement on Friday it had suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) after receiving reports they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared.

Strategic Communication Laboratories and the Trump campaign were not immediately available for comment. Facebook did not mention the Trump campaign or any other campaigns in its statement, which was attributed to the social network’s deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal. They did not immediately comment on the Times and Observer stories.

“We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior,” Facebook said, adding that it was continuing to investigate the claims. Cambridge Analytica worked for the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and then for Trump’s presidential campaign. On its website, it says it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.”

Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital ad operation in 2016 and is his 2020 re-election campaign manager, declined to comment on Friday.

In past interviews with Reuters, Parscale has said Cambridge Analytica played a minor role as a contractor in the 2016 Trump campaign, and that the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organization rather than Cambridge Analytica.


Facebook’s Grewal said the company was taking the unusual step of announcing the suspension “given the public prominence” of Cambridge Analytica and its parent organization.

The suspension means Cambridge Analytica and SCL cannot buy ads on the world’s largest social media network or administer pages belonging to clients, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, said in a Twitter post.

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Cambridge Analytica says it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior. It says it has data on 220 million Americans, two-thirds of the U.S. population.

It has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and it is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups.

Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica and two individuals going back to 2015.

That year, Facebook said, it learned that Kogan, the Cambridge University professor, lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data that he acquired with a so-called “research app” that used Facebook’s login system.

Kogan was not immediately available for comment.

The app was downloaded by about 270,000 people. Facebook said Kogan gained access to profile and other information “in a legitimate way” but “he did not subsequently abide by our rules” when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie of Eunoia Technologies. Eunoia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan’s app when it learned of the violation in 2015, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.

Although all certified they had destroyed the data, Facebook said it received reports in the past several days that “not all data was deleted,” prompting the suspension announced on Friday.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Weber, Joseph Radford and Paul Simao

Istanbul taxi drivers go to court to seek shutdown of Uber

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Istanbul’s taxi drivers have taken Uber to court, accusing the U.S.-based ride-hailing app of endangering their livelihoods in a case that could crimp its business in Europe’s largest city.

FILE PHOTO: The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

It is the latest instance of court action, restrictions, bans and protests around the world over Uber’s high-tech, low-cost challenge to traditional taxi services. Uber was forced to shut down in Denmark and Hungary and has suspended operations in Morocco while it gets in line with local laws.

Hundreds of Istanbul taxi drivers rallied in front of a city courthouse holding the first hearing on the case on Monday, holding up signs reading “We do not want the global thief Uber”.

In their court action, the cabbies accuse Uber of running an unlicensed taxi service in Turkey and want the app banned. The next hearing was scheduled for June.

Tensions have risen in Istanbul, home to over 15 million people, since Uber entered the Turkish market in 2014. Some Uber drivers say they have been threatened and beaten by yellow cab drivers, an accusations the taxi industry denies.

Public sentiment on social media appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of Uber, with “#idon’tusetaxis” and “#don’ttouchuber” becoming trending topics in Turkish.

Some users of Uber have said they are fed up with what they call the rough manners and reckless driving of conventional cabbies, the circuitous, fare-inflating routes they take and the stench of cigarettes inside their vehicles.

“Until today, taxi drivers chose passengers,” one user, Sinem, tweeted, referring to taxi drivers who won’t accept short trips, even for pregnant women. “Now we want to choose our means of transportation. #donttouchuber.”

Another user, Orhan, said that Uber drivers were more courteous and did not overcharge passengers.

Private broadcaster Haberturk reported last week that a group of taxi drivers recently hailed an Uber car and then beat the driver and damaged his vehicle.


Such incidents are staged to sway public opinion and shape the outcome of the court case, according to Eyup Aksu, head of the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses, which represents around 50,000 taxi drivers with 18,000 licensed cabs.

“The reported incidents are plots and provocations done by Uber drivers in order to influence the case,” Aksu said.

The issue has been escalated all the way to President Tayyip Erdogan, Aksu said, adding that the Interior Ministry was drafting regulations to foster a solution.

“If we do not get support politically, we will continue to repeat our stance to the politicians,” he said.

No one was available for comment at the Interior Ministry.

Taxi drivers point to onerous costs they must pay but Uber does not. Number plates for taxis, required in Istanbul to drive a yellow cab cost around 1.5 million lira ($385,000), though in most cases a cabbie may “borrow” a plate from its owners for a monthly fee of 4,000-7,000 lira.

Uber said that about 2,000 yellow cab drivers use the Uber app to find customers, while another 3,000 work for UberXL, using large vans to transport groups to parties, or run people with bulky luggage to Istanbul’s main airport.

It declined to reveal the number of Uber users in Turkey, where it operates in Istanbul, and in the resort towns of Bodrum and Cesme in the summer months.

“We are appalled by the violence and are doing everything we can to support (our) drivers,” Uber said in an emailed statement, adding that it could not elaborate on the court case while it was still ongoing.

One Uber XL driver, Irfan Er, said a taxi driver threatened him with a knife one night last week as he was carrying passengers. He said he, too, had once been a yellow cab driver but wanted to be his own boss.

“We need to keep up with technology and current times. Uber is using the latest technology. We have to adjust accordingly.”

($1 = 3.8978 liras)

Editing by David Dolan and Mark Heinrich

Elon Musk Has Dropped Another Hint About His New Comedy Project

Elon Musk is believed to be working on a new comedy project. And there’s a chance he might have just revealed its name.

Musk on Wednesday published a tweet that said, solely, “Thud!” He followed that with another tweet that said Thud! is “the name of my new intergalactic media empire, exclamation point optional.”

Jokes aside, there could be something to what Musk is referring to in his tweets.

Earlier this week, a Daily Beast report surfaced, saying Musk had hired former editors and reporters from The Onion on a secret project. In statements to The Daily Beast, Musk and those editors, Cole Bolton and Ben Berkeley, hinted at a “brand-new comedy project.” It’s been speculated that Musk also tried to acquire The Onion in 2014, but the deal fell through. He’s now believed to be trying to build an alternative of some sort.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter

So, is Thud! the name for Musk, Bolton, and Berkeley’s latest project? Given the tone of his tweet, it’s impossible to say whether it’s a joke or if it’s indeed the name. But it does appear clear that Musk has something focused on comedy and media in his sights and it might find its way to the Web at some point soon.

After all, in his statement to The Daily Beast, Musk called it the next big thing: “It’s pretty obvious that comedy is the next frontier after electric vehicles, space exploration, and brain-computer interfaces.”

Which Microsoft Surface Should I Buy? (2018)

Microsoft’s Surface brand had a rocky first few months. When it launched in 2012, people loved Microsoft’s innovative, tablet-like hardware design, but the software was too confusing and too limited for many longtime Windows users.

Now, more than four years on, things are different. Not only does Windows run much more cleanly on tablet hardware, but it’s also become clear that Microsoft was an early innovator in mobile-friendly hybrid PC design. It’s hard to find a PC-maker today that doesn’t ape Surface’s kickstand-packing, detachable-keyboard-rocking form factor.

Since launching the first Surface ultraportables, Microsoft has expanded the Surface line to include a full family of computers, from a standard laptop to a giant, drafting-table desktop. If you need a portable Windows PC, it’s hard to find a nicer physical experience than what Surface offers. The problem is one of choice: with such a diverse family of premium computers, which is best for your needs? Not to worry—we’re on this like a Type Cover on a Surface Pro.

The Best All-Arounder


Surface Laptop (i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD), $1,299

This device isn’t as swish as the transforming, flexible computers that made the Surface brand famous, but bear with me for a second. If you need a laptop, you need a laptop. Kickstands and clicky magnetic keyboard covers don’t work well in every situation, so we’re going with the Surface Laptop as the best pick for most shoppers. Sure, it’s not a tablet, but the Surface Laptop is a killer notebook computer.

Featuring a gorgeous, 13.5-inch high-resolution display, a lovely-feeling keyboard, a stellar glass trackpad, and a slim case, the Surface Laptop is well-built and easy to handle. It even foregoes the new USB-C standard and gives you a good, old-fashioned USB-A port, so it should be much easier to find accessories that work without requiring a dongle. It also has a magnetic charging port. If you’re a klutz who trips over your power cord all the time, this can be a lifesaver. It severs the connection between the wall plug and the computer before the laptop goes flying across the room like a Frisbee.

Microsoft also gives users some great tech standards, like a Windows Hello IR camera that lets you log in to Windows with your face lickety-split. Once you get used that, it’s hard to go back to typing in your password like some sort of paleolithic protohuman. When we tried the Surface Laptop last year, we gave it our WIRED Recommends seal of approval and a score of 8/10.

Buy the Surface Laptop (i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD) from Microsoft or Amazon.

Word to the wise: even though Microsoft has an affordable, $799 entry-level Surface Laptop, it’s not the model most users should get. It’s a bit more expensive, but the Surface Laptop model with an Intel i5 chip, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD is a far better computer. More importantly for some, this upgrade also unlocks the Laptop’s alternate color choices—a stunning burgundy, cool teal, and gold tone aren’t available on the cheapest spec.

The Best 2-in-1


Surface Pro (i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD), $1,299

The original Surface design, with its kickstand and keyboard cover, is still a joy all these years later. The fifth-generation Surface Pro is a mobile device that bridges the gap between laptop and tablet pretty well. If portability is your primary concern, this is what you want.

Available in configurations ranging from a low-power fanless Intel Core m3 all the way up to a fully-loaded Intel Core i7 with Iris Graphics, there’s a Surface Pro that meets your power requirements. No matter which configuration you land on, each Pro has a 12.3-inch high-res touchscreen with a document-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio. You also get a USB-A port, a magnetic charging port, a Windows Hello-compatible webcam, and a microSD slot for expanding the onboard storage. There’s even a version with cellular internet built-in, so you can check your email and Slack your coworkers without hunting for Wi-Fi.

If you want your Pro purchase to last as long as possible, spring for the $1,299 configuration. Our team recently tried this tablet and liked it quite a bit (8/10, WIRED Recommends). This version is fanless—so it’s whisper quiet—but it also has a 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM, which is plenty for most users.

Buy the Surface Laptop (i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD) from Microsoft or Amazon.

There’s a slight catch, however. If you want the full Surface tablet experience, you’ll need to buy one of Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboards. This accessory is essential, but not included. So, tack on an additional $129 for a simple black cover, or $159 for a fancier, Alcantara-covered version.

The Best for Power Users


Surface Book 2 15-inch (i7, Nvidia dGPU, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD), $2,499

Microsoft’s newest hybrid computer is Surface Book 2. This transforming powerhouse is the only Surface device with an optional graphics chip that’ll boost core performance, speeding up everything from Adobe Premiere to SolidWorks. The screen also undocks from the keyboard, so you can use the display as a tablet for brief stints when watching movies or annotating documents with the Surface Pen accessory. When our team reviewed this laptop, we gave it our WIRED Recommends seal of approval and a score of 8/10.

Available in versions with 13.5 and 15.6-inch screens, Surface Book 2 is the closest analog to Apple’s MacBook Pro series. Thanks to standard quad-core Intel processors and an optional discrete Nvidia 10-series graphics chip inside the keyboard dock, you’ll get amazing performance for a portable. Plus you get the expected suite of Surface goodies—Windows Hello, a gorgeous high-res screen, a luxurious backlit keyboard, and a big, silky-smooth glass trackpad.

Buy the Surface Book 2 15-inch (i7, Nvidia dGPU, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD) from Microsoft or Amazon.

If you have cash to burn on a really nice Windows laptop, the 15-inch version has the fastest Nvidia 1060 graphics chip and the biggest, highest-res screen available from a Surface. The 13-inch is great, too, but the cheapest version is poorly equipped, going without Nvidia graphics, and has a measly 128 GB SSD—not enough space for your Lightroom library, much less all your go-to pro apps.


Even though the Surface lineup has never been as diverse as it is now, there are still some imperfections that may impact your enjoyment of a shiny new Microsoft computer. The first annoyances begin when you add your device to your cart. If you’re grabbing a Surface hoping to use the famous, fabulous Surface Pen with it, you’ll need to buy it separately. In years past, Surface Pro and Surface Book included the pen, but no longer.

Ports are another mixed bag for Surface. While the rest of the industry is starting to turn to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 for charging and I/O, Microsoft stuck with good old-fashioned USB-A and its magnetic Surface Connect charger. If you miss Apple’s MagSafe era and don’t want to deal with dongles, this isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re looking forward to a one-connector future, Microsoft hasn’t delivered on that yet. Only the Surface Book 2 has USB-C, and even then it’s not compatible with Thunderbolt devices. At least Surface Connect doubles as a handy desktop docking port, should you require a one-cable solution.

It’s also worth noting that Consumer Reports has put Microsoft on notice for reliability. However, the way CR gauges brand reliability is a little screwy—Microsoft’s devices have changed in design and construction considerably since the beginning of the brand, and it’s more than a little unfair to judge 2018 device reliability using numbers derived from significantly older devices. That said, there were issues with the company’s 2015 devices featuring 6th generation Intel chips, but those were shored up with software updates. Microsoft has greatly improved the cadence of firmware improvements, and it’s reasonable to expect the current batch of Surfaces will live long and productive lives.

If you’re a little short on cash but still want to pick up a Surface, check out the Surface Plus program. Microsoft lets shoppers buy a new Surface on an installment plan, for as little as $40 per month. Like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Plan, you can choose to upgrade to a new Surface device every 18 months, or you can decide to pay off your computer in 24 months. You also get the Microsoft Complete warranty included, so you’ll get extra protection against hardware flaws and accidental damage.

Reasons to Wait

Like with other computer models, we’re currently between generations. Even though the Surface Book 2 has the new 8th-generation Intel processors, the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are both still on the 7th generation. We don’t know exactly when Microsoft will make the switch, but it should be sometime later this year. The 7th gen chips are great for most uses, so you won’t exactly be getting a “slow” system if you buy a Surface Pro or Surface Laptop.

Get Microsoft Complete

If you’re rough on your gadgets, plan on buying the Microsoft Complete extended warranty. Starting at $149, this gives you additional warranty coverage and accidental damage protection. You get two accidental damage claims, with only a $49 deductible, whether you take your device to the local Microsoft Store or ship it in for repairs. Given how much a Surface costs, it’s worth the peace of mind to add this protection to your new device.

Shop for Microsoft Complete

When you buy something using the retail links in our product reviews, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

Trading in Samsung Elec to be halted for three days before stock split – Korea Exchange

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s stock exchange said on Monday that trading in Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s shares will be halted for three days before the stock is split.

The logo of Samsung is seen on a building during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Samsung Electronics, Asia’s fourth most valuable stock as of Monday, announced a 50:1 stock split in January, in a move that will make it easier for retail shareholders to hold Samsung shares.

The Korea Exchange said the exact dates of the trading halt will be announced by Samsung Electronics. Samsung previously said in a regulatory filing that the newly split shares are expected to be listed on May 16.

The exchange said in a statement that the trade halt, meant for procedures like data processing and submission of old shares, is shorter than the recent average of about 15 trading days to minimize the impact to investors’ liquidity.

Samsung Electronics accounted for around 20 percent of the main Kospi index’s market capitalization as of Monday.

Reporting by Joyce Lee and Dahee Kim; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

Have traditional banks weathered the fintech challenge?

The banking industry has seen an intense period of regulatory change and individual bank restructuring since the financial turmoil known as the credit crunch in 2008 – but little has changed in the minds of customers.

If you ask consumers on the street to name five banks, the usual suspects will flow off the tongue. But Monzo, Starling, Atom and Fidor – some of the leading financial technology (fintech) challenger banks – are unlikely to be on many people’s lists.

It is hard to believe that so little has changed in the market share of the traditional high street banks when you consider the rage directed at them a decade ago, when they contributed to the UK’s worst recession since the 1930s.

But now it appears the high street players have survived the worst, some of them with a bit of help from UK taxpayers, and the indications are now that the banks could be about to enter a phase of growth. And rather than threatening their growth, it appears the fintech revolution will actually fuel them.

In fact, recent research from EY suggests that, after years of investing in regulatory compliance, traditional banks are now ready to put more into growth. An EY survey found that investing in digital transformation was the second-highest priority in the industry this year, with 84% of executives citing it. This was only exceeded, unsurprisingly, by cyber security, named by 89% of executives as a priority for 2018.

Banks are also planning to dig deep into their pockets to support digital. In the EY survey, 59% of the banks questioned said they expect their technology investment budgets to rise by more than 10% in 2018. It’s not too difficult to conclude where the money will go.

It also seems that the banks’ reputations were not damaged beyond repair by the financial crisis. It turns out customers actually quite rate their banks. A study of 1,000 people by marketing agency True and research company Strive found that 86% of those aged between 18 and 55 gave their current bank a score of seven out of 10 or more for satisfaction. And 59% agreed there is little to be gained by switching banks.

So it appears the banks that found themselves in a dark place just a few years ago have emerged ready to harness the fintech revolution that has been going on all around them.

Banks have always remained close to new technology and invested in it, but have largely allowed third-party fintech companies to evolve – and now there is a strong fintech ecosystem for banks to dip into.

But where does this leave the challenger banks? Were the doubters right when they said they were unlikely to make much impact, or is there still some way to go?

Where next for fintech startups?

There appear to be three paths ahead for fintechs. The first and probably most anticipated, as with most startups, is that they will get up and running, build a reputation and customer base, and then get acquired. The second path is they will build a niche service and focus on that to build a profitable business. The final and most ambitious journey would be for a fintech business to take on the traditional banks as an end-to-end digital bank.

One fintech provider challenging the traditional banks is Fidor, a German challenger bank that was set up in 2009 and gained a UK banking licence in 2015.

Fidor has taken the first path mentioned above, and in July 2016 was acquired by French banking group BPCE, which has 35 million customers, more than 100,000 employees and about 8,000 branches in France.

Matthias Kroener, CEO and co-founder of Fidor, which now operates as a separate unit of BPCE, says it is no surprise to him that consumers are not rushing to switch banks.

“For this reason, we decided to come first as a clear secondary partner, then change gear into developing primary banking relationships,” he says. “For this, you must truly offer advantages and you must have the financial power to communicate that.”

As the boss of a company that was acquired by a traditional bank, Kroener admits he is biased when he says fintech startups will benefit from being taken over by experienced banks. “You need to have people on your investor side who understand the risk nature of your business,” he adds.

Kroener says trying to build a full-service bank outside a traditional organisation is tough because the traditional banks have a huge advantage. “The incumbent banks are not as stupid as we fintechs always tell the market,” he adds.

Sooner or later, challenger banks face the same hurdles as the incumbents, says Kroener. “You hire the same staff as the incumbents, maybe even coming directly from them, and, sooner or later, you might end up being just a normal bank.”

A senior IT professional in the banking sector says it is true that the traditional banks have had the measure of the fintechs on the rise. “I’ve seen what the banks have been doing as they picked up on the potential threat some years ago,” he says.

The IT professional says this will inevitably lead to the big banks getting involved, either directly through acquisition or indirectly through partnerships and investment. “The banks are keeping a look-out for emerging fintechs and then invest in, or become a customer or partner with, the most promising firms,” he says. “In this way, they hope to benefit from new tech without having to create it themselves, while also preventing some fintechs from becoming competitors.”

Acquisition might be attractive to some fintechs, depending on their ambitions, he adds. “Selling out can be a nice exit for the founders, who can then go off and do something else. Their offering would then be limited to what the buying bank can do, rather than be used by many banks, so acquisition could restrict a promising idea rather than allow it to be used more widely.”

The IT professional thinks becoming a full-service bank is the least likely outcome for fintechs. “There will be a few firms that take this route, but it is very difficult to be a bank these days, both technically and economically,” he says. “A decent tech firm should outperform a bank, so I’m not sure it’s that attractive as a business idea. You can probably do better selling stuff into the banking industry rather than actually becoming a bank.”

Focusing on a niche

Becoming a niche service provider is perhaps the most likely outcome for fintechs, he says – but acquisition is then highly likely. “I think a fintech niche supplier is more likely to be bought out by one of the bigger tech firms, rather than a bank,” he adds.

But he believes big tech companies could make inroads into the traditional banks’ market share. “If big tech firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Paypal, Amazon and others wish to get into specific financial services, I think they have the power to beat the banks,” he says. “But increasing regulation and de-globalisation of financial services may put them off.”

Celent analyst Gareth Lodge also sees focusing on a niche as the most likely outcome for fintechs. “I think the reality is likely to be focus on a niche,” he says. “It’s hard to see how they could ever move from being niche to a top 10, for a variety of reasons.”

One reason for this is that the big banks follow the challenger banks and fintechs, learn from what they are doing, and replicate it, says Lodge. “It would be very naive to think that the big banks aren’t trying to innovate as well,” he says. “They have the resources to do so, it’s just that sometimes it’s harder for them to do so. The consequence then is that the edge that many challenger banks believe they have perhaps isn’t as big a differentiator as many think.”

Lodge says it would be interesting to know how many customers of the challenger banks have closed their previous accounts. Many customers use a challenger bank as a second account or are just trying it out.

A worthwhile challenge?

Chris Skinner, chairman of the Financial Services Club, doesn’t think the challengers will really challenge at all. “They are too similar to banks and they will end up either as niche, boutique players or be acquired by the big guys, just as Fidor has been already,” he says.

But there are some challengers that stand out, says Skinner. “These include Tandem, with the Qatari connection giving it deep pockets, and Monzo, which also seems to have a lot of support from its customer base,” he says. “Even then, I don’t see any of these guys doing better than Metro Bank, which has had billions of pounds in backing but is still struggling to challenge the big five.”

Metro Bank was the first new UK bank in more than 100 years when it was launched in 2010.

Meanwhile, the rise of Santander proves that digital banks need deep pockets to challenge the traditional players, says Skinner. “In fact, the only reason Santander has achieved its position is by acquiring three building societies and then spending over £1bn a year to bribe people to switch,” he adds. “Do any of these new guys have a billion to throw away on acquiring customers? I don’t think so.”

So it seems the advantage the fintech banks have is technology rather than finances, and the senior IT professional in the banking sector says they should probably stick to the technology focus.

“Being a bank is not as attractive as it once was, so my guess is that the fintechs will be best suited to inventing things that the banks either invest in, become a customer of, or perhaps in some cases buy out if it is suitable for one bank to own it rather than use across the industry,” he says.

“A lot of banking products are just commodity and utility offerings, so all you can do is focus on making them cheaper to run, be more reliable and faster. I don’t think we’ll be seeing ‘luxury faster payments’ selling at a premium over ‘normal faster payments’. People just want to move money around – they don’t need bells and whistles added to that.”

A Passenger Sued Southwest Airlines for Exactly $74,999 and It's Totally Brilliant. Here's Why

You may have heard: A Southwest Airlines passenger is suing Southwest for landing at the wrong airport.

It’s the kind of case we talked about back in law school, and I was intrigued enough to dig up the court complaint down in Missouri. I’ve included it at the bottom of this story. 

But I think the most important line in the entire filing is one most people have missed:

“Plaintiff is requesting damages in the amount of $74,999.99 and nothing more.”

It’s an odd strange number, right? It turns out there’s a smart strategic reason behind the decision to use it–heck, I’d call it brilliant. Below, we’ll go through this strange case, why the plaintiff is suing for exactly one penny under $75 grand, and what all of this means for you as a business leader.

(I’ve asked both the plaintiff’s lawyer and Southwest Airlines for comment. Neither responded.)

The wrong airport

Quick, important fact: There are two airports servicing tiny Branson, Missouri: Branson Airport, which at the time had regular Southwest Airlines service, and the smaller Taney County airport, with a runway barely half the length of Branson’s.

Somehow, the captain and first officer of Southwest Flight 4013 from Chicago mixed up the airports–which are only seven miles apart–and landed at the wrong one.

Nobody was physically injured–but careers were ended and things could have been much worse. Passengers allegedly had to wait for two hours after landing before being allowed off, while the plane was filled with smoke.

“We landed very abruptly with the pilot applying the brakes very hard. We smelled burnt rubber from the stop,” another passenger (not the plaintiff in this lawsuit, as far as I know) told Forbes at the time, adding: “[T]he mood is somber now that we realized we were 40 feet from the edge of a cliff.”

The passenger who sued Southwest, Troy Haines, lived in the area and had flown into Branson Airport many times, and says he realized well before the plane landed–even if the pilots didn’t–that they were at the wrong airport, “with a much smaller runway.”

He was “immediately struck with fear and anxiety over potentially crashing,” according to his lawsuit, and he later “suffered severe mental anguish, fear and anxiety, including a panic attack which caused him to be removed from another airline prior to take-off.”

That in turn led him to stop flying, which meant taking a job that didn’t require travel–“at a substantially diminished salary.”

Why $74,999.99?

Whether you think the lawsuit sounds reasonable or not, the big question is simply: why not just round things up a penny and ask for $75,000.

The reason stems from the fact that there are two U.S. court systems: the federal system and the state systems. And, even if a plaintiff files a suit in state court, the defendant can sometimes move (“remove it” in the legal language) it to federal court. 

Most often, the defendant does this by showing that the plaintiff and defendants are from different states–but also that the amount at stake is more than $75,000. Suing for exactly one penny less than that blocks Southwest from removing the case to the federal court.

“It’s clear [the plaintiff in this case] wants to be in state court and is therefore staying under the monetary threshold for removal to federal court,” said Paul Geller, an experienced civil litigator and a partner at New York-based Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, who is not involved in this case.

“While I don’t necessarily ascribe to it, there is a general overlay in litigation that plaintiffs want to be in state court, and defendants try to find any way to get to federal court (through removal, where permissible),” Geller continued.

“Flight Options Plummet at Branson Airport”

Geller went on to call the idea that state courts are always more plaintiff-friendly “an urban myth.” And I think he might be right, in many cases.

But here, several things make filing (and staying) in state court utterly brilliant, in my opinion. If you’re a business owner, or you can ever imagine being a party to a civil lawsuit, you’ll want to pay attention.

First, there’s the fact that five months after this incident–June 4, 2014–Southwest stopped flying into Branson. 

You can imagine why this might make sense, business-wise: Taney County, where Brnson is located, only has about 51,000 year-round residents, although it is a tourist destination. Still, when Southwest left (along with Frontier soon after, the only other big airline that had served the area), the airport was hit hard.

In fact, the last time news broke that Branson might be attracting a major carrier, it was all part of an elaborate April Fool’s joke on the part of Sir Richard Branson (same last name as the city), the CEO and founder of now-defunct Virgin America.

I don’t know the exact economic impact of the airport’s demise. But I’m sure it caused damage, as outlined in one newspaper article: Flight options plummet at Missouri’s new Branson Airport. And I’m also confident that seeing your hometown dismissed as too insignificant for commercial flights has to sting.

All of which might make the plaintiff want more Branson-area jurors, while Southwest might want to everything it could to try this case as far away as possible.

50 miles–and a lifetime away

The closest federal court to Branson is 50 miles north, in Springfield.

That means that if Southwest Airlines could remove this case to federal court, they’d be able take it right out of the immediate county where this all happened–a community that Southwest decided a few years ago isn’t significant enough for its business.

And this isn’t just about the location of the courtroom; to my mind it’s about the makeup of the jury pool. Find jurors closer to Springfield, Missouri, and they might not feel one way or another about Southwest.

But pull together a jury in Branson, and a reasonable lawyer might imagine you’d wind up with a some who maybe knew someone who lost a job after Southwest and Frontier pulled out, or who don’t like that the big airlines think their hometown is just a punchline.

In other words, maybe you assume that a Branson jury would be predisposed to find for a plaintiff who lived in your town, and who isn’t asking for all the money in the world–and would find against the giant corporation with the out-of-state headquarters that allegedly did him wrong.

So you’d want to keep things in state court, in Branson. And because the plaintiff asked for one penny less than is required for a removal to federal court, Southwest seems stuck.

Brilliant, to my mind. Or else maybe this is all just about making it harder for Southwest’s lawyers and witnesses to travel to the trial in Branson.

Because as we’ve seen, Southwest doesn’t fly there anymore.

China eyes 'black tech' to boost security as parliament meets

BEIJING (Reuters) – At a highway check point on the outskirts of Beijing, local police are this week testing out a new security tool: smart glasses that can pick up facial features and car registration plates, and match them in real-time with a database of suspects.

A security camera overlooks Tiananmen Square in front of a portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing, China March 6, 2018. Picture taken March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The AI-powered glasses, made by LLVision, scan the faces of vehicle occupants and the plates, flagging with a red box and warning sign to the wearer when any match up with a centralized “blacklist”.

The test – which coincides with the annual meeting of China’s parliament in central Beijing – underscores a major push by China’s leaders to leverage technology to boost security in the country.

That drive has led to growing concerns that China is developing a sophisticated surveillance state that will lead to intensifying crackdowns on dissent.

“(China’s) leadership once felt a degree of trepidation over the advancement of the internet and communication technologies,” said David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, a media studies research project at the University of Hong Kong.

“It now sees them as absolutely indispensable tools of social and political control.”

Wu Fei, chief executive of LLVision, said people should not be worried about privacy concerns because China’s authorities were using the equipment for “noble causes”, catching suspects and fugitives from the law.

“We trust the government,” he told Reuters at the company’s headquarters in Beijing.

Reuters was able to verify that the glasses were being used in tests by the police to help identify suspect individuals and vehicles in the Beijing area in recent days.

China, under President Xi Jinping, is making a major push to use artificial intelligence, facial recognition and big data technology to track and control behavior that goes against the interests of the ruling Communist Party online and in the wider world.

Xi is expected to cement his power base this weekend as a reform to remove term limits is pushed through. That would in effect allow him to stay in his post indefinitely.

A promotion video shows an actor wearing LLVision facial recognition smart glasses during a demonstration at the company’s office in Beijing, China February 28, 2018. Picture taken February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Delegates and visitors entering the Great Hall of the People, the venue for the parliament, the National People’s Congress, have to go through facial scanners. The same happened to those attending the related advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“This year, security at the two sessions has some freshly-baked ‘black tech’ coming online,” wrote the state-run Science and Technology Daily newspaper, using a comic-book term in China for futuristic surveillance gadgets.

The paper said cameras at the event had been upgraded to capture, analyze and compare suspicious faces in around two seconds, powered by a system called “Skynet” – which has a national database of blacklisted individuals.

“The plot of sci-fi film ‘Minority Report’ is now basically becoming a part of daily life,” the newspaper added, referring to the Tom Cruise movie set in a futuristic society where crimes are solved and punished before they even happen.

LLVision CEO Wu Fei speaks during an interview at the company’s office in Beijing, China February 28, 2018. Picture taken February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter


China has been deploying a growing arsenal of security technology, fuelling the growth of a domestic industry and worrying civil rights defenders about the growing intrusion on individual privacy.

A key concern is that blacklists could include a wide range of people stretching from lawyers and artists to political dissidents, charity workers, journalists and rights activists.

The new technologies range from police robots for crowd control, to drones to monitor border areas, and artificially intelligent systems to track and censor behavior online. There are also scanners to forcibly read mobile phone data and even police dogs with virtual reality cameras.

A recent Human Rights Watch report said China was also expanding a biometric voice database to boost voice recognition capabilities.

Surveillance measures long-used in restive areas such as Xinjiang in the northwest are also being rolled out more widely around the country, with a planned drive to centralize and standardize powerful but fragmented systems over the next year.

At the meeting of the NPC, most delegates said the increasing use of technology to improve state security was a positive, and that the benefits far outweighed privacy concerns.

“This is a good thing, it means our technology is really leading the world,” said Lu Yaping, a delegate from Jiangsu province in eastern China. “I don’t have any concerns about safety.”

Reporting by Pei Li and Cate Cadell in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Thomas Sun; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Martin Howell