Spotify Hits 100 Million Users

Spotify is enjoying a spectacular success. The famous company has revealed that it has just hit its 100 million-user mark. Without a doubt, this is amazing news for the streaming media company. And it definitely is not good at all for Apple. 

The impressive number of users that Spotify currently has gives it the leading position when it comes to music streaming. Spotify has a total of 100 million users, but it also has more than 30 million users that pay for this service.

Reaching a greater number of users on its free service is amazing for Spotify. The famous company’s business model actually relies on attracting users on its services to later convince them into paying for the subscription. 

This means that despite the number of competitors on the market, Spotify has managed to remain on top. And the competition to Spotify is actually coming from major companies, including Apple and Google. Even Amazon might release something on this market. Amazon is said to be working at its own standalone music service. 

However, the competition might be good for Spotify after all. Some analysts have been claiming that since the release of the Apple Music, Spotify has experienced an impressive growth. Furthermore, some have said that Spotify has been making more money since the launch of the Apple Music service. 

Still, this does not mean that Spotify does not have to worry about the competition. Apple Music has been released about a year ago and it already has 15 million paid subscribers. On the other hand, the Amazon Music service is free to all Amazon Prime subscribers. Google Music is not providing paid subscriber numbers for the moment. The main rival that Spotify currently has is Pandora. 

How Spotify plans to maintain its success on the market is something yet to be discovered. Furthermore, how Apple will react will also be interesting to find out. Actually, Apple needs to find a way to improve its success on this market. Thus, the fight on the music streaming market could become greater in the future and customers could surely benefit from this. 

Leak Shows Almost No Design Changes to iPhone 7

A new leak of the rumored iPhone 7 seems to have brought to light how the upcoming Apple device might look like. Well, according to this leak, there will actually be very few changes when it comes to design. So, the new iPhone 7 reportedly shows an almost identical design to the one of the iPhone 6s. 

Well, in this context it is important to mention that there are two things that will be changed. These are the removal of antenna lines on the phone’s rear case and the addition of the new Smart Connector. Rumors on the release of the iPhone 7 have actually been on even before the launch of Apple’s latest devices, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. 

Of course, different things were speculated with regard to this device throughout the months, among which being claimed that Apple was actually determined to remove its standard 3.5mm headphone port, with the purpose to make its device much thinner. This would mean that users would have to use other options with the purpose to listen to audio. This includes the Lightning port, the Bluetooth headphones, but also the rumored wireless AirPods expected to be released by Apple in the near future.

The fact is that Apple is quite unlikely to make too much changes to the design of its newest iPhone, even though some customers may be willing to see a completely redesigned new device. Well, if in terms of looks the new iPhone might not be different compared to its predecessors, in terms of new features things may not be the same. 

Thus, it has been claimed that the new iPhone 7 and also the iPhone 7 Plus will be coming with a series of new features. Even the CEO of Apple, Tom Cook, claimed that the devices will feature “things you don’t know you need today and can’t live without.” Some rumors have indicated that this could mean that Apple will be adding a waterproof body and wireless charging capabilities to its new device. Of course, more rumors will be on until Apple will release its upcoming devices.

Fiat’s CEO Says Self-Driving Cars will be on the Road in 5 Years

If until now we were clueless on when the self-driving car will be out there on the roads, it seems that Fiat’s CEO decided to make everything clearer. The self-driving car might become available in sale in about five years. Fiat also revealed that it has strengthened its partnership with Google and will produce 100 Pacifica minivans at its Windsor plant. 

Well, the fact that Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne has been a great supporter of self-driving cars is absolutely no secret. Now, it seems that he also believes that they will become obsolete in the auto industry in the next five years. 

Furthermore, it may seem that Google is not the only company who plans on moving to that direction. We might say the same thing about other car manufacturers, who have already started to focus on the autonomous car industry and are developing technology to advance in this field. And Google has also stepped it up. Actually, the partnership between Google and Fiat aims to help Google advance with its self-driving project. 

An important thing worth to be mentioned in this context is that this actually is the first time when Google has decided to partner with an automaker with regards to its autonomous driving project. “It isn’t pie in the sky. People are talking about 20 years. I think we will have it in five years,” Marchionne said. 

And it seems that he would feel extremely safe in a self-driving car. Marchionne claimed he felt “absolutely safe” in a Google self-driving test car in California. He actually claimed that he was impressed with the vehicle, which seemed to be very safe. Well, there is one thing that Marchionne refused to talk about and that is the extent of his partnership with Google. 

Some reports have tried to guess how the deal between the two works and claimed that most likely Fiat is providing Google with the minivans, while the famous tech company will be installing sensors and advanced driverless features. A New York Times report went to say that Google and Fiat will actually form a joint engineering team. 

Apple supplier associated to low pay and excessive overtime

Apple is one of the most famous and most successful companies in the world. However, it seems that the tech giant is unable to make sure that abuses will not enter its supply chain. According to a watchdog group, Apple supplier Pegatron was associated to low pay and excessive overtime.

The news was reported by China Labour Watch, which claimed that between September and October 2015 it collected 1,261 pay stubs, which exposed evidence of extreme overtime. Pegatron denied the claims and said that China Labour Watch made some mistakes when it comes to counting, as the period also included state holidays, when the pay was lower.

Apple has imposed a limit on working hours to 60 hours per week, which Pegatron aims to comply with through the implementation of a complex system of face scanners, badges and iPads. The Apple supplier also claimed that it complied with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition guidelines, which impose an 80 hours per month limit.

Apple made sure to verify if its supplies comply with the standards it imposes, and the famous company’s Supplier Responsibility Report for 2015 claimed that the tech company conducted no less than 640 audits of its supply chain and the compliance percentage it found when it comes to hour standards was no less than 97 percent. However, some activist groups have claimed that suppliers can adopt certain tactics to influence the results of the audit and make things seem better during these controls.

This is not the first time when Pegatron or Apple have fallen under scrutiny for labour abuses. Previously, much severe allegations were raised against the company, including accusations of underage labour, very poor accommodation options and lack of safety standards. Apple is commonly appreciated for responding to the media criticism and trying to pressure its suppliers to take action.

However, Apple continues to be criticised for not doing more to make sure that abuses are completely eliminated from its supply chain. Complex supply chains make it more difficult for companies to control the plants or manufacturers they are working with. However, it has been claimed that the Pegatron factory has been one of the most secretive facilities involved in the production of the iPhone, which could mean that Apple is quite focused on this plant.  

Apple No Longer Able to Sale iBooks and Movies in China

Apple will be facing a new regulatory challenge. The famous company has been blocked from selling iBooks and movies in China. The country’s decision to block the sale of iBooks and iTunes here came less than seven months after the service was first launched in the country. Without a doubt, this is something quite unexpected and it definitely is not great news for the famous company. 

The blockage came following an order from the Chinese broadcasting regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television.

As imagined, Apple gave absolutely no details about the reason why the services were shut down, but the tech company claimed that it hoped that it will be able to resume its services “as soon as possible.” What Apple did to determine this decision is also something that remains unknown for the moment. 

However, it is important to mention that other services, Apple Music and Apple Pay, were still working properly. China has become one of the largest markets for Apple, so the revenues that the famous company obtains here are very important. Actually, China is currently the second largest market for Apple, after the US. However, this does not mean that things have been easy for Apple here. 

Chinese regulators are known to have been cracking down on many tech companies lately and mostly on online content. Even social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been affected. The Communist Party is well known to be very strict when it comes to media, but this might not be the only reason why tech companies are targeted. 

Actually, China has also been trying to promote some local phone makers, including Huawei and Xiaomi. Increased competition from local brands has also affected companies such as IBM and Cisco, which have been directly dealing with a decrease in sales, as well as a decrease in the numbers of customers, because of the high interest on Chinese manufacturers. 

Well, it is yet to see when Apple’s services will be allowed to return to Chinese users and if the reason of the blockage will be revealed.

Microsoft unveils New Office Capabilities at Tech Conference in San Francisco

Microsoft has unveiled a series of new Office 365 capabilities during the latest tech conference, the Build conference that took place in San Francisco. Without a doubt, developers will be happy to find out that they can now integrate more functionalities for the popular Office 365, as well as intelligent services. 

So, during the Build developer conference, Microsoft revealed some great news for developers. The famous company showed certain tools that are specially designed to enhance the way developers interact with the Office 365 platform and this is certainly well received in the developers’ world. 

Shortly, what Microsoft did at this point was announcing three new ways that developers can access with the purpose to interact with Office 365. These three ways are: Graph APIs, which enables intelligent integration inside third-party applications with the use of Microsoft Graph, integration points within Office 365, which can enable the possibility to integrate functionality inside the program’s applications, as well as Office 365 connectors that can bring content from third party applications. 

With its latest unveils, Microsoft is definitely looking for new ways to make its products more attractive. And the updates would be able to allow developers to take advantage of its products in a wide range of new ways. Furthermore, with the new developer portal, Office 365 Connectors, the famous company would enable developers to build their own connectors, with the purpose to deliver content from third party apps, into the applications of Office 365. 

Microsoft is without a doubt willing to help developers make its platform more valuable to everyone who is using it. “Office 365 Groups is a service that enables teams to come together and get work done by establishing a single team identity and a single set of permissions across Office 365 apps. Setting up an Office 365 Group automatically creates a shared inbox, calendar, notebook and files,” a statement from Microsoft indicated.  

“Now, any Groups member can add Office 365 Connectors for their group’s use, in seconds, to bring filtered information in the shared inbox that is relevant and contextual to the team’s needs and interests. For example, a product lead using the UserVoice connector can help her entire team track the latest feedback on a new product launched in market,” the statement added.

Self-Driving Car Qualifies as Driver

Google has been working on its self-driving car project for quite some time now. The Google car has been on the roads for testing for months and there is still no word on when the vehicle will become available in sale.

However, Google constantly makes progress when it comes to the safety and the functionality of its car. Such a positive development for the famous company was announced this week.

The US safety regulator stated that the system driving an autonomous car could legally be considered a driver, under the federal law. This has definitely been a huge boost for the tech company and an important step forward in its effort to see the autonomous car on the roads. 

The news was first reported by Reuters, which claimed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notified Google about the decision through a letter sent to the famous company. “NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants,” the letter said. 

“We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years,” it went on to add. This may not be good news only for Google, after all. Actually, other car makers such as Tesla are also believed to be interested in the domain of autonomous vehicles. 

Tesla has not confirmed this, but the same is also valid for Apple. Apple is also believed to be working at a car, even though which type of vehicle this would be remains largely unknown. Tesla, Apple and also Google have recently been interested in hiring numerous specialists to work at their car units. Actually, Google has shocked with a series of job postings, which might indicate that the tech giant will be working to grow its interest in cars. 

However, there are many obstacles that Google is yet to overcome until being able to make its vehicle widely available to customers in the United States and maybe all around the world. 

Google could be releasing VR Headset in 2016

Apparently, Google has another interest in the world of tech devices. The famous company is believed to be working at a virtual reality headset that will be released on the market sooner than what many people may initially imagine. 

So, a new report released by the Financial Times actually indicated that Google will be releasing its VR headset this year. While the date of the release has not been reported, many analysts seem to believe that this will happen sometime during the fall, most likely in September. With such a release, Google is expected to launch an important competitor to Samsung’s device, the Gear VR. 

However, it is expected for Google’s device to offer more than the product released by Samsung, meaning that most likely it will be capable of supporting more devices than what the Samsung Gear VR can offer at the moment. This device works exclusively with Samsung’s smart products.

Furthermore, Google’s upcoming VR headset is expected to bring more functionalities than the Google Cardboard, considered to be the first contact the company had with virtual reality. Thus, there is no wonder that this is expected to be an interesting device. 

The Google Cardboard was considered to be the beginning of virtual reality for Google and the upcoming headset is said to come with improved capabilities, such as “better sensors, lenses and a more sold plastic casting.” Google has not officially confirmed or denied the rumors, thus, it remains unclear for now if the report is true. 

However, the fact that the tech giant is interested in the domain of virtual reality is no secret, so, if the rumors will be confirmed and Google will be releasing such a product, there will be no shock. However, a series of questions remain, such as if the release of a VR headset would mean that Google will be discontinuing its Cardboard. 

Although the rumor is yet to be confirmed, most likely the Financial Times’ report is not far away from the truth. Numerous companies have shown great interest in virtual reality possibilities lately and Google will surely make no exception from this point of view. 

Uber’s first big expansion in China

Uber has slowly expanded its coverage in China. The U.S ride-sharing firm has big plans in the starting year. Uber has declared that it wants to expand its coverage to 37 cities, up from 22.

Until now, the ride-sharing company has been launched in China’s largest cities. However, these days Uber has declared that it will launch in 15 new cities in Sichaun, which is known as China’s fourth most populous province. 

Sichuan is a 484,000 km square region and has a population of approximately 80 million people. For Uber, China is one of the most important places, because millions of people are using the app every day.  

For example, provincial capital Chengdu is Uber’s top city worldwide, based on weekly completed trips. Moreover, this location has reached the number one spot just nine months after the service has been launched here. Uber also has high hopes with a second city, Mianyang, where the ride-sharing service has been launched in November. 

“2015 was Uber China’s ‘Year of Localization’ and 2016 will be our ‘Year of Growth’,” has declared Zhen Liu, Uber China’s head of strategy. “We have built a strong foundation across the country and have put in place an excellent local team that will drive our growth in the year ahead… our goal is to be in 100 cities across China by the end of the year,” he continued. 

Reaching 100 new cities in twelve months is very hard, even for Uber. However, even if it manages to pull this off, Uber will still have to face the competition, which is represented by Did Kuaidi. This company is valued at 16.5 billion dollars and it has total national coverage in China. This seems to be a strong competition for Uber China, which is valued at 8 billion dollars and has over 360 cities and towns coverage. 

To be added that Uber China also planted ride-station in well-known landmarks across Chengdu. This idea is very good and it was specially designed for drivers as a destination where they can meet passengers. Moreover, these stations have been added to Baidu maps, China’s top mapping app. 

George Ergatoudis is leaving BBC Radio 1 for Spotify

George Ergatoudis is known as the head of music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. These days he declared that he will be leaving the radio station in March 2015 to become Spotify’s UK head of content programming. Even if radio is not as popular as it used to be, streaming services have the power to bring it back to life. 

“I am leaving BBC Radio 1, the world’s greatest music radio station, to join the world’s leading digital music service and I couldn’t be more excited,” has declared George Ergatoudis.

“There are huge opportunities ahead for Spotify and I am delighted to be joining their brilliant team. My passion for music has driven my entire career and this next step is like a dream come true,” he continued. 

With this move, Spotify will be stronger in the face of competition, for example Apple’s Beats 1 Radio service. Adding more radio talent to its content will also help Spotify to position itself not just as a place where users can hear popular music, but also to find new acts and tracks. 

To be added that George Ergatoudis is well-regarded not just as a producer, but also as a talent spotter. He managed to bring early attention to young talented singers, like Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal and Ellie Goulding. Moreover, he also brought early attention to US acts like, Pharrell, Eminem and Jay Z in his time in the world of old-school radio. 

So, Spotify hopes that George Ergatoudis will also work his magic here. At the moment, Spotify has approximately 75 million users globally and has raised 1 billion dollars in funding. This means that Spotify has become a market leader in music streaming services.

In recent times, many companies have started to create their own streaming radio services. For starters, Apple has created its own radio service called Beats 1 Radio. Pandora is in process to expand its radio offerings and Google has used its Songza acquisition to build its own radio offering. So, it looks like the radio streaming service world will soon witness a serious battle between huge names, like Apple, Spotify, Google and Pandora.