Tim Cook will take his Apple Watch secret to the grave

This is the look Apple CEO Tim Cook gives you when you ask him for more details about Apple Watch sales.
This is the look Apple CEO Tim Cook gives you when you ask him for more details about Apple Watch sales.

Image: Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Tim Cook has a secret about the Apple Watch, and he’s not any closer to telling us.

Apple’s latest quarterly earnings report for Q2 2017 was yet another big showing for the company, and CEO Tim Cook was, as always, pleasant and positive on the publicly-streamed conference call disclosing the financials. 

But yet again, he left us hanging when it came to the Apple Watch’s exact sales numbers. Instead, he boasted that the sales of the smartwatch “doubled” from last year and lumped the wearable into the same revenue category as AirPods and Beats products (and even called Beats “wearables,” LOL). Cook, you know Beats are fundamentally different than the smartwatch that’s supposedly the top-selling product on the market, right?

"Other Products," great.

“Other Products,” great.

Clearly, the Apple Watch is selling to some degree — but it’s frustratingly unclear exactly how well.     

Time and again, Cook has neglected to disclose the exact sales numbers for the Apple Watch. The silence goes back to the first earnings call the device was available in 2015. Last year, Cook touted “a best ever quarter” for the Apple Watch in the lead-up to the holiday season without giving any concrete numbers, leaving us to depend on projections from market research firms to estimate how many units of the smartwatch were sold. 

Later in the Q2 2017 call during the Q&A session, Cook doubled down on his denial to disclose true figures, calling the “Other Products” vertical “a really key product category for us” and again claimed the Watch sales doubled in six of the 12 top markets. 

“When you begin to combine the watch revenues with the revenues for AirPods … and then add the Beats products that our customers really enjoy as well and look on the trailing 12 months, that business was well into the Fortune 500,” he said. He didn’t budge when asked for more details, saying only that Apple is “really committed” to Apple Watches and its other wearable devices.  

Maybe someday we’ll find out exactly how many Apple Watches have been sold. Considering the state of the market, though, it might just have to be a postmortem report. 

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Everyone’s just waiting to see what Apple does with its money

Not everything’s perfect with Wall Street and Apple. The iPhone maker (which also makes a lot of other things) sold fewer iPhones over the last three months than analysts and investors would have hoped, the company revealed in an earnings call Tuesday. 

They also pretty much met analysts’ expectations for revenue: $52.9 billion. 

So there’s little reason to jump up and down with enthusiasm about Apple on the NASDAQ trading floor. And yet, Apple remains the kingpin when it comes to money and value in the tech industry, and if you listen to Apple CEO Tim Cook, you may have faith that Apple’s status as one of the world’s richest companies isn’t changing anytime soon. 

“We are proud to report a strong March quarter, with revenue growth accelerating from the December quarter and continued robust demand for iPhone 7 Plus,” Cook said in a statement. 

He highlighted new products that have excited Apple’s fanbase, at least, and he pointed to a growing area of their revenue services, which includes revenue from iTunes, iCloud, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple Care and other sales from the App Store. 

“We’ve seen great customer response to both models of the new iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition and we’re thrilled with the strong momentum of our Services business, with our highest revenue ever for a 13-week quarter,” Cook’s statement continued. 

And lastly, Cook teased Apple’s “exciting” event in the near future. 

“Looking ahead, we are excited to welcome attendees from around the world to our annual Worldwide Developers Conference next month in San Jose,” he said. 

Facebook, a competitor in the tech industry but with a very different business model, held its developer conference last month and pushed a future of augmented reality and virtual reality. Apple may paint a similar picture. 

Apple has a lot of money. This quarter, the company reported $52.9 billion in revenue. Here’s a good tweet showing the growth: 

This chest of money is from a wealth of products, but most significantly, iPhones, which it sold 50.8 million of over the last three months. It also sold 8.92 million iPads and 4.2 million Macs. Other than devices, Apple also pulls in money from the services, referenced above. That segment totaled $7.04 billion. As Cook likes to boast, Apple’s services business is reaching the status of a Fortune 100 company. 

So the question is how will Apple continue to make so much money and what will it do with its current wealth? 

The Wall Street Journal made a fun interactive about what Apple could buy this week, with companies like Twitter and Snap considered:

To address the fact that it has so much money, Apple increased its capital-return program for shareholders by $50 billion. (Their cash on hand is more than $250 billion). President Donald Trump’s tax plan could affect what decisions Apple makes in the future. 

“It’s difficult for us to speculate what might or might not happen,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer.

For now, our only hints from the call with investors with what Apple will be investing in is new, lucrative markets. Apple has prioritized India, one of the world’s largest smartphone markets. 

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Apple’s earnings show declining iPhone sales, average returns in second quarter

Why it matters to you

iPhone demand may be slowing ahead of probable new product launches this coming fall.

Apple, the world’s most valuable tech company, had a pretty average second fiscal quarter. Despite a new iPad, a bright red iPhone, and a bevy of new Apple Watch bands and other accessories, Apple only slightly beat Wall Street’s expectations on revenues — and it missed on sales.

After the closing bell on Tuesday, Apple’s reported revenue of $52.9 billion versus an expected $53.02 billion — $2.10 per share versus $2.02 per share. Apple’s software and services — including AppleCare, Apple Pay, and digital content sales — brought in $7 billion, but device shipments dipped or remained unchanged across the board. The company shipped 50.8 million iPhones versus a projected 52 million, and Mac and iPad sales held at 4.1 million ($5.84 billion)  and 8.9 million ($3.89 billion), respectively.

Apple CEO Tim Cook credited the growth in revenue to “robust demand” for the iPhone 7 Plus. But despite a colorful new Project (RED) iPhone, the company failed to make a major splash in an industry suffering a sales slowdown. According to a survey conducted by 451 Research, smartphone buying intent among North American consumers hit a nine-year low.

Falling sales in China did not help. Fierce competition from Oppo, Vivo, Huawei, Xioami, and other regional brands drove iPhone shipments down 12 percent in the country compared to the same quarter a year ago, and analysts at Warren Capital estimate that the region saw a two percent decline in overall smartphone activation.

An ill-timed buying cycle contributed, too. Venture capitalist Gene Munster estimates that as many as 300 million iPhones may be set for an upgrade later this fall, when Apple is expected to announce new models.

apple ipad 9.7 2017

Julian Chokkatuu/Digital Trends

If there is a silver lining, it’s Apple’s “other product” category, which includes the Apple Watch, iPods, Beats headphones, and other accessories. It raked in $2.87 billion — much better than the $2.26 billion analysts were expecting.

More good news? Potentially lucrative developments lie on the horizon.

Apple is dipping its toes into content creation with Planet of the Apps, its first original show. It will be available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers later this year.

A new Mac Pro is on the way. Apple’s Phil Spencer told Buzzfeed News that the company was “completely rethinking” the high-end workstation after a lukewarm reception to its last refresh in 2013.

And there could be a new product line on the horizon — or several. Rumor has it that Apple’s readying a high-end, Siri-powered home speaker that will compete directly with Amazon’s Echo series and Google’s eponymous Google Home. It could launch as soon as June at Apple’s worldwide developer conference.

Apple’s autonomous car project, meanwhile, is ongoing. In late April, white Lexus SUVs outfitted with an array of sensors and cameras were spotted emerging from an Apple facility in California — one of three vehicles the California Department of Motor authorized Apple to test earlier in the month.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Microsoft Surface Laptop hands-on: Taking on Apple

Microsoft (MSFT) finally has a Surface-branded laptop, and it’s gorgeous. Unveiled at a press event in New York on Tuesday, the aptly named Microsoft Surface Laptop is the first true notebook from the Windows maker.

Sure, Microsoft already offers the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, but those are convertible devices that can be used as either laptops or tablets. The Surface Laptop, on the other hand, is a straight-up laptop. And I already want one.

Taking on Apple’s MacBooks

Available June 15 and starting at $999, the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop takes dead aim at Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro notebooks.

That’s not just my take, either. Panos Panay, the corporate VP of Microsoft’s Surface group, specifically name-checked both Apple devices, saying the Surface Laptop is thinner, lighter and more powerful than both.

“We built a laptop, and it’s beautiful,” Panay said. “But it’s beautiful because it’s personal. It’s personal because it’s meant to be a reflection of who you are. It brings that security and superior performance. And probably most important is … it’s going to last you.”

A profile image of the Microsoft Surface Laptop showing its thinness.A profile image of the Microsoft Surface Laptop showing its thinness.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is thinner and lighter than Apple’s MacBook Air.

I spent some time with the Surface Laptop following Microsoft’s event and it’s certainly a stunner. Weighing just 2.76 pounds, the laptop is lighter than Apple’s (AAPL) 2.96-pound MacBook Air. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s certainly noticeable.

At 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches, the Surface Laptop has a smaller footprint than the Air, which measures 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.68 inches. The Pro, on the other hand, measures 12.0 x 8.4 x 0.59 inches.

A gorgeous display and soft-touch keyboard

Lift open the Surface Laptop’s lid and you’re met with a beautiful 13.5-inch PixelSense touch screen display. Microsoft’s PixelSense panels are among the most attractive around, so it’s good to see the company has brought them to the Surface Laptop.

The notebook’s oddest feature is easily its fabric-covered keyboard deck. The material is the same Microsoft uses on the back of its Surface Pro 4 Type Cover. The fabric is soft to the touch and gives the laptop a kind of warmth.

Microsoft's Surface Laptop soft-touch, fabric-coated keyboard deck.Microsoft's Surface Laptop soft-touch, fabric-coated keyboard deck.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop’s keyboard deck is covered in a soft-touch fabric.

Naturally, though, my first thought when seeing the fabric was: “What happens when you spill your drink on this thing?” Microsoft, however, says that it specially coated the fabric to make it resistant to absorbing or being stained by the liquids.

Less is more and more is less

Inside, the base $999 version of the Surface Laptop gets a seventh-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. Apple’s MacBook Air, which also starts at $999, comes with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

Interestingly, if you get a Surface Laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you’ll end up paying about $100 more than a comparably equipped MacBook Air.

A platinum-colored Microsoft Surface Laptop.A platinum-colored Microsoft Surface Laptop.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop in platinum.

Go for the Core i7-powered Laptop and you’ll get 8GB of RAM, Intel Iris graphics and a 256GB SSD for $1,599. A similarly outfitted Air will cost you $1,349, but you don’t get Intel Iris graphics.

In fact, if you compare that Surface Laptop with a Core i7-powered MacBook Pro, Microsoft’s notebook turns out to be $200 less than Apple’s offering.

Max out the Surface Laptop with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, Intel Iris graphics and a 512GB SSD and you’ll pay $2,199. That’s the same price you’ll pay for a MacBook Pro with similar specs.

Unlike Apple, though, Microsoft is offering the Surface Laptop in four colors: burgundy, platinum, blue and gold. Unfortunately, the burgundy, blue and gold laptops are only available with Intel Core i5 processors. If you want a Core i7 chip, you’ll have to settle for the platinum Laptop. That’s pretty lame.

The Surface Laptop's four color options.The Surface Laptop's four color options.

The Surface Laptop in all of its available colors.

Port envy

When Apple unveiled its MacBook Pro, it was rightly criticized for only offering USB C connectors. After all, most people don’t have USB C devices, which meant the company was forcing consumers who bought a Pro to also buy USB C to standard USB adapters.

The Surface Laptop doesn't have a USB C port.The Surface Laptop doesn't have a USB C port.

The Surface Laptop doesn’t offer a USB C port.

Microsoft went the other direction, though, and only includes a single standard USB port with the Surface Laptop. There’s also a mini DisplayPort slot, and Surface Connect port, but they don’t do much if you want to connect more than one USB device to your machine.

Instead, you’ll have to purchase an adapter that connects to your Surface Connector for $12 on Amazon, or get Microsoft’s Surface Dock for $199.

Windows 10 S

The Surface Laptop will come with Microsoft’s new streamlined version of Windows designed for students call Windows 10 S. The software only lets you download apps via the Microsoft Apps Store.

Why did Microsoft install Windows 10 S on the machine? Well, according to Yusuf Mehdi, CVP of Microsoft’s Windows & Devices group, the company wanted to show that a premium device can run the operating system. Think of it as a showcase for the company’s new OS.

Unfortunately, the Surface Laptop is designed for adults, so giving them an operating system built for students doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Luckily, you can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for free for the first nine months you have your Laptop. After that, you’ll have to pay $49. So should you buy the Surface Laptop? Well, I’ve only spent a few minutes with it so far, so I can’t say for sure. I’ll hold off on making any recommendations until my final review.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

Microsoft unveils Surface Laptop, lightweight OS at education-themed press event

Why it matters to you

We’ve got a rundown of all that Microsoft revealed during Tuesday’s education-themed press event in New York City, including the new Surface Notebook.

Microsoft’s press event held in New York City on Tuesday covered five specific areas targeting education: A new lightweight operating system, utilizing Microsoft Teams, programming in Minecraft, using mixed reality, and a high-powered Surface-branded notebook. Overall, the theme of the entire event focused on empowering students and teachers with the tools to make the learning environment more fun and absorbing.

Windows 10 S

We expected Microsoft would announce this platform, formerly known as Windows 10 Cloud, during Tuesday’s education-themed event. It’s a lightweight version of Windows 10 optimized for low-end hardware, enabling laptop makers to sell devices with starting prices of $189. That means Microsoft is targeting Google’s Chromebook dominance in the education sector. Similar to Chrome OS, Windows 10 S will be locked down, enabling students to grab apps solely from the Windows Store. However, third-party apps can be installed only if the platform is upgraded to Windows 10 Pro.

Solutions hitting the market based on Windows 10 S include the HP Probook x360 11 G1 EE, the Dell Latitude 11 3000 Series 3189, the Asus Vivobook W202, and the Acer Travel Mate Spin B1. Fujitsu, Samsung, and Toshiba have solutions in the works as well. Current devices in the classroom packing Windows 10 Pro can convert to Windows 10 S for free.

Microsoft Teams in classrooms

Microsoft Teams isn’t just for enterprise use — it’s a great collaboration tool for teachers and students too. Combined with OneNote Class Notebooks, teachers can distribute assignments, converse directly with students in and out of the classroom, and even communicate with parents and other staff members. Teams also provides the ability to integrate external resources such as guest speakers, and empowers students to express themselves without becoming offensive to others.

In addition to all the cool Microsoft Teams goodies, Microsoft Intune for Education is available now. Even more, Microsoft is offering Office 365 for Education with Microsoft Teams for free.

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Code Builder for ‘Minecraft: Education Edition’

Available as a beta now, Code Builder connects Minecraft to the third-party ScratchX and Tynker coding platforms as well as Microsoft MakeCode. Inside Minecraft, players are joined by an “Agent” character that serves as a sidekick, which carries out the coding commands. This sidekick can essentially build anything in the virtual Minecraft world, from 3D printed objects to huge, historic architectures like the Globe Theater in 16th-century London and the Parthenon.

Along with Code Builder, Microsoft said that it will offer a free Minecraft: Education Edition subscription with the purchase of a qualifying Windows 10 “education” PC.

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Mixed reality

This portion of the press event focused on bringing mixed reality capabilities into the classroom. For instance, students could create the solar system in Paint 3D, drop it into PowerPoint, and create transitions for an animated, 3D presentation. Students can also import 3D models into Microsoft Teams and integrate the scaled object into a live feed using any webcam. Pearson Education plans to integrate 3D and mixed reality into its 2018 curriculum that supports the Windows 10 mixed reality headsets.

Remember, mixed reality headsets supported by Windows 10 Creators Update will arrive this holiday season for a starting price of $299.

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Surface Laptop

Finally, Microsoft waited to reveal new hardware until the end of the show. The Surface Laptop is now available for pre-order with a starting price of $999, and is powered by the new Windows 10 S platform. Shipping in Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold, the laptop will sport a 13.5-inch PixelSense display, seventh-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, and a battery capable of up to 14.5 hours on a single charge.

Unfortunately, customization is locked down to several different CPU/memory/storage configurations (two i5 models and two i7 models). Microsoft appears to be targeting Apple’s latest MacBook Pro lineup, sporting a thin and light form factor without sacrificing performance.

Apple Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year

Sales of the Apple Watch have nearly doubled year over year, CEO Tim Cook announced on the company’s earnings call today. So far, Apple has refused to give out exact sales numbers for the Apple Watch, as it does for its iPhone and iPad, and has instead bundled the wearable device into its “other devices” category that includes Beats products, AirPods, Apple TV, and accessory sales.

Frankly, it’s a smart move by Apple. The admission by Cook is likely a response to major companies like Google, Amazon, and eBay removing support for the smartwatch recently. While Google said it expects to support the platform again in the future, Amazon called its participation with the Apple Watch an experiment. Those kinds of third-party issues combined with an inconsistent smartphone market would likely spell volatility for the company’s stock price.

Cook also noted that revenue in the last year from Apple’s wearables — the Apple Watch, Beats headphones, and AirPods — was the size of a Fortune 500 company. Given that the smallest Fortune 500 company pulled in $5.1 billion in revenue last year, Apple has developed a very valuable wearable division. But given the strength of Apple’s headphone offerings — it owns 40 percent of the Bluetooth headphone market and 11 percent of the total headphone market — we’re still far away from being able to parse exactly how robust Apple Watch sales may be.

Unless Apple finally decides to tell us.

Apple sold fewer iPhones this quarter but made more per device

Apple’s second quarter earnings results are in, and the company reported iPhone sales of about 50.8 million units for a revenue figure of $33.2 billion. That’s not a big deviation from last year, in which iPhone unit sales were just 1 percent higher. But the interesting takeaway is that while unit sales decreased, revenue increased. Sure, by just 1 percent, from $32.9 billion, but the shift here means Apple is making more money on each iPhone sold than it has in years prior.

This trend may have a number of implications for the future of Apple’s iPhone business, far and away the core pillar of the entire corporation and around which every other product and service decision orbits. Critics have long lambasted the company’s reliance on iPhone sales — and investors have sent Apple stock tumbling when it does, from time to time, miss sales expectations. The theory is that iPhone sales can’t last forever. In a world where everyone has a smartphone and fewer and fewer consumers are interested in yearly incremental upgrades, Apple’s position at the peak of the tech industry is increasingly jeopardized by its inability to come up with the “next big thing.”

But as we’re seeing play out with current iPhone sales, Apple may not need to push more units every year if it can sell a sizable enough chunk of more expensive units. The average selling price of an iPhone hit a record high of $695 in the first quarter of fiscal 2017. (iPhone ASP was $655 this most recent quarter, yet still up 2 percent year over year.) You can imagine that the figure hasn’t climbed more aggressively because Apple happened to introduce a low-cost revamp of an earlier model in the form of the iPhone SE.

Nonetheless, the company has been selling costlier iPhones, thanks to higher storage options and more visible upgrades to the company’s Plus line, including the dual-camera option on the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple CEO Tim Cook says as much in the company’s earnings release. “We are proud to report a strong March quarter, with revenue growth accelerating from the December quarter and continued robust demand for iPhone 7 Plus,” Cook said in a statement. It’s also worth noting that with the end of cell carrier subsidies and the introduction of more transparent monthly payment plan options with annual upgrade perks — like Apple’s own iPhone Upgrade Program — customers may be trading in old iPhones for newer models at more aggressive rates.

This kind of consumer demand for bigger, more expensive phones is telling for this year’s yet-to-be-announced iPhone models. The next iPhone is rumored to have a bezel-less screen not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S8 and an OLED display. Those two elements will drive up prices. In fact, rumor has it the phone could cost close to $1,000, and Apple might market it as a 10th anniversary edition device. Meanwhile, the company could sell a more casual 7S upgrade for those who still want a phone that costs between $650 and $800.

All of this is to say that Apple is undoubtedly gathering data on how and why customers are opting for more expensive devices and using that to inform how it develops new products. And the data right now seems to indicate customers are far more amenable to a smartphone with a four-digit price tag than they would have been three or four years ago. While it may not please longtime Apple fans to know that the company could push its more bold product innovations to luxury models of the iPhone, it certainly makes sense for the company’s bottom line.

New Deals Turn Twitter’s Content Stream Into a River

Twitter on Monday announced a partnership with Bloomberg Media to launch a 24-hour streaming news service — one of a dozen new content deals Twitter has entered to drive user engagement.

CEO Jack Dorsey and a group of top executives announced the slate of programming agreements — which include concerts from Live Nation, sports from Major League Baseball and the WNBA, and a morning news show from BuzzFeed — at Twitter’s first-ever Digital Content NewFronts presentation.

“We could not be prouder of the success we have achieved so quickly since launching live streaming content, Twitter COO Anthony Noto said, noting that the company has streamed more than 800 hours of live premium content.

“Adding 12 new live deals tonight is a testament to the success of our own on Twitter experience, combining high-quality streaming video with our only-on-Twitter conversation,” he added.

The Bloomberg agreement builds on the firms’ existing relationship — they partnered on the 2016 presidential debates and other programming.

“In an era when most viewers are choosing immediacy over quality in breaking news, traditional media hasn’t kept up,” said Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media. “With this new network, we are setting out to reinvent the digital news experience.”

Starting this fall, Bloomberg will offer a live, streaming 24-hour, exclusive news feed that will utilize all of the global Bloomberg news resources and include user-generated news content.

Traditional publishers need to expand their content to social media platforms to reach some of their own subscribers, as social media has become the first choice for news consumption by an increasing number of consumers, said Trevor Tomson, vice president for public affairs research at The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“It’s critical for everyone — publishers and new media sources — to engage audiences through social media,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Sports and Entertainment

In addition to the Bloomberg news service, Twitter’s agreements include the following:

  • The WNBA will broadcast live weekly games, starting later this month, for a total of 20 per season, until the year 2019. The feed will include fan conversations, as well as the live broadcasts.
  • Live Nation will launch a series of live streaming concerts, starting May 13 with the Zac Brown Band performing at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park in Atlanta. Other scheduled concerts include Train, Portugal, The Man, August Alsina and Marian Hill, with more to be announced.
  • Twitter will offer a 24-hour-a-day college sports feed called “Stadium,” which will include live games, classic games, highlights and in-studio analysis.
  • The Players Tribune, a sports website backed by Yankee great Derek Jeter, will offer a live forum between players and fans called #Verified. It will feature major stars including NBA star Karl Anthony Towns, Seahawks star Richard Sherman and NFL Star A.J. Green.
  • Building upon an existing partnership with the PGA, which already has 70 hours of PGA Tour feed, there will be a live 360 stream of the 17 hole at the Players Championship from May 11-14 on Twitter and Periscope.
  • The Verge will launch a weekly gadget show called “Circuit Breaker: The Verge’s Gadget Show,” hosted by Nilay Patel.
  • BuzzFeed will provide a new morning news show called “MorningFeed,” which will feature staff reporters and special guests on set.
  • Cheddar, which airs a streaming show called “Closing Bell” on Twitter at 3 p.m., has launched a show called “Opening Bell” at 9 a.m., live from the New York Stock Exchange. It started Monday.
  • IMG Fashion will offer live content from major runway shows in New York, London, Paris, Milan and other locations during Fashion Week in September.
  • Propagate will launch a live pop culture show called “What’sHappening.” A launch date was not announced.

Joining Dorsey on the stage were Twitter CMO Leslie Berland and Matthew Derella, global vice president of client solutions; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver; NBA star Karl Anthony Towns; ESPN analyst Jay Williams; television producer Ben Silverman; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green; and Broadway star Audra McDonald.

Twitter’s Last Chance

Twitter has gone through a litany of problems trying to define itself and its responsibility in terms of managing the content coming over its feed, noted Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Is Twitter a news feed, and does it have a responsibility to police what is carried on its platform?” he asked. “Or is it a common carriage communications operation where anything goes?”

The Bloomberg association allows Twitter to better control the overall content that it allows to reach viewers, Jude told the E-Commerce Times, while giving it a leg up in terms of content legitimacy and standards, when compared to rival platforms.


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

President Obama is now giving tours of the White House, in VR

A scene from 'The People's House' in VR.
A scene from ‘The People’s House’ in VR.

Image: Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

NBA champion LeBron James has already hinted that, if he wins again in the coming weeks, he might not make the traditional post-season White House team visit now that Trump is president. 

But he—nor the other seven teams currently in the playoffs—may never need to, thanks to the immersive virtual reality experience offered by The People’s House. 

Produced by the Felix & Paul Studios and the Oculus team at Facebook, the 22-minute documentary features President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama taking us on an incredibly intimate tour of the White House. 

President Obama, sitting directly in front of you as he speaks (as though you’re actually his guest), takes us through the history of various spaces including the Oval Office, The Situation Room, the Red Room, the Cabinet Room, and the Lincoln Bedroom. Obama even takes us into the Treaty Room, which he jokingly calls “the Presidential Man Cave,” due to its occasional use as a sports event viewing room. 

Image: Oculus, felix & Paul 

“What we wanted to do is make sure that everybody felt they had access to the White House,” says President Obama during the VR experience. “That as many people as possible could come in and appreciate the place where Lincoln, FDR, or Reagan made the decisions that helped to shape America.”

We’re also treated to a sit-down with Michelle Obama, again, as if she’s having a private meeting with the viewer, as she explained some of the historic detail of the White House interior. 

The experience made its public debut at the Tribeca Film Festival last week within the event’s Virtual Arcade. Filmed over the course of five days in November and December, the full-length experience is now available for free on the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and on Facebook 360 Video.  

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Apparently slingshots are really cool now and nobody told me

I had a really nice slingshot as a kid. Not a Y-shaped stick with a rubber band on it, but a seriously legit metal slingshot with an arm brace and everything. But it had nothing on the Assolar SS-12, which I just saw on The Gadgeteer.

Look at this thing!

Officially listed on Amazon as the “Assolar SS-12 Multi-function Super Power Stainless Hunting Laser Slingshot, Hunting Bow with Adjustable Spring and Quality Rubber Bands,” this slingshot has a spring mechanism to amp up the power of your shots, a laser for aiming, and an included attachment to turn the slingshot into an arrow launcher.

I have no idea if this is the best $85 slingshot on the market, but I do know I want one. Amazon is full of bizarre slingshots with more attachments and accessories than a high-end camera rig. Like the “Yancorp Powerful Hunting Slingshot with Arrow Knock, Wrist Support, 4 Sets Rubber Bands, Flash Light,” and the wide variety of fishing slingshots that have a built-in reel.

I have no desire to go hunting or fishing — or really to leave the house at all — but I feel like one of these sweet slingshots would definitely make 12-year-old Paul the coolest kid in the neighborhood.