TIME Companies

Apple’s Design Guru Just Got a Big Promotion

Jonathan Ive gets a new title

Jonathan Ive is taking on an even more important role at Apple. The design mastermind behind the look of the iPhone and the iPad will be promoted from senior vice president of design to the newly created position of chief design officer, CEO Tim Cook said in a memo to staff.

“Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name,” Cook said in the memo, obtained by 9to5Mac. “His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time.”

Ive is already responsible for overseeing the physical look of Apple products as well as the design of the company’s software. In his expanded role, he’ll have more time to focus his design expertise on other parts of Apple’s empire, such as its Apple Stores, the physical packaging of its products and even the design of its massive new spaceship-shaped headquarters, which is set to open by 2017.

In an interview in The Telegraph, which first reported the promotion, Ive revealed that one of the touches he’s added to the new campus is custom-designed desks that can be raised or lowered with the press of a button.

Freeing up Ive to do more big-picture thinking will be two men taking on some his previous day-to-day managerial duties. Richad Howarth is being promoted to vice president of industrial design and Alan Dye will become the vice president of user interface design. The changes take place on July 1.

TIME architecture

This $100-Million Building Looks Exactly Like Star Trek’s Enterprise

NetDragon Websoft

A Chinese technology executive made it so

A Chinese executive who sits on the board of Baidu has constructed an office that pays faithful homage to Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise. The building, which was built by NetDragon Websoft’s 43-year-old founder Liu Dejian, will provide office space for the Chinese game developer. The Wall Street Journal reports the 853-foot-long structure cost 600 million yuan or about $97 million to build.

Construction in the coastal city of Changle in China’s Fujian province reportedly wrapped late last year and began in October 2010. The firm reportedly contacted CBS, the show’s rights holder, to get permission to construct the office. “That was their first time dealing with [an] issue like this and at first they thought that it was a joke,” NetDragon wrote The Wall Street Journal in an email. “They realized somebody in China actually did want to work out a building modeled on the USS Enterprise only after we sent the relevant legal documents.”

The structure looks particularly convincing from the air, as seen here on Google Maps.

TIME deals

Charter Nearing $55 Billion Deal to Acquire Time Warner Cable

The combined cable company would have 23 million total subscribers

Charter Communications, in which John Malone’s Liberty Media owns a big stake, is nearing a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable for about $55.1 billion in cash and stock, Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing people familiar with the situation.

Comcast recently abandoned plans to buy Time Warner Cable amid regulators’ opposition.

Charter would pay about $195 per share, with $100 a share of that coming in cash and the rest in stock, according to the Bloomberg report. It is also expected to take on debt.

The combined cable company would have 23 million total subscribers, second in the cable industry to Comcast’s roughly 27 million customer relations as of the end of the first quarter.

The deal could be announced as early as Tuesday, Bloomberg said.

A spokesman for Time Warner Cable declined to comment. Charter representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

More from The Hollywood Reporter:

TIME Google

Google’s Plan for a Sci-fi Teddy Bear is Terrifying

USPTO USPTO

Google has patented the idea for a connected stuffed animal that is part toy, part robot

Out of Google’s secretive moon-shot factory may come the scariest toys you’ve ever seen: Internet-connect robots that look like stuffed animals but are essentially fuzzy house servants that take orders from humans and program their other connected devices accordingly.

According to a patent filed by Google’s self-described mad scientist Richard DeVaul and fellow engineer Daniel Aminzade, the company has designed an “anthropomorphic device” that could take the form of a “doll or toy” and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets from computers to DVRs. While the patent was filed in February 2012, it was only published this week.

The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit, but says that the devices could also apply to mythical creatures like dragons and aliens, or even humans themselves. Robots that are “cute” or “toy-like” are best, however, because they appeal to children as well as adults, according to the filing.

Equipped with cameras, microphones, speakers and motors, the toy animals could make eye contact with humans and blink; “straighten or relax” their ears, wiggle their nose, or twitch their tail.

And they could also handle some chores if someone commanded them—say, to turn on a TV to channel 7, pull up a weather report, or blast a playlist of 1960s John Coltrane jazz.

Indeed, the robots could potentially act like a sort of butler or concierge for Google’s growing family of so-called Internet-of-Things devices, such as its Wi-Fi-enabled “smart” thermostat, Nest. The blueprint for the devices references the proliferation of automated systems and “Internet appliances” for the home, including lighting, air conditioning and even window curtains. “Thus, it may be desirable to be able to simplify the management and control of a variety of media devices that may comprise a home entertainment system or a home automation system,” the patent filing states.

But the toy-like robots’ abilities seem to go far beyond functional and into artificial intelligence, potentially standing in for human companions. From the filing:

To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils.

Cute or scary? We may never know, because a Google spokesperson told the BBC it couldn’t confirm whether the product would ever reach the market.

We would have asked DeVaul to comment, but his website is quite clear on what his response would have been:

I’m fortunate enough to have one of the coolest jobs in the tech world. And no, I’m not interested in discussing what I do with anyone outside a very small circle of people I work with. People I don’t talk to about my work include trusted friends and family as well as members of the press, bloggers, etc. I am extraordinarily unlikely to make an exception for you so it will save us both time if you fail to ask.

TIME Uber

Why the Disabled are Suing Uber and Lyft

Uber
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Uber

The ride-sharing services are being sued for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Ride hailing services Uber and Lyft are on the same side for once: They both deny accusations they discriminate against disabled passengers.

The two companies are named as defendants in a smattering lawsuits from California to Texas alleging they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make their cars handicapped accessible. In some courts, Uber and Lyft are even named as co-defendants in a single case—putting the rivals, awkwardly, in the same boat.

The complaints paint the car service companies—or at least their drivers—as callous to the disabled. One lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind of California, for example, says an UberX driver stuffed a blind passenger’s guide dog in the trunk, and refused to stop the car to let the animal out. Other drivers allegedly refused to pick up blind customers accompanied by dogs.

Another physically disabled woman, Jennifer McPhail of Austin, says in a lawsuit that a Lyft driver left her on the curb because her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the car. The driver then failed to provide alternative transportation.

Meanwhile, other disabled app users are airing their own grievances outside of court. Kristin Parisi, 30-year-old Boston woman who uses a wheelchair, told The Daily Beast that an Uber driver refused to pack her chair into the trunk, for example. So Parisi had to maneuver herself and the chair into the back seat with no assistance, while the driver berated her as an “invalid.”

Uber denies any responsibility by saying it doesn’t discriminate against the disabled and that it can transport blind and wheelchair-bound passengers. It told The Daily Beast that drivers accused of discrimination are usually suspended or fired. Lyft has a similar policy:

It is Lyft’s policy that passengers that use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the trunk of the vehicle or backseat of the car without obstructing the view of the driver should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft platform, and drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and his or her wheelchair.

Lyft says it is also willing to accommodate service animals. But it recommends that passengers who need them call the driver in advance and let them know–and has a hotline for drivers to call if they have a “medically documented reason” that would prevent them from taking the animal.

Still, the heart of Uber’s defense against the discrimination allegations could not only define its identity as a firm, but set a new precedent for how it and other disruptive tech-based businesses are viewed in the eyes of the law.

Uber argues that as a technology company, it is not subject to laws regulating public transit and other transportation providers, such as the ADA, or “required to provide accessible vehicles or accommodations.”

Still, the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened in the blind plaintiffs’ case to urge that the discrimination accusations be taken seriously. It also requested that the court interpret whether the laws governing other transportation providers should apply to Uber as well.

A decision against Uber could be costly to it and other upstart tech firms that may find themselves classified as belonging to a more traditional industry.

In a Texas case, Uber has already indicated that the cost of making the necessary modifications would be “extraordinary.” The plaintiff in that lawsuit said a driver refused him service and that he could not order an accessible vehicle through the app.

“It would have to modify the Uber App, modify its policies and procedures, and provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in numerous cities,” according to an October court filing.

Indeed, Uber has recently added the ability to order a wheelchair-accessible vehicle using its app in certain major cities like New York and San Francisco. But it’s unclear if or when the option will be available elsewhere.

In the meantime, Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which advocates for accessible transportation for disabled passengers, offered this advice in The Daily Beast:

“I think that many in the community do not understand that Uber has nothing against access and the ADA,” says Lipp. “The big problem is that until the courts settle whether Uber is a software company or transportation company the disability community will just have to be patient and try to work with Uber, not against them.”

TIME Microsoft

Here’s Why Microsoft Didn’t Buy Salesforce

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., center, and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Inc., right, wave from inside an elevator following a Bloomberg Television interview on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2015.

Negotiators couldn't close a $15 billion price gap

Microsoft had 15 billion reasons to back out of talks to acquire business software giant Salesforce.

Early this spring, Microsoft offered to pay $55 billion for the company, raising the potential of a blockbuster tech merger, but Salesforce countered with a demand for as much as $70 billion.

Sources familiar with the talks told CNBC News that the two sides failed to narrow the gap in their negotiations. Microsoft’s offer was met with a series of counteroffers from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce shares soared last month after Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous buyer had approached the company. Microsoft insiders have since told Reuters that the company has made no recent offers, implying that the negotiations have ended.

 

TIME tobacco

Big Tobacco Sues British Government Over Effort to Strip Logos From Cigarette Packaging

New laws would strip logos from cigarette packages

Tobacco companies are fighting a recently passed law that would strip logos and branding from cigarette packages to in order to make them less enticing to consumers in the United Kingdom.

Philip Morris International, which owns the Marlboro band, filed suit Friday in a British court seeking to stop regulators from imposing standardized packaging on cigarettes. Philip Morris argues that such regulations would unlawfully deprive the company of use its own trademarks.

“Countries around the world have shown that effective tobacco control can co-exist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property,” Philip Morris said in a statement.

Under the new law, traditional cigarette logos would be replaced with large, graphic health warnings. Australia enacted a similar law in 2012.

According to Philip Morris, Marlboro was the ninth most valuable brand in the world in 2014 with an estimated value of $67 billion.

TIME Apple

Why Apple’s New TV Service May Be Delayed

Tim Cook
Eric Risberg—AP Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in San Francisco on March 9, 2015

Another setback in Apple's quest to deliver your TV shows.

Apple’s long quest to get a slice of the television business may have just gotten a bit longer.

According to a report in Re/code, Apple’s rumored TV service–which would bundle TV shows people would normally get through a cable provider–will not be unveiled this fall, “as it had told programmers it would like to do.”

The reason? Apple is hoping to differentiate itself from competitors like Dish’s Sling TV by offering local television content. This however, will be a time-consuming process, as most local television content is owned by local affiliates, rather than parent networks like CBS or ABC. According to Re/code:

Clearing the rights to show local programs and commercials takes some time — ABC, for instance, spent two years getting the rights to show live programming via its Watch ABC app, and its livestreams remain limited to viewers in eight cities. Also, some executives say that providing digital feeds of the programming from dozens of affiliates will also require the broadcasters to build new streaming infrastructure.

TIME food industry

This Is the Big Lie About Your Olive Oil

Bottle of olive oil
Sue Wilson—Alamy

New findings cast further doubt

The National Consumers League tested 11 different olive oils purchased at various supermarkets, and found that six of them, despite being labeled “extra virgin,” weren’t extra virgin at all.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given extensive reports of lax standards and outright fraud in the olive-oil business. In fact, the findings are better than some earlier studies that indicated some olive oils were adulterated with other kinds of oil, such as soybean oil, or were made with olives from countries other than Italy, despite label claims of “Made in Italy.”

These practices were revealed in a widely shared New York Times interactive feature last year that was based on a couple of different studies.

The NCL’s testing comes with a load of caveats. It wasn’t a “study” so much as a more-or-less random bit of testing. Puzzlingly, while the NCL listed the five oils that passed the test, it didn’t name the six that didn’t.

That’s because the companies whose products failed the tests made “a huge stink” over the results, said Sally Greenberg, the NCL’s executive director. Those companies complained that only a single bottle of each variety was tested, and so the results were unfair, since occasionally a single bottle will go bad thanks to exposure to light or some other environmental factor. She said the NCL might test the same products again in “six or seven months,” using a different lab, and if the results are repeated, the NCL will reveal which products failed. “If it happens twice, well then maybe we’re on to something,” she said.

In 2011, the University of California at Davis found that about 69% of the olive oil sold in the United States is adulterated.

The NCL tested olive oil purchased in supermarkets in the Washington, D.C. area. None of the products they tested contained any oil that didn’t come from olives, but six of them, despite labels indicated the contrary, didn’t meet the standards for calling it “extra virgin.” The testing included lab analysis and tasting by experts.

“The results of our olive oil testing reveal that, while consumers are buying and paying extra for olive oil labeled EVOO, too much of the olive oil bought off the shelf isn’t the real deal,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the NCL, in a statement.

The five that did pass muster were:

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil

Trader Joe’s 100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil

TIME Tech

This Swiss Company Just Totally Burned the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Consumer Reports
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 10, 2015.

The company says its products are timeless

Swiss watchmaker Montblanc is the latest company to pick a fight with Apple over its newly created smartwatch. The luxury watchmaker really wants consumers to know that its new smart wristband, which attaches to Swiss watches, is timeless by comparison.

A new electronic watchband was developed by the company and comes with a pedometer, email capabilities and helps takes selfies, according to Bloomberg. Alexander Schmiedt, Montblanc’s managing director for watches, told Bloomberg in an interview that electronics makers, like Apple, don’t focus on making items that last. “Our products should have very long life cycles,” he said. “That is not to say the Apple Watch is not a great product. I predict it will do very well, but I don’t think that customers are going to be ecstatic to throw away watches in one to two years when the technology is obsolete.”

The Montblanc device costs $349 for a basic version and up to $17,000 for a high-end version, which are price points similar to the Apple Watch. “The pricing is reasonable,” said analyst Patrik Schwendimann of Zuercher Kantonalbank to Bloomberg. “If it turns out to be just a fad, at least the consumer still has a nice, normal watch they can continue to wear.”

Per the article, Montblanc’s product does the following:

When connected to a smartphone, Montblanc’s device can select songs and jump through playlists. It has an activity tracker that allows users to set targets for calories burned and steps taken. The e-Strap can also trigger the phone’s camera, facilitating easier ‘selfie’ shots and group photos.

The product is compatible with Samsung and Apple phones, among others.

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