TIME ESPN

ESPN Lost This Huge Number of Subscribers In a Year

Time Warner Cable, Disney Talks Said To Focus On ESPN3.Com
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The ESPN logo.

Subscribers are dropping cable and using streaming services

ESPN, long championed for its money-making ability in the sports broadcasting arena, is feeling pressure, as droves of its subscribers flee the service.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the sports behemoth has lost 3.2 million subscribers in a little over a year, citing Nielsen data. The reason: Subscribers are dropping cable and using streaming services, and there’s more competition around. ESPN currently reaches 92.9 million households.

But while it has lost a chunk of subscribers, the publication reported that ESPN is paying more money than ever to secure rights to sports games and matches.

Last year, for example, as part of a renewal deal with the National Basketball Association ESPN agreed to triple its average annual fees from $485 million to about $1.47 billion, the Journal reported.

Owned by Disney, ESPN is expected to make up 25% of the parent company’s total profit in 2015, according to the newspaper.

“We are constantly looking at the cost side of our business and calibrating that against our expectations for the future,” Ed Durso, ESPN’s executive vice president of administration, told the publication. “Regardless of what the future holds, we’re incredibly well-positioned to adapt.”

For more on the future of ESPN, check out Fortune’s recent feature by Mathew Ingram.

TIME Video Games

The One Radical New iPhone Feature I Wasn’t Expecting

Matt Peckham for TIME

Should games be categorized as technology or entertainment? Apple's iOS 9 News app has a surprising answer.

Go look for book, film or music news, and you’ll probably wind up scouring Google’s aggregation tool. There, filed neatly under “Entertainment,” you’ll find stories about George R.R. Martin’s Winds of Winter, the first chapter of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and teasers for the upcoming Ghostbusters film reboot or the Sherlock TV series’ 2015 Christmas special.

But news about Bethesda’s sprawling new post-apocalyptic roleplaying opus Fallout 4? “Zombies” mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3? The latest scuttlebutt about Nintendo’s upcoming “NX” console? You’ll have to swing over to “Technology.”

Sure, “Entertainment’s” also thronged with gossip about donut-licking pop music idols and tawdry celebrity shenanigans—hardly distinguished company. But the message is implicit: books, movies and music are “Arts,” while games are…something else.

Indeed, games are something else. Print books are migrating to e-readers and films plus music are now artifacts we can summon magically from our phones. But shifts in gaming are comparably tectonic. Game design is fueled by reality control fantasies, and interface recalibration over time is in its DNA. Think arcade cabinets, home computers, devoted consoles and handhelds, and now smartphones and tablets. Think about Nintendo and the Wii. Think about Oculus and its wraparound VR headset. Think about the point at which true virtual reality arrives.

Games are lashed to technological momentum’s mast, in other words, driven as much by revolutions in the semiconductor industry as revelatory design ideas. Books and movies don’t undergo motion control upheavals, or have elaborate Early Access programs whereby players can significantly influence development. Scanning music tracks (play, skip ahead, skip behind) in today’s streaming apps still works basically the same as punching buttons on boomboxes and Sony Walkmans did decades ago. Games, by contrast, occupy the space between those older, staid categories.

Sticking games in “Technology” has consequences. The filter reinforces stereotypes of technology as cold, clinical, sterile—ultimately apart from the artful or sublime. It frustrates gaming’s slouch toward basic validation as a legitimate art form (beyond its ivory tower acolytes).

So it’s with surprise and pleasure that I’m discovering Apple’s new “News” app, found in its just released iOS 9 beta, files game stories under “Entertainment” and not “Technology.” That, given how long games have labored under Google and Yahoo’s domineering framework, feels huge.

Apple News, in case you’re just hearing about it, brings Cupertino’s graceful form-and-function balancing act to story curation on the iPhone and iPad. Launch it, and it’ll ask that you select preferred media outlets before folding your choices into a stream with elegantly feng shui’d headlines and body text. Tap on “Explore,” and you can alternately browse by categories like “Food,” “Politics,” “Science” and so on. It’s all pretty standard fare.

But click “Entertainment,” and you’ll find channels for Vanity Fair, Billboard, Complex, Vulture…and Polygon. The latter is a games-slash-gaming-culture site. In the historical echelons of news curators like Google, Yahoo and now Apple, Polygon’s divorce from “Technology” (the sites stories still appear in the latter category on Google News) is kind of groundbreaking.

That said, the move feels tentative. There’s a “Browse Topics” section below “Browse Channels,” for instance, that includes categories like “Performing arts,” “Books and literature,” and “Pop music,” but nothing generalist for games, say an “Interactive entertainment” search. And Polygon, as far as I can tell, is all there is for game channels at this point. Where’s Kill Screen? Offworld? Quarter to Three?

Assuming Polygon’s filing under “Entertainment” was intentional, my hat’s off to Apple for boldly leading here. I just hope we’re seeing the tip of an iceberg, as opposed to an errant ice cube.

Apple’s iOS 9 is still in beta, of course, so everything could change. Call it a metaphor for where we’re at culturally, weighing gaming as a technology-driven or technology-transcendent medium, and still, clearly, in beta mode.

TIME Computers

PC Makers Just Had Their Worst Quarter In Almost 2 Years

Microsoft Celebrates Opening Of Windows Store Only At Best Buy With Major League Soccer
Charley Gallay—2013 Getty Images Excited customers check out the latest Windows 8 tech from Microsoft.

Hardware makers are struggling to shift units before the release of Windows 10

Worldwide personal computer shipments slipped a sharp 9.5% in the second quarter from a year ago, the steepest drop-off in almost two years on broad declines led by a pair of Taiwan-based manufacturers.

Research firm Gartner listed three reasons for the decline: price hikes, no major growth drivers to stimulate purchasing, and the upcoming launch of Windows 10 later this year that led vendors to try to clear inventory to prepare for that product’s debut.

“The price hike of PCs became more apparent in some regions due to a sharp appreciation of the U.S. dollar against local currencies,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

Who struggled the most? Among the top manufacturers, Taiwan-based Asus and Acer each posted double-digit declines and thus shed some market share. Lenovo maintained the top position in worldwide shipments, but reported its first year-on-year decline since the second quarter of 2013.

U.S. manufacturers didn’t fare much better. Both Hewlett-Packard and Dell posted declines, dropping 9.5% and 4.9%, respectively, Gartner reported.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, consumers have been ditching PCs for tablets since 2012 and even with the planned launch of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, 2015 is shaping up to be another weak year for the PC industry. Tech lovers are more inclined to use their tablets and smartphones for their online needs, and businesses have slowed their PC upgrade cycle to save money.

TIME Media

Facebook Is Reportedly Adding Music Videos

The move would be another blow to YouTube's dominance of video

Facebook has quickly become an online video powerhouse, with its users watching four billion videos per day. Now the company is looking to expand its control of the sector by bringing music videos to the News Feed, the New York Times reports. Facebook is in talks with record labels to add a limited number of music videos to its site before the end of the year.

Such a move would put Facebook in even more direct competition with YouTube, which is the most popular platform for young people to listen to music. Almost all of YouTube’s most popular videos are music videos, and the site now has its own music streaming service and music awards show.

On Thursday Facebook denied reports that it was planning to launch its own music streaming service. For now, video seems to be the company’s top priority.

[NYT]

TIME Apple

This Tinder Apple Watch App Uses Your Heartbeat to Find a Match

The Apple Watch.

They’ve dubbed it ‘Hands-Free Tinder’

If you’re using Tinder for the Apple Watch, there may be no swiping required.

That’s because a Texas agency has created a way for the app to be used on the new Apple device, and to use the device owner’s heartbeat to determine whether the potential match is a yes, or a no.

The agency, T3, showed how the heartbeat monitor works in a YouTube video, which you can watch below. They’ve dubbed it “Hands-Free Tinder.” If the heart rate goes up, that’s a match. But if it doesn’t, well, that person’s passed for someone else.

The announcement of the app comes as sales of the Apple Watch have been reportedly flagging since its launch. Fortune polled Apple analysts to see just how many Apple Watches they believed were sold during the first nine weeks of sales. The average? About 4.5 million units.

Check out the hands-free Tinder app here:

TIME Uber

Uber Tripled its Fares in London For This Reason

People took to social media to complain

A strike of London’s Underground workers Thursday led to Uber, maybe unsurprisingly, tripling its fares due to high demand.

The ride-sharing service’s surge pricing kicked in during the strike, going as high as three times the typical fare for a ride.

Uber defended the London price hikes, saying its pricing policy is fully transparent.

“Drivers work on the Uber platform on a completely flexible basis, as much or as little as they want,” Uber said in a statement to Quartz. “During times of peak demand … fares increase temporarily to incentivise more drivers to work on the platform.”

Still, those on social media were quick to complain about the incident.

To help with transportation in the city, London made additional buses, bicycles, and riverboats available, Quartz reported. About 4 million take the Underground in London each day, CNN said.

In the past, Uber has suspended surge pricing for certain events, including a New York City blizzard in January.

TIME Gadgets

Here’s How GPS Actually Works

A driver uses a Tom Tom navigation device in central London,
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A driver uses a Tom Tom navigation device in central London, U.K., on Wednesday, April 23, 2008.

Find out how your phone knows exactly where you are

From smartphones to action cameras, all manner of devices pack GPS these days. And while you might think it’s a newer innovation, GPS has actually been around since the 1970s, when it was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. Between then and now, relatively little has changed with how the Global Positioning System works. So it’s probably time you figured out what makes it tick — because while you may be on the move, GPS isn’t going anywhere.

According to Cesar Palacios, who works with GPS device company Garmin on its personal navigation devices and automotive GPS units, there are three fundamental segments to GPS: control stations, satellites, and users’ devices. “[GPS] benefits everyone from pilots to fishermen, making their lives a little bit easier,” he says.

The control segment consists of 30 different locations around the world that help the orbiting satellites understand the planet’s position. The master control station, located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, is where the entire system is managed, making sure the satellites are operating correctly and efficiently.

The next segment of the system, orbiting 12,550 miles above Earth, are 32 GPS satellites. Between maintenance and other concerns, those satellites may not all be active at the same time. But they broadcast a lot of information, including almanac data, which is used to determine users’ precise location; pseudorandom code, which identifies the transmitting satellite and provides timestamps; and ephemeris data, which relates the health and timing of the satellite.

And timing is an important thing when it comes to these far-flung pieces of technology. Per Einstein’s theory of relativity, time moves more slowly in areas where gravitational pull is greater, so the clocks on GPS satellites actually tick a fraction of a second faster than clocks on Earth. If they didn’t, their results would be miles off.

The third segment of the system are the consumer devices themselves — your smartphone, your car’s onboard computer, or even your fitness tracker. To have your position located using one of these gadgets, your GPS device must be visible by at least three of the system’s satellites. Using a process called trilateration, these orbiting bodies are able to tell where you are. For most consumer devices, the results are accurate to within 10 meters.

“The reason why you can’t get that pinpoint, exact accuracy is that we’re consumer-grade,” says Palacios. “The government agencies are the only ones who have that pinpoint, precise, encrypted code GPS, to know the exact location.”

Still, there is a way to get more information out of your GPS, says Palacios. “If you have four or more satellites, that’s when you’ll get 3-D positioning, which is latitude, longitude and altitude, as well.” Assuming, of course, your device can display this extra data.

Of course, GPS only works outdoors with line-of-sight to the orbiting satellites. But there are several emerging technologies used by companies like Apple, Home Depot, and Philips to cover the indoors in a GPS-like system. In the future, expect GPS devices to proliferate as it miniaturizes. As the tech gets smaller, you’ll start finding them in things like smartwatches, fitness bands and even dog collars.

“Even if you’re in a stadium or trying to remember where you parked, with wearables, you can just drop a digital breadcrumb and be able to go back to that location later,” says Palacios.

TIME Artificial Intelligence

Robots May Write Wall Street Analyst Notes One Day

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Paul Giamou—Getty Images/Aurora Creative Wall Street in Manhattan, New York.

But critics are wary of the implications

Wall Street analyst notes may one day be written by robots — that’s if companies that make the artificial intelligence programs have anything to do with it.

One startup, Narrative Science, creates news articles generated by a computer program. The company has its sights set on financial services, too, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It’ll be a win for banks. They’re trying to boost efficiency and cut costs, and as the artificial technology becomes more advanced it can potentially take on more complex tasks, the report said.

The way Narrative Sciences’ program works goes like this: It sifts through information, such as regulatory filings, databases, and internal documents. Next, it uses an algorithm to put together the information in summaries or articles.

“It’s a very hot debate about whether the financial analyst community is going to be decimated by algorithms,” Celent Senior Analyst William Trout told the Journal. “Disruption, when it happens, happens very fast.”

“Analysts are overwhelmed with the work they typically have to do,” said Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel. Robots and automation “frees them up to do higher-value work.”

Wall Street isn’t the only place where robots may become more involved. Other jobs, such as cashiers and drivers, are seeing more automation, too.

TIME cybersecurity

Massive Federal Data Breach Affects 7% of Americans

That's 21.5 million people.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that a massive data breach—one that targeted its security clearance system—compromised the sensitive information of 21.5 million people, including social security numbers for current and former federal workers, contractors, friends, and families, the agency said. As many as 19.5 million of those people had applied for security clearances.

In June, the office had disclosed an earlier breach affecting 4.2 million such workers, which included performance reviews as well as social security numbers for federal employees.

The second breach, OPM director Katherine Archuletta told Congress, began in May 2014 and was not discovered until a year later. Two federal worker unions have filed lawsuits against the office so far.

Many U.S. officials believe the breach was the work of Chinese attackers. Although that remains unconfirmed, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others have implicated the country.

At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, FBI Director James Comey said that his files were compromised in the hack. He described the breach as “enormous” in size without revealing further details, though in June he had reportedly told Senators in a classified meeting that the hack may have affected 18 million Americans.

On July 4, Archuletta had intimated in a blog post that an updated figure for the size of the breach might be forthcoming this week. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of my team at OPM and our inter-agency partners, we also have made progress in the investigation into the attacks on OPM’s background information systems,” she wrote. “We hope to be able to share more on the scope of that intrusion next week, and in the coming weeks, we will be working hard to issue notifications to those affected.”

Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the house oversight committee, has been vocal in calling for the ouster of Archuletta. He posted a series of tweets about the number of people affected by the breach:

TIME Apple

How to Get The Next Big iPhone Upgrade Months Ahead of Time

Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus Launch in Japan
Chris McGrath—Getty Images A member of the press compares the new iPhone models at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus at the Apple Omotesando store on September 19, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

Apple has opened a public beta for the latest iPhone operating system

Apple is giving a sneak peak of iOS 9 to anyone that wants it.

On Thursday, the company released a public beta of its upcoming iPhone and iPad software. It’s an uncommon move for the company, which usually only makes iOS betas available to developers.

Users can sign up to access the iOS 9 beta by visiting Apple’s website. The early version of the software comes with a Feedback Assistant app, which will allow users to send Apple information about how the new OS is performing.

iOS 9, expected to be released in September, will feature a revamped News app, transit directions in Apple Maps and a more robust version of the Siri digital assistant, among other improvements. However, downloaders beware: since this is a beta version of the software, it will likely be full of bugs. Apple suggests users only download it onto a secondary phone and back up their devices before getting the new version.

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