TIME Silicon Valley

In Silicon Valley, You Can Forget Aging Gracefully

HP CEO Meg Whitman Visits China
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Getting old isn't easy, especially in tech

Nature abhors the old, Emerson said. In 2014, we can add: so do technology investors. Because in the tech sector, where innovation and growth are worshipped and rewarded with obscene valuations, the esteemed companies that helped establish Silicon Valley and shape the Internet are not being allowed to age gracefully.

HP is breaking into two, despite years of its CEO saying this wouldn’t happen. eBay’s spinning off PayPal, after its CEO insisted this made no sense. Both companies knuckled under shareholder pressure. Now Yahoo is facing pressure to cash out of Alibaba and merge with AOL. That follows Dell going private and IBM ditching its low-end servers. There are even investor rumblings that Microsoft would be better broken into pieces.

Spinoffs, breakups, LBOs and shotgun marriages aren’t uncommon among aging, troubled companies. But the wave of events hitting companies once considered blue-chip tech firms is unprecedented. Only a decade ago, most of these companies were at the top of their games. Even today, many are so profitable they annually pay out billions, if not tens of billions, to shareholders through dividends and buybacks. And while many of these companies have been undervalued by investors for years, they are now being treated as if they are entering a period of advanced decay.

In sectors like utilities or retail, slow growth is tolerated as long as a healthy profit margin is maintained. But in tech, profits aren’t enough without growth. And there is plenty of growth among the younger generation of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The gap between long-in-the-tooth tech giants and lithe, growing companies is getting wider by the year. While the latter are driven by innovation the former are pushed around by shareholder demands.

Tech investors have always been growth-oriented, but now it’s becoming an obsession. And why not? As the network effects long promised in the early years of the Internet finally kick in, growth at a successful startup can mushroom from seed round into large cap in a few years. Airbnb, Uber and WhatsApp were all founded about five years ago and today are valued at $10 billion, $18 billion and $22 billion, respectively.

Often, the new generation of successful startups push to stay out of public markets as long as possible to avoid the public scrutiny, quarterly earnings parades and exposure to shareholder activists that are plaguing the likes of HP, eBay and Yahoo. The world of secondary markets and venture investing have evolved to accommodate them, allowing institutional investors who can afford substantial stakes to become investors while the startups remain private.

Yet there’s a cautionary lesson here that startup founders should consider: The same forces that are accelerating tech growth curves are also accelerating the time to maturity. Grow big enough and companies will need to draw on public markets for financing. To meet quarterly targets, they need to maintain billion-dollar businesses even when they stop growing. That limits the ability to find new, financially risky areas of innovation. Soon enough, dividend and buyback programs are rolled out to placate antsy investors. That, as we are seeing this year, only placates them for so long.

No one is demanding a dividend from Google, or calling for Facebook to spin off Instagram. Both are delivering growth that often surpasses investor expectations and rewarded with rising stock prices. Others like Netflix and Amazon are getting a pass by investing profits into future growth. But as much as HP talks about, say, developing a mass-market 3D printer, investors only look with disappointment at the slow-growth business of PCs and IT services.

There are a few companies founded before the dot-com boom, notably Apple and Amazon, that have so far been able to buck the trend. But they may not be able to stay ahead of the curve for long. The campaign to pressure Apple for more dividends has halted because Tim Cook keeps promising new product categories like the Apple Watch. Amazon has lost nearly a quarter of its value in the last nine months amid concerns its spending is outpacing its promised growth.

For now, Apple and Amazon are anomalies among companies more than 20 years old that are promising more growth in coming years. That’s leaving their CEOs independent enough to pursue blue-sky innovations. But age catches up to all companies. And these days, companies in the tech sector are growing old faster than ever.

TIME Security

Microsoft Patches Computer Bug Linked to Russian Hackers

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Goes On Sale
An attendant displays a Fujitsu Ltd. Arrows Tab tablet, running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8.1 operating system, during a launch event for the operating system in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft has fixed a series of software bugs, at least one of which was exploited by Russian hackers, according to a new report

Microsoft on Tuesday issued bug patches Tuesday fixing 24 vulnerabilities found in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and the .Net Framework, some of which fixed security holes exploited in attacks against Western targets linked to Russian hackers. The company’s patches fix more than a dozen vulnerabilities that allow remotely located hackers to take control of a target computer, according to a note from Microsoft.

The issues were first revealed by Dallas-based security firm ISight, which said Tuesday that Russia-tied hackers had been using a previously unknown bug in Microsoft Windows Vista through Windows 8.1 to attack NATO, the European Union and targets in Ukraine since September. ISight partnered with Microsoft to report the bug.

The hacks against Western targets are part of a growing wave of cyberattacks linked to Russia amid that country’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine. However, it’s unclear exactly what data hackers took as part of the attack.

“Though we have not observed details on what data was exfiltrated in this campaign, the use of this zero-day vulnerability virtually guarantees that all of those entities targeted fell victim to some degree,” ISight said Tuesday.

 

TIME Smartphones

This Website Will Tell You Which Stores Have the iPhone 6 in Stock

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus retail sales begin in Spain
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Across 27 countries and 8530 shops

Sick of not being able to find an iPhone 6? There’s a website for that.

iStockNow monitors iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus availability in real-time across 27 countries and 8,530 shops as of Tuesday, according to the site. The service lets you know if Apple Stores, Best Buy, Target or Radioshack have smartphones for your carrier or unlocked models.

If you’re hoping to score an iPhone 6 Plus for Christmas, you’re in luck: while demand is high, iStockNow says the 5.5-inch screen smartphone “should be OK for Christmas.” There’s also “a new hope” for would-be iPhone 6 owners as more of the 4.7-inch devices become available.

The service has expanded its iPhone monitoring from last year, when it tracked iPhone 5S stock in 52 shops across 29 countries.

Read next: 50 Best iPhone Apps, 2014 Edition

TIME Gadgets

Watch the Amazing Virtual Reality Video Technology Google Is About to Fund

Google is planning a major investment in this virtual reality company, according to reports

Google is reportedly leading a major investment into Magic Leap, a virtual reality company that’s building a hyper-realistic 3D experience. Magic Leap’s technology appears to create an independent 3D object within a real environment, and if the company’s promotional video above is any indication, the results are stunning.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz has said the company is working on “what we believe will be the most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world,” according to re/code. The technology, says Magic Leap, will create a more realistic 3D environment than current technologies like those used by Oculus Rift, a 3D headset company bought by Facebook this year in a $2 billion deal.

While Oculus Rift creates a flat, floating image at a set distance, Magic Leap makes it look as if there’s a 3D object on top of the real world, likely projected from glasses on the wearer’s face. Google is leading what may be a $500 million round of funding in Magic Leap, re/code reports, citing anonymous sources.

The New York Times reported in July that Magic Leap is using a digital light field with information that includes a scattering of light beams and the distance of objects.

[re/code]

 

TIME celebrities

Bill Murray Just Bought His First Cellphone, and It’s a BlackBerry

"The Monuments Men" - Los Angeles Photo Call
Actor Bill Murray attends a photo call for "The Monuments Men" Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

Who you gonna BBM?

Public service announcement to Bill Murray fans: If the actor crashes your bachelor party or engagement shoot, make sure to ask for his BBM after.

After a lifetime of eschewing cellphones, Murray told Variety that he has purchased a smartphone: A BlackBerry. Because obviously.

“I got it to communicate with my sons, because they will not answer a phone call, but they will answer a text,” he said begrudgingly. “I mean I have done it, but I have no interest in it. The kids’ school stuff is all email, and they send thousands of emails. It’s complete overload.”

But don’t worry, the actor also has his very own 800 number which he sporadically checks. Who you gonna call? Bill Murray, duh.

[Variety]

TIME How-To

Ask TIME Tech: Good Cheap Tablet for Skype?

We've got a $100 limit and a bunch of real-time video to sling back and forth. Let's go!

Question: My husband and I recently had our first child and we want to be able to Skype with my mom and dad. We (my husband and I) both have iPhones and iPads, so we looked in to FaceTime, but an iPad or iPhone for my parents seemed too expensive. They have a computer, but they don’t like using it all that much, although that could be an option in a pinch. Is there a good, inexpensive tablet we could get them, though? We’d like to keep it around $100 or less if possible.

Short answer: Get Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 6 for $99 or use their existing computer for free.

Long answer: FaceTime is great if everyone has Apple produ–I’m so sorry: Congratulations on your new baby! I just launched right into the answer like a nerdy robot. Rude. I have a child, too. He’s about to turn one. We actually have a similar problem in my family, too, with everyone on different mobile platforms.

Anyway, enough with the small talk. To get Mom and Dad on the FaceTime train, your cheapest option would be to get them an iPod Touch, which is like a phone-less iPhone. Those start at $200; iPads and iPhones go up from there.

Now, if they have a relatively new-ish Mac computer, they’re already able to FaceTime with you guys. They can downloaded FaceTime from the Mac App Store here if they don’t already have it. It’s free. And if they have just about any type of computer with a webcam, they can use Skype for free — download it here.

An easy, cheap, portable option that doesn’t tie Mom and Dad to the computer, though, would be Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 6 tablet. It’s got a powerful enough processor to handle Skype video chats, sports both front- and rear-facing cameras — which is an area where cheap tablets tend to skimp by only including one camera — and has an easy-to-use interface.

The screen measures six inches diagonally, which is small for a tablet. That makes it easy to hold in one hand, but if your parents have poor eyesight or they just want to watch Junior waddle around on as big a screen as possible, this option is almost like giving them an oversized smartphone. The screen itself is sharp, though.

You didn’t mention which kinds of iPhones you and your husband have, but here’s the Amazon tablet sandwiched in between a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader on the left and an iPhone 5S on the right:

Skype Kindle Fire HD
Kindle Paperwhite e-reader (left), Kindle Fire HD 6 tablet (middle), iPhone 5S (right) Doug Aamoth / TIME

The tablet is sized like a thicker, heavier e-reader. Your parents can read books on it, too, along with doing a bunch of other stuff, so that might be a bonus. If they want to use it only for Skype, that’s perfectly fine.

Once they get the tablet, here’s a quick step-by-step for installing Skype. You can either send them to this article and have them watch this quick video or tell them what to do by stepping them through the directions after the video:

Basically, they’ll want to tap “Apps” at the top of the tablet’s main screen, then “Store” in the upper-right corner (there’s a shopping-cart icon), then “Search” in the upper-right corner, then type “Skype” and hit the magnifying glass in the lower-right corner of the keyboard.

Careful: That magnifying glass is right above another magnifying glass that searches the entire tablet. And there are two Skype apps that pop up in the search results. They’ll want to tap the second one. The first one is called “Skype WiFi” and searches for Wi-Fi hotspots. They want the second one: plain old “Skype” with the “S” logo.

They’ll need to create a Skype account, of course. They can create one here or from directly within the app when it first launches.

Good luck!

TIME apps

The 5 Best Smartphone Apps You Should Try This Week

From budgeting to travel

It seems like hundreds of new smartphone apps pop up every day, but which ones should you bother trying? Here, TIME offers a look at five apps for iPhone and Android that stand out and are worth a try.

Pennies

pennies2
App Store

Although online budgeting tools like Mint have helped streamline the way many people track expenses, the genius of Pennies is that this iOS app understands how time-consuming (not to mention nerve wracking) it can be to maintain an expense file that looks like an Excel spreadsheet. The developers say Pennies works because it’s flashy and not boring, but this young app’s success may stem from the fact that it’s about as intuitive and easy-to-use as a Fisher Price toy. Gone, perhaps, are the days of daunting month-to-month graphs.

Pennies is available in the iTunes App Store for $1.99

MiFlight

miflight1
App Store

A new app available only on iOS for now, MiFlight allows airline passengers to crowdsource wait times at different airports, aiming to eliminate the anxiety of arriving at an airport a few hours too soon, or worse, a few minutes too late. Passengers on line in security send their wait times, allowing the rest of us to plan ahead. Although it depends entirely on the connectivity and kindness of strangers, users may quickly understand that MiFlight is an efficient, guerrilla-style approach to circumnavigating mostly useless airline guidelines.

MiFlight is available free in the iTunes App Store.

Push

Push2
App Store

Most people have a collection of news and social media apps that will regularly send notifications to lock screens. Push allows users to aggregate notifications from various news outlets as well as curate pings from other online sources, alerting you to events like trending topics on Twitter or football scores. In short, the app turns your phone into a highly personalized news wire.

Push is available free in the iTunes App Store.

Snowball

For those who regularly use Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or other messaging apps, Snowball, an Android app still in beta, curates notifications from these different apps onto one platform. Snowball makes sure you can keep track of different conversations in various apps, and, at the very least, that you don’t accidentally leave one conversation idle for hours before remembering to respond.

Snowball (beta) is available free in the Google Play store.

Seasonal Cities

Released a few weeks ago just in time for Fall (and Oktoberfest), Seasonal Cities is a mobile tour guide for major cities that offers new content packages every season. The recommendations in each update change depending on the weather, and the app even tailors suggestions based on the weather that week. 11 cities are on the list so far, including London, New York, Tokyo, and Paris. Guides are written by travel journalists and take different travel budgets into consideration.

Seasona Cities

Season Cities is available free in the iTunes App Store, every seasonal update will cost about $1.

Read next: 50 Best iPhone Apps, 2014 Edition

TIME Security

Dropbox Denies Thousands of Accounts Were Hacked

Key Speakers At The Brooklyn Beta Conference
Dropbox Inc. signage is displayed at the Brooklyn Beta conference in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Your stuff is safe," Dropbox tells users after hacking scare

Dropbox said Monday that a list of login credentials posted online early this week was not made public as the result of it being targeted by hackers, but rather because hackers stole usernames and passwords from other services and attempted to use those credentials to access Dropbox accounts.

“The usernames and passwords referenced in these articles were stolen from unrelated services, not Dropbox,” said Anton Mityagin of Dropbox’s security team in a blog post. “Attackers then used these stolen credentials to try to log in to sites across the Internet, including Dropbox.”

Hundreds of username and password combinations allegedly belonging to Dropbox users appeared early this week on the website Pastebin, a common dumping ground for hackers to post such information. An accompanying message alleged that 7 million Dropbox accounts were hacked in total, The Next Web reported Monday, and the hacker or hackers were asking for money before posting the rest of the information. However, Dropbox later said that a larger list of usernames and passwords posted online were “not associated with Dropbox accounts.”

Dropbox also said it recently reset passwords on accounts which showed suspicious login activity, a move it said prevented the service from being breached. “We have measures in place to detect suspicious login activity and we automatically reset passwords when it happens,” Mityagin wrote. Dropbox also emailed any affected users and advised them to change their passwords on Dropbox as well as other Internet services.

Hackers often target less secure platforms to steal login information they then use on other websites, as seems to be the case here. That’s why it’s a good idea to use different passwords on different websites as well as activate two-step authentication wherever available.

TIME Gadgets

New Activity Monitor Tells You When It’s Optimal to Start Exercising

reign-activity-monitor-510px
Jaybird

By now, there’s no shortage of exercise monitors on the market, each with its own gimmick. Some offer style, some offer waterproof construction, some turn fitness into a game and some will even help you track your food consumption. But none will actually tell you when it’s optimal for your body to start exercising — at least until the new Reign by Jaybird monitor is released later this month, that is.

Each day, Reign conducts a Heart Rate Variability test, an analysis of time interval between heartbeats. The more relaxed and rested you are, the more variability there is between beats. Reign uses this data to calculate your “Go-Score,” a number ranging from 0 to 100 that shows your body’s readiness for exercise. The higher the score, the more primed your body is for activity. It’s meant to push you toward being active when your body is ready to make the most out of your effort.

What you wind up doing when your Go-Score maximizes is up to you. The Reign can track walking, running, cycling and sports. It’s also waterproof, so it can keep tabs of your swimming, too. Steps, calories burned, duration, activity, sleep quality and your numerical Activity Score can all be monitored on your iOS or Android smartphone via a low-energy Bluetooth connection. A full charge of the Reign’s battery takes two hours and offers five days worth of tracking.

Another nice feature: The attractive looking Reign band is designed to perfectly fit your wrist no matter its size. Each monitor comes with a soft-touch silicone and brushed-metal band and an interchangeable lower band in your choice of sizes. Two seamless sports bands are also included, as is an ankle strap for biking.

The new Reign by Jaybird fitness tracker will be available in black, white and green when it’s released on October 26. It carries a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199. Pre-orders are not being offered, though you can enter your email at jaybirdsport.com to receive updates.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME apps

People Can Now Pay Each Other Via Twitter in France

BRITAIN-INTERNET-COMPANY-TWITTER
The logo of social networking website 'Twitter' is displayed on a computer screen LEON NEAL—AFP/Getty Images

Digital payments in 140 characters or less

A new digital payment service in France will let people pay each other via Twitter for free.

French banking group BPCE announced details Tuesday about the new app, S-Money, which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play and allows users with a French credit card and phone number to link their card information to Twitter to begin making payments to other individuals or organizations and companies that have downloaded the service.

Payments are capped at 250 euros (about $317) for individuals and 500 euros ($635) for charities in times of crowd-funding. Users also have to use a specific format for their payments to be accepted. S-Money has opted for € rather than the written version of euros, for example.

While other digital payment platforms have the option of privacy for payments, all Twitter payments are visible to the public–so discretion is advisable.

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