Workplace chat platform Slack draws interest from Amazon

Amazon might have shown a great deal of interest in the real world with its recent purchase of Whole Foods, but don’t be fooled – the company is still looking to snap up any promising Internet presences as well. According to the Financial Post, one such potential presence is Slack Technologies Inc, a corporate chatroom startup based in San Francisco.

There’s no agreement or deal on the table yet, but Amazon insiders have confirmed that the company is interested. Experts believe that this deal would place Slack at a value of around nine billion USD.

Slack launched in 2013 and has since been working hard to rope in big users. In January, the company released an enterprise version of its chat software which supports tens of thousands of employees at a time, allowing international businesses to collaborate with ease. Even Microsoft has taken notice of this young startup, recently releasing its competitor to slack, a chat platform called Teams.

As reported by The Financial Post, Slack has “5 million daily active users — 1.5 million of whom pay to use the service — and had $150 million in annual recurring revenue as of Jan. 31.” These figures make it obvious why a company like Amazon might want a piece of Slack’s success.

The CRTC banned unlocking fees: here’s how that affects the average Canadian

Schooley Mitchell complaintsAs of December 1, 2017, Canadian telecom companies will no longer be able to carrier-lock phones or charge customers unlocking fees. This CRTC ruling is a big win for not only the Liberal government, who promised telecom reform back in 2015, but also the consumers who will undoubtedly benefit from the new regulations.

In 2016, carriers like Rogers, Telus, and Bell made $37.7 million CAD in unlocking fees. That’s a lot of money from the pockets of consumers. And while it might seem like taking that income away from the carriers might impact them negatively, Mobile Syrup points out that in one quarter, the three carriers mentioned above generate roughly seven billion dollars combined.

Mobile Syrup’s Sameer Chhabra writes that, “the total amount of money that all Canadian carriers generated from unlocking phones across the country is dwarfed by just one of the Big Three’s quarterly earnings.”

And as University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist points out, “the lock was used as a barrier to lock not just the phone, but the consumer to carrier. It made it more difficult to leave and to roam with other carriers.”

So if you’re a smartphone owner in Canada, and had the idea of changing carriers, you might have noticed it was becoming increasingly expensive. In 2015, it cost an average of $30-per-unlock. That amount rose to $40 in 2016. As of now, the figure is around $50. Government intervention in this scheme has no doubt prevented continued growth for that figure.

Jean-Pierre Blais, the outgoing CRTC chairman, told the Financial Post he regrets not solving this issue sooner. “Frankly, that’s one case where I think my gut was telling me we probably should’ve forced unlocking. It would’ve helped three years sooner, a more dynamic marketplace.”

So what does this mean for you, the phone owner? As of December, you will have the ability to switch from carrier to carrier as you see fit, pursuing whatever deal suits you best, all without having to worry about those pesky, unfair fees or having to get a new phone or phone number.

Galaxy S8 disappoints in sales while iPhone remains on top

Despite their anticipated release and positive critical reception, the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones have not garnered the hoped-for success in the U.S smartphone market. In fact, according to BGR, Android makers in general are struggling to compete with Apple in the United States.

Data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech says that Android’s market share in the U.S fell 5.9 percent from 67.6 to 61.7 percent in the three month period that ended in April of 2017. At the same time, iOS sales grew 5.8 percent across the U.S, giving Apple 36.5 percent of market share.

“Android partner brands Samsung, LG, and Moto experienced year-on-year declines in the US,” reports Kantar’s Lauren Guenveur. “The Samsung Galaxy S8, released in the last two weeks of the April period did not show a significant impact on Samsung’s sales in the period ending in April, nor did LG’s G6. Neither of those made the list of Top 10 best-selling phones.”

Guenveur also revealed that in the three months that ended in May of 2017, the S8 and S8 Plus only amassed a combined share of 8.1 percent of sales in the United States. Again, during the same period, the S7 and S7 Edge achieved 8.8 percent of sales and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus took 20.1 percent.

It’s not all bad news for Android and Samsung, however. The opposite results are being seen in China, where over the past year Android sale shares have increased from 79.1 percent to 83.4 percent, while iOS sales have dipped twenty percent to 16.2 percent of the market.

Does CIBC have Canada’s best banking app?

After being pit against five competitors – including TD and RBC – CIBC has been proclaimed by Forrester Research Inc. to have the best online banking application.

According to MobileSyrup, Forrester evaluated five different banking apps on functionality and usability based on 54 different criteria. CIBC’s app scored highest in both categories. It also compared CIBC to a number of undisclosed global competitors, where it still ranked number one.

According to Forrester, CIBC’s app has a number of impressive and unique features, including the ability to order foreign currency, and smartwatch functionality. And unlike RBC and TD, CIBC supports the recently-launched Android Pay platform.

“We believe Forrester’s recognition speaks directly to how CIBC continues to build a complete end-to-end personalized mobile banking experience that puts the client first,” said Aayaz Pira, senior vice-president of CIBC digital retail and business banking division. “We are continually working to innovate for our clients including enhancing and building new mobile-driven solutions so they can access modern convenient banking, how and when they want.”

Simply hovering over a link in PowerPoint could infect your computer with malware

 Security is always a worry when surfing the web – even more so nowadays when considering large-scale attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware. If you click on the wrong link, you might find your computer infected, held hostage, or worse. However, a new kind of malware makes this threat even scarier; it can be installed on your PC without a single click, needing you to simply hover your cursor over the infected link.

Tend Micro, a security vendor, recently discovered this malware method inside a PowerPoint presentation slide. The malicious link can be attached to either text or an image. The effectiveness of this link is dependent on the version of Microsoft Office you are running; the newer version will pop up a “potential security risk” warning before the script can run, whereas the older ones will allow it automatically. On the newer version, the user then has the option to disable the script.

Despite the nefarious nature of this malware, it’s still difficult to become infected. According to PC Mag, “The user has to be supplied with the malicious PowerPoint file via an email, open it, and then mouse over the ‘Loading… please wait’ text present on the included slide. Even then, if PowerPoint has Protected Mode enabled, which it is by default on more recent versions, the script cannot run. It also won’t run if you’re using PowerPoint Online or Office 365’s web mode.”

Although this particular attack isn’t all that worrying, it’s the method that is making people nervous. It’s in the nature of many internet users to hover a link to learn new information, and now that previously safe method could become compromised. Now is a better time than ever to check your computer’s security.

Northwest Territories gets Fibre Optic Connection

Residents of the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories are about to find their internet connectivity vastly improved. According to CBC, a 1,154 kilometre fibre optic line is set to come online after a $82 million construction project, bringing these northern Canadians better access to video streaming, data collection, and more.

In the communities it reaches, this fibre optic line should triple internet speeds. “We’re very happy because it gives us a more secure communication line and much bigger potential for future endeavours,” said Grant Hood, senior administrative officer with the Town of Inuvik, one of the communities benefiting from this project.

I think in the long run, it’s going to be one of those ‘if you build it they will come’ for certain things that will expand our opportunities,” Grant elaborated.

Grant perfectly summarized the purpose of the fibre optic line, which the N.W.T’s government hopes will help modernize the territory’s economy as well as greatly benefit the youth of the communities affected.

According to CBC, the line runs “1,154 kilometres from McGill Lake, 80 kilometres south of Fort Simpson, to Inuvik. Wrigley, Tulita, Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope are also connected.” These communities are home to around 6,500 Canadians.

Wireless charging finds a home with Logitech mousepad

If you’re interested in cord-free charging or simply sick of your wireless mouse running out of battery, then here’s some good news. According to Ars Technica, Logitech’s new Powerplay mousepad will constantly charge your wireless mouth, whether it’s in use or simply sitting on the pad.

The Powerplay bundle from Logitech will be released in the US and the UK on August 20th, and will consist of a wireless charging base, two mousing surfaces (soft and hard), and a powercore module. It will cost $100 USD, or roughly £90. The powercore included in the bundle is compatible with the Logitech G903 and the G703 mice, which will both be released in June. It is likely that wireless mice released by Logitech in the future will also be compatible.

Wireless charging has been a difficult technology to take advantage of for the very reason that this new product will work; the transmitter and receiver of the power transfer have to be very well aligned, meaning that an object has to be placed on top of its charger. This isn’t so useful for phones or cameras – products that you want to use on the go. But for the mouse, chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time using it at a desk, on top of the mousepad. Most importantly, the magnetic resonance that makes wireless charging possible shouldn’t hinder the mouse’s functionality.

iOS 11 might save you a lot of storage space

main-qimg-ee22f97addbb92a5eae941e95b18696bIf you’re one of the many who suffer from chronic lack of storage on your iPhone, you might be in for a treat with the next software update. According to Business Insider, one of the many small changes being rolled out with iOS 11 is that iMessages will be stored in the iCloud moving forward, and not on your hard drive.

You might not even realize how much space your archived iMessages take up on your device. Now, messages going back potentially for years will be freed up as space for you to use. This will also automatically sync your messages across all Apple devices that share your account.

“With your messages in the cloud, we only need to keep your most recent messages cached on the device,” Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said at the Worldwide Developer Conference presentation on June 5th. “That makes for smaller and faster backups.”

Of course, this also raises the concern of keeping your messaging history secure over the cloud. Federighi promised that messages will remain “end-to-end encrypted.”

If you’re looking forward to this update, you’ll find it available on your device this fall.

Apple shares good news on app developers

apple logoApp devs have earned over $70 billion since the App store launch in 2008

Apple recently announced some great news – for both App Store developers and itself. According to Computer World, since the launch of the App Store in 2008, developers working on the platform have earned cumulatively over $70 billion.  Likewise, Apple confirms that downloads on the App Store continue to expand.

It’s no surprise that games and other entertainment applications remain the top-grossing, but Apple has given us some insights as to important growth in other areas as well. For example, Health and Fitness apps have experienced 70 percent growth in the past year, and Photo and Video apps have experienced 90 percent growth! Other categories like education and training are also on the rise.

“People everywhere love apps and our customers are downloading them in record numbers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Seventy billion dollars earned by developers is simply mind-blowing.”

Apple has made a number of efforts to provide for its developers; for example, allowing payment via Apple Pay, the introduction of apps via iMessage, and allowing developers in the Top 25 category to sell apps on a subscription basis. The latter of which has seen 58 percent growth this past year, according to Apple.

Money is also made from a handful of wildly popular applications. According to Declutte.com, Pokemon Go generates $1,113 per minute across all platforms, and Clash of Clans generates $1,191 per minute. Apple benefits greatly from iOS users who play these games in particular. Estimates suggest that from Pokemon Go alone, Apple could be making at least $125,000 a day.

Verizon modified prepaid data plans

verizonAs of June 6, Verizon has modified its prepaid data plans, making them more appealing to the customers who did not buy the unlimited plan for $80 a month this past April. If you can’t afford or don’t need this upper-tier plan, Verizon’s newly revised plans might fit your bill.

According to The Verge, the new plans consist of 3GB for $40 a month, 7GB for $50, or 10GB for $60. Before June 6, these same plans were 2GB for $40 a month, 5GB for $50, and 10GB for $70.

Unfortunately, the price cut does not come without drawbacks. All of the new plans are limited to video streams of 480p, with the possibility of tethering. The unlimited plan does not include tethering. 480p is not excellent quality, but if you’re not big on streaming video, it might be worth saving a bit of money each month.