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05.13.16 | 7:39 am

Unified School District says $42 million iPad program helped raise graduation rates

In 2013 voters in the Coachella Valley Unified School District in Southern California approved a $42 million bond measure that supplied 20,000 iPads to all of its students, the Wall Street Journal reports. The controversial measure has now been confirmed as a success, according to the school's superintendent. He credits the iPad program with raising the graduation rate from 65% of students in 2011 to 82% of students in 2015. In addition to giving iPads to every student, the school district also took the novel step of fitting school buses with Wi-Fi and parking them in poorer neighborhoods so families with no home broadband could get free access to the Internet.

03.28.17 | 32 minutes ago

Etsy and the future of home-based microbusinesses

Although Etsy isn't the largest platform for independent e-commerce sellers (1.7 million active users), it does attract a certain kind of person. And, as its 2017 U.S. Seller Census reveals, most of them are female, 97% run their shops from home, more than three quarters are one-person operations, and only 32% use it as a side hustle from their traditional jobs. These microbusinesses could be a significant driver of economic growth, and Etsy aims to foster that by announcing the creation of the first Congressional Microbusiness Caucus. It will be chaired by representatives from both parties with the hope of shaping public policy and clarifying the distinction between microbusinesses, which have fewer than 10 employees, and small businesses, which can have upwards of 500.

For more details, download the report – Crafting the Future of Work: The Big Impact of Microbusinesses.

03.28.17 | an hour ago

Amazon’s drive-through grocery store gets a name, but still no date

Amazon's innovative grocery store concept, which we first reported about in February, is officially a real thing—it's called AmazonFresh Pickup. But there's still no date for a public grand opening.

Only available in Seattle for now (and initially for Amazon employees), the concept is simple but effective: You place an order online, drive to the store, pull into a parking space, and an employee loads the groceries into your car. The web page announcing AmazonFresh Pickup says that orders can be placed as little as 15 minutes prior to pickup.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of reports that the fully-automated AmazonGo convenience store will delay its opening due to technical difficulties.

03.28.17 | an hour ago

Here’s how much one industrial robot can affect U.S. employment

Researchers from M.I.T. and Boston University have released a report looking at the effect of industrial robots on wages and the U.S. workforce between 1990 and 2007. The results are rather disturbing. Per Bloomberg, industrial automation has had the most measurable impact on the lower half of the wage distribution and thus is probably contributing to income inequality in a real way. According to the researchers' estimates, one robot per 1,000 workers reduces the employment-to-population ratio by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by about 0.25-0.5%.

The full report is behind a paywall on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research, or you can read Bloomberg's analysis here.

Photo: ICAPlants via Wikimedia Commons

03.28.17 | 2 hours ago

Watch Spider-Man swing into Avengers action in the new “Homecoming” trailer

Although we got our first glimpse of Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man back in Captain America: Civil War last summer, and took in a teaser for his feature debut last December, today's trailer is the most insightful look so far at Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film's poster, unveiled yesterday, prominently featured the Avengers building in the New York skyline. As promised, the Avengers, and Tony Stark/Iron Man, in particular, figure heavily in the trailer and the eventual movie as well.

03.28.17 | 2 hours ago

Get ready to see commercials before your Periscope videos

That's right: Twitter said today it's adding pre-roll ads on Periscope videos, which means content creators will have more options to monetize their videos and viewers will have more time to do whatever it is they do during commercial breaks. Per a blog post by Periscope's group product manager, Mike Folgner, the ads will play on live-broadcasted videos and replayed ones. So it really is just like TV.  

"For creators and publishers that use Periscope to go live on Twitter every day, these pre-roll ads present a new way to monetize their video content. For marketers, they have a new source of brand-safe video advertising beyond what was previously available, including ads during live streaming programs from select premium publishers, Promoted Tweets with Periscope video and custom Amplify campaigns with premium content creators."

Read the full post here

Image: Periscope/Twitter

03.28.17 | 3 hours ago

Coach in talks to buy Kate Spade

There have been rumors that Coach is vying to be an American LVMH: a holding company for U.S. luxury brands. In 2015, Coach purchased Stuart Weitzman for $574 million. And today, Business of Fashion (paywall) reports that Coach intends to buy Kate Spade, according to sources inside both companies. Kate Spade, which was founded by Kate and Andy Spade, could be worth more than $2 billion. But the bigger question is whether there are other companies vying to purchase Kate Spade as well.

03.28.17 | 3 hours ago

Shaky science? Gwyneth Paltrow defends her supplement business in the face of attacks

The movie star and newly appointed CEO of Goop has launched her most ambitious product yet: Goop Wellness is a collection of vitamin supplements created in collaboration with Paltrow-approved doctors. It might sound like a smart idea considering the nutritional supplements industry is worth $37 billion, but Goop is already under attack for what many call a sector full of shaky science.

"I just keep my nose to the grindstone and do what I'm doing and some of these things, people just like to talk shit and that's fine," Paltrow told me in a recent interview. "What we produce at Goop resonates. So I try to keep my eye on the prize and take the good out of it." 

Read my full interview with Paltrow here.

Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images

03.28.17 | 3 hours ago

The Chinese tech company behind WeChat now owns 5% of Tesla 

Continuing its aggressive cross-sector investment spree, tech behemoth Tencent Holdings just took a 5% stake in Elon Musk's electric car company. The Chinese firm behind the WeChat mobile app has invested $1.78 billion in Tesla, worth 8 million shares as of last week, Tesla says. Read more from Reuters here.

03.28.17 | 6:11 am

Uber is reportedly ending operations in Denmark

Copenhagen's local broadcaster TV2 News is reporting that Uber has announced it will stop operating services in Denmark on April 18, Reuters reports. The cessation of its service is said to be due to Denmark's new taxi law, which requires all taxis to have video surveillance cameras, taxi meters, and seat sensors.

03.28.17 | 6:04 am

Amazon acquires Middle East retailer

The company announced that it will buy the popular Middle East retailer for an undisclosed sum. During its last funding round, Souq was valued at more than a billion dollars. In a statement, Russ Grandinetti, Amazon's senior vice president of international consumers, said:

"Amazon and share the same DNA—we're both driven by customers, invention, and long-term thinking. pioneered e-commerce in the Middle East, creating a great shopping experience for their customers. We're looking forward to both learning from and supporting them with Amazon technology and global resources. And together, we'll work hard to provide the best possible service for millions of customers in the Middle East." 

03.27.17 | 5:45 pm

Here’s the most ominous quote from Maureen Dowd’s deep dive into Elon Musk’s fear of AI

Elon Musk is scared of artificial intelligence, and Vanity Fair looked into why. In a very long piece written by Maureen Dowd, we get a rare glimpse into Musk's years-long crusade to quell this rapidly expanding facet of the technology industry.

Why is he so scared? Here's a quote from Dowd's story from Eliezer Yudkowsky, a famed AI researcher, who provided a truly frightening thought experiment:

"If you want a picture of A.I. gone wrong, don't imagine marching humanoid robots with glowing red eyes. Imagine tiny invisible synthetic bacteria made of diamond, with tiny onboard computers, hiding inside your bloodstream and everyone else's. And then, simultaneously, they release one microgram of botulinum toxin. Everyone just falls over dead… Only it won't actually happen like that. It's impossible for me to predict exactly how we'd lose, because the A.I. will be smarter than I am." 

You can read the full story here. 

03.27.17 | 4:20 pm

Former Android boss Andy Rubin teases an all-screen smartphone

Andy Rubin is about to get back into the smartphone business after leaving Google in 2014. On Twitter, the former head of Android gave a partial glimpse of a new phone with practically no bezel around the top and sides of the screen. Although Rubin's startup, Essential Products, has been widely reported on, Rubin himself has been quiet so far. The Twitter tease could be an attempt at positive press following a report last week that Softbank had bailed on a $100 million investment in Essential, supposedly to keep up relations with Apple.

Phones with edge-to-edge displays are in fashion, with LG, Samsung, and possibly Apple looking to squeeze more screen onto their handsets. The Essential phone seems to go further, resembling the Sharp Aquos Crystal and Xiaomi Mi Mix with its lack of a top bezel, but it'll need a few more tricks to stand out from the crowd.