Asus Just Unveiled the World’s Lightest Business Laptop

There’s light and then there’s light. The Asus Pro B9 is definitely the former at 1.9 pounds.

There’s no word on pricing or when the Pro B9’s launching, but it’s clear that Asus is gunning to be a major player in the business laptop space, an arena the company seemed to have left to the likes of Dell and Lenovo

Design

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I haven’t seen a laptop this light since the Lenovo LaVie Z. And honestly, it made me want to toss it like a frisbee. Let’s hope the Pro B9 fairs better. It looks to be made from the same blue aluminum seen on the likes of the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo so it’s definitely got a leg up. And the fact that the slim stunner has undergone MIL-SPEC-810G testing is reassuring that this isn’t a flimsy toy.

At 0.6-inches thick, it’s on a par with the Lenovo X1 Carbon, but the former is much heavier at 2.5 pounds. 

From the quick glimpse I saw of the notebook during the slide presentation, it appears to have a variation of Asus’ ScreenPad.

Specs

AsusPro B9

In another rebuke of the slim = weak narrative, Asus has found a way to outfit the Pro B9 with some seriously powerful specs. When it launches, it will have an Intel 10th Gen Core i7 processor, a pair of 1TB PCIe SSDs in either RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration. It will also have Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

And if like any good laptop, it will have TPM software and a fingerprint reader to keep your sensitive information under lock and key.

Bottom Line

Asus is making an aggressive play on the business space with the Pro B9 laptop. As you’d come to expect from the brand, it’s undeniably pretty and really powerful and it’s incredibly light. If it can offer reasonable battery life and it delivers on the performance, the Asus Pro B9 might be the laptop du jour for mobile professionals. 

Keep up with what’s happening on the IFA 2019 show floor with our up-to-the-minute coverage. 

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Razer Launches World’s First Gaming Ultrabook

The Blade family is getting even bigger. Razer just announced two new additions to its laptop library: the Blade Stealth 13 Mercury White Edition and the Blade Stealth 13 Graphics Edition. Available starting toward the end of September, the laptops will start at $1,499 and $1,799, respectively.

Blade Stealth 13 Graphics Edition

Razer is billing the Graphics Edition Blade Stealth as the “world’s first gaming ultrabook.” That’s because the laptop is outfitted with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM coupled with a 10th Gen Core i7-1065G processor. That means you can play games like Far Cry New Dawn and Battlefield V, just not at the highest settings.

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In addition to the Core i7 processor, the laptop is stacked with 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD. The $1,799 configuration of the notebook features a 1920 x 1080 display that features Intel’s Lower Power Display technology, which is supposed to help extend battery life. Razer also has a $1,999 version with a 4K touch panel. Either system would work for a gamer on the go, but if frame rates and battery life are a big concern, I’d recommend the 1080p iteration.

Speaking of battery life, Razer claims that the Graphics Edition will last between 10-11 hours on charge. Most gaming laptops rarely last longer than 6 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery test, so I’m not optimistic about their chances.

Blade Stealth 13 Mercury White Edition

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The first thing you’ll notice about the Mercury White Edition of the Blade Stealth is… that it’s white. But just like every other Blade laptop, the entire chassis is made of CNC aluminum and sports that boxy frame we’ve come to know and love. It’s just a really pretty laptop all around. As the name suggests, this version of the Stealth will only be available in this color.

Razer Blade Stealth Mercury White 001

Targeting college students, the laptop has one of Intel’s new 10 Gen Ice Lake processors (Core i7-1065G7 CPU), 16GB of RAM and an Intel Iris Pro integrated graphics card. Intel is promising better overall and graphics performance with this new round of chips as well as some AI functionality. I’m excited to see whether or not the components will live up to the hype.

The laptop has been outfitted with a 13.1-inch, 1980 x 1080 matte panel with the capability to reproduce 100% of the sRGB gamut thanks to factory calibration. And for storage, you have a 256GB PCIe SSD, which should translate into fast transfer speeds. 

The company is estimating 13 hours of battery life. Razer has been steadily working on the battery life, with the last Stealth lasting 8 hours and 5 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test. Do I think the Mercury White Edition will last 13 hours? No, but I’m hoping it can clear 9 hours and maintain the company’s positive trend.

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USB4 Is Coming: Here’s How Fast It’ll Be

USB4’s technical specifications have been finalized by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the group responsible for creating USB standards.

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Utilizing a two-lane operation when used with USB Type-C cables and up, we can expect to see transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps. With those rates, USB4 doubles the performance of USB 3.2, the newest USB standard currently available. USB4 is also backwards compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

While USB4 integrates Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, MacBook and iMac desktop users have benefited from faster speeds and output options for years. However, accessories that make use of the technology are usually expensive, leading most manufacturers to eschew it regardless of the fact that they utilize a USB-C connection. Since the new standard merges both USB-C and Thunderbolt, we should start to see decreasing accessory price points that utilize faster speeds as USB4 gains popularity.

USB4 device manufacturers must also include USB Power Delivery technology, which regulates device charging. PD can quickly charge your phone or gaming laptop, sending the optimal amount of wattage for each device to charge quickly without damage.

With specification development all wrapped up, we could see the first USB4 products hit the market as early as mid-2020.

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Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for more than two hours

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were all experiencing issues at the early hours of this morning, 15th of April, 2019 from users worldwide. Users observed that Facebook and Instagram were both inaccessible, with news feeds refusing to refresh and the main Facebook.com domain were unavailable for more than two hours(2hours). WhatsApp messages were also unable to be sent or received, and someurs)erved 9 fo of this were  users of Facebook’s main services (Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp) headed to their Twitter handles to share that they were having issues. Messenger, Facebook’s chat service, was also down for more than two hours.

This outages appear to have started at around 6:30AM ET this morning, 15th April 2019, and some locations were more widely affected than others. “Earlier today, some people may have experienced trouble connecting to the family on apps,” says a Facebook spokesperson in a statement said. “The issue has since been resolved; we’re sorry for any inconvenience.” Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all started to come back online at around 9AM ET this morning.

Facebook’s issues come just a month after Facebook experienced its worst outage ever. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram were all inaccessible for hours last month, and it wasn’t until over 24 hours later that Facebook finally gave the all clear. Facebook blamed a “server configuration change,” and apologized for the outages.

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Bluetooth will get even more accurate at finding your lost gadgets

The group behind the Bluetooth standard says it’s developed a new feature that’ll allow companies to track items down to the centimeter. The group is combining Bluetooth’s existing object-tracking tech with another technology, radio direction, in order to get the precise measurements. This could radically change tracking technology, like Tile’s solution for locating lost objects.

Right now, Bluetooth systems track items by measuring their signal strength — but they have a wide accuracy range of one and 10 meters. Now, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is adding the ability for gadgets to know exactly what direction a signal is coming from, not just its distance, to make that measurement more exact.

With this feature turned on, Bluetooth trackers could tell users where an item is down to the centimeter, the group says. That’s great for locating missing gadgets, but it could also be used to improve the accuracy of tracking in indoor spaces where Bluetooth beacons are used to help people navigate. Generally, if you’re using Bluetooth tracking, it could prove helpful, but I’m also nervous anytime a company can know exactly where I am at any moment.

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Microsoft Office now available on Apple’s Mac App Store

Microsoft is making its Office suite available on Apple’s Mac App Store today. The software giant originally promised to bring Office apps to the Mac App Store by the end of 2018, and after a short delay they’re finally here. WordExcelPowerPointOutlookOneNote, and OneDrive are all included as part of the Microsoft Office 365 app bundle, and you’ll need an Office 365 subscription to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

The apps are the same versions that have been previously available to Mac owners through Microsoft’s own website, but they’re now neatly packaged in the Mac App Store. The biggest benefit of this is that the Office apps will be automatically updated through the App Store, instead of Microsoft’s separate AutoUpdate (MAU) tool that’s typically used to update Office for Mac.

APPLE WELCOMES MICROSOFT TO THE MAC APP STORE

Apple also welcomed Microsoft’s addition to the Mac App Store today. “We are excited to welcome Microsoft Office 365 to the all new Mac App Store in macOS Mojave,” says Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “Apple and Microsoft have worked together to bring great Office productivity to Mac users from the very beginning. Now, with Office 365 on the Mac App Store, it’s easier than ever to get the latest and best version of Office 365 for Mac, iPad and iPhone.”

Microsoft is offering a one-month trial of Office 365, after which you’ll have to opt for Office 365 Personal at $69.99 a year ($6.99 per month) or Office 365 Home at $99.99 a year ($9.99 a month). Office 365 Home covers Office apps for up to six users on PC or Mac, and both subscriptions come with an additional 1TB of OneDrive storage per user and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month.

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Google just spent $40 million for Fossil’s secret smartwatch tech

Google and watchmaker Fossil Group today announced an agreement for the search giant to acquire some of Fossil’s smartwatch technology and members of the research and development division responsible for creating it. The deal is worth roughly $40 million, and under the current terms Fossil will transfer a “portion” of its R&D team, the portion directly responsible for the intellectual property being sold, over to Google. As a result, Google will now have a dedicated team with hardware experience working internally on its WearOS software platform and potentially on new smartwatch designs as well.

“Wearables, built for wellness, simplicity, personalization and helpfulness, have the opportunity to improve lives by bringing users the information and insights they need quickly, at a glance,” Stacey Burr, the president of product management for Google’s WearOS platform, said in a statement. “The addition of Fossil Group’s technology and team to Google demonstrates our commitment to the wearables industry by enabling a diverse portfolio of smartwatches and supporting the ever-evolving needs of the vitality-seeking, on-the-go consumer.”

According to Wareable, the technology is a “new product innovation that’s not yet hit the market,” Greg McKelvey, Fossil’s executive vice president of chief strategy and digital officer, told the publication. It’s unclear what exactly that innovation is, or why exactly Google is so eager to buy it, although $40 million is a drop in the bucket for Google when it comes to acquisition costs. What we do know is that it’s somehow based on tech Fossil got its hands on when it acquired wearable maker Misfit for $260 million back in 2015.

IT’S NOT CLEAR WHAT FOSSIL WAS WORKING ON, BUT GOOGLE SEES A USE FOR THE TECHNOLOGY

Burr’s official statement seems to make clear that Fossil was working on some type of health and wellness-focused technology, and Fossil has been Google’s most consistent and long-term hardware partner on WearOS, since back when it was named Android Wear and Google was looking for watchmakers to help it rival Apple in the wearable space.

Burr did tell Wareable that Google saw the technology and thought it “could be brought out in a more expansive way if Google had that technology, and was not only able to continue to use it with Fossil but bring it to other partners in the ecosystem,” she said. Burr goes on to say that Fossil will bring the technology to market in the form of a product and it will expand “across our full breadth of brands over time,” before expanding “across the industry over time to benefit all.”

Putting aside the cryptic product innovation talk, Fossil has specialized in what are known as hybrid smartwatches: devices that do some minor smart features like step-tracking and notifications, but otherwise look and feel like your standard, semi-expensive wristwatch. The company makes smartwatches with touchscreens that resemble other WearOS devices and the Apple Watch, but its strong suit has always been the hybrid watch, given Fossil’s design and manufacturing experience in the traditional accessories market. The issue there, however, is that Fossil, while making some of the nicest-looking smartwatches, has been slow to adopt technologies like GPS and heart-rate tracking that have existed on other wearables for years. So in this case, Fossil may have cracked something having to do with hybrid watches, but we just don’t know yet.

For Google, this could be a big chance for it to turn WearOS around and truly try to compete with the Apple Watch. Whether the Fossil technology pushes Google to finally develop and release an official Pixel Watch with its own internal design, or it simply helps the company better refine its software, this acquisition proves that WearOS still has some fight left in it.

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Facebook could be fined millions by US regulators for privacy violations

Federal Trade Commission officials have discussed imposing a record-setting fine on Facebook after a year of major data breaches and revelations of improper data sharing, according to the Washington Post. Facebook may have violated a 2012 agreement with the government to protect users’ data and make clear statements about their privacy.

If imposed, this would be the first major fine Facebook has faced in the US after it was revealed last spring that the personal data of over 87 million users had been given to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, without their explicit permission. Last October, United Kingdom officials fined Facebook £500,000 as a result of Cambridge Analytica, but that amount pales in comparison to what US regulators are reportedly debating now.

According to the Post, the fine could be larger than the $22.5 million one the FTC imposed on Google in 2012 after regulators found that the company had tracked users of Apple’s Safari web browser, despite saying it wouldn’t.

“SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES ARE THE ONLY WAY TO CURB FACEBOOK’S PREDATORY BEHAVIOR”

In 2012, Facebook entered a consent decreewith the FTC agreeing that it deceived its users by telling them that certain information would be kept private, when it was not. The company had made information, like lists of friends and published posts, available to the public and capable of being shared without the consent of its users. This is likely the agreement the FTC regulators now believe Facebook has violated.

Following Cambridge Analytica and similar incidents, like a hacker accessing personal information on 29 million accounts, members of Congress and advocacy groups have called on the FTC to take action.

“Serious consequences are the only way to curb Facebook’s predatory behavior and change the industry’s amoral pursuit of growth at the public’s expense,” Free Press, a media and technology advocacy group, said in a statement today. “This action should be the first of many taken by regulators and Congress in response to online platforms’ systemic abuse of their users.”

According to the Post, the findings of the Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine have not been finalized. Facebook has met with FTC investigators throughout the past year, but it isn’t clear whether the company would accept the fine that the agency is anticipated to impose.

The FTC has been shut down since last month and nonessential employees have been furloughed. The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Facebook declined to comment to The Verge.

 

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A Twitter bug exposed some Android users’ protected tweets for years

If you’ve used Twitter on your Android phone anytime since 2014, you might want to double-check your settings. Twitter disclosed on its Help Center page today that some Android users had their private tweets revealed for years due to a security flaw. The issue caused the Twitter for Android app to disable the “Protect your Tweets” setting for some Android users who made changes to their account settings, such as changing the email address associated with their account, between November 3rd, 2014 and January 14th, 2019.

Though the company says the issue was fixed earlier this week and that iOS or web users weren’t affected, it doesn’t yet know how many Android accounts were affected. Twitter says it’s reached out to affected users and turned the setting back on for them, but it still recommends that users review their privacy settings to make sure it reflects their desired preferences.

Twitter, which had already been under EU investigation for its data-collection issues under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, is now facing a new privacy investigation for the protected tweets security flaw by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), according to BloombergFailure to improve its privacy practices would cost the company a hefty EU privacy fine, which, under GDPR, would be 4 percent of the company’s annual revenue.

DPC head of communications Graham X. Doyle told Bloomberg, “The DPC opened a statutory inquiry in late 2018 into Twitter’s obligation under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to implement technical and organisational measures to ensure the security and safeguarding of the personal data it processes following the receipt of a number of breach notifications from the company since May 25, 2018. This inquiry is ongoing.”

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Shareholders are pushing Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition tool

After controversy over where Amazon will sell its facial recognition tool, a shareholder proposal is pressuring the company to stop offering the product to government agencies until a civil rights review can be completed.

Organized by corporate activists at the nonprofit Open MIC, the proposal asks Amazon to halt sales until “an evaluation using independent evidence” concludes that civil rights aren’t being violated. The shareholder proposal is being filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, a congregation that is part of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, a group of Roman Catholic investors. Open MIC has previously organized similar proposals around controversial projects like Google’s proposed Chinese search engine, codenamed “Project Dragonfly.”

The groups say they intend for the proposal to receive a vote at an Amazon meeting in the spring.

Amazon’s facial recognition tool, Rekognition, has been criticized by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which, in a test, found the tool inaccurately matched 28 members of Congress to criminal mugshots. This week, a coalition of 90 advocacy groups sent letters to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, asking the companies not to sell facial recognition tools to government agencies. Amazon, which has sold Rekognition technology to local law enforcement and pitched it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has also faced internal pressure from employees.

Amazon declined to comment.

CEO Jeff Bezos has generally defended Amazon’s work with the US government. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense,” he said at a Wired conference in October, “this country is going to be in trouble.”

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