Author: Steven Musil

AAPL – Apple reportedly delays return to office until January amid COVID surge


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Apple reportedly told corporate employees on Thursday their expected return to the office would be delayed until January amid a surge in cases of COVID-19 and new variants.

The iPhone maker said in a memo to employees it would confirm its reopening timeline a month before employees are expected to return to the office, Bloomberg reported late Thursday. The new delay comes a month after Apple told employees they would be expected back in the office in October, which followed an earlier return target of September.

The company’s offices have largely sat empty for the past year, its employees working remotely as businesses all over the world shuttered facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as cases initially dipped, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly told employees in June they would be expected to return to the office three days a week.

The resurgence of COVID and especially the emergence of the delta variant has led tech companies to reconsider their reopening plans. Apple employees have been especially vocal in pressing for a delay, saying decisions on the frequency of remote work should be left up to individual teams and that there shouldn’t be a “one-size-fits-all policy.”

The company has said internally that it believes in-person collaboration is an essential part of its culture.

AAPL – Apple reportedly planning 'buy now, pay later' service


Apple is reportedly tinkering with an installment payment service for Apple Pay.

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Apple is developing a new “buy now, pay later” service that’ll let customers pay for Apple Pay purchases on an installment basis over time, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

The service, dubbed Apple Pay Later, will use Goldman Sachs as the lender, unidentified sources told the news agency. Goldman Sachs has partnered with Apple on its Apple Credit credit card since 2019, but the new service isn’t tied to the card, Bloomberg reported.

Similar to Apple Card monthly installments, which allow customers to pay off a purchase over a 24-month period, the new service will let Apple Pay users pay off purchases by way of a monthly financing plan. Users will be able to choose between paying for purchases across four interest-free payments made every two weeks or across several months with interest, Bloomberg reported.

The installment plans would compete with similar systems offered by Affirm, Klarna and PayPal.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

SQ – Square to build hardware wallet for Bitcoin, Dorsey confirms


Square says it’s going to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin.

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Digital payments company Square has decided to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, company CEO Jack Dorsey said on Thursday. The announcement came a little more than a month after Dorsey said Square was considering building a hardware wallet, which lets users store digital assets on a computer or smartphone.

“We’re doing it #Bitcoin,” Dorsey wrote in a retweet of a tweet from Jesse Dorogusker, the hardware lead at Square.

“We have decided to build a hardware wallet and service to make bitcoin custody more mainstream,” Dorogusker wrote in his tweet. “We’ll continue to ask and answer questions in the open. This community’s response to our thread about this project has been awesome – encouraging, generous, collaborative, & inspiring.”

Bitcoin wallets are used to store cryptocurrency and have a private key for security. Hardware wallets are considered among the most secure, since they store Bitcoin in a physical device that can be plugged in to a computer or phone.

Square already lets people buy and sell the digital coin via its Cash app, and Dorsey has been a vocal advocate of Bitcoin.

In June, Dorsey discussed the possibility of creating the hardware wallet, during the Bitcoin 2021 conference, saying that if the company proceeded with the idea, he wanted to “make it completely in the open, from all of our software to all of our hardware design” and that it would be open-sourced.

Timing for the hardware wallet’s launch wasn’t revealed, and Square representatives declined to comment.

MSFT – Microsoft joins Apple in $2 trillion market cap club

Microsoft headquarters

Microsoft’s stock is up 64% since the pandemic forced people to work and learn remotely.

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Microsoft joined an exclusive club on Tuesday, becoming only the second US public company to reach a market capitalization of $2 trillion.

The company hit the threshold as shares rose as much as 1.2% before sliding back a little to close at $265.51, up 1.1%, and giving the company a closing market cap of $1.99 trillion. The milestone comes two years after the company surpassed the $1 trillion market cap mark.

Microsoft hit the lofty market cap roughly 10 months after fellow tech giant Apple hit the mark in August 2020. Apple currently has a market cap of $2.23 trillion.

Oil company Saudi Aramco, which trades on the Saudi Tadawul exchange, surpassed the $2 trillion mark on its second day of trading in 2019 but had a market cap of $1.88 trillion on Tuesday.

Microsoft’s shares have been boosted, in part, by the pandemic. As lockdowns forced many to begin working and learning remotely more than a year ago, demand has increased for Microsoft’s software and cloud computing services. Since stay-at-home orders went into effect in March 2020, Microsoft’s stock is up more than 64%.

In April, Microsoft posted a third-quarter profit of $14.8 billion, up 38% from the same period last year. Revenue for the quarter was up 19%.

“Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement at the time. “They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning.”

Amazon and Google are also gunning to join the $2 trillion club. Coming in at No. 3 on the list of largest tech companies by market cap is Amazon, with a $1.76 trillion valuation, followed closely by Google’s $1.67 trillion.

TSLA – Musk says Tesla will accept Bitcoin when clean energy is used in mining


You won’t be able to buy cars from Tesla with Bitcoin again until miners adopt clean energy mining methods.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Sunday the automaker would resume accepting Bitcoin for vehicle purchases when it’s confirmed that miners have adopted clean energy methods to mine the cryptocurrency.

“Tesla only sold ~10% of holdings to confirm BTC could be liquidated easily without moving market,” Musk said in the tweet. “When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions.”

Tesla officially started accepting bitcoins back in March but said in May it would no longer take bitcoins for vehicle purchases and suspended its policy of trading the bitcoins it already has until the currency transitions to a more efficient, sustainable energy source.

Climate scientists have concerns about the electricity use required to mine bitcoin. Mining the currency requires high levels of computing power, which solve mathematical puzzles to earn new coins. In 2018, researchers suggested an increase in the cryptocurrency’s popularity could create a demand for electricity that would generate excessive carbon emissions. 

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FB – Facebook data for over 500M users reportedly leaks online


Facebook user data, including user names and phone numbers, has appeared on a hacker website.

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Personal information on hundreds of millions of Facebook users, including names, birth dates and phone numbers, has reportedly been posted to a website for hackers.

The data set contains information on 533 million users from 106 countries, according to Business Insider, which first reported on its availability. The data, which appears to be years old, was first discovered making the rounds in hacker circles in January by Alon Gal, CTO of cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson tweeted that the data was from an old leak.

“This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois said. “We found and fixed this issue in August 2019.”

Despite its age, the data set could provide valuable information to identity thieves and other scammers.

“Bad actors will certainly use the information for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing,” Gal said in a tweet Saturday.

The social networking giant has grappled with several privacy and security mishaps over the years. In 2019, a security researcher discovered a trove of data anyone could access online that contained more than 267 million Facebook users’ phone numbers, names and user IDs.

Earlier in 2019, security researchers found more than 540 million Facebook user records, including comments and likes, in a public database on Amazon’s cloud servers. Later that year, TechCrunch reported on a server that contained several databases filled with more than 419 million Facebook records from users in the US, UK and Vietnam.

MSFT – Microsoft reportedly in talks to buy gaming chat app Discord for $10B


Many gamers these days like to play online with friends. Discord helps them do that.

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Microsoft is in negotiations to acquire Discord — a messaging app for gamers — for $10 billion, Bloomberg reported Monday. That followed an earlier report by VentureBeat that the San Francisco-based company had received interest from several buyers.

Launched in 2015, the chat app built initially for gamers has been steadily expanding outside that world as it is increasingly being used by YouTube personalities, podcasters, hackers and more. Overall, the company says it counts more than 250 million registered users.

The reported talks come as the coronavirus pandemic has increased consumer focus on video games. According to data from research group NPD, spending on video games hit a record $11.2 billion in the third quarter of 2020, an increase of 24% over the previous year.

Microsoft declined to comment, while Discord didn’t respond to a request for comment.