Motorola leads the summer assault with two new devices

moto x

Motorola has been the subject of several rumours these past few months and it seems there might be some truth to them after all, as Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing may have let the cat out of the bag.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Yuanqing confirmed that we will probably see two new devices over the summer period, “We have many new models in development with the Moto brands so you may see in summer us launching some very exciting products, includingphones and watches,” he said.

While he didn’t reveal any information as to what the devices might be, it’s been previously confirmed that Motorola are looking to release the Moto X on a yearly cycle. With the current Moto X slowly approaching a year old, the release date coincides very nicely with a refresh to their flagship device.

Rumours for what’s inside the upcoming flagship appear to differ quite wildly depending on the outlet. STJS believes the device will include a 5.2″ Quad HD display, Snapdragon 808, 4GB RAM, a 16 MP rear camera, a 5 MP front-facing camera and generous 3280 mAh battery. TotalTech, a more reliable source, claims the screen will be a larger 5.64″ but the RAM will only be 3 GB.

The other expected device could be an update to the Moto 360, a fantastic looking smartwatch that unfortunately fell short on the internal hardware. Underpowered and with a poor battery life, the wearable would benefit greatly with a faster powered version.

Both of theses devices launched in September last year, so the confirmation of these mysterious product launches seems to fit a little too perfectly. More than just a coincidence? We think so.

Cypress and ISSI: On Again, Off Again

After ISSI put the kibosh on a transaction with Cypress at the beginning of the week because of anti-trust concerns, Reuters reported Wednesday that it had agreed to Cypress’s terms for the $643 million deal to proceed.

ISSI said in a statement that it had “determined in good faith … that the current Cypress offer would be more favorable from a financial point of view to the ISSI stockholders than the merger under the Uphill Agreement [a prior agreement with Uphill Investment Co.] and that the failure to enter into a definitive agreement with Cypress on the terms in the current Cypress offer would reasonably be expected to be inconsistent with its fiduciary duties under Delaware Law.” This was despite concerns that it and Cypress would have to make anti-trust filings for the transaction in the U.S. and Germany and possibly other jurisdictions which would be both expensive and time-consuming.

But hold on.

While Cypress and ISSI briefly reunited on the dance floor on Wednesday, Thursday it released a statement announcing it had entered into a further amendment to its previously announced merger agreement with Uphill Investment Co. The amendment means the merger consideration was increased to $21.00 per share in cash, from the $20.00 per share in cash first offered in March. ISSI also announced that its special meeting of stockholders to consider approval of the Uphill acquisition and related matters will be held on June 19, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

ISSI had entertained the Cypress offer per the original Uphill agreement that it would consider a superior offer. Now that the Uphill agreement has been amended, trumping the Cypress offer of $20.25 per share, the ISSI Board of Directors continues to recommend that ISSI’s stockholders vote for the adoption of the Uphill Agreement, having determined the proposal from Cypress no longer constitutes and would not be reasonably expected to lead to a superior proposal.

ISSI was founded in 1988 and is based in Milpitas, California, with offices in China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. The company, which went public in 1995, designs and develops high-speed and low-power SRAM and low- and medium-density DRAM and NOR flash products for the automotive, communications, digital consumer, industrial and medical markets. Customers include Panasonic, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, GE, Honeywell and Siemens.

Based in California, ISSI products include SRAM, DRAM and NOR flash with a focus on the automotive, communications, digital consumer, industrial and medical markets.

Based in California, ISSI products include SRAM, DRAM and NOR flash with a focus on the automotive, communications, digital consumer, industrial and medical markets.

The potential merger of Cypress and ISSI first came to light in mid-May when Cypress sent a letter to the board of directors of ISSI, proposing an acquisition of all outstanding shares. Had the Cypress/ISSI merger come to fruition, it would have bolstered Cypress’s offerings in the automotive segment, which is growing thanks in part to onboard infotainment systems.

One of the chief anti-trust concerns ISSI had with the Cypress transaction was that it would mean the combined entity would exceed 70% of market share in Germany and be the sole supplier of SRAM to German automotive manufacturers.

While discussing its latest 4Mb asynchronous SRAM with on-chip error-correcting code (ECC) with EE Times in April, Cypress did acknowledge that the overall SRAM market has been shrinking, but that the company had seen growing demand for automotive applications and the Internet of Things (IoT), such as wearables. Furthermore, Cypress sees the requirements of wearable electronics driving the resurgence of SRAMs, since size and power are critical factors.

Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis, didn’t completely agree that IoT would necessarily become a large boon to the SRAM market, as low-power SRAM has been losing ground to DRAM, and overall, the SRAM market is being chipped away at all sides by cheaper alternatives. He said Cypress is relatively unique in that it has a broad product range, while most SRAM companies focus on specific product niches.

Networking is one area where SRAM continues to excel as Internet traffic continues to grow exponentially and network infrastructures must continue to upgrade in order to handle moving and storing more data. The 100 to 400 Gigabit linecards found in next-generation switches and routers are hungry for memory that can support the random transaction rates found in network traffic today. Other applications for SRAM include military hardware and medical devices. But compared to the DRAM segment, SRAM is much smaller, and the market has become more specialized.

There is still innovation to be had in the SRAM segment. Earlier this year, Intel described carving SRAMs at 14nm. The 0.0500um2 SRAM bitcell is capable of storing 14.5 Mbits per mm 2 and is part of a memory array that will be widely used in Intel’s future SoCs, such as cellular modems that use hundreds of Mbits on a die.

After testing every flagship Android phone released in the past two years over hundreds of hours, we think the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the best new phone for most people. It looks and feels fantastic, it’s packed with useful features, and its 16-megapixel camera and 1440p Super AMOLED screen are the best on any Android phone. We came to this decision after combing through all the available reviews of the top Android phones and going hands-on with them ourselves. If you want a phone with a larger screen or one that’s friendlier to your budget, we have alternative picks as well.
Should you upgrade?
If you’re happy with your old phone, don’t get a new one yet. The phones that will be out when you are ready for an upgrade will be better than what’s available today. Unless you’re a power user or a serial early adopter, you probably don’t need an upgrade if you bought a phone in 2014 or later. But if you use your phone throughout the day and your old one isn’t serving you well anymore, you should buy a new one. If you use your phone constantly, a new model is worth the cost, even if your current phone is only a year old.

Grabbing whatever phone your carrier offers for free with a two-year contract can be tempting, but those phones usually have some combination of bad UI, outdated software, substandard specs, and poor build quality. When it is time to get a new phone, we recommend choosing the best, newest phone you can afford.
The best overall option
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The Samsung Galaxy S6 has the best screen and camera of any Android phone, powerful hardware, and a fingerprint reader that actually works.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is the best new smartphone for most people seeking an Android phone. It has the best camera and the best screen, it offers lots of useful features, and, for once, it isn’t made of plastic. It’s the first truly exciting Samsung phone in a long, long time. It has a nonremovable battery and no microSD card slot, and you can find phones with larger screens, if such things are important to you. But for most people, the S6 is the best phone so far. Available on all four major US carriers, it starts at $200 on-contract for the 32GB model or $650 to $700 off-contract.
The best phablet for multitaskers

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is huge, but it’s the best phablet for multitaskers. Its screen and camera quality are second only to the Galaxy S6, and its battery life is even better.

If you want a large phone/tablet hybrid that helps you get things done, or if you can’t live without a removable battery and a microSD card slot, you should get the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It has a fantastic screen, a great camera, and excellent battery life. It’s almost as big as Apple AAPL -1.24%’s iPhone 6 Plus, but it offers an even larger and sharper screen despite being slightly shorter. And unlike the iPhone 6 Plus and every other phablet out there, the Note 4 is designed for multitasking, with a stylus and software that lets you use two apps side by side.

The Note 4 starts at $300 on-contract at AT&T T -0.66%, Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular, and $750 off-contract at T-Mobile.
The Best Budget Option

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Midrange unlocked phones are becoming increasingly popular, but the market is still a bit of a minefield. Some models are okay, but others aren’t even worth their meager asking price. If you need the cheapest decent phone you can get, that’s the Motorola Moto G. Compared with most phones in this price range, the Moto G has amazing build quality and software.

You can find two versions of the Moto G: a 4.5-inch-screen phone from 2013 and a 5-inch model released in 2014. Both have the same 720p resolution, identical quad-core Snapdragon processors, and 1 GB of RAM. The 2013 Moto G is just $200 with LTE, while the newer 2014 version without LTE is $180. We think the older LTE version is the better value for people in the US, since the phones are so similar otherwise.
Wrapping it up
The Samsung Galaxy S6 is the fastest and most well-made Android phone available, and it should be a great fit for most people. If you want to learn more about our testing process and the other finalists we tested, please visit the full version of this guide.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to TheWirecutter.com.

Arne Duncan Transcript: Some For-Profit Colleges Have “the Ethics of Payday Lending”

arneduncan3

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell had a conference call for reporters to announce the Department’s plans to offer debt relief for students from the now-collapsed, predatory Corinthian Colleges. I offered some analysis that day about the announcement, but here’s the whole transcript. It contains some of the most emphatic statements ever from Duncan on the abuses of for-profit colleges — and the complicity of many Members of Congress. 

TRANSCRIPT

Press Call on Student Borrower Protections, Assistance

June 8, 2015

2 p.m. ET

Coordinator:          Welcome and thank you for standing by.

At this time, all participants will be on a listen-only mode until the Q&A session of today’s conference. The time to ask a question, press Star 1 on your touchtone phone and record your name.

This call is being recorded. If you have any objections, please disconnect at this time.

I would like to turn the call over to Press Secretary of the US Department of Education, Ms. Dorie Nolt. Ma’am, you may begin.

Dorie Nolt:            Hi all. Thanks for joining us today. You should have the materials – the fact sheet and a blog from Undersecretary Ted Mitchell already. If you don’t have those, please ping me and I’m happy to send them to you. They are also on our Web site.

And first we’ll hear from Secretary Duncan. Then we’ll hear from Undersecretary Mitchell. And then we’ll open it up for Q&A. Arne and Ted are on the record, and anybody else on staff who is speaking is on background.

Arne?

Arne Duncan:        Thanks all of you for taking the time. I’m going to be quick and hand it off to Ted as he and his team have just done extraordinarily hard and important work. But here’s a couple of quick thoughts before I give it to him.

Obviously, we’re here to talk primarily about debt relief for Corinthian College students. And many of you like us have heard stories from students who have simply had a terrible experience at Corinthian. You have to be made of stone not to feel for these students.

Students everywhere deserve and need the opportunity to make their lives better through education – to climb the economic ladder. That’s exactly what these students tried to do. But a lot of them ended up with huge debts and a degree that meant little to employers, if they got a degree at all. The whole idea of a career college was a farce for them. (Unintelligible) about bad actors (unintelligible) college industry.

Now more than ever, a college degree is the best path to the middle class. But at half – but that path has to be safe. And that’s why we’re all so determined to crack down on colleges that leave students with huge debt, worthless degrees and few meaningful job prospects.

Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education. They prey on the most vulnerable students, and leave them with debt that they too often can’t repay. We must have accountability to protect both students and taxpayers.

And that’s what we’re working on through a series of actions that are simply unprecedented. No previous administrations, no state and no Congress has ever done this. Simply put, we cannot tolerate the situation where all the risk of higher education is born by students and taxpayers, while the for-profit industry uses its financial support to try and block change in Congress. That means we must do business differently.

A couple of quick messages – first, to students: We firmly believe that you deserve a college education free from rip off scams. And if you’ve been defrauded by a school, we’ll make sure that you get every penny of the debt relief you are entitled to through a streamlined process as – as streamlined a process as possible. We’re going to make that as simple as we legally can, while also safeguarding the interest of taxpayers.

To members of Congress on both sides of the aisle: I want to be very clear. Students and taxpayers need action to strengthen accountability. Beef up efforts to protect students and taxpayers from waste and fraud. Don’t fight them off. And that’s rules that hold colleges, not taxpayers, responsible for fraudulent acts, and provide additional resources to our department that we requested to fully enforce accountability.

To taxpayers: I want to say we are committed to being responsible stewards of your investment in educational opportunity. And to college executives and the management teams and their boards of directors, I want to say very clearly – keep your promises and make sure you’re delivering real value for students. If you’re doing that, you’ll have our full support. But if you defraud students and if you’re not honest, we’ll work across the administration and make sure the full weight of the law is brought to bear.

And finally to the nation, I say it’s time for action, so we can see fewer students in the situation that these Corinthian students are in today. And that’s why I appreciate so much the work that Ted and his team have been doing. They’re extraordinarily smart, but most importantly they have a real heart. They have a real care for students. I’m grateful to have Ted and team leading this effort.

I’ll turn it over to Ted now to walk through specifically what we’re announcing today. Ted?

Ted Mitchell:        Thanks, Arne. Thanks for your leadership. And thanks to all of you who are on the phone today.

What so many Corinthian students experienced as Arne said is just plain wrong. And we’re committed to acting aggressively to insure that students receive every penny of the debt relief they’re entitled to. So let me talk about our next steps.

First, let’s talk about what we’re going to do to expedite debt relief for Corinthian students whose schools have closed. There is an established and straight-forward process and application available at studentaid.gov for students who attended Corinthian campuses that closed. Typically, closed school debt relief is only available to students who attended the school at the time of closing or withdrew from the school within 120 days of its closing.

Today, we are announcing that we are expanding eligibility for this type of debt relief. In recognition of the tumble faced by students at Corinthian schools that closed, Secretary Duncan is exercising his authority so that any student who either attended Corinthian at the time of its closing or withdrew from Corinthian after June 20, 2014, in a Corinthian school that ultimately closed is now eligible for closed school loan discharge. So our first action today is extending the window for debt relief to students who were in Corinthian schools that closed.

Now, let me turn to another kind of relief we’re providing to former Corinthian students. This is for Corinthian students who believe that they were victims of fraud by their school, regardless of whether the school closed or not. This process is called “borrower defense to repayment.”

First, we will enable anyone who wants to apply for this debt relief the option to stop paying their loans while we set up an application form and process claims. Thus, we will offer immediate loan forbearance and will halt collection activity for students whose loans are in default for all Corinthian students who believe they were defrauded on any or all of their federal direct loans if they want that option.

All Corinthian students who intend to submit the borrower’s defense claim can choose to have their loans placed in forbearance or stop collections for 12 months. Then, they can do this by filling out a simple form on studentaid.ed.gov. To date we have received about 1,400 borrower defense claims. The loans of these students will be placed into forbearance or collections stopped while those claims are being reviewed.

In addition, we are working to find ways to fast track relief based on legal findings for large groups of students, such as those enrolled in the whole program at a particular school at a particular time and place. That means that there’s no need for these students to make any individual showing that they were affected by the school’s fraud, which will make for a much simpler and quicker process.

Today, we are announcing that we are doing just this for the large majority of Heald College programs based on the department’s findings of misrepresentation of placement grades. I want to thank our colleagues in the California Attorney General’s office for their help with this.

We have posted a list of programs and dates covered by our findings at studentaid.ed.gov, and as well as a straight-forward attestation form that students in these programs can fill out to seek borrower defense relief. Beyond that to insure that we have a clear, efficient process for borrowers, we will announce within the next three weeks the selection of a special master to guide the debt relief process for all Corinthian students, including a streamlined application which borrowers will be able to complete online. The special master will present recommendations within two months of his or her selection. And those recommendations will be public.

But while we work on these steps, we will also be developing new regulations to clarify and streamline the borrower defense process. That process will not slow down the loan discharge process for current applicants. All of the information about options for students is posted at studentaid.gov/corinthian. And a fact sheet and blog post about these efforts can be found on the home page of the Department’s Web site at ed.gov. But as Arne said, to do everything that’s needed to protect students and taxpayers, we need Congress to do its part.

Before I close I’d like to recognize all of the students and advocates who provided insight on how best to help in this complicated issue. I want to also thank members – pardon me – members of my team who have dedicated hundreds of hours to make sure that we do this in the best way possible for students and taxpayers.

I hope all of you see that the steps we are announcing today are part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive approach to protecting students, eliminating bad actors and encouraging behavior that improves student outcomes, especially in making it easier to afford and complete a degree that will lead to good outcomes.

We will continue to work with students and with advocates as we develop and build out our processes. This is a new process and as you all know, new territory for us. And while we may not have it perfect the first time, we’re committed to seeking your feedback, and as necessary making improvements to the process quickly.

Part of that is getting to your questions. So at this point we can open it up for questions and comments.

Dorie Nolt:            Operator, can you prompt everybody how to queue up for a question?

Coordinator:          Thank you. At this time we will begin the Q&A session. To ask a question you may press Star 1 on your touchtone phone. Please unmute your phone and record your first and last name clearly when prompted. To withdraw your question, please press Star 2.

One moment for our first question. For questions on queue, one moment.

This one goes to Josh Mitchell. Sir, your line is open – go ahead.

Josh Mitchell:       Yes, hi. Thanks. I had a couple questions just to start. First of all, so what – how exactly are you guys going to decide who at Corinthian, you know, sort of can have their debt wiped out? I mean is it every single student that ever went to a Corinthian school? It seems like that’s going to be pretty complicated.

And what is the potential sort of tab here if we just look at that – of that one company? How much tax dollars are we talking about?

Ted Mitchell:        So we’re – thanks for the question, Josh. So, we want to create a process that is based on our established legal authority that will enable us to work through claims as quickly and as efficiently as possible, requiring the least amount of effort on the part of borrowers.

And so, we will be looking at these claims when we can in groups, as we’ve done today with the Heald student. And we will going forward look for ways to find sort of commonalities between claims so that we can look at them together.

But we do know that in the case of borrower defense, borrowers need to demonstrate that or we need to find that state laws have been violated and that they have been harmed by the acts or omissions of the institution. And so while we will batch where we can, we will probably also be looking at claims on a smaller basis.

If we were to look at the total amount of outstanding loans for Corinthian students over the last five years, we would be looking at about $3.5 billion. But I think for today’s news it’s more appropriate for us to be looking at the Heald students.

And while we are still working that out, we believe that there are about 40,000 borrowers who are impacted by today’s decision, and that those borrowers have outstanding loan balances in the neighborhood of between $500 and $600 million.

Arne Duncan:        Just quickly, we obviously don’t know how many students will take this up. So that’s the potential side of this. But students have to step up. This is new work for us, and we’ll see where it goes.

Dorie Nolt:            Okay, next question. And folks, try and ask one question at a time, only because we have a lot. And I want to be sure we get to all of them. We can follow up after this if you don’t get your question answered. Next question, please.

Coordinator:          Okay. Next question goes to Allysia Finley. Your line is open – go ahead.

Dorie Nolt:            You’re muted if you are talking.

Coordinator:          Ms. Finley, your line is open. Are you here?

Arne Duncan:        Operator, can we go to the next question, please?

Coordinator:          Okay. Next question goes to Kerry Field. Your line is open.

Kerry Field:          My question was how will the Department determine that a state law has been violated? Will there need to be a lawsuit with findings?

Ted Mitchell:        So this is exactly one of the jobs for the special master will be to help – to advise us on how best to go forward with that. But as is the case in our Healed findings today, in that case we – the Department through its own work – established that state law had been violated.

Kerry Field:          But will the Department rely on other people’s findings as well?

Ted Mitchell:        So, I think it that it’s important to distinguish between investigations and formal court decisions. And so we want to look at – and the special master will guide in this – we want to look at evidence when there is relevant evidence. And we will, you know, certainly take evidence – (unintelligible) kinds of evidence into account. And certainly judgments in state court would be pretty critical to us.

Kerry Field:          I think…

Dorie Nolt:            Next question, please.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Allysia Finley with Wall Street Journal. Your line is open.

Allysia Finley:      Hi. Would states or rather (unintelligible) of the students who were at Heald Colleges and that have closed, would they – regardless of whether they transferred to another state college or community college – would they – they’d be eligible for loan forgivement?

Ted Mitchell:        So they – those students would be eligible to bring borrower defense claims, yes.

Allysia Finley:      So they wouldn’t automatically be eligible just under the first option.

Ted Mitchell:        So, sorry – let me back up. So Heald students who are in schools that closed would be eligible for closed school loan discharge.

Allysia Finley:      Even if they had further credit – can’t transfer their credits elsewhere?

Ted Mitchell:        So that’s right. So if they transfer their credits, they would not be eligible for the closed school loan discharge. But they still would be eligible for borrower defense.

Allysia Finley:      Okay, thanks.

Ted Mitchell:        Uh-huh.

Dorie Nolt:            Next question.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Mike Vasquez with Miami Herald. Your line is open.

Mike Vasquez:      Hi. Good afternoon. I know you guys said one question. I’m going to have to try to squeeze in two here. First is there a time limitation? If I went to a school in 1998, can I assert a borrower defense claim now? And secondly the difficulties with Corinthian of course go back for many years.

And when we talk about the taxpayer price tag now, I’m sure there’s some folks who would say, you know, the Education Department should have shut down Corinthian five years ago, and we wouldn’t have to deal with all this loan forgiveness now. Did your department drop the ball on the front end dealing with Corinthian?

Ted Mitchell:        So what – I’m going to ask [Department official] to answer the first question.

Dorie Nolt:            And remind everybody that[Department official]  is on background.

[Department official]:       We haven’t set any time limits for borrower defense. It could be something that we’ll develop as we develop the process with the special master. But at this point there are no time limits on it. And also for (unintelligible) I can say that there are no time limits on that.

Arne Duncan:        In terms of timing we did a pretty – our team did a pretty thorough investigation of Corinthian and found from things that were extraordinarily awry – wrong, and that led to them being shut down. And we’re going to continue to look at other places. And sadly this may not be the only case where this has to happen.

And at the end of the day – I just want to come back. We have to challenge Congress to stop fighting us on this. If you look at the history of what we’ve tried to do over the last five or six years on this, there’s a lengthy track record here going back to gainful employment, where not just the industry which we expect. But Congress is part of every step of the way.

And we’re going to continue to try to do the right thing for students and taxpayers. But hopefully Congress will wake up here and get members on both sides of the aisle, and figure out that they need to strengthen our hand in dealing with these guys.

Ted Mitchell:        And Mike, this is Ted. Just to – as a reminder to everybody, states and accrediting agencies also need to step up their game in order to have this – multiple views on the work of all institutions, but in particular these career colleges that are too often concerning to us.

Dorie Nolt:            And that speaker right before Ted was Secretary Duncan. I just want to be sure that’s clear for folks on the phone. All right, next question, please.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Anne Flaherty with Associated Press. Your line is open.

Anne Flaherty:      I wanted to go back to how many borrowers this is going to affect and how much it’s going to cost the government, at least what you’re estimating right now. When you have $542 million in loans with just the Heald students alone, I mean is it fair to say if all of them apply for this sort of – for their debt to be erased, then taxpayers could be on the hook for $542 million?

But that could even climb with what you’re announcing today as much as $3.6 billion. Is that correct?

Ted Mitchell:        So I think – yes. Those are the numbers. And I think that this is why we need to make sure – as Secretary Duncan has said – that as we go forward with these processes, we are able to put institutions on the hook as well as providing the relief that students are entitled to under the law.

And let’s be clear, the law is what gives students the right to this kind of relief. And it’s important for us to do everything that we can to make those laws work for borrowers and to do so in a way that also protects taxpayers.

Arne Duncan:        Again just to reiterate, we really don’t know how many students will apply for this. So these are all, you know, top line numbers. But we will not know for a while what the take up rate is. So that’s the big unknown at this point.

Dorie Nolt:            Next question, please.

Coordinator:          Thank you. Next question goes to Chris Kirkham with the Los Angeles Times. Go ahead.

Chris Kirkham:     Hi. Yes, so I just wanted to make sure I was – we were just being very clear on sort of going back in time on this loan forgiveness window – going back to last June. Who all are we talking about here? So is this not going to apply to schools that were sold to Zenith? Or so are these the schools that were the tea kettle schools as part of that agreement?

I just sort of – there’s a lot of different scenarios here for what students went through. So I just want to make sure I’m crystal clear on who exactly that wasn’t in the schools that closed in April, who are the new students who are able to apply for this?

Ted Mitchell:        So the – let me see if I can help clarify it. So the students who we’re considering as a group today are the Heald College students who were enrolled in programs where we have findings of misrepresentation. And so that’s the first in category.

Next are…

Arne Duncan:        And that are – maybe 81% of programs.

Ted Mitchell:        Eighty-one percent of the program.

Arne Duncan:        We don’t have a hard count on students, but think we’ll be commensurate or in that ball park of people.

Ted Mitchell:        Right. And then outside of that, Corinthian students can apply for – can make borrower defense claims whether their school was closed or not. And we believe that going forward Corinthian students will be able to present borrower defense claims.

And beyond that, other students will be able to create borrower defense claims as we build out our process under the guidance of the special master.

Chris Kirkham:     Okay. But for the loan discharge though, where the deadline got moved back…

Ted Mitchell:        Oh, yes, yes.

Chris Kirkham:     …a couple of time. Yes.

Ted Mitchell:        Right. So those are for students who were enrolled in the schools that ultimately closed, but who were enrolled…

((Crosstalk))

Chris Kirkham:     So not…

Ted Mitchell:        …in those schools prior to the 120 day period going back to June 20, 2014 when we signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Corinthian that led to their sale.

[Department official] :      And who did not or could not or chose not to complete their program at another school. This is John DePaulo – just to be overly clear. Schools that were sold to (unintelligible) are not closed schools.

Chris Kirkham:     Thanks.

Dorie Nolt:            Next question, please.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Tamar Lewin from New York Times. Your line is open.

Tamar Lewin:        Hi. Can you – I know that Corinthian has a lot of debt. Are there any other parties that have been associated with this to whom you might look – be looking for some of the damages?

Ted Mitchell:        So thanks – thanks Tamar. This is Ted. So we are working aggressively within the bankruptcy process to satisfy (unintelligible) that we made.

Tamar Lewin:        Can you be a little more specific or no?

Ted Mitchell:        I don’t think…

Man:                     Do you have a follow up question there?

Ted Mitchell:        Yes. I don’t think that there are more specifics really.

Tamar Lewin:        Okay, thank you.

Dorie Nolt:            Next question.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Janet Lorin from Bloomberg News. Go ahead.

Janet Lorin:           Hello. Do you have an estimate of how many students are eligible right now for debt relief now that the date has been pushed back to June of 2014?

Ted Mitchell:        Yes. We’ve been calculating that. We think it’s 15,000 students.

Janet Lorin:           And do you have a dollar amount of how much that would cost?

Ted Mitchell:        No, not at this moment. And again, , you know, there too, it’s indeterminate and will all be about the take up rate question of how many of those students have transferred their credits when they departed Corinthian. So that too is indeterminate and we’ll learn as we go through this.

Janet Lorin:           But the high amount…

Dorie Nolt:            Next question.

Janet Lorin:           …if everybody took it, it would be 3.6 billion.

Man:                     That – the 3.4 billion is…

((Crosstalk))

Man:                     …earlier with the loan volume associated with Corinthian borrowers of the last five years.

Janet Lorin:           But if everybody took it up – took you up on that, that would be the high amount?

Man:                     So it wouldn’t be that high because the window applied in this case is only from June 20, 2014 to present.

Ted Mitchell:        Also that number isn’t (unintelligible). That number is all; right?

Dorie Nolt:            Hey guys, I can send everybody clarity on the numbers after the call just to make sure everyone has that. So I’ll follow back up with everybody who was on the call. Let’s move on to the next question unless you had something else Janet.

Janet Lorin:           No, thanks.

Dorie Nolt:            Okay.

Ted Mitchell:        Thanks, Janet.

Coordinator:          Thank you. Next question goes to Mandi Woodruff from Yahoo Finance. Your line is open.

Mandi Woodruff:  Hi. Good afternoon, and thanks everybody for answering these questions. My question – I know you’ve mentioned the accrediting agencies earlier, Ted. And I wonder if you have any plans to sit down with them and look into the way that they have been evaluating these schools. Heald for example was accredited by a really reputable or thought to be reputable regional accrediting agency in the western part of the states.

And that was sort of one of the banners that advertised a lot about and was supposed to be very reputable. What are your plans to sort of look into how these regional accreditors are evaluating for profit schools in the future?

Ted Mitchell:        So great question. We are talking to them actively. And quite honestly I think that accreditors need to wake up to what’s going on around them in this part of their industry. And they need to develop stronger guidelines for how to manage their engagement with these large career colleges.

Mandi Woodruff:  Do you think that you maybe like might have relied on their evaluations a little too much I mean in terms of looking at the for profit schools?

Ted Mitchell:        So the whole question of how we work with states and how we work with accreditors is an open one and a good one. And I think that for our part we need to communicate more often and better with accrediting agencies and with states.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m so encouraged by the increased conversation – level of conversation that we’re having with states attorneys general on these and other matters.

Arne Duncan:        And to be clear, this is not like we relied on them too much. We did our own independent investigation. But (unintelligible) in places like this are, you know, passing accreditation with flying colors, we have prospects losing some credibility. And accreditors need to really, really take this seriously.

Dorie Nolt:            And I think (unintelligible) Secretary Duncan.

((Crosstalk))

Mandi Woodruff:  Okay, thank you.

Dorie Nolt:            We have time for one more question. This one I think the many (unintelligible) queue up. So can we get that question in please?

Coordinator:          Thank you. Next question goes to Allison Sherry from Minneapolis Star Tribune. Your line is open. Ms. Sherry, your line is open. Go ahead.

Allison Sherry:      Hello. I’m sorry. Thanks for taking my last question. Mr. Secretary, you were calling on Congress to take more action on for profits. And I wondered if you’d like to be more specific – if you had the chairman of the House and Senate Education Committees in the room, what you’d like them to do.

Arne Duncan:        Well I think we’ve been very clear and have a, you know, five or six year track record of – and to be very clear, we’re supportive of for profits that are helping real people gain real skills that lead to better jobs. We want them to grow and to assert more students.

But where Congress has fought us every step of the way when we’re just trying to bring some basic accountability to the industry, it’s been a huge problem. And again what we’re seeing in situations like Corinthian is just – it’s indefensible.

And this is a wakeup call not just to the industry, but this has to be a wakeup call to Congress. And I’d be hard pressed to believe that folks on either side of the aisle want to stand behind guys where there is so much deception of students and waste of taxpayer dollars.

And so going back again to gainful employment, going back to bringing more resources so that we can do more investigative work here, Congress has to stop defending the status quo that’s indefensible, and has to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

And candidly, far too many members of both sides of the aisle up to this point have been part of the problem. The question is does this – is this a watershed moment? Is this a fork in the road where they begin to understand that, you know, bad actors simply can’t be tolerated?

Allison Sherry:      Okay, thank you.

Dorie Nolt:            We have three more questions. We’re going to take all of them.

Coordinator:          Thank you. Next question goes to Michael Shure from Al Jazeera America. Your line is open.

Michael Shure:      Yes, thanks for taking the question. You know many people who are observing this situation see Corinthian as the first domino to fall. Is this something that the Department looks at as precedent setting going forward if some of these other schools fail in the same way as Corinthian has?

Arne Duncan:        It’s a great question. And sadly we think this will not be the last domino to fall, and that there may be more. And we’re looking at this with an eye first to doing the right thing by the Corinthian students. But we’re also – I try to be explicit in what I was saying.

We are also today trying to send a very clear message to this industry. And we’re also trying to send a very clear message to Congress. And I wish we could say that, you know, Corinthian is the last of these situations. But that’s not reality. That’s not reality.

Ted Mitchell:        And this is Ted. And I’ll just add to that, I think that this is one of the reasons that we are bringing in the special master and working with the special master to create a process that is durable, not just in the Corinthian case, but beyond Corinthian.

And to go back to the question about accreditation, I think that this is also one of the reasons why we have to work very hard to fix the broken accountability system so that we can focus on the front end part of this problem too, and not just be cleaning up the way we’re doing today with Corinthian.

Michael Shure:      Thank you.

Ted Mitchell:        (Unintelligible), this is our first major statement and major action on this, but it obviously will not be our last. And we’re going to continue to learn, to listen very carefully. This is new work that we have to do. Wish we didn’t have to do this. Wish students weren’t in a situation. But again this is very much a reality for far too many young people – far too many students around the country.

Dorie Nolt:            Okay, next question, please.

Coordinator:          Next question goes to Valerie McCabe from Al Jazeera America. Go ahead.

Valerie McCabe:   Hi. Sorry about that. I just have a really quick question. Have you actually (unintelligible)? And my second question is actually about how much money – I mean there was a certain period where the Department of Education gave Corinthian College $600 million while they were processing their bankruptcy. Why did that happen?

Arne Duncan:        So I’ll take this first and hand it over to Ted in a second. But yes, there were absolutely members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who want to be constructive. There are candidly members of Congress who in the past defended these guys, and are starting now to really comprehend the debt – how indefensible that is.

So I am hopeful. But I listen to what people say. And I spend a lot of time watching what they actually do. This is not a time for congress to do a bunch of speeches. This is a time for Congress to act, and to act in a bipartisan way.

So you guys are reporters. Feel free to call what they say. I just hope you can hold folks accountable before they actually do something here or not. And they need to take much clearer action than they ever have in their history.

Ted Mitchell:        And on the second question, our agreement with Corinthian last June was that they would sell or close all of their schools. And in the interim we – under the supervision of a special monitor, (Patrick Fitzgerald), former US attorney, Corinthian operated their campuses again under the pretty strict supervision of (Pat Fitzgerald) and our team here at the Department.

Arne Duncan:        And just quickly, obviously many students were able to transfer, and to abide there. And our goal there – students were in school for a reason. They were in school because they wanted to gain skills. They wanted to climb the economic ladder. And we thought where possible for them to continue to stay in school, to graduate.

Many, many were within literally – thousand were within two months, three months, six months of graduating. The easy thing for us to thing to do would have been to shut down Corinthian back there – put all these students on the street with nothing to show for it.

We thought the right thing to do was to try and give them a chance to transport – to gain real skills that will help them climb the economic ladder.

Dorie Nolt:            Last question, please.

Coordinator:          Question goes to Alan Pyke from ThinkProgress. Your line is open.

Alan Pyke:            Hi, thanks. You guys have talked a lot about the importance of the ultimate take up rate to not to just what the final price tag of all this will be, but to how a larger proportion of the people who’ve been harmed here will get some relief from these debts.

You’re also talking about all this information being passively available on the Web site. What is the plan to more actively inform the entire class of people or an over defined version of that class of people who might potentially be eligible for one or another of these forms of repayment defense? What’s the plan to more actively inform them of those options?

Ted Mitchell:        Great question. We are – days following the closure of Corinthian, we sent out an email – our first email communication with all of those affected students. And we are continuing to try to reach out proactively to all of the students for whom we can find email addresses.

Alan Pyke:            But does that mean that there isn’t a plan to send physical letters to everybody who’s in the (unintelligible) or other databases as being part of this class of people who might potentially be eligible to file a claim even if they’re not in the closed school discharge window that you’ve expanded back to last summer – even if they’re in that second category of people who’d have a punitive claim to repayment – to defense repayment if they were defrauded?

Ted Mitchell:        Yes. So we’re looking at a range of other options, and haven’t settled on them yet.

Alan Pyke:            Okay, thanks.

Dorie Nolt:            Okay. That was the last question. If you have anything else you need, please email me or press@ed.gov. and I’ll try and get you an answer.

Thank you for joining us today.

Coordinator:          That concludes today’s conference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

Kim Kardashian’s ‘belfies’ will make you care about the news

Kim Kardashian's 'belfies' will make you care about the news

A new website titled The Big Ass News has slapped (sorry) important news headlines across photos of Kim Kardashian’s arse to get people to read them. Sounds legit?

Site co-creator Carl Larsson wrote in an e-mail to Newsweek: “Kim Kardashian’s ass gets more attention than important world issues. So we wanted to use that ‘huge platform’ that Kim Kardashian has in the media to spread awareness for news”.

The site instructs users to “click” on the headlines to read more about the story. Headlines this morning include: “Yazidi fighters accused of reprisal attacks in Iraq”; “More than 6000 killed in Ukraine”; and “Hope for democracy in Nigeria”.

The site is meant to be a satirical look at the current celebrity culture obsession and aims to awaken the general public to the real world… if the images aren’t too distracting that is.

MGT Capital to Sell Daily Fantasy Business to Investment Group Managed by Sportech

MGT Retains Significant Upside in Addition to Current Monetization

HARRISON, N.Y., June 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — MGT Capital Investments, Inc. (NYSE MKT: MGT) announced today that it has signed an Asset Purchase Agreement to sell its daily fantasy sports assets including DraftDay, the third largest operator in the daily fantasy sports industry, together with the MGT Sports business-to-business network. The transaction will provide MGT with approximately $7.0 million in total consideration, including $4.0 million cash; MGT will also retain an equity interest in the new venture (including common stock and warrants), with an initial valuation of up to $3.0 million.  Subject to financing and other closing conditions, the Company expects the deal to close before the end of the current quarter.

Random Outcome USA Inc., the new entity formed to acquire DraftDay, will raise funds from investors led by a global investment bank that is a leader in the gaming industry in North America.
Following its planned financing, the new business will be managed by Sportech Digital, a subsidiary of Sportech Plc (LON: SPO), one of the world’s leading B2B organizations in the sports, gaming and technology sectors, having operated in the regulated gaming sector for over 90 years. Curtiss Wm. Krawetz, CEO of Random Outcome said, “Infusing a leading daily fantasy sports business with the capabilities and resources of an operator of Sportech’s caliber creates the dominant business-to-business player in the DFS space.”

Rich Roberts, President of Sportech Digital stated, “A focused daily fantasy sports business to be delivered on a B2B partnership basis to the regulated gaming industry has the potential to quickly disrupt the rapidly growing market.”

“Today’s announcement reinforces our mandate to grow stockholder value,” said Robert Ladd, Chief Executive Officer of MGT.  “DraftDay could not be going into better hands, and we firmly believe our residual interest will undergo enormous appreciation under Sportech’s leadership, relationships and access to capital.”

About MGT Capital Investments, Inc.
MGT Capital and its subsidiaries operate social and real money gaming sites online and in the mobile space, including ownership of the 3rd largest daily fantasy sports wagering platform, DraftDay.com.  The Company also offers games of skill through MGTplay.com and social casino games with SlotChamp™.  MGT also launched Daily Fantasy Legend in partnership with Facebook to become the first daily fantasy sports platform on social media.  In addition, the Company owns intellectual property relating to slot machines and has asserted its claims via patent infringement lawsuits.

image: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnvar/20130409/NY91046LOGO

MGT Capital Investments, Inc.

Forward-looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements. The words or phrases “would be,” “will allow,” “intends to,” “will likely result,” “are expected to,” “will continue,” “is anticipated,” “estimate,” “project,” or similar expressions are intended to identify “forward-looking statements.” MGT’s financial and operational results reflected above should not be construed by any means as representative of the current or future value of its common stock. All information set forth in this news release, except historical and factual information, represents forward-looking statements. This includes all statements about the Company’s plans, beliefs, estimates and expectations. These statements are based on current estimates and projections, which involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include issues related to: rapidly changing technology and evolving standards in the industries in which the Company and its subsidiaries operate; the ability to obtain sufficient funding to continue operations, maintain adequate cash flow, profitably exploit new business, license and sign new agreements; the unpredictable nature of consumer preferences; and other factors set forth in the Company’s most recently filed annual report and registration statement. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect management’s analysis only as of the date hereof. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly revise these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that arise after the date hereof. Readers should carefully review the risks and uncertainties described in other documents that the Company files from time to time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Idea Cellular up 3% on hiking mobile data rates in Delhi

Idea Cellular has rallied nearly 3%, or Rs 5, to Rs 179 levels on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) around 12 noon on reports that the company has hiked mobile data rates by up to 100% for pre-paid customers in the NCR region.

According to a Times of India (TOI) report, the country’s third largest telecom operator has doubled the price for some 2G plans, while 3G will be costlier by about 33%.

Meanwhile, the company is also planning a capex of around Rs 5,500 crore in the current fiscal to strengthen its infrastructure, reports suggest.

For the fourth quarter ended March 2015, Idea Cellular reported a 66% year-on-year jump in its standalone net profit at Rs 1,077.7 crore for the fourth quarter. Revenues, too, beat estimates growing by 22% in the fourth quarter over the corresponding quarter last year to Rs 8,541.3 crore.

“Despite all rationality demonstrated by telcos at various events, we remain guarded about Reliance-JIO launch. We believe this could increase competitive intensity in high margin data business. We like Idea in Telecom space on back of strong EBITDA margin expansion along with constant improvement on KPIs (key performance indicators) front,” said IndiaNivesh Securities in a recent report on the company.

filmbiz.asia

12 Citizens

Beijing, the present day, summer. As part of their exam process, students at a politics and law university hold a mock trial based on a current controversial case in which the 20-year-old adopted son (Adam Xu) of a wealthy entrepreneur from Henan province has been accused of killing his birth father, also from Henan. The mock trial, supervised by the university’s law professor (Long Lin), is held along western lines, with a jury, to test the students’ abilities. The jurors are mostly volunteers from the students’ own families. They’re told they should spend at least an hour debating the evidence and their decision must be unanimous. They retire to an old warehouse on the university campus where a table has been set up; each juror is identified by just a number, with the university’s assistant law professor (Lei Jia) taking the role of No. 1, the jury foreman. They hold an initial vote: only one, no. 8 (He Bing), votes “not guilty”. No. 1 proposes that each juror in turn should try to persuade him to vote “guilty”. No. 2, a mathematics professor (Wang Gang), has little to say. No. 3, a taxi driver (Han Tongsheng), quotes the evidence of an old man in the flat below who heard the accused quarrel with his father, followed by the sound of a fight, and then saw the accused running downstairs. No. 4, a wealthy real estate businessman (Zhao Chunyang), casts doubt on the accused’s alibi of being at a party. No. 5, a onetime gangster (Gao Dongping), has nothing to say. No. 6, a doctor in an A&E unit (Li Guangfu), says there’s no reason to doubt the old man’s testimony. No. 7 (Qian Bo), who runs a noodle stall on the campus, and who’s been reluctantly dragged into the mock trial, says the accused is just a spoiled rich kid. Discussion breaks down with the jurors arguing between themselves, with no. 10 (Zhang Yongqiang), an exploitative Beijing landlord who’s made disparaging remarks about nouveau riche peasants from Henan, causing special trouble. Exasperated, No. 1 tries to restore order. No. 8 says that, even though it’s only a mock trial, everyone should take their role seriously. He first points to the weak performance of the student defence lawyer, who privately believed her client was guilty. His remark upsets No. 4, who says the student, whom he’s sponsoring, is actually his fiancee. As the jurors discuss the supposedly specialised weapon used to kill the father, No. 8 produces an identical flick-knife he bought cheaply online. To break the voting deadlock, he suggests a secret ballot in which he himself will not take part: if there are still no “not guilty” votes, he’ll join the general consensus. However, one juror votes “not guilty” and reveals himself as No. 9 (Mi Tiezeng). Criticised as a rightist during the ’50s, he says he’ll never forget the silent re-assurance he received from a young woman, and for that reason believes everyone deserves a supporter. As No. 8 continues to question the various testimonies at the mock trial, more and more jurors start to change their votes, with No. 10 and No. 3 proving the most obdurate.


Review

Mainland playwright and occasional actor XU Ang 徐昂 (the weird artist neighbour in horror Bunshinsaba 3 筆仙3) makes a powerful film-making debut with 12 Citizens 十二公民, a Beijing-set adaptation of Reginald ROSE‘s classic 1954 teleplay, 12 Angry Men, about a lone juror who turns his 11 colleagues round to a “not guilty” judgement in a murder case. Subsequently adapted into a stage play but best known in its reincarnation as a 1957 Hollywood movie directed by Sidney Lumet, the classic post-war examination of reason vs prejudice, legality vs rush-to-judgement, proves eminently adaptable to China’s fast-evolving society, especially with its intelligent script that hews closely to Rose’s plot but transfers it seamlessly to a contemporary Asian setting. China has traditionally been short on big-screen legal/courtroom dramas compared with, say, South Korea, but 12 Citizens stands proud next to another recent example, Silent Witness 全民目擊 (2013).

Such is the universality of the source material that it’s already spawned several other adaptations, including a powerful Russian version, 12 (Nikita Mikalkhov, 2007), the Hindi Ek ruka hua faisla, aka A Pending Decision (Basu Chatterjee, 1986), and a 1991 Japanese re-working, The Gentle Twelve 12人の優しい日本人 (1991) (NAKAHARA Shun 中原俊), written by playwright/film-maker MITANI Koki 三谷幸喜. Xu’s version gets round the problem of China not having a jury system by the simple expedient of staging it as a mock trial held at a university by students studying western law and the jury largely composed of the student’s parents. (The same “mock trial” idea was also used in the recent two-part Japanese movie, Solomon’s Perjury ソロモンの偽証, set in a high school.)

Where the Hollywood film had an all-star cast, Xu’s uses a team of middle-aged character actors better known for their stage work (at Beijing People’s Art Theatre and National Theatre Company of China) rather than their box-office power, and he’s also resisted the temptation to make the movie more commercial by introducing younger actors or female roles. The result is a quality drama, pitched somewhere between the mainstream and arthouse, in which dialogue and performances rule, supported by invisibly smooth editing and subtly shaded cinematography that blend the material into a gripping dramatic experience, even for audiences familiar with the original.

Where Rose’s original took a stereotypical cross-section of ’50s US society, Xu and his fellow writers (legal expert LI Yujiao 李玉嬌 and scripter HAN Jinglong 韓景龍, aka Xiao Han 小汗, Bunshinsaba II 筆仙Ⅱ (2013)) do the same with China for a commentary on attitudes and prejudices in the present-day Mainland (or more specifically, Beijing). Subjects include the widening division between rich and poor, metropolitan snobbery towards the rural nouveau riche, the arrogance of the so-called fu erdai (富二代, spoiled kids of wealthy entrepreneurs) and, still the hottest subject in China, the rule of law on an everyday basis rather than just having a fair legal system. No more or no less didactic than Rose’s original, the film manages to create real characters who engage an audience’s emotions rather than being just a collection of representative cut-outs — and for that Xu can take as much credit as his excellent, seasoned cast.

As the sole juror (“No. 8”) who hews to his beliefs despite often emotional opposition, HE Bing 何冰 subtly shades a potentially goodie-goodie role, as a man who acknowledges the impossibility of ever knowing the truth but insists the evidence is hardly conclusive when looked at with an objective eye. In suppressed emotion, he’s particularly well matched by ZHAO Chunyang 趙春羊 as a wealthy real estate businessman who’s “sponsoring” a hot female student at the university, and by GAO Dongping 高冬平 as a reformed gangster who holds back his feelings until a crucial stage. Balancing those quieter performances, HAN Tongsheng 韓童生 dominates much of the going as “No. 3”, who holds out the longest for a “guilty” vote; utterly believable as a hot-tempered Beijing taxi-driver, Han also turns a potential cut-out into a genuinely moving character, especially in his final, impassioned speech. Equally extrovert are QIAN Bo 錢波 as a stall owner and ZHANG Yongqiang 張永強 as an exploitative landlord; both add some lightness and humour that’s missing from Rose’s original, though their turn-arounds are not as movingly depicted.

Music is sparingly used. Instead, the real drama is stoked by the subtly textured widescreen photography of CAI Tao 蔡濤 (camera operator on ZHANG Yuan 張元‘s Beijing Flickers 有種 (2012)) that gives a drab warehouse on a hot, stormy summer’s afternoon a slightly theatrical presence, and by the smooth, mobile editing that cuts a large number of individual set-ups into a seamless whole playing out in almost real time. Like several of the other adaptations, the script adds a small twist to one character at the end that has caused some discussion in China but actually makes perfect sense given the movie’s theme.

Why easyJet is banking on VR, drones and 3D printing

easyJet  Innovations event at Milan Malpensa Airport,Italy.Virtual plane device

When you book a flight with a company like easyJet, it’s usually for one of two reasons: you want the cheapest tickets possible, or it’s the only airline operator flying to your destination. Nobody chooses easyJet for their in-flight entertainment, or the drinks and nibbles that are available while you’re thousands of feet up in the air. But for the most part, that’s okay. We’re all looking for a deal, and provided the flight is on time and the seats aren’t too uncomfortable, most of us are happy to forgo these luxuries in order to save some cash.

easyJet knows its business model well, and that’s why it’s exploring new technologies that can help with its day-to-day operations. These are projects that could make its commercial flights cheaper, more reliable and ultimately less stressful for customers. Some are designed for the public and clearly visible, but others are being developed behind closed doors to improve training, manufacturing and repairs. To explain some of its more experimental ideas, easyJet crammed them all into an aircraft hangar in Milan.

Training crew with VR

Design Q is a design consultancy firm specialising in plane and automotive interiors. It often works alongside Mediasphere, a small company based in Derby, which presents its work with 3D models, animations, Street View-style “pano-tours” and other visualisations. For a company like easyJet, these adaptations make it easier for management to visualise new designs that would otherwise be communicated with Powerpoints and concept art.

Recently, Mediasphere has been experimenting with virtual reality and the Oculus Rift. The team can take a company’s CAD designs and then remodel them in Unreal’s video game engine, visualising plane cabins that are both accurate and optimised for low-powered VR hardware. The hope is that such a technology can be used to accelerate the design and prototyping process. If the client can look at different seat designs in quick succession, it could be easier for them to pick out their preferred option. Furthermore, designers can retreat and quickly present new versions based on the client’s feedback.

There are also plans to use VR as a way to train flight crew. Inside the hangar, the company has set up a physical mesh that aligns with their virtual model. For VR newcomers, these basic constructs — which lets them touch and feel the tray table in front, or the ceiling above their seat — should make it easier to navigate the plane. The idea would be to use the simulator to teach stewards about the location of onboard safety equipment. Instead of pulling a plane out of rotation and flying staff to an airport hangar, the training could be conducted in classrooms. It’s not a perfect replacement, but it would help staff to familiarise themselves and speed up their learning when they finally step foot in the aircraft.

In the future, easyJet says it hopes to use VR for situational training too, which would allow staff to simulate differnt flight scenarios and practise interacting with passengers.

Printing plane parts

When someone mentions 3D printing, you normally think of the small, desktop printers made by Makerbot or Formlabs. But the recent growth in on-demand manufacturing goes far beyond the hobbyist crowd. Safran, a French multinational with almost 70,000 employees, is investing heavily in the technology to produce lighter and more efficient plane parts. Snecma, an aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer, as well as a Safran subsidiary, is working with GE Aviation on the Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion (LEAP) engine, which uses 19 3D-printed metal fuel nozzles. Thierry Thomas, VP of additive manufacturing at Safran, hopes that the design will be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early 2017. There’s reason to be hopeful; in February, the FAA approved a GE Aviation-designed, 3D-printed component for its GE90 aircraft engines.

The benefits of the technique, known as “additive manufacturing,” are numerous. The 3D-printed nozzle in the Leap engine, for example, replaces a part that’s normally machined from 20 separate pieces. The ability to print “grow” the part as a complete, single unit makes it 25 percent lighter and could increase the engine’s fuel efficiency. Thierry Thomas, VP of additive manufacturing at Safran, says the technique strips away the limitations of traditional manufacturing and gives designers greater freedom when pursuing new designs. It can also reduce waste. Instead of cutting into a huge slab of metal, much like a sculptor would, industrial 3D printers can build parts using only the required powder.

There are limitations to 3D printing, however. Some materials, such as aluminium and copper, are difficult to work with, and there’s still a degree of uncertainty about the durability of 3D-printed parts. “It’s like every new process; everyone is cautious,” Thomas admits. Nevertheless, easyJet is interested in the technology and says it’s talking to several firms, including Snecma, about whether 3D printing could be used to replace cabin parts, such as arm rests, tray tables and window blinds. In the future, the company hopes it can be used to quickly manufacture more significant parts for its aircraft.

The drone inspectors

easyJet has been interested in drones for some time now, but today it’s closer than ever to putting them to work. The company is collaborating with drone manufacturer Blue Bear and imaging specialists Createc on an inspection system called RISER (Remote Intelligent Survey Equipment for Radiation). Using an onboard laser scanner, the drone is now able to autonomously map its surroundings and scour the exterior of the plane, looking for signs of damage. The real-time 3D mapping is possible using a process called LIDAR, which involves firing a laser in all directions and measuring the time it takes to reflect off other objects. Once it’s built up a picture of the plane, the drone will automatically keep a pre-determined distance between itself and the hull, avoiding unwanted collisions.

An onboard camera can record the inspection and stream the footage back to engineers, reducing the time it takes to assess a damaged aircraft and begin repairs. Checks that would have taken a day could now be performed in a couple of hours, easyJet claims.

“Today, we use human beings,” Ian Davies, easyJet’s head of engineering says. “If you go outside you’ll see stands, you’ll see cherry-pickers. That takes time to position around the aircraft, and manoeuvre it from A to B. In fact, it takes many, many hours. The drone is more efficient and that gives us the efficiency then of using the humans to examine the high definition footage. We know exactly where we are, because we marry the images with a detailed wireframe image of the airplane. So we we know exactly where the drone is and exactly what it’s looking at, and if we detect damage we can see it very clearly.”

A laser scanner could also be packaged onto the drone to help it carry out inspections automatically. Davies believes the technology can be adapted so the drone can identify dents, holes and burn marks on the fuselage without the expertise of a human.

The operator recently completed its first drone trial at London’s Luton airport and is now training its staff to operate them. The next stage of the company’s research will be to optimise the drone’s software and equipment so that it can work autonomously in designated aircraft hangars. easyJet’s internal target is to have the drones operational in 10 of its engineering hangars across Europe by 2016, including Luton and Gatwick airport.

A rebuilt iOS app

All of these developments should help the operator to lower its costs and keep its aircraft running smoothly. But easyJet is also looking to improve its mobile apps — especially its iPhone app, which has long needed a complete overhaul. A new version built for iOS 8 and iOS 9 will debut later this month with, the company boasts, a streamlined design that simplifies common passenger requests. On the home screen, it’ll offer dynamic widgets that present information such as your current flight status, whether the aircraft is on time, and a calendar reminder for your next flight. Shortcuts will also allow you to quickly bypass the app’s normal menu structure and quickly select a seat or book an extra bag.

easyJet says the widgets and cleaner design should make it faster and easier to use. It’ll also incorporate Mobile Host, which easyJet launched in April as a means of guiding passengers through Gatwick airport. The feature uses Google’s indoor mapping data to show the location of your check-in desk and departure gate, as well as how long it will take to get there and information about when you’ll next need your boarding pass. Now, easyJet’s mobile team is exploring how the feature can be improved with indoor positioning. GPS isn’t reliable, especially indoors, so the company is considering Wi-Fi triangulation and beacon networks. Some airports such as Geneva have already deployed beacons, but obviously easyJet needs to persuade others to follow suit.

With indoor tracking, easyJet could know your whereabouts to within three metres and offer turn-by-turn directions throughout the airport. It’s currently talking to Gatwick about a beacon network and says Mobile Host will be available in Milan’s airport this summer.

easyJet is clearly focusing on the basics here. During a media Q&A session, Davies shrugged off a question about in-flight Wi-Fi, suggesting the company would only be interested once it was cheaper and connections had improved. Drones, virtual reality and 3D printing are attention-grabbing projects, but they also have clear, practical benefits for the company’s everyday operations: accelerating aircraft repairs, training staff, and making replacement parts that are lighter and faster to produce. These sorts of improvements could make its airline more reliable and, if there are cost benefits, lead to cheaper ticket prices. It’s not as fancy as, say, streaming Amazon Prime movies and TV shows in the sky — but let’s be honest, that’s never been easyJet’s style anyway.

AlcaLu’s outgoing CEO set for Altice top spot – report

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Alcatel-Lucent’s outgoing chief executive Michel Combes is reportedly set to join Europe’s ambitious communications group Altice, once the sale of the French vendor to Nokia is completed.

According to Challenges magazine, Combes, who announced his resignation as an independent non-executive director at Altice last week, will be brought in to lead the company’s telecoms development in Europe.

The company beefed up its European telecoms operations over the past year by acquiring Portugal Telecom’s Portuguese assets from Brazil’s Oi, and taking control of French mobile player SFR from Vivendi.

Alcatel-Lucent confirmed that Combes will be stepping down as a result of the Nokia deal but did not announce his next destination, or departure date. He said in April he would not be taking a role at the combined Nokia-AlcaLu entity, once the €15.6 billion deal is completed.

In a statement to Mobile World Live, Alcatel Lucent said: “Mr Combes has already officially announced that he intends to step down from his current position as part of the proposed merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia.  At this stage, no date has been agreed with the Board of Directors.”

“Mr Combes’ departure date will be officially communicated once it has been decided, and consistent with what Mr Combes has stated on several occasions, his new responsibilities will be communicated when it is appropriate to do so,” it added.

He joined the company in 2013 in a bid to turnaround the troubled vendor’s fortunes following a tumultuous period under predecessor Ben Verwaayen.

Combes has been integral to the company’s sale to Nokia. The revival he inspired is seen as the reason why Nokia decided to take over the whole company, not just its mobile business, thus securing the vendor’s long-term position.

Combes joined Alcatel-Lucent after spending four years as CEO of Vodafone Europe, at a time when he was also courted by SFR, then owned by Vivendi, who named him as the company’s new chief executive in 2012, before the appointment broke down due to a management shakeup.

Altice, owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, will look to Combes’ European telecoms experience to integrate its newly acquired businesses.

Altice is also expanding into the US cable market. It recently announced the acquisition of US regional cable operator Suddenlink Communications for $9.1 billion, after dropping ambitious interests in Time Warner Cable.