When you use an online email service like Gmail or Outlook, those emails of course don't live on your computer. They live somewhere in the cloud, a nebulous entity spread across countless servers on this great Internet. That's a reassuring thought at first, your emails scattered about and less vulnerable to system crashes, but it has some troubling implications.
Those implications played out this week, with Microsoft falling on the losing side of a Justice Department ruling involving domestic policy and foreign servers. Last December, a New York judge ordered Microsoft to hand over emails that resided in a Dublin, Ireland data center. Microsoft refused, indicating that foreign data meant it should abide by foreign laws.
Not, so, according to US District Judge Loretta Preska, who ordered Microsoft to comply -- but gave the company time to appeal. The deal isn't done, but if you're an international citizen thinking your data was safe from US policies even if held by US companies, it's sadly time to think again.
Samsung promises new phones with new designs
Tired of predictable updates to Samsung's Galaxy devices? Slightly better plastics, slightly better displays...the usual? That may be changing this fall. Trying to appease a conference call full of upset investors after posting some poor earnings, Samsung SVP Hyun-Joon Kim promised two new models. One will be a "very innovative new product" with a large display, while another will be something that "uses new materials and new displays." Could we finally be getting the aluminum Galaxy device everyone's been asking for? I say the practical merits of plastic outweigh the posh aesthetics of metal when it comes to mobile devices, but let's wait and see what Samsung has in store before passing judgment, yeah?
Nintendo's earnings slide
Samsung isn't the only one dealing with troubling earnings. The bad news continues for Nintendo, which posted a 9.9 billion yen loss, a change from the 8.6 billion profit the year before. Revenues were down 8.4 percent, though The House of Mario neglected to give any explanation for why. With fresh installments for its biggest franchises hitting Wii U soon there's hope on the horizon, but right now things continue to look a bit dark.
Xbox One gets boost from EA, launching soon in China
If you, too, believe that the future holds monthly fees for everything, EA this week gave another sign that future is coming sooner than you think. The company launched a service called EA Access. For $4.99 monthly or $29.99 annually you get unlimited access to four older titles: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2. It remains to be seen whether EA will be adding fresh titles as they launch or purely use this as a repository for aging but critically acclaimed titles, but it's not hard to imagine this sort of model eclipsing the concept of game sales soon.
That service is exclusive to the Xbox One for now (Sony supposedly believed it didn't represent "good value"), which finally gives Microsoft a leg up on the PS4. But, that wasn't the only good news. On September 23, Xbox One will become the first gaming console (legally) sold in China in over a decade. A long-standing ban on the devices has finally been lifted, and MS was quick to get in on the action. 3,699 RMB (about $600) gets you a console, or spend an extra 600 RMB for a special version with a customized controller. Welcome to the joys of the readily available "Limited Edition," Chinese gamers.
Tesla partners with Panasonic for Gigafactory
Tesla is on a roll of late, but even it needs a little help sometimes. For Elon Musk's company to continue on its path toward global domination, including the $35,000 Model 3, it's going to need batteries. Lots of batteries. Musk's ambitious plan was to build a massive battery factory to churn the things out and significantly drop the cost. Now Panasonic has signed on as a partner to get the plan off the ground. It's unclear how much either company is investing in the deal, but if all goes according to plan, 6,500 people will be employed by 2020. Then, if we're lucky, EVs might start to get a little more affordable.
Google barge sold for scrap?
Remember all the fun we had earlier this year speculating about what Google's mysterious barges could be used for? It turned out they were to be high-end showrooms for Google X projects, but that plan may now be on the rocks. One of the barges, based in Portland, Maine, has reportedly been sold for scrap. The report isn't confirmed and, even if it does prove true, that's far from a sign that the entire program is similarly being disbanded. After all, Portland is hardly a luxe shopping destination and this may just be a refocusing of efforts.