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Tech Retrospect: Cyber Monday breaks records and BlackBerry breaks Bieber's heart

Miss a few stories this week? We'll get you up to speed with this rundown of all the tech news.


Credit card limit feeling a little more restrictive than usual this week? You're not alone. This week kicked off with the 2013 iteration of Cyber Monday, a day many expected to be bigger than ever. Sure enough, it was. Americans spent $1.75 billion dollars on that one day, an 18 percent increase over 2012's already massive figure. That's good, because it's looking like Black Friday sales may have been down a near-equivalent $1.7 billion. Yes, Virginia, online shopping really is a thing.

PlayStation 4 sales strong

Sony released its own cadre of big numbers, announcing 2.1 million units sold worldwide. The system, which launched in North America last month, is now available in 32 international markets. Microsoft, which still hasn't given a solid sales figure, instead responded with stats like the number of zombies killed in Dead Rising 3 and miles covered in Forza 5 (3 billion and 90 million, respectively).

Amazon drones cause a stir

Amazon CEO unveils drone delivery concept

In a "60 Minutes" appearance over the weekend, airing conveniently the night before Cyber Monday, Jeff Bezos gave the world a look at what he called Prime Air. Basically, the program uses prototype unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering packages up to 5 pounds within a 10 mile radius. The idea is to make package delivery quicker and more efficient, while also cutting out delivery fees, but it's hard to see this as anything other than a publicity stunt at this point. The challenges faced by such a system are many and myriad, which is perhaps why the tech community was so quick to mock the idea -- again and again and again. My favorite? A suggestion for Etsy to start using barn owls for delivery. We all know the power of putting a bird on it.

AT&T lowers prices while also raising prices

The National Security Agency entered into collection partnerships with a pair of telecommunications companies that permitted tapping their fiber links. Evidence suggests itâ??s AT&T and Verizon.

In a move that many have said is a response to T-Mobile's lower prices for users to bring their own phones (because it clearly was), AT&T has re-structured its service plans. Subscribers who purchase compatible phones elsewhere, (like, say, the Nexus 5) or use phones that are already paid off, will be able to get a $15 monthly discount because they don't need a device subsidy. However, fees have actually gone up for those who add multiple devices to their plans by $10 per line. Suffice to say that while some will save money, others may wind up paying more. It's a bit of a mess, and I recommend you check out this week's Ask Maggie, where she breaks it down at length.

Verizon approved to buy itself, no longer has to share birthday presents with Vodafone

For a mere $130 billion dollars Verizon will buy out Vodafone's stake in...Verizon. The FCC has approved the deal that, once complete, will see the company owning 100% of the Verizon Wireless network and will be in full control of its destiny. Vodafone owned 45 percent of the company and will get roughly half of the figure in stock, and the other half in cash when the deal completes, which is expected to be in early 2014. What this means for consumers remains to be seen, but I hope it doesn't rule out the possibility of the companies coming to an agreement for free international data, as T-Mobile has been able to offer thanks to its relationship with Deutsche Telekom.

Next-gen USB will work both ways

The arrival of USB 3.0 has meant even more types of USB connectors, including this USB Micro-B connector. A new Type-C standard is intended to sweep away all the variation with a single connector type for all purposes.
USB Implementors Forum

If you've ever been frustrated by trying to plug a USB connector in the wrong way, that means only one thing: you are a human being. A new USB specification was announced this week, called Type C. (Type A is the standard rectangular size, while Type B is more square shaped, often used in printers.) It'll be faster (up to 10Gbps) and smaller (comparable to micro-USB) than most current USB ports, but the big talking point that caught everyone's eye, is that it will no longer have an up or down orientation. You'll be able to plug it in either way. Yes, Apple fans, just like the Lightning connector.

BlackBerry blocks Bieber

Justin Bieber/Twitter

While the importance of Alicia Keys as Creative Director at BlackBerry truly cannot be understated (or, for that matter, stated at all), it seems the company isn't interested in other celebrity appointments. According to Vincent Washington, a former development manager at the former RIM, a fellow by the name of Justin Bieber offered to be the company's brand ambassador for a mere $200,000 -- and 20 phones. BlackBerry top brass shot down the idea, saying the Canadian youngster was a "fad," and that "he's not going to last." Meanwhile, BlackBerry's current top brass, new CEO John Chen, was forced to issue an open letter to customers stating the company is "very much alive, thank you." Sadly, nobody knows what became of Justin Bieber in the intervening years.

Captain Picard goes caroling

Finally this week, I leave you with a clever little video in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise breaks out into song yet again, singing "Let it Snow." It's a marketing video for an indie platformer video game, but the editing is so good it's well worth the click.