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Tech Retrospect: The Apple car approaches?

Rumors of an Apple car gain speed, and we learn a lot about a very ugly bit of adware installed on Lenovo machines. All that and more in your look back at the week in tech.


Toward the end of last week, rumblings started about a purported Apple car. We'd heard whisperings before, whispers that gained intensity when a minivan festooned with sensors and scanners was spotted lumbering around Cupertino, Calif.

This week, the chatter developed into a proper roar, with reports coming hot and fast. Most telling, perhaps, is a lawsuit from A123 Systems, a US battery maker with a focus on electric vehicles. The company alleges that Apple systematically poached roughly five employees, a major hit to the company that produces batteries for road cars like the Fisker Karma and Chevy Spark EV. Given the company's 2012 bankruptcy filing, you can't exactly blame the employees for looking elsewhere, but that Apple hired them directly rather than simply contracting with A123 is interesting.

Another report indicated that Apple's team is hoping to have a car in production by 2020. This seems incredibly aggressive to me for a company to go from zero to full production in roughly six years. (That assumes this project started last year, which is when the lawsuit alleges the hirings began.) That's about the same amount of time it takes a company like Ford or Mercedes-Benz to get a new car from concept to dealer lots.

The Fisker Karma, with batteries from A123. Fisker

Now, I know you're probably thinking "But Apple isn't Mercedes-Benz, they can be more nimble." You're right. However, Mercedes-Benz has over 100 years of process optimization and, more importantly, component creation. They know how to make a door handle that'll last for decades, have their entire software system already written and have a suite of active and passive safety systems they can simply bolt into any new car. That saves an immense amount of time.

For Apple to start from scratch and do all that in six years seems...unlikely. If this is a serious thing and not just an experiment, I still see Apple partnering with someone to make this work. And, as GM's former CEO Dan Akerson says, there's not much benefit for Apple even if it does get it right. But, as ever, we shall see!

Lenovo preinstalled compromised spyware on PCs

Lenovo's recent devices come with something unpleasant. Josh Miller/CNET

If you purchased a Lenovo lately, specifically between September 2014 and January 2015, you might have something to worry about. The company made the terrifically unfortunate decision to start preinstalling software called Superfish. This code ostensibly just sits there and inserts banner ads into your browsing, which is bad enough, but the way it does it, by hijacking supposedly secure traffic, has opened the machines to a major vulnerability that could allow anyone to intercept your online activity.

We've posted a guide on how to identify and remove Superfish from your machine, and if you're on a Lenovo I recommend you have a gander.

Pebble teases new smartwatch

Pebble is counting down the days until... Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Not got enough choices in the smartwatch arena? Pebble is about to raise its game. The company is currently teasing a next-gen product, with a ticker on its site that will hit zero on Tuesday morning. Rumor has it the device will be thinner than before, with a color display and lots of other new tweaks. Stay tuned for more.

Samsung buys LoopPay, presumably positioning Apple Pay rival

Is Samsung going after Apple Pay? LoopPay

I remember being very excited a few years ago with the notion that my future wallet would be entirely contained on my smartphone. It'd make my life so much simpler, I thought. Little did I realize that my wallet of the future would actually be even more fragmented than my wallet of the present. That's the impression I'm getting, anyhow, with news this week that Samsung has acquired mobile-payments start-up LoopPay. The intent seems obvious: to create an Apple Pay rival for its Galaxy devices. Of course with Google Wallet already sitting on Android, and wireless carriers in the US pushing Softcard, knowing exactly how to pay for my groceries is seemingly just going to get more confusing.

SIM cards reportedly hacked by UK, US spies

Does a compromised SIM lurk in your device? Andrew Hoyle/CNET

We've heard no shortage of reports over the past few years of organizations like the US National Security Agency watching everything you do online, but a new one this week could make all that look like child's play. According to a report by The Intercept, both the NSA and UK's Government Communications Headquarters have managed to hack into the encryption keys used by digital security and smart-card maker Gemalto. Gemalto is the world's biggest manufacturer of SIMs (subscriber identity modules). If indeed these allegations are true, the NSA and GCHQ have the keys to a ridiculously huge number of phones across Europe and the Americas. Nothing has been confirmed, and given the players involved, it remains to be seen whether anything ever will be.

Photoshop turns 25

Everyone's favorite image-editing tool turned 25 this week, and while that tool has enabled photographers to do some amazing things, it's also resulted in some terrible mistakes. To celebrate the lows as well as the highs, Crave created this gallery of some of the silliest digitally manipulated images of all time. I hope you enjoy.