Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Nearly all of Coca-Cola's headquarters employees ditch voice mail

Coca-Cola is cleaning up its in-boxes, but not the email kind.

All but 6% of employees at Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters and nearby technology plaza recently opted to shut off their landline voice-mail systems. The expectation is that without voice mail, employees will have one less thing to check in on. Many had already expressed a preference for doing away with it, the company said.

The move is expected to save the company less than $100,000 annually.

"The main driver behind this project is not cost savings. It is changing the tools and methods in which we communicate as a company," spokeswoman Amanda Rosseter said in an emailed statement.

Alternative methods include email, texting, and calling cellphones. 

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Xiaomi reaches $45 billion valuation, passing Uber, reports say

The world’s most valuable private technology company backed by venture capital now hails from China.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi’s latest round of fundraising values the start-up at $45 billion, surpassing the $41 billion mark reached by car-hailing app Uber at the beginning of the month.

Xiaomi, which sells more smartphones in China than Samsung and Apple, is raising at least $1 billion, according to reports from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

Xiaomi sells phones that rival the quality of iPhones and high-end Android devices, but offers them at prices sometimes half as much. It keeps costs down by conducting sales through the Internet and limiting spending on marketing.

During the third quarter of this year, Xiaomi shipped 17.3 million smartphones, according to IDC. Though far behind the 78 million shipped by Samsung and the 39 million shipped by Apple, the figure represented a 211% jump from the same period last year and pushed 4-year-old Xiaomi into the global No. 3 slot....

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'CSI' creator targets children with new tablet 'gamified narrative'

“CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker is mixing gaming into his new animated online video series, hoping that’ll help keep a grip on children’s short attention spans.

Zuiker calls his approach “The gamified narrative.”

Launched Monday on Fuhu tablets’ new subscription service, the “Mysterypolis” series requires viewers to play mini-games a handful of times during a seven- to nine-minute episode: hunting for a time capsule, for instance, or unlocking a keypad. The story itself revolves around Jordy, 13, who with the help of his friends, pet dog Kloo and a tablet, tries to save his hometown from “a major threat.”

Many video games have an underlying narrative, but Zuiker sees his approach as story first, game second.

“I like to do things fashion forward, things that feel new,” he said. “I wanted a twist of interactive in there because my kids are always multitasking, playing games and watching TV.”

Fanlala, a children’s digital media company in Santa Monica, assisted in producing the seven-episode...

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T-Mobile to pay $90 million to settle claims of wrongful charges

T-Mobile will pay at least $90 million in penalties and refunds as part of a settlement over its alleged practice of “mobile cramming,” or placing unauthorized third-party charges on customers’ cellphone bills, the Federal Communications Commission announced Friday.

The FCC has recently cracked down on the practice, which mostly involves premium text message services, taking up seven separate enforcement actions against carriers this year. The agency sued T-Mobile in July.

The settlement announced Friday was negotiated with T-Mobile, the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of the deal, T-Mobile will pay at least $67.5 million in refunds to customers and will be required to set up a free service that allows its existing customers to block all third-party charges on their phone bills.

The company also will pay a $4.5-million penalty to the FCC and $18 million to the state attorneys general, according to the...

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Apple 'deeply offended' by BBC report claiming poor working conditions

A senior Apple executive said he was “deeply offended” by the BBC’s allegations that Apple mistreats its workers in overseas factories.

Footage from an undercover BBC investigation, which aired Thursday, shows what the British broadcaster said were child laborers in Indonesia digging through mud pits for the tin used in phones and tablets. The report also shed light on the treatment of employees in factories of Apple supplier Pegatron near Shanghai, some of whom were seen sleeping at their workstations during their 12-hour shifts.

One undercover reporter was hired to make Apple computer parts, the BBC said, working 18 days in a row without reprieve.

"Like many of you, Tim [Chief Executive Tim Cook] and I were deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way," Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, wrote in an email to the staff.

The email, published by the Telegraph, reached...

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Uber to halt rides in Portland, Ore., until April; city to drop lawsuit

Just 10 days after the city of Portland, Ore., sued ride-sharing giant Uber, saying it was illegally operating in the city, the San Francisco company has agreed to cease operations there until the spring.

In a statement released Thursday, Uber said it will cease all rides in Portland on Dec. 21 to give city officials time to draft proper regulations for all private for-hire transportation services in the city.

In a separate statement, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said he has convened a task force that will create safety regulations for all ride services, including traditional taxi cabs as well as ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The task force is expected to bring its findings before Portland's City Council on April 9, Hales said.

"Uber is dedicated to curating and continuing a valuable and constructive relationship with Portland’s lawmakers, working to create a regulatory framework that works for everyone, not just us," the company said in its statement.

Portland filed a...

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