Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Oculus VR unveils new prototype, 'sprinting toward' consumer version

 Virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR unveiled a new prototype Saturday that brings the company closer to releasing its first device to consumers.

Lighter and more believable than predecessors over the last two years, Oculus Crescent Bay “is not the consumer version” but “sprinting toward” it, said Brendan Iribe, Oculus’ chief executive. Crescent Bay includes 360-degree motion tracking, integrated headphones and improved ergonomics.

“This allows for sustained presence, and makes you truly believe you’re in a virtual world comfortably,” Iribe said.

He made the announcement at Oculus Connect, the 2-year-old Irvine company’s first conference for developers who make games and apps for Oculus devices. Oculus has attracted more than 130,000 developers and shipped about 100,000 prototypes to them across more than 130 countries, Iribe said. The latest development kit costs $350.

The conference, being held at the ritzy Loews Hollywood Hotel, reflected the glamour of Oculus’ parent company,...

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How did Alibaba's resounding stock market debut compare?

Alibaba’s stock popped resoundingly during its New York Stock Exchange debut Friday, suggesting that the Chinese online shopping middleman could have raised billions of dollars more during its initial public offering.

Alibaba raised $21.8 billion through the IPO by pricing its shares at $68. But the company’s valuation reached $231.4 billion as shares closed at $93.89 in open trading.

The 38% rise in the price of individual shares shattered the 26% jump recorded on average so far this year in debuts of new Internet and technology stocks in the United States, according to data from Dealogic.

While companies across industries usually seek a one-day pop of about 15% and see an average closer to 9% for massive IPOs, tech stocks have enjoyed bounces on average of more than 20% during the last four years. Back in the dot-com frenzy of the late 1990s, debuts sent stocks soaring an average of 86%.

Undervaluing itself to initial investors ensured that Alibaba would have a strong performance...

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Smooth debut for Alibaba after biggest U.S. IPO ever

Alibaba Group came out with a monster roar Friday as its shares began trading at $92.70, up more than 36% from its IPO price of $68. The rest of the day was relatively stable for the new stock, analysts said, falling a nickel below $90 for only a moment and peaking at nearly $100. 

That surge on the New York Stock Exchange instantly raised the company’s total market value from $168 billion to more than $220 billion. Alibaba had raised $21.8 billion in its hotly anticipated IPO, the largest in U.S. history. 

The $68 IPO price, set Thursday, cemented Alibaba at that time as at least the second-largest initial public offering in history, just behind Agricultural Bank of China's $21.9-billion IPO from 2010 and, in the U.S., beating Visa's $19.7-billion performance in 2008. 

The talk of investors since the company filed to go public in May, Alibaba's IPO was the hottest since Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013. Demand was high: During its two-week international road show, institutional...

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Alibaba sets stock price at $68 on eve of IPO

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. set its stock price at $68 a share — the top of its range — on the eve of its initial public offering, meaning that it is set to raise more than $25 billion and that the company’s overall value is higher than Amazon.com’s.

Hotly anticipated for months, the Chinese Internet behemoth’s IPO has ignited the kind of frenzied investor interest that inflamed Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013. During the company’s two-week international road show, institutional investors rushed to place orders for shares, prompting Alibaba to raise its price range.

On Thursday afternoon, Alibaba set its final price of $68 a share. That was higher than its initial price range of $60 to $66 a share. On Monday, it raised its price range to $66 to $68.

Alibaba is often compared to EBay and PayPal, but its interests are much wider. They include banking, maps, cloud computing, an online music service and TV and film production.

It operates Taobao, Alibaba's biggest website and China's...

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Larry Ellison steps down as Oracle CEO, becomes chairman, tech chief

Larry Ellison, the adventurous billionaire who built Oracle Corp. into a technology behemoth, is leaving his position as chief executive, the company said Thursday.

Ellison will become executive chairman of Oracle’s board and also the company’s chief technology officer. Co-presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz are being promoted to co-chief executives.

"Safra and Mark will now report to the Oracle board rather than to me," Ellison said in a statement. "All the other reporting relationships will remain unchanged. The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine."

Ellison plans to continue to work full time and focus on product engineering and strategy, said Michael Boskin, the Oracle board's presiding director.

"Safra and Mark are exceptional executives who have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to lead, manage and...

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A guide to Amazon's new Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers

Amazon updated its lineup of tablets and e-readers on Wednesday night, announcing two new devices and refreshing several others. The online retailer has been pushing an increasing amount of hardware, packing each of the devices with features that tout the benefits of purchasing from Amazon’s online store.

The Fire tablets, for example, will support sharing of apps, books, movies and TV shows between family members through a program called Family Library. One device could have multiple profiles with access to the same content or different devices could load the shared library. The new offerings come days after a rumor emerged that Apple plans to announce upgrades to its iPad lineup next month.

Fire HD

For $99, the 6-inch tablet could fit in a purse or a pocket, according to Amazon. It comes with a brighter screen than its predecessor and a more durable screen than its competitors. The Fire HD has cameras on the front and back, a graphics processor quick enough to play games and an...

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Apple iOS 8 arrives Wednesday, replacing iOS 7

IPhone and iPad enthusiasts, contain yourselves: iOS 8 is ready for download Wednesday.

Apple will release the next iteration of the operating system for the iPhone 4S or newer, the iPad 2 or newer, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPod Touch 5.

Though not as dizzying as last year’s upgrade to flat icons and slick animations, this year’s optional download of iOS 8 will deliver some new ways to create and consume content.

Most apparent will be the on-screen keyboard, which displays a row of suggested words as people type. Start tapping a-p-p-l, and then just tap on "application" (or "Apple") to automatically insert the rest of the letters.

The Messages app has a new microphone icon. Tap it to send a voice message. All recipients have to do is hold the phone to their ear and listen.

Video and group messaging are also improved. People can choose to let others see their location for a certain or indefinite period of time. From any screen, click the home button twice to quickly reach out...

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Ahead of blockbuster IPO, Alibaba raises price range to $66-$68 a share

Alibaba is seeing huge demand for its initial public offering and has raised the price range of its shares to $66 to $68. The Chinese Internet behemoth is expected to go public on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. 

The company disclosed the higher range in an amended filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. 

Its previous range, announced Sept. 5, was $60 to $66 a share. It expects to offer 320.1 million American depositary shares. 

At $68 a share, Alibaba would raise $25.03 billion at a valuation of $170 billion, which would make it the biggest IPO ever. In comparison, Facebook raised $16 billion at a market value of $104 billion when it went public in 2012. 

Alibaba is currently in the middle of a two-week international road show during which it has been pitching the deal to institutional investors. 

According to PrivCo, at least 50 institutional investors have submitted share allocation requests of $1 billion or more. 

The final price will be nailed...

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Apple says iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus orders broke record

Pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus topped a record-breaking 4 million in the first 24 hours the phones were on sale, according to Apple

The first iPhones will be delivered to some customers Friday, but many who pre-ordered will have to wait until next month to get their hands on the new devices. People who wait in the now-traditional epic lines at Apple stores on Friday also may be able to snag a new phone, but supplies there will not be endless either. 

In comparison, Apple reported in 2012 that the iPhone 5 sold at a pace of about 2 million in 24 hours. The record-breaking sales last week also spurred myriad complaints of problems.

The new iPhones were supposed to be available for pre-order online Friday at midnight, but once the clock struck 12 and customers around the U.S. refreshed their Web browsers, nothing happened. Many continued seeing Apple's standard "We'll be back" message for hours.

Apple and the wireless carriers have routinely sold out of their first-day...

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PewDiePie, YouTube's most popular star, to premiere videos on MLG.tv

PewDiePie, whose nearly 31 million subscribers on YouTube have made him the video website's most-watched star, will begin uploading some videos on a competing website before they appear on YouTube.

New episodes of "BroKen," a recently created online show dedicated to discussions about video games and pop culture, will air initially on MLG.tv starting Monday night. Episodes won't be available on YouTube until 24 hours later. Many consider MLG.tv the ESPN of the online gaming world, and PewDiePie is among the biggest personalities in gaming commentary.

“Our vision for MLG.tv is to make it the home for premium content and producers like PewDiePie and his show ‘BroKen,'” said Ryan Wyatt, Major League Gaming's vice president of programming. “This type of programming deal with PewDiePie, one of the biggest stars in digital media, is a great example of the premier talent we have joining the growing MLG.tv lineup."

The deal ought to be a lucrative one for Felix Kjellberg, a 24-year-old Swede...

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Netropolitan.club: A Facebook for rich people

Busy? Loaded? “Seeking a place to talk about fine wine, fancy cars and lucrative business decisions without judgment”? Netropolitan.club may be looking for you.

Netropolitan.club is no mere social network. It’s an “exclusive online country club” for “busy individuals, hungry for a place to communicate with like-minded people,” according to its public relations firm, Media Minefield.

“Just like all the best country clubs, Netropolitan members will pay $9,000 to join and $3,000 each year after.”

It launches Tuesday.

Netropolitan.club is the brainchild of James Touchi-Peters, a music composer, performer and former conductor of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra.

“James and others have mentioned feeling judged for talking about certain topics on other social media outlets. Like they were bragging and met with a little ill will,” messaging specialist Michelle Lawless at Media Minefield told the Los Angeles Times. “Netropolitan is designed to be the place to talk about your last European...

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Apple bungles iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pre-orders

It was a rough night for a lot of Apple fans.

The new iPhones were supposed to be available for pre-order online Friday at midnight, but once the clock struck 12 and customers around the U.S. refreshed their Web browsers, nothing happened. Many continued seeing Apple's standard "We'll be back" message for hours.

Apple and the wireless carriers have routinely sold out of their first-day supplies of the latest iPhones in the past, but the pre-order process this time around seemed particularly inept.

The fury was swift, as scores of hopeful iPhone buyers rushed onto Twitter to vent their frustrations. The #BadApple and #fail hashtags were popular. Some joked that the company wouldn't have missed the midnight mark if it had used an Apple Watch. Others compared the botched pre-order process to Apple's shoddy livestream from its launch event on Tuesday.

Others weighed in with advice, which included going through the Apple Store app to purchase, toggling between different iPhone sizes to...

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