Technology Now The business and culture of our digital lives
Amazon's new Dash Button is not an April Fools' joke introduced a device Tuesday with which customers can reorder products with, literally, the push of a button.

The Seattle retailer’s Dash Button is a physical version of its 1-click ordering. The user sets up the device to correspond to a certain product (say, a 24-pack of Bounty paper towel rolls) and sticks the device in a convenient place (say, inside the cabinet where paper towels are kept). When the supply runs low, the user can press the button to order more of that product.

Despite speculation that the Dash Button is an early April Fools’ Day joke, Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall assured the Los Angeles Times that it’s real.

The device is free, connects directly to Wi-Fi and is about the size of a pack of gum, Pearsall said. It’s currently available to Amazon Prime members by invitation only.

A total of 255 products from 18 brands are available through the Dash Button program. They include Gerber baby formula, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Maxwell House coffee, Glad...

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Instabrand raises $2.5 million in venture funding

Instabrand, a Los Angeles start-up that helps strike deals between advertisers and individuals with large social media followings, announced Tuesday that it has raised $2.5 million in venture capital.

The investment is the latest sign that advertisers are looking to spend more money on campaigns in which they are promoted by celebrities whose fame comes from what they post on Instagram, Twitter or other social media apps.

Instabrand says it’s fielding more demand from advertisers such as Calvin Klein, Kia and McDonald’s than it can handle, and the cash is expected to allow nine months of hiring and product development in the span of two months.

In particular, Instabrand wants to find ways to understand the characteristics of the people who follow a certain influencer, or social media celebrity. That’s easy to do on Facebook, but tougher on Snapchat or Vine, where only minimal information is available about users. Understanding fan bases is key to ensuring the right influencers are...

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Entrepreneurs launch Economic Innovation Group, a D.C. think tank

Silicon Valley is becoming more involved in Washington.

On Tuesday, a number of high-profile tech entrepreneurs launched the Economic Innovation Group, an ideas laboratory and advocacy organization dedicated to building a more entrepreneurial and innovative U.S. economy.

The group said it came together because members felt the recovery from the Great Recession was not as strong as it should be, and that the entrepreneurs and the investors that are "at the leading edge of our economy" are not at the table for economic policy debates. They hope to foster broad-based economic growth and revitalization through new public policy solutions.

"EIG brings entrepreneurs, policy experts and investors to the table to generate new solutions, and then works alongside policymakers to identify opportunities for bipartisan cooperation, build coalitions, engage private sector allies, and turn good ideas into successful legislation," the group said in a statement Tuesday.

Its leadership includes...

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Microsoft introduces Surface 3, a cheaper tablet starting at $499

Microsoft has announced the Surface 3, a new, cheaper tablet.

Starting at $499 -- compared with $799 for the flagship Surface Pro 3 -- it is the thinnest and lightest Surface that Microsoft has ever shipped. The device is 8.7 mm thick, weighs 1.37 pounds and has a 10.8-inch screen, which is slightly smaller than the 12-inch Surface Pro 3.

“As we planned the next addition to the Surface family, the questions to answer for our customers became simple,” Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface, said in a blog post Tuesday. “What product would we build to be sure we could make the very best of what we built in Surface Pro 3 available to many, many more people?”

Panay said Surface 3 features the “same beautiful design and premium materials as Surface Pro 3 in a more compact and efficient package.”

The Surface 3 also has a 3.5-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing cameras that both capture 1080p video. The battery will last up to 10 hours (Microsoft...

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is forging an unusual path as a social activist

Tim Cook runs the world's most valuable company. Now he's making his mark as an outspoken social activist.

The Apple chief executive, 54, penned a sharply worded opinion piece that ran Sunday in which he condemned a slew of "pro-discrimination" legislation pending in several states. The so-called religious objection bills would allow people to legally discriminate against others, such as by citing their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer.

The nearly 100 bills, he concluded, were bad for business and bad for human rights in general.

"These bills rationalize injustice," Cook said in the 550-word piece in the Washington Post. "They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."

In a big departure from predecessor Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley CEOs, Cook has increasingly been using his prominent position to shed light on social issues close to his heart. In guest...

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Apple's Tim Cook denounces 'religious freedom' proposals

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has denounced legislation being considered in more than two dozen states that he said would “enshrine discrimination in state law.”

Indiana’s governor signed legislation last week that allows businesses to cite religious belief as a reason for refusing service to gays and lesbians. That action has spurred a backlash against such laws from Apple, Salesforce and other major businesses.

Cook, who announced that he is gay in October, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed article published Sunday that Apple would never tolerate discrimination. He said he hopes his advocacy inspires more people to stand up against what he said was state-sponsored discrimination.

The Indiana legislation and measures like it "rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear,” he wrote, and “they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.”

Apple was among the companies that opposed similar legislation in Arizona early last year....

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