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Tuesday’s top tech news: a new era (or two) for Sonos

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We’ve been reporting for months on Sonos’ upcoming speakers, but yesterday my colleague Chris Welch published some pretty final-looking marketing images of the Era 100 and Era 300 smart speakers. Expect both to offer USB-C line-in and support for Bluetooth streaming, while the Era 300 will additionally support spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. An official announcement is apparently just a few short weeks away.

Next up, my colleague Andrew Webster got to visit the new Super Nintendo World attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood recently and chat with legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto himself.

Finally, Microsoft is continuing to work hard to close its deal to acquire Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard. It’s reiterated the ten-year deal it’s signed with Nintendo to bring the first-person shooter franchise to the company’s console as senior Microsoft execs reportedly prepare to meet with EU regulators in an attempt to allay their competition concerns.

And now, here’s a silly tweet to start your day:

Stay tuned, as we continue to update this list with the most important news of today: Tuesday, February 21st, 2023.
  • Elon Musk keeps laying off Twitter employees after saying cuts were done

    Elon Musk in front of the Twitter logo.
    Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

    On November 21st, Elon Musk gathered Twitter’s remaining employees at its San Francisco headquarters to tell them that, after forcing out roughly two-thirds of the workforce in a matter of weeks, layoffs were over. He keeps laying people off anyway.

    Dozens of Twitter employees across sales and engineering departments were laid off last week, including one of Musk’s direct reports who was managing engineering for Twitter’s ads business, according to company sources and social media posts from affected employees seen by The Verge. This means Musk has done at least three rounds of layoffs since his promise to stop doing them in November. Meanwhile, he has given a directive internally to revamp how ads are targeted in Twitter’s main feed within a week — part of his plan to fix what he has publically called “the worst ad relevance on Earth.” (The Information first reported that fresh cuts hit the sales team last week.)

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  • Biden won’t stop a potential ban on importing Apple Watches

    The sensor array on the bottom is different because of the new blood oxygen monitor
    The Apple Watch is facing two potential import bans over its EKG and pulse oximetry features.
    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    Medical device maker AliveCor announced today that President Biden has upheld an International Trade Commission ruling that could result in a potential import ban on the Apple Watch over its EKG feature.

    “We applaud President Biden for upholding the ITC’s ruling and holding Apple accountable for infringing the patents that underpin our industry-leading EKG technology,” AliveCor CEO Priya Abani said in a statement sent to The Verge.

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  • If you need to use AI to respond to a tragedy, maybe it’s better to say nothing at all.

    The Vanderbilt Hustler reports the school’s Peabody Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is apologizing after sending a message regarding the shooting at Michigan State University that was “paraphrased” from OpenAI’s ChatGPT model (via Gizmodo).

    The generic-sounding email lacks any kind of personal touch, and responses to it reflect that, as noted by this quote from Vanderbilt student Laith Kayat:

    Deans, provosts, and the chancellor: Do more. Do anything. And lead us into a better future with genuine, human empathy, not a robot

    In the wake of the Michigan shootings, let us come together as a community to reaffirm our commitment to caring for one another and promoting a culture of inclusivity on our campus. By doing so, we can honor the victims of this tragedy and work towards a safer, more compassionate future for all. (Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication, February 15, 2023).
    Image: Peabody Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)
  • Wireless ISP Starry is filing for bankruptcy

    Photo of a piece of Starry equipment in front of a city skyline.
    Image: Starry

    Starry, an ISP that launched in 2016 with a focus on delivering home internet with wireless antennas instead of cables, has declared bankruptcy. In a press release, the company says that it intends to quickly restructure and that it’ll continue providing internet service in its “five core operating markets.” Those are Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington, DC.

    The ISP has clearly been struggling over the past few months. In October 2022, it announced that it was laying off around 500 people, which amounted to about half of its staff. A few months later, Starry announced it was leaving Columbus, Ohio, in a bid to focus more on its five “core” markets. All the while, it was burning millions of dollars in cash, and its stock was dropping after a special purpose acquisition company-backed IPO in March — it started at around $10 a share but is now worth $0.012, down from last week when it was approximately $0.02 per share.

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  • Microsoft recruited Nintendo and Nvidia to help fight Sony over the Activision deal

    An illustration of the PlaySation “PS” logo overlayed on swooping blue and teal colors
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Microsoft has been trying to convince Sony that it will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation if its giant Activision acquisition is approved, but the companies haven’t come to an agreement over the terms of any potential deal. That’s clearly left Microsoft frustrated and looking for partners to counter concerns from regulators. Both Nvidia and Nintendo have stepped up to help Microsoft try to ease regulator concerns.

    Speaking during a special press event in Brussels today, Microsoft president Brad Smith outlined the software giant’s position on the deal and described Sony as a “super dominant company” that is outselling Xbox consoles and opposes competition in the form of the Activision acquisition.

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  • Microsoft is already undoing some of the limits it placed on Bing AI

    A Bing logo.
    Image: The Verge

    Microsoft is already loosening restrictions it recently placed on interactions with the Bing AI chatbot and said it’s going to start testing another option that lets users choose the tone of the chat, with options for Precise (shorter, more focused answers), Creative (longer and more chatty), or Balanced for a bit of both.

    After repeated reports of strange behavior (like the time it split into multiple personalities and one of them offered us furry porn) and jailbreaks that did things like expose its secret rules, Microsoft set new rules last Friday that limited the number of interactions testers could have and how long they last. The limits cut down testers to five turns per session and a max of 50 per day.

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  • Microsoft is bringing Xbox PC games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now service

    Nvidia’s logo.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Microsoft is bringing its Xbox PC games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels today, Microsoft president Brad Smith announced the news as it seeks to convince EU regulators to approve its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition.

    “Microsoft will be bringing its Xbox games that play on PCs to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service,” said Smith in a press conference attended by The Verge. “We will also bring all of Activision Blizzard’s titles including Call of Duty to GeForce Now.”

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  • Ikea’s Sonos-powered Symfonisk picture frame speaker is a screaming deal at $65 off

    A photo of the Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame Speaker on a wall next to a guitar and concert poster.
    Day 588 and the other wall art still hasn’t noticed I am a speaker.
    Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

    Presidents Day is over, but there are some excellent deals still lingering as well as some fresh ones to accompany them. The Ikea Symfonisk picture frame speaker, which can disguise itself as wall art, is one of the most unusual smart speakers on the market, and it’s on sale for its lowest price of $194.99 ($65 off) direct from Ikea. This 16 x 22-inch speaker is part of Ikea’s partnership with Sonos, so it works natively with Sonos’ Wi-Fi-connected ecosystem. It has good sound quality for the money, about on par with the $219 Sonos One, but no Sonos speaker allows you to free up space on your furniture quite like the Symfonisk picture frame.

    It may not be everyone’s style, especially if you’re not fond of the cable hanging from it, but the Symfonisk comes in black or white, and Ikea offers alternate artwork inserts for different looks. I personally own and use a Symfonisk picture frame in my home office, and of my handful of Sonos and Ikea speakers, it’s easily my favorite. Perhaps if I could figure out a way to “hack” in my own artwork, I’d dig it even more. Read our review.

    Read Article >
  • Get ready for a PlayStation State of Play on Thursday.

    The show kicks off at 4PM ET and 1PM PT, featuring new PSVR2 titles, “indie and third-party” reveals, and a look at Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which will be released on May 26th.

  • Bernie Sanders throws support behind striking YouTube Music workers

    Sen. Bernie Sanders
    Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threw his support behind striking YouTube Music workers in a letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai Tuesday, as first reported by the Austin Chronicle.

    Sanders’ support comes amid growing tensions between workers on YouTube Music’s Content Operations team and its parent company, Google. The nearly 60 workers are formally employed by Cognizant, a third-party contractor to Google. Last October, they filed for a union election with the 1,300-member Alphabet Workers Union (AWU). But shortly after that request was filed with the National Labor and Relations Board, Cognizant issued a new return-to-office mandate that organizers — and Sanders — argue amounts to an illegal union-busting strategy.

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  • The FTC wants you!

    American citizens with at least one year of specialized technical expertise in software engineering, design, technology research and technology policy, or product management and development are being sought to add roughly a dozen people to the FTC’s new Office of Technology.

    According to FTC chair Lina Khan, “Our office of technology is a natural next step in ensuring we have the in-house skills needed to fully grasp evolving technologies and market trends as we continue to tackle unlawful business practices and protect Americans.”

  • Mia Sato

    Feb 21

    Mia Sato

    Gen Z — and basically nobody else — is using TikTok for news.

    In a Morning Consult poll, 14 percent of Gen Z said they start researching major news events on TikTok, compared to just 1 percent of other generations.

    It’s worth noting Google Search is still by far the most popular for everyone — albeit less so for Gen Z compared to older adults.

  • Building a social media app by yourself is tricky

    A piece of art where two people communicate. They are surrounded by colorful chat bubbles.
    Image: Allie Sullberg / The Verge

    Last year, Elon Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter and promptly brought chaos to the company — laying off three-quarters of the staff and upending many long stable (if not always successful) parts of the business. So Twitter users began looking for a way out. Many migrated, even if only for a few days, to Mastodon, others moved to Instagram or Snap, and a lot of people declared Hive Social their new home.

    Hive seemed like a cleaner, better version of Twitter, with an attractive app featuring a familiar interface — only it creaked under the sudden influx of new users. Then, the company announced it would need to shut down its servers for two weeks to fix security issues. The challenges Hive faced were enormous — as they would be for any social media company suddenly handling so many new users while wrestling with old security concerns. But Hive wasn’t a company of thousands of engineers. It only had a handful of employees.

    Read Article >
  • The sporty Beats Fit Pro earbuds now come in three new colors

    A marketing image of the three new Beats Fit Pro colors.
    The new colors will be released on February 23rd.
    Image: Beats

    The Beats Fit Pro are our favorite earbuds for exercise, and today, the company is adding three new color options to pick from. As leaked a few weeks ago, the latest choices include blue, coral pink, and neon yellow. All three will be available later this week on February 23rd for $199.99.

    When they were originally released, I preferred the Beats Fit Pros over the first-generation AirPods Pros for a couple of reasons. They sounded better, and the flexible wing tips helped them stay put even during vigorous workouts. The second part remains true, but I think Apple leapfrogged the Fit Pro in audio quality with its second-gen AirPods Pro last year.

    Read Article >
  • The Supreme Court battle for Section 230 has begun

    YouTube’s logo with geometric design in the background
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The first shots have been fired in a Supreme Court showdown over web platforms, terrorism, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Gonzales v. Google — one of two lawsuits that are likely to shape the future of the internet.

    Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh are a pair of lawsuits blaming platforms for facilitating Islamic State attacks. The court’s final ruling on these cases will determine web services’ liability for hosting illegal activity, particularly if they promote it with algorithmic recommendations.

    Read Article >
  • Here’s the live feed of this morning’s Section 230 Supreme Court hearing.

    The court is hearing Gonzalez v. Google, one of the biggest tech law cases in years, at 10am ET. You can livestream the audio if you want to tune in — and we’ll have coverage of Gonzalez and its sister case Twitter v. Taamneh over the coming day and week.

    Live Oral Argument Audio


  • Green light.

    As we collectively emerge from the post-President’s Day haze, we’re expecting earnings results today from Coinbase.

    But first up, we have advice on switching away from SMS two-factor authentication for anyone still using Twitter, and Adi Robertson considers why social networks are suddenly treating security as a premium service.

  • Microsoft and Sony square off in EU showdown over Activision and Call of Duty

    Microsoft logo
    Illustration: The Verge

    Microsoft and Sony’s gaming chiefs are both preparing to meet with EU regulators today in a showdown over Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The closed-door hearing in Brussels will see Xbox chief Phil Spencer and other senior Microsoft executives argue the case for the $68.7 billion deal to proceed, with PlayStation chief Jim Ryan attending to voice Sony’s concerns over the deal.

    It’s a pivotal moment for Microsoft’s proposed acquisition, which has already seen opposition from regulators in the UK and US. The FTC is suing Microsoft to block its Activision Blizzard purchase, while the CMA published its provisional findings of its investigation earlier this month, warning that the deal could harm UK gamers. The CMA has offered up possible remedies that include Microsoft being forced to sell off Activision Blizzard’s business associated with Call of Duty.

    Read Article >
  • It’s official, Android 13 is now available on the Nothing Phone 1.

    Following reports that Nothing’s Android 13-based OS update had started exiting beta on the Phone 1, the company has made it official.

    Unlike the phone’s original software, the new update has been developed in-house at Nothing, and the company says it delivers big performance improvements for the phone.

  • Microsoft signs binding Call of Duty deal with Nintendo ahead of EU Activision hearing

    An illustration of the Xbox logo.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Call of Duty will be available to Nintendo players on the same day as Xbox with “full feature and content parity” under a 10-year agreement between the two platforms, Microsoft’s Brad Smith announced. The deal was announced in early December, but Smith is offering more details today ahead of a hearing in which Microsoft will argue its case with EU regulators to allow its $69 billion acquisition of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard to proceed, Reuters reports.

    As my colleague Tom Warren wrote back in December, the Nintendo deal is almost certainly part of Microsoft’s attempt to pressure Sony into accepting a similar offer and allay regulatory competition concerns. The PlayStation maker has emerged as one of the chief opponents of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition, saying it risks reducing competition by locking key franchises like Call of Duty to Xbox consoles and Microsoft services like Game Pass.

    Read Article >
  • Here are even more images of the not-yet-announced new Sonos speakers.

    Hours after our own Chris Welch revealed what will likely be Sonos’s next two speakers, a leaker has tweeted what appear to be additional images of the Era 100 and Era 300. You can check out all the images in the thread. Sadly there is not a 3.5mm port in sight.

  • Exclusive: these are the new Sonos Era speakers

    The Era 300 has a unique design and six drivers for immersive spatial audio.
    The Era 300 has a unique design and six drivers for immersive spatial audio.

    Sonos is continuing to finalize details for a pair of new smart speakers set to launch in the coming weeks, and The Verge has now obtained marketing images of the products and learned roughly how much they will cost. The spatial audio-focused Era 300 is expected to be priced in the ballpark of $450, making it less expensive than the company’s flagship Sonos Five. As such, the Five will likely remain part of Sonos’ lineup after the pending hardware announcements.

    But the same cannot be said for the Sonos One, which is all but certain to be replaced by the upcoming Era 100. Sonos has discussed pricing that speaker around $250, a slight price increase compared to the $219 One. But customers should be gaining several improvements for the extra money.

    Read Article >
  • Shigeru Miyamoto is working with his hands again

    A photo illustration of Shigeru Miyamoto.
    Photo: Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    Shigeru Miyamoto is responsible for some of the most iconic virtual worlds in history, from the Mushroom Kingdom of Super Mario to The Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule. But he got his start in something much more tactile, studying industrial design in college before eventually embarking on a career in video games. It’s something he’s missed over the years. “The idea of using my hands to create something really fits well with me,” he says. More recently, he’s had a chance to get back to those roots, working with the team at Universal Creative on Super Nintendo World, which just opened up at Universal Studios Hollywood.

    The nostalgia hit him particularly hard when he visited Florida to see where some of the pieces of the theme park were being constructed and test out the texture and materials. “Having these meetings, with the surrounding aroma of factories, was comforting for me,” Miyamoto says.

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