Microsoft officially ends support for Windows Phone

It’s official: for all intents and purposes, the Windows Phone era is over. Microsoft has ended support for Windows Phone 8.1 just over 3 years after its April 2014 debut. From now on, your WP8.1-toting device won’t get software updates or technical help. This doesn’t mark the end of Microsoft’s mobile ambitions (Windows 10 Mobile is still hanging around), but it does finish a long, sad story in the company’s history that reflects the tech giant’s shifting priorities.

Windows Phone 7 was launched in 2010 as Microsoft’s formal response to the iPhone and Android. This was the release that was going to prove Microsoft could make a truly consumer-focused mobile platform instead of catering primarily to the business crowd. The tile-based home screen and other interface elements were breaths of fresh air, but the so-so device lineup (HTC Surround anyone?) and lack of feature parity (it launched without copy-and-paste text) set the tone. It was always a bit lackluster compared to what Apple and Google were doing, even if there were occasional bright spots.

Case in point: Windows Phone 8. It was a huge upgrade, but no Windows Phone 7 device could run it. Millions of users were faced with the prospect of having to upgrade their handset early to stay current, erasing a lot of Microsoft’s hard-earned good will. Windows Phone 8.1 finally provided a truly complete answer to Android and iOS, but it was still a little bit behind and never got the sustained big-name app support that Microsoft had tried so hard to cultivate. And we can’t forget the ill-fated partnership between Microsoft and Nokia, including the eventual purchase of Nokia’s hardware business. It was supposed to be a match made in heaven (Microsoft got a huge, reliable partner while Nokia got a modern OS), but it mostly led to a lopsided Windows Phone market where third parties always played second fiddle to the latest Lumia.

That Microsoft ditched Windows Phone entirely in favor of Windows 10 Mobile says a lot. Just as Microsoft shifted from a dependence on Windows sales to a focus on apps and services, the pocket-sized Windows is no longer intended as an iPhone-beater — it’s more an extension of the desktop PC experience. Even then, it’s fading away as Microsoft cuts its former Nokia staff and has been winding down its mobile plans. Windows Phone produced many fond memories, particularly stand-out devices like the Lumia 1020, but it largely represents a missed opportunity to adapt to an industry where phones, not PCs, are the center of the computing universe.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft

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Apple’s ‘we’re sorry we took away your ports’ dongle sale ends today

When Apple rolled out its controversial new MacBook Pro last fall, potential buyers were a bit miffed at the need to buy a host of expensive dongles to make the computer work with their old devices. Apple quickly responded by cutting prices on a host of USB-C cables and accessories, as well as the new LG 4K and 5K displays that are compatible with the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Originally, those discount prices were set to expire at the end of 2016, but Apple extended the deal until the end of March. Well, that day of reckoning is here — the discount on cables, accessories and monitors is set to expire today, March 31st.

So if you’ve been considering buying one of those LG monitors, today is definitely the day to do it. The 21.5-inch 4K display currently sells for $ 524, down from $ 700. The 27-inch 5K screen is priced at $ 924, a pretty notable discount from the $ 1,300 it will cost tomorrow.

You’re not going to save nearly as much cash on cables and adapters, but Apple is still offering pretty steep discounts. The super-helpful USB-C to USB dongle is $ 9 right now, down from $ 19, while you can save $ 5 on USB-C to Lightning cables for your iPhone or iPad. More expensive multiport adapters for outputting video to external displays are $ 49 instead of $ 69. All third-party USB-C accessories are 25 percent off, as well. If you’ve been thinking about buying a new MacBook Pro (or already have one) and have been dragging your feet on getting the cables you need, now’s a good day to go get them.

Source: Apple Store

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Japanese tax investigation ends with Apple paying $118 million

After an in-depth investigation, one of Apple’s Japanese subsidiaries paid ¥12 billion ($ 118 million) in back taxes, according to a report from the Yomiuri Shimbun. Japanese tax authorities ordered the payment after determining the company hadn’t correctly paid taxes on funds it had quietly funneled out of the country. This whole thing might sound a little dry, but hey — what better way to spend a Friday than to dig into some corporate cloak-and-dagger dealings? Let’s take a closer look.

First, here’s a little background. If you live in Japan and you buy an iPhone from Apple, that money goes to (who else?) Apple Japan. If you buy apps, movies or music from iTunes in Japan, however, that money goes to a different subsidiary: iTunes K.K. Ah, but there’s more: much of Apple’s intellectual property is owned by two subsidiaries in Ireland, and other Apple business units around the world pay those entities royalties to use that IP. iTunes K.K. had one such arrangement set up — when people used the iTunes service to listen to music or watch videos, the subsidiary owed part of its profits to an Apple-owned holding company in Ireland as royalties.

And why Ireland? Well, Apple had a lucrative structure in place that allowed the company to pay hardly anything in corporate taxes on that cash. (Tim Cook, by the way, strongly asserts this isn’t true.) Moreover, Apple has never and will never talk about how much those licensing fees are, so they’re widely seen as a tool to help keep Apple’s money away from the governments who want to collect their share. So, iTunes generates profits in Japan, and Apple ultimately wants it to go to Ireland where it’ll barely get taxed. The problem is, Japanese income tax law holds that a Japanese company (like iTunes K.K.) has to pay a roughly 20 percent withholding tax on royalties paid to foreign companies… like Apple’s Irish operation. That’s no chump change, so the parties involved had to get a little crafty.

iTunes K.K. didn’t make royalty payments to Apple’s Irish subsidiaries — it paid them to Apple Japan, the company’s other, separate half. Then, Apple’s Irish subsidiary sold iPhones to Apple Japan by way of an affiliated company in Singapore. Tokyo’s Taxation Bureau alleged that Apple Japan bundled those royalties into the price of the iPhones it was buying so the holding company in Ireland ultimately wound up with the amount the iPhones actually cost plus software profits that never got taxed. Apple kept this up between 2012 and 2014 and moved around ¥60 billion (or about $ 586.5 million) in the process. Japanese tax authorities wanted — and reportedly received — the back taxes on that shifted money, and now the case is closed.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, well, you’re onto something. Apple had to pay Italy’s tax bureau €318 million (or $ 348 million) after it was alleged the company underpaid its corporate taxes for six years. Oh, and then there’s the whole “having to pay back $ 14.5 billion to Ireland” thing for creating a tax structure EU regulators have called “illegal.” Playing by the rules won’t make anyone as obscenely rich as if they hadn’t, but man — Apple is probably getting a little tired of being batted around.

[Image credit: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images]

Source: The Japan News

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