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Best Microsoft Store Black Friday 2018 deals: Ad showcases Surface, Windows laptop deals

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While we saw a couple of Microsoft Surface deals courtesy of Best Buy’s Black Friday ad, Microsoft itself is offering more options to save with the Black Friday ad for its own store. On top of those, it has several specials on Windows laptops from its PC partners.

Best Microsoft Store Black Friday 2018 deals

Microsoft Store 2018 Black Friday ad

Microsoft has six different deals on its various Surface device, from the Surface Go to the Surface Laptop 2. The Go is the 10-inch tablet that most closely competes with the 9.7-inch iPad, and it will see $50 taken off the $399 price for its base model (Intel 4415Y processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage). There’s also significant savings on the last-generation Surface Pro, which comes with a seventh-generation Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of memory, 128GB SSD, and a Platinum Signature Type Cover for $599, $310 off the regular price. (Note, however, that you can obtain this deal right now from the Microsoft Store.)

Also: Best Black Friday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter’s top picks

That price reduction is no doubt related to the introduction of a refreshed Surface Pro 6, which is the Surface device discounted in Best Buy’s ad. The Microsoft Store adds three more deals on the new tablet, starting with the base version with Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and Type Cover for $799 ($260 off current price) and then taking $330 off the version with twice the solid-state storage, lowering the price to $999. That same $330 amount is also being slashed from a higher-end Surface Pro 6 stacked with Core i7, 16 gigs of RAM, and 512GB of solid-state storage, which brings the price to a still formidable $1,569. Finally, Microsoft is taking $300 off the new Surface Laptop 2, though it only vaguely says the discount applies to “select” configurations.

2018 Black Friday deals

  • Walmart features $99 Chromebook, $89 Windows 2-in-1 laptop
  • BJs Wholesale ad leaks with laptop, desktop, tablet deals
  • Target ad includes $250 iPad mini 4, $120 Chromebook deals
  • Costco kicks off leaks season with $250 iPad, pair of $200 laptops
  • Amazon: See early deals on Echo, Fire HD, and more
  • Dell features $120 Inspiron laptop, $500 gaming desktop
  • Sam’s Club: TVs, game consoles, and cameras
  • Office Depot: Laptops, printers, and chairs

Microsoft is also happy to sell you some other manufacturers’ laptops that run its Windows 10 operating system. It has nine specials on Windows notebooks, in fact, from the likes of Dell and HP. At the low end, there’s an HP Stream configuration with Intel Celeron N4000 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 14-inch full HD display for $229 ($70 off current price), or a budget 2-in-1 in the form of an Asus VivoBook Flip with Intel Pentium Silver N5000 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB SSD, and 14-inch full HD touchscreen for $279 ($120 off). A final sub-$300 laptop deal is for an HP 15-DA0071MS with a last-generation Core i3 processor, 8 gigs of RAM, terabyte hard drive, and 15.6-inch touchscreen for $299 ($200 off).

CNET: Black Friday deals 2018 | Best Holiday gifts 2018 | Best TVs for the holidays

If you want to step up to a Core i5 CPU, you’ll have a half-dozen choices, including the HP 15-DA0073MS for $349 and the HP Pavilion 15-cc610ms for $399, both of which are built around 15.6-inch touchscreen displays and pack 8GB of RAM, but the cheaper model comes with a last-generation Core i5 — albeit with a 2TB hard drive — while the pricier one has an eighth-generation Core i5, terabyte hard drive, and a full HD screen. There are also a pair of systems for $499: a Dell Inspiron 15 with Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and 15.6-inch full HD touchscreen; and a Lenovo Flex 2-in-1 with Core i5, 8GB of memory, 128GB SSD, and 14-inch full HD touchscreen.

Rounding things out is another 2-in-1 in the HP Pavilion x360, which offers similar specs as the Lenovo but with a slightly larger 15.6-inch display and $599 price tag. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop on the cheap, Microsoft will be selling the Dell G3 with Core i5, 8GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive, 15.6-inch full HD display, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics for $599.

TechRepublic: A guide to tech and non-tech holiday gifts to buy online | Photos: Cool gifts for bosses to buy for employees | The do’s and don’ts of giving gifts to coworkers

We also recommend comparing these sale events to discounts offered by other retailers, some of which we’ve rounded up in ZDNet’s Black Friday hub here.


For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.

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Work and play: Our picks for the holiday’s best tech gifts

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A new book, Amazon Unbound, reveals Jeff Bezos’ envy of SpaceX

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Enlarge / Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019.

By as early as the fall of 2016, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had already started to worry deeply about the progress—or lack thereof—being made by his rocket company, Blue Origin.

Although the business had begun to successfully launch its suborbital vehicle, New Shepard, Bezos watched with increasing envy as SpaceX landed its much larger Falcon 9 rocket on ocean-based drone ships. He saw, too, this surging new-space competitor winning launch contract after contract from NASA and the US Department of Defense.

And so, in response, Bezos invited a succession of executives from Blue Origin to his office in Seattle for one-on-one lunches. During these meetings, the executives complained about poor internal communication, long meetings, and questionable spending decisions. One engineer described the company as a Potemkin village—with a dysfunctional culture concealed beneath an industrious façade.

This anecdote is recounted in Amazon Unbound, a new book about the rise of Bezos and Amazon over the last decade. Authored by Brad Stone, the book is being published today, and much of the book deals with Bezos’ much more valuable retail business. But there is a chapter devoted to Blue Origin that reveals a business in distress.

After the fall 2016 meetings, Bezos informed company President Rob Meyerson that he would hire a chief executive officer of Blue Origin for the first time. According to Stone’s book, this process included an inquiry to SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell. Shotwell, who had worked for SpaceX almost from the beginning of its founding in 2002, quickly turned down the opportunity. (A source confirmed this to Ars).

Following a yearlong search, Bezos selected Bob Smith, a senior manager at Honeywell Aerospace. Smith was hired to lead Blue Origin through a transition from its startup phase, with just a few hundred employees, to become a major player in the space business. Most of all, Bezos wanted to start winning government contracts like SpaceX.

ULA dispute

The book also delves into the 2014 decision by United Launch Alliance to purchase BE-4 rocket engines from Blue Origin for its Vulcan rocket. Significant fallout ensued a few years later when Blue Origin announced it would build the large New Glenn rocket that would compete with Vulcan.

“Executives from the two companies stopped talking; tensions were so high that they walked past one another in the halls of the annual Space Symposium that year without acknowledging one another,” Stone writes. “Blue later disputed the notion that its execs stopped talking to counterparts at ULA. Nevertheless, the story ULA execs eventually heard from employees at Blue, Sowers said, was that Bezos was frustrated hat the government was funding Elon Musk’s space dreams and wanted to get in on the action.”

At the time, Bezos was telling colleagues that he wanted to “get paid to practice” with launching and landing the New Glenn rocket.

As the book makes clear, in seeking to compete with SpaceX, Bezos made a mistake with the hiring of Smith as CEO. In filling out his leadership team, Smith brought in people from companies not known for disruption but rather traditional space practices. Many of his senior hires came from Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the aerospace division of Rolls-Royce, and other legacy companies. These leaders, alongside Smith, built a culture of caution rather than deliberate risk taking in order to move more quickly.

Partly because of this slow development pace, Blue Origin has in some ways become even less competitive with SpaceX since Bezos’ meetings in fall 2016. At the time both companies, led by billionaires, seemed on the cusp of a great space race. But whereas SpaceX has launched 100 rockets to orbit since then, more than 1,500 of its own satellites, and several crews of NASA astronauts, Blue Origin has only flown New Shepard about a dozen times, without any people on board. (A first crewed flight is likely to finally occur in July).

And what about those government contracts? Blue Origin has been largely shut out. When it came to the latest round of national security launch contracts, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX won the business, with Blue left on the sidelines. And last month, a Blue Origin-led bid to land humans on the Moon for NASA lost out to SpaceX for a high-profile and lucrative contract.

Bezos has also had to set aside some of his personal ambitions with New Glenn, because the oft-delayed booster will not launch any time soon. Amazon recently announced that it will turn to United Launch Alliance for the first nine launches of its Project Kuiper satellite Internet project.

It’s a shame that Amazon Unbound does not bring the Blue Origin story up to the present day. I would be interested to know which Blue Origin executives are lunching with Bezos now and what they are saying. Even more intriguingly, it would be fun to know what Bezos is saying to them about the rocket company’s ongoing troubles.

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FDA authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

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Enlarge / An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15, the agency announced Monday evening.

In the announcement, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock called the authorization “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic” that will bring the country “closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic.”

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, echoed that sentiment. He called the ability to vaccinate children and teens “a critical step” in the fight against COVID-19.

Both Marks and Woodcock emphasized the agency’s rigorous data review that led to the authorization.

“With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older,” Marks said.

The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the adolescent group was widely expected. It follows an announcement from the two companies on March 31 which declared that the vaccine completely protected 12- to 15-year-olds against COVID-19 in a small Phase III clinical trial involving 2,260-adolescents.

Trial data

In the trial, 1,131 adolescents received the vaccine while the other 1,129 received a placebo. The FDA focused on those who had no evidence of being infected by the pandemic coronavirus prior to the trial, leaving the agency with 1,005 vaccinated adolescents and 978 adolescents given a placebo. The FDA reported 16 cases in the trial, all of them in the placebo group. “The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19,” the agency announced. Moreover, in a smaller sampling, those in the vaccinated group appeared to produce neutralizing antibodies at higher levels than those seen earlier in people ages 16 to 25, Pfizer noted in March.

The vaccine also appeared to be tolerated by the adolescents. The most commonly reported side effects included pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, all of which tended to occur within one to three days after vaccination.

Like in older age groups, the FDA says that people with a history of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, should not get the vaccine.

Now that the FDA has granted authorization, a committee of independent advisors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data on the vaccine in this age group and vote on policy recommendations for use. The committee—the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—has already set a meeting for Wednesday, May 12, to vote on their recommendations. If the CDC accepts the committee’s recommendations—which it likely will—vaccinations could become available for adolescents as early as Thursday.

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By eating them, hyenas gathered 9 Neanderthal skeletons in one cave

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Italian Culture Ministry

Archaeologists in Italy recently unearthed the remains of at least nine Neanderthals in Guattari Cave, near the Tyrrhenian Sea about 100 km southeast of Rome. While excavating a previously unexplored section of the cave, archaeologists from the Archaeological Superintendency of Latina and the University of Tor Vergata recently unearthed broken skulls, jawbones, teeth, and pieces of several other bones, which they say represent at least nine Neanderthals. That brings the cave’s total to at least 10; anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc found a Neanderthal skull in another chamber in 1939.

Italy was a very different place 60,000 years ago. Hyenas, along with other Pleistocene carnivores, stalked rhinoceroses, wild horses (an extinct wild bovine called aurochs), and people.

“Neanderthals were prey for these animals. Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals,” Tor Vergata University archaeologist Mario Rolfo told The Guardian. The archaeologists found the Neanderthal remains mingled with the bones of rhinos, giant deer, wild horses, and other hyenas. Predators and scavengers tend to leave behind different parts of the skeleton than, say, flowing water or simple burial—and tooth marks are usually a dead giveaway.

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Based on the excavation, hyenas had lived in the cave off and on for thousands of years—maybe alternating with Neanderthals at different times. And during all that time, they seem to have periodically dragged an unlucky Neanderthal back to a den in the cave, where the bones of other long-dead victims lay, already buried under layers of cave-floor sediment.

Most of the newly discovered Neanderthals lived between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, but at least one dates back to between 90,000 and 100,000 years old. The span of time between the oldest Neanderthal in Guattari Cave and the youngest is nearly as much as the one between now and when the last Neanderthals walked the Earth.

That makes the plan to sequence ancient DNA from the newly discovered remains especially interesting. Researchers are starting to piece together the large, complicated story of how different groups of Neanderthals moved around and interacted with each other during the 300,000 years or so when they alone ruled western Eurasia. But so far, we’ve gotten only glimpses.

Denisova Cave in Siberia is the only place so far where paleoanthropologists have sequenced DNA from Neanderthals who lived at different times; the rest of the story relies on bits of information from a scattering of different times and places. The genomes of nine Neanderthals who lived in the same place over tens of thousands of years could tell a much more detailed story about at least one part of our extinct cousins’ long history. They would also nearly double the number of Neanderthal genomes that have been sequenced so far.

Of course, that assumes that all of the Guattari Cave Neanderthals have ancient DNA that is still in good enough condition to sequence. It will take a lot of work in the lab before we know.

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