What’s old is new again. The MacBook Air has been modernized, and the iPad Pro brings back the iPhone 5’s edgy design. Oh, and the Mac Mini has also been revamped.
Must read: Apple’s new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini: Can features, specs retain business momentum?
Apple hosted an event in Brooklyn on Tuesday, where Apple CEO Tim Cook and friends announced three new products. The focus of the event is summed up by one word: Productivity.
Every product announced, at least as was positioned by Apple, is meant to help the worker, student, and average person be more productive.
After the event, I spent some time using the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air, both of which are available to order right now and begin shipping next week. Let’s start by looking at the new MacBook Air, which received its first major refresh in years.
The new MacBook Air is what many wanted from the MacBook Pro with TouchBar. It’s lightweight, portable, adds a Retina Display, and a fingerprint reader via Touch ID without the TouchBar that, at least on my MacBook Pro, stays untouched.
Apple is sticking with its butterfly keyboard design, using the third-generation design. The keys have been prone to letting dust collect under them, and with enough buildup, rendering a key useless. I can’t vouch for the MacBook Air’s keyboard’s ability to ward off being defeated by dust, but the keys on it felt stiffer than the keys on my MacBook Pro. Granted, I’m using an older MacBook Pro with an older generation of the butterfly keyboard, but the change was immediately apparent. Even as I type this on my MacBook Pro, the difference is notable.
Also: MacBook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro 2018: Everything Apple just announced CNET
In the top right corner of the keyboard is a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which in the demo I was shown works just as fast as it does on iPhone and other MacBook’s.
Touch ID is used to unlock the Air, approve purchases via Apple Pay, and gain access to apps like 1Password.
On the left side of the Air, you’ll find you Thunderbolt 3 ports, or rather USB-C ports. On the right side is a headphone jack — yes, Apple kept the headphone jack on its latest laptop.
The Retina Display on the new Air measures 13.3-inches, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. And it’s every bit as impressive as any Retina Display on a MacBook. The standard MacBook Air, which by the way is still available from Apple, has a resolution of 1444 x 900. The difference between the two is stark.
Also: Apple sprinkles iPhone X magic on iPad Pro, MacBook Air, but challenges remain CNET
I’d need a lot more time than the handful of minutes I had with the MacBook Air to give a thumbs up or down, but my initial impression is that this is the MacBook users are going to buy. At $1,200, it’s pushing the envelope of affordable and powerful, but after the iPhone X’s release, Apple users are willing to pay a premium for a better product.
Remember the iPhone 5’s square edges? Picture those, but on an iPad, and with a display that goes nearly edge to edge. Oh, and forget the home button.
That’s the new iPad Pro. Actually, iPads Pro. There are two of them. There’s an 11-inch model that’s nearly the same overall size as the now older 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro that’s smaller than the previous 12.9-inch model.
In hand, both sizes felt very balanced and not unwieldy. There was a uniformness to them that I liked. The display, a Liquid Retina display, is as crisp and sharp as I’ve seen on an iPad. If that display name sounds new, it kind of is. The iPhone XR is the only other product in Apple’s lineup that uses an improved LCD display that Apple’s dubbed Liquid Retina.
Surrounding the display is a slim black bezel. Tucked into the top of the bezel is Apple’s True Depth camera system that’s used for Face ID.
Also: iPad Pro 2018: Cheat sheet TechRepublic
Face ID works regardless of the orientation, instead of only in portrait mode as is the case on the iPhone with Face ID. I watched as an Apple employee unlocked a demo iPad Pro with the True Depth camera system in all four orientations, and often times the lock was opened (indicating Face ID has successfully recognized him) before the display rotated to its new orientation. One can only hope that, whatever Apple did to make Face ID work regardless of orientation, it can bring that to the iPhone.
On the bottom of the iPad Pro is a USB-C port. Ditching Lightning for USB-C gives the iPad Pro the ability to connect to a 4K display. In the demo area, there were a few displays with an iPad Pro connected. The demos ran through various apps, like iMovie. The default behavior of an external display on the iPad Pro is too mirror the iPad’s display. However, developers can customize the behavior. For example, with the tap of a button in iMovie, a project’s footage is shown on the display, instead of the editing panel.
On the right side of the iPad Pro is a small, pill-shaped section. This spot is where the new Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to the iPad Pro. It also serves as a wireless charging spot for the Apple Pencil. Just place the flat edge of the Pencil near the edge of the iPad Pro, it snaps into place and begins charging.
Also new to the Apple Pencil is the ability to double-tap the Pencil — roughly the bottom fifth — to switch between tools. In the Notes app, a double-tap switches between the current tool and the eraser. Users can customize the action in settings. It’s up to each app developer to integrate the Pencil’s new double-tap feature and provide settings.
Also: Apple’s MacBook Air 2018 update: Cheat sheet TechRepublic
As someone who used to do 95 percent of my work on an iPad Pro, Apple’s latest tablets are intriguing and something I plan on testing in the very near future.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for 64GB of storage. The 12.9-inch model starts at $999 for the same storage, with both devices maxing out at 1TB of storage.
What was largely missing from the event, especially concerning the iPad Pro line, is any updates to the software. Despite releasing iOS 12.1 just as the event ended, Apple appears to have made no notable changes to the iPad’s core experience. Safari is still a mobile browser. Using an external monitor is the same as using AirPlay to mirror your display to a TV. In fact, when watching a video in the Photos app, the iPad Pro shows an AirPlay icon, while the video plays on a connected monitor.
Surely there’s more in store for the iPad Pro. The hardware is extremely impressive and powerful but is held back by software. Yes, Adobe is releasing the “full” Photoshop experience in 2019, and that’s a good start, but iPad Pro users need more of that. And fast.
Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch
The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.
The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).
Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.
“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on] all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)
The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.
The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.
Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.
Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.
“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”
Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.
These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)
Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.
Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.
If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.
“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”
Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch
Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.
Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.
In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.
Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.
On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.
It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.
Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.
“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”
downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch
As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).
Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital.
Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.
The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.
The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.
Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories. and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.
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