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What real people think about the iPhone XS

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The stars are out.

Five of them, according to my colleague Jason Cipriani.

In reviewing the iPhone XS Max, he describes it as “the future of the iPhone.”

What, though, do real people on the street think about this and its smaller sibling, the iPhone XS?

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks asking people on both coasts.

Also: iPhone XS Max first impressions: It’s big, but not too big

Now, when I say people, I mean real people: The 99 percenters who are taken advantage of every day.

They’re bartenders, baristas, and store employees. They’re those who can’t throw their money around on just anything.

Frankly, just about any human being I encountered was subject to a (polite, naturally) question about their thoughts on the new phone.

Not everyone’s love object?


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Where’s the Hologram?

I began near my home in the Bay Area, shortly after the XS and XS Max launched. Some of the replies left me a touch quiet.

“I’m not going to care until they make a hologram phone,” Sherine, a Starbucks barista, told me with some venom. “Anything else, forget it.”

Her fellow barista Danny was supportive: “She’s right. I’ve got a 7 and I’m not going to upgrade unless my plan gives me a new phone or I break mine. But the hologram would be great.”

That day, I went to a physical therapist. She didn’t even know there was a new iPhone. She was sure, though, that she didn’t need one.

“What’s so different about this one?” she asked.

Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises

I tried to explain.

“You know how I make my phone look different?” said the physical therapist, not entirely interested in my explanation. “I buy lots of cases. They’re 20 bucks, and I’ve got six of them.”

“But don’t you want your phone to do more? To take better pictures, for example?”

“I just don’t need a new phone. My phone’s fine. I’ve got a 7. Wait, I think it’s a 7.”

It seems that there’s no stopping the arc of phones becoming important, but utilitarian objects.

It works, so why should I change it? And as the price of the newest phones has kept rising, many people don’t see the value in seeking them out.

Also: iPhone XS, XS Max, XR specs: Battery size, RAM details revealed in new filings

“Fifty bucks a month for a phone?” a (refurbished) iPhone 8-owning bartender told me. “That’s my gym membership. I’d rather pay for that.”

Bartenders need exercise in order to perform at their peak.

Does New York love it?

Still, perhaps New Yorkers would think differently. They can be a little more showy than Northern Californians. So, I jumped on a plane to find out.

“Yeah, maybe I’d think about getting a new iPhone,” said Kristen, a Manhattan restaurant server. “But they’re not all out yet, are they?”

This was something suggested by famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who believes that four-times as many Max phones as XS phones have been sold because people are waiting for the iPhone XR.

“You mean you’re waiting for the XR?” I asked Kristen.

“Is that what it’s called?” she replied. “The cheaper one with the colors.”

I fancy Kuo might be right. It isn’t just that the XR is a cheaper phone and a very good phone for the money, relatively speaking. It is, I fear, that Apple’s insistence on releasing its most expensive phones in muted shades has muted some people’s enthusiasm.

The minute they saw that there could be bright blues and yellows, some people thought they’d wait.

Also: iPhone XS smartphone beauty really is only skin deep

That might seem shallow to some. But specs never were and never will be the main reason people buy phones. This is hard for hardened tech types to swallow.

However, Kristen was one of the rare people I talked to who knew there was still one more phone to go. Most had no idea.

“I’ve already got an iPhone X,” a server in a sushi restaurant told me.

“How come?”

“It came with my plan,” she explained. “All my tech friends laugh at me because it’s not Android.”

“Do you know anyone who’s got the XS?”

“One of my friends got it, but that’s because his girlfriend paid for it. He’s a kept man and he loves it.”

“The phone?”

“No, being a kept man.”

Come on people, get giddy.

Still, I was looking for excitement. I was looking for people to tell me how cool the new iPhones were, how excited they were to try the new camera.

Despite badgering 50 to 60 people, I failed to find those enthusiasts. Except for a few who loved the fact that they now had an enormous iPhone in the XS Max.

“I was so happy to get a big one,” an employee of a fancy-ish clothing store told me. “It’s like an iPad, but it isn’t.”

I nodded furiously.

Also: iPhone XR outshines XS value for upgraders

An Android-loving New York hotel receptionist laughed when I asked what he thought of the new iPhones.

“They’re like the old iPhones, just a little less scratched up,” he said.

They’re funny in New York. Or, at least, they think they are.

I finally thought I’d found a sure target, a young man I met at a business reception. He worked in real estate.

Surely he’d have strong opinions about the XS. Surely he’d already have one, probably the Max.

Real estate types tend to lease BMWs and Mercs and wear Apple Watches to show how affluent people should think they are.

This young man had a highly structured suit and strong opinions about the XS.

“Not for me,” he said.

As I made the overly perplexed face I use for strangers, he reached into his pocket and declaimed: “Ta-Da! This is what’s called an iPhone SE!”

“Why have you got that?” I asked.

“Hands like the president,” he replied.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple vs Samsung phones: We compare the Galaxy S series and the iPhone XS

Should you buy the latest Apple or Samsung device? And which size? This guide breaks down the factors that matter most to business buyers and consumers alike.

Six months with Apple Watch 3: I’m sold

I hadn’t worn a watch for 20 years when I bought an Apple Watch Series 3 six months ago. Now I wear it every day. Here’s why — and what I don’t like.

iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: We compare the big phones

Apple and Samsung recently released large flagship smartphones priced at $1,000+. They are close to the same size and have the latest specs, but there are also some significant differences that will lead you to one over the other for your business needs.

Will there be an October Apple event? Signs point to yes

Once again, David Gewirtz puts on his mystical prognostication hat (okay, fine, he launches Excel) to delve into Apple announcement history. Will we see new Macs, iPads, and whatnot in October? There’s a pretty good chance, and we’ll even tell you what dates to write in your calendar.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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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.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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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.

Bitwarden

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.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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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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