Spotify also announced that users in Japan will be first globally to get song lyrics on mobile and desktop. It had the feature on desktop last year, but had to stop the service when it stopped working with lyrics catalog, Musixmatch.
The launch on Thursday also includes Sony’s PlayStation Music service, which taps Spotify for its tunes, and will work for PS4 and PS3 consoles in Japan.
Spotify’s Japan debut has come quite belatedly after other Asian markets. Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong were first in 2013, followed by the Philippines in 2014 and Indonesia earlier this year.
Japan still loves CDs
Part of the reason for its late coming to Japan could be the country’s notorious reputation for eschewing streaming services. As Billboard noted in an earlier article, physical formats such as CDs and LPs are still popular in Japan more than 80 percent of music sales were on physical formats in 2015.
Licensing is also pretty tough there, because rights are owned by a fragmented spread of smaller companies, and not by a handful of large labels as you’d typically find in other countries.
Perhaps that explains why Spotify’s taken over a year-and-a-half to debut in Japan, after it first opened its Tokyo office. The company also ramped up hiring in the earlier part of this year, for positions including business development, operations, marketing and sales.
Remedy is trying to save consumers money on their medical bills.
Image: Getty Images/Caiaimage
A new startup says it could save you thousands of dollars on your medical bills and only for a 20 percent fee.
Remedy, a startup launching around the country on Thursday, is trying to transform medical billing. In part because of the complex U.S. healthcare system, Americans pay $120 billion a year in medical billing errors and overcharges, Remedy says. The company wants to combine technology with medical billing experts to save consumers those billions of dollars.
Customers can elect to connect their insurance to Remedy’s service. After customers sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release form, Remedy will be authorized to comb through medical bills from the past year and all future bills to see where consumers are being overcharged.
Those mistakes could be anything from thousands overcharged for a surgery to the example Remedy likes to give a man mistakenly billed for a pregnancy test. The system will check every bill from a $20 doctor’s copay to a surgery that costs thousands.
It’s hard for individuals to find these kind of mistakes on their own because medical bills are pretty opaque. The bills generally aren’t itemized and procedures are often noted in numerical codes.
“Households feel the brunt of healthcare expenses and we dont have much visibility into what’s going on,” Remedy CEO Victor Echevarria told Mashable.
Remedy requests backup billing information from hospitals and looks at those codes, the math around insurance deductibles and how claims have been processed to find errors.
“We have an incredibly complicated system,” Echevarria said. “The doctor takes notes, which are transferred to a electronic health record, to the biller, to the insurance company and sometimes there’s another middleman. Just that flow of information looks like a twisted game of Telephone.”
The company uses a proprietary technology to search for errors and then backs that up with human experts, employed on a contract basis.
Since it isn’t providing any insurance itself, Remedy just makes sure it complies with HIPAA, the law that governs privacy of medical information. Remedy users authorize the company to act as their “personal representative” and access their health information.
Remedy has been in beta since May. Echevarria says the company’s several hundred beta participants have found significant errors in their billing.
The company takes a 20 percent commission from any savings it finds you on your bill so if your bill is cut from $500 to $400, you’ll pay Remedy $20. That 20 percent, however, is capped at $99. So if you were overcharged by thousands, you won’t owe Remedy thousands.
That pricing scheme is an introductory offer, and Remedy might raise either the percentage fee or $99 cap down the line.
The startup’s full launch this week will make it available to customers will all types of health insurance, Echevarria said. People who are uninsured can also submit their medical bills through Remedy.
The company has raised $1.9 million in seed funding since 2015.
A Wells Fargo sign is seen on the exterior of one of their bank branches on September 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida.
Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A “joyous occasion”? Maybe not for Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who testified on Capitol Hill Thursday about the bank’s recent scandal.
The San Francisco-based bank was fined $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this month for creating more than 2 million fake accounts, between 2011 and 2015 that used customers’ identities to boost employees’ sale numbers.
But for members of the House Financial Services Committee Thursday morning, their 5-minutes of grilling left reasons to celebrate.
Some lawmakers took it as an opportunity to put forth a distaste of the larger banking industry. “We have Wells Fargo before me, but I don’t think you should be alone in this joyous experience,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat.
Perlmutter had spoken earlier questioning the bank’s emphasis on “cross-selling” the idea that bank customers are encouraged to own several Wells Fargo “products” and pointing that such terminology could have led to the accounts scandal.
“You dont sell Veg-o-Matics,” Perlmutter said. “Why are you calling these things stores? Youre a bank.
The creation of bogus accounts was first uncovered by a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2013, to which Strumpf said he had been aware of such practices occurring but did not know it was becoming a larger issue.
Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees, 10 percent of those were branch managers, in the wake of the fines enacted earlier this month.
Last week, Stumpf spent three hours in front of the Senate Banking Committee. Afterwards, the bank announced he would forfeit $45 million in executive pay.
In an interesting display of bipartisan unity, both the House and the Senate took aggressive stances toward calling out Wells Fargo for the shady practices.
“The damage you have done to the market, to your industry, far exceeds the damage to your own business,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from South Carolina, according to the Times. “Y’all were rotten.”
The scandal has also led to lawmakers questioning whether Strumpf should maintain a role as CEO and chairman. According to Stumpf, the board acts independently.
The startup first caught the singer’s eye when it started peddling t-shirts and posters for her Formation World Tour earlier this year. Within a matter of weeks, Queen Bey decided to join the app’s seed funding round.
Mark Zuckerberg on his way to meet with Andela in Lagos, Nigeria.
Image: MOHINI UFELI/ANDELA
For tech companies to continue to grow, they need talent. And if one startup has its way, a big chunk of that talent is going to come from Africa.
“It’s our belief that Africa is the largest pool of underutilized brainpower in the world,” Jeremy Johnson, the CEO and co-founder of Andela, said on this week’s episode of Mashable‘s Biz Please podcast. “And it is better for everyone in the world if that situation is changed.”
Andela trains developers and engineers throughout the African continent and then pairs them with companies like Microsoft and IBM. The 2-year-old startup helps tech companies scale their teams through a distributed workforce of top talent.
Andela, which has campuses in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya, has a 0.7 percent acceptance rate to its program on the developers’ side of things. CNN called it the “startup that’s harder to get into than Harvard” and the startup calls itself “Africa’s first elite engineering organization.”
“Brilliance and aptitude is evenly distributed throughout the planet,” Johnson said on Biz Please. “Opportunity, very different, but aptitude, it’s pretty consistent.”
Andela has quickly drawn a lot of attention for its model. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative led its first-ever funding round on behalf of Andela in June, raising $24 million in Series B funding for the company. Mark Zuckerberg visited Andela’s campus in Lagos in August to meet with its developers.
During the week of the US-Africa Business Forum, which brought African heads of state and business leaders to New York, Johnson sat down with Mashable in Andela’s New York City officesto talk about Andela’s future, the potential for distributed workforces and why Africa has been underestimated in tech.
WAUKESHA, WI – SEPTEMBER 28: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a rally on September 28, 2016 in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Image: Spencer platt/Getty Images
Donald Trump on Wednesday revived an old conspiracy that Google is in the tank for Hillary Clinton.
The Google poll has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide, and thats despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton, the Republican presidential nominee said in Wisconsin Wednesday, according to the New York Times. How about that?
It’s an old theory and one that has been debunked. Google was accused of suppressing negative news about the Democratic presidential nominee in June after the conservative site SourceFed posted a video about Google’s autocorrect feature. Google’s autofilled results, the video claimed, didn’t complete “Hillary Clinton cr” with “Hillary Clinton criminal investigation,” for example. Search engines Bing and Yahoo had different results.
Mashable tested the claims against Google’s autofill and search features in June and found that the search engine didn’t seem to suppress anything.
Trump’s claims this week also confused Google search results with its autocomplete option. Even if Google’s autocomplete doesn’t offer to search for “Hillary Clinton criminal investigation,” that wouldn’t suppress any information for that search term.
“Autocomplete predictions arent search results and dont limit what you can search for,” Google’s VP of product management for search, Tamar Yehoshua, wrote in a blog post in response to the claims in June.”You can still perform whatever search you want to, and of course, regardless of what you search for, we always strive to deliver the most relevant results from across the web.”
In response to the claims about autocomplete in particular, a Google spokesperson at that time told Mashable:
“Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause. Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works. Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name. More generally, our autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity of search terms.”
Trump’s reference to the Google autocomplete conspiracy was included in his prepared remarks Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
Thousands of firms in England and Wales are set to see dramatic changes to the amount they pay in business rates, after the government publishes the new “rateable values” of their properties on Friday.
Soaring property values in parts of London and the South East over the past few years mean that business rates there will be much higher. In areas where property prices have fallen, bills will be lower.
The way the changes will be introduced – with a cap on how much bills can rise or fall over the next few years – will help cushion the transition; so for many companies rates won’t change as dramatically as they would have otherwise.
But it is still being described as “the largest changes to business rates … in a generation” by John Webber of real estate firm Colliers International.
So what does the revaluation mean for UK business rates and why are the changes so controversial this time round?
What are business rates?
All UK firms pay a tax on the shops, offices, warehouses and factories that they use.
Rates are the third biggest outgoing for many small businesses after rent and staff costs.
Business rates are based on the value of the real estate but also take into account things like the value of machinery and equipment as well as the sector in which the business is operating.
How are they calculated?
Every five years the underlying value of properties is assessed to determine their “rateable value”.
That figure broadly represents the yearly rent – the rentable value – for which the property could be let.
But the underlying property values that are used are always from two years previously. So when rates were last set in 2010 they were based on property values in 2008.
The rateable value is then combined with the “multiplier” – a figure set by the government each year – to determine the final bill.
What is different this time?
This revaluation, being published on Friday, is based on rentable values on 1 April 2015 and comes into effect on 1 April 2017.
But really the whole thing should have happened two years ago.
It was postponed because the government wanted to avoid “sharp changes” to business rates bills. But the shifts in property values since 2008 – with prices rising strongly in many parts of London and the South East, but falling steeply in some less prosperous regions, mean that there will be even more dramatic alterations.
It believes around 324 retail centres across Britain will see a decrease in business rates; 21 will pay the same amount; and 76, mostly in London and the South East, are likely to see increases.
For example, it estimates that Dover Street in central London will see the sharpest rise in bills. High-end fashion shops like Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo and Alexander McQueen that are based there are likely to see their rateable values increase by 415%.
Brixton may see a 128% increase, Westfield in Shepherds Bush could see a 102% increase.
But in other parts of the country, such as Newport in South Wales, there is likely to be a 71% cut in rateable values. In Suffolk, Lowestoft may get reductions of 41% and in Yorkshire, Redcar may see 38% cuts.
Such changes, suggests Colliers, could turn unviable businesses into viable ones – and vice versa.
Collier’s John Webber says: “Retailers who could be sleep walking into rates changes are threatening the sustainability of their stores. We strongly urge them to wake up and act to protect their shops and the jobs which rely upon them.”
While the new rateable values for England and Wales are announced on Friday, Scottish businesses will have to wait until January for theirs.
A revaluation was carried out in Northern Ireland in November 2014, the first since 2003. There is no date set for the next one.
But these changes aren’t coming in all at once?
When business rates are revalued the government provides a transitional arrangement, to help companies adapt.
The transitional arrangement will limit the amount that bills will go up each year, offering a financial cushion that in the first year will apply to over 600,000 properties, according to the government.
So businesses facing higher rates will see their bills go up in steps over the next five years. But for big businesses in places where property values have risen a lot, the increases will still be steep.
However businesses that are set to benefit from lower property valuations will also see the changes introduced in stages. Their rates bills will fall gradually over the next five years.
Some have argued this amounts to struggling businesses in the North continuing to subsidise businesses that are thriving in the South, even though they have already waited for an extra two years for the revaluation.
The government is currently consulting on exactly what form the transition will take.
Who pays rates?
All businesses with properties that have a rateable value over 12,000 have to pay rates.
However, there are other systems in place to help businesses, particularly small ones.
If your property has a rateable value between 12,000 and 15,000 you will get some tapered relief.
If your business is in the countryside with a local population below 3,000 you can get between 50-100% off your rates.
Charities and sports clubs get up to 80% rate relief. Empty, newly occupied properties, and businesses in enterprise zones can also apply for relief.
And some properties, such as agricultural land or religious buildings are exempt.
What effect will it have on local authorities?
Some local authorities will see income from rates fall as a result of the changes; others will see it rise.
At the moment, English authorities keep hold of 50% of locally-collected business rates. The other half goes into a central government pool and is redistributed back to the local authorities according to need.
In Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland, the same happens at a devolved level.
Regions which see their rateable values plummet should continue to get top-ups from central government in the form of revenue support grants and a system of tariffs imposed on rich authorities to benefit the poorer ones.
But big changes are ahead.
The government is working towards allowing local authorities to keep 100% of business rates. It is what former chancellor George Osborne called the “biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory”.
That, says the Office for Budget Responsibility, shouldn’t penalise the poorer authorities. It says: ” As in the current business rates system, there will also be a need for redistribution via a top-up and tariff system. ”
It is three months since the UK voted to leave the European Union, but we don’t yet know the terms of the separation.
Formal negotiations have yet to begin, but when they do, trade and immigration – two of the main themes of the referendum campaign – are likely to dominate.
What we know so far
Since the vote to leave the EU, we’ve been told by Theresa May that “Brexit means Brexit” but the PM has offered little in terms of what this might look like.
She has promised to secure a settlement that “addresses the concerns of the British people about free movement, while getting the best possible deal on trade in goods and services”.
This suggests the negotiating battleground is likely to be whether the UK can trade freely with Europe, while putting controls on EU migration.
Mrs May has declined to give a “running commentary” on her plans, so we do not yet know precisely what the government will be looking for.
Here’s a quick guide to the issues people are asking about.
Hard Brexit or soft Brexit?
There is no strict definition of either, but they are used to refer to the closeness of the UK’s relationship with the EU, post-Brexit.
So at one extreme, “hard” Brexit could involve the UK refusing to compromise on issues like the free movement of people, leaving the EU single market and trading with the EU as if it were any other country outside Europe, based on World Trade Organization rules.
This would mean – at least in the short term before a trade deal was done – the UK and EU would probably apply tariffs and other trade restrictions on each other.
At the other end of the scale, a “soft” Brexit might involve some form of membership of the European Union single market, in return for a degree of free movement.
A number of non-EU countries have their own relationships with Brussels, with differing degrees of closeness, which could give an idea of what is to come for the UK.
Norway, for example, has full access to single market, but is obliged to make a financial contribution and accept the majority of EU laws, and all EU citizens can move to live and work there, under free movement laws.
Given that Downing Street has said any deal must involve controls on immigration, it seems unlikely that the UK will accept free movement as it currently applies.
Another example is Canada – which has agreed a new trade deal including preferential access to the single market without all the obligations that Norway and Switzerland – whose access to the EU market is governed by a series of bilateral agreements – face.
However, while post-Brexit Britain may contain elements of these arrangements, Mrs May has stressed the UK does not want an “off the shelf” deal.
Access or member?
“Access to” and “membership of” the single market are sometimes used interchangeably but they mean very different things.
All 28 EU countries are full members of the single market which enables them to trade with one another based on the four freedoms of the EU: free movement of goods, services, capital, and people.
The European Economic Area (EEA) on the other hand is the name of the open internal market between the EU and Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
The EEA agreement grants these three countries near-full access to the European single market. In return, they are subject to obligations from EU legislation in relevant areas and have to accept free movement of people.
Work permits or visa waivers?
The government says immigration curbs will be an essential part of the Brexit package but how they will work is not yet clear.
During the referendum campaign, Vote Leave called for a “points-based” system, similar to that used in Australia.
But this model, which would involve applications being accepted on the basis of skills, has been rejected by Mrs May, who says it would not give sufficient control to the government.
This could involve an online application and paying a fee in order to visit the EU, without requiring a full visa.
Just like with the referendum itself, opinions differ on what the government should do next. Some in the Conservative Party want a fast “hard” Brexit, while others say access to the single market should be the priority.
Brexit Secretary David Davis, who like Mr Fox campaigned for a Leave vote, told MPs that single market membership was “very improbable” if it meant “giving up control of our borders”, although Downing Street stressed this was not official policy.
Leave campaigners like Conservative MP John Redwood say Brexit is a sovereign decision that should be completed as quickly as possible.
This week he wrote that the UK should “offer to continue tariff-free trade, send them the letter and then leave”.
Other Conservatives have urged the PM to take her time to strike a deal.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn says he wants “full access” to the single market and is not pushing for controls on the free movement of people.
Several EU leaders have called for clarity on what the UK wants from the Brexit negotiations.
French President Francois Hollande is among those who have said that, for the UK to enjoy continued free access to the single market, it would need to accept free movement of people.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said it will be “impossible” for Brexit talks to result in a deal that gives Britons more rights than others outside the EU.
We will know more about the EU’s position once formal negotiations begin, something Brussels has said cannot happen until the UK formally triggers Brexit using Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
A hint of what the UK might be looking for – and a suggestion of how tricky the negotiations might be – was offered by Oliver Letwin, who was briefly in charge of the government’s Brexit unit before Theresa May took over as prime minister.
Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, he compared what he thought was the UK’s likely wish list to having “cake and eating it”.
The former Conservative minister said this should include access to financial services for the City of London, a zero tariff regime for the import and export of goods – as well as control over immigration.
Xiaomi is now converting some of its 33 experience center outlets across mainland China into proper stores ahead of a major retail push. Photo credit: Xiaomi.
In a major U-turn to its way of doing business, Xiaomi is set to open hundreds of retail stores per year across China. CEO Lei Jun yesterday announced the struggling phone and gadget maker will open 1,000 stores by 2020, reports the Shanghai Daily today.
The move is in stark contrast to Xiaomis focus on online sales ever since its first phone was released in 2011.
No, thats not an Apple store. Photo credit: Xiaomi.
Xiaomi initially experimented with brick-and-mortar service counters and experience centers called Mi Home outlets which strongly resemble Apple stores. It now has 33 of those, of which 25 have been converted already to sell products. They feature not only phones but also the growing array of home appliances and other gadgets that Xiaomi makes, from drones to rice cookers, TVs to T-shirts.
As Xiaomi matures as a company, and as the Xiaomi branding has grown to become a household name in China, we recognized a fantastic opportunity to start expanding our Mi Home outlets, explains a Xiaomi spokesperson to Tech in Asia. We are therefore converting these Mi Home outlets into retail stores, and we will be opening even more Mi Home stores aiming for 60 by the end of this year.
Taking the fight to Huawei
Five of the converted Mi Home stores are each pulling in over US$1.5 million worth of sales each month.
With 1,000 Xiaomi stores on the cards, smaller Chinese cities will also be covered.
The retail shift, which will significantly raise Xiaomis operating expenses, emulates its main rival, Huawei, whose presence has always been very visible on Chinas streets.
Huawei already has 11,000 stores across China, mainly for its smartphones. The company is also planning to expand its retail efforts as it fights Xiaomi, Samsung, and Apple for dominance both in China and around the world. Its army of 35,000 global stores is beingaugmented by 15,000 new outlets this year.
BEIJING, CHINA – 2016/07/27: Apple watch for sale in an Apple shop.
Image: zhang peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wearables are moving into health insurance.
Aetna will be the first health insurance company to subsidize the Apple Watch for its customers, the insurer announced Tuesday.
Aetna will make the Apple Watch available to a few “large employers” and their employees during open enrollment season this fall. The insurer will subsidize a “significant portion” of the cost of an Apple Watch, and offer a monthly payroll deduction plan to fund the rest.
The subsidy is part of a larger partnership between Aetna and Apple. Aetna is launching “deeply integrated health apps” for use across iOS devices, the company said. Those iOS-exclusive apps will address care management, medication adherence, medical billing and Aetna health plans.
We are incredibly excited touseiPhone, iPad and Apple Watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology solutions that will transform the health andwellness experience for our members, Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said in a statement. This is only the beginning we look forward to using these tools to improvehealth outcomes and help more people achieve more healthy days.
It’s unclear if an Aetna subscriber will have to use those features to get a subsidized Apple Watch.
Apple already has a significant presence in the healthcare industry through its ResearchKit and CareKit app framework for health data, but this is its first partnership of this kind with an insurer.
The tech giant has also emphasized the Apple Watch as a health-related product, highlighting its water and sweat resistance for exercise at this month’s Apple event. The company is reportedly working on new health apps of its own for the Apple Watch.
Apple’s agreement with Aetna will provide yet another way for Apple products to collect health data.
As part of the partnership, Aetna’s 50,000 employees will all get free Apple Watches and participate in the insurer’s “wellness reimbursement program” as a sort of pilot program.
Aetna insures 46.3 million people throughout the United States, the company says.
We are thrilled that Aetna will be helping their members and employees take greater control of their health using Apple Watch,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.Aetnas new initiatives will be a powerful force toward creating better customer experiences in health care, and we look forward to working with Aetna to makethem successful.