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Euro startup FlixBus expands its 10 bus service in California

FlixBus, the low-cost bus service out of Europe, is doubling down on its U.S. launch. The parent company, FlixMobility, started cheap bus routes between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson just two months ago.

Now it’s adding another 16 connections throughout central and northern California. as well as Nevada and Arizona. The new connections, which begin Thursday, include California cities such as Bakersfield, Commerce, Fremont, Fresno, Gilroy, Kettleman City, Millbrae, Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas, San Francisco, San Jose and Universal City. Tempe, Ariz. and Reno, Nev. have also been added. Several of these routes, including from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Bakersfield to Fresno and Oakland to Burbank are $9.99.

FlixBus might be competing with traditional bus company Greyhound with fares between U.S. cities as low as $4.99. But it has a different business model that is more comparable to ride-hailing company Uber. FlixBus, which now operates in 28 countries, manages the ticketing, customer service, network planning, marketing and sale of its product. The driving is left to local partners, which get to keep a percentage of the ticket receipts.

These local bus partners manage the daily operations of the brightly painted FlixBuses. The company says it’s adding 26 more buses to its fleet to accommodate the expansion. New bus partners include Alvand Transportation, Amador Stage Lines, Classic Charter, LD Tours, Transportation Charter Services and Tourcoach.

FlixBus vehicles have other touches beyond its brightly painted facades aimed at attracting customers. The buses offer free Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment, and customers can use an app to book their tickets and track their bus.

Customers can also choose to offset their carbon emissions with “CO2 Neutral” tickets. An additional 1 to 3 percent of the original price of these CO2 Neutral tickets are donated to a certified Global Climate Protection Project as well as the National Forest Foundation. 

“We chose California as our new home because, more than anywhere else in the US, people no longer want the hassle of driving,” Pierre Gourdain, the managing director of FlixBus USA, said in a statement, who added the company has become southern California’s hometown carrier in a matter of weeks.

The company, which is backed by private equity investors such as Silver Lake Par

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Microsoft caps off a fine fiscal year seemingly without any major missteps in its last quarter

Microsoft is capping off a rather impressive year without any major missteps in its final report for its performance in its 2018 fiscal year, posting a quarter that seems to have been largely non-offensive to Wall Street.

In the past year, Microsoft’s stock has gone up more than 40 percent. In the past two years, it’s nearly doubled. All of this came after something around a decade of that price not really doing anything as Microsoft initially missed major trends like the shift to mobile and the cloud. But since then, new CEO Satya Nadella has turned that around and increased the company’s focused on both, and Azure is now one of the company’s biggest highlights. Microsoft is now an $800 billion company, which, while still considerably behind Apple, Amazon and Google, is a considerable high considering the past decade.

In addition, Microsoft passed $100 billion in revenue for a fiscal year. So, as you might expect, the stock didn’t really do anything, given that nothing seemed to be too wrong with what was going on. For a company that’s at around $800 billion, that it’s not doing anything bad at this point is likely a good thing. That Microsoft is even in the discussion of being one of the companies chasing a $1 trillion market cap is likely something we wouldn’t have been talking about just three or four years ago.

The company said it generated $30.1 billion in revenue, up 17 percent year-over-year, and adjusted earnings of $1.13 per share. Analysts were looking for earnings of $1.08 per share on revenue of $29.23 billion.

So, under Nadella, this is more or less a tale of two Microsofts — one squarely pointed at a future of productivity software with an affinity toward cloud and mobile tools (though Windows is obviously still a part of this), and one that was centered around the home PC. Here are a couple of highlights from the report:

LinkedIn: Microsoft said revenue for LinkedIn increased 37 percent, with LinkedIn sessions growth of 41 percent. Microsoft’s professional network was also listed in a bucket of other segments that it attributed to increased operating expenditures, which also included cloud engineering, and commercial sales capacity. It was also bucketed into a 12 percent increase in re

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Instagram adds a status indicator dot so people know when you’re ignoring them

In a blog post today, Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who also are Instagramming right then and there.

The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friend’s list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct,” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to. You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s Settings menu, where it’s set to “on” by default.

Prior to the advent of the green dot, Instagram already displayed how long ago someone was active by including information like “Active 23m ago” or “Active Now” in grey text next to their account info where your direct messages live. For those of us who prefer a calm, less real-time experience, the fact that features like these come on by default is a bummer.

Given the grey activity status text, the status dot may not seem like that much of a change. Still, it’s one opt-out design choice closer to making Instagram a compulsive real-time social media nightmare like Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The quiet, incremental rollout of features like the grey status text is often so subtle that users don’t notice it — as a daily Instagram user, I barely did.

Making major shifts very gradually is the same game Facebook always plays with its products, layering slight design changes that alter user behavior until one day you wake up and aren’t using the same app you used to love, but somehow you can’t seem to stop using it. Instagram is working on a feature for in-app time management, but stuff like this negates Facebook’s broader supposed efforts to make our relationship with its attention-hungry platforms less of a compulsive tic.

It’s not like users will be relieved that they can now see who is “online” in the app. The last time Instagram users passionately requested a feature it was to demand a return to the chrono

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FCC issues ‘de facto merger death sentence’ to Sinclair-Tribune deal

A broadcast merger that has been the poster boy for the FCC’s pro-industry agenda has been ordered to undertake a lengthy and potentially embarrassing process that amounts to, in the words of one commissioner, a “de facto merger death sentence.”

The proposed takeover of Tribune by Sinclair has been criticized by many as an unnecessary and potentially dangerous consolidation of media properties. The resulting company would have incredible reach and influence, especially combined with other recent rule changes that have further unshackled big media companies.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has himself been the target of many a sharp inquiry from the public, lawmakers and even the Office of the Inspector General. The general feeling seems to be: We understand that you have a deregulatory to-do list here, and that’s valid, but practically everything you do benefits Sinclair directly or indirectly. Justify yourself.

FCC declines to punish Sinclair for its ‘must-run’ segments and scripts

Whether it was because of this unremitting scrutiny or simply because Sinclair’s merger proposal was blatantly disingenuous, Pai decided to do an about-face and put the brakes on the deal. He announced his intentions earlier this week and today brings the actual “hearing designation order,” which would require Sinclair to appear before a judge in an adversarial courtroom setting and explain its misdeeds.

What misdeeds, you ask? Well, the main one cited in the HDO is this: Sinclair was required to divest itself from certain media holdings, but instead of doing so, it set up one (WGN-TV) to be sold massively below market price to a corporate confederate, who would then effectively cede control back to Sinclair.

Here’s how the order puts it:

The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact ‘sham’ transactions.

…One application proposed to transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair’s executive chairman has a controlling interest. Moreover, Sinclair would have owned most of WGN-TV’s assets, and pursuant to a number of agreements, would have been responsible for many aspects of the station’s operation.

…There is a substantial and material question of fact as

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