The Switchboard: Is BlackBerry inching closer to a break-up?

October 10, 2013

(Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

BlackBerry is said to warm to idea of a breakup. Bloomberg reports that a break-up would be "more appetizing" to the struggling device company than simply selling it off in one big chunk. "A breakup would let parties bid for BlackBerry’s most valuable pieces, such as its patents or enterprise network, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private."

Amash: Congressional oversight of the NSA is a farce. While top lawmakers say they've held classified briefings to inform members about the NSA's surveillance programs, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) claims the details discussed often zeroed in on publicly available information. The Switch's Andrea Peterson has more: "Amash says that if he asks a question "in slightly the wrong way they will tell you no. They're not going to tell you 'No, this agency doesn't do it but this other agency does it' or 'No we can't do it under this program, but we can do it under this program.' But you don't know what the other programs are, so what are you going to ask about?'"

T-Mobile to make it cheaper to make calls while abroad. T-Mobile plans to eliminate charges on international text messaging and data usage, the New York Times reports. "T-Mobile customers will be automatically enrolled in the free-roaming agreement on Oct. 31. Those who subscribe to the company’s plan, called Simple Choice, can take their smartphone to a foreign country and pay 20 cents a minute for voice calls. Text messages and data will be unlimited."

Twitter appears to be exploring personalized breaking news notifications with @Eventparrot experiment. Techcrunch reports on a Twitter account that, if it's real, may represent the company's foray into breaking news updates. "The account looks nearly identical in makeup to the @magicrecs account that spawned Twitter’s recent addition of push recommendations for follow suggestions and ‘interesting tweets’. That account also started out with the profile text ‘this is a Twitter experiment’, and was later folded into Twitter’s products after it garnered a lot of positive responses on Twitter at large."

The Secrets of Bezos: How Amazon Became the Everything Store. In an excerpt of its senior writer Brad Stone's new book, Bloomberg Businessweek does a deep dive into Amazon's corporate culture: "It’s one of the contradictions of life inside Amazon: The company relies on metrics to make almost every important decision, such as what features to introduce or kill, or whether a new process will root out an inefficiency in its fulfillment centers. Yet random customer anecdotes, the opposite of cold, hard data, can also alter Amazon’s course."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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Brian Fung · October 10, 2013