Shopify unifies ecommerce with a new platform

Earlier this week, global ecommerce platform Shopify unveiled its latest update, designed to help merchants be more creative, improve in-store experiences, and support business expansion.

Called the Summer ‘24 Edition, this latest platform comes with a Shopify POS Terminal, Unified Analytics, Markets Solution, and AI Enhancements across the board.

As per a press release shared with TechRadar Pro recently, Shopify described the POS Terminal as a new payment hardware solution that enhances in-store shopping by offering features such as tap, chip & PIN, and swipe payments. The company promises simplified transactions with a customer display, digital receipts, and the ability to capture additional information at checkout. Finally, users can now combine discounts and create buy-x-get-y discounts to further personalize and streamline promotional activities. 

For Unified Analytics, Shopify said it revamped the tool to provide real-time, detailed insights. The new dashboard comes with pre-built reports, helping merchants get answers to all the biggest questions, such as sales comparisons or average order value changes. 

“Seamless integration”

Markets is a solution that was reimagined “from the ground up”, and now acts as a central command center within Shopify Admin. Merchants can thus manage cross-border, B2B, and physical retail selling, all from a single location.

Finally, when it comes to AI enhancements, Shopify said its Media Editor, Shopify Magic, and Suggested Replies, are all now powered by AI, helping merchants get their work done faster, and with more quality.  

“Merchants depend on Shopify to not just work, but to solve the pain points they didn’t know they had,” said Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA, at Shopify. “This can only happen when everything is seamlessly integrated and works together. Shopify brings every aspect of commerce under one roof. It’s more than simply centralizing and synchronizing our products. We’re consolidating infrastructures, reducing inefficiencies and welding features together so that merchants can focus on growing their business and connecting with shoppers in a way that only a truly unified commerce platform can deliver.”

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Vision Pro may have an app problem, with developers possibly unwilling to commit to Apple’s ‘revolutionary’ new platform

When the Apple Vision Pro was first announced, we were told that it would run at least one million apps right out of the box. However, it’s beginning to look like that might not be the case. Now Apple may have effectively alienated and irritated app developers, making them less likely to produce bespoke apps for the headset. Instead, we’re expecting to see ports of existing iPad apps hastily slapped onto the Vision Pro.

The Vision Pro has already been shunned by streaming giants like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify due to a lack of confidence in the new platform, as well as Spotify’s public distaste for Apple’s “outrageous” 27% commission. According to the BBC, the music streaming service has levied heavy accusations of Apple “stopping at nothing” to protect profits. With all this tension building just before the official launch of the Vision Pro, it’s easy to see why there might be a lack of confidence in the headset.

Other app developers likely share this hesitancy. Many might agree with Spotify’s frustration with Apple’s restrictive App Store policies and fees, especially since the Vision Pro’s success hinges on whether or not it has apps that make it worth buying. Why would you spend $ 3,500 for a device that doesn’t have the particular app you want?

Developers Wrath 

To add to the concerns surrounding the Vision Pro, devs who did not receive a ‘developer kit’ from Apple are now left having to shell out the full price for the headset just to test their apps. Why wouldn’t you just drop a quick port of the iPad app you’ve already developed onto the visionOS App Store and call it a day? 

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes that Apple’s initial inventory for the launch sits at about 80,000 units, which sold out within hours when pre-orders went live. If you’re a developer who hasn’t received a developer kit, you’ve got a very high cost of entry for not that much of a user base.

It may seem like 80,000 initial units is a lot, but if you’re going to put money and time into your app to maybe reach 80,000 people who might download it, you’re better off not bothering. To put that number into perspective, analysts estimate that Apple has already sold 20 million iPhone 15 models since its launch in September 2023. Gurman also notes that Apple is only expecting to see 300,000 to 400,000 Vision Pro units sold across the entirety of 2024.

It’s such a shame that Apple seems to be treating developers and streaming services like an afterthought when it comes to the Apple Vision Pro. The build-up to the official launch day has been plagued by more and more unfortunate and honestly confusing news – and just like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify, many are losing confidence in the headset. It’ll be disappointing if Apple’s promised ‘million apps’ turn out to be mostly quick iPad ports.

It may be the case that the Vision Pro will have to stumble before it can walk, and should it live up to the hype and become a huge seller then we might see developers turn around and commit to developing dedicated visionOS apps. But until sales figures crystallize, it looks like early adopters might have to settle for less.

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Meta opens the gates to its generative AI tech with launch of new Imagine platform

Amongst all the hullabaloo of Google’s Gemini launch, Meta opened the gates to its free-standing image generator website called Imagine with Meta AI.

The company has been tinkering with this technology for some time now. WhatsApp, for instance, has had a beta in-app image generator since August of this year. Accessing the feature required people to have Meta's app installed on their smartphones. But now with Imagine, all you need is an email address to create an account on the platform. Once in, you’re free to create whatever you want by entering a simple text prompt. It functions similarly to DALL-E

We tried out the website ourselves and discovered the AI will create four 1,280 x 1,280 pixel JPEG images that you can download by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner. The option will appear in the drop-down menu.

Below is a series of images we asked the engine to make. You’ll notice in the bottom left corner is a watermark stating that it was created by an AI.

Image 1 of 3

Homer according to Meta

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 3

Me, according to Meta

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 3

Char's Zaku, according to Meta

(Image credit: Future)

We were surprised to discover that it’s able to create content featuring famous cartoon characters like Homer Simpson and even Mickey Mouse. You’d think there would be restrictions for certain copyrighted material, but apparently not. As impressive as these images may be, there are noticeable flaws. If you look at the Homer Simpson sample, you can see parts of the picture melting into each other. Plus, the character looks downright bizarre.

Limitations (and the work arounds)

A lot of care was put into the development of Imagine. You see, it's powered by Meta's proprietary Emu learning model. According to a company research paper from September, Emu was trained on “1.1 billion images”. At the time, no one really knew the source of all this data. However, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, told Reuters it used public Facebook and Instagram posts to train the model. Altogether, over a billion social media accounts were scrapped.

To rein in all this data, Meta implemented some restrictions. The tech keeps things family friendly as it'll refuse prompts that are violent or sexual nor can they mention a famous person. 

Despite the tech giant’s best efforts, it’s not perfect by any stretch. It appears there is a way to get around said limitations with indirect wording. For example, when we asked Meta AI to create an image of former President Barack Obama, it refused. But, when we entered “a former US president” as the prompt, the AI generated a man that resembled President Obama. 

A former US president, according to Meta

(Image credit: Future)

There are plans to introduce “invisible watermarking… for increased transparency and traceability”, but it’s still weeks away from being released. A lot of damage can be done in that short period. Misuse is something that Meta is concerned about, however, there are still holes. We reached out asking if it aims to implement more protection. This story will be updated at a later time.

Until then, check out TechRadar's guide on the best AI art generators for the year.

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Duolingo’s new Music platform will teach you the basics of playing tunes

It’s been seven long months since the rumors first cropped up but Duolingo has finally released Music courses to its education platform.

Duolingo Music, as it’s called, will teach you the basics of playing music through the help of a digital keyboard on your iPhone. You don’t need to own an instrument. The lessons teach the names of each individual note and where they’re “located on a piano”. From there, Duolingo will show you how to read music and then “translate what you or hear” into songs. It'll eventually all coalesce into you learning how to play a full song.  The courses will even take the time to “train your ear” so you can distinguish specific notes and tell whether they’re high-pitched or low. 

As you can see, these classes get pretty involved. The primary goal of Duolingo Music is to establish a good foundation for students from which they can grow into more experienced musicians.

Back to School

We asked Karen Chow, the Teaching/Curriculum Expert at Duolingo who created the courses, what was the thought process behind everything. She told us the company “wanted to focus on teaching music literacy in a fun and engaging way.” Chow points out that other “foundations” teach music in a really “boring, dry fashion” so they aimed to do the opposite.

At the beginning of development, Duolingo identified the major tenets for their classes from the obvious, like playing instruments, to ear training. Once it narrowed things down, the company created lessons based on those tents

Duolingo states there are “hundreds of bite-sized lessons” available with many “interactive exercises”. These aim to teach music incrementally and not overload students with a flood of information. Some of the exercises include completing a music sequence and pairing up notes to audio played on a piano. Duolingo states it believes interactivity is vital to learning as it keeps people focused and engaged. All this content is shown in the platform’s signature brightly colored, bubbly UI.

Duolingo Math lessons

(Image credit: Duolingo)

In addition to the music classes, Duolingo Math is getting an update where users can learn “real-world math skills from calculating tips to identifying patterns”. The latter, according to a company representative, involves helping people understand the logic behind math. Plus, there will be courses to “sharpen [your] mental math” abilities, allowing you to calculate in your head without needing to whip out the calculator app.


Duolingo Music will be available exclusively to “iOS devices in English and Spanish” later this autumn. Users will receive in-app notifications letting them know the update is ready for download. There are plans to expand Duolingo Music to Android users and other languages, too. However, the representative couldn't give us an exact date when this second patch will roll out. Hopefully, it's very soon.

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best online classes sites for 2023 if you’re interested in picking up some new skills. 

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The Spotify HiFi dream is still alive, as platform plans to do something “unique” someday

No one can blame you if you've given up on Spotify HiFi ever becoming a thing. It’s been two years since the initial announcement. However, all hope is not lost as the streaming service recently confirmed that it’s still working on the high-res audio tier.

This news comes from Spotify co-president Gustav Söderström who sat down for an interview on TheVerge’s podcast, Decoder. Confirming HiFi’s existence was pretty much the only straight answer he gave as the rest of the responses were vague at best. According to Söderström, the reason why the tier is taking so long is that the “industry changed and [Spotify] had to adapt”, but doesn’t elaborate any further. He does hint at the cost of HiFi and deals with music labels as being two major factors to the delay, and again, doesn't elaborate any further.

Söderström goes on to say Spotify wants to do something “unique” with HiFi and not “unnecessarily commoditize” itself by “[doing] what everyone else does”. When asked about an expected launch date and support for spatial audio, Söderström remained tight-lipped. There will be a “Spotify HiFi lossless-type experience at some point” in the future, however, that’s all the co-president was willing to divulge.

Söderström’s comment on needing to adapt to a changing industry is arguably the most telling in that whole exchange because it’s emblematic of the company’s recent moves. Pinning the delay of Spotify HiFi on not wanting to copy other platforms is rather ironic if you think about it. For starters, the streaming service is currently rolling out a redesign for its mobile app taking clear inspiration from TikTok. It now sports a vertical discovery feed as a way to encourage people to check out the latest songs or popular podcasts. You even have Spotify incorporating tech from OpenAI in its new DJ feature to simulate a real-life radio DJ. While these additions are great and everything, do users really want the TikTok experience and generative AI? From what we’ve seen, not really.

It appears the platform is more interested in growing its media library over providing HiFi. Spotify has grown its podcast content exponentially alongside real-time transcriptions. Also, the audiobook feed has a new preview feature where users can listen to a book for five minutes before purchasing. All this and still no high-res audio, at least any time soon. We asked Spotify if it could tell us more about its HiFi tier – anything at all. This story will be updated at a later time.

If you want to get high-res audio, there’s a way to do it with the right set of devices. Be sure to check out TechRadar’s guide on how to buy into high-res audio without the high prices

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Norton looks to keep you safe from ID theft with new Identity Advisor Plus platform

Norton has launched a new Identity Advisor Plus service for identity theft protection and restoration

The antivirus and security software provider says it developed the software to tackle potential ID theft and the restoration of ID theft, which it claims has affected 30% of Brits.

The company cited its own recent research that found over half (55%) of British adults admitting they would have no idea what to do if their identity was stolen.

Norton Identity Advisor Plus 

Dark web monitoring from Norton ID theft advisor plus

(Image credit: Norton Security)

Norton Identity Advisor Plus offers a mix of social media monitoring, personal information monitoring and dark web monitoring tools to highlight suspicious activity on existing accounts. The software also highlights if personal information is being accessed elsewhere on the web without consent. 

The social media monitoring software focuses on the most popular social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Customers can sign up to use the new Identity Advisor Plus software now, with an easy-to-use Norton dashboard allowing its experts to detect any suspicious activity on your behalf, from £29.99 for the first year

The subscription also comes with Identity Restoration Support, including a devoted Restoration Specialist who acts as your case manager for handling any information breach, collecting ID theft case evidence and overseeing any necessary communication with third parties. They’ll also talk you through any necessary steps to restore your online identity and recover stolen information until your case is resolved. 

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Norton 360 running on a PC, laptop and phone

(Image credit: Future)

The launch is the latest release from Norton as it bids to help keep customers safe and secure online.

The cybersecurity experts have also recently  released Norton 360 Advanced, a complete online security package to keep your data private and secure online. The platform includes a password manager, 200GB PC cloud backup, a secure VPN and parental control tools in order to help defend your whole family against cyberthreats. 

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We've put together a help guide on which Norton antivirus plan you should get. Alternatively, here’s our rundown of the best identity theft protection services, best password managers, best antivirus software and best VPN service providers available today.

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Is Slack down? Messaging platform not working for some users

We're getting reports that online collaboration platform Slack is seeing outages across the UK.

Reports of issues with Slack began to surface around 10.30am GMT, with hundreds of users signalled problems on outage tracker site DownDetector.

We're following the story live, so stay tuned and read all our latest updates below…

As you can see in the below image from DownDetector, there's been a definitely spike in complaints from Slack users across the UK.

DownDetector slack stats

(Image credit: DownDetector)

There has been no official confirmation of any issues from Slack itself, with the company's Slack Status Twitter page remaining silent so far.

Slack's online dashboard is also quiet for now, with green across the page – let's see if that changes any time soon…

Slack status page

(Image credit: Slack)

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