Here's a look at noteworthy tech stories for Thursday:
Amazon will sell subsidized, ad-supported Android phones to Prime members
Looking to give Prime subscribers yet another perk, and perhaps grow its burgeoning ad business along the way, Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) will soon begin selling Android phones to Prime subs at major discounts to their unsubsidized prices, in exchange for the right to pre-install Amazon apps and show "special offers" ads (similar to ads that appear on Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets) on the phones' lock screens.
Only two phones will initially be supported -- Motorola's Moto G and low-end Android vendor BLU's R1 HD phone. But other devices are expected to be supported in time.
The discounts join a long list of Prime incentives that include Prime Video, Prime Music, free unlimited photo storage, special deals, and free same-day or two-hour delivery for numerous goods.
They also might strengthen an e-commerce ad business that was nearly on a $1 billion a year run rate as of early 2014 -- Amazon doesn't normally break out numbers for the business -- and is almost certainly bigger today.
The company has been leveraging the huge amounts of data it has on the shopping and browsing activity of its 285 million-plus active customer accounts to deliver targeted ads for goods, e-books, and apps on both its own site and apps and those of third parties.
The business has become a thorn in the side of Google, which gets a large portion of its search ad revenue from e-commerce ads.
Google Capital invests $46.5 million in home-care marketplace Care.com
Care.com (CRCM - Get Report) soared in after-hours trading on Wednesday news of an investment from Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) growth equity investment arm. Based on Care.com's current trading price, Google Capital stands to own more than a 12% stake.
The investment comes in the form of convertible preferred stock sold at $10.50 per share -- a 24% premium to Wednesday's close -- and carrying a 5.5% dividend yield. Google Capital notes Google proper has been using Care.com's enterprise services for employees since 2011, and promises to grant the company access to "some of the world's leading experts in a range of topics at Google and Alphabet."
Past Google Capital investments include daily fantasy sports platform FanDuel, online peer-to-peer lender LendingClub (LC - Get Report) , language learning app developer Duolingo, and cloud security software provider Zscaler.
The investments don't necessarily bring with them major synergies with existing Google services. There might be opportunities to link Care.com's marketplace with Google's home services ad business.
Seagate is laying off another 1,600 workers
Though it's only nine months removed from announcing it's cutting 1,050 jobs in response to sales pressures, Seagate (STX - Get Report) disclosed on Wednesday that it's laying off 1,600 workers, or about 3% of its workforce. The company expects about $100 million a year in savings, and $62 million worth of pre-tax charges.
Seagate is coming off a March quarter during which both its revenue and hard-drive shipments fell 22% annually, as both weak PC sales and the cannibalization of hard drives by solid-state drives (SSDs) exacted a heavy toll. The company has also guided for June quarter revenue to drop 22%.
And while archrival Western Digital (WDC - Get Report) has lowered its hard-drive dependence by acquiring NAND flash memory/SSD giant SanDisk (SNDK) and a string of other companies, Seagate -- in spite of having launched SSDs and partnered with NAND manufacturer Micron (MU - Get Report) -- still gets the lion's share of its revenue from hard drives. More layoff announcements could arrive in time.
Microsoft tops 350 million Windows 10 devices, says Anniversary Update will arrive on Aug. 2
A little less than two months after disclosing Windows 10 is installed on more than 300 million devices, Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) says the operating system is now on more than 350 million. With Windows 10 available as a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 systems until July 29 (the one-year anniversary of its release), it's not surprising adoption has been healthy.
Nonetheless, the installation figures put to rest any concerns enterprises would be hesitant to embrace the OS after having largely shunned Windows 8.
The software giant also states Windows 10's anticipated Anniversary Update will -- in line with its name -- become generally available on Aug. 2. The Anniversary Update delivers more advanced threat-protection features for Windows Defender, the ability to isolate business and personal data on enterprise PCs (this is often handled by third-party software), enhancements to the Cortana voice assistant and Edge browser, the Windows Ink pen interface, and Xbox Play Anywhere, which lets users buy games that run on both the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, with game data saved on one device automatically transferred to the other.
The improvements to Windows Defender, which is provided for free by Microsoft, could act as a fresh competitive challenge to PC security software providers such as Symantec (SYMC - Get Report) , AVG (AVG) and Intel's McAfee unit (reportedly on the block).