Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Google to sunset Google Site Search by end of 2017 (Search Engine Land)

Also see Google Plans To Discontinue Yet Another Product (Fortune)

"Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they are discontinuing support for Google Site Search product. Google Site Search is a paid product that lets you power your internal web site’s search engine based on the Google search technology. Google charges based on monthly query volume for the product.

Google said they are directing those consumers to either the ad-powered product named free custom search engine or the new cloud search product.

Google will stop fully supporting the Google Site Search product by the fourth-quarter of 2017."
Google to sunset Google Site Search by end of 2017

Manifestos and Monopolies – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Excerpt from a timely Facebook reality check:

"In this brave new world, power comes not from production, not from distribution, but from controlling consumption: all markets will be demand-driven; the extent to which they already are is a function of how digitized they have become.

This is why most Facebook-fail-fundamentalists so badly miss the point: that the company pays nothing for its content is not a weakness, it is a reflection of the fundamental reality that the supply of content (and increasingly goods) is infinite, and thus worthless; that the company is not essential to the distribution of products is not a measure of its economic importance, or lack thereof, but a reflection that distribution is no longer a differentiator. And last of all, the fact that communication is possible on other platforms is to ignore the fact that communication will always be easiest on Facebook, because they own the social graph. Combine that with the fact that controlling consumption is about controlling billions of individual consumers, all of whom will, all things being equal, choose the easy option, and you start to appreciate just how dominant Facebook is.

Given this reality, why would Zuckerberg want to be President? He is not only the CEO of Facebook, he is the dominant shareholder as well, answerable to no one. His power and ability to influence is greater than any President subject to political reality and check-and-balances, and besides, as Zuckerberg made clear last week, his concern is not a mere country but rather the entire world."
Manifestos and Monopolies – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Facebook's Clones Attack Snapchat (Bloomberg)

Check the full post for an embrace-and-extend timeline; also see Snap bets on hardware as Facebook threat looms (VentureBeat)

"Facebook Inc.’s attitude toward younger competitor Snap Inc. seems to be: we can’t have you, so we'll create our own versions of you. Ever since Snap turned down a $3 billion Facebook acquisition offer in 2013, the social media giant has churned out copycat features and full clones of Snapchat.

Not all have worked. Poke, Facebook’s first attempt at creating an app with the same features as Snapchat, was unpopular and, after a few months, was removed from the app store.

Facebook’s latest, more effective strategy involves integrating Snapchat’s disappearing photo-sharing tools into its already popular apps. The Instagram version of Snapchat stories, which lets people broadcast photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, already has 150 million daily users. WhatsApp is trying the same with an update to its “Status” feature this week."
Facebook's Clones Attack Snapchat

Watch Roborace’s self-driving racecars duel for the first time ever - The Verge

Race different

"The world’s first self-driving robot racing series took a big step toward reality this weekend. For the first time ever, both of Roborace’s prototype autonomous racecars ran against each other on a track. Roborace — a self-driving racing series supported by Formula E that was announced in 2015 — plans to release a full video documenting the attempt on Friday. But we’ve got some exclusive footage of Saturday’s feat, which you can see above.

The two Roborace prototypes — which the company refers to as DevBots — “battled” each other around the same Puerto Madero street circuit in Buenos Aires that hosted the third race of Formula E’s third season. The cars’ Nvidia-powered brains handled 20 autonomous laps across the race weekend, according to Roborace, and topped out at about 115 miles per hour. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment considering this was only the second time Roborace attempted a run on a Formula E street circuit. Formula E’s cars have a top speed of around 150 miles per hour."
Watch Roborace’s self-driving racecars duel for the first time ever - The Verge

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Microsoft's Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth (USA Today)

From a snapshot of Microsoft in transition

"A seismic cultural shift is rocking Microsoft under Nadella, part of a broad transformation that is moving the company away from an atrophying, software license-based past and towards a thriving, cloud-based future.

In the process, Nadella has managed to get investors and employees alike re-energized about a once dominant brand whose luster had faded. And while part of his strategy involves buying new companies and beefing up existing teams in order to tackle cutting-edge tech trends, ultimately he feels success comes down to reinvigorating Microsoft's in-house mojo.

"What I realize more than ever now is that my job is curation of our culture," says Nadella, who will explore this topic and others in a book due out this fall called Hit Refresh. "If you don't focus on creating a culture that allows people to do their best work, then you’ve created nothing.”"
Microsoft's Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth

Rethinking Wearable Computing | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

On a related note, see Robert Scoble's speculation that Apple may introduce a "very lightweight" pair of AR glasses in 2017

"Despite these issues, it may be that we’ve given up on wearables a bit too soon. The problem is that we’re thinking much too narrowly about what the concept, and implementation, of wearable computing really is. To be clear, I don’t see a big future for the individual products that we currently count as wearables, but I think the idea of several linked components that work together as a wearable computing system could have legs.
Imagine, for example, a combination of something you wear on your wrist, something you wear on your face, perhaps a foldable screen you carry in your pocket, along with a set of intelligent earbuds (which might be integrated into the glasses you wear on your face), all of which work together seamlessly.
The devices would each incorporate sensors and/or cameras that would enable real-world contextual information. They would all incorporate high-speed wireless connections, and the entire system would be reliably voice-controlled with an AI-powered digital assistant. Critically, I think a solution like this would need to be sold together as a system—though a componentized system might work as well."
Rethinking Wearable Computing | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Samsung’s reputation nosedives in the US after Galaxy Note 7 snafu - The Verge

Samsung is just ahead of the United States Postal Service in the list

"Samsung’s reputation among US consumers took a major hit last year, an annual survey has found, as the Korean manufacturer struggled with the fallout over its Galaxy Note 7 recall. As The Korea Herald reports, Samsung came in 49th in this year’s Reputation Quotient Ratings from Harris Poll, which ranks the 100 most visible companies in the US according to public reputation. In last year’s ratings, Samsung ranked seventh, and it ranked third in 2015, ahead of Apple and Google.

Amazon topped Harris Poll’s list for the second consecutive year, followed by Wegmans and Publix Super Markets. Other companies in the top ten include Apple, Google, and Tesla Motors, which was not included in last year’s rankings. Netflix and Microsoft each ranked in the top 20 (18th and 20th, respectively), while Facebook ranked 66th."
Samsung’s reputation nosedives in the US after Galaxy Note 7 snafu - The Verge

Monday, February 20, 2017

Microsoft Accelerates HoloLens V3 Development, Sidesteps V2 -

A virtual "3.0" release?...

"Why are they doing this? In the two years since the device was first announced, companies like Magic Leap have made big promises about their technology and how it will transform the world.  Today, you cannot buy a device made by Magic Leap nor have we even seen a retail device from any other company in this space. In short, Microsoft has a large lead in the AR space and isn’t feeling pressure to release a product that is only an incremental update.

By skipping what was version two on their roadmap, the company can accelerate version three which will be closer to a generational leap and help keep Microsoft ahead of the competition. My sources are telling me that this version of Hololens will not arrive until 2019."
Microsoft Accelerates HoloLens V3 Development, Sidesteps V2 -

Mark Zuckerberg’s theory of human history - Vox

From an insightful assessment of the recent Facebook "manifesto"

"The beginning of Zuckerberg’s letter is less an argument about Facebook than it is an argument about the organizing principles of human progress. “History is the story of how we've learned to come together in ever greater numbers,” he writes. The theory reads as heavily informed by the book Sapiens, which Zuckerberg has recommended on, well, Facebook.

Sapiens, which is written by the Israeli historian Yuval Harari, is a mind-bending look at why and how homo sapiens took over the earth. It begins by establishing our species’ lowly beginnings. “The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were insignificant animals with no more impact on their environment than gorillas, fireflies or jellyfish,” Harari writes.

So what changed? Humans learned how to cooperate, and nothing else did."
Mark Zuckerberg’s theory of human history - Vox

Self-driving cars are an ‘existential crisis’ for Uber, ‘Upstarts’ author Brad Stone says - Recode

Driven to succeed

"“It’s amazing what you can do when it’s an existential crisis, when it’s your future and your whole business,” Stone said. “It’s not Google’s business, it’s not Apple’s business. It’s the car companies’ business, but we can be privately pessimistic about the chances that they’ll become real technology companies.”

“So, in that respect, I think Uber has a tremendous advantage: They’re well-capitalized, they’ve got an amazing business that can fund the research, and everything is hinging on it,” he added. “In some ways, I think they’re the company to beat. At the same time, Google had a 10-year head start, but there’s not a good track record there of maintaining talent. They’ve got Waymo problems.”"
Self-driving cars are an ‘existential crisis’ for Uber, ‘Upstarts’ author Brad Stone says - Recode

With New Invention, Virtual Reality’s Potential for Magic Gets Real - The New York Times

New opportunities for closed movie theaters and empty malls
"The Void’s potential may have as much to do with the solutions it offers to other businesses as it does with entertainment.

Take at-home virtual reality gear. Sales have been lethargic, held back by high costs ($400 to $800, just for the headsets) and a shortage of must-have content. Virtual reality also has a bad reputation for making users feel woozy. And the V.R. experiences offered so far can be unpleasantly isolating; you are alone in those goggles.
But the Void could be the equivalent of a gateway drug.

There is no investment necessary; just show up and buy a ticket. It’s social; groups of up to four can participate at once and see avatars of one another in the V.R. realm. And roaming through a large set — it’s all wireless, so participants are not tethered to a cord, as with most other V.R. experiences — seems to solve the nausea problem."
With New Invention, Virtual Reality’s Potential for Magic Gets Real - The New York Times

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dear #MongoDB users, we welcome you in #Azure #DocumentDB | Blog | Microsoft Azure

Embrace and extend, cloud document database service domain

"Moving to DocumentDB doesn’t require you to rewrite your apps or throw away your existing tools. DocumentDB supports protocol for MongoDB, which means DocumentDB databases can now be used as the data store for apps written for MongoDB. This also means that by using existing drivers for MongoDB databases, your applications written for MongoDB can now communicate with DocumentDB and use DocumentDB databases instead of MongoDB databases. In many cases, you can switch from using MongoDB to DocumentDB by simply changing a connection string. Using this functionality, you can easily build and run MongoDB database applications in the Azure cloud - leveraging DocumentDB's fully managed and scalable NoSQL databases, while continuing to use familiar skills and tools for MongoDB. Furthermore, we only support SSL for Mongo (not http) for the benefit of all users."
Dear #MongoDB users, we welcome you in #Azure #DocumentDB | Blog | Microsoft Azure

A breakthrough in Alphabet’s balloon-based internet project means it might actually work - Recode

Skynet, Loon edition; also see Machine Learning Invades the Real World on Internet Balloons (Wired)
"Now, the team says they’ve found a way to keep the balloons in a much more concentrated location, thanks to their improved altitude control and navigation system. Loon says that balloons will now make small loops over a land mass, instead of circumnavigating the whole planet.

“The reason this is so exciting is we can now run an experiment and try to give services in particular places of the world with 10 or 20 or 30 balloons, not with 200 or 300 or 400 balloons,” said the head of X, Astro Teller, at a press event at X’s headquarters in Mountain View today.

The Loon balloons now also adjust how they fly as needed using artificial intelligence software, instead of a set navigation plan.

“We’ve actually made so much progress that we think our timeline for when we can provide useful internet service to people is much, much sooner,” said Sal Candido, an engineer on the Loon project."
A breakthrough in Alphabet’s balloon-based internet project means it might actually work - Recode

Elon Musk Is Really Boring - Bloomberg

An excerpt from this week's Bloomberg Businessweek cover story:

"Musk chose the SpaceX parking lot as the site of his first dig, mostly because it was convenient and he could legally do so without city permits. The plan is to expand the current hole into a ramp designed for a large tunnel boring machine and then start digging horizontally once the machine is 50 feet or so below ground, which would make it low enough to clear gas and sewer lines and to be undetectable at the surface. The company, such as it is, is working on securing permits and hopes to have them by the time the tunnel hits the property line. At the moment, Musk won’t say exactly where this “demo tunnel,” as he calls it, will lead—only that it will accommodate cars and be the very beginning of a vast underground transportation network.

As crazy as tunneling sounds, Musk points out that it’s arguably less crazy than Silicon Valley’s go-to traffic solution: flying cars. Google’s Larry Page has funded two personal-aircraft startups, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, and companies such as Uber and Airbus have skunk works. But Musk thinks flying cars are a dumb idea, at least for city travel. “Obviously, I like flying things,” he says. “But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution.” As long as the laws of physics hold, he explains, any flying car will need to generate a lot of downward force to stop it from falling out of the sky, which means wind and noise for those on the ground, not to mention debris from midair fender-benders. “If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you,” he says. “Your anxiety level will not decrease as a result of things that weigh a lot buzzing around your head.”"
Elon Musk Is Really Boring - Bloomberg

Snap Aims for Valuation of More Than $20 Billion in I.P.O. - The New York Times

Current market cap snapshots (from Google Finance): TWTR $11.84B, FB $385.61B

"Even at the top of that range, Snap would end up with a valuation on the lower end of the $20 billion to $25 billion mark that it had anticipated months ago. Either way, it is still up from the approximately $16.5 billion the company valued itself late last year.

The final pricing of the new shares — and the company’s valuation — could still change. The share price will be not be set until after Snap embarks on a nearly two-week tour of investors that will take its executives across the country. The company is expected to begin trading around March 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol SNAP.

Even if the value were to drop, it would still be one of the biggest technology offerings of the decade. At this stage of the offering process, Twitter was valued at more than $12 billion, including options and restricted stock units, in October 2013. A year earlier, Facebook was valued at $86 billion at a similar stage."
Snap Aims for Valuation of More Than $20 Billion in I.P.O. - The New York Times

Behind the Scenes of Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto (Backchannel)

Steven Levy on Mark Zuckerberg's Building Global Community "manifesto;" also see Kara Swisher's I talked to Mark Zuckerberg about his manifesto on the future of Facebook (and the rest of us) (Recode)

"Because this message unrolls more like a State of the Union address than your typical Facebook post, it will undoubtedly fuel speculation that young Zuckerberg may be positioning himself to run for public office. (By the way, he turns 35 — the minimum age for the US president — in 2019.) But why accept what might well be a demotion? It’s true that one could dismiss Facebook as a global power with Stalin’s line to Churchill: “How many divisions does the Pope have?” But Facebook has a foreign policy —in the last year alone Zuckerberg has met with dozens of world leaders, including the Pope. And Facebook’s algorithms determine what information we see and who gets to share our news with us, and the majority of its 1.8 billion users show their support for it — in essence, they vote for it — by using the service every day.
Nonetheless, you might consider Zuckerberg’s post a counterpoint to the dark inauguration speech we recently witnessed. Unlike the one in D.C., Zuckerberg’s has specifics—it outlines a collaborative effort, with Facebook taking the initiative, to build a global set of meaningful communities with five purposes: support, safety, trusted and open information, civic engagement, and inclusion."
Behind the Scenes of Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto

Gartner Analyst Defends 'Java EE Is Obsolete' Report -- ADTmag

Check the full article for a timely Java EE reality check
"Thomas wrote the report ("Market Guide for Application Platforms") with contributing analyst Aashish Gupta. In it the authors asserted, among other things, that Java EE has not kept pace with architectural trends and digital business initiatives, that Java developers are demonstrating a clear preference for lightweight frameworks over Java EE, and that Java EE is not an appropriate framework for building cloud-native applications. They also advised those responsible for modernizing an enterprise's application infrastructure to "develop a strategy to deal with the obsolescence of Java EE and other three-tier application frameworks."
Java EE community leaders called the Gartner analysts irresponsible and out of touch with the platform, and many blasted the report in blog posts and social media (and my inbox). I interviewed several of those critics for my January post, which includes links to some of the blogs.

Thomas was a bit surprised at the level of outrage over her and Gupta's observations on what she believes are obvious facts about Java EE and the evolving demands on enterprise developers."
Gartner Analyst Defends 'Java EE Is Obsolete' Report -- ADTmag

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Google's myriad messaging apps: Which are best for you? | Computerworld

From an extensive Google communication/collaboration app reality check

"Google offers 12 communications apps and services. Alphabetically, these are: Allo, Chat, Gmail, Google+, Groups, Hangouts, Inbox, Messenger, Duo, Project Fi, Spaces and Voice. If you look at the various communication actions you might want to take -- voice calls, video calls, email, text messaging and social posting -- Google has at least two offerings for each.

The company is unrepentant about its bewildering lineup. A Google spokesperson told me: "We've designed specific products for distinct use cases, so we don't intend to have one app that does everything for everyone. We think we can better serve our users by creating products that function really well, and users can choose the product that best suits their needs." In other words, choice serves users better than clarity does.

At the same time, the company has a longstanding habit of ditching old products and services that have seen limited success, including Google Wave, Google Reader, Picasa and many more. According to my informal survey of nearly 3,000 Google+ users, a majority (55% as of this writing) said they hesitate to use some Google products because they're afraid Google might kill them off."
Google's myriad messaging apps: Which are best for you? | Computerworld

This 'Star Trek'-like headset helps the legally blind see again - CNET

Also see Smart glasses bring vision to legally blind (Mashable)
"Yvonne Felix is walking toward me wearing a device that could be straight out of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Like Geordi La Forge in the science fiction series, Felix is legally blind. In the show, La Forge, played by LeVar Burton, wore a headset called VISOR that helped him see again. Felix is wearing its real-world equivalent, the eSight 3.

The eSight 3 has a camera that works with high-resolution displays and optical prisms in the headset to restore sight to those with low vision. The video image is presented to the user in a way that can overcome the cause of their vision loss."
This 'Star Trek'-like headset helps the legally blind see again - CNET

Mossberg: Android apps on Chrome OS arrive, disappoint - The Verge

On a related note, see Google’s not-so-secret new OS (Tech Specs)

"I’m happy to report that the first Chromebook designed from the ground up to run Android apps out of the box has arrived, albeit a little past the end of 2016. It goes on sale this week for $450. It’s called the Samsung Chromebook Plus, and it runs on an ARM processor, the same type of processor that powers the vast majority of smartphones and tablets. It was designed in close cooperation with Google.

Alas, in my tests of the Plus over the last few days, I found the Android execution frustrating.

The Android app feature is still in beta, not all apps work, and too many of those that do run seem like awkwardly blown-up phone apps, not software that’s tailored for the Chromebook's 12-inch screen. And there are other issues."
Mossberg: Android apps on Chrome OS arrive, disappoint - The Verge

Facebook is rolling out job postings and applications - Recode

Coincidentally, LinkedIn, a Microsoft company since December 2016, is expanding its social networking overlap with Facebook.  Also see Facebook’s new job opening posts poach business from LinkedIn (TechCrunch)

"Businesses were already posting jobs to their Pages, according to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's VP of ads and its business platform. The hope is that now it'll be easier to find those postings and apply for them.

The news is not so great for existing job platforms like LinkedIn, which charges recruiters to post and promote jobs on its platform. Facebook isn't necessarily the first place you think of when looking for a new job, but it could certainly offer some competition to LinkedIn and has a much larger user base.

The new feature will start to roll out beginning Wednesday, but only in the U.S. and Canada."
Facebook is rolling out job postings and applications - Recode

Apple Vowed To Revolutionize Television. An Inside Look at Why It Hasn’t - Bloomberg

Tangentially, see Apple Struggles to Make Big Deals, Hampering Strategy Shifts (Bloomberg); also see Acquisitions in Tech have a Checkered History (Tech.pinions)
"Early on, the Apple TV was going to replace the clunky set-top boxes from the cable companies and stream live television. It never happened. The team debated bundling a gaming controller with the current model to better compete with Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation. That didn't happen either. Originally, viewers were going to be able to shout commands from the couch to the Apple TV. Instead they must talk to the remote control.

Apple has essentially settled for turning the television set into a giant iPhone: a cluster of apps with a store. "That's not what I signed up for," says one of the people, who requested anonymity to talk freely about internal company matters. "I signed up for revolutionary. We got evolutionary." Gene Munster, who covered Apple for more than a decade as a Piper Jaffray analyst and now runs Loup Ventures, echoes the criticism. "Apple TV begs the question: Why does Apple do hobbies?" he says. "Either do it right or don't do it at all.""
Apple Vowed To Revolutionize Television. An Inside Look at Why It Hasn’t - Bloomberg