Friday, October 31, 2014

Slack Confirms $120M Fundraise Led By Google Ventures And KPCB At $1.12B Valuation | TechCrunch

Apparently a lot more than just a nice user experience on IRC

"Slack, the enterprise collaboration platform co-founded by Stewart Butterfield, today confirmed that it has closed a $120 million round of funding, co-led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures with the participation of past investors including A16Z, Accel Partners and The Social+Capital Partnership. We first reported on this fundraise last week.

The valuation is at $1.12 billion, post-money."
Slack Confirms $120M Fundraise Led By Google Ventures And KPCB At $1.12B Valuation | TechCrunch

New Outlook for Mac available to Office 365 customers - Office Blogs

A pleasant surprise for all Mac + Office 365 customers: check the source link below for more details and an overview of reasons why Microsoft opted to not hold the new Mac Outlook back until the rest of "Office 16" for the Mac is released. To clarify: if you are a Mac user and have an Office 365 subscription, you can download and install the radically-revised Mac Outlook today.

"Today we are announcing the new Outlook for the Mac, which delivers improved performance and reliability and a fresh look and feel that is unmistakably Microsoft Office. This release offers a more familiar and consistent experience between Outlook on the PC, Outlook on the web and Outlook Web App (OWA) for iPad, iPhone and Android devices."
New Outlook for Mac available to Office 365 customers - Office Blogs

How Apple, Inc. went thermonuclear on Samsung, erasing Android's primary profit center (Apple Insider)

A stark Samsung (and overall Android market) reality check

"After failing to do much more than embarrass Samsung Electronics in years-long legal battles over patent infringement, Apple has rapidly obliterated Samsung's mobile division profitability, rendering it as barrenly unprofitable as every other Android or Windows licensee with razor thin margins in the phone, PC and tablet market."
How Apple, Inc. went thermonuclear on Samsung, erasing Android's primary profit center

Apple Pay, partnerships and software as disruption — Benedict Evans

Final paragraph of an insightful Apple Pay reality check

"Finally, I suspect that for Apple the most important part of Apple Pay may be its use in apps, not at physical retail. If you can acquire a credit card and address with just one tap then a major cause of drop-off and cart abandonment goes away, and that in turn alters the calculus around whether you make an app or a website: you have to get people to install the app (which is a cause of drop-off), but after that everything is seamless, whereas on a mobile website you don't need to drive an install but do need to get people to type in their card (though with keychain Apple has a solution here as well). The immediate effect of this is to reinforce the position of iOS as the platform where most merchants see the majority of their value, and hence of course drive them to continue to make iOS apps and make them first, which in turn drives iOS device sales, especially to people who buy things, a virtuous circle that Apple is already benefiting from at the expense of Android. The interesting question here, of course, is what Apple's next step is. Does it try to enable Apple Pay for website accessed on iOS devices (which would be very challenging)? Add it to Macs (though this is a much smaller market)? And, of course, what if it gives third party apps access to payment data in the same way (controlled, permission-based) it does for health?"
Apple Pay, partnerships and software as disruption — Benedict Evans

Twitter's Mobile Ad Shop Using Verizon's ID to Track Users - ProPublica

Visit the full post from your mobile device to check for a tracking code

"Twitter's mobile advertising arm enables its clients to use a hidden, undeletable tracking number created by Verizon to track user behavior on smartphones and tablets. Wired and Forbes reported earlier this week that the two largest cellphone carriers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T, are adding the tracking number to their subscribers' Internet activity, even when users opt out."
Twitter's Mobile Ad Shop Using Verizon's ID to Track Users - ProPublica

Microsoft Band Isn’t a Fitness Tracker, It’s a Trojan Horse for Software - Digits - WSJ

All part of a cloudier Microsoft future

"At first glance, Microsoft’s fitness-tracking device looks like another hardware foray for a company with a much stronger track record in software. Instead, think of the $199 Microsoft Band as a Trojan Horse to get more consumers using Microsoft’s data-crunching software–and perhaps open new opportunities for sales to businesses, too.

[...] The software is another example of the focus Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has put on consumer services that harness the company’s cloud and data-analysis expertise, an area in which he says Microsoft has leapfrogged its rivals. Nadella previously introduced a service called Delve that aims to predict which documents or contacts a user is likely to need based on factors such as what the user’s colleagues are working on."
Microsoft Band Isn’t a Fitness Tracker, It’s a Trojan Horse for Software - Digits - WSJ

Andy Rubin, Former Head of Android, Departs Google - NYTimes.com

Off to incubate ... the next wave of Google hardware acquisitions?

"Andy Rubin, a high-ranking Google executive who spearheaded the company’s entrance into mobile phones and tablets and was in charge of the company’s nascent robotics group, has left the company.

Mr. Rubin is leaving to start a tech incubator focused on start-ups interested in building hardware, he said.

“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next. With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users,” said Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, in a statement."
Andy Rubin, Former Head of Android, Departs Google - NYTimes.com

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Microsoft's health revolution is here, starting with a $199 fitness tracker | The Verge

From an extensive Microsoft Band device/strategy overview

""It's the most advanced band we've seen in terms of technology on the wrist," he says, "and it's really designed to do two things: have people live healthier, and be more productive, by having a band that can serve on the opposite side of your watch, worn 24 hours a day, and get some of the most accurate data that you can possibly get."

Microsoft's plan is as simple as it is large: to be the central repository for all the world's fitness data, to develop and distribute the best hardware and the best software for helping people live healthier lives. It doesn't matter what platform you're on, it doesn't matter what app or device you use. Microsoft wants to be everywhere."
Microsoft's health revolution is here, starting with a $199 fitness tracker | The Verge

Apple Pay Review: the Re/code, Bi-coastal, Team Test | Re/code

From a detailed Apple Pay review

"So, does it work? To find out, your four-person Re/code Reviews team spent most of the week doing the arduous work of shopping, on both coasts. We bought everything from electronics to food to makeup — with digital versions of our everyday credit cards stored on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Our overall conclusion: Apple Pay worked smoothly and quickly in all but a very few instances. But the number of physical and online stores that accept it at launch is still very small. Plus, some common things slow it down, like the need for signatures and debit-card PINs in some stores, its lack of support for loyalty cards, and cashier confusion. So it’s far from a complete replacement for your wallet and credit card, at least not yet."
Apple Pay Review: the Re/code, Bi-coastal, Team Test | Re/code

IBM Teams Up With Twitter to Give Business a Gauge Powered by Social Media - NYTimes.com

Coincidentally, More Twitter exits: 2 key executives flying away (CNBC), including Twitter analytics lead Adam Kinney

"But their partnership, announced on Wednesday, makes a lot of sense. It is intended to give IBM’s data-analysis business, including its Watson artificial-intelligence technology, broad access to one of the world’s richest data sources — billions of people expressing their interests, wants and worries about every imaginable topic.

The goal, according to IBM and Twitter executives, is to enrich business decision-making. “We know what the world is thinking in real time,” said Chris Moody, vice president of data strategy at Twitter. His company’s information resource, he said, should have “nearly limitless applications.”"
IBM Teams Up With Twitter to Give Business a Gauge Powered by Social Media - NYTimes.com

Microsoft Introduces Wearable Health and Fitness Band - Businessweek

See this Microsoft page for full product details

"Microsoft (MSFT) is betting that its Band, on sale today, will be able to distinguish itself by digging deeper into users’ devices and apps to suck up data on their fitness, sleep, and general health habits. Then its companion app, Health, predicts future issues and serves as a free source of advice. “One thing health and fitness trackers do incredibly well today is tell you about your past, but you would be hard-pressed to find devices that do a decent job of giving you actionable information,” says Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.

At $199, Microsoft Band is pricier than competing fitness bands from companies like Fitbit and Jawbone. It doesn’t have the design intended to compete with the Apple Watch, which starts at $349, says Llamas."
Microsoft Introduces Wearable Health and Fitness Band - Businessweek

Amazon’s Grand Design in Devices - NYTimes.com

From an Amazon Fire product family reality check

"These shortcomings strain the case for Amazon’s devices. If you are mostly interested in entertainment, and if you are looking for a good deal, it could be a good idea to take a chance on Amazon’s ecosystem, especially its tablets. As I wrote last February, Amazon remains the best place online to buy books, movies, music and other media, because content from Amazon works seamlessly across different kinds of devices. Amazon’s tablets are also attractive if you are in the market for low-priced devices for your children.

But if you are looking for more — more flexibility and utility in your gadgets, better design, and primarily assurance that your device will work with whatever great new hardware or software that comes along next — look elsewhere."
Amazon’s Grand Design in Devices - NYTimes.com

MCX, an Apple Pay Rival, Says It Is Open to Other Technology - NYTimes.com

In other CurrentC news, see Retailer-Backed Apple Pay Rival CurrentC Has Been Hacked, Testers’ Email Addresses Stolen (TechCrunch)

"Facing pressure from supporters of Apple’s new mobile payment system, the consortium of major retailers creating a rival system said on Wednesday that it might adjust its strategy.

The group of retailers, known as the Merchant Customer Exchange, said that it could yet decide to use Near Field Communication capability, the technology that Apple Pay relies on to process transactions."
MCX, an Apple Pay Rival, Says It Is Open to Other Technology - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Microsoft's latest target release date for Office 16: Second half 2015 | ZDNet

Office for Mac apparently slated to get a major update every half-decade or so...

"Microsoft is expected to release its Office for Android tablet offering soon, possibly in early November 2014, my contacts are saying. The company also is expected to disclose timing and possibly a public preview of its next Office for Mac release very soon, as well. Alleged screen shots of the next Office for Mac's Outlook client leaked earlier this week. The latest rumored release target for the next Office for Mac is early 2015."
Microsoft's latest target release date for Office 16: Second half 2015 | ZDNet

BBC News - Google is developing cancer and heart attack detector

A different kind of Google map; also see How a Google Engineer’s Bike Crash Shows Potential of Nanoparticle Project (WSJ) and “We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder” (Steven Levy on Medium)

"Google is designing a suite of nanoparticles which are intended to match markers for different conditions.

They could be tailored to stick to a cancerous cell or a fragment of cancerous DNA.

Or they could find evidence of fatty plaques about to break free from the lining of blood vessels. These can cause a heart attack or stroke if they stop the flow of blood.

Another set would constantly monitor chemicals in the blood."
BBC News - Google is developing cancer and heart attack detector

Never Mind Software – Mobile is Eating the World - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ

Check the full article for some significant trends (and this page for the full presentation)

"Now Andreessen’s partner Benedict Evans has issued an update. Evans presented his new study, “Mobile is Eating the World,” on Tuesday at the WSJD Live global technology conference.

In 45 slides, Evans outlined the rapid growth of mobile technology and how it is influencing the way we live our lives and the world’s more traditional industries.

Mobile, driven by operating software from Apple and Google, is the central platform of the future, Evans contends. Here are six key slides from his presentation:"
Never Mind Software – Mobile is Eating the World - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ

Mark Zuckerberg Talks of Spending, and Facebook Stock Drops - NYTimes.com

Investing for the long-term; see Facebook’s Results in Six Charts (WSJ) for a summary of Facebook's quarterly results

"Mr. Zuckerberg has 55 percent voting control over Facebook, according to the company’s most recent proxy statement. So if investors do not agree with his vision, they don’t have much choice but to sell. And many did, sending the company’s stock down 8.3 percent in after-hours trading.

“Wall Street cares about the business model. We care less about changing the world,” said Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Company."
Mark Zuckerberg Talks of Spending, and Facebook Stock Drops - NYTimes.com

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Apple Pay a success - Business - The Boston Globe

Not a bad start

"‘‘We’re already number one. We’re more than the total of the other guys,’’ Cook boasted during a tech industry conference. ‘‘And we’ve only been at it a week.’’ He said Visa and MasterCard officials have told Apple that the Apple Pay system is already seeing more use than similar ‘‘contactless’’ methods of paying for retail purchases."
Apple CEO Tim Cook says Apple Pay a success - Business - The Boston Globe

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Amazon's Fire TV Stick Compares to Other Streaming Dongles | WIRED

From a competitive roundup including key criteria such as "Will this streaming stick stream Styx?"

"It’ll have a few differentiating factors compared to the rapidly expanding field of streaming sticks. Those include a dual-core processor that should mean zippy reaction times, more onboard storage than its competition, and second-screen treats for Amazon tablet users that include X-Ray sync with onscreen content. Like the full-size Fire TV box, the stick will also offer faster load times for Amazon’s streaming content via the “ASAP” feature, and it’ll come with a free month of Prime."
How Amazon's Fire TV Stick Compares to Other Streaming Dongles | WIRED

The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World | WIRED

Final paragraph of a Kevin Kelly AI perspective piece; also see Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat (The Guardian)

"But we haven't just been redefining what we mean by AI—we've been redefining what it means to be human. Over the past 60 years, as mechanical processes have replicated behaviors and talents we thought were unique to humans, we've had to change our minds about what sets us apart. As we invent more species of AI, we will be forced to surrender more of what is supposedly unique about humans. We'll spend the next decade—indeed, perhaps the next century—in a permanent identity crisis, constantly asking ourselves what humans are for. In the grandest irony of all, the greatest benefit of an everyday, utilitarian AI will not be increased productivity or an economics of abundance or a new way of doing science—although all those will happen. The greatest benefit of the arrival of artificial intelligence is that AIs will help define humanity. We need AIs to tell us who we are."
The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World | WIRED

Amazon's Fire Stick Challenges Google, Threatens Roku - Businessweek

Another aggressive Amazon entry

"The Fire Stick mimics most of the capability of the Fire TV, the streaming media box Amazon.com (AMZN) released earlier this year. It comes with a remote control (sans the Fire TV’s voice controls) and access to Amazon’s Prime Video, as well as the standard lineup of such services as Netflix (NFLX), Hulu, and WatchESPN. The Fire Stick also resembles Google’s (GOOG) Chromecast, which went on sale last summer. The Fire Stick costs $39, slightly more than the $35 Google version. For the next two days, Prime members can buy it for $19."
Amazon's Fire Stick Challenges Google, Threatens Roku - Businessweek

Usage Stalls for Twitter; Shares Drop - NYTimes.com

Twitter transition time

"Wall Street has been disappointed by the slow pace of improvements, with investors sending Twitter’s stock down 11 percent Monday evening after the company reported meager growth in sign-ups and usage during the third quarter.

“The lack of growth there comes from Twitter’s relative lack of innovation,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester who studies social media. “The experience on Twitter today is the same experience people have always had on Twitter.”"
Usage Stalls for Twitter; Shares Drop - NYTimes.com

Monday, October 27, 2014

CurrentC Is The Big Retailers’ Clunky Attempt To Kill Apple Pay And Credit Card Fees | TechCrunch

tbd which can happen first: MCX getting streamlined or Apple Pay becoming seamlessly compatible with retailer "loyalty" programs/systems

"The idea behind MCX was that if enough retailers teamed up, they could convince consumers to adopt their mobile payment system that would let retailers avoid paying credit card fees in the 2 percent to 3 percent range by processing payments through Automatic Clearing House transactions through bank accounts that have much smaller fees. MCX’s app could also help retailers by encouraging loyalty to participating merchants and possibly provide them additional intelligence on their customers."
CurrentC Is The Big Retailers’ Clunky Attempt To Kill Apple Pay And Credit Card Fees | TechCrunch

How Facebook Is Changing the Way Its Users Consume Journalism - NYTimes.com

Inform different; also see Facebook Offers Life Raft, but Publishers Are Wary (NYT)

"The social media company is increasingly becoming to the news business what Amazon is to book publishing — a behemoth that provides access to hundreds of millions of consumers and wields enormous power. About 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. The fortunes of a news site, in short, can rise or fall depending on how it performs in Facebook’s News Feed."
How Facebook Is Changing the Way Its Users Consume Journalism - NYTimes.com

IBM's Potemkin Prosperity (Forbes)

Excerpt from a stark IBM reality check

"One problem is that when IBM itself is moving so slowly, with such a disaffected workforce, and with no apparent mastery as to what is going on, let alone any clear vision as to what is coming next, the safety and security that IBM promises to its fellow mastodons constitute an illusion. IBM is just as out of touch as they are. When there are much cheaper and more flexible solutions, the option of switching looks ever more attractive, as the pressures mount on all the big firms to deliver “better, faster, cheaper, light, more mobile, more personalized and more convenient.” In this environment, the extravagant premiums that IBM is hoping to extract for sticking with IBM look ever more fragile."
IBM's Potemkin Prosperity