Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In Defense of Tablets | Re/code

Excerpt from a timely Walt Mossberg tablet market dynamics reality check

"I believe that tablets — and especially the iPad — are extremely versatile and productive tools for consumers, schools and businesses, and are better for many tasks than the PC or the smartphone. I use my iPad many times a day, and it has cut my use of my laptop by more than half.

In a brief interview about tablets I had this week with Apple CEO Tim Cook, he said, “We couldn’t be happier with how we’ve done with the first four years of the iPad,” and added that, “I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category.”"
In Defense of Tablets | Re/code

Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New App, Is Like a $15,000 Video Setup in Your Hand | Design | WIRED

Steady progress

"Using clever algorithm processing, the app makes it easy to use your phone to create tracking shots and fast, time-lapse videos that look as if they’re shot by Scorsese or Michael Mann. What was once only possible with a Steadicam or a $15,000 tracking rig is now possible on your iPhone, for free. (Instagram hopes to develop an Android version soon, but that will require changes to the camera and gyroscope APIs on Android phones.) And that’s all thanks to some clever engineering and an elegantly pared-down interaction design. The product team shared their story with WIRED."
Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New App, Is Like a $15,000 Video Setup in Your Hand | Design | WIRED

In raising cash, Square heads for $6B valuation: Sources [CNBC]

A new Square round

"Another hurdle for Square is a fierce set of competitors. PayPal, Google and Amazon are all deep-pocketed rivals that are vying for a bigger piece of the payments pie. Meanwhile, popular services like Uber and Airbnb bake the payment process into their apps, eliminating the need for Square in some areas where online and mobile commerce is growing the fastest.

For now, Square is showing it can cash in on its momentum. As long as the funding floodgates are open, there's plenty of investor demand to fund its growth while Square claws toward a profit, which it expects to hit by mid-2015."
In raising cash, Square heads for $6B valuation: Sources

Save the Fav, Twitter's Digital Body Language - NYTimes.com

fav #RIP?

"The new plan won’t change Twitter very much for most users. Yet there is something to celebrate about the fav as it’s used today on Twitter and to mourn its potential transformation into something more Facebook-like. Even if you don’t care about Twitter, the fav is a model for something we need more of in more places online: It is nonspecific, flexible communication — a kind of body language for the web.

One of the problems of communicating online is that words are too precise. It’s especially difficult to express much nuance when you’re trying to be brief."
Save the Fav, Twitter's Digital Body Language - NYTimes.com

Apple Said to Prepare New 12.9-Inch IPad for Early 2015 - Bloomberg

A larger iPad display, along with expected multitasking enhancements in iOS 8, would be an expanding competitive threat to traditional PCs

"Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s suppliers are preparing to manufacture the company’s largest-ever iPad, with production scheduled to commence by the first quarter of next year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The new iPad will have a screen measuring 12.9 inches diagonally, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren't public. Apple currently produces iPads with 9.7-inch and 7.9-inch displays. The Cupertino, California-based company has been working with suppliers for at least a year to develop a new range of larger touch-screen devices, said the people."
Apple Said to Prepare New 12.9-Inch IPad for Early 2015 - Bloomberg

Snapchat Is Said to Have More Than 100 Million Monthly Active Users - Digits - WSJ

tbd how ephemeral these attributes of Snapchat will prove to be

"The majority, or roughly two-thirds of those users, log on to the ephemeral-messaging service daily, according to the people.

Snapchat is quickly adding users to help it live up to the lofty expectations of its investors. An investment by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers valued the company close to $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter."
Snapchat Is Said to Have More Than 100 Million Monthly Active Users - Digits - WSJ

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Social Media Silences Debate - NYTimes.com

Cyberpolarization R Us

"Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers at Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.

The researchers also found that those who use social media regularly are more reluctant to express dissenting views in the offline world."
How Social Media Silences Debate - NYTimes.com

News Feed FYI: Click-baiting | Facebook Newsroom

Crowdsourced click-bait criteria

"So how do we determine what looks like click-bait?

One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. "
News Feed FYI: Click-baiting | Facebook Newsroom

Amazon Pounces On Twitch After Google Balks Due To Antitrust Concerns [Forbes]

"Sources" on why Google was unable to close a Twitch deal

"Google was unable to close the deal, said sources familiar with the talks, because it was concerned about potential antitrust issues that could have come with the acquisition. The Mountain View, Calif. company already owns YouTube, the world’s most-visited content streaming site, which competes with Twitch to broadcast and stream live or on-demand video game sessions. One source noted that because of the concerns, Google and Twitch could not come to an agreement on the size of a potential breakup fee in case the deal did not go through."
Amazon Pounces On Twitch After Google Balks Due To Antitrust Concerns

Why Amazon Is Paying $1 Billion to Help People Watch Video Games - Businessweek

Check the full article for an overview of Amazon's historical game-related investments

"There are some interesting differences between Twitch and, say, an Amazon-produced show such as Alpha House. The main one: Twitch broadcasts feature a strong level of interaction among viewers via running chats streamed live. Often the broadcaster interacts directly with the audience, too. This experience—watching while chatting—is how many television futurists think we’ll be watching our video in the future. It’s not yet clear that people want to watch everything in this manner. People who watch video games love it."
Why Amazon Is Paying $1 Billion to Help People Watch Video Games - Businessweek

More Game Time Equals Lower Test Scores - Digits - WSJ

In other gaming news...

"Elementary school students who answered that they never played video games on weekdays answered 77% of the questions correctly on a test of basic language skills, compared to a 70.5% score recorded by those who said they played two to three hours. Elementary students who said they spent more than four hours a day playing games scored the lowest, getting only 64% of the answers correct.

Similar patterns were observed on the math tests, according to the ministry."
More Game Time Equals Lower Test Scores - Digits - WSJ

What’s Twitch? Gamers Know, and Amazon Is Spending $1 Billion on It - NYTimes.com

Potential synergies with other Amazon services tbd

"Video games have long been something people played. But in the last few years, thanks in part to fast Internet access and multiplayer games, the games have become something that people sit back and watch, too. On Monday, that new habit enticed the web giant Amazon to reach a $1.1 billion deal to buy Twitch, the most popular website for watching people play games.

The deal for Twitch is the latest sign of the way forms of behavior once seemingly on the fringe can, in the hands of tech entrepreneurs, turn into huge online communities in no time. Twitch did not exist a little over three years ago, and it now has 55 million unique viewers a month globally, helping turn games into a spectator event as much as a participatory activity."
What’s Twitch? Gamers Know, and Amazon Is Spending $1 Billion on It - NYTimes.com

Monday, August 25, 2014

Predicting Amazon’s Secret Plans in Physical Retail | Re/code

Speculation about how Amazon may extend its reach

"Since I first wrote in January about Amazon’s plans for an in-store payments system, I’ve consulted with a handful of former employees as well as some of the smartest people I know in the retail payments industry to analyze what Amazon’s next moves will be. All of them have requested anonymity because they believe they are relaying ideas currently being discussed at Amazon or are restricted from speaking about the company.

Broadly, they said the world’s largest online retailer aims to make it easy for a wider array of brick and mortar shops to sell on Amazon while giving Amazon shoppers another way to receive orders on the same day they are purchased. The move would extend Amazon’s reach far beyond the virtual checkout aisle to the real ones in your neighborhood."
Predicting Amazon’s Secret Plans in Physical Retail | Re/code

Shift Happens: Apple + IBM. This Time It’ll Be Different. | Monday Note

Final paragraphs of a Jean-Louis Gassée Apple/IBM reality check; I'm sure those IBM numbers jockeys are using IBM Symphony rather than Microsoft Excel, however...

"Another more immediate effect, across a wide range of enterprises, will be the corporate permission to use Apple devices. Recall the age-old mantra You Don’t Get Fired For Buying IBM, which later became DEC, then Microsoft, then Sun…and now Apple. Valley gossip has it that IBM issued an edict stating that Macs were to be supported internally within 30 days. Apparently, at some exec meetings, it’s MacBooks all around the conference room table — except for the lonely Excel jockey who needs to pivot tables.

We’ll see if the company whose motto once was Think actually works well with the Think Different squad."
Shift Happens: Apple + IBM. This Time It’ll Be Different. | Monday Note

Apple's Next Act for the iPad -- HEARD ON THE STREET - WSJ

Excerpt from an iPad business snapshot

"But Apple needn't control the market for the iPad be an important—and profitable—business. In fact, the average selling price for the iPad rose nearly 2% year over year in the June quarter despite a 9% decline in unit sales in that time. UBS estimates total iPad gross margins reached 30% in the quarter compared with 25% in the December period.

For Apple, the iPad is about more than just unit sales, as the device also provides an important extension for the company's iOS platform. Revenue from iTunes, software and services grew 14% year over year for the nine-month period ended June 28—Apple's fastest-growing segment in that time."
Apple's Next Act for the iPad -- HEARD ON THE STREET - WSJ

Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models - NYTimes.com

Accentuating the potential *Box positive

"So how do you avoid free? Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide."
Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models - NYTimes.com

Friday, August 22, 2014

Uber Tries to Learn from the Obama Campaign [The New Yorker]

From a profile of Uber, which recently hired David Plouffe, formerly one of President Obama's chief political strategists

"Investors recently valued Uber at nearly twenty billion dollars, which struck some people as an absurdly high figure. But others, including Andrew Ross Sorkin, have written that Uber could, in fact, be worth more than that—not only because transportation is a big business, but because the company has the potential to do much more with its matchmaker app. Since Uber doesn’t own a fleet of cars or employ its drivers, it could, in theory, deploy its app for any number of other purposes. First it could displace the taxi industry. Then it could take on delivery trucks, moving vans, and more. Earlier this week, the company started testing out a home-delivery service in Washington, D.C."
Uber Tries to Learn from the Obama Campaign

Apple steps up Health push as it begins talks with insurers | ZDNet

Insure different

"Apple has been preparing the ground for the launch of its Health application, which will debut alongside iOS 8 later this year. Besides recent talks with US healthcare providers and developers of health-related apps, Apple has also been courting large US health insurance firms.

News of Apple's discussions with health insurers came via an interesting report from Bloomberg today on the emergence of company-funded wearables in the workplace. The report notes that Apple has talked with America’s biggest insurer, UnitedHealth, as well as fellow health insurer Humana."
Apple steps up Health push as it begins talks with insurers | ZDNet

Microsoft unveils Azure DocumentDB, a NoSQL database as a service — Tech News and Analysis [GigaOM]

See this Microsoft page for more Azure DocumentDB details

"The DocumentDB moniker might remind some of the popular MongoDB or Couchbase NoSQL databases, but T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, corporate vice president of Microsoft Data Platform, explained it as much more in an interview about the new offerings. Currently available as a technology preview, DocumentDB allows for SQL-like queries on semi-structured data (i.e., JSON files) and supports strong consistency for transactional applications. To boost performance, it utilizes the in-memory Hekaton technology that Microsoft incorporated into SQL Server earlier this year. It includes libraries for .NET, Node.js, JavaScript and Python.

As far as other cloud-provider-developed services go, DocumentDB sounds a lot more like Google’s similarly understated Cloud Datastore service than it does Amazon Web Services’ DynamoDB, which is actually more like a key-value store than a document database."
Microsoft unveils Azure DocumentDB, a NoSQL database as a service — Tech News and Analysis

Majority Of Digital Media Consumption Now Takes Place In Mobile Apps | TechCrunch

From a summary of the latest comScore U.S. mobile app study

"U.S. users are now spending the majority of their time consuming digital media within mobile applications, according to a new study released by comScore this morning. That means mobile apps, including the number 1 most popular app Facebook, eat up more of our time than desktop usage or mobile web surfing, accounting for 52% of the time spent using digital media. Combined with mobile web, mobile usage as a whole accounts for 60% of time spent, while desktop-based digital media consumption makes up the remaining 40%."
Majority Of Digital Media Consumption Now Takes Place In Mobile Apps | TechCrunch

Facebook, Google Go Beyond Cookies to Reap Data for Advertisers - Businessweek

Excerpt from a snapshot of potential post-cookie advertising/tracking realities

"Some programs track users by their IP addresses; others look at users’ operating systems and other factors. As of Aug. 1, anyone who wants to hawk new or updated Android apps in Google’s (GOOG) online store must catalog customers with Advertising ID, a unique number that corresponds to a particular customer. Google has confirmed that it’s working on ways to link mobile browser activity to app use. Advertising ID looks a lot like Apple’s system, Identifier for Advertising. In both cases, users can change their settings to limit tracking for advertising, but app makers keep finding ways around those restrictions. Facebook (FB), which can track user activity on any website that has a Like button, announced in June that it intends to ignore browsers’ do-not-track settings in order to better target ads. Its users can still opt out of some tracking by changing their browser settings at the website of the Digital Advertising Alliance, an industry group. Despite their new tracking methods, Apple, Google, and Facebook say they’re committed to making their data collection transparent and giving users control over their privacy settings."
Facebook, Google Go Beyond Cookies to Reap Data for Advertisers - Businessweek

Does Microsoft Need a Big Windows Unveiling at the End of September? - Digits - WSJ

Signs of the Microsoft times

"Financially, Windows is still hugely important to Microsoft — but not as much as it once was. The Microsoft division anchored by Windows generates about 20% of the company’s annual revenue, but Office and Microsoft’s software for servers and other back-office computing systems are each bigger revenue contributors. Even with a recent spark in sales, PCs are a minority of computing devices in the world; the 315 million or so PCs sold every year are dwarfed by the more than 1 billion smartphones sold annually.

The one-two punch of continual updates and shrinking relevance of PCs in the computing world mean new major releases of Windows don’t have the oomph they once had."
Does Microsoft Need a Big Windows Unveiling at the End of September? - Digits - WSJ

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Samsung Nook Tablet Keeps Barnes & Noble's Hardware Alive, Sort of - Businessweek

Not exactly a warm welcome for the new Samsung tablet-based Nook

"The line of 7-inch tablets, largely given up for dead after the book chain failed to sell its hardware division and said it was abandoning the e-reader, embarked on a feeble afterlife of sorts on Wednesday in the form of a co-branded color Android tablet produced in partnership with electronics giant Samsung (005930:KS). The two companies unveiled their device at a media event in New York, adding to a market jammed with Android tablets and dominated by Apple’s (AAPL) iPad. The new Nook’s odds of success are long, which is unfortunate. Readers, authors, and book publishers—even mighty Amazon itself—desperately need a vibrant Nook."
Samsung Nook Tablet Keeps Barnes & Noble's Hardware Alive, Sort of - Businessweek

New Era in Safety When Cars Talk to One Another - NYTimes.com

Hopefully data privacy and security are top priorities

"Google may already be experimenting with its own driverless cars, but the technology being tested in this university town by a group of academic, industry and government researchers could be retrofitted into ordinary cars.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that vehicle-to-vehicle transmitters will add only about $350 to the total cost of a vehicle by 2020. The safety agency expects prices to fall as the mandate approaches, as has already happened with features like rearview cameras, which will be required in 2018. By the end of the decade, if all goes as planned, the typical American vehicle will be part of a network, constantly sharing information as it travels."
New Era in Safety When Cars Talk to One Another - NYTimes.com

Can cool Asus hybrid reheat tablet market? - Business - The Boston Globe

Another hybrid device permutation (smartphone + dumb tablet)

"You get a sleek, black Android phone with the usual high-end features. There’s a 5-inch screen, a quad-core processor, and a 13-megapixel camera that takes respectable photos — accurate color, but a bit grainy. The phone’s rear cover pops off to reveal a slot for adding up to 64 gigabytes of flash memory to the 16 gigs already built in. In all, it’s just another smartphone, no better than rival products from Samsung or HTC, but just about as good.

The Padfone X tablet features a high-resolution 9-inch screen, a pair of pretty good stereo speakers, a one-megapixel front-facing camera, and no brain at all. The tablet comes to life only when the phone is plugged in. The handset slides into a cradle built into the back of the tablet. The two pieces glide into place with an elegant, authoritative snap. In a second or two, the tablet lights up and gives you full access to the phone’s apps and services, as well as Android apps designed for tablet use."
Can cool Asus hybrid reheat tablet market? - Business - The Boston Globe

Uber’s Most Important Innovation Isn’t A Car Service: It’s the Pricing Algorithm | MIT Technology Review

James Surowiecki on Uber economics

"Uber’s most important innovation is the way it prices its services. But that innovation has not been unreservedly welcomed by customers. They’re wrong."
Uber’s Most Important Innovation Isn’t A Car Service: It’s the Pricing Algorithm | MIT Technology Review