Friday, March 27, 2015

Amazon Cloud Drive goes unlimited: $11.99/year for photos and $59.99/year for everything | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Paul Sawers

Another major challenge for *Box
"For comparison in the consumer realm, Dropbox charges $10 for 1TB/month, with 2GB available for free; Google charges $9.99/month for 1TB and up to $299.99 for 30TB, though it does offer a generous 15GB completely gratis; Apple charges $19.99/month for 1TB, with 5GB available for free; and Microsoft charges $6.99/month for 1TB, with 15GB for free too. However, Microsoft also offers a pretty good deal of its own if you know where to look — for $7/month you can subscribe to Office 365, and part of that package includes unlimited cloud storage on OneDrive. 
While the Amazon move is undoubtedly brilliant value for money, it’s really just for those who store a lot of stuff in the cloud. The free 15GB that’s available through the likes of Google and Microsoft is actually plenty if it’s just photos and other non-media files that are being stored. However, for those with large movie files, games, and so on — this is where “unlimited” really starts to shine, and $5/month is a really ridiculous price point."
Amazon Cloud Drive goes unlimited: $11.99/year for photos and $59.99/year for everything | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Paul Sawers

Apple's Tim Cook leads different - Fortune

From an extensive Tim Cook profile
"Representing their companies publicly is obligatory for CEOs, but Cook takes public stands on issues including stopping the transmission of AIDS, human rights, and immigration reform. He sees them as opportunities for leadership. “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change,” he says, adding that Apple’s people have long cared about such issues even if they haven’t previously spoken so openly about them. To Cook, changing the world always has been higher on Apple’s agenda than making money. He plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew. There should be plenty left over to fund philanthropic projects. Cook’s net worth, based on his holdings of Apple stock, is currently about $120 million. He also holds restricted stock worth $665 million if it were to be fully vested. Cook says that he has already begun donating money quietly, but that he plans to take time to develop a systematic approach to philanthropy rather than simply writing checks."
Apple's Tim Cook leads different - Fortune

Facebook's Yann LeCun Discusses Digital Companions and Artificial Intelligence (and Emotions) - NYTimes.com

From a Facebook AI snapshot
"Q. What will that look like in the future?

A. I’m not saying this is a future product, but a way to think about this if there is an intelligent digital companion that allows you to think about things in a new way, the way you interact with friends, expand your thinking. There will be a single point of control that knows and respects your private information.

This kind of A.I. will come progressively. In some ways, parts of this are already there in the Facebook News Feed, in Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft Cortana. They are shallow now, in the kind of interactions you are having. They are somewhat scripted."
Facebook's Yann LeCun Discusses Digital Companions and Artificial Intelligence (and Emotions) - NYTimes.com

Google to Pay New CFO Ruth Porat More Than $70 Million - Bloomberg Business

Clearly a strong negotiator

"Google is under growing pressure to show that it can trim costs as it invests in new businesses to better compete with rivals such as Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. The company is looking to Porat, one of the financial industry’s most senior female executives with more than 25 years at Morgan Stanley, to bring greater fiscal discipline. She follows other Wall Street veterans who have moved to Silicon Valley firms.
“We’re tremendously fortunate to have found such a creative, experienced and operationally strong executive,” Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said in a statement Tuesday when Porat’s appointment was announced."
Google to Pay New CFO Ruth Porat More Than $70 Million - Bloomberg Business

Slack’s Valuation More Than Doubles to $2.8 Billion in Five Months - Digits - WSJ

The king of the unicorns?
"In an era of soaring valuations for tech startups, Slack has emerged as one of the industry’s most rapidly-appreciating assets a little more than a year after launching its first product. The startup has more than doubled in value since five months ago, when investors valued Slack at $1.12 billion, and now ranks among the world’s most valuable venture-backed developers of software for businesses.

Unlike many consumer-focused startups with multi-billion-dollar valuations, Slack’s growing adoption among business users is translating into real revenue. The company tries to hook workers on its free service and then convince their bosses to pay for a version with more features."
Slack’s Valuation More Than Doubles to $2.8 Billion in Five Months - Digits - WSJ

As Twitter Introduces Periscope, Tech Titans Bet on Live Streaming Video - NYTimes.com

Sign of the times

"“All of a sudden, the world’s pockets are full of good cameras and good screens with good data plans and good social platforms to let everyone know you’re broadcasting,” said Chris Sacca, founder and chairman of Lowercase Capital and an early Twitter investor.

In a statement, Ms. Banks said Periscope was a “wonderfully voyeuristic platform and it boggles my mind that the things that I’m sharing are able to be experienced by others live.”"
As Twitter Introduces Periscope, Tech Titans Bet on Live Streaming Video - NYTimes.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Will Facebook Messenger Kill Email? — Backchannel — Medium

From a Steven Levy Facebook Messenger perspective

"These cases are interesting because it’s one of many ways where Facebook is moving from a service centered around people you know to one that’s increasingly involved in stuff that might have nothing to do with your friends. “You’ve actually got two graphs inside of Facebook,” says Marcus. “You’ve got the people graph, but you also have the business graph, which is basically represented by Pages [the business equivalent of a profile page] and a bunch of other things.” Marcus contends that this will be a superior way of communicating with businesses, better than email or even an electronic assistant service such as Siri or Google Now."
Will Facebook Messenger Kill Email? — Backchannel — Medium

The SQL Empire Strikes Back To Claim Agility (Forbes)

A timely DBMS/data platform perspective

"Hadoop has introduced a lot of agility into the world of analytics and data integration. Concepts such as schema on read and the radical flexibility of processing data stored in files have allowed those with the right skills to move fast compared to what can be done in the world of SQL-based data warehouses.

But through a variety of technologies, some of which were born to serve Hadoop, the SQL empire is now striking back to claim agility. A new group of technologies have been developed to address some of the long-standing challenges with the data warehouse ecosystem and with SQL databases in particular. By putting these technologies to work in intelligent and appropriate ways, it is now possible to move just as fast in the world of SQL as you can anywhere else."
The SQL Empire Strikes Back To Claim Agility

Messaging apps: What’s up? | The Economist

A messaging market map

“MESSENGERS are arguably the most successful smartphone apps. The ten biggest collectively boast more than 3 billion accounts. WhatsApp, the leader, has 700m. The number of WhatsApp messages sent every day now exceeds the number of standard texts. Last year it handled more than 7 trillion messages, about 1,000 per person.”

Messaging apps: What’s up? | The Economist

EXCLUSIVE: Microsoft is building a successor to the Surface 2 (RT), here are the first details

Surface non-Pro/Windows RT enters the future collectors' item category

"WinBeta has learned that Microsoft is planning to launch a successor to the Surface 2 soon, however it won’t be a Windows RT based device. The device will be fanless and sport a low spec'd CPU, being either an Intel ATOM or Intel Core M based processor (we’re not too sure which one they’ve opted for just yet), meaning it will run a full-version of Windows. This is a first for the non-pro Surface line-up, and further solidifies reports regarding the death of Windows RT."
EXCLUSIVE: Microsoft is building a successor to the Surface 2 (RT), here are the first details [WinBeta]

RadioShack puts customer personal data up for sale in bankruptcy auction | PCWorld

Pending some legal challenges, a data sale that "would affect 117 million people"

"Why this matters: As if RadioShack wasn’t obnoxious enough when you had to turn over a phone number just to buy a cable splitter. Now, the store’s trying to go back on its promise to keep that data to itself. It’s one more reason to treat these contact information requests with caution, since you can never be sure where the data will end up."
RadioShack puts customer personal data up for sale in bankruptcy auction | PCWorld

Facebook Is the New AOL -- NYMag

From a timely Facebook reality check

"All of it might sound like small-bore stuff, unlikely to change your user experience in the Facebook site or the app. But all of these changes —and a number of other ones announced over the past year or two — are geared at making Facebook a nicer, faster, better-optimized place to be on the internet, and as such a better place to experience the internet as a whole. The idea is to make it so you are able to do more and might want to do more through Facebook, and thus do less elsewhere on the internet — watch a video, see a news story, share and comment on a piece of content, look at a photograph, chat with a retailer. As such, the goal is a distinctively 1990s one: to be a portal and a platform synonymous with the internet itself, like AOL."
Facebook Is the New AOL -- NYMag

Microsoft Makes Office Free for Small PCs and Tablets | Re/code

Non-freemium/premium, subscription-only benefits include "more robust editing and authoring features in the Office apps, 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype unlimited worldwide calling per month" (quoting from the Microsoft blog post referenced below)

"That will bring the Windows side of things more in line with what the software maker has done with its recent Office releases for iOS and Android, where most core features are free, with some advanced features requiring an Office 365 subscription.

“Based on our research, we are classifying anything with a screen size of 10.1 inches or less as a true mobile device: You’re probably using it on the go, when it’s not practical to use a larger computing device such as a PC or a Mac. You probably aren’t using a mouse or a keyboard, instead navigating via touch interface,” Microsoft corporate VP Kirk Koenigsbauer said in a blog post."
Microsoft Makes Office Free for Small PCs and Tablets | Re/code

Drones Beaming Web Access Are in the Stars for Facebook - NYTimes.com

Drone different

"Facebook’s drone team, which came to the company through the acquisition last year of the drone maker Ascenta, say they believe their solar-powered craft can eventually be aloft up to three months at a time, beaming high-speed data from 60,000 to 90,000 feet to some of the world’s remotest regions via laser. Test flights are to begin this summer, though full commercial deployment may take years.

“We want to serve every person in the world” with high-speed Internet signals, said Yael Maguire, head of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab. The dream — assuming regulators around the planet go along with it — is a fleet as big as 1,000 drones connecting people to the Internet. And where it is too remote even for the drones, satellites would do the trick.

“Can we reach a point where everyone on the planet gets the same message at once?” Mr. Maguire said. “I’m looking forward to that day.”"
Drones Beaming Web Access Are in the Stars for Facebook - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ACM Turing Award Goes to Pioneer in Database Systems Architecture: MIT’s Michael Stonebraker Brought Relational Database Systems from Concept to Commercial Success

A database pioneer wins The Turing Award for 2014

"The ACM Turing Award, widely considered the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” carries a $1 million prize with financial support provided by Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.
“Michael Stonebraker’s work is an integral part of how business gets done today,” said ACM President Alexander L. Wolf. “Moreover, through practical application of his innovative database management technologies and numerous business start-ups, he has continually demonstrated the role of the research university in driving economic development.”
“The efficient and effective management of Big Data is crucial to our 21st century global economy,” said Google Senior Vice President of Knowledge Alan Eustace. “Michael Stonebraker invented many of the architectures and strategies that are the foundation of virtually all modern database systems.”"
ACM Turing Award Goes to Pioneer in Database Systems Architecture: MIT’s Michael Stonebraker Brought Relational Database Systems from Concept to Commercial Success

It’s a Different Microsoft, and It Matters | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Excerpt from a Microsoft-in-transition reality check

"In a presentation at Convergence 2015, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela came with a presence that would have been unimaginable a couple of years ago. “We have pockets of real strength around the world, but we have some areas where our products just have not become important enough compared to what we would like them to be.” he said. And what is behind it is a fundamental change in how Microsoft, which claims has earned $25 billion a year from Office, will make money in applications from both consumers and enterprise customers: “We have a history of making money on Windows licenses that OEMs pay us on Enterprise Agreements, on EAs, if you will, and we’re changing that dramatically, and we’re moving to a model that we talk about as freemium innovation.”"
It’s a Different Microsoft, and It Matters | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Google Pony Express May Let You Receive, Pay Bills Directly in Gmail | Re/code

The check is in the Gmail

"Google’s mission to organize the world’s information is now targeting your physical mailbox.

The company is currently working on a project that will allow Gmail users to more easily receive bills in their email inbox instead of their mailbox. Called Pony Express, the service also is designed to let people pay their bills within Gmail, rather than having to go to a telecom or utility company’s website to complete a payment.

Those details are outlined in a lengthy document viewed by Re/code. The new service is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter, according to the document. It’s not clear whether Pony Express is a code name or one that’ll be used if it comes to market. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment."
Google Pony Express May Let You Receive, Pay Bills Directly in Gmail | Re/code

Apple Acquires FoundationDB - Digits - WSJ

iNoSQL

"Apple bought a startup that’s developing a lightning-fast database, a sign the tech giant may be seeking ways to run software services like iMessage more efficiently.

Apple agreed to acquire FoundationDB, a Virginia-based startup that developed database technology designed to crunch massive quantities of digital information very quickly. Such technologies are useful to data-reliant companies including those that tailor digital advertisements for websites."
Apple Acquires FoundationDB - Digits - WSJ

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Smart Cars Accelerating Slowly | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Final paragraphs from an autonomous-auto reality check

"The real problem is, because we’re seeing tech industry companies start to get involved with the auto industry, we’re applying tech industry development speed expectations to autonomous cars. New iterations of smartphones take 6-12 months, so a few years should be plenty to tackle something like autonomous cars, right? Well, no.
The reality is we probably won’t be seeing usable Level Three-types of features in cars we can buy off the lot until the beginning or even middle of the next decade, and fully automated Level Four could take until 2030 or later. By the way, this should also put a new perspective on when (ignoring the even more important “if” question) Apple might enter the car market.
I’m certainly excited about the possibilities of what autonomous car features can bring, but I think we need to keep our expectations in check."
Smart Cars Accelerating Slowly | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Google Isn’t Giving Up on Glass, Eric Schmidt Says - Digits - WSJ

Not dead yet

"It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google,” Schmidt said. “We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us canceling the whole project, which isn’t true. Google is about taking risks and there’s nothing about adjusting Glass that suggests we’re ending it.”

He said Glass, like Google’s self-driving car, is a long-term project. “That’s like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now,” he said. “These things take time.”

A spokeswoman for Fadell declined to comment."
Google Isn’t Giving Up on Glass, Eric Schmidt Says - Digits - WSJ

Slack Is Said to Be in Funding Talks at $2 Billion-Plus Value - Bloomberg Business

Reminiscent of Twitter's early history

"The investments are a further validation for Stewart Butterfield, who co-founded Tiny Speck Inc. and raised $17 million to develop an online game called Glitch. Tiny Speck had $5 million left when in 2012 Butterfield and the founders decided to shut down the game and return cash to stakeholders. Instead, their investors encouraged them to keep the money and start a new business, which became Slack. Butterfield had previously sold photo-sharing website Flickr to Yahoo! Inc. in 2005."
Slack Is Said to Be in Funding Talks at $2 Billion-Plus Value - Bloomberg Business

Microsoft Apps to be Pre-Installed on Some Android Devices - Digits - WSJ

Embrace and extend, post-90s version
"Microsoft is continuing to try to make its own mobile phone system, Windows Phone, a success. But at the same time Microsoft is pushing its software like Office, Skype and Web-search service Bing into as many venues as possible — even on non-Windows computing devices.

The company’s Android-handset deals offer a window on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s focus on building the user base of the company’s products, not just profits. As a result, Nadella has overseen the transformation of cash-cow products like Microsoft Office into apps for the iPad and free apps for Android and iPhone smartphones."
Microsoft Apps to be Pre-Installed on Some Android Devices - Digits - WSJ

Amazon’s Twitch Site Hacked - Digits - WSJ

Tangentially, see Amazon’s Attention Deficit and Spending Spree (WSJ)
"Amazon’s Twitch unit said its website for streaming videogame play was likely hacked, though in disclosing the possible compromise the company raised more questions than it answered.

Twitch said in emails to those potentially affected that their password, email address, user name, home address, phone number and date of birth may have been accessed. Twitch canceled the password of those who received the email, noting the passwords are encrypted but still could have been accessed. It also cut off access to YouTube and Twitter for those accounts with a link."
Amazon’s Twitch Site Hacked - Digits - WSJ

Google Fiber Plans Experiment With Targeted Ads for Television - NYTimes.com

TV that watches you
"Google’s trial — which for now is aimed only at customers in the Kansas City area, who can opt out of having their viewing history used for advertising purposes — will use ads that are targeted by geography and what kinds of shows they view most often.

“Fiber TV ads will be digitally delivered in real time and can be matched based on geography, the type of program being shown (like sports or news), or viewing history,” Google said in a online forum for Google Fiber. “If you’re a local business in Kansas City, just as with digital ads, you’ll only pay for ads that have been shown, and can limit the number of times an ad is shown to a given TV.”"
Google Fiber Plans Experiment With Targeted Ads for Television - NYTimes.com

Facebook May Host News Sites’ Content - NYTimes.com

Perhaps a topic for this week's F8 conference
"With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them. Facebook has been trying to allay their fears, according to several of the people briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements."
Facebook May Host News Sites’ Content - NYTimes.com

Monday, March 23, 2015

The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was — Backchannel — Medium

Excerpt from a Steven Levy perspective on the Steve Jobs book debate

"Although Jobs professed to hate nostalgia, I did sense that as he grew older (and faced his mortality) some sentimentality had crept into his palette of emotions. He would sometimes bring up with a cackle something from the past — an arcane product from the early PC era, some gossip about the Mac team, even a shared incident from one of the stories I worked on about him or Apple. Though he was far from a jokester, he was quite capable of unleashing a barb. Often these were pointed at others in the industry, but sometimes he would would make fun of himself. My own favorite quip of his came when I once asked the Beatle-loving Jobs if his dream was to have Paul McCartney perform one of those two-song sets that often closed his product launch events. “No,” he told me. “My dream is to have John Lennon perform.”"
The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was — Backchannel — Medium

Technologies Smart Enough to Exploit Human Nature | MIT Technology Review

From the lead article in an MIT Technology Review multi-part business report on persuasive technology

"The idea that computers, mobile phones, websites, and other technologies could be designed to influence people’s behavior and even attitudes dates back to the early 1990s, when Stanford professor B. J. Fogg coined the term “persuasive computing” (later broadened to “persuasive technology”). But today many companies have taken that one step further: using technologies that measure customer behavior to design products that are not just persuasive but specifically aimed at forging new habits.


If habit formation as a business model was once largely limited to casinos and cigarette manufacturers, today technology has opened up the option to a broad range of companies. Insights from psychology and behavioral economics about how and why people make certain choices, combined with digital technologies, social media, and smartphones, have enabled designers of websites, apps, and a wide variety of other products to create sophisticated persuasive technologies."
Technologies Smart Enough to Exploit Human Nature | MIT Technology Review

Were Google’s Practices Anti-Competitive or Just Anti-Competitor? - The New Yorker

Final paragraph from a Google evil-o-meter reality check; also see Google News buries news of Google's FTC investigation under Daniel Lyons fluff (AppleInsider)
"Google’s rivals seem to have learned from their interactions with the consumer-oriented F.T.C. This time, in making their case to the E.U., they appear to be far more focussed on arguing that Google’s behavior harmed not only them but consumers, too. On a Web site called Focus on the User, which is available in four European languages, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others, including consumer groups, are making this argument directly; Yelp and TripAdvisor even developed a tool showing that, presented with certain kinds of search results that favor Google sites alongside those that don’t, users find the latter more useful. Such lobbying, coupled with the knowledge that the F.T.C.’s own staff members found Google’s practices to be anti-competitive, could well influence European policymakers in their investigation of the company."
Were Google’s Practices Anti-Competitive or Just Anti-Competitor? - The New Yorker

Ted Cruz announces presidential bid on Twitter | The Verge

Sign of the times -- including the lively replies to his tweet

"Ted Cruz, Republican senator for Texas and the chair of the committee in charge of NASA, used Twitter tonight to announce his intentions to run for president in 2016. Cruz's tweet was accompanied by a 30-second video, in which the senator calls on "a new generation of courageous conservatives" to "make America great again.""
Ted Cruz announces presidential bid on Twitter | The Verge

The Hadoop Vs. the NoSQL - Whiteboard Walkthrough | MapR

A useful ~5.5-minute video comparison

"Editor's Note: In this week's Whiteboard Walkthrough, Dale Kim, Director of Industry Solutions at MapR, gets you up to speed on Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. He talks about the similarities and differences between the two, but most importantly how both technologies should be a requirement for any true big data environment. See his Whiteboard Walkthrough and accompanying blog post below. "
The Hadoop Vs. the NoSQL - Whiteboard Walkthrough | MapR

13-inch Broadwell MacBook showdown: Should you go Pro or get an Air? | Ars Technica

From an extensive comparison of the latest MacBook Air and Pro models

"The 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air were once very different computers that served very different needs. One was bulkier but pretty fast and user-serviceable, while the other was thin-and-light to a fault, arriving with anemic low-power CPUs and GPUs, slow hard drives, and no easy means to upgrade. In the last two-to-three years, that gap has narrowed substantially. The Air has become more powerful and less compromised, while the Pro has slimmed down and dumped features like user-replaceable RAM and its Ethernet jack. Both use Thunderbolt 2. Both use modern dual-core CPUs with some of Intel’s better integrated GPUs. They’re even priced in the same ballpark. What was once an easy recommendation has gotten more difficult."
13-inch Broadwell MacBook showdown: Should you go Pro or get an Air? | Ars Technica

Apple offers rare look inside secret Apple Watch health and fitness testing labs [u] (AppleInsider)

Instrument different

"The company's director of Fitness and Health technologies, Jay Blahnik, said that in order to test the Watch's environmental resistance, the company brought the device to places as distant as Alaska and Dubai. But special "climate chambers" were installed in the labs as well, allowing Apple to simulate activities in extreme heat and cold.

On the scale of the project, Blahnik said that the company has amassed "what may be one of the world's largest pieces of data on fitness," and that the company's fitness efforts are just beginning. "We think there's a lot to this fitness thing...the impact on health could be profound.""
Apple offers rare look inside secret Apple Watch health and fitness testing labs [u]