Thursday, September 29, 2016

Amazon’s New TV Streaming Stick Has Echo-Like Voice Controls | TIME

Check this Amazon page for details

"Because the new Fire Stick will include the same Alexa assistant as Amazon’s other hardware, like the Echo, those who own the updated Fire Stick will also be able to check their shopping lists, order a pizza, or summon an Uber ride using their voice. Alexa now supports 3,000 skills, or functions from third-party developers that add to its roster of abilities.

By comparison, Roku’s $49.99 streaming stick doesn’t include voice controls. Apple’s Siri, however, is present on that company’s latest Apple TV, offering playback controls and search functionality by voice, even with third-party apps like Netflix and Hulu. However, Apple’s $149 streaming box is much more expensive than Amazon’s new Fire Stick."
Amazon’s New TV Streaming Stick Has Echo-Like Voice Controls | TIME

Apple to Move London Headquarters to Battersea Power Station - Bloomberg

Locate different

"The consumer electronics and software giant will move 1,400 employees to the development in 2021, according to a statement Wednesday from the project’s developer. The lease accounts for about 40 percent of the office space within the development, which is backed by Sime Darby Bhd, SP Setia Bhd Group and the Employees Provident Fund. The power station gained worldwide renown after being used as the iconic cover illustration for the band Pink Floyd’s platinum 1977 album “Animals.” It was depicted on the cover with a pig floating between two of its four chimneys."
Apple to Move London Headquarters to Battersea Power Station - Bloomberg

Protecting Humans and Jobs From Robots Is 5 Tech Giants’ Goal - The New York Times

Check this page for more details

"Five major technology companies said Wednesday that they had created an organization to set the ground rules for protecting humans — and their jobs — in the face of rapid advances in artificial intelligence.

The Partnership on AI, unites Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft in an effort to ease public fears of machines that are learning to think for themselves and perhaps ease corporate anxiety over the prospect of government regulation of this new technology."
Protecting Humans and Jobs From Robots Is 5 Tech Giants’ Goal - The New York Times

A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer - The New York Times

From a timely Google reality check
"If the Assistant or something like it does not take off, Google’s status as the chief navigator of our digital lives could be superseded by a half-dozen other assistants. You might interact with Alexa in your house, with Siri on your phone, and with Facebook Messenger’s chatbot when you’re out and about. Google’s search engine (not to mention its Android operating system, Chrome, Gmail, Maps and other properties) would remain popular and lucrative, but possibly far less so than they are today.   
That’s the threat. But the Assistant also presents Google with a delicious opportunity. The “Star Trek” computer is no metaphor. The company believes that machine learning has advanced to the point that it is now possible to build a predictive, all-knowing, superhelpful and conversational assistant of the sort that Captain Kirk relied on to navigate the stars."
A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer - The New York Times

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BlackBerry Abandons Its Phone - The New York Times

Disintegration time for BlackBerry

"BlackBerry will no longer make its own smartphones, the product it once defined.

Before being overtaken by iPhones from Apple, BlackBerry’s phones were so popular that they were nicknamed CrackBerry. But the distressed Canadian company’s decision, announced on Wednesday, means that the BlackBerry name will will now be found only on handsets made by a group owned by phone companies in Indonesia, which has licensed the brand."
BlackBerry Abandons Its Phone - The New York Times

Facebook At Work is launching next month | TechCrunch

In other enterprise social news, see Slack: Now with more Salesforce, and vice versa (Slack blog) and Microsoft is killing Yammer Enterprise plan in January 2017, will start integrating Office 365 Groups first (VentureBeat)

"Facebook is ready to make work as addictive as socializing. The company plans to launch its enterprise communication and collaboration network Facebook At Work in the next few weeks on a per seat pricing model, The Information (paywall) first reported and a source close to Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch.

Facebook believes it can keep individual employees engaged with the product, so it’s betting on a pricing plan that charges companies “per monthly active user” instead of charging a flat rate per company, says Facebook @ Work director Julien Codorniou. TechCrunch has learned that Facebook will announce launch integrations or partnerships with other SaaS tool providers including Asana."
Facebook At Work is launching next month | TechCrunch

Aetna to Provide Apple Watch to 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost for Customers - Mac Rumors

See this Aetna news release for details
"Insurance company Aetna today announced a major health initiative centered on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, which will see Aetna subsidizing the cost of the Apple Watch for both large employers and individual customers.

Starting this fall during open enrollment season, Aetna will subsidize "a significant portion" of the Apple Watch cost and will offer monthly payroll deductions to cover the remaining cost.

Aetna also plans to provide Apple Watches at no cost to all of its nearly 50,000 employees as part of a wellness reimbursement program to encourage them to live healthier lives."
Aetna to Provide Apple Watch to 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost for Customers - Mac Rumors

Google's AI translation system is approaching human-level accuracy - The Verge

For an overall Google snapshot, see On its 18th birthday, Google is more indispensable than ever (The Verge)

"In some cases, Google says its GNMT system is even approaching human-level translation accuracy. That near-parity is restricted to transitions between related languages, like from English to Spanish and French. However, Google is eager to gather more data for "notoriously difficult" use cases, all of which will help its system learn and improve over time thanks to machine learning techniques. So starting today, Google is using its GNMT system for 100 percent of Chinese to English machine translations in the Google Translate mobile and web apps, accounting for around 18 million translations per day."
Google's AI translation system is approaching human-level accuracy - The Verge

Big Computer Makers Cozy Up to Microsoft’s Cloud - WSJ

Cloud coopetition

"Cloud computing has thrown computer makers into a forbidding landscape where prospective customers have incentives to rely on external service providers rather than buying hardware. But some have found a key ally in one of the biggest cloud providers, Microsoft Corp.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and Dell Technologies this week are using a Microsoft event in Atlanta to step up their public embrace of the software giant’s Azure cloud service. The collaboration is deeper than their dealings with cloud vendors such as Amazon.com Inc.’s AWS unit, which leads the sector, and Google Inc."
Big Computer Makers Cozy Up to Microsoft’s Cloud - WSJ

Elon Musk’s Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond - The New York Times

Behold the Interplanetary Transport System

"“What you saw there is very close to what we’ll actually build,” Mr. Musk said, referring to the rockets and spacecraft in the video.

Mr. Musk estimated it would cost $10 billion to develop the rocket, and he said the first passengers to Mars could take off as soon as 2024 if the plans went off without a hitch. For now, SpaceX is financing development costs of a few tens of millions of dollars a year, but eventually the company would look to some kind of public-private partnership.

Each of the SpaceX vehicles would take 100 passengers on the journey to Mars, with trips planned every 26 months, when Earth and Mars pass close to each other. Tickets per person might cost $500,000 at first, and drop to about a third of that later on, Mr. Musk said."
Elon Musk’s Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond - The New York Times

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Andromeda Strain | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Also see Exclusive: Google plans to launch Andromeda on a ‘Nexus’ Huawei tablet, ‘Pixel’ laptop (9to5Google)

"Next week in San Francisco, Google is heavily rumored to announce the release of a new strain of operating system codenamed “Andromeda.” The new OS is expected to combine elements of Chrome with Android. Unlike current efforts to bring support for Android apps into Chrome, however, the new Andromeda OS is expected to bring some of the desktop-like capabilities of Chrome into Android to form a super OS that could work across smartphones, tablets, and notebook-style form factors.
Though details remain sketchy, the new OS is expected to offer true multi-modal windowing, as well as a file system and other typical accoutrements for a desktop-style operating system. In essence, this means that Google’s next OS—expected to be released late this year or sometime next year—will be able to compete directly with Microsoft Windows and MacOS X."
The Andromeda Strain | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Discusses Artificial Intelligence's Impact (Fortune)

Also see Democratizing AI: For every person and every organization (Microsoft News Center)

"“We are not pursuing A.I. to beat humans at games,” said Nadella, taking a subtle hit at competitors like Google and IBM, whose A.I. technologies got some attention for beating humans at the ancient Chinese board game Go and on the game show Jeopardy.

Microsoft’s overarching goal is to “democratize A.I.,” which Nadella explained has something to do with analyzing the mountains of data produced by consumers and businesses and then presenting the findings to people who have far less free time than they used to have."
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Discusses Artificial Intelligence's Impact

Microsoft Joins Adobe to Compete With Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg

For some SharePoint-related Ignite highlights, see SharePoint innovations further advance intelligence and collaboration in Office 365 (Office Blogs)

"Microsoft Corp. is joining with Adobe Systems Inc. to offer cloud-based products to their large mutual customer base, helping the software giant to better compete with leading cloud contender Amazon.com Inc.
With the partnership, Adobe will bring its creative marketing software programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing service, the companies said in a statement Monday. At the same time, Microsoft will make Adobe’s marketing programs the favored choice for its internet-based software that manages customer relationships."
Microsoft Joins Adobe to Compete With Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg

More Than 50% of Shoppers Turn First to Amazon in Product Search - Bloomberg

One-stop shopping

"Fifty-five percent of those surveyed go to Amazon first when searching for products, an increase from 44 percent a year earlier, according to a Labor Day weekend poll of 2,000 people released by the Internet marketing firm BloomReach Inc. The second annual survey showed search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, and retailers losing ground to Amazon. Search engines were the starting point for 28 percent of those surveyed, declining from 34 percent a year earlier. Specific retailers were the starting point for 16 percent, down from 21 percent.
“Amazon has become the reference point for shoppers,” said Jason Seeba, head of marketing for BloomReach. “Shoppers will go to Amazon first to find a product and check prices.”"
More Than 50% of Shoppers Turn First to Amazon in Product Search - Bloomberg

Monday, September 26, 2016

Snapchat’s camcorder goggles are creepy cool and kind of brilliant - Recode

Tbd if the project will prove ephemeral

"“It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in the Wall Street Journal magazine feature unveiling the gadget, describing a vacation he took with his fiancĂ©e. “It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

Whether or not these Spectacles popularize circular footage the way Snapchat did for vertical video, it’s an audacious new project for Spiegel and Snapchat, which he has renamed Snap Inc. — “a camera company.”

That’s in part because the last big camera-goggles launch, Google Glass, went about as poorly as possible."
Snapchat’s camcorder goggles are creepy cool and kind of brilliant - Recode

Twitter's Buyers Would Get Valuable Data and a Long To-Do List - Bloomberg

Check the full article for more on Twitter's trials and tribulations

"While it remains a destination for conversation among influential people, Twitter would be tough to digest. Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Jack Dorsey has another CEO job at Square Inc. and may not come along with an acquisition. The company put him in charge last year, after an extensive search that sparked executive departures. More strategic changes could mean more valuable employees leaving. Twitter’s product team has gone through at least five heads in six years.
Then there’s the lack of growth -- the reason the company is said to be considering a sale in the first place. Twitter’s user base has stagnated in the U.S. for six straight quarters. Advertisers aren’t spending as much as expected, mostly because they can’t justify buying more ads if the audience isn’t growing. “Twitter’s value proposition to advertisers could be waning,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney wrote, after surveying advertisers recently."
Twitter's Buyers Would Get Valuable Data and a Long To-Do List - Bloomberg

What if ‘One Click’ Buying Were Internetwide? - The New York Times

Pay different

"But the bigger goal behind the W3C project is to create a standard, seamless and secure way to pay for things electronically in a future that will most likely include virtual reality stores, chat-based transactions and machines making payments to other machines (an autonomous car paying for a parking spot, for instance).

The standard will also make it easy to include new payment methods like Bitcoin or the Chinese payment provider Tencent.

“This involves quite radical changes to the way people think about payments,” said Ian Jacobs, the W3C staff member leading the effort. “As a standards body it is our job to be sure it is an open playing field.”"
What if ‘One Click’ Buying Were Internetwide? - The New York Times

Friday, September 23, 2016

Twitter Is Said to Be Discussing a Possible Takeover - The New York Times

Stock up ~21% today

"The social network site Twitter is talking with Salesforce.com, Google and others over a possible takeover of the company, people briefed on the discussions said on Friday.

The discussions are in the early stages, these people said, and there is no guarantee that a deal will be reached.

At the same time, Twitter is weighing a possible revamping of the company that could involve divestitures and layoffs. The company is working with the investment banks Goldman Sachs and Allen & Company on its options."
Twitter Is Said to Be Discussing a Possible Takeover - The New York Times

A Tale of Two SharePoint Platforms: Compelling Content and Collaboration Capabilities in Office 365 | CASAHL

Some timely SharePoint perspectives, heading into Ignite 2016 next week; check the full post for a detailed review of SharePoint in transition

"Microsoft is making significant enhancements to content and collaboration capabilities in modern SharePoint, placing SharePoint Online at the center of its Office 365 content/collaboration value proposition. This post provides an overview of the new capabilities, contrasting them with earlier content/collaboration features in traditional SharePoint (primarily on-premises SharePoint Server). The new capabilities and underlying architecture in modern SharePoint are sufficiently advanced, relative to traditional SharePoint, that it’s not a stretch to think of them as two different (and complementary) SharePoint platforms, sharing a common brand name and some integration options but otherwise designed to address two different eras of enterprise content/collaboration requirements."
A Tale of Two SharePoint Platforms: Compelling Content and Collaboration Capabilities in Office 365 | CASAHL

This chatbot makes voter registration as easy as sending a text - Recode

Also see Save the Day
"Typically, voter registration campaigns involve volunteers going door to door or waiting outside shops with clipboards in hand, begging bystanders to complete legal-sized sheets of paperwork with the promise of getting more paperwork in the mail.

It’s time for an upgrade, which is why the tech-savvy activists at the nonprofit Fight for the Future are rolling out a new chatbot today to handle the voter registration process.

Called Hello.Vote, it works with regular SMS texts, as well as Facebook Messenger, to ask a few quick questions and get you on your way to fulfilling your civic duty."
This chatbot makes voter registration as easy as sending a text - Recode

Amazon’s stock price has soared past $800 for the first time - Recode

Tangentially, see Audiobooks Turn More Readers Into Listeners as E-Books Slip (NYT)

"Amazon has posted record profits for three straight quarters. Now it has a record stock price to go with it.

The company’s shares shot across $800 for the first time ever on Thursday morning. The company’s $386 billion market cap is the fourth largest in the world, behind only Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft."
Amazon’s stock price has soared past $800 for the first time - Recode

LinkedIn wants to be fun - The Washington Post

For more details, see Accelerating LinkedIn's Vision Through Innovation (LinkedIn blog)

"Roughly 105 million people visit LinkedIn every month, compared to Twitter’s 313 million monthly active users and Facebook’s massive 1.7 billion audience. Many LinkedIn visitors use the site to make a connection with other professionals, but they don’t linger as they do on Facebook, getting absorbed in stories and news.

The new features are not only intended to boost “stickiness” — the amount of time people linger and click within a site — but to turn LinkedIn into a hub of economic opportunity, said LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner at an event at the company’s San Francisco offices on Thursday. It will be a hotspot for useful conversations that helps users become more savvy at work and improve their job prospects."
LinkedIn wants to be fun - The Washington Post

Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014 - The New York Times

Also see How to Protect Yourself After the Yahoo Attack (NYT) and How Many Times Has Your Personal Information Been Exposed to Hackers? (NYT)

"Yahoo announced on Thursday that the account information of at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network.

In a statement, Yahoo said user information — including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions — was compromised in 2014 by what it believed was a “state-sponsored actor.”"
Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014 - The New York Times

Microsoft adds more firepower to its HoloLens team | ZDNet

Meanwhile, in Facebook's VR zone, see Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine (The Daily Beast) and Palmer Luckey is funding Donald Trump's internet trolls with his Oculus money (The Verge)
"Microsoft is adding some new key members to its HoloLens/mixed-reality team.

Microsoft Principal Researcher Jamie Shotton announced on Twitter on Sept. 22 that he is joining the HoloLens team and working on a new Cambridge UK computer vision research team "to help make the best #MixedReality platform even more amazing".
Shotton has been leading the Machine Intelligence and Perception group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, according to his MSR biography. His research has been focused "at the intersection of computer vision, AI, machine learning and graphics, with particular emphasis on systems that allow people to interact naturally with computers"."
Microsoft adds more firepower to its HoloLens team | ZDNet