Friday, April 29, 2016

Apple Remains the King of Tablets While Microsoft's Clown Act with 'Surface' Continues - Patently Apple

Check the full post for IDC data on the top five vendors and commentary about Microsoft's Surface business
"According to a new IDC report, the first quarter seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base led to an annual decline of 14.7% in worldwide tablet shipments during the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16). Worldwide shipments of tablets including slate and detachable form factors reached 39.6 million. Slate shipments for the quarter stood at 87.6% while detachables reached 12.4%, a new record. Apple's dominance in the overall tablet market was unsurprising.

The latest iPad Pro 9.7" and more enterprise friendly storage options for the slightly older iPad Pro 12.9" are healthy additions to the iPad lineup. The recent price drop on the iPad Air 2 should help sway those who were previously undecided to upgrade their older iPad 2s."
Apple Remains the King of Tablets While Microsoft's Clown Act with 'Surface' Continues - Patently Apple

Microsoft Flow is like IFTTT for connecting cloud services - Business Insider

Evidently the Microsoft Flow intro workflow wasn't quite ready
[Update: site is live now; see https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/getting-started/ for an overview; work or school email id required; tangentially, PowerApps is now in open beta]
"Meet Microsoft Flow: A free way to connect all of your cloud services — including Slack, GitHub, Twitter, and Google Drive — together in new and novel ways.

You can have your Dropbox files automatically copied to a OneDrive account. You can have your Tweets saved to a spreadsheet. If you've ever used the mega-popular IFTTT service, it's exactly like that, with user-created "flows" for shunting data from one service to another.

Even more interestingly, it looks like Microsoft wasn't ready to unveil Flow just yet: An annunciatory blog post, dated April 27th 2016, is publicly viewable at the time of writing, but the main flow.microsoft.com site doesn't yet work. Both the blog and the site were first noticed by Twitter user "h0x0d.""
Microsoft Flow is like IFTTT for connecting cloud services - Business Insider

Microsoft stops Google being used for Cortana searches - BBC News

Check the related Microsoft blog post for details on "Protecting the Integrated Search Experience in Windows 10;" later in the BBC article: "Statistics gathered by Statcounter suggest that globally more than 90% of searches are carried out via Google. By contrast, Bing accounts for about 3% of searches."
"Windows users will still be able to install other web browsers and use other search engines outside Cortana, said Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's head of search and Cortana, in the blogpost.
However, he said, Microsoft was adding extras to Edge and Bing that meant it made sense to tie these programs to Cortana instead of other search engines and browsers.
Anything else would be a "compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable", he said."
Microsoft stops Google being used for Cortana searches - BBC News

Yahoo's $8 Billion Black Hole - Bloomberg Businessweek

From a stark Yahoo reality check

"Think of Yahoo as a traditional enterprise (with all the assets just mentioned) stuck on top of a small safe deposit box. Inside that box: a huge pile of cash, plus stock certificates of two Asian tech companies. Yahoo owns about 15 percent of Internet giant Alibaba, a stake that would trade on the open market for roughly $29 billion. It also has a 36 percent holding (worth about $9 billion) in Yahoo! Japan, a publicly traded company based in Tokyo that long ago abandoned Yahoo’s search technology for Google’s. If you add up the cash and the stocks, you’ll notice that the value of the contents of the box totals $43 billion. That’s $8 billion more than the market capitalization of Yahoo, $35 billion, which includes the company and the stuff in that imaginary box. The implication: Everything you think of as Yahoo—apps, websites, employees, computers, buildings—has a negative value.
A more charitable analysis, where one imagines Yahoo selling its stock and paying the full corporate tax rate, yields a depressing result: Its operating business might be worth $6 billion."
Yahoo's $8 Billion Black Hole - Bloomberg Businessweek

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Focuses on Search, AI, Platforms, Cloud | Re/code

Tangentially, see Google is building a new hardware division under former Motorola chief Rick Osterloh (Re/code)

"Pichai’s note is long. It doesn’t really contain anything new or mind-blowing. But he does put down his six areas of focus for the famously unfocused company. The letter underscores how much Google is prioritizing artificial intelligence. It is certainly not a departure from the Google under Alphabet CEO Larry Page, but it does signal the narrower focus Pichai is trying to impose on the 60,000-plus-person behemoth now that the Alphabet moonshots have been stripped out.

Here is his six-point plan:"
Google CEO Sundar Pichai Focuses on Search, AI, Platforms, Cloud | Re/code

How Foursquare knew before almost anyone how bad things were for Chipotle - The Washington Post

Foursquare, the "biggest foot traffic panel in the world"

"Chipotle announced its first loss as a public company Tuesday. But two weeks earlier, an unlikely source —the social media app Foursquare — had beat Chipotle to the punch, predicting in a blog post that the burrito maker’s sales would drop nearly 30 percent. Chipotle made it official Tuesday afternoon — reporting a drop of 29.7 percent. 

The remarkably accurate prediction from a company consumers know for restaurant tips and the ability to check in at locations highlights the emerging power of the gobs of data our smartphones collect and the opportunity for savvy companies to convert that information into piles of cash."
How Foursquare knew before almost anyone how bad things were for Chipotle - The Washington Post

Europe’s Case Against Google Might Help Rivals More Than Consumers - The New York Times

Some tangled Webs...

"The Russian Internet company Yandex has been the most vocal in urging European action against Apple, which is even more ironic considering that Russia is not a member of the European Union and has been sanctioned over its annexation of Crimea. Yandex has dominated Internet search in Russia but has recently been losing ground there to Google. It filed — and, no surprise, won — similar claims in Russia. (Google is appealing that outcome.)

Even if competitors like Yandex would stand to benefit, “the purpose of antitrust law, at least in the U.S., is to protect consumers, not competitors,” Professor Hemphill said.

Professor Hovenkamp echoed that thought. “Europe is moving pretty far into left field with this case,” he said. “It seems like over-regulation for the benefit of competitors that won’t end up doing consumers any good.”"
Europe’s Case Against Google Might Help Rivals More Than Consumers - The New York Times

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Amazon’s Web Services are shining in its latest earnings beat | TechCrunch

A multifaceted AWS milestone

"It’s always impressive for a company that, for most of its lifetime, has been focused entirely on its commerce side is able to grow a new business from scratch, given that other larger technology companies are also throwing concepts at the wall looking for new lines of business. For Facebook, it’s VR and services like WhatsApp. For Google, it’s the company’s moonshots like self-driving cars. These have yet to come to fruition, while AWS is showing that it’s becoming a real business.

Even more interestingly, Amazon’s AWS division posted an operating income even higher than its core business in North America. The company said AWS posted an operating income of $604, compared to operating income of $588 in its core business in North America. This is a business that, while generating less than its e-commerce business, seems at first blush operationally more efficient and still growing at a health rate. Bezos himself said that he expects AWS to be a $10 billion annual business in his 2015 letter to shareholders."
Amazon’s Web Services are shining in its latest earnings beat | TechCrunch

Amazon Posts Strong Profit, Thanks to Its Cloud - The New York Times

Later in the article: "For the time being, it has clearly chosen to produce profits."

"Amazon delivered a blowout quarter on Thursday, joining Facebook as one of the rare bright spots in a technology sector that has recently produced a string of disappointing earnings reports.

Helped by its fast-growing Amazon Web Services business, the company swung to a profit that, for Amazon, qualified as hefty.

The company’s shares jumped more than 12 percent in after-hours trading."
Amazon Posts Strong Profit, Thanks to Its Cloud - The New York Times

Amazon, Microsoft invest billions as computing shifts to cloud | The Seattle Times

Don't expect massive profits when Amazon announces its latest quarterly results this afternoon
"But Amazon’s profits are increasingly dictated by cloud computing. So are its investments.

Since 2010, the money it spends in technology and content has expanded sevenfold, to $12.5 billion last year. That’s a category that includes the cost of the equipment and salaries that underpin Amazon Web Services, its 10-year old cloud-computing unit. Amazon acknowledges in its annual report that infrastructure related to AWS has been a primary driver of spending in this segment.

It’s a dramatic rise — the kind of money usually spent by the capital-intensive heavyweights that manufacture cars, start up remote mining facilities or drill oil wells a mile below sea level."
Amazon, Microsoft invest billions as computing shifts to cloud | The Seattle Times

Waze - Official Blog: Privacy and Waze

Waze addresses a dubious report about its privacy controls; check the full post for details and user options

"Today we received questions about a research report and subsequent news article which claimed that Wazer privacy could be compromised and users could be followed if a hacker exploited our network.

The Waze ecosystem is built upon trust and deep respect for all of you - real-time traffic simply doesn’t work without the participation of our community, and we are constantly reviewing and adding safeguards to protect our users. Please read further as we address a few severe misconceptions from related news coverage and explain how Waze thinks about privacy. User accounts were not compromised, there was no server breach and Wazer account data is safe."
Waze - Official Blog: Privacy and Waze

SpaceX says it will fly a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018 - The Washington Post

Part of a NASA/SpaceX partnership to send humans to Mars in the 2030s

"Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on Mars as soon as 2018 with the help of NASA, an extraordinary collaboration between the public and private sectors in an effort to eventually get humans to the Red Planet.

SpaceX made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, laying out an ambitious timeline for an incredibly difficult mission that only governments have dared try. Landing a spacecraft or a robot that can then operate successfully on the Martian surface is so difficult that the U.S. is the only country to have done it, and many attempts over the years have failed."
SpaceX says it will fly a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018 - The Washington Post

Facebook Plans New Stock Class to Solidify Mark Zuckerberg’s Control - The New York Times

Maintaining control while donating shares; also see Zuckerberg Borrows Google Tactic in Splitting Stock for Control (Bloomberg)
"“It’s almost like voting Republican in Massachusetts — you can do it, but it won’t affect the outcome,” said Rick Kline, a partner in the technology and capital markets practice of law firm Goodwin Procter.

Investors getting new C shares will not gain economically because the same proportion of new stock will be given to all holders.

Mr. Zuckerberg might have a more difficult time convincing shareholders to accept the new class of shares were his company not doing so well. Facebook’s financial results on Wednesday were a far cry from the disappointing numbers posted in the past 10 days by peers like Twitter, whose advertising business showed signs of stumbling on Tuesday, or Alphabet, the parent company of Google, which missed analysts’ estimates for revenue last week."
Facebook Plans New Stock Class to Solidify Mark Zuckerberg’s Control - The New York Times

Google Shuts Out Competitors on Android? Hardly - The New York Times

A different perspective on Android and monopoly control

"Yet the European charges miss the messy reality of life on Android, which is clear to anyone who studies the mobile software business: Android phones come teeming with non-Google apps, often to the point of frustration for users. The search company appears powerless to keep many of them off people’s devices, even when doing so might help its business.

There’s no better evidence for this than the meteoric rise of Facebook, Google’s archrival, which announced another blowout earnings report on Wednesday — with much of its revenue coming from ads on Android phones. Facebook’s numbers show the primary weakness in the European Union’s case: If Google’s grand plan really is to keep rivals off Android phones, it sure is doing a poor job of it."
Google Shuts Out Competitors on Android? Hardly - The New York Times

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Facebook’s Profit Triples, Outpacing Forecasts and Its Peers - The New York Times

Check Facebook Reports First Quarter 2016 Results and Announces Proposal for New Class of Stock for full details

"For most tech companies this financial earnings season, it has become a game of survival of the fittest. By that score, Facebook may outlast the others.

On Wednesday, the social network said sales in the first quarter rose 52 percent from a year ago to $5.3 billion, while profit increased to $1.5 billion, tripling from $512 million a year ago. Excluding certain items, Facebook’s profit was 77 cents a share, far surpassing Wall Street expectations of 62 cents a share."
Facebook’s Profit Triples, Outpacing Forecasts and Its Peers - The New York Times

Picking apart Apple's Q2 2016 numbers - Six Colors

Check the full post for some bigger-picture Apple perspectives; also see Notes of interest from Apple's Q2 2016 conference call (AppleInsider)

"So in other words, if you like profits and strong sales, Apple has that. They’re not not what they were last year—and that’s not a great sign for Wall Street. But don’t let someone tell you that Apple’s in trouble, or that it lost money, or that iPhone sales are cratering, because none of that is true. What is true is that after many years of growth, some of it staggeringly inflationary growth, Apple didn’t grow this quarter. If you’re an investor, that may be quite painful. If you’re a user of Apple’s products, it probably won’t affect you much at all.

One final little silver lining: If you pretend 2015 didn’t happen at all, this quarterly result looks entirely boring. During the call with analysts, Apple executives pointed out that the iPhone 6S upgrade cycle is actually a little bit better than the one for the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 6, however, was a spectacularly huge upgrade cycle. Perhaps Apple finally embracing a larger phone drove a massive amount of sales all at once? Regardless, if I delete 2015 from my spreadsheets and look at the numbers, nothing crashes to earth—it just shows the continued cooling off of the iPhone’s previously rapid growth."
Picking apart Apple's Q2 2016 numbers - Six Colors

How Google plans to rewrite the rules of the road for self-driving cars | VentureBeat | Business | by Reuters

From an extensive self-driving car reality check; tangentially, see Alphabet’s Next Big Thing: Building a ‘Smart’ City (WSJ)

"Google, though, is “definitely an L4 company,” one executive says. The company maintains that requiring human controls makes driverless cars useless for elderly, blind and disabled people who can’t operate a vehicle, and even makes the cars dangerous.

“Developing a car that can shoulder the entire burden of driving is crucial to safety,” Urmson told the same Senate panel. “Human drivers can’t always be trusted to dip in and out of the task of driving when the car is encouraging them to sit back and relax.”"
How Google plans to rewrite the rules of the road for self-driving cars | VentureBeat | Business | by Reuters

Social Capital’s Mamoon Hamid sees Slack shaking up the workplace | Re/code

Attempting to move beyond group/team chat

"Since 2013, Slack has become a bit of a wunderkind and gets a lot of buzz, but that buzz lies in its popularity with young tech and media companies. (Re/code’s parent Vox Media is a customer.) But to merit the investments it has secured — a combined $540 million at a valuation of nearly $4 billion as of this month — it will have to scale up suitable for use at large companies — something Hamid said is already happening. Of Slack’s Top 20 deals, he said, 10 are with Fortune 100 companies. And while Hamid couldn’t mention their names — Slack hasn’t disclosed some of its largest customers — the names of non-startups using it include the retailer Urban Outfitters, electronics giant Samsung and NASA, as in the U.S. space agency.

That said, there’s still work to do. Even at big companies, Slack tends to be used in individual departments, not across full corporations. That’s the next big step, the one that’s sometimes described by the wonky phrase “enterprise scale.”"
Social Capital’s Mamoon Hamid sees Slack shaking up the workplace | Re/code

Twitter Narrows Loss, Adds Users and Misses Revenue Forecast - The New York Times

This will probably look even worse when Facebook releases its latest quarterly earnings this afternoon

"For all the issues that Twitter has grappled with over the last few years — the slowdown in user growth, a revolving door of executives and confusion over how to use the social media service — it has had one constant pillar of strength: a bulletproof advertising business.

Now add that business to Twitter’s growing list of problems.

On Tuesday, Twitter reported revenue of $595 million for the first quarter — which was below Wall Street estimates — and said that marketers were not spending as quickly on ads on the service as it had anticipated. That trend line may not reverse anytime soon; the company, based in San Francisco, is also projecting sales in the second quarter that are below analyst expectations."
Twitter Narrows Loss, Adds Users and Misses Revenue Forecast - The New York Times

Apple’s dark day: What it means - The Boston Globe

Check the full article for a summary of factors leading to Apple's first quarterly revenue drop since 2003; a stock buy-back of $175B will probably help a bit

"For 52 consecutive quarters Apple’s growth went in only one direction: up. Now that impressive streak is over, broken by a second-quarter performance in which the tech titan reported revenues falling 13 percent from the previous period.

Though Apple still raked in nearly $51 billion in sales, the earnings report laid bare several important truths about a company that once seemed invincible:"
Apple’s dark day: What it means - The Boston Globe

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Apple by itself earns +40% of the profits of Silicon Valley's top 150 companies (AppleInsider)

A big day ahead for Apple

"While the world waits to see just how many iPhones, iPads and Macs Apple sold in the March quarter, a report on the top 150 firms in California's Silicon Valley shows that Apple earned more than 40 percent of the region's total profits in 2015, and its revenues grew 2.5x as fast as its peers year over year."
Apple by itself earns +40% of the profits of Silicon Valley's top 150 companies

Dropbox wants to stretch desktop file storage to infinity | Computerworld

Timing/availability still tbd, but hopefully this signals the beginning of the end of the need to juggle Explorer/Finder and browser-based views of accessible (personal or shared) files backed by cloud file services; also see A revolutionary new way to access all your files (Dropbox Business Blog)
"The cloud storage company announced a new initiative at its Open conference in London on Tuesday called Project Infinite. It's a push to create a new Dropbox interface that allows users to see all of the files they've stored in the cloud in their computer's file explorer, without requiring them to keep local copies of each document, image, spreadsheet or other file.

With Project Infinite, users will be able to manage their files in the cloud by moving them around inside the Mac OS X Finder or Windows File Explorer, just like they would any local files that are taking up space on their hard drives."
Dropbox wants to stretch desktop file storage to infinity | Computerworld

Madness at Microsoft: Flagship Lumia phones are now FREE | SiliconANGLE

Buy an unlocked Lumia 950 XL, get a free Lumia 950; Microsoft continues to race Blackberry to the smartphone market exit; also see Microsoft launches Lumia BOGO deal to boost fading Windows phone sales (PCWorld)
"So why would Microsoft be doing what seems like a crazy bit of business? The answer is simply because the new Lumia range has not been selling. When the company released its Q3 earnings last week Microsoft revealed that its mobile phone revenue was far from healthy. This comes as little surprise as Microsoft had earlier said at Build 2016 that the company would not be focusing on phones very much for a while. Still, right now the state of Lumia phone seems desperate, or sad."
Madness at Microsoft: Flagship Lumia phones are now FREE | SiliconANGLE

The future of TV is arriving faster than anyone predicted - The Washington Post

Streaming into the future

"The FCC claims its new technical standards are required to encourage more competitors to produce the boxes, which in turn could reduce fees paid by consumers.  TiVo’s new Bolt DVR, for example, starts at $300 plus a $14.99 monthly fee.

But critics from across the political spectrum are wondering why the agency seems determined to unlock a box when standalone devices of any kind are becoming rapidly obsolete. The FCC’s latest proposal, as Comcast’s announcement underscores, puts the agency once again in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

In a report I filed with the agency, I noted that the new regulations would instead unintentionally extend life-support for standalone boxes for years to come, with no benefit to consumers or anyone else.  Instead, I argued, we should simply let them die of natural causes."
The future of TV is arriving faster than anyone predicted - The Washington Post

Google Gets Beaten to the Punch by AT&T on Super-Fast Broadband - Bloomberg

Leading by example; tangentially, see Federal regulators allow Charter to move ahead with its massive takeover of Time Warner Cable (The Washington Post)
"Google Fiber has yet to bring its super-fast broadband service to the city of Atlanta. But Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. know it’s coming, and they’re offering the 1 gigabit Internet speed Google promised -- and signing up new customers.
It’s been six years since Google announced it would lay a fiber network to compete with cable providers and telephone companies. Although it’s now in only four markets, competitors are lowering rates and building faster lines to keep customers from defecting to the technology giant. Because Google needs consumers to have robust Internet speed in order to sell more expensive ads on its search engine, that may be what it had in mind all along."
Google Gets Beaten to the Punch by AT&T on Super-Fast Broadband - Bloomberg

Monday, April 25, 2016

You can now download 300TB of data from the Large Hadron Collider | The Verge

Later in the article: "'Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly,' said CMS physicist Kati Lassila-Perini, who leads the detector's data-preservation efforts."

"If you ever wanted to take a look at raw data produced by the Large Hadron Collider, but are missing the necessary physics PhD, here's your chance: CERN has published more than 300 terabytes of LHC data online for free. The data covers roughly half the experiments run by the LHC's CMS detector during 2011, with a press release from CERN explaining that this includes about 2.5 inverse femtobarns of data — around 250 trillion particle collisions. Best not to download this on a mobile connection then."
You can now download 300TB of data from the Large Hadron Collider | The Verge

What We’re Learning from Smartwatch Adoption | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Some things take time; also see Apple’s Watch Outpaced the iPhone in First Year (WSJ)
"A year ago today, Apple released its long-anticipated Apple Watch. Over the ensuing year, we’ve learned a lot about an entirely new tech category.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) estimates 17 million smartwatches were sold in 2015, up from 4 million in 2014. I can name more than a few categories that would love to experience 350 percent growth over a 12 month period. Few ever do.
Forthcoming CTA research suggests roughly eight percent of households own a smartwatch today – almost double the number last year. Of those planning to buy a smartwatch in 2016, 72 percent will be first-time buyers."
What We’re Learning from Smartwatch Adoption | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

ISIS Targeted by Cyberattacks in a New U.S. Line of Combat - The New York Times

Attack different

"The fact that the administration is beginning to talk of its use of the new weapons is a dramatic change. As recently as four years ago, it would not publicly admit to developing offensive cyberweapons or confirm its role in any attacks on computer networks.

That is partly because cyberattacks inside another nation raise major questions over invasion of sovereignty. But in the case of the Islamic State, officials say a decision was made that a bit of boasting might degrade the enemy’s trust in its communications, jumbling and even deterring some actions.

“Our cyberoperations are disrupting their command-and-control and communications,” Mr. Obama said this month, emerging from a meeting at the C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., on countering the Islamic State."
ISIS Targeted by Cyberattacks in a New U.S. Line of Combat - The New York Times

This may be the best way to measure gun violence in America - The Washington Post

There's an app for that

"The ShotSpotter system works by triangulating sound picked up by sensors placed on utility poles, light posts and buildings. The widespread use of what amounts to microphones in public has been criticized for privacy concerns. But supporters say the system is focused on reducing gun violence.

Nationwide, the number of gunfire incidents fell in 2015 compared to 2014, according to ShotSpotter data. The median reduction was nearly 13 percent in the 46 cities that used the system for comparable periods. These limitations makes it difficult for comparisons with other statistics, such as the Gun Violence Archive, which relies on media reports of shootings and found that the number of shooting incidents grew by 2.6 percent last year to 53,195."
This may be the best way to measure gun violence in America - The Washington Post

Microsoft and Google Agree to Drop Mutual Complaints - The New York Times

Back to basics; also see Google & Microsoft agree to stop squabbling like kids (SiliconAngle)
"Microsoft and Google agreed on Friday to withdraw complaints against each other with regulators around the world, as the two American tech giants continued recent efforts to settle the once-bitter conflicts between them.

The two companies also said they would try to resolve future squabbles before complaining to regulators, as they have in the past.

“Microsoft has agreed to withdraw its regulatory complaints against Google, reflecting our changing legal priorities,” said Jennifer Crider, a Microsoft spokeswoman. “We will continue to focus on competing vigorously for business and for customers.”"
Microsoft and Google Agree to Drop Mutual Complaints - The New York Times

Facebook Aims to Drive Down Tech Prices to Expand Its Reach - The New York Times

For another Facebook big-picture perspective, see Facebook Isn’t the Social Network Anymore (Slate)

"Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, is clear about his vision for his company: He wants to triple the size of his social network, which now has 1.6 billion members.

But to reach that new audience, he has to find a way to change telecommunications networks to make connecting to the Internet more affordable, since many of those would-be Facebook users live in developing countries.

That could be bad news for the companies that make equipment for those networks, whether they are Silicon Valley giants like Cisco Systems or little widget makers that produce the parts to tie different pieces of the network together."
Facebook Aims to Drive Down Tech Prices to Expand Its Reach - The New York Times