Friday, July 29, 2016

Apple Hires BlackBerry Talent With Car Project Turning to Self-Driving Software - Bloomberg

A late-binding case study in process

"Dan Dodge, the founder and former chief executive officer of QNX, the operating system developer that BlackBerry acquired in 2010, joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. He is part of a team headed by Bob Mansfield, who, since taking over leadership of the cars initiative -- dubbed Project Titan -- has heralded a shift in strategy, according to a person familiar with the plan. 
The initiative is now prioritizing the development of an autonomous driving system, though it’s not abandoning efforts to design its own vehicle. That leaves options open should the company eventually decide to partner with or acquire an established car maker, rather than build a car itself. An Apple spokesman declined to comment."
Apple Hires BlackBerry Talent With Car Project Turning to Self-Driving Software - Bloomberg

Google Results Show Signs of Cloud Progress Under Greene - Bloomberg

On a related note, see Amazon Cloud Unit Helps It Stay Profitable While Investing (Bloomberg Businessweek)

"Those hires, combined with new products, have helped Google sell cloud-based software and services more effectively to large companies -- something it struggled to do before Greene arrived. "We now have key leadership in place and centralized teams," Pichai said. "I see a shift to a world-class enterprise approach and it’s definitely having an impact on the type of conversations we are having."

Cloud computing is a strategic growth area for Google, which is seeking to turn the infrastructure it built for its mammoth web operations into services that other businesses can rent. The market for cloud services in 2016 is worth about $204 billion, according to Gartner. Though Google is praised for technical expertise, it is fourth in cloud services behind Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp., according to Synergy Research Group."
Google Results Show Signs of Cloud Progress Under Greene - Bloomberg

A Twitter spat breaks out between Snowden and WikiLeaks - The Washington Post

Tangentially, see These businesses are booming thanks to Russian hackers (The Washington Post)

"Two of the biggest names in government data leaks clashed over how to responsibly release information on Twitter on Thursday.

It started when Edward Snowden tweeted that WikiLeaks' "hostility to even modest curation" was a mistake. WikiLeaks wasn't happy about the criticism -- and hit Snowden back by accusing him of pandering to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton."
A Twitter spat breaks out between Snowden and WikiLeaks - The Washington Post

Amazon’s Profits Grow More Than 800 Percent, Lifted by Cloud Services - The New York Times

From an Amazon earnings overview

"What is most striking about its recent habit of showing profits is that Amazon has not suddenly become stingy about making investments. In a conference call, Amazon’s chief financial officer, Brian Olsavsky, said that the company would open 18 new fulfillment centers — the warehouses from which it processes customer orders — in the third quarter of this year, three times the number it opened in the same period last year.

Amazon plans to nearly double its spending on digital video during the second half of the year as it expands the offerings of its Netflix-like streaming service, he said. That spending increase reflects a nearly tripling in the number of original television shows and movies financed by Amazon.

“I would not take our financial results as an indication we’re running out of investment opportunities,” Mr. Olsavsky said."
Amazon’s Profits Grow More Than 800 Percent, Lifted by Cloud Services - The New York Times

Google Silences Doubters With Blockbuster Quarter - The New York Times

A solid week for "the four horsemen of the Internet"

"It’s good to be Google. Sometimes it’s just plain great.

Revenue regularly increases at a clip rarely achieved by firms of its size. The same goes for profits. Seven of its products have over a billion users, a scale unimaginable in the predigital era. A reorganization last year into a holding company called Alphabet, accompanied by some related high-level personnel moves, was unexpected but generally applauded.

Investors and analysts see little in the short term to disrupt this happy state of affairs, which has pushed Alphabet’s value to more than $500 billion. Those sentiments were confirmed in its second-quarter earnings report, released Thursday after the market closed. It was even better than the rosy forecasts."
Google Silences Doubters With Blockbuster Quarter - The New York Times

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Oracle to Acquire NetSuite for $9.3 Billion - The New York Times

One way to accelerate Oracle's cloud business

"“Oracle and NetSuite cloud applications are complementary, and will coexist in the marketplace forever,” Mark Hurd, chief executive of Oracle, said in the statement.

Mr. Ellison, Oracle’s founder and chairman, is one of the most acquisitive software executives in the world, although this transaction is among his largest. Mr. Ellison owns a 27 percent stake in the company and the two companies have partnered in the past on ventures to bring cloud services to smaller businesses."
Oracle to Acquire NetSuite for $9.3 Billion - The New York Times

Microsoft OneNote goes mainstream after a long adolescence (SearchContentManagement)

Conclusion of a recent OneNote market dynamics overview I wrote; for another recent perspective, see What went wrong in the wiki market?

"After a long and sometimes winding road since its first release in 2003, OneNote now reflects the best of the revitalized and cloud-first, mobile-first Microsoft and is likely to continue winning loyal users for years to come. If you're interested in exploring a more modern approach to content and collaboration, compared to traditional document-centric alternatives, Microsoft OneNote is a great place to start."
Microsoft OneNote goes mainstream after long adolescence

Facebook sees 2 billion searches per day, but it’s attacking Twitter not Google | TechCrunch

More bad news for Twitter

"What Mark Zuckerberg said on today’s earnings call was that “The growing way that people use search is to find what people are saying about a topic across more that [sic] 2.5 trillion posts. Now people are doing more than 2 billion searches a day between looking up people, businesses, and other things they care about.”

What wasn’t said but is clearly implied is that it that Facebook thinks you should talk about things on Facebook because your words will find new audiences thanks to its powerful search engine and massive user base. Twitter has ruled this space, but Facebook has been trying to catch since launching public post search last year."
Facebook sees 2 billion searches per day, but it’s attacking Twitter not Google | TechCrunch

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Facebook Trounces Wall Street Estimates With Sharp Ad Sales Growth - The New York Times

Meanwhile, Twitter Might Want to Steal From Yahoo’s Playbook (NYT on Verizon/Twitter scenario)

"Facebook Inc's quarterly profit and revenue blew past Wall Street estimates on Wednesday, sending its shares to a record high, as the social media company's popular mobile app and push into video attracted new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to spend more.

Facebook shares rose 6.5 percent in after-hours trading to $131.40, their highest since the company went public in 2012.

Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 84 percent of the company's total advertising revenue, compared with 76 percent a year earlier."
Facebook Trounces Wall Street Estimates With Sharp Ad Sales Growth - The New York Times

Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails - The New York Times

Also see 'Treason'? Critics savage Trump over Russia hack comments (Politico)
"“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the United States’ presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have “high confidence” was the work of the Russian government."
On a related note, from Why Trump Really Doesn't Want to Release Those Returns (The Atlantic):
"And if Russia really wanted to prove that they are not partial to Trump, and if his returns were filed by his team or are kept by the IRS in electronic form, then the Russians could release his returns for him.  Somehow I doubt that will happen."
Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails - The New York Times

The DNC should never have been running its own email server. (Slate)

Excerpt from a timely email reality check; also see Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C. (NYT)
"If, however, you’re more concerned about your email being read by external attackers in, say, Russia, then the perceived security of handling all your own email may do more harm than good. And if your area of expertise is political strategizing and maneuvering, rather than encryption protocols and firewall configurations, you would almost certainly be better off delegating responsibility for your email to a company that knows what it’s doing.

Alternatively, you can decide never ever to send another email that contains anything snarky, stupid, condescending, embarrassing, or rude. I, for one, solemnly make this vow after every published breach of email correspondence (I will never send another email that I would not be comfortable seeing printed on the front page of the New York Times), and it lasts roughly three minutes, until I’m seized by the need to share a particularly pointed insult of someone with my college roommate. So for those of us who will never be able to completely sanitize our inboxes, it’s worth thinking carefully about who we want protecting them."
The DNC should never have been running its own email server.

New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief - The New York Times

A LinkNYC snapshot as it reaches 300 activated kiosks, on the way to 7,500+

"Along Eighth Avenue in Midtown, some homeless people are camping around the kiosks. Sascha Freudenheim, who runs a consulting firm on West 36th Street, said the way some people were using the kiosks “seems completely counter to their purpose.” Mr. Freudenheim said he thought they would be used to help people find their way around the city, not serve as gathering spots.

Residents of more residential neighborhoods have complained that the kiosks are too bright, too loud and more attractive to idle squatters than they are to busy passers-by in need of a quick connection. Other New Yorkers are demonstrating their usual skepticism, eyeing the kiosks warily and wondering what the catch is."
New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief - The New York Times

Facebook’s really big plans for virtual reality (Bloomberg Businessweek)

From an extensive Facebook VR profile

"Zuckerberg, asked about this directly, doesn’t flinch at the thought of building a NASA-like research park for VR. “This is early, and it’s going to be a long-term thing,” he says. “This is a good candidate to be the next major computing platform. It’s worthy of a lot of investment over a long period.”

He often talks of connecting the world. But with virtual reality, the terms of that connection have been upped exponentially. “We’ve connected 1.65 billion people through Facebook,” Zuckerberg says. “But if you want to help get all 7 billion people connected and make a step function in the fidelity of how people can share and consume content, you need to make significant investments in some of these longer-term things where you actually don’t know what the time horizon is. … I don’t know who said this first, but it’s not hard to predict what the world will be like in 20 years. The hard thing is actually predicting or figuring out how to get there.”"
Facebook’s really big plans for virtual reality

Verizon’s mixed quarter shows why it needs AOL and Yahoo - The Washington Post

Apparently planning to transition from telecommunications oligopolist to Internet advertising oligopolist

"“Yahoo is a complementary business to AOL, giving us market-leading content brands and a valuable portfolio of online properties and mobile applications that attract over 1 billion monthly active consumer views," McAdam said. "We expect this acquisition to put us in a great position as a top global mobile media company and give us a significant source of revenue growth for the future.”

Perhaps the most significant part of the Yahoo deal for Verizon is how it recasts who Verizon's rivals are. In an interview with CNBC, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong named Silicon Valley giants Google and Facebook as his key rivals -- not AT&T or Comcast. But, he said, Verizon will have to find its own path to success.

"Trying to do what Google and Facebook do is not a good strategy," Armstrong said in the interview. "We have to have a differentiated performance.""
Verizon’s mixed quarter shows why it needs AOL and Yahoo - The Washington Post

Twitter, Grappling with Anemic Growth, Tries to Bolster Its Advertising Business - The New York Times

Tbd if Tim Armstrong has a place in mind for Twitter in Verizon's advertising network...

"On Tuesday, Twitter’s ailing position among its peers was underscored once more when the company reported its worst quarterly revenue growth ever and only a slight increase in users for the second quarter. The company also signaled that its prospects were unlikely to improve in the short term.

Twitter posted revenue of $602 million for the quarter, up 20 percent from a year ago and below Wall Street estimates of $607 million. Its net loss narrowed to $107 million, or 15 cents a share. Twitter’s users grew 3 percent from a year ago, to 313 million.

Looking ahead, the company projected revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the current quarter, far below analyst estimates of $681 million."
Twitter, Grappling with Anemic Growth, Tries to Bolster Its Advertising Business - The New York Times

Apple’s iPhone Sales Drop Again, but Services Are a Bright Spot - The New York Times

Also see The Very Good News Buried in Apple’s Dismal Results (Time); $7.8B quarterly net income = "dismal" => expect different; also see Apple CEO Cook Explains to Slightly Perplexed Analysts ‘So Many Signs That Are Positive’ (Barron's)
"The number of iPhones sold dropped 15 percent, compared with the same quarter a year ago, and revenue plunged 23 percent. The number of Macs sold fell 11 percent, and the number of iPads fell 9 percent. And sales of the Watch, Apple’s newest product, plunged 55 percent compared with the previous year, according to the research firm IDC, which published its own assessment on Friday since Apple does not break out its smartwatch sales.

Net income was $7.8 billion, or $1.42 a share, down 27 percent.

Apple’s weak results were partly a result of the company’s position at the end of its product cycle. In September, it is expected to announce upgrades to its iPhone hardware and software, which happens every two years. Many Apple customers hold off buying a new phone in the months before a big release so that they can get the newest model."
Apple’s iPhone Sales Drop Again, but Services Are a Bright Spot - The New York Times

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

No, the DNC Didn’t Rig the Primary in Favor of Hillary | New Republic

Excerpt from a multifaceted reality check

"If the Russians can get into the servers of the White House, the State Department, and the DNC, then it is possible they can retrieve the digital and data infrastructure of the Democratic Party and its allies in organized labor and liberal interest groups. They have now crossed over from simply infiltrating documents and data to exfiltrating documents to shape public opinion and the democratic elections that determine control over the power of the state.

Could the Russians wipe out the voter registration rolls in an effort to shape the electorate to benefit Donald Trump? Just last week the Illinois State Board of Elections announced it had been hacked, “most likely from a foreign (international) entity.”

And what about the Democrats’ advantage in data and analytics? It depends upon the integrity and security of the data. What if hackers installed malware that severely damaged NGP-VAN, the system that Democrats use for targeting and contacting voters? In 2012 the Republicans tried to create a similar system; it was a disaster, causing chaos in its get-out-the-vote operation."
No, the DNC Didn’t Rig the Primary in Favor of Hillary | New Republic

What Sank Yahoo? Blame Its Nice Guy Founders - Bloomberg

Somewhere along the way, the exclamation point was lost

"During the 2000s, Yahoo’s biggest mistakes were failures of will. Semel, billed as a “deals guy” from Hollywood, could have bought Google in 2002, as Fred Vogelstein reported in Wired. Yahoo also came close to buying Facebook in 2006, until Semel lowered his offer from $1 billion to $850 million after a disappointing earnings report, alienating an already reluctant Mark Zuckerberg in the process, according to David Kirkpatrick’s book, The Facebook Effect.
These acquisitions probably looked like risky, uneconomical moves that Yahoo investors might hate. That’s the whole point. Web companies need the unique power of founders to do unpopular things. Page advocated for Google to buy the money-losing video sharing site YouTube in 2006; Zuckerberg made what seemed like an outrageously overpriced bet on the photo app Instagram in 2012. This is how tech companies survive—the ability to take risks."
What Sank Yahoo? Blame Its Nice Guy Founders - Bloomberg

For Yahoo, Question Is What to Do With $40 Billion in Leftovers - The New York Times

Over time, not much will RemainCo

"Other parts of RemainCo are much easier to deal with. The Yahoo Japan stake isn’t subject to as nearly a contentious tax bill as the Alibaba holdings, though for the moment the rump company will hold on to that stake. (The majority owner of Yahoo Japan, SoftBank, has the right of first refusal if RemainCo decides to sell those shares.)

And Mr. McInerney said that the rump company would return virtually all of the remaining cash and continue to work on selling the patents.

In case investors and analysts did not grasp the message, he added during the call: “We’re not intending to make new investments with the cash out of RemainCo. The intent is to return it.”"
For Yahoo, Question Is What to Do With $40 Billion in Leftovers - The New York Times

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nintendo Slumps By Most Since 1990 on Dashed Pokemon Go Hopes - Bloomberg

A less augmented reality for Nintendo shareholders; also see Nintendo reminds investors it didn't make Pokemon Go, stock plummets (CNet)
"The stock sank 18 percent to 23,220 yen at the close in Tokyo, the maximum one-day move allowed by the exchange, wiping out 708 billion yen ($6.7 billion) in market value. After debuting in the U.S. earlier this month, Pokemon Go launched in Japan on Friday and became available in Hong Kong on Monday.
The correction comes after Pokemon Go’s release almost doubled Nintendo’s stock through Friday’s close, adding $17.6 billion in market capitalization. Nintendo is a shareholder in the game’s developer Niantic Inc. and Pokemon Co., but has an "effective economic stake" of just 13 percent in the app, according to an estimate by Macquarie Securities analyst David Gibson."
Nintendo Slumps By Most Since 1990 on Dashed Pokemon Go Hopes - Bloomberg

Pokémon Go will eventually add new pokémon and customizable pokéstops | The Verge

In case you were worried Pokémon Go might be headed for near-term meme-bust

"The thing Hanke personally seemed more interested in was making pokéstops a bigger part of the game. He mentioned that pokéstops frequently have lures placed at them, and he thinks it would be interesting to give players other ways to modify a pokéstop's function. "That's a pretty cool idea that you can acquire an object that changes the function of a pokéstop and gives it a new ability," Hanke said. One of those functions might be turning them into healing pokécenters, he said, as Niantic wants to add them to the game in some way.

Trading and training features are in the works as well. Pokémon breeding is also something Hanke said Niantic has been discussing."
Pokémon Go will eventually add new pokémon and customizable pokéstops | The Verge

Yahoo Cuts $4.8 Billion Deal to Sell Core Business to Verizon - The New York Times

Also see Why Yahoo Sold Itself (NYT) and Why Verizon wants to buy an ailing Yahoo (Washington Post)
"The board of the Silicon Valley company has agreed to sell Yahoo’s core internet operations and land holdings to Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion, according to people briefed on the matter, who were not authorized to speak about the deal before the planned announcement on Monday morning.

After the sale, Yahoo shareholders will be left with about $41 billion in investments in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, as well as Yahoo Japan and a small portfolio of patents."
Yahoo Cuts $4.8 Billion Deal to Sell Core Business to Verizon - The New York Times

Google Races to Catch Up in Cloud Computing - The New York Times

Check the full article for details on three recent Google Cloud updates; tangentially, see From Google to the world: the Kubernetes origin story (Google Cloud Platform blog)
"Can faster networks, lower prices and lots of artificial intelligence put Google ahead? Amazon’s lead seems to give it an edge for at least the next couple of years, as its cloud branch has perfected a method of developing hundreds of new cloud features annually. Yet while the company appears to have some basic artificial intelligence features, called machine learning, it seems to have little in the way of speech recognition or translation.

Mr. Lovelock, the Gartner analyst, predicted that Google would offer businesses the insights it has gained from years of watching people online. “Amazon views the customer as the person paying the bill, while Google believes the customer is the end user of a service,” he said. And Microsoft is promoting itself as the company that has products customers already know and use.

“Everyone has to play to the strengths the market already sees they have,” Mr. Lovelock said."
Google Races to Catch Up in Cloud Computing - The New York Times

As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue - The New York Times

Also see Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing (TPM), Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate (NYT), and Clinton campaign — and some cyber experts — say Russia is behind email release (Washington Post)
"Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess."
As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue - The New York Times