"Microsoft’s new VR strategy appears to put the coming VR headsets—which will come from PC maker partners like Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, and ASUS—in the same basic sweet spot as the PSVR. That is, they will be capable devices with immersive experiences, though they will be tethered to, and require, a PC. The good news? That PC could cost as little as $500, a far cry from the $1500 or more for an Oculus PC. And the headsets will cost as little as $300.Microsoft Finally Explains Its VR Strategy - Thurrott.com
For Microsoft’s part, it is doing what it always does: Supplying the platform bits needed in Windows to drive these solutions. These will apparently come as part of Windows Holographic, from what I can tell. But they will arrive with the Windows 10 Creators Update, regardless. So we’re looking at Spring 2017 for the software. It’s not year clear what the schedule is for the hardware, but that would of course by the earliest time."
Thursday, October 27, 2016
With virtual availability details
Also see Dyn DNS DDoS likely the work of script kiddies, says FlashPoint (TechCrunch)
"Some have worried that the massive cyberattack that disrupted the Internet on Friday was the work of Russian government-backed hackers, politically motivated hacktivists or sophisticated cybercriminals. But researchers at cyber-intelligence firm Flashpoint say the Internet meltdown may have been carried out by amateurs who haunt a popular hacking forum.Hobbyist hackers probably caused Friday’s Internet meltdown, researchers say - The Washington Post
Flashpoint helped Web service provider Dyn determine that hacked Internet-connected devices were involved in the attack. If Flashpoint is right, the attack shows that even hobbyists can cripple the Internet's fragile infrastructure. When asked about Flashpoint's research, Dyn pointed to a blog post on its site Wednesday that said it's “collaborating in an ongoing criminal investigation of the attack and will not speculate regarding the motivation or the identity of the attackers.”"
Troubling Twitter trends
"But if Twitter provides a rare outlet for criticism of repressive regimes, it’s also useful to those regimes for tracking down and punishing critics. In September 2012 a Saudi Twitter user named Bader Thawab was arrested for tweeting “down with the House of Saud.” In March 2014 an eight-year prison sentence was upheld for a Saudi man who’d mocked the king and religious officials on Twitter and YouTube. The following May, a Saudi man in a wheelchair named Dolan bin Bakheet was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 100 lashes for using Twitter to complain about his medical care. In all, there have been dozens of Twitter-related prosecutions in Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch.Twitter’s ‘Firehose’ of Tweets Is Incredibly Valuable—and Just as Dangerous - Bloomberg
Twitter is still popular in the kingdom—the service has added 200,000 active users there since 2014, according to the Arab Social Media Report—but it no longer hosts much dissent. Activists are careful to tweet in coded language, if they tweet at all. “People don’t openly discuss important things on Twitter anymore,” says Ali Adubisi, a Saudi human-rights activist. “Twitter is totally different, totally silent, totally weak.”"
Also see Hands on with the Surface Studio, Microsoft’s first desktop computer (Ars Technica)
"The new Microsoft machine is a handsome specimen of the all-in-one PC category best exemplified by Apple’s iMac. It has a sleek aluminum body with 28-inch screen that rests on top of a stand. Microsoft also showed a new accessory device called the Surface Dial that augments computer mice, giving users a precise way to zoom in images and perform other actions.Microsoft Unveils Its First Desktop PC - The New York Times
“This is a product that we believe truly brings out the creator in all of us,” said Panos Panay, a Microsoft corporate vice president.
The new Microsoft PC will not be for everyone though, if only because of its $2,999 price tag. It will go on sale in limited quantities this holiday season, Mr. Panay said. Architects, product designers and engineers are among the likely targets for the product."
Sunny days ahead for Tesla; also see Elon Musk Says Tesla Car-Share Network Is ‘the People vs. Uber’ (Bloomberg)
"The electric carmaker Tesla Motors said on Wednesday that it earned $22 million in the third quarter, its first profitable period since 2013, raising expectations for the success of its expansion plans.Tesla Surprises Investors With Quarterly Profit Ahead of Merger Vote - The New York Times
The company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said in a letter to investors that the results reflected improvements in vehicle production, the addition of new stores and a steady increase in market share for its luxury models.
“We were able to have our best quarter ever, and we are heading toward a great fourth quarter as well,” Mr. Musk said in a conference call with analysts."
From a Steven Levy Assistant assessment
"That process, unrolling over the next two years, is The Transition. When millions of people begin conversing with Google, through the Assistant, the seas of difficulty suddenly part. (With Google Home, conversing is the only way you will get any use out of it — there’s no keyboard.) “You can start doing machine learning on that,” Pereira says. “You can move much faster; you can accelerate the process of getting deeper and broader in understanding. This 2016-to-2017 Transition is going to move us from systems that are explicitly taught to ones that implicitly learn.” Think of it as a mini-Singularity.Google: Our Assistant Will Trigger the Next Era of AI
The data flowing in during this two-year transition won’t stop, of course. (I should clarify here that Pereira and the other Googlers talking about this transition are referring to the collection of data in the aggregate, not in accumulating dossiers on the conversational preferences, peregrinations, and peccadilloes of individual users.) Pereira sees it leading to a better version of the Assistant, which in turn will lead to more usage, more conversation, more data — and more improvement. Perhaps a decade from now, this accelerating cycle may lead to a bot that really knows what we talk about when we talk about…anything."
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Maybe AT&T/Time Warner/HBO will make a mini-series about this...
"Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit - The Daily Beast
These new revelations come as the company seeks to acquire Time Warner in the face of vocal opposition saying the deal would be bad for consumers. Donald Trump told supporters over the weekend he would kill the acquisition if he’s elected president; Hillary Clinton has urged regulators to scrutinize the deal.
While telecommunications companies are legally obligated to hand over records, AT&T appears to have gone much further to make the enterprise profitable, according to ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian."
Also see Jamboard — the whiteboard, reimagined for collaboration in the cloud (Google Blog)
"But like most of Google’s suite of business apps, the real point is the software and its collaborative cloud service.This is Jamboard, Google’s new 4K digital whiteboard - Recode
As you might expect, inside a “Jam” session, you can draw, type, import and scribble on images and Google Docs, search the web in a mini-browser, communicate with colleagues via Google Hangout and keep a digital record of your work in Google Drive. Teams using multiple Jamboards can work together on the same project in real time, as long as there’s internet access.
There’s also a full-featured tablet app for iOS and Android (so others can participate without a Jamboard) and a simpler version of the app for smartphones. Companies can test the concept just using these apps, though Google (obviously) thinks the huge touchscreen is a big part of the equation. It has been testing the software and devices with about 30 teams internally and with external partners including Netflix and Spotify."
Yet another Blackberry bummer
"The engineers now work at an Apple office in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, about a five-minute walk from QNX, the people said. Apple targeted QNX employees because of their experience developing fundamental components of operating systems and power management, a former QNX executive said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
The most notable Apple hire from QNX was its chief executive officer, Dan Dodge. Since joining Apple’s Project Titan car initiative early this year, he’s taken on a larger role overseeing the car operating system, splitting his time between Canada and California, the people said. Another notable addition is Derrick Keefe, who left QNX last year after more than a decade as a senior engineer, one of the people said."Apple Said to Develop Car Operating System in BlackBerry Country - Bloomberg
Later in the article: "About 30,000 IBM employees use Slack’s messaging system, making it one of the San Francisco startup’s biggest customers." On a related note, see Microsoft could be unveiling Teams, its Slack competitor, next week (Ars Technica).
"IBM is teaming up with Slack Technologies Inc. to make it easier for companies to build custom chatbots into the startup’s workplace-messaging systems, the latest move by Big Blue to add more diverse business cases for its Watson artificial-intelligence technology.IBM Teams Up With Slack to Build Smarter Data-Crunching Chatbots - Bloomberg
The two companies will release a developer toolkit that includes Watson technologies and can integrate easily into Slack, they said in a statement Wednesday. International Business Machines Corp. will also build a chatbot -- a conversation-based application -- that will help IT departments identify and resolve issues without having to leave the Slack platform. The startup’s own customer-service bot will incorporate the Watson Conversation system, which includes technologies such as speech-to-text conversion and natural-language processing, or the ability for a computer to understand what a person is saying."
Less Fiber in Alphabet's diet; also see Google’s Alphabet Experiment Misses Key Goal: Keeping Executives (Bloomberg)
"The company said on Tuesday that it was curbing the expansion of its high-speed fiber optic internet network and reducing staff in the unit responsible for the work. Alphabet did not provide an exact number for the jobs that will be cut.Google Curbs Expansion of Fiber Optic Network, Cutting Jobs - The New York Times
Craig Barratt, chief executive of Access, the Alphabet division containing Google Fiber, also said he planned to step down because the company was shifting to new technologies and methods of deploying high-speed internet. No replacement was announced. Mr. Barratt, an Alphabet senior vice president, said he would remain an adviser to the company."
Also see 4 ways Tim Cook made lemonade out of Apple’s Q4 2016 earnings (Macworld)
"“There’s more demand we can supply right now,” Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, said in an interview. Interest in the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple’s largest model and the most direct rival to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, is so intense that Apple said production could still lag demand even by December.Apple Predicts a Big Holiday Bounce After Its Biggest Rival, Samsung, Falters - The New York Times
If the company’s forecast is accurate, it will mark a turnaround from what has been a disappointing year for the Silicon Valley giant. In April, Apple announced that sales in the first three calendar months of 2016 shrank for the first time in 13 years.
The poor performance continued through the quarter that ended on Sept. 24, the company reported on Tuesday. For the most recent three-month period, Apple said, revenue fell 9 percent to $46.9 billion. Net income fell 19 percent to $9 billion."
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Bluemixed results ahead; see this IBM blog post for more branding details
"According to Hazard, SoftLayer products will be available on both SoftLayer.com and IBM.com/Bluemix for the next few months. IBM has also integrated the SoftLayer control portal with the Bluemix console to manage infrastructure and cloud services.IBM's cloud move: New unified platform buries SoftLayer under Bluemix brand | ZDNet
The brand shift comes as IBM moves to become a 'cloud broker' and sell not just its own SoftLayer infrastructure, but also Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Compute Engine."
Testing Facebook's hate speech filtering policy...
"Members of the media quickly seized on the event, calling it a test drive for Trump TV, the post-election television network that Trump is rumored to be considering in the event he loses in November. Despite reports that his son-in-law has been talking to media dealmakers about Trump TV, Trump himself has denied he has any interest in such a thing.Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook | WIRED
Epshteyn says this nightly Facebook Live stream is simply a way for the campaign to circumvent the mainstream media Trump so publicly loathes. “We all know how strong the left wing media bias is. This is us delivering our message to voters,” he says. “It has nothing to do with Trump TV. It’s about using 21st century technology and communication in a way that’s effective.”"
Also see A.I. Inspiration: The Science Fiction That Frames Discussion (NYT)
"At the core of the strategic shift envisioned by the Pentagon is a concept that officials call centaur warfighting. Named for the half-man and half-horse in Greek mythology, the strategy emphasizes human control and autonomous weapons as ways to augment and magnify the creativity and problem-solving skills of soldiers, pilots and sailors, not replace them.The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’: Robots That Could Kill on Their Own - The New York Times
The weapons, in the Pentagon’s vision, would be less like the Terminator and more like the comic-book superhero Iron Man, Mr. Work said in an interview.
“There’s so much fear out there about killer robots and Skynet,” the murderous artificial intelligence network of the “Terminator” movies, Mr. Work said. “That’s not the way we envision it at all.”"
Also see A Chilly Reaction to AT&T-Time Warner Deal (NYT)
"We are witnessing the emergence of a new order in the TV business. In five or 10 years’ time, that order may become clear. There’s a good chance it will involve some current players — Comcast, Disney and a merged AT&T and Time Warner will all play a role in the entertainment business of tomorrow. But these behemoths’ size and influence will almost certainly be diminished by new tech-powered players, whose pocketbooks and ambitions seem limitless — companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and possibly Twitter and Snap.AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is a Strike in the Dark - The New York Times
What’s scary for the incumbents is that at the moment, much of the future seems up for grabs, because consumer behavior is neither settled nor predictable. Even viewership of N.F.L. games is down this season. Down!"
Monday, October 24, 2016
Insights from social media/journalism pioneer Dan Rather -- if you're among the 1.7 billion people using Facebook, check out his page here
"My goal with this is not to convince anybody of any political persuasion. What I’m really hoping I’m doing is encouraging people to think—and I think it’s happening far more than I ever would’ve imagined. A lot of journalistic operations in print and online have begun slugging off their sleepwalking and started calling truth and lies as they see it. And not a moment too soon. It’s maybe even too late. What I worry about is moving into the post-truth era of American politics. God help us if we’ve moved into such an era."How Dan Rather Became the Only Good Newsman on Facebook - The Daily Beast
Or as Benedict Evans noted in his latest weekly newsletter: "A network designed to withstand nuclear attack, brought down by toasters."
"A Chinese electronics component manufacturer says its products inadvertently played a role in a massive cyberattack that disrupted major internet sites in the U.S. on Friday.Chinese firm admits its hacked DVRs, cameras were behind Friday's massive DDOS attack | PCWorld
Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, a vendor behind DVRs and internet-connected cameras, said on Sunday that security vulnerabilities involving weak default passwords in its products were partly to blame.
According to security researchers, malware known as Mirai has been taking advantage of these vulnerabilities by infecting the devices and using them to launch huge distributed denial-of service attacks, including Friday’s outage."
Looking at clouds from both sides now
"Here, as elsewhere, things were not exactly what they seemed, in good ways and bad. Adjusting for inflation, Microsoft shares, about $60.60 apiece in after-hours trading Thursday, will have to rise above $85.09 to be worth more than they were at the peak of the internet bubble.Daily Report: Microsoft, Ahead in the Cloud - The New York Times
In addition, it’s still hard to say exactly what to make of cloud-computing revenue at Microsoft: Is a customer really paying for access to the kind of advanced hardware and software that is in Microsoft’s cloud, called Azure?
Or is the business buying standard Microsoft software applications, like Office, which are now sold in jazzed-up versions that are sold via Azure, as a subscription? To some, that kind of revenue matters less, since people buy Office anyway — it’s not like Microsoft really did anything new to get this money, the argument runs."
Turbulent telecommunications times; also see AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is Mostly About Defense (WSJ) and Swift Opposition to Resurrection of AT&T Giant (NYT)
"Telecommunications companies are becoming media companies. That explains AT&T’s agreement to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion. But something else explains it, too.AT&T Is Buying Time Warner Because the Future is Google | WIRED
Media companies are becoming telecoms.
Internet firms like Google and Facebook and Amazon and Netflix are the new media companies. They deliver enormous amounts of video online, posing a direct threat to old-school television and movie companies. But they also are becoming telecoms, threatening the likes of AT&T and Verizon."
Saturday, October 22, 2016
New constraints for Slack
"Slack and Facebook will tussle over companies with office-bound populations, like big ad agencies, other tech companies, or media organizations—all current Slack customers. But Facebook has said it intends to go after a far broader spectrum of workers than that. At its Workplace launch event in London, it said it intended its messaging system to be used by everyone from factory workers to baristas—in addition to white-collar folks like the employees of ad agency TBWA, which tested the platform.Slack versus Facebook (FB) Workplace on DAUs — Quartz
Scant data is available for Workplace for now, but Slack’s salad days appear to be behind it. From now on, its user metrics will be benchmarked against Facebook’s work offering, which means it has little opportunity to slack off."
A Bruce Schneier quote later in the article: "What this all means is that the [internet of things] will remain insecure unless government steps in and fixes the problem."
"The websites were not targeted individually. Instead, an unknown attacker deployed a massive botnet to wage a distributed denial-of-service attack on Dyn (pronounced like dine), the domain name service (DNS) provider that they all share.How an Internet-of-Things Botnet Took Down Twitter, Reddit, and Github - The Atlantic
A distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS, is not an uncommon attack on the web, and web hosts have been fending them off for years. But according to reports, Friday’s attack was distinguished by its distinctive approach. The perpetrator used a botnet composed of so-called “internet-of-things” devices—namely, webcams and DVRs—to spam Dyn with more requests than it could handle."