Monday, July 27, 2015

Microsoft, Apple, Google, others pledge $140B toward Obama’s climate initiative - Puget Sound Business Journal

Check this White House fact sheet for more details

"Microsoft is joining Google, Apple and other large corporations in pledging to spend $140 billion to help address climate change as part of an initiative lead by President Barack Obama.
Microsoft and a dozen other companies, which also including Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Goldman Sachs, have signed Obama’s American Business Act on Climate, agreeing to invest billions of dollars to reduce their carbon footprints."
Microsoft, Apple, Google, others pledge $140B toward Obama’s climate initiative - Puget Sound Business Journal

Official Google Blog: Everything in its right place

Looks like the Google+ strategy tax has officially ended; check the link below and this post for more details, along with lively Google+ comment threads

"Google+ is quickly becoming a place where people engage around their shared interests, with the content and people who inspire them. In line with that focus, we’re continuing to add new features like Google+ Collections, where you can share and enjoy posts organized by the topics you care about. At the same time, we’ll also move some features that aren’t essential to an interest-based social experience out of Google+. For example, many elements of Google+ Photos have been moved into the new Google Photos app, and we’re well underway putting location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, where it really belongs. We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+."
Official Google Blog: Everything in its right place

Hey Google, it's time for a real cloud strategy | InfoWorld

From a timely Google-in-the-enterprise reality check

"Yet where the heck is Google? The company doesn’t break out its cloud revenue at all. Microsoft and IBM aren't terribly transparent on this score, either, but according to last week's Q2 estimate from Synergy Research Group, each make more money from cloud infrastructure services than Google. After all, they have the leverage to push big existing enterprise customers to their clouds. By contrast, the vast majority of Google Cloud Platform customers appears to be cloud startups. The biggest success stories are SnapChat and Khan Academy, both built on the Google App Engine PaaS.

You can certainly argue that revenue doesn’t mean much yet because we’re still at an early stage in the cloud. What you should study now -- whether you’re a customer or simply handicapping this race -- is the viability of the strategy going forward. That’s where I wonder about Google even more."
Hey Google, it's time for a real cloud strategy | InfoWorld

New Windows Upgrade Will Bring Scant Relief to Ailing PC Market - Bloomberg Business

From a PC market dynamics reality check

"The PC market hasn’t expanded since peaking in 2011 at 363.8 million units, according to IDC. Last year, 308.2 million PCs were shipped, making the PC market less than a fifth the size of the smartphone market.
From Windows 10’s debut on July 29, the PC market will decline 2 percent in the following 12-month period, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis of IDC projections. Compare that with Windows 7’s launch in 2009, when PC shipments rose 18 percent. Even 2007’s Windows Vista -- a troubled release that many customers avoided -- was followed by a year in which shipments rose 17 percent. More recently, they declined 10 percent in the year after Windows 8, whose radical design overhaul was panned by many users, went on sale in 2012."
New Windows Upgrade Will Bring Scant Relief to Ailing PC Market - Bloomberg Business

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Google Student Blog: Q&A with Chris Urmson, Head of the Self-Driving Car Project

First topic in a wide-ranging Q&A
"Q: Why is Google working on self-driving cars?
A: Because we’ve always looked for ways that technology can change the world. More than a million people worldwide die each year in traffic accidents—94% of which are caused by human error. If we can solve this, it will prevent the majority of traffic-related deaths and injuries, and also help the millions of people who are unable to drive because of disabilities."
Google Student Blog: Q&A with Chris Urmson, Head of the Self-Driving Car Project

Tony Fadell: What will Google's $3.2bn guru do next? - BBC News

Excerpt from a wide-ranging interview summary
"But in January, it became clear that Google's chief executive, Larry Page, had wider uses for his hardware expertise, and the troubled Glass computer was added to his duties.
"It wasn't handed to me and said, 'Tony clean it up,'" Mr Fadell clarifies, "I offered."
"I remember what it was like when we did the iPod and the iPhone. I think this can be that important, but it's going to take time to get it right.""
Tony Fadell: What will Google's $3.2bn guru do next? - BBC News

For Ransom, Bitcoin Replaces the Bag of Bills - The New York Times

Sign of the times, as is, tangentially, Winklevoss twins get closer to launching their bitcoin exchange (Engadget)
"In the old days, criminals liked their ransom payments in briefcases full of unmarked bills.

These days, there’s a new preferred method for hostage takers: the virtual currency Bitcoin.

In a modern day version of a mob shakedown, hackers around the world have seized files on millions of computers, taken down public websites and even, in a few cases, threatened physical harm. The victims — who have ranged from ordinary computer users to financial firms and police departments — are told that their only way out is through a Bitcoin payment that is sometimes more than $20,000."
For Ransom, Bitcoin Replaces the Bag of Bills - The New York Times

Friday, July 24, 2015

Official Google Blog: Neon prescription... or rather, New transcription for Google Voice

Getting the message

"You may have been there before...open your voicemail transcriptions in Google Voice to find that at times they aren’t completely intelligible. Or, they are humorously intelligible. Either way, they might not have been the message the caller meant to leave you.

So, we asked users if they would kindly share some of their voicemails for research and system improvements. Thanks to those who participated, we are happy to announce an improved voicemail system in Google Voice and Project Fi that delivers more accurate transcriptions. Using a (deep breath) long short-term memory deep recurrent neural network (whew!), we cut our transcription errors by 49%."
Official Google Blog: Neon prescription... or rather, New transcription for Google Voice

Comcast has finally become an Internet-first company - The Washington Post

To Xfinity and beyond

"Comcast may have begun as a television provider that later tacked on an Internet business, but now those positions have finally reversed: The company now has more broadband customers than it does TV subscribers.

The margin is slim, about 22.5 million Internet subscribers to 22.3 million video customers. But the flip, which was reported in Comcast's latest earnings, provides further evidence that Internet access, not traditional television, represents the industry's future."
Comcast has finally become an Internet-first company - The Washington Post

Google Has Way to Unclog Drone-Filled Skies Like It Did the Web - Bloomberg Business

Name tbd; "Skynet" is already taken...

"Many will attend a NASA-sponsored conference next week on how it should work. The goal is to eventually create a fully automated robotic ballet in the sky, with computers instructing drones to move around obstructions and each other.
Whether the system will be privately or publicly run -- or even if it will be a single system -- hasn’t been decided.
To the winners will go a foothold in an emerging multibillion-dollar economy of unmanned flying machines. That’s helped attract venture capital firms like Accel Partners, Intel Corp.’s investment arm and Millennium Technology Value Partners."
Google Has Way to Unclog Drone-Filled Skies Like It Did the Web - Bloomberg Business

Now Coming to E-Sports: Random Drug Testing - Digits - WSJ

tbd how much this will impact Adderall sales; also see Drug Testing Is Coming to E-Gaming (NYT); tangentially, see The company behind the coffee with butter craze just raised $9 million to open up its first coffee shop (Business Insider)

"The Electronic Sports League, a company that organizes e-sports competitions world-wide, said Thursday it soon will start randomly testing players for use of performance-enhancing drugs at many of the hundreds of events it runs annually.

ESL said it will test for drugs prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, including the active agent in Adderall, a substance that a former professional gamer recently claimed to have used in a tournament. ESL, which says it has always banned performance-enhancing drug use, doesn’t plan to investigate claims of past use but says it takes the matter seriously."
Now Coming to E-Sports: Random Drug Testing - Digits - WSJ

Amazon Reports Unexpected Profit, and Stock Soars - The New York Times

A multifaceted milestone quarter for Amazon

"The e-commerce company beloved by Wall Street for its fast-growing ways did something completely out of character in the second quarter: It made a profit.

It was only $92 million, practically a rounding error for Google or Apple. But it confirmed all the hopes and expectations of analysts and investors, who immediately pushed Amazon shares up 17 percent in after-hours trading Thursday to $566.

The surge added another $40 billion or so to Amazon’s market cap. That will almost assuredly propel it to be more valuable than Walmart for the first time when the stock market opens Friday, making this a deeply symbolic moment for e-commerce and the Internet. It is also a nice present for Amazon, which celebrated its 20th birthday last week."
Amazon Reports Unexpected Profit, and Stock Soars - The New York Times

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Patent Reveals New Apple TV Remote with Touch ID Controller that Extends to Home Automation - Patently Apple

Check the full post for detailed analysis

"Today, more proof of Apple using Apple TV as an in-home automation hub came to light. The emphasis of Apple's latest invention is about a new Apple TV remote with integrated Touch ID. It will allow users to quickly enter a channel like Netflix without having to key in a password and allow only authorized family members to make purchases on iTunes. But more importantly, Apple describes the remote being able to be used to interact with home automation features and appliances."
Patent Reveals New Apple TV Remote with Touch ID Controller that Extends to Home Automation - Patently Apple

In Apple Watch Debut, Signs of a Familiar Path to Success - The New York Times

Final paragraph from another Apple Watch reality check

"What’s more, bit-by-bit improvements are part of Apple’s modus operandi. We saw it with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. After creating something new, the company continually adds small new features over time. Over a few years, this turns an initial burst of interest about Apple’s newest thing into a long-term tech institution that just about everyone can use and enjoy. That’s happening with the watch, and the strategy just might work."
In Apple Watch Debut, Signs of a Familiar Path to Success - The New York Times

Microsoft Surfaces Tablet Gains - WSJ

Persistence pays, at least in terms of revenue (although, from later in the article, Surface is still less than 4% of Microsoft's total revenue for its latest fiscal year)

"Microsoft said sales of its Surface tablets totaled $888 million for the most recent quarter. That brings the company’s tablet line to about $3.6 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ended June 30.

That measures up with only about 15% of Apple’s iPad revenue for the same period, showing that Apple still dominates the tablet business. But there is another interesting point to note: Microsoft’s Surface revenue is up 64% for the fiscal year, while Apple’s iPad revenue fell 22% year over year for the comparable period."
Microsoft Surfaces Tablet Gains - WSJ

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Google Lat Long: Your Timeline: Revisiting the world that you’ve explored (Google Lat Long Blog)

Temporal transportation transparency

"Have you ever wanted a way to easily remember all the places you’ve been -- whether it’s a museum you visited during your last vacation or that fun bar you stumbled upon a few months ago? Well, starting today, Google Maps can help. We’re gradually rolling out Your Timeline, a useful way to remember and view the places you’ve been on a given day, month or year. Your Timeline allows you to visualize your real-world routines, easily see the trips you’ve taken and get a glimpse of the places where you spend your time. And if you use Google Photos, we’ll show the photos you took when viewing a specific day, to help resurface your memories."
Google Lat Long: Your Timeline: Revisiting the world that you’ve explored

We are data: the future of machine intelligence - FT.com

From a machine intelligence reality check by Douglas Coupland, currently artist in residence at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris

"What we’re discussing here is the creation of data pools that, until recently, have been extraordinarily difficult and expensive to gather. However, sooner rather than later, we’ll all be drowning in this sort of data. It will be collected voluntarily in large doses (using the Wonkr, Tinder or Grindr model) — or involuntarily or in passing through other kinds of data: your visit to a Seattle pot store; your donation to the SPCA; the turnstile you went through at a football match. Almost anything can be converted into data — or metadata — which can then be processed by machine intelligence. Quite accurately, you could say, data + machine intelligence = Artificial Intuition.
Artificial Intuition happens when a computer and its software look at data and analyse it using computation that mimics human intuition at the deepest levels: language, hierarchical thinking — even spiritual and religious thinking. The machines doing the thinking are deliberately designed to replicate human neural networks, and connected together form even larger artificial neural networks. It sounds scary . . . and maybe it is (or maybe it isn’t). But it’s happening now. In fact, it is accelerating at an astonishing clip, and it’s the true and definite and undeniable human future."
We are data: the future of machine intelligence - FT.com

Apple Watch Sales: What We Know (And Don’t Know) - Digits - WSJ

Watching and waiting

"There were some concerns about the Watch based on data from Slice Intelligence, a research firm that has been tracking Apple Watch sales based on receipts that online shoppers received in their email. Earlier this month, Slice issued a report saying that Watch sales had fallen by 90% since its initial availability.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Cook said Slice’s data was “absolutely false” but didn’t provide the actual figures. He denied that there was a slowdown in sales, noting that Watch sales in June were greater than May or April. He said he wants to get the Watch in more stores. As of the end of June, it is available in 680 locations — less than 1% of 220,000 locations where the iPhone is available.

He says that it will ramp up locations before the holiday shopping season."
Apple Watch Sales: What We Know (And Don’t Know) - Digits - WSJ

A $7 Billion Charge at Microsoft Leads to Its Largest Loss Ever - The New York Times

Not bad results, except for the $8.4B Nokia-related write-off

"For the full year, Microsoft had a profit of $12.19 billion, or $1.48 a share, down from $22.07 billion, or $2.63 a share, the previous year. Revenue for the quarter fell 5 percent, to $22.18 billion. For the full year, revenue rose to $93.58 billion from $86.83 billion.

Microsoft’s shares fell about 4 percent in after-hours trading, though some analysts sounded a relatively positive note about the company’s results. Brendan Barnicle, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, called Microsoft’s results “great” compared with the results of other software companies in the corporate software market. Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, graded it a “B” quarter."
A $7 Billion Charge at Microsoft Leads to Its Largest Loss Ever - The New York Times

Apple Profit Up 38%, but iPhone Sales Disappoint Wall Street - The New York Times

Expect different
"In total, Apple reported a 38 percent increase in profit, to $10.7 billion, from a year ago, with revenue surging 33 percent to $49.6 billion. Sales of the company’s biggest revenue and profit generator, the iPhone, soared 35 percent to 47.5 million units. 
“That’s mind-boggling” growth for a company that produces more than $200 billion in annual revenue and clocks in with a market capitalization of $753 billion, said Toni Sacconaghi, a financial analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein. “That said, everyone expected that and a little bit more.”"
Apple Profit Up 38%, but iPhone Sales Disappoint Wall Street - The New York Times

Security Researchers Find a Way to Hack Cars - The New York Times

The Internet of hackable things; also see Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It (Wired)
"It took another few months, but they found a way to crawl from the vulnerable wireless access chip to another chip within the same head unit that controlled the car’s electronics. Once they did that, they could control the car’s locks, windshield wipers, speedometer, lights, blinkers and even engage and disengage the brakes and steering, so long as the car was driving at sufficiently slow speeds (around six miles an hour or less ) — all from the Internet.

“I have done a lot of research, but this is the first time I’ve been truly freaked out,” Mr. Miller said in a phone interview. “When I could hack into a car in Nebraska driving down the freeway, I had that feeling, ‘I shouldn’t be able to do this.'”"
Security Researchers Find a Way to Hack Cars - The New York Times