Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Robots Are Winning! by Daniel Mendelsohn | The New York Review of Books

Final paragraph from a long and thoughtful review; I recommend seeing Ex Machina before reading that part of the review

"Ex Machina, like Her and all their predecessors going back to 2001, is about machines that develop human qualities: emotions, sneakiness, a higher consciousness, the ability to love, and so forth. But by this point you have to wonder whether that’s a kind of narrative reaction formation—whether the real concern, one that’s been growing in the four decades since the advent of the personal computer, is that we are the ones who have undergone an evolutionary change, that in our lives and, more and more, in our art, we’re in danger of losing our humanity, of becoming indistinguishable from our gadgets."
The Robots Are Winning! by Daniel Mendelsohn | The New York Review of Books

Biz Break: Salesforce wanted $70 billion from Microsoft, report says - San Jose Mercury News

The Salesforce sale saga continues

"CNBC reported Friday that Microsoft and Salesforce negotiated on a merger that would have been the priciest in Silicon Valley history, and easily surpasses the total Microsoft offered in its famous back-and-forth with Yahoo in 2008. According to anonymous sources cited by CNBC's David Faber, Microsoft was willing to spend $55 billion on the cloud software pioneer, but Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wanted as much as $70 billion."
Biz Break: Salesforce wanted $70 billion from Microsoft, report says - San Jose Mercury News

Tesla’s New Strategy Is Over 100 Years Old - HBR

Excerpt from an interesting and perhaps inadvertently ironic (see, e.g., the comments on the post and Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison: Who Was the Better Inventor?) long term view

"The second has to do with scope. The Tesla Energy web site declares that “Tesla is not just an automotive company; it’s an energy innovation company,” a statement that calls to mind Ted Levitt’s iconic observation that the railroads could have seen trucks as an opportunity and not a threat if they had thought of themselves as being not merely in the railroad business but, more broadly, in the transportation business. Embracing a larger, more encompassing self-definition powers systems-level ambitions. By defining itself as more than just a car company, Tesla is avoiding a common trap companies fall into as they mature: it is not letting the markets it’s in today bound tomorrow’s opportunities. Tesla’s flashy electric cars are positioned as but one component in the energy system of the future.  To stretch an analogy, the cars are the iPod — and iOS, iCloud, and additional devices are still in the works."
Tesla’s New Strategy Is Over 100 Years Old - HBR

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bing no longer a search-engine blip | The Seattle Times

From an extensive Bing profile. Bing is likely to gain more momentum with Windows 10 and Office 2016, as both include deeper Bing integration.

“The bottom line? The technology improved, Sullivan said. “Now, it’s a credible alternative to Google.””

Bing no longer a search-engine blip | The Seattle Times

Microsoft to bring Outlook.com, Outlook closer together - CNET

Raising the competitive bar for consumer email

"Microsoft's goal is to bring Outlook and Outlook.com closer together so that users feel like there are fewer differences between these two email products both called "Outlook." It's similar to what the company is doing in terms of bringing together Skype and Skype for Business (Lync), and OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

Besides making user interface and feature tweaks to Outlook.com to make it more similar to Outlook, Microsoft also is upgrading Outlook.com "to a new Office 365-based infrastructure," according to the Thursday blog post outlining the coming Outlook.com features."
Microsoft to bring Outlook.com, Outlook closer together - CNET

AdultFriendFinder Hack Might Expose Your Sexual Orientation [Gizmodo]

Probably a bigger concern than losing control of one's RadioShack customer profile, for many AdultFriendFinder users

"When a company or website you trust gets hacked, it can be pretty unnerving. Particularly if you trusted that company with your credit card or medical information. But what if the hackers had knowledge of your sex life instead? That could be a reality: AdultFriendFinder has suffered a massive data breach."
AdultFriendFinder Hack Might Expose Your Sexual Orientation

Virtual Reality Can Make You Feel. Can It Also Make You Think? | Re/code

Final paragraph from a timely VR reality check

"The upshot of all this? Yes, the right virtual reality experiences may have the power to affect both our feeling and our thinking. The next question, as with video games that aim to change their players, is whether the users will want to be the bystanders, or the heroes."
Virtual Reality Can Make You Feel. Can It Also Make You Think? | Re/code

Bankruptcy Judge Approves Sale of RadioShack Name and Data - NYTimes.com

Classy to the end

"Also, RadioShack and several state attorneys general held a nine-hour mediation last week in Dallas over the treatment of customer data. Standard General agreed to limit its customer email access to the last two years, and to allow access to only seven of 170 fields of data RadioShack kept on its customers, said Ken Paxton, a lawyer for Texas’s attorney general.

Standard General will receive names and addresses for 67 million customers, down from the 117 million initially sought."
Bankruptcy Judge Approves Sale of RadioShack Name and Data - NYTimes.com

Ev Williams’ Obvious Ventures Raises $123,456,789 for Debut Fund - Digits - WSJ

For Obvious strategy details, see The Near Future, Reimagined.

"The San Francisco firm, launched in December, backs startups with a positive social impact, in sectors such as cleantech, healthy living, and technology that improves education, and other areas of life.

Obvious Ventures is an outgrowth of Obvious Corp., which was the predecessor to Twitter. In 2011 Mr. Williams, who is now CEO of Medium, restarted Obvious Corp., along with Biz Stone and Jason Goldman, to invest and incubate startups."
Ev Williams’ Obvious Ventures Raises $123,456,789 for Debut Fund - Digits - WSJ

Google Wants YouTube Viewers to Shop While They Watch - Digits - WSJ

In other recent Google shopping news, see Can Google Outsell Amazon and eBay? (WSJ)

"Google added shopping elements to YouTube’s skippable pre-roll video advertisements, known as TrueView ads. During some TrueView ads, viewers will also see product offers from the same advertiser, with prices, images and a button to click that will take them to the advertiser’s website.

Some advertisers have tested the ads, including online furniture retailer Wayfair and makeup retailer Sephora. Wayfair said the new ads generated three times as much revenue from sales, compared with traditional TrueView ads."
Google Wants YouTube Viewers to Shop While They Watch - Digits - WSJ

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recapping Yammer highlights and key takeaways from Ignite - Office Blogs

Apparently the new Office 365 Groups service is something of a collaboration chameleon; see Microsoft Office 365 Groups Overview and Roadmap (an Ignite conference session) for more details

"Some of you have asked how we think about the co-existence of Yammer and Office 365 Groups. To clarify, Office 365 Groups is an architectural element of Azure Active Directory—not an Office 365 app or experience—whereas Yammer is THE immersive social experience within Office 365. Together with identity, Office 365 Groups and Office Graph comprise a shared intelligent fabric across Office 365 that’s also extensible."
Recapping Yammer highlights and key takeaways from Ignite - Office Blogs

The Challenges Google Needs to Deal With at I/O | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Check the full post for a timely Google reality check

"We’re now in what’s arguably become the most significant period of the year for three of the largest consumer technology companies in the world — the developer conference season. The developer events for Microsoft, Google, and Apple now end up shaping much of what’s to come from these companies in the next year, from new versions of their operating systems to new products and services and, in some cases, new hardware. We’ve already seen Microsoft’s announcements around Windows 10, HoloLens, and more at Build, and next on the docket is Google’s I/O developer conference. As it approaches, there are three key challenges Google needs to grapple with if it’s to maintain its momentum."
The Challenges Google Needs to Deal With at I/O | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Bitcoin’s Community Faces a Tough Decision about the Network’s Future | MIT Technology Review

A cybercurrency community collaboration conundrum

"In a test of Bitcoin’s ability to adapt to its own growing popularity, the Bitcoin community is facing a dilemma: how to change Bitcoin’s core software so that the growing volume of transactions doesn’t overwhelm the network. Some fear that the network, as it’s currently designed, could become overwhelmed as early as next year.

The answer will help determine the form Bitcoin’s network takes as it matures. But the loose-knit community of Bitcoin users is not in agreement over how it should proceed, and the nature of Bitcoin, a technology neither owned nor controlled by any one person or entity, could make the impending decision-making process challenging. At the very least it represents a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Bitcoin’s long-term future."
Bitcoin’s Community Faces a Tough Decision about the Network’s Future | MIT Technology Review

Gartner Says Worldwide Chromebook Sales Will Reach 7.3 Million Units in 2015 [Gartner Newsroom]

A quiet revolution

"Worldwide Chromebook* sales to end users is on pace to reach 7.3 million units in 2015, a 27 percent increase from 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. Education is the primary market for Chromebooks and represented 72 percent of the global Chromebook market in 2014. 
"Since the first model launched in mid-2011, Google's Chromebook has seen success mainly in the education segment across all regions," said Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner. "In 2014, the education sector purchased 72 percent of Chromebooks in EMEA, 69 percent in Asia/Pacific, and 60 percent in the U.S. (see Table 1).” "
Gartner Says Worldwide Chromebook Sales Will Reach 7.3 Million Units in 2015

Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance | Pew Research Center

From an extensive Pew Research survey

Americans Hold Strong Views About Privacy in Everyday Life

Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance | Pew Research Center

Uber gutted Carnegie Mellon’s top robotics lab to build self-driving cars | The Verge

Partner different

"All told, Uber snatched up about 50 people from Carnegie Mellon, including many from its highest ranks. That's an unusually high number of people to leave at once, and accounted for about a third of the staff NREC had at the end of last year. Many were top employees, including David Stager, who had been there since 1997 and is now Uber's lead systems engineer; Jean-Sébastien Valois, a senior commercialization specialist who had been with NREC for nearly 12 years (and lists himself as "on leave" on CMU's site); and Anthony Stentz, NREC's director for the past four and a half years, who had been at the center since 1997. News of some of the departures was reported earlier this year by TechCrunch and The Pittsburgh Business Times."
Uber gutted Carnegie Mellon’s top robotics lab to build self-driving cars | The Verge

Salesforce Shares Rise as Q1 Results Beat Street View | Re/code

The force of a dream

"On a conference call with analysts, Benioff too declined to answer questions from analysts about the M&A rumors, but he certainly didn’t sound like a founding CEO on the verge of selling his company. He repeated his goal of being the fastest software company to hit $10 billion in annual revenue, which if the analysts are correct shouldn’t happen before 2018.

After that he has an even bigger goal: “I am personally committed to surpass SAP. That’s my goal. That’s my dream.” For the record SAP, the German business software giant and a perennial rival and the villain of many Salesforce earnings calls, posted $21.3 billion in revenue in the year ended Dec. 31."
Salesforce Shares Rise as Q1 Results Beat Street View | Re/code

Spotify Takes on Apple and YouTube: 5 Things to Know About the New Streaming War - Bloomberg Business

Excerpt from a snapshot of Spotify's new video service

"Get Ready for New Streaming War: The timing of Spotify’s announcement isn't an accident. Next month Apple is expected to unveil its own streaming service built on its $3 billion acquisition of Beats. Sure, Spotify faces plenty of competitors already, but it hasn’t faced a serious rival since it broke away from the streaming music pack several years ago. 
Apple is hardly guaranteed success. It launched a music-based streaming service, Ping, which failed. Then it tried a Pandora competitor, iTunes Radio, which has been underwhelming. Nor is it clear how Apple can fundamentally improve on music subscription services that are a pretty good deal for serious music fans. “Subscription music is a good category. There really isn’t a problem here for Apple to fix,” says Andrew Sheehy of Generator. “The only actual advantage that Apple has is the install base and its market power.” "
Spotify Takes on Apple and YouTube: 5 Things to Know About the New Streaming War - Bloomberg Business

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, Worldwide [Gartner]

Apple polishes desktop, laptop Macs - CNET

Some Mac refinements; on a related note, see Mistake One (Marco.org)
""The response to the new MacBook and updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has been amazing," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a statement, "and today we are thrilled to bring the new Force Touch trackpad, faster flash storage and longer battery life to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display."

While the iPhone is Apple's biggest moneymaker, at almost 70 percent of sales, Macs -- including the popular iMac desktop and MacBook notebooks -- are the company's second-biggest revenue drivers. Macs accounted for nearly 10 percent of sales last quarter, while the iPad tablet contributed about 9.4 percent.

Apple currently ranks as the No. 4 PC company in the US (behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo), with an 11 percent share of the market, according to researcher IDC."
Apple polishes desktop, laptop Macs - CNET

NYSE launches a bitcoin index | America's Markets

Not dead yet

"In a statement released Tuesday, the exchange says the NYSE Bitcoin Index (NYXBT) will track the U.S. dollar value of one bitcoin based on how the currency trades at select exchanges.

“Bitcoin values are quickly becoming a data point that our customers want to follow as they consider transacting, trading or investing with this emerging asset class,” said NYSE Group President Thomas Farley in a statement."
NYSE launches a bitcoin index | America's Markets

Storing Data in Europe Won’t Make it Safer, Says Evernote CEO - Digits - WSJ

A different approach to digital diplomacy

"Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Libin said that while the intentions of lawmakers in some countries might be pure, they “really misunderstand what data is.”

Evernote, an online service that stores notes, photos and other information, keeps almost all of its data in the U.S.

“Some of the proposed laws are really stupid,” he said, though he declined to say which ones. “We have to comply with even the stupid ones.”"
Storing Data in Europe Won’t Make it Safer, Says Evernote CEO - Digits - WSJ

American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation - NYTimes.com

From an R&D reality check; perhaps the author would be more optimistic if he read the new Elon Musk biography

"Apple, Procter & Gamble, 3M — American businesses dominate the list of the most innovative companies in the world. And new companies trumpeting new products, financed by dynamic venture capital operations, continue to emerge from Silicon Valley, the Boston region, New York, Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

But talk to a scientist in a research lab almost anywhere and you are likely to hear that the edifice of American innovation rests on an increasingly rickety foundation.

Investment in research and development has flatlined over the last several years as a share of the economy, stabilizing at about 2.9 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2012, according to the National Science Foundation."
American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation - NYTimes.com

Snowden Sees Some Victories, From a Distance - NYTimes.com

Also see Tech Giants Urge Obama to Reject Policies That Weaken Encryption (NYT)

"The fallout has been deeply satisfying to Mr. Snowden, who at first feared that his revelations might be ignored, said Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents him. But the debate about Mr. Snowden is far from over.

“His life is very, very rich and full,” Mr. Wizner said, eager to refute predictions by Mr. Snowden’s critics in 2013 that he would end up in bitter obscurity in Russia. “What a remarkable public citizen he’s become. How fitting that he has been able to use technology to defeat exile and participate in the debate he started.”"
Snowden Sees Some Victories, From a Distance - NYTimes.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Google Drops Cloud Computing Prices By Up To 30 Percent, Launches Preemptible Instances | TechCrunch

A price competition game it's likely only three companies can play

"Today’s cuts focus on the Compute Engine side of the service and include cuts of up to 30 percent for the smallest instances. A Micro instance on Google Cloud platform will now cost as little as $0.006 per hour under regular usage. For other instance types, the price cuts are somewhat less dramatic and range between 5 percent for High CPU instances and 20 percent for the Standard instances.

Google argues that these cuts mean “Google Cloud Platform is now 40 percent less expensive for many workloads.” As always, it’s worth taking those numbers with a grain of salt, but it’s clear that Google continues its push to bring cloud computing prices down and to compete with Amazon, Microsoft and the other cloud vendors on price."
Google Drops Cloud Computing Prices By Up To 30 Percent, Launches Preemptible Instances | TechCrunch

Some People Do More Than Text While Driving - NYTimes.com

Yikes; later in the article: "The survey also found that texting remains the most prevalent activity, reported by 61 percent of drivers, followed by 33 percent who email and 28 percent who surf the Internet."
"The survey was commissioned by AT&T, itself a phone company, but one that has invested heavily in discouraging distracted driving through its “It Can Wait” public service campaign. The telephone survey was conducted by Braun Research, which polled 2,067 people who own a smartphone and drive at least once a day.

The survey found that 27 percent of drivers age 16 to 65 report using Facebook, and 14 percent report using Twitter. Of those, a startling 30 percent who said they post to Twitter while driving do it “all the time.”"
Some People Do More Than Text While Driving - NYTimes.com

Obama Gets New @Potus Twitter Account All to Himself - Digits - WSJ

Surprising this took so long

The President of the United States is officially on Twitter.

Monday morning, President Barack Obama launched @POTUS — an acronym standing for President of the United States — on Twitter with a simple greeting saying “Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.”

Best response I’ve seen so far

image

… to which President Obama replied

image

Obama Gets New @Potus Twitter Account All to Himself - Digits - WSJ

Behind Apple’s Move to Shelve TV Plans - WSJ

Carl Ichan begs to differ

"Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said.

Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn’t consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software."
Behind Apple’s Move to Shelve TV Plans - WSJ