Thursday, December 08, 2016

Slack is becoming more deeply intertwined with Google Drive - The Verge

Check Slack + Google: Partners at work (Slack blog) for integration details. I'm assuming the Google Drive bot integration points, in our wonderful world of open standards and published APIs, will also eventually work with Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook; e.g., see Message.io Partners with Microsoft to Translate Bots to Microsoft Teams Platform (Message.io press release)

"There is a more subtle reason Slack may be courting Google as its primary partner. The startup recently had a public dispute with Microsoft, which just launched a Slack competitor called Microsoft Teams. In an escalating of tensions, Slack published a full-page ad in The New York Times in the spirit of Apple’s infamous 1981 welcome letter to IBM after the corporate giant entered the PC race. The move was evidence that Slack leadership felt Microsoft had stepped into its territory. And while Apple’s original ad was designed to patronize IBM by highlighting its late arrival, Slack’s effort may have cast itself as a vulnerable startup overtly concerned with being crushed by a free alternative.

For Microsoft, of course, Google is much more of a competitor than Slack. In that scenario, Google Drive is the dangerous free alternative to Microsoft’s Office 365 product, the very same subscription that nets more than 85 million Office users a free ticket to its Teams app. So it would seem Slack is more interested in cozying up to Google than indirectly making it easier to use Microsoft products in the workplace."
Slack is becoming more deeply intertwined with Google Drive - The Verge

Facebook's Investors Criticize Marc Andreessen for Conflict of Interest - Bloomberg

Pretty sure this isn't fake news; in other Facebook legal and PR full-employment news, see Facebook Struggles to Put Out Online Fires in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (NYT)

"In August 2015, with the chief executive's blessing, Facebook's board set up a special committee, choosing the three directors who were least beholden to Zuckerberg or financially affected by the decision -- Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Marc Andreessen and Erskine Bowles -- to represent shareholders while weighing the matter, according to a regulatory filing.
But Andreessen, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz and a long-time Facebook board member, is a close Zuckerberg ally. While on the committee, Andreessen slipped Zuckerberg information about their progress and concerns, helping Zuckerberg negotiate against them, according to court documents. The documents include the transcripts of private texts between the two men, revealing the inner workings of the board of directors at a pivotal time for Facebook."
Facebook's Investors Criticize Marc Andreessen for Conflict of Interest - Bloomberg

Microsoft and Qualcomm Team Up on Tablets - WSJ

Also see Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 for Qualcomm Chips, a Blow to Intel (Bloomberg); tangentially, see Chromebooks: The Cheap, Good-Enough Alternative to Windows Laptops (WSJ)
"Microsoft Corp. is working with Qualcomm Inc. to spawn a new breed of tablets and notebooks that promise to diversify the software giant’s technology base and give the chip maker access to new markets. The partnership will result in an update of Windows 10 that runs on a chip in Qualcomm’s widely used Snapdragon line of processors, the first Windows 10-Snapdragon pairing.

However, those devices may not be able to handle every application developed for the company’s flagship operating system—recalling a blunder from a few years ago, when Microsoft rolled out a Windows variant that ran on mobile-friendly chips but wasn’t compatible with some Windows applications."
Microsoft and Qualcomm Team Up on Tablets - WSJ

In News, What’s Fake and What’s Real Can Depend on What You Want to Believe - The New York Times

On a brighter note, see Nonprofit Journalism Groups Are Gearing Up With Flood of Donations (NYT)

"The larger problem, experts say, is less extreme but more insidious. Fake news, and the proliferation of raw opinion that passes for news, is creating confusion, punching holes in what is true, causing a kind of fun-house effect that leaves the reader doubting everything, including real news.

That has pushed up the political temperature and increased polarization. No longer burdened with wrestling with the possibility that they might be wrong, people on the right and the left have become more entrenched in their positions, experts say. In interviews, people said they felt more empowered, more attached to their own side and less inclined to listen to the other. Polarization is fun, like cheering a goal for the home team."
In News, What’s Fake and What’s Real Can Depend on What You Want to Believe - The New York Times

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Facebook Workplace announces enterprise collaboration app platform | TechCrunch

Still tbd when Slack will publish a full-page NYT ad to welcome Facebook to this market domain

"Facebook will compete directly with Slack through a full-fledged new collaboration app platform built atop its pay-per-user enterprise communication product Workplace. Exclusively announced on stage today at TechCrunch Disrupt London, the Facebook Workplace platform will support integration with apps for CRM, file sharing, email, calendars and more.

By allowing clients’ IT teams to customize their versions of Workplace, Facebook could make the product flexible enough to handle any business. And because the integrations with outside tools are built by IT teams rather than offering a generic app store, enterprise app developers won’t have to build anything special to support Workplace."
Facebook Workplace announces enterprise collaboration app platform | TechCrunch

Google Wifi review: The easiest, cheapest way to fix bad Wi-Fi (Mashable)

Also see Google Wifi review roundup (Computerworld), Google Wifi Review: Wi-Fi that Works (The Verge), and Google Wifi Makes Wireless Internet At Home Suck Less (BuzzFeed)
"Google Wifi is not the first mesh network system out there. As I said earlier, Eero and Luma promise the same exact thing.

I've heard mostly good things about those products and how they bathe your home with faster, more reliable Wi-Fi. But they're just too expensive.

A single Eero costs $199 and a single Luma costs $149. Google Wifi is less than both at $129. Luma is priced the same as Google Wifi for a 3-pack ($299), but a 3-pack of Eero costs a whopping $499.

Google Wifi is all the more compelling (even if you don't live in a large home) now that Apple is reportedly no longer making its AirPort Wi-Fi routers.

If you want your Wi-Fi to "just work," I can't recommend Google Wifi enough."
Google Wifi review: The easiest, cheapest way to fix bad Wi-Fi

Parents who want kids to get off their phones should look in the mirror first - The Washington Post

Clearly a big opportunity for more "screen media" time for work...

"Want to get your kids off their phones and back into the real world? A new study suggests that before you launch into the lecture about how you only see the tops of their heads these days, you may want to take stock of what your own technology habits are telling your kids.

Parents are spending an average of 9 hours and 22 minutes with screen media per day, the study found -- and only an hour and a half of that is for work. That means parents use their devices overall as much as their teens and tween. In fact the average parent spends about a half-hour more each day in the glow of screens than the average teen, excluding school or time spent with homework."
Parents who want kids to get off their phones should look in the mirror first - The Washington Post

Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting - The New York Times

Perhaps a small table will suffice for this meeting

"Two Silicon Valley chief executives appeared willing to test the waters: Safra Catz, of the software maker Oracle, confirmed her participation in next week’s meeting with Mr. Trump. So did Chuck Robbins of Cisco Systems, the networking gear maker.

Representatives for other leading tech companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Apple, declined to comment. A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment."
Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting - The New York Times

Google Says It Will Run Entirely on Renewable Energy in 2017 - The New York Times

Leading by example

"What Google has done over the last decade, with relatively little fanfare, is participate in a number of large-scale deals with renewable producers, typically guaranteeing to buy the energy they produce with their wind turbines and solar cells. With those guarantees, wind companies can obtain bank financing to build more turbines.

The power created by the renewables is plugged into the utility grid, so that Google’s usage presents no net consumption of fossil fuels and the pool of electricity gets a relatively larger share of renewable sources.

“We are the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world,” said Joe Kava, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure. “It’s good for the economy, good for business and good for our shareholders.”"
Google Says It Will Run Entirely on Renewable Energy in 2017 - The New York Times

Twitter founder feels 'complicated' about Donald Trump's tweeting | Technology | The Guardian

"Interesting ... fascinating ... complicated;" I'd add "opportunistic ... inconsistent ... irresponsible ... complicit..."

"“He’s known how to use it for quite some time. I think it’s an important time for the company and service. And having the president-elect on our service, using it as a direct line of communication, allows everyone to see what’s on his mind in the moment. I think that’s interesting. I think it’s fascinating. I haven’t seen that before.

“We’re definitely entering a new world where everything is on the surface and we can all see it in real time and we can have conversations about it. Where does that go? I’m not really sure. But it’s definitely been fascinating to learn from.”

Asked how he felt about Trump’s use of the service, Dorsey said: “Complicated”."
Twitter founder feels 'complicated' about Donald Trump's tweeting | Technology | The Guardian

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Apple Watch sales to consumers set record in holiday week, says Apple's Cook | Reuters

Later in the article: "IDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

"Cook's comments followed a report on Monday from technology research firm IDC estimating that the tech giant sold 1.1 million units of the Apple Watch during the third quarter of 2016, down 71 percent from the year-ago quarter. The comments offer a glimpse of the gadget's performance during the holiday quarter, which is typically Apple's strongest.

"Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year," Cook wrote.

"Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch," he said."
Apple Watch sales to consumers set record in holiday week, says Apple's Cook | Reuters

Oculus Touch review: the Oculus Rift is finally complete - The Verge

Final paragraphs:

"Touch doesn’t make the Rift any less of a niche product, and it makes the full package as expensive as the HTC Vive, although its new minimum spec supports cheaper computers. It costs far more than PlayStation VR or some of Microsoft’s promised headsets. But after nine months, the Oculus Rift no longer feels incomplete. It’s a product that I can recommend wholeheartedly to anyone with the (considerable) money and the interest, despite the caveats above.

Every VR system is still, in some sense, a first-generation prototype. Oculus Touch doesn’t change the fact that the Rift is a bulky mask with copious wiring, running on a type of computer few people own. But with Touch, the Rift feels like it’s gone as far as its current technology can manage, and done so with aplomb. It’s not the end goal of virtual reality, but it might well be the end of the beginning."
Oculus Touch review: the Oculus Rift is finally complete - The Verge

Amazon.com: Amazon Go

Also see Amazon Moves to Cut Checkout Line, Promoting a Grab-and-Go Experience (NYT) and Amazon Working on Several Grocery-Store Formats, Could Open More Than 2,000 Locations (WSJ); also see Amazon: No, we're not opening 2,000 stores (CNET)
"What is Amazon Go?
Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

How does Amazon Go work?
Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt."
Amazon.com: Amazon Go

Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk - The New York Times

Also see Elon Musk Is the Most Admired Leader in Technology (Fortune)

"In the last decade, Mr. Musk has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises — and most of those jobs are classic manufacturing ones. His Tesla Gigafactory, a 5.5-million-square-foot battery factory under construction outside Reno, Nev., is expected to employ 6,500 people in manufacturing jobs by 2020.
After the factory is complete, 95 percent of the parts contained in Tesla vehicles will be made in the United States. His company’s leading-edge advances have pushed the entire auto industry to innovate, with rivals seeking to copy many of Tesla’s best features."
Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk - The New York Times

Partnering to Help Curb Spread of Online Terrorist Content | Facebook Newsroom

Hopefully the first step of many in jointly addressing destructive content

"Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are coming together to help curb the spread of terrorist content online. There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.

Starting today, we commit to the creation of a shared industry database of “hashes” — unique digital “fingerprints” — for violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images that we have removed from our services. By sharing this information with each other, we may use the shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on our respective hosted consumer platforms. We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online."
Partnering to Help Curb Spread of Online Terrorist Content | Facebook Newsroom

Monday, December 05, 2016

They Have, Right Now, Another You | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

Final paragraphs from a review of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy and Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy

"It would be naive to think that there is a firewall between commercial surveillance and government surveillance. There is not.

Many of us have been concerned about digital overreach by our governments, especially after the Snowden revelations. But the consumerist impulse that feeds the promiscuous divulgence of personal information similarly threatens our rights as individuals and our collective welfare. Indeed, it may be more threatening, as we mindlessly trade ninety-eight degrees of freedom for a bunch of stuff we have been mesmerized into thinking costs us nothing."
They Have, Right Now, Another You | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

The Operating System Fountain of Youth: iOS (Monday Note)

Jean-Louis Gassée continues his series on possible future Apple device directions

"No surprise that many of us were skeptical when Jobs announced, in January 2007, that the iPhone would run on OS X. We thought his use of “OS X” was, to be polite, a rhetorical flourish, a slight of hand. But, no, when inquiring geeks got their hands on the device, they indeed recognized the OS X core services.
The engineering feat performed by Forstall and his team and its enormous economic consequences can’t be overstated. They changed Apple and an entire industry, inaugurating the Smartphone 2.0 era.
In order to run on less-than-muscular hardware, the team had to leave a lot on the editing room floor. There would be no cut-and-paste, no apps, no accented characters, no (user-accessible) multitasking or file system… But year after year, just as with any OS, functions were added and revealed. With a 2.34GHz processor, up to 3 GB of RAM, and as much as 256GB of “disk” storage, the OS X descendant now called iOS is both significantly smaller and simpler than macOS, but it’s robust enough to tackle many tasks that were once the province of a “traditional” PC engine."
The Operating System Fountain of Youth: iOS

Facebook’s Walled Wonderland Is Inherently Incompatible With News (Monday Note)

Excerpt from an assessment of Facebook as "the ultimate filter bubble"

"We must face the fact that Facebook doesn’t care about news in the journalism sense. News represents about 10% of the average user newsfeed and news can be cut overnight if circumstances dictate with no significant impact for the platform. (Actually, someone with good inside knowledge of the social network told me that news will be removed from users’ feed should the European Union move against Facebook in the same way it attacks Google on editorial issues).
In that broad context, the fake news situation is just a part of Facebook’s system, a bad apple in a large basket. It is impossible to believe that one of the best engineering companies in the world has not seen it coming; fake news was simply considered an unpleasant parasite, the wine lees at the bottom of the barrel… until Trump’s campaign made such a large use of fake news that it blew up."
Facebook’s Walled Wonderland Is Inherently Incompatible With News

Microsoft takes aim at Amazon’s Echo with Windows 10 HomeHub feature - The Verge

Check Microsoft's Home Hub ambitions aim to crush Google Home and Amazon Echo [exclusive] (Windows Central) for a preview of a parallel universe in which Windows 10 PCs are at the center of the home computing picture

"Microsoft is planning to enable Cortana to be the center of its HomeHub initiative, and the integration will allow the assistant to provide HomeHub-like features across iOS and Android. This will include extending the assistant to control smart devices and manage them from the Windows 10 HomeHub feature. Microsoft’s HomeHub plans are currently in the planning phases, so many features will likely change and the interface itself could be entirely cut out of future Windows 10 updates. Microsoft has largely been left out of the emergence of the smart home, despite having Cortana running on the Xbox One. The HomeHub is Microsoft’s bet to try and control the ecosystem before Amazon, Google, or even Apple provide the best framework to manage devices in your home."
Microsoft takes aim at Amazon’s Echo with Windows 10 HomeHub feature - The Verge

Apple may not be building a self-driving car, but it sure cares a lot about rules for self-driving cars - Recode

Also see Apple's car letter: What's it driving at? (CNET)

"Apple has spelled them out in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where the company says it is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

That doesn’t mean Apple is actually building a self-driving car — a series of reports indicates that Apple had been interested in that idea, but now seems more likely to be licensing out its software for other people’s self-driving cars.

But the letter does suggest that Apple wants to keep its options open if it does decide to build a car."
Apple may not be building a self-driving car, but it sure cares a lot about rules for self-driving cars - Recode

In five years, machine learning will be a part of every doctor’s job, Vic Gundotra says - Recode

Check the source for more details and a podcast interview

"Although he believes artificial intelligence will take some jobs away over time, Gundotra said people will always want human doctors “to tell them what’s going on.” He envisioned a near future where those doctors routinely enlist machines’ help, and developing a good bedside manner becomes more important than ever.

“Today, you would never buy a car without airbags and antilock breaks,” he said. “In the next half-decade, no physician will practice without deep-learning, machine-learning systems by his side or her side.”

However, he noted that the collapse of blood-testing startup Theranos is an “unmitigated disaster” for health-tech, saying it had undermined the confidence of both investors and consumers."
In five years, machine learning will be a part of every doctor’s job, Vic Gundotra says - Recode

Google DeepMind Makes AI Training Platform Publicly Available - Bloomberg

Also see Elon Musk's OpenAI and Google's DeepMind release their AI playgrounds to everyone (Wired)

"DeepMind is putting the entire source code for its training environment -- which it previously called Labyrinth and has now renamed as DeepMind Lab -- on the open-source depository GitHub, the company said Monday. Anyone will be able to download the code and customize it to help train their own artificial intelligence systems. They will also be able to create new game levels for DeepMind Lab and upload these to GitHub.

The decision to make this AI test bed available to the public is further evidence of DeepMind’s decision to embrace more openness around its research. Last month, the company announced a partnership with Activision Blizzard Inc. to turn the popular video game Starcraft II into a testbed for any artificial intelligence researcher who wanted to try to create an AI system that could master the complex game."
Google DeepMind Makes AI Training Platform Publicly Available - Bloomberg

Artificial Intelligence Makes Strides, but Has a Long Way to Go - WSJ

From a timely AI reality check
"AI, says Ms. Bassa, requires three things that most companies don’t have in sufficient quantities. The first is enough data. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, General Electric Co. and others are harvesting enormous amounts of data, but they are exceptions.

The second is problems where making a small difference can justify the expense of creating an AI system. If AI can improve the fraud-detection system at a credit-card company by 1%, that could be worth tens of millions of dollars. For a midsize manufacturer that makes many different products, however, a 1% improvement in productivity of a particular line might not justify the cost of hiring a half-dozen highly paid engineers.

That leads to the third scarcity: People to build systems. The war for AI talent is driving up the cost. “There are maybe 5,000 people in the world who can put together one of these machine-learning systems in a way that saves money, even if only incrementally,” says Ms. Bassa."
Reminder: if you don't have a WSJ subscription and want to view a full article, Google the article title
Artificial Intelligence Makes Strides, but Has a Long Way to Go - WSJ

Friday, December 02, 2016

Microsoft Teams: Benefits for Users and Cause for Competitive Concern (CASAHL blog)

Check the full post for an overview of Microsoft Teams and its likely impact on enterprise communication/collaboration market dynamics

"Microsoft introduced Teams, its new workspace- and chat-based communication/collaboration app, on November 2nd. Although Teams in still in a preview release phase, with general availability expected in Q1 2017, CASAHL believes Teams is poised to be a huge success, increasing end user demand for Office 365 and disrupting competitors ranging from startup specialists such as Slack to cloud platform rivals Google and Facebook. This post provides an overview of Teams and its potential significance for the enterprise communication/collaboration market landscape."  
Microsoft Teams: Benefits for Users and Cause for Competitive Concern

Twitter Buys Little-Known Startup to Gain New Head of Product - Bloomberg

Also see Twitter has acquired startup Yes, Inc. and is making its CEO head of product (Recode)

"Twitter Inc. is hiring Keith Coleman, who has a decade of experience at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, to oversee products, filling a position that’s been empty since January.

Twitter bought Coleman’s little-known startup, Yes Inc., as part of the deal. The company’s apps, designed to help people meet up, will be closed.

At Google, Coleman led product for Gmail and related services, according to his LinkedIn profile. On Monday, he will start as Twitter’s sixth head of product in as many years. The San Francisco-based social media company has cycled through leaders in the role while struggling to grow its audience."
Twitter Buys Little-Known Startup to Gain New Head of Product - Bloomberg

Facebook Looks to Harness Artificial Intelligence to Weed Out Fake News - WSJ

Also see Mossberg: Facebook can and should wipe out fake news (The Verge)

"Yann LeCun, Facebook’s director of artificial intelligence, or AI, research, said technology could be used to help stamp out fake news or detect violence in live videos by filtering the content on the site. But Facebook’s policy and product teams haven’t figured out how to introduce AI responsibly.
“What’s the trade-off between filtering and censorship? Freedom of experience and decency?” Mr. LeCun told reporters during a recent round table at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. “The technology either exists or can be developed. But then the question is how does it make sense to deploy it? And this isn't my department.”"
Facebook Looks to Harness Artificial Intelligence to Weed Out Fake News - WSJ

3 Months After Explosion, SpaceX Plans to Launch Rocket Bearing Satellites - The New York Times

The first in a series of seven Falcon 9 launches that will replace the current Iridium satellite network with seventy new satellites; tangentially, see Russian spacecraft headed to resupply International Space Station suffers mishap (The Washington Post)
"Three months after one of its rockets exploded on a launchpad, SpaceX hopes to resume launching in a couple of weeks.

Iridium Communications, which provides communications services through a constellation of more than 60 satellites, announced Thursday that it was aiming to launch the first batch of its next-generation satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16."
3 Months After Explosion, SpaceX Plans to Launch Rocket Bearing Satellites - The New York Times