"What ties Access together may be the founding ethos of Fiber. The project was born after Google’s unexpected move to bid on wireless spectrum in 2007. Then CEO Eric Schmidt was obsessed with cutting down barriers between Google and its end customer, according to people who worked on the founding team. At the time, the companies sitting between Google and regular users included Microsoft’s operating systems and browser and the Internet service providers. Fiber would fill the second gap — and, in a few short years, mark a significant dent in Google’s investment with no immediate payoff on its balance sheet.Access, Alphabet’s Google Fiber Company Taking On Cable, Broadband | Re/code
If Nest is the test of Alphabet’s ability to rope in a startup and operate it independently, Access will gauge whether Larry Page’s enterprise can string together skunkworks born inside Google and create a viable, profitable business, not just a costly one."
Monday, November 30, 2015
From a profile of the A in Alphabet
A big bet on the future of clean energy
"In making investments, the coalition will “take the risks that allow the early stage energy companies” to bring their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace, according to an e-mailed statement from the White House on Sunday.Gates to Announce Multibillion Dollar Clean-Energy Fund - Bloomberg Business
The investors will collaborate with 19 countries, from the U.S. to India, Saudi Arabia, China and Chile, which together make up 80 percent of global clean-energy research and development. In the public component of the plan, known as “Mission Innovation,” each nation has vowed to double their budget for the sector over the next five years."
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
A tough start for HP/2; tangentially, see It's cloud soon gone, HP aligns with Microsoft Azure (PCWorld)
"HP Inc. gave a disappointing forecast for profit in its first quarter as a stand-alone company, hurt by its dependence on the lackluster market for personal computers and printers after splitting up with its corporate-technology counterpart.HP Faces PC Slump as Quarterly Profit Forecast Falls Short - Bloomberg Business
On a conference call Tuesday following Hewlett-Packard Co.’s final earnings report as one company, HP Inc. executives said the PC industry is tougher than anticipated. The former PC and printer units were separated this month from the divisions that sell equipment, services, and software to businesses, now known as Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. HPE’s quarterly profit forecast also fell short of analysts’ estimates, yet executives struck a more positive tone, pointing to revenue growth minus the impact of currency fluctuations."
Also see Musk Squares Off With Bezos in Space Billionaires' Twitter Feud
"Blue Origin’s feat comes with several caveats. First off, this was just a test run. Blue Origin has yet to complete a single rocket launch for a paying customer. The New Shepard vehicle is also aimed more at space tourism, to take people to the edge of space, where they can hang out weightlessly for a few minutes before returning to earth. The engineering expertise required to send a rocket high enough to place a satellite into orbit or take supplies to the International Space Station is much more demanding. So, too, are the physics behind landing such a rocket on earth.Jeff Bezos vs. Elon Musk: A Thrilling, New Space Race - Bloomberg Business
For its part, SpaceX has successfully landed its much larger rockets back on a test pad after brief flights. It has also come very close on a couple of occasions to landing its rocket on a barge floating in the ocean after sending commercial payloads into space. But SpaceX failed to execute a successful landing on a real flight before Blue Origin achieved its milestone."
One of (at least) four, actually; see Microsoft open sources Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit for more efficient big data research (Inside Microsoft Research)
"IBM is one of the three companies this year to make available proprietary machine-learning technology under an open-source license. Facebook Inc. in February, released portions of its Torch software, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google division earlier this month open-sourced parts of its TensorFlow system.IBM Turns Up Heat Under Competition in Artificial Intelligence - WSJ
IBM Vice President of Development Rob Thomas said SystemML had gained preliminary acceptance by Apache, a respected open-source organization that manages more than 150 projects. Adoption by Apache was the first step, he hoped, toward SystemML’s widespread adoption."
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Think you're reading the news for free? New research shows you're likely paying with your privacy [The Conversation]
Excerpt from a stark tracking reality check
"Our investigation has revealed that among the 2,000-plus news-related websites identified by Alexa, readers are, on average, connected to over 19 third-party servers – twice as many as the 100,000 most popular sites.Think you're reading the news for free? New research shows you're likely paying with your privacy
The outlets facilitating this tracking include the most respected names in the news industry, coast-to-coast. A visitor to The New York Times' homepage is potentially connected to a whopping 44 third-party servers, while visitors to the Los Angeles Times' website get their browsing history leaked to 32 external servers. And if you’re planning on checking the forecast on AccuWeather before heading out, you can expect to be connected to 48 third-party servers."
See this Matt Mullenweg post for more details. Maybe these market dynamics will also lead Google to invest a bit more in Blogger...
"Calypso looks like a huge leap forward for a project that seemed to stagnate for many years, no doubt spurred on by recent efforts made by Medium.Wordpress.com reboots from scratch to take on Medium
A spokesperson from Automattic told The Next Web that these new tools are also available to sites that use the open source Wordpress.org platform, but you’ll need to install the company’s Jetpack plugin in order for Calypso to work."
Data integrity controls as cyber defense
"In public appearances and congressional testimony in recent months, America’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of what they describe as the next great threat in cyberspace: hackers not just stealing data but altering it, threatening military operations, key infrastructure, and broad swaths of corporate America. It’s the kind of attack they say would be difficult to detect and capable of seriously damaging public trust in the most basic aspects of both military systems and a broader economy in which tens of millions of people conduct financial and health-related transactions online.Cyber Spying Is Out, Cyber Lying Is In | Foreign Policy
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has made equally dire predictions about what the future holds: operations that “change or manipulate electronic information to compromise its integrity, instead of simply deleting or disrupting access to it.”"
Testing Trump's Teflon; also see Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls (FiveThirtyEight)
"Andreessen can’t seem to fathom how the billionaire real estate mogul who says such provocative — and, some would say, offensive — things remains the GOP front-runner, months before the New Hampshire primary in February.Donald Trump Is Target of Marc Andreessen’s Latest Twitter Takedowns | Re/code
Consider Friday’s installment, in which Andreessen talks about Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich, who emigrated from Germany to the U.S. at the age of 16 to chase the American dream. For granddad, opportunity took the form of leasing a restaurant in Seattle’s red-light district and providing food, booze and “private rooms for ladies” (code for prostitutes), Politico reports."
Also see Google gets royal help for its latest map project (Washington Post)
"Using your smartphone to look up a museum address or get turn-by-turn directions on a street in a foreign city can end up costing a small fortune in data charges. Those who download Google’s new Offline Maps won’t have to pay a dime.With Google’s Offline Maps, Getting Around Gets Cheaper - The New York Times
The tool allows users to be in a place without Internet access — whether on a sidewalk in New York City or a back road in Tuscany — and pull up a map that lets them get directions and use turn-by-turn voice navigation, as well as search for places (art galleries, restaurants, hotels, museums) and see details including hours, phone numbers and reviews."
Monday, November 23, 2015
Final paragraphs from an extensive review follow below; an observation earlier in the review: "The new emphasis on Communities and Collections means that instead of being an alternative to Facebook, Google+ is now an alternative to Reddit and Pinterest."
"Overall, it's clear to me that the new Google+ is still by far the best place to connect with people who share your interests, and to have conversations about those interests in an uncluttered, ad-free space.Google+ gets the pivot of the year | Computerworld
The redesign is really the final step in a yearlong pivot that transformed Google+ from a bloated and slow everything social network into a sleek, fast and more streamlined site that's really good at one thing -- giving superfans, enthusiasts and nerds a great place to geek out together on whatever passions they share."
Excerpt from a Nest snapshot
"Post-acquisition, Nest has grown sharply, at least in personnel. It has nearly quadrupled from its size of roughly 300 employees. On Monday, the company announced the addition of two new VPs: Jim Alkove, a Windows enterprise exec at Microsoft, to run security; and Nik Sathe, CTO of American Express and a former Googler, to run apps and services.Alphabet’s Nest Hires VP for Security, Services From Microsoft, AmEx | Re/code
That’s expansion has come with some growing pains typical of startups. Nest’s revenue growth is less clear. Those familiar with the company say it’s not yet moving an impressive clip — hobbled, in part, by the nascence of the industry and intensifying competition from home-security incumbents, startups, and mobile giants Samsung and Apple."
"We reached out to our friends at Lucasfilm and Disney, and since then we’ve been working together on building google.com/starwars. It's a place for fans, by fans, and starting today you can choose the light or the dark side, and then watch your favorite Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome and many more transform to reflect your path. And that's just the beginning. We've got more coming between now and opening night—the Millennium Falcon in all its (virtual reality) glory included, so stay tuned. And we've hidden a few easter eggs, too. So awaken the Force within, and be on the lookout for things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…"Official Google Blog: For Star Wars fans, old and new
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Likely hoping to constrain Slack
"Facebook at Work, the version of Facebook designed for chatting with colleagues on a private social network, now has its own chat client as well. Somewhat like Facebook at Work’s version of Messenger, the new “Work Chat” app, as it’s called, allows coworkers to message each other individually, participate in group chats, share photos and videos, make voice calls, and even use stickers.Facebook At Work Gets Its Own Version Of Messenger With Debut of “Work Chat” | TechCrunch
The application quietly debuted on the Google Play store on Thursday. Facebook tells us the iOS version is in the works, and will arrive soon. However, the company would not provide an exact launch date."
Check the full article for more details and a lively conversation thread
"After failing miserably to compete with the iPhone and the Android army, Microsoft’s latest mobile phone strategy is to lean on what it knows best: traditional, get-work-done computing. And it’s seriously impressive how this phone takes to monitors and keyboards. It makes the idea of our phones being our main computers seem far from crazy.Microsoft Lumia 950 Review: Can a Smartphone Be Your PC? - WSJ
But this isn’t the Hail Mary Microsoft needs. For now, it’s simply too limited as a computer—and a phone."