"“IBM is now hours away from Dow infamy,” said Andrew Ross Sorkin on NBC Squawk Box this morning. “IBM is on track for the second consecutive year as the very worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Index for the second year in a row. That’s the first time that has happened since 1995.” In 2014, IBM lost 15 percent of its market cap. Despite having the largest stock of patents in a booming IT sector, IBM lost even more value than ExxonMobil [XOM] which is having to cope with collapsing oil prices."Why Big Blue Is Still A Big Bruise
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Lead paragraph from a stark IBM reality check
Looks like "the death of email" has been postponed again...
"In a new survey, 61% of U.S. adult workers who use the Internet ranked email as “very important” to doing their jobs, according to Pew Research Center. That topped the Internet, with 54% of the vote, and was well ahead of landline and mobile phones, at 35% and 24%, respectively. (Yes, the workers said landline phones were more important than mobiles.)Email Is Too Important to Die, Workers Say - Digits - WSJ
Social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook garnered only 4%, according to the September survey."
And, for many Mac users, the release of Mac Office 2015 will hopefully mean no more Windows (for Windows Office) required; check the full article for other 2015 tech predictions
"The international calamity that was Windows 8 will finally end in 2015 with the fall release of Windows 10. (No, you didn’t miss 9: Microsoft skipped right over that number.) The OS still has a traditional mouse-and-keyboard desktop plus a tablet touch interface, but it now aims to prioritize these better based on what device you’re using. That’s huge for people on laptops or desktop PCs. The beloved Start menu is resurrected and modernized, and multiple virtual desktops will improve multitasking."The Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2015 - WSJ
Sign of the times
"The product, called “Lizard Stresser,” is a stress tester that might let you see how your own network stands up to DDoS attacks, like the ones that interrupted the gaming networks for several days last week. DDoS attacks basically overload servers with massive amounts of bogus requests.Hacker Gang ’Lizard Squad’ Is Now Selling DDoS Attacks As A Service - Business Insider
Though Lizard Squad advertises the tool as a stress tester, there’s nothing saying you can’t use the service to take down the website of a rival business, for example."
Not your average used car
"Part of the Roadster’s range boost will come from using tires with less rolling resistance and from making modifications to the car’s body that improve its aerodynamics.How an Upgraded Tesla Travels 400 Miles on a Charge | MIT Technology Review
But the biggest improvement comes from increasing the energy density of the battery pack. Each pack contains thousands of cylindrical battery cells that look similar to AA batteries. “Cell technology has improved substantially” since Tesla designed the Roadster, the company said in its announcement. For the upgrade it will replace the original cells with new ones that store 31 percent more energy."
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Excerpt from an accentuate-the-negative review of Facebook in 2014
"And yet, even as Facebook strides boldly toward world domination, cracks have appeared in its once fresh-faced facade. Teens — the best indicator for Web zeitgeist, obvi — have fled the network for younger, hipper venues. In the past year, users have begun complaining about the insidious reach of algorithms, as well as the site’s every incremental change. A wave of anonymous apps has begun to erode the distinctly Facebookian notion that everything you do online should be tied to your real-life name.The year the world turned on Facebook - The Washington Post
Perhaps most damningly, for the first time since Facebook launched in 2004, someone made a go at an overtly, intentionally anti-Facebook network. Sure, Ello sputtered out in a span of months — but it gave voice to the concerns of a million wary Facebook users, first."
Monday, December 29, 2014
Check the full article for a bitcoin reality check
"But the value of bitcoin, while always volatile, tumbled throughout the year. In fact, Bloomberg points out it was the worst-performing currency of 2014, dropping more than 56 percent. The value peaked above $1,100 a little more than a year ago, but is now trading below $320. So what would have been safer places to park your money this year?"Newspapers, Taxi Medallions and Other Safer Investments Than Bitcoin in 2014 | Re/code
Friday, December 26, 2014
Grinch mode c2014
"Microsoft and Sony - the companies which make the games consoles - have told customers they are aware of issues affecting their online services.BBC News - Xbox and PlayStation online services crash
A hacking group called Lizard Squad is claiming to have caused the problems.
Microsoft and Sony have not commented on the claim, but both said they were fixing the issues."
A big opportunity for Google and Microsoft
"Most people know YouTube for the cornucopia of music and short-form videos available for free on the site. But YouTube also offers movies for rent or purchase, much like Apple’s iTunes Store and Microsoft’s Xbox Video Store and on a special website set up by Sony, seetheinterview.com, as well as Google’s Play Store.‘The Interview’ Becomes Opportunity for Google’s YouTube Movie Service - Digits - WSJ
Neither Apple nor Amazon.com, the top online movie distributors, were willing to immediately offer the film, according to a person involved in the discussions. Spokesmen for both companies declined to comment."
Not dead yet
"Still, I believe the Classic is the best BlackBerry ever made. It lives up to every bit of the BlackBerry’s original purpose. This is the best phone to get if you need a real physical keyboard to plow through emails, manage your calendar, browse the Web…and not much else.BlackBerry Classic Review: The Best BlackBerry Ever Made - WSJ
When you use it, you will feel like no time has passed at all. And that is, of course, its biggest shortcoming."
Thursday, December 25, 2014
From a somewhat stark Bitcoin reality check; the article title is "After all the hype, Bitcoin’s value has shriveled"
"So while the speculators have fled bitcoin, Boston’s tech entrepreneurs are as committed to the concept as ever, and with good reason. It’s a lousy buy-and-hold investment, but bitcoin is still shaping up as a better way for people to spend money. Especially if we spend it fast."As the hype fades, Bitcoin puts down roots - Business - The Boston Globe
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Is it too late for a "Dear Santa" letter?...
"Enter Apple and the new iMac it unveiled in the fall, an expensive desktop with a beautiful, high-resolution screen. If Chromebooks are cars, the new iMac is the world’s best truck. It’s a device optimized for professionals, not casual users, and it blazes a path forward for the once-beleaguered PC industry. As phones and tablets become more powerful and useful, and as they begin to occupy more of our time, PC manufacturers will have to create computers that take advantage of PCs’ shape, size and power. They’ll have to find new features that can’t be mimicked by smartphones. With a display unmatched by any other computing device you can buy today, the new iMac does just that. That’s why, of the dozens of new tech devices I tried this year, it was my favorite."Retina 5K iMac: Powerful Proof of the PC Renaissance - NYTimes.com
In contrast to the traditional self-destruction via messaging
"A startup is eyeing Hollywood in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack by offering a messaging app that never reveals the full text and then automatically destroys the conversation after it's read.App maker pitches self-destruct messaging to Hollywood - CNET
The app maker, Confide, launched an ad campaign on Tuesday, offering the business version of its self-destruct tool to entertainment studios, networks and labels for free, in perpetuity."
Data broker broken
"The complaints are part of a multiyear government crackdown on fraudulent debt collection and other scams that target people in financial distress. But the case against LeapLab indicates that federal regulators are now widening their investigation to include the middlemen who traffic in the kind of closely held consumer details that can make consumers vulnerable to financial scams.Data Broker Is Charged With Selling Consumers' Financial Details to 'Fraudsters' - NYTimes.com
“We have been targeting the actual fraudsters for years. Now we are really trying to move behind the scenes and target the data brokers,” Jessica L. Rich, the director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “The message is that selling consumers’ highly sensitive data to third parties, with either the knowledge or a strong suspicion that they have no legitimate need for it, violates the law.”"
Sign of the times
"Offices everywhere are emptying as people head home for a few days of light dining and constructive political conversations with relatives. But is the Internet as much of a ghost town as your workplace over the holiday season? Nope. Internet usage is likely to be higher than usual for the rest of the week, according to Sandvine, a firm that tracks Internet traffic. The only exception: a few hours on Christmas Eve, when people have no choice but to put away devices and talk to one another."Does Internet Use Drop Off Over Christmas? - Businessweek
Final paragraphs from a big-picture perspective
"But that leaves Mr. Obama with a “short of war” conundrum. How much American power should be deployed to stop a cybervandal from becoming a cyberterrorist?Countering Cyberattacks Without a Playbook - NYTimes.com
Until the past week, the president’s temptation has been to refrain from responding at all. But the combination of the destructive attack, the effort to silence American criticism of a brutal regime and the threats of attacks on American theaters made this one different.
The mystery now is whether the young, untested Mr. Kim will back off, or whether, like his grandfather, he will push ahead, figuring that an unpredictable North Korea has kept enemies at bay for six decades, and that his new weapon may extend the streak."
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Final paragraph from a Bruce Schneier Sony attack reality check
"I worry that this case echoes the “we have evidence—trust us” story that the Bush administration told in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Identifying the origin of a cyberattack is very difficult, and when it is possible the process of attributing responsibility can take months. While I am confident that there will be no U.S. military retribution because of this, I think the best response is to calm down and be skeptical of tidy explanations until more is known."Did North Korea Really Attack Sony? - The Atlantic
Reinvent, replicate, refine, replace -- lots of possibilities
"Blockstream is working on technology that will use the code that underpins Bitcoin to secure other kinds of assets, such as contracts or ownership of stock. The company’s technology could also provide workarounds to shortcomings in the design of Bitcoin.LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman Created a Company to Reinvent Bitcoin | MIT Technology Review
Bitcoin has come a long way since its obscure debut in 2009, and the 13.5 million bitcoins in circulation are worth $4.7 billion. But the currency has yet to become widely used, and Blockstream’s founders and investors say significant technical improvements are needed for that to happen."
Oracle just bought a lot of data
"Oracle continues to build its cloud-and-data arsenal, announcing its intention to buy Datalogix, a data marketing specialist that gleans consumer sentiment data via pacts with Facebook and Twitter and other sources.Oracle’s at it again: Acquires data broker Datalogix — Tech News and Analysis
In a statement, Datalogix said it aggregates information based on over “$2 trillion in consumer spending from 1,500 data partners across 110 million households to provide purchase-based targeting and drive more sales.” It also claims that 82 of the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. including Ford Motor Co. and Kraft Foods. In fact the availability of all that data has provoked concern at the consumer watchdog the Center for Digital Democracy which wants the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize this deal."
Likely to leave some people working at a few U.S. lyrics-focused Web sites humming to Adagio for Strings (which per Wikipedia, "has been performed on many public occasions, especially during times of mourning")
"With Knowledge Graph, Google has been steadily enhancing its search results pages for years with data gathered from a number of sources, including Wikipedia, the World CIA Factbook, Freebase, Google Books, online event listings, other commercial data sets and structured data from the web.Google Adds Song Lyrics To Top Of Search Results, Points Searchers To Google Play | TechCrunch
With the addition of song lyrics results to Knowledge Graph, Google is just showing longer snippets of the lyrics with a link that points to Google Play for the “full lyrics.” Or in other words, it’s a case of Google promoting its own content above search results pointing to third-party websites."
Sony puts yet another spotlight on its leak
"Broeksmit said it didn’t occur to him that the emails might be considered private. “I thought this stuff was all in the public domain,” he said. “I figured it was so easy to get it must be in the public domain by now. I don’t know where the line is that things become public domain. This is all so different and strange.”Sony Threatens Twitter Over Tweets Containing Stolen Emails | Re/code
He said he hasn’t sought any legal advice as yet. He first received the letter on Sunday. “It totally freaked me out,” he said. “It was a little scary at first and then I started talking to people who told me it was ridiculous.”"
Coincidentally... Also see North Korea’s Internet Links Restored (Re/code)
"Experts who monitor the health of the global Internet called it one of the worst North Korean network failures in years. But American officials who had described over the weekend how they were intensely focused on the country’s telecommunications connections through China — and how they had asked the Chinese government for help in cutting off the North’s ability to send malicious code around the world — declined to discuss what befell those connections.North Korea Loses Its Link to the Internet - NYTimes.com
“I guess accidents can happen,” one said in a very brief telephone conversation."
Monday, December 22, 2014
Excerpt from a Jean-Louis Gassée Microsoft hardware reality check
"For the moment, and with the assistance of a holiday price cut, Xbox One sales are topping those of the Sony PS4, but that shouldn’t take our attention away from a more important trend: The rise of mobile gaming. Smartphones are gaining in raw computing power, connectivity, display resolution, and, as a result, support from game developers on both Android and iOS platforms. Larger, more capable game consoles aren’t going away, but their growth is likely to slow down.MSFT Hardware Futures | Monday Note
The history of Xbox problems, Nadella’s lukewarm embrace of the series, the ascendency of mobile gaming… by comparison the Surface tablet should look pretty good.
Check the full post for more details and a lively comment thread
"That is why security experts aren't surprised by the Sony story. We know people who do penetration testing for a living -- real, no-holds-barred attacks that mimic a full-on assault by a dogged, expert attacker -- and we know that the expert always gets in. Against a sufficiently skilled, funded and motivated attacker, all networks are vulnerable. But good security makes many kinds of attack harder, costlier and riskier. Against attackers who aren't sufficiently skilled, good security may protect you completely.Schneier on Security: Lessons from the Sony Hack
It is hard to put a dollar value on security that is strong enough to assure you that your embarrassing emails and personnel information won't end up posted online somewhere, but Sony clearly failed here. Its security turned out to be subpar. They didn't have to leave so much information exposed. And they didn't have to be so slow detecting the breach, giving the attackers free rein to wander about and take so much stuff."
Video at the link below
"“You’re one of the most evil countries in the world and your act of war is to kill a movie?” Dr. Evil directed to North Korea. “It’s easy to kill a movie. Just move it to January.”Dr. Evil Invades SNL to Blast North Korea and Sony (Video) | Re/code
Sony, which “hasn’t had a hit since the walkman,” should have known better than to send out James Franco to assassinate Kim Jong-un: “The man single-handedly almost killed the Oscars,” Dr. Evil said."
Sony inadvertently helps Google organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful; also see Google Is Shocked — Shocked! — by Hollywood Studios’ Lobbying (Re/code)
"The Sony emails also showed how the major movie studios, working through the Motion Picture Association of America, had created what they called Project Goliath, a carefully orchestrated lobbying campaign to press state attorneys general not only to question Google, but to subpoena and perhaps sue the company. The lawsuit Google filed on Friday accused Mr. Hood of violating federal law and requested that he be prevented from enforcing his subpoena."Sued by Google, a State Attorney General Retreats - NYTimes.com
Censor different; also see Obama Calls Sony Hack ‘Cybervandalism’ Not Act of War and Sony’s Data Hack Delivers Huge Blow to Its Brand (both WSJ)
"Once the film was successfully censored, you could count the days until other films were affected. Actually, it happened earlier in the same day, before “The Interview” was shelved, when New Regency announced that it would drop an untitled thriller about North Korea that was to have starred Steve Carell.Hacking at Sony Over ‘The Interview’ Reveals Hollywood’s Failings, Too - NYTimes.com
Continue reading the main story
The threats and subsequent cancellation will become a nightmare with a very long tail. Now that cultural discourse has become the subject of online blackmail, it is hard to imagine where it will end. Documentaries, which have become increasingly important sources of news and information, could suddenly be in jeopardy. And if you’ve been watching the current season of “Homeland” on Showtime, you know that Pakistan’s more sinister operations have been on wide view."
From a stark security snapshot
"The kind of data breach that exposed Sony to attack happens on corporate computer networks around the world every day of the year. And while there are tools to reduce the risk or minimize the effects of break-ins, far too few companies make use of them.A cyber-warning shot from North Korea - Business - The Boston Globe
“Over 90 percent of the breaches last year could have been prevented if simple policies and procedures were put in place,” said Craig Spiezle, a former data security executive at Microsoft Corp. who now heads the Online Trust Alliance, a security consortium in Seattle."
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Final paragraphs from a detailed review; also see Science Goes to the Movies: ‘The Imitation Game’ (Science Friday)
"To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been more pushback against The Imitation Game by intelligence professionals, historians, and survivors of Turing’s circle. But I think I understand why. After so many years in which Turing failed to get his due, no one wants to be seen as spoiling the party. I strongly doubt, though, that many of those in the know are recommending this film to their friends. (For his part, Alan Hodges is apparently opting to avoid talking about the movie during his current book tour—it’s easy to imagine why he might choose to do so, and I don’t fault him for it.)A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing by Christian Caryl | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
If you want to see a richly imagined British movie about a fascinating historical character, go see Mike Leigh’s new film about the painter J.M.W. Turner. But if you want to see the real Alan Turing, you’re better off reading the books."
The plot thickens...
"“The US should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures,” the spokesman said in the statement, the AP reported.North Korea, denying Sony attack, proposes joint investigation with US - World - The Boston Globe
“We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as what the CIA does,” the statement said."
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Excerpt from a Docker snapshot:
"IBM, Google, and other companies had designed and used their own container technologies for years, but Hykes was the first to establish an industry standard. He did that by creating an easy-to-use interface and by making Docker an open-source project, freeing other tech companies that contributed code to create software and services they could sell to Docker users. Although Hykes and Chief Executive Officer Ben Golub have yet to demonstrate that they can make money selling versions of the software with extra features, they’ve raised $55 million in venture capital, including a $40 million round in September that valued the company at more than $400 million, says a person familiar with the financing who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly. “There’s an awful lot of momentum behind Docker, because it solves a lot of problems the industry has had for a long time,” says IDC’s Gillen."Docker Makes Popular Software to Manage Apps. Can It Make Money? - Businessweek
Friday, December 19, 2014
Surreality TV -- article summary: "A group of journalists and researchers wade into ugly corners of the Internet to expose racists, creeps, and hypocrites. Have they gone too far?"
"It is generally no longer acceptable in public life to hurl slurs at women or minorities, to rally around the idea that some humans are inherently worth less than others, or to terrorize vulnerable people. But old-school hate is having a sort of renaissance online, and in the countries thought to be furthest beyond it. The anonymity provided by the Internet fosters communities where people can feed on each other’s hate without consequence. They can easily form into mobs and terrify victims. Individual trolls can hide behind dozens of screen names to multiply their effect. And attempts to curb online hate must always contend with the long-standing ideals that imagine the Internet’s main purpose as offering unfettered space for free speech and marginalized ideas. The struggle against hate online is so urgent and difficult that the law professor Danielle Citron, in her new book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, calls the Internet “the next battleground for civil rights.”"Meet the Dogged Researchers Who Try to Unmask Haters Online | MIT Technology Review
"But ultimately, Stripe’s approach feels like it’s about process more than policy. Engineers live to optimize, and “email transparency” seems like an attempt to apply an engineering mindset to communication in an organization: the fewer hops from one node to the next, the more efficient the group. But it’s also a human-powered algorithm, a system that runs on fuzzy logic, not hard rules. People get to decide what’s public and what’s private, not the machines. And that might be the smartest hack of all."At This Startup, Everyone Can Read Each Other's Email | WIRED
"Goliath" responds; also see The MPAA’s Attempt to Revive SOPA Through A State Attorney General (Google Public Policy Blog)
"Google on Thursday attacked Hollywood and a state attorney general for attempting to achieve the goals of years-old Internet censorship law.Google accuses Hollywood of 'trying to censor the Internet' - CNET
The search giant said the Motion Picture Association of America -- Hollywood's primary lobbying arm --- secretly conspired with the attorney general of Mississippi to force changes to the trade of information on the Internet without enacting new laws."
Also see How the Sony Corporation Hack Revived the Lost Art of the Call (NYT) and, coincidentally, German researchers discover a flaw that could let anyone listen to your cell calls (The Washington Post)
"Because here’s the thing about the digital world that we must remember. Nothing you say in any form mediated through digital technology — absolutely nothing at all — is guaranteed to stay private. Before you type anything, just think: How will this look when it gets out? What will Angelina Jolie think if she finds out about this? If Angelina won’t like it, don’t send it. Because Angelina will find out. So will the rest of the world.The Lesson of the Sony Hack: We Should All Jump to the 'Erasable Internet' - NYTimes.com
This might seem like an extreme, perhaps jaded response to the hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has resulted in the disclosure of thousands of private documents ranging from trivial to merely embarrassing to grossly serious."
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Check the full post for a 451 Research NoSQL skills snapshot
"As usual there’s an early finish to the quarter for our NoSQL LinkedIn Skills Index, which tracks mentions of NoSQL database in LinkedIn member profiles, but as usual that has little impact on the results as MongoDB continues to account for 49% of all LinkedIn member profiles mentioning a NoSQL project."NoSQL LinkedIn Skills Index – December 2014 — Too much information
The CEO of Snapchat "was close to tears" about what somebody did with private information he shared, assuming it would not be further distributed; I imagine many Snapchat users share his pain
"Details about Snapchat’s business were released during the latest batch of private emails leaked by hackers from Sony CEO Michael Lynton on Tuesday. Lynton is a Snapchat board member and used his Sony email address to communicate about sensitive Snapchat information.Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel “Angry” and “Devastated” Over Email Leak | Re/code
Spiegel, a very private person, addressed Snapchat’s staff Wednesday morning to discuss the leak, and then shared his thoughts in a memo of sorts via Twitter, writing he was both “angry” and “devastated” that important company info is now public. Spiegel was so upset that he wrote he was close to tears."
Another blurry snapshot of Oracle's cloudy future
"Another closely watched metric is cloud bookings, an indicator of future business on cloud software. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder, chairman and CTO, said in a statement that the company expects bookings for cloud software to reach $250 million by the fourth quarter, and to break the $1 billion mark by Oracle’s fiscal year 2016. The company has been navigating a transition toward selling its software on a subscription basis versus its traditional method of selling it “on-premise” or installed on the customers own hardware."Oracle Shares Rise as Q2 Beats Street Estimates | Re/code
Worker productivity enhancements include a sparsely populated and stale app store (however, later in the article: "BlackBerry 10 now allows you to run some Android apps")...
"With the BlackBerry Classic, the company goes straight back to its power-user roots. Physical navigation buttons return to the row above the keyboard, including a home key, and the trackpad offers the precise navigation and scrolling that it always did.Throwback BlackBerry Classic Hits the Right Keys - NYTimes.com
The Classic is a noticeably bigger device than the Bold 9900, as long as we’re comparing those two, although it’s not big by phablet standards. It’s just over 5 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide and its screen, relatively speaking, is tiny at 3.5 inches. The phone is a little heavy, thanks in part to the stylish stainless steel band that encircles it, but it’s easy to operate one-handed and its compact heft is reassuring."
Perhaps useful for skimming the latest batch of leaked Sony email messages, when you're on the go
"The gadget, which doesn’t have name yet, is mounted on eyewear frames, and offers a 0.23-inch OLED display, which is equivalent to viewing a 16-inch display from two meters away. It comes equipped with wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity. The ability to attach it compatible eyewear will give customers greater flexibility, while the high-contrast OLED display is suitable for comfortable outdoor use, the company said.Sony Unveils Wearable Display - Digits - WSJ
Sony is preparing to mass produce the device next year, but didn’t disclose any production or sales targets. The first models will be strictly for business partners, including eyewear makers, it said."
As with recent IBM earnings announcements, there's probably not much scrutiny on exactly what constitutes "cloud" revenue for Oracle
"Oracle has been under pressure to make its products more compatible with subscription-based cloud computing services accessed from remote computers and to reduce its reliance on sales of licensed software that runs on customers’ own server systems.Oracle’s Revenue Rises on Cloud Growth - WSJ
In the latest period, cloud revenue—excluding update and support revenue—climbed 45% to $516 million. New software license revenue rose 3.6% to $2.05 billion.
For the period ended Nov. 30, Oracle reported a profit of $2.5 billion, down from $2.55 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were flat at 56 cents as the number of shares outstanding declined. Excluding stock-based compensation, restructuring-related charges and other items, per-share earnings were 69 cents."
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Penultimate paragraph from an extensive Yahoo profile
"In many ways, Yahoo’s decline from a $128 billion company to one worth virtually nothing is entirely natural. Yahoo grew into a colossus by solving a problem that no longer exists. And while Yahoo’s products have undeniably improved, and its culture has become more innovative, it’s unlikely that Mayer can reverse an inevitability unless she creates the next iPod. All breakthrough companies, after all, will eventually plateau and then decline. U.S. Steel was the first billion-dollar company in 1901, but it was worth about the same in 1991. Kodak, which once employed nearly 80,000 people, now has a market value below $1 billion. Packard and Hudson ruled the roads for more than 40 years before disappearing. These companies matured and receded over the course of generations, in some cases even a century. Yahoo went through the process in 20 years. In the technology industry, things move fast."What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs - NYTimes.com
A major MongoDB milestone
"MongoDB on Tuesday announced that it has acquired WiredTiger, a provider of a high-scale storage engine used by myriad vendors including Amazon Web Services. WiredTiger is also used as an alternative to the InnoDB storage engine used with Oracle MySQL.MongoDB Buys WiredTiger: Database Move - InformationWeek
MongoDB had already announced plans to include the WiredTiger storage engine with its coming 2.8 release, currently available in beta and expected in general release early next year. The company said that adding the technology to its portfolio and its veteran senior executives to its engineering team will help it address performance constraints that have always limited the use of its database."
Probably not going to use "Workers of the world, unite!" as its next mission/motto
"He has a long-term vision, one he talks about often: To get every member of the global workforce — all three billion people — onto LinkedIn.Where Is Jeff Weiner Taking LinkedIn? | Re/code
It’s an obvious goal in many ways; of course, LinkedIn wants as many users as possible, although Weiner would never frame it that way. In fact, he doesn’t frame anything in a way that might be construed as negative. He routinely uses the kinds of phrases you’d likely see on a resume, things like “initial addressable opportunity,” “operationalizing a vision,” and one of his favorites, “value propositions.”
So even though job-hunting is big business for LinkedIn — the site will have two million postings by the end of the year, and recruiting products bring in over 60 percent of the company’s revenue — it won’t be the only thing happening on LinkedIn next year."
From another stark Sony security snapshot; also see Sony Hack Attack: Here Come the Lawsuits (Re/code)
"Sony apparently knew it was unwisely hoarding internal communication. According to the website Gizmodo, Leah Weil, the studio’s general counsel, said in one message: “While undoubtedly there will be emails that need to be retained and/or stored electronically in a system other an email, many can be deleted, and I am informed by our IT colleagues that our current use of the email system for virtually everything is not the best way to do this.”Forget the Gossip, These Are the Lessons of the Sony Hack - Businessweek
The dangerous combination of awareness dulled by apathy goes far beyond Sony Pictures. In a speech in October 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta predicted it would take a “cyber-Pearl Harbor”—a power-grid collapse, poisoned municipal water supply, loss of lives—to make Americans appreciate computer vulnerability. We’re not there yet, but Sony ought to move us closer."
Excerpt from a timely big data reality check
The Joys and Hype of Software Called Hadoop - WSJ
"“The dirty secret is that a significant majority of big-data projects aren’t producing any valuable, actionable results,” said Michael Walker, a partner at Rose Business Technologies, which helps enterprises build big-data systems. According to a recent report from the research firm Gartner Inc., “through 2017, 60% of big-data projects will fail to go beyond piloting and experimentation and will be abandoned.”p.s. periodic reminder: if you don't have a wsj.com account and want to view a paywalled article, Google the full article title text; the first search result link often provides "preview" access to the full article
It turns out that faith in Hadoop has outpaced the technology’s ability to bring big data into the mainstream. Demand for Hadoop is on the rise, yet customers have found that a technology built to index the Web may not be sufficient for corporate big-data tasks, said Nick Heudecker, research director for information management at Gartner."
The Joys and Hype of Software Called Hadoop - WSJ
More "Goliath" strategy details (and more email worst-practices case study fodder)
"The inner workings of those efforts are outlined in emails obtained by The New York Times through open records requests. Other details are contained in messages stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment by hackers and obtained by The Times through an industry executive. Some of the emails from Sony have been reported by The Verge, a website.Detractors of Google Take Fight to the States - NYTimes.com
Together, the emails show the extent of the efforts with state attorneys general. The messages detail how the Motion Picture Association of America — the Hollywood industry group — and an organization backed by Microsoft, Expedia and Oracle, among others, have aggressively lobbied attorneys general to build cases against Google in recent years, sometimes in complementary ways."
Final paragraphs from a stark VC market dynamics reality check
"In this market, the crazy valuations are just the price of survival for venture capital firms. That’s how an online grocer like Instacart or WeWork can have billion-dollar valuations. These companies may have ideas that work, and if they do, the payoff is perhaps another Facebook. But more likely, everyone is overestimating market share and pushing assumptions to even get the privilege of investing.Throwing Money at Start-Ups in Frenzy to Find the Next Uber - NYTimes.com
So where does that leave us? It means that Uber may end up justifying its huge valuation. Certainly, a lucky few in Silicon Valley will make billions of dollars. But the same Ubernomics is being applied across the board. It is impossible that all, indeed most, of these companies will succeed. And in the failure of these companies, some venture capital firms will be brought down, except for the lucky few that actually catch a rising star."
Snapchat Plans Music Feature, Acquired QR Scan.me For $50M And Vergence Eyeglass Cam For $15M, | TechCrunch
More email etiquette lessons from Sony
"Leaked emails from the Sony Pictures hack have uncovered several acquisitions made by Snapchat, as well as plans for a music feature and meetings to discuss partnerships with Twitter.Snapchat Plans Music Feature, Acquired QR Scan.me For $50M And Vergence Eyeglass Cam For $15M, | TechCrunch
According to emails between Snapchat, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, and Snapchat board member Mitch Lasky, Snapchat bought a QR scanning and iBeacon startup called Scan.me for $14 million in cash, $3 million in restricted stock units, and $33 million in Class B common Snapchat stock. It also acquired Vergence Labs, makers of an eyeglass video camera, for $11 million in cash and $4 million in stock."
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, New Russia Sanctions Bill Will Be Signed by Obama, White House Says (NYT)
"Apple Inc. (AAPL) has halted online sales in Russia due to “extreme” ruble fluctuations, the company said.Apple Stops Online Sales in Russia Over Ruble Fluctuations - Bloomberg
“Our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” Alan Hely, a spokesman for the Cupertino, California-based company, said today in an e-mailed statement. “We apologize to customers for any inconvenience.”"
From an accentuate-the-negative Bitcoin snapshot
"There was plenty of ugliness to be found in the markets this year. Ukranian and Venezuelan sovereign debt. High-yield, energy-related corporate bonds. Argentine pesos. Russian rubles. Greek stocks.Bitcoin is the worst investment of 2014 - Quartz
But none of these investments has been as atrociously awful as bitcoin, the heavily hyped crypto-currency that stormed onto the financial scene in the last few years, threatening to disrupt the cornerstone of global finance that is fiat currency."
Q&A with Quora's CEO
"Can you articulate what the core problem Quora is trying to solve, on a technical and more general level, and how far along the company is?Adam D'Angelo On Quora And The Future Of The Internet - BuzzFeed News
AD: There’s actually a lot of problems that all fit together. We’re trying to keep quality high, that’s very important for us. If you look at all these other efforts before Quora, to get knowledge onto the internet, a lot of them suffered from quality [issues]. That’s a big problem. We need to build systems that can automatically figure out what’s high quality and what’s not, and encourage users to contribute high-quality content. There’s a lot of technical challenges in that.
We’re basically building this map of who the experts are in every given topic of knowledge. For any area of knowledge, we want to know who the people who know the most about that are, and should be answering questions, so when we have questions we can show them to the right people. So it’s this technical challenge around building out this map of areas of knowledge, and this database of who the experts are and automatically updating that over time."
Microsoft removes waitlist for its Office presentation app Sway, adds slew of new features to the preview | VentureBeat | Business | by Emil Protalinski
Possibly previewing PowerPoint++
"Microsoft today expanded the preview for its content aggregation and presentation application Sway. The waitlist has been axed, meaning anyone with a Microsoft Account can sign up to start creating Sways.Microsoft removes waitlist for its Office presentation app Sway, adds slew of new features to the preview | VentureBeat | Business | by Emil Protalinski
Sway launched in preview on October 1 as the first new product joining the Office product family in years. The premise is simple: Let users create presentations for the Web using text, pictures, and videos, regardless of what device they’re using."
Excerpt from a wide-ranging interview
"Williams wants to set the record straight: Medium is a publishing platform. He suspects that its plentiful professional content “may have set the bar too high” for the user-generated content he hopes will appear on Medium. Over time, Williams believes Medium will become a destination for both casual and serious content.Q&A with Evan Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter
Medium is what Blogger, the publishing platform Williams helped create and sell to Google in 2003, could have been had social media existed. (For the record, Blogger’s Blogspot.com remains the 17th-most trafficked Web domain in the world. Williams attributes the continued popularity to “a very, very long tail—and Google search traffic.”)"
Final paragraphs of an AI reality check; also see Study to Examine Effects of Artificial Intelligence (NYT)
"Whether AI2’s research leads to a new generation of thinking machine or just more incremental advances, the project is a clear indication that artificial intelligence has once again become the defining force in the software world.Innovators of Intelligence Look to Past - NYTimes.com
“The narrative has changed,” said Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research. “It has switched from, ‘Isn’t it terrible that artificial intelligence is a failure?’ to ‘Isn’t it terrible that A.I. is a success?’ ”"
Monday, December 15, 2014
Signs of the times
"A Google spokeswoman told residents it's app is not the problem, it's LA traffic, according to the AP. Indeed, the US Department of Transportation said the notoriously busy I-405 sees 379,000 cars a day.Locals upset at Google's Waze for sending traffic to their streets - CNET
Some locals are trying to fight back by complaining to officials and reportedly logging fake accidents on the app to deter people from taking their neighborhood routes as shortcuts, but Waze said any phony reports are countered by all the real reports people driving through the area are making."
Strange days indeed; also see Sony Pictures Demands That News Agencies Delete ‘Stolen’ Data (NYT) and Why Sony probably can’t stop the media from publishing details of the hack (The Washington Post)
"“Message to SPE Staffers,” reads the posting written in halting English. “We have a plan to release emails and privacy of the Sony Pictures employees. If you don’t want your privacy to be released, tell us your name and business title to take off your data.”Sony Hackers Offer to Withhold Stolen Data From Promised Leak | Re/code
The message appeared on Pastebin and Friendpaste, two sites for sharing text files often favored for circulating information obtained in hacking attacks. It warned about a forthcoming disclosure that will contain more email correspondence of Sony Pictures employees."
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Excerpt from a Box reality check
"How will Box extract significantly more revenue per customer? They have neither moat nor unique technology (unless you count their “which one of these things isn’t like the others” participation in the Linux Foundation’s Dronecode Project). They don’t have an operations at scale cost advantage. Their “platform ecosystem” is superficial at best. They face giant competitors like Apple, Google and Microsoft with untold billions in the bank who are happily giving cloud-based storage away as a complement to their other services, as well as Dropbox which continues to ooze into the enterprise with a bottoms-up strategy which has dramatically lower customer acquisition costs. Box is still doing the same thing it always has, even as the market has evolved. They no longer have the luxury of just highlighting SharePoint’s inadequacies. Some argue Microsoft’s refusal to support Android and iOS has been the singular Box value proposition – obviously, that is a window that has closed."Boxed In | Platformonomics
Summary of a stark Jean-Louis Gassée Intel reality check
"Intel once turned down the opportunity to become the sole supplier of iPhone processors. Why haven’t they let go of their defocused search for the Next Big Thing and, instead, used All Means Necessary to regain the account?"The Intel Enigma | Monday Note
From a cloud market dynamics snapshot
"Van Wyk’s divided loyalties underscore the challenges Microsoft faces as it tries to wrest market share from industry leader and crosstown competitor Amazon. Venture capitalist John Connors has dubbed the rivalry “The Battle in Seattle.” Synergy Research Group puts Amazon’s share of the $14.5 billion worldwide market for cloud infrastructure services at 27 percent as of this year’s third quarter, down slightly from 28 percent the year before, while Azure’s has climbed three percentage points to 10 percent. “It’s clearly a two-horse race now, whereas two years ago it was probably more of a one-horse race,” says Scott Guthrie, who leads Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division."Microsoft's Azure Is Closing the Gap With Amazon's Cloud Service - Businessweek
Saturday, December 13, 2014
A Facebook company spokesperson quoted later in the article: "'We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.'"
"Facebook Inc has stopped including results from Microsoft Corp's Bing search engine on its social networking site.Facebook dumps Microsoft Web search results | Reuters
The move, confirmed by a company spokesperson, comes as Facebook has revamped its own search offerings, introducing a tool on Monday that allows users to quickly find past comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.
The decision may reflect the increasing importance that Facebook sees in Web search technology, a market dominated by rival Google Inc."
I'm guessing there may be a new Sony corporate email policy sometime soon
"What is "Goliath" and why are Hollywood’s most powerful lawyers working to kill it?Project Goliath: Inside Hollywood's secret war against Google | The Verge
In dozens of recently leaked emails from the Sony hack, lawyers from the MPAA and six major studios talk about "Goliath" as their most powerful and politically relevant adversary in the fight against online piracy. They speak of "the problems created by Goliath," and worry "what Goliath could do if it went on the attack." Together they mount a multi-year effort to "respond to / rebut Goliath’s public advocacy" and "amplify negative Goliath news." And while it’s hard to say for sure, significant evidence suggests that the studio efforts may be directed against Google."
Friday, December 12, 2014
One of three "key computer vision acquisitions" by Oculus VR (which was acquired by Facebook earlier this year)
"The Oculus Rift is designed to put your eyes in a virtual world -- but how you get around and perform actions in that virtual world is still confined to a controller of some kind. The Nimble Sense peripheral for the headset was looking to change that, with a Kickstarter that was gathering momentum -- $135,511 of its $62,500 goal -- until the campaign was cancelled earlier today. That's because, Oculus VR has announced, it has bought the company that was making the device."Oculus VR buys hand-tracking expert Nimble VR - CNET
Russia's cyber-isolationism expands
"Google is closing its engineering offices in Russia after the country has increased its crackdown on the internet.Google to leave Russia - News - Gadgets and Tech - The Independent
New laws that require internet companies to keep all data about Russians inside the country’s borders have led Google to take its engineers from the country and re-locate them elsewhere.
A Google spokesperson told The Independent: “We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them”."
A big discount relative to the $905K paid for a different Apple 1 by the Henry Ford Museum in October
"Despite the machine's rarity the computer sold below the $400,000 - $600,000 estimate. The Apple-1 sold for $666.66 when it first went on sale in 1976.Computer sold by Steve Jobs out of his parents' garage raises $365,000 at auction | ZDNet
Apple-1 systems were hand built by Wozniak and supplied as a pre-assembled motherboard, without a case, power supply, keyboard or monitor. The computer sold yesterday is fully operational, having been tested using Microsoft Basic, and an original Apple-1 Star Trek game. It is housed in a medium blue coloured metal box and has a period Datanetics keyboard in a wooden housing. Also included is the original Apple-1 Operation Manual."
Another example of focusing on "insights" and "analytics" ("connected analytics," in Cisco's case) instead of "big data;" perhaps the "big data" meme has run its course
"The Cisco announcement is part of a broader trend by mature tech companies to make new businesses by looking at the behavior of machines and people. Mr. Flannagan’s group, created as a part of Cisco’s services division just six months ago, already has 450 people.Cisco's Networks Will Analyze Us - NYTimes.com
Earlier Thursday, General Electric announced a deal with SoftBank of Japan to resell G.E.’s analytics product, called Predix. SoftBank was a particularly attractive partner to G.E. because it is a telecommunications service provider. If you are already shipping the bits, perhaps looking at them is a natural fit."
"Regulators in Chicago have approved a plan to create one or more applications that would allow users to hail taxis from any operators in the city, using a smartphone. In New York, a City Council member proposed a similar app on Monday that would let residents “e-hail” any of the 20,000 cabs that circulate in the city on a daily basis.Chicago and New York Officials Look to Build Uber-Like Apps for Taxis - NYTimes.com
It is a new tack for officials in the two cities, a reaction to the surging use of hail-a-ride apps like Uber and Lyft."
Strategic shifts for Sony (which, unlike Microsoft, is also in the TV business)
"Although it may seem strange to cannibalize the hardware business while gamers are still willing to pay $400 or more for a PS4, Sony needs to push into cloud gaming sooner rather than later, says Serkan Toto, the founder of Tokyo-based consultant Kantan Games. “Cloud gaming is the future, and I have no doubt that things like PlayStation 4 and all the hardware and cables that fill up your living room will all go away,” he says."Sony Prepares for Life After Game Consoles - Businessweek
Strategy by process of elimination?
"Samsung’s mobile profit tumbled 74 percent in the most recent quarter from the same period a year earlier, halving the company’s net income. To make up for some of that lost revenue, it’s trying to impress people with unprecedented levels of remote control over their homes. Internet-linked appliances have been slow to catch on, but given Samsung’s sizable share of both the appliance and electronics market, the company has as good a chance as anyone to sell people on a system of devices that work well together. Success could propel sales of its electronics, appliances, and chips for a generation; the market for Internet-connected appliances will grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020, from $1.9 trillion last year, estimates market researcher IDC."Samsung Boots Up Its Smart Home Division - Businessweek
Thursday, December 11, 2014
"Enterprise collaboration ... one of the hot new categories in enterprise software" -- interesting times
"“This is a big round and is going to make people sit up and take notice,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Alastair Mitchell. “Enterprise collaboration has been bubbling up for a few years…but it’s one of the hot new categories in enterprise software.”Huddle Raises $51 Million for Workplace Collaboration Software - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ
During the PC era, enterprise collaboration players included Lotus Notes, and since the Internet became popular there was Yammer (now part of Microsoft Corp., Jive Software Inc., whose shares have dropped to near $6, less than half their 2011 IPO price, and Box Inc., which postponed its IPO earlier this year.
Huddle will succeed where others have faltered, Mr. Mitchell contends, because of the software’s ability to use the cloud for collaboration without getting sidetracked by features like file sharing or social networking, which he called “dead ends.”"
A more insightful Office
"Bing indexes and stores entity data from around the web representing real world people, places and things. Insights for Office utilizes Bing’s ability to index the world’s knowledge and our machine learned relevance models to semantically understand the most important content in a user’s document and then return the most relevant results. This capability is derived largely from patterns of text analysis developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research. The results deliver the most relevant web links, images, etc. for a given request in the form of entity cards – a quick overview of the most important attributes (description, date of birth, etc.) about a real world person, place or thing. In many cases, the entity card may provide enough information for the user’s query intent to be fulfilled without requiring any additional exploration. If the user wants to dive deeper, they can click on “More quick insights” and “More web results” to get even more detailed search results."Bing brings the world’s knowledge straight to you with Insights for Office | Search Blog
tbd if/when Bitcoin will be accepted for Android-related patent licensing
"Microsoft has added Bitcoin support to Microsoft accounts. Bitcoin funds can be added to accounts to enable digital purchases from the Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video stores.Xbox, Windows Store now accepting Bitcoin payments | Ars Technica
Bitcoin support is currently limited to adding fixed dollar amounts to accounts; there's no direct purchase option. Up to $100 can be added at a time, and presently the option is only available to US accounts. The Bitcoin support comes via BitPay. Other early commercial Bitcoin supporters, including PayPal and Newegg, also use BitPay."
Final paragraph from a timely employee monitoring/incentives + quantified self reality check
"Despite the progress that fitness-tracking companies are making at capturing the attention of employers, there's little evidence to show that the gadgets are making a real difference. Everyone agrees that walking more is good for you, of course, but there's a lack of independent research showing that wearing a monitor keeps people moving over the long term. Rosenthal of Jawbone argues that the data collected through UP for Groups will persuade more to get insurers to broaden their coverage of the devices. At this point, he argues, insurers are still in the experimental stage. "That's not going to last forever," he says. "Insurance companies are going to start looking for results.""Jawbone Up for Groups: A Plan to Get Employers to Buy Fitness Bands - Businessweek
Another exciting week for Sony's security and PR teams; also see Sony Pictures Tries to Disrupt Downloads of its Stolen Files (Re/code)
"Salaries of its top executives. Unpublished scripts. Sensitive contracts. Aliases that stars use to check into hotels.Sony Hacking: Angelina Jolie in Email Crossfire Over Steve Jobs Movie - NYTimes.com
Those are just some of the disclosures from a devastating hacking attack on Sony’s movie studio last month. But among all of the information that has spilled forth, perhaps nothing has riveted Hollywood more — and laid bare the machinations at the highest levels of the film industry — than a humiliating email exchange between Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairwoman, and the producer Scott Rudin over Angelina Jolie and a planned Steve Jobs biopic. "
New channels for advertising
"Somehow I’d missed other ShopTV ads. That’s because there haven’t been very many of them so far; they’ve begun to appear as commercials for Reebok International of Canton and online retailer Overstock.com. One early version ran back in February during the Super Bowl, enabling smart-TV viewers to purchase underwear from retailer H&M. The ads have even appeared in the middle of TV programs such as the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” shows.Internet pop-up ads come to SmartTV - Business - The Boston Globe
ShopTV’s not the only pop-up purveyor. Earlier this year, my TV began displaying ads for Samsung’s own sports app at odd moments during football games. Granted, it’s a pretty nice app that lets you see scores and stats from other games without changing channels. But I don’t relish an endless flow of on-screen come-ons whenever I flip on the set."
Excerpt from a machine intelligence market landscape perspective
"Computers are learning to think, read, and write. They’re also picking up human sensory function, with the ability to see and hear (arguably to touch, taste, and smell, though those have been of a lesser focus). Machine intelligence technologies cut across a vast array of problem types (from classification and clustering to natural language processing and computer vision) and methods (from support vector machines to deep belief networks). All of these technologies are reflected on this landscape.The Current State of Machine Intelligence — Medium
What this landscape doesn’t include, however important, is “big data” technologies. Some have used this term interchangeably with machine learning and artificial intelligence, but I want to focus on the intelligence methods rather than data, storage, and computation pieces of the puzzle for this landscape (though of course data technologies enable machine intelligence)."
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Big changes ahead for Windows: 'We've got to monetize it differently,' says Microsoft exec - GeekWire
Microsoft's metamorphosis continues
"PHIL WINSLOW, CREDIT SUISSE: Are you going to start losing money on Windows?Big changes ahead for Windows: 'We've got to monetize it differently,' says Microsoft exec - GeekWire
KEVIN TURNER: Yes, let me — that’s not any conversations that we’ve had. The thing about it is, though, we’ve got to monetize it differently. And there are services involved. There are additional opportunities for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way. And through the course of the summer and spring we’ll be announcing what that business model looks like. At the same time it’s wonderful to see these nine-inch and below devices explode, because that was an area, candidly, I was blocked out and I had no share of what was getting built. So it’s a very fascinating transition for us."
I'm guessing "actual results may vary" with Comcast and Verizon Internet services...
"Prices are falling on 4K—or “Ultra HD”—TVs that have four times the pixels of today’s high-definition models. The trouble has been finding the right content to go with them. Netflix was first with streaming 4K video, and Amazon on Tuesday made good on its pledge in November to introduce its own 4K catalog.Amazon Launches 4K Streaming Video for Prime Members - WSJ
For now, Amazon’s 4K programming is available to members of the retailer’s Prime club. It includes original Amazon series such as “Alpha House” and “Transparent,” along with the BBC series “Orphan Black” and select (though not especially fresh) Sony movies such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Philadelphia.” Amazon plans to add to its 4K Prime content beginning later this year."
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
A hopeful sign of the times
"President Barack Obama told the world that everyone should learn how to code. And now he’s putting his money where his mouth is.Obama Becomes First President to Write a Computer Program | WIRED
Earlier today, to help kick-off the annual Computer Science Education Week, Obama became the first president ever to write a computer program. It was a very simple program—all it does is draw a square on a screen—but that’s the point, says Hadi Partovi, co-founder Code.org, an organization that promotes computer science education. “All programming starts simple,” he says. “No one starts by creating a complicated game.”"
Once again leading by example
"“We look for the investment opportunities where it’s really obvious that baked into the product or service is some positive benefit,” said Williams’s new partner James Joaquin.Ev Williams’s Obvious Ventures Looks to Combine Profit and Purpose | Re/code
And as such, they call the firm Obvious Ventures, which is a name that Williams has frequently used for his more amorphous, between-company incubator-investment-development projects. Previous incarnations of things called “Obvious” spawned both Twitter and Medium. (Williams said he has “not yet” sued himself for copyright infringement.)"
GOP, extortion -- somehow this seems familiar...
"The hacker group claiming responsibility for the Sony Pictures Entertainment attack released another pile of private data Monday and issued threats against the studio.Sony Hacker Leaks More Internal Documents, Issues Demand | Re/code
The group calling itself the Guardians of Peace said it has made an unspecified demand of Sony, which management has “refused to accept.” This is the first time GOP has suggested some form of extortion.
“We are sending you our warning again,” GOP wrote in a post on the online collaboration site GitHub. “Do carry out our demand if you want to escape us.”"
Final paragraphs of a Change.org profile
"Mr. Bishko called Change.org “a global platform that is giving ordinary people a stronger voice on how things operate.”Tech Figures Join to Fund Change.org Petition Site - NYTimes.com
“This is an incredible innovation, and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
But petitions are not all that Change.org aspires to organize. Mr. Rattray said he hoped it would also become a platform for organizing voting, fund-raising and more.
“Petitions are to Change.org as books were to Amazon,” he said."
A deep learning market reality check
"MetaMind is jumping into a field crowded with big names investing orders of magnitude higher than $8 million. (Most, to be fair, keep their research to themselves.) And it’s not always easy to get lay customers to use the kinds of tools it’s selling even if they’re interested in the results, says Andrew Maas, a co-founder of Roam Analytics, which uses machine learning tools to build sales software. “The end user has to be smart enough that they’re going to be able to give you the data and set up the problem in a format that it is solvable by the techniques we have,” says Maas. “But at the same time, the user has to be not smart enough or not experienced enough to use the open source tools and run it themselves.”"MetaMind Raises $8 Million to Bring Artificial Intelligence to the Masses - Businessweek
Tangentially, see YouTube's Revenue Is Catching Up With TV Networks (Business Insider)
"Television advertising growth has slowed across the industry during the last year. On Monday, WPP’s GroupM advertising firm released a forecast predicting that traditional television’s share of the total ad market would fall for the first time in 2015.Research Confirms the Crowd: Netflix and Others Are Upending the TV Business - NYTimes.com
“The ratings have just disappeared,” said Todd Juenger, a media analyst with Bernstein Research. “You have audiences leaving ad-supported television for non-ad-supported television, and I don’t think that they are coming back.”"
Monday, December 08, 2014
The plot thickens...
"In his comments, Mandia described the malicious software used in the attack against Sony as “…undetectable by industry standard antivirus software.” He also said that the scope of the attack is unlike any other previously seen, primarily because its perpetrators sought to both destroy information and to release it to the public. The attack is one “…for which neither SPE nor other companies could have been fully prepared,” Mandia said.Sony Describes Hack Attack as ‘Unprecedented’ | Re/code
Sony’s comments on the attack come on the same day that North Korea denied any connection to it, but in the same breath praised the efforts of those responsible for it."
From a mobile + Facebook market dynamics snapshot
"The takeaway is this: if you’re a media company, you are almost certainly underestimating your Facebook traffic. The only question is how much Facebook traffic you’re not counting.Dark social traffic in the mobile app era -- Fusion
The good news is that, as of yesterday at 6 pm, Chartbeat began tracking Facebook mobile users much more effectively. With the new changes, they’ll be able to properly attribute between 10 and 50 percent of dark social traffic into the right buckets. (It varies on a story by story basis.)
The bad news is that, if you didn’t know before, it should be even more clear now: Facebook owns web media distribution."
Video star power
"Facebook Inc. and video startup Vessel, among others, have tried to lure YouTube creators to their services in recent months, according to people familiar with the discussions.YouTube Offering Its Stars Bonuses - WSJ
In response, Google is offering some of its top video makers bonuses to sign multiyear deals in which they agree to post content exclusively on YouTube for a time before putting it on a rival service. The bonuses can be tied to how well videos perform, but YouTube is making a wide range of offers to counter rivals, according to people involved in the discussions. For several months, YouTube also has been offering to fund additional programming by some of its video makers."
So Verse replaces and/or is Notes
"Unlike IBM Notes -- formerly Lotus Notes -- Verse is a Web-based service that will allow users to group messages and contacts to declutter the inbox, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said. The vendor recently invested $100 million in redesigning Notes, and IBM Verse is one of IBM's first products with a reimagined user interface."Global firm beta tests social enterprise email with IBM Verse
Saturday, December 06, 2014
A snapshot of the drone times
"ONE of this year’s top-selling Christmas presents is a drone. For $50 you can buy a tiny quadcopter with a video camera, perfect for snapping a bird’s-eye view of your garden; for $700, one equipped with a gyroscopically stabilised camera which, when paired with a wireless tracking device on your wrist, will film you while you ski, cycle or kite-surf. More significantly still, as our Technology Quarterly outlines this week, drones could revolutionise all sorts of businesses."Regulating robotic aircraft: Free the drones | The Economist
Friday, December 05, 2014
Ray Ozzie on Twitter: "1/This Sunday, Dec 7, is the 25th anniv of Lotus Notes AND the 30th of my startup Iris! A brief story, in 22 tweets.
Happy anniversaries, Ray (check here for a 22-tweet historical recap)
"1/This Sunday, Dec 7, is the 25th anniv of Lotus Notes AND the 30th of my startup Iris! A brief story, in 22 tweets. "Ray Ozzie on Twitter: "1/This Sunday, Dec 7, is the 25th anniv of Lotus Notes AND the 30th of my startup Iris! A brief story, in 22 tweets. http://t.co/Q96GsgVLQd"
From a virtual reality market reality check
"I am amazed at how fast this market is moving. Oculus, the uncontested leader in VR just a few months ago, backed by billions of Facebook’s dollars, is already in a bit of a strategic quandary. They have acknowledged PC-based headsets are too expensive for a high volume consumer product, while reversing their earlier antipathy to mobile-based VR. The Gear VR partnership with Samsung halves the cost but still requires a phone that very, very few people have (or will have). After years of selling the dream of the “consumer Rift”, Oculus has gotten very vague about when if ever we will see that oft-promised device. I suspect they are seriously contemplating an OEM business model whereby they license their technology to any and every interested manufacturer on the planet as opposed to building their own devices."Segmenting Virtual Reality | Platformonomics
Check the full article for more details on Tesla's battery bets
"Why did Tesla act differently? For a start, it does not think of itself as a carmaker. “I see us more as an energy-innovation company,” says Jeffrey “JB” Straubel, the firm’s chief technology officer, and one of the co-founders of Tesla, along with Elon Musk, the chief executive. “If we can reduce energy-storage prices, it’s the most important thing we can do to make electric vehicles more prevalent,” says Mr Straubel. “Add in renewable power and I have a direct line of sight towards an entire economy that doesn’t need fossil fuels and doesn’t need to pay more to do it.”"Brain scan: Tesla’s electric man | The Economist
Also see Sony Hack Exposed Personal Data of Hollywood Stars (WSJ)
"The cyber attack against Sony Pictures continues to be a major problem for the company. For one, it looks like the hackers used malware called Destover (which security firms believe could have been created in Korea) that can completely disable hard drives, rendering computers useless. Worse, the hackers calling themselves the Guardians of Peace recently leaked more info: a whole folder full of company passwords, as well as former and current employees' salaries and social security numbers. And yet, all these could've been avoided, according to some of the company's former employees. They told Fusion that "Sony's 'information security' team is a complete joke," prone to ignoring reports about vulnerabilities."Hackers leak Sony passwords, employee social security numbers and salaries
Apparently a less-than-Note-worthy experiment
"But given some of its current downsides, such as limited app support, the Galaxy Note Edge’s curved screen still feels more like a gimmick than a valued feature. It doesn’t vastly improve on the user experience or functionality of the smartphone, which makes it hard to justify the high price tag. The Galaxy Note Edge costs $400 on contract at AT&T, while Sprint and T-Mobile are offering the phone for $840 and $870, respectively, on their device-financing programs. I’d recommend saving some money and going for the Galaxy Note 4 instead."Samsung Galaxy Note Edge review | Re/code
Not a great ROI on Microsoft's 2012 $300M investment
"On Thursday, the two companies parted ways, with Barnes & Noble buying out Microsoft for about $120 million. In just over two years, the Nook business has lost more than half its value. The Nook, which once looked like Barnes & Noble’s best shot at adapting to the digital retail landscape, has become a drag on its bottom line. Barnes & Noble reported on Thursday that revenue for the Nook segment in the most recent quarter fell 41 percent, to $64 million, compared with the period last year. Sales of e-books and other digital content fell 21 percent, to $45 million."Barnes & Noble and Microsoft End Nook Partnership - NYTimes.com
From a Google/Facebook competitive snapshot
"It’s also, well, kinda creepy that Facebook is matching you up with your offline purchases. But this is the way the world is moving. Google is the net’s advertising powerhouse, but recently, its ad business growth has slowed. If Atlas is indeed able to serve smarter ads across devices, and link those ads to offline purchases, Facebook may soon give Google a run for its money."How Facebook Aims to Beat Google by Tracking Your Offline Purchases | WIRED
Excerpted from the latest Time cover story
"Fulfilling the actual mission, connecting the entire world, wouldn’t actually, literally be possible unless everybody in the world were on the Internet. So Zuckerberg has decided to make sure everybody is. This sounds like the kind of thing you say you’re going to do but never actually do, but Zuckerberg is doing it. He is in Chandauli today on a campaign to make sure that actually, literally every single human being on earth has an Internet connection. As Sandberg puts it (she’s better at sound bites than Zuckerberg): “If the first decade was starting the process of connecting the world, the next decade is helping connect the people who are not yet connected and watching what happens.”"Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Plan to Wire the World
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Final paragraphs from a competitive snapshot
"In late March Google started a price war with Amazon, slashing its cloud computing prices, across the board, by 30 percent. That kind of price slashing is likely to continue, says Michael Crandell, the CEO of RightScale, a cloud management company. “There’s clearly a case of point-counterpoint going on, and it is a competitive market.”Amazon's New Cloud Prices Show That Google Is Now a Threat | WIRED
Byrne says that while Google doesn’t offer the wide range of products, it beats out Amazon in many respects. Google’s compute speed and network “is faster than Amazon’s,” he says. “They’re probably the only people where you can say that their infrastructure is really world-leading.”"
Demis Hassabis, Founder of DeepMind Technologies and Artificial-Intelligence Wunderkind at Google, Wants Machines to Think Like Us | MIT Technology Review
Final paragraph from a Google AI snapshot; tangentially, see Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind (BBC)
"Hassabis’s reluctance to talk about applications might be coyness, or it could be that his researchers are still in the early stages of understanding how to advance the company’s AI software. One strong indicator that Hassabis expects swift progress toward a powerful new form of AI is that he is setting up an ethics board inside Google to consider the possible downsides of advanced artificial intelligence. “It’s something that we or other people at Google need to be cognizant of. We’re still playing Atari games currently,” he says, laughing. “But we are on the first rungs of the ladder.”"Demis Hassabis, Founder of DeepMind Technologies and Artificial-Intelligence Wunderkind at Google, Wants Machines to Think Like Us | MIT Technology Review
Check the link below for additional claims and analysis
"It was also theorized that North Korea was angry about a forthcoming movie in the U.S., The Interview," a comedy in which two show business reporters travel to North Korea to interview leader Kim Jong Un.North Korea unlikely to be behind Sony Pictures attacks | Computerworld
But the Sony attacks have been a more public affair, with taunting images displayed on hacked PCs, sensitive company documents posted online and gigabytes of leaked documents sent to journalists.
They are not tactics normally associated with state-sponsored attacks, said Lucas Zaichkowsky, an enterprise defense architect with Resolution1 Security."
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
IBM: Cyber Monday online sales up 8.5%, iOS numbers more than quadruple Android's | VentureBeat | News Briefs | by Emil Protalinski
"iOS traffic accounted for 28.7 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Android, which drove 12.2 percent of all online traffic. More importantly, iOS sales accounted for 17.4 percent of total online sales, more than four times that of Android, which drove 4.4 percent of all online sales.IBM: Cyber Monday online sales up 8.5%, iOS numbers more than quadruple Android's | VentureBeat | News Briefs | by Emil Protalinski
The discrepancy between Android and iOS for these numbers can often be attributed to the fact that the latter has a larger market share in the U.S. Yet that doesn’t explain why the difference is even larger for sales than for traffic. The reason may come down to smartphones versus tablets and the fact that iPads are even more popular than Android tablets in the U.S. when compared to iPhones being more popular than Android smartphones."
Check the Wire site for more details
"Backed by Skype co-founder Janus Friis and a team of tech veterans, the freshly launched Wire aims to be more than a regular chat service. It is a marriage of its competitors' most popular features, including the ability to "ping" contacts. In an interview with The Guardian, Skype co-founder and Wire investor Janus Friis remarks, "What attracted me to Wire is that it is something truly new. This is not some marginal improvement. This is not just an app." He then adds, "Skype was launched more than a decade ago. A lot has changed since then - we are all used to free calls and texting, and we have taken to carrying our computers in our pockets." Friis says that now is the time to create "the best possible communication tools" that are as beautiful as they are functional."Skype founder backs Wire, the 'best possible communication tool' | The Verge
Coincidentally, see Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Has Chosen an Heir Apparent (Re/code)
"Bezos wouldn’t call Fire a failure. Instead, he made a point of mentioning all the initiatives that have taken time at Amazon. Bezos cited Amazon’s early auctions business and Zshops listings business as ideas that did not work but led to the creation of the third-party marketplace that now comprises 40 percent of Amazon’s overall revenue.More Amazon Fire Phones Are Coming, Jeff Bezos Signals | Re/code
When Blodget pressed Bezos for what mistakes the company might have made with the phone, Bezos again took a trip down memory lane instead of answering the question. Along the way, he stressed the importance of encouraging risk-taking at Amazon."
The full review suggests the new strategy will have mixed results, at least with the HP Stream 11
"The HP Stream 11 runs a full version of Windows 8.1 yet costs only $200. But wait, there’s more: It also comes with a free year of Office 365 and 1 terabyte of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage—a $70 value. Buyers even get a $25 gift certificate for the Microsoft Windows Store. Do the math and this laptop costs $105.HP Stream 11 Review: A $200 Windows Laptop That’s Worth the Price - WSJ
It really does sound like one of those too-good-to-be-true, shopping-network deals, minus, of course, the “four easy installments” plan and “Call right now!” instructions. But this isn’t even a holiday special or a clearance deal. It’s Microsoft’s new strategy to try to destroy Google's low-cost, cloud-based Chromebooks."
Excerpt from a security reality check; also see Reinventing the Internet to Make It Safer (NYT)
"The impact on consumers has been vast. Last year, over 552 million people had their identities stolen, according to Symantec, and nearly 25,000 Americans had sensitive health information compromised — every day — according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Over half of Americans, including President Obama, had to have their credit cards replaced at least once because of a breach, according to the Ponemon Group, an independent research organization.
But the value of those stolen credit cards, which trade freely in underground criminal markets, is eclipsed by the value of the intellectual property that has been siphoned out of United States corporations, universities and research groups by hackers in China — so much so that security experts now say there are only two types of companies left in the United States: those that have been hacked and those that do not yet know they have been hacked."Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On - NYTimes.com