"Slack, the enterprise collaboration platform co-founded by Stewart Butterfield, today confirmed that it has closed a $120 million round of funding, co-led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures with the participation of past investors including A16Z, Accel Partners and The Social+Capital Partnership. We first reported on this fundraise last week.Slack Confirms $120M Fundraise Led By Google Ventures And KPCB At $1.12B Valuation | TechCrunch
The valuation is at $1.12 billion, post-money."
Friday, October 31, 2014
Apparently a lot more than just a nice user experience on IRC
A pleasant surprise for all Mac + Office 365 customers: check the source link below for more details and an overview of reasons why Microsoft opted to not hold the new Mac Outlook back until the rest of "Office 16" for the Mac is released. To clarify: if you are a Mac user and have an Office 365 subscription, you can download and install the radically-revised Mac Outlook today.
"Today we are announcing the new Outlook for the Mac, which delivers improved performance and reliability and a fresh look and feel that is unmistakably Microsoft Office. This release offers a more familiar and consistent experience between Outlook on the PC, Outlook on the web and Outlook Web App (OWA) for iPad, iPhone and Android devices."New Outlook for Mac available to Office 365 customers - Office Blogs
How Apple, Inc. went thermonuclear on Samsung, erasing Android's primary profit center (Apple Insider)
A stark Samsung (and overall Android market) reality check
"After failing to do much more than embarrass Samsung Electronics in years-long legal battles over patent infringement, Apple has rapidly obliterated Samsung's mobile division profitability, rendering it as barrenly unprofitable as every other Android or Windows licensee with razor thin margins in the phone, PC and tablet market."How Apple, Inc. went thermonuclear on Samsung, erasing Android's primary profit center
Final paragraph of an insightful Apple Pay reality check
"Finally, I suspect that for Apple the most important part of Apple Pay may be its use in apps, not at physical retail. If you can acquire a credit card and address with just one tap then a major cause of drop-off and cart abandonment goes away, and that in turn alters the calculus around whether you make an app or a website: you have to get people to install the app (which is a cause of drop-off), but after that everything is seamless, whereas on a mobile website you don't need to drive an install but do need to get people to type in their card (though with keychain Apple has a solution here as well). The immediate effect of this is to reinforce the position of iOS as the platform where most merchants see the majority of their value, and hence of course drive them to continue to make iOS apps and make them first, which in turn drives iOS device sales, especially to people who buy things, a virtuous circle that Apple is already benefiting from at the expense of Android. The interesting question here, of course, is what Apple's next step is. Does it try to enable Apple Pay for website accessed on iOS devices (which would be very challenging)? Add it to Macs (though this is a much smaller market)? And, of course, what if it gives third party apps access to payment data in the same way (controlled, permission-based) it does for health?"Apple Pay, partnerships and software as disruption — Benedict Evans
Visit the full post from your mobile device to check for a tracking code
"Twitter's mobile advertising arm enables its clients to use a hidden, undeletable tracking number created by Verizon to track user behavior on smartphones and tablets. Wired and Forbes reported earlier this week that the two largest cellphone carriers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T, are adding the tracking number to their subscribers' Internet activity, even when users opt out."Twitter's Mobile Ad Shop Using Verizon's ID to Track Users - ProPublica
All part of a cloudier Microsoft future
"At first glance, Microsoft’s fitness-tracking device looks like another hardware foray for a company with a much stronger track record in software. Instead, think of the $199 Microsoft Band as a Trojan Horse to get more consumers using Microsoft’s data-crunching software–and perhaps open new opportunities for sales to businesses, too.Microsoft Band Isn’t a Fitness Tracker, It’s a Trojan Horse for Software - Digits - WSJ
[...] The software is another example of the focus Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has put on consumer services that harness the company’s cloud and data-analysis expertise, an area in which he says Microsoft has leapfrogged its rivals. Nadella previously introduced a service called Delve that aims to predict which documents or contacts a user is likely to need based on factors such as what the user’s colleagues are working on."
Off to incubate ... the next wave of Google hardware acquisitions?
"Andy Rubin, a high-ranking Google executive who spearheaded the company’s entrance into mobile phones and tablets and was in charge of the company’s nascent robotics group, has left the company.Andy Rubin, Former Head of Android, Departs Google - NYTimes.com
Mr. Rubin is leaving to start a tech incubator focused on start-ups interested in building hardware, he said.
“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next. With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users,” said Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, in a statement."
Thursday, October 30, 2014
From an extensive Microsoft Band device/strategy overview
""It's the most advanced band we've seen in terms of technology on the wrist," he says, "and it's really designed to do two things: have people live healthier, and be more productive, by having a band that can serve on the opposite side of your watch, worn 24 hours a day, and get some of the most accurate data that you can possibly get."Microsoft's health revolution is here, starting with a $199 fitness tracker | The Verge
Microsoft's plan is as simple as it is large: to be the central repository for all the world's fitness data, to develop and distribute the best hardware and the best software for helping people live healthier lives. It doesn't matter what platform you're on, it doesn't matter what app or device you use. Microsoft wants to be everywhere."
From a detailed Apple Pay review
"So, does it work? To find out, your four-person Re/code Reviews team spent most of the week doing the arduous work of shopping, on both coasts. We bought everything from electronics to food to makeup — with digital versions of our everyday credit cards stored on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Our overall conclusion: Apple Pay worked smoothly and quickly in all but a very few instances. But the number of physical and online stores that accept it at launch is still very small. Plus, some common things slow it down, like the need for signatures and debit-card PINs in some stores, its lack of support for loyalty cards, and cashier confusion. So it’s far from a complete replacement for your wallet and credit card, at least not yet."Apple Pay Review: the Re/code, Bi-coastal, Team Test | Re/code
Coincidentally, More Twitter exits: 2 key executives flying away (CNBC), including Twitter analytics lead Adam Kinney
"But their partnership, announced on Wednesday, makes a lot of sense. It is intended to give IBM’s data-analysis business, including its Watson artificial-intelligence technology, broad access to one of the world’s richest data sources — billions of people expressing their interests, wants and worries about every imaginable topic.IBM Teams Up With Twitter to Give Business a Gauge Powered by Social Media - NYTimes.com
The goal, according to IBM and Twitter executives, is to enrich business decision-making. “We know what the world is thinking in real time,” said Chris Moody, vice president of data strategy at Twitter. His company’s information resource, he said, should have “nearly limitless applications.”"
See this Microsoft page for full product details
"Microsoft (MSFT) is betting that its Band, on sale today, will be able to distinguish itself by digging deeper into users’ devices and apps to suck up data on their fitness, sleep, and general health habits. Then its companion app, Health, predicts future issues and serves as a free source of advice. “One thing health and fitness trackers do incredibly well today is tell you about your past, but you would be hard-pressed to find devices that do a decent job of giving you actionable information,” says Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.Microsoft Introduces Wearable Health and Fitness Band - Businessweek
At $199, Microsoft Band is pricier than competing fitness bands from companies like Fitbit and Jawbone. It doesn’t have the design intended to compete with the Apple Watch, which starts at $349, says Llamas."
From an Amazon Fire product family reality check
"These shortcomings strain the case for Amazon’s devices. If you are mostly interested in entertainment, and if you are looking for a good deal, it could be a good idea to take a chance on Amazon’s ecosystem, especially its tablets. As I wrote last February, Amazon remains the best place online to buy books, movies, music and other media, because content from Amazon works seamlessly across different kinds of devices. Amazon’s tablets are also attractive if you are in the market for low-priced devices for your children.Amazon’s Grand Design in Devices - NYTimes.com
But if you are looking for more — more flexibility and utility in your gadgets, better design, and primarily assurance that your device will work with whatever great new hardware or software that comes along next — look elsewhere."
In other CurrentC news, see Retailer-Backed Apple Pay Rival CurrentC Has Been Hacked, Testers’ Email Addresses Stolen (TechCrunch)
"Facing pressure from supporters of Apple’s new mobile payment system, the consortium of major retailers creating a rival system said on Wednesday that it might adjust its strategy.MCX, an Apple Pay Rival, Says It Is Open to Other Technology - NYTimes.com
The group of retailers, known as the Merchant Customer Exchange, said that it could yet decide to use Near Field Communication capability, the technology that Apple Pay relies on to process transactions."
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Office for Mac apparently slated to get a major update every half-decade or so...
"Microsoft is expected to release its Office for Android tablet offering soon, possibly in early November 2014, my contacts are saying. The company also is expected to disclose timing and possibly a public preview of its next Office for Mac release very soon, as well. Alleged screen shots of the next Office for Mac's Outlook client leaked earlier this week. The latest rumored release target for the next Office for Mac is early 2015."Microsoft's latest target release date for Office 16: Second half 2015 | ZDNet
A different kind of Google map; also see How a Google Engineer’s Bike Crash Shows Potential of Nanoparticle Project (WSJ) and “We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder” (Steven Levy on Medium)
"Google is designing a suite of nanoparticles which are intended to match markers for different conditions.BBC News - Google is developing cancer and heart attack detector
They could be tailored to stick to a cancerous cell or a fragment of cancerous DNA.
Or they could find evidence of fatty plaques about to break free from the lining of blood vessels. These can cause a heart attack or stroke if they stop the flow of blood.
Another set would constantly monitor chemicals in the blood."
Check the full article for some significant trends (and this page for the full presentation)
"Now Andreessen’s partner Benedict Evans has issued an update. Evans presented his new study, “Mobile is Eating the World,” on Tuesday at the WSJD Live global technology conference.Never Mind Software – Mobile is Eating the World - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ
In 45 slides, Evans outlined the rapid growth of mobile technology and how it is influencing the way we live our lives and the world’s more traditional industries.
Mobile, driven by operating software from Apple and Google, is the central platform of the future, Evans contends. Here are six key slides from his presentation:"
Investing for the long-term; see Facebook’s Results in Six Charts (WSJ) for a summary of Facebook's quarterly results
"Mr. Zuckerberg has 55 percent voting control over Facebook, according to the company’s most recent proxy statement. So if investors do not agree with his vision, they don’t have much choice but to sell. And many did, sending the company’s stock down 8.3 percent in after-hours trading.Mark Zuckerberg Talks of Spending, and Facebook Stock Drops - NYTimes.com
“Wall Street cares about the business model. We care less about changing the world,” said Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Company."
Not a bad start
"‘‘We’re already number one. We’re more than the total of the other guys,’’ Cook boasted during a tech industry conference. ‘‘And we’ve only been at it a week.’’ He said Visa and MasterCard officials have told Apple that the Apple Pay system is already seeing more use than similar ‘‘contactless’’ methods of paying for retail purchases."Apple CEO Tim Cook says Apple Pay a success - Business - The Boston Globe
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
From a competitive roundup including key criteria such as "Will this streaming stick stream Styx?"
"It’ll have a few differentiating factors compared to the rapidly expanding field of streaming sticks. Those include a dual-core processor that should mean zippy reaction times, more onboard storage than its competition, and second-screen treats for Amazon tablet users that include X-Ray sync with onscreen content. Like the full-size Fire TV box, the stick will also offer faster load times for Amazon’s streaming content via the “ASAP” feature, and it’ll come with a free month of Prime."How Amazon's Fire TV Stick Compares to Other Streaming Dongles | WIRED
Final paragraph of a Kevin Kelly AI perspective piece; also see Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat (The Guardian)
"But we haven't just been redefining what we mean by AI—we've been redefining what it means to be human. Over the past 60 years, as mechanical processes have replicated behaviors and talents we thought were unique to humans, we've had to change our minds about what sets us apart. As we invent more species of AI, we will be forced to surrender more of what is supposedly unique about humans. We'll spend the next decade—indeed, perhaps the next century—in a permanent identity crisis, constantly asking ourselves what humans are for. In the grandest irony of all, the greatest benefit of an everyday, utilitarian AI will not be increased productivity or an economics of abundance or a new way of doing science—although all those will happen. The greatest benefit of the arrival of artificial intelligence is that AIs will help define humanity. We need AIs to tell us who we are."The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World | WIRED
Another aggressive Amazon entry
"The Fire Stick mimics most of the capability of the Fire TV, the streaming media box Amazon.com (AMZN) released earlier this year. It comes with a remote control (sans the Fire TV’s voice controls) and access to Amazon’s Prime Video, as well as the standard lineup of such services as Netflix (NFLX), Hulu, and WatchESPN. The Fire Stick also resembles Google’s (GOOG) Chromecast, which went on sale last summer. The Fire Stick costs $39, slightly more than the $35 Google version. For the next two days, Prime members can buy it for $19."Amazon's Fire Stick Challenges Google, Threatens Roku - Businessweek
Twitter transition time
"Wall Street has been disappointed by the slow pace of improvements, with investors sending Twitter’s stock down 11 percent Monday evening after the company reported meager growth in sign-ups and usage during the third quarter.Usage Stalls for Twitter; Shares Drop - NYTimes.com
“The lack of growth there comes from Twitter’s relative lack of innovation,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester who studies social media. “The experience on Twitter today is the same experience people have always had on Twitter.”"
Monday, October 27, 2014
tbd which can happen first: MCX getting streamlined or Apple Pay becoming seamlessly compatible with retailer "loyalty" programs/systems
"The idea behind MCX was that if enough retailers teamed up, they could convince consumers to adopt their mobile payment system that would let retailers avoid paying credit card fees in the 2 percent to 3 percent range by processing payments through Automatic Clearing House transactions through bank accounts that have much smaller fees. MCX’s app could also help retailers by encouraging loyalty to participating merchants and possibly provide them additional intelligence on their customers."CurrentC Is The Big Retailers’ Clunky Attempt To Kill Apple Pay And Credit Card Fees | TechCrunch
Inform different; also see Facebook Offers Life Raft, but Publishers Are Wary (NYT)
"The social media company is increasingly becoming to the news business what Amazon is to book publishing — a behemoth that provides access to hundreds of millions of consumers and wields enormous power. About 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. The fortunes of a news site, in short, can rise or fall depending on how it performs in Facebook’s News Feed."How Facebook Is Changing the Way Its Users Consume Journalism - NYTimes.com
Excerpt from a stark IBM reality check
"One problem is that when IBM itself is moving so slowly, with such a disaffected workforce, and with no apparent mastery as to what is going on, let alone any clear vision as to what is coming next, the safety and security that IBM promises to its fellow mastodons constitute an illusion. IBM is just as out of touch as they are. When there are much cheaper and more flexible solutions, the option of switching looks ever more attractive, as the pressures mount on all the big firms to deliver “better, faster, cheaper, light, more mobile, more personalized and more convenient.” In this environment, the extravagant premiums that IBM is hoping to extract for sticking with IBM look ever more fragile."IBM's Potemkin Prosperity
Sunday, October 26, 2014
A good reason to consider shopping at Walgreens (an Apple Pay launch partner) instead; check the full post for more details and links and Retailers are disabling NFC readers to shut out Apple Pay (The Verge) for more on CurrentC/MCX and its supporters
"The reason behind Rite Aid's and CVS's moves to disable unofficial Apple Pay support in their stores is presumably related to their participation in Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a retailer group developing its own mobile payments system known as CurrentC. A claimed internal Rite Aid message shared with SlashGear supports this notion, instructing cashiers to explain to customers that Apple Pay is not supported but that MCX's solution will be available next year."CVS Stores Reportedly Disabling NFC to Shut Down Apple Pay and Google Wallet - Mac Rumors
Economic impact different
"In a sense, it’s the core of the stock market as well. Apple is the biggest company, by market capitalization, in the world. Apple accounts for about 3.5 percent of the weighting of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. And, through Thursday, because its stock has performed magnificently while the overall market has not, Apple accounted for 18 percent of the entire rise of the S.&P. 500 index this year, according to calculations by Paul Hickey, co-founder of the Bespoke Investment Group. And the engine driving Apple shares is the iPhone."When iPhones Ring, the Economy Listens - NYTimes.com
Friday, October 24, 2014
Also see Amazon Takes $170 Million Writedown on Weak Fire Phone Sales (Re/code)
"Three months ago, Amazon was expected to lose 7 cents a share in the third quarter. After the retailer warned that it was investing so heavily in so many things, analysts pushed their loss projections up aggressively to 74 cents a share.Losses Jump at Amazon, as Investments Pile Up - NYTimes.com
Even that was not enough. After the market closed Thursday, Amazon reported that it lost 95 cents a share. There was other disappointing news, too: Revenue came in $260 million less than analysts’ projections, and the company said it might lose money again in the fourth quarter, which in the old days was when retailers made all their profit for the year."
Breaking up is hard to do; simpler to periodically dump lackluster businesses and move on
"Hardware is primarily comprised of the 50-year-old mainframe business and the high-end Unix server business. IBM has long dominated the mainframe business, but that’s like saying it’s a big fish in a lake that’s steadily drying up. And the Unix server business — where IBM competes with Oracle and HP — is on a long, slow death march to zero.Should IBM Break Up? | Re/code
The more likely long-term scenario is a familiar pattern of shedding assets. So far this year it has rid itself of two businesses accounting for $7 billion in revenue: The commodity server business went to Lenovo in January, and this week it announced that it is paying GlobalFoundries $1.5 billion to take its chip-manufacturing operation off its hands. Last year, IBM sold it off its $1.2 billion customer service business to Synnex. Other notable divestitures include the sale of the PC business to Lenovo in 2004."
Also see Microsoft Earnings Top Estimates Despite Dent From Nokia Integration, Layoff Costs (Re/code)
"Sales in the PC business are still in the dumps. Traditional software sales are losing steam to cloud services. And many venerable technology companies are struggling to leap from the old way of doing things to the new.Microsoft’s Sales Increase, Helped by Its Acquisition of Nokia, and Investors Notice - NYTimes.com
Microsoft? Steady as she goes.
While the company still has much to prove in markets like mobile phones, Microsoft on Thursday offered tantalizing signs of progress in the transformation of its business. In the last quarter, the company had a 25 percent increase in sales, largely because of its acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business."
See this Rooms blog post and Facebook’s Rooms App Is a Flashback to Internet Bulletin Boards (NYT) for more details
"The app is like an infinitely large house where users can create rooms for specific purposes, like discussing current events, planning exotic vacations or breeding yorkipoos. The posts, which can include photos or videos, appear in chronological order.With New App, Facebook Harkens Back to Internet 1.0 - Digits - WSJ
Like Internet message boards, all posts in Rooms are public. But the creator of a room may limit who can contribute posts. Contributors can use pseudonyms.
Rooms is the latest entry in Facebook’s strategy of building standalone apps independent of the social network itself. This year, it launched the news aggregator Paper, a photo-sharing product called Slingshot and a video-capture app called Hyperlapse."
Convenient common sense (and excellent Uber PR/goodwill generation), one day only
"The limited, one-time promotion dubbed UberHEALTH offered free delivery of a flu vaccination service in Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. It was the latest in a series of experiments by Uber to extend the company’s logistical technology beyond basic transportation.Uber offers flu shots on wheels - Business - The Boston Globe
The idea came from Harvard Medical School epidemiologist John Brownstein, who was looking for creative ways to increase relatively low flu vaccination rates in the United States."
Excerpt from an IT big-picture reality check
"More fundamentally, however, the IT industry is rapidly maturing, with overall annual revenue growth reaching only 3%, says Sebastian DiGrande of Boston Consulting Group. Although some parts, such as cloud computing and all things mobile, are expanding rapidly, the biggest sectors, including most hardware, business software and IT services, are growing slowly or even shrinking And these are dominated by big technology firms such as HP and IBM."Information technology: A fork in the digital road | The Economist
Thursday, October 23, 2014
tbd if it will be nonfiction or more like The Social Network
"Christian Bale/Steve Jobs fans around the world can now rejoice as the Hollywood A-lister has been confirmed to be taking on the role of the iconic leader in a forthcoming biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s biography.Christian Bale Will Play Steve Jobs in Upcoming Biopic
The casting decision was confirmed in a Bloomberg interview today with director Aaron Sorkin, who revealed that Bale didn’t even need to audition for the role."
Now you can use IBM's software on Microsoft's cloud to develop apps for your Apple devices...
"IBM and Microsoft announced today that they are working together to provide their respective enterprise software on Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud. As adoption of hybrid cloud computing accelerates, this relationship will give clients, partners and developers more choice in the cloud, helping them drive new business opportunities, spur innovation and reduce costs."IBM and Microsoft to offer greater choice in the hybrid cloud | News Center
See Introducing Fabric (Twitter Developer Blog) for more details
"Twitter is releasing a new software development kit today at its developer’s conference. It’s called Fabric. It does lots of very pretty things, and the people who write mobile apps are going to eat it up. Which, OK, that’s nice. But the bigger story is what Fabric represents. Because it isn’t just a tool for developers any more than Greek horses were meant to beautify Troy. Fabric is the foundation for Twitter to transform a business based purely on a single product—tweets!—into a diversified service aimed at every person and company that makes mobile apps. That, in turn, would affect every person who uses mobile apps. In other words, everyone."Twitter's Audacious Plan to Infiltrate All Your Apps | WIRED
A busy week for U.S. tech company CEOs in China
"He said that while he knows more words in Mandarin, his wife also speaks Cantonese and has much better listening comprehension than he does. “One time I asked her, why is my listening comprehension so bad?” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “She said, ‘Your listening comprehension in English is also bad.’”Zuckerberg, Speaking Chinese, Shows Up at Beijing Forum - NYTimes.com
Mr. Zuckerberg’s new association with Tsinghua University shows how Facebook is playing the long game in China. The hope appears to be that engagement with China, along with Facebook’s current operations selling advertisements to Chinese companies, will help the company some day open a form of its website in China."
A more social stream-centric approach to email; see An inbox that works for you (Google Blog) for more details
"“In 2004, when Gmail was launched we were still 3 years away from the first iPhone.” While the world has moved from clam-shells to touchscreens, email hasn’t evolved in step. Inbox is Google’s attempt to bring email up to speed. “We thought, ‘What if we started completely fresh, what if we built a whole new product that was an inbox that really, truly tried to do the work for you?’—an inbox that tried to help you get back to what mattered to you,” Gawley said of Inbox’s inspiration.Gmail’s New Inbox App Puts the Important Stuff on Top - Personal Tech News - WSJ
And indeed, Inbox does look different than other email apps. It looks more like a social networking feed than a traditional inbox. And that’s the point, said Jason Cornwell, the lead designer on both Gmail and Inbox. “It looks really different than Gmail, but that’s because we’re trying to solve a different problem,” Cornwell said. “We’re trying to be the best place to get back to the things that matter to you.”"
Fire Phone fiasco forgiven
"Analysts are generally enthusiastic. Cowen and Company said this week that it expected Amazon to lose “only” 57 cents a share. Colin Gillis of BGC Partners, usually somewhat skeptical of Amazon, issued an upbeat note that focused on the potential of the company to use its various hardware for an advertising network.Amazon Spends and Grows, but Still Wants for Money - NYTimes.com
“We are actually mildly positive on the potential of the current investment cycle as Amazon builds an ecosystem with its Kindle readers (success), tablets (mild success), App store (mild success), Fire TV (limited traction but a good product) and phone (failure, priced too high and limited distribution),” Mr. Gillis wrote. He noted that the retailer knows where its tens of millions of customers live, what they like and how they consume."
Seems somehow fitting
"The rare working version of Apple's first pre-assembled computer was sold through Bonhams auction house, which anticipated the sale to garner between $300,000 and $500,000, reports Reuters.Rare working Apple I goes for record-smashing $905,000 at auction
Unlike other recent Apple 1 auctions, the winning bid came from a foundation, not a well-heeled individual buyer. The Henry Ford organization purchased the computer and plans to show it off at its museum in Dearborn, Mich. "
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Interesting times; also see Apple Says iCloud Servers Have Not Been Compromised Following Reports Of Hacks In China (Business Insider)
"The group, Greatfire.org, has alleged Chinese government involvement in the hack, a claim the government has strongly refuted. Apple has not issued any public statements on the matter.Apple CEO discusses security with top Chinese official amid hacking claims: Xinhua | Reuters
At a meeting on Wednesday in Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex housing China's central government, Cook and Vice Premier Ma Kai exchanged views on "protection of users' information" as well as "strengthening cooperation and in information and communication fields," according to Xinhua.
Greatfire told Reuters that Apple appeared to have rerouted user data on Tuesday to circumvent the hack."
Another vote for Apple Pay (and similar payment systems)
"In the latest hacking of American retailers and restaurants, Staples said on Tuesday that its computer systems were compromised in an intrusion involving customers’ credit- and debit-card information.Staples Is Latest Retailer Hit by Hackers - NYTimes.com
Staples, the office supplier based in Framingham, Mass., said it was working with law enforcement agencies to determine the extent of the problem. The company did not say when the attack occurred or in which stores, or how many payment cards might have been affected."
Not a bad ROI for a $666.66 investment
"The duo presented what would become the Apple 1 at the Homebrew Computer Club and won their first order from Paul Terrell, owner of the Byte Shop, of 50 fully assembled units for $500 apiece. One of those motherboards is going to auction on Wednesday as part of Bonhams’s “History of Science” auction, and it is expected to fetch from $300,000 to $400,000."A 1976 Apple 1 Is Expected to Sell for Up to $500,000 at Auction - Businessweek
I'm hoping the next MacBook Pro will be introduced in Q1, along with a new (and < $2,500) 5K Thunderbolt Display
"You may ask, why not just plug a laptop into a giant 5K monitor? So far, at least, there’s no way to do that. Dell announced its UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K in September, but standard laptops today can’t drive it. Besides, when it ships in December, it will cost $2,500. Apple’s 5K display is available today, and for the same price includes the best personal computer Apple has ever made. Apple’s 15- and 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops also have Retina screens with a similar density of pixels, but the iMac’s screen is much, much larger."Retina iMac Review: The Screen That Makes Desktops Relevant Again - WSJ - WSJ
Lead paragraphs from a pragmatic iPad reality check; also see iPad Air 2 Review: The Best Tablet Needs to Work Harder (WSJ) and Apple iPad Air 2 Review: It’s Better, but Is It Better Enough? (Re/code)
"Let’s get this out of the way first: Apple’s new iPads are the best tablets on the market today. The iPad Air 2, the company’s new top-of-the-line device, is substantially faster than its predecessor, which was already more powerful than just about every rival. It sports a terrific minimalist design, almost a millimeter and a half thinner than last year’s pretty skinny iPad Air. And both the new Air and the iPad Mini 3, Apple’s latest small tablet, include TouchID and Apple Pay, Apple’s fingerprint scanner and payment system, which are handy innovations that make signing into apps and shopping for goods online much easier than in the past.IPad Air 2 and Mini 3 Review: One Thumb Up, and Another Down - NYTimes.com
So these are fantastic tablets. The question is: Do you need a fantastic tablet?"
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
tbd if Amazon or Google will offer a similar on-prem/private cloud option; HP is already partially there for hybrid AWS scenarios, with its Eucalyptus acquisition. For more details, see Unveiling The Microsoft Cloud Platform System, powered by Dell (Windows Server Blog). In other Azure news, see Cloudera Selects Microsoft Azure as a Preferred Cloud Platform (Cloudera blog).
"With Dell as its hardware partner, Microsoft will offer customers pre-assembled racks of servers running Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack. Azure Pack, originally known as "Windows Azure Services for Windows Server," provides users with the on-premises equivalents of a number of Azure technologies, including a self-service portal for managing services like Web sites, virtual machines and Service Bus; a portal for administrators to manage "resource clouds"; scalable Web hosting and more.Microsoft launches Azure cloud in a box | ZDNet
The Microsoft Cloud Platform System will be available starting next month, said Microsoft executives."
A busy "retirement"
"Professor Ballmer shows up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to teach 80 or so MBA hopefuls. His class, Leading Organizations, runs two hours to covers topics ranging from accountability to time allocation. I popped in recently for a class dubbed “storytelling,” which mostly hit on the thinking that went into marketing products at Microsoft—and whether or not the various approaches worked. Ballmer teaches the class with Susan Athey, a well-regarded economics professor, and they were joined on this day by Mark Penn, the pollster and political strategist who has done work for the Clintons, Tony Blair, and Microsoft."Steve Ballmer at Stanford: A Conversation With a New MBA Professor - Businessweek
A stark contrast to Apple's latest financial news, yesterday's dismal IBM news marks the abrupt end of the company's Palmisano-era strategy
"But all along, IBM has been buying up its own shares as if they were a hot item. Since 2000, IBM spent some $108 billion on its own shares, according to its most recent annual report. It also paid out $30 billion in dividends. To help finance this share-buying spree, IBM loaded up on debt.The Truth Hidden by IBM’s Buybacks - NYTimes.com
While the company spent $138 billion on its shares and dividend payments, it spent just $59 billion on its own business through capital expenditures and $32 billion on acquisitions. (To be fair, Ms. Rometty has been following a goal set by her predecessor, Samuel J. Palmisano, to return $20 a share to stockholders by 2015. Ms. Rometty abandoned it only on Monday.)"
Also see Kindle Voyage Sets a High Bar for a High Price (Re/code); in less complimentary Amazon news, see Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K. (NYT)
"Compared with previous Kindles, text on the Kindle Voyage appears both sharper and in starker relief against the background. Graphics, like charts and graphs, look just as clear as they do in any black-and-white book.Voyage, a High-End Amazon Kindle That Beats Hardcovers - NYTimes.com
The effect is beguiling. If you look at the new Kindle for any stretch of time, you don’t just forget that you’re reading an e-book; you forget that you’re using any kind of electronic device at all.
Amazon says the Voyage offers a better approximation of print than has ever been available on an e-reader, but for me, it’s far better than that. It offers the visual clarity of printed text with the flexibility of an electronic device."
Check the link below for a round-up of other stats and a Q&A recap
"CEO Tim Cook opening remarks celebrate hardware sales and revenue numbers:Apple Earnings: $42.1 Billion, Driven By Nearly 40 Million iPhones Sold
“Demand for the iPhone has been staggering”
“Strongest revenue growth rate in seven quarters . . . a new record for Apple’s September quarter”
Especially proud of Mac results, especially vs. rest of industry . . . achieved quarterly PC market share record
App store revenue grew 36 percent over last year
437 Apple retail stores around the world
Developing markets: $50 billion in revenue in fiscal 2014
Company made 20 acquisitions in fiscal 2014
2014 the company’s best year on the books"
Monday, October 20, 2014
Excerpt from another Apple Pay reality check
"Best Buy and WalMart are saying they won’t play with Apple Pay. Why?Apple Pay Is Here And It's Going To Be Great: Why The Skeptics Have It Wrong
Two reasons, neither is good. First, they are burying their heads in the sand about NFC. Every merchant in the U.S. needs to support chip-based credit cards by October 2015 or face the liability risk of fraudulent transactions on their own (today, that risk is borne by issuing banks). It’s true that retailers can accept so called EMV cards without supporting NFC, but doing so entering the holiday season is going to be a decision those retailers will live to regret. Today, the speed of credit-card checkout is something we mostly take for granted and with chip cards, that’s about to change. Support for NFC isn’t about making Apple happy, it’s going to be about making customers happy.
The second reason some retailers are being obstinate is a quixotic endeavor to do mobile payments called MCX, for Merchant Customer Exchange. Gap, CVS, Exxon Mobil and a whole host of companies have agreed to collaborate on a payments solution whose advantage to consumers centers mostly on integrated loyalty-program features."
A market mainstreaming milestone for cloud platforms
"German business software maker SAP on Monday cut its outlook for full-year operating profit amid an accelerating shift by customers to buy its software over the Internet rather than as packaged software, delaying recognition of those sales.SAP Cuts Profit Outlook as More Customers Switch to Cloud | Re/code
SAP said it now 2014 expects operating profit, excluding some special items, of 5.6 billion to 5.8 billion euros ($7.14 billion to 7.40 billion), down from 5.8-6.0 billion euros previously."
Pay different -- and if merchants want consumer data, they can directly negotiate with consumers for it
"The world’s largest retailer,Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), is rejecting Apple Pay altogether. It has said it has no plans to accept Apple’s payments, and is working on its own system developed by Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, in conjunction with a handful of other big merchants. MCX and Wal-Mart declined to discuss their reasons for not working with Apple Pay. Analysts say the primary reason for the parallel effort is to make sure that merchants retain control of the relationship with their customers."Apple Pay Is Too Anonymous for Panera, Starbucks, and Other Retailers - Businessweek
An unusual use of the term "sell"
"It’s true: IBM will pay GlobalFoundries $1.5 billion over three years to take over its commercial semiconductor manufacturing business and IBM will take a $4.7 billion cash charge for its third quarter as a result.It’s official: IBM to sell chip-making biz to GlobalFoundries — Tech News and Analysis
Under terms of the deal, first reported by Bloomberg News, GlobalFoundries will be IBM’s exclusive provider of server processors in the 22-nm and 10-nm semiconductors for 10 years. And the $1.5 billion cash consideration will be adjusted by an estimated $200 million depending on the amount of working capital involved, per an IBM statement."
Truthiness and consequences
"As Danny Sullivan explained on his site Marketing Land, “The challenge Google faces is that it really doesn’t ‘know’ anything — it only gets answers from others, and those answers, not vetted by human beings for accuracy, can be wrong.”Stephen Colbert Has a Mock Feud With Google Over Search Results - NYTimes.com
Even after a little sleuthing, Mr. Sullivan could not determine where Google got its 5-foot-10 answer for Mr. Colbert’s height. He noted that Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, also listed Mr. Colbert as 5-10 but credited the entertainment site IMDb. Over the weekend, that changed on Bing and IMDb, and Mr. Colbert is listed at 5-11.
And Siri, the iPhone service that answers questions, still lists Mr. Colbert at 5-10."
Sunday, October 19, 2014
For another gaming market dynamics snapshot, see More women play video games than boys, and other surprising facts lost in the mess of Gamergate (The Washington Post)
"Competitive video gaming is now taking off in places like the United States, attracting thousands of people to major events. But in South Korea, more than anywhere else, it has already oozed into mainstream culture. Couples going to game clubs is about as common as couples going to the movies.For South Korea, Host of League of Legends Championship, E-Sports Is National Pastime - NYTimes.com
Time and again, South Korea has provided glimpses of technology-related transformations before they expand globally, including widespread broadband availability and smartphone adoption. The country has also led in professional video game competitions, often called e-sports, creating organized leagues, training well-financed professional teams and filling giant stadiums with frenzied fans to cheer on their favorite players."
Excerpt from a timely SharePoint market dynamics reality check
"And yet, here we are four years later. Cisco has discontinued the Quad product, there has been no renaissance of Lotus and even Jive has had a less than revolutionary impact on the enterprise. As many IT organizations evaluated the needs of their users, they found SharePoint could get them to "good enough."SharePoint is Already Legacy
To paraphrase poet T.S. Elliot, this is how Microsoft wins: not with a bang, but a whimper."
#8: get certified by the FCC (see, e.g., Google halts Nexus Player pre-orders as it awaits FCC certification [The Verge])
"To say that Google is late to the party with its recently announced Nexus Player would be a grand understatement.7 things Google's Nexus Player must do to succeed | Digital Trends
To be fair, The company made an early appearance at the set-top box soirée masquerading as Google TV, but was promptly booted out for being unruly, uncooperative and just generally sucking really hard. Now, having undergone a dramatic wardrobe change and an attitude adjustment, Google is back, going by the name Android TV, and flashing the Nexus Player around like some kind of VIP pass. But it’s going to have to do some serious schmoozing if it wants to be welcomed back into what became a real rager of a product category in its absence."
Check the full post for a chart and additional details
"It’s a major changing of the technology guard for corporate America.Facebook is now bigger than IBM - Quartz
Facebook’s market capitalization darted ahead of IBM in recent weeks, as Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth saw its value rise to roughly $208 billion as of Thursday’s close of trading.
Thanks to a remarkable share surge over the past year, Facebook’s market value has leapfrogged any number of the gold-plated names of American industry, including Verizon, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Bank of America and Citigroup."
Excerpt from a timely stock market reality check; also see A Wild Week for Stock Markets (The New Yorker)
"We don’t write much about financial markets here at FiveThirtyEight. That’s intentional. Markets are important, but there’s already lots of good coverage out there. There’s also lots of really bad coverage — the deluge of minute-by-minute market data makes it incredibly tempting to see signals in what is really just noise. We don’t follow every up and down of the market because, unless you’re a trader, it just doesn’t matter.When To Pay Attention To The Stock Market (And When To Ignore It) | FiveThirtyEight
But there are times when even non-traders should pay attention to the markets, either because they’re so bad they’re affecting the rest of the economy (think Lehman Brothers in 2008), or because they’re sending a signal about bad news around the corner. How do you know when to do that? You can’t, at least not perfectly. But by following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid getting caught up in the hype and stay focused on what really matters."
Sign of the times; tangentially, see To Siri, With Love: How One Boy With Autism Became B.F.F.'s With Apple’s Siri (NYT)
"I also downloaded an application called Checky, created by Alex Tew and a team in San Francisco. Checky, which keeps tabs on the number of times your phone is opened each day, has had almost a quarter of a million downloads in a few weeks, Mr. Tew said. The application is free, like his company’s other flagship product, Calm.com, a site that promotes relaxation. The company also offers meditation seminars and classes aimed at people looking to de-stress and de-connect. “There’s an irony in using a smartphone app to check how often you check your smartphone,” Mr. Tew said. “But it brings your attention to your usage, and that alone can help you make changes.”"Trying to Live in the Moment (and Not on the Phone) - NYTimes.com
Friday, October 17, 2014
Final paragraphs of an in-depth review that starts here
"Viewed in isolation, Yosemite provides a graphical refresh accompanied by a few interesting features and several new technologies whose benefits are mostly speculative, depending heavily on how eagerly they’re adopted by third-party developers. But Apple no longer views the Mac in isolation, and neither should you. OS X is finally a full-fledged peer to iOS; all aspects of sibling rivalry have been banished.OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review | Ars Technica
The Mac today is just one part of a conceptually, organizationally, and (increasingly) technologically unified platform that spans from wrist to workstation. The hardware-based platforms of the past remain relevant to developers, but Apple seems determined to make them much less important to its customers. With Yosemite, the Mac has taken its first step into a larger world."
Looking at Apple's iPad model comparison page, the (original) iPad Air is now the entry-level 9.7" display option, and the iPad mini, at $249, is the low-price option (and the only iPad option without a Retina display)
"There’s talk that tablets, just four years old, are having an identity crisis.First Impressions of the iPad Air 2: Refreshed but Not Reinvented - WSJ - WSJ
That’s premature. I got to spend a little time with the iPad Air 2 after Apple’s event on Thursday. My first impression is that Apple wants to make the statement that iPads are something unique—not all-in-one computers or laptop replacements. They’re a kind of computer you can hold in your hands that immerses you in watching video, reading books, browsing the Web, playing games, and completing tasks that are best done with fingers on a touch screen.
And for those tasks, Apple didn’t need to reinvent the tablet but improve on it. I think they’ve done that—but there could be more, particularly where business people and younger users are concerned."
Pay to play
"Hundreds of financial institutions are jumping onto Apple Inc. ’s new mobile-payment system, hoping to keep a tight grip on customers who might otherwise be tempted to switch banks if their current debit and credit cards can’t be used with the newest iPhone.Apple Pay Draws Hundreds of Banks - WSJ - WSJ
The number of new participants helps Apple build on its strong start wading into the payments business. Apple has said that the initial banks that signed up for Apple Pay represent 83% of credit-card purchase volume in the U.S."
Google in transition (e.g., to a bigger emphasis on mobile search and advertising)
"Despite its challenges, Google remains a fast-growing business. Third-quarter revenue increased 20 percent, to $16.5 billion.Analysts Ask What’s Next for Google - NYTimes.com
And the company is making money in many new kinds of ways. Google reported that “other revenue,” a large portion of which is Google’s Play Store, increased 50 percent from the same quarter of last year, to $1.8 billion. But research-and-development costs have soared, to $2.7 billion from $1.8 billion from the same quarter a year ago."
Another unhappy development for Netflix
"Just one day after HBO said it would start an Internet-only offering, CBS announced on Thursday its own subscription streaming service that lets people watch its live programming and thousands of current and past shows on demand.Cord-Cutters Rejoice: CBS Joins Web Stream - NYTimes.com
The moves signal a watershed moment for web-delivered television, where viewers have more options to pay only for the networks or programs they want to watch — and to decide how, when and where to watch them. Rapidly fading are the days in which people pay an average of $90 a month for a bundle of networks from a traditional provider."
No major surprises in Apple's event yesterday, but some impressive refinements, and big expectations for Apple Pay
"Apple showed off thinner iPads and a new iMac with a high-resolution display on Thursday. Sleek and stunning, yes, but not likely to spark the next iRevolution. The tech giant’s bigger strategic bet is that mobile pay service Apple Pay, debuting Monday, will be the next thing you didn’t know you needed — but now can’t live without."Apple shows off new gadgets, but Pay is bigger bet - Business - The Boston Globe
Thursday, October 16, 2014
"The social network is now rolling out a new check-in feature for use during such natural disasters. Safety Check, as the new product is called, was unveiled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg Thursday afternoon in Tokyo, and is meant to help Facebook users quickly alert friends and family that they are safe during times of crisis, like earthquakes or tsunamis.Facebook Adds Emergency Check-In Feature for Natural Disasters | Re/code
Safety Check works by sending users a push notification asking them if they are safe whenever a natural disaster strikes the area they list as their current location. User’s can then see a list of their Facebook friends in the area, and see which users have checked-in as safe, and which have not."
Final paragraphs of a Note 4 review; also see Samsung’s Superior Note 4 Smartphone Gives Glimpse of Computing’s Future (NYT)
"I wish Samsung wasn’t bucking the current trend of Android phone makers striving for more polished, uncluttered design. The new Moto X uses a clean beautiful version of Android, and Google’s new Nexus 6, also built by Motorola , will have the next version of Android—and an even bigger screen than the Note 4. Meanwhile, iOS continues to be as polished as it comes.Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review: The Phablet Pioneer Still Leads the Way - WSJ - WSJ
Yet no other phone maker can deliver such a clear vision of why the future will be written on these smartphone-tablet hybrids. It may not meet my high aesthetic standards, software-wise, but multitasking on that big, beautiful display makes the Note feel more productive and powerful than any other phablet out there. Even the iPhone 6 Plus. This is the best phone I have seen from Samsung in a long time—maybe ever."
Excerpt from a beacon technology snapshot
"That’s too bad, because while it is easy to think only of coupons, advertising and data collection when we think of beacons, the reality is that these little transmitters could also make the world around us richer, more useful and more interactive.Businesses Are Turning to Beacons, and It’s Going to Be O.K. - NYTimes.com
They could enrich museum experiences, deliver the right recipe in the grocery store aisle, take us on interactive tours of cities and towns, let us quickly and easily check in to hotels or even pay at the gas pump. And used properly, sure, they could also deliver the right coupon at the right time."
If a "positive vibe" app doesn't do the trick, consider A shock to your system to get you in gear (Boston Globe)
"Happify is perhaps the most sophisticated positive vibes app available now. The idea of this free iOS app is to train you into thinking positively and feeling happy by engaging you in various “tracks” with different goals like improving your confidence or seeing new possibilities. By playing through games and activities for a few minutes each day, the aim is to ultimately get into the habit of thinking positively."Positive Thinking, With a Little Help From Your Phone - NYTimes.com
HBO to start stand-alone streaming service in bid for a new generation of viewers - Business - The Boston Globe
An encouraging sign of the streaming times; tangentially, see Price Hike Hits Netflix More Than It Expected (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
"The new service represents one of the boldest moves from a television group to make its programming available via Internet connections. It comes as television groups face increased competition from such services as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu that make content available outside the traditional television business model.HBO to start stand-alone streaming service in bid for a new generation of viewers - Business - The Boston Globe
Other details about HBO’s new service were not immediately available. HBO now makes its content available over the web to subscribers via its HBO Go service."
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Excerpt from an extensive review
"Now there’s a new Note, and it is better than ever.Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review: A Superior Device Gives a Glimpse of Computing’s Future - NYTimes.com
The Galaxy Note 4, which goes on sale this week, is superior to just about every other phablet on the market. Its only real competition is Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, which has a more intuitive interface. But the Note 4 has at least a half-dozen clever features that should prompt even the most die-hard Apple fan to begin salivating."
A disconcerting detail from an otherwise upbeat Intel quarter; tangentially, see Qualcomm buys Bluetooth and GPS chip maker CSR for $2.5B (VentureBeat)
"In chips for mobile devices, supposedly a big part of the future, Intel reported revenue of $1 million and an operating loss of $1 billion. Mr. Smith also defended that business, saying that Intel was on track to exceed its goal of being in 40 million tablets by the end of 2014. Underlining how tricky it is to navigate so many markets without harming an older business, he also said that Intel’s low-end chips for PCs were “winning against tablets.”"Income at Intel Climbs 12% on PC Sales - NYTimes.com
Quite a range of perspectives on this cloudy partnership; e.g., also see SAP And IBM Get Intimate--Real Value Or Hook Up Of The Oldies? (Forbes)
"Erich Clementi, a senior vice president in IBM’s services business, said, “IBM could tick off all the boxes in a way our nonenterprise competitors could not.”IBM and SAP: A Cloud Pact That Solves Problems and Holds Promise - NYTimes.com
Analysts shared his assessment of the competition. “SAP looked around and concluded that IBM had the most mature enterprise cloud technology,” said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Research."
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Today in Media History: The first commercial Web browser, Netscape Navigator, is released in 1994 | Poynter.
Check the full post for more details on the life and death of Netscape Navigator
"The Web became a little more accessible and commercial on October 13, 1994 when the Netscape Navigator browser was released by the Mosaic (later Netscape) Corporation. Before Microsoft’s Internet Explorer became the dominant browser, Netscape Navigator was the most popular way to connect to the Web.Today in Media History: The first commercial Web browser, Netscape Navigator, is released in 1994 | Poynter.
The source code history of Netscape Navigator began with the NCSA Mosaic browser and continues today with Mozilla Firefox."
Check the full article for more details and a Walter Isaacson interview
"Mainly, though, The Innovators is a group biography of men who, building on each other’s achievements (and occasionally borrowing each other's achievements), accomplished extraordinary things. The heroes of this book include such figures as Vannevar (rhymes with "achiever") Bush, who is something of a hometown hero at The Atlantic, which in 1945 published his article, “As We May Think,” perhaps the most important single article about technology ever written. In it, Bush predicted the coming of personal computers, the Internet, and, in essence, Wikipedia. Isaacson’s other heroes include J.C.R. Licklider, the father of interactive computing; Douglas Engelbart, the creator of the mouse (and much else); and Alan Kay, who is more-or-less the father of the personal computer. The lives of these men, who are known to almost no one today outside the world of technology (compare their fame to men such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who stand on their shoulders) are testaments to collaboration, entrepreneurship, curiosity and risk-taking."Lone Geniuses Are Overrated - The Atlantic
Sameer Samat, vice president of Google Shopping, apparently missed Google's Chairman Says Amazon — Not Bing — Is Its Biggest Search Competitor (Business Insider); also see Google Express set to launch deliveries in Boston area today (Boston Globe)
"Which company is more of a rival for Google, Amazon or Alibaba?Google’s Commerce Chief on Deliveries, Amazon, and the Mobile Challenge - Digits - WSJ
We have really good partnerships with both of these companies. They are advertising customers of Google. I don’t think we really look at it from the standpoint of rivalry. We have different ways of addressing consumers’ needs and it’s good to have lots of choice.
Has Amazon taken a lot of product searches from Google in recent years and is that a concern?
We get an awful lot of consumers searching for product information on Google. Our job is to do a better job of helping them answer their questions, providing them with a richer experience than just ten blue links. We’ve made a lot of progress. We also have a lot more progress to make."
Another take on the Amazon-as-monopolist controversy
"The truth is that American antitrust law is simply not very concerned with the fate of competitors. What it cares about is whether harm is being done to consumers. Walmart has squashed many more small competitors than Amazon ever will, with nary a peep from the antitrust police. Even in the one business Amazon does dominate — books — it earned its market share fair and square, by, among other things, inventing the first truly commercially successful e-reader. Even now, most people turn to Amazon for e-books not because there are no alternatives but because its service is superior."Amazon Plays Rough. So What? - NYTimes.com
Monday, October 13, 2014
Final paragraph from a Netflix snapshot
"Netflix has real advantages—the sophistication of its streaming technology, the trove of data it’s amassed on viewing habits—but competition will make it hard to boost profits. HBO is making noises about a stand-alone streaming service, and Amazon’s service comes free with Prime, so it’s unlikely that Netflix will risk raising prices anytime soon. Content costs, meanwhile, will keep going up. The situation is an unusually stark example of competitive capitalism in action: someone invents a new market and thrives, but the success shows competitors just how lucrative the market can be. This may be hard on companies, but it’s great for consumers, since they’re getting more new shows and movies without having to spend another dime. We can sit on our couches, while Netflix runs as fast as it can just to keep its place."What’s Next for Netflix?
More free advertising for Apple Pay...
"Sears and Dairy Queen join nearly a dozen retailers — including Target, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, the United Parcel Service, Michaels, Albertsons, SuperValu, P.F. Chang’s and Home Depot — that have had their in-store payment systems compromised with malware over the last year.Kmart and Dairy Queen Report Data Breach - NYTimes.com
The Secret Service estimated this summer that 1,000 American merchants were affected by this kind of attack, and that many of them may not even know that they were breached. There have been no arrests to date."
Salesforce attempts to move up the analytics tool stack
"In the demo I saw, you can slice and dice the data to create different views as you would expect and create a variety of connections between data, but it still uses standard database language like “join” and has database-style labels, and you still needed to build the connections to view the data. In other words, although it didn’t require IT involvement to use it, neither did it appear to be dead simple, and users would still need some training or knowledge to use it effectively.Salesforce Hopes To Ride Analytics Wave With New Business Intelligence Service | TechCrunch
The company emphasized in the demo that they wanted to make this a consumer-like experience, and they actually brought in game designers to make it more fun to use the product. While they succeeded to an extent, it’s important to remember this is still 1.0 technology and it’s going to require refinement over time."
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Jean-Louis Gassée shares his perspectives on HP/2; also see Split today, merge tomorrow (The Economist)
"Finally! HP did what everyone but its CEO and Board thought inevitable: They spun off the commoditized PC and printing businesses. This is an opportunity to look deeper into HP’s culture for roots of today’s probably unsolvable problems."HP’s Old Curses | Monday Note
Excerpt from a counterargument to Amazon Must Be Stopped (The New Republic)
"But what Foer is describing is not the nefarious actions of a monopolist but the normal actions of a big, well-funded firm in a spirited market. Businesses compete. Very often the bigger one wins. Foer argues, however, that Amazon’s “big-footing necessitates a government response,” without really explaining why.Amazon Is Not a Monopoly -- NYMag
Who is losing when Amazon is winning? Does the government really need to step in to protect Amazon’s rivals, provided that the market remains a market? Why is it wrong for Amazon to demand more and more from its suppliers? Is there any evidence that Amazon controls other markets like it controls the books market? All this is unclear."
From a timely cloud computing market dynamics snapshot
"There are over one million servers in each of the big clouds of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, executives at those companies say. For new entrants, one limit is that capital spending costs more than $1 billion a year. Another is engineering know-how; how the future works will be in just a couple of thousand heads, at most.Cloud Computing Is Forcing a Reconsideration of Intellectual Property - NYTimes.com
Everything, be it software and networking or power, is different when so many computers are spread across the globe. The pace of innovation is so quick, and the number of players so small, that in some cases, the players elect not to patent inventions, wary of what they’d disclose about themselves in the application."
Friday, October 10, 2014
Perhaps giving away Surface Pros to Adobe MAX attendees will make a difference...
"But on October 9, Microsoft execs broke that rule (at least indirectly) and posted on the Microsoft Surface blog that "Businesses can buy with confidence. We are here to stay."No, Microsoft's Surface Pro tablets aren't dead - CNET
Digitimes published a report on October 9 claiming Microsoft is planning to exit the Surface business, citing unnamed supply-chain sources.
In spite of CEO Satya Nadella's recent characterization of Surface (and hardware in general) as supporting rather than "core" Microsoft businesses, Microsoft isn't dumping the Intel-based Surface line, officials said."
Excerpt from an extensive call for "a robust regulatory state"
"In other words, we’re all enjoying the benefits of these corporations far too much to think hard about distant dangers. Besides, the ideology of Silicon Valley suggests that we have nothing much to fear: If these firms no longer engineer breathtaking technologies, they will be creatively destroyed. That’s why Peter Thiel, the creator of PayPal, has argued that the term “monopoly” should be stripped of its negative connotation. A monopoly, he argues, is really nothing more than a synonym for a highly successful company. Insulation from the brutish spirit of competition even makes them superior organizations—more beneficent employers, better able to both daydream and think clearly. In Thiel’s phrasing: “Creative monopolies aren’t just good for the rest of society; they’re powerful engines for making it better.”"Amazon's Monopoly Must Be Broken Up: A Radical Plan for the Tech Giant | New Republic
Also 0 to 60 in ~3.2 seconds...
"The new “autopilot” features include the ability to read and adjust to the speed listed on highway signs, as well as to safely ease into the next lane on its own. These capabilities rely on a system of long-range radar, ultrasonic sonar, a camera with image recognition and GPS, Musk said.Tesla Unveils Souped-Up Model S With All-Wheel Drive and Autopilot | Re/code
Other new safety features include ones that are becoming standard among high-end autos, including corrective lane assist, adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking and self-parking — although with a twist in the last case.
“You can step out of the car and have it park itself in the garage,” Musk said."
Collaborative hypertext + productivity applications; see this Quip post for details
"It’s not visible to the consumer, but each cell inside the spreadsheet has its own Web address (thank you, nearly infinite amounts of cloud computing storage.) That means that, as well as interacting with other numbers in other cells to, say, add up a sum of restaurant receipts, the numbers can be linked from one format to another, like spreadsheets to documents. Mr. Taylor calls these many addresses “the atomic units” of Quip on the page, which are not “saved” to memory in a permanent sense, as much as “synched” to a cloud-based master repository for all the data.Quip: Make Numbers Dynamic, Too - NYTimes.com
The upshot is a more continuous style of communication, without clicking between one program and another. Even while in a document, the spreadsheet can also be broken out as its own product. In either form, collaboration is implicit, with people able to discuss what they are working on."
Check the full article for Icahn's detailed projections
"Carl Icahn, owner of $5.3 billion worth of Apple (AAPL) stock, doesn’t think people are excited enough about Apple. In an open letter to Chief Executive Tim Cook, the activist investor says the company’s shares should be worth $203, or about double the $100.80 closing price on Wednesday, Oct. 8.Carl Icahn and Apple: He Thinks People Aren't Excited Enough - Businessweek
The letter is full of flattery and optimistic predictions for Apple’s current and rumored product lines. All this is preface to Icahn’s main point: Apple should purchase more of its own stock, building on the buybacks it began earlier this year after similar pressure from Icahn. "
tbd what's in store for the NYC retail space Amazon just leased
"If one of the ground-floor retailers at the 34th Street property is bought out and the space does indeed become an Amazon outlet, the likeliest outcome is that it will be a showroom for Amazon’s hardware, including its respected Kindle line of tablets and e-readers and its unpopular Fire phone.Amazon Shops for Real Estate in New York City - NYTimes.com
“It makes sense to have a physical showroom to let people see Amazon’s hardware products, particularly with the Kindle priced at $100,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners. “You want to touch and see and feel these things.”"
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Summary of an extensive Microsoft profile
"Over the last decade, as the biggest force in tech history hurtled toward irrelevance (albeit lucratively), a few blamed Microsoft’s woes on founder Bill Gates, while most pointed to his successor as C.E.O., Steve Ballmer. Bethany McLean charts the breakdown of their relationship, the growing dissatisfaction with Ballmer, and the challenges and opportunities facing its third C.E.O., Satya Nadella, as Gates returns to the fold."Can C.E.O. Satya Nadella Save Microsoft? | Vanity Fair
From an overview by Michael Schrage, who recently published a book on the topic domain
"The bigger the data, the more profitable and productive predictive analytics can be. But that’s conventional wisdom. Innovators more intent on inventing the future than predicting it should look hard at how cutting-edge scientists now computationally massage their big data. “AI” — artificial intelligence — is giving way to “AH” — automated hypothesis. AH, not AI, will increasingly inspire tomorrow’s breakthrough innovation.Let Data Ask Questions, Not Just Answer Them - Michael Schrage - Harvard Business Review
As The Economist recently observed: “More than 90 groups of scientists are now developing hypothesis-generation software. They hope to use it not on recipe books but on the vast corpus of scientific literature (by one tally at least 50m scientific papers) that has piled up in public databases.” "
Probably not intended to be a joke
""I don't think anyone realizes how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing. Particularly if [the machine is] involved in recursive self-improvement . . . and its utility function is something that's detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect," Musk told Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Apsen Institute.Elon Musk worries AI could delete humans along with spam - CNET
"If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans . . . " Musk trailed off to chuckles from the crowd."
Surging Mac sales put Apple among top five global PC vendors for first time, IDC says [AppleInsider]
A positive trend for Apple, with new Mac introductions expected next week
"Mac shipments were up an estimated 8.9 percent in the third quarter of calendar 2014, IDC reported on Wednesday, to nearly 5 million total units. That was enough to overtake Asus and place Apple in the No. 5 position with a 6.3 percent share of the total worldwide market.Surging Mac sales put Apple among top five global PC vendors for first time, IDC says
While Apple has consistently remained among the top five computer makers in America, it has not gained that status worldwide, where cheaper Windows-based PCs have continuously dominated. But a particularly strong back-to-school quarter for Apple, led by refreshed MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, appears to have propelled the Mac into the elite class."
Now in the lead -- final paragraph of an extensive "knowledge box" comparison:
"So there you have it. As of October 4, Google Now has a clear lead in terms of the sheer volume of queries addressed, and more complete accuracy with its queries than either Siri or Cortana. All three parties will keep investing in this type of technology, but the cold hard facts are that Google is progressing the fastest on all fronts."The Great Knowledge Box Showdown: Google Now vs. Siri vs. Cortana
Some scary signs of the cyber times
"But in the JPMorgan case, according to administration officials familiar with the briefings, who would not speak on the record about intelligence matters, no one could tell the president what he most wanted to know: What was the motive of the attack? “The question kept coming back, ‘Is this plain old theft, or is Putin retaliating?’ ” one senior official said, referring to the American-led sanctions on Russia. “And the answer was: ‘We don’t know for sure.’ ”"Final paragraph:
"The scale of the intrusion and the fact it went undetected for about three weeks has led some to question whether JPMorgan, which has offices around the world and more than 260,000 employees, is “too big to secure.”"Obama Had Security Fears on JPMorgan Data Breach - NYTimes.com
Perhaps Microsoft should have named it "Windows Meh"
"The new name may help a little; the new software should help a lot. I’ve been using a preview version that Microsoft released last week, and it’s pretty good. The worst traits of the Windows 8 user interface have been put right, allowing users to simply do their work. This marvelous feat has been mainly accomplished by restoring familiar features that disappeared when the Windows 8 team decided to get creative. But too much creativity can be deadly in an operating system."For Windows, a welcome step back - Business - The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Revisiting the Dubar numbers
"One concern, though, is that some social skills may not develop as effectively when so many interactions exist online. We learn how we are and aren’t supposed to act by observing others and then having opportunities to act out our observations ourselves. We aren’t born with full social awareness, and Dunbar fears that too much virtual interaction may subvert that education. “In the sandpit of life, when somebody kicks sand in your face, you can’t get out of the sandpit. You have to deal with it, learn, compromise,” he said. “On the internet, you can pull the plug and walk away. There’s no forcing mechanism that makes us have to learn.” If you spend most of your time online, you may not get enough in-person group experience to learn how to properly interact on a large scale—a fear that, some early evidence suggests, may be materializing. “It’s quite conceivable that we might end up less social in the future, which would be a disaster because we need to be more social—our world has become so large” Dunbar said. The more our virtual friends replace our face-to-face ones, in fact, the more our Dunbar number may shrink."The Limits of Friendship - The New Yorker
From a Google social status snapshot
"What’s the end-game for Google+? What are you trying to achieve in the long run?New Google+ Head David Besbris: We’re Here for the Long Haul (Q&A) | Re/code
I don’t think of it as an end game, I think we’re in social — like we’re in everything at Google — for the long haul. We said this at the beginning of the company, we make long-term bets, we make long-term decisions. Social is a whole aspect of computing, much like any other area you would imagine at Google. Behind every one of these screens is a user, it’s an actual person. People are social creatures, they want to share things, they want to learn from each other, they want to ask questions. That’s really important for us as a company how we can deliver on that."