"What ties Access together may be the founding ethos of Fiber. The project was born after Google’s unexpected move to bid on wireless spectrum in 2007. Then CEO Eric Schmidt was obsessed with cutting down barriers between Google and its end customer, according to people who worked on the founding team. At the time, the companies sitting between Google and regular users included Microsoft’s operating systems and browser and the Internet service providers. Fiber would fill the second gap — and, in a few short years, mark a significant dent in Google’s investment with no immediate payoff on its balance sheet.Access, Alphabet’s Google Fiber Company Taking On Cable, Broadband | Re/code
If Nest is the test of Alphabet’s ability to rope in a startup and operate it independently, Access will gauge whether Larry Page’s enterprise can string together skunkworks born inside Google and create a viable, profitable business, not just a costly one."
Monday, November 30, 2015
From a profile of the A in Alphabet
A big bet on the future of clean energy
"In making investments, the coalition will “take the risks that allow the early stage energy companies” to bring their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace, according to an e-mailed statement from the White House on Sunday.Gates to Announce Multibillion Dollar Clean-Energy Fund - Bloomberg Business
The investors will collaborate with 19 countries, from the U.S. to India, Saudi Arabia, China and Chile, which together make up 80 percent of global clean-energy research and development. In the public component of the plan, known as “Mission Innovation,” each nation has vowed to double their budget for the sector over the next five years."
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
A tough start for HP/2; tangentially, see It's cloud soon gone, HP aligns with Microsoft Azure (PCWorld)
"HP Inc. gave a disappointing forecast for profit in its first quarter as a stand-alone company, hurt by its dependence on the lackluster market for personal computers and printers after splitting up with its corporate-technology counterpart.HP Faces PC Slump as Quarterly Profit Forecast Falls Short - Bloomberg Business
On a conference call Tuesday following Hewlett-Packard Co.’s final earnings report as one company, HP Inc. executives said the PC industry is tougher than anticipated. The former PC and printer units were separated this month from the divisions that sell equipment, services, and software to businesses, now known as Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. HPE’s quarterly profit forecast also fell short of analysts’ estimates, yet executives struck a more positive tone, pointing to revenue growth minus the impact of currency fluctuations."
Also see Musk Squares Off With Bezos in Space Billionaires' Twitter Feud
"Blue Origin’s feat comes with several caveats. First off, this was just a test run. Blue Origin has yet to complete a single rocket launch for a paying customer. The New Shepard vehicle is also aimed more at space tourism, to take people to the edge of space, where they can hang out weightlessly for a few minutes before returning to earth. The engineering expertise required to send a rocket high enough to place a satellite into orbit or take supplies to the International Space Station is much more demanding. So, too, are the physics behind landing such a rocket on earth.Jeff Bezos vs. Elon Musk: A Thrilling, New Space Race - Bloomberg Business
For its part, SpaceX has successfully landed its much larger rockets back on a test pad after brief flights. It has also come very close on a couple of occasions to landing its rocket on a barge floating in the ocean after sending commercial payloads into space. But SpaceX failed to execute a successful landing on a real flight before Blue Origin achieved its milestone."
One of (at least) four, actually; see Microsoft open sources Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit for more efficient big data research (Inside Microsoft Research)
"IBM is one of the three companies this year to make available proprietary machine-learning technology under an open-source license. Facebook Inc. in February, released portions of its Torch software, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google division earlier this month open-sourced parts of its TensorFlow system.IBM Turns Up Heat Under Competition in Artificial Intelligence - WSJ
IBM Vice President of Development Rob Thomas said SystemML had gained preliminary acceptance by Apache, a respected open-source organization that manages more than 150 projects. Adoption by Apache was the first step, he hoped, toward SystemML’s widespread adoption."
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Think you're reading the news for free? New research shows you're likely paying with your privacy [The Conversation]
Excerpt from a stark tracking reality check
"Our investigation has revealed that among the 2,000-plus news-related websites identified by Alexa, readers are, on average, connected to over 19 third-party servers – twice as many as the 100,000 most popular sites.Think you're reading the news for free? New research shows you're likely paying with your privacy
The outlets facilitating this tracking include the most respected names in the news industry, coast-to-coast. A visitor to The New York Times' homepage is potentially connected to a whopping 44 third-party servers, while visitors to the Los Angeles Times' website get their browsing history leaked to 32 external servers. And if you’re planning on checking the forecast on AccuWeather before heading out, you can expect to be connected to 48 third-party servers."
See this Matt Mullenweg post for more details. Maybe these market dynamics will also lead Google to invest a bit more in Blogger...
"Calypso looks like a huge leap forward for a project that seemed to stagnate for many years, no doubt spurred on by recent efforts made by Medium.Wordpress.com reboots from scratch to take on Medium
A spokesperson from Automattic told The Next Web that these new tools are also available to sites that use the open source Wordpress.org platform, but you’ll need to install the company’s Jetpack plugin in order for Calypso to work."
Data integrity controls as cyber defense
"In public appearances and congressional testimony in recent months, America’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of what they describe as the next great threat in cyberspace: hackers not just stealing data but altering it, threatening military operations, key infrastructure, and broad swaths of corporate America. It’s the kind of attack they say would be difficult to detect and capable of seriously damaging public trust in the most basic aspects of both military systems and a broader economy in which tens of millions of people conduct financial and health-related transactions online.Cyber Spying Is Out, Cyber Lying Is In | Foreign Policy
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has made equally dire predictions about what the future holds: operations that “change or manipulate electronic information to compromise its integrity, instead of simply deleting or disrupting access to it.”"
Testing Trump's Teflon; also see Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls (FiveThirtyEight)
"Andreessen can’t seem to fathom how the billionaire real estate mogul who says such provocative — and, some would say, offensive — things remains the GOP front-runner, months before the New Hampshire primary in February.Donald Trump Is Target of Marc Andreessen’s Latest Twitter Takedowns | Re/code
Consider Friday’s installment, in which Andreessen talks about Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich, who emigrated from Germany to the U.S. at the age of 16 to chase the American dream. For granddad, opportunity took the form of leasing a restaurant in Seattle’s red-light district and providing food, booze and “private rooms for ladies” (code for prostitutes), Politico reports."
Also see Google gets royal help for its latest map project (Washington Post)
"Using your smartphone to look up a museum address or get turn-by-turn directions on a street in a foreign city can end up costing a small fortune in data charges. Those who download Google’s new Offline Maps won’t have to pay a dime.With Google’s Offline Maps, Getting Around Gets Cheaper - The New York Times
The tool allows users to be in a place without Internet access — whether on a sidewalk in New York City or a back road in Tuscany — and pull up a map that lets them get directions and use turn-by-turn voice navigation, as well as search for places (art galleries, restaurants, hotels, museums) and see details including hours, phone numbers and reviews."
Monday, November 23, 2015
Final paragraphs from an extensive review follow below; an observation earlier in the review: "The new emphasis on Communities and Collections means that instead of being an alternative to Facebook, Google+ is now an alternative to Reddit and Pinterest."
"Overall, it's clear to me that the new Google+ is still by far the best place to connect with people who share your interests, and to have conversations about those interests in an uncluttered, ad-free space.Google+ gets the pivot of the year | Computerworld
The redesign is really the final step in a yearlong pivot that transformed Google+ from a bloated and slow everything social network into a sleek, fast and more streamlined site that's really good at one thing -- giving superfans, enthusiasts and nerds a great place to geek out together on whatever passions they share."
Excerpt from a Nest snapshot
"Post-acquisition, Nest has grown sharply, at least in personnel. It has nearly quadrupled from its size of roughly 300 employees. On Monday, the company announced the addition of two new VPs: Jim Alkove, a Windows enterprise exec at Microsoft, to run security; and Nik Sathe, CTO of American Express and a former Googler, to run apps and services.Alphabet’s Nest Hires VP for Security, Services From Microsoft, AmEx | Re/code
That’s expansion has come with some growing pains typical of startups. Nest’s revenue growth is less clear. Those familiar with the company say it’s not yet moving an impressive clip — hobbled, in part, by the nascence of the industry and intensifying competition from home-security incumbents, startups, and mobile giants Samsung and Apple."
"We reached out to our friends at Lucasfilm and Disney, and since then we’ve been working together on building google.com/starwars. It's a place for fans, by fans, and starting today you can choose the light or the dark side, and then watch your favorite Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome and many more transform to reflect your path. And that's just the beginning. We've got more coming between now and opening night—the Millennium Falcon in all its (virtual reality) glory included, so stay tuned. And we've hidden a few easter eggs, too. So awaken the Force within, and be on the lookout for things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…"Official Google Blog: For Star Wars fans, old and new
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Likely hoping to constrain Slack
"Facebook at Work, the version of Facebook designed for chatting with colleagues on a private social network, now has its own chat client as well. Somewhat like Facebook at Work’s version of Messenger, the new “Work Chat” app, as it’s called, allows coworkers to message each other individually, participate in group chats, share photos and videos, make voice calls, and even use stickers.Facebook At Work Gets Its Own Version Of Messenger With Debut of “Work Chat” | TechCrunch
The application quietly debuted on the Google Play store on Thursday. Facebook tells us the iOS version is in the works, and will arrive soon. However, the company would not provide an exact launch date."
Check the full article for more details and a lively conversation thread
"After failing miserably to compete with the iPhone and the Android army, Microsoft’s latest mobile phone strategy is to lean on what it knows best: traditional, get-work-done computing. And it’s seriously impressive how this phone takes to monitors and keyboards. It makes the idea of our phones being our main computers seem far from crazy.Microsoft Lumia 950 Review: Can a Smartphone Be Your PC? - WSJ
But this isn’t the Hail Mary Microsoft needs. For now, it’s simply too limited as a computer—and a phone."
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Also on the Facebook/Google competitive agenda
"Since Google plopped down $400 million last year for the AI startup, DeepMind has remained frustratingly silent. It has put out a couple papers of its training algorithms beating Atari games — using a combination of deep learning methods that have earned considerable respect in the insular AI world. But it has released little else.Google DeepMind Founder Says AI Machines Have Beat Board Game Go | Re/code
In an interview with the Royal Society of London, Hassabis lets us look up its sleeve. “Maybe you will have a surprise about Go?” Hassabis’s interlocutor asked.
Hassabis smiles. “I can’t talk about it yet, but in a few months I think there will be quite a big surprise,” he replies. (The full interview is here.)"
A topic apparently not included in Donald Trump briefings
"The brokers learn who you are "by amalgamating data from people's offline lives and their online lives," he said. Data such as credit card purchases, browser history, online shopping, who you donate to, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, purchases in grocery stores where you swipe your loyalty card. Particularly for credit card purchases, "it's really trivially easy for that data to be sifted and sorted," Sparapani said. All of that data isn't always specific to an individual (whose Time magazine subscription is it, anyway?), but data can also easily build out a profile of a household. Where you vacation. Where you work. They can analyze languages spoken and last names to develop a picture of a person's or family's ethnicity, or religion. It goes on.
Where does this overlap with the government? The government could create a tool to pull in data from all of these other places, too. But why bother, when the private sector already has? "I think it's a well-established fact that the government, writ large, is the largest source of funds for the data brokerage industry," Sparapani said. "They have elastic budgets. They can spend whatever they think they need to spend, particularly post-9/11 and in an era of ISIS commanding our attention." Many of those budgets are classified."Just so you know: The government already has a list of Muslims in the U.S. - The Washington Post
Excerpt from an Om Malik reality check on Diane Greene's new job
"Greene is a well-liked and well-known executive with elite Silicon Valley insider status, and her new appointment generates good and feel good headlines. It is assumed she will help establish the cloud platform, focus Google cloud efforts and figure out a way to sell to enterprises (a.k.a. corporations). If this happens as planned (and life and business rarely go according to plan), it will still be a couple years before it all comes together. It will be a couple MORE years for Amazon to push deeper into developer and IT ecosystems. Microsoft has a natural developer base that it can count on. But the problem for Google is that it is hard to define Google’s natural base!"P(Greene)R - Om Malik
Friday, November 20, 2015
From a VR market dynamics snapshot; also see A Reality Check for Microsoft’s HoloLens (NYT) and Microsoft and Volvo's new HoloLens showroom is fascinating and frustrating (The Verge)
"The competition to dominate this space begins in earnest these next few months, with the arrival of newfangled, affordably priced headsets from Samsung, Sony, HTC and Facebook (which paid $2 billion last year for a virtual reality startup called Oculus VR). And Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Legendary Entertainment are just a few of the entertainment companies plunking down millions of dollars in a mad dash to create content for these machines. By 2025, the market for virtual reality content will be $5.4 billion, according to the Piper Jaffray investment bank. The hardware component will be worth $62 billion."A Virtual Reality Revolution, Coming to a Headset Near You - The New York Times
Gone but not unfriended (or blocked); see the full overview for new post-relationship options
"Facebook is a place for sharing life’s important moments, which for many people include their romantic relationships. When a relationship ends, we’ve heard from people that they sometimes have questions about the options available to them on Facebook.Improving the Experience When Relationships End | Facebook Newsroom
Starting today, we are testing tools to help people manage how they interact with their former partners on Facebook after a relationship has ended. When people change their relationship status to indicate they are no longer in a relationship, they will be prompted to try these tools."
For more details, see Starboard’s Letter to Yahoo: You Won’t Accept Our Help — Full Text (WSJ); in other Yahoo adventures, see Fantasy Sports Inquiry Puts Spotlight on a Success for Yahoo (NYT); for a big-picture Yahoo reality check, see The Last Days Of Marissa Mayer? (Forbes)
"In a letter sent to Yahoo on Thursday, the investment firm Starboard Value argued that the reason for spinning off the Alibaba stake — avoiding taxes while raising money for shareholders — appeared to have evaporated after questions arose over whether the Internal Revenue Service would crack down on such transactions.Yahoo Pressured to Keep Alibaba Stake and Sell Core Business - The New York Times
Instead, Starboard argued, the company should explore selling its core advertising business, leaving behind only its stakes in both Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Although such a move would incur taxes, it would be swifter and more certain than pursuing an Alibaba spinoff that could lead to years of fighting with the I.R.S."
Excerpt from a Sundar Pichai Google cloud update; in other Google cloud news, see Google's Holzle Envisions Cloud Business Eclipsing Ads in 2020 (BloombergBusiness)
"All of this demonstrates great momentum, but it’s really just the beginning. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the world’s data is currently in the cloud – most businesses and applications aren’t cloud-based yet. This is an important and fast-growing area for Google and we’re investing for the future.Google Cloud Platform Blog: Investing in our business for the future
That’s why we’re so excited that Diane Greene will lead a new team combining all our cloud businesses, including Google for Work, Cloud Platform, and Google Apps. This new business will bring together product, engineering, marketing and sales and allow us to operate in a much more integrated, coordinated fashion.
As a long-time industry veteran and co-founder and CEO of VMWare, Diane needs no introduction. Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way people live and work, and there is no better person to lead this important area. We’re also lucky that Diane has agreed to remain on Google’s Board of Directors (she has already served three years here) – as she has a huge amount of operational experience that will continue to help the company."
Thursday, November 19, 2015
tbd if they get the penalty payment back...
"In early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the shares were up nearly 47 percent, at $13.22. Earlier, the stock was up as much as 64 percent.Square Shares Jump on Trading Debut - The New York Times
The warm welcome from the market stands in contrast to the chilly reception Square got from investors in pricing its initial public offering well below its last private valuation."
Final paragraph from a Google app streaming reality check
"I return to a point I made earlier – Google’s motivations behind app streaming are clearly driven, in large part, by its strategic imperative to feed the web rather than native apps. But that doesn’t mean it’s inherently consumer-unfriendly. But, as app models (and business models) continue to evolve, all the companies involved need to ensure they’re making changes designed first and foremost to benefit their customers. If companies instead feed only their internal needs, they’ll find themselves going down paths consumers won’t follow."Google and the Future of Apps | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Check the full article for instructions
"It’s not clear when it happened, but Amazon recently added two-factor authentication as an login option for your Amazon account. This is a key security measure that's long overdue on a site that handles your credit card information.How to protect your Amazon account with two-factor authentication | PCWorld
For several years, we’ve encouraged you to add two-factor authentication to your accounts whenever possible, and Amazon is no different. When the new security option is active, signing in is a two-step process. First, you sign-in with your password as usual, then you’ll be required to enter a short code generated by a smartphone authenticator app or received in a text message."
Stream different; also see Google App Streaming: A Big Move In Building “The Web Of Apps” (Marketing Land) and Google Brings Apps Into Browsers, Blurring Mobile-Desktop Lines (BloombergBusiness)
"With the new technology, Google is hosting select apps on its computers, then displaying the content as interactive streaming videos. Search results display “deep links” to relevant content inside the apps. Users can take actions, like booking a hotel room, by swiping or pushing a button, as they do on websites and apps.Google Lets Users Tap Mobile Apps Without Downloading Them - Digits - WSJ
The move is Google’s latest to confront a big challenge on smartphones, where users spend the majority of their time in apps, rather than on the Web. Google’s computers can’t easily look inside those apps to deliver search results, and lucrative ads alongside them. In recent months, Google also retooled its Chrome browser to make mobile websites more like apps and reached an agreement with Facebook Inc. allowing it to search portions of the social-network’s app."
Many nervous unicorn investors today; also see Square Pays $93 Million Penalty to Some Investors in IPO (WSJ)
"The long-running gold rush into hot technology start-ups showed signs of faltering on Wednesday, as a much-anticipated market debut had to scale back its ambitions.For Market Debut, Square Scales Back Valuation by $3 Billion - The New York Times
Square — valued in a private financing last year at $6 billion — priced its initial public offering at a level that gave the payments company a valuation of $2.9 billion. The difference between the two may be seen as a sign that the market for venture-backed companies has reached too high."
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
$149.99 with a year's subscription to Office 365 Personal
"I see this new Lenovo, while hardly the company's flagship, as more than a one-off curiosity. I see it as part of an important new trend.Mossberg: Can a $150 Windows laptop be any good? | The Verge
In fact, I predict that, over time, the Windows laptop market, which has long clustered in the $400-700 range, will gradually fragment into very low-end and very high-end segments -- the former to take on Google and the latter to take on Apple. I expect the middle to thin out, as customers on a budget go for the cheaper models and those who want and can afford the latest and greatest go higher."
"On Tuesday, Microsoft releases an anthology inspired by the work Microsoft researchers are doing. “Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft,” is available to anyone as a free download.‘Future Visions’ anthology brings together science fiction – and science fact | News Center
“The idea was to bring authors in to expose them to what some people might think is science fiction. In a way, you could say the world of Microsoft Research turns science fiction into science fact,” says Steve Clayton, chief storyteller at Microsoft. “We didn’t show them a piece of technology and ask them to please write about that. We showed them technology and introduced them to a group of people, and then asked them, what did it spark in your mind as ideas, where did it inspire you to think the technology may go?”
The stories are based on meetings with the research scientists who are working on the most cutting-edge areas of research."
tbd if it's a scouting mission...
"Stutz will be joining Salesforce as its chief analytics officer, reporting to President of Products Alex Dayon. “Bob not only has deep enterprise software experience, he’s also a proven leader who’ll drive the vision and execution for the Analytics Cloud as we build it into a billion-dollar business for Salesforce,” Dayon said.Ex-Microsoft Exec Bob Stutz is Joining Salesforce.com | Re/code
[...] Stutz is an ex-Army intelligence specialist who landed at Microsoft in 2012. He spent seven years as a group VP at Siebel Systems, a CRM software outfit, ending in 2005 after it was acquired by Oracle. He then spent five years at SAP as an executive VP in its industry solutions group, and then 16 months at Hewlett-Packard."
Also see Four Reasons Why Google Is Bringing Google Plus Back to Life (Re/code) and Wait, Google+ Still Exists?! (Gizmodo)
"And so we’ve reimagined Google+ to help them do that. Today, we’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and center. Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler. And it’s more mobile-friendly—we’ve rebuilt it across web, Android and iOS so that you’ll have a fast and consistent experience whether you are on a big screen or small one. You’ll need to opt-in to this new version of Google+ on the web to see the changes—check out our Google+ post for more on how to give it a try."Official Google Blog: Introducing the new Google+
Also see Mass Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism (NYT)
"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the public and policymakers have swung between emphasizing the need for security agencies to have access to data, and protecting personal privacy. That pendulum has arguably shifted more toward privacy in recent years—a position promoted by technology companies that sell products based on the promise that corporate data will be secure from hackers and government surveillance.Paris Attacks Fuel Debate Over Spying - WSJ
But initial signs suggest the Paris attacks have the potential to push it back toward security, a move opposed by many public-interest groups, especially since the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden about government data-collection practices."
Excerpt from a long-view Amazon profile
"Why is Amazon so far ahead? It is difficult to resist marveling at the way Mr. Bezos has built his indomitable shopping machine, and the very real advantages in price and convenience that he has brought to America’s national pastime of buying stuff. What has been key to this rise, and missing from many of his competitors’ efforts, is patience. In a very old-fashioned manner, one that is far out of step with a corporate world in which milestones are measured every three months, Amazon has been willing to build its empire methodically and at great cost over almost two decades, despite skepticism from many sectors of the business world.How Amazon’s Long Game Yielded a Retail Juggernaut - The New York Times
Now those investments are beginning to bear fruit. It’s happening in fulfillment, which is the business term for filling and shipping orders. Amazon has built more than 100 warehouses from which to package and ship goods, and it hasn’t really slowed its pace in establishing more. Because the warehouses speed up Amazon’s shipping times, encouraging more shopping, the costs of these centers is becoming an ever-smaller fraction of Amazon’s operations."
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
AAPL now taking 94% of entire smartphone industry profits, up from 92% last quarter – Canaccord | 9to5Mac
Other competitors are apparently not making it up on volume; see Apple now inhaling 94 percent of global smartphone profits, selling just 14.5 percent of total volumes (AppleInsider) for more details
"Canaccord Genuity estimated back in July that Apple was taking home 92% of the profits in the entire smartphone industry, and now says the figure climbed even higher last quarter, hitting 94%. Samsung was the only other company to make a profit, says the report, with 11% – the somewhat odd math explained by the fact that everyone else is losing money."AAPL now taking 94% of entire smartphone industry profits, up from 92% last quarter – Canaccord | 9to5Mac
Article subtitle: "Apple continues making slow and steady improvements to Maps."
"Apple continues to improve its mapping product by adding new features and content, albeit often under the radar. Last year, reviews and content from Booking.com and TripAdvisor began to show for locations and travel destinations, especially outside the US. In June of this year, the company introduced public transit routing as part of iOS 9 Apple Maps upgrades.Foursquare Joins Apple Maps Data Sources As Company Builds Out Ecosystem
Today, Andrew Shotland noticed that Foursquare had been officially added as a business listings provider to Apple Maps’ acknowledgements and copyright page. It should be noted that not all the providers on that page are equally used or weighted. It’s never been entirely clear which sources Apple leans on more heavily. However, Apple clearly sees value in Foursquare’s data, even though some of it will likely be duplicative of existing data sources."
Check the full article for some limitations before impulse-purchasing
"Asus and Google have finally started selling the Chromebit, a candybar-sized Chrome OS computer that retails for a measly 85 bucks. You can plug it into any HDMI port, hook up the power cable and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, then kaboom: instant computer.The Chromebit turns any old monitor or TV into a computer for $85 | The Verge
We've become familiar with Chromebooks. On the low end, they offer a cheap and easy way to get a browser and web-based apps without having to hassle with keeping the thing up to date. The Chromebit is the same idea, only smaller. Basically, take a cheap Chromebook and remove the expensive parts: the screen, the battery, the keyboard and trackpad. What you're left with is Asus' cute little stick."
Later in the article: "Snapchat's bottom line needs all the help it can get. Last week, one of the company's biggest investors, mutual-fund giant Fidelity, sharply marked down its shares, the latest suggestion that billion-dollar tech "unicorns" such as Snapchat are overvalued."
"Millions of high-school students glancing at their phones on a recent Friday discovered a new, unavoidable distraction: If they took a photo with Snapchat, the app asked if they wanted to imprint it with Hollister’s logo and tagline, “Friday Vibes.”Snapchat wants to turn your life into a commercial - The Washington Post
The teen-retail giant had paid Snapchat for the ad and, more importantly, where it was aimed: Any phone geographically located near 19,000 high schools in the U.S. and Canada.
The “sponsored geofilters,” one of Snapchat’s most surprising new moneymakers, mark a uniquely invasive turn for modern marketing — allowing advertisers to put a virtual claim on parts of the physical world."
Searching for productive co-opetition; also see Facebook Now Using Google App Indexing To Drive Visitors From Search Into Its App (Search Engine Land)
"Google can’t show content shared through logged-in and private Facebook app sessions, meaning it is still locked out of most information inside the walled garden of Facebook’s social network. For those searches, users will have to use Facebook’s search service, which it recently updated.Google Gets Surprise Ally in Mobile-App Search Push: Facebook - Digits - WSJ
However, Facebook’s cooperation is a sign that Google is making inroads in confronting a big challenge – searching inside apps. Google’s search engine is dominant on the Web, but its computers can’t automatically “crawl” and categorize the information inside apps, where smartphone users spend the majority of their time. So it must persuade app developers to let it peer inside."
Also see Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS (The Intercept)
"On Monday, in unusually raw language, John Brennan, the C.I.A. director, denounced what he called “hand-wringing” over intrusive government spying and said leaks about intelligence programs had made it harder to identify the “murderous sociopaths” of the Islamic State.After Paris Attacks, C.I.A. Director Rekindles Debate Over Surveillance - The New York Times
Mr. Brennan appeared to be speaking mainly of the disclosures since 2013 of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of phone and Internet communications by Edward J. Snowden, which prompted sharp criticism, lawsuits and new restrictions on electronic spying in the United States and in Europe."
For a detailed overview of Microsoft security perspectives, see In the Cloud We Trust
"Mr. Nadella’s coming speech coincides with one of his top business priorities: cloud computing. Microsoft and others in the industry are aggressively promoting cloud services, which means persuading companies to store their corporate data outside their own walls. Analysts have warned that companies that do not take security seriously risk losing corporate customers, particularly foreign customers, to cloud-based services overseas.Microsoft, Once Infested With Security Flaws, Does an About-Face - The New York Times
Microsoft estimates that it now spends more than $1 billion a year on security-related initiatives, including acquisitions. It acquired three security start-ups in the last year alone, and the number of security employees at the company increased 20 percent during that time."
Monday, November 16, 2015
In part explaining why IBM is spending billions to acquire medical and weather data
"After the rise of cloud computing, in which companies like Amazon and Microsoft rent access to the vast processing power of the net, we all have access to a vast arrays of machines. But the richest data sits inside massive companies like Google and Facebook. Billions of people use their services, which trade in a rich trove of information, from text to photos to videos to speech and beyond. Both companies are hard at work building powerful AI software. But their real competitive edge comes from having a vast quantity of high quality data they can use to teach this software to “think” more like a human."Google Open-Sourcing TensorFlow Shows AI's Future Is Data, Not Code | WIRED
Later in the article: “That said, what we’ve tried to do is to recognize that people use both iOS and Mac devices. So we’ve taken certain features and made them more seamless across the device.”
"“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told The Irish Independent on Sunday. The efficiency of having to tote around just one device for everything is certainly attractive, but designing such a device would come with too many compromises, Cook said.Apple's Tim Cook Says Mac And iPad Won't Converge - Forbes
“What that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants,” he added. “So we want to make the best tablet in the world, and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”"
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Perhaps getting an early start on the holiday shopping season
"Facebook board member Marc Andreessen is padding his wallet ahead of the holiday shopping season.Marc Andreessen Sold 73 Percent of his Facebook Stock | Re/code
Andreessen, an early Facebook investor and board member since 2008, has sold over 1.5 million shares of Facebook stock in the past two weeks at a value of roughly $160 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Since Oct. 30, Andreessen has offloaded more than 73 percent of his total ownership in the company, and 90 percent of his class A shares (the shares that don’t carry any voting rights)."
Saturday, November 14, 2015
MongoDB, Turn, Roku join list of Silicon Valley startups with valuation estimates cut by Fidelity - Silicon Valley Business Journal
Difficult days in the NoSQL unicorn club
"MongoDB got the biggest haircut among the latest companies whose markdowns have come to light. Fidelity valued its investment at $32 million in October 2013, but now figures it is worth just $14.77 million. That's down nearly 12 percent since the end of May and an eye-popping drop of 54 percent in the past two years. MongoDB was reportedly valued at $1.6 billion when it raised funds early this year."MongoDB, Turn, Roku join list of Silicon Valley startups with valuation estimates cut by Fidelity - Silicon Valley Business Journal
Friday, November 13, 2015
Check the full post for a succinct Notify review
"Somewhere deep in the bowels of Googleplex, someone is wondering, Why the hell did we shut down Google Reader? Because it seems these days everyone wants to build one of those “readers,” though they come up with fancy names for them. Flipboard, obviously, is the granddaddy of them all. Beautiful and elegant, it is, as someone quipped to me recently, one of the best apps that nobody uses. Then there is Twitter with its Moments. Apple has Apple News. And Facebook has joined the party with its latest app, Notify."A Quick Notify App Review! - Om Malik
Also see YouTube’s Music App Could Rule All Streaming Services (Wired) and a better-living-through-lowered-expectations case study in Amazon’s Streaming Music Aims for More Casual Listeners (NYT)
"On to the app itself, which you can download for free via Apple’s App Store or Google Play. YouTube Music is free, and doesn’t technically offer a standalone subscription service. But! People who subscribe to YouTube’s new $10-a-month YouTube Red service will get a different version of YouTube Music, which strips out ads and offers features like the ability to listen to music offline.
Does this confuse you? We can make it more confusing if you’d like: YouTube Red subscriptions also include subscriptions to Google Play Music, Google’s other music subscription service. Ah, Google. So Googley."YouTube Music Launches As Part of YouTube Red $10 Service | Re/code
An impressive team roster; I'm guessing whoever controls the remaining General Magic intellectual property is paying close attention
"The premise behind Cola, according to David Temkin, the company’s chief executive, is that smartphones have primarily become texting devices for many people. Still, Mr. Temkin argues that a lot of the communication that occurs in text messages — planning where and when to meet, telling your spouse what to get from the supermarket and so on — is unnecessarily inefficient.Cola, a New Start-up, Introduces Ways to Do More in Text Messages - The New York Times
Cola is an attempt to make it easier to accomplish those kinds of tasks in text messages and to give other app makers the programming hooks that allow them to expand the abilities of text messages even further.
Someone scheduling a picnic with friends, for example, can text a to-do list to recipients that allows them to claim certain tasks — like buying sandwiches, bringing a Frisbee and getting beverages. Cola users can share live maps in a text message that update their locations for selected times."
From a bitcoin reality check; also see a16z Podcast: Blockchain vs./and Bitcoin
"One threat to bitcoin is that banks could render it superfluous by co-opting the blockchain, its main innovation. That’s the encrypted database, distributed among users’ computers, enabling transactions to be recorded without the help of a central authority. If big companies set up distributed databases to transfer dollars or euros quickly and cheaply enough, there’d be no need for digital currencies. “Blockchain is like any other technology,” JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in November at the Fortune Global Forum. “If it is cheaper, effective, works, and secure, then we are going to use it.”Bitcoin Can’t Escape the Dark Side of the Internet - Bloomberg Business
Meanwhile, the currency seems destined to remain the stuff that get-rich-quick dreams are made of. Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of the bitcoin exchange Coinbase, believes in the currency’s future. For now, though, he says, “Most people who are buying and selling bitcoin don’t fully understand it. They have it ingrained in their heads that it’s just going to keep going up.”"
"Nadella, who replaced Ballmer as CEO last year, instituted a reorganization in July designed, in part, to bring previously unrelated teams together. Terry Myerson, an 18-year Microsoft veteran who was put in charge of the combined Windows and devices division, said the structure should benefit the HoloLens, particularly as it pertains to making an impact beyond games. "Steve ran the company a certain way, which achieved incredible results," Myerson said. "One thing it didn't achieve was sharing across divisions. Xbox had this amazing asset in Kinect, and it never really was embraced by the Windows division."Kinect’s Rapid Decline Shows Microsoft How Not to Pitch HoloLens - Bloomberg Business
There's no guarantee Nadella's plan will succeed. While HoloLens benefits from tech built for the Kinect, he wouldn't be the first Microsoft chief who failed to capitalize on a promising project incubated within the company. The HoloLens hype cycle has begun early, even though the $3,000 development kits won't ship until early next year."
Charging nest included
"Part interactive bath toy, part wireless speaker and part night light, Edwin is considerably smarter than avian playthings that merely float. Edwin can make more than 180 noises, including the sounds of flapping wings and ruffling feathers. (Tap Edwin’s tail feathers and he’ll quack.) With the help of a companion app for iOS and Android, he can hum a tune through his waterproof speaker—but dip him underwater and his humming changes to gurgling. If you want to queue up your own songs, pair him with your smartphone as you would a standard Bluetooth speaker. (Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash,” perhaps?)"Bluetooth Ducky, You’re the One: A Toy for More Bath-Time Fun - WSJ
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Check the full post for a Facebook app/platform service mapping table
"Why is Facebook doing all this? I think there are two answers. First, Facebook recognizes what users spend the most time on is content and, if it wants to capture more of a user’s time (because its business model essentially monetizes time spent on the platform), then it needs to keep them in its world longer. Second, I think Facebook also recognizes the two major actual mobile operating systems are building more and more functionality that once resided in third-party apps into their own ecosystems, whether that’s Apple with Music and News, or Google with Google Now."Facebook’s Meta OS Continues to Grow | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
In other political data analytics news, see Politics and the New Machine: What the turn from polls to data science means for democracy (The New Yorker)
"Cambridge Analytica’s trophy product is “psychographic profiles” of every potential voter in the U.S. interwoven with more conventional political data. The emphasis on psychology helps to differentiate the Brits from other companies that specialized in “microtargeting,” a catch-all term typically used to describe any analysis that uses statistical modeling to predict voter intent at the individual level. Such models predicting an individual’s attitudes or behavior are typically situational—many voters’ likelihood of casting a ballot dropped off significantly from 2012 to 2014, after all, and their odds of supporting a Republican might change if the choice shifted from Mitt Romney to Scott Brown. Nix offered to layer atop those predictions of political behavior an assessment of innate attributes like extroversion that were unlikely to change with the electoral calendar."Is the Republican Party's Killer Data App for Real? - Bloomberg Politics
"There's an app for that"™
"Walt Disney Co.'s “Disney Infinity 3.0,” released Wednesday for the Apple TV, includes a beefy controller that could help prove whether Apple Inc.'s new streaming box can compete with consoles like the PlayStation 4.‘Disney Infinity’ for Apple TV Comes With a Beefy Controller - Digits - WSJ
Games on Apple TV are controlled by the slender remote that comes with the machine – even Infinity works with it. But the motion-sensing wand isn’t ideal for playing the kind of complex, button-mashing games found on traditional consoles.
Infinity is one of those games. It’s part of a growing genre called “toys to life,” which includes figurines that get transported into a game when placed on a special Bluetooth-equipped pad."
Tangentially, Square Sticks to Script as It Prepares for Market Debut (NYT)
"Apple has said that it wants a bigger slice of the payments industry. Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, said at the company’s annual developer conference in June that Apple’s goal was “replacing the wallet.”
It remains a long way from that goal. As of October, less than 17 percent of iPhone 6 and 6s users were using Apple Pay, according to data from the research groups PYMNTS.com and InfoScout.
“A peer-to-peer payments product could help Apple’s Wallet gain traction,” said Karen Webster, chief executive of Market Platform Dynamics, a consulting firm that studies platforms like mobile payments."Apple Plans Peer-to-Peer Payment Service - The New York Times
Final paragraphs from a VR reality check
"Will we buy VR systems? The fate of Microsoft’s Kinect system provides a sobering hint. Kinect costs just $150 and lets users control games with voice and body movements. Yet only a handful of major games are Kinect-compatible, and sales of the device have slumped. So who’s up for the much bigger investment in a VR rig? Yeah, me neither.Virtual reality doesn’t taste like Cardboard | BetaBoston
A few virtual reality companies will prosper; there are enough hard-core gamers to guarantee that. But for most of us, gadgets like Cardboard are as close to virtual reality as we’re likely to get. And after a week or two, even Cardboard will end up in a drawer, next to those unused 3D glasses."
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Also see Facebook is slowly eating your phone’s operating system (Washington Post)
"The million-dollar question, then, is why Facebook is building an app for this at all. The company already has News Feed for content discovery and 1.5 billion people who use Facebook every month. Why send people more notifications for the things that, in theory, they could get by following these publishers on Facebook anyway?Facebook App Notify Pushes Publisher Content to Lock Screen | Re/code
The thinking, according to Michael Cerda, product director at Facebook, is that mobile notifications are their own medium, separate from Facebook or any other news consumption platform.
“People have different ways they want to consume information,” Cerda told Re/code. “Search is one way. Social is another way. And we think push notifications might be yet another. We see that as an evolving medium and want to be a part of that.”"
From another extensive and insightful iPad Pro review
"We’ve now reached an inflection point. The new MacBook is slower, gets worse battery life, and even its cheapest configuration costs $200 more than the top-of-the-line iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is more powerful, cheaper, has a better display, and gets better battery life. It’s not a clear cut-and-dry win — MacBooks still have more RAM (the iPad Pro, in all configurations, has 4 GB of RAM, although Apple still isn’t publishing this information — MacBook Pros have either 8 or 16 GB), are expandable, and offer far more storage. But at a fundamental level — CPU speed, GPU speed, quality of the display, quality of the sound output, and overall responsiveness of interface — the iPad Pro is a better computer than a MacBook or MacBook Air, and a worthy rival to the far more expensive MacBook Pros.Daring Fireball: The iPad Pro
The entire x86 computer architecture is living on borrowed time. It’s a dead platform walking. The future belongs to ARM, and Apple’s A-series SoC’s are leading the way.
The A9X didn’t come out of nowhere. Watching Apple’s A-series chips gain on x86 over the past five years, we’ve all been speculating about whether Apple might someday start using ARM chips in MacBooks. As of now, it’s only a question of whether they want to."
Lead paragraphs from a long-view iPad Pro review
"The beginning of my experience with the iPad Pro started with thinking I would use it with the intent that it could replace my laptop. In fact, I was going to write this article with that in mind. I realized quickly that the iPad Pro could easily replace my laptop for more than 90% of the things I need on a day to day basis. The only thing my laptop still does more efficiently than the iPad Pro is work on spreadsheets, which may also be the most boring part of what I do. It also happens to be something very few people do regularly and for long periods of time. In so many ways, all the things we consider as “productivity” are perfectly doable on the iPad Pro.The iPad Pro: The Start of Something New | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
However, if all we do is look for the iPad Pro to replace our desktop or laptop, we are missing the point. The paradigm of a fixed desktop computer plus a portable desktop computer, along with a mouse and keyboard as a primary input mechanism, is the old world of computing. I believe Apple has laid the groundwork for something new in this category."
Final paragraphs from a Walt Mossberg review suggesting you may not need an iPad Pro if you already have an iPad Air, an iPad mini, and a MacBook Air
"Apple, on the other hand, is keeping its laptop and tablet operating systems separate, and has a far better-developed app ecosystem for the latter than Microsoft does. Indeed, Microsoft contributed to this by creating a beautiful iPad version of its Office suite for the iPad, long before it did one for its own hardware.Mossberg: The iPad Pro can’t replace your laptop totally, even for a tablet lover | The Verge
You can get a lot more done with iPad apps than with the paltry selection of tablet / touch-first apps available for the Surface. But, because Apple hasn’t made a great keyboard, the iPad Pro isn’t a complete replacement for a great laptop like the MacBook Air — even for a tablet guy like me.
The iPad Pro will no doubt make a lot of Apple users happy, especially if they use it for graphics. But I won’t be buying one, and I don’t recommend that average users do so either."
Final paragraphs from an extensive review that starts here
"At the end of the day, the Surface Book feels like a device that was kept secret. The secrecy was great for the unveiling, since there were only vague rumors of such a device to be announced at the Microsoft devices event in New York, but that same secrecy has, I believe, led to superb hardware being let down by immature software.Final Words - The Microsoft Surface Book Review
And then there is price. The Surface Book is not an inexpensive device. Microsoft is playing at the very top of the market with this offering. Prices range from $1500 for the base model with Core i5/8GB/128GB, all the way up to a staggering $3200 for a Core i7/16GB/1TB/GPU model. That’s a lot of money for an Ultrabook. The NVIDIA dGPU alone is a $200 upgrade on the Core i5 model. You can easily get a more powerful system for less money, but when you look at the high end it’s never a linear relationship of cost versus performance. The Surface Book offers some of the nicest hardware in any detachable convertible. I think despite the price Microsoft is going to have customers for this. The question is will they get the bugs sorted out. The first firmware update fixed a lot, but there are still too many outstanding issues to recommend the Surface Book at this time."
Apple Music for Android is available (in beta)
"According to Kantar Worldpanel, Android market share hovers at 77 percent in China, 60 percent in Japan, 79 percent in Germany and 90 percent in Spain, to name a few regions. iOS is No. 2 in each of those, with bigger or smaller portions of that (and typically rising). Making Apple Music and its catalog available to markets where Android dominates on either price or penetration basis gives Apple a much bigger toehold in the streaming phase of the music wars.Apple Music Comes To Android As An Emissary | TechCrunch
There’s another compelling reason, too. The Switch. During its recent earnings call, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that 30 percent of new iPhone buyers were switching from Android. That is a huge number of its incoming ‘new’ customers and it presents a substantial beachhead for Apple to provide exposure to its way of doing things."
Having a pretty good year, so far...
"Jeff Bezos has edged past Carlos Slim to become the world’s fourth-richest person, buoyed by a 113 percent rally this year in Amazon.com Inc.Bezos Overtakes Slim as World's Fourth-Richest on Amazon Rally - Bloomberg Business
The 51-year-old founder of the world’s largest online retailer passed the Mexican telecommunications tycoon Tuesday after Amazon rose $4.19 by the close of trading in New York. Bezos commands a fortune of $58.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Slim, who was the world’s richest person as recently as May 2013, is now ranked fifth with $57.2 billion. He’s lost $15.4 billion in 2015, more than any other billionaire on the index."
Seeking to disrupt the mobile data oligopoly model
"T-Mobile US Inc. said Tuesday it wouldn’t charge customers for the data used to stream video from services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO, opening a new front in the wireless price war.T-Mobile to Offer Free Video Streaming - WSJ
The carrier will stream the videos at a lower quality, which will reduce the load on T-Mobile’s wireless network. The company also introduced new plans that raise the monthly service cost but include more data. T-Mobile is betting customers will opt to watch lower-definition video free on their smartphones instead of paying for higher resolution images that count against their monthly data caps."
More unicorn math, with, e.g., Fidelity discounting its Snapchat investment by 25%; tangentially, see Berkshire Says Unrealized IBM Loss Hits $2 Billion, Affirms Bet (BloombergBusiness)
"The competition among investors also helped create a herd of dozens of “unicorns,” a term for private companies valued above $1 billion, coined when such a phenomenon was still considered rare.Dizzying Ride May Be Ending for Start-Ups - The New York Times
Yet unlike venture capital firms, mutual funds are legally obligated to value each of their portfolio holdings every day, including hard-to-value assets like shares in private companies, and they must report these values at least every half year.
A spokesman for the Investment Company Institute, one of the largest mutual fund associations, said that the process was a “good faith determination” of what an owner could get in a sale of the asset.
“This assessment has been widely recognized to be more art than science,” said Mike McNamee, a spokesman for the institute."
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
I'm guessing most observers assume Mayer won't be there in 3 - 5 months
"In addition to the reflection on what should happen to revive the core, which largely remains an advertising business, Mayer has also over the last month asked her top execs to make three- to five-year commitments to Yahoo. Sources said she told senior staff at meetings in late August and early September that they had to either verbally or in writing make the promise to remain.Yahoo Hires McKinsey to Mull Reorg, as Mayer Demands Exec Pledge to Stay | Re/code
That move seems to have backfired a bit, resulting in several major departures recently, including European boss Dawn Airey, marketing and media head Kathy Savitt, development chief Jackie Reses and many others to other jobs. Curiously, Mayer tossed them all under the bus in Yahoo’s recent quarterly call, slyly suggesting to analysts all the departures had been planned and that her current team was Yahoo’s bestest ever."
Just a bit of fine print to consider
"The media conglomerate that owns Match, IAC/InterActiveCorp, whose chairman is Barry Diller, has been acquiring a number of dating sites over the last few years. As the online-dating industry increased in popularity, legacy sites like Match.com started facing more competition from free models like OkCupid. Mr. Diller’s strategy was to build scale by acquiring a portfolio of brands – now 45 in all – and eventually spin them off under the Match umbrella.
Match is selling 14 percent of itself in the I.P.O., the first step in a split from IAC. But IAC will maintain control.
Match will give three classes of stock, by which IAC’s Class B shares will represent an economic stake of 86 percent and 98.4 percent of the voting power. The class of shares sold to the public through the I.P.O. – known as common stock – will have 1.6 percent of voting power. There will not be shares of Class C, the third class, outstanding after the I.P.O.Match Is Seeking $3.1 Billion Value in I.P.O. - The New York Times
Match plans to use the proceeds generated from the I.P.O. to repay debt to IAC."
tbd if this will help to resume overall iPad sales growth; Apple sold ~10 million iPads last quarter, the fewest in a fiscal quarter since 2011
"Apple on Monday announced that it will begin accepting online orders for the iPad Pro on Wednesday and that the tablet should show up in stores by the end of the week.Apple’s iPad Pro goes on sale Wednesday - The Washington Post
The 12.9-inch iPad is the largest tablet Apple's ever made, with a screen larger than some of its laptops. The tablet proudly carries the "Pro" moniker, marking it as Apple's top-of-the-line iPad. It also tells you a little more about the demographic Apple's targeting here. The Pro is designed to do some heavy lifting, which comes in handy for people who want to use it at the office. The screen size alone signals that its display is good for group projects, while the company boasts that its internals outstrip most PCs on the market. In other words, this is for more than just watching Netflix in bed (though you could do that, too)."
See TensorFlow: smarter machine learning, for everyone (Google Blog) and this recent Jeff Dean overview (YouTube video) for more details
"“What we’re hoping is that the community adopts this as a good way of expressing machine learning algorithms of lots of different types, and also contributes to building and improving [TensorFlow] in lots of different and interesting ways,” says Jeff Dean, one of Google’s most important engineers and a key player in the rise of its deep learning tech. I
In recent years, other companies and researchers have also made huge strides in this area of AI, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter. And some have already open sourced software that’s similar to TensorFlow. This includes Torch—a system originally built by researchers at New York University, many of whom are now at Facebook—as well as systems like Caffe and Theano. But Google’s move is significant. That’s because Google’s AI engine is regarded by some as the world’s most advanced—and because, well, it’s Google."Google Just Open Sourced TensorFlow, Its Artificial Intelligence Engine | WIRED
Monday, November 09, 2015
"The $13-a-share price indicates Square believes itself to be worth $4.2 billion.Attention, fellow unicorns: Square IPO hints at big haircut when going public - The Washington Post
At the $11 lower end of the initial public offering range, Square is worth $3.5 billion.
In August 2014, Square was reportedly seeking financing at a $6 billion valuation for the company, which provides mobile payment systems, according to Bloomberg News.
Square announced last month it was going public – making the leap from private-market unicorn (the term d’art to describe tech companies with private market valuations north of $1 billion) to … well, something else on the public stock exchanges.
Still, $4.2 billion is pretty healthy number."
See the full report, Four fundamentals of workplace automation, for more details
"The study's most depressing finding is that a lot of what people do at work is rote. Just 4 percent of Americans' work activities require creativity at the level a normal person has, and just 29 percent require sensing emotion, the authors conclude. (Though it isn't clear the humans are sensing emotion like crazy, either.)Half of What You Do at Work Could Be Automated, McKinsey Says - Bloomberg Business
The study differs from earlier ones on automation by focusing on activities, not occupations. Any given occupation, from landscaper to chief executive officer, involves a set of activities, some of which can be automated and some of which can't, the authors say. "Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term," they write. "Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated.""
From a review of Microsoft's stock buyback strategy
"Microsoft has used buybacks well, in his view, though its need to do so says some uncomfortable things about the company and our current situation. “I applaud Microsoft for being realistic,” he said. Microsoft still generates a lot of cash, but it no longer is a hyperkinetic engine of growth, he added.Microsoft’s Stock Math: Fewer Shares, Pricier Shares - The New York Times
“Tech companies live in dog years,” Mr. Damodaran said, “and being 10 years old in tech is often like being 70 years old for a company like Procter & Gamble.” Microsoft began showing its age in the late ’90s and has gradually accumulated self-knowledge, he said. “It’s like a 61-year-old who has become comfortable with himself and has decided to act appropriately.”"
Sunday, November 08, 2015
The ultimate, 10,000-word review of streaming media players: Apple TV vs. Roku 4 vs. Fire TV vs. Chromecast - Quartz
Summary from an extensive review
"The good news is that you really can’t go wrong. Each of these streaming media players is excellent, sporting fast processors and new search features that make them a joy to use compared to previous versions—and certainly compared to your clumsy old cable box. There is frankly more that unites these devices than divides them: They all offer the most popular services, like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, and work without much of a hassle.The ultimate, 10,000-word review of streaming media players: Apple TV vs. Roku 4 vs. Fire TV vs. Chromecast - Quartz
But if I had to recommend just one, it would be the new Apple TV. It’s the first of the streaming media players that not only makes television easier but seems to expand the possibilities of what television can be. Buying the device is a bet that, like with the company’s other gadgets, Apple TV will only get better as developers build more apps for it. But the experience is better if you also own an iPhone or iPad, so Android users might prefer something else."
Friday, November 06, 2015
Later in the article: "The three new hires include Szeliski, Michael Cohen and Matt Uyttendaele, who spent a combined 60 years working at Microsoft before joining Facebook in October."
"Facebook has hired three longtime Microsoft veterans to head up a new computational photography team at the company, a small group tasked with building new ways to share photos and videos to the platform.Facebook Poaches Microsoft Engineers to Build Virtual Reality Tools for Facebook | Re/code
The team, led by 20-year Microsoft researcher Rick Szeliski, has a fascinating job: To create tools so that Facebook users can share 3-D video and virtual reality video to their profiles. That includes things like 360-degree video, which Facebook just launched in News Feed for the first time in September."
People doing ‘crazy things’ with Tesla’s autopilot are spoiling it for everybody - The Washington Post
Darwin Awards, Tesla Autopilot edition
""This is not good," Musk said on an earnings call this week. "We'll put on some constraints on autopilot to minimize people doing crazy things with it."People doing ‘crazy things’ with Tesla’s autopilot are spoiling it for everybody - The Washington Post
Musk didn't elaborate on what kinds of new restrictions autopilot users could soon face, though it's likely that they would show up in the form of another software update. On the plus side, Musk said, there's some evidence that autopilot has already helped prevent "many accidents" so far among the 40,000 Tesla vehicles that have it."
From an extensive Linux security reality check
"The rift between Torvalds and security experts is a particular source of worry for those who see Linux becoming the dominant operating system at a time when technology is blurring the borders between the online and offline worlds. Much as Windows long was the standard for personal computers, Linux runs on most of the Internet’s servers. It also operates on medical equipment, sensitive databases and computers on many kinds of vehicles, including tiny drones and warships.The kernel of the argument over Linux’s vulnerabilities | The Washington Post
“If you don’t treat security like a religious fanatic, you are going to be hurt like you can’t imagine. And Linus never took seriously the religious fanaticism around security,” said Dave Aitel, a former National Security Agency research scientist and founder of Immunity, a Florida-based security company."
On a related note, see BlackBerry Priv Review: BlackBerry May Win You Back With Android (WSJ)
"Samsung Electronics Co.’s underdog mobile operating system, Tizen, has gone from zero to…just a little more than zero.Samsung’s Tizen Moves Up the Ranks in Smartphone Platform Wars - Digits - WSJ
The operating system, an alternative to the dominant Android platform, first appeared on a Samsung smartphone in January this year, and has now climbed to fourth place in the global mobile operating system rankings, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, though it still remains a negligible speck on the landscape.
According to Strategy Analytics’ third-quarter data, Tizen’s 1 million unit shipments is enough to give it a 0.3% market share, catapulting it ahead of BlackBerry Ltd.’s and Firefox’s eponymous operating systems, which have 0.2% and 0.0% of the market, respectively.
Those numbers, of course, are a rounding error when compared to Android and Apple Inc.’s duopolistic stranglehold on the world’s smartphone users, controlling 84.1% and 13.6% of the market respectively. Third-place Windows operating system accounted for the remaining 1.7% of shipments in the third quarter, Strategy Analytics found, down from 3.2% a year earlier."
Tangentially, see Bisquick Unveils Sprawling State-Of-The-Art Silicon Valley Campus (The Onion [parody]; thanks for the link, Charles)
"Silicon Valley is diving into artificial intelligence technology, with start-ups sprouting up and Google and Facebook pouring vast sums into projects that would teach machines how to learn and make decisions. Now Toyota wants a piece of the action.Toyota Invests $1 Billion in Artificial Intelligence in U.S. - The New York Times
Toyota, the Japanese auto giant, on Friday announced a five-year, $1 billion research and development effort headquartered here. As planned, the compound would be one of the largest research laboratories in Silicon Valley."
Another smartphone-powered opportunity
"In the last 15 months, Uber and Lyft have introduced shared rides in Austin, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington through UberPool and Lyft Line. Cars or vans sporting names like Split (sections of Washington only) Via (sections of Manhattan only) Bridj (rush hours in Boston and Washington) and Carma, which also runs in Chicago, Houston, San Diego and Seattle, also compete. Some ride-sharing apps are available internationally as well.Ride-Sharing Apps Bring Back Car-Pooling - The New York Times
“They’re very specific to niche transportation needs,” said Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group, a research company in Boston.
The new services come after a long decline of car-pooling. According to a report released by the Census Bureau in August, car-pooling fell to a low of just over 9 percent in 2013, the last year for which figures are available, from nearly 20 percent in 1980. About 76 percent of people who traveled to work drove alone in 2013, according to the report."
Thursday, November 05, 2015
A stark contrast to Twitter's recent results (see, e.g., Dismal Twitter Forecast and Flat User Growth Send Its Stock Lower [NYT]); also see Facebook Hits 8 Billion Daily Video Views, Doubling From 4 Billion In April (TechCrunch)
"Facebook’s mobile revenue continues to climb as the company beat Wall Street’s Q3 earnings estimates on Wednesday. It also notched a significant user metric, reaching 1.01 billion people a day on average.Facebook Q3 Earnings, Claims One Billion Daily Users | Re/code
Facebook reported profit of 57 cents a share on revenue of $4.5 billion for the quarter, up 41 percent over the same period last year. Analysts were looking for 52 cents a share on sales of $4.37 billion.
The majority of that revenue came from mobile advertising, at $3.4 billion. That accounts for 78 percent of Facebook’s total ad revenue, up from 66 percent a year ago, a nod to the company’s growing reliance on reaching users through mobile devices."
A *Box/*Drive market snapshot
"The company added 50,000 paying business customers -- including News Corp. and Expedia Inc. -- in the past 10 months, Chief Executive Officer Drew Houston said at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. He also announced a new product, called Dropbox Enterprise, targeted at large customers. Rival Box Inc., which held an initial public offering in January, has promoted itself as the top choice for large businesses.Dropbox CEO Touts 150,000 Business Customers, Goes After Box - Bloomberg Business
Houston is bolstering efforts to woo more users amid growing competition in a crowded market that’s projected to reach almost $2 billion this year, according to IDC. Dropbox was No. 1 with a 24 percent share in 2014, followed by Microsoft Corp.’s 19 percent, the researcher said. Box Inc., Apple Inc. and Google rounded out the top five. Among business users, Dropbox has a slimmer lead with 22.7 percent, compared with Box’s 21.3 percent and Microsoft’s 21.1 percent, according to IDC."
travelsitemonopoly.com? Also see Expedia to acquire HomeAway for $3.9B in cash and stock, challenging Airbnb (GeekWire)
"Expedia plans to pay $3.9 billion, or $38.31 a share, in cash and stock for all of HomeAway’s brands — a premium of nearly 20 percent to Wednesday’s closing stock price.Expedia to Acquire HomeAway for $3.9 Billion - The New York Times
Expedia, born almost 20 years ago within Microsoft, has amassed a nearly $18 billion market valuation from buying other travel-booking brands. In September, Expedia closed its acquisition of a fellow travel site, Orbitz Worldwide, for $1.6 billion including debt. Also this year, Expedia purchased Travelocity from Sabre Corporation for $280 million in cash. Other brands under the Expedia umbrella include Hotels.com, Hotwire.com and Trivago."
"There has also been a surge in demand for Bitcoin in China, where the new interest is being explained by a number of factors, including the drop in the stock market there, as well as the emergence of a new Ponzi scheme tied to Bitcoin. The price of Bitcoin has been rising faster on Chinese exchanges than elsewhere in the world.Bitcoin Surges, Emerging From a Lull in Interest - The New York Times
Bobby Lee, the chief executive of one of China’s biggest Bitcoin exchanges, BTCC, said that, as was the case in past price spikes, a critical mass of reports on Bitcoin was drawing a new wave of speculators, betting more on the future of the virtual currency than on its current use.
“There are a few tipping points in a row, and you get a tidal wave,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s classic bull market.”"
An interesting career path pattern; also see Amazon Hires Jay Carney, Former Obama Press Secretary (20150226 NYT)
"Those billions are predicated on lots of future growth. So both companies have hired seasoned political operatives to woo legislators and beat back regulatory threats.Airbnb and Uber Mobilize Vast User Base to Sway Policy - The New York Times
Mr. Lehane, a former political operative in the Clinton administration, was nicknamed the Master of Disaster for his no-holds-barred approach to winning political fights. David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Obama, is now a senior adviser to Uber and a member of its board.
Mr. Lehane and Mr. Plouffe have both tried to frame their companies as middle-class saviors in a moment of economic anxiety and income inequality — themes that are playing out in the presidential election as well. Jeb Bush and other Republicans have bragged about their Uber rides on the campaign trail, praising these companies as the future of self-sufficient employment."
A contentious cognitive controversy continues; tangentially, see Children’s Tablets Review: The Electronic Baby Sitter Wises Up (WSJ)
Video game designers tout games as prescription therapies
"Therapeutic gaming advocates are betting on the science of brain plasticity, which suggests that the brain can modify itself in response to interactions with the environment. The idea is that playing a well-designed video game can help patients get better at multitasking, staying focused, processing information, or relaxing — and that these cognitive gains can be transferred beyond the game to relieve symptoms of medical conditions."(Stat is a new life sciences blog from the owner of the Boston Globe; see With a giant staff for an online startup, The Boston Globe’s Stat aims to reach a global audience [NiemanLab] for details)
Video game designers tout games as prescription therapies
Traditional TV boundaries are blurring on the new Apple TV, however, especially for exploring and selecting movie sources
"Apple TV was supposed to rescue us, by creating a single, simple interface for all our favorite movies and TV shows. It hasn’t happened — not nearly. And that’s not Apple’s fault. The Internet video companies want their own pathways to our eyeballs and wallets. They remember how Apple dominated online music, and traditional record companies sacrificed billions in revenue. Not this time. The video guys will retain control of distribution, and if that means inconveniencing the customers, so be it. Still, Apple TV offers features to ease the hassle."Apple TV: Better but still needs fine-tuning - The Boston Globe
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Google’s last gasp attempt to stop the Office 365 juggernaut | Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog
Final paragraph from a Google Apps-vs-Office 365 reality check; also see Google Apps => Office 365 Migration Patterns (CASAHL blog)
"The funny thing is that Google had a much better shot at going after Microsoft some years ago. BPOS had horrible reliability and Microsoft had no browser versions of apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The first months of Office 365 exposed some weaknesses too. Since 2011 the landscape has changed fundamentally as Microsoft has proven Office 365 can deliver a high-quality, feature-rich service on a global basis with an impressive array of mobile, browser, and desktop clients. I guess Google wasn’t so worried then because they were winning more deals then. It’s a different matter now and this latest initiative smacks of some desperation. The juggernaut rolls on…"Google’s last gasp attempt to stop the Office 365 juggernaut | Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog
Unlikely to be a supporting case study for the rational investor hypothesis
"The price of bitcoin is surging, crossing back over the $400 mark for the first time since last November, amid a burst of trading activity and a surge in interest in the technology underlying the cryptocurrency.BitBeat: Bitcoin Surges Past $400 on Back of the New ‘Shining Star’ - MoneyBeat - WSJ
Bitcoin crossed back over $400 on Tuesday (and well over it on most exchanges), up 15% over the past 24 hours and capping a run that has seen it nearly double since falling to $209 back in August. It’s been nearly a year since the price was at the $400 level, last November. Back then, it was on its way down, a drawn-out, year-long slide from the late 2013 all-time high above $1,100. Today, the price is on its way up.
There isn’t one explanation for the move, but one thing is clear: The bitcoin hype machine is back in action – even if it’s been redirected."