"I ask him why he chose to sell his company to Google. DeepMind had plenty of money in the bank, including funding from Peter Thiel, the first major backer of Facebook, and Elon Musk, who leads the commercial space flight group SpaceX. Hassabis says that, before joining Google, he pushed for a number of safeguards to ensure his group was “semi-autonomous” from its corporate paymasters. DeepMind remains in London, not Silicon Valley. It is also creating an ethics board — he is currently interviewing philosophers and experts, though won’t say who — which will govern how its technology can be used. It will, for example, rule out any military uses.Lunch with the FT: Demis Hassabis - FT.com
“All these technologies are neutral in themselves,” he says, “but it depends on how we use them. We need to make sure we understand how we use them and use them in the right way. I don’t want it to be neutral. I want it to be good.”"
Saturday, January 31, 2015
More Google DeepMind details
Revealed: Facebook’s Project to Find Out What People Really Want in Their News Feed — Backchannel — Medium
From an overview of Facebook's news feed filtering technique
"Essentially, Facebook has determined that algorithms alone are not enough to determine the makeup of one’s News Feed. The mix is so important — not just to individuals but to collateral players such as the news business, the apps industry, and the Internet meme machine — that the ultimate tech company must acquaint itself with the Antediluvian art of asking people directly what they want."Revealed: Facebook’s Project to Find Out What People Really Want in Their News Feed — Backchannel — Medium
Google Now cards connected with a wide variety of services
"Starting today, the Google app on Android can help you keep up with all the good stuff in 40 different apps at a glance—it’ll bring you Now cards to help you out with your day-to-day life, giving you information that’s helpful to you, right when you need it.Inside Search: Google app update: get Now cards from your favorite apps
In the morning, catch up on news of the day with cards from The Guardian. On your commute, Pandora can give you recommendations for music to play, based on what you like, or you can be reminded to complete your daily French lesson on Duolingo. During your downtime, you can take care of the groceries, with a card from Instacart reminding you to stock up on the things you often order. If you’re planning a trip and looked up places to stay on your Airbnb app but couldn't make up your mind, you’ll see Now cards from Airbnb for the location and dates you’ve researched. And when you land at an airport, you’ll see a card to order a Lyft."
A high-level wireless speaker market overview
"Choosing the right system, however, isn’t easy. Before you buy any speaker, you need to decide which wireless ecosystem you’re going to commit to (each with its own compatible speakers)—kind of like deciding between VHS and Beta decades ago. Sonos and AirPlay, for example, have been around for over a decade. But others, like Sony HomeShare and DLNA, are all but defunct. And although these protocols all have largely the same functionality, there are subtle differences among them. Here’s a guide to finding the one that best suits your needs."Which Wireless-Speaker System is Best for You? - WSJ
"The helmet is the MindRider, which Ducao helped develop as a grad student at MIT in 2010. The setup is simple: An off-the-shelf EEG brainwave sensor made by NeuroSky is built into a standard helmet. To make the map, eight riders spent September and October riding most of Manhattan (favoring north-south thoroughfares over east-west cross streets). Every second, the EEG sensor sends, via Bluetooth, data on the rider’s level of focus. Attention level rises when the user focuses on one thing (say, a car about to swerve into the bike lane), and decreases when they’re less focused. In other words, it provides an idea of where you’re totally stressed and when you’re chill. A riders’ level of attention was ranked from 0 to 100, then correlated onto a color scale, from green to yellow to red.Measuring Brainwaves to Make a New Kind of Bike Map for NYC | WIRED
Plotted onto a map of Manhattan, the result is an easy to read guide to where cycling is relaxing (green) and where it’s stressful (red). It seems like a great tool for making cities bike-friendlier, for determining where street signs and other measures are helping cyclists and where city planers [sic] might do more."
Also see Zombie Cookie: The Tracking Cookie That You Can’t Kill (ProPublica); I suspect we haven't seen the final chapter in this story yet
"But even if Verizon now allows subscribers to opt-out of having their online activities tracked using a unique customer code, that option may not satisfy privacy advocates who say consumers are unlikely to understand the implications of default tracking. Some say Verizon should have the feature turned off by default and require people to voluntarily switch it on.Verizon Wireless to Allow Complete Opt Out of Mobile 'Supercookies' - NYTimes.com
“What they really should be doing is opt-in,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
Reciprocal reputation management
"Customer reviews are a new form of credit report, one that measures comportment instead of finances. Although such ratings have been tried before — eBay was a pioneer — the practice has taken off with the rise of the so-called on-demand economy.Ratings Now Cut Both Ways, So Don’t Sass Your Uber Driver - NYTimes.com
Strangers may be eager to drive you places or rent you their house for the weekend, but they require some level of confidence. So companies from Airbnb to the new taxi services use reviews to weed out those they do not wish to serve."
Friday, January 30, 2015
Metadata R Us...
"But with as few as four publicly available geo-tagged data points, scientists can accurately connect 90 percent of people to their credit card transactions, according to research published in the journal Science [pdf] on Friday. That data is supposed to be anonymous, but it’s not really, and women and high-income people have less anonymity than others."Data Scientists Can Link Your Instagrams To Your Credit Card Purchases | FiveThirtyEight
Mission Accompli; in other perhaps counterintuitive Microsoft news, see Microsoft to Invest in Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen (WSJ)
"Gmail is the world's most popular email service, and the iPhone, as if this week didn't make it abundantly clear, is the world's most popular smartphone. The two have been around for years and years, however the experience of using them together has never been particularly good. Hell, let's be honest, if you're relying on Google's own email apps on the iPhone, your experience is doubleplusungood. But there are plenty of alternatives in Apple's App Store, and it just so happens that the best among them now bears the name of Microsoft Outlook."The best Gmail app for the iPhone is now made by Microsoft | The Verge
In other Amazon news, see Twitch’s Viewers Reach 100 Million a Month (WSJ)
"Amazon’s big-time investments in its Prime membership program seem to be paying off.Amazon Crushes Q4 Earnings on Back of Huge Prime Membership Growth | Re/code
The company crushed earnings in the all-important fourth quarter, sending its stock up 12 percent in after-hours trading even as its revenue came in below analyst estimates.
The Jeff Bezos-led e-commerce company recorded earnings per share of 45 cents, easily beating analyst estimates of 17 cents. Still, revenue was only $29.3 billion compared with estimates of $29.7 billion.
In an earnings release, Bezos said paid Prime membership rose 53 percent last year, on a base of tens of millions of customers."
Not limited to beacons; see Introducing Place Tips in News Feed (Facebook Newsroom) for more details
"Facebook Thursday said it would begin testing a service to deliver information about shops and landmarks to users who are nearby, in part by using localized transmitters known as “beacons.”Facebook Tests Bluetooth ‘Beacons’ to Feed Users Local Content - Digits - WSJ
The service, “Place Tips,” is a new and potentially powerful new wrinkle in the concept of digital presence, fueled by the ubiquity of smartphones that can continuously broadcast a user’s location. With its 1.3 billion members, Facebook could expand uses for beacons, which so far have been mainly used to send promotions and ads to people in and near stores."
Google continues to play by its own rules
"The report comes at a rough time for Google’s stock. Shares in the company, as of Thursday morning, were down about 10 percent since April 2014, a period in which the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has increased and peers like Facebook have rallied 25 percent. Google shares were up a little more than 1 percent in after-hours trading after the results were announced.Google Revenue Is Higher, but Profit Misses Expectations - NYTimes.com
Anxieties have been compounded by a perception on Wall Street that Google does not particularly care what it thinks. “Unfortunately, at times like now when negative sentiment rules the short term, this opacity makes investors uncomfortable,” Ross Sandler, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, wrote in a report before earnings were announced."
Lead paragraphs from a long-view Apple/Microsoft reality check
"When Microsoft stock was at a record high in 1999, and its market capitalization was nearly $620 billion, the notion that Apple Computer would ever be bigger — let alone twice as big — was laughable. Apple was teetering on bankruptcy. And Microsoft’s operating system was so dominant in personal computers, then the center of the technology universe, that the government deemed the company an unlawful monopoly.How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft - NYTimes.com
This week, both Microsoft and Apple unveiled their latest earnings, and the once unthinkable became reality: Apple’s market capitalization hit $683 billion, more than double Microsoft’s current value of $338 billion."
Thursday, January 29, 2015
See this OneDrive Blog post for details
"Microsoft just made it easier to upload more photos and files to its OneDrive cloud service. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s also now easier to find these uploads again.Microsoft OneDrive adds super-intelligent searching of document text, photos | PCWorld
Specifically, OneDrive now intelligently “reads” your documents and photos—and even parses photos of text you’ve snapped—allowing you to search for text strings hidden inside both Word files and images. It’s just one of several new tools, along with a new Albums feature, that Microsoft added to its OneDrive Web app and iPad apps on Wednesday morning."
Excerpt from a Dan Lyons Apple snapshot
"When Cook took over in 2011, most people figured Apple would lose some of its magic. In a way that's true. Apple is less interesting without Steve Jobs. Its events are not as exciting. Cook doesn't have the cult leader charisma that Jobs possessed.Discuss: Tim Cook Is A Way Better CEO Than Steve Jobs Was
But holy crap can this guy make money. Apple generated nearly $75 billion in revenue last quarter, and kept $18 billion in net profit. Apple now has $178 billion in cash, enough to buy a lot of huge companies, like Intel, outright."
Tangentially, see The Deep Mind of Demis Hassabis (Medium Backchannel) for some details about Google's AI ethics board
"Even the father of the mainstream personal computer is worried that machines might one day get too smart.Bill Gates Worries About Machines Gaining Super Intelligence | Re/code
“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Bill Gates said during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. “First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that, though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”"
Later in the article: "In addition to Microsoft’s own e-mail services, Outlook will support Yahoo, iCloud and Gmail accounts as well as supporting files from online storage companies such as Google, Box and Dropbox."
"Microsoft has planned new mobile versions of Outlook that make use of the technology it acquired in last year’s $200 million purchase of email startup Accompli.Microsoft Brings Outlook to iPhone and Android | Re/code
The company on Thursday is releasing an iOS version of Outlook and a preview version of Outlook for Android, both of which use Accompli’s tech as well as a fairly significant amount of work by the team over the last 60 days. The biggest changes include customizable options, according to Javier Soltero, the former Accompli CEO who is now a general manager on Microsoft’s Office team."
Speculation about the limits of data-driven decision making
"[...] In short, I do think that there is a sophisticated algorithm at work here—but I think his name is Ted Sarandos.Netflix’s Secret Special Algorithm Is a Human - The New Yorker
I presented Sarandos with this theory at a Sundance panel called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Algorithm,” moderated by Jason Hirschhorn, formerly of MySpace. Sarandos, very agreeably, wobbled a bit. “It is important to know which data to ignore,” he conceded, before saying, at the end, “In practice, its probably a seventy-thirty mix.” But which is the seventy and which is the thirty? “Seventy is the data, and thirty is judgment,” he told me later. Then he paused, and said, “But the thirty needs to be on top, if that makes sense.”"
Check this Amazon page for more WorkMail details; I suspect IBM would disagree with the "only two major competitors" (Microsoft and Google) assertion
"“You’re coming into a very established place with only two major competitors,” said David Mitchell Smith of market research firm Gartner. “They’re not coming in at the leadership position, that’s for sure.”Why Amazon Is Getting Into Business E-Mail - Bloomberg Business
That has never stopped Amazon before. And in a time when hacking and security issues are a growing concern in the business world, a new service with an express emphasis on privacy could make a dent in the e-mail game while bringing more customers into the Amazon fold.
The only surprise here is why it took Amazon so long."
"Sharing economy" optimization implications
"Uberization will have its benefits: Technology could make your work life more flexible, allowing you to fit your job, or perhaps multiple jobs, around your schedule, rather than vice versa. Even during a time of renewed job growth, Americans’ wages are stubbornly stagnant, and the on-demand economy may provide novel streams of income.
“We may end up with a future in which a fraction of the work force would do a portfolio of things to generate an income — you could be an Uber driver, an Instacart shopper, an Airbnb host and a Taskrabbit,” Dr. Sundararajan said.Uber’s Business Model Could Change Your Work - NYTimes.com
But the rise of such work could also make your income less predictable and your long-term employment less secure. And it may relegate the idea of establishing a lifelong career to a distant memory."
Built to scale
"Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia described Facebook's earnings as "better across the board" than its previous report, describing it as an "outstanding quarter."Biz Break: Facebook growth still strong despite warning of slowdown - San Jose Mercury News
"Reach, engagement and monetization -- they exceeded on all fronts," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Expectations of decelerating revenues and a patient path to producing profits from large acquisitions such as WhatsApp and Oculus VR have turned off some investors and analysts, but Facebook seems committed to avoiding talk of monetization for its expensive toys. In Wednesday's conference call, Zuckerberg called WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as "indispensable services for the world" and spoke of the possibilities for Oculus, but did not divulge any plans for monetization.
"It's really important to get this right and not rush it," Zuckerberg said."
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
MapR Unveils Free On-Demand Training Program with $50M In-Kind Contribution to the Hadoop Community | MapR
Check this MapR page for more details
"MapR Technologies, Inc., provider of the top-ranked distribution for Apache™ Hadoop®, today announced the availability of free Hadoop On-Demand Training for developers, analysts and administrators which represents a $50M in-kind contribution* to the broad Hadoop community. The Hadoop training program is a multi-course curriculum designed to expand worldwide adoption of Hadoop technology. The curriculum provides engaging and interactive video lessons, hands-on exercises, labs and quizzes, enabling professionals to acquire valuable Hadoop skills and knowledge on their own schedule."MapR Unveils Free On-Demand Training Program with $50M In-Kind Contribution to the Hadoop Community | MapR
For some broader context-setting, see HTML5: Doomed to fail or just getting started? (TechRepublic, 8/2014)
"Four years ago, we wrote about YouTube’s early support for the HTML5 tag and how it performed compared to Flash. At the time, there were limitations that held it back from becoming our preferred platform for video delivery. Most critically, HTML5 lacked support for Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) that lets us show you more videos with less buffering.YouTube Engineering and Developers Blog: YouTube now defaults to HTML5 <video>
Over the last four years, we’ve worked with browser vendors and the broader community to close those gaps, and now, YouTube uses HTML5 by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and in beta versions of Firefox.
The benefits of HTML5 extend beyond web browsers, and it's now also used in smart TVs and other streaming devices. Here are a few key technologies that have enabled this critical step forward: "
Not just its history; also see Apple Just Had The Most Profitable Quarter Of Any Company Ever (TechCrunch)
"For perspective, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple sold an average of 34,000 iPhones every hour of every day in the quarter. In fact, it has surpassed 1 billion devices powered by the iOS mobile operating system in the quarter — a number which also includes iPad tablets as well as smartphones.Apple Reports Biggest Quarterly Profit in Its History | Re/code
“One billion devices is an almost unfathomable milestone,” Cook said in a call Tuesday with analysts. “And we are all incredibly proud to be part of it.”"
A modern version of the "know your customer" adage
"Earnest asks its borrowers for a lot of information. It wants to see their bank accounts, credit-card statements, student loan and any other loan balances. It also wants to see any investment accounts or retirement accounts. It asks loan candidates to make sure their LinkedIn accounts of job and education history are filled in and up to date.A Data-Science Lender Takes on Student Debt - NYTimes.com
This is all done without paperwork. Earnest expects its borrowers to conduct their financial lives online. Earnest says it has read-only access to the information. It pledges not to store personal data or sell it. Earnest’s software algorithms give weight to things not factored into traditional credit analysis like education and savings, which, in the start-up’s calculations, point to capacity to pay and lower risk."
Driveway disruption (yesterday's storm dumped 24.4 inches of snow in Boston, according to this Boston Globe article)
"Plow services have traditionally operated as route businesses, signing up customers in advance and digging them out when it snows. Plowz and Mowz caters to homeowners who don’t pay for a regular service but want occasional help clearing a driveway. To meet customer demand, the startup uses software to assign new jobs to drivers who are already planning to be in the area. Wills Mahoney, who launched the startup in 2013 with a former college roommate, expects to process 2,000 jobs in Boston as a result of the recent blizzard, which deposited 18 inches of snow. Rates will top out at around $80 per driveway, and Plowz takes a 30 percent cut. Those economics and some angel funding have helped the startup grow from four markets at the beginning of last year to 34 today, with an expansion into landscaping services. “We see ourselves as billion-dollar company,” Mahoney says."Uber for Snowplows: Startups Dig Out of the Blizzard - Businessweek
More Apple financial factoids
"Apple Inc. surpassed even the most bullish Wall Street expectations for its holiday quarter with an improbable trifecta: selling more iPhones at higher prices—and earning more on each sale.‘Staggering’ iPhone Demand Helps Lift Apple’s Quarterly Profit by 38% - WSJ
Apple posted net of $18.0 billion for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 27, up 38% from $13.1 billion in the same period a year earlier. That is more than 435 of the companies in the S&P 500 index each made in total profits since 2009, according to S&P Capital IQ."
Innovative accounting, at least
"Yahoo executives promised shareholders that they would find a way to dispose of the rest of the Alibaba stake in a way that incurred a much lower tax bill. Their solution — a spinoff of the Alibaba stake and a Yahoo operating business — avoids $16 billion in corporate taxes that Yahoo would have owed if it had simply sold the stake, executives said.Yahoo to Spin Off Its Stake in Alibaba - NYTimes.com
Investors will receive shares in the spun-off company in proportion to their stakes in Yahoo, and will pay taxes on their capital gains when they sell those shares. But the plan will not give Yahoo a new pile of cash with which it could make big acquisitions."
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Check the full post for an overview
"Earlier today [1/26] Oculus announced Story Studio, its in-house production team dedicated to producing virtual reality movies. We’ve been seeing VR narrative experiences for years at this point, and while they’ve been getting more and more impressive, they’ve still been iterative steps forward. Despite how much we’ve all wanted to it to happen, nothing has stood up, raised its hands, and shouted "I’m the project that proves this crazy thing could actually work."I just saw the first movie from Oculus, and it is the future | The Verge
I just watched Lost, the first short from Story Studio. That stand up and shout moment? It’s arrived."
Raising the bar
"Apple showed off the highest quarterly profits and revenues in its history Tuesday, revealing net income of $18 billion, or $3.06 a share, on sales of $74.6 billion. That completes a calendar year in which Apple reported profits of $44.46 billion on sales of $199.8 billion, nearly producing the first annual sales total of $200 billion in Silicon Valley history. Apple's year-over-year gain of 20 percent for profits and 14.8 percent for revenues puts its sales total higher than the 2013 gross domestic product totals for all but 52 countries out of 192 measured by the World Bank."Biz Break: Apple earnings are like nothing Silicon Valley has seen before - San Jose Mercury News
Check this Twitter blog post for more details
"While hardly groundbreaking, the video and messaging features finally bring Twitter on par with Facebook, its much larger rival, which has offered group messaging and integrated video for some time. Perhaps more important for Twitter’s investors, the improvements show that the company, which was notorious for the creeping pace of its product improvements, is picking up the tempo under the new leadership installed by Dick Costolo, its chief executive, in a series of management shake-ups last year."Twitter Adds Group Messaging and Video Recording - NYTimes.com
A handy overview of sharing via Amazon Family Library
"With Family Library, you can create a six-person Household, linking your account with another adult and up to four children. The two adult profiles can buy and share content with each other — including apps and audiobooks — and the child accounts, which still have to be using devices registered with one of the parent's accounts.Amazon Family Library Set Up - Business Insider
If you have a friend or family member with similar taste in books, Family Library is a great way to save money.
Here's how you turn it on:"
Dropbox picks up a couple collaboration startups
"Dropbox has added another collaboration startup to the portfolio with the acquisition of Pixelapse. Founded in 2011, the Palo Alto-based company develops cloud-based collaboration tools aimed toward freelance designers and creative teams.[...]
The Pixelapse deal follows up the purchase of Israeli startup CloudOn last week.Dropbox acquires design-minded collaboration software startup Pixelapse | ZDNet
Said to boast more than nine million users, CloudOn makes document editing and productivity tools for mobile devices. The five-year-old company started out with a focus on editing Microsoft Office documents and has since evolved to other file types."
High expectations for Apple's quarterly earnings, to be announced this afternoon
"Apple told Wall Street to expect total sales somewhere in the range of $63.5 to $66.5 billion — representing, at the midpoint, 15% growth from fiscal Q1 2014.TechHandicapping Apple's earnings - Fortune
Analysts aren’t buying it. They saw the lines for the new iPhones. They’ve seen IDC’s Mac numbers. They know iPad sales haven’t totally died. They watched Apple shift production to meet demand for the larger — and higher margin — iPhone 6 Plus.
They’re expecting a big quarter."
Google/Motorola iDisrupted; check the article link below for a profile of Woodside's current employer, Dropbox
"Indeed, the 6-inch Nexus 6, he can now admit, was stymied by just one of those big players. A dimple on the back that helps users hold the device should, in fact, have been rather more sophisticated. “The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside. Nonetheless, he adds, the addition of fingerprint recognition, “wouldn’t have made that big a difference.”"Dennis Woodside on Motorola, Google and the future of Dropbox - Telegraph
The most important numbers in Microsoft's earnings release yesterday, imho: "Commercial cloud revenue grew 114% driven by Office 365, Azure and Dynamic CRM Online, and is now on an annualized revenue run rate of $5.5 billion"; tangentially, from The Man Behind IBM’s Cloud-Based Campaign (WSJ), "Robert LeBlanc, a 33-year Big Blue veteran, was named the leader of a new dedicated cloud unit in early January. He reports directly to CEO Virginia Rometty, overseeing cloud-related businesses that IBM says are generating about $7 billion in annual revenue—a target the company reached a year earlier than it expected—and growing at a 60% clip."
FY15 Q2 - Press Releases - Investor Relations - Microsoft
FY15 Q2 - Press Releases - Investor Relations - Microsoft
Perhaps it's all in the definition of "lay off"? See Cringely's update, IBM is right, I am a gadfly, for additional speculation
"Calling it "ridiculous" and "baseless," IBM on Monday dismissed a report that said the technology giant plans to lay off 1 in 4 of its workers, or 100,000 people.IBM denies it will lay off a quarter of its workforce - San Jose Mercury News
The company "flatly denies" the Forbes report, IBM spokesman Ian Colley said in a phone interview. IBM previously has announced layoffs affecting "several thousand people," only "a small fraction" of the number predicted last week by a blogger on Forbes.com, IBM said in a statement."
Monday, January 26, 2015
Handle Emerges With $9.9 Million for New Approach to Organizing Email - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ
A new attempt to get a handle on messaging and personal information management
"Despite the ability to build Notes apps that the creators thought would develop into various corporate knowledge management systems, email turned out to be the most important feature of Notes, Mr. Kapor said.Handle Emerges With $9.9 Million for New Approach to Organizing Email - Venture Capital Dispatch - WSJ
Since then, “it’s become a victim of its own success,” he said. “The death of email has been announced over and over, and not only does it refuse to die, but it becomes more and more central to our lives.”
Handle’s team developed its software after studying ways that people try to organize themselves that are not working, Mr. Carolan said—flagging emails, emailing reminders to themselves, posting reminders on their calendars and dragging them forward, using legal pads to make daily lists and so on."
This will be an interesting case study for "the new Microsoft," e.g., in terms of commitment to open source and ongoing support for non-Windows platforms; also see Microsoft is a 'strange bedfellow' for recently acquired open source company (Puget Sound Business Journal)
"We’re excited the work we’ve done with Revolution R will come to a wider audience through Microsoft. Our combined teams will be able to help more users use advanced analytics within Microsoft data platform solutions, both on-premises and in the cloud with Microsoft Azure. And just as importantly, the big-company resources of Microsoft will allow us to invest even more in the R Project and the Revolution R products. We will continue to sponsor local R user groups and R events, and expand our support for community initiatives. We’ll also have more resources behind our open-source R projects including RHadoop, DeployR and the Reproducible R Toolkit. And of course, we’ll be able to add further enhancements to Revolution R and bring R capabilities to the Microsoft suite of products."Revolution Analytics joins Microsoft
Dan Lyons on the Box IPO; check the full post for a "video of frenzied mom-and-pop investors racing to buy shares"
"The stock was priced at $14, opened at $20, and traded above $24, giving Box a market value of nearly $3 billion.Box Shares Are Soaring, And My Head Feels Like It Is Going To Explode
Bear in mind: From 2011 forward, Box has lost $466.1 — nearly half a billion dollars! — while generating $361.1 million in revenue.
But maybe profitability is just around the corner? Er, no.
In fact the Box prospectus says, right there in big boldface print: "We have a history of cumulative losses, and we do not expect to be profitable for the foreseeable future."
Translation: This is a big huge black pit filled with hellfire; won't you please throw many of your moneys into it?"
Donor data mining
"At a moment when President Obama is pushing for federal consumer privacy legislation, these nascent donor data-mining techniques demonstrate how easy it is for companies to repurpose the details that individuals volunteer about themselves in one context for a different use. “I do think there’s an ethical issue. It’s one thing to estimate someone’s wealth, but then to gauge how willing they are to give, you have to look deeply into a person’s life,” says Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a consumer group in San Diego. “I’m not sure alumni would appreciate or want that — if they knew about it.”"Your College May Be Banking on Your Facebook Likes - NYTimes.com
Heads-up display technology poised to go mainstream
"Automakers have been adding a flood of information designed to keep drivers safe—some requested by customers, others mandated by governments—but it risks having the opposite effect. As weird as it sounds, projecting text and graphics onto the windshield may be less distracting to drivers than forcing them to look down at cluttered in-car screens—or worse, their mobile phones. A HUD, which sits within the driver's line of sight, would be free of "check engine" and "change oil" lights, and only display the alerts a driver might need at any given moment. Hyundai, Toyota, and General Motors expect the HUD to go mainstream very soon.The Car Windshield Is Turning Into a Computer Screen - Businessweek
"It's about keeping the driver's eye on the road," says Carson Grover, a product planner at Hyundai Motor America. "For a long time, we thought a HUD was kind of a gimmick. Now we see this as a technology that's going to get more important over time.""
Perhaps Verizon will start to pay customers to use its services, for advertising fodder collection purposes...
"The practice has given ammunition to supporters of net neutrality — the idea that the Internet should be a level playing field for companies of all sizes — who have lobbied the F.C.C. to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers.Verizon’s Mobile ‘Supercookies’ Seen as Threat to Privacy - NYTimes.com
If that happens, it could prohibit carriers like Verizon from selling intelligence about its customers for ad-targeting purposes.
“Stuff like this is worse than what Google or Facebook or anyone else does,” Mr. Feld said. “I can avoid Google and Facebook, in theory at least. But if the network operator is going to spy on me, there is nothing I can do about it.”"
Wireless disruption ahead
"Two companies, two plansGoogle, Cablevision Challenge Wireless Industry’s Business Model - WSJ
Google’s service, which could be rolled out in the first half of this year, would sift through cellular connections provided by Sprint and T-Mobile US and Wi-Fi ‘hot spots,’ picking the best signal for routing calls, texts and data.
Cablevision next month will start offering a Wi-Fi-only mobile-phone service dubbed Freewheel, that will include unlimited data, talk and text for $9.95 a month for broadband Internet subscribers and $29.95 for noncustomers."
Final paragraphs from a bitcoin reality check; also see Bitcoin and the Digital-Currency Revolution (WSJ)
"“The penetration has really been quite small, relative to the media hype,” he said.Despite fall, bitcoin fans keep the faith - Business - The Boston Globe
Yermack did say the blockchain has great promise to safeguard other vital information. For instance, the title to your home or car is recorded on a piece of paper and on a computer in a government data center.
“It can be altered, forged, burned down, and lawyers have to be paid to go looking for it,” Yermack said. But putting the same data on a blockchain computer network would be cheaper, far more secure, and easier to access, said Yermack, who predicted the blockchain technique will become the standard method of recording many important transactions."
Friday, January 23, 2015
BOX is up ~66% as I type this; Irrational Exuberance 2.0 is now official... Also see Box’s IPO Could Rain All Over Microsoft’s Comeback (Wired)
"It may have taken longer than anticipated, but Box's debut as a public company is off to a rousing start.Box Bolts Higher After Delayed Public Debut
Shares of the cloud storage firm opened for trading at $22 Friday, a 57% pop from its $14 IPO price. The company sold 12.5 million shares to raise $175 million (underwriters led by Morgan Stanley MS +0.08%, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase JPM -0.47% have the option to purchase another 1.9 million shares to lift the total proceeds from the deal to just over $201 million)."
Actual results may vary
"According to our sources, Apple opted to use a relatively powerful processor and high-quality screen for the Apple Watch, both of which contribute to significant power drain. Running a stripped-down version of iOS codenamed SkiHill, the Apple S1 chip inside the Apple Watch is surprisingly close in performance to the version of Apple’s A5 processor found inside the current-generation iPod touch, while the Retina-class color display is capable of updating at a fluid 60 frames per second.Apple targets for Apple Watch battery life revealed, A5-caliber CPU inside | 9to5Mac
Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use. As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode. Sources, however, say that Apple will only likely achieve approximately 2-3 days in either the standby or low-power modes."
Check the full article for a handy, er, bubble chart of unicorns and "decacorns"
"“I think you’re going to see a lot of failure in 2015,” says Benchmark Capital partner Bill Gurley, who sits on Uber’s board of directors. “If you’re a public company worth $3 billion and your stock trades down to $1 billion, you can survive it because you can still issue options to hire new employees, etc. If it happens when you’re private, though, it becomes immediately harder to hire or to get incremental investment.”The Age of Unicorns - Fortune
In the meantime, expect more billion-dollar startups to emerge—at least for now. “You can’t choose not to play,” Gurley says. “If you’re in the enterprise segment and your competitors are raising $150 million at high valuations and pouring it into sales, you either can do something similar or be conservative and no longer matter.” Which might explain why some VCs continue to invest even as they predict failure. There’s always the hope and belief that the value created by a few successful unicorns will offset the losses of those that fail."
Tangentially, see Will HBO on the Web Pull the Plug on Pay TV? Survey Says: Yep! (Re/code)
"As if the wireless carrier industry wasn’t doing a good enough job of driving prices and its business into the ground — now Google may be here to speed up the process.Google Is the Last Thing the Wireless Carriers Need | Re/code
The Information reported this week that Google is expected to tap the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile to create a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) and essentially offer cell service under its own brand.
The two carriers might enjoy a short-term boost in revenue and traffic from the Internet giant, but they may also have let a brand new deep-pocketed competitor into the cutthroat business of stealing each others wireless customers."
In other World Economic Forum news, see Executives in Davos Express Worries Over More Disruptive Cyberattacks (NYT) and Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forum (Yahoo Tech)
"Mr. Benioff said his company was diligent about protecting its customers’ data. But he was questioned by an audience member about another company he owns that crowdsources personal data and sells it.Technology Leaders Define Digital Fault Lines - NYTimes.com
“You can opt out,” he said.
That prompted Tim Berners-Lee, a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the creator of the web’s bedrock software standards, to wonder how one even finds out about all the entities that collect data on people.
“How do I know all these places I need to opt out?” he asked. “Do I need to come here?”"
From a Facebook at Work and overall enterprise social reality check
"Facebook at Work’s lack of these kinds of sorting mechanisms could seriously impede its usefulness. “The reason that these systems have failed in the past is that information wasn’t germane enough to allow the user to make a decision or take action,” says Lisa Hammitt, the vice president for marketing at Salesforce Communities. By forcing workers to rely on its algorithms to determine which items they see, Facebook is betting it can interpret and manage any given set of corporate communications well enough to keep its corporate social network from feeling like an avalanche of HR spam, scheduling chatter, and ice bucket challenges."Facebook at Work Offers Little New as Corporate Social Network - Businessweek
I suspect many early investors are doing some out-of-the-BOX planning
"The company, which will begin trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BOX, had been looking to sell shares in the $11 to $13 price range.Box Inc. IPO Prices at $14 a Share, Above Expectations - WSJ
Box’s success as a public company will hinge on its ability to differentiate its offering amid increasing competition from tech giants like Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., who have used their heft to offer online storage at ever-lower prices."
More VR mainstreaming
"There are three options for experiencing the project at home. The first is a virtual-reality headset, like the Oculus Rift device. The second is with the Vrse app, downloaded onto a smartphone and connected to a simple viewer, like a cardboard one that Google designed to be built on your own. Finally, viewers can download the app and watch directly on a phone, which provides a close approximation of the experience but loses some of the 3-D features.Vice Uses Virtual Reality to Immerse Viewers in News - NYTimes.com
Long the purview of the gaming world, virtual reality represents a new frontier for journalism. News reports for years have borne witness to the events shaping the world. Now, directors and reporters are experimenting with virtual-reality technologies to essentially transport people into those events."
Check the full article for assorted Bitcoin company crash-and-burn snapshots
"Bitcoin, the virtual currency that was once the talk of the financial world, has been taking a beating over the last year with the price tumbling downward.Winklevoss Twins Aim to Take Bitcoin Mainstream With a Regulated Exchange - NYTimes.com
Now two of the biggest boosters of the virtual currency, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, are trying to firm up support by creating the first regulated Bitcoin exchange for American customers — what they are calling the Nasdaq of Bitcoin."
Thursday, January 22, 2015
See the source for more details and screenshots
"These new Office apps will be pre-installed for free on phones and small tablets running Windows 10, and available to download from the Windows Store for other devices. The Office universal apps will be available with the Windows 10 Technical Preview in the coming weeks and general availability is on track for later this year.The next chapter of Office on Windows - Office Blogs
Simultaneously, we are hard at work on the next release of the Office desktop suite that will be called Office 2016. (Unexpected, I know!) We will have more to share on Office 2016 in the coming months, but this suite will remain the comprehensive Office experience you’re long familiar with, best suited for a PC with keyboard and mouse. We have compelling new experiences coming as part of this Office suite–stay tuned to the Office Blog for more details. We expect to make Office 2016 generally available in the second half of 2015."
Stunning, if accurate; check the link below for additional speculation; also see Why These 5 Companies Are Laying Off Thousands of Workers (Time/Money on eBay, AmEx, and others)
"IBM’s big layoff-cum-reorganization called Project Chrome kicks-off next week when 26 percent of IBM employees will get calls from their managers followed by thick envelopes on their doorsteps. By the end of February all 26 percent will be gone. I’m told this has been in the planning for months and I first heard about it back in November. This biggest reorganization in IBM history is going to be a nightmare for everyone and at first I expected it to be a failure for IBM management, too. But then I thought further and I think I’ve figured it out…"I, Cringely IBM's reorg-from-Hell launches next week - I, Cringely
Final paragraphs from the latest Wired cover story, an extensive Microsoft-in-transition profile
"It will take a while for any of these competitors to succeed, and Kipman suggests that if users and developers take Project HoloLens in another direction, or don't take to it at all, Microsoft will be OK. The real beneficiaries of Project HoloLens will be the company's operating system, Windows 10; its cloud-computing product, Azure; and its suite of software products, Office 365. They'll continue to improve even if Project HoloLens doesn't. What's important is that more people find more ways to use them. What's important is that, as the next new technology platform emerges, whether it's Project HoloLens or not, Microsoft gets there early.Satya Nadella's Got a Plan to Make You Care About Microsoft. The First Step? Holograms | WIRED
Just when will the next computing interface take hold? I press Nadella on this, but he's not one to predict the future. “What is that quote? I forget now who said this,” he says. “You always overestimate what you can get done in a year and underestimate what you can get done in 10 years.”
Later, I look up the quote. He got the gist of it right. And the person who said it was Bill Gates."
Raising the bar for Cisco+EMC and other "converged infrastructure" competitors
"With the new systems he also promised to beat Cisco on price. For example, Oracle says its Virtual Compute Appliance X5 is 50 percent less expensive to buy than a comparable Cisco product. Oracle has tended to lead Cisco on overall computing performance in this segment, Ellison said, but Cisco has been more aggressive on price. He promised to change that.Oracle’s Ellison Picks Data Center Hardware Fight With Cisco | Re/code
“We will compete with Cisco by delivering not only the highest performance virtual computing appliance machines in the industry, but now with the lowest price by far,” he said. “Our old strategy was to offer the highest performance and the best cost for that performance. … Now it’s highest performance with the best list price. We’re just trying to make the decisions easier.”"
Comcast and Verizon (and other regional Internet/TV/phone service providers) are probably getting a bit anxious about this trend; also see Google planning to get into the mobile data business with project 'Nova' (ZDNet)
"These companies have different technologies and different ideas for making money, but the bind among them is a common assumption that there is no economic way to physically wire the world’s underserved consumers. So the only way to do it is with satellites and other wireless technologies.Google Hopes to Take the Web Directly to Billions Lacking Access - NYTimes.com
There is another benefit for Google: The company is always looking for ways to get around Internet service providers. As Google executives have shown with new offerings, from insurance shopping to the growing Google Fiber broadband service, if there is one thing they believe, it is that their company’s interests are best served by going directly to the consumer."
Also see NASA And Microsoft Using HoloLens To Make It Possible To Work Remotely… On Mars (TechCrunch)
"All those caveats aside, the HoloLens is wondrous. It blew me away. And it suggests that interacting with holograms could become an important part of how we use machines in the future.The HoloLens: A Vision of the PC’s Future - NYTimes.com
The HoloLens isn’t a gimmick. Microsoft has clearly put a great deal of engineering work into this project. When you put on the device, which looks a lot like ski goggles, you see three-dimensional digital controls — like buttons, lines and pictures — as well as the sheep from the video game Minecraft superimposed on the world around you."
tbd if Windows 10 will help to more effectively address this market segment
"I blame Windows. The software is for heavy-duty computing — astrophysics research, commodities trading, first-person video-games — and is designed to run on traditional computers with quad-core processors and lots of memory. Chrome was created for simpler tasks and runs well on simpler hardware. To get the same snappy performance out of Windows 8.1, the Stream needs a faster, more costly processor, and there goes your $200 price tag.HP’s Stream is more of a trickle - Business - The Boston Globe
A respectable Windows machine will cost you more like $350. It’s a sound investment if you rely on Office and other Windows programs. But fewer of us do nowadays, thanks to devices like the Chromebook. It’ll take more than the Stream to turn that tide."
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
From a detailed HoloLens overview
"The headset is still a prototype being developed under the codename Project Baraboo, or sometimes just “B.” Kipman, with shoulder-length hair and severely cropped bangs, is a nervous inventor, shifting from one red Converse All-Star to the other. Nervous, because he’s been working on this pair of holographic goggles for five years. No, even longer. Seven years, if you go back to the idea he first pitched to Microsoft, which became Kinect. When the motion-sensing Xbox accessory was released, just in time for the 2010 holidays, it became the fastest-selling consumer gaming device of all time.Project HoloLens: Our Exclusive Hands-On With Microsoft's Holographic Goggles | WIRED
Right from the start, he makes it clear that Baraboo will make Kinect seem minor league."
Final paragraphs of a déjà vu summary; also see Windows 10 Looks Pretty Cool, But Microsoft Is Still So Far Behind (Wired)
"OSes have long copied each other. Much of the original Windows UI was based on the original Mac OS, and over the years Apple, Microsoft, and Google have all borrowed from each other. Apple in fact has grown more daring about it in recent years, both in OS X and in iOS.Windows 10, inspired by Apple's OS X | InfoWorld
But it's striking how Microsoft, after the debacles of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, has stepped away from the troubled path it was on and instead looked to learn lessons from Apple, the only PC vendor that is still growing in sales and whose mobile technology has changed the rules for everyone."
Check the link below for a Windows 10 overview and links to related resources
"Today was a monumental day for us on the Windows team because we shared our desire to redefine the relationship we have with you – our customers. We announced that a free upgrade for Windows 10 will be made available to customers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 who upgrade in the first year after launch.*The next generation of Windows: Windows 10
This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no additional charge. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release. We think of Windows as a Service – in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet."
Excerpt from an extensive article about the Internet Archive
"The day after Strelkov’s “We just downed a plane” post was deposited into the Wayback Machine, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council, in New York, that Ukrainian separatist leaders had “boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages.” In San Francisco, the people who run the Wayback Machine posted on the Internet Archive’s Facebook page, “Here’s why we exist.”"What the Web Said Yesterday - The New Yorker
Final paragraphs from a timely privacy reality check
"Yet, in a sense, the issue is not whether to accept some erosion of privacy, so governments may protect their people better from evil-doers. Rather, the issue is whether doing so will actually make their country safer. The question asked repeatedly since the intelligence agencies embarked on their wholesale wiretapping of private citizens is, "does profiling hundreds of millions of good guys help to unmask the few dozen bad guys in their midst?" There is scant evidence that it does.Difference engine: The right to be left alone | The Economist
Many would argue instead that granting the intelligence agencies yet further powers to intercept, collect, decrypt and store still more exabytes of personal data only exacerbates their problem of finding the terrorist needle in the public haystack. The answer, surely, is to rely more on tried and tested methods of criminal investigation and trade-craft. In short, to depend less on computer data and more on real human intelligence. Citizens might then not have to chose between privacy and security. They could, in a very real sense, have both."
I'm assuming this has something to do with Google's information item quality ranking, not just aggregation
"Here is some sobering news for anyone in the journalism industry:Google is now a more trusted source of news than the websites it aggregates - Quartz
Online search engines have overtaken traditional media as the most trusted source for general news and information, according to a global survey of 27,000 people by Edelman, a public relations firm. The data will be presented to delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
The trust gap between traditional media and search engines is even more pronounced among millennials."
Check the full post for details on the latest (Google) Boston Dynamics ATLAS
"Imagine a room full of these things. Like maybe a hundred of them. Now imagine you're going to tell them what to do, and they're going to listen to you, because they know about Asimov's Laws and of course are willing to obey some things written in a short story in 1942. Good luck with that."The New Atlas Robot: Now Even More Terrifying
Striving to improve the Facebook news feed signal-to-noise ratio
"The goal of News Feed is to catch up with your friends and find the things that matter to you. We’re always looking to people on Facebook to tell us how we can improve this experience. We’ve heard from people that they want to see fewer stories that are hoaxes, or misleading news. Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook. We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy."News Feed FYI: Showing Fewer Hoaxes | Facebook Newsroom
IBM in transition -- again...
"In the conference call and in an interview afterward, Martin Schroeter, IBM’s chief financial officer, made the case that IBM was showing encouraging progress in its transition. The new businesses the company has earmarked for growth — data analytics, cloud, security and mobile apps for corporations — grew at a 16 percent rate in 2014 and contributed $25 billion in revenue, or 27 percent of the company’s total sales. These growth businesses, he said, should continue to expand at a double-digit rate.IBM Revenue Slides as Revamping Takes Hold - NYTimes.com
[...] But analysts question how well IBM is doing in achieving its objectives. IBM’s reported numbers for its so-called strategic growth businesses, according to estimates by A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein Research, suggest that revenue for the rest of IBM declined by 8 percent last year. “The fact is the core is not stable,” Mr. Sacconaghi said. “The jury is still out on IBM.”"
Would planetary broadband count as a natural monopoly? Also see Revealed: Elon Musk's Plan to Build a Space Internet (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
"The Internet giant, along with Fidelity, has invested $1 billion in Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the private rocketry company founded by Elon Musk. The move could help Google achieve its aim of bringing satellite Internet to remote corners of the world while giving SpaceX more money for its founder to pursue dreams of going to Mars.SpaceX Lands $1 Billion From Google and Fidelity - NYTimes.com
In addition to a payoff on its investment, Google may be seeking to put itself into orbit. Last year, Google bought Skybox Imaging, a maker of small, high-resolution imaging satellites, for about $500 million. Google already offers satellite imagery in its Google Earth product, but must purchase these images from multiple sources, often receiving what company executives have said is uneven image quality."
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
"It was separately reported by the Wall Street Journal that Google planned to pump around $1bn into Musk's spaceflight firm.Google thinking of sinking a BEELLION dollars into Internet In SPAAACE • The Register
Google's apparent flirtation with SpaceX is the latest in a number of efforts to invest in broadband-in-space initiatives, to allow the ad giant to spread its tentacles into every corner of the globe.
The Larry Page-run multinational unveiled its broadband balloons plan – dubbed Project Loon – in 2013."
Also see the GOP SOTU site, featuring "charts, graphs, and real-time fact-checking to hold the President accountable"
"“To not have an aggressive social media strategy in 2015 would be the equivalent of not having an aggressive TV strategy in the 1950s,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser and the West Wing’s most vocal advocate of digital communication. “We have to go to where the conversations are already happening.”Obama’s Social Media Team Tries to Widen Audience for State of the Union Address - NYTimes.com
The Office of Digital Strategies is crammed into a five-office suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. The team, made up of about two dozen members, hold regular planning meetings, and few ideas are dismissed out of hand."
Monday, January 19, 2015
Excerpt from a long-view mobile platform market dynamics perspective
"One way to look at this is that iOS and Android have been converging - they arrived with more or less the same capabilities despite starting from opposite ends. Apple has given up control where Google has taken it. And of course Google has had to add lots to Android just as Apple had to add lots to iOS (and they've generally 'inspired' each other on the way), and just as Apple has added cloud services Google has redesigned the user interface (twice, so far).Mobile platforms and technical debt — Benedict Evans
But the underlying philosophies remain very different - for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched. Meanwhile, the next phases of smartphones (messaging apps as platforms and watches as a dominant interface?) will test all the assumptions again."
Check here for more annual question context-setting and this page for 182 responses from leading (human) thinkers
"In recent years, the 1980s-era philosophical discussions about artificial intelligence (AI)—whether computers can "really" think, refer, be conscious, and so on—have led to new conversations about how we should deal with the forms that many argue actually are implemented. These "AIs", if they achieve "Superintelligence" (Nick Bostrom), could pose "existential risks" that lead to "Our Final Hour" (Martin Rees). And Stephen Hawking recently made international headlines when he noted "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."Edge.org
THE EDGE QUESTION—2015
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?"
Also see Exclusive: Facebook hiring spree hints at ambitions in virtual reality and beyond (Reuters)
"What do you do when a good idea fails? You invest in a better version of it. We've known about Google's huge bet on startup Magic Leap for months, but a recent patent application explains why Mountain View has thrown over $540 million at an unknown entity. We don't know exactly what Magic Leap will offer, but by piecing together various patent applications we can surmise it relates to a wearable display system that will supposedly enable a super-realistic type of VR it calls "cinematic reality"."A Google-backed startup wants to change VR as we know it
Check the full article for related patent etc. links
"Apple has filed several patent applications relating to a stylus and touch-sensitive displays capable of receiving signals from such a device — some as recently as last September.Is the Stylus Making a Comeback at Apple? | Re/code
The latest speculation comes from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. According to a report by Kuo, obtained by AppleInsider, the patent filings suggests Apple plans to introduce a stylus with the anticipated launch of a 12.9-inch iPad that some have dubbed the “iPad Pro.”"
A major Microsoft milestone this week, with the unveiling of Windows Not-8
"On Wednesday, Microsoft plans to unveil details about Windows 10, a new operating system for PCs, at an event at its headquarters outside Seattle. The operating system, the company says, will help win back developers by allowing them to more easily adapt PC applications to mobile devices. The company hopes it will also increase the availability of applications for — and lift sales of — the company’s smartphones.Microsoft Looks to Windows 10 for a Jolt in the Mobile Realm - NYTimes.com
The move is the biggest effort yet by Satya Nadella, who took over as chief executive nearly a year ago, to save the company’s moribund smartphone business. So far, Mr. Nadella has put Microsoft’s overall mobile offerings on a more practical path. Last year, he released the company’s Office suite of applications for Apple iOS and Google Android devices, and he improved tools for developers of nearly all device brands."
More cyber spy-vs-spy details
"But fearing the exposure of its methods in a country that remains a black hole for intelligence gathering, American officials have declined to talk publicly about the role the technology played in Washington’s assessment that the North Korean government had ordered the attack on Sony.N.S.A. Breached North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say - NYTimes.com
The extensive American penetration of the North Korean system also raises questions about why the United States was not able to alert Sony as the attacks took shape last fall, even though the North had warned, as early as June, that the release of the movie “The Interview,” a crude comedy about a C.I.A. plot to assassinate the North’s leader, would be “an act of war.”"
Tangentially, see Banking Start-Ups Adopt New Tools for Lending (NYT)
"And while it might seem like an odd match for Google, whose projects include driverless cars, delivery drones and a pill to detect cancer, the key to insurance is having lots of data about people’s backgrounds and habits, which is perhaps the company’s greatest strength.Insurance via Internet Is Squeezing Agents - NYTimes.com
“They have a ton of data on where people drive, how people drive,” said Jon McNeill, chief executive of Enservio, a Needham, Mass., company that makes claims-processing software. “It’s the holy grail of being able to price auto insurance correctly.”"
Final paragraphs from an IBM reality check
"Other analysts imagine a more pessimistic scenario: IBM is increasingly held back by its legacy business; it becomes less profitable because cloud services offer lower margins than the more customised IT services IBM is used to providing; and it steadily loses customers to newcomers, such as Amazon’s cloud-computing arm.Information technology: Computing, fast and slow | The Economist
If this starts to look like it is happening, pressure will mount for Ginni Rometty, IBM’s boss, to take more radical action. It is unlikely that the firm will break itself up, as its rival HP has decided to do: IBM’s businesses feed too much on each other. But it could be forced to separate its old from its new businesses more clearly. Many of its clients are going for “two-speed IT”, in which they separate their faster-moving and more innovative IT needs (data-crunching, say) from more basic services (payroll processing, for instance). To keep them, IBM may need to do the same."
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Final paragraph from a Bitcoin reality check; also see Bitcoin Has Been Getting Obliterated
"So the future of Bitcoin may rest with entrepreneurs seeking to build straightforward, regulated companies that do a straightforward thing that is now more expensive than it needs to be: moving money. That might not be up there with creating a global currency, but it would be no small accomplishment."Bitcoin May Succeed as Software, Not Medium of Exchange - Businessweek
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Final paragraphs of a Sam Harris artificial general intelligence (AGI) reality check
"And yet it is beginning to seem likely that some small number of smart people will one day roll these dice. And the temptation will be understandable. We confront problems—Alzheimer’s disease, climate change, economic instability—for which superhuman intelligence could offer a solution. In fact, the only thing nearly as scary as building an AGI is the prospect of not building one. Nevertheless, those who are closest to doing this work have the greatest responsibility to anticipate its dangers. Yes, other fields pose extraordinary risks—but the difference between AGI and something like synthetic biology is that, in the latter, the most dangerous innovations (such as germline mutation) are not the most tempting, commercially or ethically. With AGI the most powerful methods (such as recursive self-improvement) are precisely those that entail the most risk.Can We Avoid a Digital Apocalypse? : A Response to the 2015 Edge Question : Sam Harris
We seem to be in the process of building a God. Now would be a good time to wonder whether it will (or even can) be a good one."
A busy week for AI-related news
"Certainly, Facebook’s move shows a bit of enlightened self-interest. By releasing the tools to a large community of researchers and developers, Facebook will also be able to accelerate its own AI projects. Mark Zuckerberg has previously cited such open source tactics as his reason for starting the Open Compute Initiative, an open source effort to catch up with Google, Amazon and Yahoo on building big data centers.Facebook Offers Artificial Intelligence Tech to Open Source Group - NYTimes.com
Torch is also useful in computer vision, or the recognition of objects in the physical world, as well as question answering systems. Mr. Chintala said his group had fed a machine a simplified version of “The Lord of the Rings” novels and the computer can understand and answer basic questions about the book."
Excerpt from an extensive Google search strategy summary by Steven Levy (the first of a four-post series)
"But for now, the challenge of crawling the apps universe hasn’t affected Google’s search dominance. The statistics remain staggering. Google accepts over 3 billion search queries a day. In the US, two-thirds of all searches use Google — worldwide, there’s similar dominance. (A recent dip in market share is largely attributed not to search quality , but Yahoo’s deal to dislodge Google as the default search engine on Firefox). Even more impressive, Google hosts well over 80% of mobile searches. When Google suffered a five-minute outage in 2013, global web traffic dropped forty percent.How Google Search Dealt With Mobile — Backchannel — Medium
No search competitor has Google’s infrastructure, its deep talent, or its experience. Few have its ambition. So while news coverage of Google has dealt with regulatory issues, the fortunes and misfortunes of Glass, and the adolescent superstars of YouTube, Search has been going through a steady but intense reinvention."
From a David Pogue summary of Amazon and Apple family sharing options
"Consider what’s really going on here: These companies are, in effect, deliberately giving up money, and saving you money. Until now, a husband and wife would have to buy two copies of an ebook if they wanted to read it in their own accounts. A family of four Apple account holders would have to buy a certain app or movie four times if they all wanted it.How ‘Family Sharing’ Can Save You a Ton of Money on Apple and Amazon
Those days are gone now. Common sense has prevailed. Family sharing prevents that duplication of spending."
Video at the link below
"Musk described the attempted rocket landing last weekend as "close, but no cigar" — but this assessment doesn't really do these images justice. The 14-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket is seen hitting the deck of the barge at a 45-degree angle as the four stabilizing fins lose hydraulic power. The engines then fire in an attempt to restore balance but it's too late and the rocket smashes into the deck of the ship. The four images tweeted by Musk can be seen below, who cheerfully sums up the situation: "Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!""SpaceX releases dramatic pictures and video of failed Falcon 9 landing | The Verge
Friday, January 16, 2015
Natural intelligence at work
"The program—and the $10 million donation—will fund research around the world supporting this mission. On Monday, the Future of Life Institute will open up a portal allowing researchers to apply for grants to the program. Beyond hardcore AI science, money will be awarded to researchers in other fields as well, including economics, law, ethics and policy. The FLI says the program will be open to individuals who work in academia, industry, or even independently.Elon Musk Donates $10M to Keep AI From Turning Evil | WIRED
For so long, the artificially intelligent future has been fodder for Hollywood and science fiction, or discussed abstractly in philosophy. But as behemoths like Google incorporate AI into the very core of its current and future technologies, and as a wave of smaller startups build businesses on top of the science, we can no longer deny its very real rise. AI is here to stay; but the debate over AI ethics is just beginning."
Black Box Society by Frank Pasquale: A chilling vision of how Big Data has invaded our lives. (Slate)
Excerpt from a stark big data reality check
"Some of these categories are dicey enough that you wouldn’t want to be a part of them. Pasquale writes that some third-party data-broker microtargeting lists include “probably bipolar,” “daughter killed in car crash,” “rape victim,” and “gullible elderly.” There are no restrictions on marketers assembling and distributing such lists, nor any oversight, leading to what Pasquale terms “runaway data.” With such lists circulating among marketers, credit bureaus, hiring firms, and health care companies, these categories—which cross the line into racial or gender classification as well—easily slip from marketing tools into reputation indicators.Black Box Society by Frank Pasquale: A chilling vision of how Big Data has invaded our lives.
This customer information is considered highly valuable and lucrative, and Facebook has partnered with brokers like Turn (700 million user profiles) to get its hands on it (as I chronicled in my feature “You Are What You Click”). Once the genie is out of the lamp through comprehensive and multifaceted monitoring of your Web habits, your purchases, searches, and social media activities go on sale and resale to the highest bidders, with everyone profiting except you—unless you consider invasive personalized ads a benefit."
Excerpt from another natural language market dynamics snapshot
"Microsoft’s software tries to filter out “disfluencies” (such as “um,” “ah,” and repetitions) on the word and sentence level. Some of these disfluencies made it through during my conversation, but the translation still occurred with impressive speed and accuracy.Skype Translator Review: Impressive, but Far from Human | MIT Technology Review
The limitations of Skype’s translation software are also revealing, since they show how difficult it is for even the smartest machine to mimic the subtleties of effective human conversation. Determining which meaning of a word is appropriate in different contexts can be vexing. “If software is translating between American and British English, and it recognizes the word ‘football,’ it also needs to know when to change it to ‘soccer’ and when to keep it as ‘football’ or ‘gridiron,’” says Christopher Manning, a professor of linguistics and computer science in Stanford University’s Natural Language Processing Group."
tbd if the next step will be a deal with a hardware partner
"Google announced on Thursday that the Glass project was graduating from the company’s research division, called Google X, and would operate as a stand-alone division within Google. The company also said that, as of Monday, it would end its Explorer program, which was a test version of Glass that cost $1,500 in its Play Store, and which was geared toward software developers and device aficionados.Google Glass to Leave Research Lab as New Boss Takes Over Project - NYTimes.com
This means, in essence, that regular people will no longer be able to buy Google Glass. The company will still have its Glass at Work program –- a pilot initiative to use the device in areas like hospitals and factories –- and the device will be available to “certified partners” who are developing software for it."
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Perhaps not yet the final BlackBerry chapter; check the story link below for some reasons why Google and Microsoft may try to preempt a Samsung deal
"Reports that Samsung Electronics has approached BlackBerry briefly sent the battered smartphone maker's stock soaring. Any deal is far from done and BlackBerry denied it, but the possibility does raise the question: Why would Samsung want to acquire BlackBerry? Yes, the Korean conglomerate would get a robust suite of patents, BlackBerry's powerful (though unloved) new mobile platform, and a history of highly lauded hardware design. Still, there is really only one reason the Canadian phonemaker is attractive to Samsung right now: security. And security is the gateway to the highly valuable enterprise market."Here's Why Samsung Would Want to Buy BlackBerry - Businessweek
Final paragraph from another IBM mainframe reality check
"As developers of new applications come to rely on the ease and power of the cloud, the mainframe remains a powerhouse for tasks computers have performed for decades, such as transactions. IBM has realized it can no longer make money selling traditional hardware, and as of late, the company has been focusing its efforts on software and data analytics, including a recently announced partnership with Twitter. But investing in industrial-grade hardware still aligns with IBM’s focus on serving as an engine for business. Business is more mobile than ever. Yet however lightweight those mobile devices feel in your pocket, they can still make good use of a big, powerful machine chugging away in a back room, not going anywhere."Why on Earth Is IBM Still Making Mainframes? | WIRED
Also see ‘Facebook At Work’ Hits App Stores (WSJ) and Facebook Unveils Facebook At Work, Lets Businesses Create Their Own Social Networks (TechCrunch)
"But can a consumer company that thrives on people sharing early and often make friends with businesses more interested in keeping information on a need-to-know basis?Facebook Looks to the Workplace for Future Growth - NYTimes.com
The Silicon Valley company said on Wednesday that it had begun formal pilot testing of Facebook at Work, a corporate edition of its service intended to be a social network for individual companies and organizations.
“It’s the Facebook everyone knows and loves but adapted to work,” Lars Rasmussen, the director of engineering for the product, said in an interview."
"As disturbing may be the implications for writers themselves. Since Kobo is apparently sharing its data with publishers, writers (and their editors) could soon be facing meetings in which the marketing department informs them that 82 percent of readers lost interest in their memoir on page 272. And if they want to be published in the future, whatever happens on that page should never be repeated.They’re Watching You Read by Francine Prose | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
Will authors be urged to write the sorts of books that the highest percentage of readers read to the end? Or shorter books? Are readers less likely to finish longer books? We’ll definitely know that. Will mystery writers be scolded (and perhaps dropped from their publishers’ lists) because a third of their fans didn’t even stick around long to enough to learn who committed the murder? Or, given the apparent lack of correlation between books that are bought and books that are finished, will this information ultimately fail to interest publishers, whose profits have, it seems, been ultimately unaffected by whether or not readers persevere to the final pages?"
Both inspirational and scary
"A few paralyzed patients could soon be using a wireless brain-computer interface able to stream their thought commands as quickly as a home Internet connection.BrainGate Develops a Wireless Brain-Computer Interface | MIT Technology Review
After more than a decade of engineering work, researchers at Brown University and a Utah company, Blackrock Microsystems, have commercialized a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit via radio thought commands collected from a brain implant. Blackrock says it will seek clearance for the system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the mental remote control can be tested in volunteers, possibly as soon as this year."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Another happy outcome for John Chen, but perhaps not so much for long-term BlackBerry shareholders (RIM stock was > $147 in 2008)
"Samsung approached Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry with an initial offer price of $13.35 to $15.49 a share, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter and documents. That’s at least a 37 percent premium to BlackBerry’s closing price yesterday.BlackBerry Climbs on Report Samsung Made Acquisition Offer - Businessweek
BlackBerry rose 30 percent to $12.60 at the close in New York. Adam Yates, a U.S. spokeswoman for South Korea-based Samsung, declined to comment. Representatives for BlackBerry didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment."